God Found My Niche But It Wasn’t What I Wanted

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“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.”  Proverbs 3:5, 6

God found my niche for me…you know, that place God has for you when you grow up and become a responsible adult. It wasn’t even on the radar screen of what I wanted to do with my life.

As a child, I loved to read. I read so much my parents limited me to three books a week. I would go to the library just to be there among the books. My favorite library, in San Ysidro, CA, had an old book musty smell. If I close my eyes and think hard enough, I can conjure up the smell. Best. Smell. Ever. I desired to be a librarian where I could hang with books every day.

Low on my list of career choices was ministering to children.

I love my sisters, always have and always will. However, from the age of ten until I left home at seventeen, a large portion of my life involved babysitting my three younger sisters. (I had a sister a year older than me who babysat too.)

We made great memories…playing baseball in our tiny trailer and accidentally blowing up the stove (long story), me cooking inedible food for supper, having fashion shows, putting on plays, dropping Alka-Seltzer into bottles of coke (messy fun), sneaking out of the yard trying not to get caught before our parents came home. But I also missed out on hanging with friends, going to football games, parties and dates.

Once I left home, although I enjoyed being with my sisters, I had no desire to spend more time with a bunch of kids. Been there, done that. And yet, God had other plans.

At first, I fought His calling like crazy.

A pastor needed a Sunday School teacher and he begged me to do it until I relented. Hated it. I traveled with an evangelistic team for four years; for one year I conducted children crusades as the child evangelist. Endured it. I worked as a secretary at a large church in Chula Vista, CA. The Christian Education director wanted me to be a part of the bus ministry and teach Sunday School. I agreed to help even though I felt coerced into it.

Somewhere along the way, I began to embrace the idea I did have a call in my life to work with children. An eighth-grade all-boys Sunday School class clinched it for me. I loved those crazy boys and, after that, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

Since then, I’ve taught Sunday School and Children’s Church, been a Christian Education director, been involved in Wednesday night outreaches, and summer programs. I’ve been to kid camps and teen camps. For several years I taught at a church school. I loved teaching kindergarteners how to read and high schoolers how to balance their checkbooks. Later in life, I tutored reading and grammar while helping to homeschool a couple of my grandchildren.

At seventy years of age, I’m still hanging with the young’uns at church and home. You can tell which yard is mine by all the neighborhood kiddos sitting in my crabapple tree and eating popsicles.

I never would’ve picked kids as my ministry choice. Thankfully, God did. I don’t regret allowing God to direct my steps because He knew all along where I belonged. My life is rich and full. Spending time with children has a lot to do with the satisfaction I feel. Some of my best friends are sixty years younger than me.

If you’re kicking against God’s will for your life, maybe you should quit fighting Him and allow Him to direct your path. Trust Him to know what’s best for your life.

Be like Isaiah. “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”  Isaiah 6:8, 9

Hey Teacher, I Need You: An Interactive Blog

As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.  Proverbs 27:17

I enjoy teacher’s conferences. Not only do I learn new techniques and ideas, I always come away inspired, encouraged and reenergized. The camaraderie I encounter reminds me that I’m “not an island unto myself.”  There are others just like me who like hanging with children.

Unfortunately, one of the fallouts of COVID-19 is most conferences have been canceled. I understand the reasons why but it does put a crimp on the opportunities to grow as a teacher by associating with those who are like-minded. For now, maybe this blog can be one way we can connect together.

Proverbs 27:17 reminds me that I need to be sharpened and I need you to do it. As a teacher, you sharpen my skills with your own tried and true experiences. You make me a better teacher when you share creative and fun ways to reach children. Your words of encouragement and prayers inspire me to keep on and not give up. If I’m dull from tedium, your optimism reminds me there’s nothing better than showing a child the way to Jesus.

Since I need you, perhaps others do too. Whether it’s in a public classroom or through a ministry opportunity like Sunday School or Children’s Church, folks need what you have to offer.

This is an interactive blog. You are encouraged to share ideas in the comments on my blog or Facebook page. What has worked for you? What advice do you have for a Children’s Church worker who struggles to see himself/herself as being effective? What’s a wild and crazy activity you’ve done that the children loved? What’s worked for you amid all the COVID-19 craziness?

Share your stories. Make me laugh, cry, and be challenged. I pray there’s a huge response. If there is, for the next couple of blogs I’ll share your ideas and experiences. I know I’ll be sharpened. Thank you for your stories…I can’t wait to read them.

P.S. For those who do participate, your names will go into a drawing…two names will be drawn to receive prizes and, yes, it does involve chocolate along with some other goodies. If you’re a winner outside of Omaha, I’ll mail your prize to you.

