Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lessons Found in a Half Hour of Sharpening Coloured Pencils

My right thumb is crazy sore right now! Weird, but true.  I just spent about the last half hour sharpening coloured* pencils that have been lying in our pencil/crayon/marker/junk drawer since we moved into the house in August.  I sorted the pencils out last week and put them in a bag.  My intention was to bring them to school and run them through the electric sharpener, but, alas, they never made it out the door. When Elly invited me to join her in a colouring frenzy this morning, I heeded my own words to SLOW DOWN and took advantage of the moment.  However, I found myself repeatedly pulling out broken and dull pencils.  I needed to take action - for my sake and for Elly's. Once I started, I couldn't stop...and now, my thumb is in pain.  (I know you are all feeling very sorry for me right now, right?)

A couple things occurred to me during my pencil sharpening challenge...
  • There is a lot of assorted stuff that accumulates in our "junk drawer".  It is important, from time to time, to figure out which of it is truly junk and which of it has just not found it's place yet.
  • I really don't like sharpening pencils.  Roughly 33% of the time when I try to sharpen a coloured pencil, it breaks off.  I have to start all over or admit surrender.  If I didn't know better, I would think the pencil was defiantly laughing at me each time the lead broke off.
  • Sharpening pencils is messy and, occasionally, painful.
Here we go... personal parallels from the mind and thumb numbing task of pencil sharpening.  Are you ready?  I'm not sure I am, but we'll give 'er a try...

There is a lot of assorted stuff that accumulates in our "junk drawer".  It is important, from time to time, to figure out which of it is truly junk and which of it has just not found it's place yet.

I am sure we have all seen the home shows or heard professional organizers talk about this.  When something comes into your house or when you are in the midst of cleaning, you should look at each item and make a decision.  Does this "thing" go in your keep pile (for which each item should have a home)?  Does it go in your  toss it pile (if so, toss it and do not think on it again)?  Or does it go in your "reuse it in a new, but non-cluttering way", or "re-gift it to someone who could benefit from it" pile?

Anyone who knows me well knows that this process is not a smooth one for me yet.  Although, I have gotten much better at it over the years.  (If you listen carefully, I`m sure you will hear my sister giggling at me.)  It is true - if I automatically managed the items that come into my life like that, my house would be more organized and run more smoothly.  No doubt.

Now imagine just how much richer my life would be if I used this filter every day on all that I encounter.  

How many times do I allow the absolute junk of life to interfere with living life?  The junk may take a variety of forms... mindless or harmful media, words that carry no real weight but somehow tumble over and over in my mind, gossip in the workplace, judgmental thoughts toward another, worry over what someone might think of me, rumination on the "what ifs" of life, fret over the future.... the junk can pile high if I don't toss it right out.  I need to get better at getting rid of this junk and not thinking on it again!

As well, imagine if we used this same filter to identify the stuff that is mislabeled "junk" or just needs to find it's purpose or it's place in the world.  Imagine how many people you might view differently if only you saw them as just needing to find their right place or purpose.  I work with kids who are precious, but may be viewed as or view themselves as junk because of the challenges they face and situations they are in.  Quite often, my time with them has nothing to do with speech therapy (shh...don't tell my bosses).  Rather, my time has everything to do with helping them view themselves as worthy to move out of the junk drawer and into their purpose.  Sometimes, buried in the junk of our lives, we have some skills, interests, or gifts that just need a good polishing and a boost of confidence.  Then they can be used or displayed with the purpose for which they were intended.  

I really don't like sharpening pencils.  Roughly 33% of the time when I try to sharpen a coloured pencil, it breaks off.  I have to start all over or admit surrender.  If I didn't know better, I would think the pencil was defiantly laughing at me each time the lead broke off.

Sharpening pencils only to have them break made me think of the discipline I pour into myself and others.  I really don't like discipline.  It is not my favourite use of time or energy.  Often, I feel like I take 2 or 3 steps forward and 1 step back.  It sometimes feels like I need to start all over or admit surrender!  This feels true in the discipline of myself (i.e., for physical or spiritual wellbeing) or in the discipline of my children (i.e., for disobedience).  One moment I feel I am making good headway and then...I mess up.  I eat the chocolate hiding in the cupboard or I yell at my kid.  Ugh!

