Kindness and Redemption

This is the final post in my mini-series on the thread of redemption found in some of my favorite musicals. You can click here to read how it all started and here and here to read the other posts in this series. I’ve saved the best for last. Well maybe not but more than the other two the theme of redemption is easy to see in this musical.

les-miserablesI first saw Les Miserables on Broadway when I was in High School. Growing up in NYC, and being a lover of musicals, I saw my fair share of shows on Broadway. But watching Les Mis captured my heart and soul in ways I have never been able to fully articulate. It remains my all-time favorite stage musical. I have seen it more times than I can count and know the lines of every single song yet I STILL weep whenever I watch (I wept writing this post). The music is that powerful and the story that moving.

You Are NOT Just A Number

In the opening number Javert refers to Valjean simply by his prisoner number, 24601. Valjean responds by giving his full name but throughout the movie Javert sees him only as a number. He never sees the person behind the number. Valjean rightly states, a little later in the musical, that they gave him “a number and murdered Valjean”.

It’s easy to relegate someone to just a number. What size clothes does she wear? How much money does he make? We give someone a number and then judge them based on that number. But when we do, we miss out on everything about who someone truly is. The essence of a person is lost when they become nothing more than a number.

To the mom who can’t lose the weight she gained bringing life into this world, you are NOT the number on that scale. To the dad working too many long hours, missing the best parts of his children’s lives, you are MORE THAN the size of your bank account.

Society does a hell of a job trying to convince us to measure our worth by things external to us. My challenge is that you stand up to that notion and realize that your worth cannot be found in a smaller dress size, a bigger bank account or a larger house. You are of intrinsic worth and value and nothing can or should take that away from you. You are NOT just a number

One Simple Act of Kindness

A beat down, worn out Valjean is shown kindness by a priest, who invites him into his home, feeds him a hot meal and offers him a warm place to sleep. To repay his kindness, Valjean steals from the priest. When he is caught, however, the priest tells the police that he gave the silver to Valjean. He then tells Valjean he must “use this silver to become an honest man”. Something of the hardness in Valjean breaks at the kindness of this old man and he decides to change his life.

Years later, after assuming a new identity, Valjean learns that another man is set to go to prison after being mistaken for him. He remembers the priest, remembers that “his soul belongs to God” and he reveals the truth of who he really is, despite knowing it will send him back to prison.

The kindness of the priest rescued Valjean from the life of bitterness and misery he was heading down. His life was redeemed by this one simple act of kindness and the ripple effect of his life’s transformation is seen in many of the main characters. Fantine dying in a hospital instead of on the streets. Cosette growing up knowing she is loved and not unwanted. Marius not perishing with the rest of his friends. Valjean’s redeemed life, redeems the lives of so many others in the story.

Kindness and Redemption

Kindness begets kindness. Redemption begets redemption. We can never repay the supreme act of kindness shown to us by Christ on the cross. He does not ask us to repay Him. Instead, He asks that we love our neighbors as ourselves, give a cup of water to one who is thirsty and even share our bread with our enemy. His kindness to us should beget in us kindness to others, including kindness to ourselves. May we, like Valjean, be so humbled by Another’s act of kindness, our only response is to do the same for others.

From my heart to yours,

Makeda

I hope you’ve enjoyed these posts on redemption. I’d love to hear where, in your life, have you found unexpected stories of redemption?

Holley-Gerth-Button-250x250Linking this post with Holley’s Coffee for Your Heart series.

Advertisements

Love and Redemption

I’m continuing my mini-series on the thread of redemption found in some of my favorite musicals. You can click here and here to read the other posts in this series.

Next up is The Sound of Music. As a child I wore out our VCR copy, later I owned the DVD version and now I have the Blu-Ray. I also may or may not keep a digital copy on my iPad for those days when I need to get into my happy place 🙂 Here are some lessons learned from this wonderful movie:

sound-of-musicBe Who You Are

I love the character of Maria. Despite the nuns desperately trying to figure out how to “solve a problem like Maria”, she naturally refuses to be “fixed”. She just is who she is. When she gets to the Captain’s house, he quickly realizes she is a handful and asks her if she was this much trouble at the Abbey. She answers “oh much more”. Isn’t that just fabulous?! 🙂

There will always be people in your world who think you need fixing. They want you to be who they think you should be and they invent all these “rules” you have to follow. Sometimes that’s okay. It’s good to follow the rules when they keep you out of harm’s way but when the rules start wounding your soul, when they start harming your essence that’s when it becomes a problem. That’s when you need to stand up and say, this is who I am, warts and all. The people who love you and support you won’t care and the people who do care and can’t accept you don’t deserve a space in your tribe.

