This morning as the girls were heading upstairs, Lillyann stopped halfway and said, “I want somebody to carry me.” She didn’t scream or fuss; she just wanted somebody to pick her up. I am the same way myself at times and could sympathize with her. Mommy encouraged her to come on up; I did the same and went down to my room. She waited for a little while, but went on up when she heard the sounds of mommy fixing breakfast and Mylah calling, “La La?” Getting stuck in the middle is not the same as finding the center:) Lillyann forgot all about being stuck when she heard the love up above. God’s sweet voice has the same effect upon me when I find myself in between and wanting Him to carry me.
The middle child knows all too well what being stuck in the middle means, and the middle-school student knows it even more clearly. As a middle child who taught middle school for thirty-three years, it is a feeling that I have to make sure doesn’t define me. The center represents balance, but the middle means in between. They are so alike, but so very different!! Middle children, myself included, have the tendency to mediate. Older and younger children might call it meddling:)
Like Lillyann on the stairs this morning, I want to be carried when I find myself stuck in between where I’ve been and where I’m going. Walking in God’s kingdom is a spiraling upward process, and there are times when I need a nudge. There are other times when fear forces me to stop and cry out. Christ will carry me when I cannot go on alone. If Lillyann had truly needed to be carried, both Gina and I would have come running; but we both know better than to help when she needs to go on her own. Christ knows the same about me. If we are carried all the time, we would lose the ability to walk at all. Good intentions often cripple those we think we are helping. God knows I must find His way before I can move nearer to Him and to those in my path. He provides the Holy Spirit and Christ’s precious love as guides on my journey and gives me just what I need just when I need it. I love that about Him.
Lillyann scooted quickly up the steps this morning when we left her alone, and the sweet sounds of playing together soon filled my heart. There’s nothing I enjoy more! God feels the same way when He sees His children moving forward and finding fellowship with one another. The sound of love is the sweetest sound in this world, and I know it is just a tiny taste of the love I’ll hear in heaven. As those sounds upstairs spurred Lillyann upward, so do the sounds of heaven spur me on when I find myself stuck. Walking in God’s kingdom is about learning, and the most powerful lessons are those I learn when stuck on the stairs:)
Teaching middle school for thirty-three years gave me a great appreciation for the English language. I love the way middle schoolers use words, and nothing thrills me more than seeing the transformation that takes place in eighth grade as those young teens begin to understand the nuances of language and learn to express themselves in ways that make sense to them and to others. They leave the dense fog in which they’ve been trapped for three years and start to take ownership of words. Until that transformation, language is a challenge for them and for those with whom they communicate.
I especially remember compliments I would get from students who dearly loved me but had difficulty putting their good intentions into words. I believe good intentions actually do pave the road to perdition, but those middle school good intentions always made me smile. Once, when I changed my hairdo, a young man told me that my hair didn’t look nearly as bad as it did before. I paused for a moment and quickly said thank you, but in my head I added I think:) I got lots of those middle school compliments, mostly about my age and my hair. I accepted them as sincere efforts at being polite and practice in expressing themselves effectively. The words “for your age” usually began or ended their attempts. Once I realized that middle school students clump everyone over thirty into the same category, my pride was appeased.
The only thing that matters about words of encouragement or compliments is the heart handing them to you. Those students were sincere and loving, so I was thankful for each one. The same comments are not nearly as endearing when they come from adults, but it’s still the nature of the one speaking that is important. Good natured folks often say things that cause me to bristle, but I just remember those middle schoolers and say what we always say in the south. “Bless your heart!” If you’re from the south, you understand. If you aren’t, it would take too long to explain:)
Words carry great power and should be taken seriously, especially when I’m angry. I tend to let my anger get the best of me when my pride is bruised or my heart is broken. I say things I don’t mean but fortunately it is usually only the walls who witness my weakness. I’m thankful to have close friends who hear my heart and listen to my hurt pride without judging. A loving response helps me find perspective. Pride steps aside as the voice of reason enters the heart. Humor also helps when I get a response that reminds me of my middle school days:)
I do miss being around middle schoolers, but reminders of those sideways compliments and twisted words of encouragement put me right back in the beautifully upside down world where words just don’t come out the way one expects. So to all compliments made by those who haven’t quite mastered the nuances, thank you, I think:)