I Still Want to Hang with the Kiddos

Even though I’m seventy-one years old, I’m not ready to quit hanging with children just yet. I came to that realization yesterday.

The pastor asked a few ladies in our church to pray about being a part of a women’s leadership team. His desire is for the women to come together in fellowship and outreach. I initially told him that if the Lord wanted me to be a part of the women’s team, I’d have to walk away from our Wednesday night children’s ministry endeavor. I felt like at my age it would be a challenge to do both. My husband and I also teach a preschool children’s church class once a month which we’ll continue to do.

Yesterday, at church, I prayed and asked the Lord what I’m supposed to do. I want His will to be done more than anything else. However, I felt unsettled about walking away from Wednesday nights. At some point, I realized I couldn’t quit. My heart is too invested in the lives of the children.

I still don’t know if I’m supposed to be a part of the women’s program but I do know that I’m not ready to stop hanging with the kiddos either. If He calls me to be a part of the women’s program, He’ll have to give me supernatural strength to do both.

If you’re a golden oldie like me, don’t let anyone convince you that you’re too old to minister to others whether it’s with children or women or whatever God leads you to do. He’s not done with us yet and for me that means spending more time with the children. Yay me!

When All Else Fails, Pray. Not.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6

Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

The above picture could’ve been me a couple Wednesday nights ago at Superbook Academy, a children’s outreach program at our church. Well, that could’ve have been me except I have grey hair and a lot more wrinkles. But the emotion in the picture captures how I felt.

The kids were squirrely. They wouldn’t sit still in their seats. They wouldn’t be quiet. They didn’t sing the songs. They didn’t even shout the songs. They SCREAMED the songs at ear-shattering decibels. It was one of those nights that challenged my sanity and made me wonder what in the world I was doing there, at my age no less.

I’m going to be honest with you. I didn’t pray before heading to church. I thought about it earlier in the day. Actually, the Holy Spirit prompted me to pray but I shrugged off His promptings. I so wish I would’ve heeded His voice. He knew I needed the prayer reinforcement but I didn’t see the need. After all, things had been going pretty well on Wednesday nights.

While the kiddos were watching the Superbook video lesson, I humbly sat in a chair off to the side of the group. And I began to pray. I repented for not obeying the Holy Spirit. I repented for thinking my abilities were sufficient. I prayed for the children and the remainder of the night.

As the saying goes, “When all else fails, pray.” Unfortunately, that’s bogus advice. Why did I wait until things got bad to pray? In all situations, instead of praying after everything else fails, I need to learn to take it to the Lord first. Every time.

Lesson learned this time.

The One Advice…

I’m thinking…I’m thinking…Hmm

If I could only give teachers (school or church) one piece of advice, what would it be? Good question. I’m thinking, I’m thinking.

Although it’s important, for my one piece of advice, I wouldn’t tell them to get as much education for themselves as they possibly can.

Although it’s important, for my one piece of advice, I wouldn’t remind them they are the adult in every situation that arises.

Although it’s important, for my one piece of advice, I wouldn’t encourage them to take advantage of conferences and training opportunities to hone their teaching skills.

Although it’s important, for my one piece of advice, I wouldn’t suggest they learn how to network with other teachers, administrators, school or churches.

Although it’s important, for my one piece of advice, I wouldn’t encourage them to stay the course and utilize their lesson plans daily (or weekly for Sunday School and children’s church).

Although it’s important, for my one piece of advice, I wouldn’t encourage them to communicate honestly and openly with parents.

Although it’s important, for my one piece of advice, I wouldn’t challenge them to be well-prepared for each lesson, even though the students can tell if they are or not.

The one piece of advice I’d give is this…for them to be real with their students. Make sure their love and concern are not an act. Anything less than being real will cause the children to shut them out because they can spot a phony a mile away. If they do all that is listed above but neglect to genuinely care for and be interested in each child in their charge, all will be for naught.

That is the one piece of advice I’d give above all others. What’s yours?

I’m Back

I’ve been quiet for the last few months refining a manuscript for a children’s chapter fiction book and ended up adding several chapters to it. Whew. It may take me a couple weeks to get back into the groove of writing on my blogs again, but I’m looking forward to the change. The nitty-gritty of preparing the manuscript for an editor was grueling but glad I focused on getting it done.

