I'm so glad you stopped by! What you will find here are musings from my own personal Bible study, quotes from authors whose work I respect and other random items I come across. I am a Christian woman, the wife of a pastor, and the mother of four teenagers/adults. My deepest desire in life is to live a life that points those around me to the cross of Jesus.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

I'm Moving!!

I'm in the process of attempting to get a little more "blog-focused" and (for a variety of reasons that would bore you!) I am moving the blog to Wordpress.  I'll continue to share my updates on Facebook so hopefully you can still read what catches your eye!

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Taking a Dare!

I know from conversations that I am not the only blog writer who occasionally draws a blank when trying to come up with material for a new blog entry. Besides this blog, I also keep a personal journal for those things that are not meant for consumption by the general public.  In an attempts to "build community" with other bloggers - specifically other blogging moms - I am a member of a website called "Bloggy Moms" and they have decided to do  something that I think is kind of fun - they are issuing one writing prompt each day for 2012.  I'm a little late to the party but having read through some of the samples, I think this could be interesting!  So here goes.

In today's prompt, I'm supposed to write about something I persevered through.  I can't really choose one specific thing.  Partly because I don't know if others would agree that what I dealt with required perseverance.  Partly because there are some things I've persevered through that belong in my private journal, not on the web.

I'm currently going through something that's going to require some perseverance.  What's waiting on the other side will lead to some very positive things, the most important of which is the strengthening of a relationship.  To get there, though, I have to confront some things about myself that are not necessarily pleasant, choose to change some behaviors that are a negative influence, and enter into some conversations that need to be handled very gently.

Do I have what it takes to persevere?  Maybe.  I got married and had my first child while still in college but managed to finish my education, getting my degree and never taking so much as a semester off.  Some might say that is perseverance.  I have a family member who is a recovering addict and we managed to rebuild a healthy relationship after he got clean.  Definitely some perseverance required there.

But do I have what it takes to make some needed changes, to confront some of my own shortcomings and try to make improvements?  I'd like to think so.  I know I want this more than I've wanted anything else and some baby steps have been taken with a very positive outcome.  I guess only time will tell.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

No More Turning a Blind Eye

Imagine a culture where sons are expected to spend time in a monastery after each family death so that he can "make merit" and earn a life cycle in heaven for the deceased.  Those same sons are not expected to be loyal fathers or husbands and the law does not protect the wives and children that they frequently, with little or no excuse, walk out on.

What about the daughters?  They are expected to be the responsible ones, to provide for their parents as mom and dad age.  They can either bring the family prestige by fulfilling their familial duty, or they can bring the family shame by failing to provide.  No pressure!

Imagine this - a man decides he's bored with marriage and walks out, leaving a wife and children behind. If she's lucky, the jilted wife has a 12th grade education.  It's more likely that her education is 9th grade or lower and she has absolutely no marketable skills so a job is going to be difficult to find.  In desperation, she and her children return to the village of her youth and move in with her parents.  Not only is she not providing for them, they are now having to take care of her and her offspring.  This is the ultimate in shame. 

Now let's imagine in that same village that there is a family who has a home with cement walls instead of wood and a tin roof instead of thatch, all of it provided by their daughter who is away in the big city.  This responsible young woman sends money and gifts home on a regular basis - even things like household appliances! - and has even come to visit once bringing with her a handsome, wealthy foreign man who was seen in the bar buying rounds for everyone.  This is a family that takes great pride in how well their daughter is providing for them.  She is a good daughter and brings honor to her parents.

The abandoned young woman is desperate to provide for her family so lavishly and turn their shame to pride.  So she does what the other dutiful daughter did and heads to the big city to get a job in the bar.  Her work responsibilities are simple and she knows exactly what she is getting into.  She needs to convince the men at the bar to buy her drinks (she has a monthly quota to fill) and she must convince a few of them to pay a $20 fee to the bar so that they can enjoy her company after hours (another monthly quota).  During her shift, she dances on a stage in a string bikini.  This is a woman from a culture that values modesty and she's probably never even worn shorts in public before this and now she is displaying her body in a string bikini.  At an appointed time each night, she is ordered to remove her top.  The customers are supposed to tip her $40 after she has rendered the expected services.  If she makes her quotas and her customers tip her appropriately, a woman can make as much as $3,000 a month, most of which she sends home to her family who can then hold their heads up high because they have a "good" daughter.

