or “what we learn from our mistakes” … or “those durn spelling bees!”
Last week, our daughters got to take part in the exciting fifth grade event of the spring: the school spelling bee. With many students competing, several of them older than Rachel and Emily, our expectations weren’t too high, but we hoped they would have a good experience. It’s funny the memories that a spelling bee can stir up… you know, I remember the words I missed on a stage (cinnamon and ancient), but the words I answered correctly don’t immediately come to mind. This created a fun little discussion on Facebook, where word-geeks like myself left fun little notes about the words they missed many years ago. I asked the girls the next day, and they, too, couldn’t spell opalescent, lasagna, effervescible or truly. (In the spelling bee, Rach missed “confinement,” though when she spelled it later, she knew it should have had a silent E, and Em missed “unnecessarily,” as the six syllables were just too much for her head to keep track of… but hers was also the only six-syllable word used, if that was any consolation.)
Two years ago, as I was helping the girls study for a spelling test, I wrote a fun blog vignette that I’ll repost here (since the old blog site was deleted, I’ll just share those here periodically).
Cinnamon (not cinimin)
Which of life’s lessons do you remember best? For me, I know that the test questions I remember aren’t usually the ones I get correct, but the ones I miss. One particular lesson is one I recall whenever I look in the spice cabinet or help my daughters study for a spelling test. I remember the school spelling bee when I was in fifth grade, and I was one of the final three spellers on stage. I don’t recall the words that had led up to that point, as I had obviously known how to spell those, or at least I guessed correctly. But then came a word I didn’t remember – I knew I had seen it, I loved it with sugar and butter on toast, but spelling… I took a stab. C-I-N…..I-M-I-N ?? Nope. As I learned quite quickly, when the following student was correct, what I needed was C-I-N-N-A-M-O-N. And I haven’t had a hard time spelling cinnamon since that day.
Life contains all kinds of spice, much more than cinnamon, but it’s not always what we would choose, is it? Even if we can spell life’s lessons, they can still be hard to experience. A car accident, an unexpected illness, a death in the family… even struggles we’ve gotten used to can still be just that – struggles. But why are they there? Maybe it’s so we can learn to comfort, to depend, to understand, to demonstrate what it means to experience defeat gracefully. It is tempting to ask God, “Why me?” when difficulties strike, but what can we learn by simply asking God to show us how this can be used …used to comfort, to teach, to do something we may never realize.
You know, I went to college to become a teacher. My error was that I thought this meant I would have a classroom, a place where I would present lessons to students in creative, engaging ways at particular times on set days. For three years, I was able to teach within this definition, but after we moved to this area, I had a little change in course. To make a long story short, I am still a teacher, but often, the lesson is this thing called “life.” There isn’t a college degree in life, and it’s not always spelled the same way, but it can teach, whether we want it to or not. We each have our own spelling bees, and my hope for each of us is that when we miss our own “cinnamon,” we’ll remember how to spell it next time it comes our way. And maybe we can even give others a spelling lesson in the process.