Liz kicked her feet up onto the hickory window seat her husband built and placed under the loft window years before. She rocked back in the soft, over-stuffed maroon Lazy Boy chair and stared out at the ponderosa pine forest she called her back yard.
“Why do some of us experience emotions so deep from a bottomless well while others go through life never having seen the well?”
She spoke out loud to God. She had never heard him audibly before, but maybe she would today. “What causes emotions to override reason? Seriously, I am a faithful fountain flowing freely. It doesn’t matter what the cause; the floods come in disaster, in stress, or in absolute joy. And it’s not the pretty kind either. Oh no! I’m not one of those who shed a tear, pat it dry, and continue down life’s path. Nope! Instead, I am a water spigot broken off at the wall, spewing nonstop until completely exhausted. Sometimes, I stuff a rag in the hole hoping to prevent the flow only to have the rag become so saturated that weeping begins at the most unexpected and in-opportune times.”
If it’s true that God collects our tears, He must have several containers the size of Texas with my name on them. Seriously, I have no off switch. Or at least I have not yet found one.
Lost in her thoughts, Liz replayed her past conversations with coworker, no smile, always stoic, stoned faced, Maria. She was a foot taller than Liz and out ranked her, but that doesn’t give her permission to be mean. “You’re too sensitive. You take things too personally. You wear your feelings on your sleeve. Get yourself under control.” These were always spoken in front of others, too, which made them even harder to swallow.
“Just because you don’t have feelings, Maria, doesn’t make mine wrong.” I tried to rationalize.
“Don’t try to explain yourself to me. I couldn’t care less that you choose to be led by emotions. Just don’t let it affect your work or mine.” She turned on her heel and glided into her office. She turned toward Liz as she closed the door, never taking her eyes off her until the door closed on the only view between them.
Creepy! Liz shivered at the memory. Why is she so cold? What’s her story, God?
Buddy jumped into Liz’s lap bringing her back to reality. She placed both hands in his white fluffy fur, scratched the back of his head and settled on his favorite spot just under his chin. “You don’t mind my feelings, do you, Buddy? No you don’t. Cause you’re just the cutest white tabby kitty anyone has ever seen. Yes you are!” She spoke to him in a lubby dubby voice and leaned in to place a kiss on top of his head.
Puuurrrr. Meow. He headbutted her forehead and rubbed his face along her chin.
Caressing his head, pressing her face into his, she continued her lubby dubby voice, “I wub you so much, Buddy!” She kissed his head and cheek several more times before her attention was drawn outside the window once again. She felt Buddy curl into a cinnamon roll on her lap. She basked in the warmth of his body and continued to subconsciously pet him while she pondered her feelings staring at the great ponderosa pines outside the window. Maybe they would provide wisdom.
“Am I too sensitive, God?” She waited but there was no response. “Is Maria right about me? I’m not sure I know how to be present with someone who has no feelings. Is that normal? Or am I normal with all my feelings? Why is she so mean to me in front of others?” She was met with silence.
Liz had so many questions. She knew God created each person differently and for a specific purpose. So, what was her purpose? What was Maria’s?
Why did Maria deem it necessary to lock and load her poisonous arrows at me?
“Wait, what?” Her outburst caused Buddy to wake and stretch in her lap.
Give her love notes
“God, this woman is mean to me. She says mean things to me in front of others. She makes me feel as if I have no value and you want me to give her love notes?”
Buddy jumped off her lap and moved to the window seat. He sat, wrapped his tail around his front paws and stared at her as she spoke with God.
Liz hung her head low. She did not want to love on this woman. She wanted God to smite her. To come down to earth and show her all His wrath. But this is a loving God. Her God who wanted, above all, for His children to treat each other in kindness and compassion. “I see what you are up to, God. Not sure I’m the right choice for this assignment, I mean, have you looked at my attitude?” She breathed a deep sigh before deciding trust God, “I trust you.” With her exhale, Liz’s attitude began to shift.
Over the next few days, weeks, months, Liz worked hard at sneaking into the building before anyone else arrived so she could secretly place “love notes” on Maria’s desk. She discovered Maria’s favorite candy, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and might have left a few with each note. Every note left gave Liz a boost of confidence and an attitude adjustment. But was she making a difference?
“Okay, God. Am I mistaken or did you call me to love on Maria?”
You’re on the right path
“Whew. I thought maybe I had it wrong since I was not hearing from you and not making any progress with Maria.”
