The late Mister Rogers is quoted as saying, “It’s ok to not be ok.”
November includes the National Children’s Grief Awareness Day, a day to honor kids who are grieving – in any season – and particularly as we journey into the holidays.
Children need to feel safe inside the space of their sorrow.
They need to tell about their story and tell about it to someone who is safe and available to hear it.
For Meggi Beth, it’s been hard lately to carry the weight of her story, which you may sense is a story of grief. In the picture book, “Will You Hold My Story?”, (artistry by Brianna Osaseri), this lovable little girl is patiently waiting for someone else to ease her burden. An endearing children’s book is one that carries meaning for both children and grownups.
Meggi Beth discovers two things along the way: a secret and a story-bearer who becomes a treasured friend. Settle in and get acquainted with the delightful characters who stop by to comfort Meggi Beth.
So many of life’s decisions are money-driven: which college is most affordable for my graduate? … will the family be okay if something happens to me? … should I retire now, or wait a few years? … are those investments growing or will they be in the tank soon? Curbside, or in-store shopping?
It’s a luxury, really, to be able to ask these questions. Many of the families we affect through our writings are wondering how to heat the house, never mind investments or 401-K’s.
They are scrambling to keep the kids in school and deciding which creditors can be paid this month. Sure, some regrettable choices have landed them in a world of hurt, but aren’t we all one emotion shy of making the wrong choice?
Our resilient hearts are possibly the most valuable currency we have. One thing we can all bank on, for sure: we have the currency of caring.
These intangibles — these treasures of survival — are the currency that can never be stolen, lost or wrongly invested.
Let’s take a look at our impressive portfolio:
We have …
The bankroll of unexpected blessings.
The treasury of compassion.
The cache of childlike wonder.
The treasure chest of non-judgment.
The abundance of laughter.
The nest egg of Resilience.
The wealth of watchfulness; of caring for ourselves and each other.
The riches of simple joys, shared.
We have the coinage of humility; something we all should carry like extra quarters in our pockets if only to feed the meter of kindness.
Tending to life.
A brief little phrase that packs a wallop.
Can we all just take a moment for:
An elbow-bump, maybe even an air hug?
How about making soup for a shut in neighbor?
Taking a few minutes to shovel the sidewalk for someone else?
It just feels like Hope x 1,000 when I look around and see us tending to life.
As we continue being tossed and jostled by the turbulent waters of Covid-19 and a contentious election year, may we emerge smoothed and beautiful – like polished beach glass.
Kathy Joy is the author of the Breath of Joy Series and Will You Hold My Story, a child’s picture book, to be released in early 2021.
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Chris and I recently enjoyed a date night. As part of our special evening, we went to a movie. The credits at the end of the feature included a character identified as compassionate woman. Her small act of kindness in the movie did not merit her having a name.
“And some have compassion, making a difference.” (Jude 22)
The same can be true of real life. Small acts of compassion and kindness are often not given merit, except by the recipient. People value and remember when others show them kindness. Noticing someone is like giving them a gift.
Acts of compassion include benevolence, empathy, grace, kindness, mercy, sympathy, tenderness, charity, clemency, commiseration, condolence, consideration, and softheartedness. True compassion focuses first and foremost on the revelation of God’s great love demonstrated through His Son Jesus Christ.
Earlier today, I read an article written by Bette Owens on compassion. “When I think of a compassionate woman, I think of a godly woman.”
Bette Owens also describes the characteristics of a compassionate woman:
A compassionate Christian woman has a hunger for God.
A compassionate Christian woman lives for eternity.
A compassionate Christian woman avoids sin.
A compassionate Christian woman loves others.
In my first novel, The Whispering of the Willows, the Ashby children have endeared themselves to a single woman living across Big Creek from them. They escape to her and call her their “love aunt” for good reason. In many ways, her hospitality shows through, by her taking the time to listen to the children, and taking action on their behalf when called for. She hides a child in safety and she calls the sheriff when an investigation is warranted. My own sweet aunt is the prototype of the loving aunt in my story.
