Sunday, December 11, 2016

Canine Confessions



To my owner,

I feel the need to get a few things off my chest. We've had a whole year together now and I want to take some time to review some of our most memorable moments. I am entitling this letter, “My Canine Confessions”.

It was me who ate the entire box of crayons. They just looked so delightfully beautiful. Thanks for renting that carpet-cleaning machine to clean up my mess after I got sick from the toxicity and almost died.

I also ate the whole pan of brownies (every tiny crumb) you made for those 8 ladies that came over to your house. I have heard through the doggy grapevine that chocolate is a big “no no” but apparently it’s fine for me!

About the whole Easter fiasco…yikes. I found the Easter candy hiding in the closet. I got through that first bag of chocolate eggs and really needed some jelly beans to finish the meal. I know you had to go out and get more Easter candy for Wes and his two cousins. It wasn’t that smart of you to put it in the exact same spot I found it prior, because as you know, I found it a second time…and I ate it all again. I’m certainly glad by the time you got home with the 3rd round of candy, you put it up where I couldn’t get to it.

And that expensive pet bed that you got for me, the one you waited on for an entire week to arrive, well…I ripped it all up, bit by bit. I left small pieces of it all over our backyard.

And while we are on the yard, I’m also the one who dug up all the freshly planted annual flowers last spring. Then they all died on the concrete where I left them. Oops.

Oh and remember that one time, (or maybe I should say 6 times) that I ate your “unmentionables”? Thank goodness I threw them all up in the middle of the night so you could dispose of them. Whew. And then we had fun once again with that carpet-cleaning machine. You really like that thing.

And then the last thing I want to mention is about your baby sitter’s money. She was so very nice. She set her money down on the ottoman while the two of you were chatting. I ate it all, yes, all of her baby-sitting money. I left tiny scraps of it on my pet bed as proof. (That is, the second pet bed that you bought me, after I shredded the first one.) But remember that you had more money?... so you just paid her again. Thank goodness for that.

I just wanted you to know all of these things.  Despite what you might think, I love you. 

Sincerely,

Spy

But PS. This is why we keep him...



Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Christmas Gift From God


 
I once had an older lady in my church tell me that God always gave her a personal Christmas gift each year. If I’m honest, the word “charismatic” floated across my mind as she was talking…but I knew this woman and I knew her deep love for the Lord, so I found that as she continued, I began to believe her. She did indeed receive a gift from God every single Christmas. She could tell me each one from years past and how the Lord worked in mysterious ways to bring them. You could see the genuineness in her eye as she anticipated what He might bring her this year. The last fleeting thought that passed through my mind as I left was, “Man, I wish that would happen to me.”

Well…It just might be that she has somehow, supernaturally, passed on that tradition to my small, little family of 2.

This last year has been a hard one with Wesley’s dad. If you have read my last couple posts, you’d know that his dad has been taking him out of our church each week. As a mom and as a believer, I worry about what he is missing each Sunday  and the truth that he isn't getting because of his absence. Of course, I teach him at home without ceasing, but church is so important and so biblical. While it is a conscious effort on my part to trust God through this, it still remains just that…a conscious effort. Trusting God, for me, can sometimes be a practice and I’ve gotten a lot of practice this last year.

As Wes and I have been settling in for the holiday season, we decided one evening recently to decorate our Christmas tree. Wes has a small one of his own and we have our larger family tree in the living room. This year his enthusiasm was different! He was so eager to help me put on all of the ornaments we have been collecting through the years. In the past, he hasn’t truly appreciated all of the different parts of Christmas. To see him so excited about it this year was such a welcomed surprise. We spent about an hour listening to Christmas music and filling up our bare trees. The finished trees complemented our lives…comfortable and simple. After this, I asked him if he wanted to help me set up the nativity, to which he responded with a hearty, “Sure!” 

