Broken is Beautiful

“You’re a 30 year old mom of two who teaches elementary school; college students don’t want to hang out with you.” That’s what the mean girl in my head told me as I looked at the info for my church’s international student ministry. Not old enough to be motherly, not young enough to be hip. I am at a stage in life that can feel awkward, but I knew the mean girl was wrong, in fact God had called me to this church for this exact purpose. Knowing the mean girl is wrong and silencing her can be different things though.

Socializing is not something that comes naturally to me. I am a very confident person…until i’m not. Put me in a professional setting and I am self-assured and collected, certain of my God gifted abilities. Ask me to dig into a deep philosophical question or summarize a complex idea and I’ll jump at the opportunity, thankful to utilize my God given intelligence. Give me a practical need and I will strive to meet it assured of God’s calling for me as a servant. But ask me to interact with people I don’t know well in a social setting? Suddenly i’m in fifth grade again and the mean girls are watching for me to do the wrong thing so they can laugh. I have to fight the urge to withdraw and force myself to engage.

I am comfortable with who I am but I am not always confident in my value to a world I increasingly don’t understand…. It is only by recognizing I was not made for this world that I am able to embrace my deeply flawed person as a vessel of a holy and perfect God’s will. My brokenness is the very attribute which allowed me to be shaped into a new creation and so it is only in my brokenness that I can find beauty. When I reach out in spite of my inabilities and insecurities it is in that act of self-denial that I see Christ (because it is certainly not me). Each time I push against what the world has told me I am I find strength in the action and rest in the obedience.

I am very thankful I silenced the mean girl. I spent this afternoon hanging out with one of our lovely international friends and watching my children begin to understand another culture in a meaningful way. We would have missed a blessing God had for us.

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Assessing Walt’s Worldview

Everyone has a worldview, a way of thinking about or perceiving the world through the lens of their own experiences, ideologies and misconceptions. I am a follower of Christ, as such I attempt to perceive life through a biblical worldview. I do not always succeed. I am, however, able with mindful examination to discern the way I *should* view things when I stop and try to run things through the filter of Scripture. Spoiler alert, I often get it pretty wrong before doing this and still likely get it wrong after but with each pass through I am hopefully getting closer to the truth.

Accepting that everyone has a worldview that changes the way they see reality & therefore the way they present reality makes it strange that I rarely stop to consider the worldview presented in my entertainment. Maybe it’s because in our culture entertainment is often prided as being “mindless” so of course thinking to heavily about it would be silly right?

I also happen to be a huge Disney fan, a Disney Nerd if you will, who loves that shining beacon of capitalism and wholesome family fun; from the parks to the movies and everything in between. But what if the worldview of my favorite mouse creator is at odds with my own? What if, by sharing my favorite films and stories without deeper discussion, I am slowly indoctrinating my children to see the world in a way I believe is false?

I was reading an article in the current issue of “The Classical Difference” called “The Jungle Book Unearths Cultural Treasure” that used Kipling’s Jungle Book & the 1967 and 2016 Disney movie versions to highlight the underlying worldview shifts that subtly change the message of each retelling when it hit me that good ole Walt Disney and I don’t see eye to eye!

****I am using Walt Disney as a figurehead for the Disney corporation, obviously he did not write each movie and he himself was purported to be a Christian but the Disney corporation is made of members of society and therefore reflect the worldview of the time and place around them in their work.****

As I started thinking through many of my favorite Disney films I found big ideas I just can’t get behind when taken out of a cartoon context…so why I am I cool with them as long as they are voiced by a colorful, non-existent character?

Some of these ideas include:

Aladdin: The End Justifies the Means, I mean we are cool with Aladdin stealing to eat because he’s poor but then we are cool with him lying and creating a fake identity because… well i’m not sure why?

The Jungle Book: Life is about having fun and a friend you can trust, we can all get along if we just ignore the parts of each other’s lives we don’t like.  Not “bad” stuff but from a Christian perspective pretty false.

The Little Mermaid: You can make deals with the devil, run away from home, turn your back on your family, marry strange men and it will all work out! It’s about love right? You know love between a teenage runaway and the 1st random sailor she sees usually is a great idea! True love conquers all, also true love can be found simply by looking at someone!

I could definitely keep going but you get the idea. See the fact that I am looking at the world as a place with very clearly defined good & evil means I am going to have different ideas about what is right and wrong than someone who thinks it’s open for interpretation.  We can’t see eye to eye because we are starting from totally different places.

This doesn’t mean I can not enjoy a Disney movie or even find good messages in them! (There are many messages that can be reconciled with a Christian worldview) What it does mean is that I absolutely MUST examine the worldview and the messages and even more importantly I have to discuss them with my children. I have to model critically thinking about even “harmless” entertainment. I have a responsibility to show them that even if something is enjoyable it can be false and truth must weigh more than pleasure in our valuations.

