4.17.2014

Ponderings of {This Particular} Stay-at-Home Mom






We hear a lot today about the "mommy wars".  I have to admit, I'm not totally sure what that term means, although I'm pretty sure it has something to do with working moms vs. stay-at-home moms. Frankly I intentionally avoid reading on the topic because the thought just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  *Sigh*

Stay-at-Home Moms in Transition

My mom was a stay-at-home mom during a time of real transition.  When I was very young, very few moms we knew worked outside the home.  They might sell Tupperware, or Avon, but that was about it.  By the time I was in about the 4th grade, though, many more moms were working.  It was about that time that I decided my mom should get a job, too.  A couple of "friends" at school had told me they didn't want to be friends with me because I didn't wear the right kind of jeans. *Sigh*  All the "cool" kids were wearing Luv It jeans from the little children's boutique downtown.  We couldn't afford those; my jeans came from Sears, which was not cool.  My solution: my mom could get a job (like the moms of most of the girls wearing the "cool" jeans) and I could have cool jeans, too!

Other than that brief period, however, I've always been thankful that my mom was a stay-at-home mom, and I decided fairly early on that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom someday, too. 

My life as a stay-at-home mom hasn't looked much like my  mom's, though.   While my mom never worked outside the home from the time I was born until I was in high school, I've done various types of part-time work off and on through the years.  My mom's house was always immaculate; you could literally eat off the floor at most hours of most days.  I am not anywhere near the housekeeper my mom was (and I wouldn't suggest eating off my floor at any time!)   Our family didn't start homeschooling until I was in high school, and I did my work mostly independently with weekly meetings with my dad, so my mom only really homeschooled one child.  We have homeschooled our four children from Day 1, with an age range of 6 years. 

I've also seen the lines blur a great deal between "stay-at-home mom" and "working mom" over the  years.  I have a number of friends who homeschool their children and also work anywhere from a few hours a week to nearly full-time hours.   Some work from home, others have grandparents that help, and still others have older children who work independently.

One Size {Doesn't} Fit All

I've learned that God's plan for each family is different. I am so thankful for the freedom (and responsibility!) we have as parents to seek God's will for our own families and then obey Him in that leading.  We shouldn't do anything just because it is "the thing to do" in our circles, but because through much planning and prayer we've determined God's direction for our family and we are following in obedience. 

I've realized that the real question that should concern me is not whether or not someone is a stay-at-home or working mom, but this: As a mom, am I seeking God's leading with all my heart and living in His grace every moment as I love and nurture and raise my children?

I fail at that so, so often.  And I know that Satan will do whatever he can to get my focus on anything but my responsibility to seek God's power and grace to fulfill His calling for me as a mother.  Some days, that may include discouragement over the areas in which I've not measured up.  Some days, it may involve frustration with my children's failures (not that mine have any, you understand...ahem. :))   

And some days Satan's attack may just consist of getting us all worked into a dither over "homeschool vs. public school", "working mom vs. SAHM", or "tiger moms vs. earth mothers". 

God just keeps teaching me that His plan for each of us is different.  We aren't supposed to all raise our children exactly the same way any more than we are all supposed to look alike.  We are all to raise them "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord", but that may look very different from family to family.

Personal Ponderings...

Did you catch the parenthetical phrase in the title? Ponderings of {This Particular} SAHM?  It's important!  Because all SAHMs are different (as are all working moms), I can't begin to speak for all or even most SAHMs.  I can only speak for this one!  But these are some of my ponderings on this role God has given me.

Choices

1. I'm a SAHM by choice.  I have a college degree.  I had a good career.  (More on this in #2.)

2. We couldn't "afford" for me to stay home.  When I quit working full time just before Peter was born, I was making quite  bit more than Billy was.  However, we prayed and felt God's very definite leading that I was, indeed, to be at home.   I still remember visiting Billy at work in the early years and hearing over and over again, "That's nice that you can afford to stay home," or "I wish I could afford to stay home."  These comments were often made by women whose husbands had much higher salaries than Billy. 

