Saturday, October 12, 2019

Lutheran School Round Up!

A little while ago, I shared a blogpost written by a friend of mine (who was almost my student 20 plus years ago - I missed teaching her by one year!).  She is a Lutheran educator now, and was writing about the benefit of a Lutheran education for her children, and the children in her community.  My husband and I also strongly believe in Lutheran education (after all, we both received our degrees in that very thing!) and the impact they make on not only the children enrolled, but also their families. 

Just after reading her blogpost, I came across a list complied by Lutheran teachers. The answers listed everything the teachers loved about being a Lutheran teacher.  Below, a few of the reasons these teachers love their jobs:

  • Sharing Jesus with their students, in every subject, in every aspect of their days
  • Praying with their students, for their students, and with their colleagues
  • Relationships!  With families, students and church members
  • Watching their students witnessing to others and having their own faith strengthened
  • Smaller class sizes and more personalized instruction
  • Giving the students blessings - at the beginning and end of the school year, and daily as well
  • Introducing a student to Jesus for the first time
  • Teaching the children of former students
  • Witnessing student baptisms
  • Being "Jesus with skin on"
  • The privilege to shape all parts of the child: physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual
  • Sharing Jesus with their students, all day, every day
As I read the list, almost every other answer was the one I listed first and last - the privilege to share Jesus with their students all day long.  Overwhelmingly, the Lutheran school teachers were overjoyed to be able to pray with their students and to infuse Jesus into every aspect of their days.  

Christian schools (like all schools, Christian or otherwise) are not without struggle.  But at the core of every Lutheran school is the deep desire to share Christ with their students.  We are grateful to belong to a church that strongly supports a Lutheran school, and that church and school has become our family.  The teachers at our school have prayed for, rejoiced with, cried with and laughed with our family over the years.  And these teachers have reinforced daily, hourly, the faith we are teaching our children at home.  Praise God for Lutheran Schools!

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Little Kids, Big Kids

18 years ago on September 21, I gave birth to our second child, a boy!  It was just 10 days past the September 11 attacks and the nation had been prominent in our thoughts.  But on September 21st, our thoughts were all about our sweet baby boy and our new family of four.

Fast forward 18 years, and our thoughts are still all about our son (and his brothers and sisters).  Family is the biggest blessing we've been given and sometimes I'm overwhelmed by God's gracious outpouring of gifts to us. With these children we've been gifted, however, comes great responsibility.  It is our sacred task to raise up these children to be godly men and women; to first and foremost love their Savior, knowing everything else will flow from that relationship.

When our oldest kids were little, a dear friend said something to me.  I don't remember the context - perhaps she was lamenting something her (slightly older) children were doing or maybe it was just in response to something I was concerned about with my own children.  She said, "Little kids, little problems.  Big kids, big problems."  As a mom with little kids who had what felt like Super Big Problems sometimes, I was not a fan of this adage.  I got the point -- that the bigger the kids were, the more far-reaching and concerning their issues could be.  But still.  I felt like my problems were plenty large and challenging in the moment.

And I still believe that, as I know my friend did too -- when you have little ones underfoot all the live long day, the struggle is real, and the worries are big.  But as the kids have grown up (I am now the parent of TWO adults!  What on earth!), I definitely resonate with what she said.  While so far, praise God, we haven't had any significant issues with our kids, their problems, struggles, challenges and concerns are bigger.  They are thinking about their future, their possible spouses, their higher education and also stretching and growing in their faith.  And that often causes a lot of angst and questioning.

As I've said before, parenting isn't for wienies.  It's not for the faint of heart.  It's full of second-guessing and late night conversations and night after night on our knees in prayer for our kids.  We're in the thick of it still.  Had someone told us (and people probably did!) how parenting would pull at our heart strings, we wouldn't have had any idea how challenging it would be.  But we also wouldn't have had any idea how beautiful, rewarding and fulfilling it would have been either.