The perfect place was decided upon and we began making room on the table beside our couch.  I began pulling out the pieces and handing them to Wes. I told him he could put them anywhere he wanted. He happily ensued on his job as I happily continued handing him pieces. When all the pieces had been opened, I turned around to see the nativity and it looked like this:

Immediately, I began to say, “Oh, uh oh Bud. Most of the pieces are backwards and we can't see them…” Then I quickly stopped myself and I might have gasped a bit. I stared at that lovely manger scene and said, “Actually Wes, that is perfect… Absolutely perfect. Let’s leave it just like that. Okay?” And as he beamed with pride, he said, “Okay!”

This was my Christmas gift.

This was God’s way of saying, “See Lauren? Your five year old gets it. He didn't set the pieces up backwards...he set up the manger scene so that it is the perfect representation of that heavenly night. The animals, the shepherds, the angels, Mary and Joseph, all crowded around trying to get even one small glimpse... of the baby.”

Yes, Lord, I see it.

It says in the Bible that Mary “treasured these things in her heart”. I will treasure this Christmas gift from God. I think it's His way of reassuring this mom that somewhere, somehow, Jesus’s kingship is settling into my son’s soul. I’ll think about this gift when he’s whining for the 5th time. I’ll think about this gift when he doesn’t get a stamp at school and I’ll think about this gift when I’m so frustrated that he’s being pulled out of our church…yet again.

So, if you come by our house in the holiday future and you see our nativity scene and it looks to the world that it’s backwards or not set up right, we are okay with that. We want you to know that this pictures our love for Christmas and why we so adore that marvelous night.

May every Christmas season be filled by us crowding around the manger scene in the hopes of getting one glimpse of the baby.




Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Creation Story Placemat

Five reasons I loved the Creation Story Placemat this week:

1. It gave my students a colorful and creative way to say the 7 days of creation each day during Bible time.

2. It wasn't too small: All the kids could perfectly see it during our Bible time. No one was shouting, "I can't see it! What is it? Move over so I can see." (Sometimes if a book is too small, this is what I hear.)

3. It wasn't too big: I didn't have to stash it away so the kids could see the board or see me. I kept it out each day so we could constantly refer to our God and how gorgeous He made the world. This helped keep our minds on what really mattered as we worked: Jesus and all He has made! 

4. It was the perfect "center piece".  I placed it in one of our rotating centers for the afternoon and the kids had a choice: They could write the words of each day of creation or they could copy the pictures. They loved it and I think their pictures turned out pretty nicely too. Love to see these little hands copying pictures of God's work and Word. You can even see that one student wrote, "God is good" on their paper. Yes! 



5. It is laminated in high quality lamination.  While I appreciate any laminated items, the 1.5 mil and the 3 mil are my least favorite. These items tear easily and flop around while you're trying to hold it. Ugh. But not this! It is thick, heavy and strong and that for me, is a heavenly  gift. It means that I don't stress if something is spilled on it, or if play-dough is used on it or even if someone accidentally steps on it.  (All of which could happen with my 6 year old students.) It is stress-free teaching!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

New Study Says Rewards are a Detriment


Detriment: That word seems harsh when talking about “rewards” for children. Aren’t rewards supposed to be great? Maybe not! A recent study has found that 3 year olds who were rewarded with an extrinsic material were less likely to continue kind behavior and more likely to increase in bad behavior. Yes, that sounds bizarre, but that is exactly what the study found. You can read it here.

Material rewards have recently concerned me. I’ve seen the disappointing effects when years later, the 6th grader (who has received material rewards for years), scores a 100 on his test and says, “Wow, a 100! What do I get?” For a long time, we haven’t been aware of how to fix this, even though we’ve known that we don’t want to raise generation of children who do the right thing, solely based on “what they were going to get” for it. For a while now, this whole issue has left me uncomfortable in my spirit.

Another very common discipline strategy that has worried me is the concept of giving stickers for good behavior and taking away stickers for bad behavior. (or substitute stickers for other material rewards…money, chocolate, prizes etc.)

I’ve thought about my own life…I have good days and bad days like everyone else. I don’t know about you, but I am certainly glad God doesn’t hand out material rewards to me based on my behavior.  How miserable (and how anxiety-ridden) I would be if God placed a visible sticker on me for something “good” I’ve done! I would also hate to watch Him take something away when I’ve have said hurtful words to a family member, raised my voice at my child or sped down the highway.

