Friday, October 24, 2008

Sacrifices made

My sister shared a story this week that really tugged at my heartstrings. A friend of hers, who had just had a baby, was headed back to teach her class after maternity leave. Her 2 1/2 year old son was feeling quite at odds with her decision. First he gives up his place as the youngest child and now Mommy has to go back to work. He of course asked her why she had to go. As any mother would, she lovingly explained that she had to go to work to help make money for the family. In his innocence, her son held up a chubby little hand clutching a quarter. I could almost hear his little voice say, "Here Mommy, you can have this. Now you won't have to go back to work." She tried to explain it wasn't which he replied, "But it's all I could find."

Now at this point every mother who has ever had to return to work feels a lump rising in her throat. After I wiped away a tear, I started thinking how often we forget the sacrifice made by teachers. We often see them as some person who only exists from the hours of 8 to 3...or 4 if they stay late. We usually only think of them when our child is having trouble, or when we think they aren't doing enough to teach our child. We forget that while they are teaching our precious child, plus about 25 others, they are away from their own.
Yes, I realize many mothers make the sacrifice of having to return to work after their child is born, but teachers face another challenge as well. After being with the children of others all day long, they return to their own homes and deal with their own. Of course, teachers' children are normal children. They have good days and bad. They sometimes get sick in the middle of the night. They have homework that someone has to help them with and even at times get into mischief that requires correction. They tell their parents about projects the night before they are due. They sometimes make poor grades....but mostly, they want time with the most important person they know - Mom. Mom, otherwise known as Mrs. Teacher during the daylight hours, does her best to find energy and words to share with their own children. Then, after she puts them into bed, she prepares for another day of teaching the children of others.

This past week, when my own child was being less than stellar, I went to visit one of her teachers. This woman is a wonderful teacher...who is also a wonderful mother. She found the patience to help me guide my progeny into the way she should go. The thing is, I know she was probably wishing more than anything that she could just be home holding her own baby instead grading papers, meeting with a parent, attending endless meetings filled with more paperwork, planning new ways to reteach the same material to students who simply didn't pay attention the first time, and making copies in preparation for the next day. I know, because when I asked about her baby, her eyes sparkled with that look only a mom can get. I asked myself, "Have I forgotten that sacrifice these wonderful people have made to help guide my child?" Too often, I'm afraid the answer is yes.

So for all the teachers out there...and those who serve others everyday...I salute you. My prayer for you is that each day you have those moments when someone realizes your sacrifice and says thank you. I pray that your energy will be renewed so that when you walk through the door to your own family, you still feel like "playing". I pray that for your children, there will be people like yourself who share themselves to make the world a better place. I wish I could offer more than those prayers and this blog, but "it's all I could find."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Broken crayons

A friend reminded me tonight of a conversation we'd had a while back...I'm not sure if the thoughts are entirely original, or if I'm repeating something I read somewhere. Either way, it's worth sharing.

As a teacher, I am a sucker for fresh school supplies. I love post-it notes, new pencils and notebooks, colored paper clips, you name it. But by far my favorite new school supply is a box of crayons.

Almost everyone knows the absolute joy of opening that new box and smelling the new crayon smell. You gaze down at the row of colors, all unused and perfectly sharp, and you begin to create. Perhaps it will be a rainbow, a castle, a futuristic car, the face of someone you love, or simply your name in curly cues and fancy swirls. You can't wait to use them, yet you almost hate to dull the first one as it glides across your paper.

Contrast this with the crayons children bring home in their backpacks at the year's end. Those crayons are broken, worn down, used and reused again. They have already created masterpieces....but they are no longer treasured. These crayons are tossed to the side in hopes of a new box to replace them.

What a shame. In being so enraptured with the new crayons, we forget to see the potential in the broken crayons we already have. These crayons are the ones that can be molded and blended to create colors beyond what any box can provide. These crayons can be peeled to expose the perfect side for shading and adding color to the sky. These crayons are ready to be used without fear of marring their perfection. These broken crayons truly do create some of the most beautiful pictures.

Of course, there is an analogy here....sometimes we see people, dreams and ideas the way we see these crayons. Everyone wants the new ones, the fresh ones, the ones that seem "perfect". Unfortunately in doing so we often overlook the ones that are "broken". We forget that in brokeness, we can find beauty. In brokeness, we are made whole. In brokeness, new "pictures" are created that can touch our world. Those around us that seem broken or worn out are some of the richest "colors" there are to be found. Whether it's a dream that has faded, a person who the world sees as "broken", or a life that feels worn our weakness, He is made strong. There are pictures yet to create.

May your day be filled with beautiful pictures today.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Come as a child

Today in church our pastor was speaking on who the Kingdom of Heaven belonged to, and when he got to the part of those who were childlike, my ears immediately perked up! I got excited not because I am childlike - although I sincerely hope I am, but because this is a blog topic I've been mulling over for about a week. I take that as a signal that now is the time to write this blog.

What exactly does it mean to "come as a child"? What characteristics does a child have? For many, the answer is that a child is innocent and trusting - well, that may be a baby's description, but for those of us who have worked with children, a very different picture emerges. Children can be so full of life that containing them is a challenge. They are sometimes loud, runny-nosed, smelly, and just plain messy! What about those characteristics?

I really liked what our pastor said about being childlike as opposed to childish. To be childlike meant to be without cynicism...full of wonder instead of doubt. That is a pretty accurate description, but I think there's even more. So, with hat in hand, I submit a further definition of being childlike.