I guess it comes down to what stage you're in in life.  When you have little kids, everything feels monumental. And it is!  Training little people up to be kind and compassionate children is a Big Deal.  And when you have big kids, everything feels monumental.  And it is! Shaping and guiding tweens, teenagers and young adults into contributing members of society takes a lot of patience and stick-to-itiveness (Merriam Webster backed me up that that's a read word!) and it's a Big Deal. 

Each parenting stage, from infancy to teens to young adults and beyond is a weighty task.  What a blessing to know that no matter the size of our problems, God is bigger and He will never leave us to handle them on our own.

Regardless of whether or not they're little kid problems or big kid problems.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Bits and Pieces #23

  • My freshman son has been playing tennis at his new high school.  Back in middle school, I played tennis with a local team and I loved it, so I was thrilled when he joined the team.  We've watched several matches now, and our son is doing well, learning this brand new game.  But, I have to say I have run into a little snag with the whole tennis parent thing.  It seems that tennis is a quiet sport.  As in, very little cheering, noise-making etc.  Hhmmm.  In general for my family, that is the antithesis of who we are.  If tennis is the Quiet Sport, then we are the Loud Family.  However, I can't say that my family has struggled with being quiet while watching their brother/son, but I have!  I want to cheer for him!  I want to say good job, rally back, nice serve!  I am trying to quietly cheer for my boy from the sidelines, and I feel I deserve some sort of award. I'm not sure my son agrees, though, because at Thursday's match, he quietly told me to ssshhh when he walked to the fence to retrieve a ball.  I'm doing my best, son, I'm doing my best.
  • Preschool and my mommy and me class are off to a good start!  I am loving my new little preschoolers -- getting to know their personalities, teaching them new songs and concepts, and most of all telling them about Jesus!  On the very first day of school, my class of 3/4 year olds went to chapel.  For the entire year, we will go to chapel at 9:00 on Wednesdays, and the first day was no exception.  So -- imagine the scene.  I am receiving 15 children into my room for their first day of school at 8:00.  For some of these little ones, this is their very first time at school and away from mom and dad.  So there is always a little crying and adjusting those first days.  But this year wasn't too bad in the homesick department, so we soon readied ourselves for the long walk to the church for chapel.  The students did well walking in the new concept of a line, and did well as we entered sanctuary.  I had been telling them down the hallway as we walked that we would be quiet in church, listening to the teacher talk to us about Jesus, our Savior who loves us very much.  As we entered the church and started sitting down, I also told the children we would be singing lots of songs while we were at chapel.  One of my sweet little ones very earnestly looked up at me and said "We could sing Old Town Road at chapel!"  It was so sweet, and the song is full of fond memories for me from our summer vacation, but I had to tell him that we would be singing some different songs instead.  😀
  • Last weekend my husband and I went away to northern Michigan.  We lounged on the beach, we ate at grown up restaurants, we finished our sentences, we read books (I read FOUR books!), we slept in, and we just enjoyed each other's company.  Our parents generously stayed with the kids and carted them to and fro, took them out to dinner and movies and mini golf and kept the house afloat while we were gone.  We came back refreshed and ready to tackle the fall.  So thankful for my husband, and that he always insists we take a little time away together.  I would too easily get bogged down thinking we absolutely couldn't be away from the kids, but he wisely knows us going away for a few days is good for us and the kids.  And it was!
  • We took our (sophomore!) girl to college about three weeks ago.  It was a little hard to leave her (though nothing like last year!), but I know she's happy and right where she should be.  We got her all settled in with her roommate and it was great to see her excited to see all her friends.  She's got a heavy load this semester, but she's up to the challenge.  I'm so very proud of her and I can't wait to see the year unfold for her!  (And also I'm excited to see her in a few weeks!)

Friday, August 9, 2019

The Week in Pictures

It's been a rough week this week.  Perhaps I'll write more about that later, but for now, some lighter topics:  Super Great Deals from Target, my classroom plans, new words, and my rude behavior.  See below.