Thankfully, God does discipline us and sometimes our consequences are public, (because of our own choices) but God does not discipline based on a sticker system and I am one sinner who is thankful for that. I am grateful that He doesn't sit around in Heaven giving rewards to some and punishments to others.  God is clear that His love isn’t based on how good we are on a certain day. However, when we do obey him, we experience a very real, intrinsic feeling that is called peace. When we are out of his will, He doesn’t send bad things to happen to us. He might send an unrest in our spirit, a convicting thought or a constant tapping in our soul to come back to Him. Honestly, I think we can all agree that when we are consciously out of His will, no matter how enticing the sin was, that unceasing turmoil inside of us is miserable. When we are obedient though, we have His calm within us, a peace that passes understanding. That peace is strong, filled with eternal joy and far beyond anything materialistic. Both of these godly disciplines, conviction and His peace are intrinsic disciplines.  

Ideally, we want to discipline our children the way God disciplines us. Why then, do we discipline our own children and children in our classrooms with a materially based reward system instead of an intrinsic one? A lot of us do it because it is what our parents did. Some of us do it because we don’t know what else to do.  Many of us were actually taught to use this type of system back in college. I love Maya Angelou’s quote, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”

So, what is the answer to this dilemma? After attending conferences, watching successful teachers and discussing this extensively I would offer the following idea to all parents and educators.  I admit, it is not an original of mine! I have simply taken some great models and have coupled them with scriptural principles. 

Instead of handing out treasure box toys and stickers…let’s just honor godly character with a celebration!  Anytime I see something in our classroom (or at home with Wes) that exhibits Christ-like behavior, we mark it with a painted rock symbolizing that godly trait. At our school, we have chapel themes each month. This month we are studying “obedience”. I chose to represent obedience with a cross. After all, Jesus was obedient to the cross even when it was excruciatingly hard. When I see a child being obedient in our classroom, I verbally call it out and say, “Hey! Luke just put his homework right into the homework bin just like I told him to.” Our CIA (Character Investigating Agent) picks out a cross from our rock box and places it onto the board. Later, if I see the whole class walking in line correctly, I’ll say, “Wow! The whole class is walking in line with their hands behind their back. You are godly men and women.” Again, the CIA will place another cross on our board. We change to rocks with different pictures each month based on the chapel theme.  The rocks with a heart picture are used all year as they are for acts of kindness or love. So, if a child puts up another child’s chair I say, “Kyle, you are showing the fruit of the spirit, young man. You treated your friend with kindness by putting up his chair for him. Way to go!” The CIA puts up a heart. “Jessica, you invited your friend to play with you at recess. How kind of you! What a godly woman you are.” The CIA puts up a heart. At the end of the day, we count the number of rocks and mark the total on our small chalkboard. Then I say, “Look at this class! Look at all the things God is teaching us. What godly men and women you are becoming. God is so pleased to see this.” On Fridays, we count them all up and we celebrate our godly traits. (It doesn’t matter how many we have, we always celebrate on Friday.) The CIA gets to choose what our celebration will be: Dancing for 3 songs of their choice? Ten extra minutes of free centers? Red Light/Green Light game outside? Bring a stuffed animal to school on Friday? All of these are choices that allow for some sort of fun way to celebrate, but none of them involve taking home material rewards. Also, everyone celebrates! No one is left out!

We have had a really great time working on these this year. I have students who come to me all through the day saying, “I have a kindness report, Miss Osborne!” I can’t tell you how that makes my heart feel. To hear that they have a celebration report about their friend and not a negative report on a peer is something to be praised. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” We still have the tattles and the frustrating moments, but little by little we are beginning to think about these things, too, and we are marking it, honoring it, and celebrating it. We are working hard at ROCK-ing out our classroom!

