How to Talk With Teens About 13 Reasons Why

13 Reasons Why is the Netflix special everyone is talking about. The series is rated MA for mature audiences and explores suicide, bullying, sexual assault, and many other serious topics teens and young adults face. The series contains graphic depictions in some episodes. I have not read the book 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher yet, but it is my understanding that the book is significantly different. This post is about the Netflix series.

I searched for a discussion guide to go with the Netflix series but I am disturbed to find some had the tendency to minimize the issues. I found an excellent list of talking points to start meaningful discussion from the JED Foundation and provided that link below.

If you have any suggestions to add to my list, please put them in the comment section.

It seems a common thread among some of the people who discuss the series often include an element of denial. Instead of closing our eyes, perhaps a better way to address the issues brought up by 13 Reasons Why is to ask questions, listen, and guide our young people. If your teen or young adult has not watched, I still suggest parents look for ways to bring up the subject matter.

Thirteen Reasons Why is rated MA.

If your teen/young adult has already watched, I strongly suggest you watch each episode, stop, and discuss. Take time to process. This series deals with heavy topics and is emotionally draining.

Advice for Parents

Talking with kids can be hard. Decide what the most important topics are to bring up to your young person and ask questions, letting them do most of the talking. This is a time to offer guidance rather than lecture. Bring the topics up more than once.

I would be very honest with your young people. Perhaps not every person they go to for help will respond appropriately, but most adults are here to help. Sometimes asking once isn’t enough.

Relate a personal story to them if you have one and offer solutions.

Do not minimize your young person’s concerns and experiences.

Ask direct questions.

Talk to them. Not only once, but continually.

Know what they are watching.

I am not a mental health professional. The questions listed below are simply the type that can be used to start a dialog. Each of these suggested questions should lead to many more.

What did you take away from this story?

What do you think this series is about? Is it about more than one thing?(Some young people may miss that this story is driven by Hannah’s revenge against those she feels responsible for her suicide.)

Which of the characters seems the most balanced or healthy emotionally? Why do you think that is?

Are any of the depictions in this series believable? Which ones? Which actions are not?

What behaviors do each of the characters engage in that are questionable or plainly wrong? What should they have done? In this situation, what would you do?

What do you think you would do if you found yourself in some of the situations Hannah does?

How can you decide what secrets should be kept and which should be told? Who should you tell? Why or why not?

What are the signs of suicide? Other emotional issues?

How can you help someone who is suicidal?

How do our actions impact others? How do their actions impact us? How can we deal with that?

Who is the victim in this story? Is there more than one victim?

How does the school depicted compare to your school?

After each episode ask you young person for their takeaway, and what they thought. Examine the ideas put forth. Ask “what did you think” and “why or why not”.

If you seek help and are ignored or denied, what should you do then?

Does this story have a ‘call to action”? What is it?

Extension

What do you think of some of the reactions people have had to 13 Reasons? Can you give examples of appropriate/inappropriate reactions? Explain.

For further reading

Click here for a link to resources on 13 Reasons Why the Netflix Series from the National Association of School Psychologists

Click here for Talking Points from the JED Foundation.

 

Keep talking and discussing books, movies, and issues with your children and young adults.

 

Please add to the discussion by commenting below.

 

Homeschooling Is Worth It

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This year will be my twenty-third year. That’s a long time to be enveloped by the lifestyle of home education. It will be my twenty-third year, and my last.

In the beginning, I was angry. I wasn’t ready for this. I felt forced into it. I graduated with honors and the inability to do much math beyond the basics. I could not analyze literature to save my life. Home educating was not part of my plan. We had moved to the best school district within driving distance of my husband’s work, but then it didn’t work out and we were going to home educate.

I wasn’t prepared.

It was a large undertaking, and I had a lot of studying to do. We got quite a few head shakes. Most people tried to convince me to quit. They couldn’t understand that I had made a commitment. The promise had been made and there was no going back.

There have been things I have kept to myself. Struggles no one but God has seen. I have kids with learning differences. I have a few myself. Health challenges. Incredible financial burdens. Other messy stuff. There is not enough Samsonite in the world to hold all this baggage, and not enough room in Texas to unpack it all.