But we made decisions that resulted in our living in an old house in an old neighborhood (although we never, ever intended to be in it this long!), driving very old cars (and often only one), and not taking a vacation for 10 years.

As I said, I've worked part time at various times in the years since, but for the most part, we've lived on Billy's income.  That has meant struggling financially at times.  It's also meant accepting (but not asking) for help from others at times.  There have been many times that we have prayed for provision during very lean times, and God has provided for our needs through the generosity of His people.  This is truly humbling.  There have been many other times when we have prayed for specific provision and God has provided opportunities for one or both of us to do some extra work.   We are thankful for those times as well.

We know that we could be living much more comfortably, income-wise, if I were working full time (especially now that we are past the daycare stage), but for many reasons, our priority for our family has been for me to be home. 

Nothing Special
 
3.  I'm not some "specially gifted" mom for whom staying at home with my children is always a breeze.  Another thing that I heard often when the kids were little was "Well, my kids are better off with me working...I'm not cut out to stay at home all day!"  I remember telling Billy at the time, "I don't know that I'm "cut out" to stay at home all day either, but I'm not here because I'm "cut out" to be, but because I am called to be.  If God is calling me to be home with my children, then He will give me the grace to do it, and for me to say, 'I'm not cut out to do this' is sin."

Although I've failed many times along the way, God has shown me over and over that this mom thing is all part of His process of sanctification, whatever the circumstances.  God's plan for one mom may be to work outside the home...and  if so, all the struggles and difficulties that come along with that are part of God's way of teaching her to depend on Him fully and become more like Him.  God's plan for me has been as a {mostly} stay-at-home mom, and He has used and is still using that role to shape and mold me and cause me to depend on Him totally. 

Soapbox :)

4. My husband is not a babysitter.  I know this isn't exclusive to families with stay-at-home moms, but it seems to come up a lot, and it's one of my soapboxes.  When I'm gone and Billy has the kids, he is not babysitting-he is being a dad!  He's their parent, and he is just as capable in that role as I am...and probably more capable in many ways!  (Bless my children's hearts...they just hope that Daddy's home when they are injured or bleeding...because Mom is no help whatsoever in those situations!) 

And I know this may not apply to all dads, but Billy enjoys being with his children.  When life gets busy and we are all going in different directions, he gets antsy fast.  He craves family time, and I am thankful for that! 

Not "Stuck at Home"

5.  These two go together.  A. I'm not "stuck at home all the time", and B. I enjoy being at home.

First....I do get out of the house on a regular basis (more than I want to, most weeks!)  We have church, I run errands with and without kids, we take fun outings as a family, and as my kids get older, I seem to be running somebody somewhere fairly frequently.  I've always gotten out to go to the grocery store or run errands by myself if I wanted to, although more and more in recent years, I've realized I don't like to go to the store by myself!  I enjoy having one or all of the kids with me, or now that the kids are old enough to be home alone, Billy and I making a quick run to the store by ourselves. 

I also get out with friends fairly often, and would more except that we're all just running different directions much of the time.  Billy encourages that, and is even known for scheduling it himself when he can see that I'm needing it (and even occasionally when a friend is having a rough time and he thinks it would help her to have time with me! Yep, he's a keeper!)  Whether it's a quick trip to Sonic with a friend, craft night or shopping with friends from our former or current churches, or a girls-only road trip (like our trip to Minnesota last year or our trip to Claremore a few months ago :)), I probably get "out" more than a lot of moms.

Second...I enjoy being at home.  Yes, there are days I want to tear my hair out.  Yes, there are days my children drive me crazy (and I them!)  Yes, there are parts of being a SAHM I don't particularly enjoy, and times I am completely overwhelmed. The most overwhelmed times, though, tend to come when I'm too busy outside home.

