A Fun Loving Pastor Who Taught Me To Never Stop Cheering For God!

If you stay in one place for any length of time chances are good that at some point a friend, neighbor, co-worker, teacher or pastor, will leave your community and you will have to say goodbye, sending them off with well wishes and good speed. My family of three recently participated in a “water balloon” send off for one of our associate pastors who left our congregation to accept a call to serve at a church in West Hartford, CT.

COVID-19 made it impossible to hold a traditional send off but our church staff found a creative way to say goodbye. Pastor Reitz has a fun loving personality, enjoys a good joke and is known to ease awkward situations with a little bit of humor, so, it seemed fitting that our congregation had a send-off for him “water balloon style!” With water guns and water balloons in hand, church members drove through the parking lot drenching Pastor Reitz with water and best wishes. Pastor Reitz and his family will be dearly missed and we wish them the very best!

Fair Weather Fan– A Saint Louis Blues parade passed behind our house prior to our drive through send off for Pastor Reitz. It seemed appropriate, not because Pastor Reitz is a Blues hockey fan but it reminded me of a sermon Pastor Reitz gave shortly after the Saint Louis Blues won the Stanley Cup in 2019. The sermon touched me so deeply that I approached Pastor Reitz after the service and let him know how his words had resinated with me.

The Reitz family on the last Sunday they were together at Zion Lutheran.

I remember Pastor Reitz describing our city’s reaction to the Blues during the championship series. It seemed everyone had became a fan with households in every zip code tuning into the games! Blues banners and flags appeared on businesses and throughout neighborhoods. Stores sold out of Saint Louis Blues t-shirts and jerseys, making them impossible to keep in stock! There was no denying it, everyone in the St. Louis area was bleeding blue! Then Pastor Reitz questioned if these fans had always been Blues fans? Have the fans loyally stood by the team during the wins and the loses? Or were they being fair weather fans, only interested in the Blues when the team is playing well and abandoning them when they have a bad season?

Then Pastor Reitz asked us if we have ever been a fair weather fan to God? Have we ever turned away from God? This question hit me. Although I have never turned away from God, I have historically turned to Him more when I was struggling, suffering and in need of guidance. I have spent more time on my knees praying when I was experiencing a struggle than praying for thanks when everything in my life was going great. So in my own way I do turn away when the going is good. During that sermon I resolved to turn to the Lord during the good and the bad and the in-between. I was reminded that God never turns away from us! He loves us when we sin and forgives us of those sins when we ask for His forgiveness. He loves us when we win and when we lose. God is never a fair weather fan to His children.

Proverbs 3:5 happens to be my daughter’s memory verse for this week and I found it so appropriate.

Pastor Reitz and his family served Zion Lutheran Church for close to a decade. We pray for the Reitz family as they begin a new chapter serving the congregation at Bethany Lutheran Church in West Hartford, CT.

The Tale of Two Dads and Two Ducks…Happy Father’s Day!

During my quarantine cleaning I discovered two ceramic duck banks purchased last year from the dollar store. Planning to have my daughter and her BFF paint them during a trip to the lake last summer, I asked my daughter if she would like to paint a duck for each of her grandfathers for Father’s Day. My mini me excitedly answered, “Yes,” and part of the afternoon was spent painting ducks and decorating cards for the important men in her life.

After gathering all of her supplies my daughter began painting the first duck. She studied the box with intent and proceeded to paint the duck exactly like the one on the box, copying every detail from the orange beak and yellow body to the dark eyes. She grinned, proof that she was proud of her accomplishments. When I asked her who was going to be on the receiving end of the “traditional” duck, without hesitation she answered. “Paw Paw!” Then she eagerly set out to paint the second duck but this time chose blue and green along with the yellow paint, covering the ceramic with an abstract design that resembled a miniature model of the Earth. Taking great effort to cover every last spot of white, a huge smile emerged as my daughter declared the “abstract” duck was for Pops because he is an artist who likes lots of colors. I shook my head in amazement because at five years of age it was clear my little one has us all figured out.

The painted ducks represent her two grandfathers with perfect accuracy.

