Friday, October 30, 2015

Respite

There's a concept in foster care training regarding respite care. The idea is that foster care can be emotionally, physically, and spiritually draining, and foster parents need to take some time for themselves to rest and recharge. I'm not very good about providing myself with respite care.

Since everything is open on Sundays, there's no sense that we should stop running errands or cleaning the house, or scheduling fun activities for our kids. For a parent, these things aren't necessarily restful though. I do try to not schedule any hours at my paying job(s) during those days, but it does occasionally happen. With either schedule, I still feel busy and run down by the end of every day.

Don't get me wrong, I'm very good at being lazy and procrastinating, but that's not the same thing as rest. God didn't rest on the seventh day because He had been playing Clash of Clans in between creating the world, He rested because He had actually spent time, energy, and power in creating something truly good.

Maybe we've given up the respite because we aren't working hard at something good, but despite that, we still need a mental, and sometimes physical break from the activity around us. We need to recharge and regroup and rest our minds.

You may (or may not) have noticed that Fiction Friday hasn't been happening lately. It's not that I haven't had the time, it's more that I haven't had that time to just sit and think and be creative. I've been over-scheduling my hours, and under-scheduling my rest time, and ignoring the few minutes in between in favor of escapism over creative thinking.

Because of a change in my primary work-at-home job, I won't be able to work any hours next week, and I don't have any secondary jobs currently scheduled. What will I do with this extra time? Will I use it to truly rest my mind or body? Will I use it to complete more good activities like raking the leaves and finally getting around to cleaning the bathrooms again? Whichever way I end up going, hopefully I will find some mental rest and creativity during this upcoming week.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Morally Pure - Spiritually Empty

Luke 11:24-26 (NIV) “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ 25When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. 26Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”

Three little verses slapped into the middle of Luke, between many other more profound statements, so why am I writing a post on it? Why is this section of Scripture important in today's world? Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees, but our churches are full of Pharisees today, and we've been blinded to our own moralistic tendencies for far too long.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Doing Life Together

My oldest son asked me the other day if we could fill our house up with 50 or 100 or 1,000 kids. It's a great question. Many years ago, large families lived in much smaller houses than what my 4-person family lives in today. We welcome guests and extended family, but my oldest obviously has a very outgoing personality and would love to have friends over everyday or more people in our house on a regular basis.

We're at that point where we're wondering what to do with the many blessings that God has brought to us since moving to North Carolina. We have a much larger home, but does that mean we should be having more children of our own, or trying again to become a certified foster home, or something completely different (although the home is larger, there are still only 3 official bedrooms, so these options would likely be mutually exclusive).

Monday, October 26, 2015

Things a Preschooler should be learning

I've had a few questions from well-meaning parents about how their child is doing developmentally in the preschool class that I teach at our homeschool co-op. While I am more than happy to answer any behavioral or social concerns that they may have, the questions that I feel most uncomfortable answering are the academic questions. Because what should a preschooler really be learning academically?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Fair Fun

Tuesday marked the third (and final for us) day in a row of visiting the NC State Fair. We had a blast each day, and did a lot of really fun "field trip" type things, as well as the usual fair food and rides. We spent a ton of money and did a lot of free things as well. Overall, it was definitely worth it, although it may take me a full three days to recover.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Pretty Outside, Ugly Inside

I got to thinking last night about something I read in the teacher's guide for my Kindergartner's lesson plan over the new few days. It talked about drawing a self portrait and then they would dictate some "inside" character qualities. The point of the art project was to talk about a Bible character (Saul) who was pretty on the outside, but ugly on the inside. And it got me thinking about whether I wanted to teach that to my 5 year old.

Because the truth is, that we are all ugly on the inside. Some of us may appear pretty on the inside, because we're nice to others, or we give money or time to various charities. Some of us may appear ugly on the inside because we're angry or sad or selfish. But, the truth is, that not one person on this planet is truly pretty on the inside, at least without Jesus.

