Tradition be darned, and a word for 2019

I’ve always resisted a fad. Tell me the world’s loving some hot new thing and I’ll cross my arms and purse my lips, dead set on proving myself different from the rest of you. But like a big brother sitting beside me in the backseat of a sedan, it’ll keep poking me over and over and over.

This choosing a word for your year fad has been poking at me since at least 2012. Last year I almost caved. It was a dark time and a moment of light burst in one early January day and I threw up my arms. “The joy of the Lord is my strength,” I claimed. It stuck. Many times over in 2018, I whispered that verse in my soul. I needed both joy and strength and somehow I still wanted to believe both came from him. I placed the emphasis on a different word in that sentence depending on the situation. The statement could be good for so many things.

Maybe that’s why I was willing to claim it for a year. It was good in different ways – and I quite like freedom. One word seemed too – well, limiting.

Until last night.

Last night I was perusing Facebook and a friend was asking for comments. Share a word for 2019 that starts with the same letter as your name…

I just about put M&Ms.

I do love them. And with all the flavor choices they keep coming out with, it certainly didn’t have to be limiting.

Instead I wrote Magical.

It’s a shame you can’t choose different fonts in Facebook comments because I felt the word needed a little fanciful flair. But upon hitting return and seeing it there, it stood well enough on its own. And I was not surprised at all that it quickly earned a ❤️.

So here we are, me and Magical. Anything else can stop poking its finger at me this year. I’ve committed and that’s resolution enough.

The husband asked a bit later if we’d be having traditional New Year meal and I ain’t gonna lie, I resisted. I don’t even know what I was resisting. Was it the grocery run that would need to be made? The cooking (and cleaning) and the not going out that would then be? Or was it the very foods themselves that tradition brings?

Nevertheless, I like making him happy. (And, ok, had nothing better to offer as a suggestion.) So I set about trying to figure out how to make black-eyed peas like-able.

Because, well, I do not.

Google brought me the answer with Cheesy, Creamy Black-Eyed Peas, or so I thought. (You really should check it out.) I could almost taste this rich concoction (did you see the ingredient list?) until I stood with cart in front of the dairy case at Aldi, wondering when they were ever going to restock the heavy whipping cream that had been out since Christmas baking week started.

I am both faithful to Aldi and faithful to heavy cream. As such, I feel there should be some secret inventory stashed for me on these occasions. But as I’d asked them three days ago about extras in the back, I knew it would be a waste of breath.

Still, I parked my cart in the way of everyone waiting to get soy or almond milk and stared at that empty shelf like I’d stare at someone on Christmas or Easter who’d taken our family pew. And when I felt I’d shown it how disgusted I was with it, when I felt it had heard me send my telepathic you will have my coffee cream when I come back in two days, I set that cart in reverse and left, leaving the vegans to pillage.

There is no substitute for heavy cream. But all was well enough, because as I found out not two minutes later, there was neither a black-eyed pea to be had in that place either.

Truth be told, a bag of frozen butter peas were more our tradition anyway. (Shhh. Don’t tell the coin gods, please.)

There was no time to return the already procured ingredients. A new check out line was opening! If you are an Aldi shopper then you know how rare this is. Once that employee made eye contact with me and mouthed aisle three, there was nothing left to do – but buy the cream cheese and Monterrey jack. (You DID read the recipe link above, didn’t you??)

And I need to tell you that today I made those butter peas pretty Magical.

364 more days of Magical headed my way. Some days I’ll find it. Some days I’ll have to make it.

Today’s magic: cream cheese!

(Ok, ok, and a handful of brown sugar – those greens are mighty bitter!)

How in the world did you do tradition this New Year’s Day…


“Crafts” or Creativity?

Don’t fret over what they can “take home” in their hand. 

A few will be so proud to carry that coloring sheet with googly eyes glued on Noah’s animals, or glitter falling off Abraham’s stars, or Popsicle sticks taped to make shepherds’ staffs.

But really, most of your crafts will not make it safely home to the refrigerator door. 

More will be trash for the sextant to clean off the sanctuary pew or for the car wash attendant to vacuum out of the minivan’s seats.

You want to spend time on what will go home in their hearts and minds.

More tomorrow on my study of memory making.

Today I challenge you to brainstorm creative toys and materials. 

Timehop reminded me that I was searching for a bargain on some years ago.

Free play will encourage careful thought of the daily subject matter rather than efforts, sometimes very frustrated efforts, to copy your symbolic prototype.

And we want our children meditating on bible stories and spiritual truths.

Free play will promote genuine conversations with, rather than repeated craft directions to, your students.

And we want relationships to be forming in our classroom.