Paw Paw– The “traditional duck” is perfect for Paw Paw. He is an engineer who can fix anything. He loves Cardinal baseball, playing golf and reading. He dresses conservatively and always wears khakis and a collared shirt. Paw Paw is passionate about history and genealogy and has traced his family tree back to generations. He remembers everything with clear precision and retells events in great detail.

Pops– The “abstract duck” is perfect for Pops. He is an artist who can transform the mundane into a thing of beauty. He loves old movies, gardening and sunsets. Pops is creative. He has an eye for color, draws effortlessly, creates beautiful table scapes and can easily stage a home for resale. He is the party planner extraordinaire who helped me plan the wedding of the century along with themed birthday parties all without missing a single detail. He is outgoing and passionate, often exaggerates the retelling of events and has never been seen in a pair of khakis!

I have been on shopping excursions with both grandpas and the experience was drastically different with each one. Paw Paw would be found holding his wife’s purse and taking a nap while she tries on clothes in the dressing room while Pops would be browsing the racks, putting together outfits with just the right accessories for his wife to try on. While Pops enjoys browsing the aisles and bargain shopping, Paw Paw is a “get in and get out as quickly as possible” kind of shopper who would gladly stay at home and shop online.

Although the two grandpas are as different as they can be, they do have one very important thing in common…they both love their one and only granddaughter! She is their little princess and without hesitation they would move mountains for her! We were blessed to celebrate Father’s Day with Pops on Saturday and with Paw Paw on Sunday. These two individual men are a true blessing in our lives! Happy Father’s Day to Pops and to Paw Paw!

Taps Across America (A Social Distancing Memorial Day Weekend)…Day 70

On this Memorial Day Weekend, I wanted to learn more about the holiday while teaching my daughter about this special day. What’s the history behind Memorial Day? Why do we celebrate it? Who does it honor?

According to the USO website, Memorial Day, which is celebrated on the last Monday in May, honors service members who have died in military service to our nation. It’s roots date back to the post-Civil War era and was originally called Decoration Day, when citizens placed spring flower memorials on the graves of fallen soldiers. In 1868, General John Logan declared that the first ever National Decoration Day would take place on May 30. Over the next few decades, the day transitioned to being called Decoration Day to its current name of Memorial Day. In 1968 Congress passed an act declaring that Memorial Day be celebrated on the last Monday during the month of May and in 1971 the three-day weekend for federal employees was established.

Today, unfortunately, Memorial Day is associated with the start of summer, swimming pools, cookouts with friends and discount sales. I want my daughter to grow up knowing the real meaning of Memorial Day, a day where we honor the men and women who died serving our country.

Taps Across America COVID-19 is making most Americans spend this Memorial Day social-distancing. Parades have been cancelled and many Memorial Day ceremonies and celebrations aren’t taking place. Steve Hartman, a CBS journalist, began a campaign called Taps Across America, where he encouraged trumpet players across the country to play taps at 3:00 pm local time to honor our fallen service members and to play tribute to victims of the coronavirus pandemic. My daughter and I were thrilled when my husband, a trumpet player, decided to participate. He has a history of playing taps on Memorial Day, having spent his high school years, rising early and playing at VFW ceremonies throughout town. Today, this Noteworthy Daddy played taps on the front porch of his parents home, while family members, neighbors and friends, listened on and kept proper social distancing. After a moment of silence, everyone spread out their lawn chairs, ate some pizza and simply enjoyed being together.

Memorial Day Books– Picture books are a brilliant way to teach children of all ages. I found a book and a short cartoon that helped my daughter understand why we celebrate Memorial Day. Memorial Day Surprise by Theresa Golding is a captivating book about a mom who takes her son to his first Memorial Day parade. The surprise is seeing his grandfather, who is a decorated war hero, in the parade! CLICK HERE to read the book. CLICK HERE to watch a video that explains why we celebrate Memorial Day.

This Memorial Day was like no other. Filled with honor and remembrance, sunshine and showers and social distancing with our neighbors. We will never forget.

Now What?… Day 66

Our school year is over and summer vacation has officially started. As I sit here thinking about the days ahead, all that comes to mind is…Now What?

