Wednesday, March 12, 2014

a little girl's miracle {God cares about the sparrow}

She comes to me all in a lather.  

“I can only stay five minutes,” she says apologetically.  “Our relatives who are staying with us are planning a party today and they only told me last night, after they’d already invited everyone!”  My helper shakes her head incredulously.  This is par for the course for these particular relatives of hers, but it’s still stressful every time.    

“So, I’m so sorry I can’t work today - I have to stay home and help them get ready,” she sighs, apologetically.  “And - one other thing…”  

She sits down at my kitchen table.  

“My daughter was sobbing last night, and wouldn’t tell me why.  I had to pry it out of her.  She finally told me today’s the day of the princess pageant at school.  She had told me ages ago but I completely forgot with everything else going on, and she didn’t want to remind me because she didn’t want to cause me more stress… 

“It’s for the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grades, and each class chose one girl to be their ‘princess’, so there are only 12 girls in the competition.  My daughter’s class chose her, which is a huge honor and it means so much to her.  But it’s today, and she needs a princess costume, AND a dress for dancing - each girl has to either sing a song or perform a dance - AND she needs a basket of flowers, PLUS some kind of ‘fall food’ to present… AND they have to wear some kind of ‘fall fashion’ in the fashion show at the end!  The teachers decide who wins.  I don’t know what to do - she has to be there at noon!”  

I glance at my watch.  It’s 9am.  

We find a basket and some pretty sparkly hairclips. I tell her to raid the garden for the last of the late zinnias.  At the last minute, as she’s about to walk out the door, I remember the loaf of zucchini-carrot bread I’d baked yesterday to help her entertain her unexpected guests, and I grab it out of the fridge and slip it into the basket on her arm… 

I lay my hand on her shoulder and say a quick prayer for her as she leaves - I can see her head is still spinning about how it will all work out.  “It’ll be ok!” I call after her as she trots down the street.  “Don’t worry!”

At 3:30, the phone rings.  “Can I come over for five minutes?”  She comes in and sets my basket on the kitchen table.  My sparkly clips are inside, and the basket is still decorated with festoons of bright pink ribbons.  I can tell she’s tired, but she’s beaming.  

“Thank you so much for all your help - you’ll never believe how well it all worked out!”  She’s visibly relieved.  

I pour tea for both of us, cup my hands around my mug and lean in, elbows on the table.  

“A relative loaned us a princess costume, and another friend’s daughter is a dancer so she let us borrow a dancing dress.  I put my daughter’s hair up in rollers last night, so I just used your clips to pin it back and it looked really pretty.  

"She carried your flowers in the basket when she went onstage, and she gave a nice little introduction of herself to everyone.  She was a little nervous, but when she came backstage afterwards I told her she sounded fine.  Then she danced, and later she told me she just pretended she was all alone in the room and nobody else was there - she did really well!  

“I was wracking my brain at home before we left to think what ‘fall food’ I could make in time, and then I saw it, right in front of me - your cake!  So I sliced it up and put it on a pretty platter, and added some sugar flowers from our next door neighbor who decorates cakes.  I told my daughter what was in it so she could introduce it properly - she told the judges she made it with one of her favorite aunties.”  

This with a bit of a sheepish glance at me, since it wasn’t strictly true.  

I grinned, and said, “Go on.”   

“Well, the teachers loved it!  It was the only thing of its kind - everyone else brought salads.  They thought it was delicious and unique.  Then she needed something to wear in the fashion show, so I pulled out her old potato costume - you know, the one you took a video of her in the fall festival two years ago?  It was a little small, but it still looked really cute and round, and she just wore leggings under it and we filled your basket with potatoes, and I stuck paper potatoes all over a little umbrella, and she came out and said, ‘I’m a potato!’  It was adorable!  And guess what - she won first prize!

She’s wide-eyed, shaking her head at me, still taking it in.  I’m tickled pink.  

“We prayed, and God really took care of everything, didn’t He?” I say softly.  

She nods.  “He really did.”

“Isn’t amazing your daughter will have this to look back on, as something God did especially for her?  He wants her to know He’s real, and that He loves her so much.”

