Category Archives: Memories that Matter

Nightmares and Miracles To Pray or Not to Pray: Chapter 10

Had an exhausting dream last night. I was a part time art teacher at a school. My class was fifth and sixth graders. I had all sorts of nature items to make a Christmas craft, maybe a wreath, but the kids were going crazy, trying to begin before I could organize it, knocking some items off the table, and mixing the others up. Some kept moving around the room instead of taking their seats and two even left the classroom. No matter what I said or threatened, the rest would just start causing chaos again.

When I woke up, I decided this aptly described my own current mental state. Lately, I seem unable to stay focused on anything productive.

But it also triggered a memory of a small delightful miracle I experienced when actually teaching first and second grade. I had spent a lot of time with my own children making nature crafts for fun or as gifts for their teachers. Four of my kids were older, but even my Tommy at six was actually a lot better than I was at making crafts. So I decided to gather treasures from our woods and field for my class to make Christmas presents for their parents. On Friday, before the Monday that was the last school day before their holidays, I brought lots of flat rocks, glue out the kazoo, weeds, nuts, pods, pinecones, lichen, and some small animal figures to make nature scenes for their parents.

It was total chaos. They all excitedly gathered way more than they needed to cover their flat rocks. And before I could give any instructions or personal help, they crammed everything they had on to the rocks and simply covered them with a mountain of white glue. Everything and everyone in the room was covered in glue and bits and pieces of nature. The bell rang before they could begin to clean even themselves off, never-the-less anything else. After everyone was gone, I walked around looking at the totally unrecognizable messes they had created and felt like an idiot for attempting this. I gingerly picked each up and put them on the wide windowsills hoping the sun would at least dry them so they could carry them home. I made a half hearted attempt to clean off desks, but gave up on the floor, deciding to give the janitor a much larger Christmas tip than I had planned.

That night I shed a few tears of frustration that my beautiful picture of happy children and delighted parents had disappeared into mountains of glue. I decided to pray even though I knew it was mostly selfish, since the kids were happy and I was sure their parents were already well practiced at oohing and aahing over unidentifiable art works. I asked God please could the creations somehow become more appealing and at least identifiable as nature crafts. Frankly, I didn’t have a whole lot of faith in it, even though by this point in my life I had experienced miracles that simply helped me in times of discouragement. I guess I thought that I had walked with the Lord long enough to be a stronger person.

On Monday when I arrived at school, I glumly went to view the remains of the project. I was astonished. The sun had not only dried the glue, but somehow excess glue and enough of the piles of bits and pieces of nature had fallen off to leave lovely small scenes. The children happily took credit and the parents were amazed. One mother of seven older children told me in astonishment that this was the first art work by any of her children that she could happily display in her living room!

The memory that my dream triggered reminded me that our God is an awesome God, a God who can use even our chaotic messes. So maybe I don’t need to try harder. Maybe, I need to just pray and trust.

What Will We Remember?

What Will We Remember

what matters in the long run

of fading strength and memory

no longer clear or bright

do we know what counts

out of all the years of effort

and forgotten hopes let go-

what in our confusion lasts

perhaps a smile or tender kiss

the sweet sound of applause-

or windblown waves beneath

the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc

reminding us of heroes lost-

buildings designed and built

sermons preached on love

what we’ve written being read

songs relighting darkened hearts

lessons taught to children

actually changing lives-

matters it if loved by many

or one long love, now gone-

a special gift received or given

small kindnesses of others

a letter written to console

flowers when it’s least expected

laughter experienced as grace-

care-giving for the one you love

the letting go when it’s time

what will be remembered

when we’re on the other side?