Those Kids at the Flagpole

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

It’s a beautiful morning. The weather is finally getting its act together and there were no major catastrophes at the Burden house this hump day. Even better, I watched as hundreds of kids gathered around the flag pole this morning at CO Wilson Middle School. 

Today is “See You at the Pole”, a student-led event that began in 1990 with a small group of students burdened for their classmates and community. By 1998 over 3 million students were attending nationwide in collective prayer. 

Our youngest, Rylie, usually gets up at 5:00 in the morning. Today she was up at four-something. She lives for the social scene and she’s yet to hide her light “under a bushel”.  She gets her extroverted nature from me and her exuberance from her dad. I say I’m an awkward extrovert and Jason’s a gregarious introvert. Rylie seemed to get the best of that combo. I hope the teenage years don’t steal her style.  

There were a few years that my two older wouldn’t have gone if I hadn’t strongly encouraged them to go. I remember being frustrated. Honestly, I try to think how eager I would have been as a teenager to stand around a pole and sing worship songs. It probably would have depended on the eagerness of my friends.  For those  years that my kids weren’t that excited, their obedience (with or without a smile) had to suffice. 

Rylie and I got to the school this morning a few minutes before seven. Fifty, or so, kids had already shown up, some with their parents, some alone. A few of them may have gotten up before the crack of dawn. Still others trickled in closer to 7:30. 

Some sang with their eyes closed. Others, I believe showed up because they saw a friend in the crowd or just to see what was going on. Some didn’t sing. A few still looked half asleep. 

But here’s the thing I’m still learning. 

Though this event was revealed through a small group of kids twenty six years ago , See You at the Pole was (and is) a God hatched plan. Thankfully there are a lot of faithful students showing up and even leading. There are countless adults behind the scene planning and inspiring (and can I be so bold to say a few are even coercing) their kids to be a part of something so important. But it’s truly God that’s at work. 

He’s at work in the eager. He’s at work in the hesitantly obedient. His plan includes the ones who were brought (willing or unwilling) by their parents this morning. His good plan involves the ones who instead slept in, as well as the professed nonbelievers. It extends to the disinterested adults who may have driven by in their cars this morning on their way to work. 

We’ve much to be excited about. The sun rose this morning with bright rays of hope. 

Regardless of what the news says, or who our choices are for president, regardless of the current lack of spiritual fervor that may exist in your teenager (or the same lack that exists in the general public), God is doing something that’s very old. He’s doing something new. 

OPEN your eyes. 

And pray. 

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Dear Teachers, What I Mean to say is Bravo

I did it again tonight. I went to what was supposed to be a Football Tailgate Party for one of our church’s Sunday school groups.  Instead of shooting the breeze, I made my time with acquaintances nothing more than a weird airing of grievances concerning the problems with being a teacher these days. 

I stood behind a math teacher in line to get a hotdog. I asked her how her year was going, but I don’t think I really listened. I nit-picked what little bit I knew about the new Texas teacher evaluation system. I’m not really sure she’s bothered by the new system, though I thought I had several reasons she should be. 

I sat down minutes later by a fourth grade teacher, easily starting a conversation about her school year too. Upon my urging, we lamented how difficult it is to watch children figuratively drown in school work that’s way over their head. We mulled over how many behavior problems stem from children being so far behind. Boy was I the life of the party. 

I was an offering of sour grapes for dessert, by then, explaining why I couldn’t teach full-time anymore; how teaching only part-time is doable and so much healthier for me and my family. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done this to an unsuspecting teacher.

You see, I was a full-time teacher for ten years. I taught first and second grade. I loved the kids. 

I mean, I LOVED the kids! I loved teaching them about the water cycle singing educational lyrics to the tune of “She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain”…

Water travels in a cycle yes it does 

Water travels in a cycle yes it does

It first goes up as evaporation, then forms clouds as condensation, then falls down as precipitation yes it does…

I loved the hugs they gave freely and the proud smiles they wore like an honor badge when they’d read a paragraph out loud with improved speed and inflection. 

I treasured their pictures with stick figures and hearts claiming “Mrs. Burden is the best techer in the world”. 

I wasn’t

I quit on them about eight years ago. I’ve taught part-time since then, identifying (and remediating) students with dyslexia. I’ve helped out with ESL and taught a handful of children who were confined to home for a period of time due to an illness or condition that kept them home. But I’ve never went back, or even considered going back,  to teaching full-time. 

