Being Kind and Encouraging? Sweet. Bittersweet.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, October 30, 2014

autumn road

Being Kind and Encouraging? Sweet. Bittersweet.

I wear several hats most days. A very important hat I wear is that of Mom. I’ve been a Mom for quite some time. My older two daughters have been out of the house for some years. I have a third daughter who is away at college. And then there is my son—a senior in high school. So, yes. I have been a Mom for a long time. Secondly, there is Wife. I try to be a good companion, friend and helpmate to my husband. That’s another hat. The third hat concerns my work—it’s called Pastor. I earnestly try to serve the congregation as well as I can. Praying for them, teaching bible studies, preparing services and sermons, and especially through pastoral care. That’s a third hat, an important hat I wear. Most days.

Except, today. My husband had a dental appointment this morning, and didn’t go to work. Yes, I did go in to work for a few hours, but I took the opportunity to come home a little early this afternoon. And, my son was here at home. All three of us, here in the living room. Talking earnestly, engaging in serious conversation. Earlier, my son made another brief video and put it up on Facebook. He proudly showed it off to his father and to me, and we all discussed it. Then, branched off into related topics.

Our lively, three-way conversation didn’t last too long, but I enjoyed it while it lasted.

Afterwards, upon reflection, I thought about my youngest son. I did my very best to be encouraging and tried to show my interest in what he was doing. He was so animated and excited about his latest video. Moreover, he and his father always get involved in such interesting conversations. As I looked at them talking together, I couldn’t help but think that soon my son is going to graduate from high school. Soon, he’ll be out of the house, too. Soon, my third daughter is going to graduate from college. And then—get launched into her own activities.

Gracious, if I am not careful, I’m going to get weepy. Maudlin. Even, down in the dumps. Depressed. It’s a good thing I wear several different hats. I’ll just need to get used to hanging up the Mom hat most of the time. But that doesn’t mean I need to stop being an encouragement and being kind to my children. God, please go with them, wherever they go.

Yes, I am so glad my children are grown, or are growing up. Yes, I am so proud of them, that they are so accomplished in so many different ways. And, yes, I will miss having children around the house. Sweet. And bittersweet.


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Providing for Children—Here, and at the Dump (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, June 20, 2014

smile-the same language

Providing for Children—Here, and at the Dump (Feature Friday!)

Difficult. Heart-wrenching. Makes me want to cry, or shout, or get downright angry.

I’m talking about watching videos of children at the dump near Trujillo, Peru. These children are parts of families of the poorest of the poor. There are many, many people of reduced circumstances in Central and South America, but these good folks who live at or near the dump are even more poor than most. And, the vast majority of children in these disadvantaged families are born into an impossible situation. Extreme poverty. Little hope. Lack of any kind of opportunity.

Until IncaLink came to give a helping hand. Lessen the devastating effect of extreme poverty.

Rich Brown, one of the founders of IncaLink, gave some background for a worthwhile ministry to the children in the dump. This good work was conceived, instituted and developed wholly by indigenous people in Peru. Pastitos de Fe is what came through their thinking, dreaming, design efforts, and prayer. When representatives of IncaLink spoke with their co-workers at the dump, their co-workers “brought out a whole marketing plan they had already prepared and said, ‘We’ve got to get these children out of the dump.’”

Rich continues, “So we started the plan, and we started to see what God had in store.” First, IncaLink started a daycare center, where over one hundred children are cared for. And soon, they reevaluated. Some of these kids did not even have parents. Or, their parents were in jail, or their families just couldn’t take care of them. The indigenous workers wanted an orphanage, a children’s home where these children could live. So, IncaLink Peru bought the property, raised funds, and assisted in the building of the buildings. Despite considerable obstacles, they persevered. And, now, the children’s home is a reality. Several dozen children are happily enrolled now!

This ministry opportunity came to mind today, especially since the preschool at my work had the end of the year graduation this afternoon. The children worked so hard! The teachers and staff did a wonderful job, and everything that the children did, said, and sang was truly heartfelt and earnest. I saw how blessed the children and families are with this excellent preschool and kindergarten. In the suburbs of Chicago, we are truly blessed with abundance from God. Even those families who don’t have much, here in the Chicago area? Still, I suggest that even the most disadvantaged family here consider themselves blessed by God. Because we are.

