Being Kind, Showing Love

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, February 1, 2014

Elizabeth's birthday cake Kevin Jones - photo

Elizabeth’s birthday cake
Kevin Jones – photo

Being Kind, Showing Love

Today is my birthday. “Hap-py birth-day to me!” I wouldn’t mention this except for the fact that my oldest daughter saved my birthday cake yesterday. She lives in the same suburb that the rest of our family lives in. She offered to take me out for a birthday dinner yesterday evening. But before we went to the restaurant, she noticed that something was the matter when I picked her up in the car. She frowned. “What’s up?” I tried to dismiss it, thinking that she and I didn’t need to rehash frustrating and irritating stuff, but she pressed me.

I finally came clean. “I baked a cake for myself this afternoon, and tried a new filling. Raspberry filling. I followed the directions, reduced the frozen raspberries and water on the stove, added the sugar, raspberry extract, and lemon juice. I removed it from the heat and let it cool, then added the corn starch in water. But it won’t set up. It’s still raspberry soup!” I communicated how disgruntled I was. We laughed, and then she commiserated with me. She asked what I wanted to do—just forget about the cake and go out to eat, or go and try to fix the filling and go out to eat later. I dithered for all of ten seconds, and then we went to my house to try our best on the filling.

Suffice it to say that together, we got the filling to jell. (We put it back on the heat.) We cooled it, put the filling between the cake layers, and then my daughter iced the cake (with my chocolate buttercream icing. Yum!) After that, she and I went out to a good, moderately-priced Italian bistro and pizza place. We got salad, baked potato and ribs (my choice—again, yum!) And afterwards, we went home for cake. (Yum, for the third time!) The—jelled—raspberry filling was perfect. All in all, a satisfying evening.

Through giving me a hand with the cake and coming to the rescue of the raspberry soup, my wonderful daughter showed great love to me. She was kind to me, intentionally. (Just what I am trying to do, each day in 2014.) I was so grateful! I told her so, several times, and gave her a few hugs. We all had cake and conversation. A wonderful, family way to end the evening, too.

As I reflected on this frustrating and irritating situation, my daughter was able to so easily redeem the filling (and my disgruntled temper, too!). Yes, it was a small thing. The filling of a cake that I did not need (in terms of calories), but she and I together were able to salvage and successfully ice and finish. This reminded me of situations where I was unable to complete certain tasks on my own at work, or in a ministry at church. But when one or two willing friends or co-workers came alongside of me and helped, the job was a piece of cake! (pun intended <grin>) I suspect that is exactly the lesson God wanted me to learn. God, do I hear You laughing? Not at me, but with me, of course. I think You are.

@chaplaineliza

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Saying “Can I Help?”

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, January 19, 2014

lily bouquet

lily bouquet

Saying “Can I Help?”

The Chicago area had a snowfall last night. Feathery, light dusting of snow. Several inches worth of the white stuff. Enough to make older people think twice before venturing out to church. Me, I enjoyed getting outside! The church I attend has a number of senior members, so there were not as many in attendance this morning. Our church has a traditional, liturgical service, with typical elements such as vestments, hymns, and organ. Today, we celebrated the second Sunday after Epiphany. (I sang with the choir, as usual.) The sermon revolved around the followers of John becoming curious about Jesus. “Come and see!” Just as the curious followers of Jesus were invited to come and see, we are, too.

After church, pretty much every week, a couple or several people from the congregation volunteer to host coffee hour. With attendance down today, I happened by the church kitchen immediately after service. I saw the woman hosting coffee hour today just beginning to set out everything on the tables. (Most weeks, all the serving dishes and drinks are set out by that time.) Her husband was not there at the moment, to assist. I smiled at her and heard the words coming from my mouth: “Can I help?”

She was so appreciative, and enthusiastically said “Yes, thank you!” I stripped off my choir robe, shoved it onto a hanger, and hurried to the kitchen. I grabbed the water, and the plates of coffee cake and bowls of grapes, and trotted them out to the table. I saw to the eating-end of the table, and she poured coffee, tea, and water at the other. I had fun, and made myself generally helpful. I re-filled coffee carafes, fetched serving utensils, did whatever else needed doing. I helped her clear off the tables, wash the dishes and carafes, and clean the kitchen. The church grew quiet as it emptied out. She and I had a wonderful time getting to know each other better as we tidied up.

I’ve read in theological books (like chapter 9 in the modern classic by Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline) that serving others is a good choice if someone wants to increase in spiritual disciplines. When I intentionally set out to make this year my year of serving, of finding ways to be kind, I knew that this would entail a good deal of fetching, carrying, listening, and helping. Even if I hadn’t prayed for God to send me specific service opportunities, I would still be helpful. Some Christian elders and people of discernment have told me that I indeed have the spiritual gift of helps. I’ve noticed for years this is something that I enjoy. I knew this propensity would aid me in the practice of being kind.

As I drove home, I realized that those words “Can I help?” came from my mouth without thinking. Just automatic. I was of service, before I even knew it.  God, thank You for putting me in the right place at the right time. Would that service could always be so fulfilling and joy-filled!

@chaplaineliza