Tuesday, May 9, 2017

On the Graduation of my 8th Grade Son (and God's Guiding Hand Through It All)

I have called Immanuel my home for all of my adult life. I came here as a 23 year old, brand-spankin' new teacher: hopeful, excited, starry eyed, and slightly terrified. Little did I know what God had in store for me at this newfound home. The next five years were a gift that was given to me, an experience to teach at the most wonderful Lutheran school I have ever called home. When my husband and I were expecting our first child, I knew that he or she would someday call Immanuel their home also.

As I wrapped up my final days of teaching second grade, Charlie was born. Thoughts of him being a student at Immanuel seemed like something far off in the distance. Every parent who stares adoringly at their newborn baby finds it hard to imagine that he will someday be a schoolboy. Amazingly, it seemed, those days quickly arrived. He was soon ready to be a "great big preschooler" at Immanuel. He seemingly raced his way through preschool, kindergarten, and the primary grades. Before I knew it, he was old enough to join the basketball team and take up the saxophone in the school band. In the next breath, he was in middle school enjoying outdoor education at Walcamp. Even by the time he was 11 years old, those eighth graders still seemed so big to me! Surely my little boy would never be that big!

And in the blink of an eye, it all happened. A few weeks ago, he was preparing for confirmation, writing his statement of faith, and I've been forced to visualize his 8th grade graduation. How did this happen? When did this happen? As the weather warms up, and I see buds on the trees and my tulips sprouting up through the grass, I feel the clock racing and I can't stop it. May is going to end before I know it, and his time at Immanuel Lutheran School will be over. 

I am overwhelmed with this bittersweet situation. I'm so thankful, happy, and overjoyed that he has had this experience at Immanuel. It has made him such a wonderful, brilliant, and strong Christian young man. I can't wait to see the man he will become, and I'm so excited for his future, but every fiber in my being does not want his Immanuel days to end!

Our God never ceases to amaze me, and once again I saw His guidance in my life and Charlie's as well. About a month ago, we were talking about his upcoming confirmation, and I asked him what verse he chose to be his confirmation verse. He told me he chose Matthew 28:20, "and surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Surprised, I asked him if he knew that was my confirmation verse as well. He had unknowingly chosen the same verse that was given to me at my confirmation so many years ago. I immediately saw a "God moment," as we call them at Immanuel. I don't think it's a coincidence, I don't believe in luck. I believe in God's guiding hand, and I believe that He knows my heart just like he knows my son's. That verse means a lot to us, because it's a promise that we will never have to begin new adventures alone. We will never have to face new situations without God by our side. There is nothing that will keep Him from us, nothing that can separate us from Him. 

Thank you God, for the past 12 years at Immanuel, for blessing Charlie as a student here at our school, for the promise of never leaving his side for the rest of his life, and for the blessings I am confident you have planned for his future!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Facebook and Good Old Fashioned Ethics

A hypothetical conversation with my daughter (that I bet we moms have ALL had at one point or another):

Mom: "You may invite some friends over for your birthday. But since we can't invite every friend in your class, it would be polite and kind to make sure you don't mention it at school, where everyone can hear about it. The people who aren't invited might feel sad."

Daughter: "Ok mom! I know what you mean. One time my friend had some girls over and I wasn't included. They talked about it at school and I wanted to cry."

"I know, it happened to me when I was little too.  I'm so sorry that the girls talked about it in front of you. Let's pray that all the kids in your class will grow and mature, and they will remember to put others' feelings first. That's what God wants us to do...to serve others before ourselves, and to treat them they way we want to be treated. He wants us to just care about others and make it our priority to never hurt anyone." 

Sound familiar? Did your mom say these things to you?  Have you said them to your daughter? Your son? 

Now let me talk about Facebook. I think it can be pretty awesome. I've connected with old friends, and can see pics of friends and family far away. But I also think it is changing us...slowly chipping away at the lessons our parents taught us: 

Be kind always. 
Put others first. 
Build each other up.  
Be considerate to others 
If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. 

