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Redefining Success

Posted by on Aug 30, 2015 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 2 comments

Over the last couple weeks, I have heard from several students that they are staying up until 2am or later to complete homework.

2am.

First, I blame the parent — who lets their child stay up that late?? Seriously!

Then, I blame the parent again — who is telling that student that an “A” is so important it’s worth losing sleep over?

Finally, I blame the student. Because they are either WAY too busy, way too perfectionistic, or simply have priorities that are way too out of whack.

(Why don’t I blame the teachers, you ask? Because students and parents choose the kids’ classes – they don’t have to take a course-load full of AP and Honors’ classes. You CAN tell the Guidance Counselor “no”.)

Sure, these are the kids who grow up to be “successful” – but they do it by staying up until 2am in college, in grad school, in post-grad school…then they’re staying up until 2am to keep their job, to move up in their job, to get a better job. These are the kids whose marriages fall apart, whose children never see them, whose doctors are on speed dial, and whose pharmacist is their best friend.

Why? Because we need sleep! And free time. And friends. And exercise.

People, God placed each of us here for a purpose. He desires for us to be successful. But He does not define success the way we do. He desires us to do justly, to love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. He desires us to do OUR best, but He never asks us to be THE best. In fact, sometimes, striving to be THE best is downright sin.

So, kids, go to bed! Parents, make your kids go to bed. If the only way to get an A is to stay up until 2am studying — DON’T GET AN A!

Let God’s word be your ultimate rubric, let His “report card” be the one you’re most concerned about. Let’s show our success, not by GPA or SAT scores, but by character, integrity, and passion for the Savior.

Why I Love Christian Education

Posted by on Aug 22, 2015 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 2 comments

Before I start, please hear me when I say this isn’t a rant against public education. I am a product of America’s public education system. I am proud of what I learned and where I attended. My character was shaped by Christian teachers who invested in me and even by non-Christian teachers who challenged me to to examine what I believed.

But God has called me (ME – not everyone) to be a teacher in a Christian school. I think we should all be passionate about what God has called us to do, and I am quite passionate about my calling. I love teaching in an environment where I’m not just “allowed” to talk about my faith, I’m required to.

Christian schools – like Christian churches, Christian families, and Christian organizations – aren’t perfect. You can find those schools who are only Christian in name, schools where academics are pitifully weak, schools where rules trump everything else…But, as someone who has been in and around Christian schools for almost a decade, now, I can tell you there are many Christian schools that are fabulous.

Here are just a few of the reasons why I love Christian education:

  • Every subject is taught in light of God’s word. As a firm believer in the supremacy of scripture, I want my children to learn everything from a biblical perspective. I don’t believe “faith” has one place and “education” has another. Nor do I believe that ‘intelligent Christian’ is an oxymoron. I believe that intelligent Christians examine what they see, what they learn, and what has been presented to them through the lens of scripture. If my purpose on earth is to glorify God and make Him known, then that should color everything. Especially my education. My goal as a Christian educator is to challenge my students to know God better, to love Him more, and to use the Spirit-enhanced brain they have to go into the world and accomplish great things for God’s glory.
  • Christ-Centered service is valued. I was part of one Christian school that took a week out of every year to take students on missions trips. Our group went to an orphanage in Honduras. Another group stayed local and served a women’s shelter. Others went to cities in and out of the US.  At my current school, we take a day off every quarter to serve somewhere in our community: groups feed the homeless, help at the Ronald McDonald House…our group went to a local church and blessed the staff by cleaning it, top to bottom. The purpose is not just to “do good things” – it’s to be obedient to the commands of scripture to love others, care for the hurting, provide for those in need — for God’s glory.
  • Opportunities abound. Christian schools tend to be small.  Admittedly, there are some disadvantages to a smaller school. But there are also advantages — small schools need more participation. Kids who play sports are also often in the school plays and participate in
    Displaying FullSizeRender.jpg

    My 7th period class last year (seniors) hanging out with the visiting 6th graders

    the Science Fairs and are on the Homecoming Court. While those might not be as competitive as in larger schools, students in Christian schools can graduate with far more experiences than a students at a huge school. My daughters have done everything from playing volleyball, tennis, and basketball, to playing leads in plays, running lights and sound for shows, competing in choral and drama events, and tutoring younger kids.

