I Can’t Always Be Their Best Friend

girl and three boys on staircase

Photo by samer daboul on Pexels.com

I’ve spent most of my life hanging with children. Even now, as a senior citizen, kids impact my life on a daily basis. A lot of my close friends are children and we have loads of fun together.

I enjoy being their friend. However, if I compromise my beliefs or shirk my responsibilities to them just so they’ll like me, I’m not doing them any favors. At times, I have to make tough calls knowing I’m not winning any popularity contests. Unfortunately, I’ve seen teachers who want to be liked by the children, so much so, they will forego doing the right thing.

When boundaries in a classroom (whether in academia or Sunday School) aren’t set then frustration and anger usually raise their ugly heads. I’ve seen folks put up with complete chaos because they want to be the “cool” teacher; after all, “cool” teachers don’t scold or bring discipline. The fact is learning doesn’t take place either.

Sometimes I have to bring correction to a child. Sometimes I have to give them a resounding “No!” Sometimes I have to remind the child their actions or words aren’t acceptable. It’s okay. It’s okay because these children know I want what is best for them. We’ve hung out together enough that they know my heart.

*Proverbs 3:11, 12 states, “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction; for whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights.” God loves me enough to bring reproof. It’s for my own good and He knows it. I need to care enough to do what is best for the children too.

I learned this lesson the hard way. The first year I taught at a church school, it took almost the entire year before I gave out my first demerit. When I finally did, I felt terrible and bawled like a baby. Fortunately, the second demerit was a whole lot easier to give. As a result, it brought structure to my classroom which was desperately needed.

If I truly love these children, then there’ll be occasions when I’ll need to speak the harder things into their lives. That doesn’t mean it’s easy or that I like doing it. But it’s necessary. I want them to understand these boundaries are for their good. My desire is for them to grow into responsible adults able to function in a challenging world. I’m not doing them any favors by coddling them.

Sometimes I have to “speak the truth in love**” even when they don’t like what I have to say. I care about them enough to put forth the effort.

 

*(NKJV)

**Ephesians 4:15

I Have Some Devotions…

Awesome sauce…I had the privilege of writing a couple devotions in this book. The book will be available on Wednesday, July 3rd. To God be the glory. The women who were involved in this project love Jesus passionately and care about others deeply. It’s a great way to start or end your day meditating on the Word of God.

Drawing Near1

To order books:

Drawing Near 90 Day Devotional

https://www.amazon.com/dp/179757826x?ref_=pe_3052080_397514860

 

 

You Can’t Fool Kids

Here’s a simple fact: You can’t fool kids. They have the ability to see what is true. If you’re not prepared for class, they know it. If you don’t like hanging with them, they know it. If you don’t have the all the answers, don’t try to pretend that you do, because they’ll see right through you. If you’re frustrated, they will see it and jump all over your frustration making your life miserable. If you can’t accept them for who they are, they will know it and will shun you.

There’s a little guy in the preschool children’s church class who’s four years old. You wouldn’t think a little guy like that could keep things crazy busy all morning but sometimes it does get crazy busy. Don’t get me wrong. He’s a great kid and says funny things that make me laugh. He’s a little reluctant to hang with me, though. It didn’t take long for him to figure out I like things well structured with a tight schedule. His busy, can’t-sit-still-too-long way of doing things and my tight schedule don’t mix very well.

He also knows I’m trying to change him and that my teaching comes with conditions. It’s like he’s a rectanglar peg that I’m trying to pound into my circular hole of teaching.

But he loves my husband, Mike. And my husband really likes this little guy. And this little guy knows it. He’s always asking my husband, “Can I go to your house today? I want to go to your house. Let’s go to your house.”

It helps that Mike’s teaching style usually involves him lying on the floor having the kids crawl all over him. He still manages to get the lesson across, minus the well structured class with the tight schedule. And he never tries to change this little guy’s personality. He may have to occasionally discipline him, but there’s still an acceptance of Mike liking him no matter what the boy does.

