Category Archives: Faith

Simplicity

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This has been a year of faith growing for me.  If I’m painfully honest, I am the poster child for, “Ye of little faith.”  My security has been cash for as long as I can remember.  When my husband and I were first starting out, I wanted nothing more than to be “comfortable” in the finance department.  I also wanted “the latest, greatest,” as many 20-somethings do.  When our kiddos came along, we had the 4 bedroom with a huge yard and an in-ground pool in the back.  They were dressed to the nines for school (as some of their report cards will attest), and took every lesson and played most organized sports available to children of their age.  We had a membership to a very posh gym and drank chain coffee drinks on the regular.  I spent much of my time keeping up with the proverbial Joneses and secretly envying our friends and family members who had more than we did.

At some point, I realized how absolutely ugly all of that was and how little I cared to continue running on the hamster wheel I had created for myself.  It also became very important for me to teach this to my children before they flew out of my nest.  This was not any easy goal, as I had spent their entire lives modeling the polar opposite of my new conviction-turned-passion.

Simplicity is my destination.  I don’t mean I just want less stuff, I mean I want simplicity in my relationships, in my closet, in my schedule and in my home.  Initially, I thought it would take about a year to clean out the garage, our house, etc.  I believed it was an easy “weed through” kinda thing, and then I began the process.  It was not simple nor easy.  I’m embarrassed to admit how attached I am to too many things.  The most humiliating facet of this process is how long I am willing to hang on to things I haven’t used or needed in decades, just in case I may need them one day.  Secretly, I envision myself saving money just when we need it most because of an item I’ve been hoarding in an overstuffed closet for 16 years.  You know, that perfect, authentic piece for my child’s Halloween costume (our youngest are 22 years old!), or that kitchen tool that I received 20 years ago in a bundle from an elderly relative, that I’ve NEVER used, but washed many times – in case I needed it suddenly one day…  (Truth be told, I didn’t even know what some of those things were!)  Of course, I had outfits that I would never look good in again or purchased on a whim and never even wore.  Not a few, but 4 LARGE trash bags full.  I also had 7 huge crates of books that my family had to pretty much force me to part with.  I was saving those for the grandchildren I don’t yet have.  Broken appliances, hideous, worn-out furniture, bags, jars, vases, rags, lotions, expired medicines, partial sheet sets…

Our 2-car garage was filled to the brim and there was very little room in our home.  Last year we gave away, sold and threw out more than 1/2 of the “stuff” we had accumulated, and still our new tiny 1-car garage is filled, not to the brim, but the floor is about 80% covered.

I work in a very wealthy part of Austin.  My employers live a life I used to covet and yearn for.  Almost inevitably when I am driving to work, passing mansion after mansion, I look up at God and thank Him for the life I have and for not giving me the one I used to think would bring me joy.  He has freed me from that.  I don’t just accept that I don’t have a life like that, I celebrate that I don’t and more importantly, I rejoice that I have the life He has blessed me with.  

Last summer I quit my job as a teacher.  I was quite terrified, a little heartbroken, and a smidge thrilled.  Every year the powers that be (tptb) in my district made things more and more complicated and less about teaching my precious students, and I found that I just couldn’t do it in good conscience anymore.  I’ve been nannying/doula-ing for families with newborns and toddlers since then and my work life is SO much more relaxed and rewarding.  I’m still not sure this is exactly what I’m meant to be doing, but my stress level is much lower and when I leave my job, I am actually done until I return and I’m on the clock again.  When I’m home, I am present.  There are no papers to correct, endless lesson plans to complete or ridiculous t-tess forms to fill out to convince admin that I can actually still teach after doing a bang-up job for 20 years already!  I have fun on my 3-day weekends without working late all week or shutting myself in all day Saturday or Sunday.  I am also not exhausted when I get home.

