I was given the opportunity to share at my Nanny’s funeral today and the following is my testimony to her life – and a life well-lived, it was indeed.
As a child, I had the unique opportunity to come to Ottawa and live with Nanny, Poppy, and Shirley for a significant portion of each summer. As a result, I had the privilege of spending countless hours with Nanny, and I’d like to take the next few moments to share with you some of my fondest memories and personal observations of her character.
First off, Nanny was resilient. She encountered any obstacle that came her way with dignity and with grace. I remember asking her (I was very young at the time) why it was that she had dentures. She told me it was because she was so poor growing up that she and her siblings had only one toothbrush to share so she didn’t get to use one very often. There was no bitterness in her tone when she told me that. It was just the way it was. She accepted that.
Second, Nanny was courageous and brave! She somehow managed to stay at home with four young children while her husband was serving in Israel as a peacekeeper. She made nutritious meals on an incredibly low budget, managed her home, still attended church services every Sunday (with her and her daughters in matching dresses, which she sewed herself), and still found time to teach her children about the love of Jesus.
Nanny. Was. Frugal! Honestly, she could make many meals off a dime (or from all the food she kept in her multiple deep-freezes or cold room storage of canned goods…which she did all herself). I still remember newspapers spread across her kitchen table with the coupon sections cut out. One fond memory that still makes me chuckle is the time she came home from work at lunch and stated that she didn’t feel like cooking – a first for her! She informed me that she had some coupons for Burger King and asked if I would like to go there for lunch together. This was a BIG DEAL. Not only was Nanny willing to eat at a fast-food establishment, but she was also willing to pay to eat there. I remember being in utter shock at her suggestion, but excited, I quickly corrected my eyes which were wide in disbelief and said, “Yes!” What’s even more amazing about this story is that this happened the next day AND the next! By Day 3 I didn’t know what had happened to Nanny or who this woman even was. But I enjoyed those Burger King lunches, dodging Ottawa traffic each day to get there, and after one of those visits, going with her to the park, just walking around, and taking in the sights of the Rideau Canal, hand in hand.
Nanny was a hard worker. I still shake my head in disbelief when I think of how hard she worked, for so many years. I honestly don’t know how she managed to do it all. She cooked three meals a day, found the time and energy to grow and tend a large garden, can all the produce from the garden, hang the laundry on the line to dry, sew dresses and matching outfits, sew on buttons and hem items for her grandkids, work outside the home part-time, still manage to run home on her lunch break to make and serve lunch to Poppy before going back to work in the afternoon, pay the bills, mow the lawn, plant flower beds, and knit a plethora of items, just to spend every second Saturday at CARP – Ottawa’s farmer’s market – to sell her hand-knit creations. I enjoyed spending those mornings with her at the market. Sometimes, she would open her cash box and give me a bit of change to go buy snacks at another vendor’s booth. She may have been frugal – but she was also very generous. Not only with her money, but also with her time. I remember waking up one night just before midnight and, noticing the kitchen light still on, I made my way out to the kitchen just to find her sitting at the table, knitting a dishcloth – a common occurrence. Instead of being bothered by the fact that I was out of bed in the middle of the night, she just asked me if I was hungry and promptly made me a peanut butter and jam sandwich. I ate it while I watched her knit quietly. I asked if she’d be going to bed anytime soon since it was late, and she casually replied that she had about another 10 dishcloths to knit before market the next morning…so she’d be awhile yet. I just assumed that adults didn’t need sleep after that.
Finally, Nanny loved Jesus. And she made Jesus known. She taught Christ and His love to her children and to those around her. This is evident in the lives of her descendants and in the way she treated others. I remember vaguely her expressing frustration one day because a patient she had been assigned to sit with wasn’t receiving the level of care she felt her patient needed or deserved. To Nanny, the situation was unfair and unjust, and she was going to make her thoughts known to whoever it was that was in charge. She gracefully fought for justice when she could. She aimed to show Christ’s love and character to everyone. I distinctly remember seeing her Bible open on the kitchen table (amidst all the coupons) so very often. Before tucking me in at night, she would kneel beside the bed, gently brush her fingertips over my eyelids to help me sleep and would pray with and for me. I’ve never forgotten how loved that simple action made me feel. She was a very good Nanny to me. With fond remembrance, at times I still glide my hands over other sleepy, little eyelids, and I have to say, that trick still seems to work.
Nanny was by no means perfect. She had her faults. But I will always be grateful for the gentle and loving manner in which she treated me. I am forever thankful for the legacy she has left. She loved Jesus. And, if you knew her at all, then you know her life was evident of that.
