This is why I love working with kids

So a bit of background.  I work with the elementary kids at my church.  K-5.  I love this age–the young ones, who are just starting to get socialization skills and doing stuff away from mom; the fifth graders, who think they can take on the world.  The girls that are just starting to become girls, and the boys that are just such a boy.  It’s always a blessing to be able to work with them.  On Sunday mornings I teach every other week.  There is the main lesson, then we split into small groups.  I have a helper, her name is H, she is awesome.  She was actually one of my kids when I first started working with the group, and the last two years she’s been one of my leaders.  A ninth grader, she is fast growing up into such a beautiful girl.  On Wednesdays, I help with the kids choir.  This year, we have 119 registered to be in our production on March 3.  Yes, you read that right.  One hundred and nineteen children.  When they’re on, it’s amazing.  And working with them, while you sometimes want to smack them upside the head and tell them to get with the program, is usually an amazing thing as you see them filled with God’s grace.

So we’ve been bribing the kids the last few weeks.  Not a pretty way to put it, but it’s the truth.  We’ve been randomly handing out Airhead candy to the kids that are doing well.  They’re so funny–they know the rules.  The minute they get it, it goes under their seat and waits until 650 when choir is over to pull it out.  The first week that we did it, the kids asked me what my favorite flavor was.  I was honest–I’ve never had Airheads candy.  Didn’t know what it was.  Had to ask.  Not a big candy lover, I figured I wasn’t missing much.

There are two kids that try to see who can get there first to sit next to me on the top row.  Both are fifth graders.  One is a girl who is new to the group who I got to know during the Christmas production.  She’s really starting to joke around and lose the shyness, and is such fun.  The other is a boy who was grown in the church and who is from what I consider one of the finest families in the church.  His older sister is now in sixth grade, younger brother in second.  And this kid, wow.  All of them, really, but this one is what we call raised right.  Just like his sister.

Which is why I thought it odd the last few weeks.  He kept telling me, “Miss Kelly, I don’t understand.  I know all the words, I sing loud, I stand up when I’m supposed to, I don’t talk when Miss Lisa says not to talk.  How come I haven’t gotten an Airhead?”  I would answer I don’t know, J, they hand them out at random.  Keep doing well, and you might get one.  For three weeks he kept asking me.  Then tonight, he finally got one.  Orange flavored to boot.  As soon as he got it he turned and handed it to me.  I looked at him like he was off his rocker, he wanted it so badly.  I gave it back to him, and he said, “No, Miss Kelly.  That’s why I wanted one.  I wanted to give it to you because you’ve never had one before.”

Doesn’t that just melt your heart?  Have to admit, I felt a little shamed thinking he’d been complaining a bit much about not getting one.  Leave it to God to teach me a lesson at the most random of times.  Such a beautiful moment.

I didn’t take it, of course.  Gave it back to him and said it was all his, he worked hard for it, he could have it.  And he gave me a huge hug.  And I still have a giant smile on my face from this precious, precious child.  Love him.

Sacrifice or Discipline?

So I struggled with what to sacrifice for Lent this year.  I’ve done sodas, sugar, sleep, various food products, etc.  Actually, when I first started giving up something for Lent (about 15 years ago) it was almost always a food item.  I think it was because anyone I had ever heard of giving up something for Lent had always given up food items–soda, chocolate, salt, meat–and I didn’t understand enough about it to get that it could be anything.  So this year I really struggled.  I gave up sodas about seven years ago, but now I don’t really drink them (almost as a direct result of that year).  I somehow felt that food’s were trivial.  That God was telling me that food wasn’t important enough to me to be a sacrifice, and then to focus that time in service.  I pondered this for weeks, trying to determine exactly what I was supposed to be sacrificing.

And then I figured it out.

I wasn’t too far off when I said time.  Granted, last time it was really more of the snooze bar, so that I could go to the gym.  But I just cancelled my gym membership effective March 1, so that’s not going to work.  Instead, I realized (well not really, I’ve known it for a long time) that if I come home and plop on the couch, I’m not going to get anything else done in that evening.  So I told myself that Monday through Friday, when I get home, the TV cannot turn on until 9pm or later.  This may prove to be particularly difficult on Fridays, as I get home by 115 in the afternoon, and Saturdays I have yet to determine the parameters (but trust me there will be some–I’m thinking no tv between 10 and 6) but so far this has actually made a difference.  Granted it’s only day 2, but it is.  Yesterday I finally got a bunch of laundry done and sorted my bills for the first time in five weeks.  Today I got my 2012 tax information together, cleaned out a cupboard, and kept going on my VHS to DVD project.

