An Easter Message From the Noteworthy Mommy

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!

Kindness…The Universal Language

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!

Called to Care…Living Generously This Advent

This year Advent looks and feels different due to COVID-19. I found my usual hectic calendar surprisingly blank and my heart a bit empty. I prayed about something special I could do to fill the void and bring some joy. I knew I wanted to focus on individuals in my church congregation who live alone and are probably feeling isolated, lonelier and more home bound than usual. But I wasn’t exactly sure what God was calling me to do until I heard that the leaders of my women’s bible study were planning a service project that involved creating and delivering care packages to the 35 shut-ins in our congregation. Then I got the idea to write a Thrivent Grant so we could make the care packages special and so more individuals could be reached.

Along with writing personalized notes, the women in my Bible study donated a variety of items from fresh fruit, puzzle books, hard candy and hot chocolate, just a few of the many items in the overflowing bag. Our church, Zion Lutheran Church in St. Charles, MO, donated pens and Portals of Prayer books. Thrivent funds allowed us to add face masks and hand lotions to the initial 35 care packages. One of our leaders sewed the LCMS cross on the masks, making them extra special and with the generous donations from the Bible study, along with the Thrivent funds, I was able to expand the project to 30 additional individuals. (15 additional members at Zion St. Charles, 8 members from neighboring churches, and 7 members from my childhood church, Zion Lutheran Belleville). We were able to bless a total of 65 people!

Pastor Fieberkorn told us many of the individuals receiving care packages are feeling like prisoners in their own homes. They are receiving fewer visits, are not going out and are feeling more isolated.

Our pastor advised us to call first and mentioned that some of the people we deliver to may understandably prefer to have no contact, while others may invite us in. I found both to be true. I left packages at the door or briefly said hello. For those that wanted to talk, we bounded over being Lutheran, most stating that, like myself, they have been Lutheran their entire life. We talked about the virus, the feeling of isolation and the love we shared for our Lord and Savior. I received appreciative waves and “God Bless Yous” from afar, along with sweet phone calls and notes of appreciation.

The entire project filled my heart with pure joy! From writing the personalized notes, to having my mini me help pack the bags, to delivering the bags (with my husband driving, me navigating and our kindergartener learning how to live generously in the back seat), this project was a true gift and made this year end on a positive note. But the greatest gift of all was seeing the smiles on the recipients faces! I learned that it wasn’t about the contents of the bag but the gift of being remembered, knowing in this time of isolation that someone cares. This service project was a reminder that God continues to bless us with tiny miracles, even during times of darkness. We have hope in Him!

The Noteworthy Mommy would like to thank the following individuals for their help and support. This service project would have never taken place without them! Thrivent Financial, The women of Zion Lutheran Church St. Charles Bible Study, Angie Gielow, Rachel Schenck, Pastor Fieberkorn, Vickie Adams, Lillian Talley, Ken Talley, Marilyn Talley and Keith and Janet Freeman.

Advent Traditions…Preparing The Way

This past Sunday marked the beginning of Advent, the liturgical season where Christians prepare and anticipate the coming of Christ by celebrating His birth on Christmas and looking forward to the day we will see Him again. This year Advent is going to look a bit different and I’m going to dearly miss some favorite church traditions like Advent By Candlelight, Family Advent Night and Advent services led by school children. As the pandemic continues, our traditions are forced to be altered and a little bit of sadness creeps into a season usually filled with cheer.

Instead of concentrating on what is missing this year, I am focusing on the gifts God has given me. More quality time with my family of three has allowed us to try new activities and as a result, the beginning of new traditions. Without the parties and added distractions, I am taking more time to study God’s word, beginning each day with an Advent devotional that is deepening my relationship with God. And the extra time I’ve gained from cancelled events has allowed me to slow down and clearly see the many blessings God has given. And that fills by heart with hope and joy, which is truly what Advent represents.

Advent Wreath– Christians have adopted the tradition of lighting candles during Advent to observe this as the time of the coming of Christ who is the light of the world. One tradition is lighting an Advent wreath at church and at home to mark each Sunday in Advent. This Advent tradition dates back to Germany and the Lutheran Church following the Reformation. Today Advent wreaths are made out of evergreen and are shaped like a circle to represent eternal life. The Advent wreath we use at church and at home has five candles with three of the candles being blue or purple in color to match the liturgical colors. The candle lit on the first week is blue and represents hope. The candle lit on the second week is blue and represents peace. The candle lit on the third Sunday is pink and represents joy. On the last Sunday of Advent a blue candle representing love is lit. The candle in the center is white and is know as the Christ candle. It is lit on Christmas or Christmas Eve.

