He wanted to tell EVERYONE

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This song. There is not a Christmas song in the world that digs into me like Sara Groves’ “It’s True.” It’s a lovely song. But the thing that gets to me most is Sara’s little son, Toby, reading those words at the beginning and end. Brings tears to my eyes every time, and makes me wonder so many things. I know I’ve written about it before, but every year it seems to prick some new thought process.

One of the things little Toby says is that “God was like a new dad. He couldn’t keep the Good News to himself.” “He’d been waiting all these long years for this moment, and now He wanted to tell everyone.” WHAT A PICTURE. Honestly, I can’t get over it.

Until this moment, was God’s view of earth kind of like me watching Titanic? I know how it ends. I hope it will somehow end differently, but I know the ship goes down. I see everyone flitting through their lives and keep thinking in the back of my mind, “None of this matters – that ship is going down.” I see them being told about the lifeboats, and they poo-poo it. But I want to scream at them, “YOU’RE GONNA NEED THOSE LIFEBOATS.” I see the class system in action and wonder why Snotty Rich Lady’s life is more valuable than that sweet little steerage girl, Cora. Then they show all the people in the water and I want to shout, “It didn’t have to be this way!” None of it matters.

And then God comes with his real-life, bigger than Titanic, actually unsinkable lifeboat, Jesus. Can you imagine? Jesus being born into the world is not a last-ditch effort. It’s not a “Gee, nothing else is working, let’s try this…” From the beginning, God knew this would happen. This was always the plan. God is not surprised. And it’s time! “God, who came down to find you.” This is it. After so long, the savior is coming. And He places the star. It’s a spotlight for His Son. An invitation. He is physically pointing the world to the answer. It’s not for rich people or certain races, it’s for anyone and everyone.

Just like a new dad. Only it isn’t just his baby boy he’s showing off on Facebook, it’s the means by which He will be able to call His children back to Him. He came down to find YOU. Because you are worth it. The shepherd wants to take every last wandering sheep with Him to safety.

It’s true. It’s not a bedtime story. I believe it’s real. It’s so easy to get lost in Christmas Hoopla that we can forget it’s a celebration of the real and actual Savior. It sounds so ridiculous and strange. Completely outrageous. But as the angel says, “Is anything too wonderful for God?”

Words and Actions

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I’ve been thinking so much about words and actions today.

Last December I saw a video about a little boy named Christian who started something called a Buddy Bench at his school. The idea is that they have a special bench out on the playground, and if you’re feeling lonely and can’t find someone to play with you sit on the bench. Someone will come find you, and see if you want to play or talk. This just struck me as Ella’s heart, so I showed her the video. She talked about it a bit at school, and we told our friend Mr. B about it.

Well, tomorrow her elementary school is putting three Buddy Benches on the playground. Ella was asked if she would go to the assembly where they presented them to talk about them, even though she’s off at middle school now. Just the idea made her heart race. She is petrified of that sort of thing. Mr. B understood (and anticipated) and offered a written option. She’ll do a great job with that, too, but it breaks my heart a little bit. Not because I don’t mind large groups, but because I know the power of words. I know the power of showing a group of people your emotions. Ella’s heart for the lonely is remarkable. Truly remarkable. I wish she was comfortable sharing it in this sort of way, because I have no doubt it would change somebody.

But Ella is comfortable with something that’s probably better. Action. She finds the good in every person and every situation. There are no strangers to Ella. When I showed her the video about the buddy benches, she didn’t want to talk about it. She wanted to do it. She didn’t need to wait for benches and programs and official processes, she found a way to reach out to people right away. She started looking for kids that were sitting alone at lunch. Then she’d go sit with them, and a few of her friends would join her. In a few minutes, that table would be packed. She still does it now, even at middle school. Sometimes I think she’s so unobservant – but really, I think she’s so focused on people, they are all she sees.

I can’t wait to see what she does next.

No apples for these teachers. Except maybe just this once.

