Happy Birthday to me. Happy Birthday to me. Happy Birthday, dear . . . me. Happy Birthday to me. Well, it’s that time of year again. Another few days and I’ll be one year older. I guess it’s inevitable that another birthday has rolled around, but it sure feels like they come a lot more often than I’d prefer.
I used to get so excited about my birthday. Weeks, even months before, I’d remind everyone of the special day that was coming up. Just in case they’d forgotten, I’d remind them that December 3rd was a very important day in the history of the world. Narcissistic, yes, but I couldn’t help it. I loved celebrating me.
Thanksgiving was a holiday I looked forward to almost as much as Christmas because celebrating Thanksgiving meant that my birthday was only a week or so away.
A much-anticipated ritual of turning another year older was partaking of the red velvet cake my mom made each year. Mind you, this was before red velvet cake was all the rage which makes us way cooler than anyone else. (Boy, I really am into myself today.)
This year, rather than giving out my usual present requests, I’m going to make a new request, a strange one you might think. I’m asking God to help me live a guilt-free life. Not too much to ask, right?
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m saying, “God help me to not feel guilty when I eat the entire cake by myself or steal my husband’s hidden chocolate stash.” No, I’m not asking for a get-out-of-jail free card. It’s not that. I don’t want God’s permission to do things that are clearly wrong and against his laws.
Here’s what I am looking for though: relief, peace, a sense that I am loved beyond imagination.
You see, I am a person guilty of always feeling, well, guilty. Guilt is not just an emotion for me. It’s a state of being—one that’s impossible for me to shrug off. And it’s only taken me forty-four years to figure out that I need to let go of the guilt that hunts me down, haunts me daily, and preoccupies my every waking moment.
As I’ve been contemplating all of this, I’ve mentally noted what types of situations or circumstances leave me feeling shamefully guilty. Some might seem funny but most of these events are things I truly obsess over every single day:
Top Ten Things I Feel Guilty About.
10. I haven’t spent enough time communing with God lately.
9. I’ve eaten way too many pieces of chocolate in one day.
8. I’ve eaten more ice cream than I should have. (9 and 8 are kind of hooked together since I usually top my ice cream with chocolate chips.)
7. I’ve messed up as a parent.
6. I’ve messed up as a friend.
5. In general I’ve just messed up. (5-7 go hand in hand. Basically, when I feel I’ve let someone down, I feel guilty.)
4. I spent too much money on purse number 115 of my all-time-purse collection. (My husband would agree with this one.)
3. I spent too much money at Target. Unfortunately, this makes me feel guilty but also good. Shopping at Target is a blast.
2. I didn’t walk my dog enough this week. (This one is pretty over the top. I mean it’s not like the dog is keeping track of the number of times I walk him in a week.)
And the Number One reason I feel guilty:
1. I feel guilty about always feeling so guilty.
Crazy stuff, right? At one point when I shared my struggles with someone, I made the passing comment that, more often than not, I’m motivated by guilt rather than grace.
This problem of guilt has consumed me for far too long. Really, since I was a child. Back then the only place I felt safe from guilt was in church, but the moment we were headed home from the service, guilt took me captive in its tyrannical grip. I couldn’t shake it off no matter how hard I tried.
Oftentimes, I felt like God was up in heaven shaking his fist at me for screwing up for the 1000th time in a day. Guilt left me cowering in the corner, hiding from the God I was sure was disappointed in me.
But deep down inside there was this place that knew God didn’t want me to carry that great burden of guilt around with me every waking moment of every single day. I mean that was the whole point of sending Jesus, right? Why would God have given his beloved Son for us if all he really meant was for us to wallow in our guilt and sin—sin that Jesus already paid for. Jesus came to set us free. Remember when he said that?
Luke 8:31-32 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Jesus came to set us free.
So what’s the cure for guilt? I think the answer is clear. It’s love. Pure and simple, love. A love that is higher than the heavens are above the earth. A love that is deep and wide—deeper than any guilt I feel, wider than my uncomprehending mind can wrap itself around. That’s what I want to be motivated by. Love, not guilt. Grace, not guilt.
