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The blog home of speaker and writer Mindy von Atzigen

The blog home of speaker and writer Mindy von Atzigen I am a lover of words, Jesus, and His church. I am also a wife, a mom, and a friend. I hope you'll consider me yours...

Life Together

"As I was praying for you..."

That was the first sentence in a letter I received this week, sweetly tucked in with a beautiful gift of flowers and watercolor print.  The rest of it chronicled her prayers over my life and what she could see God doing in this season I'm in.  It was from one of the ladies in my monthly dinner group, and was quietly dropped off to my office while I was out running errands.  

This group of women has been meeting together since the first of the year.  We have a date, the second Thursday of the month, that's now blocked off for gathering around the table.  We eat, we talk, we laugh, we pray, and we eat some more.

And even though I always know it's going to be fun, sometimes I don't feel like gathering.  Since it's at my house, gathering means cleaning (I've tried not to worry about this, but I can't not worry about it), cooking, and finding some place for my family to eat dinner without making a mess of what I just cleaned.  It never fails that I end up being tired that day and wish I could warm up a frozen pizza for my family and eat dinner in my bathrobe.

But, I am always, without fail, so glad that we gathered.  Every time the last woman leaves the front porch after that one last goodbye chat, I am thrilled that I get to share my life with them and partake of theirs.  They are all so beautiful and so valuable, and when we share a meal together and then take the deep breath and jump into the pool of vulnerability month after month, their beauty and value spills over the wall of their own life and flows into mine.

This is the way women were meant to be together.  Friends.  Confidants.  Champions of each other.  It's what every little girl is looking for when she heads into the lunch room and wonders where to sit.  It's what grown women still long for when they find themselves in transition and wonder where their safe place is. 

And it doesn't happen by accident.  Because life is crazy, and families are demanding, and vulnerability is terrifying.  There is only one way it happens.  It happens when you decide you have to have it and that it's a vital part of shepherding your heart and having something to give to the people you love.  It happens when you take a risk and throw open the door to your home and your heart at the same time.  It happens when you welcome the beauty of the woman next to you into your life and tell your own insecurities they can not dictate your parameters to you anymore. 

And the reward of letting go and diving in is the note and the flowers and the watercolor that speak life to your soul because someone loves you and is praying for you and listening to what God has to say about her friend..  It's the text you can send in the middle of the night when your kid is sick and you're scared.  It's the lunch you know you can grab in the middle of the week that will connect your heart in a matter of four minutes, before the bread even comes. It's the long phone call when you're a mess and don't want anyone to know, but also know you can't afford for anyone not to know.  A reward beyond price.

Last week, we met at a restaurant instead of my house, because life.  

And I noticed the ladies around the table all had a hard time getting there, because life.  

There was a lot of weariness in the eyes as we sat down, because life.  

But, after thick bowls of pasta and laughing until we snorted, I also noticed that the walk to our cars looked different.  We were full of energy, and our smiles were in our eyes.  

Because life together.

A Blessing for Teachers (With Free Printable!)

New year.  New grade levels.  New friends.  New habits.  New teachers.

We are sending our most valuable treasures out into the world to be taught and shaped and mentored by teachers who didn't bring them into the world, wash their clothes this weekend, or put their breakfast on the table this morning.  Teachers who care about them, but aren't their parents.  Teachers who want to see them succeed, but don't have a lifetime of equity built with them.  Teachers who can't focus on four children like we do at our house, but have an entire classroom to take care of.

And that's why I take a few minutes today to bless my children on the first day of school, but also the teachers who are entering my children's lives today:

I bless you to see the value in each of your students, the God-given gifts in each one.

I bless you with patience in your heart today, and that it will be expressed in your face and in your voice.

I bless you with joy today, the kind of joy that can laugh at the moments that didn't go your way and exalt in the moments of success.

I bless you with peace in your classroom today, the kind that can be felt when students walk in the door.

I bless you with the ability to make learning a contagious source of wonder.

I bless you with the skills to communicate well with your students, their parents,  and your peers.

I bless you with renewed vigor and energy, enough to go home and still have an enjoyable evening with your family.

I bless you with wisdom and creativity to solve the problems that come your way.

