Monday, April 13, 2015

An Intentional Act of Kindness

Who doesn't love a free Starbucks? I love paying for coffee for the person behind in the drive through.  However, I am frugal, by marriage. Frequenting Starbucks is not a common occurrence, so I am not the saint de la caffeine.  I do like to smile, and the last time I checked smiles are free: so I do give them out often.  Sometimes I will even through in a wave. (It's a Southern thing.)  Most of the time my smiles are briefly greeted with a polite smile in return.  The wave, on the other hand, gets me some pretty weird looks in Wisconsin.  I do recall one instance of this random act of smiling, at a woman as I walked out of Sendick's and she walked in, backfiring. Moments after our smiling encounter, she found me in the parking lot in order to ask me if we knew each other.  I replied, "no" and she asked, "Then why did you smile at me?"  "Just because," I answered.  She then turned and walked back into the market perturbed.  Other than this instance, my joy filled expression is generally accepted.  I love people.  I am energized in crowds, and smiles come naturally.  Random people make me smile, so I guess they are serving me a random act of kindness and I am thankful to receive them.
Smiles at strangers are random and fleeting opportunities to show the love of Christ.  I don't mean to shadow their importance, but I have found that a greater impact can be made through intentional acts of kindness.  Christ made the greatest impact on humanity through an intentional act of kindness, by taking up the cross.  His greatest commandment of us is to love God and love each other.  In 2 John, His word makes it clear that loving each other should not be a new concept to us as believers. Further more He calls us to action stating that love means doing.  Doing simple and grand gestures to live out His LOVE so that the world may see our deeds and know He is God. 
This weekend my family was blessed to be the recipients of intentional act of kindness.  We had been out of town so our friends dropped off a meal for us, in honor of Charlie Sawyer.  Our fridge was bare and it was nice having something ready for is when we returned.  We sat down at the table as a family, my loving husband, my two healthy children, and myself to enjoy this meal and gratitude overwhelmed me.  Little Charlie and a special little guy named Nathan were the guest of honor this evening at our dinner table, and their lives remembered and celebrated in our prayers.  Both Charlie and Nathan have legacies of love marked by hope, and complete dependence on God.  Their families made the decision to DO LOVE, though it came at great cost. I have never met Charlie or his family, but have read about their experience on The Charlie Sawyer Project.  He was born on April 10, 2014.  God's intentional acts of love came through Charlie's sweet smiles and they created a ripple effect across our nation, inspiring countless intentional acts of kindness.  Seven months of fighting, loving, and trusting built a place of hope and healing through faith in Jesus.  I am not surprised at how great of an impact God makes through the frailty of an infant, rather I am grateful for His willingness reveal eternal blessings through their lives.  My perspective and life were changed the day I met Nathan.

 I had been wrestling with bitterness. I loved God but my heart was hardening.  I could barely see past my circumstances, and was ready to give up on many dreams, including Olive You Photography.  I had been trying to build a 7 year old business for the third time due to two cross country moves. It seemed to be an uphill battle against smart phones and the saturated field of armatures using the program mode on popular DSLRs.  I had forgotten why I chose to be a photographer and I was angry at my husband for moving us.  I had met Mary several times while we picked up our children from preschool.  I had noticed her baby bump but never saw the pain behind her smile. As spring bloomed, Mary shared her story and entrusted me with her precious memories during a maternity photo session to celebrate Nathan's life growing inside her.  I wept after our session, and several times in the months to follow.  Through Facebook I watched her family grow stronger in faith and closer together, even in the face of adversity.  Their story of faith and love kept hope alive in my heart, allowing God to soften it, and the process of forgiveness to begin.  I continued to struggle and make compromises, trying to move the mountain that stood between me and my dreams.  In the fall, Mary and my paths crossed again when she and her family joined a life group that met in my home.  Our friendship grew and as October neared, I cared less about the business and more about the art of capturing memories.   I was honored to be able to photograph Nathan's first moments.  I stood in the hospital room waiting for his arrival.  Waves of fear and hope swept over her face as she labored, her faith gave her the strength to push through uncertainty for the sake of love.  I remember being in awe when I first saw him. He had strong hands, his mother's nose, and he was God's beautiful masterpiece.  I left the hospital changed, I had been reminded of how precious and fleeting our lives are.  How important every moment is  and above all God wants us to love Him and each other..  God melted my heart through Nathan and reminded me that it is an honor to photograph His creation.  The mountain before me still loomed but I gained a confidence knowing that I was doing what God called me to do and He would do all the heavy lifting.  

Though our lives are but a breath in the scope of eternity, each of us was created for a purpose.  Charlie and Nathan are God's good and perfect gifts to their families.  Charlie's smiles will continue to inspire and Nathan's strong hand's will continue to remind us to hold tightly to Jesus.  The love that we celebrate through their lives could never satisfy the yearning their parents feel. My heart breaks for their loss, and I am forever thankful that they chose to do love, intentionally.

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