Discipline can mean "punishing" or "developing behaviour by instruction and practice".  Whoa - hold on here!  Perhaps the way I view the word discipline will help make or break the discipline I am trying to accomplish!  If I see my path to better fitness as a form of punishment, I imagine I won't go very far down that path.  If, however, I view it as development of behaviour through practice and instruction, I can mark progress and continue to practice in order to develop something I long for. Similarly, if I view the discipline of my children as developing behaviour by instruction and practice, my purpose and goal for discipline is so much greater than just getting my kid to "stop it now!"  

I've told my little lovies on a number of occasions that we "get on them" sometimes because we love them and we want them to be the best people they can be...ultimately the best grown ups that they can be.  That is much more palatable and rewarding than punishing for just the here and now.  Once again, it's a matter of perspective, isn't it?  Perseverance, patience, and perspective. 

Sharpening pencils is messy and, occasionally, painful.

Colored pencils don't work well if they aren't sharpened.  Getting them to the point of working properly to do what they were designed to do meant some mess and some pain.
Only a small bit of the mess made.

In order for me to be the best that I can be...to fulfill the purposes I am meant to fulfill...means that I may sometimes get messy and experience a bit of pain.  It is far easier to sit in complacency and do not alot of anything than it is to live life out loud.  Believe me!  I am very comfortable sitting and doing a lot of nothing sometimes.  Yet honestly, it often leaves me feeling empty.  Doing things to fulfill my purpose may leave me awkward and uncomfortable for time, but ultimately fills me. 

It means taking risks, speaking out when no one will, saying "yes" or "no" when it is not the cool thing to do, searching my own thoughts and motives, and dealing with the hard things that come with the right perspective.  I think that most of my greatest heroes - Thea Jarvis, for example - have gone through their share of mess and pain.  They come out heroes because of how they choose to handle the mess and the pain and, often, who they choose to help them handle the mess and the pain.

One of my dear friends, also a Christian, is going through some major hurt these days.  She has been through far more than any one should go through.  And yet, she remains hopeful.  Here are some of the nuggets of divine wisdom that she shared with me in regard to the messy and painful stuff in her life.
I remain hopeful. Where else could I reside? 
I recall that I never stopped asking Him to grow the beautiful fruits of the Spirit in my life. 
I never stopped asking Him for the refining fire that would burn up all that doesn't really matter. 
I also know that God is able to heal without any of my efforts or striving. He is good. He is faithful. I have a history with Him and that is enough to maintain what has now become utterly blind faith. He gave the faith as a gift and I continue to choose faith. I will always choose faith. (In the darkness nothing seems to make any sense.)
Man, I hope I am as eloquent when I am in the midst of pain.  I hope that someday someone might look back and see some heroic qualities when things get messy and painful in my life.  Not for my gain, mind you, but for the glory of God.  Truly it's only in Him that I have any grace in me.

Now, I am off to continue my Tuesday time with Eliana.  We should be off soon to the YMCA for some discipline and pain.

(* A note to my astute spell checking readers: My spelling is a mix of American English and Canadian English.  I just can't shake some of the Canadian influences on my life. Usually I switch any Canadian spelling to American as it gets caught up by spell check, but today I have decided that what ever comes out is going to stay.)


  1. Ohhhh, I don't like that discipline thing either....it's so full of - discipline! And I'm so glad to know I'm not the only one to eat all the chocolate in the pantry!
    That reminds me. I have a chocolate bar hidden in my purse. I think it's time to make a late night raid on that purse!

  2. Sigh. I loved this post.
    You are such an example for me. I have firsthand witnessed your eloquence when you were in the midst of physical pain, and have also benefited from your eloquence when I was in the midst of pain.

    I just appreciate you and although it's late here, you were on my mind so I am praying for you, and wanted to send you back a small blessing for the inspiration you are for me.

    Big love to you.

  3. I like you, Kathy.


Share your thoughts, feelings, or your own related experiences. I love that! And, as always, thanks for stopping by!