Charcuterie!  Quite awhile ago, a friend of mine casually called her lovely meat/cheese/veggie tray a charcuterie tray.  I had never heard the word before and found it glorious.  Like an excited child, I asked her to explain, and my love for charcuterie was born.  Here's my latest attempt.  I cannot tell you how happy looking at it made me.  I can't help myself.

Polka Dot fabric!  I am making a thematic dramatic play center for my classroom.  I bought the base, my dad is going to make the top part, and my mom is going to make curtains.  I am so excited to see it finished and then see all the little ones playing grocery store and apple orchard and pizzeria! 
A preschooler's work is play!

Target deaaalsss for daaaays!!  Brace yourself, dear reader - if saving money isn't your jam, skip this part.  (But if it's not, how are we even friends??) Years ago, I used to play the coupon game - before I worked and when I had more time and less to do.  It's been too hard the last several years, but yesterday at Target the stars aligned and I made some great deals!  I have four males in this house who need deodorant, so all that Axe will be gone in a split second, and gel pens make me so happy!  The 8 cans of Axe should have been $35, and I paid just $12!  The gel pens were regularly $21 and I paid $10.  Woohoo!!  We'll be smelling good and writing beautifully for awhile!!

Image result for rude images

My friends.  Confession time.  Last Sunday after church I was exiting my pew, talking to my child in front of me and trying to keep the children behind me moving.  I felt a hand on my arm, trying to get my attention.  I shrugged the hand off, thinking it was the child behind me, interrupting me (like my children are prone to doing all the livelong day).  After a moment or two the child in front of me told me someone in the pew behind me was trying to get my attention.  Yep!  I had rudely shrugged off the hand of my dear friend and colleague, not my child.  She was understanding when I apologized, but sheesh!  Moral of the story:  apparently don't approach me at church when I am near my children, or I will treat you like one of my children.  But I promise not to remind you a hundred times to put your laundry away or ask if you need to go potty before we leave the house. Hopefully.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Four Teenagers in the Hoooouse!

Two years ago, I posted here about having three teenagers in our family, and in the blink of an eye, I now have four (for about 8 months, before my eldest turns twenty! Gracious).   My fourth child turned 13 last week, and his older brother turned 15 the month before, giving me a 19, 17, 15, and 13 year old under my roof (oh, and also a sweet little newly-minted 10 year old as well). :)   It seems pretty surreal that I am the mother of four teenagers, especially since I feel like I was one just a few years ago. This sounds like the stuff nightmares are made of (or at least scary books and blog posts).

BUT- so far so good.  The older three have eased me into teenageriness (spell check did NOT flag that word - who knew??) relatively gently, and overall, I’m loving the teen years.

A few of the joys of teenagers below:

  • Laughter.  SO. Much. Laughter.  These kids crack me up on the daily.  I am in tears so often.  They’re funny, they’re goofy, they’re basically amateur comedians.  
  • They’re helpful.  Well, sometimes.  And if they don’t always exactly offer to help, I know they’re capable of it and I assign them stuff to do. :) 
  • Deep conversations.  I love the talks my teenagers and I have.  They have insights I don’t, and they’re really smart kids!  We can talk about faith, politics, academics, television, you name it.  They always wow me with their perspectives.
  • Independence.  When I had a little people majority it was hard to imagine going to the bathroom alone, but here we are, in a world where that’s standard now.  I don’t have to cut anyone’s food or give anyone a bath anymore.  And while sometimes I miss those days, it’s also awesome to see them doing so much on their own (like getting jobs, and also cutting their own food.).  
  • Watching their personalities really develop into young adults.  Seeing my kids blossom into young adults has been a joy.  They’re pretty great people, and I can see glimpses into what they will become. It’s so exciting to see them grow and stretch.
  • Laughter.  Did I mention that?  Being a mom to teenagers is so fun.
My newest teenager is just embarking on all of the above, but already I am experiencing these things with him.  He certainly makes me laugh (the kid is hilarious!), and I am starting to see glimpses of many other aspects I listed above.  He is full of passion and zest for life, and watching him embrace his interests is a joy.  

