Our little tykes decided to be venomous and villainous this year.
And John? None other than Captain Hook!
Having already begged most of the adults in the family to take her outside to play, Wendy tried Grandma as a last resort. Grandma doesn't set foot outside the house. But still, Wendy thought she'd try.
"Grandma, pleeeeeease take me outside to play!!"
Grandma replied, "Noooo, I'm too old. Go ask someone else."
"No, you're not!" protested Wendy. "You're the PERFECT AGE!"
Who knew? For the record, 58 is the perfect age for taking children outside to play. Mark it down.
"What do you want for Christmas, John?" I asked. Wendy always wants something. Littlest Pet Shops. Webkinz. Some fad toy that she already has a million of. But John hasn't gotten the hang of figuring out what he wants and asking for it yet, when it comes to distant gifts. Still, I thought I'd try.
As it turns out, John totally has it figured out. He's a very wise boy. His immediate response?
I like the way that kid thinks. :)
"Disney World!?" I answered in astonishment.
As if to clarify, he nodded his head and uttered: "Pooh Bear! Peter Pan! DUMBO!"
Yep. He knows what he wants. Too bad he's not going to get it. Do you think Santa would bring it for all of us? :)
After discussing that her mommy was 29, Wendy was asked, "Wendy, what do you think you'll be doing when you're 29?"
Without missing a beat, she replied, "Shopping a lot."
She is her mother's daughter.
"You can buy something with your tooth fairy money if you want to," her stepfather said. "But just make sure you don't buy something you already have. We have a house, not a warehouse."
"What's a warehouse?" asked Wendy, then before anyone could answer, "Is it a house for wolves?"
And the next one is by Wendy's mother...
I called and said, "I need Wendy a particular weekend in January. You don't have anything planned for then, do you?"
Wendy's mother: "Nooo... where are you going?"
Me: "Well there's this blind museum..."
Wendy's mother, interrupting with excitement: "OHHHH, she'll LOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE that, she LOOOOOOVES blind stuff!"
How many seven-year-olds do you know would be enthusiastic over going to a museum of the blind?
(She loves blind stuff because she adores and associates herself with Mary Ingalls. Still and all, I didn't expect her mother to get excited about me taking her to a blind museum before I even got the information out that the REASON for taking her to this blind museum was a birthday party for Mary! Now that's something to get excited about!! And we are!!)
And on that note, I'll share the best "overheard" of all: from Wendy's stepfather, this summer when I went to pick her up to go on our big Little House trip --
"Hey... do you all like Laura Ingalls Wilder?"
Assuming that to be some sort of a joke, I ignored it, rushing Wendy out the door while snatching up her prairie dress and sunbonnet, and Charlotte doll.
And then he repeated the question. And this time it sounded awfully serious. Like, he was NOT joking. (And he KNEW where we were going, we'd been talking about it for months!)
I just looked at him for a moment, then slowly answered, "Um... yes... that's why we're going on this big trip to her home..."
"OH!" he says. "Well I was driving the truck through Wisconsin last week and I saw a sign about Laura Ingalls Wilder, and I thought to myself, Hmm, I'm thinking you like her, I better remember to tell you about it."
Where has he been!?!?!?
I've been looking at thousands upon thousands of rental homes for our family's vacation next summer, and examining their location on the map for proximity to the ocean... and all those google map images, zooming in as close as possible to measure how many feet the walk to the beach is, and zooming out to see where in the big picture each house is must have crossed the barrier into my subconscious mind.
In that stage between wakefulness and sleep, when you're still conscious enough to think but your thoughts blur and don't quite make sense, I had this thought.
When I'm examining google maps, the middle ground on the zoom button doesn't do me a whole lot of good.
I zoom way in to find out what I need to know specifically about the house in question and its distance from the beach access. And I zoom way out to see where in the grand scheme of things this house is located. But the middle? It doesn't tell me anything much.
And somehow, in that dreamy stage before sleep, I got to thinking about how this is sort of like our view as humans, and God's view, of our lives. We get the way zoomed in view of our life -- we see it up close and personal, in the here and now, what today looks like. God gets the way zoomed out view of our life -- he sees today, and our life as a whole, in the grand scheme of things -- the plan for the universe. So we both have very different views of the exact same thing (except of course that He knows the zoomed in view as well since He's omniscient...).
