Friday, June 3, 2016

Succeeding in Parenting Really Hurts

This morning I am anxiously waiting the return of my two little girls. They have been at camp all week and I haven't spoken to them even once. This is the longest I have ever gone without hearing their little voices.

I know they are fine, the counselors did a great job at posting pictures and showing what a great time they had. They probably didn't miss me for one little second, but I must admit this has been the hardest week for me. The worries creep in: What if they need me? What if they get hurt? What if someone is mean to them? What if they.... you know the drill.

I have told other parents (and myself) over and over that our job as parents is to raise our children to become productive members of society; and as a parent to two girls, I must also raise strong confident independent women. Independent. That means not in need of others...not in need of me. I hate that part. I want them to need me. I want them to run to me when they are hurt, scared, angry, confused, happy, joyful, content.

But my job is to teach them to be able to handle hurt, scary things, confusion, anger, happiness, joy and contentment without me, but with a reliance on God alone. The bible even promises I will fail them: Psalm 27:10 (NKJV) "When my father and my mother forsake me, Then the Lord will take care of me."

Did you notice that verse says "when"? Not if, not maybe, not just in case, WHEN. I will fail my kids and so will you. I am human. Thank God He is not.

I want them to grow up, and become the wonderful women that God has created them to be, but wow; the process, the act of them leaving; emotionally, intellectually and physically is really hard and really hurts. It truly is not for the faint of heart. I rely on God for the strength to do it everyday.

I pray I don't coddle them too much or too little. I pray I don't shelter them too much or too little. I pray that I will do what my mother taught me: To rely on God alone, get my strength, my self worth and my wisdom from Him to make it through this parenting thing.

And I am reminded by my precious Savior that He Loves Them More Than I Do! What a wonderfully comforting thought in the times I feel helpless and unable to control the surroundings and circumstances of my children.

Lord, may we all survive; no, may we all thrive in this season of growing up and becoming independent, powerful, godly women.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

God Uses Ordinary People for Extraordinary Things

As I have mentioned before, when my mission statement first became clear to me, I was not happy about it. It made me feel small, less important...ordinary.

God gave me this mission:

"Your mission is to be a missionary in ordinary ways, in ordinary places to ordinary people. In doing this, you will have an extraordinary and eternal impact on the lives of those who would otherwise not be touched."

I was disappointed because I was focusing on the first part, the ordinary, instead of the second part, the extraordinary. And even more specifically, I had completely ignored the part about reaching people that would otherwise not be touched.

Think about that for a second. God' plan for me, little ole Kelly, a housewife and mom in Cartersville, GA, will be able to reach people for Christ that would Otherwise be untouched. 

I don't know about you, but that is actually pretty extraordinary! I have friends who are missionaries in North Africa and that is why they were called to Africa: To reach the unreachable.

So I went from being completely self righteous and disenfranchised about my personal mission statement to being completely intimidated. I found myself praying, "God, I can't do this. I am just an ordinary girl, how can I reach the people who would otherwise be untouched?"

And God answered, "Who better to reach ordinary people than an ordinary girl."

The cool thing is, God uses ordinary people all the time. It's all through the bible! My favorite list of ordinary people that God uses in the bible is in Judges. In Judges, we have everyone from Gideon, a complete fraidy cat, to Samson, a womanizer with anger issues, to my favorite, Deborah.

Deborah was ordinary, maybe even less than ordinary. She was a woman, after all and in this time, women were basically property. She was however, a prophetess. She would basically sit under a tree and she was the 'solver of problems' for Israel at the time. She kept the peace, as God asked her to do. God also asked her to try and get the men of Israel to step up to the plate. She told Barak that God said to go and the He would give Barak the victory, but Barak wouldn't go without Deborah. God said He had already won the victory, but Barak didn't have enough faith without Deborah, so she went with him and, just as God said, they won the battle.

