Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Contrasts in Kindness

Last week, our character focus for the week as a family was kindness. It seems like such a simple concept, but in a house with four girls, it can be a challenge. (That is the understatement of the century.) Obviously it is very Biblical, as well, and we stressed verses, such as:

She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. Proverbs 31:26 (NASB)

But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22

At the acceptable time I listened to you. , and on the day of salvation, I helped you; behold, now is the acceptable time, behold, now is the day of salvation, giving no cause for offense in anything, in order that the ministry not be discredited, but in everything, commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, afflictions, ........ in patience, in kindness..... (you can read the whole thing in your Bible, but you get the gist.) 2 Corinthians 6: 2-10

....and the list goes on.

To give them a little more of an incentive, and to help them break the habit of unkind words (especially with each others), I put a cup with $5 worth of coins on top of the refrigerator for each girl. Anytime a harsh, unkind, tattling, judgmental, or screaming word was spoken, they lost a coin. At the end of the week, we would go to Dairy Queen and they could buy whatever they wanted with what was left. Okay....I know that is against all good educational psychology...blah, blah, blah....because it was "negative/taking away" instead of a "positive/earning", but honestly, I don't have the brain-power right now to put a coin in every time they  say something nice. I just don't. Sorry.

SO....Saturday, the big night came, and we went to Dairy Queen. We didn't get to go to the one we normally do that is walking distance from our house because it was raining cats and dogs, but we drove to one that had an indoor seating area. (There is one about every ten blocks here, it seems.) One of our children was particularly disappointed because she didn't have enough to buy what she wanted.  When she realized it, she started to cry. As I went to love on her, this lady walks over to us from the other table and tries to hand me some money.

She said, "I would like to give her this to buy a treat, if it's okay."

I said, "Awwww...that is so sweet, but they had to earn their money this week for an ice cream."

She said, (you're gonna love this...) "Oh, I didn't know if y'all were a daycare center or something and she just didn't have enough money."

HAHAHAHA!!! A DAYCARE CENTER!! We only have four kids!!

Bless her sweet heart. It really was such a sweet thing and I told her so over and over. I really hope she wasn't embarrassed. Honestly, I didn't laugh out loud....even though I wanted to. :-)

So every girl got a treat (even if smaller than she wanted) and we headed home.

The next morning, I went to Big Lots the minute they opened. I am not normally one to do the whole "door buster sale" thing. I hate crowds. I don't like to be around pushy people, and usually, it's worth it to me to pay a few more dollars not to have to fight all of that. However, Big Lots had some mp3's for half-price ($20), and since I have never owned one and Jeff's kicked the bucket, we decided to try to get one. After all,  who can exercise without music?

So.....I arrived twenty minutes early and was second in line. About 15 minutes later, other people began arriving, including one woman in particular that was one of the last to arrive and stepped right in front of me in line.

Those people are the ones that keep me from those sales.

At that very (anxious) moment, I began to pray, "Lord, if you want us to have these mp3's, I pray you will make it very obvious. If they are sold out because of someone who jumps ahead of me, I will still give you glory and walk away knowing it wasn't Your will."

Boy am I glad I started praying when I did.

The manager opened the door and that woman was elbowing her way straight to the counter. I wasn't sure which counter they were selling those from, so I went around to a less crowded area. A sales lady walked over to me and asked if she could help me. I told her what I needed, and as she started pulling them out for me, that "woman" (you know, the line-breaker) walked over to me, slammed her sale paper on the counter, put her finger in my face and began (with attitude) to tell me how I broke in front of her and she should get hers first....blah, blah, get the idea. I said, "Actually, ma'am, I was here first. " I said it as sweetly as I know how with my most charming southern accent. Apparently, she was not impressed. She put her finger up a little higher, rotated her head a little farther around and around while she talked, and went on and on.

When she was done, I said, "Okay, that's fine." (Again, with sweet smile and southern accent.)

She looked like I had slapped her in the face. She was actually speechless for about 2 seconds before she put her finger up (again) and said, "Okay, then."

The sales lady came up with a blue, pink, and black one. I really wanted blue and pink, but I wasn't ABOUT to say anything. The lady took the blue one, I said, "then I'll take black and pink", and the saleslady said, "We have a whole box of all three colors, so you can have what you want."  Excellent. I paid for my mps'3, told the saleslady I would be praying for her that day because it looked as if it might be a long day, and left for church.

I may have kept it together on the outside, but I was seething on the inside. I was having thoughts...terrible thoughts. The whole way to church I prayed God would bless that woman. I prayed He would forgive me for my anger. I even handed her over to Him (a few times), trying to let it all go before I got to church. I wanted to worship with nothing between between me and God. I did feel a little better when I got there, but made the mistake of telling Jeff the whole thing before the service started.It all came back. I was as mad as a hornet. Why do people have to be so mean?

Well, wouldn't you know it. Pastor Mark's sermon was on  "Loving Our Enemies"! HA!

By the time the sermon was over, I was feeling totally over the whole thing and was very thankful that I had a story to tell the girls where I felt I had handled things well instead of trying to teach them to learn from my mistakes....for once.  I still had some thoughts and attitudes to ask forgiveness for, and was honest with them about that, but thankfully (as Jeff was so sweet to remind me), I did not need to pray for God to bring that lady back into my path so I could ask her forgiveness. It would be fine with me if my path never crossed hers again. That probably means God is going to put her in my path everywhere I go so I can learn to love my enemies and be kind. :-)

Isn't God so good? He is so faithful to finish the work He starts in us, no matter how painful it might be. :-) He showed us great kindness in another person this week, and He gave me someone who was the opposite of kind with whom I could practice being kind. Not only that, He gave me a story to tell my girls so they could know (again) that their mother, too, is a work in progress with struggles just like theirs.

Well, this week we are still trying to be kind but without the fattening incentive.   We'll see how it goes. There is lots of cleaning out and cleaning up this week as we prepare for a yard sale next weekend. Hopefully we can get rid of enough stuff that we will not feel so crowded. My goal is to have a place where the girls can go in the basement if they need to be alone to read, or whatever, and I can have a place to sew, scrapbook, and do other various crafts. The bandage on my foot it making it a little bit of a challenge, but more on that later....

Have  a blessed day!!


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