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Before you read let me say I hope what your read here today is not at all like what you experienced yesterday or will experience today. Instead I hope your day is peaceful and that every conversation has an element of kindness. I pray that everyone who reads finds something to be joyful about today.
There is opportunity every day to experience the moodiness of others; sometimes even the moodiness of myself. There are days when I’m mystified by the raw, biting attitudes of people who seem to be numb to the effect their attitudes have on co-workers, friends, and even their family – sometimes especially their family. Recently I was listening to one side of a conversation and as the dialog continued, I could feel the tension and heat in the air as the power play continued. While it was impossible to detect the winner, both parties were certainly defeated. It’s painful for someone like me who just wants everyone’s world to be perfect to witness the obvious peril of individuals who can’t agree, put aside grievances, and just get along. Right! Perfect is just a word, it’s not a state of being. In this world there will be disagreements …. LOUD and hurtful disagreements.
This is what hurts even more. A friend who finds fault, and criticizes instead of supports and encourages. A friend who is generally kind, but lets every little irritation become a battle, and everyone inside the circle become targets and victims of the schrapnel. We are all so human. In this world there will be pain and sadness. I don’t often read the some of the forgotten books of the Old Testament, but Ecclesiastes 8:9 from the Message spoke to me. “ All this I observed as I tried my best to understand all that’s going on in this world. As long as men and women have the power to hurt each other, this is the way it is.”
If this happens, run – don’t walk to the book of Psalms where you will find spiritual comfort food and cool water for your totally dehydrated spirit. Psalm 59:16 says “I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.” Then believe that God is bigger than any problem you have. Jeremiah 32:17 was written for those of us who need to be reminded of that. “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.”
I am eternally grateful that God is always the same. If He disagrees with something I’ve done, He responds the same as He does when I do something right. And just because I do something right doesn’t mean I will live a life free of pain. My life is a process lived out through faith in a God who never changes. He doesn’t get indignant and change his words to get back at me. He doesn’t turn his back on me when I make a mistake. He doesn’t expect me to do stupid things then reject me as damaged goods when I do. In fact look at the proof in Lamentations 3:22-26 “I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is God’s faithfulness. I will wait for him. The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.”
God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His mood and acts toward me are not dependent on my waivering mood or flawed acts toward Him.
God doesn’t have mood swings.
When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. – Robert Fulghum
When was the last time you stepped into a day with skepticism, wondering if it would be cataclysmic or a fizzle? What you would you expect from a day adventure with sixty 5th graders? I didn’t know what to expect so I volunteered. Maybe you’re thinking, that was brave, or that was crazy, or you might be thinking – What were you thinking? I was thinking this is going to be amazing, and it was. We were on a school bus for an hour to the destination and, of course, an hour back. In case you’re math challenged like I am, that’s two hours, with one bus driver, two teachers, and two parents surrounded by a passel of 10 year olds in all shapes, sizes, and personalities sitting three to a seat.
Here’s what you would love about my experience, and why you will wish you had been there with me. When we were waiting in the classroom to board the bus, I noticed how incredibly tiny their shared space is. Adults, take a lesson here. If you think your cubicle at work is the size of a postage stamp, I can show you a room that would make your space look like a palace! As the teacher looked around the room to see if all his students were there, he didn’t call out names from a list. He asked the kids to “Check your neighbor.”
That might not mean anything to you, but I was touched as I stood in that room and watched the kids look around the room to see if the person who normally sat next to them was present. Building relationships while taking attendance. As adults, do we check up on our friends, neighbors and loved ones when they don’t show up or it’s been awhile since we’ve seen them? Ephesians 5:21 “Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another.” I’m not good at checking up on people. I need to get better at that.
The bus ride was like any other bus ride. Lots of conversations all the time. One little boy – of course right next to me – decided it was time to get really sick and he did. On the floor. Quick! His teacher grabbed the waste basket and this little man spent the entire ride leaning over it. I felt so bad for him. All I could do was offer him some antibiotic hand wipes. His friends on the bus … did they go “Ewe…” and scatter as far from him as possible? It’s a little hard to move while confined to limited space, but nobody ostracized him. Romans 14:19 “So let’s agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words; don’t drag them down by finding fault.”
When we got to the classroom of the Air National Guard where Starbase is held, the first thing I noticed was the Periodic Table of Elements on the table. What?!?!? These kids are in 5th grade! We did a number of experiments with the changing state of matter. Protons, neutrons, atoms, molecules, atomic weight – it was awesome and unbelievable. Pouring, measuring, waiting, sharing, taking turns, watching, supporting. If you have a school age child and wonder how they react to learning difficult subjects at school, thank their teachers. The teachers were right there encouraging and instilling in these kids the words of Proverbs 19:15 “Wise men and women are always learning, always listening for fresh insights.” Adults, are we still learning? Our academic days might be long past, but our minds should be open to learning. In fact we should adopt the mindset to always be learning.