A Teacher’s Input and Output

My husband, Mike, and I owned an auto repair shop for thirty years. His knowledge of cars never rubbed off on me – in other words, you don’t want me to change your oil or work on your car for any reason. However, there are some things I’ve learned about cars over the years…well, actually, that’s not true. Let me reword it. There are some common-sense things most of us know to do keep our vehicles in good running condition. Here are a couple to keep in mind. I took the liberty to throw in some spiritual applications for teachers (after all, this is a teacher’s blog).

Gas is essential:

My car needs gas to run. Duh. If my car’s gas tank is empty, I’m not going anywhere. No input of fuel, no performance.

I’ve taught children in one capacity or another (I won’t bore you with the list…it’s way too long) for over fifty years. I’ve had my fair share of highs and, yes, my fair share of lows. I love children but let’s get real…they can be a challenge.

I admit there are days I spin my wheels in class until I run out of gas. It’s called burnout. Teaching involves a lot of output – the constant giving of myself to the children. My spiritual fuel comes from time spent in God’s Word. When my output of giving is greater than my input in the Bible, I find myself low on fumes until I can’t go anymore.

Quality time in His Word doesn’t mean I spend hours in Bible study. It does involve setting aside a few moments daily to consider His Words. If you’ve never established a Bible study habit, start simple. Read a devotional book to prepare your heart. Or take notes of the pastor’s sermon and meditate further on them throughout the week. (It would bless the socks right off your pastor.)

The Word of God is essential fuel to maintain a Christian lifestyle. Once your spiritual input is greater than your giving output, even on the toughest of days, you’ll remain committed to your students. His Word keeps you strong. (Psalm 119:105; 2 Timothy 3:16, 17)

Oil is essential:

Oil lubricates the vehicle’s engine for a smoother performance. A vehicle won’t run for long if there’s no oil in the engine. Unfortunately, without lubrication you’ll be shopping for an expensive engine to replace your neglected one.

Talking with Jesus about the issues of my life is like oil in my engine. My day runs a lot smoother when I pray. If this isn’t a daily routine of yours, I encourage you to make a list of three or four items you want to discuss with the Lord and do just that. Share honestly with him. Add the children you teach to your list. Remember to listen; after all, prayer is a two-way conversation with Jesus. Worship music might help lead you in prayer as well.

You can’t give what you don’t have to give. The good news is the power that flows from time spent with Jesus will have an impact, not only on your life, but on the lives of your students. You’ll have an anointed reserve on which to draw from. Even Jesus understood the importance of prayer input vs. anointing output. (Mark 6:46; Luke 5:16)

Okay, I admit, the car example is kind of cheesy. And yet, I hope you understand my longevity of teaching has everything to do with my spiritual input. I pray you’ll fuel your spirit with His Word and oil your performance through prayer enhanced by His anointing. (Philippians 4:13)

They Care That You Care

Children don’t care if you’re adequately educated.

Children don’t care if you have your act all together.

Children don’t care how spiritual you are.

Children don’t care how long you’ve taught.

Children don’t care about your impressive resume.

Children don’t care if you live in a perfect world in a perfect house with a perfect family.

Children’ don’t care if you don’t live in a perfect world in a perfect house with a perfect family.

Children don’t care if your lesson plans are polished.

Children don’t care if you’re the best of the best when it comes to teaching.

Children don’t care about all your accolades and accomplishments.

They do care that you care. That you sincerely care.

They care that you are the real deal.

They care that you like children. Or don’t like children.

They care that you want to hang with them.

They care that you’re sincerely interested in them as an individual.

They care that your smile is genuine and not forced.

They care that you accept them just the way they are.

They care that you pray for them and encourage them.

They care that you want to invest time and love into their lives.

They care that you want them to do their best without holding up perfection as the plum line.

Children care that you care. Most times, that is more than enough for them.

Sometimes the Call is in the Need

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I chose the above picture because the floor mat reminds me of the one in the preschool children’s church room. My husband, Mike, and I have the privilege of spending time with the preschoolers one Sunday a month. If you ask Mike, he’ll probably tell you he’s there because I have a call from God to work with children and I need help. And he would be correct. God has called me to hang with kids. What he probably doesn’t realize is that God wants him hanging with the kids too. He thinks he’s there because of a need…I need an adult to help me. To be honest, sometimes the call is in the need; however, don’t let Mike fool you. He has a unique gifting from God…he gets down on the floor mat and plays with the children on their level. Those kids love Mike.

The next time there is a call for workers in the nursery or Sunday School or Children’s Church, don’t be too quick to shrug it off. Sometimes the call is indeed in the need. And yet, you might be surprised to find yourself on the floor with car in hand yelling, “Varoom” and liking it.