But I made a promise. Was it hard to keep? Yes and no. Teaching them was not the hardest part, unless you caught me on a bad day, before I figured out bad days happen. Bad days don’t mean much in the grand scheme.

Teaching them was not the hardest part, unless you caught me on a bad day, before I figured out bad days happen. (Tweet This)

When Baby Girl came along and we knew she would be the last, I added up the years this home educating commitment of mine would take. In a moment of self-preservation to maintain mental health, I immediately forgot. I refused to count the days for a long, long, time. Instead, I decided to make them count for us.

They did.

We have made each other rich. The focus has always been relationships. Putting relationships first has arranged all the elements of teaching into proper place. Our purpose in educating is to give a foundation to fulfill each child’s calling and prepare students to do life. Listen more than speak.

Putting relationships first has arranged all the elements of teaching into proper place. (Tweet This)

My daughter chooses her own path. It is our philosophy to let the student lead. It is my job to provide guidance balanced with respect. Confidence in a student’s abilities and encouragement to do their best has been the method that served all my children well.

Many years ago a mom once asked me, “Is homeschooling hard?” I laughed. It was good I did not answer her that particular day.

A mom once asked me, “Is homeschooling hard?” I laughed. It was good I did not answer her. (Tweet This)

Some days it is hard. Very hard. There were days when I considered the cost, hard pressed to weigh out the pros and cons, and days when I thought about taking a different path. There were even a few in-between days when I felt unsure, and reevaluated plans, mulling over options. But in the end, after discussion and prayers, we kept on. My steps were careful. Cautiously bold is how I traveled this way.

In the quiet morning hour, the house is empty. Everyone is living their lives. My senior is at her job, teaching. She says she doesn’t understand why people get frustrated at those who are trying their best. Was this something I taught my children, or something they taught me? The best, most lasting lessons are the ones like these.

I wasn’t prepared for this either, the brilliant gifts that litter the days like gold strewn along an otherwise mundane path.

When I look back I am overcome by the enormity of this job well done, and overwhelmed by gratefulness. I am grateful for the freedom living in this land allows, the wisdom so generously shared by others who went before, and for the grace covered love that carried us through.

If you see me crying in the toothpaste aisle at the grocery, it’s not because I’m sad, or overcome with the prospect of empty nesting, or having a moment of regret.

It is because it’s beautiful.

Here I stand on the other side. Twenty-three years isn’t such a long time after all.

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Why Momma Cries | Beauty From Pain

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When she asks me why I am crying, I can not speak. I send her away with the words all mommas use so often it’s second nature.

“In a minute.”

She has come upon me unexpected, caught me in the grip of a journey’s end emotion.

I redirect her, unable to untangle my thoughts and feelings.

“Don’t you need to get ready for dance?”

She looks at me sideways, then nods. She knows me well and gives me the small moment of peace I need. I know her, too. She will be back in two heartbeats. I breathe.

When she returns, I am ready and not ready.

I start out OK. I tell her how proud I am of her. Half a sentence into the conversation, words have trouble squeezing past my heart. They come out wobbly but march on.

Baby Girl has had hard, hard times. Life is harsh to our young. No one grows up without a heavy dose of pain.

If I had one real come-true wish I would make the world gentle for her, but I can’t. The enemy is often invisible, but the battle scars are there, plain to see. When she lets me.

On this day she is going to rehearse a dance she choreographed to Beauty From Pain. One she will dance on stage in front of the whole world and everyone who is watching. She will dance with all the grace she can muster. She will dance with all she has, speak with movement and make the song sing a new way.

I tell her, “I know what the dance means—I know what this cost you.”

We can’t look at each other in the eye because now is not the time to puddle up.

Instead, I wrap my arms around her and she rests, enveloped. Her hair is in my face. It should be pony tailed or bunned. She needs to get ready. I don’t release her yet. I tell her to make sure she takes a water bottle. An experienced dancer, she does not need this advice at all.

She nods and I let her go.

 

 

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The Lies and Omissions of Teen Girls

liesomissionsteen

I wanted to write this post because my heart is breaking. Right now, girls are keeping destructive secrets, cutting, starving themselves, engaging in risky behavior, feeling trapped in abusive relationships, bullied and bullying, all right under their parent’s noses. I don’t even know if parents want to know. This post is for the strong of heart who are willing to take stock of their relationship with their daughters.