She’s nodding again.  “I think so too.  She was so excited and relieved, and so thrilled to win the prize!  Thank you so much for your help, it was like a little miracle.”

I’m shaking my head, grinning.  “It was God’s miracle, just for her.  I’m just so glad I could be a part of it!  You know, in the Bible it says God cares about each little sparrow… I think that must include little girls who need princess costumes ASAP!”  

She laughs and nods, and we sip our tea.  

A personalized miracle for one precious little girl.  My day is made.  

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

habit-forming, or habit falling?

I was just outside closing the gate to our yard, and I noticed how I automatically swiveled the latch upwards instead of downwards, without even thinking about it.  

There's a hole under the welding job on our gate latch, so the latch is only secure when it’s swiveled up.  If it’s swiveled down, little neighbor kids’ fingers can poke through the hole, push the knob out level, and then slide the latch open.  One time I had just settled down for a nap, thinking my yard was secure, when a little brown urchin appeared in my bedroom door, wondering if my boys could play.  It was quite a shock, let me tell you!  So now, I swivel up. :)  

We’ve only been living in this house for just over two years, but already my brain has programmed certain actions to become completely automatic, no conscious thought required.  

This got me thinking.  We’re forming habits all the time, aren't we?  The process happens mostly unconsciously (like my gate swivel).  The problem is, I have the habit of falling into habits, instead of forming them intentionally.

Hmmm.  What habits - physical, mental, spiritual, other - will have I have fallen into, say, ten years from now?  Could I be more involved and thoughtful about which habits I actually want to form?  And not just my own habits - how about my kids’?  (That topic deserves a whole post by itself!)

A phrase I read this morning changed my whole day.  I was browsing Koodai Girl’s blog, and I found a post called “Lord, order my day.  

I started praying that simple prayer this morning, and and have been continuing to pray it steadily all day long.  And in fact, that prayer saved this very unexpected guest-filled day from becoming an emotional, stress-filled disaster.  Instead, I was surprisingly gracious and flexible!  Imagine that!  

Do I want that response, instead of reaction, to become a habit?  YES, YES, YES!    

Koodai Girl wrote: “I am learning it’s not "pray while I do this task" - wash the dishes, fold the laundry, etc - but "do this task while I pray".”  

YES.  This.  

Viewing whatever else I’m doing as a backdrop to communing with Christ.  

Keeping Christ at the front of my thoughts.  

Thinking this way helps me resist putting Christ on hold while I talk to a friend, or discipline my child, or make dinner.  I want communing with Christ to be the constant, whatever else I’m doing.  YES, let that become a habit, too!

So, how do habits form?  Practice, practice, practice.  

I remember teaching my son to hit a tennis ball with a racket when he was about 2.  He got so frustrated when he missed the ball, and I remember teaching him, using an exaggerated sing-song: 

"Will.  Listen.  If at first you don't succeed, TRY, TRY AGAIN!"  

He caught on quickly, and started joining in with an enthusiastic "TY, TY a-GAIN!" This saved many tears, because every time he missed the ball, we would chant together, and he would chuckle instead of wail.

Brother Lawrence shares sweet encouragement about developing the habit of practicing the presence of God:

"I worshiped Him the oftenest that I could, keeping my mind in His holy presence, and recalling it as often as I found I wandered from Him.  I found no small pain in this exercise, and yet I continued it, notwithstanding all the difficulties that occurred, without troubling or disquieting myself when my mind had wandered involuntarily."

"We should not wonder if, in the beginning, we often fail in our endeavors, but at last we will gain a habit, which will naturally produce its acts in us, without our care, and to our exceeding great delight."

-Brother Lawrence, Practicing the Presence of God

This time next year, what things do I want to be completely automatic - no conscious thought required, like "swiveling up" on our gate latch?  

What things do I not want to be automatic?

- Keeping Scripture rolling around in my mind all day, any time my mind is at rest, so the Word of God becomes the screensaver in my brain.

- Taking a deep breath and breathing out a prayer BEFORE speaking to my angry son (not afterwards!)

- Not reacting defensively to criticism.   (Ooooh... this is a biggie for me.)

What habits do you want to form?  What habits do you not want to fall into?

Let’s start now!