Daily Prompt: Harmonize

harmonize

via Daily Prompt: Harmonize

HARMONIZING FOR JOEY

My brother Joey was born without arms.  When asked how something like this happens, the doctors simply said, “Sometimes it just happens.”

In 1950, a child born without arms in my hometown was considered “a freak of nature,” not normal.  Because of this, most parents would have kept a child such as Joey from the public eye to avoid having people stare and express words of sympathy or pity.

My parents were different.  When Joey was born they sat my brother, Sam, and me down and had a serious talk with us.  Sam was six years old and I was seven.  They told us that they were determined to help Joey have a full, active life, to have hopes and dreams like everyone else, but we would all have to work together to make it happen.  Sam and I were thrilled to be on mom and dad’s so-called team to help Joey grow and develop and enjoy life.

As soon as Joey was able to sit up, Sam and I helped him learn to use his feet to scoot across the floor.  We were amazed at how fast he could go. We got jumbo crayons and put them between his toes and when we colored, Joey colored.  We laughed at his scribbles as well as our own.

Joey had an amazing mind and, along with my parents, Sam and I soon had Joey speaking in sentences and singing nursery rhymes by the time he was two. One he learned he could talk nothing stopped him.  My dad said Joey rattled on “like an eight-day clock.”

When Joey was three and running around in the back yard with us, we bought him a soccer ball and the three of us began what was to become many years of wild, competitive soccer matches.  We would play until we were exhausted and would then fall to the ground, laughing and talking.

We all worked together to help Joey learn to pick up utensils with he toes and feed himself.  We created a special tool for him to use and pick up a wash cloth and  wash himself in the shower.  With each task that Joey was able to do on his own, we all rejoiced, gave each other high-fives, and sometimes cried.

What’s interesting is that Joey didn’t just receive, he also gave.  He was a key member of the team.  His keen sense of humor had us all laughing on a regular basis.  His wit was beyond his years.  His brilliant mind generated endless creative ideas on how to improve things around the house.  He also came up with ways to help others with disabilities.  At his direction and persistence, our school was one of the first to put in sidewalks with ramps for wheelchairs and to widen restroom stalls.  He was a force to be reckoned with.

Perhaps his greatest contribution to our team was his ability to inspire us.  He had a “never say die attitude,” a willingness to give anything a try, and just when we all needed a lift he would say, “We can make it happen, let’s do it.”  When we tried something and failed, he would say, “Remember, failure’s not the end, it’s the beginning of trying again, a chance to do it better. We can’t give up.”

Joey went on to be captain of the high school soccer team and graduated second in his class.  Without the family’s tremendous teamwork, without everyone’s willingness to work together and harmonize their efforts, Joey would most likely have remained at home, out of public view, and his brilliance, his wit, his ability to inspire others, would have been wasted.

Normal is how you perceive normal, not what others tell you is normal.”  

                                                                                                                        …Sean Thomas

 

 

 

 

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YOU MAY NOT BE WHO YOU THINK YOU ARE But You Can Become Who You Really Are

Be Who You Are

The odds are that who you think you are is NOT who you really are. There’s good news, though because you CAN become YOUR REAL SELF. It’s a choice you can make and it’s a gift you can give yourself.

The reason you are likely NOT WHO YOU REALLY ARE is because over the years you have been bombarded with relentless messages from advertisers designed to convince you that who you are is not okay. The persistent messages constantly tell you what you need to do to be acceptable, to look better, to feel better.

It addition, you likely have gotten subtle messages, and maybe some not so subtle, from family, friends, and others that have influenced how you view yourself. You gradually become who others think you should be and, perhaps worse, you bury qualities that, according to others, you don’t have.

You listen to all the messages, both consciously and subconsciously, and over time you begin to believe them and start telling yourself: “I’m not okay.” “I’m not good enough.” “I’m different.” “I need to change if I want to fit in.” “I don’t like how I look.” “I’m no smart enough.” “I’m not loveable.” “I don’t have any talents.”

As a result, YOU BECOME WHO YOU ARE NOT. You may not even realize it, but you become the person you think others expect you to be. The REAL YOU, your authentic self, gets buried, sometimes forever.

But there’s GOOD NEWS. One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is to make a decision to shed the layers of who you are not, choose to discover all the good that’s in you, and BECOME WHO YOU ALREADY ARE, THE REAL YOU, THE PERSON YOU WERE CREATED TO BE. It will take courage but you CAN do it. Like E.E. Cummings once said, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”

The best place to start is to identify the qualities that describe the real you. Here are five descriptions that describe THE REAL YOU. Examine each one and allow yourself to BELIEVE that these are really you. Make them part of the messages you repeat to yourself.

