For every Lutheran teacher – Thank You!

Kindergarten is a big transition for any kid. For our littlest, it was an epic transition.

I’m not sure who was more scared- me or him. But, you know, some things in life you bite the big one and suck it up. You hold on to your hats and pack that Star Wars backpack and say jolly things like,

“It’ll be great!”

“You’ll make so many friends!”

“I hear there are markers, and snacks, and three recesses!”

You’re over-happy-words fall flat, receiving only the grouchy look of a 5-year-old barely containing his rage at a world that is too noisy, too scratchy, and just a lot of work.

Enter Ms. Tinkey, and Mr. Kumm, and Mrs. Leonard, and Mrs. Baer and all the people who make the world a better place to be, one child at a time.

Zeke wasn’t just unsure of new places and new faces. For him, this was torture. Going to a new place, having a new routine, was like signing up to listen to nails scraping down the walls of the chalkboard, the sound of dial up internet stinging your eardrums, every moment, every day for the first month and a half of school.

This is sensory overload on steroids.

And I came with my delightful checklist.

“So, he’s gluten free and we try to avoid food dyes, especially the red ones. Sorry.”

“He hates holding a pencil, so if there’s an assignment he can use a marker on sometimes, that helps a lot. Sorry.”

“Sometimes he just needs a moment. Or 12 moments. Or 42 moments. I’m so sorry.”

And to everything I recited, Ms. Tinkey smiled and said, “Yes! We can work on that!” with actual joy. Not just fake niceties, but compassion and perseverance shining through. You see, some kids don’t receive services or have special classrooms, but they need a little extra touch of care. Teachers and helpers throughout the building made it their personal mission to turn that scared, grouchy face into a smiling, happy boy, who wanted to be there. A smile, a high five, the ability to turn down a high five if desired, persistent affection…all these things go a long way for spectrum kids, indeed, for any kid.

This, my friends, is the Lutheran School difference. The staff at Zeke’s school don’t get up to teach and shape the world every day.

They get up to show Jesus to every child every day as well. 

I’m pretty sure that they get tired. I’m sure they get frustrated. I’m sure they wonder if it makes any difference at all.

This blog would simply like to say yes, yes it does.

Your work in reaching in to little hearts, to growing hearts, is vital for my family and for countless other families out there. The world is a better place not because you showed up to work, but because you showed up in their lives. You are woven into the fabric of who they are becoming as teachers and leaders and workers in the kingdom of God and the body of Christ.

You make an eternal mark by being you.

Thank you.

A special kindergarten teacher once taught us this fun little song, that fits perfectly here…

Keep loving on those kids. Keep supporting those families. Keep sharing Jesus. Keep being you.

Happy National Lutheran School’s Week!
*as always, no Zeke’s were hurt in the making of this blog. His permission was asked and granted to share his story.

The value of children

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My little Zeke. He’s adorable. When he was about 18 months he went through the developmental stage of find-Mom’s-Bible-and-do-weird-stuff-to-it. You can not fault the kid for thinking that the Word of the Lord is interesting. He ripped up most of Psalm 139 into itty bitty, almost unsalvageable pieces. There is a large hole in verses 22 through the end that I still have been unable to find. He highlighted all of Matthew 19 and some of 20, so he’s not bent on destruction, just discovery. I value my children growing up with Bibles sitting around, so I invested in my first Bible cover, which is faithful to this day.

Children are special, no doubt. In Isaiah, we learn a little more of the value God places on children and why we are called to value then. Even if you translate this passage in the broader sense of children as all of God’s people of any age, you can see why the application to the tiniest child of God is not off.

Please read Isaiah 29:22-24. This is the Gospel at the end of a passage reminding Israel that unfaithfulness hurts.

 Therefore thus says the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob:

“Jacob shall no more be ashamed,
    no more shall his face grow pale.
23 For when he sees his children,
    the work of my hands, in his midst,
    they will sanctify my name;
they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob
    and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.
24 And those who go astray in spirit will come to understanding,
    and those who murmur will accept instruction.”

