Thursday, May 28, 2009

Joy - I'm Failing

This week is the "joy" week of the Fruit of the Spirit Challenge (Galatians 5:22-23). I'm failing at it. I've laughed this week, but haven't experienced "joy." I've been happy this week. Satisfied. Contented. But joy? No.

This revelation led me to examine the meaning of the word "joy." Even reading the definitions, both verb and noun, hasn't helped me feel better about my progress this week. I'm satisfied, but my heart isn't full of glee and I'm not delighted and I'm not experiencing a state of felicity. What a bummer.

What am I doing wrong? Am I not lighthearted enough? Do I take things too seriously? Is it okay to simply be content and satisfied and pleased? Is joy something I must experience daily? What level of joy?

The concordance in my Bible wasn't particularly helpful. I wanted a chart or something. The best explanation is Paul saying in Philippians 4:4-5 "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all."

Well, good grief. I can't sustain joy all the time. I just can't. I know God loves me. I'm practicing gentleness - or at least I attempt it. I'm a mom. How can I not be gentle? But do I have to be in a state of cartwheels and rainbows all the time?

This requires more thought. More later.

By the way, thought I'd let it be known "Jon and Kate Plus 8" has been removed from my DVR series recordings. I can't do it anymore. The season 5 premiere hurt my heart too much. Their train will have to wreck or right itself without my visual attention. Shame on all involved for keeping the cameras rolling. And I'm most bent out of shape about everyone attacking Kate. She's only half of Jon and Kate. What about blasting Jon, too? Better yet, back off and leave them both alone. And Jon and Kate? Please finish your contract and close your doors and be a family. Please. Still praying for you. Much love, Jen

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Homemade laundry detergent? Yep. It's possible.
Let your frugal heart go wild.

1 bar of soap
1 C washing soda
1/2 C Borax
HOT water (4 C + 4 gallons)

large bucket with a lid (I use a clean Tidy Cat kitty litter bucket)

  • Bar soap - Use any you like, but facial bars that don't have glycerin won't give you as good a product. You need the glycerin. The batch in the pics is made with Dial.
  • Washing Soda - is not baking soda. Washing soda is sodium carbonate. Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate. They are not the same thing.
  • Both washing soda and Borax can be found in the laundry aisle. I spent $7, including a 3-pack of soap, soda, and Borax. I have made six batches so far and still have enough soda and Borax for another two batches. That's over a year's worth of laundry detergent for $7.

  1. Using a paring knife or a vegetable peeler, shave soap.
  2. Add 4 gallons of very hot water to the bucket. Close the lid to keep the heat while you work on the soap.
  3. Bring 4 cups of water to a simmer in a 2 qt sauce pan, stir constantly to dissolve soap.
  4. When the soap is completely dissolved, add it to the hot water in the bucket. Stir for about 2 minutes, until it's completely mixed.
  5. Then, add 1 C washing soda and 1/2 C Borax to the soapy water.
  6. Stir for 4 minutes. You want everything well mixed.
  7. Cover. Set aside for 24 hours.
  8. When you open the lid the next day, it will either be the consistency of egg drop soup or like a watery jello. (Sorry for the food examples, but now you know what's "normal!")
  9. To use: Scoop out 1 C for a large load of laundry. (Tip: Put the detergent in the washing machine before you add your laundry, especially if your detergent is more "jello-like" in consistency.)

These are the ingredients you'll need:
Borax, washing soda, shaved soap.

Dissolve the shaved soap in a saucepan.

The mixture will be cloudy and murky. Stir deeply and thoroughly.

My Tidy Cat bucket filled with new detergent,
nestled between the washer and dryer,
waiting to be used.

The consistency of this batch is thick, like jello.
No matter. It still works.

This batch cost less than $1 to make.
For our family of five, this batch will last ~3 months.

Try it out and let me know how it works for you!

