Amy Lanham

finding beauty in the middle of the mess

The Price of Kindness

Have you ever had your kindness abused? I have. In fact, I have a particular friend that is the absolute kindest person I know and she has received her fair share of mistreatment over the years. She is always smiling, always encouraging, always helpful, and yet she has had people take advantage of her and be downright hateful. Some people are fake bubbly, but not this gal. She is the real deal, and my heart hurts to know that others have been unkind to her over the years.

I have always tried to be kind to others. Now, this isn’t to say I haven’t made my fair share of mistakes with people, but kindness has been my goal in life in general. The choices I made as a young girl/teen in school didn’t make me popular, but at least they made me generally well tolerated. If you asked a classmate back then how they would describe me, they would probably have said “nice.” I tended to befriend kids that other people wouldn’t. There were a few times my kindness actually made me a target of others’ ill intentions. Even now, as I have recess duty, I watch for kids who are being picked on or tend to be loners.

Recently,  I learned of a former student of mine who developed an eating disorder when she was in high school. This girl was beautiful, treated others well, and made the choice to be an excellent student and not party like some of her friends. Amidst doing the right things, she was ridiculed, ostracized, and made to feel “less than,” when in fact she was so much more. It is painful to make good choices, and then suffer for them.  We must remember that choosing to be kind is not always an easy choice. It will not always be favored by others.

Matthew 16:26 says, “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” We may be able to gain friends, status, wealth, etc., by being unkind. The question is, what do we lose in doing so? I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be kind and be able to look myself in the mirror than achieve the things the world deems important and be a jerk.

If you have kids, be sure they understand that kindness can come at a price, but it is a price worth paying. And, kids can be kind while not allowing themselves to be victimized. Even as adults we can find ourselves in situations where we wonder if treating others well is worth it. I wish kindness always reaped kindness in return, but sometimes that just isn’t the case.

“Kindness can become its own motive. We are made kind by being kind.” ~ Eric Hoffer

Blessings,

 

The Joy of Exhaling


Did you hear about the couple in California back in October that survived one of the wildfires by immersing themselves in their neighbor’s pool? For six hours, John and Jan Pascoe repeatedly submerged themselves to avoid the ash and flames. Luckily, their strategy worked. They walked away relatively unscathed, however their home and both of their vehicles were completely destroyed.

I have a hard time imagining what that experience would be like. I wonder how long they may have had to hold their breath at times, waiting for just the right moment to grab another chestful of air.

My husband, Jason, shared this story with me the same day he received news that his cancer may very well be in remission, and I have to confess that I immediately drew some parallels to our own lives.

Have you ever had a time where you felt like you were figuratively holding your breath? Maybe waiting on news of the results of an interview, final judgments in a competition, willing the pregnancy test to show positive or negative? Waiting can be so hard, and sometimes we are asked to do so for long periods of time.

December 19th, Jason and I made a visit to his oncologist. He’s reached the end of a clinical trial he has been a part of for two years. When his test results came back and one of the doctors told us that his blood work was normal, I felt myself truly exhale for the first time in six years. I’m not exaggerating. It’s like I had been unconsciously holding just part of my breath that entire time.

I think our experience mirrors this couple’s in many ways. For six hours they were up and down waiting and hoping for rescue. They watched things fall apart around them. They were at the mercy of the flames. For six years, we have had to tread the proverbial water. Each visit before the trial as the white cell counts grew we were holding our breath just a little bit more. Then, each visit after the start of the medication it would seep out ever so slightly as the numbers began to go down. We would suck a little more air in when side effects would pop up, or infection reared its ugly head. This sounds way more dramatic than reality, but the feeling is true, nonetheless.

There is so much uncertainty with cancer. Even when operations, treatments, or medications do their job, cancer still steals something from you. Your peace of mind is never the same afterwards. Just as this couple lost treasured possessions, there are things you lose with cancer that cannot be replaced. Peace of mind should not be taken for granted.