Sometimes Love Comes Softly

They hardly know it is happening but slowly Maria and the Captain fall in love. My absolute favorite scene in this movie is of them dancing The Laendler. It is at the end of the dance that we see their love for each other, even if they haven’t yet figured it out.

I think sometimes we have a misconception about love. We think love is real only if it is filled with goosebumps, fireworks and all the superficial things romantic comedies lead us to believe is love. But real love, the kind of love that lasts for decades, sometimes that kind of love sneaks up on you at the most unexpected times and in the most unexpected places.

I think the Father’s love is like that too. Sure there are moments when you stand in a church service and you weep because you feel His presence so strongly. But I believe the Father’s love is most present in the breathtaking stars of a clear summer night and in the kaleidoscope of colors in the sunset. His love is on display in the beauty of the Redwood trees, the majesty of the eagle soaring in the sky and the beauty of the Monarch butterflies in flight. Those are the moments when His love whispers softly and we stand in awe of what we are beholding as something deep within us stirs. That stirring is our heart remembering home and without fully understanding why, we exhale and relax into into the beauty of His love. Click here to see what I mean.

Letting Go of What’s Familiar

The Sound of Music is set amidst the backdrop of the Nazi take over of Austria. Captain von Trapp is ordered to join the German Navy, something he is unwilling to do but refusing them is not an option. He decides, instead, to take his family and leave Austria and everything they have known behind because it is the only right choice.

Sometimes doing what’s right, means letting go of what’s familiar. A job, a relationship, a friendship might have been right at one time but now it no longer fits and the only right thing to do is walk away. Walking away is never easy but if you can remember that in every The End is the promise of a Once Upon A Time, then maybe you can embrace the courage to let go and step into something more honest and right for you.

Love Redeems

It’s easy to see how Maria’s love rescued the von Trapp family from the life of sterility and order they lived. But she was also rescued by their love. She was headed to a life that was not right for her, a life that felt like what she “should” do but not what she really wanted to do. That’s the way of love, it rescues and redeems our stories from what we think they “should be” to what has been Divinely meant to be. That’s the way of the Father’s Love. As we embrace who we are, stay open to love, and let go of what’s not right, He WILL write an amazing story of redemption with our lives. That’s just how He rolls 🙂

You’re Not Alone {Coffee for Your Heart}

I wasn’t sure if I was going to get a post up today because I am in the middle of an insanely busy time. But this song has been on repeat in my head and heart for the last few days. It’s not a new song but somehow I have only just found it. They lyrics are so powerful.

I want to share them with you as part of Holley Gerth’s weekly Coffee for Your Heart dose of encouragement. My prayer today is that if you are feeling alone and forgotten these words will remind you that you are never alone; there are always a second set of footprints walking with you.

Footprints In The Sand – Leona Lewis

You walked with me
Footprints in the sand
And helped me understand
Where I’m going

You walked with me
When I was all alone
With so much unknown
Along the way

I heard you say
I promise you
I’m always there
When your heart is filled with sorrow
And despair

[Chorus]
And I’ll carry you
When you need a friend
You’ll find my footprints in the sand

I see my life
Flash across the sky
So many times have I
Been so afraid
And just when I
Thought I lost my way
You gave me strength to carry on
Thats when I heard you say

I promise you
I’m always there
When your heart is filled with sorrow and despair

[Chorus]

When I’m weary
Well I know you’ll be there
And I can feel you
When you say

I promise you
I’m always there
When your heart is filled with sadness and despair

[Chorus]

[Choir]

When your heart is full of sadness and despair

[Chorus]

From my heart to yours,

Makeda  Holley-Gerth-Button-250x250

You’re Going to Be Okay {Coffee for Your Heart}

God is writing your storyI’ve had some hard days, days when it took everything I had to get out of bed in the morning, as I wondered how I was going to get through the next hour, let alone the entire day.

I’ve had some dark days, days when when my breath would catch in my chest taut against the weight of the darkness. I don’t claim to have gone through a real clinical depression but still I think I understand a little of what it’s like to feel as if there is little to no light guiding your way.

I know those days and I know what it feels like to question if you’re ever really going to be okay.

Those days are never easy but what I learned as a result of those days is that God’s got me. I firmly believe that God is Sovereign, that nothing that happens in my life catches Him by surprise. He’s not sitting up in Heaven saying to Jesus, “Wow I totally didn’t see that coming for her” 🙂 He’s so much bigger than that. He’s writing this rich, amazing, story with lives and story lines that are intersecting in ways that only He could possibly orchestrate.

He’s writing your story and He does not need the backspace key.

My friend Alece shared that with me once and I remember it often especially when the hard days come. He’s writing my story and He really doesn’t need a backspace key because none of it is unexpected for Him. He sees, He knows and He’s got this!

