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Author: Deanna Gemmer

Best Ever End-of-the-Year Teacher Gift

Best Ever End-of-the-Year Teacher Gift

We have just under a month left before summer break, but I know for my friends in the south that means you have even less time. So today I’m sharing my favorite end-of-year teacher gift that has been excitedly received by our teachers the past few years. We have been blessed with amazing public school teachers that give and love and teach my kids in wonderful ways that we could never ever repay – but this gift is simple, thoughtful, homemade, and practical and a winner in my book.

A quick pinterest survey will yield hundreds of ideas for teacher gifts, some small and simple, to more extravagant. You’ll find posts from teachers telling you what they really want (cash, lol!) and cute stickers you can download to put on a bottle of wine. But I wanted to create a gift that was a real blessing after a long year of work.

Enter: the new mom meal. You know how new moms are blessed with dinners from friends and family members as they adjust to life with a baby? Well, what if we made a meal for the teacher to bring home the last day of school? A nice dinner so that she can relax, put up her feet, and have one less thing on her mind that day?

Here’s how to pull it off:
1. Email the teacher a few weeks before school is out. I let her know that our family would like to bless her with a dinner for the last day of school, but if there is another day that works better we are flexible. I ask about allergies/preferences and how many people will be eating the meal. (This past year both our teachers were grandmas who lived with their husbands, so I only had to prep for two, but the year before Dani’s teacher had three teenagers at home so I made a bigger meal.) Confirm the time of day for drop off as they may have after-school meetings, but are likely able to put things in a staff fridge until they are ready to go home.

2. Decide on what you’ll cook. One of our current favorite recipes is this healthy broccoli/chicken/rice casserole so that’s what we made last year. (And I planned ahead and made three casseroles at once so we had one to enjoy too.) We decided to add a nice roll of bread, some fresh berries, fancy chocolate bars, and fizzy drinks too.

3. Purchase tossable containers so the teacher knows she doesn’t have to return anything to you. As an extra bonus, we added paper plates, and plastic silverware wrapped in napkins. The fewer dishes the better!

4. Cook what you need to cook and package it all up. I used an aluminum baking pan but a box would work just as well. (The first year we did this gift only Daisy was in school and I bought a cute cooler tote to package the meal up in.)

5. Print cooking instructions. Last year I downloaded this printable and added our meal instructions to the menu. I think it turned out really cute.

6. Let your children help deliver the meal and enjoy the feelings of a special gift given and received.

One last thing: to make the gift extra special have your children include a thank you note. You can download adorable fill-in-the blank ones (what I’ve totally done) or practice writing skills with a traditional note.

 

There you have it: our very favorite teacher gift. Let me know if you decide to do something similar this year and how it works out for you.

Lenten Reflections: The Cross and the Lynching Tree

Lenten Reflections: The Cross and the Lynching Tree

For seven months I was a mother to a beautiful boy with the most gorgeous curly hair and dark skin. We brought him home from the hospital on my daughter Dani’s birthday and for weeks she proudly proclaimed that she “got a brother for her birthday!” While I had parented three daughters (two biological, one foster) this was my first experience with a little boy and I polled my mom friends for advice. They all told me our bond would be different, that there was something different to a mother/son relationship. I scoffed. He was so tiny. We were his “in between” family, not his permanent one. I would love him like I loved all my children.

I should have listened to my friends. There really was something different to our bond. He was my happiest baby, with the biggest grin on the block. When daycare workers and visit supervisors would gush and coo, I would smile knowing he saved his best smiles for me. He charmed everyone he met and I was so proud to be his mom. And while I haven’t mothered him in over three years, this sweet boy still has a piece of my mother heart, and probably always will.

I think of his face as our country wakes to the issues of systemic racism. I think of his face as I hear the stories of mothers having to teach their sons to be extra careful around police officers. I think of his face when I see marchers hit the street proclaiming BLACK LIVES MATTER. I think of his face every time I encourage someone to recognize their own privilege, and to humbly share a bit of it to raise someone else up. I want this country to be a different place for all black young men but in particular I want this country to be a different place for my black boy.

But we have a lot of work to do. We have a lot to atone for. There are many things about our history as a country and as a people that we need to honestly confront. It is hard work to look upon the violence and injustice we have perpetrated.

This is the invitation of Lent—to do the hard work of repentance….

This post was submitted for my church’s seasonal blog: Lenten Muse. You can read the rest of it here.

Just For Fun – Two Truths & A Lie

Just For Fun – Two Truths & A Lie

me circa 1989

I thought it would be fun from time-to-time to use this space to tell you a bit about myself. And I’d REALLY LOVE you to join in and share about yourself in the comments. It encourages me to know who is stopping by this little internet space of mine.

