What do you do with all of the delightful Christmas cards friends and family send you? This year we got some beautiful cards, including many photo cards, and it would be a shame to throw them away or put them in a box in the basement without doing something special.
When my friend Kristin shared this idea with my Moms in Prayer group, it was simply too good not to pass along to my Noteworthy Mommy readers! Kristen and her family put all of their cards in a basket. Each day they pull a card from the basket and then, as a family, they pray for the people who sent them the card. I simply love this idea! It’s a great way to enjoy your cards one last time before tossing them or packing them away and it allows you to connect with family and friends through prayer. Since most of our cards were photo cards, my mini me will see a picture of the people we are praying for. And what a lovely way to incorporate prayer and praying for others into the home. This will be the start of another fabulous Christmas tradition. Thank you Kristin for this brilliant idea! If you have additional ideas of things to do with Christmas cards, please post a comment and share.
Words can’t express how much this wonderful man will be missed here on Earth. How much I am missing him. Uncle Boyd was truly one of a kind. A Renaissance man with so many God given talents and a fun loving personality to go with those talents.
He loved children and always made sure they were included, going out of his way to make sure they felt special and were recognized. He got down on their level (which wasn’t easy to do with his tall stature) and softly spoke to them instead of at them. I loved seeing him interact with my mini me. Although they only met a few times, I have pleasant memories of my daughter laughing at her Great Uncle Boyd’s jovial antics. And as a mother, I appreciated the authentic connection he made with her.
Uncle Boyd was a wordsmith. And when he spoke I hung onto every word! I can think of nothing I loved more than sitting in a comfy chair in his living room and listening to Uncle Boyd share his thoughts on education and learning. He was so well read, so well spoken…a brilliant mind! I always walked away from one of those conversations enlightened, looking at things in a new light and feeling more optimistic for the future. And like all great teachers, he never stopped learning. He constantly sought new experiences, studied and acknowledged differences and was willingly open to challenging himself. You would always find him reading a new book or two, often one for pleasure but always one or more on education reform or how the brain works or on how people learn. He never lectured “at you” but with his warm and gentle manner, guided you to think outside of yourself and to look at things in a different way. What a blessing those mini lectures were! What a blessing Uncle Boyd was to me and to my family of three! I truly am a better person because of him.
After my husband and I married and Uncle Boyd and Aunt Dixie became my new relations, I always made a point to meet up with them when I was in Minnesota for work. The educators I worked with would often comment how nice it was that I would take the time to visit my husband’s aunt and uncle but what they didn’t realize is I was the one benefiting from those visits! Uncle Boyd always asked me questions and he listened to me with interest and full concentration. When we were engaged in conversation I felt safe and carefree, as if the world and all of it’s problems were put on pause and the only thing of importance was our present conversation.
Uncle Boyd didn’t know a stranger. He was beloved everywhere he went. When I accompanied him to many of his favorite establishments (Punch Pizza, Nicollet Island Inn, Culver’s, just to make a few) he was given a personal greeting. Uncle Boyd always took the time to get to know others whether it be his neighbors, students, workers, church members or the servers at his favorite restaurants. In fact, I was beginning to wonder if Uncle Boyd could go anywhere without being recognized! When he and Aunt Dixie traveled to our wedding, a consultant friend of mine saw Uncle Boyd at breakfast and asked, “Dr. Purdom, what are you doing in southern IL?” He was one of her favorite college professors and she couldn’t believe I was marrying his nephew! Another time I was training teachers and happened to mention Uncle Boyd. Several teachers and an administrator commented how they had him as a professor and he had changed their views on child advocacy and adoption, inspiring one to become a foster parent. He noticed people, made them feel important and his smile and gentle nature always made people happy and at ease.