So today, over our cup of coffee (you) and tea (me), I say to you that no matter what is happening in your world right now, it’s going to be okay because God’s got this and He’s got you. He’s authoring your story and although you might think a rewrite is in order, He’s not interested in using the backspace key on your story. He knows the twists and turns of your plot AND where they will take you.

He knows how to take this good or this bad and use it all for your good in the long run. He’s a master story teller and He is crafting a beautiful bestseller with your story.

“Everything will be okay in the end” John Lennon

So hang in there, I promise you it really is going to be okay in the end. And as John Lennon reminds us if it’s not okay right now, then it’s not the end. This is not how your story ends. This is an arc in your story and as every good storyteller knows the best parts of the story come after the arc. That singular moment that changes the trajectory of the story – Bilbo say yes to the adventure, Frodo agrees to take the ring to Mordor, the Pevensie children climb into the wardrobe. All the really good stuff happens after the arc shift so know that no matter what’s going on now, good is coming your way.

You’re going to be okay. I’ve got a lot of faith in you but more importantly God’s got a lot of faith in you! No backspace key needed here!

From my heart to yours,

Makeda Coffee-for-Your-Heart-150

I am once again linking up with the lovely Holley Gerth for her Coffee for Your Heart series. You can click here to learn more.

You Are Beautiful…Just As You Are {Coffee for Your Heart}

you are beautiful

I think Holley Gerth and God may be staging some sort of conspiracy against me. Every week the topic she has posted for her Coffee For Your Heart series has been something I needed to remind myself just as much as I believe you need to read it. I suppose if it is a conspiracy then it is a conspiracy that is not so much against me as it is FOR me.

You Are Beautiful…Just As You Are!

I hear those words and my head and heart automatically reject them. I have bought into the lie that if I am not a certain weight or a certain dress size then I am not good enough. Believing that lie (and countless others), I have diminished myself and invalidated my gifts because they are not wrapped in the “perfect” package. When I look in the mirror I don’t see beauty, I see only my flaws. I see all the things “wrong” with me. Instead of a smile that lights up my face, I see too much teeth showing and I try to make my smile less broad so I show less teeth & gum. Instead of hair that is wild and beautiful and adds to my uniqueness, I see gray hairs that need to be covered up and a ‘fro that needs taming so I can look the part and be accepted.

I suspect that I am not the only one who struggles to see my beauty. So today these words are for your heart, as well as for mine:

You are beautiful!

YOU, with the crooked smile and gap in your teeth, ARE BEAUTIFUL

YOU, with the wrinkles lining your eyes and mouth, ARE BEAUTIFUL

YOU, with your gray hairs that speaks of wisdom gained and a life well lived, ARE BEAUTIFUL

YOU, with your full hips, round belly and thighs that rub together, ARE BEAUTIFUL

YOU, in your frazzled, haven’t showered in 2 days because the kids have been sick state, ARE BEAUTIFUL

YOU, with your straight hair that refuse to look at, let alone embrace curls of any kind, ARE BEAUTIFUL

YOU, with your nappy, naturally curly, refusing to be tamed hair, ARE BEAUTIFUL

YOU, with that extra 10, 20 or 50 pounds, ARE BEAUTIFUL

YOU, with your narrow, rail thin body, ARE BEAUTIFUL

YOU, with your loud voice and passionate heart, ARE BEAUTIFUL

YOU, in your shy, afraid to let anyone see you personality, ARE BEAUTIFUL

YOU, with the sadness in your eyes from a sorrow you can hardly name, ARE BEAUTIFUL

YOU, with your purple hair and wildly imaginative fashion sense, ARE BEAUTIFUL

You Are Beautiful!

Just as you are, without changing a single thing, you are beautiful. You have been fearfully and wonderfully made by the hand of the Master Designer and He NEVER makes a mistake.

So please stop hiding. Please stop holding back your light because you don’t look the way “they” say you should. The world needs your beauty. It needs your imperfections, if only to remind us that there is beauty in the imperfections. Let your light shine bright today. Flaws and all!

From my heart to yours,

Makeda Coffee-for-Your-Heart-150

You Are Loved {Coffee for Your Heart}

I’m linking up again with the lovely Holley Gerth for her Coffee for Your Heart series. It is a mid-week dose of encouragement to get you over hump day and barreling into the weekend with your heart filled with a little bit of joy.

I came across this quote from Christopher Robin over the weekend and I just had to share it with you for our coffee(you)/tea(me) date  (plus, come on, who doesn’t love Winnie-the-Pooh).

I’m borrowing Chris’ words and sending a little love note from my heart to yours:

Loved More Than You Know

I see you, plagued with the mind numbing doubts wondering if you can really take that step outside your comfort zone and chase the thing your heart refuses to let go of. I see you hiding, afraid to let your voice be heard, shrinking back because it feels too hard. This is me whispering to your fear-filled heart…You are so much braver than you believe.