That's the truth that Jesus argued with the Pharisees about. That's the truth that un-churched Americans argue with "Christians" about. That's the truth that we will have to face up to one day. Our ugliness, sin, and selfishness is pervasive. If left unchecked, we will falter and die on our own.

I think I will have him do a self-portrait. I won't edit what he tells me about his inside, or what to draw, and I won't talk about being pretty or ugly on the inside or outside. If he puts bad things down on the inside, I will remind him what Jesus did on the cross, and we'll talk about that amazing grace.

Love like a waterfall
Grace I have found
Flowing and washing me
Priceless abounds

I don't want to drown
In self-pity or pride
I just want to swim
Along Jesus's side

Lost and alone when
His grace rescued me
Cleansed me and held me
His pain set me free

Now I can know that his Love
Covers me from my sin
Won't you let Grace
Enter in

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Beauty of Individuality

During lunch at our homeschool co-op, I was chatting with one of the moms as she was nursing her littlest one. We were just making small talk, but were both interested in the individuality of our kids. She has a hard time because her 3 year old, who I teach in the preschool class, seems to have a better memory for certain things than her Kindergartener. I teach the preschool during one class, and she teachers her Kindergartner and my Kindergartner during another class. She was also mentioning the fact that my 5 year old can read, but many of the K-1st graders can't. I was quick to point out that my 5 year old can't draw: anything. I half-joked that my 2.5 year old and 5 year old complete identical art projects.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

When Things Are Going Well

It's easy to remember God when you're going through the darkest pain.
You can shout and yell and ask for help and He saves you yet again.
Saves you from your doubt and rage and selfish ways.
Rescues you from sin and heals your body, soul, and mind.

Then, when things are going well and you feel whole and healed,
You continue on your own way and ignore what He has done.
You thank yourself for all you've earned and neglect what He has given.
You check the boxes, sign the checks, and admire all you have.

Subtly and sneakily, pride and sin creep in around you.
Tempting you and testing you and asking you whether God really said...
Did He really say you couldn't do this, or earn it on your own?
Do you need Him now, or are you too busy, can't you just keep on?

It's difficult to say what God has planned for you.
Does He want you to talk to someone, go somewhere, do something?
Are you listening to what He says, or doing what you want to do?
Think back to those days, remember how He saves, and think of Him
First and always.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Alternative Schools

Since we recently moved back to North Carolina from Louisville, KY and made the decision to homeschool for this year, my heart towards educating all children has been broken several times. In the news recently, a new alternative school in Jefferson County (the school district where I taught for almost a semester in a low-performing public middle school, and volunteered with young adults who had been in the prison system and wanted a second change at education) has been in the news over the last few days.

Teachers locked in closets, cars stolen, violence including adults and students being lifted up and thrown in the air during altercations. 90% of teachers have already asked for a transfer at the end of the school year. 86% of teachers feel unsafe.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Happy Columbus Day!

History has always been written by the "winners" in the great culture race. I completely forgot that my husband would be off today for the Federal bank holiday of Columbus Day. It's not a day that we really celebrate much anymore. I think, as a white female who can trace some of her descendants back to the first Pilgrims arriving in Jamestown, that I'm grateful this new world was discovered. However, as a person who cares passionately about preserving culture, race, and heritage, I can also be ashamed about a lot of the sad history of the Americas.

Rather than getting upset about the plight of Native Americans, or the misuse of our natural resources, or any number of other atrocities that have taken place in this New World, I'm choosing to focus on the redemption of our country.

I'm grateful that we can celebrate our heritage freely in this country, no matter our race, culture, or religion. I'm grateful that we can support cultural freedom in other countries through the Internet and the use of micro-finance, education, and support. I'm grateful that our country has a stable government, even if they don't accomplish much. I'm grateful that, despite our disagreement on certain topics, we live in relative peace in this country. I'm grateful that we've been blessed with the financial resources to be able to bless people in other countries with food, school supplies, and more. I'm grateful for our public education system, as broken as it may be, education is still something of value in our country. I'm grateful for sanitary water, fresh and abundant food, and being able to live in a large comfortable house with access to libraries, parks, museums, and more.

