Stings, Scrapes, and Self-Control
A couple of weeks ago, I took the girls to have lunch with their daddy at work. It was a beautiful day so we went to the picnic tables that his company has outside, and we lunched there. The girls were having honey roasted peanut butter and apples as part of their lunch and pretty soon we were joined by a couple of yellow jackets who wanted to have it, too. I’m terrified of bees but was trying to stay calm so the kids would also keep calm.
Shortly after we had re-assured them, again, that there was nothing to worry about, one of them landed on my husband’s hand and as he tried to shoo it away, he crushed it between his fingers and it stung him. We all saw it happen, and saw his reaction: the grimace of pain, a grunt that sounded something like “oh-oof,” and the wringing of his hand, followed by more grimacing.
And that was it. No histrionics. No yelling. No jumping out of his seat. No so-many-other-ways someone could react to a painful yellow jacket sting. I’ve known this man for nearly half my life and I know how he is, and even I was impressed.
“Girls,” I said. “You have an amazing daddy.”
“Why?” one of them asked.
“He just has incredible self-control. Most people who get stung by bees wouldn’t just sit there and be as quiet as he just was. It’s very painful! And he just really controlled himself even though he hurt a lot.”
Okay, I may have said more than that. I may have demonstrated what some of the histrionics that that their dad forewent would have looked like. But I really wanted to drive home the point that you don’t have to freak out every time something hurts you.
Fast forward to Saturday, and we were hiking. We all enjoy being in the woods so much, but don’t do it often enough. It was a beautiful day, we hiked a 3.5 mile round-trip route. But it was late in the day when we started, and headed back to the car, the girls were tired. I was tired too, and I could tell my motor skills were just off enough that I needed to concentrate on my footing. We warned the girls (who have a penchant for both walking backwards and swiveling their heads all the way around to talk to us) that they needed to keep their eyes on the trail and pay attention.
On one of our little rest breaks by the side of the trail, our eldest was hanging onto the side of a tree when she had a slight misstep and scraped the inside of her arm against the bark. I saw it happen and grabbed her quickly and she pressed into me. I could feel her breathe hard, tense, silently grimace, tense again, breathe hard and hug me tight.
“It’s okay, it’s okay, let me see it,” I said, fully expecting tears and some sort of hike-denouncement coming on. But she said nothing of the sort. She said it hurt, and I know it did, especially because it was at such a place that it would have rubbed against her shirt for the rest of the hike. But she quietly gathered herself and continued on the hike without a word of complaint.
Later in the hike, very near to the end, both girls were goofing off with their dad, running and holding hands, when I saw our six-year-old go down in a complete face plant. She laid on the ground for probably a full 20 seconds as I ran to her. She was starting to get up as I arrived by her side, and I could see the full extent of the damage. Scrapes, on both knees, dirty abrasions on her palms. Dirt all over her shirt and shorts, a flushed face, and her little blond ponytail in disarray. We didn’t discover till later a pretty nasty scrape on her right hip. Her little eyes were watery but instead of letting the tears fall, she insisted, “I’m okay! I’m okay!”
“Are you sure?” I asked. “It’s okay to not be okay.”
“I’m okay. I’m okay. “ I brushed her off and we told her that the visitor center was just ahead and we’d get her cleaned up there. With very little fanfare she grabbed her sister’s hand again and they started back down the trail, though this time, they were walking.
They were close enough to us for my husband to overhear our oldest lean over to her sister and say proudly, “Hey! You were using SELF-CONTROL!” And she was. They both had been.
In both instances, they acted very much like they had seen their father act a few days earlier. Both of them had every reason, as children who were hurt, to dissolve into tears. But both made the choice to control their emotions and continue on their adventure.
I was reminded of two things that day.
1. Our children are watching and listening, closely. Yeah, yeah I know I talk about this alot, but this fact continues to be a wonderment to me, as well as a lesson in humility. I pray every day when we start school that their little hearts will be open to the lessons of the day, and they are learning. They may need help in understanding what they are seeing, but that’s one of the great joys of parenting: helping them process lessons. The humility part comes in accepting that in the role of parent, I am a--if not the-- primary role model for their behavior--good or bad. Likewise, with the spiritually less-mature-- they are watching us, too. And if those two sobering realities don't call for self-control, I don't know what does..
