“Stop Staring at Me!”

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That’s me, lying out there in the driveway! It’s also my husband and children, in full view of anyone driving by our house. As a matter of fact, we even posted numerous signs announcing we were putting ourselves out for public display! Are we crazy? Well, yes, but there’s a reason this time.

We are having a garage sale. Have you ever hosted or even considered hosting a sale? Think long before committing to doing so. Most people I know do not choose to have a sale because it’s fun. Much work goes into gathering, sorting, cleaning, pricing, and displaying items to be sold.

The hours are long. The continual lifting, arranging, and folding prove tedious, especially since some people consider tossing clothing back onto the pile acceptable. The customers vary widely, as do the languages, at times. Decision-making unnerves me, so the negotiating challenges my confidence. I mean, what should I say when they tell me my favorite sweater isn’t worth a dollar?! Come on now!

The fact “my life” is spread out on tables makes me feel completely vulnerable. Each item I place out tells part of my story, and most hold a memory only for me. Now my clothes, my family’s clothing, household items, knick-knacks, furniture, and home decor bear the scrutiny of strangers!

Knowing this, I spend time cleaning every item until it shines. I use laundry detergent, glass cleaner, and elbow grease. I want to make a good impression, even though my visitors will likely remain only strangers. After all, who wants to buy something they hesitate to even touch?

The worst reaction comes from those who wander my spread out belongings with only a brief glance from the end of the driveway, and then turn to leave with a smirk or scrunched up nose. I choose to think they were looking for something specific and knew with a scan it wasn’t available in my driveway market.

But, in the back of my mind, I wonder: did they not like my life choices? Are my belongings THAT antiquated or undesirable? Is the stuff I’m offering below their high standard? Well, okay then. “Have a nice day! Thanks for stopping by.”

I try to to make eye contact with each potential customer and offer a kind comment. However, underneath my cheery facade, as I watch them toss through my items, I feel they are pawing right through my life. Some “look” by acting as a periscope in the middle of the driveway, while others spend twenty-five minutes scoping out each item. To those, I often want to shout, “Stop staring at me!”

I’ve met some delightful people. I especially love watching them become giddy over finding a treasure among my goods.

Regardless of the responses, I’ve accomplished my two main purposes – uncluttered my home and made a little extra money for special times.

I’ve done many garage sales over the years. This year, however, I came to a new realization: I will leave a positive or negative impression by what I display. The only evidence they have to judge remains on those tables.

How much more true is this in my spiritual life? God desires to use my life as a display of His love for the world, as a testimony to His goodness. Every morning I awaken, I will be a walking, talking example. Will my life leave a good impression or a bad impression of Him?

My life acts as evidence by which the world will judge the character of God. People will desire Him only if I represent Him rightly. The responsibility is profound.

If I am to depict Him truthfully, I must keep my life clean. I must spend time reading His Holy Word, speaking with Him, and asking Him for the strength to be a good ambassador of His love. I must guard my actions and my words.

My garage sale lasted two days. My testimony lasts a lifetime. Who knows how long He will use me? I don’t know.

But I know I have this moment.  I want to make Him shine right now, while I have the opportunity to bring Him praise.

I want the world to want Him!

“Ye are our epistle written in our hearts,                        known and read of all men.”    II Corinthians 3:2

“We are ambassadors for Christ.”   II Corinthians 5:20

Say What?

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My husband, a genuine extrovert, loves people. I do, too, but as an introvert, I love them from a greater distance than he. Socially, we perfectly exemplify the “opposites attract” notion. Wherever we go, my husband extends our time out by stopping to chat with whomever he can engage in conversation. In the neighborhood, I’m known only as “oh, you’re that lady whose husband . . .  .” And that’s just fine with me.

Last year, a young couple with three little children moved in next door. Normally, my gregarious husband would know their names by now, but all we generally do is wave at them.  Other than adding a smile, that’s about it. They moved to the United States from Myanmar and speak, I think, Burmese. Although I taught English for many years and know a bit of French, and my husband knows an ounce of German, we are both ill-equipped to speak Burmese.

Obviously, language has created a barrier for us. These folks seem sweet and their children appear well-behaved, but we know little else about them.  We have introduced ourselves as best we could, but it is impossible to effectively carry on a conversation with them. They came to our garage sale last spring. I could not answer their questions about the items they were interested in, but they made several purchases after we jotted down some prices for them. Numbers do translate.

Last summer, we took them a Ziploc bag of freshly-picked red raspberries from our backyard. Judging by the amount of smiling and vigorous nodding, they appeared to be delighted with our small gift.

We did not see them much over the winter months, but once in a while we heard their oldest child (probably about six years old) outside blowing the whistle we had given him at the garage sale. (We know they are smart when they send the child outside to play with a whistle!!)  We get a kick out of hearing him blow a few times before walking back indoors.

This week, I shared another token of friendship with the sweet momma. I had made Mother’s Day gifts for our church ladies – a teacup glued to a saucer and filled with a lovely, live plant. I had a couple extra after the others were delivered, so I decided to share one with her.

I do not know her name, but I couldn’t miss her excitement when I held out my gift to her. She was bubbling and grinning and trying to show her two tiny girls. As her husband came in from working in the backyard, he, too, had a big smile when he saw the plant. I received much handshaking and multiple bows. Then he followed me back across the driveway to help me with the gate as I tried to maneuver two grandchildren, one in my arms and one walking at my side,  into the yard and keep our two dogs contained at the same time. His assistance was greatly appreciated.

And I understood all of it! So did they.