My family of three hosted Christmas for the first time this year and before we even heard of his illness I had planned to read one of Uncle Boyd’s poems before dinner. It seemed fitting that his most recent poem was about family. He loved his family so very much. Along with education, those memorable conversations in his living room would always include stories of family. Stories of his days as a professor and his students, many who were like family. Aunt Dixie and Uncle Boyd opened their home up to college students during the holidays and Shasta made sure that students who couldn’t be with their families had a place to gather. His face always lit up as he shared stories about his daughter Angela. How very proud he was of his little girl! Some tell tale stories about his brothers and his wife and her sisters would always provide some good laughs! Uncle Boyd was a man of great faith and a conversation would never go by without him acknowledging his Heavenly Father and his love for his church. Uncle Boyd brought joy to all of us and we will all miss him. The lessons he taught, the jokes he played, the words he wrote, the pictures he painted and the love he showed to all of us, will never be forgotten. He will live on through each of us and through future generations. Until we meet again, my dear Uncle Boyd.
Last week was my mini me’s first day of first grade! As an educator I would declare first grade as the most important year for the young child. For it’s in first grade where children develop reading and writing skills. These skills are necessary for future academic success. Children come to first grade with an introduction to academics but it’s in first grade where these foundational skills are developed and refined and put into practice. First grade is where students either fall in love with learning or if they are struggling and don’t receive proper support, may begin to dislike school. Since first grade is so important it is imperative that dedicated teachers who understand the reading process and the development of the young child be assigned to teach it! It is a difficult grade to teach because at the beginning of the year some instruction looks like kindergarten but quickly shifts into more rigor and by the end of the year, looks like second grade! I often say a good first grade teacher could successfully teach all of the grades!
A Dedicated Teacher– My daughter’s first grade teacher, Mrs. Bernhardt, really took the time to get to know her students before school began. She did a personal Zoom with each child, sent out welcoming post cards, wrote an introduction on her blog, had parents fill out a survey and scheduled a one on one classroom visit for each family. She picked up on the fact that my daughter loves animals and unicorns and used that knowledge to build a relationship with her before school even started. But what impressed me the most, was her open invitation to chat over the phone and discuss questions and concerns. She called me one afternoon and we chatted for 45 minutes (yes, you read that right… 45 minutes!) We talked about my daughter’s needs and she took my concerns seriously; offering suggestions and brainstorming things she can do to support my daughter this year. I know we are going to have a fantastic school year because my daughter has a teacher who genuinely cares for her well being. My daughter has a teacher who will share and model the love of Jesus with her students, build a partnership with parents and go over and beyond to ensure that the students entrusted in her care have success not only in school but in life!
Busy Bees– Mrs. Bernhardt calls her students her busy bees and during open house she had them buzz around the room and collect the following items: a sweet treat, zoo stickers and a family devotional. What a wonderful way to get the children quickly acquainted with the classroom!
Sweet Dreams Poem– At open house Mrs. Bernhardt gave each student a copy of Sweet Dreams and instructed them to open it on the night before the first day of school. Inside was an original poem to help ease any anxieties they had about first grade. A bag of confetti was included and my daughter enjoyed putting the special confetti under her pillow at bedtime so she would have sweet dreams and be well rested for the big day! A few nights later I fell asleep while reading to my daughter in bed and my daughter said, “Momma, you must have some of the sweet dream confetti under your pillow!” Mrs. Bernhardt also shared a recording of herself reading the book, The Night Before First Grade. Click here to watch the video. I
The Kissing Hand- Before my daughter went off to school as a three year old preschooler, we read the Kissing Hand and my parents helped us make homemade kissing hand cookies that we shared with her teacher. Click Here to read all about it. We continued the tradition when she entered her second year of preschool and when she went off to kindergarten last year. This year my friend, who my daughter affectionately calls, Auntie Jaime, helped us bake and decorate kissing hand cookies. We added some crosses and hearts to remind our favorite teachers that Jesus loves them and that He is with them every minute of everyday!