While I loved the kids, the coworkers and administrators, what I didn’t love was the paperwork. There were loads of papers to grade and record and seemingly innumerable essential elements (later called TEKS) to schedule neatly in tiny boxes of time. 

 There were notes to write to parents and notes to look for hurriedly in backpacks, daily, in case a parent changed after-school pickup plans that day. I quit at a time when lesson plans and attendance had to be done both on paper and on the computer. I was overwhelmed with busy work when planning and teaching was busy enough. 

I’d had a wealth of wiggle room regarding scope and sequence my first few years of teaching. I was the only one teaching my grade level in those schools. If my class struggled as a whole in math on the concept of borrowing, it didn’t matter if the the lesson plans said that we were only doing borrowing on Tuesday. If need be, I could teach borrowing on Wednesday and Thursday too. 

If the kids were particularly dragging one afternoon, I could stop what we were doing and read them a chapter or two of Junie B Jones while they layed their heads (without anxiety) on their desk to rest for a bit. 

We had recess those days. It was a space where students learned conflict resolution through the time and opportunity afforded outside a lesson. They learned the concept of taking turns and getting along with someone who was different. The playground was a canvas for the imagination. 

Eight years ago when I decided I couldn’t do it anymore, the climate was rapidly changing. Test scores dictated entire curriculums, stifled creativity and sucked much of the life out of lessons. Paperwork, mounds of it, designed to prove you were doing your job adequately, stole time from teaching. 

And then there were those kids I loved. Many of them battled not only learning to spell (We could pretty much handle that.), they were battling things much too heartbreaking; like my second grader who was checked out of school in the middle of the day on a Wednesday. When they called her on the intercom to bring all of her things,  she was as surprised as I was. Her parents needed to get out of town quick. I won’t ever forget her looking at me as if begging me to do something while we quickly cleaned out her desk and I placed her much too heavy backpack on her shoulders with a hug that would end up being our last. 

I taught kids who bore marks of being burned with a cigarette, one who was whipped until black and blue with an extension cord, and others who endured abuse too horrible to mention. (There was a a year or two that several CPS caseworkers knew me by name.) I had to let each of those kids go home at 3:15 everyday when the bell rang regardless of the fact that I knew some of them weren’t being released to a safe place. 

It was when I taught that I was introduced to migraines and muscle spasms. It’s the time when my weight dipped low because of a chronically upset stomach and because, often,  the school day kept me too busy to eat. 

I quit teaching full time because I didn’t feel strong enough to handle it. I stopped because I felt robbed of the time and energy I needed to be a mom and wife. I was never able to master the “Don’t take your teaching home with you” policy. 

I guess it astounds me that some of you still do what you do

Teaching, good teaching, is hard. Yet you do it anyway. 

You stay up to date on ELLs and ESL, AR and ADHD, TAKS and TEKS, RTI and IEPs. 

You deal with parents who underestimate your devotion to their children and scores that seek to put a number on your effort.  

Still, you enlist every August to June, investing in a room full of students. You face the discouragement of failed lessons, constant distractions and new rules to play by. 

 You stick with it another year even though it’s difficult to balance two families (your school family and your family at home).

 I applaud the restraint you show when you just want to eat a hotdog but someone like me rambles discouragement instead of just saying thank you for what you do. 

This generation and generations of children to come need you. They need your hugs and the inventiveness you sneak into lackluster lessons. Keep singing them songs.  Keep inspiring them to write, to read, to try again. 

As for me. I’ll be more conscientious of the job you do, the kids you haven’t give up on. I’ll pray for you. And I’ll devote myself to saying tomorrow what I’m saying now, 


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The Truth Comes Out

Rylie woke up the other morning with her tooth still under her pillow, no cash and lies coming from her parents. 

She’d lost a tooth the night before, about twelve minutes after bedtime. Exhausted, I went to bed the same time she did, texting the less-skilled toothfairy, who was still downstairs watching football, to fill in for me.  I was still awake when he slipped some cash under her pillow. 

He successfully put the money where it went, but couldn’t find the tooth she’d placed in a ziplock baggy. I knew there would be questions at breakfast but I was too tired to do anything about it. 

Questions did come. She found her tooth, but didn’t find the money. It had fallen behind her bed. One problem was solved, but we’ve still got problems. 

