Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Milestone Memento Balls: Remembering Whose You Are

Recently the fifth graders in our congregation celebrated their 5th grade milestone. In our congregation this is public recognition of Holy Communion, though they may partake in the meal before that time.

Because this marked the rounding out of their Children's Ministry milestones, I wanted to design a special conversation piece for families that would unite them around their church dinner table in meaningful discussion while creating a permanent memento the students could forever enjoy.

And I came up with these milestone memento balls.

I cannot tell you how much fun families had with them. Inside of these fillable ornament balls, simple to open and snap close + spacious enough to fill with items, I selected one symbol for each faith milestone they've celebrated along the way. Then, at the dinner, I named each milestone and what it means for us in our Christian walk along with a discussion question. When they finished sharing their answers as a family, the student added that symbol to their ornament.

Families opened up to each other with questions like What is one thing you are lifting up to God right now in prayer? (for the Lord's Prayer and adding a candle), laughed together with What is one rule in your life - commandments, home, church, school, that is hardest for you to follow but you know is for your good? (10 Commandments and adding a stone), and celebrated God's incredible Word with What is your favorite Bible verse? (Bibles and adding a cross + paper with their verse written on it).

After the Bible milestone discussion I asked the students in the group if any of them wanted to share their favorite verse or story and the room came alive. I was running around the space with the microphone from student to student. One's sister even spontaneously sang an entire song around her brother's verse! It was amazing. I totally should've opted for practical shoes over trendy, but there is no better problem for a Director of Faith Formation to have :)

The evening was, without question, one of my favorite moments in my ministry since joining staff so I had to share because this engaging activity is easily adaptable for milestone celebrations of all seasons and spaces in life.

Children are so incredible. To celebrate this night with my own 5th grader and witness the depth of these students' faith was truly a gift. They will add so much to youth group next year!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Why I Love Good Friday

“Please take this cup of suffering away from me.” Luke 22:42

This is a Jesus I can relate to.

Turns out adulting can be over rated. In addition to added responsibility and schedule juggling there is all the extra “stuff.”

There will be an empty chair this Easter where someone we loved once sat. When I look at my husband during Good Friday service, his chin is in his hands. His eyes moist with hurt.

We need Sunday for hope. But we sit in the Friday pain and Saturday ache resonating with our Jesus friend who understands.

Two steps through a door and I’m wishing differently. A tsunami of tears threaten and I hold my breath because somehow it feels safer than letting them go. To sit is to dwell in the hurt and deal with what is. But, love for another draws stronger than running away.

Sometimes the very bravest thing we do is take the next step.

Hear the next piece of news.

Life this side of Glory is predictably unpredictable. In the midst of laughter and sarcasm and fun there are honest whisperings of brokenness. Sudden loss. Unanswered prayers to become a parent. Children making wayward choices for those who are. Job dissatisfaction. Marriages gasping for breath. Disease. Hurts. Debilitations. Waits…

Struggle is a tie that binds.

Hanging in hurt is a feeling we all know and understand.

My suffering will never match the pain my Jesus chose to endure for me. But, begging God for a way out, finding relationship a worthy sacrifice for pain, and residing in agony? These are things both my Jesus and I understand.

Friday is good because it is reminder that we are not alone.

Saturday we hold vigil like so many of the situations we experience that don’t quickly resolve.

Sunday there is new life.

Tomorrow promises balloons and brass and Easter dresses with sparkly shoes, yet that is for the future. I’m okay with not being there yet and I don’t rush it. I actually find incredible solace here. 

This moment overflows with profound appreciation for a Lord who didn’t do all things supernatural.

Jesus, in his humanity, gave us freedom to cry out, to ask the questions, to believe that eventually new life will emerge from the dead spaces, and, when that doesn’t happen immediately, rest in the normalcy of wait, too.

This Lord, who WILL restore all that is broken this side of heaven, gifts us a Friday and Saturday to provide peace in despair and a Knowing Friend through all our days.

I hear your cry.

I know your pain.

I will love you through it.

And one day you will smile again.

This is a Jesus I can confidently trust my life to.

xx Melissa

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Business of Living, and How We Do So, is a Constant Choice of Priority

When I realized I hadn’t posted since the end of January my hubby suggested I write on the benefits of keeping your Christmas tree up year round. While I gave him the “aren’t you hilarious” ha-ha, his words have point. The Christmas tree is still up. Life has been full.

This past week Hannah’s teacher won the Sioux Falls Teacher of the Year award. As if the joy of nominating her wasn’t enough, being invited to attend the banquet with her and hear her name made my eyes glisten. This is an educator who never rests with what is, but is always asking what could make school better and finds way to make it possible. This is also a dear friend who put her hands in soapy water to clean dishes alongside me in silent support on a tough day and loved me in moments I didn’t particularly love myself.

I also spent time at hospice with one of my besties and her family. Yesterday she had to say a “goodbye” I know all too well. I wished I could take her pain from her, but I couldn’t. So, I did what we’ve always done for each other – show up. We ate, cried, hugged, felt the gamut of big feelings and threw in a little innate sarcasm with gentle awareness that even when it feels like the ground is falling out from underneath our people catch us and carry us through. Hard, holy, precious moments in heartbreak.

And, in between, of course, has been all of the normal. Work is crazy busy with huge events and summer prep yet God fuels me with a smile and affirmation that this is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. Unique volunteer opportunities in my girls’ school keeps me present for landmark events in their elementary education. Dance and volleyball and helping the girls study fit in between family games of UNO and HORSE in the driveway and bike rides through the neighborhood.

The business of living, and how we do so, is a constant choice of priority.

I found myself telling somebody, “Just love ____ the best you know how right now. That might look different now than it does five hours from now but if you do this moment in the way that feels right you won’t have regret.”

I left chewing on my own words. I think I’ve, at times, struggled with what success looks like. I don’t think I’m alone, as I think most of us would desire the perfectly clean house, accomplished work in our home and/or the business world, time with the people we love, and some sort of defining greatness.

Doing all of that is pretty unrealistic.

But maybe greatness comes through a series of small moments.

If I’ve felt anything this week, it is what an honor it is to break from the routine to see an extraordinary friend’s “extra” acknowledged and wipe tears in shared brokenness. The gift of witnessing a parent steady their child’s hand to paint the outline of a cross, affirming my girl’s smarts in prepping for a Revolutionary War test, and laughing in the driveway at my man who insists on taking silly shots between the garbage cans in family basketball games like the child who never grew up.

God shows up in these moments.

So, if you come to my house, the Christmas tree will probably still be up. It’s already April, after all, and I like it out in November anyway. 😊 The benefit is I’ll be choosing my minutes well. And, on that note, I’m off to bump the ball with my girls.

Please know I haven’t forgotten you, I’ve just been busy making life rich with meaning.

I hope you’ll choose to do the same.

The day is full of potential.
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