Author Archives: skimhenson

About skimhenson

Kim Henson is a freelance writer who lives and writes near the beach. She has written hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines, ezines and websites. Check out her website at www.skimhenson.com.

Are You So Nice that You’re Unkind?

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“In the world where you can be anything, be kind.” Unknown

My husband John and I came into our marriage with very different ways to solve a problem, and we both thought our way was the kind one.

I’m honest. I say whatever comes to mind that I think might help him understand why I’m upset. I figured he wanted to hear what I had to say because I wanted him to speak up about his upset moments – share the problem, tell me what I did to contribute to it, and spend another 30 minutes analyzing the pain and coming up with a solution. Then hug and live like Cinderella.

My way seemed sensible, as well as kind. I never understood the saying “brutally honest” because I wanted to hear the truth. I didn’t like someone hinting at what was wrong, skirting issues instead of being straightforward, or convincing us they weren’t angry or hurt until their surprise attack. I may not have liked or agreed with what they said, but I valued candor.

John, on the other hand, preferred niceness in hopes of avoiding any kind of confrontation. He’d rather offer to take me out for dessert than discuss why he checked his cell phone at dinner. He equated being nice with being kind. His favors were fine until I realized they were meant to replace talking about problems.

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My honesty and his niceness often clashed, escalating our discussions to arguments. He couldn’t figure out why I didn’t appreciate him being nice. I couldn’t explain why I thought he was uncaring. All I knew was that when I tried talking to him about an issue and, instead of listening, he offered to wash dishes, my stomach knotted up and I wanted to whack him with a dirty plate.

We ended up arguing off topic. We’d debate why I didn’t thank him for helping in the kitchen instead of why he wouldn’t leave his phone alone for 30 minutes. Our arguments reminded me of interactions with Mom. One time that stands out was the day she broke a white figurine I made in art class. She glued it back together, which was fine, but then she drew along the cracks with a black permanent marker. The more I cried, the more nice things she offered to do for me. She wanted me to invite a friend over to bake cookies. I wondered why she thought socializing and sugar would be an adequate substitute for sympathy and an apology, which is what I wanted even as young as eight.

Keeping It Going …

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The way Mom tried to fix problems made no sense to me, so I married someone like her. I know, that doesn’t make sense either. John married someone like his mom (me) who wanted to tell him what he did wrong. I hoped my suggestions would help fix our marriage and family. Just so you know, we’re one of many odd couples. A lot of us marry someone similar to one of our parents because recreating “home” is comfortable even if it’s crazy. Like a friend said, “If you can’t heal your relationship with your mom and dad, you pick people like them and try to get it right for the rest of your life. That is, unless you fix yourself.”

Like John’s mom, I valued dialogue and directness.

Like my mom, John valued silence and discretion.

For decades, we had no idea we repeated family patterns or even that there were patterns. We didn’t know to honor each other’s differences or to knock off being so hard on each other. John could have listened when I talked about what bothered me. I could have been less blunt when discussing those things.

Instead, we kept doing the same things again and again until repetition and insanity, which is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results, nearly cost us our relationship.

I called him mean because his niceness felt manipulative – a way to get me to shut up. The nicer he was, the less I thought he cared about me.

He thought I was unkind because I criticized him and critiqued the nice things he did – my way of trying to explain issues he didn’t want me to feel about or talk about.

It came to a head when he said, “I have no idea why being nice is never good enough for you. Why won’t you just accept me being nice?”

I screamed, “I can’t stand you being nice. You know what’d be nice? If for a change, you tried kindness.”

Kindness

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The word caused both of us to catch our breath, …

and hold it a moment.

I wondered if the difference in wording really mattered as much as it seemed to in the car that day. I looked up both words in the dictionary and the thesaurus, googled quotes for each one, and even plugged them into Pixabay.com to see what photos popped up for “kind” versus “nice.”

Merriam-Webster.com defined the adjective “kind” as sympathetic and helpful; of a forbearing nature; affectionate and loving.

Synonym’s for kind included benevolent, compassionate, good-hearted, humane, kindhearted, kindly, softhearted, tender, warmhearted.

The same site described “nice” as pleasing and agreeable; appropriate; socially acceptable; virtuous and respectable; polite.

Compared to kind, the list of synonyms for nice included worldly words like agreeable, congenial, darling, delectable, delicious, delightful, enjoyable, gratifying, and pleasing, although it also had a couple of spiritual words on it like grateful and blessed.

Quotes about kindness conveyed intensity and insight like these two by unknown writers:

“If we all do one act of random kindnessdaily, we just might set the world in the right direction.”

“Use your voice for kindness, your ears for compassion, your hands for charity, your mind for truth, and your heart for love.”

The only quote I found that used the word “nice” in the context we’re talking about here, well, it had the depth of a puddle:

“Let’s face it, a nicecreamy chocolate cake does a lot for a lot of people; it does for me.” Audrey Hepburn

On Pixabay.com, photos for the word “kind” showed an old man’s gentle face, a baby’s wrinkled feet, and aged hands folded like in prayer.

The pictures that represented “nice” included a rabbit, some kittens, and a few hunky guys, but mostly suggestive images of women, the kind a man would look at and say, “Nice.”