Advent Family Devotionals– This year my family of three are doing two different Advent devotionals, “The Way in the Manger” and “Jesus’ Family Tree” (Praying through Advent with the Jesse Tree). We begin our devotional by lighting our Advent wreath and singing the following song..

“Light One Candle”– Light one candle for hope, One bright candle for hope. He brings hope to every heart He comes! He comes! **For verses 2-4, replace hope with peace, joy, and love.

The tiny Advent wreath above was created by my mini me during her first year of preschool. Carefully crafted out of clay and decorated with green paint and birthday candles it is very special to us.

Advent Calendar With Pastor Rouland and Rupert the Dog– Our senior pastor is making daily Advent videos where he leads viewers in singing “Light One Candle,” reads a scripture verse and reveals a new ornament for his Advent tree. My daughter squealed with delight when Rupert the Dog makes a special appearance. Search for Zion Lutheran Church St. Charles on You Tube or click here for a video link.

Chocolate Advent Calendar– When I was little I always had a chocolate German Advent calendar. In fact, the German Club at my high school sold them. The tradition continues with my daughter and everyday we guess what shape the chocolate will be, hunt for the number and then rip open the little window and enjoy the sweet treat hiding inside.

Advent Tree– We’ve had this Melissa and Doug wooden Advent tree since my daughter was a toddler. My daughter loves adding a magnetic ornament to her tree everyday. It’s the perfect countdown to Christmas

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 Noteworthy Mommy Gets Her Daughter Ready For Kindergarten!

During my twenty-eight years in the field of education, seven glorious years were spent teaching kindergarten. I look back on that time with found memories and keep in touch with some of my former students who are now young adults beginning careers or parents sending their own children off to kindergarten!

This year I am sending my only child off to kindergarten and we commemorated this milestone with some special books, back to school traditions and activities.

Kindergarten Books- To prepare my daughter for her first day of kindergarten we read several kindergarten themed books. As a former kindergarten teacher, most are from my own collection and as I read them memories of my seven years laying the educational foundation for five and six year olds flooded back. The joy of preparing my classroom and filling it with new materials, the shiny waxed floors and freshly cleaned classroom, the anticipation of meeting my students and experiencing a new beginning with them was thrilling! Now it will be my daughter’s turn. The following books are some of my favorites.

Meet the Teacher– A week before school, we signed up for a private meet and greet with my daughter’s kindergarten teacher and kindergarten assistant. To avoid extra people in the school building, one adult was invited to join their child on this special tour of the kindergarten classroom. My daughter was excited to meet her teacher, Mrs. Reed and her kindergarten assistant, Mrs. Collins. My daughter found her cubby, practiced washing her hands properly, made a painted heart to hang in the classroom and read the book Kindergarten, Here I Come! with her teacher. My daughter got to take the book home so we could read it before the first day of school and inside the front cover was a handwritten note from Mrs. Reed. When I read the words “Jesus loves you and so do I,” any trepidation I had about sending my daughter to Zion Lutheran School for “face to face learning” was washed away. I felt confident that my husband and I had made the best decision for our family because I was reminded that along with Zion’s carefully thought out safety procedures and dedicated teachers and staff, Jesus would be lovingly watching over our daughter while she is at school.

The Kissing Hand Tradition- I always read The Kissing Hand to my kindergarten students and their parents during our “Meet the Teacher Night.” I also made and decorated heart shaped cookies for them to take home. I began this tradition with my daughter when she was a three year old heading off to preschool. CLICK HERE to read all about it. We continued the tradition this year with Nana and Pops joining us in baking and decorating homemade kissing hand cookies which we gave to my daughter’s teachers and administrators on the first day of school. CLICK HERE for Nana’s homemade sugar cookie recipe and CLICK HERE for Nana’s homemade buttercream frosting recipe.

A Special ‘Twas the Night Before Kindergarten Poem- I was touched to receive this special poem written especially for my daughter by Auntie Jaime, a dear friend and my daughter’s honorary auntie. When I read the poem it brought back faded memories of when I was a kindergartener (43 years ago) and more vivid memories of my first day teaching kindergarten (24 years ago). As you read the following words I hope you are transported to a simpler time, not so long ago, when all children could safely go to school, hold hands with a new friend, learn without wearing a mask and freely play tag on the playground.

