Saturday, August 30, 2008

Chaos at the PTO Meeting

I am, thankfully, a member of the PTO of our local elementary school. I love our elementary school and am so glad to be a part of helping something so good become even better. At our first meeting this past week, I helped with collecting money for t-shirts and PTO dues. Parents and teachers were still filling seats as the meeting started, so I kept my seat at the table towards the side of the room, while Michael…and all 4 children…found a seat in the lunchroom.

The meeting began. There were plenty of children there, so a sort of child-like “hum” of noise could be heard throughout the room. I didn’t think much about it, until I saw little Ethan running up to me.

“Hi, Ma!” (He’s started calling me ‘Ma”. It may be the effect of too much Little House on the Prairie?)

He took off as quick as he came. Down between the rows of lunchroom tables he flew. Then I saw him again…and again…and again. Up and down, up and down, round and round he went. At first I got some of those glances from parents that said, “Oh, isn’t he precious!?” You know the kind I mean. But then something happened. I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t.

From across the room I watched helplessly as Molly tried to reign her brother in – to no avail. If this power struggled had taken place in the middle of a lunchroom row, or in the back of the room, I could have stomached it oh, so much better. It didn’t. Molly and Ethan were literally WRESTLING each other at the feet of our beloved principal, who happened to be speaking, microphone in hand, at that very moment.

I watched the tussle from my spot at the money table, virtually glued to my chair with something between fear and utter shame. The two of them were a ball of hair and limbs. Ethan would get an arm out, only to have Molly pull it back in.

“Psst!!” Was the best I could muster. Weak, I know.

There was nothing I could do but wait until it was over. I did say a short prayer, “Lord, please don’t let them knock her down,” which God, thankfully, answered with a “yes”. Ethan broke free and ran to me. Right in front of the principal – all eyes watching him.

You know what? This was good for me. I remarked to Michael later – who saw NONE of it, by the way – that I wondered what I would have thought about the whole scene if it had been another mom’s children. I think I might have thought “Why doesn’t that mom get her children before they knock down the principal?!” In fact, I’m almost positive I would have had those thoughts. As helpless as I felt watching the whole thing go down – for to get into the thick of it would have meant standing up, walking up to the front of the room in front of all the parents and teachers as the principal was speaking, and breaking apart a Tom-and-Jerry-like scene – I realized that had it been another mom, I might not have been as understanding or as gracious with her. A good reminder the next time I am quick to pass judgment on someone because of something I see her kids doing. It seems like the Father has been giving me this reminder over and over again lately: I don’t know the whole story about anyone. I wouldn’t want someone to judge me because of something she happens to see at one event, or because of a decision I make without him/her knowing all the thought and prayer that went into it…you see what I’m saying.

So, this is a picture of God’s mercy to me. I’m thankful for these pictures…and I’m thankful for my sweet and sometimes crazy children, who time and time again are the conduits of God’s grace to me.

Bless ya!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Blanket Analogy

Self-righteousness – A “right-ness” that comes from self – our own definitions, ideas and resources.

When Mason was born he was given a white, hand-crocheted baby blanket. It was so delicate, so soft, and I knew it was a labor of love.

However, Mason didn’t care much for the blanket. I mean, it was just another blanket to him. Because I thought it was a bit “feminine”, I decided to pack it away and hold on to it in case we ever had a girl.

14 months later, along came that girl. I remembered the blanket and pulled it out for Caroline to use. She loved that blanket – even as a baby. As a toddler, she carried it around with her. It went on car trips with us, to church, to the mall. We went no where without “blankie”.

After several years of “lovin’”, you can imagine how unkempt the blanket came to be. So much so that I decided that if the blanket were going to be preserved in any way, I was going to have to put it away and tempt Caroline with another blanket in its place. It took some coaxing, but I managed to replace old, white blanket with a new, fuzzy, pink one bearing a rabbit. Mission accomplished. I put white blanket into the “safekeeping” box for, well…safekeeping.

Sadly, not a year later, pink blanket was inexplicably and forever lost somewhere. This fact was not brought to my attention until bedtime. Caroline was not to be consoled! After many tears (some of them mine), I retrieved white blanket from safekeeping and presented it to Caroline with a change in my own heart: So what if she loves it to “death”? It’s her blanket.