But there's a third view -- the middle ground. From this view, you can see the bigger picture -- in a way. It's not a big enough picture to give you any true knowledge about the location's place in the universe. And it's not a small enough picture to give you any intimate knowledge about the details in the here and now. Basically, your view is almost useless.
And I thought that maybe -- just maybe -- that is representative of others' view of our life. They see parts of it, and they see it from a bigger viewpoint than we ourselves do because they are outside of our personal frame of reference. But they don't see the BIG picture either. They see just about enough to make them feel like they have the authority to make judgments, yet not enough to truly have any authority to do so.
Don't we do this all the time? We judge people by what we see and think of as a bigger picture? Someone shares their thoughts on a certain subject, or a particular happening in their lives, and we think we know better than they do what's really going on.
I guess we're all going to have our opinions on other people's decisions and actions, but before we act on those opinions (by stating them to the person or to others, or by treating someone differently because of our opinions on what's going on), maybe we ought to remind ourselves that we have neither the big picture nor the detailed one. Maybe -- just maybe -- we don't know it all. Maybe we know just enough to get us into trouble.
Or maybe I've just been looking at too many maps.
Men and women are different. Everyone knows that. But the differences are so hard sometimes for me to understand.
Take this weekend, for instance. We took the kids to see some boats on the river and John had a great fascination with seeing the water, from the boat. At the back of one boat was a ledge about waist-length for him, and behind the ledge was a large open hole, easily big enough for a child to fit through.
John kept leaning over the ledge farther and farther, trying to better see the water, and in so doing, his feet even raised off the ground, leaving his head hanging out of this hole. My mother and I kept gasping, and grabbing at him. My dad stood and laughed while my brother -- John's father!! -- kept telling us to quit, and to let go of him!! LET GO OF HIM!!!! So he could fall to a watery grave!? No, thank you!!!
It was quite an incident, as John kept doing it, we kept trying to keep him from falling, and the menfolk acted as if we were crazy. "He's not going to fall!" they both kept saying. The kid is three. Don't tell me he's not going to fall. Better safe than sorry, I think! What harm were we doing in holding onto him for our own peace of mind!?
And then we noticed Wendy. While John seemed oblivious to the turmoil around him, Wendy most certainly was not. She was on the floor of the boat in tears, wailing, "Don't let him falllll!!! Don't let him falllll!!!!"
Women must be born with some protective instinct toward small children that men simply don't have. Although at the restaurant we had just come from, my brother was concerned about the high top table we were seated at because they had no highchairs for John, and he was afraid John would fall out of his chair.
He was worried his son would fall out of a CHAIR that was about three and a half feet off the ground, but we were being ridiculous for worrying he'd fall through a hole on a boat that was easily 25 feet above the water's surface, and the water was a good 50 feet deep and the child is three years old and cannot swim?
And then there's my dad's nonchalant, "If he falls, I'll go in after him." That makes us feel SO much better...
I'm happy to report that John survived both incidents. All I can say is that it's a good thing children have mothers. I don't think they'd survive being raised by men alone.
Sometimes, children's ministry workers feel underappreciated, and maybe in some situations, even like they're really not doing anything valuable for the kingdom. After all, when one is cleaning up cookie crumbs and spills or changing diapers or taking children to use the potty or finding themselves barely able to even tell a story for all the interruptions and disciplinary reminders needed, one may not feel like they're really accomplishing anything at all.
But they are.
Last night at church, I was leading our line of preschool girls to the bathroom -- one of those "is this really ministry??" moments -- when one little girl asked for the fifth time that evening if she could have a drink. I had told her and told her we'd get a drink when we went to the bathroom, so I was finally able to tell her yes, now she could have a drink.
As I lifted her up to the tall water fountain, my mind flashed back thirty years. To that exact same spot, that exact same water fountain, and a tall handsome elderly man who stood by it Sunday after Sunday. Elderly to my little girl eyes, anyway -- it's strange how the older you get, the older "elderly" becomes. He would have been the age my dad is now, and that is certainly NOT elderly at all.
