Archive for August, 2008

Last night was the Second Annual Ice Cream Social at Mark and Amy’s, our neighbors a couple of blocks over.  The “first annual” was held last year to get better acquainted with some of the neighbors before later on inviting their children to a backyard Bible club that I had the privilege of co-hosting with Amy.  The invitation to this year’s social was hand-delivered a couple of nights ago by Mark and the girls, out on a neighborhood walk while Amy was out buying the ice cream.

It was a fun time.  A family that I’d met last year was there–the boys had come to our club.  They’ve grown up–one of the boys, Juan, is now in middle school, fresh off an “A” on a social studies test and being challenged by math.  Later on, several other famlies who were new to me arrived.  We talked a little, but with all of the women, Spanish is the first language and English doesn’t come easily enough to make what could be termed flowing conversation.  (However, we had no trouble communicating about grandchildren–one of the moms, I learned very quickly, has a one-month-old grandchild; we new grandmas have no problem making our joyful status known–in any language!)  I stayed and visted for a bit; then, as Michael had had to leave early to go pick up Zach from work, I headed home before it got dark.  

As I walked the several blocks homeward, I pondered how the event would have been different had I known Spanish.  I am not a big fan of imposed bi-lingualism (is that a word?), as far as accommodating everything in America in both English and Spanish.  (I actually had a shirt come through the wash yesterday that had the washing instruction label in Spanish first–I had to search for the English version…that was a first.)  I think that a huge part of being American is learning to speak the language.  But, I also don’t want to be distant from my neighbors–and many of them speak Spanish.  Knowing their language, as in any cross-cultural situation, gives me the ability to become part of their worlds and to grown in relationships from the significant common ground of language. 

I studied Latin for two years in high school; my adult children studied Spanish in college.  Zach is taking high school Spanish.  And, I know a little bit of Spanish already.  I think I’d have no trouble learning.  I want to learn.  And, if I’d known even a fair amount of Spanish last night, I would not have been afraid to try to use it. 

So the Question of the Day:  If you learned Spanish as an adult, how did you do it?  Take a class?  Private lessons?  Self-study?  Immersion?  If you were in my shoes, what steps would you take toward Spanish language acquisition?


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1.  I learn new things about old and new friends–their joys, their histories, their strengths, their weaknesses, what they are are learning, what they are struggling with–in general, what makes them such great people to know.

2.  Some posts remind me of times in my own life.  A couple of young moms have posted recently and made me remember the stresses and challenges and little daily causes for joy and gratitude that are part of young motherhood–and I have been thankful all over again (and reminded to pray for those mommy heroes as well!).  One blog I read daily includes direct and indirect praise of the writer’s wife–and I am reminded of the blessing of the man to whom I am married.

3.  I am humbled and challenged.  One blogging friend seems to gather friends like some people gather flowers in a garden; I’d like to become more skillful at that.  Another blogging friend incidentally related that her barefoot days came to an end when she injured her achilles tendon teaching her young sons to ride bikes; I think they will include that sacrifice one day when they rise up and call her blessed.  I wonder if “sacrifice” will be part of what my kids remember–or will I have been too selfish for that to be part of what they think of when they think of Mom? 

Whether it is the tender care of the husband for his wife going through cancer treatment, the hope expressed in the life of that same couple, the imagination and creativity of my friends who think and feel and teach and love for a living, or the beautiful combining of words from the hearts and minds of those with a poetic bent, I am daily richer through the efforts of those who share life via a blog.

Thanks for taking the time to share, Dear Blogging Friends.

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What do you think about rewards for children at church?  We give trophies and points and gift certificates and prizes for all kinds of activities done under the church roof–bringing friends to activities, memorizing Bible verses, bringing Bibles along with us to Sunday school, even for just being there (I grew up in an era when, at the end of my childhood days, I had a long string of pins and add-ons that I’d been given for “perfect attendance” at Sunday school). 

There is something motivating about the prize–the ribbon, the medal, the trophy, the points.  (We’ve just spent two weeks watching grown-ups from around the world who have given it all for the gold, the silver, and the bronze.)  And that, presumably, is why we offer  rewards or incentives to those to Sunday school kids.  I’m not against it, even though we live in an age when competition is a dirty word in some arenas.  Actually,  I don’t really see the kind of thing I’m asking about here as competition; competition is what we do, in a friendly way, among the Bible quiz teams that I’m involved with as a coach.  This thing I’m talking about is definitely more in the realm of motivation and incentive. 

So, that’s enough to go on–this is probably not a totally foreign subject to anyone reading this, so you know of what I speak.  But, in the church, what should be the guiding principle(s) when it comes to “awards”?  If you can give a bottom line–or a pseudo bottom line, that which we should NOT be striving for–I’d like to hear it.

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For the last four years, when I’ve been working a day or two per week away from home, Michael–Bless him!– has done the regular grocery shopping.  Now that the family schedule has changed and I am home every day without teaching responsibilities, I think it’s time to reclaim the chore.  So, today was grocery shopping day. 

