Tag Archives: teaching Sunday School

panic mode.

We have a 3-to-6 week window in which to have a baby.

And to put together a garage sale, and organize/clean/prettify our house and also sell it. And finish construction enough to move into the new house. And I just gave myself a heart attack thinking about all of it.

P.S. I am out of brown paper bags.

Here’s what’s been done to our middle-of-nowhere farmhouse this past week:

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Door knobs, and locks! This is a big deal.

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Actual garage doors. Also big.

It doesn’t seem like much. I am overwhelmed whenever I am out there. Piles of scrap lumber everywhere. Red dirt everywhere. Wood shavings–everywhere. I know it’s all coming together and it just takes time, but I’m losing the vision and I’m getting discouraged. There’s just so much to finish, and so many other things to do in our current house, in our church, and in our community.

Here’s what I don’t get to watch: Caleb, busting his rear end at his job during the day, and out at the property in the early morning and late night hours–mowing, drilling, wiring, hammering, sweeping, sweating…he comes home, picks the stickers out of his shoes, and rinses the sawdust out of his hair. I watch him sleeping comatose beside me, and I know how hard he is working just for us. His dedication is unreal and his energy is almost inhuman. I go back and forth between feeling incredibly grateful to distressingly guilty on a minute-to-minute basis.

This is where we knew it would get hard.

Y’all, this is soooo just…life. At times it’s tiring, overwhelming, and discouraging, especially when we don’t physically see any progress being made–but God cares about us. He is always working behind the scenes.

We sign on the dotted line, in theory knowing full good and well what it should take to actually follow Him–but the experience turns out to be more trying than we imagine. We question His techniques and His time frame, and we get impatient.

God is faithful. He stays working.

Exhaustion sets in. Our feet are sore, and it’s unbearably hot outside, and there are freaking wasps everywhere. We have so many other things on our to-do lists. People around us question. We worry. We doubt. Are we done yet, God? This is not turning out like I thought it would. Will things get any easier? Aren’t you going to help us? Are you sure this is what we were supposed to be doing?


I’ve been teaching my Sunday school class about the part of the Bible where the Israelites keep being unfaithful to God–which if you’ve read the whole Old Testament (I hadn’t), you would know that this is an ongoing theme that pretty much describes the case 97% of the time.

In preparing for the lessons I would ask this question over and over again: “Israelites, REALLY, for the love of GOD, you have your marching orders. How do you keep getting into these predicaments? How is this hard? Has God not told you? Has God not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. No, strong. And courageous. I said COURAGEOUS! Do not, I repeat, DO NOT worship other–DOH!”

After almost a year of studying this sort of business in the ancient land of God, the Israelites developed a reputation with me for sucking majorly.

But after a small season of stress in my own life, I get it.

Bad kings dictated. Invaders invaded. Wars raged. It got hot and food got scarce and there were undoubtedly wasps everywhere. (Because wasps are inherently evil and should be eradicated from the face of this planet.)

God’s people had heard. Some had even seen. They all knew.

But fragile human minds can only take so much–especially when we are not fully leaning on and listening to God during times of trial and uncertainty. We invite temptation in our attempts to do things out of our own power. We forget the basics and make things way more complicated than they need to be. We quickly become spiritually discouraged and tired, and then lazy and weak.

This part of our nature is not anything to be proud of. It’s not anything to coolly accept–but if we’re at least aware of it, we can take steps to fight it.

A wise man once said: “Knowing is half the battle.”

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But an even wiser man said this:

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God is working. He works in the wee small hours of the morning, and well into the scary darkness of the night. When we’re tired, He is energized and moving, sweating, and covered in sawdust, and fighting off wasps. He won’t stop–and NOT so that our little selves can have the house of our dreams for a few measly years here on Earth.

God is constantly working in us, so that many people can have an eternity of Heaven with Him. He is loving. He is faithful. He keeps His promises.

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Tying in.

A couple weekends ago, Caleb and I took the kids to see Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2. Second best movie ever made. Know what the first best movie ever made was?

Willow.

Anyway the movie was awesome. Can you see it without seeing the original “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” (which, p.s., is nothing like the book) ? Yes…I suppose. It’s cute, it’s got an easy-enough to follow plot. But really? You should see the first one anyway. Knowing the backstory isn’t mandatory but it will enhance your comprehension and enjoyment of the second film.

Kind of sort of switching the subject completely but it relates eventually–my church gots this Sunday school lesson plan called The Gospel Project. If you’ve heard of it, you know where I’m going with this: each class learns the stories of the Old Testament chronologically, so that humanity’s need for a savior is apparent and the New Testament makes sense.