I’ve pursued healthy christian relationships with other women who want to grow and truly love Jesus.  I’ve spent some time looking at and praying about the relationships I’ve had in the past and I’ve chosen to walk away from some unhealthy ones.  My new home is peaceful in a way that I have desired for a very long time.  There is a place and a time when drama is a part of life, it is inevitable, but I just refuse to entertain it unnecessarily.  While this has been the most difficult part of my life to simplify, and often the most painful, it has also been the most rewarding.  

I still have a closet to thin out a bit and “stuff” in the garage that needs to go, but I’m recognizing what we have accomplished, not beating myself up for what still needs to be done.  It is all a journey, to be walked with our heads up, noticing the beauty all around us and living in the moment.  As I lighten my load, I find I am enjoying everything a little more, looking up, sitting back, jumping in.  I’m finding that the best provider is not my husband, certainly not me or our bank account, but He will provide my needs and often my wants.  As I let go of more and have less, I find I am trusting Him more and realizing I need and want less.  It doesn’t make sense in this culture, but it works better than anything I’ve ever done and that’s enough for me to continue on this journey He’s leading me on.

 

It’s a Great Place to Visit, Just Don’t Move in

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This is an entry from a blog I authored several years ago.  Sometimes it’s good to take a trip back and revisit difficult times so as to see the work of His hands since then.  I am grateful for my journey.  All of it.  The horrific chapter that almost became the final scene and the stories of real and deep love, joy and laughter, and every chapter in between, before and after.
I believe in visiting the past for a short time to work through and grow, because if we don’t, the past will show up in our present and cause it to be less than it was meant to be.
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2009:
Big question of the day: Can I really trust God if I don’t fully believe He loves me?
Nope, and therein lies the problem. My big, bad wolf is that I don’t believe anyone can love me unconditionally – even the Big Guy. Deep down I have always believed that I’m not worth loving that way. The thing is, is that to trust someone kind of requires that you need some proof, and proof only comes when you go through junk together. And sometimes when you go through the junk, the way you go through it or come out of it, isn’t the way it happens in the movies.
His ways are not mine.
I know that sounds cliche’, but it’s still true.
I understand that sometimes terrible accidents happen, cancer or other terrible illnesses strike, financial junk, etc., but what about when all of the people you’ve come to trust and depend upon choose to pull away just when you need them most? What about being the “strong” one that everyone leaned on and when, for the first time in your life, you need to do the leaning, your inner circle disintegrates? What do you do when the person closest to you steals your reality when you are at your lowest point? What about when you cry out to God and beg Him to be real to you and help you through this awful extended darkness and you hear nothing… for years? What about when you start to “feel” Him again and things are getting so great and then you find out you were right… No one can really love you sacrificially? Do you fold? Do you try to trust Him after He just let all this horrible stuff happen to you? Can you believe He loves you?
His ways are not my ways.
Sometimes the most painful experiences are the only things that create trust and force us to accept His love.
I used to be really irritated by this woman who lived in my old neighborhood, went to our old church and had a son who was friends with my twins. She never did anything with abandon. She was kind of a Stepford wife, you know? She got a new car every other year and she alternated between white and tan. Her house was all painted beige. She never risked anything. She always seemed a little afraid of everything. She would ask our mutual (seeking) friends what their doctrine was and junk like that when they didn’t even know if they wanted to visit a church or not and probably didn’t know or care what doctrine was. She drove me crazy! I remember wondering why everywhere I lived or spent time, God always placed one of “those” people in my path.
We are all one of “those” people to some extent. Some of us just hide it better than others, some don’t hide it at all, some don’t even realize there is a problem, nor do they want to. Some of us have looked the things we fear the most, right in the eye, and survived because of His love and we just trust Him a little more than we used to.
I had gotten so good at believing my life was so good, especially compared to what it was before I was a believer, that I was afraid to not be grateful enough or to appear to be less than a “good christian” wife, mother, daughter, woman, etc. I was especially careful to make it all look good to my “unbelieving family members” and anyone in any of the christian groups I led. Besides if I let down my guard, they would probably reject me and I’d have to face that they didn’t love me if I wasn’t “on”. I told myself that it was all okay and God would probably even bless it because I was trying to make Him look good – because, you know, I’m that important to His reputation.  If my life wasn’t full of love and patience, then what would people think of Jesus, since I was always giving Him all the glory? I didn’t trust Him to love me just as I was. I didn’t trust anyone to love me just as I was and after almost 20 years of that I was SO effin’ tired that I couldn’t just fall back into His arms. I didn’t know how to fall back. I was too busy trying to hold up the wall I had constructed. Why did I do that? How do I make sense of the past 20 years of my life? So much of it was a lie. So much of it was beige…
I feel like I’m waking from a dream. I’m ready to be who He wants me to be, and not because I’m so strong or wise now, but because I’m too tired to go back to the old way and I refuse to stand in bitterness and stagnation. He has something really awesome in store for my life and I am terrified and excited all at once. I am ready to take a baby step or two because I really want His way to be my way…

