Truth-telling

It is one of those balmy, beautiful outdoor recess days that you might think would create the reality (or illusion of such) of not a care in the world being felt or expressed. You would expect to see everywhere…children running hither, thither and yon playing tag, catching butterflies, picking daisies. Strains to Pharrell’s Happy theme being piped onto the playground. Unicorns floating lazily in the sky.
Rather, it is a bit of a zoo- and I feel like a chicken running around with my head lopped off, my nerves frazzled and my sanity nearly unattached. All because ‘so-and so’ just did this- and Little Miss just fell off the tire swing and he just said THAT. Can you come quick? Somebody else just got slammed into the soccer nets and somebody ELSE just got into a fight on the playground equipment.
It is not easy, either- trying to figure out the truth of the matter. Not easy at all. Trying to sift through the facts to get to the bottom of the story at hand, particularly when there are three or four or more stories to attend to. Listening to stories and first-hand accounts is almost a full time employment.
But one thing as a duty teacher that I am trying to honor and privilege with my generous ‘doling out of justice’ responses is the following:
Truth matters. And it matters more than what just happened or what will most certainly happen again in five minutes if we don’t establish the facts of the matter and own up to them.
Truth has come under fire lately- because, as it has been contended- who really knows? What is true? What is false? Is there really such a thing? I believe there truly is.
When it comes down to brass tacks, there is always a true account of what occurs- whether we want to admit or deny it or otherwise. Something had to occur so that another something could then follow. Usually, there is a tangled web of facts and information that somehow ties back to what originally went wrong- it has been my job each Monday afternoon, as the teacher on duty, to help my students find their way back to the start of the issue: so as to re-trace the original steps that were taken. In doing so, we collectively arrive back at the beginning where the truth resides: arrive at the truth of the matter somehow, someway.
I honor children who tell the truth. I once had a child steal from me. In questioning him on the matter, he would not own up to the contention, even though I had caught him red-handed. Later on, with some careful questioning and encouragement, he confessed. I told him that I appreciated the truth he had the courage to tell in spite of his fear causing him to withhold that truth from me. I expressed that even though what had happened was not a choice he should have made, his decision to tell the truth was certainly commendable.
Even in the difficulty of the moment, I honored that simple truth he had the courage to tell.
As teachers, we need to encourage our students- our children, to tell the truth; and somehow we must show them that this route is a better way for them to travel. Yes, it is not easy owning up to mistakes. Yes, it is hard to admit that we’ve done wrong. Absolutely, there are greater consequences which eventually await the child or student who has both made a poor choice to act unfavorably, along with lie about it.
But for the child that tells the truth- I personally have a special place in my heart for those young students and learners. This goes against the fabric of our culture and society. These students are swimming against the tide- have come to the realization that truth-telling- as hard as it might be- is more desirable than covering up and hiding beneath a blanket of false pretenses.
And that is about as true as it gets from my vantage point on the elementary school playground.

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The Lies We Tell

Oh, the lies we tell ourselves. The lies we blatantly tell to others. Those little half-truths that we convince ourselves to believe, that we try to influence others into believing as well. Words can be so deceptive. So smooth and yet so distorted. We find ourselves saying things like, it will be a good day tomorrow, and this is all going to get better; saying things like everything is going to be okay and the best is yet to come. And more shameful still: It can’t get any worse.

Tomorrow will be easier.

Really?

Are we so sure? Do we know it will be a better day tomorrow? And is everything really going to be okay? Do we know everything is going to get easier? That it really can’t get any worse?

Do we know this for sure?

He was in tears at my classroom door. It had been a DAY. Truly a day. A day of spills and messes and meltdowns and breakdowns. My patience had been tried. And there he stood in front of me, with tears in his eyes- apprehension written across his face. I was exhausted and spent myself and had my own set of problems that needed fixing. But I looked him in the eye and I said something I would later regret. I said, “It will be a better day tomorrow.”

I mean, really. Who am I to say?

In my experience, problems that need mending don’t just disappear overnight. Trouble doesn’t up and vanish, heartaches don’t just melt away like icy snowflakes on an outstretched tongue. We can’t make promises about tomorrow. We don’t know. We are not there yet. We haven’t got a clue.

And who are we to say what tomorrow will be?

All I know of tomorrow is I am not there yet. If tomorrow proves anything like today, it will bring with it laughter intermingled with challenges, tears and sorrow- a day of highs and lows. If it is anything like today, it will probably be hard.

I am driving in a rush from the rink to piano and then over to pick up Daughter at her school- a child whom I have failed to secure an after-practice ride home for, yet again (hoping in vain that Husband would have remembered- he didn’t). While I drive, I can feel the stress creeping up my back- pain spreading as muscles are clenched and knotted. I arrive late only to find that someone else has taken her home. A family friend. While I am relieved, I also feel shame for not having ‘dotted all my i’s and crossed all my t’s’. I should have made arrangements earlier. A good mother would have done better.