Anyhow, this man posted himself every Sunday morning beside the water fountain for one reason only -- to be there for any little children who happened to pass by and needed a drink. The fountain was too tall for any child younger than 8 or 9 to be able to reach it on their own, and he wanted to be sure no little one went thirsty because they couldn't reach the fountain. He always referred to the passage in Mark 9 where Jesus, with a child in his arms, said whoever shall give someone a cup of water because they belong to me shall not lose their reward.
It's the little things sometimes that can make such an impact, and the gentleman would likely have been shocked if he were told that his little granddaughter would three decades later be blogging about his faithfulness in giving children drinks of water in Jesus' name. (Especially since blogging didn't exist in those days!)
The story reminds me of another fine lady who has earned my utmost respect and admiration: Laura Ingalls Wilder. You see, when Laura was visiting at the local elementary school in Mansfield, Missouri, years after achieving national fame, she saw a little girl who wanted a drink of water and couldn't reach the fountain. And the little old lady who is loved by millions all over the world decades after her death leaned over and lifted the girl up so she could get a drink. I love that. I love that despite the fame and fortune that had come to her, she maintained her humility. And again, it had an impact on the little girl, who is still telling people about it sixty years later.
So if ever there's a season in life where it feels you're doing nothing of value, think again. Even something so small as giving someone a drink of water may be having an impact far beyond what you could imagine. Maybe thirty or sixty years from now, someone will be telling others about you -- he's the man, or she's the woman, that gave me a drink. And that drink meant a lot to me. More than just the water that satiated my thirst for a few minutes, that drink told me that someone cared about me.
And after all, isn't that what ministry really is?
I had a lot of sick kids last week. Most of them were daycare kids, and weren't at daycare. All week. The one daycare child I did get to see is in a class of what is usually about 12 kids. There were two there.
This spring, with all the hype about swine flu, I wasn't alarmed in the least. It's just a flu, I thought. People die from the flu every year. Maybe it's a little strong. It's nothing to get all upset about. Schools are closing?? Seriously??
But now... now the opposite is happening. Now it's the media telling us, everything's fine, it's no big deal, sure it's going around but it's just like any other flu, yes a few people are dying but they have other underlying issues, don't worry, you'll be fine, just treat it like the flu. No, schools don't need to close, this isn't anything to panic about.
Oh, really? Because three people in the community have died in a week, and all of them young, healthy people. The media continues to lie, blaming it on "underlying issues", when in fact, the people who know these individuals say they were the picture of health and the minor underlying issues the news scraped together is things like high blood pressure which had absolutely nothing to do with their death from the flu. The third one, a strong healthy teenager, dead just three days after he started getting sick, had no underlying issues. An interview with the parents the other day has them saying exactly that - their child was in perfect health, he had no health concerns whatsoever. And the news stories today? "The family has asked for privacy and therefore we are unable to learn what underlying conditions this child may have had which contributed to his death." What a lie!
I have to get a routine physical -- what a wonderful time to do that. I didn't think much about it at first, and then it dawned on me that I was going to have to go into a clinic full of people with the swine flu. For although the media states that, "Oh, a few dozen cases of mixed flus which probably aren't even all swine flu are being reported weekly," the absence rate and the facebook statuses of people in the area naming all the people in their families who are sick tells otherwise.
And when I walked into that clinic, the "few dozen cases" for this week? They were all in there. At the same time. In one of many clinics in the area. Multiply the dozens of sick people in that one clinic at that one five-minute period by the hours in the day and the clinics in the area -- and we've got hundreds sick, just today. Count in the people who already went to a clinic yesterday, or the day before, or the day before that and are still sick, and the people who are just starting to feel bad and will be going in tomorrow or the next day, and the people who hate doctors and don't care if they're sick, they're not going to the doctor, and I bet we have thousands ill in this city alone.
That many people sick, with a virus that kills healthy people, is frightening.
It became even more frightening when I did some research and learned that it's actually those with a healthy immune system that are most at risk for dying. Look up cytokine storm, folks. That is exactly what happened to these three healthy people -- their lungs filled with fluid, they went to the hospital as soon as they got sick, and they couldn't be saved.