It’s All About Reading– Some children will learn how to read no matter how we teach them. But the majority of children need to be taught the code to reading which includes some important parts (phonemic awareness, phonics with decoding strategies, word building, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension). As a reading consultant my biggest fear is that my daughter will not develop adequate reading strategies. So when my daughter’s teacher projected the image of Scarbough’s Reading Rope during parent orientation, I was ready to jump out of my chair in celebration! Now she was speaking my language and any worries I had about my daughter receiving solid reading instruction were put to rest. (I told my husband I would be happy to give him a PowerPoint presentation on then since or reading when we got home) And when Mrs. Bernhardt announced that reading with your child would be the only homework this year, it was clear that she is a teacher, who like me, understands the importance of reading. In fact, she said although they will do science and math, she could easily teach reading all day long!
A Back to School MessageFrom the Noteworthy Mommy- May you and your family have a blessed 2021-2022 school year! Whether your child is going off to preschool, beginning middle school, high school or college, I pray they have a terrific year! For the families who home school, may your school year be filled with learning and fun. And for the children who are returning to face to face school after a year or more of virtual or hybrid learning, I’m sending you prayers for a safe and successful school year!
Last week was my daughter’s last day of kindergarten at Zion Lutheran School. Although large for a Lutheran School, our school ELP-8th grade, is small compared to our neighborhood schools. She’s just beginning her early years at Zion, simply moving to a different wing for first grade and it will be eight short years until I write about her 8th grade graduation. So why am I having such difficulty writing this post?
I think the reason I’m struggling with the goodbyes has to do with my love of kindergarten. Kindergarten has always been my favorite age and stage. Kindergarten is unique, unlike any other grade. Filled with the imagination and playfulness of a young child, combined with the foundation of academic skills, it is a true unicorn and encompasses everything I love!
My mother began her teaching career as a kindergarten teacher and I have delightful memories of her substituting in my kindergarten classroom when I was five years old. My dad would have made a wonderful kindergarten teacher! When they cut the fine arts program in his school district he eagerly applied to be a kindergarten teacher. He was quickly denied, as a male kindergarten teacher in the late 1960’s was seen as taboo. I guess you could say kindergarten is in my DNA!
So it probably comes as no surprise that teaching kindergarten was my dream job. That prayer was answered in my early twenties when I was blessed to teach kindergarten for six years. After that I spent a few years helping college students realize their dreams of becoming kindergarten teachers and when I became an educational consultant I was known as the kindergarten expert, enthusiastically volunteering to train kindergarten teachers over any other grade level! That brings me to the present…the 2020-2021 school year, where I was privileged to be a parent to a kindergartener. If you know my journey to motherhood, this is something I do not take for granted! Little did I know God had another gift for me. When COVID took away my opportunity to do educational consulting assignments, I was asked to be an early childhood substitute at my daughter’s school. I never dreamed of being back in the classroom, and certainly not as a substitute teacher, but sometimes God has unexpected plans for us. This school year I found myself back in the trenches during a very challenging time in our nation’s schools. I worked alongside incredible educators, coming home exhausted, emerged in paint and sticky hugs and earning a wage that paid less than the minimum. But what I gained was far more than money could buy! As I worked in the early childhood wing I was taken back to my roots, back to where my passion for kindergarten began and I fell in love once again. And during a school year where COVID prevented parents from entering the school building, I was blessed to walk among my daughter’s kindergarten class and see her engaged in activity and learning. And as a bonus, I received an intimate view of my mini me’s kindergarten experience when I spent an entire day along side her talented teacher, substituting in my daughter’s classroom as her kindergarten assistant!
Mrs. Reed…the Quintessential Kindergarten Teacher- I’ve always said that kindergarten teachers were special people and Mrs. Reed, my daughter’s kindergarten teacher, certainly falls into that category! Mrs. Reed is kind, patient, full of imagination and full of energy (one of the most important qualifications to being an effective kindergarten teacher). She is smart, creative, passionate and easily adaptable. COVID created great challenges but that didn’t stop Mrs. Reed and her assistants (Mrs. Collins, Mrs. McBroom and Mrs. Horn) from giving my daughter and her classmates a solid face to face kindergarten experience. In fact, there isn’t a thing on the “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” poster left out and I find that more than amazing considering the challenges this year brought.