The Spirit of the Word

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“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

Throughout our 40-year marriage until more recently, we showed little compassion for each other because that would have left one or both of us defenseless. We shared the sin of self-protection by being faux kind and constructively critical. Genuine kindness would have meant being vulnerable. We would have had to put our hurt aside and connect and care about each other.

A gentler relationship is one of the benefits of living by the fruits of Spirit, which are the nine attributes in the quote above. Applying them with the help of the Holy Spirit means we shelve our egos and focus on being godly. We find ourselves being gracious instead of trying to get back at the other person. We go first instead of waiting on the other person to behave like we want. The end result is a kind marriage, not one where we talk like Elaine on Seinfeld, “Oh, that’s nice.”

“You will never look into the eyes of someone God does not love. Always be kind.” Unknown

 My awakening about kindness reached far beyond my marriage.

  • We’re acting niiice (said with a Southern drawl and a self-indulgent attitude) when our relationships are about what we can get from the other person. We’re kind when we expect nothing.
  • We’re acting nice when we only care about getting our way. We’re kindwhen we serve.
  • We’re acting nice when we’re looking good, but our motives are selfish. We’re kindwhen we’re true to ourselves.
  • We’re acting nice when we’re scheming to assure others like us. We’re kindwhen we accept that their opinion of us is none of our business. We get on with our lives.
  • We’re acting nice when we pretend to be easygoing even though we’re control freaks. We’re kindwhen we concede and consider others. We can’t love and control at the same time.
  • We’re acting nice when we overlook stuff we don’t like, but never ever forget it. We’re kindwhen we talk it over and forgive.
  • We’re acting nice when we rally an army of friends to take our side and gossip. We’re kindwhen we talk to the person we have a problem with and share how we feel gracefully.
  • We’re acting nice when we ask questions to be nosey, but pretend we’re interested. We’re kindwhen we genuinely care about the answers.
  • We’re acting nice when we tradeoff gifts, money, or time for attention and accolades. We’re kind when we give freely.
  • We’re acting nice when we justify our unacceptable behavior even though we know better. We’re kind when we do the right thing especially when no one’s watching.

I didn’t intend for “nice” to end up with a bad reputation, but it fell far short of being kind. When we practice kindness, its transformative power in our lives is immeasurable. I’ve since looked at relationships where I may have substituted niceness for what I really want to be, which is kind.

Am I a nice friend or a kind one? A nice mother or a kind one? A nice writer or a kind one? A nice Christian or a kind one?

It’s made all the difference to consider the difference. #whilelovingthepeopleinit #nice #kind

In This Together,
Kim

On the side: An interesting blog post about brutal honesty. Click below to read it.

Why brutal honesty is a mistake — and the one time it’s not

 

 

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Freedom to Feel Freely

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“…you live with two calendars. One that keeps track of time, while the other stores emotional experiences.” Deborah Serani

Today marks the 8thanniversary of my blog. I posted my first post, a funny story about the common sense of getting exercise titled “The Sense of Walking,” on July 4, 2010.

My friend celebrates the anniversary of her birth every year on Independence Day. We joke that she’s “free” not to count the year as she ages closer to 60.

Another friend’s July 4thanniversary breaks my heart. Her young grandson died five years ago today from an allergic reaction to shellfish.

We remember anniversaries of births, marriages, and occasions like beginning my blog, and also deaths, divorces, and losses that haunt us.

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Survivors share about getting past the “firsts” –the first Thanksgiving, the first Christmas, the first birthday of a loved one after they’ve left – all anniversaries, of sorts. Dread escalates the closer we get to the first anniversary of whatever we’re grieving. We’re not sure how we’ll handle emotions we’ve hidden and hoarded for 12 months. We post on Facebook something like, “Once a year, I let myself stay in bed and eat cake and grieve.”

We remember where we were and how we felt when planes crashed into the twin towers on September 11, 2001. We feel it all over again every September 11th because we said, “We will never forget.” We need to know it’s okay to feel it all over again in the spring and in June too, but we seldom mention 9-11 other than on its anniversary.

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An anniversary doesn’t have to be a specific date. It may end up being a month or a season when an event took place. The first bin of pumpkins I spot in the produce section reminds me of my daughter’s wedding. It still catches me off guard even though, for the past six years, reminiscing in the grocery store happens around the same time every fall. I forget what I’m shopping for while I remember how I felt helping her choose her dress. How I felt shopping with friends for my mother-of-the-bride outfit. How I felt picking through pumpkins and sunflowers we used to trim the tables for her reception. Why not feel happy like that in February and in the middle of summer?

Christmas and Easter are anniversaries in the church. Throughout the year we’re taught remembrance when we take communion, but there’s something more palpable about worship during anniversary services of Jesus’s birth, death, and resurrection. I want to always worship with that intensity.

Today, July 4th, is the anniversary on which we celebrate our country’s freedom. We show off our patriotism by flying flags high and shooting off fireworks into the night. The other 364 days, though, we’re accustomed to containing our patriotism, but why? We could boast like my friend, Kathy, who posts weekly about how much she loves our country. Her dad moved here from Greece, so gratitude for their American citizenship runs deep.