While I turn the vehicle around so as to return to my previous commitment, I hear a sound-bite from NASA archives come bounding across the airwaves. President Kennedy’s moon speech from September 12, 1962- on why America was making such efforts to land man on the moon and return him safely to the earth:

“Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation may never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas? We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

I am moved by the beauty and conviction with which these words are spoken, stunned also for moments as I assimilate the message. More sound-bites follow, which I cannot now remember, washing over me like anaesthetic. Numbing me. For all I can think about right now- can think in this moment- is the core of that moving message. Kennedy’s call for action. That is, we don’t choose to go bravely forward into the unknown, forging paths through the darkness, merely because it is EASY: we do so for the very fact that it is HARD. We do so for the reason that it is hard. We move forward toward the challenge seeking opposition- knowing in fact, that life without challenge is not really life. It is lifeless.

We choose to face tomorrow- and all the tomorrows after that- knowing they will be hard. Accepting that they will be hard. But bravely facing them anyway. Knowing we can face these challenges and hardships, these tests of our endurance: because we’ve proved we can already. We did them today. We CAN do hard things because we’ve already done those same hard things today. We’ve lived through, coped with and survived those hard things already and we know that we can face them again tomorrow.

And the tomorrow after that.

The challenge to live today so we can face tomorrow is one we must accept- for if we are willing to live our lives courageously- willing to live our lives fearlessly: we must live knowing that life is hard but also live knowing that life lived to the fullest is also a possibility. It’s possible to live life well and full even when it is hard. And we can win in the face of such tremendous odds, we can face this enormous challenge of tomorrow head on (and other challenges like it too) because this we know for sure: LOVE WINS. Love always does.  It’s the one surety.  And because love wins, so can we.

I rise early before day has even broken across the sky. Everywhere is blackness, everywhere is darkness. I stumble my way down the stairs toward the shower. The minutes and hours stretch before me like a blank slate. I have no knowledge of what will come. No guarantees that what I anticipate will actually transpire. All I know for sure is there will be hard things. I know this.

But I can do them.

{I Corinthians 13: 13: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”}

When a cord of three strands isn’t broken…

Most of our conversations these days are had in snippets- across the kitchen counter as supper meal is in preparation, inside the van en route to one activity or another.  Or carried out with me at one end of the dining room table and him at the other, conversing whilst we sit down to another crazy, noisy family meal.  We two talk in bits and pieces.  Starting a story, only to finish it minutes, hours, even days later.  It is best described as life interrupted.  Interrupted by kids, work, family, church, cell phones, Internet, friends, housework, books and other worthwhile preoccupations.

Even worthwhile interruptions are nevertheless interruptions.

We are living life in transit.  In limbo.  Gone are the spring months looking hopefully toward summertime.  Gone too is the blur that is summer, that blip of rejuvenating time which I wish could stop and stay forever.  Transported and fixed in both time and space, forever exuding restorative peace and calm.  That is the joy of summer. Then comes the fall.  And we fall hard into the vicious wheel.  Running, but never really arriving anywhere.

And in that mix of feeling and sentiment, there is a memory of a night in the haze of summer bliss.   To which I go when the ‘here and now’ seems crazy, hectic and insane.  That memory has my husband and me sitting side by side looking up at a vast expanse of sky, scattered with blinking, twinkling star lights. And if memory serves me well, I am asking him to point out constellations.  He and I both transfixed by the beauty and wonder of the universe.  And we sit in awe and quiet concentration.  We feel it- that sense that we are positioned on holy ground.  And it is a spiritual experience, not just a memory quickly forgotten.

Afterwards, we steal quietly into our camper to check on slumbering babes.  And then, we again stealthily move back outside into the night.   It is as if we are two teenagers.  We stifle giggles and stumble down a flight of rickety stairs.  And then we climb into the waiting boat where we will let her idle gently on lapping waves.  So that we can be young again.  So that we can be free.

Our precious children lie sleeping just beyond the tree line.  We can just barely make out the lights on the camper, as they shine through branches and brush.  And in the light of the moon, I lean my head close to the one I love.  And we are both so thankful for the peace of the water, for the beauty of the moonlight and for the joy of togetherness.  For the marriage of mind, soul and body.  For the ability to just be.

And I think, just now as I write, that this is what we need to claim.  The moments that are remembered as a rekindling of the fires.  When the flames were stoked and passion for togetherness is renewed.  When God’s presence is felt and the cords of marriage are strengthened.  Tightened into an intricate bond that cannot easily be broken.

If God be for us, who can be against us?

I scan status updates and find a blogger I follow has written a new post, a very public post.  Within which, she vaguely states that she and her husband are experiencing extreme marital difficulties and have been seeking marriage counsel.  That they are separated.  That life as she has known it is over.  And all this due to News that was delivered to her from her trusted spouse and life-partner.

Another one lost to statistics?  Heartbreaking, but all too common.  Life-long-commitment; no longer the road well travelled.

And I think, as I write this tonight, that we need to pray all the harder for marriage, for love and for covenant bonding of spirit and soul.  We need to reach out to those found crumbling apart from  betrayals and deceits and broken promises.  And we need to live out the marriage vows as honestly as we can, always knowing that but for the grace of God, there go I.

Go we.