Monday, August 25, 2014

Go Beyond the Bucket

We all get caught up in a trend especially if it's for a good cause.  Whether it's jumping rope for heart health, a 5k for this or that, or some fundraiser for such and such.  Or  having a bucket of water dumped on your head by someone near and dear to you while someone else videos the event.

Usually, what we donate money to is a cause we believe in.  A cause we know something about.  A cause that affects us personally.

I was challenged to support ALS research by my brother who had the awesomest video ever...the bucket to his loader at work dumped more water on his head than any other video I've seen, seriously, the loader usually scoops a load or dirt or mulch that fills the whole back of a truck bed.  I know my brother knows what ALS is and he would love to see the disease wiped out.  So why did I struggled for more than my 48 hours to accept his challenge?  Not because I was thinking of a way to top his awesomest bucket challenge video, but because I actually felt badly about doing it.

I couldn't explain the way I felt.  I talked to my husband about it several times, and he ended up telling me to just donate money instead.  What I ended up doing was picking up my copy of Luckiest Man by Jonathan Eig and rereading the biography of Lou Gehrig...drinking ice water as I read...and donating money.  I couldn't get over the uneasiness of the bucket of ice.  I wanted to get into the hype and show my outward support for ALS research, but I couldn't get there.  I posted a post promising that the video of my ice bucket challenge would be shared once I completed it, but I might never do it.  I'm still thinking about it.

I've known 3 people whose lives have ended because of ALS, none of them family members but all of them friends or relatives of friends.  Here's the some point this ice bucket challenge seems trivial in comparison to the suffering ALS brings.

Imagine one day you hold a vase of flowers only to have it slip out of your hands because you can't grip the vase anymore.  Or, imagine having an itch on your arm but the muscles in your other arm have deteriorated in a way that doesn't allow you to scratch your own itch.  Or, the muscles that allow you to chew and swallow were too weak to...chew or swallow, what then?  The muscle that allows you to take in the very breath you breathe just isn't strong enough to let you inhale.  ALS is not a quick death, and at the end of the suffering when the body is void of muscle leaving skin and is not a physically attractive death.

I'm in no way judging the ice bucket itself.  I'm contemplating the motives of the ice bucket bearer.  Are you accepting the challenge because you're really going to educate yourself about ALS?  Did you actually donate toward the cause?  Did you choose people to challenge who would take the challenge seriously?  Do you really care more about the people who have and will have ALS more than how many views your "Ice Bucket Challenge" video gets?  Do you even know what ALS is, even in general?

I'll tell you what bothered me the most, the thing that got me pensive toward this whole "trend of caring"...when the verbiage went from "I'm challenging" someone to "I'm nominating" someone.  Somewhere along the way, the challenge for ALS awareness turned into a nomination to pour a bucket of ice on your head.  (Not for everyone, just for some)  I asked some neighborhood kids who were beyond excited about being "nominated" to do the ice bucket challenge, "what are you doing this for?"  They said several things (trying to get hits on youtube, trying to get likes on Facebook, trying to get favorites and retweets, and trying to outdo their big sister on her ice bucket challenge idea), but not a single one of the 5 kids mentioned ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease, disease awareness...I would've settled for "it's to help with some disease."  Of course, I took the opportunity to give them a 20 minute educational speech about ALS, the people I knew who had the disease, and why it's important to know what you're doing things for instead of just following aimlessly behind a fad or a trend (the teacher in me couldn't help myself).  The ice bucket challenge could've been for anything, any project...they didn't care...they just wanted to get nominated to be like everyone else.

So, do the bucket challenge, but go beyond the bucket.  Seriously, study up on ALS, donate money toward research, and help out families who are dealing with this disease right now.  Love each other beyond the ice water.  Make your life deeper than a nomination or a challenge.

I'll save you some time...Here's some ALS facts from the book and epilogue of Luckiest Man:
1.  Every year, about 5,000 Americans are diagnosed with ALS.
2.  Most patients die within 3 years of diagnosis.
3.  ALS stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.
4.  ALS was identified in 1874 by Jean-Martin Charcot, but medical manuals and formal medical courses still did not list it 40 years after that when Dr. Woltman (Gehrig's doctor at the Mayo clinic) started his neurology practice.
5.  ALS involves loss.  Loss of strength, loss of muscle tone, loss of speaking, loss of chewing, loss of swallowing, loss of walking, loss of holding your head up, loss of climbing stairs, loss of breath, loss of weight, loss of life.  It's not all get a few things with ALS: cramping, twitching, and muscle atrophy.
6.  In 1940, a year after diagnosis, Lou Gehrig often asked photographers to prop pencils between his fingers to make it appear that he was busy with paperwork when in fact, Lou could not hold a pencil because of ALS.
7.  Many neurologists still hang photographs of Lou Gehrig in their offices to this day.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Gratitude: It's Bigger Than Being Thankful

Being thankful and having gratitude are similar emotional states, but they're different in the depth of feeling connected to the state of being.  "Thankfulness" and "Gratitude" are synonyms in almost every Thesaurus I found, yet we aren't using the words synonymously when we celebrate a holiday in November or write in a "Gratitude Jounal."

Thankfulness or being thankful usually gets a response like, "I'm thankful for my parents" or "I'm thankful for my food."  When called upon to share what we're thankful for, usually we give a pat, rehearsed answer.

Gratitude goes deeper, and it's more profound, in my opinion.  Whether sharing in a journal or listening to Oprah Show reruns, being grateful dares you to go deeper until you remember the specifics and the reasons associated with just simply being thankful.  "I'm grateful for the way my dad read stories to me at night before I fell asleep" or "I'm grateful for all of the times my mom drove me places before I got my driver's license" are the more specific thoughts one might think of when asked what they're grateful for or if someone read the contents of their gratitude journal.

