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Monday, January 26, 2015

And so it Begins

Here is an actual text conversation with 10 year old Ray.

               Be there soon.  Sam is in the bathroom.
Did not need the bathroom par, or the big text.
               Be there as soon as Sam is done wiping his butt, washing his hands and ready to go.  Theo
               already went potty.  I need to go, but I will wait.
               How's that for too much info/big text? ;)
Did not need that, again.

So what is the first thing he says when we pull up?  "What took you so long?!?"  I tried to tell him. Oh, let the embarrassing of the tween begin!  I've been practicing my whole life for this ;)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Just Call Me Betty

My old oven had been working less than ideal. After a many frustrating attempts at learning how to cook with it, we caved and got a new oven on the post Thanksgiving sale. This evening we had a beef roast for dinner and it must have been a success because Sam declared it "the best pork he's ever eaten!" (Hey, I'll take what I can get where I can get it.) Ray said the gravy was so good he could all but hear angels sing when he tasted the gravy. It was decided by a 5-1 vote that I also needed to make cookies. So bake I did. Mmm, Mmm Holiday Magic in the making.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Play as Worship?

Sit down, behave.  Can't you just be quiet and listen?  You are embarrassing me.

Let's be honest.  Anyone who has taken children to worship and said things like this, or at the very least thought them.  When I leave worship, I want to feel fed for the week ahead.  Refreshed, renewed.  However, worshipping with children often drains me more.  It's hard work.  When my boys were young, I had thought it would get better as they became school age.  On some Sundays, it is better.  On other Sundays, it's more difficult.

Let's face it, worshipping with children is tough.  It's hard work.  We often wonder if it's worth the effort.  Maybe we should just stay home.  After all, we could just worship on they days that the children can conveniently be carted off to Sunday School.  The attempt to worship in the midst of a fear that your child will rip the pages in the hymnal, ask an inappropriate question too loudly, make you appear like a poor parent, drop a toy into the pew in front of you, laugh/scream/cry during a moment of silence can feel like it isn't worth the effort.

IT IS!!!

In the middle of a Holden Evening prayer service one evening, I was becoming very frustrated with my then 7 and 10 year old boys.  I could understand the 5 and almost 2 year old playing and lack of participation, but surely the two older boys were capable of more.  Yes, we were in an informal setting, yes it was a family style event, but come on boys!  Get out from under the chairs, and quite playing with the battery operated tealight candles.  My frustration and annoyance was peaking and I bent low to tell them to get off the floor and worship with us when I saw what they had been doing. They had taken the extra battery operated tea lights under the chairs and with them built an illuminated cross.  They had huge smiles of accomplishment and asked if I liked their cross.  Later, the 7 year old told me that they built a cross with candles because Jesus is light.

Years before that, one year around Easter, I was shocked when I walked into the playroom to find my then 3 year old pushing over my then 6 month old from a sitting position to the floor.  The baby, popped back up, the 3 year old threw his hands in the air and yelled, "He has risen!  Alleluia!"  and they both exploded into a fit of giggles.  They played "the resurrection game" over, and over, and over that spring.

Let's not forget the times that each of my boys has "baptized" himself or a brother in the bathtub.

What had looked to me like play was them worshipping.  Did their worship look the same as mine?  No, but should it?  The teacher with a master's degree in education knows how important developmentally appropriate learning, not to mention the immense need that children have for hands-on, concrete learning opportunities before they can move to abstract concepts.  The early childhood educator in me is well aware that many children learn best through play and movement.

So why is it that I KNOW all these things and even applied them into my years of experience as a teacher, but fall short when giving my children worship opportunities.  In the last year and half, I have left classroom teaching and now serve as the Director of Faith Formation at our family's church.  This has made me more mindful of trying to provide my children with authentic, age appropriate worship experiences like our family summer worship experience planned with the kids where offering included them choosing a toy to donate, a message delivered by a 9 year old, and where the body and blood of Christ was served to all, including the dogs, in the form of saltine crackers and grape Kool-Aid.  There is no doubt in mind the Jesus was there in our backyard that Sunday morning as much as He was in any sanctuary space.  My children enjoyed our non-traditional yet traditional worship service immensely and look forward to making it a summer tradition.

While our backyard worship was an awe-spiring experience for our family (and Wookie and Ewok, our family dogs), how feasible is it to bring this type of experience to the whole congregation?  If we leave it to parents, how equipped do they feel to plan and lead this type of service themselves?

I can plan and lead the best Sunday School units in the world, the most engaging VBS experience ever and still fall short to give the families I serve what they thirst for. Authentic, engaging, worship opportunities for the family to experience together.  A common experience they could talk about together beyond Sunday morning.  A tool that helps them take their faith beyond Sunday morning, into the rest of their week.  As amazing as that sounds, how on God's great Earth is that ever going to happen?

When I first took my idea to the Pastors and worship coordinator at my church, I suspected there was a good chance it would be shut down.  I was elated when it was embraced and I am ecstatic, but nervous, to have our model of worship go live for a trial run this coming January.  After the holiday season, we will be inviting our whole congregation to worship in multi-generation and interactive style.  We have named this maiden voyage of our interactive worship "January Journey with Jesus".  Beginning with the first Sunday in January, we will journey with Jesus from his infancy through His baptism.

What does it mean to have in interactive worship service?  The best way I can think to describe it as as a Sunday School meets worship collision.  We will begin with traditional worship elements, including gathering music, Word and prayer.  When the service gets to the place where a sermon would normally be, people will be invited to choose from a host of stations.  Each week, people will be able to worship and learn in a way that they are drawn to whether it be creating a craft, trying a science experiment, playing a game, participating a Pastor led discussion about the scripture, doing a crossword or reflecting on a series of images projected.  As our activity time draws to a close, we will regather as a community to round out our worship experience with more traditional worship elements including Holy Communion, music and a blessing.