I was inwardly secretly hoping that she might figure out (or admit she already knows) the tooth fairy (and The Elf on the Shelf) isn’t real and we can quit these shenanigans. She’s 5’3. Believing in magic is getting a little weird. 

Enchanted beings aren’t the only things I’ve lied to my kids about. Now that I think about it, fibs for fun are outnumbered by convenient fibs; the ones I tell my kids to try teach them important truths. 

Here are some other well-meaning fibs I’ve been known to tell. 

  • It’s not your grades that matter. 

I’ve said this to each of my kids. These very words are typically coming out of my mouth when they’re getting a lecture about a low grade. “It’s not the grade I care about, it’s what the grade reveals about your lack of effort, preparation or understanding.” (I thought that was pretty smart). But we all know that’s hogwash. The grade is important. Bad grades matter just like good grades do. I hang Rylie’s spelling paper on the fridge because I like the look of a one hundred written in red not just because she wrote ten words correct. Grades get you into (and keep you out of) organizations and, later, schools. They gain (and lose) you opportunities. Yes, what the grade tells us about mastering of concepts (or the lack thereof) is most important, but the grade is important too. 

  • You’re fine. 

I said this to my middle when she got some discouraging news this week. I looked her right in her tear-brimmed eyes and told her she was fine. Clearly she wasn’t. She and I both knew that. What I was attempting to do was convince her to be fine. Sometimes, I’m not fine. I’m out of sorts, discouraged or angry. What I keep in mind for myself, and what I need to better remember to offer my kids (and others having a rough time) is a message that says, “I know you’re not feeling ok now, but things will be ok. You WILL be ok.

This too shall pass.

  • “Things” aren’t important. 

I tell them this, but they know I’m lying when I start huffing because there are no Dr Peppers in the fridge and I lose my cool when they get a stain on my shirt that they borrowed. The whole “things aren’t important” message is complicated. I try to teach them to take care of things they have. I guess it’s when they assign too much value to a thing that I remind them “things aren’t important”.  Maybe this is it. 

Taking care of things is important. (That’s how you learn responsibility). 

Appreciating what you have is important. (That’s gratitude). 

But don’t place too much value on things and NEVER value a thing over a person. 

  • It doesn’t matter what people think

This statement has been buried in numerous pep talks. Whether my kids were excluded from a group, made fun of for their weight, or stereotyped as a preacher’s kid, I’ve reminded them that they’re so much more than how a person (or few people) makes them feel. Truth is, it does matter to them what people think. My saying “it doesn’t matter” is the height of hypocrisy. I live and breathe seeking approval. 

I guess one question should be, is what that person is thinking, helpful? I’ve had a few people tell me I walk too fast; to slow down. I thought about what they were saying. They were right. There’s no telling how many people I pass without acknowledging because I’m too interested in quickly getting from point A to point C. I’m missing point B. Point B is important. What those people thought, and shared had value. 

If what a person says or thinks of us isn’t helpful or true, our objective should be to make their unfair thoughts as insignificant as possible. This is achieved by focusing on what God has to say about us. 

  • How you look isn’t important 

I wish I cared less. Sometimes I wish my kids cared more like the times my middle schooler tries to wear a snug pink shirt and red shorts. Our closets wouldn’t be so full if it didn’t matter how we look. The Huffington Post reported that women spend $426 billion a year on beauty products. 

When I tell my kids how they look isn’t important, I’m missing the true message. Dressing appropriately matters. Dressing up can be fun and can give us a confidence boost . Looking nice does influence another’s opinion of you, especially initially. Maybe it’s this.  How we look shouldn’t be as important as it is. Character is what really matters. 

  • Your dad and I always want what’s best for you. 

Mostly true. We do want what’s best for you, but sometimes we settle for less. I confess that sometimes we want what’s easiest. We want you to watch a show upstairs and then watch another one without coming downstairs and making us listen to a synopsis of what the mean contestant did on that episode of “The Next Great Baker”. 

We want peace, even if means not yet confronting some problem that’s festering. Sometimes we want what’s best for you, tomorrow. 

We want you to be happy. Too many times I’ve tried to fix things through retail therapy. Maybe being happy isn’t always what’s best for you. Just maybe there’s a time to be broken. 

We mistakenly focus on what seems best for now because it’s what’s easiest. We ignore the bigger picture. 
I’m probably going to have to have the toothfairy talk at some point this week, even though she surely already knows. She knows the truth and I know the truth just like we both know, that regardless of what I say, her grades matter. Sunday, the tooth came out.  Maybe today, the truth comes out…help.  