“What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness?” -Jean Jacques Rosseau
The Oxford Languages dictionary suggests the word ‘kindness’ is: the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. What images does your brain conjure up when you think of the word ‘kindness’? Do you remember a specific event; one in which kindness was extended to you? What memories come flooding back? What emotions do you feel? Or, instead, do you remember instances in your life where your very soul craved to be shown kindness on some level, and you never received it? Perhaps you didn’t grow up in a home where kindness was practiced. Or for some of you, you may not even know how to recognize kindness anymore because what you thought was kindness, was in actual fact, manipulation, control, and abuse. Whatever your experience, I invite you to share a conversation with me here in this space. Grab a cup of coffee, find a comfy spot on your couch, take a deep breath, exhale your chaos, and join me in this quiet moment.
Over the past year or so, I’ve been processing and pondering not only the word ‘kindness’, but also what it means to be kind, what that looks like, and why it’s imperative to practice extending it to others, even if we don’t feel that we are recipients of kindness ourselves. My journey started when I began working through Michael Card’s book, ‘Inexpressible: Hesed and the Mystery of God’s Loving-Kindness’.
Have you ever heard of the Hebrew word, ‘Hesed’? It’s a powerful one. A life-changing one…if you know what it means. But here’s the catch: you won’t ever really know the full extent of what it means because there is no one word in the English language that can accurately translate it completely. 🙂 Hesed is a Hebrew word found in the Bible which refers to all the characteristics of God. Card states, “A single word is rarely enough in a given context to express all that hesed means, so translators are forced to pile on adjectives.” For example: Hesed can mean the following:
Sound like a lot? Yes. And it should. Most commentators would suggest that any time you see the word ‘loving-kindness’ in the Old Testament, it would be referring to the word hesed. Card gives a very simplistic, yet beautiful description of Hesed, which is the definition I’ll use as reference for the rest of this blog. He writes, “Hesed: When the person from whom I have a right to expect nothing gives me everything.” Isn’t that beautiful? Doesn’t that inspire you? At the very least, it ought to point you to the beauty of the gospel: God’s ultimate kindness to us.
What motivates you to be kind? Stop and think with me for awhile here. Don’t rush past this. What’s your motivator to extend kindness? Do you have an alterior motive? Are you hoping for kindness to be returned to you? Are you expecting anything in return? What’s the driving force behind why you show kindness to others? A friend asked me this question not that long ago and it forced me to really think on what my motivation is behind why I choose to be kind.
After some thought, I came up with the following: I choose to be kind because of my obedience to Christ. Paul states in Ephesians 5:1, “Be imitators of God”. Christ has been extremely kind to me and compassionate, so I try to do likewise to others. Christ also states in John 14:15 that “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” What was the greatest commandment? Matthew 22:36 quotes Jesus’ response to this question. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” That’s where my motivation comes from. I have no wish to receive anything in return. I don’t just show kindness to try and “convert” people to Christianity. If that happens as a result, then that’s awesome, but it’s not my goal or motivation in extending kindness. It comes down to one point and for me, that point is being obedient to and to imitate Christ alone.
When we make the choice to extend kindness, we choose to be an imitator of Christ and His Word. When we choose to respond in love instead of reacting in anger or frustration, we do what Paul tells us to in Colossians 3:12-14. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, KINDNESS, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. When we choose to put on kindness, we become what Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth calls “instruments of grace”. She states in her book, Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel, Together, “Yes, people may cause the lion’s share of our headaches. But when we serve people, we serve Christ. And when we treat people with kindness rather than indifference or impatience, we become channels of blessing, dispensing gracious words and actions that can’t help but adorn the gospel of Christ.” (pg. 319)
But here’s another question for you. Have you ever noticed that it’s one thing to show kindness to a homeless person by purchasing them a coffee or a lunch, but it’s a totally different thing to show kindness to the people who live in our very home? We might be tempted to think, But I AM kind to my family! I make their meals, I do their laundry, I pick up after them, etc. Those are indeed good things to do and they have the ability to show kindness, but do you do those things out of love? Because if you don’t, it’s pointless. Read that again. Pointless! Wolgemuth suggests that “God cares about our motives and our disposition – how that service is carried out, how we treat and respond to our family, friends, and others.” (pg. 310) Paul states in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 “If I speak in the tongues of men and angels…if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge…if I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain NOTHING.” Based on these verses, Wolgemuth continues, “He might similarly say of women who serve their families and care for their homes, ‘If I have a house so spotless that people could eat off the kitchen floor…and if I can whip up incredibly scrumptious meals on a tight budget…and if I’ve transformed our home into a magazine-quality showcase…but I don’t do it all with kindness, it’s nothing.” Our kindness and love are not felt when the noise of our tiredness, exasperation, and frustration screams so much louder.
