December 10, 2013

There's Something About Giving

It was 11pm on a snowy day in February, 2013, when I stared at the computer screen and warm tears ran down my cheeks. "Thank you," I said. "Thank you for letting this happen." The door to the garage opened and my husband returned from a grocery shopping, carrying bag after bag of groceries to support our hungry family of four. He asked me what was going on, seeing my wet cheeks, and I smiled. 


That winter, I was facing the hardest time as a mom and as a person. I was afraid of going outside of our house and seeing people. The thoughts of changing my clothes, putting some make up on, and faking a smile I could barely manage anyway, daunted me. Every time I thought of going outside, I felt tightness in my chest. I was feeling vulnerable. I was literally crumbling into pieces. It hurt my husband as much as it hurt me; he was really concerned about me. Once a social butterfly, this was not an acceptable reality. What's happening to me? What went wrong? 

The truth is, I've struggled with motherhood. Day after day, I drag myself out of bed so that I can take care of my two babies while my husband works. "Five more minutes, I'll stay in bed for just five more minutes." I love my boys so dearly, yet I can't fully be there to enjoy them. My mind wanders and I'd find myself saying, "I'm not cut out for this. I'm not good at staying at home with the kids." 

If someone asks me how I like staying at home with the kids, I feel pressured. Many experienced moms have told me that staying at home while the kids are young is the best thing to do. Despite how I was feeling inside, I always responded, "I absolutely love it! It's the best thing in the world!"

The reality is... it is so darn hard. 

Looking back now, I realize I was trying to keep up with the image of who I thought I should be instead of who I am. I pretend to be a good mom and wife who could run my household like nobody's business. In reality, the dishes were piling up in the sink, the laundry room was full of dirty clothes, and dust bunnies took shapes in the corner of the kitchen. The kids took turns and kept on fussing, and the best I could do was to cover my ears. I felt like a failure. 

All the pretending I was doing finally took a toll on me and I slowly started to withdraw inside my house after our second son was born. I felt safe in here. Our house was my little cocoon that protected me from the outside world. 

Every night after kids went to sleep, I read all of my favorite blogs for inspiration. I wanted to turn our house into my sanctuary, somewhere I could truly relax and be myself. One evening, while I was reading The Lettered Cottage, I came across something called Chalk Paint. The furniture Layla finished with the paint looked amazing, and I wanted to try it myself. 

But I knew it would be hard to get a paint like that where I live. It would be too expensive for me to get the paint shipped. We didn't even have Trader Joe's until last summer, after all. 

I was overjoyed when I found out I could buy chalk paint at a local retailer. It was a sign for me, the sign that everything will be alright from then on. A raft was thrown into the stormy ocean and I grabbed onto it for dear life. I was saved. A few days later, I drove 45 minutes east in the frozen cold, and got my first can of chalk paint. That purchase wasn't just a can of paint. For me, it was hope. 


Fast forward to last month after the Barn event, and we had 11 hours of driving ahead of us. We decided to stop at a chain restaurant to take a break and fill our stomachs. 

As soon as we took our seats at a small table, an elderly couple sitting next to us gave us a five dollar coupon for the restaurant. The woman smiled, "I thought you could use this." 

Her kind gesture made me want to do something similar. Feeling blessed and connected from my experience at the Barn, I wanted to do something fun, generous, and spontaneous to keep the momentum going. So I decided to anonymously pay for someone's meal in the restaurant. My husband reluctantly agreed to go with it. He thought I was crazy. Our waitress, Julia, graciously agreed to help us execute our plan. Her voice was showing the strain after a long day of waiting on customers. 

I chose a gentleman who was sitting behind me. He reminded me of the dad from Fraiser, but that wasn't the reason I chose him. I just knew he was the one the moment I saw him. 

The long story short, when he found out his check was taken care of, he was thrilled. This made me giggle with excitement, because this is what I expected to get out of this. Offering something small to a stranger just to brighten his day. It only cost me $15, including the tip.

Then something else happened that was totally unexpected. The man told Julia that every time he sees a law enforcement officer at a restaurant, he pays for the bill. Julia replied, "Well then, sir, today is your 'pay it forward day' for your kindness." 

I picked a random stranger to bless, and that person had always given to others. 

Giving is contagious. 

Julia and I, two complete strangers until half an hour before, gave each other a big hug as we parted company. We exchanged well wishes, and she gave us two cups of coffee to go. But more than a hug and cups of free coffee, we shared something special neither of us could quite articulate. 

I think both of us needed this, to be able to feel there's good in the world, and that goodness is contagious. The coffee was warm in my hands. 

Giving is contagious. 

That evening, I received more than what I gave, and that was not something I planned. 


Some bloggers gave me tremendous amount of hope and inspiration during my hard time. I just received the gift they offered and took it all in. Their gift lit my darkness with hope and that hope pushed me to the surface.