I'm always thankful when God provides opportunities to help out our budget by working for a period of time, but it's not a good long-term situation for our family. Being employed away from home does nothing for me in terms of feelings of worth or freedom or fulfillment or whatever it is that working outside the home is supposed to do for women.  Mostly it makes me tired and homesick! :)  I'm hoping to eventually be able to supplement our income through less-invasive-to-our-schedule means.

I am so thankful for the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom!  I am thankful for a husband who supports that with all his heart, and for God's provision to enable it all these years.  I am thankful for the blessing of having my children at home, and for the lifestyle learning in which we are all constantly learning.  I'm thankful for the friends who have encouraged and prayed and supported me along the way. 

Most of all I pray that I will seek God's leading with all my heart and live in His grace every moment as I love and nurture and raise my children.

What is your prayer as a mom?  What would you like to share with others about your role as a mom?  Share with us in the comments, please!

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Welcome to Ponderings of an Elect Exile!  Whether you are new here or a faithful friend and regular reader, I'm glad you're here!  If you aren't already following, I'd love to have you join us for the 2014 Ponderings.  It's easy to do, in a variety of ways!  You can follow via  Facebook, Twitter, and/or Pinterest, or  find me on Instagram as Jenbh68. You can also sign up in the sidebar to receive new posts by email.  (And if you really want to make my day, leave me a comment below, or drop me a note via the email box in the sidebar. :))

4.09.2014

Simple Woman's Daybook {April Edition}


"The good news is that there should be a ton of new content coming in 2014! "  Famous last words, anyone?!  One of my goals for 2014 was to blog more consistently.  As I posted on January 1, I had quite a few posts in draft at the end of 2013, and my anticipation was that that would lead to much new content in the first few months of 2014. 

Alas, we are now into the second quarter of the year, and I have posted a grand total of eight times.  And not once in the month of March!

Time to get on the ball and start posting!  :-D  

It's been a weird few months.  We've been dealing with some med-related sleep issues that have had the whole house in a bit of chaos.  This last week has been SO much better, though.  Many friends have been praying. We are thankful for sleep!  I'm beginning to feel a tiny bit human again. 

There are so many posts...both those languishing in draft, and those still trapped in my fuzzy brain...that I hope to finish and publish soon.  I decided that perhaps the best way to start things off would be with a Simple Woman's Daybook post:

08-09 April 2014
(Yes, it took two days! :))

Outside my window...
Sunny with a few clouds.  Feels like spring right now, but Thursday it's supposed to be over 80*, and Monday it's supposed to be back in the 50s.  Arkansas weather is just all over the map these days! 

I am thinking...
How thankful I am for spring this year!!  I don't know that I've ever been so glad to see spring arrive.  We had some crazy-wild winter weather this year, and this lifelong southern girl got tired of it really fast.  So ready for warmer (although not hot) temps and sunshine and budding green things and colorful blooms!

I am thankful...
for our new Orange Belt!!
Bayley had her first Tae Kwon Do belt testing on Saturday.  She has worked so hard, and this is such a milestone for her.  We are so excited for and proud of her!

I am also thankful for Christ First TKD.  We have prayed for years for an opportunity for Bay to be involved in martial arts/self-defense, and Christ First TKD has been SUCH a huge blessing.  As their creed says, "We are a Christian black-belt school, dedicated to excellence and following Christ on a quest to be the best!!"  We love the Christian focus and are thankful that it is an affordable program. 

In the kitchen...
Working on a goal this month to reduce food waste in our household!  It seems we get to this point occasionally...where life gets crazy, and I don't keep up with things as well as I should, and suddenly we're tossing food.  Not just the occasional leftover, but produce, and bread, and buttermilk, and occasionally...eek!...meat. Then meal planning...and implementing...becomes a major priority until it becomes routine again. 