  • The community is huge. Though the majority of Christian schools are small, they are typically PreK-12th grade. This means younger students interact regularly with older students, and vice-versa. A few years ago, when my son was in 4th grade, he was “friends” with several of the Senior boys. These boys were kind, fun, and “cool”. They’d pass Thomas in the hall and ask how he was doing, they’d throw a football with him after school. One even invited Thomas and a friend over to tube in his lake (he still talks about that day!). The boys didn’t know the impact they had on Thomas, but I did. And I was thrilled to have him look up to boys who loved Jesus and loved others so well. They mentored Thomas without even realizing it was happening.

I could on, but you get the idea. I love Christian education, love teaching at a Christian school, love that my kids get to attend a Christian school. I love doing what God has called me to do where He has called me to do it.

More Important Than the SAT

Posted by on Aug 16, 2015 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Getting into college is important. I know – I am a high school English teacher and a parent of three. My oldest, a junior, is starting to look at colleges – which means my husband and I are looking at college tuition. Yikes!! We are encouraging Emma to do her best in school, in her extracurricular activities, and on her SATs so she can qualify for as many scholarships as possible.

But as I think through that – the importance of getting a college degree and being prepared for life as an adult – I am realizing far too many of us parents and educators are missing out on preparing our kids for what is most important. We stress grades and college and scholarships – the “head” – but we are neglecting the heart.

As parents, my husband and my primary goal is not to see our children get into college, make a lot of money, and be successful.

Our goal is to see our children passionately follow Christ – no matter what. We want them to love Jesus, to love others, to obey God’s calling on their lives. We want them to seek Him in every aspect of their lives – schooling, career, dating, and marriage. Everything.

With that goal in mind, we have made intentional choices along the way. Not perfect. Not even close. But with the goal – always – to help point our kids to Christ and His purposes for their lives.

Church Camp > Sports Camp

One way we try to help our kids grow is that we make church a priority. We don’t allow the kids to be on sports teams that consistently practice on Sundays and Wednesdays. As a result, they’ve “missed out” on some great teams, some opportunities to go to the next level in a sport. But what they have gotten is mentoring by godly men and women who have loved them and encouraged them to know Jesus better. They have developed deep friendships with young people who are seeking after Christ. For us, that is far more valuable than being on “that” team and advancing in “that” sport.

Another way we try to help our kids grow is that we say “no” to casual dating. Dating should be a preparation for marriage, not practice for divorce. We want our kids to have successful marriages: marriages that point people to Christ. We want passion and romance and deep, abiding love for our kids. We want them to be committed “till death do us part” to the person God has chosen for them. We want our kids to have strong relationships with Jesus first, to know He meets their needs and the longings of their hearts. Because of that, we don’t allow them to “just date”.

SATs are important. College is important. Being productive in society is important. But knowing Christ and serving Him with our whole hearts – that is the MOST important. So, parents, let’s push our kids to excel in what matters most. Teens – keep your eyes on the TRUE prize – “of the upward call in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14)

“Demystifying” Missions

Posted by on Aug 9, 2015 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 0 comments

I used a circular saw yesterday. And I still have all my fingers! So do the people around me. I’ll pause while you stand and applaud…

My new friend, Cory (an actual, professional Drama teacher), and I (a passionate amateur) were at a Technical Theatre class. The ladies who taught it were experts in all things “backstage” – building sets, creating props, sewing costumes…you name it. They were awesome! And they wanted to share their expertise with other drama teachers and directors, to help us do our jobs better, to have the tools to “build” our programs.

