Small towns are a fabulous source of support. We are so connected here and we share each others triumphs and tragedies. This fall we have buried several great people who have left some big holes in the fabric of our community. Today we will walk with our 6th graders as they honor their friend Samantha who died two years ago. I couldn’t get my words right for this post and then I stepped away to pray for the words he wanted and he led me back to this post I wrote two years ago. The words are two years old but they are ever so relevant. Every now and again I suppose it’s good for the soul to think about God working in our lives even when things aren’t what we planned or expected.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, saves those whose spirit is crushed. Psalm 34:19
Every once in a while something happens that I just can’t seem to find the joyful words for. Several times since the Joyful Words blog began, I’ve needed to write a piece that presented my best attempt at trying to explain the unexplainable, offer comfort to the miserable and provide a window from which to catch a glimpse of the beauty nestled deeply in a tragedy. Today is one of those days and I pray the Holy Spirit will use my typing to apply some healing balm and loving peace to a hurting community.
From a human perspective, the best ending to life on earth would be to simply lie down for a nap at the ripe old age of 90 something and peacefully pass from this dwelling to the next. No pain, no suffering, no trauma, no mess. The problem is, that’s not often the way it all goes down. This week our little community has fallen to it’s knees; both in prayer and in grief as we mourn the loss of a beautiful little 10 year old named Samantha. She was a joyful light so full of love and life. We had a one day window to beg for a miracle before the Lord called her home. Now we’re all trying to fit the pieces back together. As teachers and parents we’re trying to help nearly 300 children process something they can’t wrap their heads or their hearts around. As family, friends and brothers and sisters in Christ we’re reaching out to a family that is stunned and a little broken. As Christians, we’re trying to trustingly grab on to the peace and comfort of the Father. And as humans, we’re confused, broken hearted and perhaps even a little bit angry.
I suppose the greatest tragedy of all would be for us to stay stuck right where we are. God doesn’t make this stuff happen. He doesn’t plan it or will it, but he sure does meet us in the middle of it and lead us through it. He didn’t turn his back on us and ignore our plea for a miracle. Our hope wasn’t wasted and our faith wasn’t ignored. It’s ok to not have a crystal clear understanding of things; it’s ok if we can’t figure things all out; it’s ok if stuff just doesn’t make sense. Having faith doesn’t guarantee understanding. God is so much bigger than our pain and he is so much stronger than our suffering. Those are the truths we need to stand on in times like these.
In the midst of the hard and the ugly this week there has been tremendous grace and overwhelming love. I’ve had a front row seat to some amazing views this week and I’ve seen heartwarming beauty come from deep sadness. Our miracle may not have looked the way we wanted it to but I’d like to share a few of the many little miracles of the week because they bring hope and they are a reminder that God loves us so richly and he’s too fond of us to leave us right where we are.
**Just like Mr. Rogers said, “Look for the helpers.” This week we have seen so, so many amazing helpers who have brought food, counseling and comfort to our students and staff. Helpers have transformed our school gym into a space of magnificent beauty to gather for prayer, and comfort as we celebrate the life of a sweet little girl. My favorite helpers are the army of folks who have swaddled Samantha’s family with love and prayers.
**Words aren’t always necessary. Sometimes the greatest act of compassion is to reach out and hold someones hand or offer them a tissue for their leaky eyes and drippy nose. It’s been a wonder to see the big kids take care of the little kids and see classmates lifting each other up in those moments when it just gets overwhelming.
**The power of family is unshakable when they are united in faith and prayer.
**The Holy Spirit always sends the right words when you ask for them and sometimes what he sends comes out a little twisted and that’s ok too because that often creates laughter and he know when that’s what you need most!
**There is absolutely nothing that can’t be made better when surrounded by prayer and the phrase, Jesus I trust in you is a powerhouse!
**Super Heroes sometimes come in the form of a 10 year old twin sister with the courage of a warrior, armed with the strength and the power and the love to make sure we had all the inside information about her sister so we could honor her memory perfectly.