You can’t fool kids, especially this one. He knows I’m going to attempt to change him and squeeze his rectangular personality into my round peg. My husband has learned something I’m still trying to figure out…one size teaching doesn’t fit all just like one size learning doesn’t fit all. AND IT’S OKAY FOR THERE TO BE DIFFERENT WAYS OF DOING IT. Fortunately, Mike’s way of handling things is just right for him and the preschool class as a whole.

I think both these guys have something to teach this round peg.

 

 

Well, That Was Downright Embarrassing!

I can’t believe I’m sharing this embarrassing moment with you but it does bring glory to God so, yeah, I’ll share it. Last night at Superbook Academy (children’s outreach program at church), we had some visitors and three of them would be in my class. Whoo-hoo! I was excited.

We always start out with a group session with all the children together. I was sharing something with the group and told them that I was 66 years old (it went with the story, like okay?). One of the visiting girls exclaimed, “Sixty-six? I thought you were like 86 years old.” Waaaaaaaaaaah! Of course, my first thought was to go find a hole and crawl into it.

And then it actually went downhill from there. The three visitors were friends (two girls, one boy) and once they realized they were going to be in my class all three were noticeably disappointed. None of them were thrilled. On the way down the stairs to class, the same girl said, “Oh man! We got the old, ugly one.” Waaaaaaaaaaah! I was ready to throw in the towel thinking, “She’s right…I’m way too old [and evidently too ugly] to be doing this.” The odds of us having a good time weren’t great. It was obvious they didn’t want to be in my class and I certainly didn’t want to be there either since I was too busy licking my wounds.

But God…I’ve said it many times before and will say it again that “But God” is one of my favorite phrases…had other plans. We had a wonderful night laughing, playing games, laughing some more and getting into the Word of God. Arts and crafts were a HUGE mess but a HUGE success as well. I don’t get any of the credit because the last thing I wanted was to be in the same classroom with that little she-devil and her little imps. Despite all the negativity, God showed up in a remarkable way. By the end of the class all three of the visitors excitedly told me that they couldn’t wait to come back next week. I love how God took an ugly situation and turned it around into something beautiful. To God be the glory. God is Good. Always.

Reese’s Pieces

I love how God sets us up sometimes even when we don’t realize He’s doing it. That’s what happened to me yesterday during Children’s Church.

My family has been dealing with a crisis situation for the past seven weeks (see lolliehofer.blogspot.com for the full story) and life has become much busier than normal. This past weekend was especially hectic. By the time I got to church yesterday morning I was totally exhausted from the craziness of the weekend.

It was Mission’s Sunday using a program called Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge and our emphasis was on Fiji. The children give a special offering for the focused country and I always provide a little reward for them…this time boxes of Reese’s Pieces. However, once the children were settled into their seats, fatigue hit me so hard I had a difficult time even standing. The children were surprised when they heard me say, “Hey! Let’s each grab a box of Reese’s Pieces and head outside. I don’t think God will mind one bit if we just sit around eating Reese’s Pieces for a while.” And that’s exactly what we did.

We went out one of the back doors to a stoop of steps. Sitting on the steps, we ate our candy and talked about absolutely nothing of importance for about fifteen minutes. The children loved it. While hanging out on the back stoop, a couple of the neighborhood kids showed up on their bikes. I knew Kyle and Tessa because they come to our Wednesday night neighborhood outreach, “Superbook Academy.” I told my grandson, Micah, to go to the classroom and get boxes of candy for them as well. The church kiddos did a great job of including Kyle and Tessa in our discussion about absolutely nothing of importance.

When it was time to go back in and actually learn something about Fiji, Kyle and Tessa asked if they could join us. Since they both lived close to the church, I told them to run home and ask for parental permission. Within five minutes they were both back and joined us for the rest of Children’s Church learning about missions around the world and particularly in Fiji.

What I loved was that a missionary outreach took place right in our church’s backyard. Even though both of the children attended regularly on Wednesday nights, we were able to open the way for them to attend on Sunday mornings as well. I know they enjoyed themselves and plan on returning.

