Ketchup Packets, Milk Cartons, and the Metric System…

Change. It’s inevitable. Nothing ever stays the same, nor is it supposed to.

We’ve been told not to fear change, but rather embrace it; that change should challenge us.  We should plunge into it. After all, if nothing changed, there would be no butterflies.

Unfortunately, there are so many things in life that are out of our control. Circumstances, situations, and realities that we can’t change. So for these obstacles, or mountains that are placed in our path, we must simply change our attitude.

Sounds pretty simple, right?

But it’s never easy to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. The unknown is scary, and when we try new things, the fear of failing becomes the mountain that we must somehow overcome.

That same fear is true in our spiritual lives. Many times we are stagnant and become complacent because it’s safer. It’s doesn’t take grit, or courage, or fortitude to stay in the same place. It’s less exhausting and less stressful to remain where we are.

Last week, I was thinking about the changes the new school year brings, and the many changes occurring in my own life: a new job (in the same school district, but on a different campus), a new granddaughter who will be arriving in December (be still my heart), and my husband’s recent retirement.

I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with the certainty of “change,” and the fact that my family is scattered all over the state—-my mom is in Nacogdoches, my oldest son is in Houston, and my other son, daughter-in-law, and grandson are in San Antonio.

As usual, I was trying, in my mind to solve everyone’s problems and issues. I was in fix-it mode. Ready to conquer those mountains. Ready to knock down the walls and obstacles that stand between us and all we are working, striving, and hoping for. I was busy making plans, and trying to figure out how I could single-handedly make the world better, and kinder, and softer.

My thoughts finally slowed down on a Sunday morning while I sat in church with Brian and my mom. The sermon title was “How to Flounder (in your Spiritual Life).” With a title like that, I knew I was going to find something in the message that applied personally to my life. I mean, we all flounder from time to time.

The pastor listed four points that lead to floundering:

  • neglecting your spiritual life
  • snubbing the grace and mercy of God
  • distrusting the Lord

I’ve been guilty of all of these, but the most compelling point that struck me was

  • refusing to take a risk for the Lord

As the preacher stated those words out loud, I felt my toes being stepped on. I became a little uncomfortable, wondering if I was the only one feeling that way.

As unsettled as I felt, I was also completely overcome with reassurance when these words were spoken: “Risk-taking is how we demonstrate our trust in the Lord.”


For some reason that statement calmed me. I was no longer floundering in my thoughts of all the uncertainty and change that is taking place (in my life as well as that of our country). It seemed that the challenge before me now wasn’t to work hard and exhaust myself trying to “fix” everything and everyone. My job was simply to demonstrate my trust in the Lord.

I don’t mean to make light of that, or to make it sound like it would be easy.  But I know so well, that when we rely fully on God, and give our burdens to Him, He takes care of the rest. And usually that comes in the form of many, many blessings.

As I was searching for quotes for this blog, I came across one that I had stumbled upon earlier in the week. While it didn’t make sense at the time, the words seemed to be amplified for greater effect today.

To learn, to grow, to develop, to CHANGE, we must get to the other side of fear. To take risks, to move forward, to be all that we are intended to be, we have to climb the mountain, or build a tunnel through it. Fear is a stumbling block in our path, but if we keep our eyes on “the prize,” and travel toward our purpose, we will find victory. And most importantly, we don’t have to do any of this alone.

This year I am working on the Elementary campus. And I have to say, I’m probably having too much fun to call this experience a job. I love the curiosity, hope, and innocence of young children. I love their ability to adapt, and change, and show their emotions. I love that I get to be a part of their educational process.

During lunch each day, I’m a helper. It is part of my job to assist the children with anything they might need: opening ketchup packets, milk cartons, “Go-Gurt,” and I even helped a young lady open a package of “crab.” Kinda fancy, huh?

Opening things up might seem pretty easy, but I’m not too proud to admit I struggled a bit with a “string cheese” wrapper. And then there were the milk cartons. These are different than the ones I remember as a child. The material is a little flimsier, and seems to tear a lot easier. I mangled a few chocolate milks, but fortunately, the students have a straw in their silverware packet (which is made up of a napkin, a spork, and a straw).

Some people might wonder, “You have a masters degree, and part of your day is spent opening up ketchup packets and milk cartons? That seems to be below your paygrade…”

But it’s not. In fact, as a counselor, lunch is one of the most important parts of my day. In that half hour, I can observe the students with their peers—-how they interact, or don’t interact with others. It’s during that time, I can walk around and visit with the students, ask them their names, and see what they are having for lunch. In those minutes, I see how little Sarah takes her spork, and on each of the four pointy edges that are part of the spoon/fork combo, she places a single kernel of corn and attaches it to each tine, and then shows everyone her handwork.

Lunch is when a little boy raises his hand to call me over for help, and when I get there, all he wants/needs is to tell me “hi.” And as a result, that same young man will later see me in the hallway and say, “Hey, friend.”

All of these tiny, seemingly unimportant moments are what fuel me. These experiences are what help me to power through and move ahead, and to not be fearful that I’m not prepared, or that I can’t reach or help them all, or that I won’t make a difference. These tiny moments demonstrate care and compassion, help, support, and encouragement. These are the things that make up a servant’s heart. The kind of heart I hope to have.

