In the shape of a heart


Here’s the song reference.

Not long after I settled the girls in at the kitchen table, Bugaboo with her morning waffle and Beanie with her morning milk, I had to go downstairs to let Smudgie out.  Hoping to get a little laundry folded, I asked the girls to please eat and drink quietly until I returned.  Of course, a piercing Beanie wail shook the house as I took the second shirt out of the dryer.

At the top of the stairs, I  met Beanie’s tear-filled eyes and asked her to go sit on her bed and take a few deep breaths, so she would be able to use her big-girl words and big-girl voice to explain the problem to me.  As she watched her sister exit the kitchen, Bugaboo held up her hands innocently and said, “I don’t know what got into her!”

As I entered the girls’ room, I took a deep breath myself.  Beanie has a notoriously short fuse and a bit of a penchant for melodrama. We are thankful that as she’s gotten older, her expression of temper has gone from physicial aggression to tears and screaming, which are far less injurious to her siblings and her environment.  I knelt down beside her bed and held her little hand.

“Okay, Beanie, what happened?”

“J-J-J-J-JACK-K-K-K-K-KIE Y-Y-Y-Y-Y-YELLED AT M-M-M-M-M-E!”

“Okay, what did she yell at you, and can you answer with your big-girl voice, please?”

“She yelled at me to drink my milk and pick out something for breakfast and give her my toys and she tried to take my toys away and she said I was a bad sister.”

Now, this is a tough one.  Getting Beanie to ingest anything in the morning is often a struggle, and one I’ve been trying not to push overmuch, preferring to let her start her day, then have her breakfast after she’s been awake for a while.  It took a while for me to get to that point, since I have a thing for structure and doing things as a family unit, but we had hit a point where half the morning was taken up butting heads with Beanie over eating breakfast.  I backed off, she eats something reasonable when she’s ready.  Since I usually have to be awake for a couple of hours before I can stand to eat, it seemed a reasonable accommodation.  If it had just been a question of Bugaboo fussing at Beanie for not eating, all that would have been required would have been a gentle reminder to Bugaboo that Beanie’s breakfast habits are just another example of how God made each of us just a little different.

The issue of Bugaboo’s acquisitiveness, however, is a little more serious.  We’ve had an ongoing problem with our eldest daughter appropriating her siblings’ playthings, and, while there are occasions when said siblings simply leave things near Bugaboo’s storage drawer and she just puts them away at toy pick-up time, it’s more common that she gets it into her head that she has a better use for their toys than they do, and tussles ensue over her desire to “borrow” this or that.  Calling Beanie a “bad sister” was just out of line.

“Beanie, what did you do to Bugaboo?”

“I screamed at her when she called me a bad sister.  Sh-sh-sh-she was being MEAN!”

“Okay, Beanie.”  I pulled her off the bed and into my lap.  “Can we remember to save the screaming for bleeding, broken bones, and somebody trying to take you away?”

“Oooooooooookaaaaaaaaaay.  I guess.”

“Did anything else happen while I was downstairs?  Is there any other reason Bugaboo might have yelled at you?”

“Nooooooooooooooooo.”

“Is Bugaboo going to tell me about some other reason she might have yelled at you?”  This usually works at getting untold bits of story.

“Nope.”  Calmer now.  Hugs can work wonders.

“Okay, then.  You are not a bad sister.  You’re a very good little sister, and a very good Beanie.  It’s kind to share your toys, but since we’re not supposed to have toys at the breakfast table, you were right not to share just then.  Did you have the toy with you?”

“Nope.”

“Okay, then.  Go back in the kitchen and finish your milk.  Are you better now?”

“Yeah.”  She skipped back off to the kitchen, and I followed with a slightly less springy gait.  Bugaboo sat in her chair, munching on a piece of waffle and studying an ink spot on the table fascinatedly.

“Hey, Bugaboo, can you tell me what happened there?”

“It looks like somebody missed their paper with a marker and got the table instead.”

“It does, doesn’t it?  But I meant what happened with the Beanie.”

“Oh.  I don’t know.  I was sitting here eating my waffle and being quiet and all of a sudden she just started yelling for no reason.”

As I took another deep breath, looked at the ceiling, and started to pray silently, Beanie piped up, “That’s not true!  You lied to Mommy!”

I looked back at Bugaboo, who had suddenly discovered something terribly interesting on the floor.

“Well, Bugaboo? Beanie says you yelled at her and told her she was a bad sister.  Is she telling me the truth?”

