Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Kidnapped by the Kids

Today something "just happened" that stopped me in my tracks. I haven't gotten it off my mind all day. I think it's fairly apparent that I have a heart for the family, right?. This morning, I took my kids to the library for music, story, and craft time, which they loved, by the way. When I got home, Aspen was zonked; however, she was not zonked enough that I could put her down. Since I wake up at 5 a.m. every day and several times in the middle of the night with her, it's sometimes worth it just to sit and hold her, so that's what I did. Ephraim was busy playing with toys, and I sat in a chair in front of the TV for an entire hour (crazy, right!?). I couldn't change the channel, so I just watched what was on TV. For me, it was a divine appointment.

I saw an episode of "Kidnapped by the Kids" on Oprah's television network. It cut me to the core. I cried almost the entire time. At the beginning, I felt a little guarded because the title of this particular episode was "Practice What You Preach," and the father being kidnapped was a pastor. You just never know how people of faith will be handled, or how they'll represent the rest of us on TV. ;)

This family had fallen into a trap where I've been, and where so many of my close friends have been. I would say that I know more people in ministry who struggle with this balance than not. It's tough. For clarification, though, I do not see the leaders at my church in this light at all. I wouldn't go there if I did. It's hard to explain the difference where I'm at than where I've been, but I don't feel this huge pressure to be "there" all the time, and I don't even get the impression that the leaders pressure each other to be "there" all the time. In fact, it actually seems like they encourage each other to be "out here" and to take a break from the constant-ness of ministry "inside the walls." I know that a lot of people look at pastors and church leaders and think that they have really cushy jobs and only work one day a week. From experience, I can tell you that line of thinking is dead wrong. Being in church leadership and in the ministry are the absolute HARDEST jobs in the world sometimes. The adage that 10% of the people do 90% of the work is unfortunately usually the truth. On top of that, the church where many of us find haven, friendships, love, and fun is also their workplace. There are bills to be paid, ministries to run, positions to fill, and just a lot of STUFF to be done. It is hard work. In church leadership, you never want to feel like your burdening the members, but at the same time you just genuinely need help. It is a really tough balance knowing when to step up and when to step back. It is also really personal. You love the church you serve and its people. You are passionate about what you are doing, and you really want others to feel as passionately as you do. That isn't always the case, and quite frankly, that sometimes hurts. It is a struggle to stay in a place of finding satisfaction just in God, and not in your ministry, place of service, or even family.

I have honestly struggled a bit since moving to our new church because I know I could jump back into the fray and run myself ragged. I've done it before. After some of what we've experienced, though, I'm extremely gun shy... probably too much so. I'm still working out the balance in my own life of what God has called me and my family to do. I suppose that will be an ongoing thing. ;) However, I do feel guilty pretty often. I look at the leaders in my church and the people who serve in the same places every single week, and if they feel at all like I did at one point in my life, I know it isn't alway easy. In a sense, I'd like to jump in and give them a break. In another sense, I've got two little ones (although Ephraim did decide to go to his class this week, and he loved it!) to handle, and I'm not totally sure God has actually called me to something else.... like maybe this is my season of resting and learning.

I have had experience in church leadership that wasn't all bad, but we made a lot of mistakes. I'm thankful for that experience, and I know I won't make those same mistakes in the same way again. However, until having this year of sitting back and watching another group of church leaders flesh it out, I didn't exactly have my mind wrapped around how to avoid certain pitfalls and maintain balance between ministry and family. I am really thankful that the people in leadership at my church are doing this, that I can see it firsthand, and that it is obvious that even though they aren't in the church building until 2 a.m. every night, God is blessing this church! In fact, I honestly am starting to think that the more we back off, the more we allow God room to do HIS stuff, which is way bigger than anything we could accomplish on our own anyway. I know. This should not be a shocking revelation... makes me think of Gideon's army... but I guess when you are a perfectionist/control freak/do-er, you forget that God is the one who is ACTUALLY in control. No matter how perfect we try to make things, He is the giver of good and perfect gifts. End of story.

