This week was the beginning of "Apples of Gold" - which is sponsored by my church that you can read more about here, In a nutshell, it is a program that pairs older (chronologically...we won't claim anything other than this) and younger women in a seven week program. Two hours each Tuesday night are spent socializing, having a cooking demonstration, a "talk" on one of six topics and then a meal that is presented on beautifully decorated tables. There are usually about thirty of us there each time...so it is a lot of work...yet totally worth it. Before they leave, the "Apples" - the term given to the younger women - also receive recipes and a take home gift that totally rocks along with a little gift from whoever is teaching that relates to the lesson. It is like Christmas every Tuesday in terms of having people love on you when you are an Apple. It really is.
I should know. I was an "Apple" five years ago. If you want to relive that experience...and it would take awhile to do it because I condensed each week plus what was going on in my crazy life at the time into one extraordinarily long blogpost. Pop some popcorn and enjoy here.
The "mature" (uh, no) women are referred to as "mentors" - which is an awesome concept...but when you feel on the inside like they look on the outside...it is really a unique experience. They make the transition from calling all of us "Miss *whatever*" (obviously, Karen, in my case) and start calling us by our first names. That's tough when your Mama has drilled manners into you for the majority of your existence. But they learn. We get the opportunity through them to remember how tough it is to be in our 20's and 30's when we thought we were fat and that there weren't enough hours in the day. When we worried about how to do things and the grass always looked greener on the other side (stay at home moms versus working moms...that kind of thing.)
Oh, my, that wasn't very kind was it?
No. No it wasn't. That's because when you get to be fifty years old...and I'm told it gets even more so later on...you have survived so much or held the hair, hands, or the children of so many of your friends through various life experiences that you just cannot relate to someone being devastated over gaining five pounds on a cruise. Okay, maybe that's just me.
And yet we try to relate. Because what is important to them should be important to us. Our job is to tell them that it is not earth-shattering and that they will be tested repeatedly throughout their lives and that the best defense is a good family and friend support system. That the body of Christ is not just something that Christians say in some kind of language that outsiders don't understand...but it is a reality. We all have different gifts and that's really okay. In fact, it is better than okay...it is awesome. We don't have to dislike someone because they have it easier than we do or because they have more or even more amazing talents that we wish we had to offer. We learn that our gifts and talents are valuable and the employment of the gifts is what matters.
They learn that you don't have to be perfect and that it is possible to make something out of nothing (or from the Dollar Tree at worst). We learn that even though we'd love to have thighs that don't giggle and arms that aren't wings...we are really happy that we've made it from where they are to where we are. Even if we look like we flew there. (Oh, come on...we can't all be Michelle Obama. Thank goodness.)
The talk this week was on kindness...and that means that God will use this opportunity to test me. I'll jump on ahead and tell you that I teach "submission" in three weeks - which is a subject that is not for the feint of heart. I look at it as a way to impart some of the wisdom I've gained in 28 years of marriage...and I hold to that "those who can...do...those who can't...teach." But as you read that...bear in mind that I have the utmost respect for teachers of every kind. I just know that this saying most assuredly refers to me. At least with this subject.
And no, I don't feel like a fraud for telling them the truth but still struggling with some aspects of it. I'm human. I'm strong-willed. I've been married for 28 years.
Kindness is a difficult subject to broach because it looks different to everyone - much like beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some people believe it is kind to share your time...others think you should share your money. Some folks want you to share your talents to be considered "kind" and others are just happy if you are pleasant or inclusive.
To me, kindness means that you give people the benefit of the doubt before you chew them a new one. That you actually stop to make sure that something isn't going on in their lives that would necessitate not being pinned to the wall...if they are being boneheaded. It means speaking to people when you see them instead of darting into another aisle so that you don't have to engage them in conversation at WalMart. Yes, I understand avoidance when one is devoid of makeup or dressed in something that almost qualifies you for "People of WalMart"...but still... It means that you treat them the same as you treat everyone else without regard to their backgrounds, what they can do for you, or some perceived pecking order of importance. It means doing something for someone if you can without expecting anything in return just because they might benefit from it. It is letting people know when you see them doing something amazing...or even just making progress. It is speaking gently, expecting the best, and spreading the sweet perfume of Jesus in everything you do.
Basically, it is not being rude, short tempered, preferential, or moody. It is not, however, being a doormat.
We all know doormats. And we want to smack them. Sometimes that's actually the kind thing to do, because life is too short for all of that. It really is. I am not suggesting that we adopt rudeness as an alternative...but I do believe that there are times when you just have to let people know that they've crossed a line with you. Not tell everyone BUT them...tell THEM.
So, this week has been quite the experience in being re-educated on kindness. So far this week, I've had people steal my parking place, annoy me, push me when I'm tired (or sore from the gym), not do what they said they'd do, find picky things wrong with this or that, or forget to call his mother (he'd better be studying).
But the mother of all things is my tendency to get into "comment wars" on social media due to my disdain for people who insist on being idiotic. See? Houston, we most definitely have a problem with this sister's attitude. So, I'm going to have to back off for a few days and not try to save the world. My cape is in the cleaners, so to speak.
But back to kindness. It is so important and yet so tough to pull off sometimes. We want to do something for someone and they don't want our help. We want to say the right thing and we end up bungling our words. We think that we are called to make it better and we end up feeling like we should have just left it alone. In those cases...maybe we should have. Kindness can require some execution to pull off something bigger...but what I think is equally important is the small things. Holding the door for a mother with a stoller, letting someone with four items at the grocery go ahead of you and your full cart and coupons, or just speaking to someone and waiting for their response when you ask "How are you?" We in the South are incredibly guilty about asking and then moving on because we expect the answer to be "fine." Sometimes it isn't. We need to wait just in case.
Here's the Apples of Gold verse that the program is based upon: "Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the work of God." - Titus 2:3-5
Yeah. I have some work to do. Rather, God has some work to do in me. I don't consider myself an unkind person, but that would depend on who you ask. And when. This must change.
I know that there are times when we are not well, overwhelmed or just cannot give people the time we'd like. There are also burdens we carry that make us a bit oblivious to others sometimes. But the default mode should be "kindness." Even if it is about drama regarding a five pound weight loss. Or learning to cook rice properly. Or fill in anything that you find inconsequential and silly to you. You are still obligated to be kind because you really never know what your extra attention might mean.
Not fake. Not insincere. Not a doormat. Just kind. Whatever that looks like to you and how you think it might affect someone else in a positive manner.
I do love the "Apples of Gold" program and have a feeling that I'm going to learn a lot through it over the next few weeks. I always do. Especially the week that I teach. Yes, God has a sense of humor. I will inevitably have several examples to share with them. Current ones. Oy.
Next week is "Loving Your Husband." That should be easier...but it won't be. I'll keep you posted...because the week after that is "Loving Your Children." In the meantime, I'm still trying to be kind - which in some cases is harder than it should be. Again, I really need to work on that.
That and the first five pounds of the ridiculous amount of weight that I need to lose. Maybe then I can more kindly relate more readily to the sweet Apples if I am dieting right along with them. Hope so.