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Submitting to the Long Road

The shortest road isn’t always the best road. Neither is the easiest road the one we should always take. Often the long, hard road is the one from which we emerge different, better. 

My dad and brother have been notorious for taking the “scenic route” which translates as “the trip that takes two hours longer than if you had taken the direct route”. 

This has especially been the case when we were in Colorado on vacation. I suspect their alternate path is chosen not because they enjoy making more miles, but because there are more mule deer and elk on the longer trip. Simply put, they believe the longer path is more beautiful…That it has more to offer. 

Too bad that on those trips I’d often get bored, or worse, carsick. The routes we took were also usually without a place to go to the bathroom. Might I also mention that their preferred routes also involved creepy one-car dirt paths that slithered up the mountain. As far as I could tell, on one side (six feet away) there was the side of a mountain. On the other side was a cliff; a death view. 

The reason the travels of my growing up have crossed my mind is because two curious verses caught my attention in Exodus last week. 

17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. Exodus 13

How in the world have I missed this? 

So you’re telling me that a large caravan of tired people on foot being chased by angry men with chariots (600 of the best chariots) were led intentionally on the long escape route? It’s a little hard to understand. 

And on the desert road? That just sounds needlessly uncomfortable. 

Not only that, but was there a route that avoided the sea for a group of people without boat tickets? (…God led the people…toward the Red Sea). I wonder if they knew (or even if Moses knew) they were taking the long route? What were they thinking when they approached the sea. Humanly speaking, I can’t think of a situation where someone was more “up creek without a paddle”. 

Maybe I’ve always glossed over this part because I knew the short version via flannel graph where Moses leads the Israelites away from Egypt and to the Red Sea where he holds up his hand and the waters part killing the enemy. 

We’re familiar with the Isrealites and their time in slavery and we know the climax where the divided waters allow them pass through, but I think there’s something important to be gained in the part where we learn true escape isn’t simple. 

It was hard to get out of Egypt in the first place. But then they had to take the long, terrifying route. 

Why would God plan that? (It was indeed his plan). 

Because he knew that if he didn’t lead them on this particular path, they would return to the bondage that they had just gotten out of. 

He purposely didn’t lead them through the Philistine country, remarking in verse 17 

If (in Philistine country) they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt”. 

God, in his omniscience, knew that the short escape might lead them right back to where the came from. 

Near the sea, the Israelites doubt  God and announce their preference of being in slavery versus the long, terrifying road leading away from it (Exodus 14: 10-12). 

Aren’t we like that? Sometimes, in fear and fatigue, we prefer bondage. 

God responds with one of my favorite verses. 

The LORD will fight for you; you only need to be still. Exodus 14:14

What are you in bondage to?

Are you trusting God to lead you out of it even though the road seems long and hard? 

God isn’t interested in the short escape; just getting away. (Think of all things we escape and then go right back to.) He’s more interested in deliverance. 

Whatever long road you believe God has you journeying away from chains, trust him. It’s not just about escape. God crushes the enemy. God delivers. 

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Contentment on “Dumb Days”

I used the word “dumb” a lot yesterday. Like, a whole lot. I have a mental list of grievances that occurred. The list sounded something like “doctor’s office..dumb…Pinterest..dumb…drivers..dummies…doctor’s office hasn’t called…dumb”…

Today’s revelation is that my attitude is in need of some reminders that come from my favorite chapter in the bible, Philippians 4.  

I once tried to memorize the whole chapter. It’s seven paragraphs.  I’ve read them enough that all the words are familiar, but I wasn’t successful. 

Then I attempted to memorize verse eight in my desire to be a more content “not dumb focused” person. 

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8

It isn’t that long. I had it memorized at one time, but some other (probably useless) information slipped into its place. I had an acronym to help me remember  those things which I was to “think on”…things that are







Excellent or Praiseworthy

I can easily come up with another acronym to help me hold tight to these eight words that provide proper perspective and give God his due glory. And I probably will. But today a new, a much shorter phrase in chapter 4 is being repeated like grace heartbeat. 

I have learned to be content. 

…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. Philippians 4:11

This half a verse isn’t necessarily full of beautiful language or a fiery pep talk, but it speaks a simple truth I needed to be reminded of. 

Contentment isn’t an easily mastered way of life. It isn’t achieved through simple memorization. We’re a complaining people. Grumbling is our default. 