Satisfied

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Lord,

I am so thankful to finally be out from under that mortgage and the town that brought more pain than any other in my entire life.  Thank You for bringing me out of that desert and into this blissful time in my journey.

Thank You for:

Our new home.  It is kitchie and homey.  I appreciate the weird angles, our hobbit bedroom, our 3 baths, my prayer room, and perfect backyard.  I love that we have downsized by 40% in terms of square footage and, though we need to empty more of the garage out, we are living a much more simplified life.  I am overwhelmed by the people You have brought into our home and lives since moving here.  May we always remember that our home is a gift from You and a safe haven for those You love and lead to our door.

My new Parenthood tables.  Already we’ve been surrounded by such lovely people and beautiful conversations.  Thank You for our beautiful gathering places.  May we love people well as we share food, conversation and You across these tables.

My Honey.  What would I do without him?!  He is my knight in shining armor.  Always fighting for my heart.  Always striving against his human nature to be the man You are calling him to be.  When I watch him love our babies, I just fall in love all over again.  Thank you for saving our marriage even after we messed it up seemingly beyond repair.  Because of your faithfulness, we will leave a legacy of love and commitment that only happened because of Your unconditional grace, love and faithfulness.

Our children.

-Scott and Jordan are living their lives.  Thank you for their jobs, their families and may You bless them with a deep desire to know You intimately.  May they always know how much they are loved and how unconditional our love is for them.

-Hannah is leading worship.  She has chased after You for so long since our family’s brokenness and You have loved her so perfectly.  Thank you for doing everything I could never do and honoring my heart instead of my actions and my shortcomings.  Lord, when I watch her breath YOU all over so many in corporate worship and in loving conversation with others seeking Your face, I know I am seeing You.  It’s all this mama could ever want.

-Caleb is coming full circle.  He is searching for truth, so I am sure he will find You.  He is still my Tita and there’s nothing simple about him.  You made him so wonderfully that way and so I believe You will meet him just where he is at and love him in a way I can only imagine.  Thank You for Your faithfulness.  Thank You for the immeasurable talent You’ve blessed him with.  I pray he develops it and chooses to use it as You will for his life.

-Aaron is a man after Your own heart.  I love his servant heart, despite my abuse of that too many times for me to want to own up to.  I pray his heart softens as he grows in relationship with You and Your people.  Thank you for giving him talent beyond measure that he uses for Your glory.  Lord, thank You for waiting on him to come back to You. Only You know how much this mama yearned for him to love You completely.

Our church family.  We are finally HERE!  We are surrounded by family, neighbors, friends, all wrapped up in our church family.  I have longed to be here and live life with the kind of people we could only dream about for so many years.  I feel like I’m finally at the waterside, with the desolate lonely behind me.

My new car.  A Prius!!!  I just feel so good about its lack of carbon footprint and how cute it is.  It makes me feel so responsible because every little bit helps and I want to take care of this amazing world You gave us.  I’m also thankful for it’s great gas mileage and great price!

Our jobs.  Who would’ve thought we’d rather drive a tour bus, play music, doula, and nanny than almost anything else?!  I love going to work each day and my Honey still can’t believe he gets paid to drive people around while making them laugh and telling them historical facts!  We are blessed to live this life doing what we love and feeling such freedom in our “work.”

