We’re in this together…

Our son Jonah is an ice hockey goalie.

Most days it’s a fun addition to our lives, watching him play, getting hammered with pucks, and taking on a new challenge every game.

Yesterday, he had a crudey hockey game. He didn’t play horrible, but he got trampled and scored on 10 separate times. In goalie land, that stinks. In mama land, it’s equally as stinky. I walked into the locker room after the game to find my son with his head hung down, still sitting with all his pads on.

He looked tired and defeated. 

I tried to encourage him and make him laugh:

You’re pretty new at this hockey thing.

You played hard and stopped a million shots.

You’ll get ’em next time.

All my words of encouragement were good and maybe a tiny bit helpful, but he still sat slumped and dejected.

And then…light shined in.

A puck landed square in Jonah’s lap. I looked up to see a skinny little hockey teammate. He slapped Jonah on the shoulder and said, “Good job, Jonah. We’re lucky to have you, man. I’ve been there. It’s hard.”

He went back to have a seat. Jonah turned the puck over. Written on the puck was the word “WOW” in boy handwriting.

Jonah looked up at me and said, “Where are we eating dinner? I’m hungry.” And I knew he would be just fine. Someone – a teammate, a comrade – lifted him up. He said in a very simple way, “We’re in this together.” 

What a difference together makes.

There are dark and difficult times in life. There are also days that are moderately junky. There are embarrassing moments and times we feel let down, or like we let everyone around us down. What makes the difference?

Together.

God created the church for a purpose. He’s a God of relationship. When those around us rally and take a moment to recognize that we aren’t an island, we aren’t a ship tossed alone at sea, but we are a body, built and knit together in Him, this is how we reach around us. Who are the ones around you that need to hear –

“I’ve been there. It hurts. But you’re not in this alone.”?

Who is waiting to have the puck land in their lap and to be lifted up by the acceptance and warmth of the team?

Maybe it’s you, maybe it’s your pastor, maybe it’s one of the kids at your high school, maybe it’s your grouchy neighbor. Jesus, our Savior, walked the dusty road, and knows what it’s like. He embraces us because He loves even that which is broken, not just to fix it, but because it is broken and He can work with broken. He sees Together in broken.

Either way,  you are not alone. We are in this together. 

Jonah carried that puck around with him all day today. I think he learned an important life lesson long before I ever did. He can take a risk, he’s ready to be all in, because he’s not in it alone.

He has Together.


Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.
                                                                                 Ecclesiastes 4:9
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly…
                                                                                 1 Peter 4:8

Ministry Moment: Confirmation Gifts

One of my favorite things to be a part of are those faith-proclaiming moments when heaven touches Earth and we see the testimony of God so clearly in another person’s life. We can’t help but be moved by it. Gifts aren’t necessary to commemorate something, but they can be a special way of sharing our hearts, and a great way to build one another up in Faith.

A question I get asked all the time is 
“What kind of gifts do you give for….” fill in the blank. 

Most of you reading this try to live economically, to be good stewards and the tension of the budget, meeting the desire to give and celebrate with someone, is a real one.

So, this blog is the first in a series called “Heidi’s favorite things!” It’s like Oprah’s Christmas meets life in the Church. 🙂

This post: Confirmation.

Here are a few of my favorites for those of you looking for an idea in any budget…

1) The Christian t-shirt.
For my nephew’s confirmation this year I bought him this t-shirt. Silly, but a good conversation starter –
Wanna Taco Bout Jesus Shirt


There is a Christian t-shirt appropriate for anyone out there. You can get ones with quotes, sports, spoofs, or just a simple cross. Youth are usually more spunky than the rest of us, and they tend to love a goofy t-shirt that proclaims something that matters. Fun alternatives include a scarf with crosses or a cross necklace.

2) Highlighters, colored pens, sticky notes and marginalia.
I believe in marking up my Bible and catechism, and I like to pass that on to future generations. Include a note encouraging your confirmand to keep getting into God’s Word. It’s so tempting to leave it on the shelf, and fun supplies might just be the thing to make an impact.