“A little.”

“Did you tell a lie?”

“A little.”

I sat down at the table, and Bugaboo confessed.  We talked about how lying hurts people just as much as calling them ugly things does, and that both are things that sadden Jesus, who wants us to be kind and gentle with one another.  I gently worked in the word “betrayal” after remembering what some of the day’s homeschool lesson plans held, and reminded them that Jesus also calls us, in love, to forgive all hurts as we wish to be forgiven by Him.  After a few minutes of discussion, Bugaboo apologized to Beanie, Beanie forgave Bugaboo, and it was time to get on with our school day.

Beanie’s school day started with a reading and coloring page about Judas’s betrayal of Jesus.  Both girls colored while I read the story, first from the picture Bible, then from a more mature edition that included how Peter severed the servant’s ear, which earned him a rebuke from Jesus.  I pointed out that even in the face of His betrayal, Jesus didn’t hit or scream at anyone, and He even forgave the people who came to arrest Him, taking the time both to heal the servant’s ear and to remind His disciples that their weapons were of faith, not of iron.

Later in the day, we read the story of Pocahontas.  I pointed out to the girls the Pocahontas was betrayed by one of her friends, and asked them if they knew of anyone else who was betrayed.  Beanie and Bugaboo both, with wide eyes, breathed, “Jesus was, ” which prompted me to remind them that one of the reasons we study history is so that we can learn to see the patterns in the way people act and how those patterns can help us predict what the consequences of decisions will be. We talked a little more about what it means to be a good friend, and a good neighbor, and repaying kindness with kindness.

After we’d read all the books and finished all the written work for the day, Bugaboo and Beanie helped clear the table for their favorite part of the day, which is whatever art or craft project we have on tap to reinforce some lesson from the day.  As the girls put away their pencils, they peeked over their shoulders to watch me draw big hearts on two pieces of red construction paper.

“Do we get to cut those out?”

“Yep.”

“Can we keep them and hang them in our room?”

“Once we’re done with them, you may do that if you like.”

They bustled excitedly to the drawer where their scissors live, returned to their seats, and looked up at me expectantly.  I handed each of them a heart and instructed them to cut carefully and slowly, showing our loving Lord that love and hearts are important.  As they worked, I got out a couple of pieces of regular paper and a roll of tape.

“Are we going to tape the hearts to the paper, Mommy?”

“Eventually.  We have to do something else with them first.  You both did a very good job cutting them out.”

Two very round pairs of eyes, one hazel, one deep brown, stared expectantly at me.

“Okay, tear them in half.”

“Rip them up?!?!?!?”

“Yes, rip them in half.”

They did, half confused, half intrigued, then looked back to me expectantly.

“Tear them again.”

I had to stop Beanie from turning hers into heart confetti as I tore of pieces of tape and stuck them to the edge of the table.

“Okay, now take the white paper and try to put your hearts back together.”

They looked at me, flabbergasted.  Why had I told them to tear up perfectly good construction paper hearts and tape them back together?  Had Mommy slipped a gear?  As they worked, uttering little exclamations of frustration at the impossibility of getting them to go back together just exactly right, I explained.

“You see, when we lie, when we take things that aren’t ours, when we betray each other and God, we hurt both another person’s heart and God’s heart.  We do everything we can to fix what we’ve done, but that heart is never quite the same, is it?”

“No.  It doesn’t go back together right.”

“Exactly.  We’re only human, ladies.  We still apologize, to each other and to God, but we can never totally make it right on our own.  Can a broken heart be made whole again, ever?”

“Maybe?”

“Yes.  If we ask Jesus, He can heal a broken heart.  So when we do the wrong thing, when we hurt somebody, we ask to be forgiven, and we also ask God to heal the other person’s heart, and our own hearts.  It hurts us when we do hurtful things, too, and we want God heal our hearts so they want to love instead of being mean.”

“Oh.”  Bugaboo paused for a minute.  “That makes sense.  He’s God.”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for little blessings who understand that You can heal broken hearts.  Help me teach them to always turn to You when they are downcast either because of an injury caused by another or committed by themselves, and that You call us to forgive as we wish You to forgive us.  Please burn into our hearts and minds that forgiveness and the need for it are not a cause for guilt, but for rejoicing, and that the more we forgive, the more we grow in the love You taught.  While we sin through our own free choice, Your love and mercy are boundless, and You will grant us infinite grace and help to avoid it if we ask You with humble hearts.

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