Anyway, that was a long digression to get me back to this show that I "happened" to see today. This father and pastor was kidnapped by his children because they missed him. It just absolutely broke my heart to hear how he'd missed every single one of his daughter's basketball games, and how disconnected he was with his family in general. At one point in the show, he was talking particularly to his son. He apologized to him and sought his forgiveness because he realized he'd been pushing all these other people to pursue their dreams and make things happen, but he actually had no idea what his own son's dreams were. He said that he thought that since his children were older, they didn't need him as much, and how he realized this was such wrong thinking. I could go on and on, but it really struck a cord with me, hit close to home. I know that Quincy and I will not be on the sidelines of ministry forever, and I want to be cautious about overwhelming myself with "to do's" and forgetting to sometimes NOT do. God can handle it.

This episode will air again at 2 a.m. on Thursday morning. I know that's not a great time for everybody, but if you are in ministry, I encourage you to watch it. I'll be recording it. This is not how the world should see us and our families. We should have the strongest, tightest bonds. Our kids shouldn't have to kidnap us from our pulpits.

If you are not in ministry, pray for your leaders and their families. Encourage them to take breaks and vacations. Actively pursue opportunities to relieve their burdens so that they can be with their families at church sometimes. It is hard work they are doing. Sometimes it is easy to assume that because they are in church leadership, they've got it all together and don't need breaks. Sometimes we can become selfish with our pastors and their time. Instead, I hope we can become selfish on their behalf, for their time. The more they are able to be excellent husbands, wives, fathers, and mothers, the easier it is for them to serve us well. Honor the families that sacrifice for us. Know that they LOVE to do it, but they also need our encouragement. Remember that they view their church and ministry almost like their children, laying their lives down for it daily. If there is something that you disagree with or don't like, talk to them. Then, take it upon yourself to fix it. They don't need something else to do. In fact, I believe that oftentimes, when we see an area of need in the church, it is God's way of calling us to fill the need - not His way of giving us an opportunity to pass the buck to someone "more equipped." ;)

So, here's a clip from the show. Enjoy! And figure out a way to watch the whole thing as soon as you can.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Book Project, Continued (Books 51-60)

We are still missing a couple of books from this group, but here are our reviews of what we've read so far!

My review - "The Eleventh Hour Curious Mystery" was a REALLY COOL book! I (me, the mom) spent HOURS with it! The story was cute, but there are hidden clues on every page to help you solve the mystery. It is really neat, interesting, and beautifully illustrated! This book would be great for a clue-hunting 10-year-old or so! FUN!

Ephraim's review - "Good because it had some good stuff in it like when the _____ did it and they told all the persons that they did it, and it was kind of funny." (He gave away the mystery, so I left it blank.) ;)

My review - This was a fun, imaginative story about all the things that happen in the night, "In the Night Kitchen." It was cute, but some of the artwork reminded me how times have changed! hahah ;) If you read it, you'll know what I mean.

Ephraim's review - "The funniest book was this one because the man jumped up and his clothes were off, and all his clothes, and he was naked and got in some chocolate and he flyeded (yes, flyeded) and it was kind of funny." (This makes it sound risqué, but it wasn't. hahah)

My review - This book is definitely for kids who are potty training. We aren't in this category any longer, but it's a cute story nonetheless. Everyone should get to read as many peeing and pooping books as possible. There is only a short window of your life when this is appropriate. ;)

Ephraim's review - "That one was kind of funny because it was just kind of funny."

My review - This book was about all the dreams that a mother has for her child. It was very sweet and tugged at the heart strings. If you need a good cry, go for it! (Although it's not as intense as "I'll Love You Forever.")

Ephraim's review - "Good because it was good."

My review - "The Rainbow Fish" is a great story about pride and sacrifice. It is beautifully illustrated and eye catching. It was fun to read!

Ephraim's review - "That one was very cool because rainbow fish had all kind of colors on the dots!"

My review - This is another one of those stories that tugs the heart strings. No matter where the runaway bunny goes, his mother will go after him... like any good mother would do. :)

Ephraim's review - "That could be funny because it didn't be funny, because he goes everywhere and the mommy bunny said 'I think I'll go everywhere you go.'"