Find free Bible margins, book marks, and more to gift here:

https://www.visualfaithmin.org/new-products/

3) Christian music.
My favorite Christian rapper is Trip Lee. His lyrics are freakishly insightful at times. Check out “I am not a Robot” and see for yourself.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qDZJJ6WUxg

I’m also a wild fan of the bluegrass/folk comeback to the Christian genre. Ellie Holcomb consistently addresses issues of shame and forgiveness that teen girls so often wrestle with. 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-5axIcYFVA&list=RD7-5axIcYFVA

Sharing music as a gift is an opportunity to help them understand that what we put in our minds, becomes a part of our heart. Find music that will speak to the youth you are gifting to, not to you. Individualize it. Remember they like to download stuff, so gifting digitally is awesome. Classical music, hymns, or even U2 often have stories behind the music. Gift a song with the story attached of Christ at work in the artist. 
  
4) A Journaling Bible, devotional, Christian fiction novel, or Study Bible.
Again, anything that keeps us in the Word. I use my journaling Bible with my 12 year old and I’m not sure who loves it more, her or me. It’s better together. Offer to share some time in the Word with them in your note.

This is the journaling Bible I have because I like plain jane stuff:

Crossway’s ESV Single Column Journaling Bible

There are lots of pretty options. My own publisher, Concordia Publishing House, has a new Bible coming out in June 2018 with over 300 margins in it! 


5) A friend reminded me a couple weekends ago that a note is sometimes the best gift. My own Bible is overflowing with encouraging notes from my kids, my youth, and people that were influential throughout my life. Choose a notecard that makes you think of that person and go to town. Encouragement doesn’t cost a penny. 


These are all gifts I’ve given to people in our congregation or family and friends. What gifts do you like to give for confirmation? I’d love to have you share in the comments! 
PS – Full disclosure: As of 2018, I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you do buy something from a link on my site I receive a small amount of money for that referral. I will never share anything I would not actually buy or share it only for the sake of linking to Amazon for profit. I promise. 😉

Autism, emotions, and overload

I took my kids to the park the other day. It was a bright and sunny, beautiful day. (Finally!)
 
Our littlest, Ezekiel, had to use the bathroom, so he and I tromped across the park. One thing you need to know is that Zeke waits until the absolute last minute for a bathroom break, so by the time he announces the need, he is pretty zealous for the bathroom. But halfway across the park, Zeke stops, bends halfway down and covers his ears. It was like the fetal position, only standing. I’m still half-running to the bathroom, hollering “Come on, Zeke, buddy. The bathroom is right over here.”
 
I take a moment. I look at my child and I hear the problem. 
 
Near us there is a swing squeaking loudly. Maybe squeaking isn’t the right word. It’s more screeching throughout the entire ascent and descent on each pass. No one else notices it, but when I hear with Zeke’s eyes (it’s true), I can spot the little things. 
 
     “Zeke, is that swing loud, buddy.”
     
“Yes. It makes me feel loud inside, Mama.”
 
In that moment, I have never been more proud of my son. 
 
What if I could identify what makes me feel loud inside? 
 
All kinds of things make me feel loud inside every day, half the time turning me into a wild woman, searching for order and demanding perfection.
 
It’s time for me to pay attention and be a little more like Zeke. We all have stuff that irritates us, that gets under our skin a little bit, or a lot. Those things pile up and stack on top of one another and become internal. We feel anxiety in different places, welling up like foam overflowing a mug or maybe sitting like a weight on our chest. Either way it builds, one thing, than another. Sooner or later it comes out. Angry, tears, ugly words, little fits of frustration.
 
But, if I can identify and lift it up to God – 
           “I’m feeling loud inside, Lord.” 
 
Then, we’ve got this together. 
We may not even “solve” it, but it becomes a “Be still and know” moment. God and I. You wouldn’t believe the difference that makes. Anxiety softens, grace becomes tangible, things become slowly manageable as I sit in His Word.
 
Zeke straightened up and headed to the bathroom. On the way back by the swing he gave it his angry face and moved on with life. He, a little bit calmer, and me, wondering at the wisdom of my son.