The School Bag

School has been out for nearly a month and my school bag has not been touched.

Those first few days of summer break were spent in frenzied, family fun – trips to the zoo, birthday celebrations, cook-outs, and long-awaited dips in the pool. Then there were days of catching up on those built up, back burner household chores.

Factor in a trip to New York City and there you have it. It is now officially four weeks past the last day of school. My overburdened school bag occupies the same place in my closet it has since being plopped down on the last day of school. Granted, every once in a while I might have shifted it around a bit to reach something behind it, but for the most part it has stood its ground, neglected and forlorn.

But never forgotten.

Trust me.

Every time I saw it sitting there in its unattended disarray I felt a guilty twinge.  Staring at me from the corner of the closet floor each morning it practically begged me to put it out of its misery.

So today was the day.

I pulled everything out of it.

It was not a pretty sight.

There were fifteen pens. Fifteen. A disproportionate amount of them were red. Who in their right mind carries around fifteen pens? There are not enough papers in the entire second grade to warrant that amount of ink.

More sensible were the fifty or so family pictures I had. You never want to miss a chance to have those on hand in case someone asks to see a picture (or fifty) of your grandchildren.

Two mismatched winter gloves, a whistle, my badge and an umbrella – recess duty remnants.

My emergency kit of spare reading glasses, breath mints, hand lotion, emery board, lip balm, Kleenex, Tylenol, and deodorant. I’m not sure why the deodorant was in there. I promise that without fail every morning I use antiperspirant. Perhaps I had stowed it for back up during parent teacher conferences. (Just in case things got a little tense.)

Two unopened CD’s. I just never found the time to rip off the cellophane.

A steak knife. Guess I should have used it to open the CD’s.

Three paper clips, a quarter, and a mysterious envelope into which I had shoved $25.00. I’m sure at the time I had a reason.

This year’s yearbook and next year’s class list. Both gave me pleasant pause; one as a happy reflection and the other as a hopeful future.

A black silk bag of small river rocks. I think I had used them as a children’s sermon illustration at church and yet somehow they found their way into my school bag.

At the very bottom were three handwritten thank-you notes, a black Sharpie and a single Reece Cup.

Job completed, I thought.

But then I noticed one more thing covering the bottom of the bag.

Glitter. Lots and lots of gold glitter.

And oddly enough, it made me happy.

Happy because I knew as I had sorted through that bag, my year had been a plethora of precious memories. And now, as a sort of delayed punctuation mark, had officially ended with a glint of gold.

Schools begins in a little more than a month. I’ll be bringing my bag with me with its special coating of glitter in the bottom. Hopefully it will be a sign of good things to come. The new year beginning like the old one ended.

With a classroom of little ones and the golden promise of sparkle and shine.

The Warning Signs

I’ll spare you the gory details, but I suffered a toe injury. Then thanks to my ability to minimize my body’s natural alarm system (PAIN means Alert! Alert! Attention needed!) it got worse.

I knew a visit to the doctor was warranted, but I kept putting it off. In part, because I didn’t want to hear any sensible advice (like stay off your foot) that might interfere with a two-day trip I had planned with some girlfriends.

So I ignored the warning and went on my trip. After the first day my toe was sore, but hadn’t really gotten any worse. However, the second day we did some extensive walking. By the time I returned home my toe was visibly swollen and throbbing with pain.

I scheduled an appointment at the clinic for the next day.

By morning my toe hurt so badly that I was unable to find a single pair of shoes I could tolerate wearing. After settling on some open-toed sandals, I made my way to the car using the ever popular step-drag method. Add a hump on my back and I could hear the bell towers of Notre Dame calling me.

It was when I stepped out of my car in the clinic parking lot that I knew I was in real trouble. Up to this point I had managed to downplay the impact pain had on my mobility. Now parking as close to the entrance as possible, the door still seemed like a football field away.

Two other women got out of their cars at the same time I did. One was about eight months pregnant. The other had her foot in a surgical boot. In the race to the front door I came in a distant third.

By a long shot.

During my appointment as I experienced some painful procedures, the practitioner threw around scary words like MRSA and staph infection. I left with two double doses of antibiotics and an appointment with a podiatrist.

All from a tiny innocuous injury to my big toe. Crazy, right?

But here’s the thing. Sin is like that, too.

Little words or actions I know are wrong get diffused in my mind. I begin to reason that what I said or did wasn’t “that bad”. Rejecting accountability by letting those sins continue without correction assures that inevitably things will get messy.

In reality, sin is sin. And when left unattended it can grow and infect.

Here’s just one example. (And in the name of truth I will admit that I have suffered the consequences as both the recipient and the perpetrator.)

Words have the ability to build up or tear down and sometimes the line gets slightly blurred. Ignoring that a cutting comment clothed in humor can diminish another’s self-worth, unkind words are uttered in a joking way.

I’m not saying that humorous or silly remarks are bad. It’s the manner in which they are spoken. When innocent remarks begin to morph into hurtful sarcasm the warning bell in our heads should begin to sound.