Anyone who is a parent knows the joy of going to pick your child up from the sitter and knowing that when they hear your voice or see your face, that child will come running and shouting your name, eager to be picked up. You are their hero and they are SO glad to see you. That fades with time and as they get older, they tend to ignore your presence - even seem embarassed by it. I want to be the child who eagerly RUNS to my Father God knowing that He has come for me! I don't want the cynicism of time to dull that excitement of knowing my Father is near.

Children also are notorious for hugs and kisses - even if they aren't especially neat when they feel the need to give those hugs and kisses. Jam all over their face - no problem. Gooey mud on their fingers - they don't even give it a second thought. No matter what kind of mess they are in, they eagerly run to their father and wait to be picked up. Too often, when I find my life is a sticky, gooey mess, I think I have to clean myself up BEFORE I can come to my father. Instead, I should just run to Him...He can clean me up much better than I can clean myself. He doesn't turn away and tell me to go clean up before approaching Him - He stoops down to pick me up and return my embrace. I've found myself saying to my own child - "My aren't you a mess," only to have them laughingly agree and reach out for me to fix it.

When a child is hurt, they immediately look for their parent. They know the one who can take the hurt away simply by holding them. I see this in my own children, even though they are now older. They may hold it together, hiding their pain - until they see my face. Then they crumble and just allow me to hold them. At times, when life has beaten them down, they lash out at me. I don't like it, but I know they aren't angry at me. They are frustrated and need to vent. They know no matter what they say or do, I love them. I have had time myself when I railed against the injustice of life to my Father. He is not afraid of my anger or angry at me in return. Instead, He listens, allows me to rant and rage and then reminds me of His Truth that helps me go on in peace. For my anger, He gives peace in return.

Children are sure that their parents can fix anything. It only takes one or two feeble attempts before they come with broken pieces in their hands and beg you to fix it. I wonder how often I forget to take the broken pieces to my Father God to let Him make things new again.

Children believe they can do anything their parent tells them they can do. I was sure I would be a doctor or veterinarian or great artist - all because my parents said I could do it. Yet, I doubt God when He tells me I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Funny how getting older changes things.

A child is filled with the awe and wonder of creation (thanks for pointing that one out Pastor!) My children were constantly filled with wonder at a rock, a flower, a turtle, just about everything when they were young. Yesterday, we went on a nature walk and once again we slowed down enough to marvel at a spider in his web. Maybe it's not just that we forget to be filled with wonder, maybe we forget to slow down enough to see it.

A child is filled with compassion. When they see something that has died, their hearts fill with sorrow - even if it's only a small bird. Have I allowed my heart to become so hardened that it no longer feels sorrow for the helpless...even the birds and opossums? Yes, I know I can't go around crying over ever creature that dies, but do I still feel at least a little sorrow for what sin has brought into this world? That is what caused all this - sin....and mine was a part of that.

A child is always looking to see if their parent is watching. Mama, watch me! How many times have I heard that? Am I still just as eager for my Father's watchful eye? Do I seek His approval above all others?

At times, I have found others who think that an optimistic outlook is simply the mark of someone who just does not understand how dreadful things are. Make no mistake, remaining childlike is NOT easy in today's society. It takes a concentrated effort to find the good in all situations and people. Still, it's worth it....for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.

Now, I have to go and deal with my child who is not acting very childlike, but who is acting very childish right now. You can figure out which one.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


As I got into the shower this morning, I noticed my knee was stinging quite a bit. When I looked down, I saw the reason why. I was sporting a lovely new "strawberry" on my right knee, compliments of a friend. I also had an aching jaw, compliments from another friend on the same evening.

Now before you think I hang out with some really tough friends, or think I've been in some sort of street brawl, let me say - these were all a result of a recent Krav training workout. These wounds were truly from friends and I actually treasure them....the wounds and the friends.

Let me explain. If you have read any of my earlier blogs about Krav, you might remember that one important aspect of these workouts is having someone who will push me to my limit. It's important in these self-defense workouts to test myself occasionally not in hopes that I will ever have to use these skills, but in hopes that I WON'T! During this week's particular workout, I was clipped in the jaw by one of my friends and then in a practice drill with his daughter, I rubbed my knee raw. (By the way, I wouldn't ever really attack either of these people, not only because they are my friends but also because they pack a pretty mean punch!)

These new "trophies" , as my son refers to them, are evidence that not only can my friends be counted on, they love me as well. To begin with, both somewhat "pulled" their punches. They did not come at me full force. They also gave me chances to "hit" back and didn't take offense at my puny efforts. And of course, all this got me to thinking about a principal from Proverbs that says "Faithful are the wounds of a friend...." (Prov. 27:6)

I am so thankful for these friends...not only in self-defense but in spiritual growth as well. I realize I do have friends who will lovingly "push" me to my limits. Sometimes they even do what to some might seem like striking out, but in fact they are only helping to strengthen me in areas of weakness. They never lash out at me full force, they "pull" their punches keeping in mind what I can stand, always checking after the session to make sure I'm not hurt too much.

I need friends like this; we all do. I know I need people who, when they see me faultering, will take me aside and give me a "punch" back into reality. They aren't doing it just to see me stagger backwards, they do it to help me correct something that may be causing harm or to strengthen me in areas I am weak. I think the grown-up word for all of this is "accountability". No matter what we call it, we need it. I don't want to be surrounded just by those who tell me good things, (although I do really like and need to hear occasionally what I do well!) I also want to have people around me who challenge me to be more than I am. I want to have friends who will occasionally hit me with the truth...all the while checking to make sure I'm okay. And the truth is, I know if I should ever be in danger, these friends are the same ones who would join in the fight with me - physically or spiritually.

Yep, faithful are the wounds of a friend. Good news like that makes me want to look at my bruises and smile.