Last year I discovered quickly that my small class loved play dough. 

Consider adding one of these to your supply wish list this week. 

And don’t be ashamed to ask for donations.

  • Blocks
  • Puppets
  • Wooden peg people
  • Tea set
  • Magazines (safe previewed ones) for collage making

What creative free play items would you add?

Story: Sights and Sounds

I was there when a creation unfolded yesterday.

Pouring water echoed in the sanctuary, and when the font was filled, he leaned over it, slow and deliberate, and breathed.

A baby, a toddler, and a woman were baptized.

But I saw more.

I saw the ages of time replayed for all of us to remember.

We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water.
Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation.
Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage
in Egypt into the land of promise. In it your Son Jesus
received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy
Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death
and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life.

(Baptismal Liturgy, Book of Common Prayer)

I was reminded of Genesis and Exodus and the Gospel stories.

And I marveled again at the repetition of water throughout the biblical narrative.

And I knew that creation, and the exodus from Egypt, and the baptism of Jesus should be included in our foundational stories.

What do you find in the creation account that repeats itself in scripture …

Last year I grabbed a trio of words.



Breath of life.

I returned to the storytelling training from my time in the preschool department of Bible Study Fellowship.

There I was encouraged to study each passage for words to define, dialogue to highlight, and descriptions to showcase. Our leader, Ms. Sherry, called them the “Three D’s.”

And so I encourage you to tell your stories with extreme care.

But let there be sights and sounds, and perhaps a bowl of water to touch in your classroom …

How do you bring the stories to life?



“All of his stories are true”

Don’t confuse this with story time –

Though I have always loved a good one. But this is not quite dad spinning a good ole tale before bedtime. Mine was the best at it. Mine had his own renditions of classics, such as The Three Bears, and I made an appearance in each. Such belly laughs would ensue, no matter how well I knew what was coming in the telling, that mom would holler a reprimand to settle down.

You can and should enjoy giggles in Sunday School, too.

But explain and remind your children that these are special stories.

  • Hold up a Bible. Ask them, “What is this?” An entire conversation may begin with this one question. One Sunday the first correct answer I received was “a chapter book.” And boy is it. It’s likely the largest chapter book that any child will hear.


  • Hold up a Picture Book Bible. Why? Because you will probably use one during the Sunday School year. They are not the same. One contains some of the stories from the other. Only some. And, one has pictures. (Please, oh please, use one with good pictures.) “Look at the these pictures. Were they taken with a camera?” Explain that the pictures are someone’s drawings, not the real thing.


  • Hold up a child’s story book. You think that any book will do, but be careful. As in, do not hold up a book about Santa or the Easter Bunny – you wouldn’t have those such books in your classroom, would you – because you are about to be sure that they know the difference between true and not true. And, just trust me. You do not want to make this more difficult than it need be. Cinderella or SpongeBob will do just fine and neither will squelch any childhood magic that some parent is trying to maintain. Just be sure that they hear that the stories that you’ll be talking about each week are not made up; they really happened.


You start with some semblance of these reminders every time you meet. 

I sometimes use a finger play that goes like this –

I open my bible,  (make open book hands)

and listen to God.  (cup hand behind ear)

He tells me what I should do.   (point finger up, to “heaven/God”)

I know that He loves me.   (cross arms over chest like giving a hug)

He hears when I pray.   (prayer hands)

And all of his stories are true.   (point finger and shake as if giving command)

And then you read or tell a good story, staying true to the text but adding some fun.

What Picture Book Bibles do you use …




How much do you teach them?

My students will never win at Bible Jeopardy.

That’s not my goal.

I’d rather teach my preschoolers how to join in, participating alongside youth and adults, in that hour right before or after Sunday School called big church, morning worship, or mass.

If you desire head knowledge to become heart knowledge, 

If you believe that it is in our worship that God meets us,

If you want childlike faith to continue into the future,

Then I believe that you’ll best see your Christian education time as a partnership with and primary preparation for Eucharist.

And while I certainly believe that ongoing biblical studies are beneficial for a lifetime, I believe that it is the repetitious sacramental experiences with the church body that truly shape us and our faith.

Years ago, when I began compiling 52 Stories, I considered how each story answered three questions.

  • Who am I?
  • Who is God?
  • How should I live?

Let’s look at that creation beginning that I mentioned. (prior post in series here)

  • God is the creator of all things.
  • I am one of his creations.
  • Therefore, I should …

Praise him?

A child will ask, What is praise?”

I could explain, “A praise might be a great compliment.”

But, really, it may be much simpler to take this child by the hand and lead him into your sanctuary or chapel or to your mini-altar table.

