Have you ever felt as if life was unfair? Perhaps you finally got something you wanted and suddenly it was gone, maybe you were close to having it, and now your dreams are dashed. In full confession, that has happened to me, and I often handle it like a mature adult: I pout. I’m so mature that I frequently remind myself of an incident with a 3-year-old whom I loved dearly. (Names have been changed to protect the innocent and now amazing young women.)
Throughout college I babysat frequently. Now, some friends kept asking when I would get a “real job.” They were right. Babysitting wasn’t a job to me. It was becoming part of a family. I had to step in and be a like a parent. I wasn’t there to put these children in front of the television all day. Yes, I immensely enjoyed any time with play doh, but it was more than a job to me. It required my heart. It also required me to sometimes be the “mean one.” One incident always stands out. I call it “The Apple Juice Fountain.”
Madison was 3, and her little sister, Carly, was about 18 months old. That morning Madison was at the kitchen table with her new prized possession, a clear cup with a green lid, and the handle was also a straw. While trying not to burn the waffles in the toaster, I heard a bubbling sound and a giggle. Madison discovered one of the great childhood joys. If you have an air tight container with liquid and you blow bubbles into it, your drink will come out of the straw just like a fountain as soon as you stop. I gently told her to please not to it so it wouldn’t spill. As soon as I turned around, just in time to catch the waffles before I had to convince the girls “blackened waffles” were a thing, I heard it again. There was that bubbling sound followed by the adorable giggle. Now I admit to making plenty of juice box fountains in my day, so I knew her joy, but this was inside, and I had to be an adult. I told her if she did it again, she would have to clean up the mess, and she wouldn’t be allowed to have her cup the rest of the morning. Her mom could decide what would happen with the cup when she got home at lunchtime.
As I was buttering those waffles and carefully cutting them into not just the appropriate size, but shape for maximum flavor, there it was again. This time she tried to hide the giggle, but she was already caught. I turned around to see a spectacular sight. She was good! Apple juice was flowing from the handle of that cup, over the small wooden table and onto the white tiled floor. Perhaps it wasn’t spectacular, but in terms of a juice fountain, the kid had skills. I gave Carly her waffles, cut into perfect squares and enough maple syrup to ensure maximum stickiness and told Madison, I needed the cup. I will admit the smell of maple syrup and apple juice was pleasant, but the puddle on the floor wasn’t. I handed her a towel, and with the dramatics of “It’s a Hard Knock Life” from Annie, she wiped the juice up so I could get the cleaner.
I asked Madison what cup she wanted for her new apple juice for breakfast, and she pointed at the now forbidden fountain maker. When she refused to make a different choice, I went with the tried and true favorite, the pink cup. With waffle cut to perfection she ate her breakfast with a glare. That expression continued through teeth brushing, clothes changing, (including a dress and warm tights) and even hair styling. She was on a roll. As far as I was concerned, it was just a regular day. The juice incident was forgiven, but she still needed to learn discipline, the cup remained off-limits. She had a choice, enjoy the fun of the rest of the morning, or be miserable. We went on our usual fall walk to see the leaves changing color, even stopping for penny candy. How anyone can sulk through a bag of gummy Swedish Fish is beyond me, but she did. Carly loved the swings at the playground. Madison parked herself on a bench and glared. By the time we got home, the wait was on. She had no interest in playing. She chose to stare out the window waiting for her mom to come home. She was waiting to “tell on me.” When I saw her mom’s car pull in, I just hung out with Carly in the family room. I could hear all about how mean I was that day. Then I heard her mom ask some questions. She wanted to know if she got apple juice in a different cup, if I did her hair, if she got her candy like she was promised, and if she went to the playground. Each answer was met with a “Yes, BUT…” In the end, she was told it sounded like she could’ve had a good day, but chose to be mean, she owed me an apology, and the cup is gone for the rest of the day. I got a hug and a smile before I left, but it took her a few minutes to admit defeat and realize she wasted her morning. She was a quick learner. That was the last fountain and the last time she sulked through a morning with me.
I hate to admit it, but I have a tendency to be just like Madison. (Well, well most of my juice fountain days are behind me. I said most, not all.) Yet, I tend to pout when I feel like God has taken something away from me that I loved or even when He says “no,” in response to a prayer, and I don’t get my way. I’ve done it more times than I care to count. Sometimes small things, like not being invited to something special or even something bigger like a job. Sometimes it can be hard to hear about other’s successes, even if you don’t want the same thing they have. You just want to feel special.
When I’m pouting about not getting my way, Hebrews 4:11 often comes to mind.
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (NIV)
Discipline doesn’t always mean punishment. I can still quote my 9th grade Bible class teacher. “Discipline is training that develops character, self-control, and efficiency.” Sometimes discipline does mean taking away something until I’m ready to handle it.(You know, mature enough to not make an apple juice fountain in the kitchen.) Sometimes it means I don’t get something at all, but it’s because there is something better up ahead. I wasn’t too happy a few months ago when I found out some plans career wise would be put on hold. They were MY plans and MY timing. (See a theme coming.) I feel bad for my friends who had to put up with my whining and then my talking it over seeing if I could still make it work. I finally surrendered, and asked God what He had for me now. A few days later, I received a completely unexpected email asking for my help with a project. It was never on MY agenda because I didn’t know the opportunity existed. God knew what was coming. He knew this job wouldn’t be just a job, it would have my heart, much like Madison and Carly had my heart. I feel as if I’m living out some of my wildest dreams. That never would have happened if my plans had come about.
What about you? Are you prone to pout when things don’t go your way? Have you missed out on joy because you were fixated on what you didn’t have? It’s easy to do, believe me, I understand. (But I STILL don’t understand how someone can pout while eating gummy Swedish Fish candy!) That morning Madison missed out on lots of laughter and fun. I’ve missed out on plenty of Jesus Moments, moments where God shows me He loves me by bringing joy in the ordinary, because I was too focused on what I lost. Life is more fun when we let God be in charge.
He knows what’s best for my life. He sees the bigger picture. I have to admit I don’t. He has a plan for my future and my present. He has one for you as well. So, why not enjoy the time while we wait? It might not include a trip to the playground, but there are many good things all around us.
Right now, there is even a package of Swedish Fish candy my dad bought me somewhere around here, which I’m suddenly craving. (I wonder why?) This week, take some time and ask God what you may be missing because you’re focusing on what you want instead of what you have. Let Him use this time to teach you and make you into who He created you to be. Also, feel free to have some Swedish Fish candy.
I love hearing from you. Have you ever had your own “apple juice fountain” moment, a time when you had to learn the hard way that God had good things for you? Let me know if this resonated in any way. Thank you for reading. You could be doing anything, and you chose to read this. I can’t put into words how much it means to me!