I'm going to ask you to make a list of the top 5 people who have influenced your life positively, and of course, you'll be thankful for those people...but, I ask you to take it a step further and think of all of the reasons you're grateful for their influence.  Ponder on the things they've done to impact your life and write those things on your list too.  Here's my list of the people who shaped me most in my formative years:

1.  My Parents
2.  My Siblings
3.  My Grandparents
4.  Charline Hampson, caregiver
5.  Dan Cockrell, teacher and coach
6.  "Carrie Ann," my friend and neighbor

Now, you can see that I cheat a little because I give 6 instead of 5, and I have 2 parents and 3 siblings on a single line.  You can do this too, cheat like me, if you have a long list of people to be grateful to for the person you are today.  Also, your list can be longer than 5 people.  The longer you've been alive, the longer your list could possibly be.  If my assignment was to have a list of 14...

7.  William Eric Schooley, husband
8.  My children: Belle, Sophie, and Emirson
9.  My students (4 or 5 specifically)
10.  My Friends (4 or 5 specifically)
11.  My Romanians (2 or 3 specifically)
12.  My Koreans: Grace and Austin
13.  Extended Family (4 or 5 specifically)
14.  My colleagues (2 or 3 specifically)

If I listed out each person's name specifically, my list would be pretty long which is a good thing, but you only need to start with 5 people.  Listing out the specific reasons for gratitude can take time and a lot of thought, but it's a worthwhile exercise for your mind and your can be creative with this part of the exercise.  You can make a list, write a letter, write an essay, make a flow chart, etc.

**Why I have gratitude for Dan Cockrell, teacher and coach, and the influence and impact he used to shape my life:

1.  I appreciate the way Mr. Cockrell coached and mentored me as my volleyball coach, and because of his enthusiasm for the sport, I grew to love every minute I played in high school.  Mr. Cockrell taught me how to play better by showing me what to do, the mechanics of the game, instead of just telling me what to do on the court. I had great confidence in my abilities to play and contribute to my team because I KNEW Mr. Cockrell believed in me.  I wasn't the typical competitor because by nature, I'm not very competitive, but Mr. Cockrell saw that and taught me to care about winning because my teammates were such competitive people.  Making me see that caring about winning because I cared for my teammates was the way Mr. Cockrell led me to reach my fullest potential on the volleyball court.

2.  I am grateful for Mr. Cockrell's love for his family.  Mr. Cockrell wove stories about his wife and kids into our pre-game pep talks, and we felt like he let us into part of his life.  Mr. Cockrell talked about his wife like she's a princess and the greatest person on earth, and myself and the other girls on the team saw something to look for in a future spouse because we all deserved to be someone's princess one day.  Mr. Cockrell brought his family on our volleyball trips, and he put their needs and interests before his own.  His team did a lot of watching whether he knew it or not, and a lot of us saw a family we'd like to have someday.  I'm sure Mr. Cockrell isn't perfect, but from what I saw, he treats his family better than he treated his own self.  I learned that a meek man can be strong and that selflessness is the greatest strength one can possess because it's the strength to control the selfish side of human nature.

3.  Personally, Mr. Cockrell brought me to a closer relationship to God which is one of the best things he blessed my life with.  I learned first hand what Philippians 4:13 means ("I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.") because he started each practice and began each pre-game chat with prayer.  Mr. Cockrell didn't just go through the motions either, he genuinely prayed for us and cared about our teenage girl problems.  He didn't just stop with prayer, we used to sing before games too.  Most of us were also in choir, but no choir or ensemble I've ever heard or sang in ever sounded as beautiful as those pre-game singing sessions.  I can still hear us singing what is now my favorite Psalm, "As the deer panteth for the water, so my soul longeth after thee.  You alone are my heart's desire, and I long to worship thee..."  I catch myself singing it all the time to this day (even now...I just sang it)  :)

4.  As a teacher, I was touched and am grateful for Mr. Cockrell's extreme patience.  He was my teacher for a computer class (before computers were mainstream) on DOS.  To this day, I have no idea how I passed that class.  Everyday, no matter what happened or how many computers crashed, Mr. Cockrell met me and my classmates with a never-ending smile.  His voice, always kind and gracious.  I aspired to be a person and teacher like Mr. Cockrell was to me, one who could touch lives with kindness and graciousness as I teach.

5.  Sometimes, mere words cannot express how a person touches your soul or speaks into your life until you've moved on.  That's how I feel about Mr. Cockrell.  Even though he stood out in the crowd as a person who genuinely loved others and cared for students while I was in school, I could never truly comprehend what he did for me until I became a teacher and had a family for myself.  Mr. Cockrell never won "Teacher of the Year" even though he should've, and he's not famous although everyone should know him...instead, he still serves others and still works in a high school.  I run into Mr. Cockrell on occasion, and he ALWAYS has time for me even if it's just to ask me how I'm doing.  Mr. Cockrell will be rewarded someday, and his reward will be great.

So...that's just an example of what to do after you have your list of people you are truly grateful to for impacting your life positively.  Now, I have one more challenge...LET THEM KNOW how you feel or how their life has touched yours.  My husband's college basketball coach passed away a few years ago, and I remember that he was so grateful for this man's influence on his life...but, when he passed away, it was too late to tell him.  Many days, my husband wishes he would've written a letter just to express his extreme gratitude.  So, start small...start with one person on your list, then move to the rest.  Get into the habit of being full of gratitude instead of just being "thankful" one day or season of the year.

p.s. Your list can go out beyond people your grateful for in your own life, and you could make a list of important influences in your children's lives.  The possibilities are endless once you get started recognizing true, specific gratitude instead of flippantly saying "I'm thankful for my children's teachers."

p.p.s.  Mr. Cockrell is a real person, and everything I say about him is true too.  I'm in this life to practice what I preach, people!  :)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

"Acorns in the Dryer" (my first post used as inspiration for this poem)

Acorns in the Dryer

Clanking comes from inside of the automatic dryer
Some sort of hollow thumping gets me wondering 
Usually, it's loose change from pockets unchecked 
Yielding a meager earning for the day’s laundering.