I’ve been “teaching” the 2-3 year olds and let me tell you: I’ve learned so stinking much. Sure, I knew a few key stories of the bible–Adam and Eve, Noah’s ark, Jonah and the whale–from when I was little. I learned about Jesus. In my teens I learned about Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses; Ruth and Naomi, Saul and David, King Solomon. And beyond that? Well it was all a little fuzzy.

Until recently. My class has been studying the time after Solomon–greatest king in the whole world–screwed up and managed to divide the entire kingdom of Israel. You had one job, Solomon.

Now we’re looking at Israel in the north and Judah in the south, and the whole thing is a mess. There’s bad kings and bad people, doing all kinds of voodoo with all kinds of false gods. People are sinning and they just can’t stop. They won’t stop. They live in a world that’s obsessed with riches and consumed with lust and swollen with pride. They’re not seeking God. They’re only seeking themselves. (Sound familiar?)

And all along, there are some who are still faithful. Prophets preach and drop mad hints about a coming savior. They tell the rest of the country that God is the one true God. They are highly unpopular, to say the least. But they keep on keepin’ on. Even though they won’t live to see it, they know God will carry out His ultimate plan.

It’s a riveting backstory that’s not required to know before learning about Jesus–but it sure is helpful. The New Testament makes a whole lotta sense. Mankind messed up time and time again, second chance after second chance. No amount of lamb sacrificing could make up for how often people hardened their hearts and turned away from God.

No matter how hard we try, we’ll never come close to being holy enough to measure up to the standard of heaven. We desperately need serious saving grace and that comes from Jesus.

Happy Sunday.


Smorgasbord.

Is it just my kids, or does Wednesday night church bring everybody’s children to a level of insanity of which this world has never before seen?

Merrick’s class turns into 4-and-5 year old psychopaths as soon as they walk in the door, just in time for my friend to teach them about missionaries. I usually cower over in a corner somewhere. And yes, psychopath is a strong word. But many nights, it’s called for. And it doesn’t stop there: the crazy continues right on to the house. Merrick and Mia run around going bonkers while they put on pajamas, going bonkers while they brush their teeth…all the way up until actual bedtime and even afterwards.

WHAT does my church FEED my kids on Wednesday nights?

I got this stupid book from the library about miscarriage. It’s informative, oh yes; but I really only got it so I could try to semi-understand all the genetic testing stuff that I know nothing about. Here’s my doctor last week: “The testing will biology, science, blah blah blah blah blah, cells, and another big giant term you don’t know. Blah blah blah. Some medical stuff. Blah.”

The library book did nothing to help, but as I stood in the kitchen staring cross-eyed at the pages, Cheyenne stepped in with all her science-y knowledge. She straight laid it out in Toni-talk (“Say this little cell dude doesn’t divide right, and then all the dudes that it makes are crap.”) and drew diagrams on post-its until she was blue in the face. I’m telling you this girl–with all her genetic conferences and AP classes–is making me so proud. Even if she only ever uses her expertise to explain things in kid terms to me. Plus now I know a little more about nucleuses and stuff.

Kind of a sidenote–the people who say a life is not a life until a certain point in a  pregnancy? Never had a miscarriage at 13 weeks. Every moment that my baby’s heart was beating (and even before) was nothing but sweet, precious, God-given life to me. I’d give just about anything to have it back. Next week would have been the day of  THE ultrasound where they tell you all kinds of developmental information about your baby but mostly you’re just there to see if you’re having a boy or a girl. That’s when stuff gets real and your baby is totally making it and you’re halfway there. We were so close.

Kind of not a sidenote: I’ve been painting like a madman. My house is trashed and I forget to shower and the kids eat cereal for dinner. And not even the healthy kind–I’m talking 2 bowls each of generic-brand Crunch Berries. My personal diet has primarily consisted of coffee and iced animal cookies.

Some of my paintings I’m ready to get rid of. I painted them just to paint them and I’m tired of looking at them. Other paintings I poured my heart and soul into, and though the subject matter doesn’t appear to be very deep, each brush stroke was heavenly therapy. I know I cannot keep them but I hate to see them go.

If you’re bored Saturday and don’t want to go all the way into Oklahoma City for the art festival there, come out to Norman and check out Dustbowl. It will be right on Main Street and after you’ve looked at all the artwork and jewelry and t-shirts and handbags, you can mosey on over to the Norman Music Festival where there are bands galore and also delicious food. If anything, you can just come to people watch, which is highly entertaining to say the least.

But make sure to stop and chat with me and my friend Stephanie first because we are always cool.

Here is a peek at a painting that I should name “Wee Willy Winky except with a ninja”, but I’ve been calling it “Bed Intruder”:

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So much for making kid-friendly art.


Being Not Afraid

I was 15 when I had Cheyenne. Mind blowing, is it not? Because two years before that, I had just stopped playing with Barbie dolls. (Whatever, ok? It wasn’t so much the dolls as it was building houses for them out of tall picture books and arranging their furniture just so.)