Rocks and Rock Boards can be found at here.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Our First R.O.C.K. Experience of the Year


One of my classroom jobs this year is the R.O.C.K. assistant. If someone in our classroom is having a hard time, they are free to head over to the R.O.C.K. to spend some time with the Lord. The R.O.C.K. assistant is responsible for checking on and praying for anyone that goes to the R.O.C.K. for any reason. It is day 5 of school and we had our first visit to the R.O.C.K. It was such a special experience. One sweet girl had fallen down at recess and was just having a hard time acclimating back into the classroom when we came back inside. I asked her if she would like to relax and spend some time with the Lord in our R.O.C.K. area. She shook her head, “yes”. As soon as she did, my R.O.C.K. assistant said, “Hey! My job! Can I go check on her?” Wow! A six year old wants to go check on his classmate. “YES! Please do sir.” I watched as he headed over to her. He wasn’t quite sure what to do, but he knew he wanted to help. I leaned over and whispered in his ear, “It would be a great idea if you could pray for her. You can pray for her leg to feel better and for her heart to be cheered up.” He immediately bent down on the kneeler and did exactly that. He said, “Amen” and continued to stay there. I sat down to teach, but a few minutes later, I checked on the two of them. He had reached into our basket and taken out the “sad” R.O.C.K. card and was reading it to her! I just stood there for a second, amazed at what I was witnessing. Two six year olds, one upset and crying, and another, praying for her and reading God’s instructions for what to do when you feel sad. Did I mention these are SIX YEAR OLDS?  After I regained my ability to communicate, I said, “Oh my word. You are doing such a special thing for your friend! Way to go little man. She needed some encouragement and you knew exactly how to handle it. You prayed with her and then read her God’s instructions. What a godly man you are!” He came back to the carpet and she stayed a few more minutes and then joined the rest of the class again.

This might seem like some small feat, but not for me.  I am raising a son, a 5 year old. I am very aware that teaching young children to pray for one another isn’t the slightest bit simple or easy. To teach a 5 or 6 year old to simply THINK about someone else’s feelings is hard just by itself, but to have them intentionally ask to see their friend, and then kneel down before the King and pray for that friend’s needs… THAT is something huge! And today, I am thanking the Lord for what He is already doing in this classroom!

If you want to know more about the R.O.C.K., read below.

I took a job this year at a private Christian school…Finally! I am able to freely talk about Jesus in my classroom any time it hits me. Because of that, one of the first places I had set up in my room was the R.O.C.K.  This R.O.C.K. is an area of the room that the kids can go to any time they miss their parents, miss a friend, have hurt feelings or just need to “get away” during the day to pray about something on their sweet, young minds. Six year olds are no different than adults…Many times they too have important things they need to sit and ponder.  

The R.O.C.K. The acronym stands for “Resting on Christ the King.” For everything in the classroom, there is a prop. Literacy stations have magnetic letter tiles, alphabet mats, tactile letters. Math centers have cubes, counting bears, tens blocks, hundreds blocks. In science, we use water tables, sand tables, micrscopes and experiments. When it comes to behavior, how many props do we use? NONE! Why is that? If we know that children learn more efficiently and more effectively through the use of props, why don’t we have any to teach them about their behavior?

Some of the (if not THE) hardest behaviors to work on are our emotional responses when something doesn’t go our way. Any age, 0-100 years old, people struggle with this. You can walk into an infant’s room, a business office filled with 40-somethings, or a nursing home with the elderly and see people who do not know how to handle their emotional upset.

This is why we created this special place! The R.O.C.K. gives children a place to go and very specific instructions in how to handle their upset. More importantly, it gives them GOD’s biblical instructions for how to handle it. This gives them a place to escape inside their own classroom when they aren’t feeling themselves or when an emotion overwhelms them.

