Summer is a wonderful time of year; there are so many ways to connect with people. We can go to outdoor music festivals, parades, music events in the park, farmers markets, area festivals, fairs and the list goes on and on. It’s so much fun to look ahead, plan and then attend these events locally or far away. I’ve always enjoyed going to events, and I also like to plan events, like the volunteer appreciation picnic, where we can connect and say thank you to each other.
Almost every time I walk into my bank, I’m greeted with “Hi Kathryn, be with you soon.” It’s nice to me be known by name, not having to show my ID to the teller, which sometimes happens when a new teller is working. It’s nice to hear, “Kathryn, I’m ready for you” knowing that I have a work relationship with the teller and we know each other. It’s comforting to be known and to be addressed by your given name. I like to be called by my name and don’t mind being called by any of the many variations of Kathryn.
I hope and pray for many things all the time. I hope and pray for my daughters, my husband, my friends, my co-workers, my church, plus many other things. I hope and pray for good spouses for my daughters, a good work environment for my husband, that my friends will have all that they need, my co-workers have energy to do all that God has called them to do and that my church may show the love of Christ to one another and to all who come to visit us. These are just a few of my hopes and prayers; sometimes my prayers are very specific, sometimes general, but my hope is always grounded in God’s will for those I pray for.
We have several grade school children who love to help on Sunday mornings. Almost every Sunday one of these precious children will come up to me and ask if they can help with ushering or acolyting. When I say “yes,” their faces light up with eagerness and joy. When I say “no, we have what we need,” their faces become dejected; a frown and even sometimes a pout, will appear. These young ones love to serve. They have a heart that is willing and able to serve with love and eagerness.
Several years ago, we were given a small notebook at church to write our thanks to God in. The notebooks where green in color with a label saying “Thanks be to God for his great Gifts!” As I was filling the small notebook with my thanks to God and coming closer to the end, I didn’t want this to end. That was when I decided to purchase another notebook and continue to write my thanks to God. Since then I’ve filled several notebooks and to this day continue to write my thanksgivings down.
My warmest memories are of wrapping up one of my girls in a beach towel after they have played in the water and snuggling with them to get them warmed up again so that they can go back in the water to play. Wrapping them up and holding them close to me was one of the things I enjoyed most as my girls where growing up. I still like to wrap my arms around them holding them close to me. Being wrapped in warmth whether in the summer or in the winter, like your hands around a warm cup of coffee or cocoa, is one of the best feelings.
This summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to host my step-mom for a couple of days. I so looked forward to her coming. I made sure the guest room was ready with clean sheets, a new pillow and space in the closet in case she needed to hang anything up. I loved getting the room ready in anticipation of her coming. We had a wonderful time together and not long after her return home, I received a thank you note from her. Because of my preparation we had a great time together, she felt welcomed and loved.
The greatest joy I receive on a Sunday is seeing families serving together in a ministry. I love seeing families help with coffee together, little and not so little ones getting the the cups, napkins, creamers and sugar packets out on the table. It’s wonderful to see older children going around filling coffee cups and talking to the adults at the tables. I love seeing families usher together, welcoming people into the sanctuary and gathering the offering. When families serve together, it brings joy not only to me but to others seeing it and to the children participating. I love to see young ones’ faces light up when they can help out in church. Their attitude changes, and they walk a little taller taking pride in what they can do.
I have a friend who, when she knows I be over, leaves her front door wide open for me. I knock on the screen door and walk in calling her name and she welcomes me into her home with a welcoming hug. My friend promotes hospitality as she welcomes me into her home. She is a wonderful hostess to all who visit her.
I have a wonderful friend who loves connecting people to one another. Whenever she gathers people, she will introduce everyone to everyone. I come into her house and she asks me right away “do you know everyone?” I usually say yes, because I usually do, but she still goes around introducing me to her family and friends. She wants us to feel connected with one another. It would be wonderful if we had people like my friend, here at church who wanted everyone to feel connected.
My daughter Sarah and I watched the movie “Warm Bodies” just before I wrote this. It is a funny romantic movie about a zombie falling in love with a non zombie girl. His heart starts beating again, bringing him back to life, because of the connection he felt toward the girl. Because of his relationship with the girl, even just holding her hand, others began to reconnect, too, bringing their hearts to life. It’s quite humorous, as the storyline develops, but what caught my attention was that to warm one’s heart one must feel connected.