YOU ARE WHOLE

It doesn’t matter if you have a disability, or if you have bodily defects, scars, or warts, or if you are overweight or unusually thin, or if you’re missing a limb or more, or if you are blind or deaf, or even if you have a debilitating disease, YOU ARE WHOLE. It doesn’t matter if you’ve made the world’s worst mistakes, YOU ARE WHOLE. That’s how you were created….WHOLE. No one can change that, not even you.

The very SOUL that was breathed into you when you took your first breath, the SOUL that prompted your heart to beat, the SOUL that makes up your beautiful inner being and gives you life — that’s what is WHOLE. The amazing SOUL that’s KEY to your very life is WHOLE. Nothing, not one single thing, not any person, can change that. To feel WHOLE, to accept yourself as WHOLE, is one of the most beautiful, most encouraging, most fulfilling feelings you can experience. YOU ARE WHOLE

YOU ARE AN ORIGINAL

There can be only one original painting and down through the centuries original paintings by the great masters have always been considered to have great value. Originals of any kind have great value. That’s what and who you are. YOU ARE AN ORIGINAL. And as an original, YOU ARE VALUABLE.

Regardless of whether you are a “believer” or not, the fact is you were created in the image of the great master CREATOR. You are not God, but YOU ARE GODLIKE because you can think, verbally interact, love, express emotions, plan, organize, create, and so much more that makes you a UNIQUE being. You are ONE OF A KIND, an ORIGINAL. You are VALUABLE.

Accept and nurture your uniqueness and give thanks that you are who you are: AN ORIGINAL. John Mason made a valid point when he said, “You were born an original, don’t die a copy.”

YOU ARE CREATIVE

Because you are made in the image of the great master CREATOR, you have the capacity to make things, to create, to invent, to express yourself in something that is uniquely your creation. Consider the fact that when you create YOU ARE GODLIKE in that you are bringing forth something new.

Most people think of being creative as painting a landscape, or writing a book, or composing a symphony. But creativeness comes in all shapes and forms — anything from crocheting an afghan, to solving a problem, to improving ways to do things on the job, to expressing yourself in dance or song, to sewing a dress, to making a quilt, to creating a new recipe, to developing a better way to garden or farm, creating new designs, constructing wood projects, demonstrating creative leadership, using a creative approach in teaching others — there’s no limit.

YOU ARE CREATIVE — YOU ARE UNIQUE — all you have to do is have the courage to EXPRESS IT.

YOU ARE CAPABLE

You were created with innate abilities, talents, gifts. Though you may resist the idea, or even deny it, the fact is YOU ARE CAPABLE. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. Don’t let yourself doubt that you have talents. Though you might not initially recognize your abilities, never stop exploring your own strengths. A talent that you might not identify at one time, you might well discover several years later. Circumstances often help bring about self-discoveries.

In exploring your own talents, never compare yourself to others. You were not designed to have the same gifts as everyone else. Your talents are uniquely yours. Appreciate what you have and resist the temptation to envy another person’s talents.

You may not be an admired leader, but you may be an appreciated servant. You may not be the party organizer, but you may be one who contributes delicious food for the party. DISCOVER YOUR OWN UNIQUE TALENTS and develop what you have been given. BE WHO YOU REALLY ARE.

YOU ARE LOVEABLE

It’s not unusual to hear someone say, “I don’t see how anyone can love me.” The fact is, plain and simple, YOU ARE LOVEABLE because you were created out of love. The master Creator “so loved”…..EVERYONE. That includes YOU. And one of the greatest commandments ever given was “love one another.” That means each person is indeed “loveable.” Again, that includes YOU.

Just like talents, you can resist the idea or even deny it, but the fact is, YOU ARE LOVEABLE. And here’s the most amazing thing of all: love that expresses the love of the Creator is an UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. This means that you do not have to meet certain conditions in order to be loveable. You are loved for WHO YOU REALLY ARE. Even when you make mistakes, YOU ARE still LOVEABLE. Nothing can change that.

It bears repeating. One of the best gifts you can give yourself is to be WHO YOU REALLY ARE. To do so will bring you peace of mind and put you on the road to self-fulfillment. Take another look at WHO YOU REALLY ARE and BELIEVE. You, yes YOU, are WHOLE, a beautiful ORIGINAL, CREATIVE, CAPABLE, and LOVEABLE human being.