Exciting to find things after the warm spinning stops 
Circling, cycling in the monotonous humming appliance
Interesting what-nots, paperclips and hair barrettes
Useless trash, tissue and candy wrappers in alliance

The noise is, on occasion, an avoidable mess 
A lipgloss container somehow void of the gloss  
After its hot ride leaves reddish-pink splotches 
On white t-shirts and underwear now ready to toss.
Wisdom echoes as it tumbles in mid air, heated with potential
Falling from great heights before it settles in on the ground
What is nature’s abundant food becomes a child’s play thing
Something different from the usual but not yet notably profound.

Acorns, the nifty seed nuts that feed rodent squirrels 
During the long months of snow and winter's boredom
Break out of the youngest daughter's newly dry pockets  
Loosely falling out after taking a warm, wild ride to freedom. 

The first potential tree found elicits a line-inducing smile
Across the mouth at the thought of that sweet freckled-face
Such an interesting, whimsical creature who notices everything  
Picking up anything that gives chase to wonder and fascinates.

After a while, piles of acorns gather atop the machine 
Waiting as time slips away from the busy launderer's grace
She plans their return to the meadow one day, someday
But now only questions their absence from the resting place.

The surprise is the panic that comes alive inside the spirit
Sad eyes welling to the point of escape, releasing tears
Generally, the launderer's character doesn't react this way  
Just because some "already misplaced" seedlings disappear.  

Upon searching, the launderer discovers the fleeing acorns 
In the trash, almost buried, and rescues every last one 
Of those capped nuts in the dig and carries them outside,
Flings them into nature's clean air, onto their new grassy home.   

The busy launderer wonders and ponders there on the deck,
Where she stands, "why do I take the time to save them?" 
Leaving them in the trashcan is a viable option for some
To keep the acorns from being forsaken is mercy's gem.

Further thinking concludes, found acorns serve as reminders  
Born of nurturing, brought up with hope, mercy, and love's caress, 
A life pours out, becomes empty, gives the acorns a warm, wild ride  
Through life as they grow in character, knowledge, and kindness.

Three children, all daughters, the potential trees she bears
The oldest is sensitive, quietly brave, and patient beyond belief
The middle, an empathetic child, is strong-willed while justice-filled 
The youngest is a free-spirit and a tender-hearted acorn thief

Encourage the same admiration the youngest feels when she 
So carefully plucks those little nuggets from earth's cool floor 
Wishing to keep them hidden, to hold onto them a little longer
Yet, once tucked into her pocket, the acorns long for the door.

Unavoidable is the responsibility, the mandate clearly shown
Avoid the automatic setting of life and refrain from neglect
Never let them be unimportant, mistaken for crumbs or trash
Notice and watch, follow the rarely trodden path and connect.

Value is given and assigned by the quality and quantity
Unspoken is the rule of time when bestowed with consent
Relationships require this priceless resource for stability
Imparted freely, time becomes a beloved jewel, well-spent

A long talk on a porch swing, a kiss, a story told with voices
A recipe for chicken soup, a letter, or a bright walk in the city
A mutual cry over a broken heart, a picnic, a game of catch
The cost of love falls to the giver, and time is the commodity.

All that is dearly loved, in time, falls away from the launderer
Into the hands of the careful gardener, who attends to the benefits 
Of growth, noting that time possesses incomprehensible value
For truly appreciating acorns before they fall from your pockets. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Different Take on the Father's Forsaking: An Easter Perspective of the Cross.

Today is a great day to celebrate the Gift of Christ's Resurrection, and many people find themselves celebrating this day in church more than any other Sunday, even more than Christmas which doesn't always fall on a Sunday.  It's probably a given that Christ's death, burial, and resurrection story is shared or reflected upon in some part of your day, and as I think about this and as Christ's "last words" are shared in church...I remember an epiphany I had while reading the Bible about two years ago...When Jesus says, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" at the crucifixion...what if Jesus was actually trying to show the religious leaders WHO he was one last time instead of the phrase being used to say that God turned his back on Jesus because Jesus carried our sin.  I see in the character of Jesus and in the loving act of God sending His Son in the first place that God would've been there in the last hours.  Read it and see what you think...

In the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the death of Jesus is recorded, and the gospels are from different perspectives and include details that when put together form a complete picture of the time Jesus spent on the actual cross.

The first part of Psalm 22:1 says, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"  The rest of Psalm 22 is a beautiful song inspired by God through David, and the psalm was sung to the tune of "The Doe of the Morning."  Within the same Psalm 22 is a messianic prophecy, and verses 15-18 and 30-31 especially stand out to impact me...
15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.
16 Dogs have surrounded me; a band of eveil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet
17 I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.
30 Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord.
31 They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn- for he has done it.

John and Psalms are my favorite books in the Bible, so I'll start with the John's account of the crucifixion, the only one of the 12 apostles present at the crucifixion, gave for Jesus's last minutes alive on earth in human form.
John 19: 23-37
23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining.  This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.
24 "Let's not tear it, " they said to one another.  "Let's decide by lot who will get it."  this happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, "They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing."  So this what the soldiers did.
25. Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
26. When Jesus saw his mother, there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son,
27 and to the disciple, "here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
28 Later, knowing that all was not completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty."
29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips.
30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
31 Now it was the day of Preparation , and the next day was to be a special Sabbath.  Because the Jews did to want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down.
32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other.
33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.
34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.
35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true.  He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe.
36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: "Not one of his bones will be broken,"
37 and, as another scripture says, "They will look on the one they have pierced."