Today, I’m grateful for this anniversary and others. There’s just something about anniversaries and feeling our feelings. They go together like hot dogs and the 4th. Deborah Serani, Psy.D., writer of the quote at the beginning of this post, named that “something” in an article in Psychology Today. She said, “’Anniversary Effect’, sometimes called Anniversary Reaction, is defined as a unique set of unsettling feelings, thoughts or memories that occur on the anniversary of a significant experience.”

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Having a “date” with our emotions gives us permission to feel. Otherwise, we think no one wants to hear much about our delight, our sadness, our love, our loss, our success, our fear, our memories, our pain, or our patriotism.

The more manuscript I write about feeling our feelings, the more I want it to be okay to share my emotions beyond once a year. I hope my writing extends permission to you too.

In This Together,
Kim

 

 

 

 

I Love Who I Am When I’m With You

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“There’s only one thing more precious than our time and that’s who we spend it on.” Leo Christopher

 In the past, I chose friends using the strangest set of guidelines:

  • I let the other person decide if we were going to be friends no matter the circumstances, even the woman who liked my husband more than she liked me, a friend who criticized my husband’s politics and my daughter’s parenting, and the couple who argued with each other and then blamed me.
  • I said “yes” to friendships when I knew better because I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.
  • I struck up friendships with people whom I felt uncomfortable around. It was my way of overcompensating for emotions I thought I shouldn’t feel toward them.

bald-eagle-1018717_960_720Stumbling onto the wisdom below helped enlighten every single relationship I had whether professional, family, or friend. I heard a fellow express it during his talk to a group of recovering alcoholics. My friend Betty passed along his tape to me. I fast-forwarded it a hundred times to the story he told about the father-daughter dance at his daughter’s wedding. Just like my daughter and her dad, they danced to “Wind Beneath My Wings.”

 

At the end of his message, he told his audience, “You are the wind beneath my wings. I love who I am when I’m with you.”

Every time I replayed that part, I cried. I wanted what he had, relationships in which I loved myself. I knew it’d mean setting boundaries, which I wasn’t good at. Twelve step programs called it “detachment with love.” I called it sanity because spending time with the wrong people drove me crazy.

I let go of two friendships that spanned more than two decades each. I detached from everyone I talked about at the beginning of this post. I stepped away from a few family members.

Letting go hurt, but holding on hurt more. The pain of not loving myself around family and friends kept healthy relationships at bay.

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When a friend’s dad died in 2005, a group of us reunited who met in elementary school and stayed friends throughout college. We drifted apart because of grown-up responsibilities until we realized (at the funeral home) how much we loved who we were around each other. Out of our dozen friends, five or more of us have been getting together every month for 13 years. I love myself around them and around several other female friends who laugh, cry, and eat sugar together.

It’s transformative to find our people, to love them, and to love ourselves around them. Joel Osteen said, “Who you spend your time with will have a great impact on what kind of life you live. Spend time with the right people.”

Are you hanging out with people you love yourself around? I sure am when I’m with y’all, my readers.

#whilelovingthepeopleinit

In this together,
Kim

Down the Drain with Praise and Criticism

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“Praise and criticism go down the same drain.” Betty H.

I cut my own hair and kept its natural color ever since I grayed early and changed to a short hairstyle. No one cut it like I wanted, so I gave up on finding a stylist and bought a set of clippers. I’ve never colored because I imagined it turning the shade of a carrot.

Family, friends, and strangers who have loved my short gray hair have made the style and color easy for me to love as well. Praise has been nice to hear. 

If anyone’s disliked it, they’ve kept it to themselves. That was, until The Woman struck up a conversation with my friend and me. We were at a mutual friend’s house for a get-together. The Woman talked about finding someone to style her hair the way she liked it. We both complimented her cut and color just before she looked at me and said, “I’m relieved I found her because I wouldn’t be caught dead leaving my house with gray hair.”

It was one of those moments I wished I was as bold as Joy in Shadowlands, a movie about C.S. Lewis. When Lewis’ friend criticized, Joy turned to him and asked, “Are you trying to be offensive, or merely stupid?”

Since I’m not so outspoken (yet), criticism’s left me shaken for days. It’d send me reeling and questioning more than my hair color. Why doesn’t she like me? What’d I do to bring on that kind of reaction? How can I let go of replaying the scene again and again?

I glanced in a mirror over the dining room table where we were standing near the food. No urge came over me to dip my head in a dye bottle or bolt out of the party, so I figured I’d let her criticism go down the drain. 

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Still, there’s much work to do when I come up against praise and criticism. Publishing a book is a goal of mine, and a “different animal” from writing articles and blog posts. I’ve read Amazon book reviews that’d make a crybaby out of Bruce Lee. Similarly, I’ve obsessively checked on here for encouraging comments even though I don’t want them to be the reason I write. I’m sure God doesn’t want that either.

Maybe I’ll  tattoo Betty’s praise and criticism quote on my eyeballs. Or maybe I’ll just skip reading other people’s opinions since I can get caught up in either one – praise or criticism.

I admired how well Chuck Murphy, our former rector at The Abbey, handled praise and criticism. I wondered how he’d come to the place his friend described, “He had little use for the praise of men, but wanted it from heaven.”