“Be yourself; everyone else is taken.”     ….Oscar Wilde

 

 

 

 

 

MY MOTHER’S HANDS

Holding mother's hands

It was Christmas and I traveled home to visit my mother. She was now in a long-term nursing care facility. Her mind drifted in and out of reality but she always seemed to recognize me and greet me with a smile. It was difficult to see her sit idle in a chair because she had always been so active and had such a strong spirit.
She was asleep when I got there, her head slumped almost to her chest. I sat down beside her and took her hands in mine and for a few moments just looked at this special woman who had been such a wonderful mother.
I looked down at her hands, now wrinkled and shrunken with age. I couldn’t help but think about how she had used those hands to embrace life and mold lives. In her hands I saw a mother who sacrificed and gave up so much in order to serve others.
I recall how those hands held me when I was small, picked me up when I fell, wiped tears from my cheeks, and rubbed my forehead when I went to sleep.
Those hands made favorite snacks and birthday cupcakes for me, and somehow created meals out of nothing when there seemed to be nothing in the house to eat. They sewed clothes when we couldn’t afford to buy them.
Those hands tied my shoes, zipped up my jackets, gave me a bath, and helped me put on my pajamas.
They helped me hold a pencil and write essays, poems, and do math for school.
Those beautiful hands helped me make play dough creatures, played board games with me, pulled me in the wagon, pushed me on a sled down a snowy hill, clapped for me when I was in the Christmas play at school.
Those hands received dandelions when I gave them as though they were the rarest of flowers, received my finger paintings as though they were masterpieces, and carefully and tenderly tucked away the Mother’s Day cards and birthday cards I made out of scraps of paper as though they were purchased from an expensive card store.
Those worn hands gripped my arm firmly when I misbehaved, guided me out of danger, held me tight and comforted me when I got hurt
Those hands lovingly held her grandchildren, carried food to friends and family members in times of illness and grief, served the needy, planted seeds in the garden, picked the vegetables and froze them for eating later.
Those hands decorated the Christmas tree, made gifts for under it, cooked delicious holiday meals that became family traditions, crocheted afghans, and constantly made little surprises that made my day.
Those hands were folded daily in prayer, turned worn pages in her Bible, selected songs in a hymn book to play on the piano at night while I lay in bed and listened before falling asleep.
May her beautiful hands, so full of a life well lived, be forever engraved in my memory. I’m so very grateful and honored to have held those hands in mine.

 

 

JESUS TAKES THE SUMMER OFF

ssummer worship hours

As Jesus walked around town in the middle of the summer he noticed signs in front of the different churches.
In front of the Main Street Baptist Church the sign said: During the summer there will only be one worship service. It is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. each Sunday. All welcome.
That’s interesting, Jesus thought. I wonder where the Baptists go all summer long.
Jesus walked a little further and noticed the sign in front of the Downtown Episcopal Church. It said: Summer hours for worship are 9:30 and 11:00 a.m. Regular four worship services will resume in the fall.
I guess the Episcopalians have decided to take part of the summer off as well, Jesus said to himself. I wonder if they go the same place the Baptists do?
Two blocks further Jesus saw a big sign in front of the Fourth Street Methodist Church. It said: One worship service only during the summer at 11:00 a.m. Also no choir during the summer.
I get the feeling that people must want a break from going to church during the summer, Jesus mused. This is quite a surprise.
On the corner stood the large St. Thomas Catholic Church. The glass encased sign in the front lawn said, Please note the reduced times for Masses during the summer. Regular schedule will resume in September.
Goodness, even the Catholics are taking time off, Jesus said. This is definitely interesting.
After walking through the rest of town and seeing one sign after the other in front of churches announcing reduced summer hours, Jesus decided to call his Father
Jesus sat down on a park bench, took out his cell phone and punched in his Father’s number.
When his Father answered, Jesus said, You’re not going to believe this, Father, but I’ve walked all over town and all the churches that I saw have reduced worship times for the summer.
Oh, I believe it, God said. It’s the trend. People want time off to do other things. Besides, if one church reduces its summer hours, the other churches have to reduce their hours as well or their members will complain that it’s not fair They keep a watchful eye on each other, you know.
Jesus sat and thought for a moment. I was wondering, Father, since I’m not really needed here in town, do you suppose it would be alright if I took the summer off. There’s a little place down by the Sea of Galilee that I would love to do some fishing and relaxing.
Go ahead and take time off, God said. I was thinking of doing the same thing. The things is, they’ll get in touch with us when they need us. You can count on it.

