Stoke the Fire

For my Mom.

2015-01-19 07.40.28

You are making a difference for that one.
Eight little words. But they hold so very much meaning.

I am sitting down to eat. We have just half an hour before I leave again to drive back home to my little family, but thirty minutes is long enough for a story. As I eat left-over Easter ham and potatoes, she tells me about her friend whose husband has Lewy Body Dementia, a type of dementia that shares characteristics with Alzheimer’s and Dementia. A debilitating condition, he is now in a long-term care facility at the early age of sixty. As I listen, I am reminded again that life is not fair. But when was it ever?

She shares with me the story of her good friend, once part of a successful recording artistry duo that traveled as a team all across the States, a woman whose son had enabled her to share her journey of change (from public to private life) with an audience recently as part of a guest speaker assemblage on a cruise ship. While part of the entourage, the woman told a small audience the story of how she now cares every day for her husband in a long-term facility and deals with the pain of a loss of livelihood and way of life. She bravely shared how God was using her in albeit small ways- while He had once given her a very public platform, she now was meeting people one by one. And devoting most of her time to the needs of her husband.

Humbling mundane work when you are use to crowds of people gazing back at you from the stands. But as life continues on, this is how the story so often unfolds.

As I listened, my storyteller added this last bit to the tale, the punch-line if you will. She said that some had told her friend that somewhere down the line, those changes in her life, which were forcing her and her husband into constraints beyond their wildest imaginations- these details would all come together someday for a greater purpose… so as to influence many people once again in a big way. In other words, she deserved for this pain to pay off- she was after all, someone who had once been used in a very big way. Somewhere along the line, what was going around would come around again- for good.

But is this really the purpose of pain and suffering- is this the end result? That it must be used for some glorious, far-reaching purpose? Must we always have a reward for every suffering we undergo? What do we really deserve, when all is said and done?

My story-teller assured me that she had begged to differ with this mindset, that is, that her friend’s life must needs be counted as purposeful if everything came together somehow and someway in the future. She told me that she had encouraged her friend of this timeless truth: you are making a difference for someone you care about today, and that’s more than enough purpose to give your life meaning.

Sometimes we think that unless it is public and advertised, it must not be worthwhile. We live in an age of social media, and its influence is far-reaching. The more ‘likes’ we have, the better we feel. The more hits on our pages, the more our confidence rises. But in this era of publicly shared living, we might have forgotten the timeless truth: what happens when the lights dim is often the most telling of our truest character. What happens when the music fades is sometimes the best predictor of who we really are.

And beyond this, we can be prone to give much credence to quantity at the expense of quality. The more results, the better we feel. The bigger the audience, the greater the impact. But what if the truest marker of success was the praise we received in private?

My mother’s friend now spends most of her time in a long-term health facility, out of the public eye. While there, she talks to the residents and cares for the needs of whom she is able. She also spends long hours looking after the shell of the man who was formerly her partner in life, a man whose presence was taken from her far too early. But if you were to ask this woman’s son how he feels about his mother and the work of her calling, he would offer the highest of praise. Because he knows that she is daily doing what she can to make a difference, right where she has been placed for now.

She is making a difference for her man whom she still dearly loves and making an impact on all of the others. And for all the people whom she comes into contact with each and every day, her work is perceived as meaningful. It might not be publicly recognized anymore or lauded with accolades. It might never again be given that kind of standing. That doesn’t diminish the importance of the work she has been called to do at this season in her life. She is making a difference, one person at a time. Moment by moment, day by day.

And so can we all. May we never forget, when the lights fade and the spotlight has been removed from our lives: we can still make a difference. One person at a time.

Our work is only ever finished when the candle ceases to burn. May we stoke the fires that lie within.