Recently, I enjoyed reading a story featuring another compassionate woman. This woman is the teacher of a child who has been wronged at Christmastime. She has put away extra gifts for such a time as the story presents. I highly recommend A Perfect Tree by Denise Dunham for your younger kiddos this season. Disappointments abound in life, but compassionate women can make a difference.
“A compassionate Christian woman will make a difference in the lives of all who meet her. Her life is truly one that makes a difference. We can all be a compassionate Christian woman and make a difference if we would love and serve the One who makes a difference.” (Bette Owens)
Author Tonya Jewel Blessing is working on her third novel in the Big Creek series. Don’t miss out on her first two installments, they have been highly recommended by many readers!
Do you ever feel like a neglected house plant? I do.
I do, right now: yellowing leaves, a bit droopy, and terribly parched.
There’s this Dracaena plant quietly occupying a windowsill in my spare room. Even during this sheltering-at-home phase, in a state of being hyper-alert about everything, I’d forgotten it. The poor thing was so brittle, so needy – like us.
House Plants and People
I wondered if it could be restored.
Setting to work, I couldn’t help thinking we all need a bit of repotting, some fresh water … some TLC.
I’ve seen lots of tough-girl and tough-guy books around. It seems critics in the new media don’t like a character to show or feel anything soft or vulnerable. They will issue a dogging review if the young man or girl cries or flounders for an answer. They will call it “immature”.
Everyone has needs. Humans thrive on community and teamwork. Each of us needs a little attention. In fact, I can’t seem to think of one stage in life when a person doesn’t need some attention and care. We share this life.
Like a house plant, we need some tending-to these days.
Our root system is aching to not work so hard, to have a thriving life surrounding us that we may do what we are meant to do in peace and confidence.
Our leaves are yellow – we need a careful touch to pull them away. Our soil is dry – we need an organic compost of compassion.
Nutrients should be mixed in, things like good humor, a phone call, a letter, a song.
Leaves that no longer serve us or others around us should be pruned. Bitter leaves, all. Cut away dry petals of memories that cause arrogance, envy, self-pity, anger, resentment, and unforgiveness.
Do you feel very bare naked without those leaves flourishing around you? Trust the process. After a stressful season or a severe pruning, either one, your roots will soon flourish.
Like the little struggling plant, we need recovery time. During a time of lacking sunlight and waiting for the regularity of better times, we will need a clear vision of hope to absorb some fresh, good nutrients. Share and be shared with.
Take care of your plants, yes.
Take care of yourself, too: hunker down in a larger pot, giving yourself extra space to expand and thrive.
It might be nice to aerate the soil to help our roots grow deeply; to enable a stronger, more vigorous life. Break up the old soil, infuse it with good nutrients.
I arise today Through the strength of heaven; Light of the sun, Splendor of fire, Speed of lightning, Swiftness of the wind, Depth of the sea, Stability of the earth, Firmness of the rock. I arise today Through God's strength to pilot me; God's might to uphold me, God's wisdom to guide me, God's eye to look before me, God's ear to hear me, God's word to speak for me, God's hand to guard me, God's way to lie before me, God's shield to protect me, God's hosts to save me From snares of the devil, From temptations of vices, From every one who desires me ill, Afar and anear, Alone or in a multitude. I summon today all these powers between me and evil, Against every cruel merciless power that opposes my body and soul-
Take care of the tops and the bottoms of your plants. Help them reach upward and trust.
Trash the bitter leaves.
Give the roots nutrients and space
Add water and light.
Drink, absorb life, and drink some more.
Place yourself in the environment you need, one with plenty of light and love.
I’m pleased to tell you my house plant is coming along nicely, showing some gumption, reaching toward the light. I’ve named her “Endurance” because she is making a comeback after a drought of neglect.
My house is getting colder by the moment. I think I’ll go down and turn up the heat. Just a moment. I’ll be right back.
Okay. You know how that is, adjusting the thermostat by the ups and downs in fall as winter approaches, and the warming up days of spring only to be downcast by a late winter storm? I’m sure that’s why God made us pets to hold and help us through these uncertain times.
I used to take these walks with my dog, but I myself am in a time between times now, and I have to walk by myself. So, I step onto the nano-seconds with the fallen leaves and bright sunrises and sunsets, electric rains, and bristling winds.
