A Delicate Balance

Do you remember a game called “Don’t Spill the Beans”? It was always one of my favorite games to play when I was a kid. As I recall, the beans were evenly divided into trays, then each player took turns adding one bean at a time into a little pot. The pot was suspended in a plastic holder that tipped a little bit each time a bean was added. At some point, one too many beans was added and the pot spilled over. The player who spilled the beans had to keep them all. The game ended when one lucky player was able to get rid of all their beans without spilling the pot.

The Tipping Point

I’ve had days lately that felt a lot like that bean pot. New problems kept piling on each day, threatening to tip the balance. Every time I thought things were finally settling down, another bean was added to my overflowing pot. My days were spent trying to keep things balanced and in control.

I’ve learned that whenever I feel overwhelmed by life’s challenges, it’s time to step away. It’s amazing how even a small change of scenery can give you a whole new perspective!

Simple Joys

Yesterday was a good day to visit Mom. She is always so happy to have visitors, and I love to see her smile. We took her outside to get some fresh air and sunshine before returning to her room.

My cousin sent her flowers last week, and I marveled that they were still fresh and colorful on her windowsill. And the spring bulb garden I brought three weeks ago had finished blooming, but the leaves were still lush and green. All the flowers and plants brightened Mom’s room, and they bring her so much joy. It’s really that simple. My brother told me how her roommate and all the nurses love the flowers too. They change the water daily and pinch off the dying blooms. Clearly, the flowers are thriving with all the attention — and so is Mom.

Fresh Perspective

My drive alone in the country is always enjoyable, as I get to sing along with my favorite Christian artists on the CD player.  (Here is one of my favorite tunes from For King and Country.)

Shenandoah Valley is coming alive again with green grass and grazing cows dotting the hillsides. The parking lot at the Appalachian trailhead at Bear’s Den was overflowing with hikers. The median on the road I travelled was carpeted in blooming daffodils. Sometimes God answers our prayers through scenery and song. “See, my child? I am still here.”

Later in the day I spent time weeding our garden beds. Their roots were deeply embedded in the winter-hardened clay soil, but I persisted until the task was finished. It was satisfying work for a  warm Saturday afternoon.

All-in-all, it was a better day. A smile and a hug from Mom, and a good dig in the garden, then suddenly my bean pot was balanced again.

We never know what weeds the next day will bring, but we can always find a moment of joy when we take the time to seek it. Let it wash over you!

Back-to-School Prayer

Today was Backpack Blessing Sunday at our church. The youngest kids brought their new backpacks with them for the children’s message, and then our pastor prayed a special blessing over them before they head off to school this week.

I remember the old Staples commercial playing the song lyrics, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year . . .” as Mom and Dad gleefully pushed their shopping cart down the aisles, tossing in pencils and notebooks as they went. The kids shuffled along miserably behind them, clearly not sharing their parents’ enthusiasm. All kidding aside, children, parents and teachers all have mixed feelings about the start of the school year. The free-spirited, spontaneous days of summer will quickly be replaced by a new bedtime, wake-up time and daily routine.

Thankfully, those days are behind me now, but I will always remember what a special time of year it was as we purchased school supplies, packed their backpacks, and visited their new classrooms. There were lunches to prepare, forms to be signed, schedules to be memorized, and locker combinations to be learned.

In addition to the classroom learning, there was a steady flow of homework, tests and projects . . . not to mention the many extracurricular activities! My children didn’t have their own computers until college, or their own cell phones until high school. (Those were still the days of flip phones!) Tablets and ipads had not been invented yet, and Promethean boards were just being introduced into our high schools.

Many young children today have their own laptops and smart phones, creating distractions and dangers that my kids never faced. Parents have to be extra vigilant in an age of growing dangers, including online predators, human trafficking, drug abuse, and viral “challenges” that tempt kids to accept and record various dares, all in an attempt to have it go viral. And it hurts my heart to add to this list — school shootings and suicide.

Oh, we have so much to pray for!

Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,
keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from telling lies.
Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
Psalm 34:11-14

With all this in mind, here is my Back-to-School Prayer:

Lord, I pray that you will lovingly watch over each child, and that they will . . .

  • be protected and feel safe in their learning environments
  • be filled with a desire to learn new things each day
  • be open to ideas, opinions and cultures that sometimes differ from their own
  • be a friend to the friendless and those who are bullied
  • be free to explore their creative ideas and express them in a meaningful way
  • be able to resist peer pressure that might cause them to act in ways that are harmful to themselves or others
  • be respectful, courteous, and helpful to their teachers and school staff
  • be proactive and seek wise counsel if  they, or one of their peers, ever feels anxious, depressed or confused

I invite you to use this list as a starting point for your Back-to-School prayers this week, and add to it throughout the year. Ask your children what you might add to this list, and encourage them to pray with you.

Rest assured, the Lord is listening, and He loves all His children unconditionally and guards them safely throughout their day. Have a wonderful school year!