This week’s post concludes the last chapter of the book Listen, Love, Repeat by Karen Ehman. I’m sorry to see it end. This book has become a vessel of awareness for me over the past several months. I’ve caught myself, on many occasion, doubling back to speak a kind word, listening a little deeper, or scattering some much needed kindness in my little corner of the world. Being on the launch team has truly been an honor.
Each week with our reading, we were encouraged to find an image that described the chapter’s weekly theme. The book ends with the simple gesture of scattering kindness. Our challenge – looking for things that were scattered. I found myself avoiding my writing all week because as much as I loved the chapter, I just didn’t have an image of something scattered. That is, until today.
I’ve had an emotional week. Seems like problems found me as I rose in the morning and more followed me into bed each night. There wasn’t a place to go where I wasn’t met with some kind of adversity. After work, I visited the gravesite of our family members. Out of nowhere, a wave of tears began to pour. I fell to my knees and just let it all out. Once my mini melt-down was over, I looked around and saw my “scattered” moment. Surrounding me were trees; some completely bare, others full of bright red autumn leaves that were falling and scattered around hundreds of headstones.
As beautiful as Autumn is, it always reminds me that the long, dark days of winter are just around the corner. The season is the perfect teaching tool for life and death. So many people I know and love surround me in this sacred place. Once a part of my life – in love, in laughter, in sorrow, in challenges – now gone. I am reminded of the part they played in my life. I ask myself “Did they know how I felt about them? Did they know the joy they brought to my life or the lessons they taught me?”. I hope so. Once again, words from Karen’s book came back to me ~ a quote she used:
It’s not what you gather, but what you scatter, that tells you what kind of life you have lived. ~ Helen Walton
My life hasn’t always been where it is now. I’m not the same person I was 35 years ago. It is through the experiences and people that God has placed in my path that I came to who I am today. Still learning – still a work in progress. Each crossroad left me with choices to make – some were good, some were awful – but at each one, God met me where I was (even when I didn’t know it) and gently walked beside me. Working what I thought was awful into something wonderful.
There were times when my experiences hurt so much that I built a wall around my heart. I became a fighter, allowing no one to cross me. There’s still a tendency to go back to that place and sometimes I slip up and it’s my words that hurt or are judgmental, but with each passing day I make strides towards a better way. Some of those moments have been the very thing I needed to reach another’s heart. Isn’t it true that you don’t notice the hungry in the same way until you’ve been there yourself? Or a sick or hurting child, unless your heart has experienced that? Loneliness, homelessness, unemployment – the list is endless. As Karen reminds us in her final chapter of Listen, Love, Repeat – “couldn’t we see such humble and common circumstances as an opportunity to use our ordinary lives for God’s extraordinary purposes?”.
As a Christian, what is the point of Jesus coming to save us if we aren’t willing to do for others what He so willingly did for us? The cross gives us the perfect reminder to live out this kind of love. The simple, humble cross consists of two little pieces – one is vertical, a reminder that we are called to have a relationship with God. The second one is horizontal, a reminder that we are called to bring that love and kindness to others.
Karen’s message of living an other-centered not self-centered life may not be a new message, but it is one that comes from a life lived by lessons learned and seeing the power to listen, love, and repeat. That action over and over again. Our world is a blank canvas just waiting for this kinder, gentler picture to be painted. We will never lack moments where kindness, encouragement, or hope can be offered and living an other-centered life can be contagious to others around you.