I won’t have four teenagers for very long, so I’m soaking up these years with them.  I know it isn’t always unicorns and rainbows, but it’s pretty great so far.  And I’m pretty grateful. 

Sunday, July 7, 2019

It's Good to Be Home, Church Style

It's good to be home. And by home, I mean back to our church.  This morning in worship I simply soaked it all in.  The people, the music, the sanctuary, the Eucharist, the familiarity.  It's wonderful to travel, but homecomings are so meaningful.

We always worship when we're on vacation, and this trip was no different.  The first weekend, as I blogged about in my post yesterday, my husband ended up leading worship. There were about 20 people there, seven of which were my family.  Late the evening before, my husband and I chose a few hymns, he looked up the daily readings and prepared a brief meditation, and we were blessed to worship in our campground instead of traveling a distance to another church.

The second Sunday we were in Grand Canyon National Park.  There are very few towns/people outside of the North Rim park, so going outside of the park for worship would have been difficult.  Thankfully, there were several options offered for worship inside the park, so we were grateful to attend a service in the lodge (at 8 am!).  It was a blessing to gather with those people, and in an auditorium with a view of the beautiful Grand Canyon!

But.  There is something about being home to worship.  With our (church) family, our friends, our dear ones.  And since we had been unable to commune at either place we attended on vacation, we were all eager to receive the Eucharist.

So today I soaked it in.  I let God's word, read and preached, enter my heart.  I let God's body and blood enter my body.  I praised God with familiar hymns and songs.  And I looked at the faces of those in our congregation with love.

It's good to be home.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Post Vacation Thoughts

We just got back late last night from our family vacation.  The laundry is piling up (and we don’t have a washing machine until our new one gets delivered on Monday!), the laundry room is going to painted today and tomorrow, the pop-up needs to be unloaded and cleaned out, and we have no food in the house.  But we had a wonderful time seeing the sights of the west and simply being together. A few highlights of our trip:

  • Miles driven: just over 5,000, almost all of which were done by husband, as usual.  He’s a rockstar in the driving-on-vacation category. And in basically all other categories (see below for another prime example).
  • States driven through/visited: 9, including one (New Mexico) that none of us had ever been in before.
  • Animals seen:  bighorn sheep, lizards, coyote, marmot, eagle, peregrine falcon, deer, buffalo, and so many doggies that made us miss our Shadow puppy
  • National Parks visited:  Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, and also Cedar Breaks National Monument
  • Campgrounds: Four, including a Lutheran campground!  In Utah, we stayed in a campground that was founded by Lutherans 25 years ago.  We saw lots of Live Generously shirts and had a lot of Lutheranism in common with many of the campers.
  • Impromptu church services led by my husband: one.  When we arrived at Lutherwood at dinner time on Saturday night, we inquired about where to attend church the next morning (we were in the middle of nowhere). We were told they didn’t have a pastor there that weekend. . .fast forward through the wonderful pulled pork dinner we happened into, and bam!  My husband was leading worship the next morning.
  • Birthdays celebrated: one.  Our middle son turned 15 while we were at Lutherwood.  We celebrated by going to a fun aquatic center, hiking at a nearby canyon, having ice cream at an old-fashioned soda shop and shopping at Walmart! The campground had a full kitchen and grill there, so we were able to make his dinner request - burgers and loaded fries. We ate a whipped cream frosted cake (his choice - not his dad’s) and sat in the kitchen, laughing through dinner.  The kids all were laughing about vines and memes and stuff dear old mom and dad didn’t understand, and it was great. I loved listening to their shared hysteria. And at the close of the meal, we all shared what we loved most about our boy. It was a lovely evening.
  • Person who received a burn: me!  As I was pulling out the French fries for the birthday dinner, I misjudged the size of the cookie sheet and burned my arm.  I have been nursing the wound for days. It looks terrible and I’m sure I will scar. I guess it wil be a permanent reminder of our vacation.
  • Visits with friends/family:  four. On the way out, we stopped and stayed with two different friends from college, and on the way back we stayed with friends from the seminary, and also met up with my sister and her family on their vacay in Colorado. All four visits were wonderful and such a beautiful reminder of the joys of long-standing friendships.  We laughed and reminisced and caught up and it was fabulous. We were so thankful for our friends’ hospitality as well as the time spent with my sister and family.
  • Nights half-slept in the car: one.  On our very first camping night, the winds were so strong in Capitol Reef that we were afraid to set up the camper.  The winds were forecasted to die down at about midnight, so we went into the tiny town at about 9:30 to a restaurant.  I stuck my head in to see if they were open, and the nice older man who owned the place assured me several times “we’ll tend ya”.  He was so kind and took us on, though he was about to close. We got back to the campsite and dozed in the car until about 12:15, when we oh-so-quietly set up the pop-up.
  • Cliff dwellings visited: one. When we went to Mesa Verde, we toured one of the cliff dwellings - it was so fascinating!  The ingenuity of those people amazed me. We had to climb a 32 ft ladder to get to it, and then rock scramble up a cliff to get out. I announced to everyone that I would have never made it in that life, and everyone agreed. :(
  • Camper crises:  Two. On the way out of our Lutheran campground, I happened to look out my side mirror and noticed the camper door flapping in the wind!  Thankfully nothing was lost or broken. And on our way home yesterday, we had a blowout on the camper on I 80 in Iowa. It was on the street side, so I stood about a hundred feet down from my husband to wave traffic to the left lane as he leaned down to change the tire.  I prayed continually - thanking God that it was daylight, not in the mountains, not raining, etc. I also thanked God time and again that my husband was so very capable and calm. The endeavor reminded me of our 20th anniversary (you can read about that here).
  • Theme Song:  I’m very sorry to report that I can really choose no other song as our theme song for this trip but this one:  Old Town Road by Billy Ray Cyrus and Lil Nas X. This song has a few sketchy parts, but we just loudly sang the alternate lyrics that our son had sang in the talent show last month, and all was good.  Usually our vacation has an epic song that we play as we look at all of God’s creation, but this year, we all belted out how “can’t nobody tell me nothing”. And it was good.
  • Catch phrases:  Every trip, we seem to have lots of phrases that stick and get repeated ad nauseum.  This year, I bring you fat-stupid, stanky leg, and the winner — Eat My Stank. The kids somehow remembered a show they used to watch (SlugTerra if you’re interested in sub-par television) and that line in particular was said more times that I can begin to count.  I’m not gonna lie, every time somebody dropped it with perfect comedic timing, I cracked up. We all laughed so hard at that ridiculous line, and it brought me Great Happiness.

My husband has an adventurous spirit, and because of that, our kids have seen a lot of the country.  We do it all on a shoestring in the camper, mostly eating at the campsite (but splurging sometimes on meals out!) and seeing God’s beautiful creation, which is generally free. I have been asked more than once (by strangers and friends), how we get our kids and teenagers to go on these trips.  The answer is - we don’t give them much of a choice (GASP!). We don’t ask the kids where they want to go on vacation (though we might give them some choices within a few options), and we don’t ask them if they want to come or not. We don’t provide for them amazing, expensive experiences, and we don’t get too anxious if they get bored now and then.  And as they get older, these weeks are even more precious. We have always valued family vacation over summer jobs, but as the kids enter college, we know that jobs and internships and summer classes may well interfere with vacation plans. More than once during this trip, my heart caught in my throat as I watched my entire family eating together, hiking together, driving together, worshiping together and laughing together.  We saw a lot of beautiful sights this trip, but by far, my favorite part of every single day was that we were all together.  Taking an adventure across the country binds our family together in a way I can’t really describe. It’s our seven against the world - no “regular  life” distractions - just family time.
Though we can cross five more national parks off our list (and we have one - on the back of a T shirt I bought my husband), that’s not what made this trip amazing.  God’s beautiful handiwork in our country is indeed worthy of praise, but the beauty I saw every day in my family’s faces, working and playing and laughing side by side, revealed even more deeply God’s gifts to us.