In these private times, I give thanks for many things past, present, and future.
Once you’ve lost this, you can never get it back; what is it?
The Time Between Times
Have you noticed how Thanksgiving tends to get lost in the time between times?
Decorations and celebration planning hops right over Thanksgiving like we are guided to hop from the treats of Halloween right into the serious celebrations of Christmas and the duties of gift-giving.
When do we get to spontaneously pause and reflect, it’s because we’ve stolen time away from these carefully sculpted hours for a private moment.
I’ve written a series of seasonal books for winter, spring, summer, and fall (autumn) celebrating Thanksgiving and hospitality. My books use the nano-seconds as stepping stones, pauses to reflect, similar to you’d use a labyrinth.
Sometimes, when these seconds slow down, I discover treasures and turns of phrases. I find myself reaching in, reaching out, praying.
A Nano-Second of Impulse
I’m not an independently wealthy author. I work a day job at the front desk behind glass. Today at my place of work, we got an email about burnout, which many of us are experiencing.
One of the perks of working in a glass bowl is that you get to see what’s happening outside. I’ve witnessed some interesting moments, plus a few things I’d rather un-see if that were even possible. Outside the door to my place of work, humanity passes by on skateboards, pushing strollers, in sneakered youth and well-shod business attire. I’ve seen army recruiters, pre-med students, construction workers, and grub hub drivers; bicyclists, policemen, delivery trucks, and dog walkers.
I’ve laughed to see people leaning close to the glass to examine their teeth, fix their hair, or admire their physique; the glass is a great mirror for them and a handy camouflage for me.
Back in the before-days, it was a common delight to see small tots on a daycare outing, holding hands, or maybe grabbing onto a long cord and marching in a wiggly line.
These days, everybody is hyper-alert.
This over-stretched year of Covid is marked by caution, measured in tiny increments of care, and burdened by restraints that brush by us and tip over our natural human boundaries. Humanity is unable to cope with robotic demands for long.
I want to shout, are we tripping over our own watchfulness, calculating every move; hesitating over every decision?
Whatever happened to healthy distractions, good old spontaneity?
A friend I’ve been missing tells me, “There’s simply no room for the unknown; the unplanned.“
It’s been raining lately, that off and on drizzle that makes you want to stay in bed. The persistent showers are cloaking the sky in a steely gray curtain. Occasionally we get a glimpse of soft pearly clouds, like the inside of an oyster shell. It’s the kind of weather for becoming a mirror of my ceilings, becoming a well-polished pearl.
If you have to go out, the umbrella is up and the head is down. Jackets are pulled snug. That’s why, while stealing a look at the world passing by, something caught my eye.
Spontaneity kicked to the curb, my ache for one rare and splendid moment is rewarded through the mist of incessant drizzle.
Some guy stood in a puddle.
He was standing in – not avoiding – a puddle.
He stomped one foot, then the other, and watched the spray fly upward.
A smile emerged from his face, then I was smiling, too.
He leaned down for a look at his soaked shoes. Wildly, he swept the puddle with one foot, then the other. Then he jumped.
The light changed, cars passed, and still, he stood there, sloshing in the cold rainwater.
I’d have expected this from a youngster, but this – this was a grownup; a man, roughly in his 40’s. It’s hard to tell.
Impossible to know whether he was a traveler, a vagrant, an executive who’d just lost his job, or perhaps a professor. It doesn’t matter. All speculations are off when you are splashing in puddles.
The world stopped for a moment.
He did not notice me watching from the office window. He did not care about ruined shoes or wet trousers. He wasn’t concerned with anything, except the lure of impulse.
When I turned around for another look, of course, he was gone.
While the world was joining Zoom, masking up and maintaining an abundance of caution, this guy had an appointment with a mud puddle. A meeting, he honored. With reckless abandon. At the southwest corner of 9th and Sass, with St. Pete’s Cathedral towering over it all, a basic human emotion was felt: spontaneity.
And I got to see it, to feel the joy of it.
Our hearts need mending, our souls need healing, and our bodies need rest…one splendid moment at a time.