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Shiny Stars and Gritty Ashes

March 7, 2014

It didn’t hit me until two days later, but those stars that I stuck on their cheeks, could’ve easily been ashes I smeared on their foreheads.

Girls on the Run is so much fun!I recently volunteered to become a coach for a local Girls on the Run team. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a group of 3rd-5th grade girls that gather together twice a week for lessons and training. The lessons range from gaining self-esteem, standing up to bullying, choosing positive words and actions over negative, and learning to encourage one another. It’s a mentoring program that helps the girls learn about life and become more confident, kind, and caring people. In addition to the lessons, we train them how to run through games and challenges. The goal at the end of 12 weeks is a 5k race where everyone runs together.

So every Monday and Tuesday after school I get two hours with these 16 incredible girls. They are so full of life and excitement and potential. Working with three other coaches, we take turns leading the lesson, and it was my first day up to teach. The goal was to avoid negative self-talk and focus more on positive self-talk…an important lesson for every woman, not just 3rd-5th graders.

As we got to the end and it was time to run, each individual girl received a shiny star sticker for each lap she completed, and she heard a positive phrase she had to repeat back to me. “You are smart,” I said, as I stuck a gold star on her hand. “I am smart,” she echoed, then off to run another lap. Some girls got creative about where they collected their stickers. Stars were adorning their water bottles, their shirts, even their cheeks and their noses. “You are brave,” I said, adorning a green star to her cheek. “I am brave,” with a grin as she dashed away to catch up to her friend. “You are kind,” I said, red star on the forehead. “I am kind,” she repeated.Star Stickers

Don’t believe the negative. Don’t listen to the words of teasing, or comparison, or nitpicking. Listen to the positive, and believe the good news. You are smart, and brave, and kind.

In a world so filled with negative comments and difficult truths, it was a joy to be able to remind these girls of the good. What I hope they were hearing with all these comments, and what I hope they believed is, “You are important, and you are loved.”

Ashes to Ashes

Ashes to Ashes

The next evening was Ash Wednesday, and while I didn’t have any shiny star stickers, I did have dark and gritty ashes. This time, instead of a schoolyard, I stood in the Sanctuary, and as my congregation members came forward one at a time, I marked the sign of the cross on their foreheads, and said these words, “Repent and believe the good news.”

Don’t believe the negative. Don’t listen to all the words of hatred or disappointment or despair. Listen to the positive. Listen to the good news. You are smart, and brave, and kind.

What I hoped they were hearing, and what I hoped they believed was, because of Jesus, “You are important, and you are loved.”

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