Wandering the clearance shelves of Target, I happened upon a little booklet called “Happy Cards.” Described as “30 fill-in the blank cards to make someone smile” I was immediately intrigued by the possibilities. I put the booklet in my cart, then decided it was silly, I could do the very same thing without the help of pre-constructed pages. Walking two aisles away, pursuing pink duct tape and cork board stick ups and bundles of twine, I still had the booklet in mind. Backtracking, I somewhat sheepishly put it in my cart and went on to complete my real shopping. No pink duct tape for me. Maybe it was a Holy Spirit nudge, letting me know I needed a bit more positivity in my dealings in the coming days. The cards turned out to be well worth the $2.98 I spent.
Plum has been struggling with some adjustments as home, a new sister who has taken the spot he held for over 6 years. A new marriage with all those pressures, tight to nonexistent money, little sleep, extended family expectations, less fun, more work, Plum has started to show all those tensions of the family. Mama is aware and is working on correcting as much as she can (anyone have a spare money tree?) but these things take time and Plum is acting out now. Thus our weekends with him have become a complicated combination of supporting rules and propping up his need for stability and extra love. We aren’t in the position of being those grandparents who spoil, we see him too often and are frankly broke anyway. We (read me, Chef is too much fun) have always taken on the role of disciplinarian, knowing we played a critical part in shaping this child into a real person. So we have been engaged in some battles that leave us all feeling less that wonderful and wishing for the days when we just snuggled and read books and played games and laughed Ah ha, the Happy Cards.
I filled in a card that said, “I like your” with “friendly smile” and left it on his bed for him to find. I didn’t think about signing it, I left one for Chef as well, he can always use a bit of sweetness from me. (That may be a different post.) A strange, unexpected thing happened: Plum never considered that I had written the card. He wasn’t bothered with logic or the need to work out the details. His mind grabbed onto the mystery and stayed there. Someone noticed his friendly smile and also that Chef is the best grandpa ever and that was enough. He carried his card with him all day. Not like an adult who puts a note in their wallet, but a 6 year old who rarely stops moving. This card went with him from room to room, activity to activity. His friendly smile joined us almost all day.
What struck me most though beside the fact that changing my focus had changed his behavior, (c’mon, we all know this, just forget in the nitty-gritty day to day) was how he refused to make the mental leap that I didn’t get a card and maybe I gave him the card. He is a really smart kid, has begun doing multiplication when he is supposed to be learning addition, he is reading at mid-second grade level as a kindergartener, he connects things. He refused to see this. He needed to not see this. This message needed to come from somewhere bigger. That works for me. Because I think it kind of did.
I wonder how often we miss the messages our parents have given us, thinking they were just the “have-to’s” You know, mom has to say this stuff because she is my mom, not believing they are telling us the truth about ourselves. We miss the chance to bask in the good by discounting the authority of the messenger. I tell Plum the very same things I wrote on the card, and the card he found the next day, but it was truer, more special for the colored card stock and fancy printing. What messages do we miss from God as we look for the special card? We miss what He is sharing with us all the time about ourselves, messages that affirm who we are to Him. I think I take for granted God’s love just as my Plum takes mine for granted. In many ways that is the sure sign of a solid parent-child relationship. Plum knows he doesn’t have to earn it, doesn’t worry it will go away after one bad day, or even two, he trusts it will grow with him. Yet I am no longer a child and need to show more respect and appreciation for my Ultimate Parent. I can’t discount the messages God sends me that I am enough, add more value to the ones that come from others. I can’t forget to say thank you to the One who wakes me up and the One who gives me rest. I hope I can be more open to those special cards from God. The ones that come as bright red birds in the barren winter trees, as dreams of hopeful visits with my daughter and granddaughter.
By the way, I found this card here for you. It says, “You’re awesome at….” What is God whispering you to write in? Listen to your Father and fill out the message. Rest in His love today. He knows you best, He knew you first. Let His message be louder than all the others who talk to you, louder than the voices of worry and shame and fear and self-doubt. God thinks you are awesome! Really, isn’t that enough?