Archive for the ‘Pass It Forward’ Category

wreath22I was born in the early 60s, but I grew up in an earlier generation. I grew up in my grandparent’s house, with a grandmother and grandfather who were pre-teens during the first world war – and were raising pre-teens to babies in the second world war. My neighbors were spinsters, widows and couples who grew up during the same time. Sometimes, I feel like I’m from a different world – and maybe, well, it’s because I was raised steeped in another generation.

MaryEdna3My grandmother wore sheer elbow length gloves during her First Communion because her skin was too dark. She had gone to live with her grandmother for a year before her First Communion to take the classes necessary receive the sacrament. The mumps didn’t stop her – apparently, nothing stopped you from the sacred ritual.  Especially, if you left home for a year to live with your grandmother to be prepared for it. A rare photo, of Mary Edna, in her gown, is probably the only photo of any of her family bearing a striking jaw line – courtesy of the mumps.

Women who grew up in the early 1900s, experienced the great wars and the Depression met in multiples of 4 around bridge tables where every few months, Charlotte Rousse and tomato aspic were served on the best dishes, where recipes were held close and rarely shared because community was small – and a stellar dish would become synonymous with the one who made it. When my brother and I would come tearing in from school on those illustrious bridge days, we  were expected to make bridge table rounds, speaking to each group, answering questions from women, who were mostly generous with their kind words. I always left the rooms smiling. Grandmotherly women laid their cards on the table so much more neatly and kindly than did our own peers. Maybe that’s why, today, I have always been more comfortable with older women than my own peers.

It’s from this community – of community bridge partners and neighbors from an older generation – that I gained an insight and perspective into so many different layers of living – a Live. Experience. Learn. Pass it Down kind-of-experience, where I learned my life is not my own – and my soul hands were open to catch the blessing they poured out.

Stop:  5 Minutes of Writing. Just 5 Minutes – unless you just cannot stop yourself.  Won’t you join me over at Kate’s Place for 5 Minute Friday? Sit down, pull over a cup of Wild Apple Ginger Tea, and see what everybody else is writing about the word . . . “Neighbor” Maybe you can join in – it’s just 5 minutes. Come enjoy the fun! (My 5 minutes ends here, but I wanted to share the following story about neighbors who never sat at grandmother’s bridge tables, but were constant neighbors until their deaths. What follows is one of those experiences.

Live. Experience. Learn. Pass it Down.

“Don’t do what I did,” Laura May, my 80-year-old-neighbor said to me when I was 18, getting ready to graduate from high school. She had called my grandmother to send me over to sit with her. She thought she was dying and didn’t want to be alone. I was terrified.

Over 13 years, I sat on her front porch a few times, overcoming shyness to visit. One 6-year-old morning, peering through backyard hedges, I was caught, spell-bound, watching an argument unfold between  Laura May and her widowed sister – about boundaries, inside work (Ms. Schindler) and outside work(Laura May). They were refined little ladies. Laura May in her neat dress, with her stockings rolled down around her ankles mowed with an old-fashioned push mower. I tried it once in later years, totally depleted and exhausted at the effort, not able to match her stamina. That morning, I watched them bicker, totally enthralled. . . until they noticed me in the bloomed-out forsythia. They stopped immediately, calling out a friendly, southern, “Mornin’ Maryleigh.” I muttered a “Good Morning” and ran.

I grew past bee catching and porch-wall climbing as seasons turned, Ms. Schindler died and Laura May was left alone in her parent’s Victorian house with blue and white tiled fireplaces, ornate trim, and black walnut woodwork. In the winter, the bare forsythia allowed her to watch us eat in the kitchen. As a teen, in the summer, the stairwell window allowed her to sit, watching all the coming and going, teen antics with my friends, still picking violets, surprise parties, dates, proms – and me mowing our yard.

Until one day, she was dying and afraid. And she wanted me to sit with her.

In her down-stairs sitting room turned bedroom, she told me her story, a “My-life-is-not-my-own” story that needed passing down. A young man turned away because she was expected to take care of her parents. A life turned away – no children, no husband – because her parents chose a different path for her. Oh, how she regretted that. She did not want me to make that same mistake; she feared I would stay home and take care of my divorced mother and grandmother. She wanted me to live life overflowing.

 Live. Experience. Learn. Pass it Down.

