Change is Never Easy…

~Julie Chatfield, Children’s Ministry Director
A couple of weeks ago, in the Kids Zone during Advent, I had an unusually small class that consisted of only third grade girls.  We began the lesson, reading the story of the birth of Jesus from Luke, doing the worksheet and then having some time to listen to Christmas music while crafting the manger scene and decorating some Christmas cookies.  The vibe was good.  As we sat around munching our snack, I asked these young ladies to share their Christmas morning traditions.   It probably comes as no surprise that kids love to talk about Christmas, so this idea was not a hard sell.  We began going around the circle each one excitedly sharing.  One student awakes at 1 a.m., sits on the couch and stares with a big smile at the presents under the tree.  She does this until sunrise which is when the opening begins.  Some of the kids open their stockings at free will at any time of night.  Others had to wait until the entire house was awake, which apparently was a brutal time of 7 a.m.  When it came time for me to share, I told that when my kiddos were young they were able to open their stockings at any time during the night but they had to wait until a brutal 8 a.m. and until one cup of coffee was consumed before any of the gifts could be touched.  All of this talk on tradition reminded me of the day before when I was visiting my daughter Jessica.  She is 22, is graduated from college, has a job and is living in her own apartment.  We were laying on her bed.  I habit I have in anticipation of casual chit chat that usually leads to her sharing something important.  This day was no different.   I can’t remember what eluded to the conversation exactly, but she announced she wanted to sleep at her place on Christmas Eve and to wake in her apartment Christmas morning.  And just like that, our Christmas morning traditions had changed.  Honestly, I wasn’t ready for the shift in my Christmas tradition.  The one where everyone is in the house and opens their stockings at any point during the night.  I wasn’t ready to give up drinking coffee before a single piece of wrapping could be ripped.  But as I lay on my responsible adult daughters bed anticipating her to say something important, in her simple and honest request I realized traditions change.  It is something that happens as life goes on, we are suddenly faced with letting go of traditions that no longer apply.  And then we try and find a blending of what’s past and what’s to come.  Change is never easy, and sometimes it’s a little sad.  But as the New Year begins, and when traditions change, be open to where Christ is pointing us to go in anticipation of what’s to come.  

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Be Confident in Yourself

~By Julie Chatfield, Children’s Ministry Director

A couple of weeks ago during Kids Worship, the kiddos were encouraged to read the Creation Story and then illustrate what they read.  Genesis 1 is easy reading and soon my young friends had their colored pencils hard at word.  After ten minutes the activity was complete and I suggested we share their creative efforts.  This idea was met with moans of dismay but thankfully after a bit of coercing, the exhibit began.    As each child revealed their original art it was evident their distinctive gifts, each piece unique to the student and worthy in it’s own right.  Yet still throughout the activity the enthusiasm of the circle remained dismal, everyone sure their efforts lacking.   When the exercise was complete we sat for what seemed like an unusually long period of silence.  I looked around the circle at their sweet faces, perplexed at their seeming lack of confidence.  Then unexpectedly but as if part of the lesson plan, I announced we were going to review the pictures again.   This time I would share my commentary.  As each participant held up their sketch I explained why their contribution was valuable and affirmed what I liked about their unique perspective.  It was important they knew this place of worship was safe and would not judge their efforts.  It was necessary to learn Gods Word, but also acknowledge how God was at work in them.  As the class time came to a close I reminded, God made each of us special.  God gave us different talents and abilities, and if we did everything exactly the same, life would be boring and we would not benefit from, nor would we need each other.  If we all thought about everything in the same way, we could not solve the worlds problems.  Be confident in yourself.  And in this age of social media frenzy, isn’t this an important lesson for us all? 

Genesis 1:26-28

Then God said, “Let us make humanity in our image to resemble us so that they may take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and all the crawling things on earth.” God created humanity in God’s own image, in the divine image God created them, male and female God created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and master it. Take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds in the sky, and everything crawling on the ground.”

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The Imperfect Image is Perfect!

