Uprooted by Kindness


We’re finally home! As we face the ongoing task of organizing what we have left and replacing what was lost, only my closest friends know just how difficult this 3-month displacement was for me on a deeply personal level. As I think about these things, I’m often overwhelmed with joy as I remember the many who came alongside us in so many wonderful ways. 

My life motto is “Kindness is a Superpower” and this experience of losing access to home due to fire opened up an opportunity for many who joyfully welcomed the chance to be a blessing to me and my family.  The big news is that for the first time in my life, blindsided by this fire that damaged every square inch of our home, my heart and spirit were tired enough to accept.  

I spent a portion of my childhood homeless. We slept in the car, in shelters, public restrooms, and once in a woman’s dirty, gasoline smelling garage for an extended period of time.  When you’re a little girl, surrounded by garbage and hungry it affects you in ways that you’d never expect.  That initial experience of homelessness in my formative years influenced every choice I made an adult. And I worked hard to keep my 1st childhood vow:  ‘When I grow up, I will never be homeless again & I will always be able to go home.’  Nope – Life always has its say.

On the other side of that coin, is the fact that I became extremely determined and self-reliant. Not long after that terrible chapter in my life, we moved to Germany and during a middle school trip to one of the largest death camps, I made another vow: ‘I will be a part of the good in this world, no matter what.’

All of this came to mind as I sat in my newly restored living room last week, praying with a thankful heart for all the ongoing love and kindness we’ve received over the past quarter of 2019.  That day, I discovered a wonderful new series on Netflix called “The Kindness Diaries.” It chronicles the adventures of Leon Logothetis, who embarks on a quest to prove that there is genuine goodness and kindness in the world, you just have to choose to take notice of it.  

In episode 1, Leon meets Willy and Cheryl who gave him shelter, food and invited him to join them on a visit to a neighbor celebrating her 96th birthday, so she wouldn’t have to spend it alone.  Inspired by their faith - they served, shared and loved despite their personal struggles.  Leon said that their example proved to him that ‘Human beings can literally manufacture hope through acts, even the simplest acts of kindness.’ Later in episode 11, he visits the ‘Killing Fields,’ of Choung Ek in Cambodia and the largest death camp.  Just as I did in the 7th grade, he left “shaken to the core” and more determined than ever to find kindness and love, and ‘the light within us that will always triumph over the darkness.’

As a little girl living in chaos and poverty, I somehow figured out something miraculous:  There really is more goodness in this world than evil, selfishness, poverty and suffering.  The secret to experiencing this kind of joyful reality is in learning how to look for and find the good in every circumstance, every day, no matter how small, with a thankful heart. And choosing every day to do our part to shine the light that we’ve been entrusted with.

The love I’ve experienced in the last 3 months has amplified my desire to carry out that 2nd childhood vow. But it’s different now, I have new wisdom and strength fueled by the joy of knowing that my prideful seeds of self-deception about my ability to take care of myself were uprooted by kindness.

Though I could never thank you enough…I’m a writer, and so I wrote this blog as my way of saying, Thank you!  

To everyone who prayed, gave money, visited us in the hotel, offered us space in your homes, brought us clothing and food, hosted us in your home, kept me company at 2AM when I couldn’t stop crying, and to everyone who called, texted, and messaged several times a week, just to see if we needed anything.

Thank you, with all my heart.   Because of your acts of loving kindness, with each passing day - I felt less of the effects of the fire, and more of the love of God. 

Yes, life will have its say, but God has the final word. And I will always be thankful!

“Be Brave. Be Present. Be Wise. Be Faithful. Be Kind to Yourself & Others, and Be Blessed.” ©

Thank you @Sushobhan for this beautiful image!

There is Only Today, and It's Enough


This morning on the Today Show, they featured an interview with Neenah Pickett, the creator of the 52 Weeks Blog where she chronicled her journey to find a husband in one year.  She started the blog a decade ago and as of today, she is still waiting, and hoping.  

One of my favorite parts of the interview with this strong inspiring woman is that she talked about the importance of choosing ‘radical acceptance.’  Often in life, we have great hope that things will work out a certain way. We strive, we dream, and we have a culture here in the United States that tells us every day that if we just work hard enough, ‘No matter how your heart is grieving/If you keep on believing/ The dream that you wish will come true.’ *

But what do you do when you dream, you hope, you work and you believe, but like Neenah or me, a decade or two passes and you’re still waiting?