So today, how about a little Two Truths and a Lie? We played this a while ago at Teen MOPS, so I’ve already got my statements ready to go. Leave a comment and let me know which one you think isn’t true about me.

  1. In high school I played on the varsity volleyball team, despite my short stature.
  2. We had a jukebox when I was a kid and it was so fun to have friends over and feed quarters into it.
  3. I worked as a barista in college, even though I detest coffee.

So, which is the lie? Comment below and leave me two truths and a lie to guess about you!

Scenes from an Egalitarian Marriage: Christmas Ornament

Scenes from an Egalitarian Marriage: Christmas Ornament

We may read a lot about complementarian versus egaliatarian marriages in theory, but what does an egalitarian marriage look like in practice? That’s the purpose of this series: a glimpse of how roles based on giftedness and not gender, how mutual submission and genuine partnership can look in the midst of a real-life relationship-ours. 

 

Each year since we started dating Darin and I exchange Christmas ornaments. We try to get something that is significant for the year we have just had. This year when I unwrapped the ornament I was so touched at his thoughtfulness. But then when he told me more about why he had made it, I really started to cry. I am so grateful to do life with this guy and I’m thankful he agreed to my request to share the story behind this ornament.  These are his words. 

The last few years have been a thrill ride for Deanna and me as we follow God into uncharted territory in our individual and shared faiths. We have been challenged, changed, and grown at a break-neck pace through the experiences of the last 4ish years. That journey is partially chronicled throughout Deanna’s posts, so I won’t get into it here.

Since she started at Portland Seminary, Deanna has continued the hard work of challenging so many things we took for granted before this current leg of our journey began. The ideas about God, the Church, and what it means to be a part of this big, messy body that Deanna brings to the table in any given week are staggering, amazing, and often dumbfounding. Often I have to ask her to slow down and define the last 3-12 words she used. But the ideas are incredible. The way God is weaving this knowledge into the ways that God has been recently leading us both together and individually feels providential.

It is thrilling.

So when it came time for our annual ornament exchange at Christmas, I knew I had to acknowledge the multitude of ways that Deanna’s work and study have enriched and directed our lives.

One of the historical figures that Deanna spent some time studying last semester is a German nun named Hildegard of Bingen. This woman faithfully served God, often took direct inspiration and direction from God, and served faithfully in a myriad of ways as a result. She also had a faithful friend named Volmar who helped to collect and communicate Hildegard’s visions.

For the entire semester, Deanna had an old drawing depicting the two of them which hung by her desk. Often of late I feel much like Volmar, peering through the window and just trying to keep up as Deanna brings the font of inspiration and pure missional gold that flows from Heaven, through her, into our home and family. So I took that photo and transferred it onto a thin piece of cedar, then added this quote on the reverse side:

You see, the ways that God has been working and moving in our family are ones that put our family perspective and practice more and more at odds with the direction of our world, especially the direction of our dear home, America. While America seeks stuff, we look for relationships. While the military expands and bombs pile high, we seek to embrace the peace of Christ in our life, and not just in an internal, “I’ve got peace like a river,” kind of way. While everything around us seems to trend toward shipwreck, you all should see the way that Deanna stands, resolute, and confident, challenging those powers and principalities to bring it on.

This is not to say that there aren’t hard times. Times when a Bonhoeffer quote about the Nazis feels just a little too close to our current situation. Times when the brokenness of this world nearly drags us down into despair. Times when we wonder how to raise our strong, smart, sweet daughters in a world that wants to kill their spirit or their hope.

But what is being built in Deanna, and in the rest of us through God’s work in her and in our family, is stronger than those dark things. So, in the midst of the shipwreck, she (and we alongside her) stands strong and brave. She is both the quiet student waiting on the Lord to bring divine inspiration and the resolute defender of the downtrodden and disenfranchised. Two sides of the same ornament, both printed on a fragile thin strip of beautiful cedar. And I’m blessed to be hanging from the same branch as her. I hope you feel that blessing too.

 

Want to know more about egalitarian marriage and how this model is fully Biblically supported? Click here.
Eschet Chayil: resources for women preachers, why women need to see women preaching, Project Deborah, and more.

Eschet Chayil: resources for women preachers, why women need to see women preaching, Project Deborah, and more.

In Hebrew eschet chayil translates roughly as “woman of valor” and is found in the opening lines of Proverbs 31. It is a blessing that Jewish women have used to cheer one another on for hundreds of years. This blog series is about highlighting women of valor you should know, or work supporting women you should cheer on. 