The families of the preschoolers and kindergarten of Kids Academy have many basic necessities the children in Trujillo can only dream about. The dreams of both groups of children are very similar, but now the children of the dump have a chance. A leg up. A terrific opportunity. And, abundant blessings from God. Praise God!

(For further information, check out this video! )


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Being Kind, Playing Soccer at the Dump! (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, June 6, 2014

soccer - work in progress @heartofathlete

soccer – work in progress

Being Kind, Playing Soccer at the Dump! (Feature Friday!)

I’m a mom. Even though my children are grown (or, in the case of my youngest, almost grown at seventeen), I still feel very much a mom. When I hear about an outreach that reaches to children and youth, I take special interest.

My friends and former missionaries Alison and Ivan introduced me to Rich and Elisa Brown, founders of IncaLink. I wrote about their outreach last Friday. IncaLink now has ministries in Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. I talked with Rich last weekend (through the miracles of modern technology—through Skype!).

While we talked, I asked Rich about how IncaLink got started. He was eager to tell me! Both he and his wife were missionary kids (MKs), growing up in South America. Early in their marriage, they both knew they were called to work as missionaries. They also knew they did not want to work with youth (Little did they know what was ahead!)

They started work for a church in Raleigh, North Carolina. The church wanted them—as youth pastors. They served four years there, also helping in short term mission outreach and trips. They transitioned to full-time missionaries, going to Lima, Peru. The work that was waiting for them there was—you guessed it—as youth pastors. After they transitioned to other youth ministries in Peru, Rich went to a large youth conference. He was moved by God to consider the garbage dump as a place of service. When he returned to his ministry in Trujillo, Peru, he thought about a possible new ministry at the dump, for a week. For a month. And then forgot about it.

Two years went by. Their denomination was preparing to close operations in Peru and move Rich and Elisa in a few months. All of a sudden, Rich remembered the garbage dump. Through a series of circumstances, Rich brought a number of Peruvian youth workers to the dump to give out pizza. This moved the youth workers intensely. Some days later, Rich made plans for a second trip to the dump, and 50 people showed up to go—some of them were atheists. They wanted to see what these Christians were doing at the dump! As Rich said, “The youth workers were poor, but they were so moved they were crying at the poverty in the dump!”

God was indeed moving in the hearts of the indigenous youth workers. Rich had a time limit imposed by the closing of his position, but this didn’t stop the other workers! They felt led to do youth ministry with youth at the dump. Initially, they started playing soccer with the youth, which led to starting other kinds of ministries. Soon they developed in depth relationships, coming alongside of the youth of the dump as they combed through the garbage, as well as teaching the youth useful skills.

This ministry started over six years ago, and Rich and Elisa left Peru shortly afterwards. But the ministry to the youth, children, women and men of the garbage dump continues. The indigenous workers have planned some long-term projects at the dump in the last few years, and successfully carried them out with the help and prayers of supporters of IncaLink, as well as many others throughout the world.

Thank God for the workers who listened to the leading to go to the dump. And be kind. Be of service.


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Helping? Serving? At the Dump. (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, May 30, 2014

BK wherever there is a human

Helping? Serving? At the Dump. (Feature Friday!)

It’s hard to believe that the month of May is ending. And, another Feature Friday is at hand!

A good friend of mine—Alison—and I InstantMessaged each other several weeks ago. She had some good things to say about one of the Year of Being Kind posts, and I thanked her. She and her husband Ivan had been missionaries to Peru for some years, and now they are back in the Chicago area. While in conversation, I asked whether she knew of any ministries outside of the United States that really touched her heart. Her response? “Really good friend of ours, Rich and Elisa Brown founded IncaLink, which is in Peru, Ecuador and Colombia.” Alison gave me their email, and I contacted them. Now, we’re connected! And once I found out about their work, I was really touched and impressed, too!

This multi-faceted ministry called IncaLink is not only a caring, helping hand offered to many of the poorest of the poor, it’s also a ministry for the 21st century. Using the tools of social media, Rich Brown (one of the founders) and others who work with him get the important, sharing, caring message of IncaLink out through YouTube videos, Facebook and Twitter. IncaLink’s work also pulls at heartstrings, because much of their ministry involves bettering the lives of women, children, and families.