Chuck set an example of caring what God, not people, thought about his actions, some of which were controversial. He didn’t solicit praise from people, nor did he spend much time praising them. He saved that for God. He also didn’t criticize. He stated scripture and facts and observations. 

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My friend Betty encouraged me away from caring so much about what others thought of me. She shared quotes like the one at the beginning of this blog post, as well as this one, “Ten percent of people will like you no matter what. Ten percent will dislike you no matter what. The other 80 percent aren’t thinking anything about you.”

She also said, “What other people think of you is none of your business.”

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Her wisdom helped me get myself to the right size, important to some people, but not to all. She helped me keep people’s praise and criticism the right size too, so I wasn’t consumed with either one. Mostly, she reminded me to get God to the right (and bigger) size.

Praise encourages and inspires, but let 20 people praise us and one person criticize us and see which we focus on. Focusing on God and our purpose remedies that.

“You can’t let praise or criticism get to you. It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one.” John Wooden

Why do we care so much what others think about us when it’s our calling that matters? Living our purpose gives us meaning beyond praise and criticism. Our purpose allows us to let praise and criticism go down the same drain, the place our lives would be if not for God’s opinion of us.

#gettingyourownlife #whilelovingthepeopleinit 

In This Together,
Kim

Disclaimer: Some facts have been changed to protect The Woman. #keepitkind

Anxiety Eats Creativity and Spits It Out Unless …

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“Once you know the emotional building blocks of anxiety, you can influence them.” Chip Conley from his article, Mastering The Anxiety Equation: A Remedy for Fearful Times (link included at the end of this blog post)

I googled “anxiety” and up popped a funny meme. A girl in a cape captioned,
“Anxiety Girl … able to jump to the worst conclusion in a single bound.”

Some days, anxiety is my super power. If I’m not mindful, I make it worse by babbling to the wrong people – ones who are also anxious, but instead of admitting it and relating, they focus on and try to fix me.

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They say not-so-wise things like …

  • Let go and let God.
  • Look on the bright side.
  • You have a lot to be grateful for.
  • Things could be worse.
  • Have a positive attitude.
  • Cheer up.
  • It’s all in your head.

I get it because I’ve said the same sorts of things to keep from looking at how anxious I am.

We minimize others’ anxiety when we’re out of touch with our own. If we weren’t fearful too, we’d listen instead of being impatient, annoyed, and fixated on fixing each other. Like the saying “Hurt people hurt people,” so it is with anxious people. We make each other anxious unless we take a break from fixing, feel what’s going on with us, and relate.

I believe relating, not relaying advice, is how we help each other.

We weren’t put here as projects, but for a purpose. Anxiety keeps us from it. On the other hand, relating gives us a chance at living it.

It’s not that the sayings are wrong; they just aren’t helpful. “Things could be worse.” Yes, always. They could be worse and someone always has it worse, which I was telling my friend Betty when she reminded me, “Pain is pain and yours deserves your attention.”

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Turning fear over to God works when we figure out how to do it. Until then, the saying wreaks guilt.

Not being able to cheer up, have a positive attitude and gratitude, and see the brighter side of life are reasons we feel anxious to begin with, so suggesting these as solutions heaps on more anxiety.

“It’s all in your head” isn’t helpful unless someone can tell us how to get it out of our heads. Otherwise, anxiety stifles our minds and hearts, wrecks our bodies, and derails our purposes. This explains why we end up with fibromyalgia instead of final projects, depression instead of creative designs, and anxiety disorders instead of art.

When I stumbled onto T.S. Eliot’s quote, “Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity,” I also found a quote by David Duchovny that expanded on it. Duchovny said, “Anxiety is part of creativity, the need to get something out, the need to be rid of something or to get in touch with something within.”

After thinking about both quotes, I determined this suggestion should top the list, “Get back to work.”

Writing gets me in touch with what I need to get out, what I need to get rid of and what I need to get in touch with. I’d wager your purpose does the same for you. In the opening quote of this blog post, Conley mentions emotional building blocks of anxiety and our influence over them. In a world filled with unknowns, my purpose is a known – a thing I can influence and a thing that helps influence (and diminish) my anxiety.

This reminds me of my artist friend who paints bright and fun folk art. However, during her divorce that I didn’t know she was going through, I walked into her studio and knew instantly something was wrong. Her paintings were intense with dark colors. She painted her pain, which brought her through it and to the other side.

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As often as I resist writing, I recognize it as a best friend. More than once, it’s pulled me from the depths of anxiety and helped me face it and overcome it.

When we’re feeling anxious, a safe place to take cover is in our purpose. Do you take refuge in yours?

In This Together,
Kim

Mastering The Anxiety Equation: A Remedy for Fearful Times

 

Your Purpose, Your Burden

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“What’s your purpose? The answer comes from what you’re willing to be burdened by.” Reverend Bruce Cote

Early Sunday morning, this quote from the sermon sounded heavy. That was, until I jotted down, “It is an honor to be given a purpose.”

I used to want my family to be happy, but now I want more for all of us. I want us burdened with a purpose, which will likely make us happy while living it. If not, I still choose the burden.

