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Where the Rubber Meets the Road

June 12, 2018

As long as I could remember, I have planned on homeschooling my kids.  I was homeschooled, had a positive experience along the way, and couldn’t imagine anything different for my own children. However when my first son was born I began saying that even though we would probably homeschool, we would do what is best for him. My husband and I also developed a desire to be involved in the community by sending our kids to the school that other kids had no choice but to go to. Simultaneously, we have seen and read about the toll that modern American education takes on child’s desire to learn.  A system with scarce recess time and too much teaching to standardized tests is the complete opposite of what we desire for our children. Also, naturally, I want to give my children the gifts I was given.  My Christian homeschool community was an excellent influence. My faith grew in knowledge of God’s word both at my parents’ kitchen table and at co-ops. I had the kindest, most thoughtful, godly, and encouraging friends (and their parents) a girl could ask for.

My son starts kindergarten in the fall. He is an extrovert. The rubber will be meeting the road soon.  Which type of schooling will we choose? I feel guilty having the privilege even to make a choice. Many kids have no choice. But does that mean I shouldn’t choose what I think is best for my child? I’m not even sure I know what is best for my child. And what about our community? Why must there be so little recess in public schools? Why must I feel guilty for wanting a free-style, classical education for my children? And what about me? Do I have the stamina to homeschool my kids?

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The End of God’s Love Story that Bishop Curry Left Out

May 21, 2018
michael-curry-royal-wedding-1526731261
I really enjoyed watching the entire royal wedding early on Saturday morning, May 19. My mom grew up in a black gospel church on a street called Dr. MLK Jr. Drive, and I grew up listening to the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir on our home stereo.  Plus I am an Anglican Christian who loves classical music. So the preaching, liturgy, the appointed scripture from Song of Solomon, and all the music at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding was quite enjoyable for me, even at 6am on a Saturday! (When I could have been sleeping because I was away from mothering responsibilities for a weekend, thanks to my sweet husband.)  I loved how diverse the service and attendees were.
I only wish The Most Rev. Michael Curry’s sermon didn’t leave off the end of that wonderful, promised love story – that Christ will return as conquering king and establish an eternal reign of love in a renewed heavens and earth. That is where the real hope lies, not in us humans finally getting our act together and loving each other, even though that is an important part of the story. Some branches of the Church are all mixed up with this mainstream, moralistic humanism. You can see it in superhero movies as well as sermons that end with humans making the final difference, merely inspired by Christ’s example. Bishop Curry certainly talked about Jesus’ sacrificial love a lot in his sermon, but in the end his point was little different from the message preached in mainstream culture. He did not say that God in his love will “make of this old world a new world” and that we are called to participate in that starting now. No, Curry said that when we discover love “we will make of this old world a new world.” Humans will make the new world. A slight difference but an important one.
Another leader in the Anglican tradition, The Right Reverend N.T. Wright, wrote a book called Surprised by Hope. It is all about how we can start to make a difference now with love, in light of Christ’s final promised return to make a new heavens and new earth. I haven’t finished reading it yet, (currently working through at least 8 books!), but I recommend it. May as many of us as possible follow Jesus and be a part of that kingdom.
Surprised-by-Hope
Call me a nitpicker. I do like seeing God’s love talked about all over the media, because it is truly amazing. But I do think we should be aware of this distinction.

Savoring My Body.

March 15, 2018

In January, I shared that my goal for 2018 was to savor. To savor my children, my food, my relationships, my life. Well there was one glaringly obvious application of this concept that I hadn’t realized. Thanks to Michelle Graham, author of Wanting to Be Her, my frame of mind is slowly learning to savor my body.  Of course! In my stumbling and slow quest to maintain a healthy lifestyle, I need to do more than just savor my food.  I need to savor my body itself.

Michelle tells a story of when her father bought her a lovely, real jewel ring while shopping together- just because. She learned something from owning this gift:

I love that ring. Not just because it’s pretty but because it represents my father’s deep love for me. It was a beautiful gift. So naturally I wasn’t ashamed to wear it. I agreed joyfully when others complimented it. I never worried whether so-and-so thought it look nice. I took care of it, cleaning and protection it.  And though I delighted in it, I didn’t compare it to other people’s jewelry or try to flaunt it. My life didn’t revolve around the ring. I just quietly savored the loving gift that it was.

When we understand the gift of our God-made body, we will respond the same way: with contentment and without embarrassment. We will take care of our body…We’ll keep ourselves clean and enjoy pampering our body, without crossing the line into body obsessions or comparing ourselves to other women.” (p. 37)

Before, I held the concept of my body being a temple of the Holy Spirit with hefty dose of guilt, that I wasn’t eating well or not exercising. Guilt has its place because it helps us realize something is missing. Yet, it gives no joy.  Only gratitude can cultivate the joy that provides motivation.