 

TEN THINGS THAT MATTER MOST IN LIFE

TEN THINGS

1. Be realistic about life. It’s not going to go on forever. There will come a day when you will see no more sunrises, no more sunsets. So make the most of every day. Focus on the things that are most important — people, family, friends. Connect with them as often as possible. Tell them more about who are and less about what you have done in life -leave them with memories of the real you.
2. Don’t just have dreams and hopes, go after all the things you want to do in life while there is still an opportunity to do so, because when your life expires, what you have left undone will expire as well.
3. Determine who you need to forgive and then let go of the hurts they have caused you. It will help you heal. Don’t take hurts, resentments, anger, and jealousies to the grave with you. Clear the air and rest in peace. And for those you’ve hurt, send them your regrets.
4. Spend more time giving and less time receiving, more time sharing and less time buying and collecting. People will remember you by what you gave in life, what you built, not by what you owned and collected.
5. Live your life in such a way that it is an example for others to follow — show compassion for others, especially those less fortunate, be willing to make sacrifices in order to help those in need, always demonstrate honesty and integrity, look for ways to encourage and inspire those who need a lift in life, love others unconditionally.
6. Focus more on what is good in life, the positives, the beauty, the little things that mean a lot, and less time on the negatives, the wrongs, the things that don’t really matter.  Take time to smell the flowers.
7. Believe in yourself. Love yourself. Don’t deny that you have abilities and interests, because you do. Take time to discover and nurture them. Be real, be genuine, be who you are.
8. No matter your situation, that you always have choices in life. Having a choice is a freedom that was given at the beginning of time and no one can take it away from you. But be wise in what you choose. And remember, you always have the right to say no.
9. Take care of your mind, body and soul. Feed them wisely with good nourishment. Be disciplined and exercise mentally, physically and spiritually on a consistent basis.  Give time to meditation and prayer.
10. Accept the fact that you are not in control of life. God is. Love him and be grateful for all that he has done for you.

 

 

THE MYSTERY OF THE MAN UPSTAIRS

Apartment-Stairs

I moved into my new efficiency apartment in late October.  It was on the first floor of a newly constructed apartment building and I knew no one and I assumed that few, if any, of the other residents knew each other.

 

I’m a loner.  I keep to myself and mind my own business.  Since I work from home on my computer I prefer not to socialize much.  That way I don’t have people knocking on my door and interrupting me.

 

I don’t go out much to dine or seek entertainment, nor do I sit by the apartment complex pool to soak up the sun.  Out my apartment window I can see the small lake that’s part of the complex and I often see people walking on the pathway around the lake for exercise.  I sometimes go out late at night when most residents are in bed and walk around the lake.

 

One evening after my walk, I returned to my apartment and found a plastic bag attached to my door with a Snickers candy bar inside and a note that said, “Enjoy.”  It was signed, The man upstairs.

 

I had never met the person who lived in the apartment above mine and assumed he was the one who gave me the candy bar since it referred to the man upstairs.  I had no idea how he might have known that I love Snickers candy bars and was sure it was a coincidence that he had picked my favorite.  I told myself it was kind of him but warned myself to not get involved in any friendship.  I needed my privacy.

 

I few nights later when I was on my walk around the lake I looked to see if there was a light in the apartment above mine, but there wasn’t. When I got back to my apartment there was once again a plastic bag attached to my door and another Snickers candy bar and note inside.  As before the note said, “Enjoy,” and was signed, The man upstairs.

 

I felt frustrated.  Who is this guy and why is he doing this?  What does he want?  There has to be a catch.

 

About a week later I thought I heard a knock on my door.  I opened it but no one was there, however there was a small bag attached to my door.  I expected another Snickers candy bar but instead there was a $25.00 gift card to a local restaurant in the bag and a note that read, You might enjoy getting out a bit and enjoy a nice meal.

 

I sat down in my apartment and tried to figure out what was going on.  Why would some man upstairs, a stranger, want to be kind to me?  Why would he be so generous with no apparent strings attached, no conditions?

 

I wasn’t used to this.  I had a rough life growing up and was used to fighting for everything I got.  Nothing was free and nothing was handed to me.  I learned to not expect anything from anyone and I chose not to be giving away to others what I worked so hard to get.