Mrs. Reed makes learning fun and captivating. On any given day you will find her dressed up as a baseball player, a doctor, a farmer or as her alter ego, Miss Julia (complete with a French accent, crazy wig and apron)! To this day my daughter and her classmates are unsure if Miss Julia is a real person or Mrs. Reed dressed in a costume! That’s why I love this age…one day they amaze us with reading new words, making connections and writing their thoughts on paper, all the while holding on to the magic of childhood and pure imagination! Mrs. Reed encouraged both in my daughter. She also shared the love of Jesus not only by modeling His love through her actions but by teaching her students weekly memory verses through song. What a gift! My daughter has all of the verses memorized and can easily turn to the word of God in time of comfort and need. She brought home a hard bound published book of every verse with classroom illustrations along with a personal memory book of each verse. And my daughter learned how to share God’s love with others through the kindness project and by creating God is Love flyers that she diligently distributed to every household in our neighborhood. I wish I could take credit for her actions but this amazing event has Mrs. Reed stamped all over it!
From pop corn words to phonemic awareness to literacy stations. From caterpillar to butterfly, pumpkins, leaves and flowers. From Zero the Hero, The Snowman, favorite authors (Eric Carle, Jane Brett and Louis Ehlert) building, creating, questioning, and singing to themed centers, dress up days, Bible stories and everything in between; my daughter had an amazing experience! Mrs. Reed, thank you for a wonderful year. You are the quinentisessional kindergarten teacher and are more than I could have ever prayed for in a teacher for my daughter and for her Noteworthy Mommy!
Now my daughter has experienced the last day of her magical kindergarten year and she is moving on to a new stage in her educational career. I know she is ready because we have seen her grow exponentially! So bring on the rigor of first grade and all the challenges, friendships, and experiences awaiting! While the Noteworthy Mommy may stay in kindergarten forever, I rejoice that my mini me has taken off her training wheels and is prepared to roll into first grade!
I wrote the following devotion for my church’s 2021 Easter devotional book titled, “Waiting With Joyful Hope.” As I read the pages of this year’s devotional, I was inspired by the stories of hope and tremendous faith expressed by the authors. After reading my devotional below, about a vivid childhood memory, may your heart be filled with hope and joy knowing that God the Father is here to rescue His children.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13
Rescued By Hope
It was the summer before I started fifth grade and my family was traveling home to Illinois after visiting relatives in Maryland. After countless miles in the van, navigating through mountains and rolling hills, we knew we were close to home when we saw flat land. Then, only forty miles from home, our mini van began to smoke. The oil light came on and we found ourselves stranded on the side of the road. The sun was setting and there was nothing but corn fields for miles. No gas station, home, or business was in sight! There were no cell phones back then, so calling AAA for help was out of the question! We felt hopeless, isolated, and alone.
Have you ever felt this way? Have you ever been in such a dire situation that you felt as if all hope was gone? As darkness enclosed upon us, my mom began to pray. Although we were tired, scared, and longing for home, we had hope that God would protect us and provide for us. We trusted in Him. Has God rescued you just when you were about to lose all hope? Has God given you exactly what you needed at just the right time?
The minutes felt like hours and my dad decided he would begin the long walk to the nearest town. Just as he began to leave, a car stopped and a young woman stepped out. She was traveling alone and said she had no intention of stopping and even passed us by, but “something” told her to stop, so she turned around and came back to help. My dad told her that the oil light had come on. This good Samaritan happened to have purchased oil earlier that day and still had the oil cans in her trunk! She helped us fill our van with 2 cans of oil and our van started right up.
