Paper Plate

What on earth am I going to do? 

Homeschool would begin in less than ten minutes, and there I was, scrambling to pull together an engaging lesson on an important topic.

Respect.

Over the past two days, my children had completed activities on the subject.  Both had gone well, but I yearned for something more, an interaction that would engage their hearts and impact them forever.

I hadn’t realized until that moment how much this meant to me.  Normally I would let a less-than-perfect lesson go and revisit it the following day, but this was different somehow.

I wanted this morning to matter.

The clock ticked on as I grew exponentially agitated.  Nothing was coming to me.  No lightning bolts or ingenious worksheets.  No personal flashbacks or astounding video presentations.

I couldn’t make it happen.

 

I felt ridiculous slapping the lesson together.  How could I not have placed a higher priority on preparing to impart such a critical character trait to my children?  Respect was important!  And there I was, disrespecting respect.

God, forgive me.  Please, Lord, grant us breakthrough.

Peace washed over me.  God gave no immediate answers, but I knew He would somehow provide.  I rose, resuming my morning preparations.  As pancakes sizzled, I unpacked our picnic basket, drawing out yesterday’s leftover paper products.

As I stored them in the cupboard, my eyes fell on a stack of paper plates.  They were the six-inch dessert size.  I stood mesmerized.  The small circle was milky white, so pure.  No cake crumbs or watermelon seeds, no ketchup smears or pickle juice.

It looked perfect.

I felt this tugging in my heart to pull one out, so I complied.  I raised the plate eye-level, as if it were a face looking right into mine.

And then it hit me.

“Good Morning, Mom . . . uh,“ said the Early Bird, peering around the corner.  He balled his fists, rubbed his eyes, and then looked at me again.  “Mom, what are you doing?”

I lowered the plate and smiled.

“Good Morning, John.”  I grabbed a stack of plates, tossing, “I’ll be right back!” over my shoulder as I darted out of the room.  As quickly as I could, I affixed tape to the backs of the plates and stuck one in a visible area of every room in the house.

I texted my husband for assistance.  He loves impromptu requests and happily obliged.  While I poured milk and juice, pictures popped onto my phone of plates hanging all around one of the recycling plants he runs in New York City.  A plate on his office wall, another wired to his hard hat so that when he went up to the roof, the plate was there, overhead.

I texted him a big heart and a smiley face.  My lesson at long last stood ready.  This was going to be great!

The girls emerged from the stairs sleepy-eyed and sweet, taking their places at the table.  After greeting my children, I waited to see who would ask first.  It didn’t take but two minutes.

“Mommy, why is there a paper plate taped to the wall?”

“It’s a reminder that God is here with us.”  We discussed all the places God could be.  Outer space, Australia, Dairy Queen, etc.  We talked about the world, our country and state, as well as various places in our community.  Then I shifted the conversation to how we would handle our interactions with people differently if God were visually present in every conversation.

“We would be on our best behavior – everywhere, all the time,” John said.  Their heads nodded.

“That’s right!” I said.  “Sometimes we all need help remembering to make good choices.  These plates are a good reminder for adults, too!”  I picked up my cell phone and captivated them with their father’s “Plates at Work” photos.

“Daddy’s doing it at work?”  They beamed, incredulous that a grown man would play along in a professional environment.

“Don’t you think God is at Daddy’s work?”  More nodding.

“Hey, wait a second,” said my son, pausing dramatically, folding his arms across his chest.  “Is God watching us like a spy?”

“Not really,” I said.  “He’s not waiting to zap us if we make a mistake.  He’s always loving us, standing with us, using His power to help and strengthen us.  The plate can remind us of all those important things in addition to helping us remember to make good choices if we take the plate seriously.”

“You mean take God seriously,” Hannah said.

“That’s right,” I said.  “That is respect.  Taking God – and others – seriously.”

Quiet chewing of pancakes ensued as these ideas tumbled around the young minds seated before me.  We paused the lesson while one of the girls used the ladies’ room.

Upon her return, she said, “There’s a plate in the bathroom!”  Laughter filled the air.  Hands on hips, she turned to me and said, “Ok, Mom.  This is really creepy.  I took it down.”

“Don’t you think God is in the ba–“

“Mom!  That is SO gross!”

“Well, I didn’t mean it in a gross way.  Haven’t you ever prayed in the bathroom?”  Eyeballs rolled.  Lungs exhaled large, long sighs.

The child who prays a lot in the bathroom and will remain nameless nodded discreetly.  I sacrificed myself before the others picked up on it.

“I have!  When I’m sick or having a hard time, I pray – even in there!  Look, I didn’t want to leave anything out for the lesson’s sake.  I can’t use paper plates to show God is everywhere and then skip a room, now can I?”

Giggles.

“Well, I’m taking it down when I’m in there.”

“Fine.  Put it back up when you’re done.”

Over time, the plates have blended in, losing the “what’s that doing there?” eyesore effect.  Admittedly, sometimes I blow off “the plate” and don’t take it seriously.  Sometimes I pretend it’s not there.  Sometimes I don’t see it because I’m not looking for it.

But often, I see it and smile.  Other times, I’ve searched it out and turned my heart heavenward.  And in several trying moments, my eyes have been drawn to it by Him.  Most of the plates have come down (I kept one in our bedroom, and my husband left one up in his office), but the lesson remains.

For us all.

 

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