**Together, united in trust and faith, guided by the Grace of God, anything is possible and joy can be found even on the darkest day.
I’m reminded of a line from one of my favorite movies, “Sometimes life is hard for no particular reason at all!” I may not be able to find a good reason for the events of this week but I sure can find God and his goodness splattered everywhere I look.
A Seed To Plant: Please say a prayer for peace and comfort for Samantha’s family, Connie’s family, Bev’s family, Terry’s family and Mark’s family.
Blessings on your day!
…remain in my love. John 15:9-11
As we get to the end of another school year and the Graduation Open House celebrations hit full swing I always find myself remembering classes and students who came in and out of my life. Some memories make me laugh, some make me sigh and some make my eyes leak a little. It would be easy to get lost in these thoughts for hours but this time of year is so busy there really isn’t time to sit still and ponder for too long or I’ll be late for something! I’m sure there are more than a few readers who can relate!
The other day I was reading this Gospel from John and I remembered one class in particular that was good at lots of things but remaining in one place for more than a split second was not their gift. Getting them to sit still and listen for any length of time at all was like trying to put puppies in a basket. I was convinced they were absolutely spring loaded. Several times a day I would witness the tiny window of time they would all be still and then one would get up and pretty soon another would follow and then another would wiggle off the carpet or away from the table and before I knew it nearly all of them had escaped. I laughed and remembered those little lovelies fondly for a few minutes and it made me wonder how many times God looks down at us and makes the same comparison.
In this Gospel Jesus clearly teaches that the Father asks us simply to remain in his love. We don’t have to run around searching for it or trying to do heroic things to earn it. The promise is simple, remain with me and I will bring you joy. The funny thing about this short Gospel is it sums up all we want and all we have to do to get it in 3 short verse. We complicate things so terribly! Stay with me…don’t run around like crazy and be still in my presence. Simple enough you would think but getting our attention and convincing us to rest and trust in his love must be a lot like trying to put puppies in a basket.
Last Friday I had a reminder of how much he wants me to remain in his love instead of in the chaos. I was praying in church and feeling a little overwhelmed about all that needed to be done so I just asked him to take over and give me the wisdom and strength to get things done with joy in my heart. When I got back to the classroom and checked my email, there was a message from a wonderful mom volunteering to do one of the big jobs on my to do list. I didn’t ask for help, she just sent a message and said; “hey, can I help with this?” The puppy in me just sat still as I said thank you Jesus! This week as I approach the thousand things required to end a school year, I’m going to carry the image of puppies in a basket with me. When the to-do list starts to feel overwhelming and I’m flying from task to task like a witch on a broom I will remember to be the one puppy who falls asleep in the basket and just rests in his love and trusts in his providence.
A Seed To Plant: Purposefully set aside 10 minutes each day when things get crazy to sit still and think about God and all he’s doing in your life. Be that puppy that climbs in the basket to be still and remain in the Father’s love.
Blessings on your day!
Q: Did Adam and Eve ever have a date? A: No, they had an apple.
Sorry, I just had to begin today’s post with some Valentine humor…and remember I teach elementary school and bad jokes are a job hazard so I thought I’d share a little “joke love” with you! I watched some video clips about love and Valentine’s Day. The experts they interviewed were a group of 4 and 5 year olds and I must admit I was enlightened. In honor of the todays holiday, I thought I’d put you all in the mood for a little love with a giggle on the side. Here’s what I learned…
*Love feels sparkly when it’s real.
*Daddies make the best Valentines because they think you’re perfect.
*If you want someone to be your Valentine you have to share your most special thing with them.
*Kissing doesn’t have anything to do with Valentine’s Day it’s only about being happy.
*Sometimes your mom will make you give a Valentine to everybody even if you don’t want to because it’s good for you to practice love. I don’t get it but she tells me I will understand someday.
*You should never get married until you are at least 21 years and 345 days old; that’s important.
*Love means everything that’s good like Jesus, puppies and chocolate.
*When I get big I will want high heels, fur coats and lots of chocolate for Valentine’s Day but now I just want a cookie and everybody being nice to me.