As states begin to open back up many uncertainties remain. And our media is no help as it is flooded with mixed messages and different opinions. Early on I thought once the stay at home order was lifted things would go back to “normal.” Now I know that transitioning out of isolation will be a gradual process. Through the transition we will need to continue to practice social distancing. Will we be required to wear masks? Hand sanitizers and extra hand washing will be imperative. So many unanswered questions remain… Will swimming pools open up for the summer? What will worship look like when our church reopens? Will we have VBS in person this year or will it be virtual? Will schools conduct professional development sessions and will I train teachers this summer? What will the 2020-2021 school year look like?

Among all of the unknowns, one thing is known, the pandemic is something we have never experienced before. As we transition back to “normal” we need to be accepting of others, allowing every person, every family, to enter back into society in a way that makes them feel comfortable. We shouldn’t judge others but focus instead, on what feels right for our family.

I continue to find comfort through God’s word and am reminded not to worry about tomorrow. Although COVID-19 has changed our world and the summer continues to hold many unknowns, we will get through this together.

Finding Comfort in the Familiar…Days 61 and 62

Our weekend was filled with the familiar and this brought me comfort as we continue to navigate an unfamiliar world filled with uncertainty.

Trivia Night- The Mid-West is known for holding trivia nights, a fun way for organizations to raise funds and an enjoyable night out with friends. This year, several trivia nights in our area were rescheduled due to COVID-19. We participated in our first virtual trivia night on Saturday when we gathered with friends, virtually, and answered questions as a team. Although there were fewer questions and we didn’t get any of Debbie’s yummy chocolate chip cookies, debating on answers felt familiar and there were snacks, drinks, laughs and a whole lot of fun! 

Church– Although we miss our Zion Lutheran Church family, worshiping together in front of our TV on a Sunday morning is becoming comfortably familiar. When we return to regular worship I’m going to miss these lazy Sundays where we sleep in, eat brunch (sometimes from Donut King) and snuggle together in the family room listening to the word of God, praising Him in song and remembering our many blessings.

I find joy in the music we sing every Sunday. Last week the hymns during worship were all familiar and comforting. CLICK HERE to listen. From the opening hymn, “From All That Dwell Below the Skies,” to the hymn of the day, “At the Lambs High Feast We Sing,” to the sermon hymn, “Christ is Our Cornerstone,” to the closing hymn, “I Know That My Redeemer Lives,” all were wonderfully familiar. In fact, I can’t remember a time in my life that any were unfamiliar. These are the hymns from my childhood. They bring comfort and healing and have always been part of me.

Family Dinner- We ended our weekend with a big Sunday dinner. COVID-19 has my family of three preparing meals together and eating them every night around our kitchen table. Tonight we enjoyed homemade smoked sausage (leftover from Zion’s sausage supper), mashed potatoes, sauerkraut and green beans. The menu was familiar and took me back to my childhood as this was one of my grandmother’s favorite meals. She prepared it often with sausages bought at a wurstmarkt. The meal also warmed me with more recent memories of our church’s annual Sausage Supper, held a mere three months ago, in February. Although the day felt ordinary at the time, I would give anything to return to that moment. A morning spent worshiping with my family of three in our physical church building, a non-social distanced sausage meal enjoyed with my parents and then serving sauerkraut next to dear members of my church family. There were no masks and plenty of hugs!

 

 

 

 

Endings, New Beginnings and Butterfly Blessings…Day 60

Today was the last day of school. The final week brought many endings: the final chapel with Gary the Puppet, the last preschool blog post and the final virtual circle time with her teacher. As I clicked out of the Zoom meeting, an all too familiar thing to do these days, I wondered if her kindergarten year would begin the way her last year of preschool ended… with virtual learning? As the 2019-2020 school year comes to a close, it’s too early to know what awaits us for next year. One thing is certain, there will be changes. COVID-19 has assured us of that.

The last virtual preschool class was a fun dance party!