Rich sent me all kinds of information to start with. More than a dozen avenues of ministry, in three different countries. But I’d like to zero in on one particular ministry, one of the first places where IncaLink concentrated their efforts: a dump some distance north of Lima, in the outskirts of Trujillo, Peru. Some of the poorest of the poor live on the premises of the dump. They eat, sleep and work at the dump, and this place encompasses their whole lives.

Truly heartrending, the idea of people living, working and dying at the dump brought the three founding members of IncaLink to action in 2006. IncaLink has grown and diversified since, but the ministry at the dump remains a foundation for their work. They not only share the love of God with these loving people at the dump—God’s children, no matter where they may be found—but one of their specific ministries is to the children and youth at the dump. They provide a way out, getting the children out of the dump and into school and into jobs and workplaces to better the lives of them and their families. But perhaps most important? IncaLink offers them and their families the good news of the love of God.

Not only do full-time missionaries work with the good people in the dump (and in the other areas IncaLink serves), but they also have short-term teams and individuals who work in special projects and specific areas. What a wonderful way to get immersed in a culture and a worldview that can change your life. Literally.

For further information, check out this video about the dump:  (And, want to contact IncaLink? )


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In Which I was Kind at a Family Reunion

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, May 27, 2014

family reunion drawing

In Which I was Kind at a Family Reunion

I love my family! I love seeing them, which does not happen very often. Many of my family members are scattered to the four winds. However, all six of us siblings and all four of my children were in town for a family reunion today. Plus cousins, and other friends. Wonderful day of conversation, memories, hugs, and food!

So many things to think about from today. So many memories. Talking with my sisters and brothers. Talking with other family members there at the reunion. Looking at the pictures, drawings, and other family papers my sister had collected upstairs at her home. (And of course, just visiting my sister’s huge Victorian almost-mansion is always a treat! Just about all of the rooms are restored to the 1890’s, so she could legitimately have electricity in the vintage lighting fixtures. Other than the refrigerator in the kitchen, even the solid-as-a-brick-house gas stove is from 1900.)

The dining room table fairly groaned with the amount of food that was packed onto it! My sister was generous with her home, her hospitality and the food everyone had an opportunity to share.

I was kind in several ways today, but the most significant I remember occurred later this afternoon. While some family members were poring over the collected papers in the front and middle parlors (connected by large, segmented twelve-foot high doors—the parlors had fourteen-foot high ceilings) at my sister’s house, I played the piano. I was playing some of the music my father used to play. Old standards. Jazz arrangements of said standards.)

I’ve done this before. Done this in a number of situations. Praise God, I’m able to offer my abilities to others. God helps me be aware and awake now, as God has many times in the past. Thanks for the encouragement and assistance, God! I hope and pray the same joy for you and your congregation, as I thank God for these things. People. Family. Wonderful.


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For the Joy of Reading!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, May 6, 2014

children heart illustration

For the Joy of Reading!

I love to read! I love reading out loud, too. (With some books, I have been known to do voices for different characters.) I’ve been told I have an excellent way with the spoken word, as well.

At my new position, I have the great joy and opportunity to read to some young people each Tuesday. Today being Tuesday, today was reading day! I had two excellent books to read to the children. The same two I read last week, except I changed the order in which I read them—so, I read Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aardema to the four year olds this week, and read Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey to the kindergarten children.

I’ve been reading for almost fifty years In fact, I can vividly remember the moment when I started ‘decoding’ the letters. My mother was reading one of the Oz books to me, by L. Frank Baum. (We had several, in hardcover.) I was barely four years old—it was winter, and cold weather. I remember her reading the words at the bottom of one of the full-page illustrations, and running her finger along as she read each word. Wow! I had the grand feeling of huge puzzle pieces falling into place as she did that. I suddenly understood what reading was all about. I connected those sounds and those letters that my mom was tracing and the words she read . . . and everything fell into place. It was glorious magic!

And after that, it seemed like I never stopped reading.

