Friday, May 18, 2018

Hit Refresh

Photo by Tim Marshall
I need to hit refresh a lot. 

Our dryer has a setting where you can turn the dial to the refresh section and choose 30, 40 or 50 minutes to "refresh" the load.  What this means to me is that I've left the laundry in the dryer overnight...or let's be honest, sometimes for a few days at a time.  I am turning this dial, because the laundry has been sitting there wrinkling for hours and there's no way I will get to it anytime soon. 

The definition that fits this best is:  "To freshen in appearance, color, etc., as by a restorative."  Let's hope that load of laundry stays fresh until I get home tonight.  Or, maybe I'll get to it in the morning...

Sometimes I also need a refresh button for life.  Mornings like today, I have been running non-stop since the alarm rang.  I exercised, refreshed the laundry, took a shower, checked our schedule and email, made my son and I breakfast, tied his shoes and shooed him out the door just in time to make the bus.  My daughter woke up late, so I quickly gave her food, got her dressed at breakneck speed and put more laundry in the dryer.  It was pouring outside, which required her special dinosaur raincoat and ice cream umbrella.  We were running late.  She would no doubt miss the fine motor skills time at preschool and be scarred for life. 

I need a refresh button for today.

The other definitions for "refresh" that struck home with me are: 
"To provide new vigor and energy by rest, food, etc." and "To make fresh again; reinvigorate or cheer." 

After the middle-of the night diaper change and the early morning alarm, I sure could use some of that energy and rest right now.  Instead, I'll settle for some coffee and a few minutes to watch the rain. 

Looking up a verse for this concept, I found this one for the first time:  "The Lord replied, 'I will go with you.  And I will give you rest.' "  (Exodus 33:14)  How cool is that?  I'm sure I am totally taking it out of context, and I know my seminary professors would kill me for this, but I am going to mention it here, because what a message!  God will go with us, and he will give us rest. 

If, like me, you need a "refresh" button for life, think about this verse today.  Dwell on it. Walk in it. God will go with you.  He will give you rest. 

Thank you, God, for the refreshment that comes from you just when we need it. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Gym Class

This year, I've had a wide range of experiences with substitute teaching.  Look for a series on this next month as I finish up the year.  Yesterday, I taught gym class.  Right up there on the list with subjects I never thought that I would ever teach, including Algebra.   It's the end of the year, and there aren't as many assignments available, so I thought, "Why not?"

As I looked through the plans for the day that the teacher had typed up, I came across a worksheet on the male reproductive system.  "No!"  I thought quickly.  "No, no, no, no, no! They do not seriously expect a substitute teacher to teach this, do they?"  I quickly looked through the plans and discovered that it was a personal learning day in health class, so they had to read about it on their computers and fill out the worksheets on their own.  "Ok, I can do this," I thought to myself. As long as they don't ask any questions...

The ironic thing was that I had to break up two couples from making out during the class where they were supposed to learn about the reproductive system.  Insert faceplant emoji here...

I went on to teach aerobics and stretching and toning class, both of which involved a worksheet.  As the regular teachers like to say, "You just have to keep them from killing each other."  Ok, I can do that...

The whole experience brought back so many memories of my own gym class days.  Just walking out onto the gym floor was like  Déjà vu.  All of the repressed memories came flying back.  The awkwardness of 7th grade, in which we had to change our clothes and take showers and learn to put on deodorant.  The 3rd grade square dancing, during which we had to touch boys' hands and risk being infected by cooties.  The Maypole dances with streaming colored ribbons.  The roller skating around and around the gym.

So. Many. Memories.  For me, a shy, overweight, non-athletic female, most of my school years were spent dreading gym class.  I did like the roller skating, the occasional volleyball game, and the tennis matches.  I had a hate-hate relationship with the pull up bar and I despised having to hit the ball and run the bases during softball.  I couldn't run the mile for the presidential fitness test and push ups only eluded me.

Many of the other students loved gym class.  A chance to get away from academics and let loose while playing their favorite sport.  I think of one girl in particular every time I think of gym class.  She was the most athletic person in our school, and she was good at every sport.  She played hard, she played rough and she enjoyed every minute of it.  I was the polar opposite.  I was counting the minutes until gym class was over.  I was the academic type, and prayed constantly that gym class wouldn't bring my grade point average down in my run for class valedictorian.  The semester on track seriously questioned this as I could not run to save my life and I couldn't jump more than a foot.  Thankfully shot put helped me out a bit with my grade.