A summary of John's version of the crucifixion is not filled with the most details in relation to other gospels, but it has unique details.  First, I want to point that in verse 28 its says that Jesus knew that all was not completed and that all of the prophecy had not been fulfilled so he asked for a drink; the main point I want to bring out here that Jesus was aware of the prophecy during the crucifixion.  Also, the words in red are the actual words that Jesus uttered, so he gave John the sonship to his mother, Mary.  Jesus also asked for a drink and gave up his spirit right after announcing that he'd finished paying the price to reunite mankind with their Creator.


The book of Luke's written by Luke.  Luke also wrote the books of Acts, and the book of Luke is the longest gospel.  Luke was a Greek and a Gentile, making him the only non-Jew writer of the New Testament.  Luke's gospel is orderly and detailed and written by interviewing and listening to first hand accounts from apostles and other eye witnesses.  Luke's a companion to Paul, and it in Paul's Colossians that Luke was referred to as a physician.

Luke fills in some details of the crucifixion in Luke 23:26-49.  
*Luke states that a large group of followers including women followed him to be crucified, and they were wailing and mourning.  Jesus said to the followers, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me: weep for yourselves and for your children.  For the time will come when you will say, 'Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed?' Then they will say to the mountains, 'Fall on us! And to the hills, cover us!' For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?" (Luke 23:28-31)  
*Jesus also said this about the men casting lots for his clothing, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)  
*Jesus is mocked and told to save himself, and he is offered wine vinegar.  Luke also tells us that there is a written account above Jesus's head calling his the king of the Jews.  One of the criminals being crucified hurled insults at Jesus while the other asked Jesus to remember him to which Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43)
*From the sixth hour until the ninth hour, darkness covered the whole land, and the curtain in the temple was torn in two.  Then, Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."  As Jesus said this, he breathed his last breath.  Luke's account ends with a centurion saying that Jesus must've been a righteous man and the women and other followers continued watching from a distance.


Now, we get to Matthew and Mark's gospels which speak of Jesus speaking the words, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me" which from as early as I can remember have always been preached to me that God turned his back on Jesus because God could not bear to look upon Jesus and the sin he bore, our sins.  Matthew's one of the 12 apostles who probably wasn't present at the crucifixion, and Mark, aka John Mark, wasn't one of the 12 apostles but was close with Peter and traveled with Paul on his first missionary experience.

Matthew 27:32-55
*Simon of Cyrene was forced to help Jesus carry his cross.  Jesus was offered wine with gall and after tasting it, he refused more.  Jesus's clothing was divided and lots were cast for it.  The guards put up a sign that called Jesus the king of the Jews, and two thieves were crucified on either side of Jesus.  People passing by and others being crucified mocked and insulted Jesus calling on him to save himself.  
*Matthew 27: 41 says, "In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him
*In about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"  (Matthew 27:46)
*Jesus was offered a sponge with wine vinegar on it, and after that Jesus cried out loud again (Matthew doesn't say what Jesus says), and at the same moment he spoke, the temple veil was torn in two and there was an earthquake.  The bodies of many holy people were raised back to life during the earthquake and appeared to many people.  A centurion said, "Surely this was the Son of God!"  Many women who had followed Jesus watched everything from far away.

Mark 15:21-40
*Simon was forced to carry Jesus's cross, and Jesus was offered wine mixed with myrrh but didn't want it.  Guards divided up the clothes Jesus wore and cast lots to see who would get them.  It was the third hour when they crucified him, and he had a sign accusing him of being the king of the Jews. Two robbers were crucified on either side of Jesus, and those who passed by hurled insults at Jesus.
*Mark 15:31 says, "In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves.
*There was darkness over the whole land from the sixth until the ninth hour, and at the ninth hour, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
*Jesus was offered wine with vinegar, then with a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.  The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, and a centurion who heard his cry and saw how he died said, "Surely this man was the Son of God!"  Some women followers were watching from a distance.

Matthew and Mark's accounts of the crucifixion are very similar, and what I want to point out specifically is that the chief priests, teachers of the law, and the elders were there at the crucifixion.


Chief priests, teachers of the law, and the elders would know the Old Testament almost word for word after studying it for years, so if Jesus quoted Psalm 22:1 from the cross...they would've known the passage of scripture.  If they know the passage of scripture, then the chief priests, teachers of the law, and the elders would know the other verses within that passage and know that Jesus was telling them essentially, "I AM" which He had already done.  Jesus in all his misery would've reached out to even the very people who put him up on that cross because He was dying for them too.  If only one of those Jewish religious leaders turned to the truth in the last hours of Jesus's life, it would be worth Jesus using the strength to cry out in a loud voice, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" so that they might make the connection.

I study the Bible and don't have a seminary degree.  I'm sure there will be many who disagree with this idea, including every single pastor of my youth and most of my adulthood...yet, the Jesus who loved us enough to die for us would've loved us enough from his agony to help us understand one more time even in the last minutes of His life.  According to Matthew and Mark's accounts of the crucifixion, after quoting Psalm 22:1, Jesus cried out again loudly, "Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit"and "It is finished," and that sounds to me that Jesus knew that His Father, God, was still listening to him and hadn't forsaken him at all.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Wake up, Parents! It's you who rear your children, not a school.

Over the past two years I've wondered "what's the point of a Christian School."  Over the past 5 months, I've realized that it might not make one bit of difference in my child's life to send them to a Christian school in the high school years if I'm only considering the student body.  Elementary years, I strongly believe in Christian education if that's what you're supposed to do with your family (I also advocate for public or home schooling...whatever's best for your child).  I grew up attending a Christian school minus kindergarten and 8th grade when I attended public school, and I believe that I was shaped positively by the experience.

But, if I'm honest, I was shaped "positively" in order to now be intolerant of judgmental legalism which is technically the environment of the Christian school where I grew up.  I cannot really credit my absence of partying or lack of teenage sexual activity to the school's influence; my mom can have the credit for that.  She was my "holy spirit" for years.  