And yes, I prayed more.  I thought about what I was doing, and thought about why we do this thing called sacrifice.  And I think that this might be a worthy journey for me over the remaining 38 days.  Not to say that I don’t plan on purging after Easter (have you seen the 31 days of Oscar lineup on TCM?  I mean come on!), but it will be a valuable lesson and who knows–like my soda habit, maybe this will declare some new habits for me as well.

The loss of a beloved soul

Yesterday I had to go to a funeral.  I realize that’s a downer of a statement to start a blog posting with, but there you have it.  I went to a funeral.  For some reason, funeral attendance has been a common topic among some of my friends lately.  Maybe it’s because one of us is riddled with cancer in over half of her body.  Maybe it’s because an acquaintance passed away ten months ago and her loss is sorely felt every day.

Many of my friends have said that they have only been to a funeral, maybe two, in their lifetime.  I can’t say that.  I think I go to about three a year, and at least one (if not all three) are for family.  Y’all, my grandfather had 14 brothers and sisters.  My grandma, who came from the smallest family, had seven.  They all lived into their 80s, but lately we are losing a few every year.  And funerals, in my family, are not always a somber event.  They are frequently turned into parties, reunions, potluck picnics, and get-togethers.  When my Papa died seven years ago, my great-uncle (nana’s brother) left early because he had a headache.  Turned out to be brain cancer over 60% of his gray matter.  Three weeks later, my pseudo-grandma (and nana’s best friend) had a massive heart attack at her grandson’s football game and passed away.  Six weeks later, nana’s last remaining brother also passed away.  So in three months she lost her husband, two brothers and best friend.  That side of the family was thrilled we’d seen each other four times in three months, but hated the reason.  So we started planning a reunion every summer just because–and hopefully not having a funeral to see one another.

All that to say that funerals don’t faze me.  I consider it a matter of respect to the person that has passed to go to a ceremony or service that celebrates the person that lived, the soul and spirit of the departed, and to laugh and share memories of the loved one.  And bonus if they were a member of the church, looking down from the right hand of God and smiling at all of us remembering good times while he lived, knowing that one day we will be reunited.

Yesterday, I went to the funeral of a great, great man.  He was an elder in the church of my youth, and always good for a kiss, a hug, and a laugh.  His petite wife, a darling woman, was there by his side every day.  He’d been in hospice for almost two years, but only after having a stroke last week did the end seem near.  Blissfully, it was just a few days before he passed.  Married for 64 years, he had three children.  The boys went into the ministry, the youngest into the wilds of Africa with his second-generation missionary wife.  The service was a remembrance of the man, the father, the church elder, and the beloved man.

The service had a brass band playing.  No somber choir or soloist here.  The son-in-law of the deceased is a member of the orchestra (or something like that) and arranged to have the quintet playing.  Each of the nine grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren walked in a processional, carrying a long-stemmed red rose that was placed in a vase on the altar.  Then each of he three children got up to say some words about their father.

That’s when it started to get uncomfortable for me.  Not because of the words they said, in fact, I was envious of the things that they shared.  They had such a close relationship with their father and had the blessing of a man who was incredibly involved in their lives, a man who raised them and participated in their lives, and meant so much to them that they had small stories to share that had every one of us cracking up with hysterical laughter.

But the worst was when one of the ministers got up to read a letter that Cliff had written to his children.  It was the man I remembered.  To the point, it addressed each of the three kids, and said something specific to each of them that had all laughing.  It was full of advice, reminiscence, wisdom, and love.  It was absolutely beautiful.

And that’s what was so hard for me.  I have a relationship with my father.  He is 65 years old.  He isn’t the greatest father in the world (his own words), but he’s the only father that I have.  While each of Cliff’s children got up to speak about the joy that was life with their father, I kept thinking that the man I give that title to has been largely absent from my life, not really there when I need him, and rarely around to even speak to.  As I have gotten older, things have improved–mostly because he’s the king of text messaging.  It’s impersonal and brief.  Just like dad.