Don’t you love it when God sets you up like that? We thought it was about playing hooky and eating Reese’s Pieces. God had something even better in mind.

 

Kids Are Fairly Smart Human Beings

After teaching in many different capacities (Children’s Church, Sunday School, Christian School Teacher, Friends & Heroes, etc) for some 47 years, I have learned one extremely important fact. Kids are fairly smart human beings. I’ve come to realize it’s wise to listen to what they’re saying once in a while. When I do listen to them I’m sure to experience something new. Case in point…

Several years ago we were using two dog puppets, Suzi and Ruff,  as part of our Children’s Church curriculum. Every Sunday we would use the dogs to bring life application to a Biblical truth we were studying and just about every Sunday the children would ask if the dogs were boyfriend and girlfriend.

Every week they would get the same answer, “No.” One week in particular when I said, “No!” the children wanted to know why the answer was always no. “Why can’t they be boyfriend and girlfriend?” “Is there a law that says dogs can’t have boyfriends and girlfriends?” “My grandma said her dog has a boyfriend that lives across the street from her house.”

I finally talked with my Children’s Church staff and asked them the same thing. We decided that these fairly smart human beings were onto something. We started allowing the two dogs to express interest in each other and made it obvious that there was a “like” connection. I did make it clear to my puppeteers (teenagers) that there was to be no amorous affection displayed. Even when we announced they were officially “courting” each other, there was very little display of affection. We wanted it to be about them getting to know each other and not about kisses and hugs.

It was fun to watch them grow more in like as they pursued a relationship with each other and with Jesus. The children absolutely went ballistic the week we announced Ruff’s and Suzi’s engagement. Even then there wasn’t a whole lot of physical attraction displayed but it was apparent by their words and actions they were very much in love.

When their wedding day arrived we decorated the Children’s Church room like a wedding chapel. We had the children dress up in their finest clothing. There was an actual ceremony where Ruff and Suzie finally professed their love one to the other and kissed. Afterwards, we had a reception complete with wedding cake and punch.

They “registered” at Target…we had the women’s ministry make a list of needed kitchen items…and the children were encouraged to bring inexpensive gifts which could be used in the church’s kitchen. Each child opened the gift they gave to the happy couple.

We didn’t stop with the wedding. A couple months later we announced that Ruff and Suzi were going to be parents. Since Ruff and Suzi where white fluffy dogs we made five puppets out of white socks. Once we announced the birth of the puppies we then had a baby shower for them. Again, we encouraged the children to bring inexpensive gifts that could be utilized in the church’s nursery. We played games and once again finished with cake and punch.

The puppies led praise songs in Children’s Church. They learned about Jesus. They had great times bonding together. They argued just like ever other sibling. They lived lives to which the children could totally relate. We had a blast! But to be honest, it was a lot of work and so after about 7 months of friendship, courtship, marriage and puppies we had the family move away. It was a lot of work but we sure did create some great memories.

I’m thankful the Lord put something special in the heart of our children which made us think outside the normal box of learning. If I hadn’t listened to the children we wouldn’t have these incredible memories that we still reminiscence about whenever we get together.

You know, children really are smart human beings and sometimes it’s to our benefit to listen to them.

 

 

Who Am I?

I am a Christian who loves Jesus. I am also a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a Children’s Church teacher, a Friends &  Heroes teacher and a school teacher. Wait, scratch that last one. For the first time in many, many, many, many, many, many (did I mention many?) years I am not a teacher. At least not in the academic environment. I taught at a church school full-time for several years and then part-time for a few more years. During those part-time time years of teaching I babysat my three grandchildren, plus I homeschooled two of them for a couple of years. In the middle of all that craziness I found time to tutor. However, this year I am not teaching at the church school nor homeschooling the grandkids nor tutoring. For the first time in a long time I will not be hanging out with children on a daily basis. I haven’t retired from teaching (at least I don’t think so) but I won’t be teaching this year. That’s tough on a little ol’ lady who loves children and enjoys showing them the wonders this world has to offer.