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Today should have been our last day of school. But since we apparently live in Narnia, we’re making up snow days until NEXT TUESDAY. I ran into a friend at Target last night, and we are torn. We just want school over already. But we’re also not ready to entertain and chauffeur kids to summer activities. It’s such a mixed bag. Summer is great, but it’s a lot of work.

One of my favorite things about the end of the year (besides the lack of homework), is end of the year teacher gifts. We don’t get Pinteresty. I just like to ask the girls what they think their teacher would like, because I want them to give something they’re excited about, now that they’re old enough to get it. And I love, love, love seeing what they’ve picked up on over the year. Mr. B drank a Red Bull every afternoon and is a healthy eater so he should NOT get candy (he admits Red Bull is his vice). Maybe a package of almonds! Miss S. liked the bottled Starbucks Frappuccinos. Ella was able to recognize the bottle so we could get the right kind.

When I asked this year, Natalie answered in a nanosecond, “Pens! Mr. L needs pens. His are always breaking.” So, off we went to Sam’s Club to buy some pens. She was very particular about them, and chose so carefully. I only wish I could let Mr. L know what love went into choosing a pack of pens. “He uses black, blue, and red pens. So the pack should have all of those colors.” She wanted to make sure they were good pens. We found a pack that also threw in a couple purple and green. She wasn’t so sure. Would he use those colors if he had them? Should we stick to a pack that had only the colors he uses? We spent a lot of time in the office supply aisle. Then we had enough leftover to get a smaller gift card. Where did she think he would like one for? He likes to fish. It should be something with fishing. Gander Mountain? No, because that’s what we got him for Christmas. He also works in a bait shop! Could we get him one for a bait shop?? Well, if he works in a bait shop, he probably doesn’t want/need one for a bait shop. We settled on Menards because he just bought a house and is getting married this summer. Surely he will need something from Menards. “Is there even anything you can BUY at Menards for only $10??” Oh, honey. No one spends just $10 at Menards. He will buy a whole bunch of things, and he will get to spend $10 less than he would have in the first place. She also wanted to bring him an apple. I’m on a strict, no-apples-or-apple-themed-items-for-teachers mode of operation, but she says he eats an apple every day and would appreciate an apple. I may cave.

Ella didn’t know where the gift card should be for, but she needed Dove chocolate to go with it. Had to be Dove. Could we pick up a Starbucks drink for her? If we knew what she drank, yes. Ella has not yet been exposed to the Starbucks situation. She knows that I go, but she doesn’t understand that there are roughly a zillion options, and we need a lot of details. Ella just knows Mrs. F drinks coffee every day in a white tumbler with a white lid and pink foam grip. I had to explain that she is likely drinking teacher’s lounge or home coffee in that tumbler, and that means nothing in terms of a Starbucks drink. I may give in and just ask her what we can bring her. I was lucky enough to meet someone through work this year that is a good friend of hers, and she was able to confirm that a Target gift card was an excellent choice.

They also couldn’t wait til the last day to give their gifts. I guess since this was supposed to be the last day, it’s close enough. I just wish I could relay to Mr. L that these pens were a Big Stinking Deal, and not at all a random gift. But from what I know of him, and the fact that he’s gotten to know Natalie all year, I think he’ll get it. Whatever we give, it’s never enough. We have been so blessed with amazing teachers yet again this year. They are delightful people, great teachers, and they really seem to know and like our kids.

Mr. Paulson

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I knew Lee Paulson ever since I was a baby. Story goes, my mom handed me off to him at church or somewhere when I was a newborn, and I ended up peeing all over him. He was an English teacher forever, and the drama director of everything our town ever saw. By the time I reached high school, he had retired from teaching, but he couldn’t quite let drama go. Or they wouldn’t let him. I’m not sure. Maybe both?

I remember after the new high school was built, he came and found 8th grade me in the lunch room. Could I help him out organizing the new costume rooms? One simply did not say “no” to Mr. Paulson. A little because he was so insistent and convincing, and a maybe little tiny bit out of fear. You see, Mr. Paulson liked to yell if the need arose. I’d always known him, so my level of fear was pretty small (which might just say that I knew to shut up and do what he wanted the first time). In any case, I said I could maybe help for a bit. Which is how I ended up backstage for the next five years.