Love - the Rest of the Week

It occurs to me that I left the last blog with the statement that I have sacrificed. It sounds so much more noble and heroic than it is. Long story short, I've had several miscarriages. While I desperately wanted those babies, they weren't ours to have. While I make daily or weekly or lifestyle sacrifices, the most painful experience I've had was losing babies. I don't get my hair cut often because it's expensive. I don't buy many clothes for myself because I find other ways to spend the money. Those are sacrifices that I make for my family. Does God call me to make them? I don't know. I do know that when I keep a little bit more in the family coffers, it means we can have another pizza night or I can buy quality shoes for the kids. To me, that's a no-brainer.

So this week has been about love. It's strange. The expectation of flowers and hearts and rainbows did follow me around. Instead of seeing the commercial expression of love or feeling this burgeoning sense of emotion for my family, this week was about... you guessed it, sacrifice.

This week I saved the family three months worth of buying commercial detergent and made it at home. (I'll post about that later.) Our younger son asked for a pinata. So, yesterday I bought the supplies and today we began the process of making one. (I'll post about that, too.) My husband wanted a "home-date" (we have a date at home while the kids are occupied), so I picked up Indian food and we had a lovely time eating and visiting. It all sounds very mundane, but what this week was about for me was getting offline and spending time with my family.

The unnamed goal became putting them first and showing them through my actions that I loved them. Huh. Until I wrote that, I didn't realize fully what I'd been doing. I love my family. They don't require the commercial expressions of love, but the act of it. Thanks for the lesson, God.

This week also proved challenging. We had a new roof installed. The plumber came back out to flush the line for the kitchen faucet. I felt as if all week I had strangers in my house and couldn't catch a rhythm.

This week also brought a milestone. Our second son finished preschool. What a new mom emotion! He performed songs with his class on stage and the sight made my eyes leak. Seriously, someone should stand at the entrance and hand out tissues! I watched him and thought he had an entire year of school that had nothing to do with me. I was so proud. He's doing so well. He loved it. His teachers loved him. He made a really good friend. (And bonus: I really like his friends' mom!)

But there I was, watching my boy. He's growing up. My little girl was sitting next to me, mimicking the movements of the kids onstage. I sat there and realized that I am the memory keeper. The night before, my daughter asked me to read her board books. This is a first. She's never been willing to sit still before. She sat in my lap and we read and read. After she was down for the night, I pulled the boys' favorite board books out and we read them. These were the books they knew by heart. These were the books I caught them "reading" out loud. They didn't remember any of them. How could they not remember? It was only a few years ago. I remember it like yesterday, maybe better than yesterday.

So while this week was about my expressions of love, it was also a week that took my breath away. I don't quite have words for it, yet. I need a mom who's been down this road to show me the way or give me the words, I think. I am the mom. I am the memory keeper. I am the one who has seen it and been there. And in two weeks, my first grader will be out of school and another year will have gone by. For all my "being there," my sons are now in a realm where I can't follow. They are in school. They are developing lives separate from mine. While I used to begrudge the school the time it took away from me having my child with me, now I like it. I like that my kids are slowly learning independence. Anyway, I digress. That's a whole other post. Another day.

Tomorrow... the week of joy begins.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Love - Days 2 and 3 - Sacrifice

Remember the question from the beginning of the Challenge?

"Where does God draw the line between kindness and sacrifice?"

Last week seemed to focus on practicing kindness while this week of love has sacrifice woven into it. The Scripture that continues to roll around in my head isn't "love your neighbor as yourself" (Lev. 19:18), but rather "Take your son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about" (Gen. 22:2).

I realize that at first glance, this sounds as if I'm feeling morbid or angry or persecuted. I'm not. What I am recognizing is that while we, as humans, recognize sacrifice as something terrible and painful, the act means something completely different to God. God wants us to be so willing to serve Him that we are willing to sacrifice what we most love.