In his book The War of Art, Steven Pressfield says nothing will make us more miserable than not doing what we were put here to do. He writes about resistance and how it will make you want to die.

I say, nothing will make you more miserable than living your purpose, at least in the beginning, but it won’t make you want to die. Not for long, anyway.

It’s frightening to give up the known (writing articles about daytrips, scrolling Facebook for hours, shopping and cleaning and redecorating a third time) for the unknown (sharing how I feel on my blog and in a manuscript) even when we suspect the latter holds a gift. Change is full of frustration, like having one foot in manure and the other on a thin sheet of ice. We want to move on, but the warmth is familiar even if it’s nasty. We’re comfortable.

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It’s disorienting to move beyond what a friend explained about her life, “I’m in a prison cell with the door wide open, but I’m still sitting here.”

Our cell is where the world will keep us stuck if we let it. We have kneejerk reactions to others, but not to God. We ask, “What in the world will the world think of me if I (fill in the blank)?”

So, we don’t.

The blank is our heart’s desire, and not because we thought it up. God put the desire there by design. It’s the thing He placed us on this earth to do.

For me, it’s to live out loud. I cried the first and second and third times I read Emile Zola’s quote, “If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud.”

I still cry.

I wanted to tell my story, to let an audience in on my pain that reaped plenty of lessons, and to have courage to say whatever I wanted like telling who I voted for in the most controversial election of all times, but I didn’t want criticism or push back or eye rolls. I especially didn’t want to feel scared.

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It’s similar to the time my husband booked us into Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. He knew I was afraid of heights, so he said, “You know, you don’t have to do this. You can relax and wait for us at the hotel.”

“Yeah, right. You know I have to hike it,” I snapped.

He looked confused. He actually didn’t know I had to hike it, but I knew it and I was terrified.

That’s often how it is when I speak up and when I write. It’s easy for some people, but it’s my burden because …

  • I’m a people pleaser who likes to say what I think others want to hear.
  • I’m an introvert who would like nothing more than to have the super power of being invisible.
  • I want to be known as funny even though I value integrity far more than humor.

Sharing anything on FB other than humorous memes reminds me of The Church Lady on Saturday Night Live, “I’m uncomfortable with that.”

I’m afraid friends will think I’m drumming up drama instead of living my purpose.

I’m afraid I’ll be judged because everyone who is visible is judged by someone.

I’m afraid posting will come across as wanting attention for myself instead of concern for them, and sometimes I do want attention.

Like hiking the canyon, though, I don’t have a choice. I mean, I do, but I don’t. It’s odd to stare at an empty laptop screen and struggle between a story that’s emotionally safe to write and one with passion. I’ve tried to force myself to write less controversial pieces or less emotional ones or less sad stories. I’ve tried writing funny stories during enraged times. I’ve wished I could stir others without feeling stirred myself.

I can’t do it. When I take the easy way out and tell an easy story, the writing is so bad, I can’t publish it. It’s like a story I handed into one of my favorite editors. “Favorite” because she wouldn’t publish an article only to fill space. It had to have substance. I liked that about her until she wouldn’t publish one of mine. She said, “This story’s got no heart.”

That used to be my blog and my life. I saved old posts on here to remind me. I began with stories about Mr. Potato Head and walking, how Zumba motivated me to get out of bed early, and big toe hairs. Don’t believe me? Scroll way back to 2010 and you can read for yourself my unburdened writing about exercise and alarm clocks.

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My writing changed significantly around the time I began praying the line from the song “Hosanna,” the line about God breaking my heart for what breaks His. I’m burdened to tell stories about my damaged marriage, estranged parents, and depression and suicide, stories I would rather not tell because what will people think? It wasn’t until I asked a more important question that I started living out loud, “If I don’t tell my stories, what will God think?

What are you burdened to do? Is it worth the risk of stepping onto thin ice? Maybe a better way to ask the same question is, do you want to stay in that other stuff?

In This Together,
Kim

When God Isn’t Good

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“Live (and die) so that anyone who knows you knows God is good.”

The night before we left to meet family for Christmas, my husband John and I drove 45 minutes to Pawleys Island (Pawleys for short), a community where we bought a creek lot this past summer. We wanted to decorate the property by hanging an ornament and putting spotlights on the live oak that shades it. One of appeals of buying in Pawleys was its close proximity to The Abbey, a church we joined just months before we made our purchase.

On the way there, John said, “They’ve called in hospice for Chuck.”

“I hated to blurt it out tonight,” he said, “but there wasn’t going to be a good time to tell you.”

Bishop Chuck Murphy was our rector at The Abbey until he resigned three weeks ago. He died a few days later.

Chuck was diagnosed last January with stage 4 brain cancer. Most of us anticipated him living many more years because he had powerful believers praying for and expecting his healing.

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At Chuck’s funeral, Philip Jones, his successor as chairman of the Anglican Mission in America, told the story about Chuck saying to Margaret when they were 18-years-old and dating, “I don’t want to be 65 and not have made a difference in the world.”

Chuck ministered to thousands of people, probably tens of thousands. He oversaw the planting of more than 200 churches in America including The Abbey, where we started attending about two years ago. We also worshipped under Chuck’s leadership for six years at All Saints, another church in Pawleys. His bold regard for scripture changed the landscape of Anglicanism and impacted the world, and John and me too.

