On packing lunchboxes and other relentless things

Lunchboxes are a thing, am I right? They really shouldn’t be a thing, but they totally are. Not packing lunchboxes is the highlight of a (mom’s) school holiday.

(Not that we’re shallow or anything. And yes we should probably get out more.)

But even the moms who do get out more – I hear them saying things like, ‘We went skiing in the Alps and it was ok I guess. But the best part was not packing lunchboxes!

Also –

Lately I’ve heard from too many moms about too many kids whose wholeness and happiness is being constantly compromised by other kids – even other grownups. We all have to learn hard life lessons from unrelenting difficulties, but maybe we can make sure that on our watch, the kids come out whole and happy – because of, not in spite of – the seemingly unending toughness.

So, two thoughts – on sandwiches and suffering –

#1  Keep packing it in

It’s our job to keep our humans alive.

But what if we re-framed our unremitting, inexorable assembling of lunches?

What if we saw sandwich-making as less obligatory schlep – and more indispensable ministry?

Pray while you pack. Pray your kid will be a blessing to the person sitting near them when they eat. (Pray there will be someone sitting near them when they eat.) Pray they’ll use their lunch energy to be kind and courageous.

Leave the odd note, or write on the sandwich wrapper. Love letters in lunchboxes are cheesy. But actually, my boys love cheese. Gouda, cheddar, mozzarella and even the schmaltzy kind of cheese found in lame notes from their mom.

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And find what works. We all have different rhythms around these things, but I’m happy to share what works for us:

I hate packing lunchboxes so much that I have Sandwich-Making Days on which I spread, wrap, label and freeze dozens of sandwiches – so I get it over-and-done all at once, and so every day I just have to take a sandwich out the freezer for each kid, and add the fruit-slash-other-healthy-item. I’ve been doing it for years. All the normal sandwichy-type spreads and toppings freeze and thaw brilliantly (peanut butter, ham and cheese, Bovril, jam…). Works for bran muffins too.

I bake bread with stone ground flour – more protein, no preservatives. I use an idiot-proof recipe for mere mortals and it takes me four minutes to plonk the ingredients into the magical machine which delivers hot bread in two hours along with the warm glow of domestic victory.

# 2  Keep shaking it off

To every high school class I ever taught, I told the Donkey Story. I told it on days when I knew the kids were hurting. These days, I tell the Donkey Story to my own kids, when my heart breaks for theirs.

The Donkey Story goes like this:

Once there was a mean farmer who owned a nice donkey. The mean farmer hated the nice donkey so much that he threw the donkey into a deep pit he’d dug for compost. The donkey was sad and trapped. Every day, the farmer would hurl vegetable peels and abuse into the pit, onto the donkey. ‘Stupid donkey!’ he’d yell. ‘Bad donkey!’ The donkey just stood there and took it. But when the peels and other decomposing junk landed on him, he’d Shake It Off, And Stand On It. On and on this went. More rubbish, more insults. And the donkey would Shake It Off, And Stand On It. Until the pile of compost grew and filled the pit beneath his hooves and he walked out, free.

The point is: when people hurl abuse and you’re un-friended, overlooked or misunderstood – Shake It Off, And Stand On It.

God causes all things to work together for your good – even life’s compost flung your way unfairly. He can turn your pain – your kid’s pain – into a platform for freedom.

David Brinkley said, ‘A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.’

Let’s be praying for that, spreading the sandwiches thick with hope.

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. . .

Have an awesome weekend!

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