Beautiful Sunset

When my oldest daughter was two, I began a home-based daycare. I had been working evenings and weekends, so this would give me a chance to be with her, she would have friends, and I could continue contributing to the household income.

I revamped the basement with new carpet, paint, bought many toys, and got my training and licensing through the county.

I put a sign in my front yard, and the kids showed up. At one point, it was seven against one, but somehow I learned how to be a conflict resolution director quickly. Daily, I dealt with perfect angels one minute who could turn on a dime and bite their best friend. There were episodes of mutual hair pulling, tussles of arms and legs in wrestling matches on the floor to get a specific object, and name calling that would make a peaceful temper flare. Something as simple as “dum-dum” would cause a barroom brawl.

My day started at 6 am and would often go until 6 pm. There were times when parents were under pressure by their employers to be at work no matter what, so that meant I would get sick kids drugged up with Tylenol. I got to know them so well that I could look into their eyes and detect something was wrong. The parents were often aware they weren’t well, but the pressure of losing their job would win out. So I took them in and tried to make them feel better when they often just wanted their mom.

I always provided them with structure no matter their ages. I taught colors, numbers and read one book after another. There had to be a balance of free time versus activities, or the restless energy would descend, and trouble would start.

I tried to keep God at the center of all things. If aggression popped up between two or more of them, I would try to explain that they should treat each other how they want to be treated. It seemed to work, and just when I thought I was not making any progress, I would leave the room for a second and come back to find them all hugging each other. I had unseen help around every corner.

My daughter loved having friendships, and at one point, I had to stop her from giving all of her toys away. She had a very generous personality, so she felt that she needed to give each child a parting gift at the end of the day. Every single day. I went out and bought items for her to continue to do this so her room wouldn’t end up empty.

The oldest of the group was Molly, who was four. She knew she was the top dog, and I had to often bring her down off her own self-made pedestal where she tried to control the rest. While they all wanted to do their own thing, she wanted their total undivided attention. She was most upset when the other kids would run away and not do what she wanted.

“Miss Chris! They aren’t listening to me!”

“Then stop trying to make them listen. Maybe they will later.”

“I want them to be over here, not over there.”

“They don’t want to be.”

She was coming to me to see if I would give her back up to enforce her rules.

“But I want them to listen to me!”

“Why don’t you just tell me what you want to say.”

“That’s not fun.”

“This is as good as it gets for now. It’s either me or no one.”

She would grumble in frustration and start trying to read or go into a very long dissertation on how life should be. Soon, all the others would notice and come sit by us. She would get her way the minute she didn’t try to force it.

She also had a reputation for not telling the truth. I caught her multiple times doing things that she would deny.

“Molly, did you hit your brother?”

“No.”

“Then why is he sitting on my lap crying with a red mark on his leg? How did that happen?”

“I think he bumped it over there.”

“Are you sure that’s your final answer? Do you want to think about it for a second? I just want you to tell me the truth. So does God.”

Her eyes would go everywhere but look at mine. It was an inward battle as a younger sibling had given testimony against her, I had exhibit A as physical proof, and now she had to scramble to come up with an alibi.

“I think he tripped and fell.”

“For sure?”

There were more hard swallows and no eye contact.

“Well, he was bothering me.”

“She push me!” Her brother was at the stage of having less speaking ability, but enough to verbalize he had been wronged.

“So you pushed and hit him?”

Now there was hair twirling involved as she nervously shifted from foot to foot.

“He was trying to take away something from me.”

It was always the usual speech about not concealing the truth and letting me know to intervene.

No matter how many times I tried to help her see this, she feared the punishment, even though all I had her do was tell him she was sorry. It killed a part of her to have to apologize and admit wrongdoing. Something that should have taken minutes turned into a long, drawn out process until she would finally come clean.

One day, during lunch, she was accused of another offense. There was a witness list against her a mile long.

“I did not do that!” She said adamantly.

The noose was tightening as each of her companions gave me details of something she had done. None of them were changing their story, and I had a feeling she was guilty as charged. Her demeanor suggested total deception like all the other times I had dealt with this.

“Molly, I want you to tell the truth, and that’s all. Lying isn’t a good habit because it won’t seem wrong to you at some point.”