At first, they showed us pictures and gave us handouts. It was very helpful, very educational, very impressive. But then, they said, “All right, timsawe to go out back and try some of this.”

Say whaaaaat???

It’s one thing to hear and read about building sets and using things like a Mitre saw and 3 inch screws. It’s another thing entirely to actually use said equipment. People can get seriously injured. And by people, I mean me!!

But they said this was a hands-on class, and we had to get our hands on these tools.

I went last.

But I went. I held that saw, pressed the start button, and cut wood.

And I didn’t die!

The teachers explained it’s important to have that equipment “demystified”. We need to understand a circular saw really isn’t that scary. It’s just a tool used to accomplish a purpose. In this case – building a backdrop or a set piece. Sure, it’s loud, and it could seriously injure the user. But, with proper use and a healthy respect, it can be used to create some pretty cool stuff.

I kept thinking of that “demystifying” all day: Do something you think is scary, and you’ll find it really isn’t all that scary at all.

I thought of missions. Christians can get really scared about missions. It is overwhelming to think about visiting another country, where there is strange food and strange customs and even potential dangers. It is intimidating to share our faith in our own cities – forget sharing Christ with people who don’t speak English!

It’s far easier to read about missions, give to missions, even pray for missions than it is to participate in missions. But, as those who have gone on mission trips can tell you, actually going on a mission trip, or even living in another country as a missionary, “demystifies” that fear. You return far less scared and far more hungry to go again.

My social media is exploding right now with posts about friends on mission – some to England (my dream!!), others to inner city NYC, one family literally just moved to Bolivia to serve at a Christian school there. The pictures and testimonies are so exciting. God does amazing works when we step out of our comfort zones! One of the greatest works is to take away the fear of the unknown and replace it with a compassion – and passion – for others, a desire to be a more active part of the Great Commission.

Maybe you are considering missions. Maybe you’re scared, hesitant. Let me encourage you to “just do it!” Get out there. Go! You won’t regret it.

Obey or Die

Posted by on Jul 11, 2015 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 1 comment

Being a Christ-follower is becoming increasingly difficult. It used to be that Christians were respected in our country. Then, we were merely accepted (“Aw, you’re a Christian. That’s great…for you.”) Now, however, it seems that we are becoming quite unpopular.

As a people pleaser, this terrifies me! But as a student of the Bible, it doesn’t surprise me.

I’ve been studying the book of Daniel in my devotions, lately. Yesterday, I read about Daniel’s three friends refusing to bow down to the idol the king had built. This King was the great ruler of the then-known world, the Head of Gold in Daniel 2. What he said was law. Literally. And refusing was not an option.

But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego submitted to a Higher authority. The law may have said that all people must bow down to the king’s idol. But the Word of God clearly states that believers are to serve no other Gods. These men counted the cost  — “Bow down or die” — and chose to die rather than to live in disobedience.

Wow.

They chose to die rather than to live in disobedience.

We know the end of their story, but they didn’t. They even said, “Our God is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire…but even if he does not, let it be known to you, O king, we are not going to serve your gods…” Daniel 3:17-18

These man were thrown into the furnace not knowing whether God would save them in this life, or whether He would promote them to the next. Simply living was not their main objective. Living in obedience was their main objective.

The result of their obedience? It wasn’t just that their lives were spared in a miraculous way – though that was pretty amazing!! The greatest result was that the king recognized the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego was the Most High God. God was glorified, His name was made known throughout the kingdom, His power was demonstrated to everyone.

Lots of changes have taken place in the world since the time of Shadrach, Mesach, and Abed-nego. But God has not changed, nor has His purpose for his followers: we are to love Him, to obey Him, and to make Him known. No matter what.

May we be bold and uncompromising in our obedience. The rewards for that, my friends, are out of this world!

Divine Butler or Holy God?

Posted by on Jul 1, 2015 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 0 comments

I’ve been thinking a lot about God’s holiness, lately. I’ve been convicted that I don’t think about it enough. Like most people, I think about myself and my issues and my desires far more than I think about who God is and what He desires.