It was fascinating to watch the man work. He was not a spring chicken. But I swear he had more energy and drive than all of us teenagers put together. He had a passion for theatre that I will probably never see again. And boy could he yell. Of course I know now that he yelled to get your attention. He yelled because he knew you could do better and try harder. He yelled because he expected and demanded your best. And when he got it? Oh my goodness. The feeling of seeing him proud was amazing.

I dragged my friend Trish in, and we lived backstage for those five years. Late, late nights. Weekends. Operating power tools with zero supervision. With the keys to anywhere in the school, which he handed to us so he wouldn’t misplace them. Whatever needed to be done. All the shows blend into one in my memory now. But I have so many memories.

I don’t remember which show it was, but I remember him mid-tirade walking backwards right off the stage. He fell to the floor. And then he popped right back up and finished yelling. He must have been around 70. Scared us all to death. But I think he hoped he scared us into what he was asking for in the first place.

One day Trish and I were building sets on our own, and Mr. Paulson offered to get us some lunch. He ran into town to Subway and brought us footlong subs, chips, cookies, and drinks. That seemed a little excessive. But he must have known something I didn’t, because I think I ate the whole blasted thing. 

He knew I loved James Dean and Natalie Wood. One year, we did Rebel Without a Cause. I was able to help with the window displays from my personal collection of James Dean paraphernalia, including a life-size cardboard cutout and several posters. He brought one of his own, which I was deeply in love with – all purples and blues with black and white James Dean in the center. Later, he gave it to me.

When I was a sophomore, all I wanted in the whole world was to not be in high school anymore. I did everything I needed to do so I could do post-secondary and take college classes my last two years. I took the ACT a year early, I went on my college visit – I got all my post-secondary ducks in a row. “You’ll miss out on high school!” people said. “Great!” I said. I will never ever forget when I went to tell Mr. Paulson about it. We were standing right in the middle of the auditorium. “Well, you’ll miss out on high school, and that might be what you want, but you’ll also miss out on the college experience.” I thought about that long and hard. If fitting in was what I wanted, I certainly wasn’t going to fit in at college as a 16 year old. Living 30 minutes away. Being at least two years younger than everyone else. Still technically in high school. I decided not to go. I will be forever grateful for that perspective when I needed it, because it ended up being the best decision for me.

Later, when I got married, he was there. Our wedding was family and close friends – only 76 people. But you’d better believe he was one of them, and I’m not sure which category he fell into – family or friend. Not that I would have ever considered calling him “Lee.” I’m sure he wouldn’t have minded, but there are just some people in life that you can’t call by their first name.

Mr. Paulson passed away on Saturday. He was 89. The loss for my hometown is incredible. If ever there was someone worthy of “legend” status, I’d say it’s him. But I’m even having trouble with the idea that the world no longer has him in it. I spend my days quietly going about my business. I can’t imagine he ever did a thing he wasn’t passionate about. He had a passion for teaching. A passion for directing. A passion for politics. A passion for his church. A passion for reading. A passion for empowering youth to reach their potential.

Every once and a while I think of something he said or did, and I’m still learning from him. I am so grateful. And looking forward to the day I can see him and say thank you again. I hope I can infuse a fraction of his passion for life into mine.

Friday Five: Preschooler-isms

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For today’s Friday Five, five of my favorite things Zoey says. Some of which I should correct her on, but they’re so cute.

  1. “Try not to catch me!” instead of “Try to catch me!”
  2. “Watch out for me!” instead of something polite like, “Excuse me.”
  3. She calls marshmallows “mushrooms.”
  4. She’s pretty sure Mickey Mouse’s dog is “Pludog,” or possibly “Bludog.”
  5. “Stop saying that!” Ok. This is not really a favorite, but it is pretty constant. Anytime someone tells her something she doesn’t want to hear, this is what we get.

Friday Five: <3 LOVE <3

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Naturally, I’m Friday Fiving “Love” today.