It was a breezy, nice day, and I had all the windows open. There was work being done off the back of the house as the porch was being constructed, and I had pulled the curtain closed across the sliding glass door. The person out there had overheard what I had said. None of the kids were aware that he was there, and he had taken a break and was sitting quietly.

“Molly, God is always watching, and you need to remember that. You need to be nice to people, and God wants you to be good to others.”

She still wouldn’t cough up the truth. The wind made the floor-length curtain billow inward toward her back.

“Molly….” came this deep voice from behind her.

I saw her jump.

“What was that?” She said, looking at me, and now I was suddenly her lifeline.

She turned to see the curtain blow toward her, and it was the best visual effect I could have asked for, especially if God was showing up to reprimand her for me.

Again…

“Molly…”

I had a hard time not smiling. Instead, I pretended to be as in much shock as she was. Because they all trusted me, the entire table had gone silent. If I was reacting in surprise, then it had to be God!

With eyes wide, she blurted out,

“Miss Chris, I did do what they said, and I was lying. I am sorry.”

“Really? Just tell the truth all the time right away, okay?”

She was utterly unnerved that God had spoken her name out of nowhere. In a split second, she went from deceitful to the most honest person in the room, thinking the Creator had appeared to deal with her.

I pulled the curtain back and had her see it wasn’t God but a person.

She went on to correct herself after that. She often still wanted to cling to her false stories, but that moment solidified what I had been trying to tell her all along.

Many years later, way after I had quit childcare, I was outside raking. And I heard:

“I am what you think I am.”

What does that mean?

“If a person thinks I’m revengeful, then they don’t think they can approach me. If they think I’m forgiving, then they come freely. If they think I put sickness and disease on them, they blame me for it. If I am seen as a healer, then they come for healing. People put their own restrictions on me. I am unlimited in the reality of all things. I am who you think I am.”

Molly thought she was dealing with an angry God from the many times outside of my care when the hammer was thrown down after she confessed. So she decided it was easier to try and sneak out of it. I kept saying that while she needed to not act like an animal from the wild, there is always a way of humility and taking responsibility for wrong choices.

Psalm 86:5 says: “You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you.”(NLT)

Molly should have had Proverbs 28:13 stamped on her forehead:

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. (NLT)

Your view of God is what you will get, and you will create it.

Proverbs 23:7 says: For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he. (NKJV)

Are you ducking and running from a God who is ready to blast you with a lightning bolt and requires you to feel horrible every single second of your life? Even for something you did a long time ago? Or, are you walking in the light of the truth where no matter what, you can always ask for forgiveness from the One who offers peace and closure?

Being taught anything other than this is an illusion. All things can be forgotten and concluded. Just look to the sky at the close of the day, and you will see this message displayed in full array in every beautiful sunset.

Accused

He was at it again.  With poor aim, he flicked peas to the amusement of his comrades. I dodged the green bullet he sent my way by swaying to the left.  He set his sights on the girl who was eating her lunch quietly next to me.  How had I ended up sitting across from him?  Had he forgotten the events of less than twenty-four hours? John ‘the tomato’ was living life on the edge for whatever reason I was not aware of. He earned his nickname because his face was round and turned bright red when he was angry or got caught doing his daily devious deeds.  He was taking his chances while we were under the watch of a woman straight out of Nazi Germany.

She plainly announced her presence with a strong nicotine odor and a dragon voice to match.  An entire table of energetic smiling children would freeze with utensils in mid-air as she slithered by with a slow deliberate stroll, darting her squinting eyes looking for infractions.  All verbal communications would stop when she locked her eyes on a child, and pensive normalcy would not resume until she continued onward with her patrol.

When she decided that the noise had gotten on her last nerve, she would pick up a microphone and yell,

“BE QUIET!” with decibels that could have shattered the sound barrier.  We never knew when she would blow.

The lunch room was located in the elementary school’s gymnasium to conserve space.  An orange partition was set up to confine us for crowd control, and to serve as a means for public humiliation.  If a student was apprehended for breaking one of her laws, he or she was immediately dispatched to the ‘the wall’ with nose pressed against it for the rest of us to see.

The day before, I had witnessed her approach John from behind, grab his shirt by the collar with her talons and drag him off to a spot.   There was no wrongdoing on his part that any of us had seen.  She had decided to punish him just because she could.

