Do you remember the gummed foil stars teachers used to stick to schoolwork?
I don’t think teachers give those out much anymore, but when I was in grade school every teacher had a box of star stickers in her desk drawer. The old kind you used to have to lick in order to stick.
I loved those star stickers. I really liked getting gold ones. You had to do something really good to get a gold star: make a perfect score, have the neatest handwriting, not have a single spelling mistake on your entire essay.
However, if I am honest, it wasn’t just the gold stickers I loved. Any color star stuck to the top of my paper made my type-A heart happy.
Confession: Whenever I see packages of star stickers in an office supply store or the school supply aisle in Walmart, I have a strong urge to buy a some.
They aren’t gummed anymore. No lickin’ and stickin’ these days. You just plop ’em down like any old ordinary sticker. Honestly, I don’t think that would be nearly as much fun as the using the old gummed ones.
Furthermore, even if I bought myself some star stickers, I don’t know what I would do with them.
Stick them on top of the bills I paid each month?
Mark my favorite recipes in every cookbook I own?
Print out copies of my blog posts and give myself a star rating?
I’m not sure star stickers have a place in my life anymore … but I sorta wish they did.
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Of all the gummed foil stickers, the green stars were my least favorite.
However, green stars meant something very special to my parents. Over the years, they handed out green stars to each other, but as to why I never did exactly understand.
“Thanks for taking care of the dishes tonight! You deserve a green star,” my mother might say to my father.
Or perhaps there might be a green star stuck to a note that said, “Don’t forget to pick up some dog food at the store!”
Once, my mother colored several small wooden stars with a green marker and put them on my father’s dresser. I asked her why she was doing it. She smiled and said simply, “Your father will understand.”
I guess he did, for several years later, I came across one in a box of my father’s old things … tie tacks with missing backs, lapel pins, random keys that had nothing to open, and that old wooded star now a rather faded shade of green.
As random as seeing a shooting star in the sky, those mysterious green stars wove in and out of my parents’ relationship. It was the perhaps the biggest mystery of my childhood … well, except for the mystery of what exactly happened to Virginia Dare, which has kept historians bumfuzzled for nearly half a millennium. I read a book about Virginia when I was about 10 years old. Nearly 40 years later, there are still nights I can’t sleep due to wondering about Virginia Dare!
In case you aren’t familiar with colonial mysteries, Virginia Dare (who was the first English child born in New World, as the English called America at that time) and the rest of those brave colonists from the Roanoke Island all disappeared into thin air sometime after August 1587, leaving behind only questions without any answers.
Those curious green stars left me with a lot of unanswered questions too.
Why were my parents always giving each other green stars?
Why green stars and not red or blue or gold?
How come I never got a green star?
All I really knew about the green star mystery is that it meant something extra good.
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Last weekend, my mom handed me my father’s Bronze Star.
I had gone up to help her for the day. We spent most of our time together, unpacking boxes in the dining room of her new house, placing her wedding china into the new china cabinet she purchased and organizing some serving dishes into the matching hutch.
In the middle of all that unpacking, my father’s army medals came to light.
How the Bronze Star came to be packed with the wedding china, I don’t know. Yet there it was, along with a few other army medals and a tin box filled with 4-H pins and a few other random items.
In her nonchalant sort of way, my mother asked if I would like to take Dad’s old army medals for my boys. Naturally, I did. The truth is that I wanted them more for myself than I did for my boys.
Somehow, standing in that room where my father never stood, touching those old army medals and 4-H pins … well, in that moment, it gave some sort of significance to my father’s life. Three years after his death, I still struggle with feeling as if he will fade away from me. I am often aware that I am grasping for the bits and pieces of what he left behind, as if it can bring him back or make him more real. Grief is strange like that.
Anyway, it wasn’t until I got back to my home that I realized I didn’t know why my father received a Bronze Star. I knew enough from my days as a military wife to recall that Bronze Stars are a significant award not given to every soldier.
What had my father done to earn it?
All I could do was ask my mother. Maybe she would remember. So I sent her a text message, asking for any information she could share with me about my father’s Bronze Star.
Within minutes, my mom replied:
Yes, I know why your father got the Bronze Star. He distinguished himself during the war. He was never in trouble. He always did his job, going beyond the call of duty. He was diligent in doing his part to win the war. He got it for his meritous service in a foreign conflict.
I read her words slowly.
Two times. Three times. Over and over and over. So many times I actually lost count.
As I stood there that night, thinking about my dad, I remembered how proud he was of his military service. But I couldn’t remember ever actually seeing his Bronze Star medal.
Slowly I opened the worn black box containing the medal. And there it was, pinned to a piece of yellowed velvet.
The star had tarnished green.
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My dad got a Bronze Star because he was a good soldier who strove for excellence. His hard work and diligent efforts were noticed. He stood out from the rest of the troops. And because of his good work, he was rewarded with a star.
Just like I got those foil stickers pasted to the tops of my best schoolwork … the ones I worked the hardest on and gave my best efforts. Lots of gold stars added up to being on the Honor Roll.
Even as a young child, I knew stars were a very good reward. Stars, whether the gummed sort given out by teachers or the bronze ones handed out by military generals, are reserved for those who excel.
Nobody gets a star for mediocre work.
In the Bible, the Apostle Paul encourages us to strive to do our best. He writes: “I urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received.” (Ephesians 4:1)
When our time on earth is done, God will welcome us home with, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21) These are the words every Christ-follower longs to hear.
More than that, we are promised a crown. “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (1 Peter 5:4) Crowns we will cast at the Savior’s feet.
Some days I think of my father in heaven… glorified body, worshipping the Savior, bowing before the throne.
Maybe it’s silly, but I almost hope his crown was embellished with a big green star.
It doesn’t matter though. My dad’s not wearing it.
He’s already laid it at the Savior’s feet.