When the Freight Train Stopped
You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14
The last days of school are crazy! It’s always a mix of emotion and the anticipation of summer freedom tossed in with the teachers efforts to keep kids engaged and productive creates quite a sight. Since the school year has been so weird, the final days have had an added element of weirdness as well! Yesterday was the 6th graders last day and amidst the frenzy I saw a simple, quiet lesson unfold.
The last day was a little like a freight train leaving the station. We started by emptying and cleaning desks and lockers and the energy built momentum like that train was headed downhill. There was laughter, chaos and multiple attempts to see how close they could get their toes to the line. As the day went on they continued to pick up speed and it was a mix of excitement, nervousness about leaving a place they were familiar with and middle school silliness. By mid afternoon the volume from our classrooms was at an all time high. And then it wasn’t!
You might wonder what happened that allowed forty noisy, excited, nervous, giggling frenzied adolescents to fall silent…for 45 minutes. You might be wondering what stopped that freight train of emotion and movement…it was 6th Grade Send Off. It’s one of my favorite St. Mary School traditions and it happens on the last afternoon of the 6th grade school year. The whole school gathers to send them off and the teachers who have been a part of their life for the past seven years one, by one, share memories of their class. Each teacher offers advice to grow in discipleship and a piece of wisdom from Scripture and the Saints.
Yesterday, more than any other year, they listened with complete focus. The noise and chaos was gone because they wanted to hear the teachers they loved and respected speak positive things about them and offer their wisdom to them. They wanted to hear what they'd done well, they wanted to know that they were valued and would be remembered. They wanted to take the good advice of people who loved them and they wanted to laugh. It’s not a time to talk about mistakes and shortfalls, it’s a celebration of the good and the hopeful and the positive and they really needed to soak that all in. As I watched them soaking it all in I noticed their smiles, their tears their looks of accomplishment as they listened to the nods of approval from people who knew them, loved them and had seen them at their best and their not-so-best. They needed to know they would be missed and that they had left a good print.
As I stood there, eyes sweating, I realized that’s really what we all need. We need to be affirmed. We need to know that we’ve left a good print and that we are valued. We all need to have someone close to us point out our good and we need to be offered the hope and encouragement of Scripture and Saints every now and again. We need to know we matter! It is the nature of the twelve year old to test and push and sap your patience dry; it’s what they do but no matter what silly stunts they’d pulled, it all melted from my mind as I saw them standing there at send off. It didn’t matter because when you really care about someone, realizing they are God’s child, it’s easy to focus on the good. I suppose that’s a lesson the Father wants to glue in our mind. When he gazes at us, he doesn’t see our noise, our shortfall, our “freight train” moments, he sees the good, the potential and the best efforts of the child he loves. So you see, that event for the kids…I guess maybe it wasn’t just for them.
A Seed To Plant: Pick three people today and tell them something positive. Let them know in some way that they are loved, valued or appreciated.
Blessings on your day!
Wait for the Lord, take courage; be stouthearted, wait for the Lord! Psalm 27:14
Wait is not my favorite word! I’m more of a GO kind of girl rather than a WAIT kind of girl! I saw a great quote the other day that said “Our willingness to wait reveals the value we place on the object we’re waiting for.” It made me stop a while and think about my posture and attitude while waiting, needless to say, I didn’t really like what I discovered about myself.
The quote caused me to stop and figure out what I was waiting for. As I began to make my list, I realized some of the things were pretty silly. When I thought about how much I actually valued some of the things on my list I understood why waiting is hard. Most of the things on my list weren’t important enough to wait for or really even wish for so I crossed all those off the list. When it boiled down to the bottom of the pot here’s what I learned; the only thing on my list really worth waiting patiently, courageously and stoutheartedly for…is meeting Jesus. Most of the stuff on my list, like Godly spouses and happy marriages for my children or fun, peaceful retirement will just come in Gods own time, but Heaven…that’s the one I need to focus on. I suppose if my focus is really truly there every day, everything else will be just as God desires…in his time…for his purpose and in his ultimate perfection. As I came to this conclusion my peace was interrupted by panic when I thought; what if God doesn’t give me what I’m waiting for? Then my heart answered my mind as only God can instruct it to and I heard; if he doesn’t give me what I’m waiting for, that means he’s got something better…just wait and see!
Here’s another thought I have about waiting, it isn’t work. It doesn’t require great effort like scrubbing the porch or organizing the office files or sorting the junk drawer. (All silly things I’ve been waiting for…I told you there was some silly stuff on my list!) If we truly live the words of this verse from Psalm 27 our lives will get instantly calmer, more peaceful and much easier. I’d like to end this post with a passage from Jim Beckman’s book God Help Me, “Think of the image of a sailboat. The boat doesn’t do anything burdensome to respond to the wind in its sails – it simply moves forward propelled by the wind. The sailboat responds by moving forward, but it is the wind that is carrying it.” What are you waiting for? If it is something of great value than be still and know God will provide the wind to move your sailboat! I’m thinking it just might be the perfect time to wish for a sailboat instead of a speedboat!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of all the things you’re waiting for. (Silly ones too!) Tuck it away for a day or two. When you get it back out, ask God to give you eyes to see his plan and his timing as you evaluate each item on your list and think about its value.
