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soggy dried cereal (not letting the tremendous trifles of life steal our joy)

Updated on February 10, 2014
Photograph by Jonathan Buck
Photograph by Jonathan Buck
Beyond Time
Beyond Time
Time travel novel

Special K cereal can be substituted as glue if some is ever needed in a pinch. All you have to do is get the flakes good and soggy with milk then slap them on the desired object and wait about an hour. When you come back, the soggy flakes will have dried and become quite hardened and very stuck to the object they are attached to. I learned this secret by observing my two and a half year old twins. Michael and Susan have perfected the use of this new glue substitute. The problem is that the floor and the high chairs really don't need gluing quite yet.

The other day after church, as I was crawling around on the kitchen floor scraping up the hardened cereal masses from breakfast with a spatula, I couldn't help thinking about how the Lord is using my children to change my perspective about what really matters. My tendency is to make sure my life is in order. I like for the outward appearance of my family, my house and the other parts of my life to look good. After all, the way things look is normally what shapes other people's opinions about me. That shouldn't matter to me, especially in my season of life, with four young kids, but it does.

The ability to leave some things undone for the sake of ministering to my family is hard for me. I remember days when the first thing out of my mouth to the kids was telling them to clean up. Even before I said hello, I was ordering them to pick up the lego blocks scattered in the hall. I do need to lovingly teach my kids the responsibilities of picking up after themselves. However, as long as order is my primary goal, my children will not learn responsibility from me. They will only be reacting to my angry orders. As long as my emphasis is on the external, the internal growth and spiritual maturity of my children will remain secondary.

My wife Betsy sometimes calls me "Mr.Clean", to help remind me of my focus. She and I have discussed this tendency and are beginning to work through some of the issues in my life that cause me to be obsessive about order. We both realize that the time we have to make an impact in our kids lives is relatively short. She made a point once that our kids are going to remember the times we took them all to the park much more than they will remember the fact that Mom and Dad kept a spotless house. What really matters, long term, must constantly be weighed against the urgent duties of the here and now.

I've heard that in the movie Hook, which I have not yet seen, there is a line that relates to the lesson I am learning about my priorities. Without knowing the specifics of the incident, the summary of the line in the movie is this: There are only a few years in our lives when our kids chase us. After that, we spend the rest of our lives chasing them.

I pray that I continue to gain understanding

and correct my "need" for order. Perhaps as I continue to grow in my delight in the Savior, my inner peace and order will sustain me more and more, apart from the external. However, in the mean time, as I scrape up cereal masses and smashed peas and see that the same lego blocks get picked up once again, I hope that I can remember the relatively short time I really have with my kids. I pray that this will inspire and motivate me so that I can focus more on them. A clean house is a good, desirable thing, but it should never drown out the things of far greater importance.

Years later

It is now over twenty years since I scrapped that cereal from the floor. We've moved to a new house, all our kids are on their own and we have three grandchildren. Did I focus on what was important all the time these years? No I still messed up.

But, I'm so glad God my attention when he did. I have and continue to enjoy life's moments as they come, asking God to keep my heart in the present moments, nit on what has to be done.


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