Of course, we know the end of the Isaac sacrifice story. An angel appeared to Abraham on the mountain as Isaac was prepared to be sacrificed. The angel ordered him to stop and showed him the ram in the thicket. The ram was sacrificed instead of Isaac. God blessed Abraham and made him the father of many nations. Because Abraham was willing to go to any lengths to serve the Lord, the Lord gave him back what he loved and blessed him.

What does this mean for me in my small life? The only thing God holds dear is my love for Him. When I put God first, He will bless me.

I didn't realize it until I started typing this morning, but God has given me several lessons in sacrifice.

The baby just woke up and I need to attend her. I'll post more later.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Love - Day 1

This week focuses on "love." In all honesty, it floated around my mind yesterday, but focusing didn't happen. The plan is to get out my Bible and do some studying. I may also spend some time on Bible Gateway, reading Scripture online. Their concordance is so easy to use!

Yesterday was a day filled with ... well, maybe I did focus on love. I spent the day researching anniversary trip locations. My husband and I celebrate ten years this summer. I love that man. Where can we go where we can completely relax and not have any responsibilities? We want to eat, drink, sleep, and enjoy each other. Finding the right place at the right price takes time.

Something's been on my mind. I'm going to say something here that may be controversial and eventually get me in trouble. And I'm going to say first that I firmly believe that no one ever really knows the true state of someone's marriage. Only the couple truly know their dynamic. Okay, disclaimer stated, I want to talk about "Jon and Kate Plus 8." I loved the show until they bought the big house. I was hoping they would have a show from the house and say, "Thank you very much for blessing our family with your interest and attention and prayers. The kids are getting older and we need to honor their privacy and not do a series anymore. We'll do annual 2-hour updates, so you can see how we're doing, but we need to focus on our family now. Thank you so much for caring about us." Period. The end. Sigh. But they didn't.

I saw the season 4? 5? finale where Jon said he wasn't sure he wanted to continue with the show because it's too hard to not be "Jon" but to be "Jon and Kate Plus 8" everywhere he goes. Kate didn't seem receptive to that idea. Now, this is where I get in trouble, maybe. I firmly believe that you need to let your man be a man. I'm not talking about giving him leave to be out at all hours or to go carousing with the ladies. I mean that when your man says something honestly, from his heart, about how he wants your life together to be, you listen. You honor that. Jon used to work full time and Kate was home full time. Now Kate travels everywhere doing interviews and book signings. Jon is home with the kids. He's not thriving. Let him be a man. Give him leave to go out and get a job, to support the family. Give up the fancy travel and perks of having a show and be a family again. God gave men and women different roles. God imbued men with the desire and need to protect and support their families. When your man says he's not happy with the way things are, listen. Again, I could be completely wrong in my assessment of what I'm seeing. All I see is their body language and what I know from watching the show. Heaven help my marriage if we had cameras on us!

So, speaking of letting your man be a man and honoring him, last night mine asked me to stop researching anniversary trips and lay it down for a few days. He said it was driving me nuts (true) and we need time to talk and think (true) and then we can better isolate what we want (good point).

Huh. Maybe God has started the love lessons already this week. You know God - He's the perfect teacher.

Kindness - Days 6 and 7 - Not Simple

The truth is I was not nice on Sunday. I was not kind. I was grumpy and tetchy and everything got on my nerves. I was annoyed. Hmm, notice all the "I" statements? Yeah. It was all about me.

Typically, when it's all about you, it's not a good thing - for you or anyone else. I had cabin fever and wanted to get out of the house. It wasn't just a desire to get out of the house, but to go with my husband and family. The kids would have gone anywhere, but my husband had studying to do.

And the tv is blinking out again. The on/off button has developed inconsistent patterns. We've opted to not spend another dime on it, but to tolerate it's bad behavior and then freecycle it with full disclosure.

This post verifies that while there were many opportunities for me to practice kindness this past weekend, I didn't. In the process, I was grouchy and grumpy and no one had a good time. I willfully did not let the Spirit produce kindness in me. Giving myself to God in all situations is not simple.

