Life Lessons from the Playground

Who ever said that children were born innocent has never really watched a pre-school playground. I love kids, I really do, but they can be little terrors; they can also bring you some of life’s greatest joys. During my time teaching a gaggle of them, I found words of instructions coming out of my mouth that absolutely applied to everyday problems and issues that we as adults often face. Some are quite obvious and some you have to think about, but they all have relevance, from two years to 20 years, to 92 years. Let me tell you what I learned:

Share. Play goes smoother that way
I’m sure you can imagine it:  kids used to playing by themselves when suddenly put in an environment with other kids often have a hard time with sharing and – dare I say it? – collaboration. So you have Megan playing sweetly by herself, and suddenly Colin has snatched her clay/crayons/car/etc. It escalates, and we have a screaming fest or tantrum on our hands, and teacher has to come in, mediate, and teach how we can play together and create something beautiful.

I was going to explain how that applies, but I’m pretty sure that I just depicted a scene from someone’s office just now.

Say please and thank you
This is where we teach gratitude to our kids, and the awareness that not everything comes to us “just because”. I loved this because when my precious Ethan (terror 80% of the time and melt-your-heart-just-plain-cute the other 20%) understood how being nice and kind and grateful felt, the biggest grin would come over his face, and he started acting much kinder to the others. When he wasn’t biting, but I’ll get to that later.

When we are grateful and cast off the sense of entitlement, I believe it opens up a new world of wonder and pleasure. We learn appreciate what we have and treat them with respect, both possessions and people.

Look forward if you’re walking forward
I always laughed at this one. We’d be walking down the hall and Isaac would inevitably have his head turned behind him with his body moving forward and bump into the other kids. Enter the domino effect. I talked to Mia’s mom about this tendency, and she said she has a freezer full of ice packs.

Life is full of distractions, and we may want to dwell on some sad, or even happy, event in the past. But if you have a goal and want to move forward, then that’s where your eyes should go.

After lunch, change your pants and take a nap
The ritual after lunch was changing diapers and getting everyone went down for a nap. My fellow teachers and I had perfected a routine from Ben, who fell asleep in his food, to Chloe, who you had to practically lay on for her to fall asleep. There was an oasis of calm, and the kids were raring to go when they woke up. If they missed their nap, well, I believed I used the term “terror” a time or two?

We need a break. When we keep pushing and keep pushing, our productivity actually decreases. We need to take the time to recharge and refresh, because let’s face it, most everyone around you can tell you need a break when you get cranky. Take Mr. Grumpygills for a short swim, and everything will look different when you get back.

No biting – physically, emotionally, or verbally. It’s just not a good idea
Kids get to be about two, and some find that they want to try their teeth out. On everything and everyone. It’s a way of acting out, especially when they don’t have words (also addressed later), but you and I know that it has to be confronted. It’s just not socially acceptable to deliberately bite people when you’re angry or can’t get your point across.

And just because the person doesn’t have teeth marks from the emotional or verbal incident they experienced doesn’t make it okay, either.

When you hurt someone, say you’re sorry and give them a hug
This lesson usually came after the sharing or biting incidents. We would sit both parties down, admonish who ever needed to be admonished, and then encourage this interaction. I was constantly surprised at how willing the kids were to offer forgiveness when asked. It was instantaneous most times.

There are a number of terms for this – keeping short accounts, being accountable, whatever. The long and short of it is take responsibility for your actions and do something about it. You may gain a best friend for life.

Don’t say no to the Teacher. Life gets difficult if you do
Of course sometimes, the terror overtakes the child and they become stubborn and obstinate and they throw a screaming fit. Life doesn’t go their way, and they stand there defiant, stare you in the eye and shout “No!” All of a sudden, they find themselves in a corner, or standing by the fence looking longingly at the other kids at play, and wonder how it came to this.

I’m not promoting that totalitarian state here. I’m just pointing out a couple of things: be respectful, and be reasonable. If you don’t like something, have a conversation, not a tantrum.

Drink lots of water
I learned this from a continuing ed class – kids get to playing, enjoying themselves, forget to drink, and it causes chemical imbalances in the body, all the way to the brain level. They act out not (only) because they’re little terrors, but something is going on. When an incident happens or is starting to escalate, the first thing we did was make them drink water. Oh my word, the difference in behavior when they were re-hydrated was amazing!