 

About a week later, after a long hard day at the computer, I was tired and hungry and decided I would use the gift card and go have a  nice meal.  As it happened, the restaurant was a small mom and pop Italian restaurant and the meal was delicious.  My favorite food is Italian and I couldn’t help but wonder if the “man upstairs” somehow knew that.  The thought intrigued me.

 

As I left the restaurant, I noticed an elderly man sitting on the steps of a church next door to the restaurant.  The man noticed me and waved.  I waved back.

 

“Could you do me a favor?” the man asked.

 

He looked a bit disheveled and I immediately assumed he was going to ask for money.  “I don’t have any extra cash,” I said.  “Sorry.”

 

“No, no, I don’t want cash,” the man said. “I want to go into the church but I feel too intimidated.  You see, I’ve not been in one for a long time.  Would you mind going in with me so I could light a candle and say a prayer?”

 

My first instinct was to say, “no,” but there was something about the man that made me say, “Okay, but keep it brief.”

 

He said, “Thank you for your kindness,” and we walked up the steps. He used a cane to help him maneuver the steps.

 

The light inside the church was dim.  We walked to the table where several candles were burning and others unlit.  I felt uncomfortable and sensed he did too.  He picked up a match that was on the table, lit a candle, then handed the match to me.  I shook my head but he kept holding the match.  I didn’t want him to burn his fingers so I took the match and lit a candle.

 

I could hear him speaking in a whisper and assumed he was praying.  I stared at the candle I had lit. For some reason, I blurted out, “Lord, I don’t know why I’m saying this, but help me be a better person.”

 

As I turned to leave the elderly man turned also and we walked down the steps together. A cold, brisk Autumn wind greeted us.

 

“Can I give you a lift?” I asked.  “You don’t by chance live in the West End Apartments where I live, do you?”

 

He stopped, smiled and said, “No I don’t and it’s kind of you to offer a ride, but I have nowhere to go.  I have no home and it’s too late for me to get a bed in the shelter for the homeless.”

 

We just stood there in silence for a moment looking at each other.  He seemed a bit unstable as he steadied himself with his cane.  Why would a gentle old man like this not have a home?”

 

Again, words came out of my mouth that didn’t sound like me.  “I have a small apartment but I do have a sofa you could sleep on just for the night. It’s a bit cold to be sleeping outside.”

 

“That would be very generous of you,” he said. “I promise I’ll be gone in the morning.”

 

When I woke up the next morning he was gone just as he said he would be.  I got dressed, had a cup of coffee, and then decided to do something I had been wanting to do.  I went upstairs to the apartment above mine and knocked on the door.  No one answered.  I knocked again and  rang the doorbell.  Still no answer.

 

One of the maintenance men appeared in the hallway and noticed me knocking on the door.

 

“There’s no one in there,” he said.

 

“What happened to the gentleman who lived there?” I asked.

 

“That apartment hasn’t been rented yet.” he said.  “No one has lived there since these apartments were built.”

 

I was stunned, mystified.  I walked back down the stairs and when I got to my apartment I noticed a plastic bag attached to my door.  Inside was a Snickers candy bar and a note. It simply said, “Thank you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A SERMON FROM A SOLITARY TREE

Solitary Tree

Have you ever heard a sermon from a tree? I have. And I stand in awe of the inspirational messages that trees deliver.

Trees stand powerful and majestic in groups and groves but even more so when they stand alone. Strong and sturdy, weathering the winds and storms of time, the stance of the solitary tree speaks volumes.
There’s something almost holy about a deeply-rooted, beautiful, strong tree. The blizzards rage against the tree, the cold winds bite and freeze, the summer sun sends rays of intense heat and drought, but the solitary tree stands firm. Its leaves do not wither. Its boughs reach upward toward the heavens, its leaves whisper a morning prayer, the birds of the air find refuge in its limbs, and the beasts of the field find comfort in its shade. It is a solitary tree but not unto itself, It stands to serve. It stands to give.
The tree’s sermons are sweetly spoken. “Be still,” the tree says. “Be still and know your Creator. Trust him for he abides in you. Stand tall, Stand firm. He will give you roots, strength, and perseverance to face life’s challenges. Be prepared to bend, but do not be afraid, for you will not break. You must stand alone, for no one can stand for you, yet you are not alone. The family of trees, the groves, are always near. Remember who you are and from whence you came and you will be comforted.”
We can only hear a tree’s sermon if we listen. We can only be inspired by the tree’s example if we observe. We can only appreciate the spiritual nature of the tree if we remember its Creator.
Poet Joyce Kilmer once wrote, “I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree….poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.”