I wish this was fiction, believe me. I wish that I wasn't telling you about the actual cultural situation in Thailand.  This weekend, while attending a women's conference, I had the honor of hearing Annie Dieselberg speak.  She and her husband Jeff and their kids are missionaries with the  American Baptist Churches to Bangkok, Thailand.  Their focus is getting the women out of these deplorable working situations.  But merely getting these women out of prostitution isn't enough.  After all, they need to provide for their parents, remember?

NightLight ministries provides jobs, benefits, free child care, job training classes, leadership classes, Bible classes and a chance to make more than minimum wage and provide for their families.  No, it isn't the $3,000 a month they would make prostituting themselves.  But it provides far more dignity and self-respect!

Lest you think this is a problem in another part of the world,  NightLight has two branches here in the states - Los Angeles, California and Atlanta, Georgia.  The fact that they are here in the states screams a truth that breaks my heart because their mission is the nearly the same as the NightLight "branch" in Thailand - rescuing women from sexual slavery.  True, the women here in the U.S. don't usually walk into the situation with their eyes wide open like their counterparts in Bangkok.  But the degradation and hopelessness is every bit as real.  

Yes, human beings are being trafficked right here in the U.S.  And I can't simply sit back and feign ignorance.  I can't "unlearn" what I learned this weekend and I have to get involved somehow.  Relocating to one of the cities where NightLight is currently working is simply not realistic.  But I have to find a way to get involved.  In my heart, it would be absolutely unacceptable to know what I know and do nothing.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

"Our" Home

A young lady I know posted a statement on her Facebook tonight that did me a world of good.  She was referring to the fun that some of the kids in our Youth Group had hanging out at our house tonight after their weekly Bible Study and she said she loved hanging out at "our" house.

I have talked about our new home in previous blog posts.  I love it!  It's old and has it's quirks but I knew from the first time that we walked through it that this house was meant to be ours.  I know from conversations with family members that I'm not the only one who feels that way.  No, it's not in the nicest neighborhood.  Then again, I'm not sure we're an "upscale, posh" neighborhood kind of family.  

Hubby took his first youth ministry in January 1993 and from that point on one or both of us have been employed in a field that put us in contact with teenagers. As our own kids grew into their teenage years, that just meant a wider pool of teenagers for us to get to know.  Because of the jobs hubby and I held and our own kids, our homes have known a fairly steady stream of teens. This new house seems to attract them in even larger numbers with more regular consistency than our previous home.  My hope has been that it would be a place that kids felt safe to be themselves.  I wanted them to feel welcome to forage for snacks, pop a DVD in, find a television show, whatever!  

After reading the statement I mentioned at the beginning of this post, my first thought was 'my job is done here.' And I told her that!  I was reminded of two very important "quotes" that I hold near and dear to my heart.  The first comes from the pen of Forest Witcraft - "A hundred years from now, it will not matter what kind of car I drove, what kind of house I lived in, how much money I had in the bank...but the world may be a better place because I made a difference in the life of a child."

The other important truth comes from scripture.  In Mark 9:36 & 37 we read, "He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”  Granted, teenagers are not "little children" but I'm sure that the principle still applies.  So I'll deal with the extra dirty dishes and the food vanishing a little faster than I expect.  If it makes one teen who is not biologically mine feel safe in my home then I'm happy!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Truth be told . . .

As a teacher, I consistently run into people who assume that I only work with high school, middle school or college age students out of duress.  The looks I get when I assure them that I enjoy students in Middle School through College are pretty priceless.  It's as though I've suddenly grown a third eye or sprouted a horn out of my forehead.  And then I simply compound the issue by telling the person that I find it laborious to work with students below about 5th grade.  It's not that I don't enjoy one-on-one time with younger kids - I adored that time with my own four children and continue to do so with the niece and nephews- but large groups of students in the early elementary age-group is absolutely exhausting for me whereas large groups of students from middle school up is exhilarating!