People, the human body is more than 50% water. When things are going downhill, re-hydrate.

Use your words. Problems get resolved quicker
I think this may be one of my favorites. Ian would come crying to me after someone did something, or a toy broke, or something. He would cry and point, but wouldn’t say anything. These kids could talk – sometime too much – but for some reason, in great distress, crying is the modus operandi. I got to the point where I would wait out the crying and then ask them again to explain what happened. Some kids would catch on quicker than others and learn to talk and cry. As long as I understood, I was cool with that, just give me a bone I can work with.

Let me just throw this out there – the silent treatment does not work. If you want to solve your problems, use your words.

Don’t throw stones
For some unknown reason, one corner of the playground had large gravel instead of sand. I’d like to meet the genius who thought that was a good idea. The kids loved it though. I think some of them had low iron; we’d be constantly telling them to spit it out, and ten little rocks would fall out of their mouths. And when the frustrations of the moment built up? You guessed it, flying stones. We had quite a few “say you’re sorry and hug” moments on the playground.

I don’t really need to outline that emotional, mental, and verbal stones are just as bad, sometimes more so. In our personal frustration, let’s not throw any type of stones.

I jokingly (most of the time) refer to these little angels as little terrors, but left unchecked, we have a world full of adult terrors. I learned valuable lessons teaching those kids, and translated them to “life skills” workshops at my job. It’s amazing the eternal application of childhood instruction.

When you feel like you’re done

This was a post from a friend of mine that I thought so very eloquent, I asked if I could share it. I was going to add some of my thoughts, but she pretty much sums up certain times in my life when I’ve hit the wall. Thanks, Linda

I trust you Lord, I do. I know your plan is always the best, I know this. You have been faithful in every way to me . There are times however, when I want to throw a tantrum and say No, it’s not fair. Don’t ask this of me. Even though I know its nothing compared to the sacrifice you made for me. I know you will equip me and you will walk with me though fire even. I know this because you have done this for me many times. We have walked some difficult paths together. I know I will be stronger and I will be closer as a result. I do want that. But there are times that I don’t want to be Spiritually mature, I really really don’t. And even in such moments you are right there understanding and not condemning me. I want things my way, I want to shut my eyes and shake my head, stomp my feet and clench my fists. I want it my way, the easier way in my thinking. But in truth my way is never easy, especially if it’s outside of your will. The enemy whispers to me, “He gives you glimpses good things ahead, the desires of your heart even, then immediately snatches them away.” Yet I know that is not true. The enemy is a liar! You ARE a good good father. Your plans for me are good, to prosper me not to harm me to give me a hope and a future. So I will submit and follow your Son’s example and say, Not my will, by your will. That’s the Spiritually mature thing to do. Any thing else is idolatry and sin even, I know better than to push my agenda. It’s the next level, isn’t it? You’re calling me to go higher up and deeper in. I know it will be better, but I stand here thinking, wouldn’t it be easier to just stay here a while, I think I got this level down and can relax a bit. But that’s just another lie. I know you, and further more, I know I can trust you. So, I choose to take your hand as you lead me to step up to the next level. I am a little shaky Lord, so hold tight, I will try not to stumble and fall. My eyes are on you, my ears are open to hear and my heart is receptive to receive your next instructions. Don’t let go of my hand, I will need you close! But you already knew that, didn’t you and that’s part of it too. YAH, I see that. So, while we are at this, let’s stop by the enemy’s camp and stir things up a bit, ok?

Gideon’s 300

This story really gripped me the other day, and I had a lot of thoughts about it. Take a few minutes and read it, so you can follow along with me (Judges 7):

So, he started off with 32,000 men, and God whittled it down to something He could work with. But as I wander along the paths of this, so many things come to mind.

Like, when God calls this “mighty man”, he’s hiding in a wine-press. There’s a potential in so many of us and when God calls it out of us, we have the choice to remain hidden, or actually do what He’s asking us to do. And sometimes, just sometimes, we have a general idea of what He wants, and we have to figure out the plan “as we go”, as it were.