My review - Shocking exposé about the truth behind the story of the 3 little pigs! Question everything you think you know! Never believe the media hype! ;) Funny story. Check it out!

Ephraim's review - "That was kind of fun because he had glasses on!" (and then he sang a little ditty)

My review - "Tikki Tikki Tembo" was a FAVORITE book of mine growing up! I was so excited to read it to Ephraim. Mostly, it's just fun to say the kid's ridiculously long name in a sing-songy manner. Go for it!

Ephraim's review - "That was kind of funny because it was funny. It was a funny name because it was a long name."

Great Park Adventure - Cesery Park

Well, this was a major disappointment. My grandparents used to take me to this park when I was little, but I have to say that this park was a DUMP today. I'm hoping I just hit it on a bad day and it isn't always like this. It did seem as though someone had a party there yesterday. There were popped balloons and trash all over the place, the trash can overfloweth! There was "chalk graffiti" with lots of choice words written everywhere. We didn't stay long at all. Bleck. There is no real parking area, so we just kind of pulled up into this dirt area on the side of the park, which was CRAWLING with gigantic ants. We then went into a makeshift side entrance (a broken gate) to "enjoy the park." Sorry Cesery Park! I think this is my worst review yet....

We drove by the other day, and Ephraim saw this spider web, so that is why this park was visited today.... however, after about 15 minutes at this park, Ephraim said, "It's messy here. Can we go home and ride bikes instead?" He did just get a new bike for his birthday, but seriously...

She's a walking party, though. This girl can have fun anywhere! I think she understood the trash to be free food or something, making the park experience that much more difficult. ;)

This thing was kind of neat, though. I haven't really seen this anywhere else. You try to walk on it and balance as it rolls.

Here's the park's website, and its amenities as listed on the site.

Perimeter Site Fencing
Picnic shelters1
Picnic Tables4
Playground Equipment3
Security Lighting
Trash Barrels3

Great Park Adventure - 9A Baymeadows Regional Park

Last Monday, we visited the 9A/Baymeadows Regional Park. I honestly had no idea this park even existed, or that there are now roads where the park is located. ;) It was a BEAUTIFUL, HUGE park! There are tons of soccer fields, so it made me want to go see what it's like on a Saturday morning! It was extremely clean. There was no graffiti, and the kids play area was wayyyy in the back of the park, very secluded. We had a great time. Enjoy the photos!

This was the play equipment for smaller children. I really appreciated that their baby swings were set really HIGH! This is convenient for getting babies in and out. :)

This is the big-kid equipment!

Aspen had a ton of fun! She's really into climbing everything right now... and as of this park trip, going to the edge of things and taking a step, assuming I would be there to get her. So far, she's been right... the maniac! :)

A play solar system. Sorry Pluto. Apparently this was made after your demotion.

I took a picture of this because I wasn't sure what it was. Anybody know? Maybe it is something broken, so that would explain the reason it isn't so self-explanatory?.

A fun musical toy, although it is mounted upside down and backwards. Oops!

A car to drive...

A climbing wall...

The HIGH set baby swings....

The big-kid swings...

Monkey bars, one of those fancy zip line things, and covered pavilion....

This park seriously goes on for MILES.

MILES, I tell you.

A fun balance beam, which Ephraim scooted slowly down sideways.

And classic Tic Tac Toe.

Overall, this was a great park! Go check it out!

Here is its website, and its amenities as listed on the site. (PS - Looks like the city of Jacksonville got a website revamping! Why didn't they call CrossEyed Design!?!?)

Bike racks3
Car Parking130
Concession Stand1
Drinking Fountain
Picnic shelters5
Picnic Tables22
Playground Equipment1
Trails Paved (Miles)0

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter Story Cookies

Last year, I wrote out the way that we did the Easter Story Cookies, and although I have 15 different things I want to blog about and no time to do it yet, I wanted to get this posted now, in case you want to do the Easter Story Cookies with us tonight. :) I changed just a couple of things from the original link here, and I went ahead and added the scripture to this page, so you can print the whole thing at once. I sometimes used the Message translation, and sometimes the New American Standard translation, because I think these are simplest for children to understand. If you aren’t a fan of those translations, use your own. :)

Begin this recipe on Saturday evening, the night before Easter.