Teens cover up. They all do it. It doesn’t matter how close a parent is to their teen, deep secrets can end up buried far away from parental eyes and ears. Teen girls always keep a bit of themselves to themselves, and rightly so, but when they are engaging in potentially harmful behavior or need guidance teens need to be able to talk with parents. It’s part of our job as a parent to be available and aware.

Why Teen and Preteen Girls Don’t Talk to Parents

Shame

Even if there is apparent evidence to the contrary, our teens want to please us. If they feel ashamed of the opinions or thoughts they are having and are afraid of being shamed for them, teens will resist letting the parent in. They really do care what parents think, even when the teen disagrees.

Embarrassment

It seems like a teen girl is embarrassed by everything. Discussing intimate feeling or touchy subjects is brutally embarrassing. Did I say teen girls? I still get embarrassed by certain subjects with my mom and a fair amount of time has passed since I was a teen!

Rejection

Fear of rejection keeps us all from sharing our feelings. Who wants to have a heart to heart with someone when there is less than a 100% chance of your feelings being recognized as valid?

How to Get Teens to Talk

Be Honest

No one wants to talk with a hypocrite, and teens tend to operate from a black and white perspective until they gain experience. Teen will call you out on your inconsistencies. Be as honest as possible about your failures. Admit that you don’t know it all, but you are giving them your best advice.

Be Understanding of Your Teen’s Point of View

Teens are full of drama, and it is easy to dismiss conversations that from an adult point of view seem frivolous. Try to remember what it was like to find a place to be in a  confusing world.

Realize that they may be coming from a vastly different place than teens in years past have ever experienced. The first step to seeing from another person’s point of view is to realize they have a different perspective and respecting that perspective. You don’t have to agree with someone to respect their right to have an opinion. Finding a place to relate to each other is key to communication.

Listen Don’t Lecture

As parents it is our job to correct, admonish, and train but jumping in too quickly with advice or even worse, “I told you so” will bring any conversation to a screeching halt. Most of us have already done a fair job of laying down the rules and letting our kids know what we think and believe. Fostering a two way communication is an entirely different scenario. Listening is hard work. Resolve to postpone your input. A big part of communicating is found in quietness.

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Schedule Time to Talk But Talk Outside the Schedule Too

Communication takes time. Building trust takes time. Setting a teen down to ‘have a talk’ is not the same as ongoing dialog that is relationship building. Be deliberate in your pursuit of communication with your children.

All of these suggestions apply to boys as well as girls. While girls tend to talk more, it seems they also keep certain things to themselves.  I do not know if it holds true for all girls, but of all the girls I’ve known, we talk more but hold back more as well. We learn to do this young.

I wrote another post about Raising Conversational Men, but I am not so naive as to think my children tell me everything. The best I can do is to make it crystal clear to them that if and when they want to tell all, tell bits, or tell anything, I am here.

Do you have any tips for getting your teen to talk to you? I’d love to hear from you! Add your comment to the conversation.

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Why Look Beyond Labels?

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We love to label.

Disabled, Gifted, Conservative, Liberal,

The tendency to label is a natural one. It’s how we make sense of the world, but all too often we automatically stick people in the wrong category and leave them there.

It’s hard to love someone after they’ve been sealed into a box stamped with the label “undesirable”. There are so many ways to label people as unwanted, different, and somehow ‘less than’.

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If we could overcome our need to categorize and compartmentalize people long enough to find the person underneath, what would we see? People are more than the name tag they wear.

People are more than the labels they wear. (Tweet This)

We are supposed to be careful of what we let influence us, but avoiding destructive behaviors and thoughts are not the same thing as avoiding people in the not us camp.

We are to be salt and light, walking without fear. (Matthew 5:13-16) In the world, but not of it. (Romans 12:2)

What if we peeled back the labels?

Convict, Leader, Homeless, Executive,

What if we ignored societal convention and followed Jesus’ example?

Tax Collector, Fisherman, Prostitute,

What if we opened our eyes and saw the human being underneath the designations that society has slapped on them?

Human Being.

As long as we give our attention to labels we allow our opinion to be colored by it. We limit our view of the person and who they can become.