So far this week, I've cooked three batches of meat...enough for supper Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and freezer portions for 6 meals later in the month.  I've also made buttermilk ice cubes (to preserve some almost out-of-date buttermilk for future use).  Billy is even getting into the challenge...he pulled some foil packs of tuna out of the pantry and tried one yesterday.  Someone (I have no idea who at the moment) gave them to us some time ago, and we've never tried them.  Yesterday we tried the garlic and herb..it was surprisingly good!

I am wearing...
My "Advice from an Owl" tshirt Billy bought me last year.

I am creating...
Order, bit by bit, in our home and in our schedule.  We've gotten so far off track in so many areas recently-time to rein it in and restore order! :) Hoping to post more on some of these changes soon!

I am reading...
Due to the sleep deprivation issues we've been dealing with, I haven't been reading nearly as much as usual, other than "easy on the brain" fiction during some of the late night/early morning hours.  I've recently discovered a new fiction author I'm really enjoying: Alison Strobel.
I'm trying to get back to more "real" reading, though.  Books I am getting back to now include GTD for Homemakers and My Sacrifice, His Fireby Anne Ortlund.

I am hoping...
That our "fence switch" goes smoothly.  There has been a welded wire fence around the backyard of this house ever since I played in it as a little girl.  The city is now requiring that we replace it with chain link or privacy fencing.  *Sigh*  We can't afford to hire a fencing company, so we are doing it ourselves.  I'm a bit anxious about that, as well as sad to lose our current fence.  There is honeysuckle growing on this fence that my grandmother started many years ago, and I love to take pictures of the birds perched on the wooden fence posts.  Glad I have lots of photos to remember it by!

I am looking forward to...
Church on Sunday!  I've missed the past two Sunday mornings due to pain issues and kids' illness.  We didn't have evening service this past week, and the week before that, we had a meeting on our proposed constitution, followed by a fellowship.  The meeting was interesting, and the fellowship was great, but I'm looking forward to worship Sunday morning and then getting back to our Behold Your God study Sunday night!

I am learning...
More and more about the benefits and uses of essential oils!  I'm hoping to do a whole post soon about our experience so far with oils.  So thankful for friends who've shared their experience and knowledge with us, and for the benefits we've seen in our family (particularly with the above-mentioned sleep issues!)

Around the house...
About to dive into some spring cleaning/decluttering/organizing around here! Hoping to do some serious work in the dining room, kitchen, and my bedroom over the next few weeks.

I am pondering...
This week's Behold Your God Bible Study, on the subject of worship.  Pondering these thoughts:
"...the church should answer its many questions about worship by asking, 'What pleases God?' instead of asking 'How do prefer to worship God?'" ((Robert Godfrey)
"Fundamental to offering God acceptable worship is having a correct view of Who He is.
The measure in which we know God is the measure in which we will be able to worship Him.
Instead of spending all our time discussing 'how' we worship, we need to be asking God to help us change the way we think about Him." (Ron Owens)
"Worship might be defined simply as viewing the worth of God (His character and actions) in His Word and responding to that worth in every area of our lives. It involves bending our hearts, minds, and wills. It includes an intentional self-forgetfulness as we become preoccupied with the splendor of His majesty."

More from this study soon!

A favorite quote for today...
"God uses chronic pain and weakness, along with other afflictions, as his chisel for sculpting our lives. Felt weakness deepens dependence on Christ for strength each day. The weaker we feel, the harder we lean. And the harder we lean, the stronger we grow spiritually, even while our bodies waste away. To live with your ‘thorn’ uncomplainingly — that is, sweet, patient, and free in heart to love and help others, even though every day you feel weak — is true sanctification. It is true healing for the spirit. It is a supreme victory of grace." -- J.I. Packer

Feeling much weakness these days...help me lean harder and harder, Lord! 

