I rummaged around in my purse, looking for my lip gloss. I wanted a specific one. The one I layer on to another specific one, Urban Decay’s Morning After. The second one I apply is in a long rectangular plastic tube. I have lots of lipsticks in all shapes and colors in my purse. When it comes to lipstick, I’m a marketer’s dream.

As I fumble along, grasping and then dropping the lipstick tubes and pens, the notebooks, receipts, something unfamiliar and tiny catches my attention. I was driving to church, running late, so my attention was more on the road than the contents of my purse. If I had discovered my lipstick however, that would require no focus. This is a routine and my procedure is as memorized as my drive to church.

I pulled up the tiny piece, angular but not uniform, cream colored, with a small hollowed out area, dark in color, and I said aloud, “Who’s tooth is this!?” I was alone in the car, so this was for no one’s benefit. For a split moment I couldn’t imagine why I would have one of the kids’ baby teeth in the bottom of my purse. They’re in college and I’ve had a few purses since they were babies. This would not be an item I would have transferred from one purse to another.

As I assessed the oncoming traffic, yielding to the yellow flashing light, I turn left. Rolling the mystery subject between my fingers, I realized that in my hand is not a baby’s tooth, but rather a broken popcorn kernel, SKINNY POP, I’m sure. It’s almost a vice, as is evidenced by it finding its way inside my purse. I take my familiar left into the church parking lot, with my mind still on this popcorn kernel, and it occurs to me again: perspective.

The topic of perspective is hot for me right now, constantly aware of its value. Shaunti Feldhahn tells us that kindness is the new super power. I listened to her book a few weeks ago and wrote a post about it. But if kindness is the new super power, then perspective is its mother. After all, it takes perspective to reconsider one’s kindness to others. And really, perspective is the magic key. It opens doors that expose a brilliant light, illuminating things beyond those that are staring us in the face.

My sister is 10 years younger than I am. When I was eighteen I left our foster home and she was left with our foster parents (who ultimately adopted her). Awhile after I’d left I discovered how unhappy her daily life had become. The messages she received within the home convinced her she was unimportant and incapable of much. She was ridiculed and picked on. She had no physical or mental disability, she was adequately compliant, was sweet in her nature, yet she had unexplainably become the whipping boy. To me she was beautiful and sparkly. I had spent most of my last 8 years caring for her. As if I were her mother, I confronted anyone I knew was responsible for hurting her. I tried my best to convince her of her worth. I recall distinctly at age twenty when I’d suddenly discovered what I believed would be the key to her better life. I was certain and did my best to convince her that if she were to stop comparing herself to others, she would see herself as I saw her. I didn’t know at the time what I was doing, but looking back I realize, I desperately wanted her to change her perspective.

That epiphany that I’d discovered didn’t magically change everything. For her, hardly anything changed. The influences within the home were greater than my influences. She believed what she was told, and the darkness that hung over her penetrated her innermost being and followed her while she lived in her home. She has done a lot of work as an adult addressing the consequences of those eighteen years. I understood the temptation to fall into the trap. I too had been given the same messages. A sense of value, love, and protection was far from what I felt when I went to bed or arose in the mornings. But somehow I was able to see beyond the lies that could have held me back and I was able to look forward to a truth that would be a guiding light to a better life. That’s not to say that I was over flowing with confidence. But I was using my magic key, and it was taking me somewhere.

It’s true that I am simplifying. For many of you I’m stating the obvious. But like we know that we should be kind, we don’t always perform at our best. And even though we understand that perspective is helpful, it’s not easy to execute these lessons in our own lives. We need a push. As I look back, navigating my life, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t understand the impact or consequences of my decisions when I made them. I haven’t been incredibly strategic in my life and I’ve made a lot of wrong turns. But my perspective key has helped right wrongs and opened new doors. In the midst of pain and disappointment or lack of skills or incompetence or betrayal, that light pointed to better things ahead. Maybe this is a push you need.

If you’re someone who is weary of another person advising you to change your perspective, or suggesting that your problems will disappear if only you look at them from a different angle, I understand. It’s especially difficult to hear such advice in the middle of suffering. There are a lot of places we land before we get to a place of suffering. But almost always, wherever we land, if we unlock the door with this magic key, and let the light shine beyond what is right before us, it’s very possible we’ll see something we didn’t expect, something different altogether. In so many cases, it’s that perspective that will make all the difference in your world.

Write with intent.