Think about the posts you see in your newsfeed. How many of them are rants? How many of them contain swearing? How many of them are critisizingly political?  How many of them show pics from a party, the one not everyone was invited to

Can we go back, back to that advice from our moms...can we be kind and gracious and considerate to our Facebook friends? Can we leave the selfish pride behind? Can we use Facebook in a way that's not all about ourselves

Facebook can be a slippery slope, a slow descent into a loss of compassion...a loss of selflessness. Dare I say it...a place for bragging?

Who do you want to be? What qualities do you want your Facebook friends to see in you? What qualities does your Facebook wall show about you? Are they offensive to anyone? If they are, do you really need to post it? Do your Facebook comments exemplify the advice you give your children? 

If we give good advice to our children, we ought to follow it ourselves. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Reformation: The Word of the Lord Endures Forever

The Word of the Lord Endures Forever...Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum.  Based on 1 Peter 1:24, this was the motto of the Lutheran Reformation. And let me tell you...the early Lutheran church was SERIOUS about this. So serious, in fact, that in 1522 Frederick the Wise had is sewn into the sleeve of his court's clothing (lest they forget!). Through his successors, it was stamped on coins, sewn on flags, and carved into church architecture. Why was (and is) this such a big deal?

In the early years following the Reformation, it took a great amount of courage to confess Lutheran beliefs. Why? Because early Roman Catholic rulers hoped to rid Europe of Protestants. To boldly disagree with the Roman Catholic Church, and to preach and adhere to beliefs that differed with the church was perilous. How perilous? Many early Lutherans died for their beliefs. The Thirty Year's War was fought between Catholics and Protestants, killing nearly 20 percent of Germany's population...through battle, disease and famine.

What is it about the Lutheran Church that would make men and women take such a courageous stance? What would make them willing to die for their beliefs?

Look to the Motto of the Reformation: The Word of the Lord Endures Forever. The Lutheran Church believes that the bible is the LIVING WORD OF GOD. It is infallible, it is never changing, it will endure forever. We will not change it, we will not let history re-write it, we will not believe parts and not the whole.

Martin Luther believed in grace alone, faith alone, and scripture alone.  He believed it was "by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God." Ephesians 2:8  He loudly proclaimed these truths, in hopes to bring back to scripture a church that had traveled far from God's word. The early Lutheran Church followed in his example, and it was so important to them that they were not only willing to die an earthly death for this belief...they were convicted to stand in front of the throne of God with these beliefs:

This declaration … is our faith, doctrine, and confession.
By God’s grace, with intrepid hearts, we are willing to appear before the judgment seat of Christ with this confession.
—Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, XII 40

This is a BIG DEAL!!  It was no small matter back in the day, and is it any different today? Is this why Lutherans so greatly enjoy the celebration of Reformation? You bet it is. We don't face persecution and death when we worship in our Lutheran pews on Sunday morning, or when we say Luther's Evening Prayer before bed. We rest peacefully in the church that our forefathers fought and died to protect. 

With the celebration of Reformation, we faithfully confess our Lutheran beliefs. We stand with our forefathers and say, "We (too) are willing to appear before the judgement seat of Christ with this confession." 

I am blessed and humbled to be a Lutheran. Amen, Lord Jesus, quickly come!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

How do I shine your light?

Lord, how do I shine your light in a world so dark??

How can I make a difference in the hearts of good people who just don't know you as you truly are?

When the world is telling everyone a different truth than what the bible presents, or they are distorting it, how do I make a change?

How do I go about making things right?

What do I say?

What do I do?

It seems people don't want to hear the truth about being a true Chrisitan who honors You. Being a follower of Christ is not the easy way, its the narrow way sometimes. I see the world creating a new god, one who fits their agenda.

How can I help them to see the beauty and the joy in serving you and honoring you, and keeping your commandments?