I certainly didn’t lose my identity as a person by not teaching, and yet, I have to admit I feel a little lost. There’s still plenty to keep my busy…I’ll be working more hours at our auto repair shop…I had worked at the shop part-time when I was teaching anyway. I’ll still be involved in children’s church and Friends & Heroes and will eventually return to tutoring.  I will adjust to things being different but, just for today, I have to admit I feel a little sad. And that’s okay.

God Doesn’t Always Have To Make Sense

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.  “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55:8,9

Is God calling you to do something that doesn’t necessarily make sense?  Are you hesitant because it seems so irrational? Good news!  God doesn’t always have to make sense.  There are several incidences in the Bible that come to mind:  Gideon, Jonah, Naaman, Esther, and Jehoshaphat just to name a few.

When I was twenty-three years old, I was the receptionist at a large church in Chula Vista, CA.  The Christian Ed director could not find anyone to take the 8th grade boys’ Sunday School class where there was anywhere from 7-9 boys on any given Sunday.  Somehow Dean persuaded me to take that class.  The class was filled with high-energy boys and there were Sundays when not a lot of teaching took place.  It really didn’t make one bit of sense to put me in that classroom.  All the wisdom in the world said it wouldn’t work.

“But God”…that’s one of my favorite phrases in the Bible because that means God is usually about to do something remarkable.  But God knew exactly what He was doing when He put me together with those teenage boys.

One frustrating Sunday I realized I was totally ill-equipped to teach the boys and God had made the worse mistake of His (and my) life.  My teaching style at that time was mainly lecture where I talked on and on, blah, blah, blah, blah.  Even I was bored.  At the end of that class and without giving it much thought, I felt led to make an announcement.  I told the boys that the next Sunday we were going to have a debate.  I gave them a scenario and they had to pick which side of the debate they wanted to be on.  They could use data from any source they wanted but they also had to use scripture to support their side of the issue.  At the end of the debate I would declare one team a winner.

The scenario went like this:  An army officer has knowledge of highly sensitive intelligence information.  It is so sensitive that he has a suicide pill on him which he must take, if ever captured.  He is captured, takes the pill and dies.  He was a Christian.  Did he commit murder?  Did he go to heaven?

I was totally shocked at what came out of my mouth that Sunday morning but I was even more shocked when those boys showed up with their Bibles in hand the next week ready to debate.  I sat through the entire class with my mouth hanging open.  I began to panic because they were so well prepared on both sides of the issue and I didn’t know which side to declare the winner.  Desperately praying, I asked the Lord for wisdom.  And then it came to me in the split-second I needed to make a decision.  Both teams won.   Some of those boys, probably for the first time in their lives, willingly picked up a Bible.  I told them I wasn’t the Judge who could determine the right and wrong of what the army officer did, although a loving God would judge fairly.  But I did know both teams were winners because they eagerly dove into the word of God to find answers for themselves.

Those boys were changed that day but so was their teacher.  I realized they needed a variety of activities and challenges to keep them engaged.  There were still crazy Sundays because they were still full of crazy energy but we started having fun.  We also began hanging together outside of the classroom.  We swept the church’s massive parking lot.  We went out for pizza.  We went to a nursing home after church on Sunday a couple of times.  Once I was married, we had them over to our house for a Sunday afternoon cookout.  When I look back over the years, the time I spent with those crazy teenage boys are some of my fondest memories.

Is God calling you to do something that seems absolutely irrational to the logical mind?  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t count the cost but on the other hand, you might want to tear up that pro and con list you made and trust God…even when He doesn’t make sense.

Lord, What Were You Thinking?

“From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise.”  Psalm 8:2(a)

In September, 2013, my church began a program for children called Friends and Heroes.  We thought it would be cool to reach out to the children in the neighborhood and also to an apartment complex a couple of miles from the church.  We were full of excitement and had a strong desire to serve the children and to share with them Jesus’ love.  That excitement lasted about 10 minutes into the program on the first night.  We found out rather quickly that having 85% of those attending from outside the church involved a whole different ballgame than the one we were used to playing.