As we say goodbye to another school year, in a few days, my daughter’s teacher, Mrs. Stanglein, will release the butterflies the class has been observing virtually. Our world has changed over the past few months but we have adapted. It hasn’t been easy, but we have fought. We continue to be filled with uncertainty but with prayer, love and support, from our family, friends and from Zion Lutheran Church and School, we can make it through any storm. As my daughter and I read the last page of the book, Where Butterflies Grow, by Joanne Ryder, the words on the page spoke to me. Although written for the butterflies, it easily could have been written about my daughter, or any child in the world who finds themselves graduating or advancing to the next stage in their educational career. I leave you with what I like to call the butterfly blessing…

“You have grown and changed and your world has grown too. Now it’s time to fly to new places, time to look for others like yourself- bright flyers in the sun. Fly, butterfly. Good-bye.”

My daughter is standing next to a Zion Lutheran School graduation sign that proudly stands in our neighbor’s yard. Signs like these appeared in yards across our country. After a prekindergarten-8th grade education at Zion Lutheran, he is graduating. My heart goes out to the middle school, high school and college graduates who spent the best weeks of the school year at home, engaging in virtual classes and will experience a virtual graduation.

 

 

A Social Distancing Mother’s Day Weekend…Days 54 and 55

I never imagined a time where we would have to social distance from one another to stay safe and well. A time when my extended family would find ourselves unable to gather around the dining room table to enjoy good food, fellowship and hugs! This Mother’s Day weekend looked a bit different, but it was filled with love and happy surprises and I can’t think of anything better than that!

I am blessed to have the sweetest, most supportive mother in the world! She taught me the faith, loves me and has never tried to change me. She continues to be my biggest cheerleader!

Three generations enjoying the backyard fried chicken picnic, with all the fixings, we had for my mother on Saturday. My daughter bought pink daises for her Nana.

Visiting Maw Maw on Mother’s Day and delivering her an afternoon tea.

I want to remember all of the mothers in my life, past and present, who helped raise and nurture me, who inspire me, teach me and support me. The women who make me a better person and through their unconditional love, have taught me how to be a good mother to my daughter.

My daughter looking at the pictures of the important mothers in our lives, both past and present. My dad made an outdoor display for our outdoor Mother’s Day celebration

 

I also want to recognize all the mOTHERS in our lives. Women who are not mothers in the traditional sense but are strong, beautiful role models for me and for my daughter. My daughter is blessed to have two amazing women she lovingly calls “aunt” and “auntie” and although they are not part of our family tree, they are our family and we love them so very much!

I know Mother’s Day isn’t a joyous day for everyone. For some there is great sorrow and loss. Others feel an emptiness as they yearn to become a mother and many are fighting a battle with infertility. I understand, I have been there and have experienced the pain.

Mother’s Day Tea Cups– When I taught kindergarten I had my students cut and color this paper tea cup for their mothers. A single tea bag was placed inside. My daughter created some special tea cups for her grandmothers.

Mother’s Day S’mores– We enjoyed a s’mores bar at our outdoor Mother’s Day picnic for my mother. My husband built a fire (he is an Eagle Scout) and we roasted marshmallows! Look at the variety of menu choices!

Mother’s Day Tea– A local tea shop, The London Tea Room, offered a special carry out Mother’s Day Tea, for two, with sweet and savory goodies to make for a proper afternoon tea. Complete with Laura Ashley tea cups, plates, tea pot and cloth napkins, we knew this would be a wonderful gift for my mother-in-law! As an avid tea lover, she is responsible for my love of tea parties. My in-laws have enjoyed several trips to London and planned to return this summer. Unfortunately, COVID 19 cancelled their trip. A huge thank you to The London Tea Room for bringing a taste of London to Missouri!

Tea for Two– My daughter and I enjoyed a mother/daughter tea after a virtual church service filled with beautiful Easter hymns. Our table was set with my butterfly meadow tea set and a variety of delectable delights. My little one discovered a new found love for scones and lemon curd. While we dined and talked of future tea parties after the virus, my mini me explained, “This is delightful!” This Noteworthy Mommy couldn’t agree more!

