Saturday, March 29, 2014

A gift that meant to much

I remember one time, many years ago, when my mother told me that, “God never said that life would be easy, honey, but He did say that He would always be with you.” Those words have sustained me through some pretty tough times over the years, and they taught me to look for those ways in which God lets me know that He is with me. 

Sometimes His presence is easy to recognize, especially to those of us that are moved by nature. A glorious sunrise or sunset, the rise of steam off a lake on a summer morning, the full moon, a sky full of star on a clear night, or a breath-taking sight…..are all reminders to me that God is present in His creation.
Most often, He uses people to make His presence known; oftentimes, complete strangers. I have shared before about those people….the hairdresser, my dentist, and my rheumatologist….. who, unbeknownst to them, planted the seeds that led to my decision to change my life.  If I ever get that book started, they will be mentioned in great detail. 

Yesterday, I was given an incredibly wonderful gift from someone I barely know, a former school friend of my mother named Nancy.  Nancy and my mom were classmates and friends for many years but they lost touch with each other shortly after my mom married my dad in 1962. Most of you know that both of my parents have died, my father when I was 8 and my mother when I was in my 20’s.  Earlier this week, I received a “friend request” from Nancy, and because I recognized the name from my childhood (mom had told me about some of her close friends), I accepted her request. Nancy told me that she had some things she would like to send to me and asked for my address.  Last night, I received a package in the mail…a gift that I will treasure forever.

I opened then envelope and inside was a stack of pictures of my mom from her teen years, along with several letters that mom had written Nancy in the early 1950’s. There was also a picture of my dad. Other than the senior class pictures of my parents, I had never seen any of the others she had sent.  I sat in the lazy boy and looked at these photos as the tears rolled down my cheeks, and read those letters, written in the same handwriting that had signed my birthday cards and wrote notes to my teachers over the years, and just smiled and said, “Thank You, God” for the reminder that I am never alone….not on this journey….nor on any other. The love of my parents, although their physical bodies are long gone, will never leave me for that very love gave me life.  As I read those letters, written when my mom was a young, single working woman, and looked at those pictures of special times spent with friends, I got a glimpse into a side of the woman that gave me life….a side that I never really knew. The mom I knew was a mother and wife….not a single woman buying new shoes, purchasing a new car,  taking trips, going to work, and dealing with boys. By the way, "What's up with boys"; I never had to deal with them before this journey! :-)

Although mom was a just a young adult, and I’m a 50 year old single woman with a job, a love of shoes and clothes, and issues with boys, etc.., it was one of those “ah-ha” moments to realize that at one time, she was just like me. She died too early in life and we never got to talk about those things, and suddenly I really missed her, but yet, I’ve never felt closer to her in my life than I did…and do…at this very moment.  I wonder what she would think of me now!  Those photos and letters, likely just items taking up space in Nancy’s attic, are a gift that will be treasured by me for years, not only because of their “physical” attributes, but because the very act of kindness on the part of this stranger of tracking me down and going to the trouble of sending them to me, was God’s way of strengthening and encouraging me on this journey.

Those pictures caused me to think a lot about my mom, and in doing so, I was reminded of her strength, her faith, her determination, and character. I began to think about other things she told me, but mostly, I was reminded of her incredible kindness, in the midst of her own heartache of losing a spouse at 34, and being left alone with 3 children under 8 years old. I was reminded of her faith…the faith that trusted that God will give her what she needed to cope with her heart condition and the struggles of day-to-day life…the faith that gave her strength to keep fighting….to keep trying…to keep on being happy….to be better. The same faith and character she passed on to me…..the same determination that has and will help me succeed….the same desire to help others…..the same love that gave me life.  Just remembering “that” was just the boost of energy that my weary spirit needed to keep going, to keep trying, to keep working.  All of this, because a stranger reached out to me, instead of tossing those pictures into the trash.  What a gift…..what a blessing….what a treasure! Will Nancy ever know what her kindness meant? Probably not!

When I spoke to the Rotary Club a few weeks ago, I reminded my audience of the importance of always treating others with kindness and compassion because we never really know how our actions will affect another person, how what we say may give someone hope or encouragement, how God may use us to speak to another, or how what we do…..even something as simple as holding a door, offering to help, making a phone call, listening to a story…..or as ordinary as mailing a photo or newspaper clipping to someone…..may change his/her life.  You, my friends, are given opportunities each and every day to make a difference in someone’s life….and by doing so….you will be changing your own.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is that “deep within you” lies everything you need to succeed at changing your life.  Sometimes, though, the busyness of life gets in the way, and we need a reminder or an opportunity to dig deep and get in touch with that spirit and will.  Who was the person that first believed in you…..believed that you could do whatever you put your mind to….that you were special?  Was it a parent, a grandparent, a teacher or neighbor????  Who believes in you now?   A spouse, a best friend….a stranger named THERESA????   Do you have a symbol of some sort of that strength…..perhaps a necklace, or memento….maybe a religious item like a cross or rosary….maybe a bookmark or photo….any sort of thing.  I have many….some worn pinned to my bra right over my heart, and I surround myself with them on a daily basis, and when I find myself weak or weary, I pick them up, hold them, and just reflect on those people…most of them dead; many still alive….that believe in me and found value in me BEFORE and find value in me NOW.

Maybe…just maybe….it’s a good time for you to get those old photos out….to reconnect to your past….and find yourself a visual reminder that YOU CAN…and YOU WILL Change your life!  You have what it takes….even if it’s buried in the clutter of doubt, fear, anxiety, or pain. DIG DEEP….and never underestimate your ability to not only change your own life…but to change the lives of others by every act of kindness that you take the time to do. Remember, what may seem insignificant or “no big deal” to you, may be a blessing to someone else….a way in which God shows someone else that HE IS PRESENT!
Thank you, Nancy, for an act of kindness that has given me a renewed strength to inspire others for the Glory of God!