I wanted to say thank you to all of them. I may not have commented much on your blog, but I appreciate all of the generosity you have offered through your stories. Thank you... 

Emily at chatting at the sky
Myquillyn aka the Nester at Nesting Place 
Gary at Gary Morland
Catherine at In The Fields
Lauren at Pure Style Home 
Marian at Miss Mustard Seed 
Layla at The Lettered Cottage
Joan at For the Love of a House
Jenny at My Favorite and My Best 
Brooke at Velvet and Linen
Sara at Gitzen Girl
Courtney at Be More With Less
Janet at The Gardener's Cottage 
Ann at A Holy Experience 
Lecia at A Day That Is Dessert

It was during that time I promised to myself, some day I will write my own blog to give back to the community.  

Giving is contagious.   

image via www.oc-cf.org

I also want to thank all of you for offering your gift to the world, no matter what shape it takes and how big or small it seems: Writing, teaching, healing, guiding, cooking meals, changing diapers, tucking a child in the bed, giving a hug, holding hands... the list goes on. Thank you... 

This Tuesday morning,  I am struggling to string my stories and thanks together. We are the threads and together, we weave one big piece of beautiful tapestry.  

I am finding peace in this ordinary day.

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Today, I'm linking up to Emily at chatting at the sky for her Tuesdays Unwrapped series.  

22 comments:

  1. i got nothing, Yuko, but a small thank you.
    so thankful you are being brave and letting others see the Christ in you.
    you are an amazing person.

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    1. Thank you, Lori, for your kind words and friendship. It's been a faith walk and that's the only way I could get through some tough times :)

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  2. Love this, Yuko. What a lovely glimpse into your drive home - contagious giving. So beautiful.

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    1. Thank you, Emily! I was so grateful for my experience At the Barn that I just wanted to extend what I received to another person. And it all started when you generously offered us your art - thank you! I can now see when an artist gives her gift to others, it goes all around the world.

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  3. I noticed you were especially touched by the barn event through Emily's post. your words are great inspiration and I love your generosity. What a brave endeavor you have taken to start a blog as a way to give back. Love it.

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    1. Thank you, Shelly, for your encouraging words. It's funny - I started this blog to give back, and I ended up receiving more, like a kind comment from you! I guess giving and receiving goes hand in hand :)

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  4. Oh ,Yuko. This gift of your heart is beautiful. Reading this brought tears to my eyes. You are an inspiration.

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    1. Oh Teresa - thank you, thank you, and thank you! Now you are making me cry...

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  5. so beautiful to see your heart unfolding here!

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  6. yuko, this is a powerful story. i have some comments i'd like to share with you privately. could you send me your email address at jenn@nahrstadt.com? thanks.

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    1. Thank you, Jenn for your comment. I just contacted you and looking forward to hearing your story :)

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  7. Yuko.

    I adore you.

    I can't wait to follow along on your journey. Much, much love sweet friend, xo Myq.

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  8. PS, I LOVE that you included Sara, The GITZ! I miss her so much and think of her often!!

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    1. Thank you for your kind words!! I'm hoping Sara can feel my thank-you up in heaven ;) Her words of encouragement continue to live within us.

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    1. Not as awesome as you are Jenny! oxox

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  10. Yuko- Welcome to blogland! Thank you for telling me about this post; I am extremely honored to be on your list. I think your honesty in this post is refreshing and will resonate and help a lot of moms that are feeling overwhelmed too. That is a gift. Your blog has a genuine authentic feel and I wish you well on this journey!
    all my best,
    joan

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    1. Thank you, Joan, for your kind words. You took your time to read this post means a lot to me. You are always an inspiration to me. Thank you...

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  11. You better keep writing Yuko. You're stealing if you don't :)

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    1. I will Gary! That's one of the many things you taught me at the Barn. And Steven Pressfield says the same thing: Keep showing up and keep writing :)

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  12. Yuko - this is beautiful!!! I'm slowly branching out after taking my own break after barely starting my blog - and you have blessed me with your beautiful words and spirit friend! Emily's message of sharing our art - not for ourselves but for others - it's such a beautiful and empowering truth - we receive as we give to others too!

    It's been at least a couple of months back now, but I felt convicted to do something similar while out to dinner with my hubs one night. Our waitress was showing up and was doing an amazing job, but the table over was being horrible to her - and I felt in that moment that I needed to share with her that, in spite of how she was being treated, she was doing an amazing job and was being a true blessing to us. That night I actually gave her a tip that was more than the cost of the bill - and I wrote her a long note on the back thanking her for her precious spirit and hard work. Even though we've been back a number of times, I haven't seen her - but I truly hope our small act of generosity touched her the way she touched us. I believe those moments are God moments - opportunities for him to work in and through us in the must unexpected ways - and they are so heavy with his divine spirit - those moments radiate healing and blessing - to those who do the giving and the receiving.

    Thank you for sharing your story Yuko!! I look forward to catching up on your blog and following along going forward friend :)

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