But more disturbingly, I don’t know of anyone that could say anything remotely close to that regarding my father after his demise.  He is not an easy guy to know.  He is not always nice.  He isn’t funny.  He’s not caring, nurturing, or loving.  He’s a cold-hearted, calculating, conniving soul if you want the truth.  And I hate to say it but I’m not even sure I would have a lot to say about the man in that sort of circumstance.  Would I be upset if he were to pass?  Of course.  He’s my father.  I might even be a bit more upset as he is also one that has walked away from the church, denying all faith.  So I know that when he dies, he is truly gone from me.  But I don’t know if I would truly have much of a loss to mourn, as any involvement he has in my life is restricted to conversations regarding his mother, quick conversations about the weather, and wondering if he is going to stop by my brother’s house for dinner when I’m in town.  We don’t talk much.  Not for lack of trying on my part, but there is only so many times you can hit your head against a concrete wall before you get a massive headache and stop.

I spent a lot of time last night upset about this.  I miss what my father could have been, had he only ever had an interest.  I miss the relationship we could have had, given the opportunity.  I miss the role he could have had in my life, if he only ever cared enough to take it.  He left my life over thirty years ago, and while he is present as a family member now that I’m an adult, it’s not as a parent.  More of a distant blood relative that I get along with on occasion.

So after witnessing the joy that was the service and celebration yesterday, I want to say this:  Lee, Craig, and Sharon: You are and were greatly blessed.  To have such a loving family surround you and support you all your life, and to recognize how special that was while you had the chance is a great gift.  I loved your father so very much, he was such a great man of God.  He did you all well, and you have made him so very, very proud.  I am so very sorry for your loss, but you know that somewhere he is waiting for you to join him.  In the meantime, he is finding a wig and using a funny voice to entertain hordes of children in heaven.  And if that doesn’t work, he’ll be there with a kiss, a hug, and a laugh.  God bless you all.

Heart vs. Head

I own my house.  Well, technically, the bank does, but you know what I mean.  Part of owning a house is maintaining that house, so that you will continue to own it in the future without it crumbling down around your knees.  I am eight years into this home, the longest I’ve lived anywhere for the last 22 years.  So it’s weird that I am here and have these sorts of repairs to do, as I am not used to being around long enough to do them.  I have started repairs on the exterior, and have another $8500 to go–all cosmetic.  Teardown/rebuild projects, reinstallation projects where the prior owner did a crappy job, etc.  As I do not make a ton of money, that $8500 is something that I would love to see happen, but haven’t got the faintest idea how it will.

Here is my dilemma.  I spent two weeks in Germany this past summer at the generous gift of my friends to serve on a mission trip with my church.  It was a glorious opportunity, and one I’ll not soon forget.  I was incredibly blessed, and it was a poignant reminder of how service is essential to all that lay heartfelt claim to the Christian label.  It was also a chance to connect with some people in my church that I had not known before, and as I was in the minority as an adult (most were in the 21-23 age range) it was also a reminder that I’m not young, that these are our future leaders, and that I am no longer 23 years old myself.

This morning Continue reading

Gone from the public view….

This blog has been dark for a few weeks, but that doesn’t mean I have been silent.  While I have been blogging off and on at WordPress for the last three years, I have been feeling a motivation to continue, but in the format of a conversation with God.  I don’t know why.  I think it’s because while I feel I talk to God all day long, I do not have formal, structured prayer time because it feels awkward.  I can write, though.  So I think I’m going to try to have a blog for God, completing my prayers for each day as they come to me.  We’ll see how this goes.  It is not for anyone else, it is for me, and it is for God.  So I may not be visible on this particular page, but I’m still around.  So leave me a message if you like and I’ll get back to you.

Hostess/Martha or Content/Mary?

Yesterday was a day-long (well, five hour) women’s retreat at the church that I grew up attending.  It’s a fine church, filled with many fine women.  With a friend, we comprised the entire 20-45 demographic, but it was still fun.  I have this thing every time I attend that church though–I call it attending church-lite.  I feel like there is no meat there sometimes.  For example: I knew I had to watch what I wore, the makeup I had on, and how I had my hair because my mother would be there–and those are the things that are important at these events.  Still, it was a nice time, and it was great to see old friends.

