My Burmese neighbor brought a package of homemade rice-coconut cakes in banana leaves to celebrate their daughter’s 13th birthday. Feeling very blessed with learning to share our lives. We share back as well. Learning each other’s names and languages. Hope to share more about how to plant and grow food as they do as we nourish the seeds of friendship.
Colossians 3: 12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
*We are intricately connected to who we love. The Invisible String inspired me to write a little bit about a close relationship I share with a dear one and perhaps like one you have as well.
Love holds us all close, like a string connecting hearts with the truth…that of abiding friendship. That yes! “I can do this” and feel the tug to stay connected, despite pandemics, snowstorms, illness…write cards, calling… surfacing above the fear of the deadly pandemic that once appeared to threaten so many in the world. Perhaps you, like me, have been blessed with zooming and could feel the energy of others right through the screen, with those that care about each other.
In my relationship with Jesus, I openly share deep in the heart, but I don’t even need to say a word. The Word reaches out and touches my heart… comforting me as I listen …though sometimes, I am not awakened to know it.
This open, heart-based relationship comes through between my friend Debbie and myself. We continue to hold center for each other… present and praying for each other in whatever we go through. God blesses us continually no matter what circumstances appear in our lives. Sharing God’s love through presence and lovingkindness, we look forward to an open, trusting conversation every time we get to talk with each other.
No matter whatever else happens to us, we have had a phone call invitation waiting for each other nearly every day. (My husband knows to expect the call and sometimes the whole family joins in!) Feet remaining firmly planted in Scriptures, we share Scriptures, day’s events and remind each other of how blessed we are in this world with God’s love living in us and through us. (We had called our loving mothers every day and years ago when they passed away, we started this tradition whenever our hearts speak out the other’s name.)
We continually share a love of music. Me with piano and bagpipes, she with her gift of playing 10 musical instruments to bring joy to people all over her metropolitan city at church, nursing homes, wherever called and even at my 70th bday party online earlier this year. She played over 5 beautiful songs on her harp to the entranced guests celebrating with me. For her birthday, I tried my hand at making a birthday cake which I presented at my house… almost 2 years since we were in same room.
Debbie cocked her head and smiled as she looked at my sorrowful, slightly lopsided Bundt confetti cake. I knew she would like whatever I did, as I do for her, but truly, it looked like a five-year-old had frosted it. I looked up at her quizzical look and said, “Okay. I know. I am a writer, not a cook.” “Yes, you are,” she says lovingly. No more was needed. As the prodigal child, I was accepted for being me, just myself. Knowing that no matter what we do, we will still be connected by loved and accepted. No questions asked.
The next morning, I picked her up at her sister’s house and drove off for breakfast to have one last conversation before she left to go back home to Minnesota. In a Snuffy’s shirt and slacks, Debbie joined me for a casual breakfast at McDonalds.
As I poured hot sauce on my breakfast burrito, I caught a look out of the corner of my eye at Debbie. She was looking at me like she was gazing at a picture she wanted to remember…and said “It is one thing to get all dressed up and go out to eat for a special dinner, but having a burrito in old clothes early in the morning, that has to be with someone who really loves you.” She bowed her head and grasped my hand tightly for the blessing. We were so grateful that we could be together for a little while. It is well and always will be. Lopsided cake and all.
Matthew 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.38 This is the first and greatest commandment.39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
“ Rockie Raccoon really does not live at our house, but seems like he wants to. He loves to come up to the back-porch door and beg for food. He stands up on his back legs and scratches at the door. Scrapper, will calmly explain in his best growl that isn’t the appropriate thing to do, but this doesn’t faze the raccoon who loves people food. Eventually, Rockie gives up and goes next door and climbs in their attic. Only dog bones and water and a few other treats in our yard*. No Light of Love shining from Scrapper in this story.
Granted, dogs are territorial and are very careful in choosing to be open to letting in. Yet, Scrapper shared space with Tomcat living in the same house. Tomcat even crawled under the door to get to his doggie friend so he wouldn’t be alone.
Human behavior sometimes can be like their animal friends cohabiting this beautiful world. For example, we are conditioned this past year by the pandemic to just keep a safe distance when needed. But, still, we have our “pods” of people we trust and let into our space. Other than medically, given that situations do exist where people come “together”, how do you decide whom you will reach out to “through the glass door” into your space?