My husband teaches that, too often, Christians see God as a Divine Butler — we ask Him for things we want, and He gives them to us, or we “fire” him and look for another.

That thought may seem offensive to us, but as I examine my prayer life, I have to acknowledge that is far too often true. I pray for things I want, things my friends want — not “bad” things, but just very creation-centered. I pray the way I live – as if this life is all I have, as if I am Deity and should be worshiped and should have my way all the time.

But the truth is, this life is short, fleeting. And I am not God. I have the opportunity in this short life to seek God and know Him, worship Him and surrender everything to Him, or to reject Him. He gives all of us that choice. Because He is God, He doesn’t have to force Himself on us, He doesn’t have to justify His opinions, He doesn’t have to change so He will fit what we believe God should be. That idea is ludicrous!

God is God – whether we acknowledge it or not. God is in complete control – even when it appears that the world is in chaos. God is holy – deserving of our worship and adoration and reverence. Not believing that, not living in light of that, not liking it, doesn’t change it.

Rather than spending so much time praying for what I want, I need to spend time worshiping this holy God – a God who created the universe, and yet desires to know us. A God who sent his son to this chaotic earth to die on our behalf so we can live with Him forever. A holy, amazing God who is in complete control of everything.

The God of the Bible is not a Divine Butler. He is King of Kings, and He should be worshiped as such.

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty who was, and is, and is to come.” Rev. 4:8b

We’re In!

Posted by on Jun 27, 2015 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 2 comments

What a week. My muscles are screaming, but my heart is soaring. We have a house! And not just any house, a house that is absolutely perfect for our family. For the first time ever, unpackingmy daughters have their own rooms. And for my kids, this is the first time ever having a two story house. We’re in a great neighborhood – close to lots of stores and just three miles from our new school.

As with everything else associated with this move, God directed us to this house. We looked everywhere, and nothing in our price range was appealing. We really wanted a 4 bedroom, and all the homes we saw were 3 bedrooms (First World Problems, I know…). As the days went by, God convicted me that, rather than praying for what I wanted, I need to focus on what HE wants — what house does He want us in? what neighbors does He want us to love? I was asking for help dying to my dreams and accepting whatever – and wherever – He wanted us.

Then, our new friend, Gail, came to me with a print-out from Craigslist. Craigslist?!? No one finds rentals on Craigslist, right?? She assured me, though, that is how it is often done in San Diego. Realtors, we learned, get very little commission from rentals, so they are reluctant to help. That leaves landlords and renters-to-be needing other options. Craigslist is that option.

We called the owner, looked at the house, and loved it right away. 4 bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths!! Perfect. This was the owner’s previous home – he moved a couple blocks away a few years back, and has rented this home since. The terms of the lease were fantastic, and he and his wife are incredibly kind. When we moved in, several men from the church/school came to help us.  They got the entire truck unpacked in an hour. Kind and efficient!

God didn’t have to give us a great house. I have been reminded all week that plenty of believers live in far smaller, far less functional homes. Brothers and sisters in other countries are forced to live in places where there is no running water and barely enough food for everyone. God promises to meet our needs. But, so often, he meets our wants as well. Maybe not exactly the way we planned, but in the way He wants. He is good. He is merciful. He is extravagant in His love for us.

officeAnd though we aren’t entirely unpacked, we do have the office done (we have an office!). This is where I am sitting right now, where I will write this blog – and maybe more books. Who knows? This is where Dave spends a lot of time, working on the classes he teaches for Liberty University online and on other projects.

There’s still a lot to do – learning how to get around town, preparing for school (it’s year-round here, so teachers go back July 7!), finishing up the unpacking, getting CA driver’s licenses, preparing for school…the list is long. And, honestly, there are times when I just want to go back “home” – to Florida. I don’t do Change well. I have been irritable and snappy and impatient. I like the routine and familiar. I enjoy being spontaneous – but just in little things, like “Hey, let’s check out Mission Beach today!” not “Hey, let’s move across the country this summer!” Eventually, this will be routine and familiar. But that takes a while.