Before anything else, God values people for who they are, not what they do or believe.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5 :8 NIV

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 NIV

What if we took a look under our own labels, the ones we so proudly wear? Without our protective labels firmly stuck in place, are we brave enough to relate person to person?

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Life With Asperger’s|Why We Don’t Go To Church

Asperger's Why We Don't Got to Church donnastone.me

 

 

 

 

 

When I first started asking around in the Asperger’s and Autism community about the whole church issue, the stories I heard made me mad. By the time I’d gotten a few more responses, I was sad. Overwhelmingly sad. The stories did not stop coming.

It breaks my heart when people say they regret staying at their church and wished they had left sooner.

The responses I gathered were from Christian people desiring fellowship. Many of these believers are actively seeking a church or Bible study in spite of bad experiences.

Why is church so hard for people on the autism spectrum? 

Getting to the Church on Time, Late, or At All

Every mom knows this is a battle, but with Autism Spectrum Disorder it is multiplied. Most people on the spectrum have terrible issues with insomnia, getting restorative sleep, and waking. When I say trouble waking, I am not kidding. A regular topic is how to wake up. I read somewhere in an autism advocate’s writings about the need for an alarm clock that shakes and shrieks.

Trouble organizing, estimating and managing time, the other hundred hurdles every day brings with sensory, eating difficulties, motor skills issues, and so on make getting out challenging on any day. Sunday is no exception.

Sensory Overloads and Processing Problems

Sensory overload is another big issue. Loud music, flashing lights, over powering perfume add up to an sensory cocktail that can quickly overload. While these things may be a minor irritation to some, for others the input is akin to a sensory onslaught.

The format and language of today’s church can be difficult for a literal-minded person to understand. An emphasis on emotion rather than thought and logic make it hard to grasp the message.

It is a social setting. This is a minefield for someone who can’t read body language, has difficulty recognizing faces, or any of the myriad of other cognitive or social skills typically lacking in a person with ASD. Often, children and young adults are expected to be “friends” at church to the same people who bullied the child at school. People who greet with a hug then ignore the minute they step out of the church door, or even before, will probably be interpreted as hypocritical.

Rejection at Church

Rejection and bullying is something I heard about over and over when I brought up the issue of church. Family members of all ages were bullied. Adults bullied children. Being rejected by people at church is an issue I heard about over and over. You can read about an instance that happened to my kids at church here.

And, no, this one situation did not cause us to leave that church. Often we have to weigh the cruelty of ignorant people against the benefit for our children of continuing to attend.

One of my kids visited a local church a while back. An adult in the youth group began making derogatory statements about persons with disabilities. The fact that this man felt comfortable saying these things in front of leadership and the students made it clear this was not a place we cared to be. Talk about how to keep visitors from coming back!

While the majority of people are kind and caring, I’m sad to say I wasn’t particularly surprised by this encounter.

Exclusion

People assume that since this person is not connecting socially they are not aware of these slights, but sometimes appearances are deceiving. Some autistics are exceptionally intuitive. The inability to express oneself does not necessarily mean a person has no thoughts or feelings on a matter.

Leadership that avoids their students with more needs, or even become hostile to students who ask too many questions is a frequent problem parents cited.  Aspies tend to have no qualms responding to the challenge to “prove me wrong”. A lack of social skills coupled with honest answers from a young person who may have an above average IQ can be misinterpreted by youth workers and lead to exclusion.

Do You Want to Be the Church?

I was heartened to find some excellent resources for churches and ministries interested in reaching the “one out of the ninety-nine” as Dr. Stephen Grcevich from Key Ministry put it.

This YouTube video is a good condensation explaining a complicated topic. I think it is an excellent start.

Why Church Should Be Accessible

I talked to many parents. Most have tried church after church. Many gave up on ever finding a church home. Some of the children, scarred and confused by their church experiences, have given up on God. Not all have not turned away. There are those who continue to search for a place to belong, a safe haven to worship and fellowship with other believers. People they can call “brother”.

Some church leaders think church is for the majority, and they can’t afford to spend time making church available to everyone.

I disagree.

