Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless. Mother Teresa
The weight and power of words has been a constant theme with me lately. Just a few words can have a HUGE impact. They can build up, or they can tear down. And the positive or negative energy they emit can have such a ripple effect. It’s kind of funny how they say that actions speak louder than words, yet words can be SO powerful.
Anyway… I picked up some books on writing today, and one of my focuses is learning to say more, with fewer words… and with much thought about how those words will impact others.
I think that’s a pretty positive plan.
A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it! James 3:3-5 MSG
I’ve been a little weepy this past week. The strangest thing triggered it, too. My very first LONG road trip was in 2002 or 2003. My two youngest sons and I drove from California to Georgia to see my oldest graduate from boot camp. I encouraged him to see the world, so he took my advice and left for Germany not long after this photo of us was taken.
It was a wonderful and memorable trip that I’ll NEVER forget. Fort Worth Texas was one of our stops and they had beautiful lights up, and a horse and carriage trotting through the street. It was magical!
I have one photo that I took of my three boys at the base, after the ceremony—just after I pinned my son’s Infantry Blue Cord onto his uniform. My boys were all smiles in the photo. Not until later did I notice another soldier standing behind them, to their right. Everywhere else in the background you see families, happy and hugging, and there was this young man—alone, and staring ahead. His cord was still in his hand. I’m not sharing it out or respect for his anonymity.
I don’t know why but I’m in tears even now when I write this! His face, for some reason, is forever etched in my mind. I have no idea what his story was, or where his family was, but I know that if I had noticed him at the time- I would have gone over to him. It’s one of those things where you wish you could go back and do a do-over.
Anyhow, I cried for him the other night when I saw that photo again. It’s likely he ended up being shipped to Afghanistan, and I just prayed that he’s alive and happy somewhere.
I know—strange story. It’s been on my mind for a week now and I needed to write about it and get it off of my chest.
All in all, the trip is another precious memory I hold on to. And this story itself is a great reminder to me: Be grateful. Love and hug your family often, and never take your life—or theirs—for granted. Always be kind and look out for others, even strangers. They may not have what you have, and may be in dire need a smile, a hug, or just an encouraging word.
Or maybe someone to pin their Infantry Blue Cord onto their uniform.
Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.
My sponsor said that to me after I told her about all of the coincidences that started happening in my life once I came to believe.
I think that prior to that time, my eyes were just closed. I say that because—looking back—I’m finally able to recognize God’s little nudges and prior attempts to get my attention when I was in desperate need of help but didn’t know (or believe) that it was HIM that I should turn to.
One thing I’ve never mentioned is that some years ago, I lost my jeep. It quit running and I was in no condition, mentally OR financially, to have it repaired. I had NO business driving back then anyway, if you know what I mean, so I have to wonder if that was actually one of those anonymous blessings.
Anyway, I received a text from my best friend. We grew up together and she’s like a sister to me. She and her husband were talking about me over dinner when her husband made a wild suggestion. For a minute, I thought I was going to fly right out of the seat of those pants that I fly by!
It came from so far out of left field that I never saw it coming. I think the ball actually hit me on the back of the head, because I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. They knew nothing about my prayers for a car, but they randomly, and quite unexpectedly, offered me their old car.
I get to pick it up in a few days!
I’m not sure about you, but I suspect that there may be a little note waiting for me when I get inside….
You’re on your way child. Enjoy the journey, remain faithful, and don’t look back.
My life today looks nothing like it did a year ago. There’s definitely still a lot of construction in progress, but compared to my life was when I was drinking—it’s like heaven. I am happy, joyous and free!
I’ve been doing some thinking though. How do I propel myself into the next phase of my life? I want to experience growth. I’ll be fifty-five soon. My life has slowed down, and my priorities are now in order (for the most part). Things are definitely different, but I need to expand. I’m feeling stagnant. So… I decided to take on a challenge.
The journey continues!
For my fifty-fifth year I want to do 55 things I’ve NEVER done before, including random acts of kindness. That’s a little over one per week. I’m super excited. This will be a year to celebrate (sober!), and see if I can give something back.
There was something else on my mind when I first contacted my friend Gil. I was trapped in that little world that I call SELF and I knew that I needed to get out of there. I wanted to make a contribution to this world.
I’m going to back up and talk about the man that I saw for four months, who finally admitted he lived with a woman. I actually mentioned to him that I’d written about him in my story. I had to assure him that he was anonymous just to bring some color back into his face (and later I learned why!). Anyway, he had hopes that I likened his character to Chuck Norris, but I’m going to call him your average “Joe”.
It was never my intention to present a one-sided version of this particular saga. Obviously he was dead wrong to withhold that crucial piece of information from me, but in spite of THAT, there are some really nice things I could say about Joe.
We had many laughs together, he listened to me talk incessantly, and he encouraged me a lot. We shared stories about our hardships, past and present, and there were things he told me about himself that left me with a heavy heart, full of compassion.
I’m not an idiot. I knew something was amiss from the very beginning, but I chose to ignore it. I wasn’t ready to face reality, I guess. I was living in fantasy land and was perfectly happy there… for a while.
My point is… I read something once—I think it was in a Philip Yancey book—about the way we see people when we are falling in love. We put all of our focus on what’s good in them, and overlook the bad. He compares it to how God sees us. Everyone has flaws, and we all make bad decisions, but God looks right through our defects and deep into our hearts.
I set out on this journey hoping to make a difference in the world. Perhaps imagining how people look through God’s eyes was helping me grasp that things aren’t always black and white. I was learning to appreciate the bigger picture, where the two extremes merge together to create countless shades of gray.
Anyway, I wasn’t trying to throw Joe overboard, or under the bus for that matter. I stopped seeing him, of course, but I have no anger. He’s only human, and he has a story. Everyone has a story.
Maybe we all just need to be heard.
Next Up: The Great Escape
There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you. Maya Angelou
Whenever I talk about finding God, I always wonder how people perceive that. You know… like… I wonder if they think I saw a vision (or thought that I did). How else DO you acknowledge that you’ve found something that can’t be seen or touched?
Sometimes people come into your life, and whether they stay long or just pass through briefly, they leave you with something. They have an impact on you. To me, that’s God.
When I was younger, the handful of times I attended church had discouraged me. I showed up. I tried to understand. Sadly, I was like a fish out of water. I felt nothing. It was like walking into a theater… in the middle of a movie. The entire time you’re watching it you’re trying to catch up, but it’s not making any sense! Everyone there knows something that you don’t. They know the WHOLE story.
I spent months on end corresponding with a dear friend of mine (the one who inspired me to share my story) when I was drinking and in despair. One of the greatest things he proffered me, aside from his graciousness, was an unwavering conviction that, not only was I going to make it out alive, but that GREAT things were in store for me.
He taught me that there’s a significant difference between religion and relationship. He had an undeniable relationship with God, and I wanted what he had!
I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for his friendship, support and guidance. Since our first conversation, several years ago, he has been there. Listening, praying and encouraging me, every step of the way.
If that’s not God whispering to me, I don’t know what is.
Next Up: A Lighter Load
Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. 1 John 3:18