God had His hand in our rescue that night by placing the young woman in our path who had a trunk full of oil, which was exactly what we needed! And the power of the Holy Spirit was working in the woman who rescued us by calling her to turn around and help strangers stranded on the side of the road.
Isn’t it comforting to know that God is with us throughout our journey through life? I have hope knowing that God is beside me and that He travels with each and every one of us. When the road in front of us is smooth and clear, God is there. He continues to be our compass when we travel through bumpy patches or become lost during our travels. God isn’t an annoying backseat driver because He loves us even when we make a wrong turn, run a red light or arrive late to our destination. We should rejoice with thanksgiving knowing that He is guiding us through every twist and turn; protecting us, rescuing us and providing joyful hope.
Dear Almighty God, Help me to always trust in you. When I feel there is no hope give me strength. Lead me to find hope in You. Fill me with the peace and understanding that by trusting in You I will never be abandoned. For You will always give me exactly what I need. Amen
He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! How vastly different this Easter was compared to last year! Although we had to make reservations at church, participated in Easter worship on Saturday night, wore masks, and were unable to gather with my in-laws, it was a glorious celebration! Through the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior we find hope.
I know my Easter message is a bit late, Easter Sunday has come and gone after all, but don’t forget, it is still Easter. Easter begins with the resurrection of our Lord and extends through Pentecost, so that gives me 50 days to send my readers Easter blessings! Below is a fun Easter activity that kids of all ages will enjoy. Easter Sunday has passed but we continue to celebrate our risen Savior!
Alleluia Shakers– My church has a special tradition of Alleluia Shakers during the Easter season. A basket of Alleluia Shakers for the young members of our congregation are usually found at the entrance to the sanctuary and the children enjoy shaking them every time they hear or sing the word Alleluia. COVID has prevented us from having the basket of shakers at church so my daughter made her own. We decorated a plastic egg and filled it with rice to make our shakers. CLICK HERE to learn how to make a shaker of your own. We are taking them to church throughout the Easter season and proudly shake them in celebration of the good news that Jesus is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! We made extras to share with our home bound friends as part of our Live Generously ministry.
As we begin to see the other side of the pandemic, may you safely gather again with family and friends, rejoice in the fact that favorite activities are being reintroduced into your life and never forget the lessons the past year has taught. Some things may stay forever changed but one thing will never change… Jesus loves you!
March 17, 2020, was the day our lives changed. That’s the day our school shut down, our church closed its physical doors, and I realized COVID-19 was something serious.
I found comfort through writing, instantly publishing daily blog accounts of how my daughter and I spent our days in isolation. I shared my early childhood expertise through links, activity downloads and personal reflection. Putting my words out into the world was my way of trying to do good, an attempt to help parents and caregivers navigate our “new normal.”
Nothing was normal this year. If we give the past year a grade, most would agree that it earned a big red F! An F for failure! In fact, there are several choice “f” words that come to mind when one thinks of living an entire year in a global pandemic! It certainly isn’t a year any of us would have chosen for ourselves…we didn’t see it coming.
The last 365 days have been a roller coaster of emotions. I was fearful, especially during the beginning, when there were so many unknowns. Countless nights were spent lying awake in fear; worrying about my family, mourning my pre-pandemic life, and contemplating the future. But the year wasn’t a total failure. There were bright spots amidst the darkness. As I browse my blog posts other “f” words emerge from the screen like faith, family, fun and friends. These words are proof that goodness shone through the fear.
COVID-19 took so much away (my consulting job, my music, live performances, travel, time with extended family and friends, the list goes on… But when all of those things were taken away, what was left was a true blessing and something I took for granted…quality time with my family of three. When I look back at my pandemic posts my heart fills with joy when I see the sweet memories my little family made, remember how we relished in life’s simplicities and found creative ways to do the familiar. (car parades, drive through celebrations and Zoom play dates) And with more time at home, I began studying God’s word and strengthening my faith.