At that age, my narrow mind could not comprehend the possibility of a future that didn’t involve crazy amounts of shame and suffering. I didn’t need anyone to make me feel bad about my situation; I branded myself with a big fat scarlet letter.

Being well on the other side of what I thought was the end of my life, it would be so neat to have the opportunity to reassure my teenage self that life would eventually turn out okay. Not picture-perfect all the time, but okay–good, even. I would say things like:

  • This baby that you’re having? She’s going to be smarter than the smartest person you’ve ever met in your whole life. Freaking valedictorian material. And you’ll burst into tears at the thought of sending her off to college. And she’ll be witty and hilarious and beautiful and you will love her to death even when she’s bucking the rules with all she’s got. She will be your absolute heart.
  • Also: you’ll have some more kids. This is an insane thought what with your current lack of patience and common sense but bear with me: A little girl with giant chocolate-chip eyes, and freckles sprinkled across her nose. Super-athletic with your strong legs. Little softball player, this one. And sweet and sensitive and gentle; ridiculously kind and caring. She loves some stupid British boy-band and she wants a guinea pig with every ounce of her being, but you won’t let her have one. She’s doing extra chores to prove she’s responsible enough.
  • But you’re not budging.
  • Remember that.
  • A little boy who looks just. like. you. and who loves to be outside, riding bikes and hiking and playing ball and mowing the lawn and getting into the mud and finding bugs and frogs. He lives to make you laugh and he’s mischievous and playful. His blue eyes stare right into your very soul. He’s so loveable you could just die.
  • Your husband is top-notch. Best there ever was. When you meet him–and you haven’t yet–you need not look any further. But you’ll know that immediately, and you won’t.
  • You live in Oklahoma of all places, and the decision to move there was voluntary. Contrary to what you think now, it’s not some barren, desolate, tornado-ridden wasteland…although sometimes your yard does look like a cross between Afghanistan and the surface of the moon. You have not seen one twister. You’re even thinking about raising chickens.
  • You have friends there that would cut off their arms for you if you needed one.
  • Go ahead and forget that dream of being some sort of underwater geologist. Face it: the only reason you really want to do that is so you can drive a bubble car around the ocean. Instead, you should paint more. Like, a lot more. Because you love it and you’ve got good ideas.
  • Be nice to your parents and your sisters. They’re going to help you in more ways then you’ll be able to count, and they’ll love you, as they do now, more than you’ll ever know.
  • This is not the only hard thing you’ll ever go through. In fact, in comparison to the rest of your life, this whole time will seem like cake-walk. But I guarantee you’ll get through it. It’s alright to scream and cry. I suggest prayer–and lots of it.
  • It’ll be okay.
  • Really.
  • Promise.

Now. If only I had 50-year-old Toni to pay me a reassuring visit, I’d be all set.

Today before Sunday school, we teachers talked about this morning’s lesson: Those gosh-darn walls of Jericho. What even is that all about? There’s this city, surrounded by strong brick walls, and God’s people are supposed to take it. God gives them these crazy directions like “walk once around the city every day for 6 days. And then on the 7th day, walk around the city 7 times. And then blow your trumpets and make a junkton of noise. It’ll be so great; I promise.”

I’ve always looked at this story as cute; a fun lesson to teach, perfect for 2 and 3 year-olds: they can build block towers and knock them down like miniature bosses. They can for darn sure make a lot of noise. Not a whole lot of takeaway on my end, unless you maybe count a growing desire to take trumpet lessons as a takeaway.

Our children’s ministry leader said that maybe the Israelites must have been all: “This is some bull. Why are we doing this? It’s the sixth day already and still–nothing. Pointless. My feet hurt. The city is ginormous. Walking is getting us nowhere. God, give us something here. This is hard and ridiculous.”

The funny thing is that my class takes this story to heart. They find no flaws in God’s directions. I have a feeling these kids would put me and the Israelites to shame: “God says seven times? Well then, by cracky, we march 7 times!” No questions asked.

I am of course going to relate this story now to just listening to God through life’s struggles. I find myself asking “What’s the point, God?” so many times, especially over the last few weeks. It may be a while before I see reasons or results, but the best plan is always trusting in God’s plan.

Oh man, that I would have these kind of guts. Everything in me wants to take all matters into my own hands. That something can only be okay after I understand it fully. God is a light in a long dark tunnel, but it’s still a long dark tunnel. And it’s not so easy to have the courage and obedience of Joshua. And some days I’m lacking in the endurance department, and I’m tired of walking. And I want an explanation, or a time frame…or both.

And I have to pray that God gives me the heart of a child so that I can have  unwavering faith and total dependence on Him that I need to get through some of the hard parts–so that when they’re over, God can receive the credit He deserves. There is so much I cannot do by myself.