Nobody owns me. Nobody owned her. Nobody owns my sons. But God calls us to live life fully in a “My-life-is-not-my-own” way, where we pour out all that is within us into someone else to help them grow and grow strong, to strengthen their wings to one day fly and in flying soar, and in that soaring, see – that their life is not their own.

She missed that chance to teach someone to grow, to fly, to soar. She wanted to ensure that I did not miss it, too. In that moment, her life was not her own – she gave a part of it to me.

 “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,
and one who waters will himself be watered” (Proverbs 11:25)

festivalarticleAllowing others to pour their story into our lives is just as important as pouring our stories into others’ lives. Those stories are God’s stories, God’s messages, God’s encouragement. “Sit Long. Talk Much” is a sign over my porch door. It reminds me to share what God put in me.

Esther’s life was not her own. Peter’s life was not his own. Mary’s life was not her own. Ruth’s life was not her own. Sarah’s life was not her own. Peter’s life was not his own. Neither was Saul’s.

My son, the answer to a 4 year prayer, he graduates in May. Freedom is all he has talked about for at least 4 years – freedom to live his life his way, make his choices, live his dreams, determine what values to re-seed, which to prune or pull out. “It’s my life,” whispered, shouted, cried out in his thirst for freedom, for control.

I remember that feeling, thinking, “It’s my life.” I can do what I want, be what I want, live what I want, wear what I want, eat what I want. Suddenly, one day though, truth makes a lie of those words. My life is no longer my own. It never really was. . . . my life that is. I gave my life to God – and He wants me to give it away to others – to my family, my children – and His children, both little and big He puts in my path. My dreams are just a shadow of God’s plan for my life.

Just yesterday, I was at the KY State Archery Tournament. I was handed 2 bows, a back pack, a cell phone and an iPod. My life was not my own. Yet – what I was able to give, strengthened my son and gave him the opportunity to try his wings.

Another son brought home a puppy that someone was “selling for free.” My life is even less my own. I so wanted to put up a “No Trespassing” sign. My son walks the dog at 6:30 a.m., 7:15 a.m., multiple times after school and before bed. He wants to go on Spring Break to Florida. I gave him a choice – either use the money to go to the beach or use the money to get the puppy her shots and spade. His life, he is learning, is no longer his own.

Or the little boyin the grocery store who asked me, “Do you think I’m going to Hell?” My life is not my own or he wouldn’t have jumped on my cart and then walked with me, wanting to go home with me. ”You can got to heaven if you want to,” I answered.

 Live. Experience. Learn. Pass it Down.

God created a “Pass it Down” mechanism within each of us, the need for our life, experience and learning to be given away. It is something as necessary to us as water is to life. Laura May felt that need for her life not to be her own, to pass parts of it down.

 God put gifts within us to give, graciously, freely, wantingly. Not hoarding, not guarding, not begrudgingly.

  My life is not my own.

How blessed I have been by people who lived that way! I so want to pass it on to my friends, my family and God’s family . . . .and I so want my sons to pass it on – this beautiful, inside-out concept that My life is not My own.

 “Give and it will come back to you, pressed down, shaken together, running over” (Luke 6:38)





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I’m not sure how to say this – and say it well. But it is something that I want to say to the marrow of my heart.

God has blessed me by sending people throughout my life to mentor, encourage, pray, bless, to open my eyes to what it means to be the daughter of the King. I hope that I have passed those blessings forward – tagged someone with the same generosity of spirit with which I was tagged.

Yet, it is the generosity of spirit of those who have Jesus Loved my sons that, well, make my heart feel like bursting.  Words like thankful and gratitude fail to express my heart thoughts.

God’s People ( and you know if anyone has People, God does) who mentor as a brother in Christ, or a Spiritual Mother or Father, a laborer God sends with a message, people brave enough to hold to accountability, Jesus Loving without merit – when they touch my son’s lives – well – my heart grows and grows, kind of like the Grinch’s heart in the book – until I have learned that my heart has the capacity to love as many people as much as I possibly can – and more than I can imagine.

I find myself saying, “I wish you were a part of my family” –  and then I realize – well, they are – that what I am feeling is what being a part of God’s family feels like. Talk about Power Families – God’s Family is The Power Family of the Universe!

And that generosity of spirit that touched my sons’  lives and mine – well, the greatest gift I can give that giver is to Pass It Forward.

That message really hit home in early September. Our college minister who had been at our church when my oldest son was in college suddenly died. Thirty-one years old with wife and month old baby girl – well, he left us behind – beat us to the finish line.

