Thursday, August 28, 2014

First Day of School

The cool breeze suggested the beginning of Fall but the calendar read August 25th---still summer. Regardless of the season, the first day of school arrived again.

My daughter, now a sophomore, bounded down the stairs, the slight scent of powder trailing her. She looked at herself in the mirror, smoothed a couple stray hairs and adjusted her blouse. She then turned, peeked over her shoulder to check the final view from the back, and smiled. Satisfied, she joined me in the kitchen.

“Good morning, precious!”

“Morning, Mom!”

“How are you?”

“I’m okay, thanks. Except I’m a little nervous about the new building. It might be tough to find my way around.”

“I understand,” I said.

More than thirty years have passed since I started my sophomore year in high school. How odd to remember the details to this day. I wore a blue uniform, and remember checking from the back to make sure my blouse collar was laying properly, my socks pulled up, my hair smoothed down.

My young man, now a high school senior, walked down the stairs a few minutes later. Confident and calm, he no longer resembled the little boy I used to escort to the bus stop.

“You ready to take it on?” I asked.

“Yup!” he said.

After breakfast, they each posed for the obligatory first-day-of-school photo. They know to stand in front of the door, so I can see how tall they’ve grown since last year. The photo tradition gives me a chance to capture the moment, hoping to make it stand still. Tears threatened, but I held off. My chickadees hadn’t left the house yet.

“Time to go,” I said. “Let’s put on the armor of God, okay?”

We had been reciting our personal version of Ephesians 6 since my son started Kindergarten.

“Thank you, Lord, that you give us the belt of truth…”

And we go through the hand motions putting on our invisible belts.

“And for the breastplate of righteousness…”

Hand-motions to strap on a chest plate.

“…and our feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”

Hand motions to tie on our shoes.

“Thank you, Lord, for our helmet of salvation, and the shield of faith, with which we can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”

Strap under the chin, then left arm bent at the elbow and lifted up to hold the shield.

“…And for the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”

Right arm wielding a sword, ready to take it on.

And my two young adults walked out the door, stepping out of this momma’s nest to fly.

Letting go is not natural, but necessary.

I cried. The first day of school gets me every time. I think I need a box of tissues to go along with the armor.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Smoke Break

Today, I watched as an employee at a local retail store took a well-deserved smoke break on a bench just outside the front doors. She was disengaged from the busyness around her, enjoying the breezy afternoon with just enough sun to be comfortable. With each puff, she seemed to take in a dose of stillness. She seemed so…calm.

I’m old enough to remember the days when it was normal for businesses to allocate time for their employees to take a “smoke break” as one of the company benefits. Smoking was all the rage, but only the cool people smoked, and I certainly wanted to be cool.

Remember the Marlboro Man?

Okay, I admit I tried smoking back when I was a teenager (sorry, Mom) but didn’t like it very much. Thankfully, it’s not a habit which interested me. As a result, you may consider me odd but I looked up “how to smoke” on Google. (Ironically, my teenage daughter caught me and seemed wary of my excuse that it was blog research. But that’s another story.)

I’m thinking I want this sense of…calm…when I’m praying.

The Google smoking instructions contained five basic steps:

1) Flame
Obviously, lighting up requires well, a light. Fire is required for smoke.

So many times I am pushed to the limit with feeling out of control in my life that a touch of heat…a flame…a scorch of awareness…is all I need to remember God is really the one in control. It’s a good way to get started in prayer.

2) Inhale a Little
The instructions mentioned it best to inhale just a little bit of smoke, slowly, so as to avoid singeing your throat, and to give yourself a chance to taste the cigarette.

Taking in only a little of the Bible at a time helps me to get a deeper sense of what God wants to say. Recently, I have been reading the book of Proverbs, one chapter at a time, and then selected a single verse in that chapter for reflection. I am able to apply that one verse more tastefully than if I simply sucked in the entire chapter.

3) Hold
The next step is to hold some of the smoke in your mouth, for enjoyment.

Reminding myself of the single verse at various times during the day gave me a chance to savor the lesson. The other day, Proverbs verse reminded me to “guard my heart” and it helped me stay calm when I felt overwhelmed about preparing for my schedule the following day.

4) Inhale Further
Next, the smoke is to be inhaled all the way down to the lungs.

Sometimes, the message I learned the day before (such as the “guard my heart” reminder) needs to get deep into my being. I decided to dwell on it for the next couple days as well. It made a difference.

5) Let Go
Finally, there are various ways to demonstrate your “coolness” by the stylistic way to let go and blow out the smoke.

For me, this means to let go of what I think I can control and simply breathe out my own efforts to let God work instead.

Thinking through these steps, I inhaled a dose of peace instead of tobacco. Drew in some stillness. Exhaled some stress. When I returned to my work later that day, I was more productive and energized.

And I was as cool as the Marlboro Man.