I bless you with conversations around school that encourage you and lift up your spirit.

And I bless you with a new-found passion for your job, the job that is shaping the next generation.


As a free back to school gift from Treasure the Ordinary, click here for a free printable of a Teacher's Blessing!  This simple page makes a great first day of school present for the teacher's in your life. 

When They Go: What to Look Forward to Your Child's First Year Out of the House

It was one year ago that we packed up a suburban full of a boy's things, including the iron and dorm-sized ironing board mom just knew he would need, and followed an equally packed little red car for 7 hours to a big city with a big university.  We unpacked and set up that boy's new home in an hour and fifteen minutes and then sat and stared at each other.  What now?

There were some welcome meetings to attend and some books to buy, but the to-do list was decidedly small.  Because over the course of eighteen years, everything had either already been done or it hadn't, and all that was left that day was to let go.

And one year later I'm still crying as I write this, just thinking about that moment we drove away and left our boy, the one we brought into the world and bought Blues Clues underwear for, standing in a parking lot waving goodbye.

But, I really do have good news for you parents that are about to do what we did.  The tears don't come very often anymore.  They've been replaced with so many good things.  And that's what I want you to know.  You'll cry.  A lot.  And if you're a dad, you may surprise yourself by crying more than your wife because she's been crying for the whole, entire senior year, but it just now dawned on you that things are changing.

So, you'll cry.  But, there's more to it than that.  You'll grow.  And they will grow.  And your family will grow.  And you'll eventually realize that yes, there was a loss, but you've also gained something, too.  You've gained an adult child where once you had a kid.

Remember that on the days when it hurts.  Remember that it's not all loss.  Remember that while it is change, and change is rarely ever fun, it's the change that has to happen for you to get where you've always been headed.  So, look forward, even as you look back and remember.

Things to look forward to your child's first year out of the house:

  • The texting.  They do it all the time with their friends, but now you're lumped into the list of people to keep up with through text, and something magical happens amongst the emojis and gifs.  You discover that this person is still thinking about you.  Granted, it's probably not as much as you're thinking about them, but they really are thinking about you.  And if you refrain from texting back, "Why haven't you called me?" and instead engage them where they are, you'll get even more emojis and gifs.
  • The late night phone calls.  They'll do it when they need something, and that's ok.  You may have to tell them you'll call them back in the morning, but don't forget you did that to your parents, too.  And sometimes they'll just do it because they miss you, and the lost sleep is worth it.
  • The moments of pride.  There's going to be a day when you realize the child you had to peel off you the first day of kindergarten and who often forgot to change his socks just scheduled a doctor appointment, drove to it, and actually remembered to take his insurance card with him ALL. BY. HIMSELF.  Your work here is done. 
  • The moments of embarrassment.  There's also going to be a day when your eighteen year old texts you to ask how to cook a frozen pizza.  So, you still have a job.  But, the good news is you get to decide if you show up for work.  You can always refer him to Google.
  • The weekend trips home.  Yes, it's different.  It won't ever be the same again.  But, watching the newest adult in your house forge grown up relationships with you, your spouse, the siblings, and even the grandparents is a joy.  These young adults are thinking big thoughts and dreaming big dreams right now, and they are good for you.  Soak it up.
  • The moments of sadness.  It's going to happen, in the weirdest moments.  Like that night when you walk into a restaurant and the hostess asks how many and you give the wrong number and have to correct it by subtracting one, or the day you put up the Christmas tree and realize it's the first time they've never helped.  It will happen, but you really can look forward to it, because it means life at your house with your people was good.  And that's worth celebrating.
  • And so many tiny moments...the wag of the dog's tail when she hears the sound of that little red car in the driveway at Thanksgiving, the friends they bring home, the girlfriends they bring home, the laughter on the facetime call as you try to help your overwhelmed freshman read the prescription bottle instructions for the roomate who just got his wisdom teeth out ("Mrs. von Atzigen, your son isth berry hospthbitable!  He isth taking thuch good care of me!"), the realization that the dorm iron hasn't been used one single time, the care boxes that you don't send near as often as you think you're going to, and the feeling of being wrapped up in your sons arms when he walks in the door at Spring Break.  
All these moments are life.  And life doesn't just go on, it gets better and better.