Whether you get Columbus Day off, have a "fall break" now or in the future, or whether you're stuck working somewhere indoors on this beautiful fall day, I hope you take a moment to give thanks. Not specifically for Christopher Columbus or the legacy he left, but for the country you live in and the people who have helped it become what it is today. Let's work together to make it a better New World for tomorrow.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Finding Community - Part 3 - Town or Local Area

The main thing to look for, if you are moving to a new area and looking for community, is the number of local businesses. If you drive 2 miles down a commercial street you should be looking for at least 50% local names. I have nothing against Applebee's and Starbucks, but if you can't also see them alongside local coffee bars and restaurants, then that should tell you something about the people in the community. Either the people living there are only looking for a standard of food or beverage rather than something interesting and unique, or there isn't enough community to spread the word about good, local establishments for them to stay in business.

The big caveat on this is that I would exclude retail shops, because of the limited available of low-priced inventory, you are likely not to see very many clothing or home goods shops that are local unless they are resale stores. What you should see are locally named secondhand stores, coffee shops, accountant firms, physicians, and bars and restaurants.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Finding Community - Part 2 - Your Own Neighborhood

If you are moving to a new neighborhood, you may be wondering how to tell whether your neighborhood is likely to have community or rather if it will just be a place to sleep. If you already live in a neighborhood and are not planning to move, you may be wondering how to create more of a community feel.

What to look for

Monday, October 05, 2015

Finding Community in a New Area - Part 1 - Church

Recent dinner discussions and answering friendly questions have caused me to think about what makes community. I may have mentioned some of this in previous blog posts, but I've really been considering the topic of community after moving across the country to a completely new town and completely immersing myself in a way I never had before.

How do you know beforehand if your neighborhood or town has community?

This question is especially applicable to people who have moved, or may be moving to a new area, and it's something I didn't really think about consciously before we bought our house.

We lived in an apartment in "the nicer area of town" for several months before purchasing our house in a less desirable area of town. We had very few friends in the nicer area of town, and had trouble finding community at any of the various churches we visited, even when we already knew people attending those churches.

We were strongly considering several houses, but they just didn't have the right "feeling" for the neighborhood we wanted to spend the next 6+ years of our life in. Then, in what I had originally scoffed at as my husband's old small-town suburb, we found that different feeling.

We suddenly found a church that had a true community feeling to it. People eat together, laugh together, participate in the service, are led by the Spirit, and serve together. We found a neighborhood that had a true community feeling to it. Neighbors hang out on the cul-de-sac, pick up mail packages, and tend each other's gardens while they are on vacation. We even found a town that has community - people say hello as they drive down the street, there are fundraisers at local restaurants, regular community events with a huge turnout, and local charities that truly care about making a change.

So, if you're moving to a new area, how can you determine whether your neighborhood is truly community oriented, or whether you're going to find yourself in a nice, exclusive neighborhood where you enter your garage and exit your garage, and pick up your mail through your car window and never talk to your neighbors? How can you determine whether your church will truly be a community, or just people talking on Sunday and ignoring each other until the following week? How can your determine if your town, suburb, or area of the city will have true community events?

Find the answers, in this three-part blog series. Let's start with a focus on finding community in your local church.

Church Community

I'm not a theologian or church history professor, so please keep in mind that this is only my opinion, and some things to look for so that you "might" find community in a church. This is not an exclusive list, and all these things can be checked off a list by a church without forming true community.


