So do I stay or do I go?

I might have blogged about this already, but I don’t remember.  Regardless, this is going to be a stream of consciousness typing thing, so if I get redundant I apologize.

Background:

In August of 2014, I remember being at church and someone was preaching and hearing very clearly in my head “you should not be here”.  I don’t know if it was God speaking straight to me or what, but it freaked me out.

I flipped to the back of the notebook I was using to take notes, and tried to figure out what it meant. Was I not supposed to be there that day? Was I not supposed to be at that service?  Was I not supposed to be at that church at all?

Again, it freaked me out.

Granted, I had been feeling a bit adrift at my church then.  Our senior pastor was on the verge of retirement, and I do not feel that I got much out of his sermons for the last few years he was active.  We were blessed to have a regular rotating staff of those that preached, and the one that was preaching that Sunday is one that I used to get so much out of but lately had found that I got nothing.  I was tired of stories of his kids, his broken childhood home, and sports.  E.v.e.r.y. sermon was comprised of these things.

Slowly, however, the others that preached regularly moved on to other things/places.  Leaving us with the one preaching that sunday and the senior pastor.

So now fast forward to today, when the senior pastor has retired.

So guess who the new one is? Continue reading

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.

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.

Wow. Just, well, wow!

So tonight was the production of the WeKids choir at church.  The second year we’ve done it, and it was awesome.  1100 people showed up, and it was amazing to see what the children were capable of doing.  The drama, sign language, sticks, and dance was great, and the 104 children sang their hearts out.  Once again, we had the plastic poster to have the names of those we invited on it, and I was thrilled to see H and her boys come again, as well as C and her girls, and B and E and baby B.  Prior to the show I was (again) the official hair braider of the girls, and did about eight girls for the show.  Such a stinkin’ cute group, and I am so proud of them.

Then after the show I received the absolute shock of my life.  Continue reading

Proud parent . . . of 115!

Tonight was the big production of the weKids choir.  I’m so stinkin’ proud of them it’s absurd.  As soon as someone throws up a video of them on  YouTube I’ll link here.  Needless to say, I’ve been at church since 8am and was tired and cranky and somehow once the music started for our preshow as the OVER 900 people showed up to watch our kids, it was worth every minute of it.  Now, I’m off to get some sleep.

Just call me Grace

Tonight was the first sanctuary rehearsal for the kids production that is on this Sunday evening.  I was on the stairs running sound and running back and forth to make sure that the motions were being done and that the kids were staying in line (115 kids on three risers can cause a bit of a fuss!)

So what do I do when turning around to restart the music?  Slide on the microphone/speaker/iPod cord and go down the last three stairs on my shins and plant my chin on the floor.  I stood up and said thank you very much, took a bow and kept going . . .

. . . but holy cow my right leg hurts.

Two hours later I am finally at home, and let me tell you my right shin looks like I have elephantiasis.  It’s swollen so much I have a cankle (no!) and I can barely walk with that knee.  PAIN!

On the flip side of the coin, the kids sounded AWESOME.  Aside from one kid who is sick and has a solo, the rest of them nailed the songs and they are doing a fantastic job.  I am so psyched about Sunday night it’s INSANE.  And all the people I’ve invited will just have to flounder around on their own because I’m in the sound booth and cannot see them until the free ice cream after.

SO looking forward to rehearsals on Friday and Saturday.  They are just too dang cute!!!!!

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!