Bagpipers accompanied Chuck’s family to the entryway of the church. During his service, a trumpeter played Revelle. We sang, “What a Beautiful Name.” Twenty plus robed clergy traveled to pay homage.

Things were said like “Chuck left a legacy of family, leadership, and character.”

“He flew 40,000 feet higher and saw beyond what most of us see. He had a singular focus on the Kingdom of God.”

“He had little use for the praise of men, but wanted it from heaven.”

“His ways were generous and he was always asking, ‘How can I come alongside you and help make this happen?’”

The day after hearing the hospice news, John and I drove separately to the mountains to haul all the food and Christmas presents. On the way, I bargained with God that if he’d heal Chuck, I’d complete my manuscript. I couldn’t think of anything more important to wager. I pleaded with him when I remembered Abraham’s appeals for a town in the Bible called Sodom. I begged and bargained and bawled.

An hour and a half into my trip, I looked up and saw a billboard, a sign, advertising a can of Glory Foods field peas. I laughed at God choosing one with humor that said, “Peas Be With You.”

I hoped it was a “sign” that Chuck was being healed the way I wanted the miracle to happen. Having him survive and seeing prayer work so powerfully made sense for our church and for us. Attending The Abbey’s been a big part of John’s and my restoration in our marriage and individually. For us, Chuck’s healing wasn’t about only Chuck getting better. It was about us too.

We thought we needed more lessons from his nearly 50-year marriage to Margaret. We watched his three daughters and their families attend The Abbey and sit together Sunday after Sunday.  We learned from watching Chuck act as spiritual head of his household, as well as our church home.

He played his guitar and performed on the church piano, not for the congregation, but his family. I’ve never seen him play except in videos posted by one of his daughters. He believed every word of the Bible and taught it in a way that made me believe it too. He talked about dancing in the streets of heaven with Jesus. He laughed when he preached. I bet he was laughing when he died.

 

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Margaret forwarded this message on January 9th, “Chuck, as he would say, peacefully went down the water flume before us this morning at 1:30, right into the glorious Kingdom of God. Our family is doing ok, but we know Chuck is doing great as he joins his Saviour and Lord.”

My stomach knots up when I think about Chuck not being here for our move to Pawleys and for us to move forward.

It’s at The Abbey where I’ve seen John raise his hands and get on his knees, tear up often, and soften.

It’s where I’ve felt safe and not because we have a security guard walking the grounds. It’s the place I learned to trust and lean into God being good. Genuinely good, not cliché good. It helped to watch Chuck and his family believe in God’s goodness in sickness and in health.

I’ve tried spiritualizing my pain instead of feeling it. Maybe you do this too. I like to think I’ll stop hurting if I pray, talk to friends, read inspirational books, read the Bible, practice gratitude, trust God, journal about it, ask others to pray, worship, listen to uplifting songs, seek wise counsel, do the next good deed. These things all help for a little while.

I thought about a passage in one of my inspirational daily readers. It says, “God is not a terrorist.” I imagine plenty of us question if God is out to get us sometimes. If Chuck was going to die so soon and the pain and loss feel so big, why’d I even stumble onto a post about The Abbey one late night on Facebook? This past week, I almost wished I hadn’t.

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But it’s like the quote in Shadowlands, the movie about C. S. Lewis’ life, when he struggled to handle his wife Joy’s death. He repeated to his good friend something similar to what Joy had told him earlier, “The pain now is part of the happiness then. That’s the deal.”

Just as poignant even though from a cartoon character, Winnie the Pooh said, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

Trying to make sense of Chuck’s death reminds me about a mom trying to do the same after letting go of her 41-year-old daughter to breast cancer. When questioned about God’s goodness, she said something like this, “I would never have said ‘yes’ to something like this no matter what good changes I was promised, but I also would never return to the person I was before my daughter died. Watching her die, I learned about benevolence and bravery and being ready to meet Jesus.”

Like the mom, neither would I go back to who I was before The Abbey and before witnessing Chuck and his family deal with dying and death.

Have you ever questioned God’s goodness? This time around, I’m trying not to question since I’ve noticed if we’ll give Him time (even if it’s a decade or so), he’ll prove himself good again and again.

In This Together,
Kim

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Fall On Your Knees

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“Until your knees finally hit the floor you’re just playing at life, and on some level you’re scared because you know you’re just playing. The moment of surrender is not when life is over. It’s when it begins.” Marianne Williamson in her book, A Return To Love

For a long time, I joked about being a control freak when it came to relationships, especially with my husband and children. Humor was a coverup. I was terrified to let them go, afraid of what may happen even when I couldn’t pinpoint a problem.

I lectured my kids about grades and college and jobs. Called them when I saw a speed trap. Left articles for them to read. Asked too many questions about friends, nosied in their rooms, and eavesdropped on phone calls. Even for a control freak, the latter was over the top.

If my husband had an early morning meeting, I made sure he was up. I reminded him about appointments. I kept up with his spending and his eating and his hygiene.

The illusion of control made me feel safer. It convinced me I could make things happen, fix things, and bring about positive outcomes, which is true sometimes … just not the way I wanted it to be true.