As I mentioned, I am eager, ecstatic and also quite nervous to try this style of worship with our whole congregation.  I am praying that God will help us all to keep open minds while giving us faith like a child so we too can be drawn closer to Him through this process while also inviting the youngest worshippers closer too.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Sam, Sam the PJ Man

Do you ever look over your shoulder to see if there is a camera recording the whims of your family?  Sometimes I am quite certain that some producer, somewhere out there is directing the absurdity that goes on in my home.  This morning, I sincerely questioned if I was living life in a sitcom.

Sam absolutely, positively, no way in this world was getting dressed today.  He was adamant that he was wearing pajamas to kindergarten today.  Often, this isn't a battle I won't fight.  Whatever, wear your pajamas.  But when I looked at this choice of pajamas, I knew we needed to find some middle ground.  His white pj pants with construction trucks were too thin and too small to be seen in public.  His blue fleece snowman print top fit better, but wasn't exactly coordinating with the bottoms and screamed "This kid's mom let's him wear pajamas! TO SCHOOL!"

So we compromised.  I agreed he could wear pajamas, but agreed to put on a clean set.  Mom, take #1.  A pair of black fleece pants and a tshirt.  "Mom, those are not even pajamas!  I am NOT wearing that to school."

Mom, take #2, a honest to goodness pair of pajamas in the form of a pair of blue wind pant type pants with a spiderman longsleeve shirt.  "Mom, you know I don't like spiderman."  Well, no I didn't know, but thanks for the update.

Mom, take #3, 4, 5 pajama sets that have coordinating tops and bottoms.  "Too small, too itchy, those are for babies."

Sam, take #1, footed monkey pajamas.  "Sam, I really don't think footed pajamas are going to work well for school."

Sam, take #2 and 3, footed Christmas pj's.  "Sam.  No footed pajamas for school.  Save it for pajama day."

Mom, take #6, pirate pajama set.  "All those skulls might scare someone."

Mom, take #7, pajama set with the snow monster, aka Bumble, on them.  "That's just what I was looking for!"

"Great.  Get dressed already."  By this time, I don't even care if they are a little snug and a lot short in length.  He made it to school fully (okay, kind of) clothed.  And I really appreciated that the helper in the carpool line laughed, shrugged and said, "At least you got him here!"

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Art of a Deep Breath

Hi. My name is Billie Jo.  And I may have some OCD tendencies.  (I can hear my mom snort and say "May?" as she reads this.)

Pre-kids, I had it.  I had it bad.  Of course I denied it to myself as I wiped the bathroom counter down every morning.  As child after child has been born, I have had to learn to let more and more things go.  And as those babies grew into toddlers.  I let more.  My bathrooms does not sparkle the same way it use to.  There are dirty dishes in my kitchen sink more than there aren't.  Try as I may, my floors have a little sticky spot or grit more than I care to admit.  And the laundry.  Don't even get me started on the laundry...

Those toddlers have grown into boys and with boys come dirt.  After all, the definition of a boy is a noise with dirt on it.  Part of me knows those boys are old enough to help.  But let's be honest, what 5, 7 or 10 year old boy can clean as well as mom?  They won't do it as well as me.  They might make a bigger mess in the process.  I don't want to fight with them about it.  I could make a laundry list of excuses to not let or make them help, but as I mentioned, I already have PLENTY of laundry to do.

But by not letting them help, who am I serving?  Who am I allowing them to serve?  The list is pretty short and my name seems to be the only one on the list.  When I take the patience, the time, the patience, the energy and the patience to help them help me, I get to serve them now, and in the future. I am serving their future roommates, families and co-workers.  I am serving God by helping shape men who will know how to serve others.  And don't forget, I am serving me in the future!

If I allow it, I can find the me of today being served.  If I can learn to get past the fact that that's not the way I would do it or accept that even if it isn't spotless, it's cleaner than it was, I can find myself being served by my children.

That's why today when Ray was vacuuming the entry way and flipping rugs over to get their undersides and I could hear the dirt skitter across then entry way, I resisted the urge to snatch the hose from him and do it myself.  Instead, I took a deep breath and closed my eyes for a minute before I turned to him and smiled.  "Thanks for helping Ray."

And in that choice, in that deep breath, I found not only did future me get served, but so did present me.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Just Another Chapter...

First morning home after a busy week in South Dakota which was punctuated by a family mission trip in Yankton, which was a very cool experience. We spent 3 days of keeping Theo from falling off or through church basement folding chairs to have him topple a wooden kitchen chair over this morning breaking a spindle and cut his bottom lip from the front and back, but thankfully, not all the way through. After a trip to the laceration room at the ER, I seriously think there should be a plaque with our family name, and a little surgical glue, we are home again. Hardest part of it all? Keeping the little monkey from climbing EVERYTHING in the hospital and getting hurt more!

Here is a picture of Thii's fat lip.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


"Mom, why don't you ever hum-itate?"
"Hum-itate? Um, I'm not sure. What is hum-itate?"
"You know, where you close your eyes, hold your hands like this and say, hmmmmmm."
I look over my shoulder to the backseat and see this:
Displaying WP_20140715_002.jpg
"You should try it. Sometimes, when you're not looking, I float. But only when you're not looking. Ninjas float all the time when they hum-itate but I'm not a real ninja. (big pause) Yet."