One of my favorite things...
My new Erin Condren planner!!  I've wanted one forever, and they went on sale right when I was desperately searching for something to replace my handmade calendar that was about to run out of space.  Because we're headed into a new and somewhat more involved in the outside world season, Billy told me to go ahead and get something good. I carried a thick DayTimer/DayRunner/Franklin planner for years, but for the past few years, our life just hasn't justified something quite so heavy-duty (or expensive!)  With the sale, my Erin Condren planner was a great compromise...not quite as involved as my former beloved refillable planners, but definitely a few steps up from my handmade and make-do versions of recent years.  (Watch for more on my new planner soon!)

A few plans for the rest of the week:
A slow week this week...thank goodness!  School, church, TKD, keeping up with the kitchen, working on the house a bit.  Peter and Bayley are working for a friend for a few hours on Friday, so Em and AG and I have some errands planned for that time.

A peek into my day the last week or so...
New Planner!
Inside new planner :)


Girls at Yellow Umbrella for lunch (with Daddy and Peter, who avoided the photo :)) after our annual homeschool testing
Our Orange Belt!!  So proud!!

Bay and Peter at post-belt testing celebration lunch at La Huerta :)
 
Bay's celebratory lunch of choice...beef nachos :) 





What about you?  What are you studying in Bible Study right now? Reading any good books? Have a favorite planner you'd like to share? What are you thankful for today? Please share in the comments...I'd love to hear from you!

Disclosure: The above link to the Erin Condren website is a referral link.  If you sign up for her newsletter and make a purchase through that link, I will receive a $10 credit to the site.  :)
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Welcome to Ponderings of an Elect Exile!  Whether you are new here or a faithful friend and regular reader, I'm glad you're here!  If you aren't already following, I'd love to have you join us for the 2014 Ponderings.  It's easy to do, in a variety of ways!  You can follow via  Facebook, Twitter, and/or Pinterest, or  find me on Instagram as Jenbh68. You can also sign up in the sidebar to receive new posts by email.  (And if you really want to make my day, leave me a comment below, or drop me a note via the email box in the sidebar. :))

2.26.2014

30 Years: A Homeschool Journey ~ The Beginning



It’s hard to believe it’s been 30 years this year since I first heard about homeschooling. It was an odd concept at first for a family who had been quite content with public schools. The summer after my ninth grade year, however, we met a homeschooling family, and my parents were intrigued. They were stunned when my brother started kindergarten that fall and they realized how much public schools had changed since I started 10 years before.





By spring, they had decided to homeschool my brother the following year. As plans were made, curriculum was ordered, and excitement mounted, I approached my parents with a question: Why couldn’t I be homeschooled, too?

It was the mid-1980s. The modern homeschooling movement was just picking up steam. Homeschooling a first grader was one thing; homeschooling a high schooler was quite another. College was looming; scholarships were at stake. We had no idea how one graduated from a home school or how homeschoolers got into college. It was a radical choice in those days.  But my parents and I were sure of one thing: God was calling us to home school.

I am thankful for the gift of Godly parents: parents who weren’t perfect, but who sought to model a genuine walk with Christ in our home and who demonstrated to me the meaning of unconditional love; parents who sacrificed much for their children in every area; parents who were anything but risk-takers, but who in spite of many uncertainties stepped out in faith to homeschool their children in a time when those were very uncharted (and unpopular!) waters.

A step of faith it was, but one for which I’m forever grateful. Despite our early concerns, I received numerous full scholarship offers. By then I knew that I wanted to homeschool my children.  Homeschooling became my college research emphasis and one of my life passions.

Billy had never heard of homeschooling when we met, but it didn’t take long for him to get on board with the idea. We began planning to homeschool before we were married.  I had lofty expectations — after all, I had been immersed in homeschooling books, magazines, and curriculum for years. This was going to be a piece of cake!