Israel experienced 40 years of peace after that. All because of the faith and obedience of an ordinary girl who obeyed God's mission for her life. It started out pretty normal. Just help people settle their arguments. It ended by bringing an entire nation to peace.

Extraordinary thing for a very ordinary girl.

Friday, April 8, 2016

An Ordinary Test on Extraordinary Children

My 9 year old came home from school the other day and told me she wanted to quit her Challenge class (that is what our school calls the gifted program) because she felt dumb. She felt like she was the stupidest one in the class, like everyone else got it quickly and it took her hours or days to get it. She was crying and the words were hard to say for her. It had taken her weeks to even figure out how to put these feelings into words. I sat at the table with a little girl who felt defeated. She had been asking me for weeks to quit Challenge and I just ignored it. I thought she was upset because she hadn't done well on a test in that class and just didn't want to put in the work. Now, I sat at this table with a sobbing little girl feeling so guilty I could hardly stand myself.

You see, Krissy is Dyslexic. That means her brain processes things differently. Her brain is special, extraordinary. It means that she can see things and imagine things in a ways that you and I can't. But it can be hard to be so special and so not standard in a standardized school system.

We are blessed that she has great teachers that love and respect Krissy and they are all going to work to help her not feel alone or dumb, but in a few weeks, she will have to take that dreaded standardized test. Last year, the anticipation of the test literally made her sick. She had to come home 2 days in a row because of severe migraines brought on by the stress of anticipating this test. A test that is incapable of measuring this child's ability, knowledge and especially not her worth.

I have read many great letters that teachers and parents have written to the children about this test, detailing that this test doesn't know them, who they are and what they are made of and I will write another one of those to my sweet daughters. But first, here is a letter to those who have imposed this test on these kids.

Dear "Powers That Be"

I am sure you have good intentions. You feel you must evaluate your teachers, the standards for the school, the curriculum. I applaud you for your intention, but I respectfully submit that these tests are your way of trying to find the easy way out.

I understand that a test everyone takes gives you a nice clean spreadsheet of data which is much easier to deal with than actually going to schools, walking through halls, sitting in classrooms and meeting real teachers. If the test is the new measure of a school's worth, then what is the job of the principle, the school board, the superintendent? Is the test in place because you don't trust in your ability to hire a principle that can evaluate his or her staff and the educational needs of his or her community? You say the test is to be sure that what needs to be taught in the classroom is in fact being taught, but wouldn't a better way to evaluate that be to actually go to the classroom and see? Meet the principles, the administrators, the teachers and the children. See for yourself the many and varied needs within a specific community and allow the individual schools the freedom to meet those specific needs.

I pose these questions because children are not standard. That is what makes them amazing and beautiful. Maybe trying to get them to fit into the mold of a standardized tests is what is keeping these kids from becoming extraordinary adults. Maybe that's one of the reason we have so many young people without the drive to be extraordinary, they all just want to be standard. Which makes sense if we have taught them in the 12 years of school that the goal is a standardized test.

If we teach our children to meet standards then the drive to be extraordinary is being stolen from them. They are taught to be good enough, instead of great. They are taught that someone else always has the right answer instead of learning how to discover for themselves. What's so wrong with letting kids explore, discover, learn and make mistakes? Why are we so afraid to allow teachers to use a different path to the same destination?

I know the argument is not all teachers are extraordinary, but finding and keeping the ones that are and getting rid of the ones who aren't,well, that IS your job. A job meant for a person, not a test. A test can't assess a teacher or a child's passion, enthusiasm or ability to creatively teach the children in his or her classroom. A test doesn't show you the progress of the one child who started the year angry and combatant, daring the teacher to try and teach him and the fact that the teacher has worked all year, slowly, lovingly, painfully to help that child get past his anger, and the pain that anger was masking, to help him redirect his emotions and channel himself into learning instead of the destructive behavior he was exhibiting.