As someone with a great immune system, who never worries about colds and flus and other illnesses because I almost never get them, and when I do, my immune system boosters keep it pretty mild... cytokine storm is a pretty scary thing.
So while I'm typically not an alarmist -- I'm about to become one.
Because this stuff? This stuff is lethal.
I didn't get my physical. It will have to wait. I'm not going to get sick while proving I'm healthy.
My sister has a gym membership. It's expensive. And she goes there before work as it's the only time in the day she has time. This requires getting up earlier than necessary. And showering at the gym before work, something I personally would hate to have to do. (I like showering in my own home. Gym showers feel icky.)
I've asked and asked her why she does it. You see, my sister is lazy. I know, I know, that doesn't sound very lazy! It makes me look lazy, not her. But the only reason she goes to such effort to do this gym thing is because she's so lazy in the rest of her lifestyle.
I've told her she could save a good bit of money and effort if she'd just chase that little girl of hers out in the yard, ride bikes with her through the neighborhood, play with her on her trampoline... she'd get plenty of exercise, it'd be free, and it'd give Wendy exercise and quality time with her mommy, to boot! But she insists she can't do that. Because she won't. Because when she's home, she just wants to watch tv and hang out on the couch.
And so she has a gym membership.
What happened to simply leading an active lifestyle? Can you imagine people of the pioneer days needing a gym membership? :) The saddest part, I think, is for kids. When I was little, we were outside playing all the time.
As soon as we came home from school, we changed into our playclothes and were out the door, and other than briefly for dinner, we weren't inside again until we were called in to get ready for bed. In the summer, we were outside all day. We ran all over our hill, climbed trees, hiked through the woods, rode bikes and pulled each other in wagons up the hill and back down over and over again. We played on our swingset, even "trained for the Olympics" by running laps around the house, performing chinups on our monkey bars, etc. We were naturally active, and healthy as a result.
I rarely see kids playing outside anymore. Oh, kids still do. Some kids might do it as much as we did. But when I was little, you could hear kids all over our hill shouting and playing outdoors. Now, it's quiet. I live in a neighborhood full of kids. Occasionally you see a couple riding bikes down the road, once in awhile, some boys out playing basketball. But I had a friend who lived in this same neighborhood when I was little, and the place was literally crawling with children on summer days, weekends, and weekday evenings.
Why don't kids play outside anymore? Well, we didn't have the draw of video games. Atari was new when I was a kid -- nobody I knew had one until I was 8 or 9 -- and even once we had one, while enjoyable, it wasn't as addictive and time-consuming as the gaming devices of today. At least, it wasn't for us. Maybe because we didn't grow up on it, it came later.
But I heard a new one the other day. I was truly shocked. And once more, my mind turned toward the pioneers. The families who heated with a coal or wood stove, often just one stove for the whole house, and who had no air-conditioning at all.
It has grown chilly here the last few days -- by chilly, I mean time to put on long-sleeved shirts and jeans, instead of t-shirts and shorts. Not cold, by any stretch. I'm outside a lot with my job, and haven't had to even get out a jacket yet, so it's not that cold!
A mother said to her older daughter as I was working with her little girl one evening last week, "Did you play outside at recess today!?" It had been a beautiful fall day, and I'd been enjoying every moment I got to spend outdoors in it. The little girl nodded, and the mother gasped, and looked at me saying, "I was driving by the school on my way to lunch and I saw all these kids out playing! I couldn't believe it!"
I furrowed my brow and said, "What do you mean?"
She said, "It's way too cold for kids to be outside playing!"
I just looked at her for a moment, and finally said, "It was sixty degrees..."
She nodded, "I know it, isn't that awful they had those kids out there in that weather!?"
Okay. If other parents share this opinion, I'm beginning to see why kids are turning into couch potatoes before they're old enough to even know what a couch potato is.
It makes me wonder... if sixty is way too cold, what is way too hot? 80? 85? Are her kids only allowed to play outside during the three to four weeks of the year when it's 70-75 degrees?
How have we come to this?