My funniest memory to look back on was during our badminton section.  My nemesis (later turned good friend) Nate was playing next to me and as he went to swing the racquet to hit the shuttlecock, the racquet got stuck in my very long hair. I screamed and probably punched him in the arm.  "My hair!"  It took the rest of class to untangle my hair and my pride from his racquet.

My best memory of gym class happened during the last semester of my senior year.  I have very bad recollections of the male gym teacher at our school.  He was harsh and demanding and favored the athletic students in the class.  I always tried to stay away from him as much as possible.  Senior year, we were playing soccer (a sport I actually liked), and as we approached the goal, I made an assist to the gym teacher and he scored a goal!  Afterwards, he came up to me and said, "Nice assist!"  I will never forget those words, as they were the only positive ones I'd heard from him in four years.

It's amazing how a thing like teaching gym class will bring back a flood of memories.  What do you remember about gym class?

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Photo by Antonina Bukowska
"Spring passes and one remembers one's innocence.  Summer passes and one remembers one's exuberance.  Autumn passes and one remembers one's reverence.  Winter passes and one remembers one's perseverance."  

~Yoko Ono

How To Enjoy Your Life

Photo by:  Veri Ivanova
Last week, I attended a dance performance and met a few of the audience members sitting near me.  One of them was 91 years old.  She, too, loved dance.  She said that some of her favorite times in life were spent volunteering at the Kennedy Center and watching many of their shows.  Her most memorable moment was meeting Soviet-American dancer and choreographer, Mikhail Baryshnikov.  Now, she loves watching Dancing With the Stars.  (I so want to be her when I grow up!)

She grabbed me by the arm and asked, "How old are you, twenties?"  (I immediately loved her even more!)  I corrected her, and she replied that I am still young.  She went on to remind me: "Enjoy your life.  I am 91 years old, and I am near the end, but I've enjoyed my life.  Enjoy yours."  She is now battling cancer, but she continues to attend as many dance performances as she can.

There is so much wisdom in talking to friends in their nineties.  They have seen in all, experiencing so much in 90 years.  If we listen closely, maybe we won't make quite as many mistakes in our own lives.  I loved her admonition to "Enjoy your life."  So many days, we forget to do that.  As they say, "The days are long, but the years are short."  Some days, I am definitely not enjoying my life.  Last week, I spent two sleepless nights getting up constantly as my sick two-year-old woke up and needed me to comfort her.  I got frustrated and extremely tired.  I wasn't enjoying myself.  But there was a moment.  During the 3:00 am wake-up, I laid her against my chest and rocked her in her chair.  I gently sang and prayed over her.  A beautiful moment as I remembered her infant days and enjoyed the closeness of our relationship.

I don't believe we are put on this earth to be happy.  I believe there is more to strive for than a happy and safe life.  I believe that I was put on this earth to love and serve the Lord and to encourage others with his love.  This has not always put me in my happy place.  I have been stretched out of my comfort zone, led to do things that weren't part of my personality type, and have been deeply hurt at times by other Christians.  Serving God involves suffering, but it is incredibly fulfilling.

We may not be put on earth to be happy, but I do believe that God wants us to enjoy our time here.  If he didn't, he would have made everything black and white, with cafeteria food and boring days.  Instead, he created color.  He made sets of trees to bloom in a different color each week.  This year, I have enjoyed the pinks, the purples and the whites.  He paints with glorious color.  He directs a beautiful symphony of music.  He created the majesty of animals in the wild and he paints us a glorious picture each morning and every evening as the sun rises and sets.

Part of enjoying our life is to remember this in any circumstance.  A friend reminded me of that as she spoke about living in a hut in Africa in her twenties and being happier with people who were so content with their lives than she had ever been in the United States.  I experienced this as well.  On my first international mission trip to the Dominican Republic, I had one of the most profound moments of my life.  As we arrived and walked up the side of a hill, we passed homes made of sticks and cracking mud, walked by babies covered in dirt and mothers cooking meager plates of food.  We came to the clearing and heard the villagers singing to welcome us.  They weren't running up to us and asking us to help or needing us to give them money.  They welcomed us with joy and singing.  I remember tears running down my cheeks as I realized this was real.  Extreme poverty was real, just a plane ride away, and yet it came hand in hand with great joy.  This was a defining moment in my life.

Remember to enjoy it.  You only get one.  You won't be happy every day.  You may not be happy most days, but if you persevere, you will find deep joy and enjoy life as you fulfill your purpose.