This is a really tough question, but I think it deserves to be asked and not ignored. Last night, right before slipping off to sleep, a simple thought settled in my mind:

We have this day, only today and it’s enough. There is no tomorrow.”

For some strange reason, this thought gave me a hope and peace that I didn’t expect.  And I was so thankful for it. I slept well, straight through the night.  I think the reason it brought me peace is because it was a statement of radical acceptance.   

Neenah Pickett talked about the many people who have been encouraged by her blog over the past 10 years and the community she’s found with other singles who have become dear friends in the journey.  She shed some tears as she talked about having a hysterectomy and had to let go of dreams to someday carry and give birth to her own child.  But she always returned to hope and offering encouragement to those who were willing to receive it.  She still extends an invitation to those who want to join the community with others who are still looking for love and refusing to give up hope. She’s accepted her call to be an encourager, even when it’s hard.

I don’t know what dreams you’re holding on to today, or what weary hopes you may feel burdened by, but as a woman of faith, I offer you a couple of words of encouragement that have often helped me. 

They’re simple words offered by Jesus to His followers, that when we’re discouraged and tempted to lose hope as we buckle under the weight of dashed dreams, unmet expectations and unmitigated regret, we need only remember:

“Always pray, and never give up hope,” and “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” *

Thankfully, my tomorrow did in fact arrive (yay God!), but like Neehah, I found peace in radical acceptance: Acceptance of the fact that I have this new day, this moment to share kindness, encouragement, love and light in a way that might help someone else to be strengthened for their next step. And If you need encouragement today, I pray that someone is you.

“Be Brave. Be Present. Be Wise. Be Faithful. Be Kind to Yourself & Others, and Be Blessed.” ©

*A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes - Lyrics

*Matthew 6:34 and Luke 18:1 - The Bible

Thank you @FrankMckenna for this beautiful image!

Displaced but Still Home


This morning while sitting in the hotel lobby, I came to a realization I didn’t expect: Right now, in my life, everyday – I’m surrounded by things that don’t belong to me, and this feeling is just so strange.   

Since our displacement over a month ago, my family and I have been sleeping in someone else’s bed, eating someone else’s food and often I see my son – wearing someone else’s clothes to school.   But we’re in no way alone in this. So many families here in Chicagoland are displaced due to water damage from pipes that burst during the Sub-Antarctic Blast that hit a few weeks ago.  Then there’s the families in California, many who have not yet fully recovered from the fires and even this morning, thousands more displaced because of severe flooding from above the average rainfall.  As of this month, according to the UN Refugee Agency, “We are now witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record.” 

All of this reminded me of a scene from one of my favorite movies, Revolutionary Road.  In it the main character finds himself caught up in a tragedy of his own design. As he sits in the dark at work, he decides to record a memo:

“Knowing what you’ve got. Knowing what you need. Knowing what you can live without, that’s inventory control.”

Though he was in the situation because of his own life choices, the character in the story knew that he was at a pivotal moment, but he chose incorrectly, ascribed value to the wrong things and it literally destroyed his family. 

As we make progress toward returning home, I deeply understand how displacement for any reason invites you to take inventory of what’s most important in your life.

Since our house fire, I’ve been praying with a new appreciation for all displaced families and I’ve listened to stories of other families displaced here at our long term stay hotel.  No, our circumstances are in no way as dire as those displaced by war, but I believe that we all share some common emotions directly related to this experience.  Reminders that humanity longs for Home.   Reminders that if you don’t accept the invitation to take inventory of what’s most important in life before the unexpected strikes, it can really derail you if it’s all carried away or left behind.   

Whether or not you’re currently in a situation where you’re surrounded by someone else’s things, I pray that you will join me in taking a careful and prayerful inventory of what have, what you need and what you can do without. 

It’s my experience that this practice cultivates a lifestyle and a habit of appreciation that will serve you well if you’re forced away from home.  

One of my favorite stories from the Bible tells us that right before Jesus calmed the storm at sea, a man approached him and proclaimed, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go!”  Jesus responded with a word of caution: “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.”  In other words – Jesus was displaced and He wants us to accept His invitation to embrace what really matters, because this leads to the discovery that He is our Home.

If you make your Home with God, no displacement can keep you from living out His love and sharing His light.  And that’s my prayer for you, even if right now you actually can go home, that you’ll find  Home in Him.

*         *         *

When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake.  Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head…”

 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.   Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.  The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” – Matthew 8:18-20, 23-27 (The Bible)