Most of us are very familiar with the Christmas story and Jesus being born in a stable because there was no room for them. It’s one of the worst feelings to go into a place and find out there is no room for you. Whether that is a hotel after traveling for hours and hours, a restaurant that has a long wait list, or a church that is filled only on the aisle side leaving the middle open. Having to crawl over people can be uncomfortable and a bit awkward or having to go all the way to the front to find a seat can feel intimidating, especially if you are a visitor.
I love watching our coffee hour, seeing people interacting with one another, talking, laughing, joking. There’s a table where one group always gathers, with the group members fluctuating throughout the year. We have others who float from table to table talking to almost everyone. We have some who sit quietly by themselves over in the couch area, and, of course, there are our coffee hosts going to each table filling coffee cups and enjoying getting to know those they serve. Our coffee hour is a wonderful time to talk to those you know and to get to know others you don’t know.
I was bagging up my groceries the other day, when I overheard a conversation between a mom and her son. The son kept asking “why?” with every answer the mom gave. Parents have all been in that situation. I tried to encourage her and let her know that it is exhausting answering all their questions and trying to come up with answers that the child can understand. I hope that she knew I was sympathetic toward her and that just knowing someone had listened and understood what she was going through was helpful.
It’s so much fun to gather together for a celebration, whether it’s a graduation, a wedding, a birthday, an anniversary, or just for no reason at all. I love people gathering together to talk, eat and play games. Graduation parties are the best: seeing family and the graduate’s friends together, each party reflecting the graduates personality. Gathering family and friends for a wedding is especially fun with dancing, eating and, of course, the cake. Each gathering is unique but meaningful in many ways.
As I walked into a crowded room, I didn’t know where the person I was looking for was. My heart beat faster, I quickly scanned the room, as people looked at me, wondering who I was. I was unknown, but then my friend found me, calling me by name. I had become known. Have you ever experienced this, people wondering who you are, looking at you, but then looking away not bothering to help. What if this happened here at First Lutheran Church, where we are all too busy to notice or just not care that someone looks lost.
Summer is almost here! The weather is starting to get warmer and we are beginning to think about all the things we would like to do during summer. As a family, we love to take out our small boat to a sandbar and enjoy the sun and water while my husband fishes. When our girls were young it was essential that they had a job to do while we were getting the boat in the water. I would hold the rope while Perry put it in the water and he would park the truck and trailer. We would have the girls stand off to the side away from all other traffic, holding our very excited dog, who was a lab and loved the water. Each of us had a job and it was all hands on deck as we would get ready to go out on the water. I must say it went smoothly because all knew what they were supposed to do.
As a mom, many times I was called Sarah’s mom or LeAnn’s mom. I really didn’t mind and I still don’t mind being associated with my daughters. Still, it is nice to be called by your name and not a title. It’s also nice to call someone by name and be able to introduce people to one another by name. I really feel bad when I don’t remember someone’s name or think I should know it but the name will not come to mind. Names are so important, and I am so glad God helps me to remember as many names as I do. I know I couldn’t do it without him. Remembering new names takes me a while and I most always need to be reminded a couple of times before names stick in my brain. That is why name tags are so helpful at church. We can more easily remember others’ names by putting a name and a face together when we only see a name printed somewhere. God calls us each by name, so I feel it’s so important to do the same.
One of my favorite things about winter is having a cup of hot chocolate in a large mug I can wrap my hands around. Sitting by the window watching it snow with the mug radiating warmth and me curled up under a blanket is so calming and relaxing. It would be great if everyone who comes into our church would feel that way. A warm place to be, someplace where everyone is welcomed. We all can make this happen if each one of us does our part.
This time of the year is when many of us open our homes to family and friends. I love hosting Thanksgiving. Opening my house to loved ones is a great joy for me. The smell of a turkey roasting, making the whole house smell so good and knowing our guests will be arriving soon brings me happiness. Greeting family as they come into the door, helping them with the food they brought, getting everything ready to sit down and share a meal together is a wonderful feeling. It’s also fun to go to someone else’s house, where you are greeted warmly. I always seem to find myself helping in the kitchen. That’s just my thing; give me something to help with and I am happy. Welcoming others and being welcomed is a wonderful privilege to do and to have done to you. That is what we want to accomplish here at First Lutheran.