Then life happened.  It’s one thing to lay out the perfect homeschooling plan while you are still childless; it’s quite another to carry out those plans when life is going crazy all around you. A six-week NICU stay for our youngest (a 30-week preemie), my dad’s seriously declining health and death, violent crime that rocked our family, unexpected health issues of our own — these were just a few of the bumps in our road as a homeschooling family.

Not only did “life” happen, but in the midst of it all, I discovered that the much-loved curriculum  I’d always planned to use simply didn’t work for us. It seemed that homeschooling multiple children close in age (four in six years) was a completely different proposition than one-on-one teaching with an “almost-only” child. Imagine that!

Our homeschooling journey has been nothing like what we expected, but we’ve been blessed abundantly. Homeschooling is no longer seen as “radical”; it’s almost a mainstream choice these days. We are thankful for those who’ve worked to improve our homeschool laws over the years, and  we’ve been blessed with a wonderful homeschool group.

The greatest blessings, however, have come through the work God has done in our family through this adventure of homeschooling. We are not where I had planned to be in our schooling at this point, and yet I know that we are exactly where we are supposed to be.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 tell us that we are to teach His words diligently to our children. I will be the first to say that I fail daily in this. But God continues to teach and work in Billy and I as we strive to train and nurture our children in His ways. And He has continually shown us that home is exactly where our children needed to be during the unexpected trials we’ve faced. Academics and extra-curricular activities may not have happened at all as we had planned, but God knew that there were things He needed to teach all of us that we couldn’t have learned in any other way.

Several years ago I posted these thoughts on my blog. God continues to convict me of these things daily:

My primary goal is not for my children to excel academically…although I do want them to excel academically. My primary goal is not for my children to be well-behaved in public…although I certainly want them to be well-behaved in public!  My primary goal is not even first-time obedience with a respectful attitude…although that is a crucial foundation stone and a vital goal.  

My primary goal is for my children to love the Lord with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength. Only if they truly love Him and have a personal walk with Him as not only Savior, but also Lord of their lives, will they truly be the successes that He…and I…want them to be. No matter what they look like on the outside, no matter how intelligent, polite, and “successful” they appear to be, if they haven’t given their hearts to Him completely, it is all for naught.

Are you struggling with things not going “as planned” in your homeschool? Anxious about being “behind”? Worried that you aren’t measuring up to the standards of others (or even your own)?

Remember that God has planned every one of your days, and the days of your children, from before the foundation of the world. (Psalm 139) Realize that He is teaching you and them in ways that the perfect curriculum never can. Our journey may seem full of unexpected turns and bumps in the road, but He has promised that if we commit our way to Him, He will make our paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

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This is the first post in a multi-part series on our homeschooling journey.  Don't want to miss an installment?  Sign up to follow Ponderings of an Elect Exile via the links below!
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Welcome to Ponderings of an Elect Exile!  Whether you are new here or a faithful friend and regular reader, I'm glad you're here!  If you aren't already following, I'd love to have you join us for the 2014 Ponderings.  It's easy to do, in a variety of ways!  You can follow via  Facebook, Twitter, and/or Pinterest, or  find me on Instagram as Jenbh68. You can also sign up in the sidebar to receive new posts by email.  (And if you really want to make my day, leave me a comment below, or drop me a note via the email box in the sidebar. :))

2.23.2014

The Blessings of Foot Washing Friends




In 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, we are told that God comforts us in our afflictions so that we may in turn comfort others in their afflictions with the comfort with which we are comforted by God.  I remember reading those verses in the late fall of 2006 and praying, "Someday, Father, let me comfort others because of this."
 
Our world had completely imploded, and life as we knew it was effectively over.  We had been horribly betrayed by someone we loved and trusted.  Our family would never be the same again, and the large gaping spiritual and emotional wounds were very slow to heal.

But God is faithful, and He is truly Jehovah Rapha, "the Lord our Healer".  He has done much work in all of us in the intervening years, and more and more I am overwhelmed with thankfulness for the growth that He has brought through the suffering that began almost 8 years ago.