You’re making progress
“Really? Cause I don’t see it, God. I’m exhausted. I have no idea when the next verbal attack will come and if I will be able to stay calm through the next one.”
Trust me. Continue what you’re doing
“Okay. I trust you.” The notes continued.
Some notes were compliments of the outfits she wore the day before, or how her shirt complimented her eyes. Some notes were admiring how she sweetly spoke with a coworker that made them smile. Other notes admired her teaching style in staff meetings and among other staff members. Each note came with a praise, an uplifting scripture, and a mention that “I” was praying for her – never mentioning who the “I” was. We’d just keep that between us, God, until you’re ready to reveal.
Liz was always the first to arrive at work and today would be no different. Sleeping was harder for her these days with all the emotions she was feeling and trying to decipher through them all she tossed and turned until she just got up. She had a daily devotional and coffee with God just like she did every morning. Then headed for the shower. The morning at work was no different from any other workday. She was the first to arrive just like she predicted. She unlocked the front office door and entered the building.
After unloading her arms at her desk, Liz headed for the kitchen to start a pot of coffee. The fresh warm aroma of buttery caramel pumpkin spice filled the air. It was a delight to her senses, and she breathed it in. On the exhale she could feel her insides warm and her lips curl upward into a bright smile. Her whole body responded with pure pleasure. How can a simple smell do all that? “Feelings! They can be a great thing!” She heard herself speak out loud as if to an imaginary human. Perhaps Maria?
Liz headed back to her desk to collect her next love note and Reece’s Cup before anyone arrived and headed for Maria’s office. She pulled out her staff keys that hung on a lanyard and dropped them over her head. With the lanyard secured around her neck the keys fell with a jingle to her belly. She hurried down the hall, turned right, and stopped at Maria’s door. She fumbled with the keys until she found the right one, placed it in the keyhole and twisted. She grabbed hold of the doorknob fully expecting this action to be like every other one before it, when she stopped short as the door came fully open.
“Maria! Hi! I didn’t know you were here already. Sorry to bother you.” She started to step out and close the door.
“Liz?” She heard Maria’s voice. “Can you come in here for a minute?”
Oh no. I’ve been caught. Fear and dread filled her head.
Liz slowly opened the door and stuck her head in the room. Maria waved for her to come in. Liz moved forward and Maria motioned for her to shut the door behind her. What is happening, God? Liz swallowed the lump in her throat hoping Maria wouldn’t notice.
“Are you the one who’s been leaving these notes on my desk the past few months?”
Liz wasn’t sure how to respond because she wasn’t sure how Maria would respond.
I’m stepping out in faith here, God. Please be with me. “Yes.” Liz spoke so softly it came out like a whisper.
“I’m so sorry, Liz. I’ve been so mean to you. And you’ve returned nothing but kindness to me.” A tear ran down Maria’s cheek.
Liz stood frozen. She let out a breath she didn’t even know she was holding. Wait, are these feelings I see in Maria? “Careful, someone might see emotions running down your cheeks.” Liz joked, hoping to lighten the mood.
Maria laughed, this time dabbing her eyes and nose with a tissue, “I see you in the halls all happy and I was jealous.”
“Of me?” Liz dramatically gestured placing the tips of her fingers on her chest, eyes fully open.
“Of how happy you are. I thought if I could make you as miserable as I was, I’d be happier. If I stifled all my feelings, then it would be easier to cope. I’m so sorry I hurt you.” She took deep breaths as the tears continued.
Now, feeling a bit more confident, Liz moved closer to Maria who was sitting at her desk. She placed a hand around Maria’s shoulder, leaned in with a side hug and placed her head on Maria’s head and held her while she shared. She spoke of her daughter who was diagnosed with breast cancer, of how she lived in California so far from Maria. She spoke of her not-so-great marriage and how all this was taking its toll on their relationship. She was feeling overwhelmed, and her job was suffering from it all.
“It’s okay to not be okay. You do not have to walk this out alone.” All anger, frustration, bitterness, dread and fear melted away from Liz as she held her coworker, her new friend. Wow, how you work miracles, God. Here I thought I was “loving” on Maria and the whole time you were LOVING on me. Not only have you changed my attitude toward Maria, but you gave me a love for her. A true love.
The two Ladies continued their early morning meetings, this time to pray before work and to fellowship with one another. Never again during their time working together was an ill word spoken between them. Never again did Maria make Liz feel as if she had no value. To this day, when they see each other out around town, they greet one another with a hug and an unspoken love that will forever remain between them.
Wow! How a small act of kindness can change a situation. Maybe even a life.