Hopefully next weekend I'll do better with "love."

Friday, May 15, 2009

Kindness - Day 5 - Almost-Instant Gratification

So what happened after the excitement of yesterday?

I say it all stopped, but that doesn't mean sunshine and bunnies started shooting out of my eyes. I still felt drained and utterly exhausted. My DH (dear husband) wanted to talk to me about his career and some adjustments we might need to make. At 10:30 PM. It took a great deal of self-control to not bicker and snip at him. He needed to talk, but I was fried and didn't want to pay attention. Nor did I want to care. But I do care. Very much. So I listened and we talked and as it always does, it rolled around in my head and kept me awake. Note that I practiced kindness here in a couple of ways. I listened and participated when he needed me AND I didn't punch him in the shoulder later when he was sleeping soundly and I was wound up thinking about what he shared. That was also self-control, but that's another week.

Then our little girl woke up crying at 2:10 AM. She didn't settle herself, so I got her out of bed for a cuddle. She's so funny when she's tired in the middle of the night.

"Do you want a drink?"
"Yeah" ( in a wee little girl voice)
"Okay, here's a sippy of milk for you."

She reaches up, takes it, then just holds it to her chest for a minute. No drinking. She just holds it. A minute later, she was back in bed, the sippy back in the fridge. She's out like a light and I'm wide awake, rethinking everything DH said, completely misinterpreting it because it's 2:45 in the morning. I can't watch TV because it's still broken. No book to read. No magazine to thumb through. Check email. Force myself back to bed to toss and turn again until 4:20. Such a bummer when that happens! I've always envied those who could decide to sleep and just close their eyes and conk out. Me? It takes the convergence of many forces to knock me out.

When the alarm clock bellowed this morning, my fog didn't lift much. Fatigue can do that to you. I wasn't despondent at all... just out of it.

And then the fog lifted. DH reiterated his points again. By the light of day, it made much more sense. Wish I could convince him to refrain from big conversations until morning when I can focus. Then, later, he called to confirm that he would have extra income this summer and to look for anniversary trip options. (AMEN) The repairman came and finished fixing the TV, which didn't need another expensive part after all, and the cost came it at the original, lower price. (AMEN)

What have I learned thus far? God has reminded me that He's the ultimate teacher and while I may have been trying to teach myself by seeking out the big answers to the big questions, He already had a plan for my week. This week hasn't focused on Bible study, but rather God directions. Granted, it's only Friday and Day 5 of the Kindness week. Weeks have 7 days. Two days of kindness left.

Thus far, I'm thankful for the lessons. I haven't flipped out on anyone. Yet. I'm seeing how many ways we can be kind everyday, from how we treat our loved ones, to the professionals who come to our home, to how we respond to the changes of the day.

I'm also very thankful God gave me some almost-instant gratification today by resolving a few issues. One of them is utterly selfish (anniversary trip), and I appreciate it very much. I had convinced myself it was a selfish expense and unnecessary and God was telling us that we needed to stay home. Seems the money is still there. (Thank you!) An anniversary trip isn't a done deal until we're there, but at least it's still on the table. And I'm okay with that.

Kindness - Day 4 - Bring It On


How do you know when you're on the right track? How do you know when you're doing so well following God's directions that you're under attack?


When you end your day by stating with authority, "ENOUGH! You're done. My God is bigger than you and you will not win. Out! Angels who protect me and my family, guard us against all evil and keep us safe. Evil, you can bring it on. But. You. Won't. Win."

Curious what kind of day would inspire that kind of ending?

Let's back up to Wednesday when the TV blitzed out. *sigh* This TV was my grandmother's and was given to us when she passed in January. My Dad sounded a little, well, like it wasn't time to say goodbye to the TV, yet, when I called to ask it's age. So, the hubby and I needed to get it fixed. The repairman was here on Wednesday, but wasn't able to fix the TV completely because he didn't have a necessary part. He came back yesterday and wasn't able to finish fixing the TV. Ouch. Things were beginning to look expensive. Excuse me, more expensive.