I feel lost and helpless in a world who just doesn't want the true YOU.

"Show me your ways, teach me your path, guide me in truth, instruct my heart. You are my God and Savior strong, in YOU my soul waits all the day long." K. Lee Scott, All The Day Long,
Psalm 25:4-8

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Gloria in Excelsis Deo

My "hang-ups" get the better of me.  Small things, important things, but small things: forgotten violin practice, squabbles over green scissors, anger over missing shoes. One after another, these frustrations eat away at my peace. The mom needs to calm all squabbles. The mom needs to find the missing shoes.  The mom needs to remind the virtuoso to practice. The mom needs to be a better mom. 

My wordless prayer sent up to heaven was simply a need for the Spirit to fill me. The hang ups are not filling me in such a great way.  I would rather have the Holy Spirit filling me. He would rather fill me. 

My God delivers.  Every time.  I pray, and He answers. In His time, in His way. He knows how to speak to my unique soul. My ears and heart were open to seeing Him in my morning drive.

John Rutter's Gloria streamed into my car as I mundanely pulled through the bank ATM line. "Gloria in Excelsis Deo! Amen!" My heart was immediately filled with the knowledge that my hangups do not really matter.  Nothing else matters.  I could feel the heavenly angels singing "Glory to God in the Highest! Amen!" He is what matters. Someday I will be there, singing in chorus.  My human heart would burst with the glory; my human heart aches when I think of this homecoming. My heavenly heart will be complete and perfect. The glory of God, visible by my own eyes! My own voice singing praises to Him in His presence! These italics cannot convey how my heart leaps at the thought!

This human life and these hang ups will pass away, but our God will never pass away! To be the best mom is to pass along this hunger.  This yearning. This longing to be in our God's presence. It is a longing that will be fulfilled. Our God has promised, and He keeps His promises. What blessed assurance my children have, through their Redeemer, that they will sing with Him in glory. 

Gratias agimus tibi. Thank you for Your great Glory. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Once Upon a Pyrex...

Once upon a time, there was a girl who fell in love with a dish.  A Pyrex dish, to be specific.  This love affair was a long time coming, since she had owned said dish since 1997. It was a beautiful yellow mixing bowl, that once belonged to her grandmother. She used it sporadically for popcorn. It had a few sisters: a similar but smaller green mixing bowl, and an identical orange bowl.

It sat in her cupboard. And there it stayed for 18 years.

Until one day, and she can't remember exactly why (but thinks Pinterest may be to blame), she got it out. She looked at it carefully.  She laid its little green sister inside, nestled close. Her mind began to roam to to her grandmother's hands as they mixed cake batter inside her bowl, as they snacked on potato chips filling her bowl.  She began to realize that it was missing its two littlest sisters: small red and blue bowls that were made to perfectly nestle inside the green bowl.

The Pyrex Primary set. Le sigh.

And this was the beginning. The beginning of her love affair with Pyrex. It became a treasure hunt to find the missing bowls to complete her grandmother's lonely set. Through flea markets and antique shops she hunted, looking for the perfect bowl to make its way into her little primary family.

And find them she did!! As she displayed them on her counter and fondly took pictures of them, she began to realize that there were so many more beautiful dishes to be found!! The hunt was on!!

As she collected more pieces, she would place them on her counter, not wanting to put them away. They were too fabulous to place in a cabinet! Too rich in history to hide behind a closed door! As her collection grew, she knew what was needed.

A display cabinet.

But not just any display cabinet, it needed to be a vintage piece of furniture. A display cabinet worthy of her prized dishware. So the hunt continued! She found a lovely, retro cabinet that she considered worthy to support the integrity of her vintage dishes. She arranged and arranged. It was glorious. She was happy.

Then she discovered Fire King.

