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She wouldn’t give up her Barbies or the doll’s bed. Even though she doesn’t play with them. Even though they are dusty with neglect. Every few months we purge the unused, unloved clutter from our house and every few months I asked: “isn’t it time to pass those on?” And every time, she said no.

Just last week I put together another bag of clutter and asked about the barbies and doll’s bed. Again, she insisted they remain.

The day after we dropped off our donations, I got an email from a friend who is setting up a child therapy practice. He will be working with traumatized kids, he said, and often they can’t tell their story with words but they act it out with toys. His start-up practice was pretty empty: did we have any toys that we were done with which we could send his way?

I didn’t expect much from my kids, since it had been just days since our last clean-out, but I decided to ask anyway. “We have a friend who is helping kids who have been hurt and who are scared to feel better. My friend says one of the ways that helps kids is to be able to tell their story with dolls and toys, and he wondered if we had any we could share?” I sat stunned as my 6 year old kicked into high gear. A pile of figurines, finger puppets and Little People grew in the center of the floor. The two Barbies were added to the pile, and then she ran from the room. I wondered where she might have gone to, but seconds later she reappeared lumbering the heft of a dolls bed and adding it to the pile.

“Are you sure?” I said.

“Maybe it will help kids who have had nightmares,” she said. “You know, to have a bed to tell their story.” I hugged her so hard she complained.

* * * * * *

I’ve been mulling over what I learned from my daughter last week. Giving something up is not the same as giving something away. She was not willing to just give up the Barbies, but she was willing to give them to kids who might need them.

Giving things up is hard. Giving things away in love is still hard, but it makes it worth it. There’s a world of difference between sacrifice, and sacrificial giving. My daughter’s generosity reminded me of all the times I have tried to cut sugar out of my diet. My “cold turkey” efforts have seldom lasted longer than 3 days… except for that one time when the doctor told me I had gestational diabetes and I had to quit eating sugar for the health of my baby. That time, it stuck that day, and it stuck for months.

Giving up sugar sacrificially? No way. Giving up sugar to love my kid? Yes.

I am reminded that Jesus didn’t just sacrifice his life. He sacrificed his life “for the joy set before him“, in love for us. I am reminded that sacrifice in itself is not the point, it’s sacrificing in order to better love another. And this, in itself, gives me a little clue as to understanding Lent. Maybe I made a mistake in thinking Lent was just about “giving something up”. If Lent was just about sacrifice, no wonder it has never stuck with me. I always wondered how giving up chocolate could possibly tie to Jesus giving up his life. But if Lent is a season not just to give something up, but to give something away in love, to give something up in order to make space, in order to bless, in order to have reserves of energy or time or money with which to love others – it makes more sense to me.

There’s a white plastic bag filled with toys, two barbies and a dolls bed making its way to a therapy office. I’m thinking about that bag: I’m grateful, I’m challenged, and I might just consider observing Lent next year.

 

10 thoughts on “When you just can’t give it up, give it away.

  1. Lent aside, what I love about this post is that you are building a conscience in your daughter. This event and others like it, no doubt, teach her to think of the suffering of others, and how to relieve it. I am now at a place in life where this isn’t a theory or even a hope or a prayer, but I’m seeing the blessing of it replay in my grown children.

    Keep it up, there’s nothing like have “big kids” who go looking for ways to walk with God and bless others.

  2. As someone who experienced childhood trauma, this almost made me CRY. Wow. Just wow. In some way I can’t explain, T’s love for those kids is making me feel all over again Jesus’ love for me.

    I have a friend who uses Lent not to give up something, but to ADD something to her routine: some act of service or prayer that she can offer others every day.

  3. Over from Modern Mrs Darcy today….what a beautiful story. What a heart your little girl has. Loved this. As for Lent, my priest said recently that you know you are doing Lent right (so to speak) if you feel more joy and peace. I’d never quite thought of it that way. I am fasting from Facebook, which has definitely produced more joy and peace!! 🙂 Thanks for this lovely post.

  4. Hi Bronwyn! I loved your post on Modern Mrs. Darcy yesterday. I’m a book lover, too, and don’t have many classics under my belt. Your words inspired me to change that!

  5. This is totally inspiring. And I love the idea of Lent. I’ve always struggled with it. I think you’ve nailed it on the head. The sugar analogy was helpful as well. Given my addiction to sugar, let’s all pray i don’t ever have to cut it out of my diet. 🙂

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