If the test is meant to highlight the teachers and schools that are failing to teach, I dare say it has failed miserably. It seems to me that the bad teachers are the ones that will teach the kids in their classrooms just enough to pass this test, nothing more, nothing less. They will selfishly be sure they can bubble in the correct answer without making sure the children in their rooms understand how to actually use the knowledge they have gained.

To be completely honest, I don't know all the reasons you think this test is necessary. All I know is what I experience in my own house and my community. What I see is one child that breezes through the test with flying colors every year. She far exceeds the expectations every single time which is not surprising because she is incredibly smart! She remembers things after you tell her once and she processes things very quickly. this also means she spends most of her days at school bored, because she has already gotten what they are teaching the first time around and yet, she is not in the gifted program because the test for that program, she doesn't do as well. But because of these tests, the teachers who know her are not allowed to make an exception and put her in the program. I encourage her in the best way I know how, but how long, how many years before she is bored with school all together and simply stops trying?

Then there is my other child who is in the gifted program. She has an amazing mind and is full of knowledge, passion and ability, yet she is horrible at standardized tests. This is partially because she is dyslexic and mostly because she is not standard. Neither of my children are standard. They are extraordinary in very different ways.

I say all of this to ask a question. Is the data gained from these test really accomplishing the goal? Are you really assessing anything? Or should we try a more personal approach?

I am sure this test is expensive to administer. In my house, this test costs us a lot. It costs my child's feelings of insecurity and self worth. It costs weeks of stress and tears. It costs hours of encouragement and reassurance that the scores on those tests do not measure who they are as a person or what they can accomplish. That is too expensive in my opinion. So I ask, is the cost worth it?

Sincerely, A Concerned Mommy

Monday, March 21, 2016

Ordinary Party, Extraordinary Moment for Eternity

I went this past weekend with some girlfriends to Savannah for their annual St. Patrick's Day Festival. Savannah is serious about this holiday! They have a 4 day street festival that lasts all day and night for the entire time. There are tons of people, music, food, parades and lots and lots of green.

I was excited to spend some quality time with my girlfriends, eat some good oysters and have a few drinks while we danced and hung out with a few thousand of our closest friends. These kinds of events are always good for people watching and we always meet a few characters, but I never expected to have a life changing spiritual moment in the midst of a huge party.

We met this group of friends and ran into them a few times during the evening. At one point, I noticed that one of the guys, let's call him Jay, was sitting and crying. His wife was a little upset with the whole situation. I didn't blame her. They were out to have a good time and her hubby is in the middle of this huge crowd having break down.

I sat down to talk with him. Come to find out, he is active duty military and has been on 11 deployments. Yes, that is right, 11, it's not a typo. I can't even imagine what he has seen and experienced in 11 deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Certainly more than the human mind can process and still function on it's own. I asked him if he knew that he had PTSD and he said he did, but didn't know what to do about it.

I was able to share with him my personal experiences from my past and from my father's extraordinary walk and healing through PTSD. I encouraged him to go to the VA and get help. I talked to his wife and encouraged her.

The Holy Spirit gave me the words. He guided the questions that I asked and the advise that I gave. He even gave me a few things that were very specific to Jay and his journey. Things I didn't know, but God did. When I told Jay that, "God is telling me to tell you...(I won't give you the details, these words were for Jay)" after those words, Jay looked me in the eye for the first time stood up, gave me a long bear hug and said, "God sent you to tell me this." In that moment I knew God was using me in an ordinary way for His extraordinary work. God knew that Jay needed to know that God loves him and would go to great distances to tell him so.

It is amazing how God finds us and who he decides to use, when He decides to use you and where He decides to use you. I never would have expected for God to show up in the middle of a street party in Savannah, GA. We were not there for a Christian revival or women's retreat. Honestly, I wasn't expecting a spiritual experience. Jay certainly wasn't expecting to find the depth and breadth of God's love at 2 a.m. after a night full of drinking and partying. Yet, that is what God chose to do, and it is where God showed up.