The pandemic has taught me that when you have faith, family and friends, you can face uncertainty, loss and disparity and emerge resilient. You can tackle fear head on, learn from your mistakes, and strive to make the most from your circumstances. When you have faith, family and friends, you have hope. And that hope gets you through the unthinkable. It helps you survive anything, even a national pandemic. It changes you, makes you see beyond yourself and makes you better as a result.
In a year that received a failing grade, lessons were learned, lives were changed. To quote a song from one of my favorite musicals. “I have been changed, for good.” I’m not dismissing the fact that the pandemic brought great loss and incredible struggle. As you read this you may be one of the many individuals who continue to physically and mentally struggle from this unprecedented year. Please find hope and encouragement in my words and know that I’m with you. God is with you and you don’t have to walk alone.
The Kindness Project– My daughter’s kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Reed, started a weekly kindness project last month. She gives her students a kindness challenge to accomplish every weekend. Some challenges are easy like, “say something kind to your parents” or “call someone and say hi.” Others require a bit more effort like “thank a pastor,” thank the school administrators,” “do something kind for a friend” or “send a card to someone.” All of the challenges are age appropriate tasks to develop a servant heart in the lives of young students. So imagine my surprise when one of the challenges made me reach outside of my comfort zone and transformed my heart forever.
The challenge seemed simple enough, “do something kind for a neighbor.” I thought we could pick our neighbors down the street who have a daughter Lillian’s age or do something nice for the Rogers family, two houses down. They go to our church. But when I asked my daughter which neighbor she wanted to pick she enthusiastically chose our next door neighbors who own Pikachu and Benji, two dogs she absolutely adores! The dogs owners are friendly but we don’t know them very well. They don’t speak much English so our communication with them has never gone beyond a neighborly wave and a nod. Why did my daughter have to pick them? Will our next door neighbors understand why we are giving them homemade cookies and a drawing created with crayons? (what my daughter decided she wanted to give our neighbors) Why couldn’t my daughter pick someone familiar?
Then I thought… What would Jesus do? Would He play it safe or reach out to the unknown? Although this kindness task would force me to step out of my safe haven, I knew I had to assist my daughter and complete the kindness challenge with our next door neighbors. When we rang the doorbell and they didn’t answer, we left the goodies on their door mat. A few days later we saw them in the yard and they waved an enthusiastic thank you and I could tell they were greatly touched by the huge smile on their faces! My heart was overjoyed!
A few weeks later our doorbell rang and our neighbors’ son was at the door with a very special surprise! He was home from college and had a special delivery for my mini me… a stuffed dog that looked like Benji (their dog) and a handwritten heartfelt note that he had written for his parents. It was touching to learn that a small act of kindness meant so very much to them!
All of this happened because of the kindness project initiated by my daughter’s kindergarten teacher and my daughter’s huge heart. As a mother I am hyper focused on all of the things I want to teach my daughter that I never stopped to realize all of the wonderful things I’m learning from being her mother! And what a blessing it is to send our daughter to a Lutheran School where she is growing academically but more importantly learning about Jesus and how to serve others. An authentic friendship has developed between our families and I am thankful my daughter helped me reach out to someone new. I learned that when you show kindness and love to others, language is no longer a barrier!
History has been made! Regardless of what political party you associate with or who you voted for, if you are a women I hope you see the sheer historical greatness of what happened on January 20, 2021. Kamala Harris became the 59th Vice President of the United States! Harris is the first Black person, first woman and the first person of South Asian descent elected to the vice presidency, and the highest-ranking woman ever to serve in government. As a women I am simply overjoyed! As a mother I have hope for the future. My little girl will grow up seeing a woman leading our country and will never remember a time when this wasn’t a possibility. My mini me will know she can grow up to be whatever she wants to be, even President! As Madame Vice President Harris stated in her acceptance speech, “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last. Because every little girl, watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities. And to the children of our country, regardless of your gender, our country has sent you a clear message: dream with ambition, lead with conviction and see yourself in a way that others might not see you, because they’ve never seen it before.”