Why do we think that as long as someone laughs along with us, the verbal slap didn’t sting? The person who said “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is a liar.

Thoughtless words can land a permanent wound on the recipient. If I am not actively “encouraging one another and building each up” as Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, then I am in opposition to the Word and inviting sin to have a comfy spot in my heart.

By downplaying the damage, I can easily end up with a sin-sick soul in need of more than a double dose of antibiotics.

Fortunately, I know a really great Physician.

Heeding the warning signs of my sin, I can run to Him in sincere repentance and find that He is the antidote for any pain. Every cure, whether reprimand or restoration, is rooted in His abounding, unending love for me. Simply put, I can trust God to know what’s best for me.

Each visit yields another lesson learned and increases the likelihood that I will respond to repentance’s call the next time the alarm is sounded.

I am so thankful that the LORD’s clinic is always open for counsel and healing.

Free of charge.

It’s a good thing, too, for as much time as I spend there I could never afford the co-pay.

 

 

Why I Don’t Like Math

At the risk of offending mathematicians everywhere, I have a confession to make.

Numbers are not my favorite thing.

1. I happen to like words w-a-a-a-ay more than numbers. Non-mathematical words, that is. Have you ever noticed how extremely difficult it is to pay a compliment using math terminology? In my own experience, “Your mass looks very nice today,” has never been well received.

Even in the best of circumstances.

2. Math can be difficult to grasp for creative thinkers like me. Let’s face it, there is absolutely no romantic mystery in numbers. If 2+2 always equals 4 every single, stinking, solitary time, what’s fun about that? Make a puzzle out of it like 2+__ =4 and the answer is still the same.

It’s 2, people. Number 3 never even had a chance.

3. And as far as I’m concerned, algebra is just a smoke-and-mirrors technique to get us right-brainers to consider doing math. By sneaking in some letters it makes math appear vaguely interesting. It never works for long. a+b=c inevitably translates in my mind to Anne+Baking=Cookies so I end up with a spatula in one hand and a bag of chocolate chips in the other.

4. Calculus. Need I go on?

5. Lastly, it is incredibly annoying to me that I just numbered all of the things I don’t like about numbers.

Evidence that there must be a tiny pull of mathematical logic buried somewhere deep in my brain.

That must be the part that allows me to enjoy the beauty of symmetrical patterns in nature or the complexity of a simple eight-note musical scale. It might even be the part that draws comfort from the predictable sequence of events that order my existence.

Okay. The truth be known, I don’t really hate math.

But if anyone comes up to me and tells me I look solid, I may have to reconsider.

The ones that got away

Two snow days tacked onto the end of a generous Christmas break with a third day impending for the next…the time had come. I could put it off no longer.

It was time to clean out my sock drawer.

Sadly, that is what my life has become. Even sadder is the fact that I have fourteen socks with no mates. Now, half of those socks are ones that I never wear any more  – I always like to state the obvious right up front– but the other half  belong to socks I wear on a pretty regular basis.

Or are they?

Come to think of it, I may have been wearing mismatched socks for a long time now. It’s true that my bedroom doesn’t get a lot of natural light in the winter. And after I have committed to covering my feet in the morning I don’t give my tootsies a second glance. In fact, there may have been one occasion when I actually wore mismatched shoes in public.

They were both pumps, similar style, one inch heels. Well, at least one of them was a one inch heel. The other was more like an inch and a half which gave me an uneven gate. Very runway model-like.  After nearly tripping, I discovered that the right shoe was navy and the left was dark green. I like to think of myself as somewhat of a trendsetter. Others may have another name for it.

Still, back to my socks – FOURTEEN! How does one go about their normal sock-wearing life in complete oblivion when there are more than a dozen socks at large? That’s a basketball team roster of socks (with a few on the injured reserved list) roaming around the house somewhere between the dryer and my dresser drawer. Unless an unmarked package of neatly folded socks appears on my doorstep I may have to resign myself to never uncovering the whereabouts of my AWOL socks.

Maybe they’ve gotten into a pick up game with the missing forks from the silverware drawer.

A Life of Love and Laughter

I’m just going to admit it.

I have a history of laughing inappropriately in serious situations. It is a trait shared by many in the long line of quick-witted people in my family. I will also readily admit that I know it doesn’t excuse my behavior. But none-the-less I continue to find myself in solemn gatherings where I had to excuse myself because something cracked me up.

Recently I traveled nine hundred miles to attend the memorial service for my aunt. She was a dear Christian woman who loved her family and was committed to serving Jesus by serving others. The service was one of the most beautiful memorials I had ever attended. The scriptures read were ones she had underlined in her Bible. Her children sang and played moving musical tributes. The talented choral group in which she had participated led the congregation in  her favorite hymns.

It was in the middle of one of those hymns that I began to laugh.

You see, I love to sing. And when I sing, I sing loudly. I can’t help it. Most of the time this isn’t a problem, but on those occasions when I sing a wrong word it is going to be pretty obvious to anyone who is within twenty feet of me. Sometimes I try to go on as if I really meant to say that word hoping they’ll think I was used to singing a different version of the song. (Kind of like me saying “forgive us our trespasses” in the Lord’s Prayer when everyone else in the congregation is saying “forgive us our debts”.)

