Looking Ahead


Girl on a Pier by Anita Peppers

Girl on a Pier by Anita Peppers

Looking Ahead

Bonk by Amy L. Sullivan

A Quilted Life by Martha J. Willey

Kid Magnet by Jolene Philo

Looking Ahead

Up to God by Jeff Friend

Poetry

When Spring Comes Home to Stay by Linda Kay Stoner

Roaming the Path Roaming the Path

About the Photo


Bonk

Bonk by Amy L. Sullivan

I knew I shouldn’t have answered the phone. There was something in the ring that screamed out a warning.

“Hi Amy. This is Cheryl from church.”

My first thought was, Why, don’t I get Caller ID?  My second thought was act normal.

“Oh, hi Cheryl,” I managed to say, hoping the dread in my voice wasn’t too evident.

“Amy, I was wondering if you would be available to work in the toddler room this Sunday.” Translation: You haven’t volunteered in the toddler room in the last four months.

“Um, sure,” I responded. Translation: Why me? Wasn’t I just there a few months ago?”

It was Tuesday. That gave me five full days to dread toddler duty. That also gave me five full days to catch a highly contagious illness.

I know, I know. I’m a mother, and I shouldn’t think that way. I’m also a teacher. So I obviously don’t dislike children. What then is so horrible about spending one Sunday morning every few months in the toddler room?

Toddlers aren’t the squishy, little, bald-headed babies that stare up at you and coo. They aren’t the older more rational kids that I am used to teaching. Toddlers are unique, headstrong, emotional, and ready to lose control at the drop of a Cheerio.

Sunday morning arrived, and I went to church and began toddler duty. I signed in kids. I passed out snacks. I helped put together puzzles. I rocked a sleepy, little girl. This is going well, I thought to myself.
I watched little Jesse color. His crayons were spread out across the miniature, plastic picnic table. As Jesse colored, his elbow kept knocking crayons off the table. Each time Jesse noticed the crayons on the floor, he climbed under the table to retrieve them. Then he attempted to get back onto the picnic table bench. However, when Jesse got up from the ground, he hit his head every time.

“Bonk,” he said and rubbed it.

I watched the same scenario two more times before I intervened.

“Jesse, you should crawl out from other side so you don’t bump your head.”

Jesse glanced at me, thought quietly to himself, turned his head, and then replied, “No.” Not a sassy “no,” or I’m trying to be defiant “no,” just an I’m-doing-things-my-way-kind-of “no.” I decided Jesse might not have understood what I meant. So I put the little, sleepy girl down and got on the floor. Then I showed Jesse how to get out from under the picnic table without bumping his head.

“Do you understand how I did that Jesse?” I asked.

He quickly nodded.

“Would you like to try it?” I said, motioning toward the table.

“No,” he responded and then climbed back onto the bench and continued to color.

What is wrong with this child? I asked myself. Why does he want to just keep hitting his head?
I picked up the little, sleepy girl, sat in the glider, and began to rock back and forth.

Once again the crayons rolled off the table.  Once again, Jesse crawled under to get them. Once again he said, “Bonk,” on his way back up.

I thought about how stubborn toddlers could be. Then it hit me. “Oh,” I say aloud. Am I like one of the toddlers? Am I always in need of comfort? Am I always making the same mistakes again and again? Am

I ready to lose it over a Cheerio?

I thought of my own struggles. Maybe I’m not hitting my head over and over on a plastic picnic table, but I might as well be. Often I know the right way, the better way, and yet, I continuously choose my way. I don’t seek God. I just keep going the way I know and hoping for the best. And just as I was tired of watching Jesse bonk his head, God must be tired of watching me repeatedly make the same mistakes.

Helping in toddler room turned out to be a good choice after all. It reminded me to say “yes” to God instead of stubbornly bonking my head.

© Amy L. Sullivan

Amy L. Sullivan is freelance writer and the author of When More is Not Enough. Her website and blog can be found at http://amylsullivan.com.


A Quilted Life

A Quilted Life by Martha J. Willey

When I go to bed at night I sleep underneath a quilt my mother made. I feel as if she is there tucking me in as she did when I was a little girl.

I grew up watching my mother quilt. Whenever she was going to start a quilt, I wondered how it was going to look when it was finished. Pieces of fabric of all sizes and colors would be piled high on the table beside a pair of scissors.

“How can all of these different colors and pieces go together and make something that isn’t a jumbled up mess?” I’d ask.

She’d smile and answer, “You’ll see.”

It seemed to take forever for her to finish the quilt.

“Can’t this be done any faster?” I’d ask impatiently.

“Some things aren’t meant to be rushed,” she would reply.

Day after day she would sit at the dining room table quilting. One day when I came home from school my mom wasn’t at the dining room table quilting. I rushed to my bedroom and found the quilt displayed on the bed. I stared in awe at how the pieces of fabric, which had once been nothing but a pile of scraps, were now formed into a beautiful work of art. I ran my hand over the quilt, thinking of the time and love my mother had stitched into it.