Whether you are home schooling, going back to school for face to face learning, engaging in virtual learning or participating in hybrid learning, I pray that you and your children have a safe and productive school year!

Slaw With the Lutheran Ladies

Who would think that a podcast about slaw would conjure up so many memories? That’s exactly what happened when I tuned into The Lutheran Ladies’ Lounge podcast a few weeks ago. (You don’t have to be Lutheran to enjoy the podcast so please read on) It was one of Erin’s recipe card episodes and the title “Slawfest” really got my attention! CLICK HERE to listen to the Slawfest episode.

While the ladies chatted about cabbage and their favorite slaw recipes (are you team creamy or team vinegar) my mind drifted to my childhood and the yummy vinegar based slaw served family style at my church’s annual fried chicken dinner.

Zion Lutheran Belleville’s Annual Chicken Dinner– I have happy memories of attending the annual chicken dinner with my parents and grandma. The golden fried chicken and the delectable homemade desserts made by the Lambs Club (my grandmother was an active member) were simply amazing! There were years where my grandma bought tickets for my aunt and uncle and all of my cousins and my extended family filled an entire table in the gym at Zion Lutheran School in Belleville, IL. The dinner was more than the delectable food…it was family and fellowship and a fund raiser for the school. Although I have many memories, it’s the slaw that The Lutheran Ladies’ Lounge helped me remember.

The Quest for the Recipe– After listening to the entire podcast I immediately called my mom and asked her if she had the slaw recipe. Unfortunately she didn’t have the recipe but she set out to find it by contacting the leader of her Juliet’s Group (a social group of retired ladies from Zion Belleville). Many of the ladies were founding members of Zion Belleville’s annual chicken dinner so surely one of them would have the recipe!

The Recipe– Along with the original slaw recipe, an email exchange of memories from the chicken dinner ensued with plans to share photos and stories once the ladies are able to safely gather again.

CLICK HERE to download and print the recipe.

Slaw Glorious Slaw!– I set out to make the slaw and it was just as I remembered, tart with just a surprise of sweetness! AMAZING! I didn’t have any celery seed to add and cheated by using a precut slaw blend to save prep time but it did not compromise the taste. The Lutheran Ladies’ Lounge inspired me to “think outside of the box” and next time I might add some tart green apples, craisins or sunflower seeds.

As school fund raisers changed from sit down dinners to auctions, trivia nights and pizza sales; Zion Belleville’s famous annual chicken dinner became a tasty memory some 15 years ago. I’m delighted my mom initiated the discovery of the slaw recipe. Now the memories of Zion Belleville’s chicken dinner can be shared with the next generation through cabbage, carrots and vinegar!

I would love to hear about your favorite slaw recipes! Please share by commenting on this post and connect with the Lutheran ladies on social media in The Lutheran Ladies’ Lounge Facebook discussion group and listen to them wherever you get your podcasts.

When the Familiar Feels Unfamiliar (Navigating Our New Normal)

Our city is slowly opening up and after weeks and weeks in isolation, my family found joy when we had the opportunity to engage in some familiar activities. Although familiar, COVID-19 continues to hold a threat and precautions were put in place to keep us safe, making the familiar feel oddly unfamiliar, in many ways.

Therapy Session- My daughter returned to occupational therapy at Leaps & Bounds this week and things were a bit different. The number of therapists and students was limited, temperatures were taken at the door and parents were asked to wait in their cars. Masks were required. We finally found a face mask that my daughter can wear comfortably. The masks with adjustable elastic straps are a must for little people! My daughter did a great job and mentioned she couldn’t wait to go back next week!

Communion at Church- Our church offered communion by appointment this week. Three families could sign up for each 15 minute time slot. Our senior pastor recommended that families bring their children to communion as a way to ease back into coming to our physical church building. We agreed and found communion to be the perfect way to make our little one more comfortable about going back. We were greeted by our music director and each family stood in the narthex, waiting for one of our three pastors to greet them and walk them to a different part of the alter where they individually led each family through the Service of Holy Communion. We are blessed with a big, beautiful, sanctuary so there was plenty of room to spread out. I appreciated the short conversation my family of three had with our pastor before and after communion. Seeing familiar faces, being in God’s house and receiving His body and blood brought us pure joy. My daughter agreed, saying, “Church was too short!