I wanted to make things happen for them, fix things for them, and bring about positive outcomes in their lives. I didn’t think much about getting my own life.

My friend Betty reminded me, “Love means being who you are and letting them be who they are.” I agreed and said, “You’re right. I can’t control them and love them at the same time.” Still, I hung on like my life depended on how their lives turned out.

A friend suggested maybe I wasn’t able to let go because of my fear, which seemed like just another impossible thing to surrender. Ironically, most of my fear was the result of not surrendering my relationships.

After exhausting myself, as well as exhausting every possibility except surrender, I asked God to help me let go… my way.

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I prayed dozens of prayers that he’d minimize my relationships – make them less important.

I prayed he would replace people with a distraction like work or a calling unrelated to them. After all, I had friends living out their purposes by painting, planting community gardens, and rescuing animals – very little to do with people. I wanted the same.

The first time I watched Elsa in the Disney movie “Frozen,” I thought about how often I wanted to run away from people like she had run because, in comparison to surrender, running looked easy.

I prayed it’d be okay to leave my family if holding onto them became too painful and if letting go seemed too hard.

So, what’d I hear from God after all this negotiating? Write about relationships.

I was back to surrender.

I didn’t know what else to do, so I wrote. I blogged about disappointments and arguments, not wanting to have a granddaughter, my messy marriage, and more. I’m not sure how or when it happened, but I traded control for surrender in my writing and then in my relationships.

I teared up while singing the line in “O Holy Night” that tells us to fall on our knees and hear the angels.

I cried at Disney on Ice Frozen while watching my four-year-old granddaughter sing along with Elsa to the song “Let It Go,” in part because being there with her was so special; in part because I’m letting go of her like I’m letting go of everyone.

I bawled telling my husband I never wanted to run his life in the first place, but how scary it was to stop.

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So much is different this Christmas, and better. I’ve said for years, “He’s better,” “She’s better,” “The family’s better.” This season, I’m better. Surrender gave me permission to give my people to God and get my own life.

Gordan B. Hinckley says it well, “Get on your knees and ask for the blessings of the Lord; then stand on your feet and do what you are asked to do.”

What relationships in your life need surrendering? Fall on your knees, then get back up.

In This Together,
Kim

Thank you for the inspiration, Dr. Jeannie Killian, and for the images, Pixabay.

 

 

Show, Don’t Tell in Writing and Relationships

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“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Anton Chekhov

Show, don’t tell. It’s how every writer wants to write and what every editor wants to read. Showing is the magic in Chekhov’s description of the moon.

I’m figuring out that “show, don’t tell” also works magic in relationships. I wish I’d practiced living by example years ago instead of reacting and saying way too often, “Let me tell you one thing … ”

I should have told my family very little and lived my lectures. I can tell you from decades of experience, it’s harder to do than it sounds. It’s why I’ve blogged for a year about getting your own life while loving the people in it. It’s why plenty of famous writers are known for quotes about living by example.

“A good example is the best sermon.” Benjamin Franklin

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” Albert Schweitzer

“What you do has far greater impact than what you say. “ Stephen Covey

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My friend’s story drove the message deeper. She said her husband drank to get drunk every evening, so she went to a counselor for help. She let him know she’d given her husband plenty of talks, usually ending in threats to leave him.

Here’s what he told her, “If you were my wife, you’d give me a reason to drink every single night.”

The counselor’s point was not to shame her or place blame, but to give her insight. He wanted my friend to understand how telling (and reacting, which typically go hand-in-hand) contributed to the drinking. Her enabling, in the form of threats instead of action, was what I related to, except I gave my family and friends a reason to be irresponsible and disrespectful every single day.

Instead of saying “no” to my children about borrowing personal items they didn’t take care of, I threw fits and said, “This is the last time you borrow anything unless you take care of it.”

This time I lecture, but you’ll be sorry next time because I’ll show instead of tell.

Always next time.

Like my friend who kept talking about politics, I wasn’t going out with her … next time.

Like another friend who refused to get help except to call me in the wee hours of the morning to say she was afraid of her husband, I wasn’t answering my phone … next time.

Like my family’s unpleasant tones of voice, I planned to take a walk or hang up the phone instead of argue … next time.

Some people honor boundaries, but there are just as many who ignore what we ask of them no matter how reasonable or right or easy it is to do. That is, until we follow through, which is when they honor it or they go away or we go away.

Whichever of the three happens, showing works.

I don’t know if everyone else was relieved, but I calmed down when I finally shut up and did what I said I was going to do. I had exhausted myself with threats, so following through was a pleasant (even though uncomfortable) change.

“Show, don’t tell” is still awkward sometimes because I prefer dialogue – lots and lots of dialogue. Telling is a 40-year habit for me. Acting on my behalf isn’t and sometimes it’s easier to be lazy. I’d rather explain what I want and give you a chance to do it even when I don’t think you will.