God tells the people that when they look to the future, look past their present circumstances, He has a long term plan. What turns the tide of shame in this passage? God working through children.

Children give us hope.

Their very presence in this world is a message of endurance from an unchanging God. The next generation reminds us that life will continue, despite the heartache and pain, a fresh new day, a new birth, will dawn.

Let’s bullet point some things we can learn as God’s children looking at actual little children.

  • Children cause us to honor God. We praise God for the next generation, we recognize the miracle of life He has created, and we desire some kind of stability and morality for them. It spurs us on to consider and continue in the Faith.
  • Children make us talk about God. In wanting to bring our children, or the children of the world, to a loving God, we talk about the Faith, we grow ourselves, we open our hearts in ways we may not have otherwise. If we don’t bring it up, they have questions and it never dawned on them to keep their mouths closed, particularly on “politically incorrect” topics. Let us help them to feel comfortable enough to keep asking those questions. Let’s spur on the next generation by talking about Him.
  • Children are a mirror of our rebellion. As much as I struggle with each of my children’s rebellious spirits, I acutely feel the need for them to understand the reality of grace and forgiveness in their lives. When I look at my children, I see my own painful rebellion. I go my own way. I have my own ideas, when My Father in Heaven clearly knows best. Thank goodness for the family of God for me to fall against when I need mercy. Thank goodness that I can be that living mercy to my children, even when we both have to endure the consequences for our painful actions.
  • Children mirror trust and faith. Children get it when we don’t. They can smell inauthenticity a mile away, but they also are willing to be all-in despite our weaknesses and flaws. They lean on God in simple prayers and don’t need all the bells and whistles to bring them to meet with the Savior; a conversation, a small craft to hang in their room, simple relationship is enough to keep them coming back to church and learning about God again and again.

Read Isaiah 29:24 again. Write it out if you can. It holds a promise for when we travel our own ways, when our children travel their own paths, away from God.

“And those who go astray in spirit will come to understanding,
    and those who murmur will accept instruction.”

He knows the prodigal. He sees their struggle. He hears the grumbles and the moans, the ranting, and the hiding. He brings us back to Him. The lost are found in Him. (Luke 15)

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Malachi 2:10 reminds us that all God’s children, faithful, unfaithful, believer, unbeliever, infant, adult, male, female, are to be treasured, because of that very title – Child of God.

Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers?

Abortion, not ok. Pouring judgment out on our unbelieving neighbor, not ok. Placing less value on the high schooler’s opinion in church, than the middle-aged leader, not ok. Leaving the elderly in loneliness, not ok.

Today, look at a child. Let them know that they are seen. Let them know that their very presences sanctifies the name of the Living God. Embrace that childlike-faith part of yourself. Sing a round of Jesus loves me, pray before bedtime, and thank the Lord for being faithful to each and every generation.

 

Exploration:

What do you remember about your faith walk as a child? What or who spoke God’s love over you as you were growing?

Commit to one way of sharing the faith with the next generation today. It need not be something complicated. Just find one way to share God’s Word and Grace with someone under the age of 18. Share your idea with us!

Halfsies – Mixed schooling at its best

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At the end of every summer, I get education anxiety.

When I first had a baby, people told me my sleep would forever be changed, my heart would walk around outside my body, and all kinds of information about breast is best, child led weaning, and cloth v. disposable. #weuseboth

No one ever told me that education was going to be my biggest concern. No one told me that I would lose countless night of sleep, not to hungry babies, but to endless mind rants of the educational choices available to my child. #firstworldproblem

When we carefully selected a private Lutheran preschool for my oldest child, I thought,

“Oh good. Educational choice made. Check that box!”

I mean, that was hard enough. We toured schools, we googled what to look for to find the best education, we prayed and prayed and prayed some more.

Three years later, we discovered it wasn’t working for us. It wasn’t working for her, it wasn’t working for our family.