  1. My girls think Valentine’s Day is akin to Christmas. They want to celebrate the whole day. Natalie was beside herself to learn Captain America did not have the day off. They found a heart shaped cookie cutter for their toaster waffles. Natalie used it again on her peanut butter sandwich at lunch. She’s also spent most of the morning making Valentines for everyone in our family. These girls love love.
  2. Captain America and I have never done much for Valentine’s gifts. Sometimes nothing. But, in my opinion, NOBODY writes on the inside of a card like him, and that’s what I care about. He’s good with the funny, he’s good with the sentiment, he’s good with words in general. I like words. I love them. HA! Love.
  3. I have loved Captain America for 6365 days. Our first Valentine’s Day together was 17 years ago. I already knew I would marry him then. We’ve been married for 5649 days. 807 weeks. 
  4. A year or two ago I forgot to pick up any little gifts for the girls for Valentine’s morning. So I found a heart shaped post-it pad and left little notes everywhere. Last night when I said goodnight to Ella she said, “I sure hope there are heart post-its tomorrow!” No pressure. I’ve used up the last of them after today, and I hope I remember to get more before next year.
  5. Some of my favorite love songs are When You Say Nothing at All by Alison Krauss (it was in our wedding!), Ho Hey by the Lumineers, The One I Love by REM, Your Song by Elton John (but also as it was in Moulin Rouge), Something in the Way She Moves by James Taylor, a bunch of songs by Sting, To Be Alone With You by Sufjan Stevens, You & Me by Dave Matthews Band, and Gone Gone Gone by Phillip Phillips.

Hearts and Flowers

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Oh, friends. Last week I had Captain America out of town, an 8 year old down with a fever for days, and some winter weather that threatened my sanity. I think all of Facebook rejoiced when Captain America got back home. It was getting a little “Should we be laughing because it’s funny, or is she seriously snapping?” I was aiming to make light of it and get a laugh, but yes, I was also snapping. But it’s done now and life moves on.

It’s Valentine excitement all around, and I just had to share a story about my oldest girl’s heart. Because her middle name is Grace, but it could just as well be Compassion. The girls were really enjoying filling out their Valentines this year. “It only comes once a year!” “It’s nice to make people feel special!” It was making up for at least a few of those times where I’ve had to say, “Didn’t I already ask you twice to GET OFF THE IPAD?” They are givers, and I love it.

Ella has a boy in her class that’s diabetic. Every time Ella needs to bring treats of some kind, she wants to make sure there’s something he can have. “Twelve carbs or less, Mom. He can only have the treat if it’s no more than 12 carbs.” Usually kids bring cupcakes, and he takes it home so his brother can have it. Ella brought pudding cups, and made sure to bring some that were sugar free so he could pretty much have the same treat everyone else was having. Because she’s Ella.

So now she was packaging up Valentine treat bags. I hadn’t even thought of it, but then I heard, “Mom! The sucker is less than 12 carbs!” But the Rice Krispie treat wasn’t. She was so disappointed. So we figured out a plan where she could take a sucker from one of her teacher Valentines (Sorry about that, Mr. Bonnar, but we thought you wouldn’t mind), so her friend still got two treats but they were both something he could have. Then she cut out the nutrition label for the suckers, and put it in the bag so he would know for sure that he could have it.

I know Valentine’s Day gets over commercialized – I mean, it’s pretty much a Hallmark Holiday. Not a lot of substance to it. It’s obnoxious even. But I love it. I love the idea of taking a day to tell people they are special. Not everyone hears it as much as they should, or as much as they need to hear it. Even if it’s because the teacher tells you that if you do Valentines, you have to do them for EVERYONE. For one day, whether you’re the cool kid or the picked on kid – everyone is special and important. Ella thinks it’s sad that kids have to be told to bring a Valentine for everyone. I am so thankful for Ella and her big heart, and I hope I can be more like her.

**Edit** I should add, Natalie made sure her candy to give was completely peanut (and thus also chocolate) free due to the peanut allergy in her class. She checked labels as well, and following Ella’s lead, made sure the nutrition info was available on the items for her classmate. They both have huge hearts.