Another confirmed expense yesterday? Our roof. Over a month ago we had a major hailstorm that flung baseball and softball sized hail at our neighborhood. Until a few weeks ago, I had no idea a roof could be "totaled." They can. Ours is. The insurance check came yesterday and the roofer came to discuss details on when and how much we would be out of pocket. We're out less than our deductible, but more than expected. Ouch. Again.

One intriguing (God thing?) about yesterday was a conversation about God... with the roofer. Turns out he's a physics student who has spent a considerable amount of time focusing on dimensions. He said science has proven multiple dimensions, but our eyes can only see three. His point was that the closer we get to God, the more we are attacked. The principalities of darkness are interested in keeping us as far from God as possible and they *are* around us. We just can't see them because our eyes are limited to 3-D.

Of course, at this point in the day I felt utterly deflated because the roofing cost was draining funds from our dreamt-of anniversary trip. The TV still wasn't working and the repairman had yet to arrive for what would be yet another fruitless attempt at fixing the TV.

By the time the kids were in bed, the repairman was gone, the money was spent, the kitchen still needed cleaning (again), I felt poor of cash and spirit, and I was drained. I slumped in the recliner and hung my head.

Then, slowly, I raised my chin and whispered the statement above, reprinted here for the sheer delight of doing it:

"ENOUGH! You're done. My God is bigger than you and you will not win. Out! Angels who protect me and my family, guard us against all evil and keep us safe. Evil, you can bring it on. But. You. Won't. Win."

And it stopped.

So what happened next? Well, that's another post.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Kindness - Day 3a - Pootyhead

Remember my big question the other day about the line between kindness and sacrifice? Turns out I don't think that's where God wants my energy. He's the ultimate teacher, right? He has the authority to change lesson plans.

At the preschool program today, I wanted to sit by my friend. I like her and I'm comfortable with her and she makes me laugh and feel normal. The other mothers, not so much. But what happened? My dear, sweet son sat me in the middle of the the women who have said no more than a handful of words to me since September. As he led me to the seat, I thought, "Oh, you are funny, God. Kindness means not just what comes out my mouth and shoots off my face in an expression, but what's in my heart."


Okay. So I didn't really yell that, though I seriously considered evasive action for a split second. Nope, like the teacher-pleaser I am, I sat my posterior down where my child directed. You know what happened next? And I promise I'm trying to keep the preachy tone down. I thought of Galatians 5:22-23 and the commentary in the Life Application Bible and how it said that I can't will myself to have the fruits, but that I needed to invite the Spirit to produce them in me.

I let go. That's all I did. I let go. I let go of all the thoughts swirling in my head and poof! They seemed to just swirl right out of me. Suddenly I felt relaxed and ... kind.

No. Way.

I don't know if this fits in or not or maybe it does so much I can't see the forest for the trees. I'll let you be the judge. I've had Mama Worries lately about my relationship with my children. Sometimes I wonder/worry if their emotional needs are being met.

Last night, after lying in bed for over an hour and not sleeping, it finally dawned on me to pray. (Duh.) I was physically exhausted, but my brain was just racing. The words of two friends melded and it dawned on my addled brain to pray for God to use me to meet the needs of those around me. Let me be where He wants me to be and use me for His purposes. I fell asleep instantly.

In answer to prayer, this morning our oldest came in our room after his alarm clock woke him. I invited him to snuggle with me while we watched the weather report. He curled up with me, we looked at the weather, and then I hit the "off" button. We snuggled and talked. He nuzzled into me and in those few minutes before the day launched, I knew he felt what every kid should feel in his own home. Amen.

So am I getting answers to my big question about the line between kindness and sacrifice? Kinda. What God's teaching right now is that it's about letting go of the "me" getting in the way and letting Him be kind through me.

