Roundup: Great “real people” Reads for Kids

Roundup: Great “real people” Reads for Kids

This week I had the opportunity to lead the story/cinema station for our church’s afternoon daycamp. For four days I was visited by different grade levels, where we would review the Bible story for the day, learn our memory verse, and I would share a story of someone who lived out the day’s main point in their lives. It took a bit of searching to find just the right story to fit with each day’s point, and each story was inspiration to me as the leader so I hope it inspired the kiddos who hung out with me too.

Day 1 – Dream Big

The Bible story for the day was about Creation, so after we reviewed I asked the kids if they thought God dreamed up creation before he went to work creating. Then I asked the kids to share something they dreamed of doing, which got a lot of fun responses. (Turns out like 90% of the preschool group dreams of being as singer, just like their leader who shared first.) I shared that sometimes the dreams we dream are put in our hearts by God and that we show God love when we chase after them and don’t give up. Then we read Drum Dream Girlabout a girl who dreamed of playing the drums in her island community on Cuba but was told only boys could play the drums.

Day 2 – Be Bold

We learned about Esther this day and had a great time reviewing how she had to be bold to go to the king for help to try to save her family and friends. I asked the students if they had a time they had to be bold or do something courageous, and shared about how God helps us to have courage when we need to do the right thing. I searched high and low for a great story of someone being bold and kept coming back to Nobel Peace Prize Winner Malala Yousefzi and this great children’s book of her story. I was nervous to share with my younger students about her being shot point-blank, so I summarized her story as I showed the pictures and just told the children that the bad Taliban guys were so angry that she kept going to school when they told her not to that they hurt her badly. They hurt her bad enough to send her to the hospital. (One of my kindergartners was angry that I wouldn’t go into further detail about how they hurt her, LOL!) For my older grades I showed them this video from ABC News which showed just how miraculous her survival was. I especially loved that she claims that she survived because God was with her and the people prayed for her.

Day 3 – Imagine Anything

Our Bible Story for the day was about Jesus walking on the water, which I always love telling because of the ghost part. We talked about how Peter had to imagine something different then he knew to be able to step out of the boat in faith, and I asked the kids who gave them their imaginations. Of course they told me God did, and we talked about what a great gift an imagination is as we brainstormed all the ways we use it. I told them they could use their imagination to solve problems and come up with new inventions, and then shared this fun story of Margaret Knight, the “Lady Edison.” Even the youngest kids stayed engaged in this longer book.

Day 4 – Discover More

 

Today we talked about Pentecost and how God’s gift of the Holy Spirit lets us do more than we even thought we could. I shared about how we can take the things we learn in school or in life and honor God by making life better for the people around us. I had two stories of women who studied hard and then planted trees to make life better for the people around them. We read Wangari’s Trees of Peace about Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai who empowered the women in her Kenyan village by planting trees and then we read about Kate Sessions in The Tree Ladyand how she became a “tree hunter” to find, grow, and spread trees all over the desert of San Diego, and especially Balboa Park. For the older kids I showed them the books and gave them a brief rundown, but then watched the first 10 minutes of this video on Balboa Park, and this tribute video to Wangari.

 

And while I didn’t set out with purpose to find stories about women, I loved that each story I shared this week was about an amazing and inspirational woman.

Let me know if you check out these books for your kids and what they think.

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.

Reimagining the Cross

Reimagining the Cross

 

I was invited to preach on Palm Sunday as a part of our “Wise Voices” series at Grace. On the second Sunday of each month we’ve been hearing from a member of our congregation about their faith journey and what that might have to teach the rest of us in our journeys. In my sermon I share a bit of my own story, as well as my journey of understanding Christ’s work on the cross. I hope it encourages you to think about your own view of the cross and challenges you to be invited up into the story of what God is doing today.

 

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.