·         1 cup whole pecans
·         1 teaspoon vinegar
·         3 egg whites
·         pinch salt
·         1 cup sugar
·         Ziploc bag
·         wooden spoon or toy hammer
·         masking tape 

Preheat oven to 300*F.

Place pecans in a Ziploc bag and give the children wooden spoons or toy hammers.

Explain that after Jesus was arrested he was beaten by the Roman soldiers. 

Read John 19:1-3 – “So Pilate took Jesus and had him whipped. The soldiers, having braided a crown from thorns, set it on his head, threw a purple robe over him, and approached him with, "Hail, King of the Jews!" Then they greeted him with slaps in the face.”

Allow the children to then beat the pecans.

Open the vinegar and give each of the children a chance to smell it. Ask the children if they’d like to drink it. (Even if they do taste it, they should realize it is not good for quenching a thirst.)

Explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross he was given vinegar (sour wine) to drink.

Read John 19:28-30 – “Jesus, seeing that everything had been completed so that the Scripture record might also be complete, then said, "I'm thirsty." A jug of sour wine was standing by. Someone put a sponge soaked with the wine on a javelin and lifted it to his mouth. After he took the wine, Jesus said, "It's done . . . complete." Bowing his head, he offered up his spirit.”

Add 1 teaspoon of vinegar to the mixing bowl.

Show the children the eggs. Explain that eggs represent life. Explain that Jesus gave his life to give us life.

Read John 10:6-13  - “Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. "I'll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn't listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. "I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary. A hired man is not a real shepherd. The sheep mean nothing to him. He sees a wolf come and runs for it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf. He's only in it for the money. The sheep don't matter to him.”

Have the children help you crack open the eggs and add the egg whites to the mixing bowl.

Sprinkle a little salt into each child's hand. Let them taste. Then put your pinch of salt in the bowl.

Explain that this represents the salty tears shed by Jesus' followers, and the bitterness of our own sin. 

Read Luke 23:27 – “And following Him was a large crowd of the people, and of women who were mourning and lamenting Him.

So far, the ingredients are not very sweet. 

Sprinkle a little sugar into each child’s hand. Let them taste. (Make sure all the salt is gone first!)

Explain that the sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because He loves us, and because our Heavenly Father loves us.

Read Psalm 34:8 – “Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see - how good God is. Blessed are you who run to him.

Read John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

Add 1 cup of sugar to the mixing bowl.

Beat with a mixer on high speed for 10 to 15 minutes until stiff peaks form. If you have little children, this is a long time to be patient. Explain that when Jesus died, it was long and difficult. You can use this time to look at picture Bibles, ask the children questions about the parts of the story you’ve already covered, and see if the children have questions for you.

Once the stiff peaks have formed, show the children the mixed ingredients and explain that the color white represents purity, and the way that Jesus made us clean and new.

Read Isaiah 1:18 –"Come now, and let us reason together,"
         Says the LORD,
         "Though your sins are as scarlet,
         They will be as white as snow;
         Though they are red like crimson,
         They will be like wool.

Fold in broken nuts. Drop by teaspoons onto wax paper covered cookie sheets.

Explain that each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus' body was laid.

Read Matthew 27:57-61 – “Late in the afternoon a wealthy man from Arimathea, a disciple of Jesus, arrived. His name was Joseph. He went to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body. Pilate granted his request. Joseph took the body and wrapped it in clean linens, put it in his own tomb, a new tomb only recently cut into the rock, and rolled a large stone across the entrance. Then he went off. But Mary Magdalene and the other Mary stayed, sitting in plain view of the tomb.

Explain that Jesus' tomb was sealed. 

Read Matthew 27:65-66 – “Pilate told them, "You will have a guard. Go ahead and secure it the best you can." So they went out and secured the tomb, sealing the stone and posting guards.

Put the cookie sheet in the oven, close the door and turn the oven off. Give each child a piece of tape and allow them to seal the oven door. Tell the children they will not have any cookies until tomorrow. 