Yesterday I had to coach myself not to abuse my kids with my crankiness. So I stayed pretty quiet. To my shock and amazement, one of my own offspring bragged about how blessed her life is. On a Monday afternoon, mind you, she went straight to her room, did her homework, cleaned her closet (you’d have to see her closet), and bagged up her old clothes for donation. Another one of my kids followed her lead. And yet another kid, when offered a suggestion about how to be better about cleaning his space EVERY DAY, responded that my request “was totally reasonable”. Somebody pinch me. 

One kid shared yesterday that they had been “spiritually enlightened” at church the day before and all three kids jumped in the car with me to take our clothes bags to the donation box. They even agreed to take a selfie with me (which didn’t turn out that awesome, but I wasn’t going to push my luck asking for multiple pictures). 

I found contentment yesterday, not in anything lovely or admirable I’d done, but in others who have so graciously been put in my life. They don’t act that way everyday. Strike that. Yesterday their inspiration and cooperation was like something out of the twilight zone.  

But here’s the thing worth reflecting on. 

Contentment is learned by practice. For some of us? Lots of practice. Contentment doesn’t come natural, but through a concerted effort of focusing on better perspective. God works with slow learners. 

Contentment is found outside ourself; sometimes outside our circumstance. We find satisfaction and peace through some other soul(s) shining a light on God’s goodness. Especially on “dumb” days. 
God’s never short on goodness. His goodness surrounds us. He offers us his peace when we are faithful to give thanksgiving in everything through “prayer and petition”. 

Paul tells us in Philippians 4 that “he has learned” to be content. I have learned to be content too.   I’m just still learning how to be good at it. 

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Sick Kid Mom Modes

It’s only the third week of school and, so far, two out of my three kids have had to see the doctor.  I’m treating the third kid’s issue by stuffing medicine down her throat and with Google searched remedies. My response to my kids’ various illnesses and pains run the gamut.  I’m evaluating some of those “Mom Response” choices.  (When I say I’m evaluating my parental responses, I’m judging yours too because I know there are other moms out there that act as weird as I do when your kids are sick or hurt). 

Moms are curious creatures.

Here are a few of my  responses. Are any, or all familar?

The Nurturer

Nothing brings out my “momness” like snot or vomit. If one of my kids blows snot I’ll offer them my sleeve or hunt for a makeshift tissue like it’s the holy grail (It’s usually an old Sonic napkin in the floorboard).  If they puke I’ll lovingly and tenderly kneel beside them while rubbing their back and I’ll hold their hair (while holding my breath to avoid the smell) . 

Both snot and vomit, as well as other ailments, call for an immediate trip to Market Basket to buy items that have been determined necessary at triage (the sick couch). This could be a box of tissues or Gatorade. Gatorade or Sprite are always good purchase choices because when does your kid NOT need to be hydrated. They get to lay on the sick couch where I bring them a drink in a special cup with a straw (in their favorite color). There’s always a blanket. Even if they’re not cold. 

 This is the only time our gross old TV tray comes out of the garage. The kids learned to request it. I set it up by the couch so I can put the things I bought at Market Basket on it (a “special cup” and tissues). I’m much nicer in “Nurture Mode”. They can call me to come find the remote or refill their cup and I’ll come. I’ll kiss their head to see if they have fever and smile at them, tucking in or straightening their blanket.

 {This role only last two to three days. If you’re still sick on the fourth day, too bad. If a virus runs through our house and you’re kid #2 or #3 and I already spent my three nurture days on kid #1?  Sorry. You missed your chance.  

Angry Mom

No. This isn’t when I get mad at my sick offspring. I’m usually aggravated at the doctor’s office or CVS. 

 Tuesday I called a doctor to make an appointment for one of my kids who has an infection. The office website said they open at 8:00. At 8:00 I called fifteen times only getting an answer from an “operator” type lady on call sixteen. She tells me that they open at 8:00 but don’t take appointments until 9:00.

 At 9:00 I’m told that there are no open appointments until the 19th (almost two weeks away). I let the lady know (in my calm voice) that it’s necessary that she be seen before then. She tells me I can always take her to the ER. I hate it when they say that. Receptionists are always unphased by the medical emergencies I present them with; like they deal with sick and hurting people all day or something.  Gosh. 

I’m seething 

“My kid is sick.  Getting on this quick is important, people!”