Back to the point: one of the breakout sessions yesterday was on how to be a hostess.  “Extending Hospitality: Welcoming Guests and Easy Entertaining”.  All about how to be a great hostess, to make sure that everyone’s needs are met and taken care of and that all are happy.  Even came with a recipe book emailed after class so you could have a bunch of hors d’eouvres  to choose from.

Today’s lesson at kids church: Continue reading

Discipleship, Part 2

Tonight was the second half of our discussion on chapter one in our book Sacred Roads, Relational Discipleship.  Understand, please, that the word TANGENT was used to describe our ragamuffin group of women.  We stray from topic to talk about things such as the priesthood and the way they love wine, Amway hawking in the 1980s, and the Latina family structure.  So it’s all a great ball of fun.

We had five women, two who were not part of the five we had last week.  It’s kind of funny, seeing as how all save one (including me) are DRASTIC Type A people (and I am giving the benefit of the doubt to T, the new girl, as I don’t know her well enough to say yep, she’s one of us).  And we all seemed to struggle with the same concepts.  Confession and submission.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that submission is the point of relational discipleship.  But the examples that are given in the book brought the subject up.  To be honest, submission is a word that didn’t occur to me in the slightest when I was reading, but it must have come up for others.  The first Old Testament story that is given was for Moses and Joshua, how Joshua served as Moses’s second until such a time as he was appointed the leader–40 years after first starting to serve with Moses.  I thought it was odd that the questions for this section were difficult for people to answer–we had to describe a training experience, good or bad, and what the value in a spiritual relationship like that would be.  I came up with answers easily, I admit–but then again, training is what I do.  (Well, what I would do were I employed for a living at this current time.)  It was odd to me that people couldn’t think of examples.  Continue reading

Me? A worrywart? Nah.

I never have been actually.  A worrywart that is.  Other members of my family, well, let’s just say that they have made it an exact science.  It truly is an art form.  But the practice of worrying over something is not one that I tend to do.  I know that things will be taken care of in their own way, things that have already happened can’t change and therefore it’s a waste of time, and things I can’t influence are a waste of energy if I worry.  So I don’t.

I found a passage today in my ‘library’ book that talked about worrying, and it had a checklist of things on there, I think it was ten or so, that could tell you if you have a tendency to worry.  The only one I answered yes to was the final statement–you have a grandparent that worries incessantly.  But me? Not so much.

I saw this sentence and it was one of two that really struck me: a fog bank that is a hundred feet deep and over seven city blocks  is composed of less than a singular glass of water.  Something that in a moment can seem gigantic, inconvenient, endless, not able to penetrate or get through, and that brings a city to a standstill is, in fact, small enough to hold the container in your hand.  It’s not insurmountable.  It’s not impossible.  It is able to be done.

The second sentence that stuck with me was from Psalm 139: 23-24.  It’s one I have heard many times, especially given that the theme of the kid’s production we just did was “Searching”.  But this translation was a bit different: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  I think that the reason this stuck with me was the phrasing of “See if there is any offensive way in me”.  I don’t know about you, but I know there is in me, and it is something that I strive to overcome.

So I will continue to try not to be a worrywart.  To not take sometime that to me seems like it’s insurmountable, like having a job, and turn it into my own personal fog bank.  For I know that I can make it through if I keep my mind on the right path and if I truly trust in God to lead me through the dark.

Discipleship

I started a(nother) new bible study this week. One that was supposed to start back in February but due to snow we never got together.  The topic is Discipleship, and we are using a book called Sacred Roads.  During our discussion tonight I started to wonder if I even really knew the definition of discipleship.  It’s a word that is thrown around all the time–one of the ‘churchy’ words that you are given to use as a Christian–but what does it really mean?  Wikipedia has no entry for it–it brings up Disciple.  Which, yes, is probably part of it, but I was looking for more of a dictionary type of explanation.

On the Wikipedia page, it doesn’t list a definition it just goes into seven sub-article divisions:

  • “Love one another”
  • “Be transformed”
  • The Great Commission
  • Discipleship for The Twelve Disciples
  • Family and wealth
  • Other Biblical uses
  • Discipleship Movement

I guess these can be a guideline to the meaning of discipleship, but it still doesn’t answer my question.