To end, I wanted to share some stories with you that had been sent to me on kindness in action. I trust they will encourage you and uplift you, maybe make you shed a tear or two as they did me, and motivate you to extend the hesed of God to a world around you that’s desperate for kindness.
Three of my homeschool mom friends came to my house the week we were packing up to move. As a mother of seven, the basement clutter was overwhelming to me. They hauled out and sorted through stuff in every nook and cranny. The following year, those same three and their girls drove 3.5 hours to my new home to throw me a surprise 50th birthday party!
I was having a rough day, slept through my alarm, late for work, stressful clients. At lunch, I stopped and got a sandwich and grabbed a bag of donuts to get me through the rest of the day. As soon as I walked out the door, I dropped my sandwich. The container flew open and the sandwich fell to the ground. I picked it up and threw it out and started to walk away, too frustrated to walk back. Then I heard someone yelling “Excuse me!” I turned around and a guy who had seen me drop my sandwich told the cashier and they replaced my sandwich for free. I was so embarrassed but also happy and grateful and it made my day better.
Last Christmas was the first year my father and his siblings were without their mother. Dad had 12 siblings and one was my aunt who has Down Syndrome. She is living in a group home with other women who are mentally challenged. Last year, my dad, along with his other 11 siblings decided to each take a day leading up to Christmas to surprise my Auntie and the other ladies, basically like a 12 Days of Christmas. They did anything from performing skits for all the ladies to bringing gifts for everyone, baking, singing Christmas carols, etc. I just thought it was such a wonderful thing to do for my Aunt, yet alone the other ladies that lived there. I’m sure it must have been tough to spend their first Christmas without Grandma, and then to have all the Covid restrictions on top of everything…but every time another sibling showed up, all of the ladies faces lit up with joy.
It was in the fall of 2009. I was about 3 months pregnant with my first baby and was feeling very sick and very low emotionally. I was still pretty new to the city, and to Canada, and to marriage, and to pregnancy. And, though I was very happy to be in the place I was, I was feeling a little lonely for all that was familiar and comfortable. I had to do some shopping and went into a gift shop to browse for a gift for a friend. I had picked up a wooden Willow Tree figurine and considered it, then put it back. As I pulled my hand out from the shelf, my coat sleeve caught another Willow Tree figure and it fell to the floor, the head rolling off across the floor. I was a little panicked and upset that now I’d have to pay for something that was worthless and broken. I was trembling as I took the head and body of the figure up to the desk. I held them up and explained to the store-keeper that I had knocked it off and it broke. He shook his head a bit and said, “Oh, I’m gonna have to have you pay for it”, not unkindly but a bit brusquely. I nodded and barely managed an, “I know”, before tears came to my eyes. He could tell how bad I felt and I was trying to be brave and I knew the right thing was absolutely to pay for it. I just felt awful about breaking it, awful about having to waste money on something broken, and maybe just awful because I felt so sick all the time. Anyway, he paused, tipped his head thoughtfully, and said, “Wait just a minute”. He headed to the back of the store and brought back a little package of super glue and handed it to me, saying maybe that would help me fix it if I wanted to. I thanked him with a choked up voice and got out my money to pay. At that point, he waved his hand and just said, “No, don’t worry about it. You can just have it and the glue.” Then my tears spilled over and I weakly protested that I knew I should pay for it, that I was responsible for breaking it. He wouldn’t accept my payment and then asked what chruch I went to. I explained briefly about my small home church group and he shook his head and said something like, “I was just wondering, beacuse most people wouldn’t have even told me. They would have left the broken figure on the floor and walked out. So for you to come to me and accept responsibility, well, that’s just a very different kind of person.” I thanked him with all my heart for showing me mercy and kindness. Then I walked home and bawled most of the afternoon over the kindness he showed to me in my moment of shame, embarrassment, and lonliness. It still makes me cry. I glued that head back on, and even though it wasn’t even a figurine I would have picked, not one of my favorites, I have it still to remind me of mercy and kindness given when we don’t deserve it. The figure is holding out a wrapped gift. It amazes me how the figure itself pictures what that gentleman did for me. It may all sound like I was over-dramatic or made a huge deal out of something that was pretty trivial. The thing is, that kind man met me in my neediness and was kind just to be kind. He didn’t have to. Kind of like Jesus.