We solidified our homeschool philosophy, figured out a system, and did something new, something alternative. It was good for three of us. Three of us were miserable. #backtothedrawingboard

I internalized every single article I read and every voice of the external debate…

Homeschool, public school, private school, some of each – the choices abound. #againfirstworldproblem

I wanted every member of our family on the same page. I wanted one system that would just work for everyone, for the love of Pete! Is that too much to ask?!

“Just give me a system, God! Give me a system!”

I know it sounds ridiculous, but I think so many of us, whether in schooling, parenting, our marriages, goodness, even life itself, want a system.

This is what God has taught me…

“Do you believe in individuality, Heidi? Do you believe that I, your Lord and Savior, value each and every one of your children, as individuals, knit together carefully, lovingly, tenderly?”

Why, yes I do, God. Yes, I do.

So, this year, we are going rouge. One in homeschool, with maybe some public school classes, three in private Lutheran education.

This may work forever. We may need to change it up next year, or the year after that, or not at all. As much as I value stability, I’m beginning to learn that there is no life system. There is only Jesus.

I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
    my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.   Psalm 18:1-2

He is our rock. He is our stable ground;Christ Jesus for us, and for our kids. When we walk willingly into the unknown and imperfect, resting in Him, we stand as witnesses to His strength and not our own.

So, here’s to no system!

I still have some education anxiety, but at least I know where to turn. Casting it on Him, who cares infinitely.

Praying over every momma, every child, and every teacher. May His faithfulness pour out to each of you as you go along your way.

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In favor of a boring summer

I am that mom that makes my kids finish the textbooks they bring home from school. “Everyone choose one page from each workbook per day! They’ll be finished in no time! Isn’t this fun?!”

My cheery attitude has no effect on my kids, who glare at me unabashedly.

Last summer we had days –

Monday Make Something: Crafts, cooking, projects

Tuesday To Do Lists: House projects and errands

Wednesday Wet Fun: sprinklers, water balloons, city pool you name it

Thursday Thankfulness: visiting people, making things for people, showing some love

Friday Fitness Challenge: biking, hiking, obstacle courses, etc.

I can describe the whole thing at length per request, but that’s not the point of this blog. It was fun. I’m a proponent of the whole idea.

The summer before last we focused on a science and writing project each day. Before that we earned marbles for chores and workbook pages and projects completed. Before that we covered topics of the week and topics of the month.

Every summer my wild and zealous learning ideas are met with grumbles and general grouchiness. (Ooooo- alliteration!)

So here is what I am going to offer you this summer, children –

One summer of nothingness.

A summer enhanced by boredom and lethargy, a summer where you have to make up stuff for yourself and use the imaginations I know you have down deep. You can make your own snacks and find toys you forgot you had. You can spontaneously visit a friend and lay around at their house for a change of scenery. And those textbooks…I’m going to take a deep breath and pitch them, burn them, whatever. I promise you they won’t make an appearance. (All my teacher friends…try to exhale.)

Boredom is the new black. It looks good on you Goehmann’s.

Why nothing? That’s the million dollar question. It’s an attempt at giving my children the chance to have their voices heard. Believing that one summer of nothingness will not rot their brains. Subscribing and actually living out my belief that children will learn no matter what they do, especially if I step back and let them discover on their own. Most importantly…

Letting them just be. Quietly teaching them to just be.

Because that’s something I’m not very good at, and I’d like to pass down a better legacy than being just like me.

Jesus was especially good at just be-ing. While our world is technical and vast and fast paced, Jesus’s world was in no way less busy. People grew things to survive, for the love of Pete, or shopped the marketplace. I have shopped a city marketplace in a country for daily rations, and while it sounds fun, it’s a lot to take in and not so fun when your hunting down food for six…every day.

People also wanted Jesus’s attention. Crowds clamored. He was surrounded by need. He was intensely aware of every person’s value that sought him out, and every person that didn’t.

“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31)

This, really, is our summer of rest. We have done a lot, recovered from a lot, cared a lot, learned a lot, sought a lot. It’s ok to rest…a lot.

Children- may you be blessed by our summer of nothingness. Nothingness has quickly turned into library visits, Star Trek action filled play, water balloon and water bucket fights, homemade cookies, and sitting around discussing what God is doing in our lives and what we wish He was doing in our lives, and a creative venture for making a new youtube channel.