Acknowledge that the kids are probably sad that they've worked hard to make these cookies, and now have to leave them in the oven overnight. Explain that Jesus' followers were in sad when Jesus died and the tomb was sealed.

Read John 16:20-23 – “Jesus knew they were dying to ask him what he meant, so he said, "Are you trying to figure out among yourselves what I meant when I said, 'In a day or so you're not going to see me, but then in another day or so you will see me'? Then fix this firmly in your minds: You're going to be in deep mourning while the godless world throws a party. You'll be sad, very sad, but your sadness will develop into gladness.
"When a woman gives birth, she has a hard time, there's no getting around it. But when the baby is born, there is joy in the birth. This new life in the world wipes out memory of the pain. The sadness you have right now is similar to that pain, but the coming joy is also similar. When I see you again, you'll be full of joy, and it will be a joy no one can rob from you. You'll no longer be so full of questions.

On Easter morning, I suggest getting up extra early and testing out one of your cookies. You will then have two options.

Option 1 – IF your cookies are hollow, seal the oven back and allow the children to open it. Give them each a cookie and let them discover that the cookies are hollow.

Option 2 – IF your cookies are NOT hollow, “roll the stone away” by removing the tape and cookies from the oven. Allow the children to find the empty tomb! (Give them cookies, though. It’s only right.)

Either way, the point is the same. :)

Explain that on the first Easter morning, Jesus' followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty.

Read Matthew 28:1-10 – “After the Sabbath, as the first light of the new week dawned, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to keep vigil at the tomb. Suddenly the earth reeled and rocked under their feet as God's angel came down from heaven, came right up to where they were standing. He rolled back the stone and then sat on it. Shafts of lightning blazed from him. His garments shimmered snow-white. The guards at the tomb were scared to death. They were so frightened, they couldn't move. The angel spoke to the women: "There is nothing to fear here. I know you're looking for Jesus, the One they nailed to the cross. He is not here. He was raised, just as he said. Come and look at the place where he was placed. "Now, get on your way quickly and tell his disciples, 'He is risen from the dead. He is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.' That's the message." The women, deep in wonder and full of joy, lost no time in leaving the tomb. They ran to tell the disciples. Then Jesus met them, stopping them in their tracks. "Good morning!" he said. They fell to their knees, embraced his feet, and worshiped him. Jesus said, "You're holding on to me for dear life! Don't be frightened like that. Go tell my brothers that they are to go to Galilee, and that I'll meet them there."

Teach the children “He is risen!” and the “He is risen indeed!” response, because it’s fun. :)

Happy Resurrection Day!

PS – If you do an egg hunt, the scripture that we focus on Matthew 18:12-14 – “Look at it this way. If someone has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders off, doesn't he leave the ninety-nine and go after the one? And if he finds it, doesn't he make far more over it than over the ninety-nine who stay put? Your Father in heaven feels the same way. He doesn't want to lose even one of these simple believers.” We have a Father who will hunt for us!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Craft Hope Project 12!

Here is an opportunity to craft something very simple, alongside your kids, and support orphans in Russia.


The one major requirement is that they be handmade... beaded, hemp, woven, whatever you fancy!

Read the details of Project 12 here and get your craft on! :)

I'm excited about this one. I think I'll have Ephraim help me make them!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Family of Faith, Part Deux

I started to get nervous when I randomly checked the stats on my blog and saw that "Family of Faith" was relatively off the chart. Then, I had a conversation that made me a bit more nervous. Now, I'm back to clarify... specifically regarding my own opinion on children's ministries.

I shared that I've read a lot of books that run the gamut... "Parenting in the Pew," "Teaching Kids Authentic Worship," "Transforming Children Into Spiritual Champions," and "Family Driven Faith" are a few that come to mind. I also shared that I fall somewhere in the middle. I can see that both points of view on children's ministry have some validity. Here is specifically what I mean by that.

Children's ministries are awesome, wonderful places for children to learn alongside their peers, have focused attention and activity at their own level, and have tons of fun at church! I know, because I sure did (both as a child, and as a children's ministry teacher)!

