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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Where Are You, Flat Stanley?

My 7-year-old daughter is doing a cute little project in one of her classes at school.  Many of you have already heard about Flat Stanley.  For those of you who haven’t, here’s the scoop from Wikipedia: 

Flat Stanley is a 1964 children's book written by Jeff Brown and was originally illustrated by Tomi Ungerer.  It’s the first in a series of books featuring Stanley Lambchop.

Stanley and his younger brother, Arthur, were given a big bulletin board by their father to display pictures and posters.  The bulletin board hung on the wall over Stanley's bed.  One night, the board fell from the wall, flattening Stanley in his sleep.  Stanley survived and made the best of his altered state.  One special advantage was that Flat Stanley could visit his friends by being mailed in an envelope.

Here’s where the good times begin.  My daughter colored her picture of Flat Stanley and we mailed him with the following letter to her Aunt Kerri:

In school, we read a book about a boy who got mashed by a bulletin board.  His name is Flat Stanley.  He wanted to go on a trip, so his family folded him up and mailed him to California.

I am mailing my Flat Stanley to you.  Please take him somewhere and write me back telling me where he went.  If you have pictures or postcards, please send them too.  I will take them back to school and share his adventures with my class.

Thank you for helping me with this project.  I wish that I could fold myself up and visit you!

Aunt Kerri has done a marvelous job at making this a memorable experience for her niece.  She certainly goes above and beyond in everything she does for her nephew and nieces.  She ends e-mails with, “We love you” (Flat Stanley and I, that is).  She’s a one-of-a-kind aunt and plans to take Stanley on many trips.  Here’s the most recent story she shared:

Flat Stanley took a road trip on Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014, to College Station, Texas, to watch the Texas A&M Aggies take on the Rice Owls.  The drive took about 2 ½ hours from Austin to College Station, so by the time we got there, Flat Stanley was hungry.  We met some friends at the Chicken Oil Company and had some really good food.  Then we were off to the football game.  When Flat Stanley saw Kyle Field, he could not believe how big it was.  This made him really excited about being at the game.

Once we got inside, he saw some words on the stadium that read, "Home of the 12th Man."  He asked what that meant.  I explained that the student body, alumni, and Aggie fans in general, represent the 12th Man.  There are 11 players on the field and we all stand as the 12th man, to signify that we are ready to help and support the team in what it needs.  Flat Stanley said, "Am I part of the 12th man?"  I said, "You bet you are, Flat Stanley."  He was so excited!

Our seats were on the very top deck - the 3rd deck.  We walked up and up and up and kept getting higher and higher.  We were so high that Flat Stanley thought all the players out on the field looked like ants running around.  By the time we walked up to the 3rd deck, and up to the 36th row, Flat Stanley was thirsty.  So we turned around and walked down 36 rows of stairs, and went to the concession stand.  Flat Stanley was so appreciative that he got to buy a drink in the souvenir cup, with an A&M on the side.

He also asked if he could wear my A&M cap, because he wanted to show his support of the team as much as he could.  He loved watching the game and cheering the Aggies on.  At halftime, when the Rice band was on the field, Flat Stanley appreciated them, but he wasn't very impressed.  However, when the "Fightin' Texas Aggie Band" took the field, he loved it…especially when they formed their signature "T" and started playing "Hullabaloo.”  He cheered and clapped his hands to the beat of the band.  

The game ended and we began to walk out of the stadium.   As we were leaving, Flat Stanley asked if we could come back one day to another game.  I asked him, "Why?"  He replied, "Because I'm definitely 100% AGGIE!!!"

Aunt Kerri took tons of pictures with Flat Stanley in Aggieland.  What a sport!  Special aunts do special things and we thank God for her.  I hear that Flat Stanley is planning a trip to the Holy Land this November.  Yes, that’s right!  Is it possible to be green with envy as we compare our seemingly hum-drum life to that of Flat Stanley’s?  Hmmm….

All jokes aside, I have thought about that idea a bit lately.  Sometimes it’s easy (way too easy) to get caught up in comparing our “behind-the-scenes-reality” to someone else’s “highlight reel.”

With Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and the like, it’s hard not to get caught up in it.  When looking at all of Flat Stanley’s fun pictures from his trip, it was eerily possible to be jealous…of a piece of paper.  Really?  Really.

As I scan the social media, there aren’t many posts of people doing laundry or making spaghetti for the third time that week.  There aren’t many pictures of the first round of snotty, fall allergies.  We don’t always hear about the quiet prayers for a loved one or the hugs and kisses goodnight after a tough day.  It’s hard to know what battles are found deep within each and every person out there – physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual.  Most of the everyday stuff just isn’t shared.

So, we have to remember that the highlights are mainly what we get…the shiny and the sparkly.  Rarely is it the raw, vulnerable stuff.  I know how easy it is to get swept off onto Comparison Highway.  Before the internet, maybe we saw a few people here and there who appeared to have it all together, all the time.  Now, it takes just moments to see hundreds of people who appear to have it all together, all the time.  It’s a bit too much to process really.

How can we get back on track on the days when the right road, our true path, seems so hard to find?  I think it starts with remembering not to compare ourselves to others, because it’s never an apples to apples kinda thing.  Never.

I’m sure we can start with prayers for gratitude and contentment.  I read a really great post by Andrew Schroer recently.  He says, “Human nature never seems to be content with today.  It always wants to look back with nostalgia on yesterday or ahead with yearning to tomorrow.  The Psalmist, however, reminds us to celebrate today.  ‘This is the day the Lord has made,’ he wrote, ‘let us rejoice and be glad in it’ (Psalm 118:24).  Every day – every stage of life – has its struggles and every day has its blessings.  Instead of constantly being miserable, longing for a better day, a better age; look at the good things God has given you today.”

Let’s try our best to be content this week.  Maybe we can start with just 24 hours?  Let’s work at not comparing our behind-the-scenes to someone else’s highlight reel.  And, when we ask, “Where are you, Flat Stanley?” let’s be genuinely thrilled for him and all of his adventures.  No jealousy this week, folks.  We can do it!  I know we can.

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!

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