Lord, my tendency has always been to downplay the good stuff, so as not to brag, as well as to waste the times of abundance worrying about when the next desert time will come.  I won’t dishonor You with such behavior.  This is the time of plenty and joy.  I am FULL.  I am satisfied.  It is enough!  I know there will be bad junk in the days ahead, but I refuse to allow that to steal my joy in this moment.  I know You will be with me in the desert days, just as You always have been, and that is all I need to know.

Thank You, Lord.  Thank You for the happiness I am experiencing.  Thank You for loving my family so well, for being so faithful when we haven’t always been, for finally showing me what real love looks like.  Thank You for being the Father I have longed for all my life and revealing that I am Your beloved daughter.  It is more than enough.

 

The Process

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I’ve been struggling with public education for a couple of decades now.  It happened when I had students that didn’t fit into the “box.”  The struggle was even more powerful when I had children of my own that wanted to fit into that box.  I’ve taught in public school, private school, charter school, Christian and non-Christian, co-ops, homeschool academies, etc.  I have a bit of experience with education.  I am an amazing reading teacher.  It’s an instinctive thing.  I can sit with almost any child and after working with him/her a time or two, I can teach him/her to read and love it.  Mostly I teach them how to love it and then they just read with a little bit of help and encouragement.

About 14 years ago, our kiddos were all attending the local public school near our home in Michigan.  I was homeroom mom in their classes and I was the PTA president, as well.  Most mornings I got up around 5:30 so that I could spend some time in the Bible and talking with Jesus – with 5 kids, this was really my only option!  As I  spent time in prayer I felt Him leading me to consider schooling our children at home.  NOW, let me just tell you, our oldest was a high school junior and our youngest (twins) were in 2nd grade.  I had just gotten to a point in my life, after YEARS of no girl social life, where I could meet friends for lunch and tea, where I could go get my nails done with no one else to constantly entertain or keep out of trouble.  It was heavenly!  I couldn’t believe He wanted to take that all from me!!  I remember this happened just before the holidays, but I didn’t say a word to anyone until January – mostly because I just didn’t want to do it.  When I shared with my husband what God had been showing me, he was less than thrilled – and as we told others during the next months, there was even less support.  I think our parents and siblings all thought I had lost my mind… and so did I…

We decided to wait until that summer to make a definite decision because I was a little terrified of the responsibility of it all.  By July our kiddos were very excited about the whole thing and even our oldest had decided to join us and not attend public school his senior year.  We informed the school in August and joined some families in the area who had been homeschooling for years.  It was wonderful in many ways, but because I had been a classroom teacher for several years, I was having a hard time breaking the mold and leading my kiddos in the way I believe He wanted me to.

It wasn’t long after starting this adventure that our “popular” kid started rebelling.  He missed his friends and the ego boost he got on the regular from being well-liked at his school.  As difficult as this was for me, it was one of the most confirming events in my journey.  God clearly showed me what my son’s future would be if we would’ve left him in public school.  I understood more clearly than ever the dangers of being a popular kid.  The high of being liked is a drug that few children can handle.  I committed myself to helping my children become leaders and not followers.  It was a long and exhausting road that I’ve never regretted.

Stepping away from our public school system and seeing it with new eyes was like being deprogrammed after a long stint of brainwashing.  I understand that some people whom I care for deeply will be offended by some of the things I have to say about this, but I feel that my experience with so many types of primary and secondary education gives me the authority to speak about this with some expertise.  I can also share that droves of our family members and friends have come to us and confessed that they doubted our decision to homeschool our children and have nothing but respect for it now.  I believe that most, if not all, of our children will choose to school their children at home or in some unconventional way that best suits their families.

I will briefly answer the main concerns/questions we dealt with when first sharing our decision to homeschool:

What about socialization?  I think most people meant socializing, but they almost always said socialization which means “the process by which individuals acquire the knowledge, language, social skills, and value to conform to the norms and roles required for integration into a group or community.”