I know I’m not quite there, but in this my 44th year on this planet, I’m asking God to set me free from guilt so that I can run in the path of his commands. Here’s to another year of learning to live in God’s grace. Happy Birthday to me!
There are a few things in the world that I don’t like to talk about. One of them is politics. I have my opinions, ideals, beliefs, but to throw them out to people who don’t want to hear what I have to say, let’s just say I don’t like to go there.
I’ll tell people I’m mentally ill, or that I’m on medications for bipolar, or that I considered committing suicide numerous times before I was diagnosed. Those are hard topics to bring up, but they’re nowhere near the panic I feel when I think about speaking my mind about American Politics. Especially in this time when our country is deeply-divided over who our president-elect is, Donald Trump.
I can’t say I particularly like Donald. In fact, like would be a word too strong to use. I really don’t care for the way he talks, or the manner in which he conducts himself. I think he has a bad temper. He’s egotistical, and he’s not a role model I want my children to aspire to be.
Back in the day, nearly a year before the election, I thought it was a joke that he was running. I never figured he’d make it past the primaries, let alone become the president-elect.
The night of the election, I turned off the television as I saw the inevitable, the unthinkable unfolding. Donald Trump would be elected as our forty-fifth president.
I love the office of the president. I have an ambition to read a biography about every president who’s ever served our country. When I was teaching in a multi-grade classroom, I started writing jingles about the presidents so that my students could learn the order and their importance in the roles they carried out. The first, ah, not my best, but it went something like this:
George Washington was number one.
In the Revolutionary War he carried his gun.
He loved animals. He had pets.
He even brushed his horses sets. . . of teeth that is.
Here’s the one I wrote for our third president. (I was particularly proud of this one.):
Thomas Jefferson was number three.
He founded Virginia University.
His home was called Monticello.
He invented a folding ladder; he was quite the fellow.
I worked hard to complete those jingles. In fact, I made it all the way up to Ronald Reagan.
Ronald Reagan #40 had been famous in Hollywood
But at age 70 as our president, would he be any good?
He worked to end the Cold War with our Soviet enemy.
“We resolve to build less weapons,” became our shared treaty.
No masterpieces, but you get the idea. The office of the president is one I greatly admire and hold in high esteem.
So, you’ll have to forgive me but I have a really hard time with people saying that the president elect is “Not their president.” I beg to differ, but he is, in fact, our president- elect. He is because we live in a democracy, and as it is often said after shocking events like these unfold, the people have spoken.
Throughout the campaign, there was one simple prayer that I prayed most fervently. It wasn’t even my own, but rather one I “borrowed” from the second president who served our country, John Adams. In a letter that he wrote to his wife on his second night in the White House, this was the blessing he prayed and beseeched God for:
“Before I end my letter, I pray Heaven to bestow the best of Blessings on this House and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise Men ever rule under this roof.”
And now with this—the election of a man I don’t want as my president I wonder, what was God thinking? Then I remember, God is not into politics. He’s not a Republican. He’s not a Democrat. As Jesus once said, “God’s Kingdom is not of this world.” But God is into us and, as the true King of all believers, God works everything together for good to those that love him.
America is not a monarchy. It is not King Trump who we will be bowing down to. If you don’t like him, fine, but don’t lie down on the train tracks and give up your rights to make a difference in the circle or sphere of influence that God has given you.
Our democracy was never meant to be about one person. Yes, the President is there to work on behalf of the people. But we the people of this great nation are the ones who make a difference in the day-to-day operations of this land. We are this country’s citizens and as such, we must work for the common good of all people.
So in the next four years, rather than holding your nose and barely tolerating the person who is, “Not your president,” work to make lasting changes at your level of citizenship. Visit a nursing home. Donate to your local food bank. Hold your leaders accountable. Be an advocate for someone who can’t be it for themselves. Give. Love. Work. Work to make and keep our country one of the greatest civilizations the world has ever known. And when that four years rolls around, vote. Even if you think both candidates stink, pray for wisdom and vote.