I learned a lot from fifth graders that spanned far beyond the chemistry lesson. I learned about the chemistry of teamwork and relationships.
I saw firsthand how our students are being taught to get along together, be owners of their attitudes, and be caretakers of each other. The teachers had the respect of the students, not because they demanded it, but because they model it themselves. There were a few tiny hints of competitiveness. “Pick me. Pick me.” Not everyone can be first all the time, and we have to accept that, maintain diligence, and move on. As adults we can learn a lot from 5th graders. Ephesians 4:31 “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”
Parents and teachers, you have an endless job that has eternal implications. I celebrate the teachers who are the keepers of our children all day long, and the parents who are the front line trainers. I appreciate all the hours of classroom training where our kids gain knowledge from textbooks and learn life skills as supplements to what is taught at home. Teachers and parents are responsible to live their values with wisdom and high moral character. What is modeled at school and what is modeled at home is being projected onto the next generation. Children learn what they live.
My day at Starbase is over and it was a huge success. Yes, the day was crazy. Crazy fantastic!
Hey this reminds me of something. Shake it off. I know. Right?
If this looks familiar, that’s because it’s a repost.
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I still remember the stuffiness of the room, the creaking plank wood floors and light streaming through freshly washed windows making aberrations out of airborne dust particles. I remember most the groans and shifting weight on chairs as the teacher’s pronounced our first assignment of the year. The dreaded essay titled “What I did on my summer vacation.” The bell rang, chairs scraped against the floor and 27 pairs of feet scuffled communally toward the door.
What should I write about that every other kid wouldn’t? Our summers in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula were like cookie cutters of each other. Should I write about the time 17 of us were walking the three miles to the ice cream shop? One girl friend and I stayed on the road to flag down a non-suspecting car while the other 15 hid in the woods. When the car stopped we asked if another friend could have a ride too. “Sure,” he said. And with that we motioned 15 riders to join us. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a car drive away so fast.
Should I write about the many walks to the Rock Crusher that got its name years before from the straight up formation left behind when a road was blasted through rock? How many names were carved or painted there this summer? How many ‘going steady’ proclamations were bonded or broken while sitting on an overhang of that landmark?
I really liked the adventure of target practice at the dump. It was nasty smelling from decaying garbage and smokey burn-off, but there were lots of glass bottles that pinged, clinked, or crystallized depending on the angle of the bullet as it met its target. It was like instant aerobic exercise when the family of bears wandered out to see where the commotions was coming from. Safely back on the two track we climbed trees to get the ripest green apples. The memory muscle in my jaw still remembers the sensation as the tartness and delicious juice of wild apples crushed between my teeth.
Then there was the camping trip with my best friend. Our parents let us take the tent and supplies to the county park for a whole week at a cost of $7.00 or 14 hours of babysitting money. I can still smell the pungent aroma and hear the popping and sizzle of potatoes and corn roasting in the coals of our fire. Two boys came out with their motor bikes and let us ride them. It was my first few miles riding on a motorized 2-wheeled bike. At last count I have nearly 50,000 miles on a motorcycle.
Summers in the 60s were, by today’s standards, quiet and passive. My memory replays the good parts while subduing the bad. My summer vacations have now spanned 4 decades, 3 kids, a travel trailer, and 2 dogs. We now own a cabin on 20 acres of land in a tiny community in northern Michigan. Our family has expanded to 2 more kids (through marriage) and 5 grandkids. Our summers don’t include hitchhiking or long walks to the rock crusher where undying love is proclaimed. Our campfires consist of hotdogs and s’mores roasted over a fire pit. Target practice is relegated to our own property and we shoot at paper plates. No bears have been sighted. We buy sweet cherries from a roadside stand but our apples come from an orchard where we spend a Sunday afternoon going through the corn maze and petting animals like llamas and tame emus.
What I did on my summer vacation has changed. The evidence is in the 6 bags of bedding and towels waiting for me in my laundry room. As we drive up the driveway the crunch of gravel under our wheels tell me I’m home. There are no students clustered in desks waiting to hear the dreaded words, “Write an essay titled, “What I did on my summer vacation.” Instead, I let the tape play over and over in my memory of blessed time spent with family, the mound of laundry as evidence that vacation was a complete success. Coming home from vacation would be sad, but in a crazy cookie cutter sort of way, I know we are destined to repeat the joy again and again.
2nd place Beginner’s category – The FaithWriters Writing Challenge
Somehow laundry and family seems to enter into a lot of conversations lately. I’m not sure how that happens – but I hope you enjoy this rerun of an earlier post.