What truly breaks my heart is the fact that it's almost unacceptable for me to say that I do not necessarily enjoy working with classrooms full of elementary students.  But when people say that they don't enjoy working with teens or pre-teens, that's completely understandable.  Why is that?  Do teens need less encouragement or support from the adults around them?  Definitely not.  Are they challenging to deal with?  Absolutely!!  They are starting to develop the ability to voice opinions that differ from the adults they know and they aren't always polite when doing so.

My experience has proven time and time again that teenagers not only enjoy meeting challenges, they also love to hear that the adults who work with them -teachers, coaches, directors in performing arts activities, etc. - are proud of the work they've done.  And let's be honest - their age and physical ability make them capable of more complex activities than their elementary counterparts.

Truth be told, I have a deep respect and admiration for teachers who work with elementary age students (mostly because I have absolutely no idea how they do it!).  As for me, I will continue to enjoy working with teenagers.  I will continue to set the bar high for them and let them know just how crazy proud I am when they exceed my expectations.  If I can convince just one teenager that there is an adult that cares about them, I will consider my life a success.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Holding on To the Truth

I do not feel obligated to keep people as Facebook friends.  I know, I know.  For many people the goal of Facebook is to see just how many "friends" they can have.  But I have been known to clean house occasionally, removing friends that I no longer encounter or have reason to chat with via the internet.  And on a few occasions, I have been known to get rid of Facebook connections when those people start becoming a detriment to my thoughts or my perspective on life.

I just recently went through the latter experience.  This person has had a VERY rough few years. But this person has allowed some really horrid experiences to make her a very bitter person.  She sees nothing good in her own life and does her best to make sure that no one else sees anything good in their own existence.  We hadn't chatted in quite some time and for some reason she just realized that we had left Pennsylvania and were living in Iowa.  She asked what I was up to career-wise and when I mentioned that I have a collection of part-time or seasonal jobs her reaction was laced with venom - "Well you're everyone's lackey aren't you!  Always taking orders from everyone!"  Actually, she used a much more "colorful" word than lackey but I won't put it in print!

There is much about my work situation that I love - working with teens and college students in the theater world, teaching at the collegiate level, etc. - but it can get exhausting at those times of the year when I'm running hard and fast with more than one of my part-time jobs.  Would I like a little more "control" in the workplace?  Maybe.  But with more control comes more responsibility and that can be annoying.  

Prior to speaking with her, I saw no reason to be dissatisfied with my work situation.  Yes, more money would be nice, but I love the jobs I work which is always as important (or more important) than money.  But after her little dig, I started doubting everything. With little effort, I started finding negative with each work situation I encounter.  Thankfully, the Holy Spirit provided me with some really positive experiences in one of those jobs and it quickly reminded me why I am doing what I am doing.  

The "friend" I mentioned before kept our Facebook conversation going, taking every opportunity to shred my sense of contentment.  So I deleted her.  She didn't take it well, sending me a Facebook message telling me that she was simply trying to push me to try to "make something of my life."  She went on to say that she understood that I might not like what she had to say but "sometimes the truth hurts".  What she didn't understand was she has no clue what the truth is about my life.

She commented that I had musical and theatrical talent and should be using it for something more meaningful than working with some small-town community college and podunk high school.  My skill, according to her, is being wasted if I do anything with it other than perform.

The truth?  I have former students who STILL call me mom and have stayed in touch for years.  They occasionally seek my counsel or kindly accept it even when they don't ask!  I have numerous friends with whom I have shared performance experiences that are a great source of encouragement to me and make sure to offer a sincere "break a leg" each time they know a show that I am involved with is taking the stage.  I have colleagues that treat me with respect and make coming to work every day a joy.  

If all I leave behind me is a legacy of students who know that somebody cares about them, I'm fine with that.  Despite what my former Facebook friend thinks, that will definitely mean that I have "made something of my life."