I see you exhausted from the sleepless nights endured and the countless sacrifices made. I see you on the brink of giving up, uncertain if you can take another step. This is me telling you, you’re gonna make it…You’re so much stronger than you seem.

I see you comparing yourself to everyone else in the room, comparing your insides to their outside. I see you, judging yourself for not knowing enough or having it all together. To you I hold up a mirror and remind you that you are beautiful and wonderful and so much smarter than you think.

I see you raw from rejection, breath shallow with emotions you can barely utter. Feeling unloved and forgotten, feeling set aside and not worth the effort. I draw you close and I breathe into your soul the words of the prophet Isaiah:

15 “Can a woman forget her nursing child,
And not have compassion on the son of her womb?
Surely they may forget,
Yet I will not forget you.
16 See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; (Isaiah 49:15-16, NKJV)

You are loved so much more than you know! He sees you and He loves you right where you are. Others may forget, others may walk away but He can never forget you. Others may say you are not enough but your Father in Heaven says you are a priceless treasure worth His only Son’s life. Calvary is evidence of just how much you are loved. His love for you so deep He has inscribed you on the palms of His hands. The wounds in the Savior’s hands, proof of the depth of the Father’s love for you.

So if today feels too hard and you wonder if you’re going to make it, may these word help you remember that you are loved. Say it out loud, whisper it if you must but say them to yourself over and over again and may the truth of those words wash over your soul today.

YOU.ARE.LOVED!

Sending you heart hugs today,

Makeda Coffee-for-Your-Heart-150

3 Ways to Let Go of Other People’s Expectations

Frozen

photo credit: Hellbent705 from Jonas Brothers FanClub
source: http://fanclub.jonasbrothers.com/community/topic/765626-jonas-monopoly/page-2

I am in love with Disney’s new movie Frozen. It’s based on the children’s fairytale The Snow Queen but Disney has put a really positive spin on this classic story. My favorite scene in the movie is when Elsa decides to let go of these unrealistic expectations of how she SHOULD be in order to be accepted. It is a really powerful scene especially when you realize that she was basically not living trying to hide who she really was.

I saw the movie for the second time recently and it struck me that so many of us are a lot like Elsa. We hear the voices of other, well meaning people telling us how we need to be in order to exist in this world and we believe that to be accepted, we essentially have to change who we are at our core. And rather than resist someone else’s attempt to shape us, we own their truth and live under this cloud of expectations.

Here are 3 ways we can let go of other people’s expectations:

Know Who You Are

You are uniquely wired by God to be exactly as you are. When you hide who you really are, you deprive the world of the gifts that you have to offer and ALL of us have gifts to offer to the world. Yours may not look like mine but that’s okay. The gifts you have are the ones the people in your world need. So don’t deprive them of you because you are afraid of what other people might think. Spend time discovering your strengths AND your weaknesses. Know your strengths so you can celebrate and lean into them. It is also equally important for you to know your weaknesses so they don’t become a liability to you.  Know yourself and be confident in that person.

Know You are Enough

Once you know who you are, you then need to know that you are enough. Our world screams at us through every commercial, magazine ad and movie and television show that we are not enough. We are not skinny enough, smart enough, pretty enough, fit enough, rich enough….The list is endless of the many ways we are told we are not enough. But those are all lies. The truth is you are enough. You don’t need the latest gadget or toy or whatever in order to be enough. You, exactly as you are today, are enough. Your value is not measured by your dress size, the number on a scale, the size of your bank account or your IQ. You have intrinsic worth, which means that you are enough just because you are. You matter because you have breathe in your lungs and that is all that is needed to know that you are enough.

Know What’s Yours to Carry

This has to do with boundaries. Often times people put expectations on us that have more to do with them than it has to do with us. They want to feel in control and that includes controlling the behavior of those around them. But their need for control is not YOUR problem.  When you hear a voice in your head telling you that you NEED to act or be a certain way, ask the question “is that mine to carry or is that someone else’s truth? Is that something that feels right for who I believe myself to be or is that coming from some place outside of me?” If it is coming from outside of you then let it go. It’s not yours to carry.

Getting out from under other people’s expectations can be really hard especially when those other people are loved ones who, we want to believe, have our best interest at heart. But no matter how well meaning someone might be, your story is  yours to write. You and I can’t afford to let someone else write our story for us. If we do then we relinquish our voice and give up our power. And who knows where our stories might take us, what adventures may be waiting for us on the other side of us choosing to step out from under that cloud of expectation. Today, let’s be like Elsa, and let it go. How easy or hard is that for you to think about doing?

Here’s the scene from the movie that inspired this post