We understood because kindness and thoughtfulness know no barrier. Their language is universal.

Regardless of the lack of words, I enjoyed a delightful exchange with my neighbors. Kindness did the communicating for each of us.

I wish I could assure my readers I always remember to show kindness. I don’t. The purpose of this post is not to brag, but rather to remind myself of my need to excel in kindness. I think the memory of the sweet exchange with my foreign friends will serve as a reminder for many days ahead. I hope so. Some day I hope to walk across a bridge built by kindness in order to share the love of Jesus with them.

Although kindness often costs little to nothing, its value remains priceless. Being kind might require a few moments, a quick word or action, or the exercise of a smile directed toward a stranger. It could cost us a spot in a grocery line or traffic lane. It might entail the bending of a back or a knee. Perhaps it will mean someone else gets the credit. But the result brings joy. It could change someone’s entire outlook on life, causing them to realize there are still nice people who care or, perhaps, ease a burden they’ve been carrying. Yet, even when kindness seems unappreciated, the doer still finds satisfaction.

And our deeds are noticed. By-standers see it. Our families see it. And, most importantly, God sees it. God is, by nature, kind. Surely His heart rejoices when His children follow His example.

Never before have I been so impressed with the value of kindness, a universally understood language. I hope my actions will do a lot more “talking” from now on!

“And be ye kind one to another.”

Ephesians 4:32

 

Always Carry a Tissue!

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Tears. Aren’t they funny little things? We don’t feel them inside until they well up in our eyes, ready to roll single file down our cheeks. We don’t even realize they are in us until they come pouring out.

Tears never ask permission. They think independently. Some travel alone; some travel in buckets. A single tear may amble down the cheek or a hundred tears may seem to race for the prize awarded to the first one to reach the chin. Regardless the number or the speed, tears do their own roll call. Sometimes at the least expected moment.

Often, we can anticipate tears. Weddings and funerals obviously warrant carrying a tissue or two, just in case. I even keep a couple of kleenex neatly folded in the back of my Bible for moments of Spirit-induced conviction. If you happen to be sitting next to me, I’d be happy to share one with you, but tissue boxes don the pews throughout our church, just in case you’re not sitting next to someone like me who carries an emergency supply.

Tears can occasionally be hidden from public display. But another enigma they possess is the ability to affect other features of the human face. Even though no one may see me cry, the evidence shows on my face for quite a while afterwards. The sniffles, the breathy hiccups, the red puffy eyes, the runny nose, and, usually, the redness on my upper lip give me away instantly!

Tears also affect those around us. Have you ever noticed someone crying? What do you do? Well, the first thing I tend to do is pretend I don’t notice until I’ve adequately evaluated the situation. I’m guilty of those quick, hopefully inconspicuous, and repeated glances to decipher the circumstances before I get involved. My mind races through all possible reactions before settling on one. Should I talk to the friend with the telltale red eyes as though nothing is wrong? Should I throw my arms around my weepy acquaintance and become emotionally involved with her? And, if the crier is a man, should I just walk on by without acknowledging he has given in to any tender show of emotion? (While we are on that topic, may I express my appreciation to any man with a heart that can be touched to the point of tears. God gave tears to everyone.)

Perhaps the most quirky characteristic of tears is that they can show up for almost any occasion.

I cried today. Twice.

I rarely cry. So when I cried twice today, I knew it was blog-worthy!

Yesterday, I lost a bracelet, a bracelet given to me only two months ago at one of the most precious moments of my life. My son-in-law and daughter have graciously allowed me to witness the birth of both of their children. I won’t even bother trying to describe what that does to my heart because I simply can’t. This second time, my daughter was giving birth to her daughter. Ok. So I was already an emotional basket case. Then, just a few minutes after sweet Harper was born, my son-in-law opened a tiny box. From it, he drew three bracelets: a teeny one for baby girl, one for mommy, and one for me, Mimi! Oh, my!

Tears! Sweet sweet tears. “I’m so blessed” type of tears.

Yesterday, more tears. I lost the bracelet while I was at work. Sad, utterly heartbroken tears.

Today, tears! I received a call that the bracelet had been found! Thankful, thankful tears!

Then, later today, tears! (Time to take stock in tissues, folks!) In glancing through my Facebook, I found a note from a student who graduated several years ago, telling me she missed me. Since the waterworks had already been turned on today, there they came again. More tears! All mixed up tears! They came in gratitude for the opportunity I had to teach for so many many years. They came from nostalgia. They came from missing those days. They poured with joy that I’d touched a precious life.

Tears. Tissues. They go together. At least for me. For someone who doesn’t often cry, I’ve had a workout today.

As I ponder these mysterious little wet capsules that have shown up today, I’m reminded of a verse that’s been special to me. Psalm 56:8 “Thou tellest my wandering: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?”

God made tears. God sees my tears. He keeps a record of each one I shed and even those I keep gated in my heart and eyes. And He cares. My tears are special to God!

He knows whether my tears result from laughing too much or hurting too much. Each one matters to Him.

Years ago, I decorated a beautiful perfume bottle and marked it in gold script, “Tears.” I had it for quite a while before I passed it on to a friend who’d recently shed many tears herself. I’ve recently wanted to decorate another one for myself as a visible reminder that Jesus cares. He cares deeply for every tear-evoking event in my life. He understands each one. He cares because He loves me.

My bottle may be large or small, plain or fancy, partially-full or brimming. I don’t care. It only matters to me that it matters to Him.

I’m so grateful. So very grateful!

I need another tissue!!