Joy, 5 years ago, being dragged around to conferences.
Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.
So often as a mom, I have had grand ideals and plans of how I would influence and inspire my children. Yet it has been in the small moments that came upon me unexpectedly, those that take you totally by surprise, when the heart of what I have left my child has been most truly felt and left an eternal mark. And so, through time, I have learned to become aware at those moments to take notice, and to seek to make in investment of love, resisting what could be a forever memory of conflict. Kind words, chose well, can move a child to faith for a lifetime.
A memory of Joy from a few years ago entered my mind recently as I was praying for her to find the grace to face some difficulties in her own life. Each January for many years, our family served together at 4 national Mom Heart Conferences. These conferences were exhausting, required a lot of patience and commitment and tested all of our ability to endure well.
It had been a very long weekend--the third of such weekends. Lots of wonderful women chattering, asking questions, sharing hearts; speaking, praying, encouraging, laughing. One more conference with 4 more to go before our 20 day mission trip ending the season. And now, we were leaving the hotel to spend a day with friends. Everyone's adrenalin was down and our tempers were short.
It is always a challenge to round up all the "stuff" we spend 3-4 days spreading out over our hotel rooms. A mess bomb had exploded everywhere, as the 15 people working with us helped us to spread it all around. Remnants of papers and copies of name-tags, as we register women and have notebooks, stamp the bookmarks to give out, have snacks and food crumbs and leftovers we eat away from the crowds with our staff and helpers, Bibles, notes, hair spray, shoes, bathing suits, hangers, towels, ibuprofen, and lots of other little things. Somehow getting it all back in the bags the same way seems harder than when we started out.
I was bone-tired and was feeling the weariness a little more with each year. The girls had been working long hours at registration, putting up boxes of books, setting up tables. They had spent countless hours running cash registers and putting gifts and chocolate out for all the women to enjoy, going to bed late and getting up early. Everyone did their job as expected without being asked or followed. Our family all knows the routine and what is expected.
But at this moment, as we were to check out of the hotel, and Sarah and Clay and I were walking down the hall to the elevator, Joy said, "Hey, wait! I want to get my sweater out of my bag. Just as I turned around to look at her, I saw her reach into her bag and accidentally dump the whole contents of her suitcase on the hall floor, with hair bands and brushes, shoes and books, shampoo and lip gloss, and a swim suit rolling everywhere.
A "You need to be more careful! Why did you hold up the suitcase when you were unzipping it?!" was on the edge of my tongue. I did not feel like putting down my suitcase, computer bag, purse, coat, and Clay's shoes that were all barely juggled in my grip. But, something inside me nudged my heart and I pictured this sweet teenage girl, working, greeting, smiling and helping all weekend long. I knew this was not the time to scold or to be impatient, though I felt all of this on the edge of my attitude, waiting to spill over.
I put everything down and walked toward her. "I am so very sorry it all fell out. You must feel so frustrated and if you are as tired as I am, you could use a real rest. Let me help you."
"By the way, did I tell you how amazed I was at how hard you worked this weekend? You were such a trooper. You are handling yourself like a pro. I can't believe you can work such long hours without anyone telling you. I really appreciate you, honey, and know you must be bone tired." I chattered as I picked up and folded with her. How thankful I was that the Holy Spirit had put his finger on my heart. I saw eyes of anger and defense change into gentle eyes--glad to be understood. She really didn't drop this whole bag of clothes just to further irritate me on a tiresome morning! And she really was a great 13 year old.
Grace--a cup of cold water to a thirsty body; a bouquet of flowers on a winter window sill; a kind patient timely word; a rescue to a four year old who drops his whole plate of food or spills one more cup of milk; a cup of tea for a hormonal girl; a back rub and chocolate chip cookies to an overwrought teen boy; instrumental music and a candle lit with a warm meal for a grumpy husband so worried about finances when he comes home from a hard day of work.
Grace is the undeserved and unforeseen act of kindness and patience that totally changes moments. It is the noble soul exercised toward the humble, needy and grateful.
I am so very thankful that I have received so much grace from my wonderful heavenly Father. He keeps loving and giving and bearing with me through all my immature and awkward moments of life. Grace changes everything and redeems amazingly. Just thoughts running through my mind on Sunday morning before church.
I received gifts of grace in my own moments of ministry the last few weeks. A beautiful blue Spode tea cup (one of my favorites now), with my favorite tea, with my favorite chocolates to encourage me in the midst. Friends who travel far and work with us, with no benefits to themselves, just for the joy of serving--these are graces that stay in my heart and speak to me of His love seen through the actions of others near by. A lovely hot meal waiting when I return from a trip.
Because we were all so very depleted, we decided to follow up our "packing" Sunday morning with a breakfast on Crystal Cove beach with friends. Somehow, playing and restoring out in the beautiful California sea, followed up with avocado and bacon omelets and whole grain, apple pancakes in a seaside cafe--was just the recipe we all needed to begin to restore our emotional equilibrium, before engaging in life again in teh outside world. Taking time to fill our cups with grace was most needed. Work hard, play hard. Laugh at least a little to keep the relationships intact. And now, this Crystal Cove visit has become a yearly tradition. Looking forward to playing always makes working easier.
I am grateful.
Join me today at itakejoy.com where I will be writing about teaching your children to serve.