Recently, working out in the basement, I asked myself why I was doing this. It takes so long to see results with exercise. Then I remembered to savor my body– it is a gift and I am grateful that I can use it, that I can be active.  God designed our bodies so intricately and amazingly. My kids’ body anatomy picture books convince me of this. I don’t have to prove my worth. Rather, I can maintain with joy my soul’s earthly home and God’s temple, for as long he wills me to be here. I enjoy nature and so many things using my body (including delicious food!). I do so many worthwhile things using my body, and other people with different abilities do countless more.  Truly we are the recipients of gifts, regardless of our shape, size, abilities, or features.

Should you hate your enemies?

March 15, 2018
The following is a meditation I wrote on Psalm 139 that was recently “published” by the seminary at which my husband is a student, in their 2018 Lenten Devotional.
Speaking of my husband’s seminary, Matt and I are so thankful for Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, PA! The amount of helpful theological clarity we have received (me vicariously through my husband’s conversation and proofing his papers) is priceless.
Anyway- the Scriptural poem of Psalm 139 became a solace to me in a heartbreaking situation, yet it was not a sentimental comfort.  As Colonel Brandon put it in Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility, when describing to Elinor the horror of Willoughby’s conduct, it was more conviction than comfort.  Strangely it was the poet’s verses about hatred, which for so long confused me, that gave me understanding and clarity.

Psalm 139 puzzled me for years. A beautiful expression of personal intimacy with God, it reminds me of a tribute from a beloved child back to his parents.

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Yet I was long disturbed by verses 21 & 22, which speak of hatred for those who hate the Lord, counting them as enemies. This seemed to contradict Jesus’ teaching to love our enemies. 

21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
    and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
    I count them my enemies.

For a long time I didn’t have any human enemies I could identify, thankfully. I found it difficult to relate to psalms which spoke of enemies. That changed about two years ago when I learned that a person was emotionally hurting one of my friends quite tragically. Suffice it to say that because of the devastating way this individual treated my friend, I now understand Psalm 139 much better. Compassion feels the injury of a loved one. The psalmist, David, abhors those who rise up against God because of his intimacy with his Creator. Likewise, since my friend is precious to me, I have felt hatred toward that person who hurt her; I counted them my enemy. 

I have come to understand that this Psalm does not condone hate-filled actions. Rather, it describes a cause of hatred—the lack of love.  David’s enemies lack love for God, and this hurts. This is precisely why Jesus’ teaching “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” is so powerful! For months I felt a desire to gesture inappropriately every time I drove past my enemy’s residence, and never did it due to my conscience. Thanks be to God, I have begun to feel impulses to pray instead.

For Jesus, the emotional and physical anguish of Gethsemane (Luke 22:44) was real, and yet the outcome was submission to love. Jesus led by example on the cross, praying “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And it is through this action that we all can be redeemed from our wrongdoing and have a restored love relationship with our Triune God. True love defies our natural inclinations.  We may feel hatred, but we react with love. 

Structure. Savor.

January 13, 2018

It’s been quite a while since I posted here.  My apologies! Much has happened in the past year. We moved to the city nearby and joined an Anglican church. In the past year I have also been a consultant with Usborne Books & More, which I have enjoyed.  My personal drive to read with and in front of my kids has grown significantly, and we have gained some wonderful new stories and knowledge through the books that have come into our home!

In this new year I am taking a step back and prioritizing that which is most essential for me and my family to thrive.  The following changes have been helpful so far:

  • Smartphone Parking and a new alarm clock. For the past few months I have been plugging in my smartphone to charge at night in the living room, instead of my bedroom. This gives mental freedom when I rise and lay down! I also don’t feel comfortable sleeping with a radioactive device next to my head. Last week I bought a small alarm clock off Amazon.com that vibrates.  This allows me to wake up early without disturbing my children (usually), and also allows me to keep my smartphone in the living room, which before now was the only alarm I had with a vibrate setting.
  • Feast Days. Overeating has always been a struggle for me, since I went through puberty. It’s difficult to regulate enjoyment of food because it is simultaneously a biological need, an aesthetic gift from God, and something that can be consumed too much and idolized (put above God).  I shared this struggle with one of my priests, and she recommended that I use the feast days to help me.  In the Anglican church, we follow the liturgical calendar, much like the Catholic church. Every Sunday is a feast day, as well as many special days throughout the year to honor saints and commemorate important events in the Gospel story (i.e. Christmas, Easter, and more). So, since October, our family has started observing feast days by saving dessert and other rich, special foods for those days primarily. We also make my husband’s day off (Friday) a special-quasi-feast day. This helps keep me from indulging in food on random days of the week for emotional comfort. It also helps regulate our children’s sugar consumption 🙂 .
  • Daily Routine. I’ve finally bit the bullet and started following a routine since January 2, for long days at home with the kids.  We are doing homeschool pre-school this year. Our new routine is a flexible structure for our time that goes something like this:
    • First task of the morning (After exercise, shower, and personal time if I get up early enough!): start a load of laundry, from the shared hamper in our hallway and an other pieces like kitchen linens from the day before, if it all fits.
    • Breakfast
    • Load dishwasher, switch laundry to dryer, get myself and kids dressed if they aren’t already, make beds together (Some of this, my 5-year old does on his own).
    • Quality time with the kids/ pre-school activities.  I am finding this quality time to be extremely important for relational peace with my 5-year old, who is an extrovert and thrives on time together with my undivided attention.
    • Mid-to-late morning- fold the load of laundry and put it away. Or, go grocery shopping.
    • Lunch
    • Clean lunch and together complete one chore.  Kids get to help chose what the chore is. (i.e. clean bathroom, vacuum, etc.)
    • If requested (which it usually is) – TV time for kids. 30-60 mins Max
    • Flex time- for more chores, quality time, napping, reading, projects, or whatever!
    • We have only been doing this for two weeks, but it’s going well.  I like that being productive and relationally focused in the morning takes pressure off of the afternoon and evening. It gives me something to refer to when my children complain about what they want or don’t want to do, or when I feel at a loss for what I should be prioritizing at any given moment.

My goal for 2018 is to Savor.   To savor the time I have with my children (“The days are long, but the years are short”). To savor my husband and other relationships. To savor the food I put into my body instead of consuming it an a fury. To savor the gifts I have been given instead of grasping for more material possessions. To savor God in the mundane moments, because even the mundane moments are part of the beautiful tapestry of His gift of life.

 

dead end’s door

September 27, 2016

when it comes to priorities,
we do not care about
money, opportunity, or prestige.

no, we care about people.
unique, beautiful souls.
we care about empowering leaders.
we care about genuine reconciliation.
we care about real relationships that exceed the expectations of professionalism.

when you feel like your hands are tied behind your back,
and you’ve been forced into a dead end,
and the Lord opens a door out,
you take it,

brokenhearted.

What missionary kids taught me about friendship and farewells

September 26, 2016

When I started teaching in Prague six years ago at an international school for missionary kids, other expats, and local Czechs, I went with a mission to touch their lives with the love and care of Jesus.  Little did I realize that I would be the one to learn an incredibly valuable lesson from these students.

Many missionary kids (MKs) and other expats (collectively known as Third Culture Kids- TCKs) are shaped by the frequent turn-over in their social circles. They are often welcoming new people and saying goodbye to friends they have barely known for a year, or a few years if they are lucky.

At our school, we had many conversations among staff and with students about how to handle this frequent turn-over in their relationships. Any time a student or staff member moved away, we “RAFT”ed them.  RAFT stands for Reconciliation, Affirmation, Farewell, and Think Future. This imagery of a “raft” to one’s new location is a healthy and helpful framework for handling goodbyes. We had special meetings that would give students and staff the opportunity to publicly affirm a person that was leaving.  Everyone was encouraged to resolve any conflict or tension as much as possible (apologies and forgiveness), and to say goodbye intentionally, for the sake of closure. The person leaving was encouraged to think positively towards the future. I am very grateful for how RAFT has shaped my attitude towards relationships and transitions.

Goodbyes can be hard and painful. But the tricky dilemma is this one: how do you form new friendships when you know these relationships may only last a brief period of time? Why bother? MKs, military families, and other expats have to grapple with this question all the time.

A group of students and staff was discussing this on one occasion, and the most profound answer came from a missionary kid who was then in middle school. With honest simplicity, this student explained that we form new friendships, no matter how long a person or family might be here, because every person is created in the image of God: unique and valuable. Such an answer was a testament to the integrity of this student’s parents, who no doubt set the example– they are missionaries because they honestly love people. The courage of these students, who have to say goodbye all the time and yet still open their hearts to newcomers, is still an inspiration to me.

This past summer my husband and I were surprised when we ended up moving two years before we had planned. I was just beginning to feel at home and settled in my friendships. And here we are, uprooted again after only three years, and putting down new roots. I feel discouraged about making friends when I don’t know what the future holds.

But the wisdom of my former MK students rings in my head: every person you meet, no matter how long you are with them, is inherently valuable.  Even the short-lived friendships are worth it. Don’t be afraid–make new friends.