 

 

 

 

From “Caterpillar to Butterfly” and a Pop-Up Flower Shop…Day 51

During the seven years l taught kindergarten, one of my favorite things to do with my class was to order Painted Lady caterpillars from Insect Lore. My students and I enjoyed watching these teeny, tiny caterpillars grow and change; first into a chrysalis’ and then transform themselves into beautiful butterflies! It amazes me that the entire metamorphosis took a mere 3 to 4 weeks!

The caterpillars in my daughter’s classroom have all changed into chrysalises and her teacher placed them into the butterfly net. The caterpillar cam has been turned off, for now, as the metamorphosis begins. While we wait, my daughter and I continued our study of butterflies with some exciting activities. Our day ended with back yard play and an impromptu pop up flower shop in the backyard.

A Butterfly Garden– After completing the Scholastic Learn From Home module “From Caterpillar to Butterfly,” we went outside and planted some wildflowers that are supposed to attract butterflies. My daughter loves the dirt and is looking forward to watering her flowers everyday.

“The Very Hungry Caterpillar Yoga”– There are extensive benefits of doing yoga with children! Yoga improves their physical, mental, emotional and social health. From helping to balance energy levels and calming the nervous system, to building sensory awareness, flexibility and balance, yoga is simply amazing! My daughter needs to develop these skills so doing activities like yoga do not come naturally and it’s difficult to get her to do it without a fight! Her teacher recommended Cosmic Yoga, engaging story based yoga for kids presented by storyteller, Jaime Amor. My daughter was resistant at firs, but after awhile, to my great surprise, she began to request Cosmic Yoga! Amor has created yoga stories for just about any theme you can think of. From “The Wizard of Oz,” to “Star Wars,” to “Frozen,” everyone will find something they like! CLICK HERE to do “Very Hungry Caterpillar” yoga.

Pattern Block Creations– We used pattern blocks to create caterpillars and then we made symmetrical butterflies. We also played a symmetry game found here. Young children have a strong intuitive sense of symmetry. Research shows that knowing symmetry helps us learn things like graphing, understanding negative numbers and how to simplify complex information.

Pop-Up Flower Shop– Being an only child my daughter effectively plays independently and benefits greatly from child-directed, free play opportunities. One of her favorite places to play, during the quarantine, is in our backyard. Today she created an impromptu flower shop after gathering wildflowers in the field behind our house. She got plastic containers out of her water play toys and used them as vases. She used her toy phone to talk to customers and solicited me as her number one customer! I gladly joined in and helped direct her imaginative play. I asked the following questions…How much do the flowers cost? What is the name of her shop? Can she created mixed bouquets? I provided paper and crayons and encouraged her to create a menu for her shop, listing the prices for her various creations. By guiding her play, I was able to introduce new vocabulary and incorporate literacy skills in a fun, engaging way. CLICK HERE to read a short article about the benefits of adult guidance in play (or learning).

Happy Half-Birthday and “The State of Arizona, (Ditat Deus), God Enriches”…Day 50

Today is my daughter’s half-birthday and although I find it hard to believe, she is now 5 1/2 years old! As a child I never celebrated half-birthdays but it is something we started when she was a 1/2 year old (6 months) and have now made it a family tradition. Since her half-birthday happens to fall on Cinco De Mayo, we are already in party mode with margaritas in hand. Although my mini me spent her half-birthday in isolation, she had a fabulous day…homemade cupcakes, a scooter ride, (between the rain showers) presents from her loving grandparents and a game of tag in the yard with her Noteworthy Mommy after dinner. Happy Half-Birthday to our little miracle baby!

image-1

 

My daughter was excited to have her two best friends in small group today. Their teacher, Mrs. Stanglein, read “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”

Making a cake with homemade frosting for her half-birthday.

FaceTime birthday singing with Nana and Pops and a surprise porch visit from Maw Maw and Paw Paw.

 

My church publishes an Easter devotional every year. Members of the church, both young and old, write the daily devotionals and I wrote the one for May 5. Titled, “The State of Arizona..”Ditat Deus” God Enriches.”

