A Jelly Hug

How ‘bout a hug with jelly?

When I was 9 years old, I used to love to eat lunch at my neighbor’s house. Her mom made peanut butter and jelly on Wonder Bread.  I remember the thick grape jelly running out the crust less sides since the bread held nothing together but my handprints on this new invention of pre-sliced white bread.  As an adult and getting back to basics of healthy eating, I fell in love with homemade whole wheat bread, soft on the inside, and crusty and rustic on the outside and Ezekiel bread, packed with protein from beans and the dense flour.

When my daughter Julia was 16, she did a mission trip in downtown Atlanta with her youth group. She wanted me to go back with her to Safe House and visit her new friends that she met and ministered.  Twice she asked me to help her make sandwiches, on Wonder Bread.  I was offended that she wanted to serve them processed bread, and felt we should give them good bread.   She laughed and said,  “Mom, it is what they are used to.  I know, I know, you hate processed food, but let’s just meet them where they are and hand them a blessing.”  Twice we drove to downtown Atlanta, Julia as my co-pilot, with a stack of sandwiches on her lap. While I double-parked, with my cell phone in hand and one foot out my own car door, she would jump out and hand down and out citizens sandwiches.  She wanted to find Sandra, whom she made a bracelet for.  I kept telling her these people had bigger problems than we could solve.  She looked at me and smiled knowingly and said, “I know your right. We’re just here to give a hug with jelly.”

Now I think of peanut butter and jelly differently.

When the girls were growing up we made our own lunches throughout the school year. Each child required something unique to her own taste.  Mallory, to this day, hates mayonnaise with a passion.  Julia liked peanut butter- smooth, no nuts and strawberry jelly on whole wheat; or turkey with mayonnaise—like her older sister Meredith, but the lettuce had to be packed separate so they could add it when they sat down in their lunchrooms—otherwise it was wilted and made the bread soggy.  I made their lunches honoring their tastes—not too spoil each child, but to let them know they were special and I listened to their likes and dislikes.

Most families are stretched and stressed like a tight rope over the circus of life. While most of us struggle to simplify, and continue to do way too much, there are ways of letting you and your family members know you listen and that you care.  I was guilty of being on the phone way too much. Yet, I listened in many other ways.

By listening and remembering the details of a loved one’s heart can keep you connected to your family, your friends and your community. Here are my suggestions for creating some listening opportunities.

Be Present.  Make a conscious effort to not double and triple task when having conversations.  Do not text emotions. Live conversations are for conveying love, concerns, and issues while texting is for quick updates as to arrival, and departures.

Make moments count. Set up safe times for just day-to-day conversation. Mealtime should be for sharing; create topics that are fun, like the last football game and ask silly questions, such as, “If you were an ice cream flavor what would you be?” Make appointments for family meetings to discuss items that need attention, like traffic tickets, careless driving, bad grades, etc. Build each day with time and your effort to be present. Bad habits are hard to break; good habits are easy to keep.

Accept and Love yourself.  Smile. You do not need anyone’s acceptance but your own. This alone can be a huge example to all.

Detach from results and get more results. Most of us are success driven, and it extends to our protégée as well.  Perhaps if we invest in the journey of life and not just the successes in life, we will see more results. Results that show passion for living and for all people; doing something for the pure joy of it; learning for learning’s sake; giving with grace rather than expecting something in return.

It is a new school year, and a new day each day.  Try giving a hug with jelly.