And I think about the people who Gideon gathered and were later dismissed. Did Gideon mess up? Should he have waited for the direction to call out just those 300 people? Did he get ahead of what God wanted to do in gathering the people together? I was pondering on that, and actually wondered if the process is where God wanted to go, and He used this instance to take care of a whole lot of other lessons. Like making sure that these men knew that they were wanted to fight, maybe, regardless if they ended up in the battle. But also maybe that they needed to know that it was okay to be afraid, and God still valued them, maybe. And maybe that bravery also looks like taking care of their family and their land, maybe, and that is just as important as fighting on the front lines. Maybe. And maybe that Gideon needed to do the work of finding this many people so that he could figure out how to lead, maybe.

We often see the obvious lessons, but what if there were other purposes to what God was doing? And how can we trust and be obedient to what God is calling us when we don’t understand all the facets, maybe, of what He wants to teach and accomplish? Because maybe, it’s about more than just us.

Manifesting His Glory

I keep coming back to this quote, and it really has been a lesson to myself in the last few weeks. I was talking to a friend when these words came out of my mouth, “God has gifted me with [these] gifts and talents and made me a steward over them. I have a responsibility to steward them well and manifest His glory.”

It was a conversation about knowing my worth, and not in an arrogant sense. You know when you are cognizant of the value of something, you treat it as something precious and valuable, and you don’t want to take it for granted? In fact, when you see others doing so, something rises up within you in defense of that object or person. But how often do we turn that examination towards ourselves?

In the previous post, I talked about our own light shining, and for me, I’m coming to understand that we – I – need to value the light that God has put within me. I’m reminded of a certain story somewhere in the scriptures (Matthew 25:14-30), about the responsibility of taking the value He has given us, investing, and making a return. He gave them talents (money). He gives us talents (money, actual talent, wisdom, abilities, capabilities, etc.). Because it is in us, do we bury it so that we don’t take away from the Father? Do we spend it without regard or discretion on things that don’t give a return? Do we hoard it for a time when it may really be used, never knowing when that time may come? Are we afraid to lose what He has given us, only to hide it and really lose the value of what was given?

I was in the midst of writing this post when I came across a video of this incredible spoken word that seemed to underline the quote that I’m talking about. It’s pretty awesome, so you should watch it. No, really.

Pretty intense, yes? But then, I came upon the back story and was completely blown away. Here it is, and it’s a bit long, but it is worth every minute of it.

If you go to about 15 minutes, this is what stuck out to me: when the woman said, “God said to me, ‘My Glory is bigger than the arena’… This was for God’s glory, not ours.” What was that quote, something about being made to manifest the Glory of God?

I don’t have these answers, but I sure am reflecting on it. I want to manifest His Glory, because that is who He is, and He’s the one who made me. I’m just a small part of it, but I am a part, and I refuse to hide it any longer. I am slowly, but surely, beginning to know that I am brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous, because that is who He made me to be.

Our Deepest Fear

So I have this quote on the side of my blog that encourages me every single time I take the time to read it:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” -Marianne Williamson, Quoted by Nelson Mandela at his 1994 Inaugural Speech

What does it speak to? Our identity, our destiny, our fear. Pride, humility, and all that. We are His children, and He chooses to partner with us, and often takes us to places that are over our heads, and we look to our own inadequacies. True, we are inadequate without Him. But, as David Crowder sings, He has made everything glorious, and He made us, so what does that make us?

So when there is something we know we must do, and we are intimidated and shrink away because we don’t feel qualified, or do not want to seem better than others, what does that accomplish? There are times when you are put in a place for “such a time as this”, and it becomes not about you, or your talent, or your ability, but about manifesting the glory of God.

And the fear of pride makes its insidious way into our thoughts, making it about us again. I heard a saying that false humility is a form of pride. “Your playing small does not serve the world.” We need to recognize that we are children of God and shine for His glory, and give people a picture of what it may mean for them to shine.

And so I ask, who are you to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? You are a child of God, and it’s not just some of you, it’s everyone. Let perfect love cast out all fear, and be an example to others to let their light so shine, too.

More pictures from Day 9

Totally skipped these pictures! This is the rest of day 9 – enjoy!

I hope you enjoyed the presentation of Masada – I enjoyed putting it together and listening to it once again. But it wasn’t the only thing we did that day, and I had a few more pictures to share from our time at the Salt Sea and Ein Gedi. It was a wonderful day, and an awesome way to spend our last full day!