These kids bounced off the walls.  When I say they bounced off the walls I mean they literally bounced off the walls.  The classrooms in the basement of the church have brick walls.  Some of the boys would actually climb the walls just like they were training for the Ninja Warriors series on TV.  Once they got to the top they would jump to the floor.  The children have come a long way since that first night but at times it’s still a struggle.  A lot of nights we measure the present by how they behaved in the past.  “Well, at least we’re able to teach them more than we did this time last year.”  On more than one occasion, I’ve asked the Lord, “What were You thinking?”

It’s not like we haven’t seen fruit because we have.  Many children have given their hearts to Jesus, as well as some of the parents.  One couple was headed for divorce.  They came for counseling with the pastor, God got a hold of their hearts and they now attend church on Sunday mornings.  Another family almost had their house repossessed and through prayer and the church’s food pantry, we were able to see them get on the other side of their financial difficulties.  One of the mothers died a couple of months ago and a teacher, Miss Rhonda , has reached out to her children in special ways.

And then two Wednesday night ago God beautifully showed us He is indeed in control, these are His children and He absolutely adores them.  We are raising money to buy six goats to give to three families in a third-world country and I’m responsible for taking the offering.  God impressed upon me to go a different direction that night.  Instead of giving my normal “offering speech,” He told me to show a video of Chris Tomlin singing his song, “Jesus Loves Me.”

As the song was playing, for the first time, many of the children felt the tangible presence of God.  Without giving an “altar call” some of the children came forward and knelt at the altar.  A couple of the girls were crying.  Some of the younger children were drawn to sit on the floor up on the stage.  Two of my grandchildren snuggled with me while worshipping Jesus.  It was touching to look out at the kids still in the pews.  Their eyes were closed, some were swaying to the music, a couple of them had their hands raised, some were bent over with their heads in their laps.  God’s presence was there and it was incredible watching the children respond to Him.  All too soon the music was over.

You know, I can’t say it was the kiddos who were changed that night.  Some of them are still wall climbers full of crazy energy but I now know they’re wall climbers who love Jesus.  I’m the one who is different.  I saw God and the children loving on each other.  I saw it in the expressions on their faces and in the way they responded to His presence.  He is for those children.  How could I not be too?

The teachers at O.C.C. are experienced saints who have been involved with children for years and know how to work with them.  However, these children are unique and not like any others we have ever dealt with before.  What was God thinking when He sent them our way?  He was thinking about how much He loves them, how much He is for them and that they are totally worth the effort.

You know, they really are worth all the craziness.

It Helps to be a Little Bit Crazy

I like hanging with kids, I really do.  I’ve been doing it since 1970 when I first gave my heart to Jesus.  Almost immediately God called me to hang with the kids.  When I was first saved, I had the exciting privilege of hanging with them as a child evangelist when I traveled with an evangelistic team.  I’ve hung out with them in Sunday School classes, Children’s Church, as a teacher for several years at a  home school  co-op, various Wednesday night programs, Sidewalk Sunday and other outreach programs, as a mother and now a grandmother.  God has been good to me by allowing these wonderful kiddos to be a part of my life.  They have blessed me, challenged me, unconditionally loved me, infuriated me, exhausted me, encouraged me, made me smile, laugh and cry.  One thing is for sure, it really does help to be a little bit crazy.  It makes things more interesting and fun for the children as well as for me, and the craziness probably has helped keep me sane (sometimes).

I’m not exactly sure which way this blog is headed.  I do know it will have a lot to do with children.  Perhaps along the way, I can encourage you as a parent, grandparent, teacher or simply as one who loves children.    I enjoy writing children’s stories so maybe I’ll go in that direction as well and share some of my ideas and creative writings.

Let’s get one thing straight, right off the bat.  I don’t have it altogether when it comes to being a parent, grandparent, or teacher.  I’ve made my fair share of mistakes (and then some) so don’t expect me to do this perfectly.  You’re more likely to learn from my mistakes than from my successes.  Hopefully, though, the journey will be a little bit crazy and a whole lot of fun.