 

“Living Your Resurrectional Identity” 
“How do we be truly human as men and women? We need to see each other…honor and bless each other, one is more preferred than the other, both are preferred. Both are holy. Both are the face of God. Both are necessary for the mission of God. We have to talk to each other, hear each other’s stories and experiences.” I am blessed to have taken a class from Dr. Morse, a powerful and thoughtful woman, and was deeply encouraged by her words in this talk she gave at a Missio Alliance event “Being Truly Human.”

“Maybe a Senior Pastor:” Why Seeing Women in Ministry Matters
Leanne Friesen’s story here is back up by the research: young women need to see women in ministry. It matters that you are leading, preaching, baptizing, and serving communion. It matters that young women see other women pursuing their God-given callings. It opens up their own dreams and imaginations. Keep on sisters!

Project Deborah
YES YES YES to this! The Evangelical Covenant Church is encouraging its congregations to identify and raise up women leaders within their churches. Project Deborah encourages discipling women in each congregation, demonstrating that God has called and gifted women to serve in all facets of ministry, and directing women into opportunities to lead. I love that this denomination not only ordains women, but now is working to invest in a future generation of women leaders.

Resources for Women Preachers (by Women Preachers)
Junia Project is back with an excellent post full of resources for women preachers. Blogs, books, podcasts, and sermon archives are included. Bookmark this one for sure!

Christian Feminism Weekly Podcast
Ashley Easter and Charlie Olivia are young women leading the fight towards Christian Egalitarianism, towards true freedom. Join them as they chat with other leaders and share their own stories of being women in the church.

 

Sharing a story: Meeting God on The Mountain

Sharing a story: Meeting God on The Mountain

Doing something a little different today…

Thanks for hanging out with me! I’d love to hear from you. Leave me a comment about what resonated with you in my story, or how you feel about me telling a story in this video format.

And for fun, here is my friend Sasha’s blog.

Pictures I promised…

At the trailhead. Someone lost a cute grey shirt.

 

A well-maintained trail.

 

Lots of stopping and resting. I’m cool with that.

 

Spotted throughout the woods.

 

This is the one I have framed on my desk now.

 

Gorgeous views at the top.

 

A panorama version.

 

Eschet Chayil: women pastors are on the rise, disarming Paul, sharing stories bravely, and more.

Eschet Chayil: women pastors are on the rise, disarming Paul, sharing stories bravely, and more.

In Hebrew eschet chayil translates roughly as “woman of valor” and is found in the opening lines of Proverbs 31. It is a blessing that Jewish women have used to cheer one another on for hundreds of years. This blog series is about highlighting women of valor you should know, or work supporting women you should cheer on. 

 

Study: Female Pastors Are on the Rise, and So Are Our Impossible Expectations For Them
Such encouraging news! The Barna Group in its annual report notes a steady trend of increasing number of female pastors. Unfortuantely, women pastors also were more likely than their male counterparts to report that “congregants’ comments on their leadership were ‘critical,’ ‘judging,’ and ‘unhelpful.'” This is certainly a part of a larger cultural trend, and one in which the author of this piece says the Church is uniquely positioned to stand in contrast to.

Kate Wallace Nunneley on The Paulcast
Hear from The Junia Project co-founder Kate Wallace on her work with the Junia Project, Paul’s view of women in ministry, and why she supports women in church leadership.

Women in Church History: Footnoted and Forgotten?
Speaking of The Junia Project, this blog is full of great stuff that you should totally check out. For Women’s History Month they are highlighting the incredible deapth of women in our church history. Check it out.

Shame On/Shame Off – An Abortion Story
Be inspired by the bravery of Jada Schiessl in sharing her own story of living with the shame of a decision made at 16-years-old, and challenged in her call to the Church to do better when it comes to serving scared pregnant women.

How Learning About Feminine Metaphors for God Undermines Rape Culture
Susan Harrison reflects on the opportunity to expand our language for God to include the maternal, and what the unexpected outcomes might be.

The Future Is Female

The Future Is Female

Peasant Women In A Church by Kazimir Malevich, 1912

 

Have you heard about the women leading the resistance movement these past few months?

The women who organized the largest protest march in history?

The woman who refused to argue Trump’s travel ban in court and was fired for it? Or the woman who issued the stay from the bench?

The woman who persisted when she was told to stop speaking?

The women who broke from their party for the sake of our nation’s children?

Or the women sitting on airport floors trying to help those who were detained. Some say the gender disparity there was likely 70% female.

 

A quick google search will yield woman, after woman, after woman, leading and loving peacefully and powerfully. They are getting stuff done. They are speaking truth to power. They are working their tails off. They are healers and prophets, judges and lawyers, mothers and activists, artists, scholars, preachers, teachers. They are inspiring.

 

CHURCH, WAKE UP!

 

Can you imagine what could happen to our gospel witness if we unleashed the women in our churches? Can you imagine how many would find the hope and healing of Christ if we valued feminine leadership styles? Can you imagine the transformation in our communities if we supported the creativity and innovation of the women in our congregations?