1 Corinthians 12

God has designed every person with a purpose. There is room in the body for every believer.

quote from donnastone.me

God has designed every person with a purpose. There is room in the body for every believer. (Tweet This)

Dr. Grcevich stated in the video that he believes God has a reason for the influx of students and people with Asperger’s and similar conditions.

Qualities common to people with Asperger’s are the tendency to be truth and knowledge seekers, be persistent in faith, have a strong sense of morality, be deep thinking, justice minded, and analytical, to have zero tolerance for hypocrites, and pay no heed to church politics.

Is there room at your church for these kind of people?

 

I found this article, Asperger’s Disorder and Spiritual Development, to be informative for those who want more information on how to make their church or ministry more ASD accessible.

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I felt the need to add to this post for clarity after some feedback from readers.

People with Asperger’s don’t need a special program. Dr. Grcevich explains in the video above that being funneled into the typical special needs ministry would not serve well and be completely inappropriate. What do they need? Respect, understanding, and a helping hand every now and then.

If this post resonated with you, please share it. Have something to add? Join the conversation by commenting below. I want to hear from you!

 

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Confessions of A Hoarding Homeschooler

Confessions of a Hoarding Homeschooler donnastone.me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It all started when I went to look for a literary analysis book. One trash bag full and three boxes into the job, I started finding things. Treasures, really.

We must keep the carousal horse and other drawings, and the book Drawing With Children. I would be happy with only the drawings, but my daughter insists. What if she needs that book for her kids?

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This binder says right on the cover Mind Twisting Stories which means it is a titled work, so it cannot be discarded.

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Little sister even decorated it.

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Most of our materials and assignments come with decorations of some sort, be they toddler explorations with marker, coffee rings, important reminders (reschedule dentist, pay water bill, need 27 styrofoam cups and toothpicks for gumballs) or even teeth marks. My youngest literally teethed on Shakespeare for Young People: A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

book

I like to think that makes her sound smart.

I tossed that chewed on copy, but when my middle son came by to visit he noticed the boxes. “But mom, I was in this play! TWICE.”  Since he has his own house now he was welcome to dig through the boxes to his heart’s content.

When I was in the midst of the juggling act, I never realized how precious all those spills and scribbles would be someday.

We must keep the Book of Jokes. This is slap full of things nine year old boys find hilarious. Or HE-larry-US.

joke

punchline

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Obviously, these cannot be tossed out.

I adore reading his jokes and remembering that boy laugh. You know the one. The one that makes you laugh along even when nothing is funny. For a second I hear it again. I picture that grin and tousled up hair. It’s so present I can practically smell the little boy smell.

Also making the cut we have a songbook and cassette tape of Down By The Creekbank, a few original one of a kind, hand-designed space themed board games, and a smattering of materials we may actually need sometime next year.

I offered to keep the dissection kit (It’s in perfectly good shape) and order some extra specimens to do for fun.

The girl said, “No, thanks. I’m good.”

Party pooper. Truthfully, I am not so sad to say goodbye to that stage of my homeschooling mom career. Frog guts. Ugh.

Eventually, I loaded up boxes with a bunch of materials, some brand new. I think you may be able to discern why sometimes busy moms end up with duplicate unused workbooks.

My cabinet looks better now, but some old books are still firmly entrenched in the Stone Family Collection. Yes, those are ancient Abeka and National Geographic books. My kids loved them. Old books are friends.

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I did find the book I was hunting, but after I skimmed through it I discovered it was not exactly what I was looking for.

I found something better. Messy, hoarded memories and plenty of room for more.

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How to Be Ridiculously Blessed

How to Be Ridiculously Blessed

 

 

 

 

 

To get we have to give. If we want to be blessed, then we bless others. If we want to be ridiculously blessed, then we need to get ready to dig deep.

We have to be brave. We have to be willing to look silly or awkward. Many times God will nudge us to get outside our box, but the idea of doing something unexpected or different causes a freeze up. Don’t worry about how you appear. Once I sent a simple note to a lady who I had barely spoken to before. She was much older than I, a fixture in the church I grew up in. I took a little blue flowered note card out of its package and wrote her. I told her how she encouraged me by always faithfully showing up. It may have been three lines, if that. The next time I saw her she cried and told me how she had been thinking of leaving the church.

Don’t ignore those nudges. They are there for a reason, of importance and significance.