But I get to wait for that routine and familiar in this great house! And I get to adjust with four others – a husband and kids I love and for whom I am so grateful. We are being stretched and strengthened as a family. My kids are seeing that, though they may not have friends here, yet, they have each other, and they are reconnecting in ways they wouldn’t have, had we stayed in Florida. God is so gracious, so good, and so present.

I plan to get back to the “regular” blog posts next week. Thanks for hanging in while I vented and processed this move. Thanks for all the prayers. We felt every one of them!

 

We’re Here….Sort Of

Posted by on Jun 21, 2015 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 0 comments

I was going to wait and post an update when everything was all worked out. But I decided I might as well do what I’ve been doing — write in the Waiting. And that’s what we’re doing…waiting.

Because our original housing in San Diego fell through, and because we had to be out of our home in Largo by June 14, we moved out here with no house and no prospects for a house. A scary thought, with three kids! But we believe this is where God wants us, and we know, if He wants us here, He will provide us a place to live.

We loved getting to see parts of the country we’ve never seen before. This is Van Horn, TX.

So the kids and I left Florida for San Diego over a week ago. We stopped for a few days in Tennessee to visit my grandmother, my sister, my niece and nephew. Dave left last Monday and started driving straight across the country on I-10 (the thought of driving a moving van with the car on a trailer behind it through the GA/TN mountains did not sound appealing to him!). I stopped off in Ft. Worth last Tuesday to visit my other sister and niece, and Dave stopped off in Houston to visit a friend. We met up in Van Horn, TX Wednesday night. From there, we planned to drive to Yuma, AZ, but some terrific friends in Holtville, CA offered us carne asada and comfy beds. It was SO worth the extra 60 miles to accept their hospitality. And, as they warned us, being in the Imperial Valley – where the temp hit 120! – made us very thankful to just be passing through.

We pulled into San Diego Friday around 11:00am. We met our new boss and his wife – who not only offered us lunch, but are also housing us as we search for a place to live. We already feel blessed by our coworkers, and we haven’t even started working yet!

We looked at some houses Friday and yesterday, and we found one we really like. We are waiting to hear from the owner to know if our lease application is accepted. Prayerfully, it will be, and we will move in on Tuesday or Wednesday. But for now, we wait…

I HATE waiting. But God is teaching me to trust Him as we wait, to appreciate and learn from the incredible hospitality we have been shown by so many on our trip out here. He is teaching me that I don’t need a home to have security – my security comes from Him. He has shown me that our family can thrive and grow, even – or because of – the waiting. And He has shown me that being temporarily homeless isn’t that bad — many people have it much worse, and I need to choose thankfulness over complaining.

We appreciate your prayers, and we ask that they keep coming! I hope the next post is the “We’re in!” post — but we recognize God’s plans are better than ours, and we will seek to trust Him, no matter what.

Dare to Be a Daniel

Posted by on Jun 9, 2015 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 0 comments

I was talking to my youngest daughter about Daniel the other day. She is struggling with the move – understandably.  Florida is home. It’s where her friends and family live, where she has made memories, where she has grown from a child into a beautiful young teenager. It’s where she thought she’d go to high school and college. She doesn’t want to leave Florida, where she is known and loved, to go to California, where everyone will be a stranger.

So we talked about Daniel. He, too, was forced – against his will – to leave home and go to a foreign land. He, too, was likely a young , good-looking teenager, who had to leave behind great friends and family, special places, and all the comforts of the “known”. He was human, just like us, so I’m sure Daniel shed tears, got angry, asked “why me??” Like my daughter, he might have said, “Why can’t I just stay in one place like normal people?”

