Summer Lovin’

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By Paula Bowlby, Associate Early Childhood Pastor
Woodland Hills Church

Summer is knocking at our door. Finally, the season that gets us hearty Minnesotans through our long, hard winters is almost here. Summer is a great time for inexpensive family bonding and activities. We thought we would share some of our favorites:

• Como Zoo: Free with reasonably priced rides in Como Town
• Bell History Museum: Free Tuesday evenings with fun and interactive exhibits
• Walker Institute of Arts: The first Saturday of every month is free
• The Children’s Museum: The third Sunday of every month is free
• Minneapolis Music and Movies in the Park: http://www.mplsmusicandmovies.com
• St. Paul Music in the Parks: http://www.stpaul.gov/index.aspx?NID=1357
• Swimming at local beaches – A popular staff favorite is Lake Elmo Park Reserve
• A picnic in the park
• Hiking trails and paths such as those found around Taylor’s Falls or the Mississippi River Valley
• Fun parks to go to:
• Lake Elmo Park Reserve in Lake Elmo
• Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis
• Hyland Park in Minneapolis – Includes a Chutes and Ladders-Themed Playground
• Mill Ruins Park in Minneapolis
• Minnehaha Falls and Park in Minneapolis
• Teddy Bear Park in Stillwater
• Go to a drive-in movie
• Grab some ice cream – Here are a few of our favorites:
• Nelson’s in Stillwater
• Dairy Queen
• Cold Stone
• Grand Ole Creamery in St. Paul
• Hometown Creamery in Maplewood
• Izzy’s in both Minneapolis and St. Paul

And, of course, the obvious choices for summer fun include: Bike rides, walks, playing in the sprinkler, catching fireflies, stargazing and not wearing a hat and gloves! Happy summer, everyone!

One Hundred Pounds

We have several talented writers/bloggers in our Heroes Gate family, and we will be featuring some of them here on the HG Update blog. This week’s post comes to us from Erica, one of our Emerging Generation staff members here at Woodland Hills.

My dad likes to tell the story of him and his nine siblings walking home for lunch on schooldays for a hot meal at the family table. The story continues that every day this meal was my grandmother’s Swedish pancakes, cooked thin on a griddle and dressed with a sprinkle of sugar. Syrup was an American addition, acquired during the assimilation process adopted by the family after emigrating from Sweden in the 1950’s.

I grew up with the same meal served up regularly, usually Sunday nights when Dad was cooking. The simple recipe made from scratch with only 6 ingredients was a subtle, consistent presence in our family kitchen and, consequently, lodged in my childhood memories. My grandma’s recipe for Swedish Pancakes was one of the few I personally requested be included in the family recipe book prepared for my bridal shower 17 years ago.

Now when our family gathers around the table Saturday mornings, we enjoy the same recipe. My husband, with no Swedish blood in him, became the pancake expert very early on in our marriage and has spent countless hours mixing the batter and cooking one at a time on his sacred griddle, rarely used for anything else. Over the murmurs and sighs from happy taste buds, he likes to say there is “a hundred pounds of love in every batch.”

This has been our tradition since before our three kids were born, now ages 10-14. As weekdays have become busier, family dinners are more sparse than they used to be. Knowing the family table is reserved for five each Saturday morning is like an anchor, rooting us in something bigger than ourselves. It creates space for us to look at each other in the eyes and hear each other’s voices.

Weekly rhythms like this are more remarkable as a whole than any individual event on its own. We don’t usually talk about deep topics or share warm hugs across the table, yet each week of this tradition is like a thread woven together with all the others to make a cord – something gently wrapped around each of us individually and all of us as a group.

Now we couldn’t get out of it if we tried! The kids expect and anticipate the sounds and smells of the preparation, which takes about an hour for a double batch. They gather their favorite toppings (which now include sour cream, lingonberries, powdered sugar and syrup) and wipe the sleep out of their eyes only moments before taking their first bites. Our eldest, with her characteristic independent spirit, stopped eating the pancakes years ago. She brings a bowl of cereal to the table instead.

An added bonus to this tradition in recent years is the pace at which we start the morning. Gone are the pre-dawn awakenings, cartoons in the background, diapers to change and hungry protests when the cakes take too long to cook. Now, my husband and I slowly sip coffee in an otherwise empty kitchen, talking about everything and nothing as batter is gradually transformed into our version of Grandma’s legacy.
A legacy of milk, eggs, syrup and griddles. And week after week of looking each other in the eyes and hearing each other’s voices.

Give It Up for Moms!

By Teresa Sayles, Children’s Curriculum Specialist
Woodland Hills Church

Let’s give it up for Moms. They’re pretty amazing, right? I mean, they care for us, provide for us, keep us safe, remind us to eat our veggies, and give some of the best advice in the world. But a mom doesn’t have to be biological.

Personally, I have several “mom” figures in my life beside my biological mother. I have other women whom I also look to for advice, wisdom, and mentoring. These amazing “moms” have helped me become who I am today. And God, who never lets an opportunity pass by, is now helping me use some of what I’ve learned from them over the years to impact the lives of others. Their “mothering” is being passed on whether they know it or not.

One of the greatest examples of this is how one of my “moms” has taught me the beauty of trying to understand another person’s backstory and perspective rather than making judgments or assumptions. By asking me questions about someone I’m upset with or frustrated at, she has helped me see the value of trying to understand why someone might be doing or saying something that seems hurtful or upsetting. What might be causing him/her to act this way? What pain/hurt/loss might he/she be trying to avoid? How does God view the situation? How might I show His love? Several years later, I now find myself asking these same questions as I relate with others, particularly kids in our ministry. When they speak of someone they’re upset with, I echo her questions, prodding them to look deeper and try to understand the person they’re upset with from God’s loving perspective.

So this Mother’s Day, take some time to think about the “moms” in your life, the women who, whether related to you or not, have influenced you, challenged you, and helped you become the “you” you are today. And then thank them! Write a letter, make a phone call, send a card, give an extra hug, or shoot out a grateful text. Don’t let this Mother’s Day pass by without giving “props” to those who’ve lovingly “mothered” you all these years.

You could also send them this video. Starring the “Kid President,” he’s got the right idea about moms.

May Preview Pack

Here’s a quick look ahead to what we’ll be learning in Heroes Gate over the next few weeks:

May 4 – Toddlers through 4th grade will hear how God sent the Holy Spirit to the disciples on Pentecost (Acts 1:6-2:41). The lesson’s take-home point will be: “The Holy Spirit is always with us.” Club 56 kids will discuss the question: “What is worship anyway?” – Understanding that worship is our response to God’s awesomeness.

May 11 – Toddlers through 4th grade will not have regular lessons this day as Preschool-4th grade will be singing in the main service. Toddlers will enjoy a video lesson in their room while Preschoolers will listen to a book about forgiveness following their time singing. Elementary kids will hear a shortened lesson on the community of the Early Church with the take-home point being: “We need each other.” Club 56 kids will talk about the question: “Whom are we worshipping?” – Understanding that as followers of Jesus, our worship is different because it’s always for the One True God.

May 18 – For our last Sunday of regular school-year curriculum, Toddlers through 4th grade will cheer along as God rescues Peter from prison and sets him free to continue telling others the Good News (Acts 12:1-17). The lesson’s take-home point will be: “God hears your prayers.” Club 56 kids will look into “How do we worship?” – Understanding that worship, in many different forms, can be part of our daily lives.

May 25 – With the end of the school year, we’ll be celebrating with a fun Game Day in Elementary and with interactive video lessons for Toddlers and Preschool this holiday weekend.