2. We all have a choice, in every situation, in how we react. If my six-year-old can hold back the tears while blood is seeping down her knee toward her socks, how much more practiced should I be as an adult? In a situation where my feelings are hurt by a hostile word, I can choose to react with words of kindness, or to react in meekness, sometimes saying nothing at all. When my anxieties threaten to spiral out of control I have the choice to make myself step back and look at the situation as it really is, and let my faith in God’s control comfort me. And on and on. Self-control in situations of pain allows me to continue to have joy on my journey by not focusing on the scrapes I’ve received along the way.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14)
I am not a mathematician. Oh, giggling peels of laughter, I am not a mathematician. But today is one of those days when I wish I knew how to make an algorithm. Or an algebra problem. Or… something… that could help me to prove something.
See, I have a theory. Let’s call it, oh, the Theory of Collective Christian Distraction. And it is one that pops into my head well, just about every time I get on Facebook. For there, undoubtedly, I will see an article or a blog post that someone has shared. Sometimes (not often) they are written by someone I actually know. Sometimes they are shared from the blog of someone I don’t know. The sources are varied, but the intent is often not: They contain religious or semi-religious content and opinion that will inevitably spark conversation and debate about some gray matter among Christians. Let me be very clear: I am not talking about scripture-based devotional writings or videos—the posts I’m speaking of rarely drive us to open our Bibles, but rather to open our mouths via the keyboard.
And then, if you want to, you can actually spend the better part of an entire day watching the responses of people who you don’t know… who the author of the blog post likely doesn’t know… who, quite possibly, your Facebook friend doesn’t know. Sometimes the numbers will go into the high double digits, or even triple digits. It is clear that all of them put (some) thought and time into crafting these responses, whether right or not. This, despite the fact that it will simply disappear into the ether when on the following day someone posts something about the government or –oh look! A cute cat!
WHAT. A. DESTRUCTIVE. WASTE. OF. TIME.
That’s pretty much the Theory of Collective Christian Distraction. I just wish I could figure out a number that would do something like this:
Add time spent reading such articles to time spent by poster crafting an initial comment.
Subtract time spent in Bible study on the matter (this rarely appears to happen, at least between first reading and sharing).
Divide by amount of confusion experienced by new Christians or struggling ones.
Multiply by number of people who may be lurking on the topic but not posting.
Multiply again by negative perceptions of ‘argumentative Christians’ who are no longer really all that hip to spending time with you inside or outside of worship because of how feisty and outspoken you and your church buddies are.
Can someone help me quantify this? Because really, I’d like to compare it to the amount of time we’re spending in the actual ministering to the spiritual needs and in study of the Bible with people who need to know about Jesus. The real lives we could touch if we’d get off the computer, stop arguing non-binding matters, and focus on all the people who are hurting.
Me, I’m trying. I don't want to get distracted from my real work here as a servant of God. I’m getting better about letting the arguments go. It’s not always easy. But I am instead making a conscious effort to do what is productive in my own personal service to the Lord, instead of engaging online. I’m a mom, and let me tell you, there is no shortage of what is in the Bible that I need to learn myself, and teach my children. That’s where my focus needs to be. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be aware of what’s going on in our culture or what our brothers and sisters are concerned about—I think that’s part of the warning Jesus gives in Matthew 10:16.
I’m saying we must be on guard about the time and effort and good will that all this ‘discussion’ eats up. And I’m saying it’s harder to do my actual work when I’m distracted and distraught about what everyone thinks today about Blog Post X. And far harder when I’m upset about something someone clear across the country said that truly, has no bearing on how I will worship God come Sunday.
So. Instead of using my emotional energy on those things, I might invite a college-aged girl over for lunch. Instead of writing out something thoughtful but soon-to-be-buried by other posts, I could be texting a friend to see how she’s doing today. Instead of reading responses, I could be reading my Bible.
Of course Facebook can be a tool for good. Of course it can. But public division, I’m pretty sure, is not the best way to use the tool. People who need God don’t need more useless fighting. They are already in the fight of their lives. They need an introduction to the peace of Jesus. But sometimes we feel like our opinions must be heard, and let our lack of humility and meekness make us terrible advertisers of God’s gifts. And yes, I have struggled with whether to even put this post on Facebook as it could be perceived as a hot-button topic post. But, I'm asking specifically that you not make comment or argument publicly, but merely that you give it your consideration (and of course feel free to message me personally if you feel the need to discuss further).
If you post the stuff, please think seriously and honestly about why you’re posting it. If you follow or respond, think about whether it is the best use of your time and influence. If you are discouraged by it, get out your Bible and read God’s words, not someone else’s. Ask a trusted older Christian to help you make sense of it all—in person if you can.
“ Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” Eph. 5:15-16
The Shirley Temple Birthday Party
Last weekend we celebrated my daughter’s sixth birthday. As it is with every passing birthday, it is so hard to believe it’s been so long since she was just a chunk of a baby, laid up in my arms.