Finally, let God be God. Proverbs states that, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord: he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.” Remember whose Kingdom we truly belong to and whose reign will last forever. Remember which land we are truly citizens of and trust God.
God is in control. God is your President. He is your King and he, the honest and wisest of all rulers is everywhere, even in the White House. Even if we don’t believe it. So, swallow your guile and bitterness and trust the Ruler of all to make everything all right in the end. Because he will.
1 Peter 2:16-17 Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil: live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.
Teaching is a topic near and dear to my heart because I am one. My experience has ranged from that of a third grade teacher, to a sub, to a multi-grade teacher, and, now, a teacher pursuing my master's in special education. As a writer, I've always wanted to write a book about how amazing teachers are. I plan on calling it, Why Teachers Deserve Professional Sports Players' Salaries. (Just so you understand this is going to be THAT kind of a post, a get up on my soapbox kind of post, but I'm confident you can handle it. Besides, I have some pretty important things to say.)
Lately, I've been thinking about people who have careers, gifts, and abilities way beyond my own. From computer programmers, to engineers, to NASA scientists, I stand in awe of people with that kind of wiring in their brains. Or how about people who operate heavy machinery, or know how to pave a road, or design and build a structure. Yes, there are a lot of jobs out there that leave me feeling grateful for how uniquely gifted we all are.
It's funny though how I often play off and diminish my own skills when it comes to teaching. I mean teaching is that degree for those who can't get a real job, right? (Believe it or not I've actually heard that comment before.) I know I have skills and abilities as a teacher but for the life of me I can't figure out why they're all that important. Until now, that is.
It takes a special well-informed, well trained, and enthusiastic person to be a teacher, and that's only describing the abilities necessary to design effective lesson plans. There are so many other skills a teacher needs.
How about patience, understanding, and a reassuring manner--someone who loves children deeply and is committed to helping them grow and flourish. No big deal there, right? Anyone who's a parent practices these skills on a daily basis, too. That may be true, but most families have two to four kiddos not eighteen, or twenty-six, or even thirty-five. Imagine your worst moment as a parent when you've completely lost control. When you're red-faced shouting at your kiddo and they're blubbering back at you. Teachers don't have the luxury of losing their cool like that. Think about how difficult it is to hold it together when your child asks, "Are we there yet?" or "Why do I have to eat this?" a dozen or more times. Think about moments when siblings are shouting at each other in the back of the car. Times like that require lots of patience, right? Now, magnify that patience times twenty or so and you get the idea of how it takes a saint to remain that calm for seven hours a day, five days a week.
As a substitute teacher this year I've been in a lot of different teachers' classrooms, and not a single one has failed to prepare lesson plans, lay out materials for the day, and leave a nice note filling me in on the details of the day. Many of those teachers are making plans Sunday night, because one of their kiddos is sick, or worse Monday mornings because they are sick themselves. (It is the worst thing in the world to write out plans when you're sicker than a dog.) But almost every teacher does it for their substitutes. Why? Because they care. They care about helping their substitute make it through the day. They care about their students and want to give them the least disruptive day possible.
At the beginning of this post I remarked on how amazed I am over so many talented people doing work I could never do. Those people are doing important things, building homes, creating infrastructure, programming computers, attending to the sick. Teachers aren't doing any of these things. Except, they are preparing future scientists, NASA astronauts, architects, builders, artists, nurses, doctors and so many more to do their jobs and to do them well. They're the ones teaching these students the value of commitment, hard work, perseverance, honesty, and integrity. Teachers are just as dedicated, committed, intelligent, and hard working as any other professionals. So let's treat them and esteem them like the professional they are. And if I ever write that book, Why Teachers Deserve Professional Sports Players' Salaries, here's hoping it will catch fire and teachers will start getting the salaries they truly deserve.