Growing Up & Joining the Church: A Confirmation Decision

Disclosure Pic

We’ve had a really big weekend around here, for several reasons, but one of the biggest was our Big Helper’s decision to join the church.

Confirmation

Our Big Helper’s faith journey is a simple one, but it’s strong.

When she was 18 months old, we were sitting on the kitchen floor, carving a pumpkin and doing the pumpkin parable devotion with it.  I was rather mentally rolling my eyes as I read the scripture, wondering how my little tiny tyke was supposed to be getting anything other than “pumpkins have slimy guts” from the exercise and the complicated passage in Revelations I was reading (according to the devotion’s directions), when she said she wanted to be clean, too.  I sat there in shock as she said she didn’t want to be dirty like the pumpkin.  We prayed together, and she was very excited – as only toddlers can be – and life continued.  I recorded the event and we continued life.

A few years later, something similar happened.  As a young child, she had continued to participate in our family devotions, to memorize Bible verses at dinnertime, and to pray with us.  The topic of salvation had come up again in another devotion, and she again indicated that she wanted to follow Jesus.  We asked her questions, including if she remembered her first pumpkin experience (she didn’t) but was quite sincere, and so she prayed, and again life continued.

Our Big Helper was never really not following Jesus, in that she never consciously tried to go against the ways of faith.  She has, however, over and over, indicated that she is intentionally choosing to follow Jesus: to love Him, love others, to study His Word, and to serve wherever possible.

For years now, our Big Helper has looked at life through a faith lens.  She often questions how life events compare to scripture, or the other way around – what scripture says about what she sees happening around her.  She studies her Bible, asks lots of questions, and has been working for years to earn enough money for a mission trip to Haiti with the Hands and Feet Project.

It came as no surprise that she jumped at the chance to be confirmed, or to study to join the church.  As United Methodists, this means completing the work begun at baptism and making a public, informed, conscious choice to follow Jesus and to join his earthly Church. 

She began classes weeks ago, meeting with our pastor and the other confirmand, studying church history, theology, the creeds, and what it means to be a full church member.  They met for a retreat, where they continued their work and did some service projects.

And then yesterday was the big day.  My Big Helper was up early, dressed in her new confirmation dress, excitedly twirling to see her skirt flare out and chattering nervously about the ceremony to come.  She’s at an age where the child and the adult she’s one day going to be both manifest themselves, sometimes both in minutes, and it’s odd and amazing to see.

Suddenly it was time.  It seemed somewhat surreal as family members all trooped up front to stand with her in support of her decision.  She answered questions confirming her faith, smiling all the while, standing and kneeling as instructed by our pastor. 

Then, as her first act as a full member of Warren’s Grove United Methodist Church, she was (with our other onfirmand) invited to serve communion to the congregation.  Her smiles continued as she passed out the bread to each in turn, excited to be serving in a real and tangible way.

Confirmation

When church was over, we headed home.  Friends and family joined us to celebrate our Big Helper’s decision, as well as our Little Man’s tenth birthday.  We had a fun afternoon with everyone, and we’re very thankful for the support and encouragement they give our children.

For me, it was an emotional day.  I’m excited about the decision she’s made, but it’s also a sign that she’s growing up, and that’s always a little bittersweet.  I wouldn’t want this decision to be any other way, of course, but her need for discipleship is far from over.  I feel the weight of the responsibility to guide her well; to provide answers, examples, and resources to prepare her for full adulthood.  While she’s now an adult in the church, she’s also only twelve, and still needs much guidance from people further along in their faith journeys.  I pray that she can be surrounded by those people, and by people to whom she can turn with her questions, and by those who will provide strong, faithful examples for her.

Have your children made decisions for faith?  What resources have you found to support them along the way?

These are a few of our favorites:

 

Why My Kids Enter Competitions

Competition

I don’t think I’ve ever been as nervous as I was this past Saturday, when My Big Helper entered her first district History Day competition.  Even though I competed myself for years, and have had kids, gotten married, and faced all sorts of other major life events, watching my daughter nervously await her interview with the judges after six months’ worth of work was hard.

So why do I make her – and, when the time comes, my son – enter these things?  Because yes, this was her first year, and it was part of her school requirements.

There are lots of reasons.  Here are some of them:

  1.  It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn how to make your work worthy of presentation.  It’s easy these days to do something and move on.  To read a biography and rush the report.  To  study something in class and hurry through the assignment.  I think that polishing our work is becoming something of a lost art; as the curriculum becomes more difficult, there’s less time for review or for real projects, and instead we hurry on to the next thing.  Even though we homeschool, and we aren’t as rushed as those in other educational situations, we have a different problem:  my kids have only family members with whom to display their work.  National History Day competitions, and others like it, provide them the opportunity to understand what it’s like to have others formally judge their work.  To know how to polish and put forth their best efforts.
  2. It’s a chance to win.  This might sound silly, but many outlets have removed all competition from their arena.  I’ve heard of kids’ sports teams not keeping score, of coaches giving trophies to the team with the most losing record, of principals requiring that every student gets an award, and of clubs where every child is an officer.  On the surface, that seems great; however, the reality is that we do sometimes receive a benefit for hard work and performing well.  Everyone wants to win sometimes, and this is the time to put your best work out there and be recognized for it.
  3. It’s a chance to lose.  Sound contradictory?  I don’t mean it to be.  If we have the chance to win sometimes, then we also should have the chance to lose, too.  The important thing to remember is that losing doesn’t make us losers – instead, it helps us to understand how to process disappointment, to look critically at our own work and analyze how to make it better, and how to move on.  I would much rather my kids face disappointment on a project like this, after all their hard work, and learn how to handle it appropriately than be blindsided by not being accepted to the college of their dreams or missing out on their dream job.  If we start processing disappointment in small ways when we’re small, then it stands to reason that we’ll be better equipped to handle life’s bigger disappointments when they come. 
  4. They’ll come to understand the value of hard work.  You can learn this in many avenues, of course, but I think that these types of academic competition can be some of the best for pushing yourself here.  It’s certainly more fun than a test, and test results can be very questionable, anyway.  Going over and over your work, correcting mistakes, finding ways to improve finding new ways to research … it’s hard, but incredibly valuable.
  5. They’ll learn determination and stick-to-it-iveness.  There comes a point in most projects when you want to quit; when you’re tired of the work, when something goes wrong, and you’re ready to throw in the towel.  Most of the time, that’s not the best course of action, and this is a great time to learn that.  You might have teammates cheering you on, teachers encouraging you , or a win waiting for you, but sticking with the project will teach valuable lessons.
  6. It’s a meaningful way to learn.  Seriously, think about it:  how much do you really remember from those textbooks you had to read in seventh grade?  From the teacher who droned on in a monotone in an overly-warm classroom? – but if you had to play the role of history detective and find the information yourself; if you took field trips to college libraries, wrote letters and received packages of information from historians and museum curators; if you took the time to develop theories and then find facts to prove your ideas, wouldn’t you have a vested interest in your project, and thereby the history behind it?  Wouldn’t you know your facts inside out and upside down?
  7. You learn how to communicate your ideas clearly.  At a National History Day competition, your historical work is worth only 60% of the judges’ score.  Clarity of presentation is another 20%.  While the historical work is obviously much higher, both have to be present to win.  I love that NHD provides the opportunity to compete in five different areas – historical paper, exhibit, documentary, website, or performance – so you can compete in the area of your strengths and talents, but no matter which one you choose, you must be able to communicate your ideas clearly.
  8. You learn how to conduct yourself in an interview.  This was the part of NHD I hated the most as a competitor, and it was hard to see just how nervous my students were when they faced their own; and yet it was situations like these that helped to prepare me for job interviews, college interviews, and other professional and business opportunities that came my way.  I’ll never forget my very first one:  although our teachers had discussed professional dress and conduct with us, one of my teammates sat in a chair with one foot behind her head while our judges interviewed us.  I was mortified!  I wouldn’t want my students to make that mistake, and so we role-played this type of scenario.  Nothing is as good as the real thing, however.
  9. You learn how to dress professionally.  What would you wear for a job interview?  This goes right along with #8, I know, but it’s an important part.  Don’t wear your t-shirt for the scholastic interview.  ‘Nuff said.
  10. You have to plan ahead.  How often do kids forget their lunches?  Lose their shoes, library books, etc?  If you forget an important part of your project, you’re out of luck.  Planning ahead is an important skill to have, if only for these big events.

So, there you have it – why my kids enter scholastic competitions.  Do yours?

Want to know exactly how My Big Helper’s first competition went?  Read about it here.

Field Work Friday – Golfin’ Buddies

 
This week, our activity was a bit different from the usual … my men went off on a golf date.
 
I realize that might not sound very educational, but I beg to differ.  Not because golfing is chock full of physics – though it is – or because the best players are very strong and fit – because they should be – but because it provides an awesome opportunity for my guys to bond.
 
They need that.
 
My husband is a decent golfer, and he wants our children to learn the sport.  Both of them love it, and our Little Man received a set of real golf clubs from his grandparents this past Christmas.  Between the extreme cold and then the crazy mud, they have had few opportunities really to play – until today.
 
 
Daddy slathered on the sunscreen, and we packed water bottles and snacks for the outing.  
 
 
Isn’t he handsome?  So ready for his big day!
 
I have no other pictures of the outing itself.  I couldn’t bring myself to send along a camera when my men would be so busy with their clubs.  
 
They came home with wonderful stories, though.  The men who followed mine play every day, and they were quite impressed with how well our Little Man hit the ball.  He was able to recognize that he acted shyly towards them, so we got in a lesson on stranger danger afterwards.  My Little Man gleefully told about the time that he hit the ball down a hill, across a bridge, and up the other side – and Daddy’s went into the creek.  He loved that one!
 
 
After returning home, our Little Man had to show me how he hit the ball.  He practiced with a ping pong ball in the front yard.  I have a feeling that will be happening much more often.
 
 
Putting his club back in the bag.  He was sad to stop so soon – but tired enough for a three-hour nap!
 
Daddy dates are very important.  It gives fathers and children a chance to bond, to learn each other’s personalities, to establish a trust that can continue to be built upon throughout life – and that will be there when the tough times come, as they always do.  Daddy was very impressed with Luke’s behavior on this, their first golfing outing.  Our Little Man was proud and excited to be his daddy’s golfing buddy.  He’s already asking when they can go again.
 
I foresee many more golf outings in the future!
 
How do you date your children?