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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...

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.

Weekly Adventures: Six of Our Best Family Nights

Recently, Treasure the Ordinary featured a post on Family Nights.  That article has sparked a great deal of feedback, with many readers retelling how they, too, have had to go back to "boot camp" as a family and pick up old, yet important habits they had inadvertently laid down.  I'm encouraged that it's never too late to start over, and that this week's family night could be your best yet!  

To that end, here is a list of some of the most enjoyable of our recent von Atzigen Family Night Adventures.  In the past, I've noticed that ideas I've found online for this kind of thing seem to be centered around families with young children.  So, while a lot of these ideas could be adjusted to accommodate little ones (especially if you partner them with older kids or parents), my list here is centered around families with older children and teens.  I hope they will spark your own idea for an evening in, or an evening out, as long as it's with the ones you love most.

  • "Chopped, Family Edition"- This was one of our most fun family nights ever!  A full scale replica of the TV show, complete with older brother filming the action in order to put together a highlight reel.  To play, I tasked the three youngest to compete in the dessert category.  They had 30 minutes to concoct their best creation using 3 out of 4 ingredients (pre-stocked in the family picnic basket!) and a maximum of 3 other ingredients out of the family pantry.  Parents did the judging, and overlooking a couple of nasty bites (think frozen hot tamale candies coming at your taste buds out of no where!), it was mostly delicious.  My teenagers all loved it, since it brought out all of their competitiveness, and it's even since sparked some interest in the kitchen that wasn't there before.
  • "Wiki Night" - Get out all the smart phones!  Before you play, someone needs to stock the draw pile with random topics (the Wright brothers, cheddar cheese, Argentina, etc.).  To play, someone draws a topic from the pile, and everyone opens their wiki app to that page.  Someone then draws the second topic out of the draw pile, and the race is on to see who can get to that page first.  You can't use the back arrow, and you can't exit wiki, but other than that, it doesn't matter how you get there.  First person to the designated page wins!  (Note:  You can have as many people play per round as you have smart phones, but if you only have access to one or two, you could play tournament style, timing each person for their "score.")
  • "Book Store Scavenger Hunt" - This one was great for a night when the parents were tired, but didn't want to miss out on family time.  The two of us sat in the bookstore cafe, reading a good book and drinking a coffee while the kids roamed the store taking photos of the items on their scavenger hunt list (a book with exactly 394 pages seemed to be the hardest one to find!) and sending them back to mom or dad's phone so we could monitor their progress.  We would occasionally send them all extra challenges that they could complete alongside their list for bonus points, my favorite of which was "take a picture of one of your siblings without them knowing."  The rule was you could not run and no one in the store could even be able to guess you were there on a scavenger hunt, so everyone had to play it cool and keep from being an annoyance to other customers.  The winner can even get to choose which new book you go home with!
  • "Blessing Night" - We did this one around Christmas time.  Instead of spending money on our own family night, we took a family trip to Wal-Mart and bought everything that would be needed for another family to have a great family night.  Every one of my kids picked out their favorite candy, we spent a great deal of time choosing just the right puzzle and just the right board game, and then we added a family movie, hot chocolate, popcorn, and even a blanket.  I was proud of my kids when we loaded it all in the car to be dropped off for a project at our church and went home to eat the snacks that were in our own pantry.  I know we could have gone out after we did our shopping, but I felt like it was important to have one night completely devoted to serving others, and I wasn't disappointed.  I liked the fruit I saw in my kids.
  • "Movie Night" - This time, it was to see "Hidden Figures," which I highlight because it was an excellent film and one that provoked deep discussion with our teenagers.
  • "Photo Shoot Night" - Find some zany props, get into some crazy costumes, and head to an interesting location.  For extra fun, you can hire a photographer, but if you need it to be free, just bring a tripod and a creative streak.  I don't have a single child that doesn't like to have pictures taken, so we may be abnormally fond of the camera, but every time we do this, we end up with crazy fun memories.  This year, our photo shoot night ended up being our Christmas card, Viking helmets and all! 
Whether it's planned or spontaneous,  may your family time be sweet this week, friends.  And may it make you long for more.