Oh the beauty of Jade-ite!! The delicate lovely hues of Azurite! The intricate brush strokes of the Peach Blossom! The golden sheen of Peach Luster! These pieces began to find their way into her arms and into her home, and the lovely cabinet was becoming quite crowded. So it was decided: another cabinet was needed. Would she be able to find another vintage-dish-worthy cabinet? She would!!  A beautiful curved-glass-fronted cabinet was discovered at the flea market, and it would lovingly frame her treasures.

So there they stood, proudly displaying her vintage dishware collection. Her kitchen slowly began to transform into a vintage kitchen. She began to discover new antique and vintage shops, and flea markets where unique dishware and retro items could be found. A retro toaster sits on the counter, feeling so happy to be useful again. A Westclox clock sits on the window ledge, ticking away in contentedness. Milk glass salt and pepper shakers sit on the stove, anxiously awaiting meal time.

Milk Glass, did you say? Lovely white, opaque, and opalescent as the sun streams through its facets? Yes, milk glass, her newest love!  Never to compete with the her first loves of Pyrex and Fire King, but a love all of its own. And could it be, could it just be so! That she would have a perfect blue display bookshelf that belonged to her grandmother?? Yes it could!  Oh how the gleaming, white glass  stands out as if to say, "I am beautiful! I have stood the test of time! I belong on this shelf!"

And do you want to know a secret? This love can be shared!  It just so happens that this love is contagious! Her antiquing girlfriends have caught the vintage-dishware bug, and pieces are finding their way into their homes! Glory BE!!

Long ago, a yellow Pyrex mixing bowl belonged to my grandmother. Her memory, and the knowledge of countless other hands that have mixed, kneaded, stirred and baked, lives on in my kitchen.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Voice

The Voice...a popular TV show, where hopeful new singers compete in front a panel of "coaches" (who are famous musicians) to win a record deal and potentially become famous. The series showcases new talent, and these coaches give advice and they help the new young singers shape and craft their voices. 

Let me shift gears a bit here...

I was struck with a thought during preschool circle time a few days ago.  Our wise teacher has begun saying, "Sign him up for the Jesus Team!!" It has really resonated with our students, and they say it all the time.  It is music to our ears, because they are so excited about being on His team!  I started thinking about how these children are the voice of Christ. How, when we are "on his team," we are all the voice of Christ. 

I thought about that phrase, "The Voice of Christ."  I let it run around in my head for a few days, and jotted down a few thoughts. What actions do I portray that reflect Christ? What actions surely do not reflect Him? I began to look around our classroom, our school and our home for actions that are "the voice of Christ." Here are some things I saw:

...my youngest hugging his sister and saying "I love you"
...our track coaches encouraging and praising our young runners
...our preschool teacher lovingly leading our students in song
...the pastor of our church baptizing one of the newest "disciples of Christ"
...our choir director leading the choir during church
...5th grade students thanking the museum docents on our field trip
...4th grade students making birthday cards for our hot lunch worker
...my husband, despite being tired, playing games with our children
...my family pulling together to pray for my nephew who was having surgery

I realized that I was seeing examples everywhere.  To be the voice of Christ, you don't have to "preach" all the time.  To be His voice is to show his love, compassion, kindness, generosity and forgiveness.  There is a key element to these examples that was present as well: these people were knowingly doing their best to honor Him through their actions. These adults and children love their Savior, and they surely know this bible verse by heart:

"whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, 
you did for me." Matthew 25:40

All of this made me really stop and examine my own actions and thoughts. Do I show the voice of Christ? I want to be His voice! I want to honor him by helping others! I want my love for my brothers and sisters in Christ to show the way to the Savior! Because that is what this life is all about...honoring my Savior and loving others to Christ

Now back to that TV show...Its fun.  Its entertaining. Its lovely to watch the amazing talents God gives to His children. But it is also a good reminder of what kind of Voice I want to have. One that puts me on the music charts and gets me a record deal? Nice, I would have to admit, but ultimately not the true voice I want to have. 

May our voices be the Voice of Christ: caring, forgiving, helping, and loving others to Christ