I read a great deal of fantasy and fairy tales when I was in grade school, although I had fairly eclectic tastes. (I was the youngest child in my family, so we had all the books from my older brothers and sisters around the house. I was free to read whatever I chose.) I started writing my own stories and books when I was a teenager. And I kept right on writing fiction, through my twenties, into my thirties and forties—and took a break when I went to seminary. Or, instead, started to write serious papers and articles. And started to write sermons, too!

Sermons seem to be a great combination of several skill sets. A confluence, if you will, of several streams of interest. I’ve written here about my preaching before, and I’ll say again—I love it! There is something so satisfying, so deeply moving about handling the scriptures. Praying about what to say. Crafting the structure, the arc of the message. And then—the delivery. Excellent!

Reading picture books to children is also excellent, but in a different way. I get up close and personal. I can interact with the children. (I do interact with the congregation, too, except it’s different. Somehow.) I felt this wonderfulness today, as I read the picture books. And I connected with the children. Up close and personal. God, thank You for this awesome opportunity that You’ve given me—to read to children once more! Such an opportunity. So rewarding. Thank You, God.


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Children Make Me Happy!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, April 28, 2014

Jesus and children drawing

Children Make Me Happy!

Yes, children have the potential of making me happy. Simple, straight-forward, open, friendly, trusting. All these things about children refresh me. Energize me. There is a preschool at the church where I have my new job. When I see them in the halls or in other places around the church, I often feel happy inside. They are almost like an automatic smile maker.

I loved having small children, myself. I loved being able to slow down to a child’s pace, to look at the world through their eyes. To gaze with wonder at a huge snowflake landing on the woolen arm of a winter coat, or a spider making its orb web in the backyard, or an ant hurrying on its way with a crumb twice its size on its back. All of these make me pause and reflect. If it weren’t for children, how often would I slow down and look at the little things of life? I mean, the tiny details, the unexpectedly surprising discoveries of everyday experience?

And to sing and make music with children? Singing silly songs, doing all the hand motions, getting up and marching around the classroom, or doing the hokey-pokey? (That’s what it’s all about, you know!) No wonder there is so much laughter and merriment coming from preschools all over!

God compares us to small children, in the Hebrew Scriptures. Or rather, God compares the nation of Israel to a small child. (And by scriptural and hermeneutical understanding, we—today—can also compare ourselves to small children, too. But I digress from my biblical example.) In chapter 11 of Hosea, the prophet talks of God picking up the nation of Israel like a small child and cuddling the small child/nation of Israel to God’s chest/breast. This is such a maternal image! Sometimes, especially when I am feeling small and lost and alone, I am comforted to no end to be reminded of such a tender word picture. Imagine, God doing that to me! (And God will cuddle you, too. If you need it. Or want it.)

Now, I have no problem seeing God as my Loving, Heavenly Parent. Sure, I did have parental issues in my past. I mean, issues with my earthly parents. But through years of prayer, meditation, spiritual direction and counseling, I’ve come to terms with most of them. Now, this clears the way for a loving, encouraging, caring relationship with my Heavenly Father. (Or if you prefer, God our Mother, as St. Julian of Norwich said several times in her excellent book Revelations of Divine Love.)

So, how was I kind today? I shared smiles and hellos with some preschoolers today, and they shared right back! Talk about a mutual smile maker! God, thank You for children, especially the children of Kids Academy. And the preschool teachers, too, who give so willingly and tenderly of themselves to these little ones, each day. Thanks, God!


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Being Kind? Be Patient.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, January 23, 2014

baby and butterfly

Being Kind? Be Patient.

Sometimes it’s easier for me to be patient. For example, when life is going smoothly, when everyone in my family is healthy and happy, I feel more relaxed, and things are generally on an even keel. Then, I find it easy to be patient in my relationships. But during certain periods in my life, that hasn’t been a very large percentage of time. Specific, stormy periods come to mind, where I could easily compare my life to sailing through crashing, stormy, wind-tossed seas. And this has been a good portion of the time. What then?  How can I be expected to be patient, with all heck breaking loose?