Our Teens Rock

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Strobe lights flashed. Colored spotlights swirled around the room. Smoke poured from a machine at the front of the stage. Music blared. The lead singer didn’t hold back. Musicians bopped to the beat. Backup singers jumped with joyful abandonment. The audience, on their feet, clapped and danced. Their voices rang out almost as loud as those on stage.

No, this wasn’t a rock concert at the local city auditorium. It was teenagers at The Crossing in Lexington, NE, passionately worshiping Jesus. Sometimes they laughed. Sometimes they shouted. Sometimes arms were lifted high. Many cried as they connected intimately with the Kings of king and the Lord of lords.

Amid the craziness of COVID-19, the Nebraska Assemblies of God decided to have camp. Instead of conducting several camps, the leadership decided to merge junior high and high school teens together into two camps with 50% capacity. There were many regulations put into place to keep them safe throughout the week.

It didn’t take long for camp leadership to realize the magnitude of making the right decision. These teens, whose world had been turned up-side-down for several months, desperately sought God.

At the first merge camp, I worked in the kitchen during lunch and at the pop stand in the afternoon and evenings. Once the nightly services concluded, crazy activities took place and the pop stand opened for business.

However, the services went late because the teens desired to stay longer in the tabernacle. The speaker, Christian Chambliss, had a specific Word from the Lord for these young people. Sometimes he gave as many as four or five altar calls per service. With open spirits, they received all God had for them. Many nights the teens tarried at the altars long after midnight.

Even though it meant later nights for the staff, it was worth every sleepless moment. God radically changed those teenagers. By Friday, their hearts were full of renewed hope and fervent commitment. God transformed them in a powerful way and the “proof is in the pudding” so to speak. After God got a hold of them, I had the privilege of seeing them sacrificially serve others.

Two weeks later I saw the same teens at Kids’ Camp. Most of them worked on the Recreation Staff. Not only did they help with afternoon games and late-night activities, they scrubbed toilets (ew), dumped massive amounts of trash, washed pots & pans, and cleaned the dining hall. They served the children willingly in whatever way they could. Just like Jesus laid down His life for them, the teens laid down their lives for the kids.

I experienced an incredible couple of weeks hanging with the teens. With young people as passionate and committed to God as these are, the future of Christianity is in good hands. This grandma couldn’t be prouder.

COVID-19, elections, and national civil issues have our nation in turmoil. As a result, there are a lot of uphill battles the teenagers will have to fight. The uncertainty of the coming school year is a major one. But they will stay the course. Our teens rock because they have chosen to stand on The Rock. He transformed them and will see them through, perfecting the good work He began in their hearts.

Know When to Fold ‘Em

 

Remember the catchy Kenny Rogers song, “Know When to Hold ‘Em, Know When to Fold ‘Em?” (I’m sure you’re humming it right now.) There’s a lot of truth in that song and I’m smart enough to know when to fold ’em.

Come January, after a life-time of hanging with elementary kids in children’s church, I indeed am going to “fold ’em.” Kids will still be a major part of my life but that one particular ministry in my life will fold. It’s time.

And it’s okay that it’s time cuz’ I’ll be almost 70 years old by then. To be honest, my get up and go doesn’t want to, well, get up and go like it used to. Mike and I will still do preschool children’s church once a month and I’ll be part of the Wednesday night community outreach. I’ll also go to my fair share of teen and kids camps.

But come January…it will be strange to sit in church on the fourth Sunday of the month and not go to elementary children’s church. That also means I’ll pass along the B.G.M.C. ministry (children’s mission program) to a younger whipper-snapper. I’ll miss the kiddos but it’s been a good run.

I thank my heavenly Father for the wonderful privilege I’ve had to speak into the lives of children and tell them about Jesus. I’ve been at it so long that some of my earlier students are now grandparents. How cool it that? Totally cool, if you ask me.

Is There Anything I Can Say?

Let’s face it…things have been better. Way better. Right now the coronavirus has the world in a tight grip. The good news is, yes, it will eventually have to loosen its grip. But that doesn’t help with the here and now. It doesn’t pay the bills or put food on the table for those who’ve lost their jobs. It doesn’t bring comfort for those who have loved ones who are sick or who have died from the coronavirus. It’s a scary time.

During these tumultuous times I have been praying specifically for the children. It’s been said physically they will weather this trial better than most. I don’t know if that’s true or not but I hope it is so. My prayers have been focused primarily on their peace of mind and their fears. I’m close to my grandchildren, and yet, I can’t even begin to imagine the emotional toll this is having on them.

Is there anything I can say that will make this easier for them? Probably not. Their lives have been turned upset down over an extremely short period of time. (I mean, whoever thought that even finding a package of toilet paper would be a big deal?) I can’t make this thing better for them. What I can do is allow them the freedom to express themselves. I can allow them to share their fears, their disappointments, their anger.

