3/13/08

Fourth Grade Java

I attended 4th grade at Parkview Baptist School. I loved my school. I loved my uniform. I especially loved my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Denham. She had a lovely alto voice as smooth as butter. Her skin was beautiful. She had hands like a piano player. Her hair was always, always perfectly in place. I adored Mrs. Denham.


I think it is amazing the things that stick with us from our childhood. I can't tell you everything we were taught in 4th grade but I do remember a handful of things that happened, things like:

  • doing reports on the Albatross and the Arctic Hare
  • being accused of having my hair colored one Monday morning after I'd had several inches cut off over the weekend and my hair looked darker
  • realizing for the first time what it meant to be "popular"
  • not all girls thought all boys had cooties
  • playing "7-Up"
  • multiplication tables
  • the smartest kid on the planet, Jonathan Knowles
  • never being selected for the Friday job of washing the blackboard
  • and how to spell the word coffee, c-o-f-f-e-e, coffee

Coffee, I still think about 4th grade every time I make a pot or grab a Starbucks. It was a word that I missed on a particular Spelling test. No big deal right? So you miss a word, move on, and forget about it like any other normal 4th grader! I wish I had. I wish I'd just accepted my mistake and let it go. Here's what happened instead...


My teacher, Mrs. Denham, selected a couple of students to hand back graded papers. Well, when I got my Spelling test back I couldn't believe my eyes. I'd missed a word, a word I KNEW how to spell...coffee! How on earth did I miss that? No way! Let me see, where's my pencil...ok, I can fit and 'f'' in and no one will know it wasn't already there. Wait, this is a graded test; I bet I can show it to Mrs. Denham and she'll give me credit for it! She'll think she just overlooked it, she knows I can spell coffee. There, that looks good! Mrs. Denham...


She didn't buy it.


She knew what I'd done.


Now I wonder if she somehow saw me do it. Could she have seen me across the room from her desk?


Well, I'm glad now that she didn't fall for that foolish attempt of mine to get credit for a missed Spelling word. Instead, she lovingly, yet firmly let me know she knew I'd changed the word. She confronted my dishonesty with authority. She let me know that she knew that I could spell that word, and she understood my frustration at missing a word I knew. However, she expected me to be honest at all times. She let me know she expected better of me. I felt so low, ashamed that I'd convinced myself that it was ok to change my work to get credit for something I didn't earn.


There are a lot of life lessons wrapped up in this moment of my life. Honesty, test taking skills, being conscientious, always check your work, learning from your mistakes...just to name a few. I knew then that I'd given her reason not to trust me like she had before. I wanted more than anything to be in right standing with her...and with God.


BIG lesson for a 4th grader. I'm glad to have learned it then. Not only do I know how to spell coffee, but I know how important honesty is...at all times, seen or unseen, no matter what..."put off lying". I wanted Mrs. Denham to be delighted with me; even more than Mrs. Denham, I wanted Jesus to be delighted with me! I hope He is.

Remembering this story helps me understand my Jack a little more now too. He has recently fallen into a pattern of compromising the truth to avoid trouble when he has done something he knew better than to do. Sigh, I'll just call it what God calls it...Jack is lying the same way his Mother lied at age 10. It is a stubborn weed to uproot. With loving authority and godly discipline we are training Jack to love truth and to put off lying...even if he thinks he'll be "in trouble".

Well, there you go. So, I'm gonna leave my spelling error in the previous post alone. It has been a precious reminder of an important lesson learned. I'm going to accept the error and keep moving forward striving to do better next time. Good, better, best. Never let it rest till your good is better and your better is best.

I love coffee, my favorite is Starbucks' Caramel Macchiato. mmmmmm-mmmmmm! I love c-o-f-f-e-e! For more reasons than the average Joe!