It was a very ordinary setting with extraordinary results for the Kingdom, for me, for Jay and his family. I am praying that Jay will get the help he needs to process and heal from the trauma he has experienced. I pray for all those who see and experience war. I hope you will pray too.

Monday, February 29, 2016

A Missionary In Ordinary Ways

A few years ago, I asked God for a mission statement. You know, something that would give me a higher purpose than just ordinary living. I love my life and I was in a pretty good place with my relationship with Christ but I felt...boring, unimportant, dispassionate, just bleh. I had friends that were being called to be missionaries in foreign countries, to eradicate homelessness in our city and be great bible teachers. And then there was me. Just a wife and mom in a small north Georgia town with a regular job. Don't get me wrong, I love all of those things, but they didn't feel important, they just felt...ordinary.

So I assumed I must be missing what God truly had for me, because I just knew I was supposed to be doing something great. Something special. something extraordinary. I knew the way to find out what that very special, very exciting, very passionate and extraordinary mission was to be was to pray, so I did. Fervently, consistently, faithfully.

I waited expectantly. I started to get excited knowing that with my persistence, God would surely answer with something great like, "you are going to write an amazing novel that will be a best seller and cause revival in our land," or "you are going to be a screen writer and be able to minister to the very lost and dark people in the entertainment industry with your deep and spiritually moving stories."

One day, God clearly gave me my mission statement.

"Your mission is to be a missionary in ordinary ways, in ordinary places to ordinary people. In doing this, you will have an extraordinary and eternal impact on the lives of those who would otherwise not be touched."

Can I be honest? I was really disappointed. I mean really? Be an ordinary missionary? In ordinary places? I don't get to write a great novel or screenplay or become a missionary in Paris (If I am dreaming about where to be a missionary, it might as well be someplace awesome right?)

Now before you go judging me for not being excited about the mission directly given from the Lord God Almighty, be honest. If someone told you your mission in life was to be ordinary would you be excited?

So I did what any logical person would do. I questioned the never failing, all powerful, all knowing Creator of the universe, "Really? Are you sure? I mean, I think I could do a lot more than that. I am a pretty good writer and I am a great public speaker. And I love You! Can't I do something more important than being an ordinary person?"

But God, you know that amazing Father who only knows how to do what is absolute best for us, does not operate on logic, well, not tiny finite human logic anyways. He operates with a mind that can  understand concepts like eternity, black holes, the space time continuum. He knows where the snow is stored in summer and knows what's at the end of space. He thought up things like DNA, curly hair, blue eyes, ocean waves, blow fish, vultures and llamas.

So after a few more sessions of my self righteous questioning of God, I finally just sat still and allowed God to let this new mission statement sink in. "Okay God, I am ready. Show me this mission you have for me."

In that quiet place, I heard God say that my mission was to serve in ordinary places and ways, not to be ordinary. My job was to be quietly extraordinary, secretly extraordinary. What you do in public, for public praise, the praise itself will be your reward. But what you do in private, only for the Lord to see and know, you will be praised in public and for eternity.

God clarified to me that what He wanted from me was truly amazing and special. He was telling me to show His love not to the masses through a best selling novel or movie; and not to the children in Africa or Paris. He has told me to love the overlooked. The next door neighbor that may seem like she has it all together, but is actually deeply hurting and is scared to death that she is just doing it all wrong. He asked me to be a friend to the girl at work who is pessimistic and critical or the one who is way too needy.

When I opened my eyes to what God was saying, it was like scales fell from my eyes. I suddenly realized that checking out at the grocery store was a very ordinary thing and maybe I could have an eternal impact on that grocery clerk in those few minutes. I starting praying for those moments to happen. I started asking God to break open her heart in the 3 minutes we were together at the check out stand and give me words that would speak living water to her.

The funny thing is words that speak living water don't always sound so spiritual. I rarely ask if they know Jesus or if they go to church. Usually God prompts me to ask about their story. Something innocent thing like, "Wow, you have an interesting name, is there a story behind it?"

