Happiness Awaits You

Happiness Awaits You 07022012_0000 (1)

Editors: Carol Costa, Liisa Kyle, Maggie TerryViale
Publisher: Open Books Press
ISBN: 978-0-9844600-5-2
Copyright 2010

Pass It On

(reprinted from Tom Pizur’s Hope Chest book)
by Kitty Chappell

The air in the choir room was heavy with silence. The group collectively held its breath. Only the sound of the air conditioner broke the stillness with its gentle hum, pouring out cool, refreshing air that was suddenly needed.

Lisa stood motionless. Manicured from her golden hair to her stylish shoes, she was an attractive woman who was not growing old without a fight. She waged a strong battle against this inevitability and appeared to be holding her own. Frozen into silence by embarrassment, she stood stoically—a gentle elegant statue. With wounded doe eyes, she stared helplessly in shock at Harry, the perpetrator of her pain.

Ruddy-faced and unaware of his abrasive effect on others, Harry waged his own battles. He fought a terminal case of hoof and mouth disease. Actually he rarely fought. Maybe it was because when he did put up a feeble fight, he usually lost. In typical fashion, Harry had interrupted a private conversation between Lisa and another female choir member as they planned a luncheon date to celebrate Lisa’s upcoming birthday.

“You are going to be HOW old?” he bellowed, loud enough to be heard in the parking lot. Harry’s question typically arose more from a desire to obtain fodder for his insensitive humor than from any real interest in her age. Lisa responded honestly. Following her response, Harry proclaimed loudly, “Well, what do you know—you’re nothing but an old grandma!”

Finally, I couldn’t believe it! After all of these years, here was the moment I longed for. A golden opportunity to pass a like kindness.

My mind raced back to another heavy moment in time. It was two o’clock in the morning. Final rehearsal. My husband Jerry and I were part of a musical group that was the highlight of an international convention. Arriving by plane only that afternoon, we had begun rehearsal shortly following check in at our hotel. Jerry and I were among a number who had not yet completely unpacked. After hours of rehearsing our choreography routine, the group was fatigued and suffered from jet lag. Nerves were on edge.

Our director was under pressure and short on patience. I had difficulty in perfecting certain steps in a particular medley. My musical partner and I had to repeat the routine a number of times as the group watched. I was exhausted. My mind was foggy, legs sluggish and my feet uncooperative. “Kitty, you are supposed to traipse—and lightly. You look like a plow horse!” the director bellowed angrily.

Suddenly time stood still as the stage fell silent. The director had often yelled at others in the group but never at me. I am one of those individuals who when yelled at will cry or leave. You may correct me with well-chosen words for I understand the King’s English, but don’t yell at me.

This group, too, had held it collective breath. All eyes focused on me. Hot tears fought to spill from my eyes, but my fear of humiliation held them at bay. I was frozen in place with indecision. Every fiber in me wanted to run off the stage. “This is it! I’ve had enough—I don’t have to take this. I’m out of here!” I screamed inwardly. But I didn’t move. I had a taste of how long eternity must feel.

I vacillated between thoughts of self-preservation and loyalty. How could I let the group down? We were to be back on stage in four hours costumed, energetic and smiling, ready for a breakfast kickoff production. Help, Lord, what do I do?

Suddenly, from the far side of the stage a jovial voice boomed out. “That’s okay, baby, you can plow in my field any time!” The room erupted with laughter. The tension broke. We completed the number and only hours later performed on schedule, with my perfectly-executed steps.

Bless Bob, he saved the day! He was one handsome baritone in whose debt I would be forever. Yet, I knew that we rarely have the opportunity to repay a kindness to its original donor. I could only treasure that timely rescue in my heart and pray for an opportunity to pass on his kindness to another. And here it was.

Stepping forward, I placed my arm through Lisa’s and announced loudly, “That’s okay, sweetheart. There are millions of us grandmothers who would give our false eye teeth to look as good as you do!”

After the laughter subsided, Lisa flashed a grateful smile that let me know my debt had been paid in full.

Editors: Carol Costa, Liisa Kyle, Maggie TerryViale
Publisher: Open Books Press
ISBN: 978-0-9844600-5-2
Copyright 2010

The Question That Changed My Life

(Reprint from Mark Gilroy’s Soul Matters for the Heart)
By Kitty Chappell

“I never lacked for anything as an only child, nor was I abused. But my parents never hugged me, never said they loved me, and never praised me. I am very successful—but still, no praise. They robbed me of something every child needs and it would have cost them nothing.” Tear slipped beneath her lashes. “No, I won’t forgive them!”

As a women’s speaker who often talks about forgiveness, I was strangely touched by her tearful conclusion, recalling my own past resentments.

I was nineteen years old when I was asked to grant an unfathomable forgiveness.

Following church, an older woman stopped me to chat. Suddenly she asked, “Have you forgiven your father?”

My father was in jail waiting transport to the state prison for the premeditated attempted murder of my mother.

Mom’s head wounds aren’t even healed—how dare she even suggest forgiveness!

I mumbled something about how I didn’t think I’d have to worry since my father would never ask my forgiveness for anything.

“You’re probably right, but you still need to forgive him.”

“Why should I do that? I’ve lived in fear all of my life for my mother and younger siblings. Dad bragged how he’d kill us, claim temporary insanity, and get away with it if we tried to leave. And he was sentenced to only three and a half years for premeditated attempted murder! Is that justice? No, I won’t forgive him!”

“I understand, but you still need to forgive him.”

“I’d like to know just who would expect me to do that!”

She replied softly, “God.”

I glared at her, then ran down the steps.

Our house sold quickly and our hurting family moved from Texas to beautiful Southern California. This is the new beginning I need—now I can be happy! I thought.

But I wasn’t. I felt moody, depressed, and angry. The woman’s question popped into my mind. “Have you forgiven your father?” I tried to ignore it, but it seemed that every time I opened the Bible, it spoke of forgiveness. “Forgive, if you have anything against anyone.” And again: “Father, forgive them,” Jesus pled from the cross.

Even the books I read chided me. “Forgiveness is not an emotion,” Corrie ten Boom wrote as a survivor of a World War II concentration camp, “it is an act of the will.” She explained that she couldn’t forgive through her on strength, but with God’s help she did.

Finally I admitted one day, “Lord, I’d like to be able to forgive my father, but I have a problem—I don’t want to. Can you change my wants—help me to want to forgive my father?” This became my daily prayer.

Some months later, I was overwhelmed with a sudden desire to forgive my father—I really wanted to. I whispered, “I forgive you, Dad, for everything!” My tears flowed freely, washing away all of my resentment.

I thank God for that woman’s unwelcome question, for it led me to freedom.

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