Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom-Psalm 90:12

Aren't we intended to be Students of Life? Life presents so many opportunities to be constantly learning, growing, reflecting, perfecting, and changing. We desire to teach our children to be aware, look around, and watch. Look to see who you can help, look to see who you can visit, look to see who has no friends, be willing to do the job nobody wants to do...and do it all because we love Christ.

Mother Teresa said that the gospel can be taught in five words:
"YOU DID IT FOR ME!" Oh my. How this can apply to all areas of our lives. My favorite part is that it makes no amount of work mundane. Every shirt or toy picked up, if picked up for the right reason, can give God great glory. Does it not change everything?

Isn't that motivating? Really, though, if you think about it. Christ died for me. Can't I die for him? My parents gave me life. Can't I give life back? From the top of our lives, to the bottom of our lives, this statement applies,

"You did it for me!"

On Sunday, my mother and four of my siblings traveled to western Kansas to visit my great aunt and uncle. It is one of those moments where you don't want to do something, but you know that God is prompting you to go.

My great Uncle Bill and Aunt Marylou have always been a part of our lives. They never had children so we were their children. They made several trips a year to attend our events while growing up. They traveled each holiday to be with our family. We made several trips to their farm as children. I remember being proud of my Aunt's fried chicken. My mom said she made the best chicken so therefore I thought the world knew that simple fact. Memories. Marylou has lived on the same land for 85 years. She saw the same sunrise for 85 years.

Oh, my sweet mother. She has lived the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. Always visiting someone. Always helping someone. She has set the example by her actions.

Bill was a WW1 veteran. He helped the famous General Patton rebuild bridges. I spent some time with him a couple years ago and he still cries when he speaks about the war. I remember Bill always wanting to hold any baby that was in the room. When we walked into Bill's room, an emotion came over all of us. Here he lies in a small nursing home/hospital in Trego County Hospital by himself waiting to die.

The room was sterile and cold. The atmosphere scared me. This is it? This is how we go out?
The whole scene was very somber and brought my 220lb. brother to tears. Life lessons were being learned very quickly. You can play all the college football you want, but guess what? Someday, we all will be in the bed.

My mother taught us a prayer when we were small and I couldn't help but think about it when I saw his face.
I saw my suffering Christ today, as plain as He could be.
I saw my suffering Christ today, He was staring back at me.
I saw my suffering Christ today, I saw my suffering son.
He spoke no words.
Not even tears.
But I heard his anguished sigh.
I saw my suffering Christ today and I couldn't help but cry.

We didn't just want to pop in his room and leave. Due to the stroke Bill had a couple months ago, the conversation was only going one way. Everything we said, he just stared at us. God did not bless me with the gift of the vocals, but for some reason I said, "Let's Sing." And sing we did. The nursing home staff kept popping their heads in the room. It was a God moment. All of us were singing. Bill closed his eyes and thoroughly enjoyed our array of Patriotic and old time songs. It was beautiful. When the songs were over, we noticed tears rolling down his face. God did bless me with the gift of the waterworks so you can only imagine how the tears were rolling from every person in the room. He will probably never see anyone else again before he dies whenever God chooses to call him home. I was able to record a little of the singing.

What did I learn from Marylou? I thanked her for all the wonderful times. She said, "I would do anything to do that again. I wish I could fry chicken again." Grip my heart. What will I wish I could do all over again? What will I wish I could do just one more time? I can answer that easily.

If only we really knew how numbered our days really are. Won't we let so many things slide by the wayside and hold onto all the important things? I now call them my "Marylou moments." I picture in my head myself in Marylou's place, old and on my way out. I've enjoyed to a much deeper level this week all the small things that come with raising children. I was holding Clairvaux in her room before bed, thinking of my "Marylou moments" and just held her. I closed my eyes and pictured myself in the bed in the nursing home and told myself how I am grateful for holding each child before bed instead of hurrying them off. I've enjoyed their voices so much more this week. To be honest, I've enjoyed just being with them. I looked at giving them a bath differently. How wonderful these moments really are to be scrubbing two year buns! So fleeting. How wonderful it is to be reading a story to four children plastered on all sides of you trying to see the pages. How wonderful it is at the bread store today watching them color the picture so that it could be turned in for a free GIANT cookie. Little hands coloring so fast, handing their picture to the cashier, and then pondering which cookie to pick. I just watched. I watched them take their time and I let them take all the time in the world. How wonderful it really is to take them to the Dollar Tree to let them pick out a present just from them to John's mother for her birthday AND a matching gift bag if they wanted. Dominic picked out a flower snow globe because Grandma likes flowers. Lillie and Rose picked out a figurine of a lady with a bonnet. Zellie picked out a Princess coloring pack with markers much to her sisters' dissatisfaction. Vianney picked out a party hat. They were so proud of their gifts. John's mother was moved to tears. I am so grateful for "Marylou moments." I know when I am old I will remember these times and be satisfied with a life well lived with the ones I love the most.

So really, what do you plan to do with your numbered days? I plan to do a great many things. Our homeschooling motto is based around three concepts, The Beatitudes, the Corporal Works of Mercy and the Spiritual Works of Mercy. We feel if we can teach our children these concepts they will have contributed back to the world in a heavenly way.

We've taught the kids that every act of love or virtue never goes unnoticed to God. He is always watching. I've told them that when they get to heaven their heavenly reward will be wonderful.

Every time they do a sacrifice, help their sibling, help another person, be a cheerful giver, I've told them that they get a jewel in their heavenly crown. I say, "When you get to heaven, God will put your crown of sacrifices on your head and say to you "Well done my good and faithful servant." I love how they smile. They would come up to me at certain times and say, "Mom, so and so gets a jewel in their crown because they sacrificed their bike. " They even reported today that the neighbor gets a jewel because he helped John shuck the corn on the cob without being asked.
I wanted to give them a visual to make the point clearer. I printed out simple crowns and bought colored stars resembling jewels. Every time they do a heavenly act, they go and add a jewel to their crown. Oh my. You wouldn't believe the reports of their acts. I noticed Zellie today putting a jewel on her crown. I asked what she was doing it for and she said, "I walked through the room and saw a book on the floor so I put it away." No act is too small for God. He is always watching. If I see a conflict arising between two children, I will whisper in their ear, "Just think of the jewel that could go in your heavenly crown for God." I love seeing that child cheerfully slide of the coveted swing to let their sibling take a turn first.

I hope to continue building my own heavenly crown and remember that no act goes unnoticed to God.