It may be most effective to simply praise the creator of all things, bowing together within a place of beauty, and reciting a Creation Psalm, singing together The Doxology, or answering a common refrain such as this,




Blessed be God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
And blessed be his kingdom, now and forever.


What parts of worship would you include in your beginning unit on creation?



What I’d like to teach this year

I’d like to start at the very beginning and get that right.


Do you sing along with Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music like I do?

As the movie shares how Governess Maria brings joy to seven grief-stricken von Trapp children, I find myself longing for that playful, exuberant spirit in the children that I know.

And as those same movie children go on to experience real fears for safety and cling to each other, I find myself hoping for that same family rootedness and resolve in my own.

If we believe that faith, not sentimental story and song, is the basis for a life of peace and joy, of calm in chaos, then how do we teach faith?

What if we began with “God made me…”

Hear that. God made you. You are good.

Hear this, too. God made each person that you meet.

What if we added how “God made all things …”

Everything. Humongous things. Microscopic things. Intricate, detailed things. Beautiful things. Useful things.

Things visible and invisible.

What if instead of rushing to floods and clouds of fire and giants and sling shots and big fish that spit up men, we simply took a few weeks to settle into this great belief that God is creator of all things…

How much would it matter?

Each week we recite the words of the Nicene Creed.

Do we base our foundational teaching on it?

Why not?

My first unit of teaching preschoolers this year will find me saying these things.

Over and over.

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.

What difference does this belief make in your life…


Adventure Week Twenty

I’m calling this one “a Wilde night,” with pun intended.

I certainly didn’t feel wild.

I didn’t feel talkative.

I didn’t feel like leaving the house.

But Miss Christy was ready to resurrect our Art Fellowship nights. Their origins are another independent post entirely.

Six of us ladies read through Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Ernest.

A trivial play for serious people.

No preparation required.

I did know the play, but I did not reread it prior to showing up that night. My part was assigned a couple of days in advance, but I did not fret over memorization or timing or accent.

Oh, goodness.


The ladies with me had them. A few doubled as more than one character. And, a friend known only to you by the initials ER, as I have not asked her permission, actually read the parts of two characters who had an in depth conversation between themselves.

Kudus, ER. You were quite impressive. 

This is a perfect group activity when you’re feeling social – or, not.

We wondered if we were like generations of old who did not have Netflix or dvr’s or televisions – even though we each were reading from our own tech device.

We finished feeling quite cultured – even though the play is a silly story of trickster boys and finicky females. 

We left knowing that we would do this again.

What play would you suggest…

Keep in mind that we are serious people.

So you want to start a Sunday School …

You might be a church planter or a revivalist at an aging church.

You might be at one of the most representative of churches in the US.

The average attendance of the majority of our churches is around 100.

Yeah, don’t let the megachurch trend fool you – you’re not alone. And there are all sorts of positives to small congregations.

You might have tried numerous curriculums and struggled to find a good fit.

Or, a good price point.

That budget. It’s discouraging at times, isn’t it?

So, how do you start or restart or revive a Sunday School program?

I’m chatting with a friend about that very thing this week.

Want to join our discussion?

It will help greatly if you will get your mind focused on the who and when and where and why of your mission. The what and how comes afterwards.


  • Who are your children? How many attend worship now? What are their ages? Do you know their knowledge and ability levels? Mostly readers or non-readers? Good listeners or highly distractable? Crafty or sporty? Active in worship already or lucky to stay in the pew with toys? Know as many bible stories as you or don’t know that the bible is a special book with true stuff in it?
  • Where would you meet? Have your own space, borrow it from another organization, or share it with another group in your church? Easy access to bathroom? Have child sized furniture? Have toys/craft supplies and a place to store them? Able to decorate the walls? A place for multiple activity stations or just one small area? Never fear. Sometimes the one small room that you can’t change to make your own works as well as anything. 
  • When would you meet? During your worship service or at a separate time? Before the worship service or after the worship service? On its own day during the week? How long is your class time? 30-90 minutes is a wide range. Know which you’re aiming for!
  • Why is Sunday School a priority? Are you the lone person passionate to add or revamp this program or do you have support? Brainstorm with at least one other person why Sunday School is important and what you want to do. Condense your why to a phrase or sentence. Then say what you want to achieve.

Say what you want to achieve. Yep, that is the crux of the process. 

And if you tell me what you want to achieve, then we can start on the how…

That is, unless of course, we decide the goal needs a bit of tweaking.

It often does.






Adventure Week Nineteen


remember her
(caveat: image borrowed from facebook; original source unknown)

I do not.