In the last several years, He has also begun to answer that long-ago prayer.  He has provided opportunities to comfort and help others because of His comfort to us through these years.  This morning was one of those times.  I received a message from a faraway friend asking for help in comforting and helping another family whose world has been turned upside down by the shockwaves of sin.

As I typed a message in response, I prayerfully reflected on the things God used to help and comfort us during those early days, weeks, and even years (and to be honest, still today).  I have always been thankful for those people God used in our lives during that time, but today I was blown away all over again by the sacrificial love shown to us by the handful of friends who were aware of the situation.

"Handful" is actually a literal descriptor...in the beginning, due to safety issues, there were five people who knew: two of my dearest local friends and their husbands, and a long-time friend who lived far away, but who listened often by phone and online.

We knew no one else who had walked this path.  We searched frantically for resources on dealing Biblically with this type of trauma and came up sadly lacking. We were desperate for help, and we weren't even able to turn to our pastors until several months into the process.

My local friends Jodie and Kathy had no background or experience with what we were dealing with.  They were as shocked and overwhelmed as we were, and yet as I said in a previous post,
"They held me up. God used them to literally keep me going when I felt like I couldn't take another step. They carried our burdens. They prayed for and with me when I couldn't pray, and they read and quoted and typed God's Word to me when I literally wasn't able to open my Bible."
Not only that, they fed us when I wasn't capable of making a peanut butter sandwich, they cried with me, and they made me laugh when I really wasn't sure I'd ever be able to laugh again.  They helped with childcare when I needed it, and helped bring a bit of normalcy to our lives when normal seemed a million miles away.  


(Note: This post was started yesterday. I didn't finish/publish it, and this morning prompted more thoughts on the subject. Most of the post to this point is Saturday's thoughts. Much of what comes after this point is Sunday's thoughts.  My apologies for any confusion that may cause.)

I said in my response to my friend yesterday, "...they slogged through the sewage with us...and they never once gave any indication that it was an imposition on them...they just loved us and hurt with us."

They truly, truly bore our burdens (Galatians 6:2).  It can be very hard to listen...and listen, and listen, and listen, to a hurting friend, no matter the source of that hurt.  However, this wasn't your garden variety hurt.  Listening to this pain involved being dragged through the gutter of things that most of us don't want to think about at all, much less get up close and personal with--horrid, vile, evil stuff.

And yet they never faltered in being there for us at every step along the way. They got their hands dirty, at times going far beyond listening and helping with food and childcare, but actually becoming involved in the situation itself in ways that took them far, far out of their comfort zones.  

This morning, Bro. Gary preached on John 13:1-4, where Jesus is preparing to wash the disciples' feet.  He talked about Jesus demonstrating love and serving one another, and how we are to follow that example. He talked about the filth there on the disciples feet, and Jesus's willingness to get dirty and humble Himself to wash them. He asked some hard questions about serving. 

As he did, I was reminded of this post I started yesterday, and I was overcome again with thankfulness for these friends who followed Jesus's example so beautifully in this area.  We are rarely called to wash physical feet these days, but there are times when we'd much rather wash stinky, filthy physical feet than answer the call to meet the needs of those around us in true servant humility.  

I have no doubt that given a choice, my friends Jodie and Kathy (and their husbands) would have much preferred a one time foot washing experience (even given a strong foot aversion involved :)) than the months and years of anguish they slogged through with us. 

I am so convicted that in order to follow Jesus in servant humility, we have to be prepared to face things that are filthy and unpleasant.  We have to be willing to lay aside our own comfort to meet the needs of those around us.  Bearing one another's burdens is a command.  

I am so thankful for the example of these friends (and many others through the years) in this area.  I am so thankful for Jesus's example, which didn't stop at washing the filthy feet of those fishermen, but which went all the way to the Cross.

I want to be a foot-washing friend.  What about you?

 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
~Philippians 2:5-11