What I can do is believe what God promises. And God promises that even though there’s no future me to visit present-day me, things will be okay.

isaiah


Let The Little Children Go To Toni. (Seriously, she needs help.)

My mom has called me a lot of things in my life, (aggravating, obnoxious, wild, impatient, hot-tempered) but “hard-headed” has not regularly been one of them. I guess that’s because my little sisters displayed way more stubbornness or strong-will than I ever dreamed of. And good for them, too–I could have avoided many compromising situations if only I possessed even a fraction of the stick-to-it-tiveness Jenny and Katie have.

Despite my stunning lack of will power, I’m not the easiest one to teach when it comes to life lessons. It takes several rounds of “learning the hard way” for something to sink into my brain. I hope and pray my children do not inherit this amazing quality.

But God has found another way to reach me; He knows my weaknesses. I’d like to tell you it was my decision, or that I was suckered into it (I was), but the truth is, 2 years ago, God set me up in the one position that would force me to pay attention: children’s ministry.

Awesome.

Every Sunday morning, I and my wonderful teachering-partner, Becky, sweat to death in a happy little room filled with lovable, rowdy, snot-nosed (sorry, but they are), in-the-midst-of-potty-training, 2 and 3-year-old children. (Actually, come to think of it, maybe this is a form of learning the hard way.)

And every Sunday morning, I learn more about the stories of the bible than I have ever learned my whole life long. I guess God knows I need His truths put in kid-friendly terms; He knows the information will sink in as long as I’m trying to teach it to others. And I love it.

I love it because it’s important. I love it because I understand toddler bible-studies better than I do ones designed for people my own age. I love the kids. I love their parents. I love the curriculum. I love the story line. I love the bible and I am in love with God.

Today we were going over the story of Joseph–and, real quick, to recap: Joseph was the son of Jacob, who had like a million (or 12) sons. Joseph got a coat of many colors to wear. His brothers were totes jealous. They plotted against Joseph. Threw him down a pit. Sold him to some passing slave-traders. Told their dad that Joseph was eaten by an animal. (So wrong, by the way.) Joseph was taken to Egypt. Joseph was sold as a slave. Joseph was accused of a crime he didn’t commit. Joseph was put in prison, for years.

Sounds straight terrible if you ask me. How even is God with Joseph through all of this? His future seems pretty freaking bleak. Joseph goes through some crazy stuff. Most people would have abandoned their faith right along with their hopes and dreams by that point. Life sucks, and then you die. Poor Joseph. God’s not doing him any favors, right?

NOT RIGHT. God was, is, and will always be in control.

My class has this ongoing great debate over whether or not the man who introduces our bible-story-video is actually God. (To be clear: He is not.) One girl had a built a pretty solid case, though, on as to why she thought the man was indeed God: “NU-HUH! CAUSE GOD IS THE STORY MAKER, HE IS THE MAN WHO TELLS THE STORIES!”

Seems legit.

God not only tells our stories, He writes them. And He doesn’t just make crap up as He goes along. He plans. He waits. He knows what will happen and He knows just what course to take in response to our every action, our every word, our every thought.

Our stories–our lives– they’re not guaranteed to be easy or fun or predictable and safe. In fact, some of the best stories in the bible are so far opposite of those things–but that’s what makes them the best.

Joseph would not be Joseph if he hadn’t been sold into slavery. He wouldn’t have gone to Egypt if God had kept him in Israel under the watchful eyes of his loving parents. If Joseph had not gone to Egypt; if he hadn’t gone to prison, Joseph would never have found himself in the service and favor of the pharaoh, and Joseph’s entire family would have starved during a famine 20 years later. Talk about life sucking.

I sometimes thank God for my teacher’s guide:

“Joseph recognized that though his brothers intended evil, God planned his circumstances for good to establish a remnant of God’s people (Genesis 45:7). Likewise, although those who crucified Jesus intended evil, God’s plan for the sacrifice of His Son was for the good of all people. Through Jesus’ death on the cross, God again saved a remnant of people.” –my teacher’s guide has all the answers and I love it.

Thank you God, for my teacher’s guide.

I tried to convey my enthusiasm for Joseph’s juicy plot line to the 2-year-old crowd this morning: “Are you guys seeing this? Isn’t it SO awesome? God loves you and you are important to Him! He has big plans for you even though sometimes things are hard or scary! God is going to use all of you for something special. DOESN’T THAT JUST BLOW YOUR MIND?!!!”

Their “not impressed” facial expressions and their incessant chanting for animal crackers put an abrupt end to my lesson, so I’ll have to share it with you fine people instead: God does not forget us. He does not leave us and He does not stop loving us. He  writes our stories and He keeps His promises.

“Look, I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Genesis 28:15


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