Last week, my whole schedule got way off rhythm. Well that’s what I call it anyway. You might call it synchronized when your normal tasks are done on a certain day, under certain conditions, in the approximate same time slot. Don’t be shocked or anything but I do all my laundry on Saturday, then Sunday night, dump it all in the middle of the living room and look forward to folding it while watching an hour or two of television. It’s a practice I started about 25 years ago (maybe longer). But last week something fell off the track and that pile of laundry in the middle of the floor went ignored all week. In fact, I admitted to the ceramic tile guy who was here to work on the bathroom that I was closing my eyes every time I passed the living room, so I could authentically avoid the noisy laundry calling me. I’m glad for the verse in Philippians 1:6 because I sure needed to know that this good work would be completed. “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion …” Just so you know – I finally got all that laundry folded and put away on Friday – only to do 4 more loads of laundry on Saturday, which I dumped on the living room floor, folded, and put away … on track, on rhythm, synchronized. You might remember reading this before, but if not, I hope you enjoy my lessons from laundry.
THANKFUL …. Today, I am thankful for laundry. In fact I love laundry. I like to sort it, I love to fold it, and let’s just leave it there. Even though I manage to put it all away, I still don’t love that part of the process. Now, lest you’re now convinced that I’ve gone off the deep end, let’s backtrack a few years. This story is close, but not entirely related to the Thankful list. There I was slumped over on a huge pile of laundry sobbing from an aching heart. In fact, my spirit was broken. I was a young mom with three normal, healthy kids (rambunctious, tree climbers) and if you’ve been there at any time in your life you can finish this story from memories of your own.
Any day of the week you could have found me this position, facing mountains of laundry and the Leaning Tour of Pizza constructed of dirty dishes on my counter. I confess, my armor was, at that point scantily made of tin foil, and I felt like everything was against me. All my defenses were depleted. I hated laundry …. Absolutely H-A-T-E-D laundry. I hated the construction projects overgrowing my sink, and science projects germinating in the refrigerator too, I hated grocery shopping, but laundry I HATED! So why do I now love it? It was a simple miracle and God changed my heart in one moment! Even when I look back and rationalize how it could have happened, I know it was a God thing – a miracle.
So back to the sob story – and how Laundry made it to my thankful list. As I looked around me that day feeling so suffocated I couldn’t breathe, I was overcome with thoughts of why I had so much laundry. I had normal, healthy kids (rambunctious, tree climbers). God didn’t speak to me in an audible voice, nobody came to the door as an angel unaware to give me this message, but as I picked up a sock, a grungy shirt, torn jeans, and item after item, I had a conversation. First with myself, then with the Lord, all the time recognizing what it really meant to have a perpetual sweatshop going on in my laundry room. I ended up praying through every piece of laundry, for the child who wore the blackened socks, for the one who wore 7 layers at a time and totally changed her ‘look’ 5 times a day, for the man whose clothes could have stood up on their own from dust embedded in the factory where he earned the money that allowed us to have a mountain of laundry. There have been times, even recently, when I’ve wished I had kept up on my laundry, but never a day when I have H-A-T-E-D laundry.
Lessons from Laundry – Lessons from Life – Lessons in just finding a small sliver of something to be thankful for in everything. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. Philippians 4: 6 & 7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Photo credit: I searched as much as I could on the Internet to assure I could give the author of the artwork proper credit. It’s by I Love Simplicity and it has been posted on Bing, Pinterest, and Facebook.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NI_1YliutzA – Kari Jobe: The More I Seek You
For everyone on your third cup of coffee already….I hope you are in your happy place de-stressing and not in the middle of a hurry, scurry, ‘where did I put my keys’ kind of day waiting to give you a headache. Right now. Just take a breath, focus, and replant your thoughts where happiness grows. Here is some joy and encouragement for you day. Do not let the enemy of your soul gain a foothold on this new day – it’s ahead of you, not back there in yesterday. If you had a setback don’t let it be a stayback. Today is a gift. Open it wide. Every action starts with a thought. So let’s think….Think about ….. well these things.
Rejoice in the Lord always. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, pray, pray, pray. Be thankful for being able to pray to the God who can do anything. He gives peace that we can’t understand and can’t explain away through science or circumstance. Pray for God to guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Here is your menu of thought for today.
– whatever is true
– whatever is noble
– whatever is right
– whatever is pure
– whatever is lovely
– whatever is admirable
– anything that is excellent or praiseworthy
Think those thoughts. Ponder them. Fill your mind so full of those thoughts that there is no room for anything negative.
Put this into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Happy Monday everyone! Treat yourself to joy every day!
Scripture from Philippians 4
For the past 2 years I’ve been repeating most of my posts. Thank you for hanging in there with me.