Another time I got a message for someone I had briefly met the week before. Since I did not know her and had not even had a conversation of any substance with her, I was apprehensive about delivering this message but forged ahead. When I gave her the sheet of paper she grabbed me so hard she scared me. It was exactly what she needed to hear and her reaction demonstrated that fact. I asked her if it was all right to share the piece and she said yes. You can read it here.

Being allowed to deliver God’s personal love letters is one of the most exquisite blessings. It’s not something I am willing to give up. The risk of feeling silly is a small price to pay, and you know what? Never has anyone rejected a kind word. We are all at one time or another walking wounded in need of balm. It is our rightful blessing to claim the occupation of helper to our fellow travelers.

Be extravagant. Not necessarily with money, but with whatever is available. It could be money. Buy a struggling family Christmas. Oh, now THAT is something that will bless all parties involved. If money is lacking, there are other ways to over-the-top bless someone. Years ago during mom to toddlers days, my friend was having one of those hard, hard days. We talked on the phone for a long time, but it did not seem to help. I called my husband and had him come watch the kids while they napped. I wanted to surprise her with a delivery of something to cheer her. I brought her chocolate shakes. Yes, that is plural. One didn’t seem to be enough. Neither she nor I have forgotten my extravagant impulse to over-provide chocolate on that particular blues and laughter filled day.

Put some thought into it. There are things that hold special meaning to people in our lives. With a little thought, we know how to reach hearts. Yesterday my daughter made a bottle for her friend who is moving away. The idea of a message in a bottle (cue the waterworks) is special to them and holds particular memories. The bottle is stuffed with many affirming and precious notes written from my daughter to her friend. Just looking at this gift of love and care from one friend to another makes you want to  go grab a Kleenex, doesn’t it?

messages in a decorated bottle

There are so many ways to claim our blessings by being a blessing.

Do you have any ideas on how to be a ridiculous, brave, extravagant, thoughtful blessing today?

While I'm Waiting...

 

 

 

 

 

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What We Keep | Five Minute Friday

This is my  first Five Minute Friday post. We are given a one word prompt and five minutes of time. No edits. Scary.

Here we go.

KEEP

I keep many things

Old knick knacks from my grandmother’s shelf

Tiny dollhouse furniture

only to be looked at

Made of tin cans by a man she once knew

Its red velvet cushions not to be touched

doll funiture

A ceramic cat, curled up, unnatural yellow painted fur that doesn’t make me sneeze

The box my viewmaster used to be in

Other things collect themselves there now

Pictures and drawings

Cards from my children

Misshapen hearts constructed of red with flaky streaks of glue from a decade ago

Of all the things I keep I wish to keep a heart that loves

Full of forgiveness for the tattered bits and mismatched colors

the dust that clings to the corners

and sharp edges of all that is kept in my memory

Kept in my heart.

 

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The Last Chocolate

Ever felt like the last chocolate left in the box? You know, the one that’s been picked up and put back until smudgy fingerprints decorate the sides. Maybe someone took a little corner off, then changed their mind after that one small bite. Ouch.

I’ve felt like that last lonely chocolate rattling around in the box. The most popular ones are snatched up first, then the next favorites. In the case of a variety box of chocolate, the best is not usually saved for last.

I read an article recently giving the writer’s opinion that companies should do away with the less popular selections. People responded. Oddly enough, not everyone has the same favorite! Even the candies that none of my friends or family gobble up are someone else’s prize. Preferences are a matter of personal taste.

box of valentine chocolates

Maybe it’s the heart shaped box, or the variety, or the fact that everyone has an opinion about which chocolates are the most desirable, but a valentine variety box reminds me of the body of Christ.

Each comes in its own little wrapper and each is unique. They were all put there on purpose. Not a single one snuck in by mistake. You can’t always tell from appearances which one contains the caramel, or where the nuts are hiding. Surprises abound.

All wrapped up and given with love by Love to someone who is loved.

Something to remember the next time I am passed over or suffer a few bite marks before being tossed back.

And then I think maybe I should consider the little bits of sweetness I tend to leave behind, even if I don’t mean to, simply because I prefer another.

There is a reason they are someone else’s favorite. Maybe I should find out why that is.

1 Corinthians 12

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