The R.O.C.K. set up:

  1.  Location, location, location. You want to make sure your R.O.C.K. area is in a place where you can always see the child and the child can always see you. Yes, you want them to feel as if it is their refuge, but you want to make sure that you can still see them in their refuge. 
  2.  They need to have a specific spot to pray. I have a *kneeler in my area that I absolutely love. It is a child’s *kneeler and fits my first graders perfectly.  If you are going to use something else, great! Just make sure the kids know that this is their prayer spot.
  3.  It needs to have comfortable surroundings. Make sure it is SOFT. Have a few blankets there or pillows. You can see in my picture that I have a little rug near mine with two soft pillows in case the kids just need to rest/relax before/after praying. 
  4. They need to have some instructions on how the R.O.C.K. area works. I use the *R.O.C.K. cards to give my kids very specific instructions on how to handle their upset. They have pictures for non-readers too! Make sure you give them time to role-play your expectations for them when they go to and from the R.O.C.K. area. They need to be trained.

Here is what my R.O.C.K. looks like: 


At the end of the day, we want to train our kids to RUN to the Heavenly Rock when life is hard. As they begin to run to the R.O.C.K. in your classroom, you are training them to run to the Rock forever and this is ultimately the goal!


* Resources: If you want a kneeler or the R.O.C.K. cards, you can purchase them here: www.youaremytreasure.com.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Valentine's Day Party Fail


There are days that the only thing to do is to call a friend and laugh your way through it. Thank you Mom, for being my laughter today as I was filled with #momfails and it’s only 11:30 am.

First of all, I get up this morning and realize that my only success for the Valentine’s Day party was that I had purchased the box of Star Wars Valentine’s cards yesterday at Target. I hadn’t even begun to do them. I took them out at breakfast and was scrambling to tear them at the perforated edge without tearing the actual card. Who designs these things? I’m on the third or fourth one when I see these little things that look like stickers, but then I see that they are tattoos and there are these teeny tiny slits in the cards that these teeny tiny tattoos are supposed to fit into. Really? I quit. I put them all down because, at this point, we are already going to be 15 minutes late to school.  This is officially mom fail #1.

We arrive at school and I see these sweet other moms gathered around the door chatting and they’ve got these adorable boxes in hand and I realize, “Oh geez, I didn’t even think about your Valentine box for the valentines you’ll receive.” I look at Wes and say, “Hey man, listen, I’m going to head home and get your valentines and your valentine box and I’ll bring them to school later, okay?” He looks at me with this sad look and says, “Are the other moms bringing them later too?” Knife. In. Heart. Mom fail #2.

I head to Target where I intend to buy a valentine box and nope, apparently there are none to purchase. Am I the only one that thinks there is market out there for this type of thing? C’mon people. There are moms that just want to buy the valentine box. I love being crafty, but it is just not my gift. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not downing myself…I know my gifts… I can give my kid a really good speech on why we believe the way we believe. I am pretty good at teaching him how to use his words and I can hold my own when he has a fit. This pinterest mess though, I just don’t do it well. I also must admit I am that personality type that if I can’t do it perfectly, I don’t want to do it at all. So when it comes to these things, I must unconsciously block it out because I don’t want to fail at it. So anyway, I’m at Target searching for a really cool boy valentine box and there is nothing! I head home empty handed. Mom fail #3.

I get home and decide to use some storm trooper wrapping paper around a cereal box.  I print off a picture of Star Wars and tape it to the back. Done. Not bad. Whew. I made it back to his school (1 hour before the party starts at lunch) and I pull him out of class and say, “Hey Wes! Look here. I’ve got you a Star Wars Valentine box to collect your Valentines. Here are the Valentine cards for your friends here and here are two bags for your teachers.” I open the door for him to go back to class and as I am shutting the door, the class is quiet as the teachers are teaching and I hear him YELL, “Hey everyone! I’ve got my Valentine’s now! I’ve got them!” Wah wah. He might as well have just walked into his classroom and said, “Hey everyone! My mom is the mom that brings in my assignment 1 hour before the party! Cool huh?!?!” Mom fail #4.

Mom fail #5 might be the ridiculousness of guilty thoughts like, “My kid won’t ever have a memory of making his 4 year old valentine box. Such a loss. And what if he doesn’t learn how to give because he didn’t spend the time making the valentines?” … and so forth. Such is a mom’s thought life.

Welp, that sums up our morning. Let’s hope for an uneventful afternoon.

So moms, when you feel like you're the only one that fails, rest assured, I am here and will keep you company. I'm certainly glad that God extends His grace!