Mishaps In Teaching #3

Dear Lord, Where Am I Going?

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When we first started the church school, which later became known as The Study, we didn’t have a “home” for the school. Eventually, we met in double-wide trailers off of 60th & L Streets (in Omaha), but until then we were like a nomad school. Or I should say the teachers were nomads. For the first year and half, except for chapel one morning a week, we met in homes. Since we were considered a homeschool co-op by the state and didn’t have a daycare license, we were limited to how many preschool/elementary students we could have in each home.

For the first few months of school, my Kindergarten/First Grade class (along with our childcare for teachers with small children) met in the White’s home, then the James’ home and then the Dibert’s home. For the remainder of the year, they met in my home.

Here’s how my schedule looked the first year:

  • I taught Kindergarten/First Grade in the mornings, assisted by Ambur.
  • At lunch time, I took two of the kindergarten students and one daycare child over to the James’ home. One of the moms, Jeanne, taught the 5th/6th grade class there in the mornings. Jeanne and her kids then left for the day.
  • In the afternoons, Ambur stayed at my house to teach the 1st Grade class.
  • I drove to the Pagel’s house where Cheri taught the 3rd graders in the morning. I taught for her in the afternoon so she could go to the James’ to teach the 5th/6th grade classes. It would have been easier if I had stayed at the James’ when I dropped off the younger kids, but I didn’t feel qualified enough to instruct the older students.
  • Meanwhile, the Junior/Senior High School students were at the Long’s house the entire day. David, Carla, Don and Nita were their teachers.
  • Thank goodness we didn’t have second or fourth grade students the first year. I don’t know what we would’ve done with them.
  • At the end of the school day, I took third-grader Julia home and went to my second job where I worked for several hours.

Did you get all of that? Some days I didn’t. There were times I’d be in my car trying to figure out my destination. I’d look around to see if someone was with me. If I had Holly, Jared, and Gunnar, I knew that meant to drive to the James’ house. If I had Julia, I knew I was on my way to work after I dropped her off at home. The panic came when I didn’t have anyone in the vehicle with me. Was I on my way to the Pagels or work or home? A couple times I had to pull over into a parking lot until I could sort it out.

To me, those double-wide trailers never looked so good when we were finally able to meet in one location. As a school, we celebrated like crazy that first day together. It felt so right. I, along with my gas mileage and sanity, was the giddiest of them all.

Mishaps In Teaching #2

What Do You Do When Preschoolers Declare, “We Want to Go to Hell”?

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With over fifty years of teaching under my belt, I have lots of stories to tell. Some funny, some shocking, some shockingly funny. Here’s another one of those shockingly funny stories. This event occurred at the same church school mentioned in the last article, “Mishaps in Teaching #1.”

Being a typical school day – I didn’t say normal because our days were never normal – my assistant, Ambur, and I were doing our thing in the Kindergarten/First Grade classroom. Midmorning, Paul White, a childcare worker (we offered babysitting for our teachers), came downstairs interrupting my class. He said he had a situation and wasn’t for sure how to handle it.

Two of the preschool boys got into a discussion about Satan and hell. Understanding that Satan is the bad guy, the boys decided they wanted to go to hell to beat him up. Paul tried to explain to Brandon and Jared they didn’t have to beat up Satan. Jesus already did it by dying on the cross and coming back to life on the third day. Heavy topic for the three-year-old boys to grasp. I did the best I could in breaking it down for them, but I didn’t do a particularly good job either.

I reassured Paul I’d let the parents know so they could help the boys understand why they didn’t have to go to hell and have a face-off with Satan. Well, I forgot.

You see, we only had Kindergarten in the mornings for the first couple years at the church school. Once class dismissed, I drove two kindergartners and one preschooler home. (We were a small church school and I doubled as “bus driver” too.) On that particular day, we ran into another incident which made me forget all about Satan and hell.

In the car, the two kindergarteners were talking. Holly told Gunnar she thought it was cool how his father could screw his thumb off and on. Gunnar’s father had lost his thumb in a work accident several years ago and he liked to trick the children into to thinking he could indeed screw off his thumb. He used his good thumb as part of the trick and to the children it looked real.

Gunnar and I tried to explain to Holly it was a trick but, to her literal way of thinking, she knew what she saw. By the time we got to the house, she was in tears. I explained to her mother what happened, and she said she’d have a talk with her. I returned to school for my afternoon classes.