~By – Julie Chatfield, Children’s Ministry Director
Picture Day! When you were a kid, picture day always felt somewhat like a holiday.  The routine of classwork was disrupted, and it seemed there was more opportunity for social interaction.  To be sure, the day went by quickly.  My mother would always make a big deal about us wearing something nice and made sure, against our will, that our hair was combed and styled in a  presentable fashion.  There would always be a free comb which was too fine to fix any fly away strands, but we gladly accepted it and secured it in the back pocket of our Jordan Jeans.  The photographer would inevitably position our chins a little too high, evident in the final results.  After everyone was individually photographed, the entire class would line up on a set of risers behind a black changeable message board noting the year, teacher and grade.  

As I became a parent the enthusiasm of picture day remained the same.  Only, the expectation of my children was different.  Luckily for me our kiddos school required uniforms so the outfit was never in question.  But from the moment my girls had enough hair to style, my handling and care of it was off limits.  Picture day was no exception.  When my oldest was in first grade she insisted daily on wearing her hair pulled back in a pony tail.  I generally didn’t have a problem with this because at least it was getting combed.  But I admit felt it wasn’t the most flattering look.  On picture day that year I pleaded, “Jessica, please wear your hair down for the picture.”  She emphatically promised to abide.  Later, as I eagerly viewed the proofs, her pose showed otherwise.  I’m guessing she pulled her hair back the second she entered the classroom, not thinking twice about my plea, and also not considering the pictures would convict.  Of course I could have gotten angry and scolded her for not listening and at best opted for a retake.  But in that moment decided the trouble wasn’t worth my time, so happily paid for a package.  As the years continued I vowed to accept their school pictures and all their imperfections.  In hindsight I am glad for my choice.  Now when I look back upon their sweet faces complete with wonky smiles, braces, or the trending hairdo, it’s nice to reminisce of their developing and confident personalities.  All this to say, sometimes the imperfect image is perfect after all.  

1 Samuel 16: 7-  But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

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What’s Your Christian Story?

~By Julie Chatfield, Children’s Ministry Directory

What is your Christian Story?  I have always dreaded this question because my story would pale in comparison to those who had earth shattering, lightning bolt experiences.  I was born and raised United Methodist.   In fact, the entire family including both sets of grandparents attended the same United Methodist Church.  The family at large went every Sunday and we would sit in the 4th pew, taking up the entire row.  My spot was between my mom and her mom, my grandma Bartter.  During the hymns I could hear grandpa Bs bass voice and grandma B singing along in harmony.  If I got restless, grandma would pass over a Tic Tac or a Brock’s butterscotch.  My dad’s parents where strong leaders in the life of the church.  My Grandpa O, short for Oberholtzer, was on the Board of Trustees and my grandma O, who came from a family of wealth, donated the church library.  I was proud to be a part of such an involved family.  All the adults were a part of smaller groups that consisted of people who remained their close friends throughout their lives.  I knew these people, what kept them busy, when they were in the hospital and even heard when they died.  To this day one couple, who was a part of my parents small group, attends Peace United Methodist church when they are visiting Florida.  It’s always great to see them sitting in our Sanctuary.  After worship, we all went to our respective Sunday School classes.  My parents often took turns teaching my classroom.  While I don’t necessarily have precise memories, I cherish these moments which had a greater impact on me than I realized. 

Recently I was asked on the spot to lead a small group discussion.  Not having anything prepared, I pulled this idea out of my bag of queries.   I began, “What is your Christian Story?”  As the group thoughtfully shared their journeys I noted the  similarities.  Relationships, routines, nature, deep cognizance.   A dark period, sin, falling away, a time of questioning.  These characteristics were not discriminate.  They were not selective to those born into a Christian family, not definitive of age or intelligence.  These commonalities didn’t care the origin, or the social class and certainly were not judgmental of behavior or lack thereof.  Ultimately, it was perceived God was always present.  God uses dark periods, sin, falling away and times of questioning.  God uses relationships, nature, routines, and those moments of deep cognizance.  God is at work in everyone all of the time.  Because God is God, and that’s the truth.  God is always at work in you! What is your Christian Story? 

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