 

Trust me, Church, women would lead the revolution and the revival you all are hoping and praying for. Throw open the doors, unbind the chains, and let us get to work.

 

Woman, you are loved and gifted and called

Woman, you are loved and gifted and called

It happens without fail. Every.Single.Time. When casual conversation with old friends or new acquaintances turns to the fact that I am going to seminary, the next question out of the other person’s mouth is always what are you wanting to do with your degree? As in, what are your post-graduation plans? Why are you spending all this money? What is the job you are hoping to go after?

And every time I smile, slightly shrug my shoulders, and admit I don’t really know. I tell them that going to seminary was the fulfillment of a dream, the opportunity of a lifetime, and the next step on my adventure of being obedient to God’s call in my life.

That was my answer.

This is the face of the girl who received her seminary acceptance letter.

 

But now, five and a half semesters into this journey I’m starting to get an inkling of what might be post-seminary for me. I don’t know how it will bring the income I will need in order to pay back all these student loans, but I do know that my personality, experiences, knowledge and interests are starting to coalesce in ways that are thoroughly exhilarating and not entirely unexpected. God has been paving a path for me for a long time and I can’t wait to see what is around the next corner.

About a year ago God showed up to answer my desperate desire to know who my people are. I’ll come back here soon and share that story, but in the meantime I know with certainty that my call is to serve women, particularly by empowering women to serve in bold and brave ways. So last semester I chose a research project that had me sitting in story after story of women longing to use their gifts to serve and love and teach and maybe even pastor. And in story after story these women were told that the roles in which they could use their gifts were limited, ordained by God and obvious because of Scripture. And my heart broke time and time again.

I wept for the woman who had introduced a dying man to Jesus and was forbidden to offer him the sacrament of communion when he asked for it.

I wept for the woman who had 18-year-old boys turn their backs to her each time she came to teach at her Evangelical University’s chapel.

I wept for the women who admit to feeling limited, discounted, and redirected when they expressed a sense of calling. I wept for the women who persisted, yet were regularly confronted with fatigue, despair, cynicism, and emotional distress that many times reached the level of clinical depression.

I wept for the women who endured what in the secular world would be called sexism, where legal recourses are available for those who experience it, but in the church is often accepted and promoted as God-ordained.

And I wept for the all-to-familiar question should I stay or should I go? For many of us living with misogyny and oppressive institutional structures is torture, but the thought of leaving the home and community and family that is our Church of origin is equally terrifying.

These were dark days for me and I do not use the word wept metaphorically to describe my reaction to my research. On many occasions I put my books down or set aside the article and cried out to God. This was too much. This culture too impenetrable. The wounds too deep. The theology too entrenched. What in the world could little ‘ole me do? How could one lone woman fight against evangelical culture and Biblical interpretation, especially when women who have tried have been so thoroughly trounced?

Some of the amazing men and women I am journeying alongside in this seminary adventure. Cohort ’15 forever!

 

But the other thing my research taught me was this: woman after woman pursuing a ministry call persisted because she had support. Because her calling was affirmed instead of questioned. Because she had mentors and role models. Because she had a woman in her life serving in ways that gave her imagination to dream she could do the same.

And it turns our I’m not really alone. The voices for women’s equality in the Church are out there. And they are growing. They are getting louder. The faithful witness of men and women who believe in a blessed alliance are doing the hard work and are changing hearts and minds. So I’m going to add my voice, and I’m going to return to this topic in this little space on the internet with more frequency.

 

In case you need this today:

You are not alone.

You are called by God who created you and knows your every part.

You are loved by Christ who gave up his life to show us what real love looks like.

You are gifted by Holy Spirit who is at work in this crazy world of ours, drawing us to the heart of God.

Persist dear sisters.

I am on your side and in your corner. You are not alone.

“Nobody Blames the Seas…” guest post by Stephanie Dickenson

“Nobody Blames the Seas…” guest post by Stephanie Dickenson

Nobody blames the seas
for becoming rough and wild
during high winds or stormy days,
or thinks it inappropriate to see
their waves swirling with murky sand.
So why do I blame myself
or presume I still should, could be
smooth and serene?
Much less clear and clean?
Nobody looks at the messy roads
waterlogged after heavy rains
and covered in debris,
thinking the roads are misbehaving
or embarrassing themselves.
And none are shocked and appalled
when the trees give up and drop
their extra branches or dead leaves.
Why do I expect so much more myself
than I do the rest of God’s creation?

 

Stephanie is a friend and a wonderful coworker at camp. She regularly posts beautiful poems and images on her Instagram, but this one was particularly meaningful to me. Especially the final line…