Anyone else notice it's only Wednesday and I started this on Monday? Am I gonna be like Gandi by the time this is over? Well, probably not. Gandi wasn't Christian. Mother Teresa? No. She wasn't Protestant. An insufferable pious pootyhead? Oye, vay. ;-)

(side note: the built-in spell check doesn't seem to mind "pootyhead." really? "pootyhead" passes spell check? and here I was thinking I was all clever... think I found the title for the post)

Kindness - Day 3 - God's Laughing

Okay. Here's the deal. When you tell God you're going on a journey with Him, be prepared. Did you hear me? Be. Prepared. The nice little week you'd planned for yourself will not - will not- ease on down the road as you'd expected. No. What will happen is you will find yourself being tested. God will smile. And God will laugh.

I'm okay with that.

I'm a mom. I understand laughing with love at the foibles of my child.

What has happened in my world you ask?

(Deep breath) Here we go: Last week our fancy kitchen faucet (by fancy I mean slight improvement over builder's grade) stopped swiveling. That's bad. It's supposed to swivel 150+-degrees. No more swiveling. Then it was challenging to pull out the sprayer head. That's bad, too. Monday, I called our dandy warranty company and they arranged for the plumber to come out yesterday. This was where my exercise in kindness began.

The plumber was to arrive between 8-12. (You're already laughing. That's okay. Save some energy, though. It gets better.) He wasn't here at 2:00. I called the company and asked if he still planned on coming. Apparently he had a big job that was bigger than expected, he'd be here in an hour or so. Lovely. I called again at 4:00 to verify. Yes, he was on his way. The plumber called at 4:30 to tell me he would be here by 5:30. I was fine. I was pleasant. I was kind. Very kind.

"Sure," I said. He arrived at 5:30. Reeking of smoke. Wearing his dirty boots on my carpet. Came into my kitchen. Tried to move the faucet. And then... asked me what was wrong.

Seriously? You can't tell?

Deep breath.

He looked under the sink and then asked for my deductible. I wrote the check. He then said he needed to call my warranty company because ... he may not be able to fix it.

You're kidding me, right? So, he headed out to his truck. A few minutes later, the warranty company calls to explain to me that the plumber is concerned that if he takes it apart, he won't be able to fix it tonight and I'd be without a faucet for awhile - as in days. Ha ha ha.

I was kind. I was firm, but pleasant. The plumber came back in, talked to me for a few minutes, then left. When he left I had two options. I could get a new faucet from the warranty company that would be a downgrade (no, thank you) or I could buy a new faucet out-of-pocket and then pay the plumber out-of-pocket to install it (no, thank you).

Over the next 30 minutes I worked the phone and called the warranty company and Delta Faucets. Delta (excellent company, highly recommend them) is sending out a replacement, newer version of my faucet and the warranty company will pay the plumber to install it. All I'm out is my deductible, which the plumber so charmingly procured earlier. Now I need to wait until the new faucet arrives to finish the process.

For the record, in all my dealings with the representatives of the several companies, I was KIND. I wasn't sweet or anything, but I was kind. Although, I did feel as if I had just finished a marathon. And God laughed and nodded.

So this morning... ha ha ha

I turn on the tv and it has red shadows over everything. Woo-hoo! (That was sarcasm.) I'll spare you the details on this one, but long story short, the repairman is coming this evening to fix it.

Those have been the challenges. Let me tell you about the blessings of the past few days - the sheer, no silver-lining-searching blessings.

This morning my second son had a Muffins with Moms at his preschool. The kids had written books about their moms and shared them. My son likes it when I bake cakes, when we play puzzles, and he thinks I'm pretty when I come pick him up. *grin* Then I picked up my daughter who was at a friend's house. She had a good time there, no crying, no fussing. *grin* We left there to go to my oldest son's school to have lunch with him. He was thrilled to see us. His face could barely contain his smile. *grin* After lunch, little girl and I headed home. She was tired and worn out. She wanted to go to sleep, but would not stay in her bed without... having her teeth brushed. *grin*

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Kindness - Day 2a - God is GOOD

Big questions today. My search to learn how God defines "kindness" led me to learn more about the fruit of the Spirit. This is what I've learned.