I attended preschool, 1st-7th grades, and 9th-10th grades at the Christian school that seems to have harmed more students than it helped, to hear them speak now, and there are definitely negative things that happened at this school for me.  The negative aspects of the school I attended most of my years just built character within me, and it's true that mostly I learned how "not to be" there...but I have to admit that I was shaped positively there because the experience of being there ignited a fire within me to change and NOT be like the pretenders I witnessed at that school.  (The Christian school I attended my junior and senior years does not fall into this category because it truly allowed for denominations and individual personalities to attend and judgement wasn't part of the scenario of education there, at least as far as I saw.)  All Christian schools are not equal or even alike.

We're all influenced by our environments whether good or not so good, but it's the people more than an environment who make us who we are.  I have lifelong friends from every place I attended school, and often getting through hard times bond people closer than just hanging out and having fun in good times.

So, perhaps, I should focus not on the school my kids attend but on the quality of job that I'm doing as a parent.  The school can shape, but the parents are the ones given the charge to rear the child.

I realize that this blog has thus far been random, conscious thoughts thrown out there, but let me try to tie it all together...

The Christian school experience I received in my formative years is NOT the Christian school experience my kids receive today.  It used to be that the peer pressure was toward doing the right thing or at least pretending that you wanted to do the right thing, but the tide has shifted away from legalistic rules (which is a good thing) toward a type of grace that goes too far in the other direction. I still want the middle ground between those two extremes where students receive grace when they recognize the wrongdoing and truly turn from it AND where students are held accountable for their actions to an appropriate level.  I feel like Christian schools used to be a place where students who were Christians in faith received an education where Bible class and prayer were included and appreciated. kids have a teacher who curses in class, a Bible teacher who's so prideful that he or she puts down other teachers and students with differing minor denominational differences, fellow students who're on birth control while their parents outspokenly pretend the same child they took to get the pills is saving themselves for marriage, and a colorful spectrum of four letter words being spoken in the hallways, on ballfields, at lockers, and practically everywhere.  What's the point of the Christian school?  Any public school could give my child this same environment, except the students on birth control would actually be honest and not hypocritical, and the Bible teacher wouldn't have a job...but, in my opinion, he or she does more harm than good for the cause of Christ anyway.  So, I guess I might be pondering the idea that a Christian school for a Christian kid is not a better environment than a public school...I just hope it's not a worse environment.  I'm still on the fence after this year.

My children have attended both, public and Christian schools.  At the Christian school my teen girl hasn't been approached by a group of guys grabbing their crotches and asking her if she wants a sample (yes, that happened her freshman year at public school)....but, at the public school, my child was never faced with seeing terrible behavior repetitively swept under the rug by parents because the child was underage when they offended...seems like the punishment needs to fit the crime at some point, especially if the bad, definitely unchristian behaviors happen over and over and over again.  Whoops, did my "judgmental" attitude just come out?  Sorry...   

It just seems like the same old story of "Christians" frantically trying to hide sin or trying to escape natural consequences for their actions.  Getting off easy in this lifetime doesn't carry over into the next, especially if there's no sorrow or broken spirit over the wrong-doing.  

I'm so tired of Christianity being a word that means hypocrites or haters....or pretenders.  I'm a Christian, and what it means to me is that I want a daily relationship with God.  This relationship is possible in this broken world through His Son, and believing in Him restores the relationship so that mankind can commune with their creator.  That's it, plain and simple.  The Bible is not intended to be a "sword" to impale other people's purpose is to help us resist and combat "the dark side" of our own selves and resist a life that isn't God's design for us which is any life without God's love pouring out of us.

Christianity is not...

1.  putting on a good show by following a bunch of rules that may or may not be in the Bible. Serious on this one guys...that 2/4 rock beat did not ever entice me to have premarital sex like the term "rock and roll" suggests it will, and listening to Wayne Watson did not lead me down a path to listen to Megadeath.

2.  proving to others and God that you can deny yourself so much that the actual denying becomes the focus instead of the loving.  Too many people miss their whole lives because they're fixated on avoiding movie theaters so that someone else won't think it's okay to see a porno...the false teaching has led people to focus on other's lives and ignore our own.

3.  pretending to have a Godly life but not being authentic when you're all alone with your own thoughts.  You've heard it...the true you comes out when no one is watching.

4.  talking about how God's in control of your life that you forget to actually live like it.  If you truly believe, God knows if He's not leading your's not like you can actually fool Him.

5.  putting others down because they aren't following the "rules" as closely as you.  Usually, if you're looking at the speck of fault in my've got a huge thorn tree growing on your head.

6.  praying words into the air for others to hear and never letting the words penetrate your heart where God resides.  How many times have you said "Praise the Lord" but you never actually did or "I'll pray for you" but just say words and actual actions are foreign to you.

7.  sending your kids to a Christian school for a better environment or to get them straightened out.  This is the classic.  The place won't change your kid...parents have the biggest influence on kids.  

8.  letting a Christian school do a parents' job...there is no substitute for a parent guiding their child toward God.  Leading the way for them will do so much more than putting them in a Christian school and feeling the freedom to wipe your hands of their spiritual education.

9.  living differently in any way than you let others perceive your life, you have to be authentic or you're just faking.  Better to be yourself, always.  God knows who you are anyway, and in my experience, He's much more important than people who want me to impress them.

10.  saying you're a Christian but never sticking up for injustice...there are no such things as innocent bystanders.  My pet peeve is hearing someone say, "but I didn't do anything" when they stood by and watched or looked the other way.  If you could do something to stop it or at least speak up for wrong-doing and don't...YOU ARE GUILTY too!  This argument really gets me mad enough to want to punch the self-righteousness right out of you.  (oops, did I write that out loud?)