I am reminded of a scripture passage from the New Testament on patience. James 1:2-4, where James talks about patience and how the believer receives it. James’s letter was written to a small group of believers in Jesus the Christ (or, Messiah). James wrote it so his readers could be encouraged and comforted. When James puts down in verse 2 “Count it all joy when you fall in various trials,” I can relate to the “trials” part. However, I’m still working on considering the “joy.”

Patience can be both a blessing and an encouragement, in my experience. The first big place I particularly exercised patience was years ago, when I had babies and small children. I loved being a mom, and I loved the time I spent with my children. I enjoyed the slower pace that child-raising necessitated. (Ever take a leisurely stroll with a toddler or preschooler, and see the world through their eyes? Or dance, or sing, or just be silly? Great fun!) But even in the midst of that time with small ones, my life was not all peaches and cream. Worries and concerns, long periods of economic stress, times of personal struggle. Those were definitely not fun.

Going back to James, I’ll mention verse 1:3, “knowing the testing of your faith produces patience.” I understand the word translated “testing” can also mean “challenge.” Another way of thinking of this challenge called life, it produces patience. I know the refining of precious metals requires heating over a steady, consistent flame. Heating the molten metal causes the impurities to rise to the top, where they can be skimmed off. This leaves the precious metal all the more pure and valuable. However, I’m afraid I don’t want to be “challenged” too much more. Ever feel like crying out to God? Telling God to quit it, already? Enough with the steady flames, the fiery furnace. I know this makes the impurities in me rise to the surface. But with the regular fires I’ve been through, my precious metal must be really pure by now. Either that, or there were a whole lot of impurities and dross to skim off.

I used patience today, and yesterday, too. It’s easier to be patient when things are okay. I honored God by showing some amount of patience in my life. I think God is pleased, especially since patience is not one of my preferred gifts of the Spirit. Thanks, God, for helping me show patience to others.


The Usual Monday

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, January 13, 2014

The Usual Monday

What do I do when I have the usual day? It’s not only a regular, ordinary weekday, but the usual Monday. Yes, I did have a number of things to do, but not any more than the ordinary Monday. A better question is what kind of service can I find to do? Or, what kind of service will God show me today?

I often hear a good deal of belly-aching about Mondays. People moan and groan about going back to work after a weekend off. The same with Facebook, and occasionally on Tumblr (those I follow on Tumblr). I don’t particularly mind Mondays. But then, I don’t dislike my job. What did rankle a bit were these same people, making the same posts or memes or comments about Fridays. “TGIF!”

Here’s why it rankled. Up until only a few months ago, I worked on weekends. Almost every weekend, for some years. So when many other people were gearing up for a wild weekend, I was getting ready to go to work. I hardly ever minded. I enjoyed that job, too! Very much, as a matter of fact. One big difference is the attitude I bring to my work. My attitude is positive (usually), and that makes all the difference.  Colossians 3:23 reads “Do your work heartily, as for the Lord, rather than for men.” I realize these words are delivered to slaves or servants. But, am I not a servant of God? Moreover, when I took on this challenge for A Year of Being Kind, I regularly pray for God to show me ways of service. Each day. Isn’t following Colossians 3:23 also a wonderful opportunity of making myself of service?

To elaborate on this attitude of ingratitude, I know a few people who have jobs they do not care for. Their attitude toward their work is, sadly, negative and even depressing. A few years ago, one of my relatives was in this position. Thankfully, their situation has turned around. Now, things are looking up. Their attitude is much brighter. I suspect their work is much more enjoyable now, too!

Today, my specific act of service encompasses an errand. Going to the pharmacy for someone in my acquaintance. I went today to pick up several things, and when I returned, the senior really appreciated it. And, I happened to be there when the person the senior lived with called from work. This person was also grateful and gave me a sincere thank you, too.

What a small thing for me to do! I had two happy, grateful people giving me thanks. Their kind words not only warmed my heart, but also encouraged me to continue to look for acts of service. I’m not saying that every act needs to be praised. (I’m reminded of my children when they were younger. They regularly got stickers when they did something praiseworthy at school.)  No! I don’t want smiley stickers when I drive on errands or go to the store. However, I strive every day to do all (or, as much as I can) to the glory of God.

God, is this one of the things You were thinking of, when You gave me this idea of 365 days of service? I think, yes.


from Beauty for Ashes

from Beauty for Ashes