What do YOU think of when you hear the word discipleship?

Dispersement

My life group (small group, bible study, whatever you want to call it), as previously mentioned on this blog, has grown by leaps and bounds this past year.  So much so that we have had to branch off into two different groups to remain effective–a “small” group cannot have two dozen people, you know?  Tonight was the first night of that break.

It was odd being in a group that small, but it was nice.  We had six regulars, one new girl (who lives around the corner from me and I teach with her husband, so I gave her a ride–plus she’s our leader’s former roommate), and two that couldn’t come.  So even being “dispersed” we are still at a pretty good size.  (The word “split” or “divided” didn’t work for us, sounded too negative.  Don’t remember how they came to use “disperse” but it cracks me up.)

I’m looking forward to this new study.  The group was divided based on the book we voted on for the next session, and since I didn’t give a vote (I liked both books so I didn’t care) I was put into the ‘newer’ group.  It’s nice for me as it is all of about six seconds down the street from me, but it was still a small pang of longing to be with the other girls.  The book we are studying is regarding prayer.  Ironically enough, it is also the subject of the new sermon series at church.  I think it’s absolutely divine intervention that has me in this group as opposed to the other group which is focusing on another discipline.  Prayer is something I very strongly believe in.  Someday I might even write out the story of why I believe it actually works and that there is a God that listens to us when we pray.  But it is a discipline that I feel I need a lot of work in.

I pray.  I do, I pray.  I tend to pray in a conversational style rather than in a formalized structured method, and instead of setting aside a few moments at the start of each day or at the end of the day to pray I tend to have conversations with God in my head throughout my waking hours.  Some of the greatest conversations that I have with him take place while I’m swimming.  Since I am in the water for so long, the meditative movement is a perfect time for me to have a chat with God.

Yes, I tend to pray without speaking.  Yes, I have conversations in my head.  No, I do not think I need psychological consultation for such a thing (although for other matters, well, that’s probably another story).  I think that God hears my prayers and that he answers them, but I feel that there is room for improvement and for consistency in my prayer life.

So I am really looking forward to this study!

When the girls gather….

There shall be laughter.

At least that’s my thought.  Tonight my life group got together for dinner before our split.  We had a dozen show up, which was a nice number, but there were still a few regulars missing.  Somehow we divided into two groups for games, and the shrieking laughter commenced.

I was in the table group (floor group played Taboo) playing Catch Phrase.  And like Taboo, there are some strange answers that were thrown out.  Like when I was trying to get them to say Frog’s Legs.  I said Kermit and made some reference to the first Muppet Movie (where he was wanted for a restaurant for Frog’s Legs, but these girls are either too young or too uncultured to have seen the glory that is The Muppet Movie.  **Sigh**)  One girl, convinced she had the answer, screamed “crabs”.  We lost it.

Or the time someone was trying to get her team to say “Peace Pipe”.  She used hippies to get to the word peace, but when she said this is something you smoke the shouted response was “a joint”, which had us rolling again.  (I guess you had to be there.)

But the absolute best was when we were all upstairs playing Apples to Apples, and our fearless leader won the round with the word Touchable.  Her card, that was thrown in, “My Body”, which to a bunch of women had us screaming with peals of laughter even though she meant it in a totally innocent way.

I love these women.  I’m going to miss them in the off weeks and I truly look forward to having every monthly dinner with them so that we can get together.  What a great way to start off the new sessions!

So stinkin’ proud

This morning I got up before dawn (which if you know me is pretty darn impressive) to be at church by 7 and at the mall by 720.  The kids from the choir I assist in were singing the national anthem and providing entertainment for the SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now) 5k that occurs out by the mall.  We have 115 in the choir, and since this was optional were hoping that 40 or so showed up.

We had that, plus a few more! The parents were so enthusiastic to take photos that they couldn’t get out of the way of the runners that the runners could watch, but that’s okay.  It made them look good.  We (meaning the kids) sang for about an hour, doing very very well in the FREEZING cold. Parents cheered and passed out fliers

But the best part was this little girl in a pink coat.  She kept bringing her grandmother over to see the kids sing, and eventually the grandmother let her walk over on her own.  She was copying the movements for some of the songs, and after about ten minutes and walked so close that she was IN the group.  Best part of all?  The last song the kids sang has no movements, so we just had the director up front.  And this little girl thought they were the movements so she was doing them as best as she could, right along with the leader.