CLICK HERE to hear Pastor Reitz read my devotional or continue reading below. CLICK HERE to download a copy of the entire devotional book.

arizona mug

The State of Arizona… “Ditat Deus” God Enriches

By: Jennifer Freeman Talley

Every morning I drink coffee from a mug purchased during my travels and I am immediately transported to the experiences on that trip. Today I’m drinking from my Arizona mug. Did you know that Arizona’s state motto is the Latin phrase Ditat Deus which means God Enriches? I can’t think of a more appropriate motto since that describes how I felt after visiting Arizona in January 2014.

It was a cold start to the new year and a blizzard rolled in creating a blanket of snow over a layer of ice. My flight to Arizona was delayed and eventually cancelled. It would have been easy to get an excused absence from the national sales meeting as more flights were delayed the following day and American Express Travel was inundated with phone calls making it next to impossible to re-book. Although I enjoyed seeing employees who live across the country I never loved going to the meetings. Deep down I am extremely shy and easily get lost in a room filled with extroverts. Catching up on employees’ personal lives and hearing about their children was another thing I simply wasn’t looking forward to. By this time in my life I expected to have a baby or be pregnant and another year without any “good news” was a disappointment. My husband and I struggled with infertility and over the past year we had silently endured three failed IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) cycles and were told we could try one more even though statistically the odds were against us. But something told me I needed to get to Arizona and after hours on the phone I was re-booked and found myself on a flight. That “something” was God. He knew what I needed before I even had a clue!

Have you ever gotten out of doing something you didn’t want to do by searching for an excuse or even going as far as making one up? The excuse always makes us feel better because we lay all our quilt and insecurities on the excuse and take ourselves and God out of the equation. It would have been easy to use the winter weather as an excuse and not attend the meeting I was feeling overly anxious about. Isn’t it a comfort to know God is with us during fearful times and through Him we can gain strength? Upon arrival I attended sessions and took advantage of the beautiful weather by walking through the desert landscape, basking in the sun and gazing in amazement at the beautiful mountains crafted by my Creator. A feeling of calmness and love embraced me; something that had been absent for months. I prayed and willingly handed my worries over to God. I left Arizona enriched by God’s everlasting love, knowing He had a plan for me and that I was going to be ok whether it included a child or not. My fears about the future were washed away and I felt an inner peace knowing I wasn’t on this journey alone.

Dear Almighty God, Thank you for listening to my cries for help. Give me patience when I encounter uncertainties in my life. Help me be strong in times of fear and help me trust in the path You have already mapped out for me.   Amen

 

Family Friday (Week of the Young Child)…Day 46

Today is the last day of WOYC, and this fabulous Friday is devoted to family fun! My family of three enjoyed the day together, with our little one taking the lead and requesting lots of play time outside!

Family Keepsake– The weekly lessons from my daughter’s teacher suggested that we make a family keepsake to commemorate this time together. This is what my family of three created. Although our time in isolation has been filled with frustration and some ugly moments, it has also brought tenderness and joy. When I look at our hands, represented here on colorful paper, I will be reminded of the moments that changed us for good.

The Live Generously Twins– My daughter and I decided to dress like twins by wearing our matching Thrivent, Live Generously, t-shirts. Live Generously t-shirts have become my quarantine uniform of choice as the message makes my heart happy and the soft cotton is comfortable. Living Generously has been our family slogan throughout this time of isolation. By leaving surprise gifts on doorsteps, delivering food to high risk individuals, participating in drive-by parades and reaching out to family and friends virtually; our hearts are overflowing with joy! The reward we receive when we give unto others is far greater than the gift that was given! Seeing how happy we are making others during this time of uncertainty is a lesson I want my daughter to remember forever!

A huge thank you goes out to my childhood friend, Stacy, for making these quarantine themed wine glasses at cost. She brought joy to others during a time of uncertainty.

Family Game Night– Tonight’s Family Game Night was a real “game changer.” For tonight is the night our little one was first introduced to a gaming system. We dusted off our old Wii and my little one enjoyed an evening of Super Mario Brothers and virtual bowling!Whether we are teaching our daughter to live generously, to love music and science and Jesus, or how to play Super Mario Brother’s, my husband and I are and will continue to be our daughter’s first and most important teacher.

My daughter creates a self portrait of me complete with sunglasses on top of my head!