Blessings on your day!
Seeds and Trees
“The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil.” Mark 4:26
How on earth did we get to the middle of May? Sometimes I think the school year started last week and the next minute it seems like this school year has lasted a decade! It’s been a year of change, adjustment, re-routes and do-overs. Routine and deadlines have been challenging to say the least. We’ve all tried so hard to do right by the kids and the parents and give the kids some sort of “normal” through it all. Some days I feel like we got it right and other days it’s all felt like a giant ball of knotted yarn.
As we fly into these final couple weeks of school I tend to see all the things I did’t get quite right or wish I could do-over. At the end of every year I wonder if I did enough, if I reached them all, if I gave them enough joy and knowledge and desire to be great disciples and this year that worry is super-sized! For everyone rushing to get “back to normal” and forget this mess ever happened I suppose we can’t “throw the baby out with the bath water”. There have been great things…amazing things…funny things that have happened this year that will leave a positive impact on us all and I try to remember that when I look at the list of a hundred things I still want to cover and do before the first week of June!
The Father always seems to know when to send the right words at the right time. As I was digging in my book bag looking for that REALLY IMPORTANT thing I wrote on a scrap of paper the size of a postage stamp, I found a quote I had written down last October. Just because God likes to show off, it was stuck to the tiny note I was looking for in the bottom of my bag. The line on this little note is exactly what I needed to hear as I barrel into the end of this school year. Written in green ink, in my loopy cursive hand I read the words, “Those who do the Lord’s work are in the business of planting SEEDS not TREES.”
I am reminded that that things take time. I’m not in charge of the whole process, just a part of it and that brought me peace; maybe we all need that little nugget of peace today.
A Seed To Plant: Offer a simple word of encouragement to someone today, say a prayer, write a note, send a text…something to tend a seed God is growing.
Blessings on your day!
but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
I have seen these words several times lately: “You Can’t Pour From An Empty Cup”. I suppose here is truth to that saying and I think the original intent was great. I think it’s important to take care of yourself but the more I think about it, the more I see it differently. Honestly, the more I thought about it, the more I realized it bugged me and I found it completely false. I scratched my head wondering why I was reacting so stubbornly to a line meant for good. After lots of thought and prayer, I realized God was using this line to get under my skin and remind me of some important things I had been forgetting. Since I can’t seem to get this off my mind, I’m guessing this might be a message some of you need to hear too.
The truth is, YES YOU CAN! We do it all the time. As parents, teachers and friends we often give even when we don’t think there is anything left in the tank. If a child comes to me frustrated and hurting I’m sure not going to look at them and say, “sorry child, please come back when I’ve had a little “me” time.” If a co-worker, parent or friend stops in to share their struggles I’m not going to ask them to come back after I’ve taken a nap. Teaching during a Pandemic has stretched me so far I thought I’d snap but as teachers we just keep finding a little more in the cup to pour out. As parents, we do the same again and again and again. We just keep pouring, hoping there are enough drops left to get us through the day.
The world would have us believe that success depends on our effort and energy. The world would have us believe that we deserve to be happy and we have to carve out that happy time ourselves and we deserve to take time for ourselves to re-charge so we can do more stuff. The world would have us believe that if our cups aren’t full we will crumble up in a heap in the corner somewhere. As usual, the world doesn’t get it right! Thank goodness we have something more truthful, hopeful and joyful to turn to…a Father who loves us so enormously we will never be empty.
The Father loving reminded me that he’s in charge of my cup! It is precisely in those moments I feel like I have nothing left to give I’m supposed to turn to him and he will give me EVERYTHING I need…he will give me EVERYTHING he’s asking me to give to one of his children. He will give me more than enough. His love, his grace, his compassion is more than enough!
One last lesson…don’t wait until you feel empty to turn to him. Pray continuously throughout the day as you pour again and again from your cup because sometimes we pour things out in places he hasn’t called us to pour. The final reminder were words spoken in the Gospel when Jesus said “I have not come to be served but to serve.” Those words are our mission on earth too. I’m supposed to serve God and serve others and I suppose the emptier my cup, the more I have done the work the Father put me on this earth to do and that should bring a joy that fills my cup to overflowing. This life really isn’t about me at all and I needed to be reminded of that. Worrying about MY cup and expecting to always “feel good” about life is crazy but trusting the the Father will always make sure I have what I need to pour brings a sense of peace and contentment to these crazy days. I think the saying should be “I Serve A God Who Always Fills My Cup!”
A Seed To Plant: Spend a few extra minutes in prayer these next days and don’t forget to take your cup to the Father for a re-fill.
Blessings on your day!
…I came so that you might have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10
How many times have you scratched your head and wondered what you could do to be a bigger promoter of the culture of life? It seems all too often that the value of human life is being diminished right before our very eyes and it can feel defeating…but, like He often does, God takes over and demonstrates His truths in a profound, simple and beautiful way!
