Only Kindness: “It Is I You Have Been Looking For”

“Sister Sunflowers,” Card made by Debra D.

I had a hurtful unkindness earlier this week, a cruel one if I look at it closely. Emotionally exhausted and just plain weary of all the unkindnesses of life,  I was on the verge of giving in to the hurt and letting it win. But the God who heals me reminded me of all the beautiful people who shower me with love and kindness every.single.day.

My kindness jar truly overflows.

It’s strange, I guess, but I should be grateful for the unkindness. Such seemingly unnecessary hurts are indeed necessary because they reinforce the importance of compassion and deepen the experience with kindness. 

One of my favorite “kindness” poems, written by Naomi Shihab Nye, underscores the work that must be done before we “know what kindness really is.”  Though the initial landscape is bleak, eventually, we’ll learn to recognize in kindness the friend or shadow who accompanies us everywhere.

 

Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye
.
Before you know what kindness really is

you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken

will stare out the window forever.
.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,

you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans

and the simple breath that kept him alive.
.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. 
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

Note about the image: One of my Love Notes friends, Debra D, kindly sent the card above to me as a “just because.” She filled the card with sheets of bright sunflower stickers. Through the card she honors my love for sunflowers and my relationship with my sister Lori. Isn’t there a purple sunflower somewhere? Debra makes the sweetest cards with markers, stickers, stamps, and various types of paper. You can find more of her “creative doings” on her blog, Meticulosity.

You can read about Nye’s experience which led to the poem in an interview here: The Incomparable Naomi Shihab Nye on Kindness.

No One Ever Told Me…

Purple by Lynda F.

Is a Saturday morning post the same thing as a Friday post?

I crashed (on and off) after getting through the short Friday workday. When we arrived home at about 1:30, I made lunch for the kiddo and went to sleep. I woke up in time to make dinner and lounged and “liked” on IG until sleep overcame me again. My body is insisting on the sleep “they” say we can never catch up on.

Anyway, as promised (but several hours late), here’s another stunning piece of artwork by my Love Notes 26 partner, Lynda F. The final prompt was “No one ever told me…”

No one ever told me I’d be a caregiver and how challenging that is. But I’m strong–and have risen to the challenge.

Lynda’s husband suffered a stroke in 2017, and of course, life changed for them in an instant. As I struggled with which “no one ever told me” to share, Lynda’s response gave me pause. Late last year two of my uncles had strokes–my mom’s brother in New Orleans and my dad’s brother-in-love, who lives here in Northern Alabama.

Because I live here, I witnessed that moment when life changed for all our family here–and especially for my aunt. The battle between faith and fear when the doctors offered no hope. [Faith won]. The immediate shift in priorities. The action plan. The fight in all of us.

My aunt, who hadn’t driven in years, started driving again and picked up my uncle’s usual tasks. My dad’s other sisters, who also live here, adjusted their lives too.

Life changes.

And, like Lynda said, no one can ever tell us this is going to happen. There is no preparation. No training. No warning. This is life, and when we are living and walking in hope, faith, and love, we roll with it. We adjust. We rise to the challenge and accept our new normal(s).

Maybe, one day, I’ll share my uncle’s miraculous story, but for now, I wish you a happy and restful weekend and strength for this journey called life.

Choose >>> Joy

“Finding JOY in the Midst of Chaos” by Lynda F.

Isn’t this artwork gorgeous? This is the card Lynda F sent with her response to Love Notes 26, Prompt 2, “Choose…” Lynda wrote:

Choose  >>> Joy
Start with a small step.
What little things bring you exquisite joy and happy-ness?
Try one. Then another. Then one more.
Try to do at least one joyful thing for yourself every day…
You deserve it!
Find your happy place!

Can we pause for a moment and talk about how much I need Lynda’s words?

I’ve been trapped in a season of work, work, work, and more work, getting next to no sleep and finding no time for the “little things” that add joy to my days. In the seconds between tasks, I’ve been dreaming about ignoring the to-do list, making Valentine’s Day cards, trying some of Diane’s photo collaging techniques, and taking long, long walks with my camera. At this point, I’ll settle for playing with stickers and my planner!

The office manager in my department mentioned today that she feels out of sorts if she goes too long without working with her hobbies. I exclaimed, “Me too,” and decided that I would do something–anything–this evening for balance and for joy.

As I mentioned in one of my 12 Days of Christmas Postcards posts, the word “joy” is significant to me, so the card is even more special. In fact, Lynda and I were in sync for this prompt; when I read the prompt, my response was also “choose joy.” No matter how much I tried to “shake joy” and find something else, joy insisted. So I encouraged Lynda to choose the steadying foundation of joy. I’m sure she did.

