Doing Small Things for the People Near to Us

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In the Sunday morning rush, we have eaten and dressed.  We have brushed teeth and brushed hair.  We have found missing shoes and sent children one by one into their room to collect their Bibles.

When they were younger, my kids needed help with every… little…thing in the morning routine. Now, at least, I am primarily keeper of the clock and pourer of the milk for those too little to do so without spilling.

Finally, with all the children fed and clothed, I retreat to my bedroom for my own prep time.   I’m brushing my own teeth while hunting in the closet for my other shoe and watching the clock out of the corner of my eye.

Time’s up.  We head out the door to load up the minivan.

That’s when I see the two freshly filled water bottles on the counter.

One is my husband’s.

The other is mine.

This is his Sunday morning gift to me.  Almost every week while I’m showering and dressing, my husband retrieves my near-empty plastic bottle from my nightstand and he fills it up with fresh water while he is filling up his own.

It’s the tiniest act of kindness, and yet it means a great deal.

This is a little self-sacrificial thoughtfulness, a gesture of remembering and of noticing my need, an offer of help without even asking.

I feel loved and cared for.

Yes, by this simple thing, the refilling of water, I am refreshed with love.

There are other acts of kindness, of course, and hopefully they go both ways.  Me serving him.  Him serving me.  Secretly filled gas tanks.  A milkshake after a long day.  Trash taken out.  Cards hidden.  Lunches made.

Love thrives on the simplest, most daily acts of consideration and thoughtfulness.  That’s because it’s far more natural to slip, slip, slip into forgetting, and selfishness, and taking for granted.

I wait until we arrive at church, and then I halt our dash into the brick building with four kids in tow for just a moment to say, “Thanks.  Thanks for filling my water bottle.”

Because kindness deserves noticing.  Kindness deserves gratitude.

In Acts 9, widows crowded around Peter to tell him of their sorrow.  Their dear friend, Tabitha (also known as Dorcas), had died, and they missed her.

Scripture says she was “full of good works and acts of charity”  (Acts 9:36 ESV).  The widows “stood beside him (Peter) weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them” (verse 39).

Maybe it seemed like such a small thing when she was alive:  A garment here, a tunic there.  Dorcas spent time sewing and then gave her gifts to the widows, the poorest around her.  She didn’t give millions of dollars.  She didn’t run a charity house for the destitute or organize a worldwide effort against poverty.

Tabitha did small things for the people near to her.  She served God in the way that she could.

Her kindness was her legacy.  It was the evidence the widows offered to Peter for why he should raise her from the dead—and that’s the miracle that happened that day.

Robert Morgan wrote:

The little things we do are bigger than the great things we do; and how wonderful to learn the importance of the sacred ordinary (All to Jesus).

I read this morning about a family’s wild jaunt of a day filled with random acts of kindness.  They carried flowers to nursing home residents and paid for strangers’ groceries and left dollars on the dollar store shelves.

They had the best time spreading kindness like a million tiny seeds all over their small town and then letting it grow and bloom into kindness in others.

What a glorious thing.

But I’m reminded today that random acts of kindness aren’t just for strangers or neighbors.  Too often we forget the “random acts of kindness” we can offer within our own families.

Maybe for some of us, bitterness, anger, and hurt over ingratitude make kindness feel like an impossible challenge, a chasm we just can’t cross.  But that is when the kindness is the hardest sacrifice we could offer.

This is the offering we give.  We take the time to notice a need.  We make an effort to reach outside of ourselves to help another.  We put aside our agenda in order to love people first and foremost.

Along the way, we rediscover how truly kind God is to us even when we ourselves didn’t deserve it:

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:4-5 ESV).

Dear Daughter, Remember That Nightmare About Divorce?

Dear daughter,

Remember that morning when I found you slipping quietly out of the bathroom into a corner of the house all alone?

I stopped that mad rush of cereal pouring, hair brushing, and shoe finding to smooth down your wild morning hair and ask if you were okay.marriage

Those tears, the loud kind that burst uncontrollably out of your soul, they shook your whole body and I couldn’t understand what you were saying because those words stuck right in your throat.