My head is beyond full of frustration. Anger. A total jumble of words that are exploding. And yet…I can’t seem to type any of it just yet. Listening to music that gives God glory and praises Him is keeping me from spewing my frustration all over this blog. I’m angry. I’d possibly consider it to be righteous anger, except for the very unrighteous words that want to scream from my lips. But for the sake of my point here, I’ll reign in that frustration. Right now, I’m angry at Christians. Specifically, people who call themselves by that name, yet defame Christ behind (and some not behind) the protection of their keyboard.
I do not claim to be guiltless of this sin. Not at all. Let’s just be clear on that right from the start.
It’s one thing to have disagreement. It’s another thing to have disagreement when it’s not face-to-face. It’s another thing altogether when Christians behave in any manner BUT Christ-likeness when they disagree, in public, in private, and online.
Conflict is NOT bad. Did you know that conflict can actually be healthy?! I’m serious! But fighting, discord, and dissension…that’s different. And that’s why I’m typing faster than my head can even think.
When we call ourselves Christians, do we know what that means? It means we represent Christ. In our actions, in our behaviors (both public and private), and even in our attitudes! No, it doesn’t mean perfection. We are still sinners (and always will be, this side of heaven). BUT, we are called to a life of holiness and Christ-likeness!
Newsflash: This does not mean it’s OK to rip people apart, tear them down, or speak unkindly or disrespectfully to them – on any platform.
When we do this, our true colors show vibrantly. When we do this, the bottom line is: We lack humility, grace, and the ability to “count others more significant than ourselves”. (Philippians 2:3)
It is absolutely impossible, however, to behave in a way that represents Christ when we are so filled with self-righteousness. Colossians 3 is very clear on the matter of “putting off” our old self and what it looks like to the world when we “put on” Christ.
In the book/movie, Sense and Sensibility, the character of Marianne Dashwood is immature and cares nothing about what others think, until near the end of the story (after she’s been humiliated and forced to grow up) her sister asks of her, “Do you compare your conduct with his?”, referring to an equally selfish and immature individual. Marianne astonishes the reader audience by her maturity when she responds, “No. I compare it with what it ought to have been; I compare it with yours.”
We cannot compare our sinful attitudes and behaviors to others. We must compare it to Christ’s.
Why is it so difficult for us to truly love others as Christ does? Easy answer? Because we lack holiness and humility in our lives. We get so hung up on being right and trying to make people see our perspective that we actually lose focus on the perspective we need to be having. The perspective of Christ’s.
When we stir up dissension or call people out, thinking we are being Christ’s warriors (regardless of the platform or circumstance), are we doing it out of a heart and attitude of love? I know I’ve been guilty of calling people out, not out of love, but rather frustration, hurt, and anger over what I have believed to be injustice. But we must remember that “Controversy for the sake of controversy is sin.” – Walter Martin
When we choose to be “keyboard warriors” (regardless of where we are and who we are speaking to), remember your audience and onlookers, for Christ’s holy sake. Think of what you are showcasing. Are you radiating the goodness, the kindness, and the character of Christ in your words and attitudes, or are you defaming His name and His grace for the sake of pride?
Friends, let’s showcase Christ. Let’s let His grace and mercy and humility radiate from our lives, our lips, and our fingertips. It’s OK to disagree with one another! It’s NOT OK to slander or showcase hostility towards one another. As a friend shared with me recently, “Disagreement turns into dissension when we lose sight of our respect and love for the other person and their perspective. Is the point of your disagreement worth sinning for?”
When in doubt, pray. Hard! Seek the Lord. Ask Him to make you aware of your own sin…and repent of it before you dish out any kind of rebuke on somebody else. A prayer that I have been repeating daily as of late has been: “Oh, God, show me more of Your holiness. Show me more of my sinfulness. Help me to hate sin and to love righteousness as You do. Grant me a deeper conviction of sin and a more thorough spririt of repentance. And make me holy as You are holy.“ (Holiness by Nancy Leigh DeMoss)
There is nothing wrong with disagreement. But there is evil in slander and dissension.
Are you filled with pride or humility? Are you truly seeking to bring the opposing person to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ? Are you giving God the glory in this situation? Or are you simply trying to win the argument?
In the words of Tim Neufeld’s song, Benediction, “To God be the glory, forever and ever. To God be the praise of all men. To God be the glory, forever and ever. To God be the glory, Amen.”