Enjoy.

Great things happen when we step back a bit, let Him work, and embrace nothingness. This isn’t an idea for every summer, every day. But for this summer- it feels just right.

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Loving on our PKs

But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.                                                                       Luke 18:16

Perhaps one of the more frequent comments I hear from ministry wives is the concern for the impact of ministry life on their children. Will they still love church? How can I help them see Church as a Gospel-based place to be? What about when they mess up? How do I handle rebellious or even just misbehaving kiddos in the pew?
So, here are my thoughts on PKs, or MKs or DCEKs, or any Ks…
1)   Love them. Seriously Love them. This world is a difficult and scary place. Church work kids are probably more attuned to this than many others because they hear difficult conversations, attend more funerals, see the stress of ministry life, and may have a heart for the unreached very early on in life because it flows out of the family unit. Kids don’t know what to do with all that. You can be a shelter from all the giant, scary stuff of the world, whether your child is a church work kid or a kid, period. Loving them means a whole lot of Grace, physical affection, taking time to listen to their stories, and communicating that they are precious little treasures, God’s wonderful masterpieces.

2)   Recognize that if you feel lonely, they probably do too. Loneliness seems to be a product of this sojourning life on earth until we get to heaven, but can also be amplified by church work life. Ever feel left out, longing for loved ones far away, endlessly searching for one close and intimate friend, preferably geographically near? Your PK probably experiences all these things too, but may not be able to identify its effect on their heart and how it seeps into their adolescent struggle to find out who they are and what’s important to them.

3)   Don’t make them acolyte every time someone doesn’t show up.  If they love it, that’s one thing, then by all means let them robe up! But if you get the stink face, let them choose how they would like to serve in the house of the Lord, when it’s not a Catechism assignment. They will connect with something and you can have that expectation that says, “Our family serves. That’s how we roll, kiddos.” Help them sort how that looks for them in particular, though.

4)   Let them epically fail at memory work one week. This may be hard for you, because you really want your child to not only be an example for others, but you really do care that they take confirmation and spiritual growth seriously. I would propose, that your PK (or any child really), needs to know that Grace will be there when they fall. This communicates to them that their salvation isn’t wrapped up in the successful memory of Luther’s Small Catechism. That it’s important and eternally valuable, but Jesus came to forgive us in every weakness and loves us not for our perfection, but rather loves His children as weak and weary individuals, in need of Him.

5)   Ask what’s hard for them at church. No one loves every aspect of their church, 100%, especially church workers, who know all the dark forty year long arguments and dusty corners of complacency and disgruntlement. Your child probably has their challenges there too. Ask them what’s hard for them, pray about it. Talk about Christ’s definition of Church as a living and breathing and not-so-perfect Body. And pray about it with them some more. Be honest with them- the church isn’t perfect – but, boy, is it worth it!

6)   Lastly, and this is a big one…if someone comments on their behavior, defend their complete and utterly inarguable right to be a kid. Did you do stupid things when you were a kid, at two years of age and at 16 years of age? Do you do stupid things now? Why yes, yes I do.  There are behaviors that are sinful and unacceptable. There are also behaviors that are not good and require some discipline. There are also behaviors that look more like getting the wiggles out and trying new and exotic hair colors. All of these behaviors, though, should not be amplified or specialized because our children are church work kids. They get to be children. They get to be teenagers. They get to be prodigals. Just like everyone else. We get to pray them back and hug them tightly and whisper words of understanding and forgiveness in their sweet little (and big) ears. Dear parent, please give them this opportunity, and dear congregation, please give them a safe place to grow and learn and just be them.
How do you love on your church work kids? How do you pass on forgiveness and mercy to them? What areas do you struggle with in caring for church work kids? I’d love to hear your ideas and thoughts!

Know that you are prayed for, your family is prayed for, and your children are prayed for. We are in this together, brothers and sisters. Loving one another, loving our churches, and loving the precious cargo entrusted to us for this short life.