Contrast and Kindness

Life is full of contrasts. We start small and grow big. We are young and get old. We have good days and bad days. We are weak and we are strong. We feel sad and we feel glad. Days and nights pass into years and decades and we continue to go through moments of contrast. The dictionary describes contrast as “ being strikingly different” from something else. You can be in a state of contrast (noun) or in the middle of it (verb). Yep, life is definitely full of contrasts.

Have you been feeling it this week, my friend? I used to worry that if all was going well, it meant something bad was just creeping around the next corner. It’s easy to feel that way because often it happens just like that…. One day you’re smelling the roses and Boom! Thorns attack and the pain is felt strong and steady.

Recently, I read a little object lesson for kids about contrast. Think about cotton balls and stones. One is soft and fluffy… like puffy clouds in the sky. Rocks, on the other hand, are hard. Rocks are solid and full. You can”t stretch a stone like the fluffy clouds. Rocks sit. Now imagine I wound up and hit you with a handful of each. How would you feel? Now pretend the cotton balls are kind words and the rocks are unkind and mean words. Which hit harder?

It’s a simple object lesson – but effective for even us big kids. As we get older, we are not immune to the consequences of our words. We cannot excuse our verbal spewing because we are older or wiser. Hard and harsh words still land solidly on the ears of others… and they can hurt. Like rocks pelted in the playground.

In contrast, kind words are soft, soothing and tend to spread wider. When we build up one another in love and affirmation, it spreads beyond the first set of ears, like the fluffy clouds spreading across the blue sky.

So, even in this life full of contrasts, we must always remember to be kind. Our words are powerful and can have a “strikingly different” effect on those who hear them. It’s wise to “think before we speak”. I hope that my musings do that each week as I share words on a page. Now, go have a cotton ball snowball fight this week!

We Are Family

Welcome back to another week of my brain spewing out random thoughts and sharing tidbits of my (otherwise) boring life. This month was a big one for my little crew… we’ve been celebrating a few momentous birthdays recently, and my parents just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary! Which is no light task, lemme tell you! Their actual anniversary was earlier this month, but this past weekend was the grand celebration! Of course, post-Covid, we were trying to be sensitive to the fact it was a rather large gathering of people, in an indoor space, and many were of the senior persuasion. All red flags. Still, we figured such a milestone must be celebrated… so we went ahead… and ordered two (yes two) large slab cakes.

It was a wonderful party. Many people made appearances, including some old friends and distant relatives who travelled in. It was certainly nice to make connections again. Some were masked, others were not… but it didn’t seem to matter. What seemed to matter, was legacy, longevity and well, a recognition of what a true milestone fifty years of marriage really is! Which, of course, had me musing!

What kinds of legacies do we leave those around us? What do our accomplishments tell people about what is important in our lives? Do our children see strong family values presented? Do friends and family gather because they love us or simply out of duty or guilt for how it may look to others? How much cake do you really need anyway?

God loves families. He certainly knows we are not perfect. Yet, He designed us to be part of family units from the get-go. He created man and woman… and then children and siblings and mothers-in-law. He allowed Jesus to come to earth, born of a woman, into a family to grow, to be nurtured, to be taught and to be part of a bigger group of connected people. I would like to think that His little band of disciples became like “family” too. Bound together by a common bond. We talk about “church families”, “small groups” and “brothers and sisters in Christ”. We were created to have relationships with one another. To mentor the younger ones, to pass on wisdom and encouragement. I have learned so many things from others.

Saturday, at the party, we laughed about who looks like who and who has so-and-so’s personality. Have you ever been to a family reunion where you just “can tell” that cousins are cousins? I wonder if Jesus looked a little like His brothers? Did He have His mother’s eyes? He certainly had His Father’s will in mind. And it’s true what they say… you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family. It picks you. And you are stuck with it.

God doesn’t make mistakes, though. He knew who belongs where and why. Don’t get me wrong, relationships are hard. And a close relationship is even harder. There is some vulnerability we must face when we are with the family. Perhaps you were taught, like Timothy, by a faith-filled grandmother. Perhaps you have been shunned by your family because of your faith, and your church has become your new family in Christ. The Bible has lots of examples about the good -and the bad- of relationships via relatives. I’m not going to list them, but it might make for an interesting study one day!

No matter where you feel you stand among those who share some part of your DNA, remember this: God placed you there for a purpose. You have something to learn from these people. It may be blatantly evident, or it may take time to discover. Hug them a little closer. Share cake with them. Share some of our cake with them… We have lots leftover!

Life is Messy

Oh, my friends! What a world we have come to live in! Not only have we only just begun to crawl out from under a global pandemic, our own country has faced huge discord among its people in recent weeks, resulting in freezing assets, misguided information, and rally cries for dissension. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, Europe has gone to war. Power-hungry men are puffing up their chests in attempts to gain … something. And the innocent are suffering. I have no words. In fact, I skipped a week or two of posts because I am beginning to question it all. Do words have value anymore?

Is it worth my two cents if I choose not to post my personal views and take sides? Is it worth it to “remain neutral” and bring some light-hearted script to encourage when the world is in such darkness? Last week I received a new book on the Psalms (check out my Instagram reel here) and I am looking forward to doing some doodling as I delve into it. The Psalms were never my go-to book. I think King David was a bit bipolar. His words always seemed far too “up and down” for me. One minute praises — the next, deep laments and evil wishes to dash his enemies. Recently I heard this about the Psalms: that you don’t truly know the light until you’ve been in the dark places. I suspect that is a very true statement. And the Psalms hit it on the head.

A couple weeks ago was my eldest daughter’s birthday. Now, she will be the first to admit that her culinary skills are not top-notch. She has a few basic recipes under her belt and she is happy to repeat them week by week. However, she wanted to try a few new things for her birthday dinner. Fine. No problem, sweetie, I will help you shop for ingredients and make a few suggestions, but the work is yours. The food was great. Everything tasted wonderful. The problem with amateur chefs? My kitchen was a disaster! Every dish, every appliance, every spoon and platter was well used and left for dead on every counter space left available. Sigh. These are memories. We can clean up later.

Life, like cooking, is sometimes messy. Challenges abound. Sometimes we have to be under fire to grow, change and “glow”. Life is not meant to be perfect and predictable.

“Governments make plans, but the Lord checks them. He does not let people do everything that they want to do. The plans that the Lord makes will always happen. His ideas will always be with us.”

Psalms‬ ‭33:10-11‬ ‭(EEB)

It’s pretty clear — God doesn’t let people do everything they want. The governments — and the common people, make plans; plans they think are best, but only God has the last say. None of us have been through this life before. We cannot predict the outcome or guarantee that our methods for living will be the most ideal ones. We are like my daughter… following the recipe hoping we interpret the instructions well, and that our efforts will somehow resemble the glossy picture in the book. More often than not, we create a fairly good tasting, but messy delectable delight. This world is full of sin and it’s going to get messy. Life with God will require patience. But God is infinite and promises to bring good out of the mess. 

Photo Credit: Do it yourself from Scratch on WordPress

Perhaps you are like me, tired and at a loss for words about all the things that have been weighing on the world lately. Maybe it has lit a fire under you and your faith has been made stronger in the face of opposition. Maybe you are just trying to eat some good-tasting stuff and will deal with the clean-up later. Take heart to the assurance that “the plans that the Lord makes will always happen” and I don’t think He’s done with us just yet. Be blessed with the journey, friends.