*I don’t want squishy hugs and kisses; I want people just to play fun games with me and laugh with me.
There you have it! The perfect Valentine’s Day tutorial delivered right to your computer! As I listened to the kids I was struck by the simplicity of it all and the truth of it all. As I look over the list it almost seems like a to-do list from Jesus. It’s just what he’s shown us; His “daddy” is the best Valentine we could ever have, show kindness, show love to all; even when we don’t want to and simple blessings like laughter, compassion and happiness are powerful. We make it so tough sometimes don’t we! I also have a new word to describe that feeling I get when I have truly recognized God working in my life; sparkly real love! I’m hoping to enjoy that sparkly real love feeling as I ask God’s blessing on you and those you love this Valentine’s Day.
A Seed To Plant: Take a tip from the kids list and share God’s love with someone this Valentine’s day. If you are interested in giving someone high heels, fur coats, chocolate OR COFFEE…please let me know I think I can help find just the right person.
Blessings on your day and Happy Valentine’s Day!
…a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one. Matthew 19:5
Some things just go together. Salt and pepper, peanut butter and jelly, thunder and lightning and now the newest addition to that list; Jason and Katie! On Saturday there was curly hair, fancy clothes, shiny shoes, pretty flowers and hugs galore. The music was lovely, the food was delicious and the laughter was contagious. The flower girl was a delight to watch and the friends and family that gathered to celebrate were a collection of the finest folks you could know. I think I was prepared for all of that but then there were the surprises; the things that took my breath away and left my heart all warm and melty.
I wasn't ready to see the group of groomsmen who played at my house as little boys and sat in my classroom as elementary students, dressed in tuxedos all grown up and completely handsome. I hadn’t thought about what it would be like to look across the dance floor and spot dozens of former students dancing at a function that wasn’t the senior prom. I wasn’t ready for the emotion that came from watching an older brother standing next to the guy he’d wrestled with and harassed and loved for a couple of decades with such a proud smile. I wasn’t quite prepared to listen to him toast his little brother and pull wedding rings out of his pocket so Jason could seal his promise to the lovely girl from the next town to the north. I didn’t know quite how to feel as I sat in pew three looking at my handsome sons on the altar and listening to their little sisters gorgeous voice drift down from the choir loft above. I didn’t count on the explosion of emotion as my three little Wohlferts became four and stood at the altar looking all grown up.
The part I really wasn’t able to prepare for was watching my son make the same promises to his bride that his dad made to me many years ago. I couldn’t cry when I saw the smile that took up his whole face when he saw his gorgeous Katie coming down that aisle. I’ve never seen happy in such living color as I did when he took her arm and walked her to the top step of the altar! I’ve heard wedding vows before but they sounded so different when they came from the voice of my son. I’ve had lots of proud mama moments over the last couple of decades but knowing that someone so lovely, so genuinely good inside and out had chosen my son to spend her whole life with was a pride I’ve never felt. Listening to the things they wrote about each others faith and desire to put Christ at the center of their marriage and help each other follow God’s plan made my heart swell in a way I’m not quite sure I can describe in words.
My grandma told me that you have to find a spouse who could help you get to heaven. When I found that spouse 27 years ago, I started praying that my children would find theirs too. I wasn’t prepared to know how thankful I’d feel that God answered that prayer so perfectly for Jason and Katie. It was a happy day, a beautiful day, a fun day…a perfect day! As I soaked in all the emotion and sat watching the day unfold in joy and gratitude for the grace and blessings we were all neck deep in, I had a thought. As splendidly perfect as the day was, it was just a teeny reflection of the love our Father has for us. Feeling the power of that truth my friends, was something I really wasn’t prepared for; it hit me like a ton of bricks. It was as if he whispered to me, “Sheri, all this happiness, joy, beauty, celebration; it’s just a shadow of what I feel for all of my children every minute of every day.”
Thanks to all of you for the prayers, they were felt, they were seen and they manifested into an absolutely perfect day!
A Seed To Plant: Tell someone you love them today!
Blessings on your day!
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