At one of my stores, carts are procured by inserting a quarter in to a mechanism on the cart handle that releases the cart from the one ahead of it that it is locked into.  It is customary that, if a shopper is approaching the cart lineup and another customer is returning a cart, the newcomer shopper will give the departing shopper her quarter in exchange for the just-used-about-to-be-returned cart, rather than inserting her quarter into a new cart.  Ready to make that transaction as I approached the store this morning, my quarter was waved away as the other shopper turned over her cart to me:  “My kids will just get it out of my purse” was her reason for just letting me have her cart without taking the quarter.  So, I thanked her and hoped that I would be able to return the kindness.  In fact, as I went into the store, I wondered if it ever happens that a cart will be “given” to subsequent shoppers all down the line for an entire day…. that would be cool, I thought.  When I was ready to leave, another shopper was just arriving, and I asked if she needed a cart.  Answering in the affirmative, she reached for her quarter, and I was able to explain that somebody had given the cart to me, so I wanted to do the same for her.  I hope the morning kindness is still continuing into this afternoon hour.

I have found over the years that a trip to the grocery store affords lots of opportunities to be kind.  Think of all these ways that a simple act might be a huge blessing in someone’s day:

  • When the person behind my full cart steps into line with just a couple of items, I can let her go ahead of me.  Those few minutes might make the difference between her being late or on time for something (or someone) important–or might simply reduce the stress in a stressful day by at least a little bit.
  • If I see someone short trying to reach something on a high shelf, I can ask if I could help them reach that.  That simple act might save someone from being “beaned” by a can falling off a shelf that is out of reach. 
  • If I see someone puzzling over a product that I’ve used and have been happy with, I can give a store aisle recommendation. 
  • I can smile undertandingly to the mom who is stressed by a little one in the check-out line–or I can smile at the child.  Sometimes that little distraction can be just enough to break the tension or refocus life into a positive mode.
  • I can acknowledge the well-behaved child in the store to the parent–a little of that goes a long, long way in bolstering mommy self-image; I speak from past experience!
  • I can thank the cashier who takes the extra time to double bag my purchases (I will rise up and call her blessed when the bottom does not fall out of my bag in the store parking lot). 
  • I can compliment the cashier who is efficient as well as friendly.  (Try it–you will be amazed at the ear-to-ear smile that appears!)
  • I can go a step farther and take the extra time to search out the store manager and compliment an employee to him or her (I love that one–it totally surprises both the employee and the manager.)
  • I can return my cart to the car corral–and any nearby strays, too.  (This is especially invigorating on a blustery November day :-))

Do these things matter?  I was reminded this morning that sometimes people are watching when we don’t realize it.  I let a lady with a couple of items compared to my couple of dozen go ahead of me in the checkout.  Since I was already loading my items onto the checkout belt, the lady told the cashier I had let her go ahead, to which the cashier replied, “That’s sounds like something she would do.  I’ve seen her do it before.”  Wow–that was a humbling moment! 

And then, too, there are the Eyes that always see…and more than the accolades of the cashier, nice as they are, it is the “Well done!” from the Heart behind those eyes that I want to matter most to me.

(I was thinking, too, this morning:  I’m going to be keeping the Granddaughter some on Friday mornings this semester.  Maybe I’ll have the chance to do some early training on grocery aisle opportunities! )

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Since, in my new non-teaching schedule, I’m going to really try to focus on household matters on Thursdays (I’ve done laundry on Thursdays for years, but now I’m going to try to add cleaning to this day as well), I will devote this post to the subject of LAUNDRY.

I could probably come up with more reasons, but here are my top 3:

1.  Going up and down the stairs to the laundry room throughout the day provides exercise.

2.  I love to see the transformation from clean to dirty, from stinky to nice-smelling.  (One of my favorite childhood memories is the smell of clean sheets fresh from a sunny day on the clothesline.  Alas, my own clothesline went away when I finished the cloth diaper era.)

3.  Laundry is a quiet activity–you can do a lot of thinking while sorting and folding and switching loads.

Question of the Day:  What is your favorite “laundry thing”?  Alternate QotD:  What is the hardest task between dirty clothes and clean ones?

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Cease Striving

I generally face life’s changes with tears.

They may be tears of frustration or relief.  They may be tears of joy or grief.  But, trickle they will (or, in the quiet solitary moment when no one but God sees, they may burst forth as from the great deep in voluminous sobs and torrents). 

So it happened this morning, this first day of sending my baby (Sorry, Zach–you’ll forgive this once, won’t you, since I’ve mostly broken myself of the habit of calling you that in public?) off to public high school.  This is a day of firsts in many ways:  first day of high school; first day of public school-ever, for any of my kids or for these parents; first day of school when I’m not the teacher; first day of school in my twenty-four and a half years of motherhood when I haven’t had a child of mine in the house (I transitioned from classroom teacher to motherhood, so “first day of school” is a biggie in my heart and life, in case you can’t tell).