I have a few things to say about this question.  First of all, how does sitting in a classroom with approximately 20 other people that are less than a year older or younger than you, prepare you for society?  When else are we in this situation except in a classroom? – Where, honestly, there is very little socializing except on the 3 allowable party days of the year and for the short 20 minute recess period each day and lunch time where kiddos are expected to be quiet and stay seated.  Once or twice a week they get a 45 minute PE time and sometimes they are allowed to play and interact with one another.  So, in the best case scenario, our children have less than 300 minutes each week to socialize with their peers at school.  They are in school for 2400 minutes each week and they are allowed to interact freely for 1/8 of that time in the best of worlds – assuming they don’t spend time buying their lunches in the cafeteria, that they don’t spend time receiving instruction from the teacher during PE or recess or Heaven forbid, that they don’t have to do unfinished classwork or sit out for behavior during recess.  Also, this does not account for restroom breaks during these times.  In our homeschool life, our children interacted with wait staff, clerks, and many other service people who were various ages on the regular.  The co-ops we joined provided classes in many areas that included students from a spectrum of ages and I believe it helped my children get past the “snobbiness” that many children have about being older or in a higher grade.  Homeschool children don’t typically give much thought to how old one another is.  It just isn’t an issue.

The second BIG concerns centered on:  Where will you get the books you need?  How will you know if you’re doing what the school is doing so that they are where they’re supposed to be?

There are SO many curricula available for home teachers.  All you need to do is jump on the internet and do a search.  Check Amazon to get the cheapest, used prices, but don’t forget there are MANY homeschool bookstores in every state and you can order from most of them online if there isn’t one close to you in your state.  It’s quite easy to get a list of objectives for each grade in most, if not all states.  Seems that would be a requirement so that parents know what is expected of their child each year.  The beautiful thing for us was that we actually completed our texts, unlike most public school classrooms where there just isn’t enough time to fit it all in with reteaching and time constraints, etc.  Also, I could slow down or speed up with each of my kiddos individually because I was the boss, I knew what each of them needed most and I didn’t have to worry about interruptions such as announcements, assemblies, drills, absent and tardy students, etc. to disrupt focused learning.  I also didn’t have to teach reading for exactly 45 minutes a day, and fit into someone else’s box, (who has NO idea what it means to be in an elementary classroom, btw) while my students missed out on what they may have really needed that day.

Here’s what I learned during my homeschooling years:

Parents know their children better than any teacher, principal or government official.  We should trust them and partner with them, not treat them like an inconvenience and certainly not like they are inept.  Of course there are a very few parents who drive teachers crazy, but I’ve found that if you honor those parents and treat them with respect and understand you are working for them, most of those strugglers will turn into wonderful partners and their children will benefit in HUGE ways.  An occasional one of the strugglers will turn out to be ugly or mentally ill human beings and that’s hard.  As teachers we need to love their babies an extra dose and believe in their strengths.  That’s all we can do and sometimes it’s enough.

Kids learn the most by leaving them alone.  Make the books (wonderful, lots of genres, all levels, etc.), rocks, papers, pencils, bugs, puzzles, pictures available in abundance and then leave them alone.  Be available to answer questions.  Set an example of reading, writing, measuring, being kind, but don’t drill it into them, just be sure you have comfy places for them to educate themselves and THEY WILL.

Let them be bored.  Let them figure out what they love most and focus on that. It will take time and probably some frustration, but it is very necessary for your children to figure out who they are and what speaks to his/her heart.  If your child hates math, then do the bare minimum with him/her.  I’ve yet to use 3 1/2  of the 4 years of math I did in high school and I’m mostly pissed off when I think about it because I sucked at math – except algebra – and it lowered my whole gpa for high school.  I took math every year because someone told me that I would HAVE to take it in college no matter what my major was, so I needed to be prepared.

-WRONG!  I did NOT take ONE math class all through college and I graduated with honors from the University of Michigan and have never felt like I’ve lacked without college calculus or any of that other nonsense. (p.s. I do not mean that math is nonsense in general.  I just HATE it and I suck at most of it, so, for me, it is nonsense).