I forgot about Satan and hell until Jeanne called me later in the day. As soon as I answered the phone, she asked me, “Do you want to tell me why my son wants to go to hell? He said you had something to do with it.”

After I took them home, Jeanne and the kids went grocery shopping. When they got to the store, Jared jumped out of the van. To his mother’s horror, he declared loudly to everybody within hearing, “I want to go to hell.”

What can I say? Oops, my bad. I forgot. It made me think of the song, “Momma said there’d be days like this.” Truth be told, folks, there’s never a dull moment when you hang with children.

Holly, Gunnar, Jared, and Brandon are adults now. Hey guys, thanks for the memories and laughs. Those were good times.

Mishaps In Teaching #1

Sometimes Life Happens Right in the Middle of Your Lesson Plans

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I’ve had my fair share of mishaps in teaching since I’ve taught in some capacity or another for 50+ years. I’ve had the privilege of teaching some of the best kiddos you’d ever want to meet. We’ve had some great times and, yes, some not so great times. I loved it when my lesson plans came together, and the children enjoyed and responded positively to what they were learning.

I must admit, though, some of my most memorable moments are the mishaps life threw at me right in the middle of my lesson plans.

I’ve decided to share some of these stories with you over the next few weeks. Most of them don’t have a moral to teach or some spiritual truth I can dwell upon. However, these are true-life experiences forever etched in my mind. Some are funny. Some are shocking. Some are shockingly funny. My first story falls under the “shockingly funny” category.

The Squirrel

I worked at a small church school for several years. The first year of the school I taught a combined Kindergarten and First Grade class. For a couple months, two afternoons a week, I taught a combined Bible Class for grades 1-6.

When the school first opened, our students didn’t immediately connect with each other. Most of the students came from various public schools across Omaha and some weren’t crazy about attending a church school. As a result, there were disagreements and bickering.

During the first month of school, in Bible Class, I did a three-part series on the word “perspective.” I used the cliché, “Don’t judge an Indian unless you walk a mile in his moccasins.” The lessons were designed to draw us closer to each other and to the Lord by helping us see our new environment through someone else’s experiences. (For example, one family drove over an hour one way to school. To get there on time the kids had to get up at 5:30 a.m.)

At the end of the first lesson, I had the children spread out around the classroom (a.k.a. the White’s living room…long story I’ll tell another time). They could sit anywhere they wanted but no two people could face in the same direction. They drew charcoal pictures of the classroom from the perspective of where they were sitting. The lesson hit home and the response from the students was positive.

After the second lesson, we went outside and did the same thing. They could sit anywhere they wanted but no two people could face in the same direction. They then drew charcoal pictures of the outdoors from the perspective of where they were sitting.

I had one little guy in third grade who couldn’t decide where to sit or what to draw. For about ten minutes he walked around trying to find the perfect spot. I told him that he’d have to choose, or I would do it for him. Finally, he found something to draw.

A squirrel had stopped in the street to open an acorn. Zeke sat down in the grass to draw the cute bushy-tailed critter. Some of the students were “oohing” and “aahing” the small rodent. Zeke no sooner sat down when a white van came careening around the corner and squashed the poor, unsuspecting animal. The children saw it all.

I held my breath not knowing how Zeke or the other children would respond to such a tragic death taking place right before their eyes. After a few seconds of silence, one little first-grade girl spoke, “Uh, does anyone have a red crayon?” (And yes, she said it with emphasis on the word red.)

The students then ran to the road to see the dead squirrel. I could hear comments of “Oh cool, road-kill.” “Gross. Just gross.” “Is he in heaven?” “I think I’m going to barf.”

Thank goodness the school day ended a couple minutes later.

Again, there’s no moral lesson to take away from the story. No spiritual truth I can draw from the unfortunate occurrence. All we have is an event that makes us chuckle when we get together and reminisce about our school days.

The good news is the children learned, not only to like each other, but to love each other too. Some are still friends twenty years later. Maybe that’s the point of the story. This was the first thing that happened to us as a group which drew us together. It gave us common ground even if it was connected to a squished squirrel.

(This is the first of many stories I look forward to sharing with you over the coming weeks. The next story will be about a little preschooler who wanted to go to hell.)

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)