That’s what I learned tonight as I read the six pages that I allowed myself from Marion Roach Smith’s book called The Memoir Project. Marion was addressing “writer’s block,” which is exactly what I’ve been experiencing this week.  Not because I have nothing to write, but because I have too many things to write. And writing too much is exactly what she advises us not to do.

I want to write about my sweet dachshund, why I go to church, why I’m grateful for the gift of an obedient heart, the Pavlova I made for a shower over the weekend, some disappointment I have around the upcoming Easter holiday, the crush I have on the guy who is renovating the exterior of my house, the dog walking service I signed up for, the progress on the exterior of my house. And this is my short list!

All of these are things I’d love to talk about with my friends. I’d yammer on and they’d kindly indulge me. Then I’d do the same for them and together we’d widdle away at what lays on our hearts and longs to be voiced. That’s what friends do and in this way, I’m a good friend.

More than good listening though, we help guide our friends through tough times. That looks different depending on the friend and the relationship. I recall when a friend said, “I don’t know if I want you for a friend.” We chuckled and I knew what she meant. We’d had a hard discussion about being single and what that looks like and the scariness of a future without a partner.

The conversation evolved into trusting God and flourishing in life. I attend a group at our church called THRIVE. I love the name of the group. It’s exactly what I want for my own life, and I want it for all of us. I remember several years ago (even before Kaiser used it as their marketing campaign!) I issued a decree to myself. Self: “You are not going to just survive; you’re going to thrive.”

Most divorces take a toll on us for which we aren’t prepared. In a zombie-like state, I inched my way up, one foot in front of the other, in an effort to crawl up from the gravity of grief. That wasn’t all bad. I feel it was better than the alternative of staying down there.

We’d all just as soon skip over this zombie-like state. Make a clean exit and leave this zombie behind with the all pain and loss he carries with him. We do all sorts of things in an effort to restore who we once were or to fill the gaping hole where our heart once resided.

All of this is natural to the process. But how long must this process go on? It had been a little over a year when I decided that I’d been in a steady third gear long enough and I needed to kick things into 5th to get ahead. In my effort to thrive, I had to access the best source I knew: my heavenly father.

I learned quickly that in spite of my ambitious determination, thriving was not going to look the way I envisioned it. But it was in the effort to thrive that I began to pass over the familiar (and in some cases, stale) and advance toward new discoveries, which among the most important was that I gained new perspectives. As my perspectives changed, I could see hope in my future. The hope was undefined. I didn’t anticipate that we would return to our forever home.  I didn’t even anticipate that we would have a new fabulous home. I couldn’t conceive of financial peace, and I didn’t hope that a man of my dreams would appear.

The hope was intrinsic. Sometimes on a tear-stained pillow, and sometimes with a smile on my face, I thanked God as I laid my head down at night. I was not alone. And in this hope I was empowered to face another day.

In Isaiah 54:5 God says” For your Maker is your husband—
the Lord Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
he is called the God of all the earth.

This God, my maker and my husband became my hope and fueled me when I crashed without warning. When I faced days of confusion at financial decisions, of home maintenance, of parenting alone, and life without a partner, and survival was all I could muster, His promises lifted me above the circumstances and thriving came into view. My perspective was always changing. I saw remnants of the past differently, and I sensed better things on the horizon.

My friend pondered out loud about a future without a partner. She’d been seeing someone and she struggled with the relationship. She wondered if God would be faithful to her if she gave up the relationship. Would God provide to her another man who was better for her? Or would he provide contentment to her, like he had to me? She was bargaining. It was here that I reminded her that this is an American perspective that we have a right to anything from God, let alone a guarantee that she’ll never be lonely again. I went on a little further. She twirled her spoon in her coffee, then looked up at me and said, “Man, I don’t know if I want you for a friend.”

Sometimes we need to hear from someone who cares, that the direction we’re headed isn’t getting us to a better place. Survival mode gets comfortable and we forget that there’s another option: to thrive. That almost always means passing up what’s familiar and comfortable. But if we don’t, it’s going to be hard to get to the place that will give us new perspectives that we can’t see while we’re stalled in survival mode: a perspective that allows us to thrive in the arms of our maker, our husband.

Well, there I go. That was my writing with intent. Marion, I’m working on it. I have a feeling my word count is too high, though.


I need imagery reminders!

Last week our pastor spoke on the topic of cultivating kindness.

The sermon on February 4th was on cultivating patience. Christian or not, churchgoing or not, I think most people would agree that we could all use not only a reminder that we need to improve in the areas of kindness and patience, but I think we all need instructions on these character traits. Our need goes deeper than our casual desire to execute. A friend told me she didn’t think she needed a lesson in that area. She might have been confusing being nice with being kind. I’ve told my kids many times: Being nice isn’t the same as being kind. Being nice isn’t a character trait, but kindness is.