On the other hand, I can also see how parents of children in a children's ministry may forget to teach their kids Bible stories and other truths or follow up on what they learned in class because they know that the Sunday School teacher is doing it. I know, because I saw it (both as a parent and as a children's ministry teacher).

Now, I am not saying that either of the above statements in favor of or against children's ministry is true 100% of the time. Of course it isn't! My struggle is what to do with MY child, as is every parent's struggle.

So let me back up a few years. I had the absolute pleasure and joy of serving as a Sunday School teacher to 2- and 3-year-olds for a few years. I ADORED those children. I loved them like they were my own. I spent hours planning my time with them, wanting it to be the most wonderful, enjoyable experience of their week... and more than anything, wanting them to learn to love Jesus! I genuinely believe this is the heart of almost every single one of the people who lay down their own agendas to sacrifice and love on little children who are not their own. I also know that they love parents! They are honored to give parents a break and an opportunity to go learn and enjoy time with other adults. They know that many parents haven't been able to do that all week long, and they love to be the people to get to come in and love on your children so that you can have a conversation with a real grown-up without someone tugging your clothes off, running away, or begging you for snacks. The teachers and people in children's ministries (and all ministries, for that matter) are there because they WANT to be there. Nobody made them do it. They LOVE to do it. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that this is the case at my church. I have no reservations about any of the people in my children's classes. I KNOW they love children. I KNOW they love Jesus. I KNOW their heart is for all the children who set foot in their doors to learn to love Jesus as well. That's it. End of story.

So, because of all that, I do ask my son every single week if he wants to go to his class. If he changes his mind, he is more than welcome to go. As I said before, the one thought keeping things as they are for us is just that I want my son to love church. For now, he loves being with us at church. I have an internal struggle with this issue every week. I ask if he wants to go to his class. He says no. I think, "Is that okay? Should I make him go to his class? Should I let him stay with me? What am I teaching him? WWJD ;) ? and on and on..." I have no idea if I'm doing the right thing, but for now it feels "more right" than forcing him into a class where he'd rather not go. I know he feels more connected with us and with some older children who are not in his class. They are the church we go home with. They are the church we spend the day with and hang out with during the week. That's totally okay with me. I know he's connected with us and with other believers, so that's okay.

The Wednesday night class is meeting a need for us right now, and for a few other families as well. It is allowing us to learn with our children. It is not to take the place of children's ministry or compete with it in any way (part of the reason it is on Wednesday nights). It is a supplement. I remember that when I was teaching the 2s and 3s, there were these little take-home lessons for parents, and that it was actually really helpful for the next week's lesson if the parents had done the homework with the kids. As a teacher and someone who loved these children, OF COURSE I wanted their parents to do the homework with them. OF COURSE I wanted parents to teach their kids the Bible stories again and again. I loved them, and I wanted them to learn about Jesus every single day of their lives. I would've taught them every single day if I could, but that really was their parents' job. I am sure most people in children's ministry feel the same way. So, that is the middle for me. That's the hole that family ministry fills. Family ministries don't have to meet in church buildings, of course, but it has given us additional accountability to actually "do our homework" when we know that we'll be face to face with other parents and children who may or may not have done theirs! It's also really encouraging to see other families interacting, how they learn and play together, how we adults can learn FROM children, how discipline works in other families, how the roles of family members play out. It is just like any other ministry in that way. Sometimes we need to be with other women because we can talk, learn, and do "women things." Sometimes we need to be with other couples because we can talk, learn, and do "couple things." .... And sometimes, we need to be with other families because we can talk, learn, and do "family things."

Anyway, that's where I'm at for now. Again, I don't know if I'm doing the right thing on Sunday mornings. My gut says this is the right answer for now, and I'm not one to go against my momma instincts. They've served me well so far, so I will continue to go with that. However, I am open to any wisdom you other moms have to offer if you see something that I'm missing.