I am reminded of how God takes the experiences of my life that seem all jumbled up and turns them into a work of beauty. Disappointments, shame, fears, joys, sorrows, trials, and dreams are the pieces that when stitched together form the quilt of my life. I don’t know yet what my life quilt will look like when it is finished, but I do know God has a pattern in mind and will put it together in a way that will be to his glory.

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6 NIV)

© Martha J. Willey

Martha J. Willey is a freelance writer from Northwood, Ohio.


Kid Magnet

Kid Magnet by Jolene Philo

The man was a kid magnet. All he had to do was wheel himself out to the driveway on a nice afternoon, and kids flocked to him. Our neighborhood was filled to the brim with pint-sized baby boomers, and every one of them stuck to my dad like iron filings.

Kids rode up on their bikes and dropped them in the yard, shouting, “Hi, Harold!” Draped over his wheelchair, they fiddled with the brakes, flipped his footrests up and down, and sat on his lap. Not wanting to miss the excitement, every dog within sniffing distance joined the fun, running in circles around the kids, barking and reeking havoc. Somebody would fish a basketball out of the garage and start a game of Horse while others remained at Dad’s side, enjoying his attention.

Not always a mass entertainer, Dad offered individual counseling services, too. Certain kids required his undivided attention, and Dad found time to be outside when needy souls came by.

Brian was one of Dad’s counseling clients. Dad wheeled out to the garage early on summer mornings to meet with Brian when the other kids were at Little League practice or swimming lessons. A Down’s Syndrome child, Brian didn’t participate in those activities. His parents had crusaded for greater inclusion of special needs children within the school system, but they had not yet triumphed in the area of non-school activities. This was, after all, the 1960s.

Brian endured merciless teasing in those days when the word “retard” was flung around our neighborhood by kids and adults alike. Brian had a fiery temper, which kids loved to ignite, and after volcanic eruptions, he needed someone to talk to.

Seeing Dad outside, he stomped across the street. Then he yanked a lawn chair beside Dad, plopped down, and glowered at the pavement. Dad waited, not saying a word, a rare feat of reticence for him.

“Harold, do ya know Jake?”

“You mean the kid that lives next door to you? Sure, I know Jake.”

“Wull, I’m gonna kill him,” Brian growled.

“What? You can’t mean that. You’re not really going to kill him, are you?”

“Yup, I’m gonna kill him.” Brian folded his arms across his chest.

“Well, he must have done something terrible to you if you want to kill him.”

“I was tryin’ to swing, and he came up and told me I was stupid cuz I couldn’t pump so good. He called me a retard.” Brian’s voice choked, his lip quivered.

A flash of anger passed over my father’s face. “That wasn’t very nice of Jake, was it?”

“Nope, and I’m gonna kill him.” Brian pounded his fist into his hand.

“Do you really think that’s a good idea?” my father questioned, his voice light.

“Yup.”

“But, have you thought about that? What would happen if you killed him?”

“He wouldn’t tease me any more.”

“Yes, but his parents would be sad, and they’d miss him, even if he isn’t very nice to you. And do you know what else?”

“What?”

Dad lowered his voice and looked Brian in the eye. “We couldn’t be friends anymore because friends don’t go around killing people. In fact, Brian, friends don’t even say they’re going to kill other people.”

“Oh.” Brian stared at the street. After a long pause, he sighed. “Okay, Harold, I’m not gonna kill him. Can we still be friends?”

“I don’t know, Brian. Are you going to keep talking about killing?”

Brian thought, shoulders stooped, elbow on his knee, chin in his hand. “All right. I’m not gonna say it anymore.”

“Good for you, Brian. I’m proud to be your friend. We’re two of a kind, you know.”

“Huh? Whaddya mean, Harold?”

“Neither of us can pump a swing. We’re both different from everybody else, and we don’t always like it, do we?”

“Nope, we don’t.” Brian rose and dragged his chair to the garage. “I gotta go. I’m comin’ to talk to you tomorrow. See ya, Harold.”

Brian walked home, his shoulders straighter, his chin higher, and his life a little easier because his friend knew it was hard to be different. He wasn’t alone.

And taking a child, He set him before them,
and taking him in His arms, He said to them,
“Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me;
and whoever receives Me does not receive Me,
but Him who sent Me.
Mark 9: 36–37 (NAS)

© Jolene Philo

Jolene Philo is a freelance writer and the author of A Different Dream for My Child: Meditations for Critically and Chronically Ill Children and Different Dream Parenting: A Practical Guide to Raising a Child with Special Needs. You can learn more about her ministry at www.jolenephilo.com.


Looking Ahead

Looking Ahead

As we learn and grow, it is often difficult for us to look beyond the present circumstances. Yet children look to the future with anticipation. They might have trouble understanding, though, that everything worthwhile takes time, commitment, a change of heart, or an altered perspective. Adults often forget that, as well.
For the next few weeks, determine to look ahead with an attitude of hope and faith. In whatever circumstance you find yourself, deliberately place it in God’s hands. Let Him be the counselor to guide you. Listen and obey, taking encouragement from knowing that He is in control, and He can see the future that you cannot see.