I will continue to enjoy Disney, and other types of entertainment, with my children but hopefully with a bit more intentional discussion and calling out of wrong thinking when I see it. I look forward to building bridges between the stories they enjoy and the Word!

 

 

 

 

 

Shoebox Packing

One of my favorite charity activities every year has long been packing shoeboxes! I LOVED the advice I got last year from this blog “Unsolicited Advice About Shoeboxes” and it changed WHAT I pack but not so much HOW I pack.

If you have tips share them in the comments!

Here is a diagram of my box for a 5-9 year old boy:

The bottom layer: pack of 8 colorful ink pens, box of colored pencils, unsharpened neon pencils, blue bandana, comb, bar of soap, fat 4X6ish notebook & turned against the side of the box a pouch with a toothbrush, toothbrush cover & toothpaste in it. 20161029_185810

Top Layer: Melamine bowl with cars on it (least weird design I could find) and a matching sturdy cup turned sideways to fit in bowl. Inside the cup is a blue led flashlight with batteries in it and a three pack of new extra batteries, a pencil sharpener and 3 large erasers. Next to the bowl is a green string backpack folded up, a 3 pack of green washcloths folded, a squishy ball that looks like Earth, a pair of sunglasses with a 3 pack of decorative striped and polka dot socks folded through the middle and finally hard candy and bubble gum sprinkled everywhere it can fit.

Tucked in between the backpack & washcloths (so hard to see): a small squishy soccer ball, plastic gold coins, 2 self inking stampers.

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Lid can close securely but will still be rubber banded for extra closure. To be added is a personal note from my son & our prepaid shipping form.

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Thank You

 

Every day you work hard to provide for our family but that’s not what makes you amazing.

You get down on the floor to wrestle, change the princess dresses, play hockey in the drive and run around the playground but that’s not what makes you a terrific father.

You help me demonstrate every single day what a loving, healthy marriage looks like, that fun and love, apologies and respect are all part of the daily give and take but that’s not the thing that makes you such a titan among dads.

What makes you the example I thank the Lord daily for is the bible verses in your email, it’s the passion for understanding God’s will, it’s the desire to do what he calls even when it’s not what you “want”.

Our children are so blessed to have you, science can show the impact of a father on almost every area of a person’s life from self esteem to education and earning potential but it can not quantify the impact a Christ following father has on eternity. The seeds you are sowing in our family will sow seeds in their families and so on through the generations. I am thankful for the quanitifable impact you have on our kids but more so for the things that can’t be seen, those are the true treasures.

 

Stop Wasting Valentine’s Day

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Memes and blogs have been choking my newsfeed from women who claim THEY aren’t buying into traditional Valentine’s day hype because they are ok with just a card and chocolates (or taco bell according to one meme) or just a regular date, nothing fancy.

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news but ….you are still buying into it. Just because you aren’t settings your expectations high does not change that you have them.

I actually don’t buy into Valentine’s Day. I never really have. I looked at it from a historical perspective and thought it seemed a really strange day to celebrate romance so as a teen I dutifully received the roses and chocolates and jewelry from boys each year but the joke was on them because I wouldn’t have cared if I didn’t.

By college I told gentlemen I dated that Valentine’s Day really wasn’t my thing and I don’t like fresh flowers or wear much jewelry and chocolate should really be an anytime/ all the time gift but it tastes better when I pay half price after a holiday. When I found my husband he thankfully shared my views on the day and it passed without recognition most years except once when we decided other people spend money on Vday so we could totally go buy a Costco membership and call it a gift to ourselves.

A few years ago though I realized I was wasting Valentine’s Day, thanks to our pastor who really emphasizes that our lives need to be about service, starting with random acts of kindness expecting nothing in return. Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to show love to strangers without making them worry you are crazy!

We still don’t go on a date, buy each other stuff or even do cards but my husband and I totally celebrate Valentine’s Day now! We use it as a day to be mindful and go out into the community sharing Christ’s love and expecting nothing in return. I buy chocolates and roses and ribbons and make a few dozen Valentine’s “gifts” complete with scriptures of love then we head to places like malls with lots of people and let ourselves (and our kids!) be led to those who need some extra love that day.

If you feel loved every other day of the year try using Valentine’s Day as a day to show love to OTHER people, people you don’t normally show love to, maybe even people you don’t know! I promise you will not feel like you wasted Valentine’s Day!

