How have I grown today?

Do you ask yourself daily if you have grown emotionally or spiritually in the preceding 24 hours? I didn’t ask myself this question very often in the past. I don’t know if it was because I was subconsciously so egotistical that I thought I didn’t need to grow, or if it was because I had become too complacent over the years, not seeing or being concerned about the deficiencies in my life. Either way, I didn’t check myself to see if I was still growing at all. But I really do want to be a life-long learner.

Growing means more than learning a fact. Memorizing information does not mean I am growing. Neither does watching the news or reading a book. Growing, to me, means I have taken the information and assessed what I am going to do with it.

If I hear new information, what am I going to do with that information? Can apply it to my life? Am I taking new information and becoming more compassionate, more just or more loving? Am I taking new thoughts and seeing the world more through God’s eyes than through my own weak and often unfocused eyesight? Am I taking ideas from a book and letting them teach me to understand life from a perspective other than my own narrow experience?

Have I learned to write better, paint better or teach better? Have I learned a healthier approach to life? Can I cook a new meal to share with family and friends? Only reading the recipe does not help me grow. Learning about new cooking techniques or herbs and then using them does.

Have I prayed a new prayer? Have I gained a new insight? Have I listened more closely to the silent cries of the world? Have I reached out because of a new found courage? Have I moved forward after a stalled period in my life? Have I taken one more step out of my grief or anger? Have I found one more thing to be thankful for? Have I learned how to better express my thanks?

Tough questions can come with a price. We may not like the answers, or we may realize that we haven’t grown in much too long. No matter our age, learning and growing can be a process we claim daily.

Friends and mentors matter

A very short story to remind us all that friends and mentors matter: 

The right words

Kate sat on the park bench and stared out across the grass damp with the morning dew. It was only 7:15 in the morning, but she wanted to give up on the day already. How could she keep going at this pace? She was so far behind in everything. In 15 minutes she needed to wake her daughters to begin the day, but even that seemed like an impossible task. As she stood to leave, she heard the bell tone on her cell phone announce an incoming text.

“Praying for you this morning. Hope you are feeling okay. I remembered that today might be hard for you. Text me later and tell me how everything is going.”

How did her friend and mentor always have such perfect timing with her encouraging words?  As Kate finished her walk, she texted back. “Worried about today. Talking to my lawyer in a couple of hours. Nervous about answering all of the questions. Also worried about the medical bills. I am behind on most of them.”

“Let’s look over the bills together. Maybe I can help you with setting up some payment plans. And call me right before your appointment so we can pray together.”

Kate knew that they would do more than pray on the phone. She knew her friend would tell her how strong she was and what courage it took to do what she was doing. Kate knew her friend would tell her she was a great Mom and encourage her to hang in there. Then they would pray, and Kate would feel stronger. Kate knew her friend had already prayed her though many difficult days. How did she always have the right words?

As she started breakfast, she stopped to write a quick note to her friend and mentor. The words weren’t poetic or powerful, but with the simplicity of the note Kate thanked the person who had changed her life the most.

“Thank you. I am different because of you. I feel more confident in my parenting skills. I better understand my finances. I try new adventures in life because you encouraged me past my fear and anxiety. I don’t give up on projects I had given up on in the past. I stay focused more because you hold me accountable. I feel stronger because you pray me through. I feel loved and cared about. I feel more willing to learn. I can more easily face my own mistakes. I feel real. You matter to me, and I wanted you to know it.”

She tucked the note inside of an envelope to mail later. With a renewed determination, she continued her morning routine knowing she could survive the day.