A nightmare.

I rocked you just as if you were still my baby girl (even if your head touches my shoulders now).

What was it about? 

I expect monsters, fire, death or even a bad grade on a test.

But you tell me one….slow….word….at a time: I dreamed you…..and……dad……got……divorced.

You stun me.  We hadn’t fought.  There was no tension in the home.  No need to fear.

Hadn’t you watched us hug and kiss goodbye every morning?  Hadn’t you seen me stop cooking that dinner and setting that table every evening to hug your dad and welcome him home for the night?

Why are you afraid?

But it wasn’t really about us at all.  It’s about a scary world where marriages don’t often last and your friends split their time between dad’s house and mom’s house.  It’s about a friend telling you, “My dad doesn’t love my mom anymore.  He doesn’t love any of us.”

Even the safe place seems like shaky ground.

I tell you the truth.

How we are happily married and being together even now is joy.romans 5

I tell you how seriously we take that vow we made when we said, “I will love you forever” and slipped those rings onto our fingers.

Sure, we meant romance love and feeling love, but we also meant committed love, covenant love, I-will-make-our-marriage-a-priority love.

Divorce smashes the lives of good people, Christian people, godly women and honorable men.  It’s real and ugly and I don’t want to sugarcoat the danger.

Sometimes even the best wife who has done everything right walks that hard road of aloneness and betrayal.

But I want you to know this, too.  There were decisions I made as a teenage girl, as a single young woman, that made this marriage I have beautiful–not perfect perhaps, but lovely—from the start.

I want you to hear this wisdom: sometimes a good marriage starts when you’re 13 and that first boy asks you to the school dance.   Remember this:

1. Do what God has called you to do—Don’t worry about boys, love, dating, or marriage.  Focus on Jesus.  Grow beautiful and strong in Him.  Go to the college that’s right for you, not the one a boyfriend attends.  Fulfill your calling and your potential.  Don’t look for love; let God bring it to you.

2. Wait for God’s best—That first boy who asks you out isn’t necessarily “the one.”  You are beautiful, smart, funny, strong, kind….Boys might swarm around you; don’t be swayed.  I saved myself body, soul, and mind for the one man who was God’s best for me and your dad is totally worth it.

3. Make sure He’s in love with Jesus—Attending church twice a year, saying you love God but couldn’t be bothered with discipleship or Bible-reading or Christian service?  That’s not loving Jesus.  That’s calling yourself a Christian without the fruit.  If you want to respect your husband as a spiritual leader, he needs to show that leadership before the wedding day.

4. Fall in love with your eyes wide open—You won’t find a perfect man.  No person is perfect and no marriage is perfect either.  Know what his flaws are in advance and be committed with a plan to love him, not change him.

5. Ask hard questions–Some couples marry without talking about kids, career plans, church, or money. Ask the hard questions before marriage.  Don’t just shrug your shoulders and figure love will carry all.  Love dies on battlefields like those all the time.romans 12

6. Give and Receive Respect–If he annoys you with stupid jokes, doesn’t understand or care about what you have to say, can’t hold a job, loses his temper easily, or embarrasses you in public now, he sure will later.  Marry someone it’s easy to respect and be proud of.  And, make sure he treats you as the precious gift from God that you are, valuing your opinion, not dominating you or devaluing you.  Paul wrote to “Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10 ESV).  Make that your goal because kindness always matters. It matters when you’re dating, when you’re first married, and when you’ve been married 20 years.  Give respect and kindness; expect respect and kindness

7.  Build the friendship–That friendship you develop before marriage is what you should cultivate every year after “I do.”  So when the kids are grown and gone, the freshness of young love fades, and your body ages and changes, you’ll still be best friends.

Marriage can be beautiful and holy, a sacred place where God transforms us to be more like Christ, where joy grows, selfless and sacrificial love blooms, and you help each other produce fruit as individuals and as one together.

This was my prayer for my own marriage on my wedding day.  This is what I pray for you even now:

 For because of our faith, he has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has had in mind for us to be (Romans 5:2 The Living Bible).

Love,
Mom.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King