Nevertheless, the time came for us to celebrate her again, and this year she chose a Shirley Temple theme for her party. She has been exposed to Shirley Temple through my dear friend Judi, who dotes on my kids like they were her own grandchildren and has occasionally kept them up very late watching Shirley sing and dance. When we first started talking about doing the party, I took to Pinterest where I found… very little. But over time the party took shape and so following is what we ended up with.
I do want to say that the reason I’m sharing this is not so I can be all “Heyyyyy look how crafty I am.” Here's why I wanted to put it out there:
1. Lots of us wonder how to keep little girls sweet in a world that wants to sexualize them too early. I latched onto this theme because it is sweet and innocent and I think that not only do mindful parents want that, but our children do too! When I went to look for ideas they weren't there, so I'm sharing some for someone else who might want them.
2. I also have struggled with the increasing price and over-the-top-iness of children’s birthday parties. But every time I again commit to having a party at our home and limiting the budget somewhat, I end up quite pleased with what I can come up with, with a little internet research time and some work. I want to encourage anyone interested to give that a try instead of just feeling like you have to keep up with everyone else.
My family’s go-to cake is the Hershey’s Especially Dark Chocolate Cake. You can find the recipe here or on the back of the box of Special Dark Cocoa. I cannot recommend this cake enough—it is AMAZING and very easy to make. I have done more extensive cake decorating in the past but for this, I just made some white chocolate shaving ‘curls’ for the cake. Cost: Under $9 for cake, white chocolate, and candles.
THE TABLE AND FAVORS:
I decorated the table with some leftover tulle and ribbons I had, and then all the candy from the song The Good Ship Lollipop:
On the good ship lollipop.
Its a sweet trip to a candy shop
Where bon-bons play
On the sunny beach of Peppermint Bay.
Lemonade stands everywhere.
Crackerjack bands fill the air.
And there you are
Happy landing on a chocolate bar.
See the sugar bowl do the tootsie roll
With the big bad devils food cake.
If you eat too much ooh ooh
You'll awake with a tummy ache.
Bonbons, peppermints, lollipops, Tootsie Rolls, chocolate bars…basically everything but the lemonade. The girls each got a bag and filled it with the candy to take home. This was the biggest expense of the party but, oh well. Cost (including bags): $15
…and the reason we didn’t do lemonade was because I wanted to make the Shirley Temple floats I’d found on Pinterest. Ginger Ale, Vanilla Ice Cream, Maraschino Cherries and their juice. I put them in the crystal we got when we got married so it felt very fancy. I wasn’t sure how the little girls would like them (I myself don’t like cherry-flavored things) but they slurped them down. Cost: $7 for ice cream, ginger ale, maraschino cherries
I had toyed with rag-curling their hair for the party but that just seemed like too much work, so I decided to make them “wigs” using headbands and curling ribbon. I got the cheapest headbands they had at Target and a big roll of gold curling ribbon. I then spent quite some time cutting the ribbon, tying it on the headbands, and curling it. I stupidly thought this might be a project my kids were old enough to help me with if they used kiddie scissors but right off the bat there were tears and a cut, so, um, no.
This was by far the most time-consuming part of the party. Thankfully it is pretty mindless and everything else was easy. I ended up using about 60 pieces of curling ribbon on each headband. Each piece was about 12-15 inches long; I didn’t do hardcore measuring on it because that seems like work, but it also ended up that the pieces weren't completely uniform--a good thing in my opinion. But anything shorter than 12-15 inches and you’ll end up with tiny bits of curl. Cost: $6.50 for headbands and curling ribbon.
THE TAP SHOES:
Right when the girls got to the house I showed them a bunch of YouTube videos of Shirley Temple singing and tap-dancing. I then showed them how to do the simplest of simple tap steps (which I had looked up on YouTube the night before. Mama don’t tap dance.)
Then we made temporary tap shoes. I found a DIY guide to making tap shoes, but it called for using metal washers, which will certainly destroy hardwoods. So I went to Michael’s and got a bag of big plastic buttons and some cheap yarn. Then at the party I enlisted some (very patient)parents to help thread the yarn through the buttons and we tied a button to the front and the back of the bottom of the girls’ shoes. Then they ran around the house making noise until inevitably the buttons slipped off and we had to re-tie them. It was cheap, and fun, and they got a feel for the joy you get when your shoes go tappity-tap. Mission accomplished. Cost: $6 for buttons + yarn
Then we ate the cake and opened presents and the party was done. My daughter felt celebrated and her friends enjoyed themselves. I don’t know that anyone will be wearing their Shirley Temple curls around town, but maybe that’s a good thing. ;)
Encouragement Spoken Here
"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver." Proverbs 25:11