Two Invitations

"The enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground, he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.  Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled." (Psalm 143:3-4)

Those words from David the Psalmist are the obvious result of deep crisis.  David had a number of life events that could have produced them, but he's not alone.  I've been there.  Everyone I know has been there at least once.  We've all tasted of this place of crisis, not just in the physical life being threatened, but the place where the soul is at the brink of death.  The place where thoughts, emotions, decision making, they've all been brought past the point of pain to the shadows where only numbness resides.

And it's there that we have an invitation.  Two, actually.

When we find ourselves in the shadowland, the valley filled with such thick fog that we can not find the face of our Savior, we can choose to accept the invitation to set up camp and become a permanent resident, or we can start climbing out.  

The first invitation comes from the one who brought you there in the first place.  The one who has pursued you, crushed your life, and made you sit in the darkness.  He's the one who constantly reminds you of the faintness of your own heart with words that never suggest you'll ever be anything but appalled at your own life.

But, the second invitation, the one that is harder to find, harder to open, and harder to accept?  It comes from the lover of your soul, and it's the one David sent in his RSVP for in the very next verse.

"I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the works of your hands.  I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.....for your name's sake, O Lord, preserve my life.  Bring my soul out of trouble."  (Psalm 143:8,11)

The invitation is to remember, and by remembering to climb out of the darkness that makes you think life has always been this way and will always be this way.  Remembering what He's done and the many times He has already saved your soul in the past is the act of turning on the light, and stretching out your hands for His presence and asking Him to meet you again is taking the first step out of the shadowlands. 

So, today, if you are in that place where your soul is in danger, where you can not see Him and you don't feel anything at all, remember.

Remember the way He met you for the first time.
Remember the way He changed everything.
Remember the way He spoke to you kindly.
Remember the way He provided when you thought there was nothing in your future but lack.
Remember the way He gave you the answer before you ever even thought to ask.
Remember the way He held you when no one else even knew you cried.
Remember the way He carried you through the storm you couldn't stand in.
Remember the way He answered the cry of your heart with His presence.

And after you remember, wait for His presence again.  Stretch out your arms and call.  And let Him bring your soul out of trouble.

You have not always been here.  You will not always be here.  Your soul will live again.

No Substitute

I recently enjoyed speaking to a friend on her podcast about pastoring your soul.  We spoke about the busyness, the noise, the tiredness, and the chaos that can drown out our own heart's signals that it's time for a pause.  A pause to be still, be quiet, and be refreshed.  It was a great conversation, and if that stirs something down deep, you can listen to it here.

But, as I was processing the things we talked about, I realized there is a pattern I've begun to follow in life that not only pastors my own heart, but my marriage and my family.  And it all involves TIME.  I wrote about it here a few years ago in regards to fostering a healthy relationship with my husband, so I've known it existed, but I've come to see that the same pattern that nurtures my marriage also nurtures the deep parts of me, and is even the same pattern that causes my kids to thrive.

And that's my greatest desire for each of them, that they would thrive at being exactly who God created them to be, that they would be so confident in the truth of the nest they were raised in that when it comes time to fly, they would soar.  And there's no way that happens without an investment being made into them, an investment of time.  Because it takes time for that truth to sink in and be rooted.  It takes time to listen and learn where their hearts are unsure.  It takes time to discover the gifts buried deep and to call them out.  It takes time for mistakes to be made, discovered, and corrected.  It just all takes time.  And there's no substitute for it.

For all those reasons, having an intentional pattern of time spent with my children has become a blessing.  There's the daily meal at the table, the weekly family night, the monthly fun day, and the annual vacation.  And not every one of those is filled with deep conversations or even half-way deep conversations, but because there are enough of them, the deep conversations have a vehicle in which to overtake the daily routine.  They have a pause where they know they will be heard.

We haven't always done it well.  We've had the seasons where we let the pauses get filled with too much noise, too much everything.  But, we've learned that our children are remarkably forgiving when we simply say, "I'm sorry we've let things get too crazy.  Let's bring it back."  

And when we lead them to the pause, they follow.