Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Friday, December 14, 2018

That Time I Played Scrooge

I was about nine years old the year my Sunday School class had only two kids in it—another girl named Marlene, and me. When it came time for the annual Christmas concert, our teacher, Mrs. Johnson, chose a two-character play for Marlene and me to perform. The premise of the play was that a sweet young girl would teach her crochety old grandfather (who said “bah humbug” a lot) the real meaning of Christmas. Mrs. Johnson allowed that the elderly character could just as easily be a crochety old grandmother, and assigned that role to me.

I was mortified.

I gave Mrs. Johnson half a dozen reasons why she had it backwards. Marlene should play the grouchy old grandmother and I should play the sweet young girl. Marlene had short hair, mine was long. Marlene was bigger than I, and a little older. I did not want to play a grouchy old woman who says, “Bah humbug.” I had never heard of Charles Dickens or his spooky stories, so the expression made no sense. Who says “bah humbug” anyway? How was that even a thing? It was the dumbest play ever and I refused to approach it with even the slightest smidgeon of enthusiasm.
But Mrs. Johnson stuck to her guns. I would play the grouchy old woman, no questions asked. Oh, I was grouchy all right. I wanted to run away. I stubbornly decided to play my role so badly our audience would see I was actually a sweet young girl who had no business trying to portray an old grouch.

Convinced the crowd would feel appalled by how poorly-cast this play was, I could already imagine the post-concert conversations that would take place in living rooms for miles around:

“What was Mrs. Johnson thinking, casting Terrie as that grouchy old lady?”
“I know, right? Clearly, Terrie should have played the sweet young girl.”
“What a shame. Ruined my whole night.”
“Maybe even my whole life. So unfortunate.”

The one unfortunate thing I see now is that Mrs. Johnson missed an opportunity to turn the whole scenario around with a little simple psychology. If she had appealed to my nine-year-old ego by explaining that she was giving me the more challenging role, the one demanding the best acting and the most stretching, I’m sure I’d have fallen for it and jumped in. I would have acted my socks off.

But she didn’t.
And I didn’t.

If the Ghost of Christmas Past could take me back to 1968 and show me my belligerent, nine-year-old self, I’d feed that stubborn kid the same line I drilled into my drama team years later until they grew sick of it: “It’s not about ME!”

I didn’t understand that then. Somewhere along the way, good mentors gave me a more mature perspective on teamwork. Thank God, Ebenezer Scrooge isn’t the only character who can be reformed.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

The Marvelous Human Christmas Tree

One of the highlights of my preschool Christmases was the annual concert put on by the students of the Amaranth Elementary School. The entire community came out, packing into the local hall, bundled in our boots and parkas. We’d watch the kids perform and at the end of the night, Santa Claus showed up with a gift for every kid—even those of us too little to go to school. Even at that age, I knew Santa was pretend. It didn’t matter. I was all about the present.

Oddly enough, the concert I remember best was the one I had to miss. I’d come down with a dreadful cold and sore throat and tried to convince my parents I was well enough to attend. They weren’t buying it. Dad stayed home with me, if I remember right. My deep disappointment at having to stay behind was reduced when Mom and my siblings returned, bringing my still wrapped gift from Santa. It was a jigsaw puzzle.

By the time I hit Grade One (we had no Kindergarten), I felt more than ready to perform in my first Christmas concert. Our teacher, Mrs. Cooper, organized her class into a living tree. Dressed in green crepe paper and gold tinsel, we were somehow stacked in layers to form a glorious living Christmas tree. Some kids were sparkly ornaments. Others, decked out in wrapping paper, represented the gifts underneath. Each had a line to say.

If anyone thought to take a picture, I have never seen it—which is probably just as well. No photograph, especially in black and white, could ever reproduce the magnificence of that tree in my brain’s memory bank.

Of course, somebody had to play the star at the top. I always figured I was chosen for this distinction because I was the tallest in the class. Whatever the reason, I was thrilled. But how would I ever memorize all those lines?

Big sister helped, and I went over and over them. And over them. The night of the event, I remember our principal lifting me to the top of the step ladder or whatever they’d rigged up, decked out in shining gold tinsel and feeling like a star indeed. More than a half century later, I still remember my lines:

“I am the star, see its bright Christmas light
That shone on the manger that first Christmas night!”

Although I have since memorized many lines, none have stuck like the ones I learned as a six-year-old.

Did that first taste of the spotlight kindle inside me a flame which would lead to a lifelong interest in the stage and all things theatrical? Could be. I do know that when God places a dream in your heart, it does not easily die. And if it does, it wasn’t God who killed it.

I see three lessons here for parents of young children. One, if you want your children to believe you about God (or anything else), don’t lie to them about Santa Claus. Two, whatever you want your kids to remember forever, get it into their heads early! And third, pay attention to their engagement level at concerts. You might just see a noteworthy glimpse into their future—a passion which you can play an important role in nurturing.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Fine Art of Name-Calling

Although I’ve always been called “Terrie,” for the first two decades of my life I believed my real name was Theresa, after my great-grandmother. Mom explained that “Terrie” was a nickname and registered me as Theresa at school. The other kids would snicker whenever an unsuspecting substitute teacher called out “Theresa” in roll call.

At thirteen, I decided it might be cool to spell my name Teri. It caught on, and I remained Teri all through high school. That’s what you’ll see on my high school diploma and our wedding invitation.

Then, because I was moving out of the country, I applied for my birth certificate. Lo and behold, I discovered I’d been legally registered at birth as Terrie. I had never actually been Theresa at all. We teased Mom that she must have been looped on painkillers when she filled out the form.

So I became Terrie once again, and I’ve stuck with that for forty years, although others have spelled it Teri, Terie, Terry, and Terri. One becomes used to all the variations when one has a name like mine. I try not to let it cause an identity crisis.

Recently, though, I created a Service Canada account online. If you’ve done that, you know you must first request a special unique code. When my code arrived in the mail, my name was spelled Teri. Even my middle name, Janette, was misspelled. Would this discrepancy cause problems down the road? I didn’t want to risk it.

So, down to the Service Canada office I went. I took along my passport showing the correct spelling of my name. I should have realized they’d want my birth certificate and marriage certificate. So, back home I drove for the key to our security box. When I arrived at the Credit Union, friendly Holly led me into the room with all the lock boxes and pulled ours out. I went through everything. No birth or marriage certificates materialized, except for hubby’s. I returned home, where I found mine in a filing cabinet, and circled back to Service Canada.

They entered everything correctly and assured me it was all good.

Several days later when I again logged into my account, my name still came up wrong. Back to Service Canada I went, torn between annoyance at the inconvenience and gratitude for a local office. The lady who helped me before couldn’t solve the issue and sent me back to the waiting room. When my name was called again, the second lady went into her computer and assured me my name had been entered correctly and advised me to move forward with my business regardless of how the login name showed up.

Last week, I received the letter I’d been awaiting—still with the wrong spelling of my name. I returned to our Service Canada office. The lady seemed puzzled, but assured me it must be just a glitch and suggested I call the toll-free number and keep toggling between “Press One” and “Press Two” until I reach a human.

All of which left me wondering who named Service Canada.
Worship leader Tommy Walker wrote a song that says, “He knows my name; He knows my every thought; He sees each tear that falls; And He hears me when I call.”

King David said of God, “You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you; The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.” (Psalm 139)

I don’t need to worry about what I was or wasn’t named, or how it is or isn’t spelled. I’m a child of God and he knows my name. He knows yours, too. He is for you. You are who he says you are, and ultimately, that is more than enough.