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.”

End of the School Year Celebrations… Days 64 and 65

Although the last two months of the school year brought the unexpected, the 2019-2020 school year is one we will never forget! Although it was unprecedented and filled with great adaptation and a few tears along the way, our school year ended with the closure we were desperately seeking. Over the past two days we had proper summer send offs with a memorable visit with my daughter’s preschool teacher, an end of the school year car parade at Zion and a new tradition with water balloons and pizza!

End of the Year Memories– I’m happy we had an opportunity for a private send off with my daughter’s preschool teacher and assistant when we went to pick up my daughter’s end of the year bag. Although my daughter will be leaving preschool and beginning kindergarten in the fall, this isn’t goodbye. She is simply moving to a new classroom down the hall and will continue to see her beloved preschool teachers at weekly chapel and at special assemblies. And when our church opens its physical doors, we will worship together once again!

It was bittersweet to open up the red bag filled with memories of my daughter’s last year of preschool. When we got the bag home we found a children’s bible with a special inscription inside. Along with an extra set of clothes, preschool master pieces created on construction paper, summer wishes and a portfolio full of growth and learning; was a container of Clorox wipes and an interview my daughter had with her teacher over Zoom, titled, A Preschooler’s Perspective on a Pandemic. She says she misses her friends most of all and when the pandemic is over she looks forward to play dates and spending the night at her grandparents house. Although she misses school, she has enjoyed spending time outside and learned to write letters to authors and have birthday parades. Her answer to finding a cure for COVID-19 is medicine and Jesus’s healing hands.

Items from my daughter’s red bag.

Special Early Childhood Closing Chapel– The marvelous preschool teachers at Zion Lutheran School recorded a special closing chapel for their students. Sitting socially distanced on the alter, in our sanctuary, we joined in when they sang and danced to familiar songs the children had sung throughout the year. They shared best wishes and recognized the children moving into kindergarten. They ended by inviting us to join them in reciting the Lord’s Prayer, something we discovered my daughter could do independently when we began virtual church in March. CLICK HERE to view this special chapel.

Car Parade– End of the year car parades are the popular way to bring closure to a school year that ended virtually due to a pandemic. We enjoyed decorating our car for the school wide parade through our school’s parking lot. It made us smile to see all of Zion’s teachers, support staff and administrators waving and wishing us well. At the same time we were sad because we miss our Zion family so very much and the parade was simply too short! We hope everyone has a safe and happy summer and we can’t wait until it’s safe for us to be together again! CLICK HERE to view part of the parade.

New End of the School Year Traditions– Last week one of my daughter’s dear friends left a bag of water balloons on our doorstep. During normal circumstances they would have asked friends to join them for an end of the school year water balloon / pizza party. Since COVID-19 kept that from happening, they gifted us with balloons so we could have our own party. We had a blast playing with water balloons and ordered pizza for dinner. Next year we look forward to this new tradition and celebrating with school friends will be the best part!

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 Hero’s Parade, Family Zoom and a New Hymn…Day 41

Our day began like a typical Sunday in isolation with our family of three gathering by the big screen to worship together. Little did we know the excitement that awaited! The day was filled with adventure… a new hymn, a multi-generational family reunion on Zoom and a surprise from our favorite baseball mascot, Fred Bird!

 An Anthem During Isolation– We sang a new hymn in church today. “Christ Our Hope in Life and Death,” is a modern hymn that expresses the comfort and assurance that flow from trusting Christ, who has conquered death and guaranteed our future by his resurrection. Written by the modern hymn writers, Keith and Kristyn Getty, the words we sang reminded me to trust in God during this time of isolation and uncertainty; through the troubled storms, trials and fear, God is good and the blood of Christ is our hope in life and in death. CLICK HERE to listen to the song on YouTube and CLICK HERE to view Zion Lutheran’s worship service.

Getty song

Family Zoom Reunion- My husband participated in a Talley family Zoom with his father, most of his aunts and uncles and some of his cousins. There were 20 family members in attendance and they represented 8 different states! My daughter, the third generation, enjoyed waving to her extended family. The conversation for this week centered around the old house on the family’s homestead in rural KY. It had recently been torn down and the first generation had a lot of memories to share. Filled with family history and updates from the present, these virtual family reunions are becoming a weekly tradition!

A Parade For Heroes– During our Zoom call imagine our surprise when we heard a commotion coming from behind our house! From across the pond we heard horns honking, music playing and saw a parade for our medical heroes being led by our favorite baseball mascot, Fred Bird! Louie, the St. Louis Blues mascot, also joined in. They were heading to our local hospital to surprise the staff and thank our medical community for the hard work and great effort they are putting forth during the pandemic. They happened to take a detour behind our house along the way! My daughter has been blessed to meet Fred Bird, the mascot of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team, multiple times in her short life. (5 times if I’m counting correctly) I’ll never forget how excited I was to have an up close and personal chat with him in the Cardinal Club. I told my daughter how lucky she was to meet Fred Bird and how I only dreamed of such a meeting when I was a child. My daughter, three years old at the time, replied, “Well, you’re getting to see him now!” A year ago Fred Bird was a special guest at a birthday party we attended and more recently he made an appearance at her school. My daughter had won a contest where Fred Bird came to her school to surprise her! He visited with all of the children but extra special attention was given to my daughter. The photos show that special day in December 2019, when all of the preschool students and their teachers happily gathered in the commons area. Fred Bird has been part of my daughter’s life so it should come as no surprise when she said, “Fred Bird drove past our house because he knows me!” Thank you Fred Bird for putting a smile on our faces during this time of isolation!