Up to God

Up to God by Jeff Friend

For Thou art my hope; O Lord GOD, Thou art my confidence from my youth. Psalm 71:5 (NAS)

Moments after a tearful goodbye to his mother, the three-year-old boy watched as the plane was pushed away from the terminal. He pressed himself against the large window and kept asking his father and older sister where his mommy was.
They tried to comfort him by pointing to the plane rolling down the runway and assuring him she would be back soon. His eyes became glued to the plane’s every movement. He obviously didn’t understand what was happening and was quite upset.

The plane headed up into the sky and the boy followed its path until it was finally out of view. Suddenly he extended his arm and pointed at the spot he had last seen the plane.

“Mommy’s gone all the way up to God!” he shouted excitedly, clapping his hands.

Content that everything was now going to be fine, he turned from the window, ran to his Dad for a big hug, and happily left for home.

No wonder Jesus loves children so much and wants us to be like them. They often can’t comprehend the circumstances they encounter, but they simply believe that if God is somehow involved, they do not have to worry because everything will be just fine. Our Father wants us to be just as trusting, and realize that since He is in control of every situation, we don’t need to
worry about anything.

© Jeff Friend

Jeff Friend is a freelance writer from Largo, Florida. He received a 2004 Higher Goals in Christian Journalism Award by the Evangelical Press Association. His work has appeared in such periodicals as Decision, War Cry, The Upper Room, Men of Integrity, and Seek. You can connect with him at http://wordsofafriend.org.


Poetry

When Spring Comes Home to Stay

When Spring Comes Home to Stay by Linda Kay Stoner

 

Pristine mounds of angel’s hair

turned gray in smoky, sooty air

will fade away like Winter’s care

when Spring comes home to stay.

 

A teen admires his baseball mitt

and dreams of what he’ll do with it.

He’ll find that it’s the perfect fit

when Spring comes home to stay.

 

A snowman missing one coal eye

gazes at the blustery sky,

but soon a robin’s wing he’ll spy

when Spring comes home to stay.

 

The crocus sleeping near the gate

‘neath mounds of snow awaits her fate

and prays the sunshine won’t be late

when Spring comes home to stay.

 

And so with love we turn to God

as down the wintry paths we trod.

For hope will burst forth from the sod

when Spring comes home to stay.

 

His promise guides a weary land.

Bright days return at His command.

And filled with faith we’ll take His hand

when Spring comes home to stay.

© Linda Kay Stoner

Linda Kay Stoner is a licensed minister with the Church of the Brethren from Somerset, Pennsylvania. She and her husband operate a small travel company called Swinston Travel. You can find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/linda.stoner.3.


Roaming the Path

Roaming the Path

Here are some resources you might enjoy as you continue down the path of childlike wonder and faith:

“The hand of Christ turning lepers into heirs of the kingdom.” In Prodigal Song, author James Eugene Robinson artfully weaves a tapestry of memories—of idyllic childhood, worldly success, mind-numbing and terrifying addictions, utter loneliness, and tender grace. If you are sensitive to candid descriptions of evil and occasional crude language, then this book is probably not for you. However, Prodigal Song carries a clear message of hope and redemption for those caught in the throes of sin and guilt, and paints a stunning picture of God’s incredible grace as He leads His prodigal children home. Robinson’s journey led him from childish faith to a death-like, hellish existence, and finally to total surrender and true childlike faith, because even in the midst of his determined rebellion, God never let him go. This is a book you will not soon forget.

Everyone experiences grief, because death touches us all. The Twenty-Third Psalm for Those Who Grieve by Carmen Leal is a beautiful gift book that will encourage you or someone you love in the midst of grief. This lovely hardback is filled with stories of people who have found the comfort of the Shepherd’s love, either through the process of watching someone die or after losing a loved one. As the author says, “When someone we love dies, his or her uniqueness leaves a hole in our hearts that is his or her exact shape. We can never fill that hole . . . But with the Shepherd’s help, we can get through it.” In times of need, this book directs readers to the Shepherd’s loving embrace.

An honest and beautifully-written book, Grace Points: Growth and Guidance for Times of Change by Jane Rubietta, deals with “Learning how to live—really live—in the turmoil of transitions.” The author guides the reader through a series of choices, such as choosing to feel, choosing to find fun, choosing to find meaning, and choosing not to forget, choices that will help readers grow through times of change and come out better and happier on the other side. More than that, she confirms the value of transitions themselves: “The long journey is part of the gift.” When you experience life changes, this is the book to take along on your journey.


About the Photo

About the Photo by Anita Peppers

What is this girl waiting to see? The photographer keeps it a mystery and lets us fill in the details with our own visions of the next minute, the next hour, or some bright and glorious future. While this photograph speaks of anticipation, it also leaves us with a sense of peace and confidence. The girl seems secure in the knowledge that if she waits, her patience will be rewarded, as will ours, as we wait on the Lord.


Barefoot Path

Editor: Jeanne Gowen Dennis

Associate Editor: Sheila Seifert

Assistant Editor: Christine St. Jacques

© Heritage of Truth, LLC

Copyright © Jeanne G. Dennis