There’s a price to pay for taking the easy way out, though. Telling, instead of showing, has cost me time and energy. Like I said, I’ve exhausted myself making threats. My sanity’s been on the line when I’ve said the same things over and over and expected something different to happen. Telling has caused health problems like the morning I couldn’t get out of bed to keep an appointment with a negative colleague who’d asked me out several times. I finally said “yes” and made myself sick about going. I was afraid saying “no” again may show her how unlikable she was, which may have been a lesson she needed.

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Show, don’t tell.

Like Albert Schweitzer said in the quote above, showing is the only thing that works.

Showing happens when I set
boundaries.

Showing happens when I honor what is good for me and stay away from who and what is not.

Showing happens when self-care is as important as other-care.

Showing happens when I act on my own behalf instead of waiting for others to do it.

Showing happens when I get my own life while loving the people in it.

Showing happened when I stopped socializing with friends who insisted on talking politics, when I stopped answering my phone before 8 in the mornings, and when I started walking out and hanging up on disrespect.

“The life you live is the lesson you teach.”

I started teaching people how to treat me by showing them how I wanted to be treated. It feels magic, but it’s really a matter of showing instead of telling.

What do you need to stop telling and start showing by your actions?

In This Together,
Kim

This Simple Principle Will Solve Your Show, Don’t Tell Problems” is an article by Tom Farr who gave helpful writing tips, and I got some relationship tips too. Tom is a storyteller, blogger, freelance writer, and high school English teacher.

 

Thanks for the perfect images, Pixabay.com. Your free pictures make blogging easier and more professional looking.

My Word for 2018 – Simplicity

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“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” Hans Hofmann

Simplicity is my word for 2018. The term showed up in a private Facebook message from a friend asking about my blog. Agnes and I talked about growing our readership, then she added, “… while keeping it simple.”

The word “simple” stood out, which is typically how finding my word for the year happens. It simply shows up and I know it. I wasn’t totally convinced it was the word, though, until I was sick a couple of days later.

When I didn’t feel well, I kept things simple. I slept when I was tired. I ate when I was hungry. I gave myself permission to only do what was necessary, like the quote at the beginning says. I set out to accomplish one or two things on my to-do list instead of 10.

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” Confucius

My day felt manageable even though I felt bad. I didn’t have enough energy to complicate it. Looking back, I completed more tasks on my sick day than on the days leading up to it. Looking back makes me wonder what I could accomplish if I practiced simplicity on the days I felt good.

Since 2012, I’ve chosen a word for the year in place of making resolutions. It dawned on me how simple a practice this has been, taking one word to work on for 365 days. Here’s my list since I began in 2012.

2012 Incremental
2013 Ponder
2014 Content
2015 Revise, Momentum
2016 Love
2017 Self-care

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When I looked up simplicity, it had more to offer than I anticipated and probably more than I can imagine for 2018.

Simplicity @ Merriam-Webster

  • The state of being simple, uncomplicated, or uncompounded
  • Innocence and sincerity
  • Freedom from pretense; candor
  • Directness of expression; clarity
  • Restraint in ornamentation; austerity

Synonyms @ Thesaurus.com: ease, straightforwardness, naturalness, openness, effortlessness, easiness, minimalism, cleanness, and clean lines.

Antonyms @ Thesaurus.com: complexity, complication, and difficulty.

Keeping life simple means in the place of telling my husband I don’t want to hear a family member tell the same story, one I don’t agree with, a dozen times, I directly say to them, “I don’t want to listen to this anymore.”

Simplicity.

Rather than discussing with family and friends the quandary of getting our own lives, I’m candid about a self-imposed deadline I didn’t meet. I reset it and finish my book proposal this month.

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Simplicity.

Instead of agonizing about buying fewer presents for our family at Christmas and rallying for a consensus, I restrain myself (except with our grandbabies, of course) and simply buy fewer presents.

Simplicity.

I minimize confusion in my head by focusing on one thing to accomplish today. I worry less if others disagree with what I say and write. I set boundaries about how long I’m online and honor them. When I don’t want to participate, I say “no thanks.” When I do, I show up.

These things sound as simple as sleeping when I’m tired, like on my sick day, if only I lived so simply.

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I keep work simple. I do what my husband suggests when he’s editing my blog posts. He asks about a sentence or paragraph that’s unclear, “What were you trying to say here?” I explain it simpler and he says, “Then why don’t you just write that?”

And painting too – I paint in grays because gray is my favorite color.

Simplicity.

Simplicity.

Simplicity.

“Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.” Frederic Chopin

I believe God meant our lives to be simple (humble is its synonym). My dear friend Betty used to say, “Your first thought is from God and then you mess it up.” She sounded negative until I noticed how right she was.

I write down my next day’s plan before I go to bed, but then I mess it up. I intend to start my morning with an inspirational reading instead of Facebook. I mean to shower before answering emails. I promise myself I’ll walk before sitting down to work …

But then I mess it up.

That is, unless I keep my day simple and listen to what Betty suggested – do the first thing I think about before I mess it up.

It’s simple when we don’t get in our own way.

I’m practicing “simplicity” starting now and into 2018, so I’ll keep you blog posted. Feel free to choose simplicity as your word too and we’ll share our progress. Or let me know your word so we can work towards making next year simply the best it can be.

Do you need to simplify life by choosing one word for the upcoming year? What word makes the most sense to work towards during 2018?

In This Together,
Kim