Soul Food

I did it.  I did the thing I've been planning to do for months.  I took a day off and spent it alone, at home. 

I did what I wanted.  I didn't do what I didn't want to do.  I drank two cups of coffee instead of one and didn't even get dressed until after lunch, which I ate alone with only the sound of the dishwasher for company.  I played the piano.  I read a little.  I walked the dog.  I took a nap.  I wrote a poem. 

And I didn't want it to end.

It's that profound desire to hold on, to savor, that makes me wonder why I wait months and months to take a day that brings me so much joy and so much renewal. 

For some people, today would not have been a blessing.  They would rather have spent it in a crowd of friends, hiking, or maybe touring a vineyard.  And that's the thing, isn't it?  Our ability to discern what it is that both brings us peace and invigorates us at the same time is the point at which we have learned to pastor our own souls.  For too long, I stayed away from the seminary of my own heart, distracted by the need to perform and believing if I took time away to feed myself, I was selfishly robbing the people in my life of what they needed. 

But, time spent in regularly pastoring my soul keeps me from feeding others with empty hands and allows me to break off a piece of my wholeness and offer it freely, without fear that it is all I will have for tomorrow.

And so, I will not wait so long for the next time. 

Ode To A Day Home Alone
Creative stirrings make
lukewarm coffee as the bathrobe
spins out like a ballerina's chiffon,
the riverdance flowing around the living room rug,
and the dog sleeping on, unaware
of the freedom that comes with

Simple Prayers

"On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, 'They have no more wine.'"  (John 2:1-3)

As a mother of three sons, Mary's relationship with Jesus intrigues me.  There are not a lot of details of his growing up years.  There's his birth, his dedication, his foray into the temple.  And then there's this simple, yet worldchanging story of attending a village wedding with his mom.

I love to imagine him there.  Eating the wedding feast.  Singing the songs of blessing over the couple.  Dancing to the music of celebration.  Toasting the new family's prosperity.

And then, this interruption.  The moment his mother comes to him and quietly whispers her prayer.

Because that's what it was.  A request for him to move, to act, to intervene in the natural unfolding of events with the force of the supernatural.  And I love that what moved Mary's heart to seek out Jesus wasn't to save the life of someone choking on a lamb bone, but rather to save a neighbor family from embarrassment.  She knew that running out of wine would mark the family with shame in front of the entire village, and being sensitive to those who live in shame, she simply caught Jesus' attention and said five words.

That's it.  One simple phrase.  "They have no more wine." 

There wasn't a long drawn out explanation or a detailed description of what she wanted him to do.  Just a sentence that defined the need and communicated the complete trust she had in him to make any decision that needed to be made.

And I 've come to believe that is the exact way my own prayers work best.  My prayers seem to be the most effective when I refrain from telling Jesus exactly how He should meet my needs or giving Him all the reasons why I have the need in the first place.  They seem to produce the most fruit when I simply catch his attention and whisper the equivalent to, "I have no more wine."  My simplest statements  are the ones that speak of complete dependence on who He is and my complete trust that His decisions are enough.  It's when I feel the need to explain, to beg, to tally up the words like points on a scoreboard that I find my faith in both His goodness and sovereignty is wavering. 

So, again Mary becomes a role model.  An example of presenting the need and trusting that He hears.  But, she also does one more thing.

"'Woman, why do you involve me?' Jesus replied. 'My hour has not yet come.' His mother said to the servants, 'Do whatever he tells you.'" (John 2:4-5)

She not only brought the need to His attention.  She readied the environment around Him for obedience.  She prepared the way for Him to move by aligning herself and those she had influence over in agreement with whatever command He might give after her one sentence prayer.

She prayed and she obeyed.  And it made all the difference.

"Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.  Jesus said to the servants, 'Fill the jars with water'; so they filled them to the brim.  Then he told them, 'Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.'  They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, 'Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.'"  (John 2:6-10)