  1. Community or the area of town in the name. Something more specific than Northeast or Southeast, but a church that is truly community focused will either have a very specific area of town (i.e. Stroudwater Christian Church) or the word Community in it's name. Again, this is only an idea that there "may" be community in this church. 
  2. Spirit filled. This may be difficult to tell when you're just visiting, but it's important to determine whether people are participating in the service through God's leading or man's leading. If you're not a Spirit-led Christian yourself, but still looking for this, look at the majority of people's eyes as they worship, and it will quickly become obvious. This is regardless of whether a church claims to be "charismatic" or not. I've been to several charismatic churches where it is very obvious that the majority of the people there are being led by their own desires, and not a true sense of worship, prayer, or community. 
  3. Fellowship time. This may be during the service or before or after, so make sure you find out when all available fellowship times are and check them out. Look for how people greet each other when they already know each other, as well as how people greet you. Look for how people eat together and whether they are open to new faces.
  4. Church size. Anytime you get above 500 or so people, you are going to be losing a sense of community. It's going to be hard to insert yourself into a church that large. You may get to know 10-15% of the people well, but you won't know them personally unless the church does an extremely good job of placing people into smaller communities (whether geographically, through small groups, or even during the service). Large churches certainly have their benefits, but a sense of community is really not one of them.
  5. Church above denomination. A church should be a living, growing entity. A church is made of many parts, and those parts are people, not traditions. A church that focuses only on its denomination, rather than on its body parts (the people in the church) will be unhealthy. If all you hear is what the denomination believes and why they are the best denomination right and votes based on tradition rather than love, it's going to be difficult to find community in that church. I'm not saying that denominational churches don't have community, because I grew up in a Lutheran church that was full of community, but it can't be the only focus of the church. Even non-denominational churches can fall into this trap. We visited a church in our new city, that was so focused on church planting, that they were ignoring the need for community in their current church. Even the story that was told in favor of church planting left me thinking they were missing something (the story was about "lighthouses" that saved people and then ended up eventually turning too inward focused into "clubs" so they had to keep building new "lighthouses" - but my thought is why not stop building lighthouses and focus on fixing all the lighthouses already built?)
  6. Service focus. A church that is in a community and has community will have opportunities to serve both inside and outside the church. If you've never heard of a need to serve inside or outside the church, ask someone. If they don't seem to know what's going on either, you have either found a church that doesn't follow Christ, or doesn't have community.
  7. Small groups. Whether they call these community groups, cell groups, small groups, or even Bible study, find out whether small groups are offered and join one. You have to meet with people more than a few times a month to truly get to know them.
  8. Make your own. If you live in an area of town that doesn't have community, or if you have visited every church you would consider and not found community, consider making your own. As mentioned before, churches are made of people, not buildings. While you can "get to heaven" by not going to church, you won't be fulfilling God's plan for you on Earth if you sit at home every week. In light of God's sacrifice for us, we can surely "sacrifice" some of our time in making an imperfect church better through our own presence. You don't have to be a pastor or teacher at a church to build community. Greet people you don't know, whether they are already "members" of the church or not - there's no rule that visitors can't greet people. Start your own service in the community and invite other church members. Set up a time outside church to meet with other members. Love people as Christ loved, and follow the Spirit's leading in your own life. 
Again, this is certainly not an exhaustive list, and there are churches that don't do everything perfectly that still have community. What makes your church have that feeling of community? If it doesn't, what can you do to make it better?

Friday, October 02, 2015

Fiction Friday - Woodland Creatures - a short story

            Carmen woke early on Saturday morning, breathing a deep, relaxed sigh. Saturdays were the best days of her life. Monday through Friday she articulated, gesticulated, frantically took notes, ran wild missions around town, and slept in her tiny, cramped studio apartment in the city. Reading the dry depositions of a lawyer’s life in addition to all of the physically stressful work kept her up late in the night.
            Nearly every Friday afternoon, however, when she felt the strain, pressure, and emotions of the week wearing down her buoyant soul, she turned her thoughts and plans to the one person that she knew could ease the daily grind. She would leave her cell phone in the desk drawer and pack a small traveling bag to go visit Lexia at their country villa.
            This morning, like most weekend mornings in the country, Carmen gazed out of the brilliantly clear picture window beside her bed.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

How to Never Get a Late Fee

It will happen one day. You'll sit down to pay bills and realize that you've missed one. You'll review your fool-proof plan to never get a late fee and realize that something slipped through the cracks. A change in routine, a delayed or smaller than usual paycheck, or even just a bill that never arrived when it was supposed to. Sometime in your life, believe it or not, you will be charged a late fee.