Caroline is now 8 years old. We know where white blanket is at all times. She doesn’t sleep with it every SINGLE night, but she loves it. Truth be told, white blanket is no longer white, actually. I’d say more of a light gray. In fact, the term “blanket” is also a misnomer. I’d say “clump of string” is more apt. Washing this blanket is out of the question. It would completely disintegrate.

Looking at Caroline with her blanket sort of got me thinking…white blanket is an awful lot like self-righteousness.

Think about it…Caroline has a blanket that she loves. She doesn’t see its flaws. She doesn’t see the gaping holes, the dingy color. She has no idea how ugly the blanket really is. But I do! I look at that thing and see drool stains and holes. I see brown smudges from who knows where. Come to think of it, the thing doesn’t smell very fresh either.

It’s that way with our own self-righteousness. Sometimes we can become “smug” in our views, look down on people because of something they do, or don’t do, set ourselves up as judge of all that’s right or wrong, or consider ourselves always right. The thing is – we may never even overtly know this, but other people do. Our self-righteousness is so crystal clear to others. Others see the holes, the ugliness, the smelliness that we so blindly feel good about.

Since our hearts are “deceitful above all things” self-righteousness is something to which we are all prone. Christians and non-Christians alike.

Here is where the blanket/self-righteousness analogy breaks down a little bit. I love that Caroline loves her blanket. I don’t want her to give it up. Heck – I don’t even really want it to be cleaner necessarily. But as Caroline ages and develops more into a young woman with ideas about how the world and the people in it operate, I pray that she would have a heart of compassion, godly discernment, and an ability to love other people “where they are” rather than judging from a heart that’s self-righteous. That is, after all, the kind of heart Jesus had.

After all, self righteousness is much, much more ugly than the tattered old blanket of her childhood.

Worthless Things

With 3 weeks of homeschooling under our belts, I feel like I can return to my computer. Over the last 3 weeks I’ve gone days without even turning it on, let alone checking e-mail. I can already tell, though, that I like homeschooling. It makes the day a bit “busier” and I don’t always get done what I aim to get done (then again, I didn’t reach those goals very often BEFORE the homeschooling, either), but I have a sense of satisfaction that I can’t really describe. Plus I’ve spent some good time with Mason, and he’s pretty cool.

I feel like I’ve been on a large learning curve with all this, and God seems to be taking me to places in my heart that I really don’t want to see. I’ll be honest – it’s ugly. The Father has been sweetly teaching me to trust him through my own discontentment. I don’t really want to get into all the particulars of the struggle, but suffice it to say that this is probably a place we’ve all been at one time or another…discontentment with what we have or don’t have, be it stuff/money, relationships, respect, children/family, etc. Discontentment is like a festering sore which just gets worse until it is addressed.

A wise woman (Cathy Tanner) once told me that true contentment is believing that where God has you, or what you are experiencing is His best for you. I believe that to be true. It’s not that I’m thinking to myself, “Why does she have ________ while I only have _______?” No, it’s more along the lines of thinking deep, deep in my heart, “Certainly this can’t be IT?? This can’t be the BEST, can it?” I know that sort of flies in the face of what I just said I believed to be true a couple lines above here. Oh, well. I didn’t say it made sense. Discontentment rarely does.

SO, this is my prayer…turn my eyes away from worthless things, Lord. Things that make me forget your goodness to me over and over and over again. Besides, those things that have the most worth…I’ve already got those.

Bless ya!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Are You There, God? It's Me, Ethan.

Ethan has a little plastic ipod he carries around as if it were a cell phone.

If he's awake, the device is almost glued to his ear. On it, he talks to all sorts of people:

Hi Nanna...Hey Uncle Chris...Hi Paw get the picture.

The other day I caught him - sippy cup in one hand, plastic ipod in the other - just talking away.

"Ethan, are you talking to Daddy?"

"No ma'am."

"Are you talking to Nanna?"

"No, Mom."

"Well, who are you talking to?"


Bless ya!