Maybe you are familiar with a popular Amy Grant Christmas song called “Breath of Heaven.” It is also known as “Mary’s Song.” Here are some of the lyrics:

I am waiting in a silent prayer
I am frightened by the load I bear
In a world as cold as stone
Must I walk this path alone?
Be with me now
Be with me now

Breath of heaven
Hold me together
Be forever near me
Breath of heaven
Breath of heaven
Lighten my darkness
Pour over me your holiness
For you are holy
Breath of heaven

The original lyrics were written by English songwriter Chris Eaton. Amy Grant got permission to rework the song to make it into a Christmas tune. Here is what she had to say about it: “It is a prayer that fits a lot of people’s circumstances, because it is a cry of mercy. Some nights on stage I can hardly get through the song for knowing all of the collective, unspoken pain of the lives in front of me. And so the words become my prayer for the listener and the reader, as well as the singer.”

In Job 33:4, we read, “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” In Genesis we read that God formed man from the dust of the ground and “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” In the book of John, the Bible tells us we must be born of the Spirit. The word Spirit can be translated as a current of air, a breath-blast, a breeze. Not only has God given us physical life, but we have the chance for him to breathe life into our very spirits.

It is for this reason that I cling to my belief in a magnificent Creator. There are times I may not be able to physically breathe, but I have something inside of me that gives me hope nonetheless, that keeps my spirit breathing.

God will not always answer my prayers in the affirmative. Through great research, good doctors, ideal circumstances, and a good physical match between the medication and my husband’s body he was healed this time (at least for now). When the breath of life is taken out of our bodies, or those we love, we can cling to the hope of the breath of heaven that can reside within us.

A few days after our good news I purchased this sign as a gift for Jason. We are looking forward to many more years together.

May you find yourself exhaling soon if life is hard or uncertain right now!

Blessings,

Fitting in vs. Belonging

I sat my two months shy of his 13th birthday son down and told him I wanted to talk with him about a book I just read.  Me reading a book certainly isn’t unusual to him, and we often talk about what I read, so he wasn’t too suspicious.

You see, I just finished reading Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown. In chapter 7, she talks about the difference between belonging and fitting in. She interviewed 8th graders to find out how they would define the distinction between the two. The three conclusions that she included were spot on, but my favorite was this one: “If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, I fit in.” What a huge topic for a middle schooler to explore!

If you are reading this and you are a parent, then you know the worry of hoping your kid can find a tribe. And, usually we say we want our kids to fit in, but I think what we should want more than anything is for our kids to belong. I don’t want my sons to be anything other than what God created them to be. I want them to be loved for who they are, not who they try to be.

The part of the chapter that made me think more than any other part was the fact that the kids told her that not belonging at school was one thing, but not belonging at home was ultimately even worse. I thought home is where everyone is supposed to belong, but that’s just not the case. Here are some of the examples the kids gave her:

  1. Not living up to you parents’ expectations.
  2. Not being as cool or popular as your parents want you to be.
  3. Not being good at the same things your parents were good at.
  4. Your parents being embarrassed because you don’t have enough friends or you’re not an athlete or a cheerleader.
  5. Your parents not liking who you are and what you like to do.
  6. When your parents don’t pay attention to your life.

So, my son and I talked through these. I wanted to make sure his dad and I weren’t doing any of these six things. I remembered at the end of last school year when he wasn’t sure he wanted to continue with trumpet. He was so remorseful when he told us since his dad had been such a great trumpet player. Neither of us cared, but he had been so worried. Then, I thought about how he loves Pokemon and I am 100% clueless about it. He reassured me that he knows we don’t care if he plays an instrument, and as for Pokemon, we listen to him tell us about his great finds and take him places to play. For him, that’s enough.

We had such a great conversation, and I can’t believe the young man he is turning into. And, I’m so relieved he feels like he belongs at school, church, and at home. There have been various scenarios throughout my life where I felt like I didn’t fit in, but ultimately I knew it was okay, because I always had a place to belong. Some of us are square pegs in round holes and instead of complaining about it, maybe we need to embrace it, or go look for a square board.

If you haven’t read any of Brown’s books, I highly recommend them. She puts language to things we feel inside, but weren’t sure how to define. Braving the Wilderness was an easy read and opened up great dialogue with my kiddo.

Where do you feel like you most belong?

Blessings,

« Older posts

© 2018 Amy Lanham

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