Absolutely adorable!

Growing up is hard to do

Tonight was my life group meeting.  It’s a group of girls that meets every other Monday night, and lately we’ve been discussing Esther.  It started about sixteen months ago, and I’ve been going for about fourteen.  Through last year and the summer we had about 12 on roster and maybe 6-8 active.  Once the fall started we had a growth explosion.  God truly blessed our group and our numbers just rocketed.  We had as many as 18-20 crammed into that living room, and maybe 8-10 more that would come sporadically.  Lately we’ve leveled out around 12-14 each week, and I’m so thankful that I can call these women my friends and my closest confidants.  I was telling one of them tonight–I don’t know what I would have done the last year-plus without having this group to turn to.  It’s been YEARS since I’ve had a group of women that I had this much in common with, and even not in common with, but we all love Jesus and come together to grow through God.  For that matter, I’ve NEVER had a group like this, for in high school and college it wasn’t the same.  And I wouldn’t change what I have now for the world.

Unfortunately, I’m not the one that gets to choose if we change or not.  Tonight the decision was announced that the group is splitting in half.  It is something I dreaded.  I knew it was coming, I expected it, but I didn’t want to see it because I don’t want to lose the connection with whatever girls are going to be in the other group.  We have to do it, I understand that.  The church has ‘closed’ our group for five months now because we cannot accept more, yet there are still women looking to join groups and to fill a need.  By splitting, we are now able to accommodate them and ‘reopen’.  I know that change is good, and that growth is good, but selfishly I do not want to split for the aforementioned reason.

We are going to try to have a social once a month minimum so that we can stay close.  And who knows, if membership dwindles then we will reform, but as for now we’ll make the best of it and see how things go.  I’m excited about the opportunity, and hope for the best with both sets of women, though I will miss having J as my leader!!!

Fat Tuesday Eve

Let’s make something clear.

I am not a Catholic.

This is something that my mother tries to force down my throat every year around this time, when I start talking about what I might give up for Lent.  “You’re not Catholic!” she says.  “You were raised Baptist! You’re not supposed to give up anything!”

I was in college when I first encountered people close to me that observed Lent.  Sheltered as I was, I had a lot of questions.  It was a few years, but after much deliberation I started giving up things for Lent as well.  At first it was the more popular sacrifices: chocolate, alcohol, salt, swearing.  Not too difficult, seeing as how I don’t go to chocolate first, don’t drink much (I was the permanent Designated Driver in college), I don’t add salt to my food, and at the time I was on a righteous kick so I rarely swore.  Plus there was always Sunday, which as a feast day was the day where you could indulge.  I made up for the prior week with mimosas and horrid food at brunch! 🙂

As I grew older, there were years where I halfheartedly made Lenten sacrifices.  Candy.  (Don’t really eat it.)  Sex.  (Wasn’t having it anyway.)  Smoking.  (Never smoked in my life.) Going out and partying.  (Never partied–I was working three jobs, so when I had free time all I wanted to do was sleep.)  Then, about five years ago, I finally got serious.  What is the point of sacrificing something if it wasn’t something that was difficult?  Continue reading

The L in the Middle of Your Forehead

Never Been Kissed was a cute movie.  School geek grows up, gets a newspaper job, and goes undercover at a high school again to talk about how hard it is.  Plus, yummy!, Michael Vartan.  Anyway, there is one scene that just irritates me.  I know it’s a common practice, but I can’t stand it when kids do that “L” to the middle of your forehead and shout “LOSER”.  Or when adults do it even.

This video clip shows when Josie (Drew Barrymore) falls asleep on top of her club stamp, and has the brand on her forehead.  Start at about :45 in, and watch to about 2:33.

Kids are cruel.  Shoot, people are cruel, and that’s the truth.  Don’t want to be, but I suppose at times I am too.  Still, there is just something so crass about the thumb-and-index-finger motion.  It’s something I can’t stand.

Tonight at Bible study changed how I think about that gesture.  Continue reading