Someone commented on my first blog post. Other than the fact that their comment was sweet and, “Yea! Really? Yes!…YEA!!,” someone actually read my post, it was more the “commentor” that moved me. It brought to my mind a bittersweet, cherished memory. It was one of those “instantly transported to another place and time” kind of things. I figure we all feel that same rush of emotion at times. You see someone from your childhood and the memories swirl. You get a whiff of a fragrance that puts you snuggling in your granny’s lap. Or you hear a song that instantly, and immediately, takes you back to lunch time in a booth at Audra’s restaurant during your junior year of high school (where you can actually taste that chili burger!) Yes, this was one of those times for me. The fact that this person commented, and I saw their name and remembered WHY (or through whom) I know them, brought to my mind, and refreshed, why I choose to look ahead instead of looking behind, and why a daily morning quiet time is one of the ways I do this. Of course I say laughingly that my mornings don’t start as early as they used to, or probably as early as most people’s do these days!
I seem to have always needed a lot of “quiet, me time.” Something that people desperately need in this noisy, fast-paced, never-stop universe is to take that time to be alone with themselves; and for me personally, to be alone with God. We need to take the time to breathe and be away from the world for just a little while. It doesn’t matter the place or the time of day, or even the amount of time; just take the time. You can definitely be aware of something, or have knowledge of something, even have a desire to do it, and still not practice it! Throughout my fifty-ahhh-some years I would attempt to make quiet time a priority. I had good intentions. I tried many times and failed many times. I’d get up that hour earlier, and there right in front of me were multiple priorities wanting my attention, you know, the old, “things to do, people to see, places to go.” It generally did not take very long for the determination to fade away. I remember the exact moment that I vowed to make that time and be that person, to get that fresh start on the day. It came the afternoon I sat in a packed church for a celebration of life service and watched the choir come in around a somewhat empty chair. I had been sitting there moments before the choir proceeded in, trying to figure out why there was a choir robe and a rose so beautifully draped over that chair, when all the other chairs were empty. I did not know whose seat it was, although I should have known. I expected to see a frantic choir member who had forgotten their robe try to sneak out in front of the crowd and slip into it. I did not “get it” until the choir actually started filing in and my friend was not with them. Ah…. Ahhhhh… Even though she was not there physically, it was like the light that surrounded her in her life was still hovering around that spot, lighting up that platform.
The person that previously filled that seat on a weekly basis was one of the strongest, smartest, most graceful, loving, compassionate and forgiving humans that I have ever been blessed to have in my life. I learned so much from her about how to handle stressful situations, how to deal with difficult people, and how to remain graceful no matter the fray! I am a bit emotional, so I don’t handle those stressful situations as well as she did, and I mess up a lot; (as in recently, a lot!) but I am a work in progress! She also taught me how to laugh while muddling through the craziness that is life! During that service I was reminded anew of her daily discipline of getting up early to meet with her Lord and refresh herself with His Word and His presence, to look forward to the day, to pray for those she loved (and sometimes those she didn’t), and to take care of her physical body with exercise every day. Practicing THOSE disciplines each day was how she garnered such strength and light. I was heavy-hearted that day, but amazingly inspired! How were we going to go on without her presence, her no-nonsense demeanor, her diverting, dry sense of humor, her strength, her light? I decided in that moment to NOT do without them, but to try and keep her light going. It was such a powerful emotion – powerful enough to be burning strong still this day. I do miss her greatly and often; but the life she lived inspires me each and every day. It inspires me to live each day as it comes and look forward to brighter, better times….well, hopefully at least look forward more than I look backward.
Just because I crown her with the attributes of grace, love, compassion and forgiveness does not mean by any stretch of the imagination that she was a pushover. She was the epitome of the “steel hand in the velvet glove.” She was strong. She was so strong! Her inner strength remained to the end, even through a battle with ovarian cancer. I desire to attempt to practice her disciplines, to look at others the way she did. I wish to have her “eye,” her ability to survey a situation and find the positive–acknowledge the bad–but dig around the muck and mire and somehow pluck out a fragment of the good. I think one of those early morning sessions for her might possibly have included reading something like this, “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging.” (Matthew 7:1 The Message) I think her love, compassion and forgiveness were wrapped up in a beautiful package surrounded by her grace.
Oh my goodness! In my life I have tried so hard to attain gracefulness! I even went through a modeling course and did some modeling and acting for a little while. I must say that I blame my lack of gracefulness on my dad! My mom wanted to name me Sarah Grace; but thanks to my dad, I ended up with Matilda Elaine. In some far off realm (like Australia), I suppose that is as good, but for me, the “graceful” just never made it! I have absolutely no illusions about attaining physical gracefulness. I can’t walk across the room without tripping on my own feet! I am thankful that attaining grace does not necessarily mean the physical attributes of someone that you picture sailing through a room on a wispy cloud. (Seriously?) That would leave this clunky, clumsy girl out in a heartbeat! It is more about the presence that comes from within, a strength and quiet determination in how you live your life. It is in how you treat others- all the time- not just when people are watching.
My friend had a solid grace within her that came initially from her relationship with her Lord. She, time and time again, took the grace that she had been given and gave it away to others. I saw her grace massively displayed as she was treated terribly by someone that she worked with for a continued period of time. She still did all that she could do to, work well with them, make them look good and keep that relationship positive. She looked past their “bad” behavior many times, toward an envisioned, positive outcome. You cannot get past the lumps, bumps and bruises to that positive relationship unless you first focus on it and see it out there somewhere. Let’s face it, we all have difficult relationships in our lives. Some are caused by seasons or situations; some are caused by how other people treat us; but yet some of the most difficult to maintain are the difficult relationships caused by the way we treat others. When we miss that mark and are the cause of friction within our relationship body, we have to get past that anxiety buzzing around inside our chest, take ownership and make sure we mend what ever fences need mending. It is not easy to move forward until you do, and learning how to do this gracefully is something that is still a work in progress for me.
I would love to be able to tell you that, from being inspired by my friend, I have all of my love, compassion and forgiveness wrapped up in grace; but that is just not so. My pastor talks about his mentor in the faith, a very wise, older gentleman. He told my pastor that the more he studied and tried to understand God’s Word, the more that he realized that there was so much more to know and understand and although he had studied for many, many years, he had just begun. I can see that in my own life. The more I study about the love, compassion and forgiveness of Christ, the more I see that my attempts are feeble at best. It is hard to maintain relationships, including relationships outside of your family that you think might not be that important. But they are important in the whole sphere of the big picture of our life. We are a link in the chain that makes up humankind. When we damage one of those links, it affects the whole…even if we never see that effect. It means something to someone. This week even, there was a situation where I could have used more compassion, but my frustration took the upper hand. I was not very loving and I am the one that needs to ask for forgiveness. So taking my eye off the goal ahead and fretting about a moment, “an instant,” instead of trying to see ahead to the great big picture, has caused me to tumble off the running field; where I am currently rolling around in the grass with a pulled muscle! Time….to…..make…amends….. Does anyone have an aspirin?
Yes, each and every day is an opportunity to look forward toward the light (goal) and try to keep ourselves from looking back at our screw-ups, other than to learn from them and then move forward.
“Does your life in Christ give you strength? Does his love comfort you? Do we share together in the Spirit? Do you have mercy and kindness? If so, make me very happy by having the same thoughts, sharing the same love, and having one mind and purpose. When you do things, do not let selfishness or pride be your guide. Be humble and give more honor to others than to yourselves.” (Philippians 2:1-3 ICB)