It was mainly the biology class (of course, if it hadn’t been that, I’m pretty sure it would have been something else.).  Through some administrative glitch (reminding all that we are not in heaven yet), Zach’s class schedule had to be totally reconstructed at registration.  One result of this was that he ended up in a biology class that will be, in part, populated by kids who are having to repeat the class, which, in my teacher mind, translates to “kids who really don’t want to be there” which translates into “trouble”.  I had let my heart be troubled over this to the point of fretting through my tear ducts this morning.  

So, knowing that this was a lack of trust on my part (I think it is Biblical to believe that “everything happens for a reason” but my heart had not yet caught up to my head), and not wanting to take the shine off the first day of school or to put the jitters into it, as I went about the kitchen getting breakfast ready, I began to talk to the Heavenly Parent about it–to the One who also had let a child go to a place where He might not be (and was not, it turned out) as well-loved as He was at home.

And my Father began to remind me of fifth grade, Mrs. Griffiths’ class.  Ah, yes, Mrs. Griffiths’ class…Everybody knew that Mrs. Trader was the “tough” teacher in fifth grade, so I should have been glad not to be in her class, right?  But, most of my friends were there, and I felt “stuck” with the less academically inclined half of my class (I was an all-A student at the time).  God, however, does not make mistakes.  It was in that class that I learned a very important life lesson that probably kept me from getting in much worse trouble in junior high and high school–another post for another day except to say that I learned it doesn’t pay to talk back to a teacher…important lesson for one whose tongue is problematic to this day.  And, because I was a good student, I got to/was assigned to help other students, and had time to do fun things like put up bulletin boards–and, looking back, I think maybe it was then that I really began to think seriously that I might like to be a teacher some day (although I think that was wired into me from birth, really).  So, what looked like one big fat mistake simply wasn’t, and I can see now that God did know what He was doing by putting little old me in that class, and He hasn’t changed since Zach ended up in this particular section of biology class (and there must be something to it…the teacher’s last name–I kid you not–is “Oakleaf”…).

So, being somewhat recovered by breakfast time, at the end of the meal I am brought to tears again–only different this time; not those of the fretting mother, but now those of a child who weeps at the great and tender love of a Father’s heart displayed–as Michael begins reading this day’s devotional thought:

Nothing surprises God.  What puzzles us is permitted by our Lord, for reasons too profound to grasp.  It is put together in the counsel of His own will so that it fits perfectly into His plan for His glory and for His purposes.  As His servant, I say in response, ‘I will not fear.  Though I don’t understand it, I will not fear.  Though You take something that’s deeply significant to me, though You allow a catastrophe to strike, I will not fear.  I will not blame, I will not doubt, and I will not question.'”

And then, the kicker:  “Cease striving, and know that I am God.”  (Psalm 46:10)

Each new school year seems to have its theme verse. I think God handed me this year’s at breakfast today.

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The grandbaby is walking.  She successfully took three or four unassisted steps in my direction on Wednesday; later in the day, she treated Uncle Gabe to the same demonstration of her new skill. 

In case you haven’t spent much time around a baby lately, let me refresh your memory of the process and significance of those steps:  For months, all of her “peeps” have encouraged any activity that appeared to be remotely related to the eventual walking skill.  Since she was only several months old, she has indicated the desire to be pulled up on her feet from a sitting or even lying position–and, of course, we have all thought that was Wonder Baby stuff and have cooperated with meeting that “need”.  Her mama has said over and over, “We want to encourage her to ‘cruise’ around the furniture at your house as much as possible, because we don’t have so many good places for her to do that at our house.”  In more recent days, any family gathering has included two adults spacing themselves a short distance apart, facing one another.  The baby is stood on her feet in front of one adult, facing the other, who gleefully holds out his or her arms, in hopes that this will encourage Baby to take those much-awaited first steps.

And now, it has happened.

Imagine the following:  Now that Melanie has taken those first steps, we totally stop encouraging her walking in any other way.  We get irritated when she chooses to crawl instead of walk, even though for her it is more familiar and faster at this point in her development.  As the weather gets cooler, no shoes or boots are provided for those little feet which will more and more often carry her into life’s adventures (Last winter, she was carried everywhere.).

Maybe you can see where I’m going with this.  I was pondering the parallels in spiritual life.  Don’t we who call ourselves Christ-followers sometimes do the same thing with those who are just beginning to walk with Jesus?  We invest lots of time and encouragement before they begin to walk–we call it being “seeker friendly” or “doing evangelism”.  Then they take those first steps and we are all excited.  We may even keep track of the dates and of the numbers who start walking.  Then, far too often, we do the spiritual equivalent of the above paragraph–we stop encouraging, we get impatient or irritated or critical when our “baby” reverts sometimes to pre-walking activities, we fail to provide the tools for that new walker to make it successfully and safely through the challenges faced by all who walk. 

I’m going to keep on observing and pondering this process–I’m pretty sure I’m going to see a lot more than a cute little sweetheart delighting her family with her latest trick!   

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