He had beat the wall with his fists screaming,

“I didn’t do anything!  I want my mom!  I didn’t do anything!” True to form, his face was a brilliant shade of crimson.   Usually, I didn’t feel bad for him because he generally was guilty of the crime, but this time had been different.  There had been no offense to afford him the trip up there with his backside to us.

So it was beyond me why he would want to tempt fate to be singled out again.

I heard her approach with my right ear. When in a situation where threats abound, the senses become more keen.   It was the familiar squish sound of soft soled mandatory cafeteria shoes along with the perfume cigarette scent she wore like a badge of honor. John sat up straight and ceased fire of his vegetables.   She bent down underneath our table and brought up a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that had been trampled by numerous shoes.

“Who does this belong to?” she hissed.

We all shook our heads to indicate it wasn’t any of ours.  Without warning, the tomato pointed his dirty pudgy finger at me and exclaimed,

“It’s hers.  I saw her throw it.” A bold faced lie.  The kid who had been wrongly blamed the day before was targeting me.  Any compassion I had felt for him melted away forever.

I glanced up to face off with one of my biggest terrors in human form.

“Is this yours?” she bellowed with her red lips in a snarl.  The entire room went silent.

“No.  I already ate mine.”  I had been done eating for quite awhile and had disposed of my brown lunch bag.

“It’s hers!  I saw her!” he said again. This time his friends joined in with him as well as others around us.

She stood over me and presented the item in question directly underneath my nose.

“Eat it.”

“It isn’t mine,”  I said trying to convince her of the truth. It wasn’t working.

“You either eat this or you will have detention.”

I wan’t one of those kids who got detention!  I had not ever been sent to the wall.  Detention meant the beginning of years of juvenile delinquency, and that was not who I was.  And, I had been told to never go against an authority figure.

The first bite was crunchy as gravel from the floor mixed in with the bread on the surface of my teeth.  I gagged at first but managed.  There was no liquid to wash it down so each sandy bite felt like the desert. I could hear the stifled giggles as those around watched me eat a meal that wasn’t mine.  Her dark shadow enveloped me until she was satisfied with my last swallow.

“We don’t throw food here,” she said as she sauntered away.

When I got home from school that day, I was greeted with the usual question:

“How was school today?”

“I had to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich off the floor, ” I said.

“WHAT?”

I explained the event to my mom.

“Why did you eat it?”

“I was told if I didn’t that I would get detention.”

This situation would have been harrowing for any parent to hear, but she was a registered nurse who kept our home sterile like a hospital.  There was always a can of Lysol lurking in a cupboard waiting to be sprayed.

“Don’t ever do that again, ” she said.

I thought that was the end of the matter, but that evening I could hear her relating the tale to my dad once he got home from work.  From my vantage point in the house, the news wasn’t going over so well.  I was ushered into a remote location in the basement that was nearly sound proof while a phone call was made to the principal.

Before bed, my dad stepped into my room and said,

“If she ever makes you or another child do something like that again, say something right away.  If she does anything that isn’t right, tell an adult.  She will be fired.”

I went into the lunchroom the next day with a new sense of power.   It was like someone had slayed the dragon or at least put out her fire.

I proceeded as usual to get my small carton of milk to go along with my bag lunch. I made sure to distance myself from John’s table.  I had no sooner been seated when I sensed her approach.  With a fake loving hand on my shoulder she said in a voice so soft,

“I didn’t mean for you to eat that sandwich.  There must have been some mistake.”  I looked her directly in the eye without a trace of fear or humility.

“You made me eat that sandwich that wasn’t mine and you know you did.  My dad said you will be fired if you ever do that again.”  She dropped her hand away, blinked rather rapidly with her mouth contorting in shock.  I had found my fifth grade voice. She had suddenly lost hers. She turned on her heel and marched away.

There have been other times in my life where I have been in situations where I felt alone in the face of uncomfortable circumstances.  However, I have learned that just because I feel that way doesn’t make it true.  Just like my dad supported me, we have access to our Creator who loves us so deeply that a plan will be enacted on our behalf if we ask for it. A heartfelt prayer asking for assistance can change things around in an instant. We can go from helpless to hopeful very quickly just by spending some time in the presence of the One who sees it all.   There will be times when maybe the truth of the matter is only known between us and heaven, but we can find comfort knowing that we are not walking on earth in solidarity.  Someone is always in your corner.  Even when you are unjustly accused.

peanutbutter