11.  thinking you're okay with God because you didn't actually do a crime yourself.  God commands Christians to stand up for people who are too weak to stand up for themselves like orphans and widows, and anyone else who's in a situation where they need help...again, if you know about it and don't stop it, you're guilty too.

12.  living life and never having an urge to read the Bible.   That would be like saying I want to dye my hair and never reading the directions of which chemicals to mix or having an engine light on and ignoring it and never looking in the owner's manual to see how to fix the car.  If you never want to read the Bible, there's a reason, and it's that you don't know the One who inspired the Book in the first place. 

13.  living with a lack of respect for God's creation: His world which includes animal life...which includes human life!!!!  Use animals for food and other useful things, but don't cut off animal fins and let them drown in the ocean for sport.  Don't tease people...don't haze people...don't talk about people.  If the person you're saying or doing something to doesn't want it to happen, DON'T DO's simple, folks. 

14.  your parents' child gets to see God just because mom or dad was a Christian...the faith is personal.  In case you didn't know, personal means that it's on you...

15.  surrounding yourself with others who claim to be Christians.  An apple in the citrus bowl doesn't become orange juice when it's squeezed.

16.  saying you're a Christian when nothing about your life sets you apart from the rest of the human race.  Just stop claiming to be a Christian,'re making the authentic Christians look bad, stupid, hateful, and hypocritical.

Christian schools?  Just pray about it, but know that the statistics for almost everything in this world is the same in or out of a "christian" world: divorce, rape, incest, battered wives, abuse, etc.  I still think the place of education is a personal choice, but I really no longer see a Christian school as a definitively better choice than an education at other institutions.  I'm sad that the Christian school I see doesn't look much different across the student body as other schools, sure...the staff could be different, but not enough to make the impact that parents should be making.  Besides, teachers spend their time on academics, as it should be.   I'm including myself in that because I used to teach at a Christian school.  The high school student body statistically isn't different in private or public schools is my point.

PARENTS WAKE UP...We are LOSING OUR KIDS.  That's on our SHOULDERS, not some school.  YOU STILL HAVE INFLUENCE as long as the kids live with you in your home.  Your job is not to be a BEST BUDDY...PARENTING is more than BRINGING A CUTE BABY INTO THE's EVERYDAY, it's GOOD AND BAD, it's usually HARD WORK, and it's SOMETIMES UGLY TO WATCH.  We cannot give up on this generation!  If you're saying "not my kid," then look again...I said that too and was wrong, and unless we're daily's everyone's kid that strays.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

"Brave" and Buca's

I had the best laugh, the kind where involuntary tears flow and your stomach muscles and ribs actually hurt you.  You know the kind...  If you know me well, then chances are that being around me for any length of time will produce a situation where this sort of laughter is necessary just to survive the random weird things that happen around me.

I was with my kids and a good friend at Buca's restaurant on the Plaza in Kansas City, and we were leaving through the hallway near the kitchen entrance when I just started belting out a song very loudly, I suppose it was because at that moment the song popped into my head and I had an overwhelming urge to sing.  Anyways, I turn around to make sure my peeps are following me only to find that the person receiving the brunt of my impromptu concert is an innocent bystander who is extremely perplexed by a woman singing Sara Bareilles' "Brave" to her.  My friend is standing behind the woman who's following me, and I believe that my three girls and my friend fell to their knees laughing their heads off, literally.  My beautiful masterpiece of music stops abruptly, ending my adherence to the song's lyrics.

The unsuspecting woman I serenaded probably got a good chuckle after she left, I'm sure.  More importantly, she got a loud encouragement to be brave.  :)   I also provided great dose of laughter to my friend and daughters, probably added three months to their lifespans.  And, I just have to take it in stride because this sort of thing always finds it's way into my existence.  Singing to strangers and almost peeing my pants from laughter is just a normal day for me.

The song "Brave" has a terrific message, one that I've been trying to speak into my daughters (and random strangers) since that night at Buca's.  Why?  Well, because honest transparency and authenticity is very important, even when you're young...especially when you're young.  

Transparency happens a lot more commonly as one ages, maybe because age brings confidence.  In some cases, transparency is definitely enhanced by uninhibited craziness or by varying levels of hormones.  Transparency implies truth, and it's a recommended way to live, but you need to possess bravery to live a transparent life.

Authenticity is whatever it is that makes us reach out more to be our authentic selves, and it often comes at an age when there are numerous mistakes lying in the wake of our lives.  Authentic living looks like the absence of show, and it's void of the knowledge of popularity and is backed by a strong sense of self...authentic living also requires bravery in order to embrace it.

Why is it that I want to be brave enough to be myself now when half of my life is over?  If I had the "don't care what anyone thinks of me" attitude and "I'm going to help as many people as I can" outlook on life that I embrace now when I was 17, I feel like I would've done more good or stood up for more injustice.  But, maybe I would've just gotten a few tattoos and hopped on the back of the motorcycle of the guy with the biggest blue eyes and the most piercings I could find...who knows?  We never will know the answer because I did not possess the bravery it took to be transparent or my authentic self.  

I hid a lot, and I followed the paths that pleased other people.

A bright side is that my lack of bravery, young age and insecurity might have been the reason I'm not in Hell's Angels today, but it also leaves me with a few regrets.  I should've gotten an art degree or at least some sort of degree in literature, instead...I followed the path of least risk for my life.  I followed the path that I knew I could be successful in- again, no risks.  Back in the day, I definitely wouldn't have sung to a complete stranger!

When I read the Divergent series of books, the group of people I least identify with is Candor, not because I'm a liar but because I don't speak up.  I omit truth to appease people.

The craziest thing I've ever done in my adult life that was a conscious decision was to dye parts of my hair purple and take my kids TPing. that I'm braver, don't be surprised if you see me out on the street on a motorcycle or getting my cartilage pierced.  Or not, you never know.  

