Psalms and Preschool Problems

I’m calling it the Pre-K paradox.  On the day my daughter turned four, she discovered a new-found independence.  Suddenly she can dress herself, brush her teeth without supervision, and set her own place at the table.  (I’m gleefully harnessing this enthusiasm by teaching her to use the dustbuster and empty the dishwasher.)  Conversely, on that same birthday a new phrase entered her vocabulary: ‘I can’t.’  In the strange way the universe works, on any given morning she can get up, make her sister a hat, build a functional car out of blocks, and then make her own breakfast- but she simply can’t put on her shoes.

I had one of these moments of perplexed desperation this week while in our local superstore.  She had danced around with our shopping list for nearly an hour, filling the cart with necessary items and accurately re-shelving the unnecessary ones she’d brought along too.  But when it was time to leave, she couldn’t possibly walk to the register.  “I just can’t, mummy,” she declared.

There, in the middle of the arts and crafts aisle as she was about to flop herself on the floor in feigned exhaustion, inspiration struck.  I grabbed a nearby foam hat and a bag of sparkly stars, and brought about the dawn of a new era.  I explained to her that the hat was no ordinary one, it was a problem-solving hat.  She could only wear it if she was willing to try and solve a problem- and if she succeeded, she could decorate the hat with a star.

It worked.  Somewhere within her she found the energy to walk to the register, and then wore her hat proudly to the car.  We’ve used the hat to help her discover her own inner resources, from problems as simple as cleaning up a spill to the complexity of resolving conflict with her sister.  She’s discovering what I saw in her all along: she always had the creativity to tackle a challenge, she just didn’t know it.

Preschool Problems

We’re going to need a bigger hat.

 

I wonder if that’s what the Psalmist was feeling as he penned Psalm 77 .  He starts out pretty low, literally crying out to God for help.  In the middle of the Psalm he rallies, reminding himself, “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.”  What comes next is a beautifully descriptive narrative of God’s power and faithfulness.

Why is it that some of our most profound creativity appears when we are facing a challenge?  I once knew a youth pastor who would literally plan a problem into every retreat she organized.  The bus would break down, or they’d get lost.  It became a running joke for her youth group- “Remember the time when…”  What her group didn’t realize is that they were doing exactly what she had hoped they would:  they were remembering a time when they stepped out of their norm, faced a problem, and grew closer together as a group.

Sadly as adults we don’t get problem solving hats.  Maybe we don’t spend enough time recognizing our own efforts to tackle the challenges we face- or maybe we just don’t even try.  I remember my first few months in England, desperately waiting for the rain to stop so I could go outside.  It didn’t take me long to realize that with that kind of thinking I’d never leave the house- and in the end, a little rain didn’t do any harm.  By staying in I wasn’t able to get out and do the things I wanted to- was passionate about- was created to do.

Lately it’s occurring to me: can solving a challenge, using my God-given gifts, doing what I was created to do- can that be a form of worship in itself?  There’s a song we sing in worship which sums it up poignantly, “And though my heart is torn, I will praise You in the storm.”  Perhaps one of the most simple, direct ways to acknowledge our Creator is to pick ourselves up and use the unique gifts which He knew we had all along.

After a busy few days of problem solving, our family is having some much-needed down time together this weekend. Outside it’s gray and wet- a welcome break from the August heat.  I think we’ll go play in the rain.

 Play in the rain

Here is a worship activity to try:  Tackle a challenge that’s facing you this week.  In a quiet moment make a list of the things you learned, or the gifts you’ve been given that helped you, and give thanks.  For a group or family activity, do a puzzle or challenge together and then take time to recognize what each person in the group contributed.  Share your reflections with each other, and give thanks.  Or you could go outside with and umbrella and talk about times when God helped you face something hard.  Remember to tell us how it went in the comments below!

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Eat your heart out, Pottery Barn.

Recently a  friend sent me a link to this song which, she wrote, reminds her of me.

I was touched. This song was a gift because I hadn’t really thought about myself as the person she sees in me. Not only was it a pleasant surprise, it was a huge encouragement.

Now that I think about it, this past year my life has looked nothing like it used to- and it’s felt far more like fun than like hard work, probably because of a ‘can-do’ attitude. It turns out that I can be a stay-at-home mom. I can wear silly hats and costumes and be a children’s worship leader/entertainer. I can navigate my way through a herd of water buffalo and highland cattle (?!) who are licking my car in a drive-thru safari park.  Yep, that happened.

It turns out, I can also dabble in furniture restoration.

One of the perks of my new-found autonomy is that I’ve allowed myself to go Pinterest crazy as we furnish our new home. So when someone was getting rid of this desk and asked if we wanted it, my answer was, ‘Yes, please!’

Desk Before

Hmmm….

The desk was gouged, covered in water rings, and smelled a little funky. And there was bubblegum stuck on the bottom. But one thing I’ve learned in my web-surfing is that when upcycling furniture, go with things which you like the shape of and are in functional condition. Cosmetic problems like color, and shine, and (sometimes) smell can be fixed. Much like life, no?

It seemed like a good excuse to try making my own chalk paint. So I mustered up my courage and started sanding. I settled on the baking soda-based recipe after spending about five minutes- the current length of my attention span- unsuccessfully searching for plaster of paris and unsanded grout at the hardware store. As I sanded, slapped on the layers of paint, sanded again, varnished, and waxed I learned a few other things about myself:

  1. I should remember that I can more often. In reality this desk has been sitting, stained and smelly, in my house for about 8 months. Why on earth didn’t I do this sooner?
  2.  I probably need to work on this whole short attention span thing. Because the first layer of paint, where I estimated ratios and brushed away as quickly as I could, was not good.
  3.  I probably need to work on this whole short attention span thing because it turns out I’m a closet perfectionist. As I began to enjoy the project, I found myself actually wanting to go over every corner, sand down the rough spots again, apply another coat of paint or stain. I was having fun.
  4.  In the end, good enough is good enough. This desk was never going to be perfect, no matter how hard I sanded. Now when I look at it, I like it for its unique imperfections. It’s the same desk it always was- but some fresh air, a new color, and a little polish has given it a whole new outlook. Much like life, no?

Chalk paint desk

Not bad for $5 and a bit of elbow grease!

Ok, so it’s been a long time since we shared. What are you discovering you can do lately?