Or asking the waiter that is serving my family at dinner, "So what's your story? Are you going to school, providing for your family, taking some time off to figure out life?"

At work, the ordinary ways can be as simple as always saying hi and asking, "How was your weekend?" and truly listening to the answer.

At home, it's making fried rice for dinner because that is what my daughter asked for. It's consistently telling my cousin how impressed I am with the man he has become, how blessed we are to have him live with us and that we are praying for God's perfect mate for him. It's giving my husband a little kiss or pat on his butt every time I walk by.

Truthfully, when I stopped looking at ordinary ways as not important, I started to see every little opportunity I have in every aspect of my life to show the unconditional, unfailing and ever important love of Christ to a whole lot of people. Ordinary people. The people that are normally overlooked because, well, they are just like me. And who am I to 'help' someone who is in the exact same boat I am in?

I am the person that God has chosen to do the job, so that alone qualifies me.

God has given me a mission and I am choosing to obey.

Expect the extraordinary. I have a feeling there will be a lot of it around here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Christians, We Are Failing

I just came back from a week long conference in Southern California. Going to California is usually filled with two predominate emotions for me. First, I am excited for the weather. Always sunny, no humidity and a slight wind. My other feeling is dread. This begins by flying into LAX, the most chaotic, crowded, disorganized place on the planet. Then getting into a car and if you have ever driven in LA, then you know how crazy it is. If you haven't, just imagine what it would be like if a bunch of angry chickens learned to drive.

Overall, my trip this time was amazing! The conference was fun and inspiring; I got to eat some great food, had good coffee and met some wonderful people. But as I waited in the airport for my flight home, I suddenly experienced another emotion: overwhelming sadness.

I realized that, the majority of people who live in this city are sad, lost, a little angry and most importantly to me, living in darkness. They are in the 'city of angels' yet most don't know that angels are real. Most are walking around without any hope at all.

And who can blame them. For most people, the view of a Christian is they are judgmental, selfish and, well, downright mean. (disclaimer: I didn't do a scientific study, these are just my observations).

And friends, brothers and sisters, people who I love and plan to spend eternity with, please hear my heart. I am saying this with all love and because I know we are not that list of things above, but I do know that is how the world is seeing us, and that, my friends, is our own fault.

We are speaking much more passionately about our politics than we are about hope, peace and the love of Christ. We are known to speak out about the high cost of healthcare but not helping those who are sick. We are standing up opposed to the things we find immoral instead of shouting from the rooftops that there is light in the darkness, hope to the hopeless and love, unconditional love for the unlovable.

Are we so far removed from the person that we were before we met Christ that we don't remember how scary, sad and alone it felt to be lost? Do we think heaven might get too crowded so why tell anyone else about eternal life and happiness? Are we so comfortable with our every day mundane sins that we forget that they are just as horrifying to God as the ones that make the headlines? Have we forgotten the Beatitudes? Blessed are the peacemakers, the meek, the poor, the suffering.

Are we so bogged down in following the rules that we forgot to love the people? Yes, this is where I believe we have failed, friends. We have forgotten to love the people. The lost people, the hungry people, the angry people, the entitled people, the drug addicted people, the money hungry people, the gay people, the straight people, the weird people, the boring people, the people of the opposite political party, the people of a different religion, the people covered in tattoos & piercings and the people without any hope.

Jesus never scolded a lost person. He loved them, He ate with them, He wiped away their tears, He gave them water. He scolded those who claimed the same religion as His own. He didn't turn the money tables over on the prostitute or the tax collector, for them He showed love, kindness, and a better way of life. Not by telling them what they were doing was wrong, but by showing unconditional, unfailing, unapologetic love. And ultimately, by dying for our sins on the cross. They will know you by your love, is what the bible says; not by our moral standing, our political party or by our set of rules.

Who have you loved today that wasn't of your same belief, of your same political party, in your very own family or church? That person you know who is royally screwing up their life, have you loved on them through prayer, coming along side them, being a friend or providing for a genuine need or do you just shake your head and allow them to continue in darkness?