I do not remember her. I’m not sure that I was ever that raging thrill-seeking, uninhibited freedom-loving girl.

But I was prone to dreaming.

At about the age pictured above, my summer ecstasy was a bit more tame. I’ve described it before in an essay titled Sandbox Dreams.

   Sandbox Dreams

Before I knew of Southern lady rules of dress, the most important guideline for apparel came down from Ginger, the resident “nanny” of sorts for the daycare I attended. She was somewhere between momma and great-aunt age and she could just as easily shoot fire from her eyes as whip you up a homemade rice pudding. Such resulting actions depended on you, but mostly you’d register somewhere between reprimand and praise.

There were a few things you had little control over and one of them was this Ginger rule: No going bare-foot before May 1st.

From somewhere around the middle of March until April 30th, we hated that rule, every one of us children who spent our Mondays through Fridays, parents’ working hours, at Laddie and Lassie Nursery School.

But come May 1st, the world was made new. And everything was good.

Children who normally sauntered in a half-sleep state then ran in early morning hours. You wanted to be the first to arrive, but you never were. Already in the playroom, there would be a group of them sitting on the floor, untying laces. There would be the smell of sweat that comes from anticipation, not from activity. And always, there would be the row of sock-stuffed sneakers and unbuckled sandals covering the top of the old black piano.

It was all a flurry of unwrapping not seen since Christmas morning.

And in the end, feet were naked and unashamed.

We girls had one destination in mind, but knowing the limits of tender, uncalloused feet, we took the long way there. We scurried down the porch steps and straight into the yard, bypassing the rough sidewalk for soft grass instead that tickled our toes. We lingered in dew drenched clover fields that clung to our soles and when we knew our feet were wet enough with the morning, we stepped into the sandbox.

We squirmed. We squealed. We danced in delight, like pixies pouncing into the pliable earth. We cooled ourselves in shallow dips, toes separating, sand exfoliating, stretching deeper until only ankles were left on top of the ground. And when we were sufficiently refreshed from the lifetime of winter, we sat down to dig and dream.

The sandbox dream was always the same and we began each year with determination. We would dig to China. I had never been.

I imagined new friends, how they would appear as we came up at their feet, what surprise would show on their faces, and who would help us to learn their names. I daydreamed of newspaper headlines in a language that I could not read, describing our feat to the entire world.

It was an excitement I have not known since.

On occasion I wondered what the center of the earth was made of and if it might be dangerous, but laughter drowned out the trickle of fear.

The joy would last until almost lunchtime when I was five, six and seven years old. After a hot meal and a lazy nap, we usually decided we would not be able to make it to China in a day. We dug a little. We played a lot.

By eight or nine years old, doubts began to destroy my dream. If you could dig to China, then someone would have done it already. With every scoop of sand, I repeated this negative mantra to myself. Such pessimism slowed progress.

At ten years old, I knew too much about geology to even start digging. I waded through the sandbox, but never sat down.

By the time I was eleven years old, I worried more about having to wear a bra than about getting to take off my shoes. Some dreams are so short-lived.

Sound familiar?

Anything like you?

Then you’ll forgive me if my adventure this week was one that most might think little of.

You see, on the first day that grandma’s neighborhood pool was open, I put on that tankini from last year that was a bit too small and I took a swim with Ian. No one else was there. So, I suppose there was no real bravery in the near nakedness.

But, the water was chilly – and I still waded all the way in.

All the way.

My face, I believe, looked a bit like that little girl’s above.

And I even got my hair wet.

That’s a darn good summer start.


Adventure Week Eighteen

Will you take a walk with me?


The answer should almost always be “yes.”

(Just like that answer to a friend’s question last week.)

Why? Because walking with Ian has always brought adventure.

No, that’s not Ian. 

Though THAT is taking a walk.

THAT is a freaking snapping turtle.

And yes, I was exclaiming descriptions about it so freaking loudly that the neighbor came out.

Just look at the size of its tail.

And yes, we videoed it as it watched us, moving its head in my direction each time I shifted spots in the road.

And yes, we read of various kinds of snapping turtles right before bedtime that night, instead of our usual chapter book.

We showed the video(s) to dad and the neighbors and we all talked of the wildlife in our yards, especially post 1,000 year flood of October 2015.

She (the snapping turtle) was likely going to lay her eggs somewhere and I will say that she already had that “mama bear” stance down quite well.

I did not enjoy the idea of sharing this place with her. I confess.

And yet it reminded me of some ten years ago when I first fell in love with this place we now find home.

I call it our Saluda Hill

Adventures sometimes come unplanned. 

Why don’t you take a walk – and share with me your discovery poems.