 “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” I John 4:9-10

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*Somehow women choosing not to celebrate is ok but men get painted as awful if they allow it so before my poor husband catches any heat, our decision not to celebrate Valentine’s day was mindful, deliberate and led by me, he even tried some small gestures in our early years of marriage but he knows me well enough to see I meant it and that stuff was wasted on me .* 

 

Teaching my Kids Truth AND Tolerance

Our society loves to throw around the word tolerance. It’s become synonomous with “accepting everything as right or true”. Sorry folks, you need to break out the dictionary because tolerance only deals with how much you can put up with an opposing view point, it does not in anyway mean you accept it as valid. [Actual Definition: “The ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.”]

I want my kids to be tolerant but also not to accept false things in the name of “tolerance”. It’s a tricky path but for the Christian a 100% necessary one. Jesus preached against adultery but still loved the sinners caught in it. I love alot of people I disagree with but that does not change that they are wrong (just like people who love me when i’m wrong). Being tolerant of their views can NOT look the same as agreeing with their views, I can not knowingly support something that is wrong but I CAN knowingly love someone who is wrong. I am called to love my fellow sinners. I am raising my children in a society that hates truth (because truth is offensive to those who live in contradiction to it) and it would be poor parenting on my part to let everyone else’s desire for political correctness overshadow truth.

One of my favorite movie quotes of all time comes from Disney’s Mulan when the emperor says, “No matter how the wind howls, the mountain cannot bow to it.” Truth is unchanging, it is not a societal construct that can be changed to suit our moods.

I am raising my children not to speak about things they do not understand (the opposite of our culture which encourages children, and adults for that matter, to speak loudly and frequently regardless of whether they have any actual understanding of a topic). We forget that freedom of speech is not a compulsion to speak! They will not be jumping into the bandwagon with the Argumentum ad Populum crowd and proclaiming they know best because “a whole bunch of other people agree so it must be true!”. I see this far too often but popular does not equal correct.

My children are being taught to think for themselves but to make sure those thoughts are backed by facts before they share them. I was taught to think for myself but also to have deferrence for facts and life experience and wisdom and I am thankful for that, in fact without an open mind AND closed mouth I may have never become a Christian. People can only hear what they understand but they can only understand what they stop to actually hear. I want my children to grow up listening, knowing they can speak up anytime they need, but having the maturity not to always exercise that right.

Our society has created so many false dicotohmies that sometimes it seems like there are only two choices: religion or science, republican or democrat, christian or atheist, pro this, anti that, the list could go a while but there is no actual duel between truth and tolerance, in fact I think they coexist perfectly, you can know and speak truth AND be tolerant of others views. Telling someone you think they are wrong is not actually an act of aggression, in fact, if done for the right reasons, in the right way, it is an act of love!

Disagree, people, stand up for what you believe in but don’t hate those who disagree with you. The hatred in our society is an overwhelming force. Don’t participate simply because it’s popular.

 

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Stop Overthinking Kindergarten.

*This blog is a letter about me, to me but it might apply to you too*

I’m a former Kindergarten teacher. I have a 4.5 year old. People started asking me about his school plans when he was 3. I’ve been stressed out everytime I think about it for a full year and a half.

The way i’ve been stressing about this you would think that when you choose a Kindergarten you are signing a contract to remain there for the rest of their school career and it will directly impact all areas of their future.

I went to public school most of my education career. I taught at a Christian school. I have friends who do both, I’m home preschooling. My son would likely qualify for a tuition free gifted school nearby. Then there is full day, half day, affordability, maturity, convenience.

I’ve driven myself crazy…

We’ve thought he’d need an extra year because of his social anxiety..but then I watch him in his classes at church where he loves his peers and teachers and learning and fits in just fine….

I’ve thought about homeschooling his first year and putting him in in first grade but I also think about the experiences he might miss and the relationships he could be building…

I know all about Kindergarten readiness testing, i’ve performed a hundred of them at least.

I know about the pros and cons of public and private and classical and montessori and young fives and older fives…

I’ve looked at the budget and made fearful plans toward homeschooling because the school I feel God leading us too just doesn’t seem to fit in those numbers.. I can’t see the math. But then my husband reminds me that literally every good, God led decision of our marriage has been that way. God knows my weakness and tendency to want to plan and control and handle it all. He grows me by showing me situations I can not figure out, things I see as impossible and then time and time again making it possible. Making it beautiful and glorifying to Him.

So guess what.

I don’t know.

I’m an educator with a 4.5 year old and I think we know what school he’s going to because we feel like God has drawn us there.

But I don’t know when for sure. Will we delay him or homeschool him or just put him in in the fall? I don’t know.

I also have realized that’s ok.

Just like everything else I try to rush God into revealing for me so I can feel in control, I need to let go.

I am letting go.

God will direct out path.

He will make the timing clear.

He will provide the finances we need.

I just have to stop overthinking it and remember that it’s just Kindergarten.

So I am.

 

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