And CVS? They hardly ever have the medicine ready by the time they say they will. And I usually find out this frustrating information after I stand in line for twenty minutes. My kid needs their prescription or else they may die (which leads me to the next “Mom with sick kid mode”).

Hypochondriac/Dismal Mom

I have, on occasion, thought my kid was going to die. I’ve stood over them in their slumber and watched them sleep. Both of my girls have had RSV and pneumonia. I’d count their respirations to see if the number matched the range outlined on Web MD, because if I didn’t watch them sleep while recording their breaths, they may go into cardiac arrest and die. 

If the kids are not feeling well and their neck or forehead feels slightly warm to the touch, I take their temperature. 107 times.  If they have fever, I need to know. Temperature fluctuates from minute to minute and assessing the rise of a degree in temperature is of the utmost importance. 

 If they have a rash, I look up possible illnesses on MedicineNet. I scroll past most of the nonserious causes (heat, allergies, stress). It’s typically the more serious illness that catches my eye. If the list has eczema and lupus, my eyes scan eczema, but are particularly locked on lupus or something even more life-threatening. 

“Knows More Than The Doctor” Mom

“I don’t care what the doctor said, this isn’t a virus/allergies!!”

Do I need to go on?

Skeptical Mom

Mom Mode #1-3 only lasts so long. By that time I’m usually worn out like I am this morning having been Mom #1 and 2 this week. I’m still in my pajamas at 9:30 and I’m sick of them being sick.  I start to wonder if they’re as bad off as they claim to be. I’m off of Google’s terrifying disease suggestions at this point.   I trade in the thermometer for my magnifying glass (the thing I use to catch them in the act of exaggerating or faking). 

I try to bust them enjoying TV when they told me earlier that afternoon that they were too sick to go to church. By the way? A laugh is a dead giveaway. You tell me you’re sick and then I hear you laughing in the other room? I don’t think so. 

If they hurt their ankle or arm, this is the time that I’m trying to remember which one they originally said hurt, lest they try and change it up. “I thought you were limping on your left leg on Friday”. 

One of the kids is currently on medicine for an infected cyst that makes moving a certain way painful.  She didn’t complain quite as much this morning. So while driving her to school I found myself taking the corners a little more maliciously to see if she still winces. She seems a little too comfortable for me, being that I just took her to the doctor yesterday.  “Did that hurt? Yesterday you said corners hurt.” 

Skeptical Mom is normally the last mode before I turn back into “Normal Mom”; the mom that’s back to harshly critiquing her kid’s clothing choice, making a special trip for sno cones when one offspring doesn’t make student council, angrily pulling half drank water bottles out from under her kid’s bed when she really just came in their room to talk and back to blogging about her kids. 

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There’s a Time and Place for Compliments…Everytime and Every Place

I’ve never been good at accepting compliments. When someone says something nice about my hair or my parenting skills my reply is usually self-deprecating or dripping with sarcasm. 

I have a hard time just saying thank you. I know. I know. It isn’t rocket science. 

My internal response to a compliment is either a feeling of pride, or else unworthiness. Those aren’t the most appropriate responses. 

I’ve been bothered by this a while.

Accepting praise can be awkward. Even when I’m the one who’s giving praise. By the reaction I get from people I brag on, I get the feeling I’m not the only one who doesn’t know how to receive compliments unless it’s just me that stinks at both receiving and giving them. 

This morning while getting my yearly check-up, a nurse named Kim reminded me how compliment receiving should work. 

Kim was great at the nurse thing. She was both knowledgeable and informative. But it was her ability to act professionally and treat me like a person (even like a new friend, maybe) that made me compliment her on my experience at Diagnostic Health. 

I waited for some weird exchange or a simple thank you, but she just said 

To God be the Glory

That’s it. She didn’t let me know that she’s not so nice on Mondays. She didn’t feel the sudden need to compliment me back with some empty impromptu observation about my earrings. 

And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” Isaiah 6:3

And so the conversation fell right where it needed to. 

Yes. To God be the glory. Even if Kim so happened to have lost her cool with a patient last week. To God be the glory that she blessed me this morning. I get the feeling she’s a kind person, but even if she’s not that nice a person when a waiter gets her order wrong, she still brightened my morning to the glory of God. 

The habit of passing off a compliment is wasted opportunity to give glory to God. 

So give a pat on the back. 

Receive accolades. 

