Lessons from the Lunch Lady: Watch your %*#^$* Language

There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health. ~ Proverbs 12:18

We stood in an awkward triangle at work, two of us leaning on mops while the other held a cardboard box she was breaking down. One spoke speedy Spanish to the other, gesturing and nodding as she communicated information with the second girl that was intended to be passed on to me. I listened attentively, wishing for the 37th time that I’d taken Spanish in high school instead of French.

Bonjour? Comment-allez confused. 

Finally the second woman turned to me and relayed the message, explaining in detail the duty we were sharing for the month of October. She finished her explanation with an expression that left my ears buzzing and my stomach tight. 

“She wants to make sure we all know what to do, so we’re not talking sh** about each other.”  

Sometimes when I walk through the back door of the middle school’s kitchen I feel like I’m stepping off a space ship into another world. It’s the planet Profanitis, and I haven’t walked this landscape in many years.

20 years ago, I wouldn’t have given second thought to the expression my co-worker casually used. My form of rebellion in high school wasn’t alcohol, drugs, or promiscuity. I was naïve about what other students were doing at home, in the bathrooms at school, and in the parking lot after school. In fact, I clearly remember students giggling at my black Ohio State backpack during my junior year. When I asked what was so funny, a senior in my math class explained that the leaves on my backpack (the buckeye emblem had leaves) looked just like a marijuana plant. He laughed even more when I stared at at him blankly.  

But rebel, I did. I rebelled on the soccer field and in the notebooks I sent back and forth with friends. I rebelled in what I said to my parents, breaking their hearts over and over. I rebelled in an ugly way, one that tightens and strains my soul to this day.

I rebelled with my tongue. I cursed. A lot.

(This is a difficult post to write because I want to honor my parents with all I do and say. My mom and dad probably don’t appreciate the reminder of my {terribly} mouthy days, but I’m so grateful for their love and patience through my rebellious time. I certainly didn’t learn my bad language from them, so I pray this doesn’t reflect poorly on their parenting, but rather on my wrong choices in high school.)

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m working part-time at a local middle school. The job is a blessing and a trial, and I’m learning to rely even more on my Savior and His strength. Lately, though, the colorful language flying through the kitchen has begun weighing on me. The vulgar names and curse words make me uncomfortable and sad.

But God is so wonderfully faithful, and nearly every day on the way to work He blesses me with a song that lifts me up, one that I can sing to myself as I go about my duties.  

Today I hummed Chris Tomlin’s “I Will Follow You.”

I’m also thankful my hubby doesn’t say or approve of swear words (or pseudo swear words), including ‘crap’ or ‘dangit.’ Trevor lives out Proverbs 10:19…”In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” He thinks carefully before he speaks, something I didn’t do for many years and I still struggle with. I’m very grateful that our home is a swear-free zone because of his faithful example.

As I prayed about this post and read through God’s word, a verse in James struck me about why our language needs to be clean in order to glorify God. James wrote about the potent power of the tongue in chapter 3:1-12. In verse 11 he asks the question, “Can a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?”

Our mouths house the power to influence those around us for God’s glory. I don’t want my tongue speaking bitter water (curse words, gossip, ugly remarks) about others. That would lump me in with the world, but I want to stand out for Jesus. So I pray that out of my mouth flows fresh water from my Savior (kind, helpful words, thoughtful questions).

When I think back to my high school years, I realize that my mouth was a dirty spring sending forth bitter water, and I’m so grateful for God’s patience, forgiveness and grace. Now I pray the words I speak will revive others with their purity and most imporantly, that they’ll please my Savior’s heart.

“A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” Proverbs 15:5

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Lessons from the Lunch Lady: Serving Humble Pie

“So, are you a teacher?”

Trevor, the boys and I were at the USF Credit Union opening up a new account for me, and the young man entering our information was eager to start conversation. Cole and Chase were side by side on the floor, quietly playing on their DS as I curled my toes into my flip flops.

An answer percolated in my mouth and slipped to the tip of my tongue.

Why, yes I am. I’m an English teacher, molding the minds of the young. I teach literature and analyze Shakespeare with 11th and 12th graders. I spend my days dissecting sentences and reading passages aloud and my evenings marking up the essays of my students.

Big, ugly, clucking, LIE.

I unroll my heavy, disobedient tongue, in the process swallowing the bitter soul food no one likes to eat.

Pride.

Yes, Lord, I’d like a large piece of humble pie. Extra whip cream please?

So I swallow my pride in one big gulp. Down it goes, chasing away the butterflies in my tummy and opening my mouth for the truth.

“Actually, no. I’ve taken a part-time position at a middle school as a student nutrition assistant.”

He looks at me blankly, then quickly masks it with a weak smile. Confusion lights his eyes. Surprise, surprise.

It’s been precisely three minutes since I told him Trev and I graduated from USF nearly a decade prior, our majors Engineering and English Education.

“I’m a lunch lady.” Well there you go, pride. Down you go. I wonder how fake my smile looks.

There’s a very pregnant pause.

“Oh, okay. That’s nice. I bet it works well with your children’s school schedules?” I nod and smile at his polite words.

The loan officer’s typing speed picks up, long fingers devouring the keyboard. We finish up the paperwork, his questions now focused on checks and debit cards and pin numbers.

I feel my tummy fluttering again. Up comes that pride again, unsettled and stubborn, growing exponentially.

“I wanted part-time because it allows time to write and be home with the kids before and after school. I’m a writer. I’ve been published twice in a local Tampa Bay magazine and online a few times. I wrote a book I’ll be sending to agents and editors soon.”

I picture a clown at a circus, bright red fingers gripping the air compressor while blowing up a balloon. Kids scream excitedly as the balloon grows bigger and bigger, expanding, stretching…

POP! There goes my pride.

A few minutes later we walk out of the bank into the hot and stormy September afternoon. I’m weary, and the only sustenance is the bland but nutritious humble pie I swallowed grudgingly, though there’s little of it left in my system.

After 7 ½ years as a stay-at-home mom, my life has taken on a new normal. For 5 hours each day I serve people not in my family. Strangers? Not for long. It’s a hard, hectic, HOT job, paying less than the job I had in college 12 years ago.

I work in the kitchen preparing food for 6th, 7th and 8th graders at a nearby middle school. I can’t say I love it, but I can say following God’s will is truly awesome. I’m exactly where God wants me, and I want to honor Him by being faithful in what He’s given me to do. 

Even if I have to fill up on humble pie from time to time.

The blessings are adding up. I’m sweetly mothered by a couple of the older lunch ladies, and I serve the teachers and special needs kids their lunches each day. The teachers trail in weary, hopeful, beaten down, hungry for food and adult conversation, and I pray I’m able to lift their day with a smile and warm greeting.

And the kids…Manny, Leo, Krissy, and Nicholas press eager faces against my window at noon, their smiles like beams of golden light. Just a few days into this job and I’m falling for them. I want to do the best I can to smile back and serve the kids food and God’s love.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” 

 Mark 10:45

But I also must share about God’s perfect provision. Cole and Chase attend a wonderful Christian school that we really love and believe in. The boys’ education has been phenomenal and both boys are thriving in their small classrooms. Trev and I prayed hard about keeping the boys in the school, and we figured out that the amount of money I make as a lunch lady covers the boys’ tuition nearly to the dollar amount.

“And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 4:19

So here’s the deal. I’m a lunch lady. I write on the side. If I publish a book one day, well, that’ll be the cherry (or two) on the whip cream on the pie.

Sometimes it’s humble, though I prefer apple.

But the best part of all? I work for the most awesome, amazing Boss in the universe.

“And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”

 Micah 6:8