We have probably all heard the saying that we are all equal at the foot of the cross. What I fear is we forget is that we are all nothing more than dirty rotten immoral degenerates if it weren't for the cross. The only difference between a Christian and every other face on earth is the cross and our responsibility is not to show the world some sort of moral superiority, it's to show them that they can find hope, love and peace at the foot of the cross too.

Honestly, who cares if we 'restore this country to Christian values' or have laws that are perfectly in line with the laws of the bible if we are still living in a place full of people who don't know Jesus? What profits a man to gain the whole world and yet lose his soul?
Christians, please, express your views, vote for whoever you want to vote in office, but above all, be known for your love. A love that is indescribable, unconditional, indiscriminate and irresistible because it is the pure love that comes from the knowledge that without Jesus, we all go to hell, no. matter. what.

Share the love.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Are we really on the right path to end racism?

As I was drinking my morning coffee, my mind wandered to the yard at the place I used to work in San Diego. It was an animal shelter and on the fence where we would take the dogs to play was a sign that read, "Respect all Life." As I scroll through my Facebook newsfeed and watch the news, it is evident that we don't do that very well.

I see videos and photos of disrespect to all manners of people: black, white, Hispanic, business owners, rich people, poor people, old people and young. The preponderance of evidence that we are all taking sides: Black lives matter, Police lives matter, Immigrant lives matter, White lives matter. And my mind and heart keeps heading back to that sign in the play yard at my old job: Respect all Life. All lives matter. every single one.

We all seem to be so busy making sure our voice is heard, that our side of the issue is respected and acknowledged, that none of us are listening. The saddest part is we are all so busy pointing out our differences, that we don't see that we are all saying the same thing. We are all hurting and we all want peace.

On the heals of the Civil Rights movement, Satan began feeding this country a lie that we have believed for years. As long as we get justice for the wrongs of the past, we will have peace and harmony. Justice for the past is what matters, that is what will produce peace and harmony for the future right? Wrong!

Justice does punish those who have done wrong and there is a place for justice, but if the goal is peace, justice is not the answer. Forgiveness is. The irony is this is what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his contemporaries preached. That is why the Civil Rights movement had so many successes. They did not focus on righting the wrongs of the past, they focused on righting the viewpoint of people for the future. They strategically did things that caused people to listen, not riot, to pray not point fingers, to come together for change, not against each other for justice.

The cause is still and always has been the same. We want peace and respect for all life, no matter the color, the gender, the race or the creed. But if peace is the goal, the way is not through justice, the way is through forgiveness, grace and understanding. It is not through making sure your point is heard, it is through active listening to the point of view of another. The way is not through posting a counterpoint on your social media page, but through the unselfish giving, listenning and prayers for the hurting.

Compassion that ends for a person just because you don't agree with their actions is not compassion at all. It is easy to have compassion and understanding for those who do what you do, live the way you live and think they way you think. We all want compassion when we are the ones that are in the wrong, but the real test is your ability to give compassion when someone else is in the wrong, and you are able to see past the action to the hurting and scared heart of the person who is acting out.

And here is the point: Hurt, fear, anger, these things are not exclusive to any race or gender or creed or station. These things are common to all life. I am compelled to believe that when we can stop looking at our differences and judging them as good or bad, and start focusing on our common emotions and common goals, we will begin to make our way towards peace.

Philippians 3:13-14: But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

When we have been wronged and are hurting, justice seems to be the thing we want, but I ask you: Will justice bring you peace? Will Justice change the future? I believe the answer is no. Justice does punish the one who has wronged you, but justice does not change the future or create healing, only forgiveness, understanding and love does that.

If we want a nation that is not racist and is at peace we must stop defining things by race. Instead of respecting an individual group, let's respect all life, respect all culture, respect all. You don't have to agree with someone to respect them, listen to them or find a place of common ground, even if that ground is as simple as you both want peace.