This is what the Life Application Bible (NIV) says about the fruit of the Spirit:

Commentary on Galatians 5:22-23 The fruit of the Spirit is the spontaneous work of the Holy Spirit in us. The Spirit produces these character traits that are found in the nature of Christ. They are the by-products of Christ's control - we can't obtain them by trying to get them without his help. If we want the fruit of the Spirit to grow in us we must join our lives to his (see John 15:4-5). We must know him, love him, remember him, and imitate him. As a result, we will fulfill the intended purpose of the law - to love God and our neighbors. Which of these qualities do you want the Spirit to produce in you?

So basically I can't make myself be kind by sheer force. I have to let the Spirit guide me to be kind. That's hard. HARD. What about when I want to scream and yell and be downright unpleasant? I'm supposed to push those desires aside and let the Spirit guide me to kindness.

John 15:4-5 -Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

This Scripture seems to be following me around lately. Clearly God wants me to pay attention. This is not going to be easy, is it?

So, remember the friend issue I told mentioned? Amen to being able to discuss it with kind words and from my heart. I didn't yell. I didn't cry. We'll see how things settle, but I'm pleased and I'm thankful. "Kindness" is the word of the week.

Kindness - Day 2 - A tough question

Last night my brain would not settle and go to sleep. The question that kept rattling around in my head was where is the line between kindness and sacrifice? Is there a line? Does God recognize a line between kindness and sacrifice? Where is the line between being kind and giving so much you can't function anymore?

This thought occurs to me sometimes, anyway. I read a Holocaust survivor's story years ago that has haunted me. There's no way to share with you the full grasp of what I wonder without sharing the story. It's graphic and gory and horrid, so if you want to spare yourself the haunting, SKIP the rest of this post I'm serious. Stop now. Okay. Fair warning.

This survivor gave an account of traveling through the sewer system with everyone from their apartment building to escape the Nazis. The Nazi's were overhead. The Jews had to crawl through the sewer system in the hopes of making it through to the other side where they would find transportation to a safer place. Imagine it. Dozens of families crawling through a tunnel. As they were silently moving through the tunnel, one of the babies started to cry. The mother and father had a heartbreaking choice. If the baby continued to cry, the Nazis would hear and all of them would be killed. They made the excruciating choice to drown their child in the sewer water rather than expose their location. I honestly don't remember the end of the story. I was so stricken by the death of the child and how that one choice must have replayed in those parents' minds forever that I zoned out on the rest of the story.

My point in telling you the story is this question: Where is the line between kindness and sacrifice? The parents sacrificed their child for the safety of their other children, themselves, their friends, family, and neighbors. They didn't necessarily do it out of kindness, but out of desperation for survival. Every now and then the story comes to mind as I'm watching my children play or holding nursing baby or tucking in a sleepy child. The story has haunted me for years.

What I extrapolate from this story is that in my Southern culture or my own psyche (I don't know which), I have this desire to be kind to the point of pain. I bend and I bend and I bend in the name of kindness. I bend to the point of sacrificing my family's sanctuary, to the point of giving away what we need. Is that more than kindness and does that move into an area God does not expect?

Sometimes I wonder what I would do. Sometimes I wonder, if I were in a war situation or if I were on a deserted island, like in "Lost," there with my three children, would it be better for me to stay back and care for them or pick up my weapon and head off with the warriors? I have a fierce warrior side to my personality. I know myself well enough to know I take duty very seriously. But I'm a mother. I have three children. I can't go running off into the wilderness to fight. Who will take care of them if something happens to me? Who will care for them if I'm gone for awhile? I have a duty to them.

How is running off to fight different from protecting my family from my over-generosity and need to please? Don't I have a responsibility to be as mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy for my family as possible? Don't I have a responsibility to to protect them and care for them at all costs? (I'm not talking about having the latest and the greatest, but rather having a safe place to live and basic necessities.) Don't I have a responsibility to be... present and in the healthiest shape possible?