So instead of focusing on my worries, and fears, and insecurities, and shortcomings, I approach each day, trusting God, and knowing that He is using me in the school—-a mission field—-and the heavy weight of not being able to fix everything, and the helpless, overwhelming worries about the issues these students face and their inability to control their surroundings, is eased.

While I am risking my heart, and most certainly will fall short, or be disappointed in myself and the things out of my control, I am out there trying.

I have accepted change, and embraced it, and will be immensely blessed, as I hope to bless others.

I have stepped over to the other side of fear, and it’s in that place that I can hear the echo of that sweet little voice saying, “Hey, friend.”

So if you’re in the midst of change, or just facing obstacles that seem insurmountable, remember that taking the risk of moving forward is demonstrating your faith and trust in God. Give it all to Him and mountains will be moved, or new paths will be made.

Now you’re probably thinking, “Hmmm. She talked about ketchup packets and milk cartons. What’s the deal with the metric system, for Pete’s sake? Well, my friend, I hope you won’t be disappointed as I share with you yet another item that goes in the category, “Things that can only happen to me…”

Maybe it’s just me, but the metric system has been a bane in my existence since the 4th grade (or somewhere around that time when I was at Raguet Elementary School). I remember when this “foreign system” was first introduced. I remember taking a worksheet home. I remember my parents looking helplessly at the math textbook, as well as the mimeographed page, and my dad muttered something about “New Math,” and then something to the effect that many people believed that introducing the metric system into the United States was a communist plot.

I don’t remember much about the metric system because it seemed to vanish from the curriculum as soon as it arrived. I do know that when I watch the Olympics I hear things in “metric” terms, and thoughts of this system sometimes pass through my mind when I purchase a liter bottle of something. But that’s about it. I don’t think much about it…

But yet, the metric system came back to haunt me this past week.

In my journey for better health, I jumped back on the treadmill this summer. I began walking three miles daily, and right before school started, I began to run one of those miles.

I was feeling pretty proud, and possibly a little cocky, but it seemed easier than I remembered. I was running at a speed of 7.1 miles per hour, and the minutes seemed to flash by. I felt like I was in great shape, and was proud of my ability to get right back on “that horse,” and run like Forrest Gump.

On the first day of school, my newly retired husband sent me a picture of the treadmill. He had run over 6 miles. I was impressed, and I showed my principal, and we both agreed that while this was a great feat, we had probably sweated more walking around school that morning than he had while on the treadmill! (Last Monday was a SCORCHER!)

When I got home Brian mentioned: “You know, I think that the treadmill might be set to the metric system.”

I almost cried. In the back of my mind, I knew he was probably right. I had honestly thought something was awry, because it just seemed easier to run than it had last year. And let’s face it, it’s not like I’m getting younger.

I dug through the drawer that has “manuals” in it, and found the Nordictrack one. He poured through the pages, read up on the settings, and said that he would look at it tomorrow.

And, yep. On Tuesday afternoon, he broke it to me that I hadn’t really been running a mile and walking two. The treadmill was indeed on the metric system. And suddenly, my whole world seemed to be one big lie. This really, really bothered me. It made me question everything about life. And it made me feel unaccomplished, and completely foolish.

But what could I do? Give up? Nope. That was never an option.

I got up on Wednesday morning, and ran my non-metric mile. And let me tell you, it was TOUGH. At 4.5 per hour speed, I felt like I had a hundred pound weight on my back. Each step felt heavy and awkward. And my attitude and the mental block I now had toward this routine was bigger than any mountain I’ve ever had to climb, go around, or go through.

But, I did the mile. I wasn’t happy about it. It didn’t feel good. It brought me zero joy. I wasn’t excited at all about the opportunity to do it again the next day. In fact, I was thinking of just quitting. My ankle hurt, and so did my pride.

I thought about it off and on all day, and I came to this conclusion. I was going “metric.”

Friday morning (yeah, I skipped Thursday’s workout), I stepped on the treadmill, clicked the settings button, and ever-so-happily entered the “metric” option. Instead of stopping my running at the 1.0 distance mark (which for weeks I thought was a mile), I ran until I hit the 1.6 mark. 1600 meters which equals an American mile. My usual pace (when I was metric and didn’t know it) was 7.1. I did increase that to 7.5. I’m not sure what that translates to in the good ol’ US measurement system, but it felt good. And I enjoyed the workout.

It might seem silly to some, but for me, this obstacle was a MENTAL one. Physically, I can run a mile. But the speed at which the numbers roll over when I’m metric, and the supposedly fast “7.5” made me feel better than 4.5 did. Maybe it is slower, but the time I’m running is enjoyable, and makes me want to get up and do it again the next day.

In the end, I still get to the same point. I simply get there in a different way. There’s a lot to be said about “mind over matter.”

Please don’t ever ask me about any other “metric” measurement. I know none. But I do know if my speed is 7.5, and I run til the distance says 1.6, then I’ve done a mile——metric style.

Many times in life, when a problem or roadblock occurs, if you change your attitude or mindset, you will find a way.

(Last week, this would have been lost one me…)


However you measure things, I hope your life is full. I hope your cup is over-flowing…



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