Finally, for the sake of saying it, if you read my first blog and took it to mean that I am against children's ministries or that the people who serve in children's ministry are anything less than wonderful, sacrificial, loving people, please accept my humblest apology and understand that was not at all my intention. God has just laid this "new (old) thing" of family ministry on my heart very strongly, and as we should all passionately pursue that which God lays before us, I will be passionately pursuing this. I hope that makes sense. ;)

So, thank you to those who taught my Sunday school classes growing up.

Thank you to the children's pastor who passionately encouraged my growth and spurred me on to greater faith. You genuinely molded my faith more than almost any person I can remember growing up.

Thank you to my parents for allowing me to learn both from them and from others.

Thank you to the people who have taught my son, both in formal children's ministry and in regular life.

Thank you to the people who will someday teach my children. I know you will love them as your own and encourage them to passionately pursue our God.

Thank you to the people who serve the children in my church. I know it is often a thankless job, but I also know that your reward is the little faces who smile up at you and learn at your feet. You are appreciated.

If you want the blessing of serving children at my church, I've heard there are some openings. ;)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Great Park Adventure - Arlingwood Park

First, I need to apologize. To those of you who asked me to let you know where I was going this week, I COMPLETELY dropped the ball. I hurt my back somehow, most likely as a result of sleeping in awkward positions to accommodate so-and-so. I'll leave it at that so that you can wonder if I mean Aspen or Quincy. I was undecided up until well beyond the last minute if I was going to go at all, but then I decided that since my back was hurting, it would be worth it to really wear out the kids and get a good naptime from them. ;) So, an hour later than normal, to Arlingwood Park we went! This is another one of those parks where I'm sure I played as a child, although it was also much different, and much nicer.

As soon as we drove up, I thought, "Oh no, I have made a HUGE mistake." Why, you ask? Well, apparently the church/school next door uses this park as their playground. To hear Ephraim tell it, there were NINE kids there. Really, there were about 40 kids there and 9 teachers! Naturally, as soon as he saw the crowd, he was thrilled! I couldn't turn back. He generally does great with other kids and is not the problem. The difficulty comes with the wobbly walker whom strange little girls adore and feel the need to pick up, hug, hold hands with, etc. It was a very hot day and most of the teachers spent their time gathered under the shade of the covered pavilion. As a former teacher, I fully understand that this was probably their only "break" of the day and cannot fault them for that. So, that left me to navigate the children with my little ones and just tell all the little ladies that my little lady was off limits. ;) Ephraim fell right in with the other kids and had a blast. The children all seemed to be between ages 3-5, so it really was the perfect age group to blend with.

Anyway, here is our photographic journey. I didn't get a lot of wide shots because I felt weird about taking pictures of all the school kids. I waited until recess was over to get some of those. ;)

My main criticism of this park is that we had to park about 1/4 mile away from the entrance to the playground area, walk around the tennis courts, past a large ditch, and down the round a little way. Also, if you haven't already guessed, my other criticism/warning is that it is also used as a playground for the private school next door. Buyer beware! ;) I did see some graffiti, particularly in the "little kids" portion of the park, with several choice words. Also, this park did not offer much shade.

The positives, though, were that the park was very clean, the children were friendly and well behaved, the teachers were really paying attention and intervened when necessary, there are lots of things for kids to do, and my kids had tons of fun. It's worth checking out, in my opinion!

(Ephraim took this shot. Isn't it beautiful and dramatic? "Going to the park in a child's eyes!")

(Here's one with a glimpse of the other kids in the background. You can probably see their shadows in other shots because those little girls hovered around Aspen like moths to a flame!)

(After recess was over!)

(You can see some of the graffiti at the top. I cut off the choice words.)

(Ephraim's under there. Aspen thought this was HILARIOUS!)

(The walking trail, ditch, and tennis courts.)

Here are the park amenities, as listed on the City of Jacksonville's website, and here is its webpage.

PS - Since I dropped the ball, here's your heads-up! Next Monday at 10am, we'll be heading to the 9A/Baymeadows Regional Park. Hope to see you there!

1Bike racks
1Multiuse Field
1Picnic shelters
4Picnic Tables
6Playground Equipment
2Tennis Hard Lighted
6Trash Barrels
YesDrinking Fountain
YesPerimeter Site Fencing
YesSecurity Lighting