The likelihood of my being in a tunnel and being forced to choose to sacrifice the one for the many is slim at best. But every day I am faced with many small choices that can lead to larger issues. If I am allowing myself to be treated poorly in the name of kindness - is that really kindness? - and it's wearing me down and exhausting me, is that what God wants of me?

What I need to find out in this journey is what God calls kindness and what God expects of me.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Kindness - Day 1a

Speaking of kindness... How is it that I'm focusing on "kindness" and am worried about a friendship, but when my dear, sweet, hard-working husband asks me to come to bed and please rub his shoulders (NOT a euphemism), I stay online? Hmmm.

Methinks I have much to learn about this kindness business.

Does kindess to myself count? Does saying this is the first few minutes I've had in 9 hours to be left the freak alone mean anything?

Off to bed with me. The man's sound asleep at this point.

Kindness - Day 1

Wouldn't you know that the moment I commit to God that I will focus on His definition of kindness, I blow a gasket in dealing with a longtime friend? *sigh* This friend has been a friend for quite awhile and I'm just about done with how she treats me. This has been going on for just about a year. More on that, maybe, another time. Anyway, the straw that broke the camel's back fell the other day and the deep hurt I'm feeling has finally made me realize that I can't continue like this. Our friendship cannot continue like this.

And silly me. I start my Fruits of the Spirit Challenge today. Poo! God surely has a sense of humor, doesn't He? In researching what God means by "kindness," I learned a few things:

In the King James Version, "kindness" is actually "longsuffering." (Look at the different translations of Galations 5:22

"Longsuffering" is fairly self-explanatory, but I learned a lot about Bible history and the translations of "longsuffering" ( Basically it means slow to anger, slow to respond in anger, taking a long, deep breath before succumbing to anger.

So where does this leave me in my predicament? How do I take what I know of the Lord and how He wants me to behave - with kindness and longsuffering - and apply it? This isn't a silly slight from last week. This is accumulated behavior that has escalated in the last year, but in truth, has been ever-present since the beginning. To be fair, I willingly acquiesced. I enjoy the friendship very much. Or I did.

God tells us that when we have a problem with someone, we should first take it to that person. If that person doesn't change their behavior, then we should take it before the leader. If the person still persists, then it should be taken before the church.

So how does this work now? I've talked to this person before. Things haven't changed. They've gotten worse. We don't have a similar pastor or leader, so I don't quite know how to approach it.

I feel the need now to say that by posting in a blog, I've set myself up for judgment and ridicule. I hope those who read my blog don't feel the need to do that, but can see themselves in my fallible humanness. Fallible. Humanness. Maybe if readers could post loving suggestions as opposed to hate-filled missives?

So. I called my friend. She wasn't there. She called me. I wasn't available. It's too late to pick up the phone tonight. There's always tomorrow.

After all, this is a week of kindness. And something tells me God isn't going to like me abandoning the lessons of kindness next Monday.

The Fruit of the Spirit Challenge

Awhile back, a good girlfriend told me about her Fruit of the Spirit journey. Basically she used Galatians 5:22 and each week focused on a different fruit. Just a little refresher:

Galatians 5:22-23 (New International Version)

22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.;&version=31

So, for the past few weeks I've thought about the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The one that I kept thinking about the most was kindness.

I asked a God-girl of mine to join me in choosing one a week and focusing on it. We could keep each other accountable and share what we're learning and discuss how God's working in our lives. Yeah. Since that conversation, getting her on the phone has been tricky. Seems God wants me to forge ahead with or without an accountability buddy.

Maybe writing a blog is actually worse? Maybe putting this out online for any and all to see is more accountability than I ever imagined?

As I said, "kindness" has been on my mind, full force. Today is May 11 and this week I focus on kindness. Let's see what happens.


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