He sweetly whispered this morning…you demonstrate the culture of life when you allow people to witness it and when you celebrate it. That’s just what happened in sixth grade last week! For 24 days 20 middle lovelies carefully turned and tended pheasant eggs inside the incubator three times a day. Every day they checked the chart to see what the babies were developing and we marveled at God’s genius growing inside those shells.
We all got to stand around the incubator and cheer on the little ones who just need one more push to break free. We watched them make their grand entrance into life. They are a gigantic mix of emotion; excitement, happiness, anticipation and pride. It’s been a while since I’ve hatched eggs with a classroom and it was great to rediscover the joy of the whole experience and I got some big lessons and as we all try to respect life I thought I’d share.
Lesson 1…Birthdays are the best day ever so we should sing Happy Birthday no matter what.
Lesson2…Beauty is in the eye of the one who loves hardest. “Mrs. Wohlfert they looked wet and ugly on the picture chart but when I see him for real he’s beautiful because he’s ours.”
Lesson 3…It’s ok to hug the person next to you when someone is born…even if you’re a boy and the person you just excitedly grabbed is a girl. New life is worth an awkward or embarrassing moment.
Lesson 4…Struggles are part of the journey. Watching one of the pheasants struggle for more than twelve hours to hatch was tough but that little birds arrival was met with the greatest cheers of them all.
Lesson 5…Life is magnetic! Those little birds are always being watched and there is laughter constantly around their pen. We are drawn to the miracle that resulted at the end of those many days; we are mesmerized by God’s genius!
Lesson 6…Supporting and respecting life comes in many beautiful ways. Especially when two very talented 12 yr old boys stay up later than they should building a fabulous pen so the birds can stay in 6th grade longer.
Lesson 7…It feels great to love something more than you love yourself and it’s important to put somebody else’s needs ahead of yours…even if it is just a chick.
We are uniquely created to respect and appreciate life, I think we just forget it sometimes and need a sweet fluffy reminder! The middle lovelies may not remember learning about multiplying decimals or independent clauses but they will remember how precious life is and how 24 days during the spring can teach so many important lessons. I suppose God was reminding me today that the best way to promote the culture of life is to dunk somebody right into the middle of it!
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time this week praying that we become a culture with a greater respect for life.
Blessings on your day!
He Started It
We love because God first loved us. 1 John 4:19
Do the words “he started it”, no, “he started it,” followed with a louder “uh-uh HE started it!” seem familiar to anyone? Growing up, I remember one family car in particular. It was a 1970 something blue Plymouth Fury III. You could compare its size to a modern day pontoon! I remember that car well because that’s the car my brothers and I rode in most. The boys always sat by the windows and I took the middle. Middle child, middle seat my mom would say. Personally, I think I was placed there due to my sweet demure nature so I could be the peacemaker and have a positive effect on my brother’s behavior. (I’m sure my little brother will confirm that story.) If I had a quarter for every time I got stuck in the middle of a “he started it” duel in the back seat of that car, I could probably buy my own Plymouth! We really knew it had gone too far when mom would reach into the glove box and pull out the ruler and as predictable as the rising of the sun, she would say, “I don’t care who started it, I want it stopped right now!” She would then begin waving the ruler fiercely.
At this point in my life, I realize two important things about mom and her ruler; 1) She was 5’12” with very long arms but that car was so big I l don’t think she could have reached us from the front seat and 2) She NEVER intended to…it was simply a diversion tactic. (She was so good!) Looking back, that was a lesson in God’s love. She was a loving parent and she didn’t want to hurt or harm, she wanted to redirect and refocus us.
When we consider the enormous love God has for us and take a look at this verse from John’s first letter we realize without a doubt “He started it!” He wins…He loved first! Now, thanks to human nature, we often think if we didn’t win, then we lost but in this case His winning is our greatest prize! God’s love for us can’t be outdone! It’s too huge, amazing, perfect and astounding! Here is the really good news…it’s not a contest! God is not asking us to love bigger or better than Him, instead He’s asking us to share the love He gives us in tiny little ways with everyone He puts in our path each day. As if that wasn’t enough, here’s the kicker…DESERVING has nothing to do with giving or receiving His love. It’s a free gift; it’s always there, always fits perfectly, never expires, and won’t run out no matter how much of it we give away to others!
There are a million ways to share His love with others. I recently bought 5 platters on a clearance table and decorated them with the words “pray and pass platter”. The objective is to pray for the person/family who will receive the platter filled with homemade goodies, fruit, fresh produce or whatever you can think of and then they will enjoy the treat and then pass on some prayers and goodies to someone else. As we live on this earth our main objective should be to share the love God started. Unlike the duels in the backseat of the Plymouth, this is something that should never be stopped!
A seed to plant: Make a list of 5 acts of love you can share with people in your life during the next week. Include prayer for the recipients because asking God’s blessing on someone is a great expression of His love! Be sure to share the stories of how reflecting His love touched others!
Blessings on your day!
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