He was not a laborer who said things like, “When someone approaches me, I automatically wonder what they want from me.”

Nor did he say, “There are people with bigger problems. I don’t have time for yours.”

No watching the clock with an “I-gotta-go-mentality.”

My son gave me a great compliment one day a few years ago: “I just discovered that talking with you is like talking with Jonate. There’s never a 5 minute conversation. You just have to settle in for awhile.” He said it in a way that made me feel pretty awesome.

Someone who wants to sit down with you, give the Holy Spirit time to bubble up in dialogue – that’s what Jesus Love is all about.  Not because you’re somebody important in the community, but because God whispered, “All my children need to come home to me – the ones easy to bring and the ones determined to stray – I want them all.”

This young man mentored my son with a generosityof-spirit mentality that reached out, “God placed you on my path today. I want to help you before that problem gets any bigger. God has plans for you – big plans and little plans.” And he would start by listening and end by praying.

Laborers like that look in likely and unlikely places – to love God’s kids, teens and young adults enough – to always be on the look-out, on the watch, heart open, ready to reach. Just seed planting moments.  Or seed watering moments. Encouragement and accountability moments. True friendship moments. Not necessarily Evangelist moments, but moments that lead there.

My other sons need mentors like that. I want my sons to become mentors like that, too! (of course, if they could sing and praise God like that – I would be blessed speechless!)

At Jonate’s memorial, the college ministry building was standing-room only. It was a room full of touched lives – and, as I looked, I thought that, yeah, we were left behind – but he left us each something to pass forward – seeds invested directly and indirectly.

Hundreds of college students Jesus Loving others, like Jonate Jesus loved them. Hundreds of students Passing it Forward to Hundreds of others. That would be the most awesome thank you of all!

Has someone touched your life? Blessed you? Don’t just hold it in a sweet memory. Look into someone’s heart. Maybe a stranger, someone who annoys, someone easy to love, someone difficult to love – and spend that time – and Jesus Love them – like this amazing young man.

Pass it Forward!

Please view the video (it’s a first for bluecottonmemory – I’ve so been wanting to share this with you since September). Jonate is leading praise and worship. I used to tell college students about the college ministry and the praise and worship leader who sounded like the lead singer from Hootie and the Blowfish. Whether he led worship on campus or the main church, the amazing, mighty presence of God just enveloped. If you’ve ever wondered how to handle the “bad things happening to good people,” this will mean even more to you.

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I have a couple of posts in the hopper, like my Unconditional Love Posts and others, but I just felt wordless today. I have a very special-to-me post for Thursday – a Pass-It-Forward post – which will stay up through the weekend, but I just felt like I was waiting for something. And, then something very wonderful happened.

The Red-Headed Writer has high-lighted Blue Cotton Memory as the chosen blog to be stalked through the week. My love language is Words of Affirmation! Now, as a mom, Words of Affirmation, while high on my to-do list for my boys, – well, it’s not high on their to-do list for their mom. I firmly believe that moms need to affirm and encourage each other – because it is not something we really get from the gaggle, the brood, the flock, the pack, the litter.

Let’s also just say that God’s timing is always perfect – and Red was totally on time!

When I discovered my awesome surprise, it hit me what this week is going to be about thematically. I am taking my theme from my Thanksgiving Day Post – and starting the theme today – At Blue Cotton Memory, this week is about Passing It Forward.

Has someone touched your life? Mentored your children? Loved your children like they were their own? Spoke to them when they would not hear you? Encouraged you like Red did me? While I do not embrace Hillary Clinton’s book, It Takes a Village where government, the NEA, TSA et al lend a hand helping you raise your children – I do embrace that God’s has People who labor for Him, who help take care of His flock, who show the love of Jesus Christ, helping them and us on our journey homeward.

Some of those people are in the Blogahood. People like Red who encourage, by relationship-building and then by providing a wonderful place to go and hang-out, visit with a couple of friends – kind of like an eclectic little coffee shop that you stop by after you drop the kids off at school and bump into people. Red Passes it Forward.

Will you pass it forward today? This week? In the blogahood? In the neighborhood? Will you be a spiritual mother to someone who needs mothering? A spiritual sister who needs a sisterhood? One of God’s People – passing on the love of the Father?

Passing it Forward plants a true Thanksgiving Spirit – year round!

Thank you Red for the inspiration, the encouragement – and the friendship!

P.S. Red, I loved your post choices and what you did with the pictures! You are totally spectacular!

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