For more Lynda-art check her out on Instagram–@ladyfishpirate. Warning: You will be inspired to drop everything on your agenda and spend the night (or day) creating beauty. If it gives you joy, why not? 😉

I Invite You to…

Love Notes 26 just ended. Sort of. I have yet to send my response for the final prompt, but since tonight we’re dealing with the madness of my son’s finishing up his science project, I’m dropping in with my partner’s response to the first prompt: “I invite you to…”

Lynda F, who is an artist, gave me a “ticket to happiness” and collaged a beautiful invitation for the year, written by poet and artist, S.C. Lourie:

Make sure you give considerable time to your dreams this year. Believe in yourself, darling. Make a wish and let it take you on an adventure. Like flowers, may your deepest wishes and dreams blossom in your hands, and those who love you will help them blossom too.  –S.C. Lourie, butterfliesandpebbles

Thank you for these words, Lynda, and for introducing me to another “Instagram Poet.” I’ve been a little obsessed with the “Writers of Instagram” lately.

This year began with an insane amount of craziness [redundant, I know], but I’m going to be a bit more intentional this month about finding quiet moments to figure out life–a little of it at least.

Stay tuned. I’ll be blogging Love Notes from Lynda Wednesday and Friday too!

Purple Orchids and Self-Love

Photo by Christine B.

Self-love has been the theme for today. It popped up a number of times during the day–when [writing] my own morning musings steered me in that direction; when I read the latest blog post written by Briana M., a student in my Creative Nonfiction course–who happens to be the granddaughter of my late mentor; and finally, when the book I was reading to begin a class session opened to a chapter entitled “Schedule Your Own Happiness” instead of the chapter I’d bookmarked.

Point taken.

I’ve declared this week “Self-love Week” on Pics and Posts, and Briana’s insightful post–which defines self-love–is the perfect place to begin. With her permission, I’m sharing it here:

This week taught me that Self-Love is painful.
Self-Love is seeing a therapist to handle childhood trauma.
Self-Love is writing a letter to release pent up resentment.
Self-Love is visiting a grandmother who doesn’t remember who you are.
Self-Love is taking care of whatever is tugging at your heart.
Self-Love is the heavy lifting.
Self-Love is cleaning up the mess someone else left in your front yard.
Self-Love is forgiveness and forgiving those who do not deserve it.
Self-Love is forgiving yourself when no one else will.
Self-Love is digging deep enough to heal the pain you suppressed for years.
Self-Love is finding the source of the dark cloud following you around.
Self-Love is painful.
Self-Love is rewarding.
Self-Love is more than bubble bath and face mask.

This week, require more of yourself, you deserve it. –Briana M., The Introvert’s Escape Maneuver, “Self-Love is Painful”

Be sure to visit Briana’s blog and show her some blogger-love.


Note on the image: Today’s luxurious purple orchids were captured by my friend Christine B. They’re from her mother’s lovely garden.  Extra love provided by the USPS. 😉

Forgive me for being five minutes late for…

 

12 Days of Christmas Postcards | Day 10

Christmas magic is silent.
You don’t hear it–
You feel it.
You know it.
You believe it.

Today’s postcard was not handmade, but it so thrilled me that I have to share it. It was sent with warm holiday greetings and love by my Love Notes friend, Eileen V.

I love the seeming simplicity of the art and the subtle nod to the magic of Christmas.

The watercolor reindeer is the work of Claudia Brandt, an artist I have fallen in love with. You can see more of her art on her website, A Painting a Day or Two or Longer, or on her Facebook page.

The postcard arrived in pristine condition because Eileen placed it in a bright red envelope and stamped it with a breathtaking Chagall image.

[Enlarged for detail]

I think she was trying to send me over the moon for the holiday season!

The stamp features a small part of one of the nine stained glass windows Marc Chagall (1887-1985) completed for St. Stephan Church in Mainz, Germany. The image depicts Mary cradling Baby Jesus with an angel hovering above them.

Chagall worked on the windows from 1978-1985, completing them shortly before his death. They feature themes common to Christians and Jews and serve as Chagall’s contribution to reconciliation between the two groups.

Here’s an image featuring the full panel: Chagall Window by Tomosang.

For a visual feast of Chagall’s stained glass windows:

For more information about St. Stephan’s windows:

Hang in there with me! We have just two more days of Christmas postcards to go!

12 Days of Christmas Postcards | Day 9

My Love Notes friend Andrea F stitched this pretty in pink pocket card in honor of my sister, Lori, but I received it in honor of both my sisters–Karlette and Lori–whom we lost to breast cancer. When I opened the envelope I thought of them immediately: Karlette’s love for pink and their mutual love for Christmas and pretty things.

If you’re used to seeing Christmas in only traditional ways, you might think the gently falling snowflakes that dominate the card are simply asterisks on a pink background. It is not until you open the card that you see…

…Christmas joy, a home overflowing with warmth and love, and a golden star-topped tree.

Add a bit of pink to your Christmas joy!