Thursday, February 24, 2011

What is Forgiveness?

In teaching my children about World War II, i have discovered a newfound passion for the topic.  I recall sitting in fifth grade civics class, watching videos of the atrocities of the Holocaust: the concentration camps, the gas chambers, the starvation and wasting away, the devastating separation of families.  Now, as a suburban mother in a middle-income American home, i am deeply moved by all that i did not even understand back then (and i understood more than some of my peers did).

This week, i have been watching the documentary, Forgiving Dr. Mengele, which is about a surviving twin of horrific scientific experimentation at Auschwitz.  In the documentary, there is quite a rage about her decision to forgive the Germans, the Nazis, and the doctor who was the perpetrator of the heinous crimes committed against her and her sister.  The outcry reminds me that a great many people, religious and non-religious alike, seem to have a misconception (or at least no full comprehension) of the meaning of true forgiveness.

Forgiveness is something God requests of us. And He knows what He is about when He asks it: without true forgiveness, we become bitter, angry, hateful, but also suffocated by our innermost injuries.  Our souls cannot handle unforgiveness... it is not God's way.  But many people don't realize that the body cannot handle it either.  Stress kills brain cells, destroys organs, causes ulcers, and raises blood pressure, among other things.

I had an experience a few years ago in which God asked me to call my stepmom and apologize for being a snot as a child and young adult, and He asked that i request forgiveness.  Now, if you know anything about my childhood, you would likely respond as others did: "why should YOU ask THEM for forgiveness when they were the adults and you were the child??!"  The simple answer is: because God told me i needed to repent - He lovingly showed me the errors of my own ways and encouraged me to follow His way.  When i followed God, He opened a door to a real and lasting relationship with my parents for the first time in my life.  My stepmother also asked forgiveness in that telephone call, and she is now a precious part of my life.  There is more to the story, but suffice it to say, real forgiveness has taken root, and it wasn't through my own strength that it happened; God led the way... i simply obeyed.

In addition, forgiveness is not something we do because anyone deserves it.  Do you deserve to be forgiven when you lie?  When you cheat?  When you lose your temper?  When you curse?  There isn't always a deserving heart on the other end of forgiveness, but i thank God that He doesn't wait for me to deserve His grace and forgiveness.  We forgive because God forgives.  Not based on any appropriate battery of tests a person completes to show his/her remorse.

Some members of my family are also confused about this topic: some think that forgiveness can't take place unless requested by the perpetrator, or that the victim has to contact the perpetrator to inform him/her of the forgiveness taking place, or even that forgiveness is akin to "moving on" and "letting bygones be bygones."  Unfortunately, as a survivor of sexual and emotional abuse, neglect, and abandonment, i have a painful history that i don't care to repeat - but i can forgive without putting myself in similar situations, without letting myself be 'taken in' by an abuser again, and i can protect myself without wanting any harm to come of the abuser.

That's the final piece i find people don't understand fully: what does it mean to no longer want harm to come to the perpetrator?  Well, in our basic human nature, we are geared to want the 'eye for an eye' method of justice.  However, if each of us was to exact his/her own revenge, a few things would happen: we would never see the situation clearly enough to exact the perfect punishment, we would be limited in our methods of punishment for the offense(s), and mostly, we would damage our own souls with the harm we inflict on others.

If you think you can harm someone (even mentally, with your thoughts of revenge) without repercussions, you are ignoring your conscience (not to mention the Holy Spirit, if you're a Christian) and denying your own pain.  I can't think about the times i have lost my temper with my children without pain and remorse, much less inflicting harsh words or actions on someone on purpose.

Overall, forgiveness is a complex issue that God will be glad to help us understand.  But understand it we must; only our own selves are harmed by our inability or unwillingness to forgive.  I hope you'll heal in this way, if not today, then soon.  There is freedom on the other side, but forgiveness is the bridge.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Got Garden??

Yesterday, the kids got the hair-brained idea to dig up the old (read "ignored"), overgrown garden and plant flowers in it. The last week of sunshine and nice temps has really motivated them to start up the gardening again, and i had a tough time saying "no" - so, i didn't. :^) 

So, 2 hours later, we had tired backs, weak muscles, a giant trash bag full of weeds, and a beautiful little garden where once a nightmare had been.  This morning, i had to go out back and look at it just to appreciate all our hard work again.  Now, maybe we'll be able to control ourselves until we can plant the veggies!