When they cry, “It’s not fair,” because they can’t see their friends…they’re right. It’s not fair. It’s not fair when they can’t play sports. It’s not fair when they can’t go to school. It’s not fair when they have to be confined to the backyard on a beautiful spring day. It’s not fair when their relative dies from the virus and they can’t say good-bye. It’s not fair when dad and mom lose their jobs and now they have to do without some conveniences they’ve taken for granted.

I would encourage you to allow your children to express what they’re feeling. Allow them to release the emotions which are bottled up inside. Allow them to mourn the loss of graduation celebrations, not participating in sports, not being able to play with their neighborhood friends, not getting to say good-bye to their teachers with a hug. To adults, some of these things may seem minor compared to paying bills with money they don’t have, trying to put food on the table and put toilet paper in the bathroom.

But it’s not minor to them.

There’s a fine line between all of this and having a pity-party. A pity-party isn’t going to make them feel better. However, allowing them to express themselves and release pent up emotions will probably help them in the long run. You’ve probably seen the fear in their eyes anyway. Or the sadness on their faces. Or the explosive anger over minor incidences. Or the dark bedrooms where they’ve been keeping themselves.

God is an emotional God. And since we are created in His image, we are emotional beings as well. Perhaps it’s time to take the cork out of the bottle and let our kids express what’s really going on deep within. Maybe they simply need to have their feelings validated by someone no matter how trivial it may seem. And once they do open up, don’t judge. Hug them tightly and pray with them.

 

God Set Me Up, Again

tomica cars collections
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God did it again…He set me up royally. Once in a while, He reminds me that ever since I starting calling Him Lord, I freely relinquished my life’s control to Him. (He also likes to remind me He has a keen sense of humor.) Take last night for example.

Shortly before I left home for Superbook Academy (a children’s ministry at our church), I told God this was going to be the last year I’d teach. I reasoned that at my age it was getting harder for me to keep up with the 3rd & 4th graders.

One teacher couldn’t be at church due to her public school’s parent/teacher conferences. Since her kiddos have joined our class before, I was glad to have them do it again. We had a great time and everyone enjoyed themselves. Right before we dismissed, my regular students put stickers on their charts. (Once they earn 30 stickers, they receive a super cool toy or large candy bar from the “prize closet.”)

I need to put a disclaimer here. What I’m about to share doesn’t mean I’m a better teacher than Camille. I’m not and never will be. The key factor is the lure of prizes.

Several boys from Camille’s class wanted to add their names to the chart. I explained they couldn’t since they weren’t in my class. The boys begged to join our class. (Again, it had to do with prizes, not me.) I found out several of them would be in 3rd grade next year. In the middle of their protests, I promised them I’d be their teacher and we’d put their names on the chart then.

In that moment I heard the Lord say, “Gotcha!” I’m fairly sure He chuckled too. After promising the kids they’d have an opportunity to win prizes, I think I committed myself to another year of teaching.

Even though He got me good I’m not frustrated. I know if He’s called me, He’ll give me the zip my old bones will need to hang out with these incredible kids a little longer.

Living My Childhood Dream, Almost

Buddy Barrel

I’m living my childhood dream, almost. I lived with my grandparents until I was five years old when my mother remarried. During those early years, Grandma Walls took me to church every Sunday. She said when I was four-years-old I wanted to be a missionary.

The denomination we belonged to had a program for children called Boys and Girls Missionary Crusade. (It’s still around with a slight name change – Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge.) The children took home wooden barrels (now they’re plastic) which they saved coins in. Once a month they returned the barrels to church. The money went to missions around the world.

B.G.M.C. evidently made a huge impact on my life. I wanted to be a missionary. Unfortunately, the closest I came to being one was going on a mission trip to Mexico. I did travel for four years with an evangelistic team in the 70’s called “Early Church on Wheels.” Even that didn’t fulfill my dream of impacting lives for Jesus in a foreign country.

And yet, I feel like I’m fulfilling it now. At the church we’re attending, I’m the B.G.M.C. director. How cool is that? I may not reside in a foreign country but I help support the missionaries who do. Who knows? Perhaps I can influence some of our children to become what I always dreamed of becoming.

What childhood dream did you have? Is it possible for you to pick those desires up again? If you dreamed of being a classroom teacher and you’re not, maybe you could teach Sunday School. If you longed to be a professional singer and it didn’t happen, maybe you could conduct a church or children’s choir. Did you want to be a doctor or nurse? Most folks in the medical field have compassionate hearts. Maybe you could volunteer at a nursing home or homeless shelter allowing your compassion to flow towards those who desperately need it.

I may not be living my childhood dream in the way I’d hoped but I’m living it in the way God intended. Perhaps you could too.