Take this hypothetical example. Roberta notices and walks up on a cold day as a hardworking team of church community members are outdoors serving a long line of cars with people in need. “May I help?” she said. Roberta had not come before, but saw the long line of cars to get needed supplies and opened her heart to join in. She may need assistance herself, but she reaches out. How would you respond to this need? Or, as a member of the team serving?
Thought questions: Starting this new year, think of Matthew 22 verse 39 which says to love thy neighbor as thyself. Do we actually listen to or are aware of their need? How do you shine the Light of Christ in your life?
*illustration by HannaRose Illiff, story by Bonnie Smith-Davis, 2021, Tales of our Boys.
The gate swung wide into the backyard as sweat rolled off my face which flushed as I took a break to survey the back yard. Drat! Weeds were overgrown and twigs had fallen from the last night’s storm. Clearly might give the finicky lawnmower indigestion. So, with a tired sigh, I moved the mower into the yard and the steel gate clanged shut behind me. As I started the cleanup work, I heard a soft but very clear and firm voice from the other side of the gate. “I will mow for you, now.” It was not a question.
I looked up to find my quiet, young Burmese neighbor on the other side of our gate looking in my direction. I cocked my head toward the mower. “You want to help me mow?” She nodded.
Time paused as her nearby children approached her and Lucy (not real name) turned to give them directions. I remembered how over the fence our families had been slowly, quietly learning a little of each other. My dog, Rascal was almost always the center of attraction. She had watched from a distance as we played simple American games with her children through the fence. But this wasn’t over the fence. Lucy had stepped forward.
But why now. Clearly God has always put people I need to have in my life, and I am sure Lucy was no exception. I continue to feel truly blessed. …Now a still small voice inside of me said trust in Me. Lean not on your own understanding. Clearly, I found myself seeing the Light awakening more ways to recognize compassion and grow trust.
She and I had common bonds of being shy, liking children, and caring for our yards…mowing our lawns and taking care of magazine worthy vegetable garden. Clearly, Lucy knew how to teach a somewhat past middle-aged gardener (me) a thing or two.
In this uncertain world, I sensed caring, beauty and harmony, not isolation. In her reaching out to help an older albeit plucky older person, me… “What ifs weeds” that had jumped into my head dissolved into my heart. Whatever questions arose, we would work it out. All was well and would be well. So, I trusted, nodded and stepped aside.
She smiled and stepped confidently in, reached down to start the mower and got to work. My mind refocused on the garden. I reached down to pluck out nearby colorful weeds, but hesitated. They were really quite pretty. At the risk of more overgrown gardens, I just stood up and reached for my lemonade. I thought that if I had had a daughter, I would have hoped she might have the compassion and determination of this young wife.
So, it went on …for the entire backyard. As Lucy worked on the mowing, I did do some pulling of weeds, and thought how God reaches for us, do we notice…are we aware? I need to reach out myself, listen deeply and put my hand in the Master Gardener’s hand…And as a parent might, Jesus always stays close, waiting for us to call on His Love. The warmth of the sun combined with an intense joy I felt in my heart. Halfway through I asked if she wanted to stop or take a break. With an understanding smile, she shook her head no. As if saying give yourself a break. Just be. I got this covered. The lawn never looked better.
Something simple, but very beautiful happened to nourish seeds of friendship. Lighting paths to show how to be there when needed…language and other barriers dissolving. Her younger children stood on their side of the fence, fascinated with watching their mom, their faces pressed into the opening of the linked fence. They saw how she was helping…They tugged at my shirt and said, why is she helping? I said she saw I needed help and wanted to help me. They nodded and smiled. When the job was done, I thanked Lucy, and she smiled and nodded. Back through the gate she went to her waiting family to continue picking up limbs and tending to the children and garden.
It had come as a whisper – a simple, but totally courageous offer to care for someone else. Then, we reached out and walked together with compassion. Gentle reader, every action has an equally powerful reaction. How can you walk God’s Love out into this world today?
* I decided to learn more about how to communicate with Lucy. So, I called on our local Embarc how to best respond, not overwhelm or overdo, and did as they suggested. Her husband was appreciative of what I brought to them. Even though it wasn’t necessary, I was told it was acceptable to do. We accept each other as we are as good neighbors who care about each other. (The Embarc program helps families in need of assistance in very specific ways).