But God had a plan for Daniel – just like He has a plan for my daughter, and for all of us. Daniel didn’t know, when he was taken away, that he would rise to great power in Babylon. He didn’t know that his friends would be thrown in a fiery furnace or that he would be trapped in a lions’ den. He didn’t know God would give him prophetic ability that would point this pagan country to the true, living God. He didn’t know the words he wrote would be read thousands of years later, that they’d be quoted by the mom of a heartbroken teen who is having to leave the familiar for the unfamiliar. Daniel just obeyed – maybe reluctantly, at first. We don’t know. But we do know he took the faith of his fathers and made it his own. We know he was so sold out for God that he willingly risked his life to keep worshiping Him.

I love reading about men like Daniel and being reminded that the God who moved Daniel from Judah to Babylon is the same God who moving us from Florida to California. He is with us – His Holy Spirit is IN us! – and He has a purpose in this move. God used Daniel to make His name known in Babylon. He used Daniel in great – though sometimes uncomfortable – ways to glorify Him. And that, my friends, is why we are here: to glorify God – however, wherever, He chooses.

Maybe you’re not moving across the country. But, maybe, like my daughter, you are facing a difficult situation – one you didn’t ask for, don’t want, but that is thrust upon you, anyway. Dare to be a Daniel! Cling to God, trust Him, worship Him. He has great plans for you! They may not be “comfortable”, but they are good. Because He is good. And He is with you every single step of your journey.

Goodbye-ing

Posted by on May 31, 2015 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 1 comment

I HATE saying goodbye. I’m talking about long-term goodbyes, not the conversational ones we throw out at the end of a dinner or after church on Sunday. Those are fine. Easy. It’s the “I don’t know the next time I’ll see you again” goodbyes that I hate. We say these goodbyes when we move away (which we’re doing in 2 weeks — read this if that is news to you), or when people we love move away. Sometimes we say them when we move churches or schools. The saddest goodbyes are when a loved one dies. Even though, if they are believer, you know you will see them again, the temporary separation is painful.

But as much as I hate goodbyes, I know they’re necessary. We learned, in a missionary training session over a decade ago, a truth that has stuck with me:

“Good goodbyes allow for good hellos.”

When we acknowledge the beauty of our friendships, the pain involved in leaving people and places we love, we are able to say goodbye in a healthy way. We don’t leave words unspoken. We are sad – very sad – but we don’t compound that sadness with misplaced bitterness or regrets. So we just deal with the sadness. We verbalize what we’re really feeling. That helps us feel the freedom to establish new friendships in our new places.

When we are honest with others – and ourselves – we can take the root issues to the Lord, and He will help us through them. When we refuse to recognize the real problem – whatever it is – we feed into the lie that it is something else, someone else, that is the problem. This leads to depression and heartache. We pull away from the Lord instead of drawing near to Him.

Right now, I have a couple issues that I need to daily bring before the Lord: 1) I don’t want to leave special people and places! I don’t want to make my kids leave best friends, churches, and schools they love 2) I am scared I won’t make new friends in my new place. I’m scared my kids will be miserable and will look back on this and hate us for making them move.

When I focus on those issues, I live in fear. I am stressed and miserable and overwhelmed. I need to seek the Lord to help me replace those thoughts with truth. Truth is found in God’s word.

Right now, I am memorizing and meditating on Isaiah 26:3-2 “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.”  I also recall Prov. 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Dave and I have sought the Lord, and He has led us to San Diego. I can trust God’s guidance. I can lean on Him. And I can follow him – no matter the cost – because He is worth it.

If you’re dealing with some “goodbyes” right now, let me encourage you to be honest about how painful they are. Tell people you love how much you love them. Drive by your favorite spots in town and recall the good times you had there. Cry. And, most importantly, let Jesus bear your burden. Cry to Him, lean on Him, listen to Him. Change is HARD. There’s no way to make it easy. But change can be good because it can draw us closer to the Savior, mold us more into his image, make us better equipped to serve others.