Of course none of this would have had happened had I taken the time to get my glasses out of my purse. But I didn’t. And the hymn that had been chosen was one that I wasn’t that familiar with. I could read the notes, but the words were a little blurry. So at the top of my lungs I sang “unresolved” instead of “unrevealed”. Most people probably wouldn’t have even noticed, but one of my sisters was standing next to me and she immediately began to giggle. I faltered a bit, trying to ignore her, but I already knew it was useless. Soon she was convulsing so hard that she had to sit down and cover her face with her program. At first, my other sister thought that she had been overcome with grief. That was until she looked at me and saw me shaking my head as I unsuccessfully tried to squelch my own laughter. By the time the hymn was over I had tears running down my face. I just hoped people would think they were the appropriate kind.

As I sat down in embarrassment I was apologizing in my head to my aunt for my unceremonious behavior. Avoiding any possibility of eye contact with my sister I stared straight ahead lest I launch into another fit. I was even sending up apology prayers to God asking Him to forgive me for my lack of control. “Lord, you know I didn’t mean to offend you.”

And then a funny thing happened. As the service progressed, people began to come to the front  to give their tributes to my aunt. And almost all of them included a reference to her great sense of humor. They told of her ability to provide comic relief for every occasion. And then there it was.

Grace.

Once again Jesus had offered me grace instead of guilt. In that moment, in some strange way, I not only felt redeemed, but blessed. It was as if in that uncontrollable outburst of inappropriate merriment I had been able to pay special homage to her. My Aunt Janet had lived a life of love and laughter. And if she had been there, I am pretty sure she would have joined in.

I Can See Clearly Now

Her friends recommended that the young woman have her eyes checked. She dismissed their concerns with a vehement, “My eyes are just fine,” and then quickly changed the subject. She’d been wanting to try a popular local restaurant. Each day as she drove down the highway on her way to work she noticed the prominent sign and asked if they knew anything about it.

“It’s called Food, Lunch and Munchies and it must be really good because the parking lot is always packed with cars.” None of her friends had ever heard of it, but told her they would try it out soon.

The next time they got together she was sporting a pair of brand new glasses.  They were all relieved she’d finally decided she had a need for them. Then someone asked about the restaurant that she was anxious to try out. Had she been yet?

She told them that she wouldn’t be going there for lunch any time soon. After she had gotten her glasses she had driven by the popular place on the highway and was more than a little chagrined. Suddenly she realized why there were so many cars parked in the lot. The sign clearly read Ford Lincoln Mercury.

The Kirby Salesman

Recently I went shopping for a new vacuum cleaner and it brought to mind my husband’s brief stint as a vacuum cleaner salesman. During break from college one year, Phil sold Kirby vacuum cleaners door to door. It’s hard to believe there was a time when door to door salesmen were common and people routinely opened their front doors to complete strangers. Of course, not everybody did. As a ten-year old I remember playing at a friend’s house when a salesman came to the back door. Her mother made us get under the dining room table and pretend we weren’t there. I thought it was strange that a grown woman would crawl under a table and sit in controlled silence in an effort to avoid a salesperson. My own mother would have just gone to the door and told him that she wasn’t interested.

Obviously, being a salesperson could be a tough gig and I have to tell you that Phil didn’t set the world on fire selling vacuums that summer. He did set up a lot of appointments, though. He even arranged a demonstration with my mother knowing full well she wasn’t interested just so he could practice his pitch. Anyone willing to withstand the hour long presentation got a free gift. At that time, the gift was a large mulit-purpose knife with a serrated cutting blade. Later my mother reported it was the best knife she had ever owned and I’ve heard it rumored that she may have used it to cut down one of the trees in her backyard.

Even though most of his appointments were prearranged with supposedly interested potential clients, it was a grueling business. This monstrosity of a machine was heavy and cumbersome to drag from house to house. Never-the-less it was said to be a marvel at cleaning. It had settings to clean high shag carpets or low pile rugs. Snap on an attachment and it could fluff your pillows, dust your upholstery, make an intimate candlelight dinner for two and shampoo the dog. Okay, I’m not really certain about those last couple of things, but you’re welcome to check the owner’s manual for clarification.

Unfortunately, no one seemed particularly interested in purchasing this type of  top–the-line vacuum. Funny how he still had a lot of appointments. Maybe there was  just an abundance of dead trees that summer.

Of course, we’ve never had such a fancy vacuum cleaner of our own. Just because you tried to sell them didn’t mean you actually got to own one. In fact, I am embarrassed to admit that the reason for my recent shopping trip was that my own vacuum was in such terrible disrepair. In order for it to work, a large amount of duct tape had been applied to the frame to keep the entire bottom from falling off.  The worst part of it is that it had been like that for the last six months. Which brings up an important question – just where is a Kirby salesman when you really need him?