Don’t make a blunder out of a chance to recognize God’s blessings. 

to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:21

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Go Ahead and Carry Your Kid’s Backpack

I wonder if anybody else saw the lady in the green tennis and oversized tshirt with no makeup and an unfluffed hair helmet walking down Helena Ave this morning carrying her kid’s binder?

Yeah. That was me. 

I was only going to walk Rylie to the corner of 30th. She wanted to go the whole way by herself, but I wanted her to try a different sidewalk today; one that would allow her to avoid crossing traffic. When we got to the corner where I pointed the way for her to go, I could see she was struggling. Her backpack was stuffed with textbooks, a package of copy paper, her locker accessories and her lunch. She also held two boxes of tissues and her binder that she said she sat on yesterday to get zipped. 

So I insisted that she let me carry her binder to the end of the sidewalk. She accepted my pushy offer saying she didn’t want to get the “back sweats” before she made it to school (Darn you southeast Texas humidity). I walked, hot pink binder across my body, with my head down because of, you know, no makeup, weird clothes and carrying my kid’s stuff. I walked faster after I saw one of her old teachers and imagined her shaking her head at me mouthing the words “Don’t coddle that kid”. 

She’s going to carry her binder. Probably tomorrow and for the rest of the year. The rest of her school career. I want her to. I want her to be strong and independent.

But there will be days when she has too much to carry and I’ll make her load lighter. 

There will be times that she has that one heavy thing that I’ll carry for her myself because the weight is more than she should bear. 
It might not be her binder that I carry.  I’m learning that kids today, too many times, carry unnecessary weight. Rylie knows that there is war and that there are the godless who  behead men and set children on fire in cages. There are monsters who kill their own children. The news is hardly ever non-frightening, even the news in our own backdoor,  like the armed robberies happening right here. I can’t hide everything from her, but I can be more careful about what I let her see and what I let her hear. I can be cautious with my big mouth and harness my speech when I believe “the sky is falling”. 

I’ve carried things for the older ones too.  Certain temptations can be too much for their shoulders. As parents we have the responsibility of holding the pen to draw out sometimes unpopular boundaries. Our children will have plenty of time to face temptation and danger on their own. It’s still appropriate for us to say no, not just to them, but FOR them. 

No. A boy can’t come in your bedroom. 

No. You can’t have a passcode on your phone that I don’t know. 

No. You can’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know. 

No. You can’t drive to Beaumont by yourself yet. 

We can carry the larger weight of responsibility leaving them with a lighter load when it comes to making decisions. 

Corey ten Boom tells this story. 

“And so seated next to my father in the train compartment, I suddenly asked, “Father, what is sexsin?”

He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case off the floor and set it on the floor.

Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?” he said.

I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.

It’s too heavy,” I said.

Yes,” he said, “and it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger, you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.”

I realize the risk of being too sheltering. Knowing what things to carry and how long to carry them isn’t found on a checklist anywhere. If it was, I wouldn’t trust it anyway. Each kid is different; their struggles unique.  But all kids are in need of watchful parents who are willing to walk beside them and carry the heavy things. They need parents who rely on wisdom found in prayer that informs us what to hold and what to put down. 
And just remember. 

Even after handing over the stuff, we can always help our kids carry that which is heavy in prayer. 

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Love the Season You’re in

My niece will walk into her first classroom tomorrow morning. So will one of the second graders I taught. I tried to wish them a good year without half-sounding like their mom. I think I failed. As proud of them as I am,  I wish they were both still seven. 

This time last year I was a basket case. We’d dropped Hayden off at college in Huntsville. I spent a good month tearfully singing the lyrics to a JJ heller song whose chorus encouraged that there’s “an inch of daylight underneath the door”. 

Today it rained. I like songs about rain, but actual rain depresses me a little. The night before the first day of school brings out the ninny in me. I lament the fact that my kids have outgrown “Meet the teacher” and  Lala Loopsy and Spider-Man backpacks, but the truth is I complained about meet the teacher and school shopping when it came around every year. 

I have a terrible habit of hesitating at the threshold of new chapters. There’s only “an inch of daylight underneath the door” because I forget to take joy in opening new doors. I’m morosely looking backward at the door that has shut. 

I’m a tad bit envious of my friends who will drop their kids off at kindergarten tomorrow. Those days are long gone. They were fun days (except that the kids couldn’t tie their own shoes,  remember to brush their teeth or use a tissue to blow their nose). 