Thoughts on a boy’s life… enough is enough

I am quickly gathering up things for a late supper (staff meetings always throw me off-schedule), whilst putting away groceries and gathering up odds and ends.  My son is talking to his father about the boy, formerly known as his best friend, who is still currently his “casual friend” in spite of their dwindling list of commonalities.  So, word has it that said “casual friend”, who not only won the provincial foul-shooting basketball championship title for 2012, has also scored himself a new pair of $120.00 sneakers.  Which his parents paid for.  With their hard-earned money.  And, to add injury to insult, he is also acquiring another new pair of sneakers in the near future for basketball which will cost a couple hundred more dollars.  And all this is burning my son up inside and turning him slightly green with envy.

Me thinks it is time for another mother-son letter…

Why is it so hard to put your finger on the right words?  And, why is raising kids such persistent, never-ending hard work?  You think you nail it (see yesterday’s post), and the next day, there is yet more work to be done.

Ah, such is life.

My son is discovering himself, and his place in the world.  He is learning that he cannot be the best at everything, and neither can he have the best of everything.  But, what he just doesn’t get is this: why can some people have the luxury of having their cake and eating it too?  Why does life work out so that some people get all the luck?  How come some people can have the best and also be the best?

Why is life so unfair?

Good question.  Most adults I know have a hard time answering this one.

My son is a very intelligent boy.  He does very well in school, he is a talented piano player and a skilled illustrator.  He can build with his hands in a way that causes me to marvel.  He has excellent comprehension.  And impeccably good grooming, remarkable for a boy of eleven years of age.

However, he is an average to (at times) below-average athlete.  And athletics is where it is at when you are eleven.  Especially with his group of athletically motivated friends and classmates.

He struggles with this.  A lot.

He is insecure about himself and he tends to be very self-conscious about his abilities, appearance and interests.  He so badly wants to fit in.  Fit in with the guys who are above-average, that is.  They are the power-holders, the movers and shakers.  They dictate who is “in” and who is “out”.  They pick the teams.

(sigh)

I want my son to believe that he is enough.  That his personality is enough, his interests are enough, his talents are enough, his character traits are enough and his abilities are enough. That his personal possessions are already enough to satisfy and meet his needs.  That the amount of money in one’s bank account cannot dictate what is enough.

Enough is enough.

I want him to own self-confidence. Yet, although I want him think that the sky is the limit, I want him to shoot for goals that are achievable. Possible.  Within reach.  And I want what he achieves to be fulfilling to him, a personal victory.  I don’t want him to feel he has to add up to anyone else’s standards of success.  I want him to measure himself against his own merit, and then to succeed at what he sets out to do.  And although I want him to be sincerely humble, I wish for him to be quietly proud of that success.

I don’t want him to go through what I have gone through most of my life: feeling “less than” others around me because of what I am not.  Rather, I want to instill in him and my other children that their cup is full and running over.  What they need is within reach; they have what it takes.

It has taken a long time for me to believe this little thought, as it applies to me personally: that I have what it takes and that I have what I need within my reach to achieve my dreams.  We all need to believe this about ourselves.  To do otherwise is to settle for less than we are capable of living.  To believe we are not enough is enough to disable us from living up to our full potential.  We are not gifted with the ability of seeing into the future,  and as such, we cannot ever give up hope.  We die trying, if need be.  To try is better than to sit and fade.

We are worth more than we think we are worth.  We are precious and valuable in God’s eyes.  We as humans are created and designed with enough stuff to achieve our full potential.  By God’s grace, I am enough.  And in the same token, my children are also enough. I pray this belief hits home sooner with my kids than it has with me.  That their life is always lived out in quiet self-confidence, and that faith, hope and love are their guiding light.

My four children are loved, cared and provided for in ways that some children only dream about.  They are encouraged, corrected, disciplined and cheered on by two parents that are committed to their well-being.  They may falter, but we are there to help them get back on their feet again.

And, although that may not be enough for them to feel fully whole at the present, I pray that our love and dedication to their upbringing carries them until that time when it is enough.  When love conquers all.

My wish: that they see that life is what you make it, using the time God has given you here on this earth to be all that you can be and all that you were designed to be.  That good things come to those that wait.  Although waiting is never easy.   But then again, Rome wasn’t built in a day.