Musical History Was Made– There were many firsts on Inauguration Day and among them was a musical first that some may be unaware of. The Marine Band has played every inauguration since Thomas Jefferson and music from America’s great composers have been part of every inauguration. But on this historic inauguration, the Marine Bands conductor selected many living composers to be included in the ceremony and he selected Julie Giroux’s “Integrity Fanfare and March” to be played as Kamala Harris walked up to the podium. This makes Julie Giroux the first woman composer to have a piece played in an inauguration ceremony! A truly noteworthy achievement for this talented composer and an inspiration to women in the arts. As a musician, who plays in wind ensembles, I have performed many of Julie’s pieces and have been greatly touched by her music. In 2016 I had the privilege of performing with her when she conducted the Saint Louis Wind Symphony’s premier of a commissioned piece she wrote for our group. CLICK HERE to read about that amazing day.
The Future– Vice President Harris and composer Julie Giroux made history. They are change makers that lead the way for future generations of women. They are showing women and young girls all over the world that they can not only sit at the table, but women can lead the table. It’s a great day to be a woman and I’m going to continue to proudly wear my Chucks and pearls!
If you had asked me in March if I would give up playing with my musical groups, terminate travel, give up my educational consulting job, go without live musical theater, stop singing in the choir, limit my visit with friends and spend Christmas without my parents, in return to spend more time with my family of three at home, I doubt my answer would have been an enthusiastic YES! Although 2020 was filled with its fair share of challenges, struggle and loss, as I look back on the year, it was also filled with many blessings. And spending more time with my family of three is at the top of the list! When all the distractions of my usually busy lifestyle were taken away, it left time for me to focus on a few things… the two people who matter more to me than anything else in the world, my loving husband and our little girl. Don’t get me wrong, there were days and still are (a new year doesn’t make the struggles go away) that I long for nothing more than a night away by myself but in 2020 my eyes were opened to prioritizing my life and putting my family and my faith ahead of everything else.
I almost feel ashamed that it took a pandemic for me to figure out the obvious but I’m grateful that I finally understand what is important. I have tremendous respect for Dan Presgrave, a brilliant conductor, teacher and the founder of the Saint Louis Wind Symphony, which I am a member. He was headed down a very dark path, constantly searching for something to give him a “fix” and then he found Jesus and his life was transformed. He became a pastoral counselor, writes a weekly Christian blog at http://meetpastordan.com/blog/ and created a Christian counseling program for veterans. When he resigned as principal director of the Saint Louis Wind Symphony, I was shocked. How could such a talented man, who devoted his entire life to music completely walk away from such a passion? Now I get it. Now I understand. Although Dan still appreciates music, through Christ he has completely prioritized his life and now he has peace and happiness that was only found when he put Jesus first.
My mother-in-law recently asked me what thing I missed the most in 2020? I think she was surprised when I shared that I didn’t miss anything. That wouldn’t have been my answer in March when we were in full shut down or even the months that followed. But once I began to concentrate on the gifts God has given me instead of what was taken away, I found an inner peace that has brought tremendous joy even during this difficult year.
My daughter’s amazing kindergarten teacher has her students write in a thankful journal every week. The entry for the weekend after Christmas asked the children why they are thankful for Christmas? My daughter looked at me and said, “That’s easy. There’s only one answer…Jesus!” Tears of joy filled my eyes because my young daughter understands what is important. I pray that she continues to put Jesus first.
Without my faith, my church, my talented pastors, my family and most importantly, Jesus, I would have never survived 2020. I don’t know what waits ahead in 2021 but I know that Jesus will get me through. He will continue to walk beside me through the joyous times, the hard days, the unthinkable and all of the days in between.
I close this New Year message with hope for you and your family. Patrick Swierczek, a childhood friend, posted this on social media and the words accurately depict my wish for you in 2021.