During a weekly spelling test with a class of first-graders, I noticed that one of my students, Cindy, hadn’t written anything on her test. “I can’t remember any answers!” she choked out through tears. I took her hand and led her outside to take a few deep breaths. Together, we went over the phonetic sounds of the spelling words I’d taught that week. With some coaching and encouragement, she returned to her desk and managed to recall two out of eight spelling words. She was relieved to have remembered that much, but the experience seemed to have dealt her shaky confidence a hard blow.
Some time ago, I came across a quote that was attributed to Confucius, and it fits with this issue’s topic of investing in people and the importance of learning: “If your plan is for one year, plant rice. For ten years, plant trees. For a hundred years, educate people.”
A bit of further research showed that the Internet was mistaken, and the quote should actually have been credited to another Chinese philosopher named Guan Zhong. The exact translation is also slightly different, but the general meaning is the same, and I prefer the pithier version included above.
Today a quiet piece of knowledge came to me. For a moment, I had a glimpse into the mind of my child, when she didn’t know I was watching, and I saw a side of her that isn’t normally obvious. She was fiercer than I normally see her, and I saw how differently she has interpreted some of her life’s experiences from what I expected.
Life is often likened to going to school, and that’s a good analogy. God allows all sorts of things to happen in our lives to test us, to see how we’ll react to them, to teach us lessons, and to help us grow spiritually. His desire through all this, of course, is that we’ll apply ourselves, take the lessons to heart, learn from them, and live up to our full potential. In short, life’s tests are designed by Him to help us become the people He knows we can be.
“The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.” This line, inviting us to a world of exploration, was penned by Robert Lewis Stevenson in A Child’s Garden of Verses, and my father often quoted it to me when I was young. He had an insatiable curiosity, and as I grew up, the stacks of books in our little house grew higher on every shelf and in every corner. If we wanted to know something, we got books and investigated or we found people who were knowledgeable in the subject. Besides the books, there were all types of crafts we were interested in at the moment—weaving and spinning and dying wool, wood and leather work, calligraphy, crochet, embroidery, and innumerable kits.
How will reading God’s Word make your life better?
Food for spiritual strength and growth. Just as your body needs food to survive and grow strong, your spirit needs spiritual nourishment from God’s Word. This little analogy crops up repeatedly in both the Old and New Testaments:
It was a typical morning in our home. We were all rushing to get ready for the day—kids getting ready for school, breakfast to be made, spaces to be tidied, and me trying to get dinner in the crock pot, makeup on, and so on. My youngest was trying to get herself a glass of milk and not quite mastering it, so I asked her older sister to help her. For some reason helping did not come easy for her that morning. She rolled her eyes, grabbed the cup, hastily poured the milk, and harshly put it down. This set off a grouchy reaction from the younger sister, which progressed into an argument between the two of them. Not cool.
For several years, I was part of a theater group that often performed the inspiring allegorical tale “The Man Who Planted Trees.” It’s the story of Elzéard Bouffier, an old shepherd who reforested a large region of Southern France by planting one tree at a time as he tended his sheep. This story was made into an Academy Award-winning animation,1 a BBC production, an acclaimed puppet show, and has inspired countless individuals to start tree-planting projects since it was first published by Jean Giono in 1953.
I’ve heard and read many encouraging stories about the positive aspects of people’s experiences embracing the changes that come with aging. Well, now it’s my turn! I’m discovering the benefits of embracing change in new ways.
I found a beautiful knit cardigan on sale at an exclusive store I was browsing through with my granddaughter. We were in an artsy shopping area enjoying an afternoon together. The sweater was the perfect shade of blue that I love and a kind of cotton that is practical for Texas summers.