I want my kids to be braver than I was.  I want them to be their authentic self and live a transparent life.  It is never too late to be an example for others to follow, so that's what I'm trying to do as I spread my life out to others...even poor, unsuspecting patrons of Buca's.

Don't hide, and stand up for injustice wherever you see it!

Sara Bareilles  "Brave"

You can be amazing
You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
You can be the outcast or be the backlash of somebody's lack of love
Or you can start speaking up
Nothings gonna hurt you the way that words do and they settle neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins
But I wonder what would happen if you...

Say what you wanna say and let the words fall out
Honestly, I wanna see you be brave with what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly, I wanna see you be brave.
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

Everybody's been there, everybody's been stared down by the enemy
Fallen for the fear and done some disappearing
Bow down to the mighty
Don't run, stop holding your tongue
Maybe there's a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is.

Innocence, your history of silence won't do you any good
Did you think it would?
Let your words be anything but empty
Why don't you tell them the truth?

Say what you wanna say and let the words fall out
Honestly, I wanna see you be brave with what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly, I wanna see you be brave.
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Acorns In My Dryer: Show and Tell: Becoming a Parent My Kids Can Actua...

Acorns In My Dryer: Show and Tell: Becoming a Parent My Kids Can Actua...: Remember the time in elementary school when you got to bring an item in for "show and tell"?  It would've been really awkward...

Show and Tell: Becoming a Parent My Kids Can Actually Follow

Remember the time in elementary school when you got to bring an item in for "show and tell"?  It would've been really awkward to just stand there holding up the item you brought in without ever telling the class why the item merited being shown in the first place, and if you just told about the item without ever getting it out of your backpack to show it to the class...well, that'd be equally awkward and just plain weird.  It takes both showing and telling to get the importance revealed.

Parenting is a lot like "show and tell."  If you only show your kids how to live by leading them everywhere, always walking in front of them leading the way, then your children will have a leader only.  If you only tell your kids how to live by walking with them every step of the way reminding them and telling them which choices to make, then your children will have a counselor only.  Parenting takes both showing and telling...both leadership and guidance.

Here's the thing...I think I might have messed this parenting thing up a bit.  My natural instinct has been to parent with guidance only, walking alongside my children and talking them through the way they live life.  Every move they make, I'm there watching them just like a Police song.  I'm always there around every turn, usually hovering in case they start to fall.  There's a big problem with this childen actually never do get to fall, and they also rarely fail.  I'm rearing kids who'll never move on or outgrow me...they'll always need me and be dependent on my approval and that really what I want for them?  

What outcomes would I like my children to have when they leave my perfect little nest which is actually an illusion that I perpetuate as long as I never step out in front of my kids and actually lead them.  My nest isn't perfect, and it's not really about my goals and outcomes anyway.  What am I so afraid of?  Honestly, I fear that they actually won't want to follow me, so I hide my vulnerability from everyone as I keep walking right by their side...always guiding, never leading.

Well, there's only one solution...I'm going to have to be a parent of leadership instead of only guidance.  Instead of walking my kids through every trial, I need to walk ahead of them SHOWING them the way instead of just telling them about the way as we walk it together.  Then, when I look back and check, I can pick them up when they fall flat on their face instead of always being there to make sure they never fall in the first place.

Kids are going to make mistakes, and if we always walk alongside of them...we'll take their mistakes personally, like their mistakes are a reflection of us because we've made it to be that way.  I cannot really help my kids in this life if I'm so personally attached to their blunders and think that they reflect on me.  If I parent this way, my own reputation becomes the focus, and that leads to making their mistakes into my failure.  What I need to do is get my own life!  And, when I do, I will be able to lead my kids and lay guidance on the side of the path sometimes.

In the end when my job is balanced with showing and telling, I'll be able to rest in my empty nest that's not perfect.  And, I want my kids to be brave enough to take the path they choose which is not necessarily the path a parent would choose as the "most acceptable."  I desire that my kids use their gifts and talents and passions, and my greatest advice to them would be "Don't Waste It" meaning that they have been blessed with a life to live and they need to live it well.  

I don't have every insight into my children's souls, and as much as I hate to admit it, my kids know themselves better than I will ever know them.  What I have to do now is to be brave enough to walk ahead of least a few that they can learn to make good choices independent of me but also so not too far ahead of them so that they will see an example of someone they can follow...someone who loves them, someone who makes mistakes, falls, but gets back up.  

Lead your children to a life instead of living theirs with them.  

Monday, March 17, 2014

My bad stuff...the end...because now I might have a completely different list. :)

Almost 2 years ago, I started this blog, and truthfully...I am not as faithful to write as I should be.  I do write a lot actually, just in a journal instead of on the computer.  This is me...I'm "old school" still...can't seem to help it that I want to hold my words in my hands and read them in my own handwriting.  But, I need to grow and adapt myself to the world around me...growing pains...ugg!

So, today, I'm committed to finish my procrastination of my "bad stuff" list from April 2012 and get this list off of my conscience once and for all!  3 of the 4 things I'll enlighten you about are still true, and 1 is only semi-true two years after I confessed goes:

I USUALLY GIVE A BAD FIRST IMPRESSION...several of you who know and love me have experienced a first impression problem with me.  I don't have any excuses that really matter, but here's my excuse anyway...I prefer to be a wallflower and fade into the woodwork, and if I feel on the spot or scrutinized, I often withdraw and hide.  I will still say "hello" and portray pseudo friendliness toward people I meet, but I definitely hide the "real me" from new people.  One great example of this is when I met one of my best friends "Emily."  We taught at the same elementary school and soon after the beginning of the year teachers' meetings, Emily and I found ourselves chatting about our personal lives a little.  My daughter's name is Belle, and because of the uniqueness of her name, I often get comments about it.  Emily is a pretty bold person, not shy at all which is a personality type that intimidates me anyway, and when she said, "is she named after the Disney princess?," I immediately went into shut down mode because I didn't know her well enough to perceive her comment as genuine curiosity or a stab at humor at my expense.  I answered her matter of factly, "Yes, she is actually named after the Disney princess."  I turned away and went back to my work.  Emily and I laugh at this first impression now, but the truth is that Emily thought I was not a warm person and somewhat standoffish, maybe even stuck up.  Now that she knows me well, Emily says that she got me completely wrong by our first impression.  Others say similar things about me.  I don't open up at first, it's like a protection mechanism of myself, but I guarantee that after I know'll see the real me is not too bad. 