I love it when I get a recipe for anything. It makes it easer for me to put on my To Do list and get it done. Whether it’s a new 4 ingredient shortbread cookie recipe that my friend recently shared with me or simple steps in showing kindness, I appreciate the instruction that will produce something tangible.

I understand that treating people with kindness and patience doesn’t seem like something that would produce tangible results, but there are a lot of dark clouds that might be cleared out and heavy hearts that might lighten if we can apply some basic steps in showing kindness.

Our pastor Randy referred to two books he’d read in a recent sermon. He doesn’t do that very often, but I so appreciated him letting us in on his resources. One is called Love Kindness  and one is called The Kindness Challenge. Pastor Randy also referred to the other book; the Holy Bible. I like to put the word “Holy” in front of bible. It reminds me that it’s not just another book with opinions, but it’s holy and I am to respect and revere its contents.

Even without the bible references, The Kindness Challenge will work for those who desire better results with others, and within themselves. Shaunti Feldhahn tells us that kindness is a Super Power. A Super Power. Zap! The people with whom we want better experiences just need kindness exercised on them and like that, they are different, and we are different!

The claim Shaunti makes sounds almost absurd. She could have made a whole lot of claims that would satisfy our desires for improved relationships, but she takes it to a whole different level to call kindness a Super Power. To make that claim, I wanted to know what I had to do to get that power; the power to change relationships. Not that I have a lot of relationships to change. But even one relationship transcending to good is worth accessing a Super Power. Don’t we all have one?

I do have at least one where I know I’m not my best self. I’ve been told I’m kind, but really when I think about it, I think I’m more compassionate than I am kind. I’m compassionate to people who suffer. I’m compassionate to people in third world countries and the homeless or the underserved. I have a lot of compassion for single moms, widows and orphans. I’m compassionate to those who are good to me. But kindness extends itself beyond those. Kindness is for everyone, regardless of a category in which we can place them. Oh, I’m sure we can find a category that justifies being unkind. But Shaunti tells us that there is no category that defies the benefits of kindness. I have quite a list that could justify being unkind. I can be impatient with people and intolerant of their shortcomings. I may not say it (that’s being nice), but my spirit feels it. Shaunti doesn’t believe that we pour on the nice syrup just to gloss over others’ shortcomings, anger issues, imperfections, etc.  But she does believe that when we sincerely attempt three steps, it will usually change people, and it will always change us.

I owe the Comcast crew some nice syrup. They’re not the only ones. I’m not going to offer up a list on this blog, but I’ve already begun some attitude adjustments. It’s early, so I’m not going to claim any differences in my “victims,” but I feel a bit lighter and better for trying.

So, Shaunti’s recipe:

  1. Focus on the positive; negate the negative.
    1. Focus on what IS good, avoid what isn’t.
  2. Praise is the catalyst of kindness.
    1. Act in faith, not by feelings.
  3. Act on the kindness.
    1. Do something sincerely good for your “victim.”

I’m using the term victim; Shaunti isn’t. But when I think of how it feels to be on the receiving end of an unkind person, it feels victimish. The victim suffers to some degree when they (we?) are a recipient of unkindness. Whether it’s a slight on Facebook or a deserved reprimand because we’ve been passed around to twenty people and on hold for an hour, the ugliness is ugly and the victim feels icky. And to be honest, as righteous as I might feel when I’m the deliverer, it can take awhile before that dark cloud above me vaporizes and I’m whistling a tune again, not to mention praising God for his goodness.

The three ingredients for a kindness revolution look simplistic. I think possibly the hardest thing God asks of us is to love your neighbor as yourself and to do unto others as we would have others do unto us. He puts us to the test of loving those with whom we don’t like, those who are different from us, those who anger us, and so on. The Ten Commandments seems easier at times than loving someone who has hurt us or someone who hurts others!

So yes, the three ingredients is simplistic. We need more help and instruction than reading these three simple ingredients. We need to know how to put these things together and whip up some kindness in our world. And for that, I think you you’ll need to buy the book. If you graduate from that, you might want to take part in the Kindness Challenge. Take that relationship with which you’re struggling, apply your new Super Power to it, and watch magic happen.

Note: I’m sorry I didn’t provide the Amazon links for the books. I just can’t bring myself to do that to the other books suppliers who deserve your money, too!