The most important thing is to teach and model a love for learning, not the actual learning.  If we take away the drive, the passion by drill & kill or nagging, then we’ve destroyed the beauty of the whole lifelong process of learning.  If, on the other hand, we fertilize their natural love for learning, we have given them a gift that no one can ever take away.  Our students will grow exponentially in this environment and they will carry it all with them into their futures.  I loved being a high school reading and writing teacher.  I had great rapport with my students.  I truly loved each and every one of them.  I think most of them could feel that.  I wanted them to learn, but more than that, I wanted them to LOVE to learn and figure out what they were made for so that they could pursue that path with passion. Since homeschooling my own children I have come to believe this even more deeply.

Many of our students are dealing with more than we can imagine.  They have stuff going on at home that we would be heartbroken by.  They need us to not try to stuff them into the proverbial box.  We need to allow them to feel safe and encouraged in our classrooms.  They need to feel treasured by us, so that they figure out who they are, what they love and then soar.  The relationship is the key to this whole process.


I returned to public school teaching 7 years ago and I fell madly in-love with my students.  I was older and much wiser than I was in my early years of teaching.  I loved my students’ parents and almost all of them loved me back.  My students excelled every year beyond my wildest dreams.  I was fortunate to teach with my husband until last year.  We made a great team and I’m very thankful that we were able to team teach for 3 1/2 years together.  In recent years, the testing and focus on teacher “improvement” has become so time-consuming, that it has taken much of the joy out of teaching for a multitude of really great teachers.  Personally, I have been waiting for things to get better for the past 4 years and instead, it just keeps getting worse.

Teachers should be treated with respect – with bonus points for years of experience and their record, which should be based on relationships and improvement, not one set score comparing all students of mixed abilities, varied backgrounds, ethnicity, socio-economic situations, etc.  When a teacher, who has nothing to gain by speaking up, reports that his/her student is really struggling with reading, has scabies for 6 months, defecates in his/her pants daily, or stutters regularly, then something should be done BEFORE the teacher is required to document this for 6 weeks with no mistakes or the process will have to start all over.  If a teacher says there is a problem, odds are, THERE IS!  Trust the teacher who isn’t there for the money (OBVIOUSLY) and only wants the best for his/her treasured students.  Do something right away and perhaps, when we meet our students’ needs right away, the test scores that the powers that be put so much stock in, might just improve.  Maybe if our students are getting extra help for academics when needed and/or therapy for physical struggles, getting medical help so that they aren’t scratching themselves raw (instead of worrying about if the parents will sue the school), or emotional help for accidents instead of being shamed for their cry for help, just maybe everyone would be more successful and feel valued and respected.  Unfortunately, it seems this all costs money and our students and teachers are not worth the investment all of that would entail.

So, I’ve spent the past couple of years trying to figure out what to do.   I believe teaching is a serious responsibility, not to be taken lightly.  I worked all year to reconcile what I believe deep in my gut with what I was being asked to do and I realized I just couldn’t do it in good conscious.  I believe if you are a teacher you have to be all in.  You have one year with each of those blessings and it is your job to prepare them for the future, but how does one do that when every minute of every day is micro-managed?  How do you model independent thinking when you aren’t allowed to think or teach independently?!  I didn’t have it in me anymore.  I couldn’t compromise my own belief system another year.

So, I resigned.

Honestly, I was terrified to give up my family’s health insurance that nearly 1/2 of my paycheck went to each pay, as well as what was left of my paycheck and the security of being in the same school system where I adore my students, my parents, my co-workers (especially my amazing team) and I am known and I have a good reputation.

I have moments of complete terror, but they only last seconds.  It’s clear to me that He asked me to step out of what He gave me such unrest with, so I know He’s with me and we’ll be okay.

I understand that some people think I am out of my mind, but I’m happier than I’ve ever been and feel like I’m in His perfect will and not my fearful will (for a change).  Faith is a beautiful thing, but it isn’t cheap…

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