I DO TOO MUCH FOR MY KIDS, I ENABLE THEM...finding the balance of rearing my kids to be competent, independent young people is always a struggle for me and my protective, serving nature.  I want the people I love to have it all, and I usually sacrifice myself to ensure that this is possible.  My self sacrificing nature is not always the best at preparing my kids to take on the world.  I fear that I hold them back, my intentions are sincere and honest...but, I enable them to stay in a rut sometimes.  I am conscious of this trait of mine and do a lot to overcome it, like just this past weekend, my oldest daughter was in Chicago with me and our 2 international students...and she needed to go into a suburb to visit a herself!  The whole thing was set up with the friend picking her up at the Metra train station, and my daughter had everything under control as she went up to the counter to purchase her ticket.  It took all I have within me not to go up to the counter to "oversee" the situation and make sure she was saying and doing all the right things.  I even commented to one of our international kiddos that it was hard for me not to intervene.  I realized at that moment that 75% of my daughter's inability to perform things successfully was on her, but 25% of it was on my shoulders because I don't really allow my kids to fail.  I hover and swoop in and "fix" things.  That's not really my job anymore with my oldest who'll turn 18 this year...I'm running out of time!  I'm not going to just let her have a free for all, but within boundaries, I need to let her make decisions and go up to train ticket booths without me.  My middle daughter is not going to need as much intervening as my oldest because she is strong-willed and independent already, and my youngest is not ready for me to stop my hovering yet.  Each kid is different, but I need to make sure that they are more of their own self and less of me guiding their every single step as time moves on.  I need to make them able to do things on their own instead of enabling them to need to depend on me every second for the rest of their lives.

I THINK I'M GOOD AT SEVERAL THINGS, PRIDE OR CONFIDENCE?  This is the one I wouldn't put on my list anymore if I wrote a list today.  I have come to realize that I'm not good at balance.  I am like a jack of all trades in my life without a clear thing that standing out that I have any expertise in.  I'm okay or pretty good at a lot of things, but not really, really good at anything.  This is okay with me now, and I'm not sure it's a bad thing.  I'm confident that I can get a job done, almost anything someone asks of me I will do to the best of my ability...and usually my best is good enough for them.  I take pride in accomplishments, but I'm not really proud of myself.  So, this one is tricky to write about because it doesn't really apply anymore...

I OFTEN HIDE CHOCOLATE SO THAT I DON'T HAVE TO SHARE...this is true.  I often give out chocolate too though.  I grew up with a mom who hid a bag of peanut M&M's on the top shelf of our pantry, so I come by it honestly.  I know if I buy a bag of mini Hershey bars that within a couple hours at my house with 7 will be gone.  I love Hershey bars dipped in peanut butter, and I know it sounds strange...a Reese's just isn't the same.  Sometimes, I just like to have something for myself.  Chocolate bars can now be replaced with my preferred flavor for Kehrig coffee maker which I have resorted to writing my name on the box so that the little people who love drinking coffee will stay out of the "good stuff."  I do this and feel bad sometimes because I'm generally not a selfish person at all, but I don't really think I'll devote much energy to change this "bad thing" about me much...or maybe I will...and, I have much better hiding places than my mom did!  

Thank goodness I am done with my confessions that I started almost 2 years ago.  Now, it might be about time to make a new list which I'll refrain from doing on the blog next time...but the important thing I wanted to impart to you is...

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Hugging Strangers

As of today, I am officially an advocate of hugging strangers. I'm not an expert about hugging or about strangers, but if you are in a public, well lit place, and are an adult... Just say "no" to irrational fears concerning stranger danger.

The first time I can remember venturing into the unchartered waters of hugging strangers, was a little less than a year ago after having coffee with some friends at Panera. We were saying our goodbyes just outside of the front door when a woman walked by us and said, "hey, I want a hug." My friends and I paused our hugs for a millisecond, and I took two steps over to the hug deprived woman and gave her what she needed...a hug. She giggled a little, I smiled, and my friends were trying to figure out what just happened and if I needed to be committed. Truthfully, I felt energized, elated, and I was high on life from a hug. I made a mental note to try it again sometime soon, but I didn't get my chance until today. 

See, the thing about hugging strangers is that you really need an invitation. I don't recommend hugging random strangers, just the strangers who are actually seeking today in Chicago's Union Station. 

I put two of my kiddos into the line to ride the Amtrak to Kansas City from Chicago, and when the line progressed for them to leave, I gave them hugs and said "goodbye." As I turned to leave, a nice guy behind them who had been talking to us for a while said, "where's my hug?"  I smiled at him and took him completely by surprise and gave him a goodbye hug too. Why not? I knew he was halfway teasing, but what if he really did NEED a hug?  After all, Humans need at least 8 positive physical touches each day to be a thriving person.  I left the most recent "stranger hug" in Chicago's Union Station with a smile on my face and Grace told me that the man told her, "that sure was nice of her to give me a hug" after I left. 

So, here's my challenge to you: hug a stranger sometime this year. If we all do this...the world WILL be a better place. So many more smiles and genuine surprise in each other's humanity.

I'm addicted to hugging strangers after just two shots of caring for people I will never know personally or even see again, and I reaped a great benefit as well because I don't always get my 8 positive physical touches each day either.