Kinder moms probably wish they had a few more years with their babies at home. Or maybe they secretly long for the days that their back won’t hurt from bending over the tub to wash the shampoo out of their five year old’s hair. 

 And my friends who just dropped their youngest off at college? I’m guessing they wish their girls were still at home tonight with them tonight like my girls are. 

Tonight the girls and I grabbed Starbucks drinks and drove by the middle school and high school campus  praying (with our eyes open) for the year ahead. 

We put on face masks.  We let them dry and then wrinkled up our noses to make tiny cracks on our green faces. 

We made queso and ate it for supper abandoning a health conscious meal. 

No matter how much I miss the ritual nights before the first night of school when I’d read I Love You So at bedtime, I know that in a wink I’ll look back to the season when I helped the girls combat jitters with face pampering and a Double Chocolaty Chip frappucino. 

Look back with fondness where you’ve been. But love the season you’re in. 

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For Forgetful Parents Who Remember

The fact that I’m “detail deficient” when it comes to my children has been brought to my attention. 
Rylie, our youngest, made her disappointment known after learning that I don’t remember basic facts from her birth. I can’t recall:

  • What day of the week she was born
  • What time of the day she was born or
  • Her first word

I’d say it’s because she’s the baby, but I don’t remember those details about the first two either. I am pretty sure the first word for all three of them was “da-da”. If that’s the case I’ve probably blocked it out. (Sour grapes or something.)

I could find out a few things if I looked at their baby books, the first two kids that is. I filled out the first five pages or so for the oldest and middle, I think. I just don’t remember where their baby books are. Rylie doesn’t have a book. 

I didn’t improve my “mom standing” today when I took the oldest to the doctor for a year old shoulder injury. I was filling out paperwork when I came to the lines requesting information about the injury. 

Which shoulder? Right or left? Circle one. 

I drew a blank. 

Rather than let him know I was clueless, I handed him the clipboard pretending my intention was to assign him the due responsibility of filling out his own paperwork. 

Minutes later the nurse came in asking about previous surgeries. Not only could I not remember which arm he’d had surgery on as a kid, I couldn’t even remember which part of his arm. Was it his elbow? His forearm? In my defense, the kid has broken his arm more than once. 

Do I have a little guilt about my poor stat keeping? 

I do. 

If only we’d had those cool giant party chalkboards where you record in beautiful artwork your kids’ favorite food, book and toy along with all their firsts.  But even if I’d had the cute chalkboards made, they would have never survived our moves. 

So what if I can’t remember all the frilly details of those first days and later big events. And maybe I can’t find proof that I paid attention to the details. 

I remember how captivated I was laying eyes on them when they each made their debut, whichever days those were. 

I remember the way Hayden, all wrapped up and new, looked at me when he heard my voice, like we weren’t strangers at all. 

I won’t forget the expression on Hallie’s tiny face, just minutes old. She was born with eyebrows that made known she would be a force not to be reckoned with. She was tiny, but I knew she would do big things. 

And Rylie. Her cry seemed to say “I’m here!” The real party can start now. 

In my forgetfulness there’s so much I remember. 

I’ll never forget the pain in my heart EVERY time Hayden broke his arm. Who cares if it was his left arm or right? I remember losing my mind when they were rolling him into surgery and that six-year-old blue-eyed doll called out to me “Mom…If I don’t make it..I love you”. 

I remember how terrified I was the first time he left our driveway behind the wheel as I stood in the yard paralyzed. 

I remember how proud I was of Hallie, our middle, when she walked into the “end of summer” middle school dance (her first dance ever) ALONE. We were new in town and she didn’t know a soul. 

I can recall how bemused I was when she wanted to be her dad for Halloween when being me would’ve been much easier and would’ve made more sense. 

Oh how entertained I was when Rylie (at age 4) told me she cut her hair because I wouldn’t let her go to Africa or China. She then freely confessed that she’d also “kicked Cameron”

Then there’s the time she faked her hearing and vision test in Pre-K leading the nurse to pull me out of class to encourage her to “try again”. The second tests she passed with flying colors to which she credited “A Christmas miracle!”.

Do I remember what date that was?  I don’t. 

Dates are convenient hooks on which we can hang our memories of events. 
Joan Lowery Nixon

Dear Children, Dates are just the days you touch our world; the details just filler. There are  way too many of both to keep track of them all. It’s the stories we remember; the ways you pull our heartstrings that we won’t forget. 

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