$6 for organic garden soil (we only needed a little on top) + $7 in fresh pansies of many colors + elbow grease and determination = perfect!

(you may not know what it looked like before this shot, but i do... and what an improvement!)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Self-Centered by Default?

So, the kids and i have discovered this fabulous game called The Scrambled States of America. We LOVE playing (okay, The Littlest Princess is left out, but we try to include her some) and the kids are actually learning a bit about the U.S. States in the process!

Just the other day, my son's workbook wanted him to use a map of the United States (included in the workbook) to write down each State's capital city. Okay, fine... except he couldn't find Hawaii where he thought it should be and Alaska was nowhere near where he had begun learning it should be.

Then, in trying to locate a Southwestern State, he says, "oh, New Mexico is by the Pacific Ocean!"
Huh?
I walk over and look at his book, explaining, "no, son, New Mexico is right above Mexico..." only to notice that THERE WAS NO MEXICO ON HIS MAP. (or Canada, for that matter)

Well, no wonder other countries think the United States is so self-absorbed: we teach our children that we are on our own giant island and all alone over here! Good grief, my poor second-grader was confused that what he thought he was learning was actually NOT the whole story.

Yes, son, there are other countries out there, and they have people living in them much like we do... and we do not occupy our own continent here in the U.S. of A. - hence, the "of A" part. Sheesh!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Weary of Winter

Last summer, we began a tedious journey through a difficult season in our lives: family trials coupled with unprecedented numbers of illnesses in our home have just about driven me batty.  So, after a frayed rotator cuff in my right arm (why i don't blog as often anymore), the discovery of a couple of possible learning disabilities in my kiddos (not covered by our insurance, naturally, so we're on our own), two stomach viruses (TWO!!), possible RSV that led to pneumonia (myself and the Littlest Princess), bronchitis (hubby), and an ear infection (the Man-Child)... i was deeply touched to be sent the "Stylish Blogger Award" by a friend from my reviewing days on The Old Schoolhouse Magazine's Homeschool Crew!  Wow! I needed that reminder that there is life out there and i used to be a part of it!!

Thank you, Heather!! :^) Check out her awesome site at http://faithfamilyandfun.com/
I don't know how she does it, but there is always something new and inspiring going on over there!

The rules for this award:
~ Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award
~ Share 7 things about yourself
~ Award 15 recently discovered great bloggers (not gonna happen here, unfortunately)
~ Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award

Okay, 7 things about myself...
... i recently discovered that i am an idealist, which means it is hard to tackle normal things like parenting and homeschooling because i can see a bigger, brighter concept and i try to aim at it - only to get disappointed when i achieve something not-quite-so-stellar. {sigh}
... i am a servant most of the time, but i get crotchety on occasion and forget - that's never good when i am coming back down the other side of Me-Me-Me Mountain (oh, the guilt!!). :^)
... i always wanted a half-dozen kids - up until i had one and realized that i can't possibly stretch myself that thin (remember the idealist, folks!). Now, i try to remember to enjoy the three i have!
... i successfully managed my own home garden for the first time last year and am looking forward to doing more this year. (yup, surprised a few people who had watched my earlier attempts, i can tell you that!)
... i really like to read, a passion that began when i was in 7th grade (i devoured most of what my school library had in the mystery section by the time i left for high school). I now use PaperBack Swap to procure my books at a more reasonable price (though parting with good books has been a challenge i have finally begun to overcome!).
... i love to sew and a dream home for me would have space for me to store all my sewing materials as well as space for me to leave projects laying about while i am working on them.
... i have a nephew in Heaven with Jesus and i can't wait to see him again (will he still be 4months old in Heaven, i wonder, or will we see the young man he would have become??).

And the "Stylish Blogger Award" goes to (i'm breaking the rules because i don't currently follow 15 blogs and some of the ones i do follow got this award already):
~ Tonya Lee over at Homeschool or Bust - she amazes me with her homeschooling, and i know we only see a glimmer of it on her blog.
~ Caitlin at Welcome to Normal - what an inspiration she is! I get caught up in her blog and have to limit my visits so i can get other stuff done.
~ Loving Learning at Home - there is so much going on over there, i seriously think she has a clone!
~ Just discovered Encouragement Along the Way (again), and i am loving her wisdom and honesty!
~ Debbie over at Debbie's Homeschool Corner amazes me again and again. She is a remarkable woman and Homeschool Mama!!

Okay, sorry, folks, that's all i've got; I need to get off the computer!!