The Library– Our local library system opened up for curbside pick up this week. We went online and reserved several books and then after receiving an email that they were ready for pickup, we drove to our local branch, parked at a spot and followed the directions on the sign. A friendly librarian, wearing a mask, put our books in our trunk and we headed for home. This isn’t the library experience we are accustomed to but we were grateful to get some new books! Our library system has done an amazing job providing online programming throughout the quarantine. From cooking demonstrations to story time to live concerts, the programs we enjoyed in person at the library have moved to on line streaming. Our library is streaming a special program for children every Monday afternoon as part of the summer reading program.

While summer usually brings travel and new adventure, this summer we find ourselves slowly returning to our “new normal.” The adventure comes in new ways of doing things that just months ago felt ordinary. New library books, fun at Leaps and Bounds and receiving Holy Communion, made for a very exciting week!

Trinity Sunday, (Three in One)…Days 82 and 83

This Sunday is Trinity Sunday and in my church we believe in one true God who is the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Three distinct persons but of one and the same divine essence, equal in power, equal in eternity and equal in majesty.

3 in 1: A Picture of God– The Trinity can be confusing for anyone to understand, especially children, so I spent some time this weekend trying to explain it to my daughter. I was excited to find the perfect picture book, 3 in 1: A Picture of God by Joanne Marxhausen, to help my daughter gain a better understanding. The book, 3 in 1: A Picture of God, uses the analogy of an apple to explain to children the Triune God. With simple terms and illustrations, children learn how God the Father creates and protects them, how God the Son saves them and how God the Holy Spirit plants faith in their hearts. We found an animated version of the book online. CLICK HERE to view the video.

Apple Exploration– After reading the book we cut an apple open and reviewed the three parts. First we look at the apple’s skin and remembered it is like God the Father because they both provide protection. Next we looked at the apple’s flesh which is like God the Son, who was flesh and died on the cross to save use from our sins. Lastly, we examined the apple core which contains the seeds and it reminded us of the Holy Spirit that is planted in our hearts and grows like our faith.

Peel. Flesh. Core. Three parts . . . one apple.

Father. Son. Holy Spirit. Three Persons . . . one God.

3 in 1 Drawing– I found several apple handouts online that go along with the book. Most of them required a fee to download so my daughter and I created our own. We enjoyed working together and sharing our work with daddy and with Nana on Facetime.

 3 in 1 Children’s Message– Before we went to bed we watched a special children’s message recorded by the DCE at my mom and dad’s church. Mr. and Mrs. H. use the apple to explain the Holy Trinity just like the book. My daughter really enjoyed watching this video and I enjoyed seeing Mr. H, a former teaching partner of mine. CLICK HERE to watch this special children’s message.

A Monumental Sunday– With each passing day we find more and more things opening up in our community. This weekend our church opened back up for face to face worship. Our pastor made it very clear that we should come back when we feel comfortable and ready and that masks would be encouraged. Our family of three wasn’t quite ready to go back just yet so we continued to worship at home by watching our church through the TV. On this Trinity Sunday we sang one of my favorite hymns, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty.” God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity!

The classic hymn in a 1941 Lutheran Hymnal that my parents recently discovered in their basement.

A Memorable Weekend…Days 68 and 69

On Thursday we celebrated Ascension, the 40th day after Easter Sunday, that commemorates Jesus’s ascension into heaven. CLICK HERE to view an Ascension Service recorded at my church last year.

As my family of three worshiped from home today we were reminded of Jesus’s ascension into heaven. My daughter listened attentively as our pastor read the following during the children’s message…Jesus said, “God has given me complete power over heaven and earth. Go and tell everyone the good news. Make new disciples. Baptize them and teach them to obey my commandments. Don’t ever forget, I will always be with you.”

Half way through the sermon my daughter said, “We sing the song, Go and Make Disciples during circle time at school, always at this time of year.” I got tears in my eyes because my five year old daughter gets it! She may be coloring during church and appear to not be paying attention, even more so now that COVID-19 has caused us to worship at home, but she is listening and she understands! 

My daughter and I completed this coloring sheet with pencils. The colorful image of Jesus ascending into heaven reminds us of the huge stained glass window behind our alter at church. We look forward to the day where we can worship in God’s house once again. A day where we will be home and can praise Him with our church family!

“The Holy Spirit will come to you. He will give you power to tell people about me. Now the time has come for me to go to Heaven. Do not be afraid.”