"Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20
I’m still trying to adjust to seeing just two toothbrushes in the bathroom toothbrush cup. I remember when there were five and three of them were short and chunky with cartoon characters on the handle. The other morning as I looked a little sadly at the two lonely toothbrushes standing in the cup, it served as a reminder that everything changes and that’s as it should be. As I stood there brushing my teeth, staring at a the toothbrush cup I contemplated getting a smaller container, one that wouldn’t show so much empty space, but then, as he often does, in a completely random place, God began to teach.
I know with absolutely certainty, the three little Wohlferts I love so much were never intended to stay here on Pratt road forever. I know with absolute certainty Dave and I enjoy the young adults they have become and we find great joy watching them discover their own path. Sometimes it’s hard to keep quiet about thing. We’d like to offer advice we hope is steeped in wisdom and experience, but like all parents, we realize that some lessons are best learned by living. Our kids know we are always here if they need advice or help but we try to let them ask first before we just spit it all out. I’m sure the Father is sitting there anxious for us to ask for help too! Like earthly parents, he’s waiting in the wings with wisdom, experience, love and a way to navigate a situation with much less difficulty if we’d only ask.
Those two little toothbrushes screamed a powerful message about my relationship with the Father. Although three toothbrushes are absent from the cup, my kids aren’t absent from my life. I don’t see them, I don’t hear them everyday but I know they are there. I suppose the Father needed to remind me of that, I may not see him or hear him but he reminded me he’s always there. As I thought about each of the kids who now have their own toothbrush holder, I realize I’m not responsible for providing the vessel, thats their job. We were each given a free will and we have the opportunity to make dozens of choices a day. We’ve been given a body or a vessel to get us through this earthly life but the choice to listen to and follow him are our responsibility; he won’t barge into our lives uninvited and take control of the vessel. How we fill it is up to our own choosing. It’s our job to remember he will always fill our vessel with the best stuff imaginable but it needs to be empty enough to make room for him.
I always bought the toothbrushes. As far as the kids were concerned, they were just always there and were probably taken for granted. Let’s face it, unless you are the mom, not much thought goes into toothbrush supply. I stood there brushing, wondering how much money I had spent on toothbrushes over the decades and I couldn’t think of one single time anyone thanked me for providing a toothbrush. Just as I was about to feel a teeny bit unappreciated, I realized how many dozens and dozens of gifts, graces and blessings God provides without my notice or proper acknowledgement.
The last thing that popped into my head before I spit and swished was the fact that I reminded, even hounded my kids to use those toothbrushes at LEAST twice a day and more often when they ate something sticky or gooey. Since those toothbrushes aren’t in my bathroom anymore, I have to trust that they remember what I told them. If they don’t, obviously there will be dental consequences. My mind quickly shifted to prayer. I hope we remember to pray more times than we brush…did I teach them that…will they remember that…will they realize that when things in life get sticky or gooey they need to add a little extra? Will they realize the consequences of a life without him? And of course, will I remember that myself? I’m sure God was reminding me that prayer should be as automatic as tooth brushing and hopefully a lot more frequently. He also made me realize that the time I spend brushing my own teeth would be a perfect opportunity to pray for the kids who have toothbrush holders of their own now. As I wiped my mouth and put my toothbrush in the cup with Dave’s, I thanked him for the lesson and for the gift of all those years with five toothbrushes in the cup.
A Seed To Plant: Think of five people to pray for this week each time you brush your teeth.
Blessings on your day!
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
I’ve said it a hundred times; “Comparison is the thief of joy!” But that doesn’t stop me from getting a little carried away sometimes. As a parent, I find myself exceptionally quick to compare. One of the really great parts of being a teacher is that I get to see families in action. I am impressed constantly at the parenting I see happening in this community. I’ve seen tough love, gigantic humor, incredible logic, deep faithfulness and inspiring mercy. When I see a parent do something awesome I often say to myself, “Geeze, why didn’t I ever do that!” I see parents who are more creative than I was, more patient than I was, more prayerful than I was and I often feel like I should send my kids a note of apology…especially the first one! Knowing what I know now, there are lots of days I’d like to go back a couple of decades and start over because my kids deserved a mom that was more fun, more carefree, and much less…well…nuts about things like picking up socks and brushing teeth and all the other stuff I thought was a big deal at the time.
When the comparisons get me all flustered, I stop myself and realize I did the best I could and that the kids have a super great dad who balanced me out. It’s about then that I also realize that the one thing I REALLY got right then (and now) is to pray for my kids dozens of times a day. That makes me sigh in relief because despite my shortcomings as a mom, God’s really the one in charge! Sometimes I still look back and hope I got more things right than screwy! I hope I taught them enough lessons about truth, compassion, faith and kindness. I think as parents we sometimes get lost in the fear of “did I do/ or am I doing enough.” We second guess ourselves and we compare. I think sometimes we hold ourselves to the most ridiculous, impossible standards. We let Pinterest be our compass. We think if we’re sitting still we’re wasting time and we forget that they are his, not ours. He made them perfect and no amount of glow in the dark slime, elite ball teams or private lessons in anything will ever top the perfection with which they were created, nor will I ever be able to top the love and protection the creator has for them. Comparisons are not the work of the Father.
As we prepare for the first of the three little Wohlferts to get married, I was feeling sentimental, old and inadequate. I was making this list in my mind of all the things we didn’t do like go to Disney, let the kids play every sport they wanted or take trips that exposed them to culture, art and travel. We went to Grandpas in Kansas, went camping and spent most of every summer raising livestock getting ready for the 4-H fair. I got a little carried away thinking I hadn’t done enough when I came across this letter written by a foster child from Oklahoma. It sort of put everything in perspective. The child was asked to write about the things they wanted in a family. Here is the response…
In my family I want food and water. Don’t hit on me. A house with running water and lights. I want love. Mom and Dad don’t fight. I want no drugs. Don’t kill my pets. Help me with school. Nice clean clothes. No lice or bugs in the house. Clean house and a clean bed with covers. Don’t sell my toys. To be treated fair. Don’t get drunk. TV in the house. Let me keep my games and school stuff. Nice shoes. My own comb. Soap. Nice safe house with a heater. A coat and a toothbrush.
After I finished my big ole ugly cry, I thanked God for my parents, then I prayed for the astonishing number of kids who could have easily written that letter and then I realized that things like trips, fancy stuff and being the Pinterest Mother of the Year meant nothing. Turns out I gave my kids more than I realized…they were prayed for, read to, loved, challenged and held responsible. They had to work and sometimes entertain themselves and figure things out. As I often do, I had let things spin sideways in my mind and left God’s work out of the picture, taking on the weight of it all myself. I suppose once again I got a lesson in trading comparison for gratitude!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of all the places you compare yourself to others. Pray with that list for a couple of days and then tear it up and ask God to help you replace those comparisons with gratitude. If you’re a parent, stop and say a prayer for each of your children right this minute and then go play; dinner can be late, laundry can pile up and dishes can be washed later…just go play for a few minutes! If you’re not a parent, what can you do to help one and all of us need to stop and pray for families everywhere!
Blessings on your day!
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