Monday, January 11, 2016

My Son's Dad Took Him Out of Church



Saturday I received a text. “I’m picking Wes up at 11:00.” I respond, “But we have a verbal agreement that you will come after church at 12:30.” “Well, I’m getting him at 11:00.”

Two feelings fall into my chest. Anger. Fear. “Why is he doing this? He hasn’t fought me about time on Sunday’s since Wes was born. In fact, he’s never fought me on this. Why does he want to take him out of church all the sudden? This is not okay. What if Wes misses out on something? What if he eventually thinks its okay not to go to church because his dad doesn’t go? I hate this!” Anger. Fear. Anger. Fear.

I have prayed more over the last 5 years (since having Wes) than I have ever prayed in my life. There is something about having children that brings you to your knees in ways that you haven’t done before. I am a mom, a single mom. I have learned over the years several deep truths and though it has been a hard road, I’ve come to rest in them. Truths are one thing, but believing those truths is when it brings peace. One of those truths is that ultimately my kid is the Lord’s. It is my job, as his mom, to consistently seek God’s will and then to obey whatever the Lord calls me to do. Every single day. No matter what.  I have learned that anything out of my hands is never, ever out of my God’s.  

I love my church. Both the men and women in my church invest in my kid. They truly do. They know him by name and they stop through the hallway to make a point to speak to him. Once we get to his class, many, many people have greeted him. And of course, he has his Sunday school teachers who love on him too.  I have full buy in to the phrase, “It takes a village” to raise a kid and the people in my village are incredible men and women. So, when my sweet little guy is ripped from that, it is hurtful, worrisome and downright frustrating. This is the place that backs up all I’m teaching him at home, the place where he will find Christian friends and hear God’s truth. I hope I am getting the point across here. I’m not sure the previous adjectives describe my feelings accurately. A better description might be…tragedy, for that is what I feel like this text was, a tragedy…An event that caused me distress and affliction. That might give a better picture of the turmoil that went on in my soul when seeing the words, “I’m taking him out of church.”  

 I met my son’s dad down by the Sunday school classroom where Wesley was playing with his friends. I picked him up, had him wave goodbye to his teachers who had just finished the Bible story and handed him over to his dad. I went to Sunday school and then headed home. On my way home, I began to pray. “Lord, I trust you. I really do. Hannah handed off her son to you when he was very young on the temple steps to a man she barely knew, who actually had two very evil sons. She had no idea what would become of sweet Samuel. She had no idea if anyone would hurt him, or take care of him, abuse him or protect him, but she obeyed You because she trusted You. I trust you. You love my son more than I do. No matter what, you’re enough.” I’ve prayed this prayer and prayers like it repeatedly over the last 5 years.

If the story ended here, it would be enough. God is enough. Trusting God is enough. Resting in the peace of His promises is enough. That alone has carried me through many other heartbreaks over the last 5 years. He is so good that way.

But this particular story has a sweeter side. Psalm 139:5 says, “You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.” I’ve been studying this verse last semester and now this semester for various reasons, but then this week, I actually experienced this verse. God has gone before me and He has laid His Hand upon me.

See, I received a different text today. It was from the awesome youth pastor at my church. It said, “Hey, we’ve had a Disciple Now home back out! We need help. Can you host a home?” I respond, “Of course I can. Yes! Sure!” I met with him later that morning and signed up to have 12 girls in my home all weekend.

As I left the church office, I began praying over the weekend and these sweet young girls. I prayed that the Lord would teach them, protect them, and speak to them. When I finished praying, I immediately sensed the Lord and could almost hear the Whisper, “Lauren, do you see it? His dad might be able to take him out of church for an hour, but I’m bringing the church to you for the whole weekend.”

His Hand has been laid upon us. There is nothing my Lord won’t do to keep His sheep inside of His grip.  What the Enemy meant for a calamity, my God turned into gain.  He reigns. 

A BB Up the Nose

Me: Why is your finger so high up in your nose? Wes: I put a bb in there. Me: Wait. What? What do you mean ...