A Personal Letter

Dear Friends, Today I offer a personal letter – and a confession of sorts – to those of you who know me and also to those of you I have never met, but take the time to read my blog. Thank you! I find myself in a somewhat dark season right now, a time when I feel like I am going nowhere and unable to accomplish much. Even writing a blog feels difficult. I find myself posting less and the blogs I do write feel hollow. My mind feels like it’s stuck in neutral and has been for over 8 months. That’s when my life took a “detour” with my 89-year-old mom moving in with us. Immediately the pace of my life slowed down. I no longer had the freedom to come and go as I pleased or to do much outside the home, except for those activities that could be done with a person in late stage Alzheimer’s. My greatest challenged morphed into how to find contentment in these circumstances –  In doing the same things all day long, day after day.  In trying to be interested in the same limited, circular conversations.  In serving my mother even in the most simplest of tasks.  In maintaining the simplest of schedules in order to accommodate her needs.  In continually having to answer the same questions.  In keeping her safe while allowing for her need to be independent. I consider myself pretty tough. Resilient. I am a Finn with SISU. I have learned how to meet major challenges and to rise up when I have fallen, but God is teaching...

New Beginnings Each Year

I like January. As much as I enjoy the holiday season, I relish the chance to slow down, reflect on the year gone by and to ponder the up and coming New Year. I look through my previous year’s journals, and then record all the answered prayers. I marvel at God’s faithfulness. I take time to ponder unanswered prayers and unmet goals. Plus I acknowledge my personal failures and shortcomings in the past year. But then I let it all go. I thank God for His faithfulness and allow His grace and forgiveness to wash over me. That’s what January means to me – a new beginning. I think of what the LORD said to the Israelites in Isaiah 43, that they were not to consider the things of old because He was doing a new thing for them. So I put down the past year and anticipate with hope what the New Year may hold and how I can personally walk in newness. What growth will take place in my heart this year? How will I be different by year’s end? Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17) Actually each day offers us a chance to restart…. ….to put aside the previous day, will all its struggles and regrets,  and begin with renewed energy the next day. “His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning and great is His faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3: 22-23) I can’t change the past or erase my mistakes. Nor can I take on tomorrow...

The Gift of Listening

If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.   Proverbs 18:13 Listen first. Then speak. That was Jef Fowler’s  advice to me early in my employment at Veritas Academy. As I would go to him seeking advice on how to address an issue, whether it was with a student, a teacher or a parent, his counsel always began in the same manner: “Make sure to begin by listening attentively. “ I have to admit that at times, I actually believed I needed to get my opinions out quickly in the event I ran out of time. (I think Jef knew this about me!) I learned, however, that the most important way I can actually help another was to give ample time to attentive listening. This gives the person a chance to sort through their feelings and thoughts as they talk through them. Often what they need most is not my “brilliant” advice but a sounding board by which to think through things themselves and to apply what they already knew to be right to their circumstances. If I accomplish nothing else, this in and of itself is the most important aspect of these conversations. Furthermore, by first listening attentively, what I actually have to say is far more applicable to their circumstances. Here’s what Jan Johnson has to say about listening in her inspiring book Invitation to the Jesus Life: “To listen deeply can be a struggle because we have to let go of our agenda and the need to defend ourselves or the desire to persuade people to see things our way....

Teaching Kids the Fear of the Lord—Wisely.

It didn’t go as I had envisioned. Haddie was in tears. Kate clearly did not understand. I had botched what I had intended to teach them about God’s transcendent nature and the “fear of the Lord.” As many of you know, as part of a University-Model School, I teach my grandkids their school lessons at home one day each week. This year I decided to begin each Tuesday with lessons on the attributes of God. For the most part, it has been delightful. We’ve discussed how God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. It’s been fun to break down the words into their Latin roots. We have pondered His sovereignty and His immutable nature. We’ve had great discussions, which I believe have reached their hearts. Last week, by teaching about God’s transcendent nature, I wanted them to view God through a lens of awe and respect. I told them how Moses responded when he saw God in the burning bush and how Daniel responded when he saw God in a vision. I explained to them how both had grown profoundly afraid when they encountered God and then, out of deep reverence, they chose to obey Him. As a follow up, I asked them to respond in their journals to this question: “How does a healthy fear of the Lord make you want to obey?” Joey was close. “If you have a fear of God you will really want to trust Him and believe in Him.” Haddie sat there, with tears in her eyes and fearfully cried out, “I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.”  She was clearly stressed...

Be Content With Today

Years ago, I read this poem in Linda Dillow’s book Calm My Anxious Heart.   It was spring but it was summer I wanted; the warm days and the great outdoors. It was summer but it was fall I wanted; the colorful leaves and the cool dry air. It was fall but it was winter I wanted; the beautiful snow and the joy of the holiday season. It was now winter but it was spring I wanted; the warmth and the blossoming of nature. I was a child but it was adulthood I wanted; the freedom and the respect. I was twenty but it was thirty I wanted; to be mature and sophisticated. I was middle-aged but it was twenty I wanted; the youth and the free spirit. I was retired but it was middle age that I wanted; the presence of mind without limitations. My life was over but I never got what I wanted. The author of this poem, (a 14 year old boy!), has no idea how much his words have touched my heart over the years.   I recently re-read it, and again the inherent wisdom spoke to me deeply.  I think of days gone by when I would wish time away – wanting to get past diapers, past busy kids schedules, past homework, past teen social issues, past stressful work, past conflict, etc.  The older I get however, the more I want to squeeze all that I can out of each day – regardless of what it holds.  Perhaps it’s because I watch my mom whose life is now defined by the second to...

The Presidental Candidates Demonstrate How NOT to Lead

 I can’t wait for this political season to be over -an ugly smear campaign, void of ethics and values.  Regardless of which candidate wins,  you and I wind up on the losing side –  we, the common parents and grandparents, who are trying our best to raise up children in a country that will be led by individuals caught up in devouring each other in order to protect and enrich themselves.   We lose because we don’t really have a valid choice.  Just in case you are wondering — I am mad.  I find no joy in my privilege to vote this election season.  I am tired of watching our candidates engage in this nonsensical contest in which honesty and fairness and morality have no place. Instead it’s a battle about who can gain control, regardless of personal integrity.  We are left to make a choice between who is the “lesser of two evils.” At least we still have a say in how to lead our own families.   Most of us have very little impact on the political state of affairs in our land.  We are merely the recipients of what our politicians determine is best on our behalf.  But we certainly can impact our own families and purpose to lead them with integrity. We can still purpose to raise our boys and girls to become men and women of integrity, morally grounded and rooted in their faith. We can still teach our kids to take the high road when this is seldom modeled for them elsewhere. We can choose the way of the Spirit rather than the way...

Honesty

Like all kids, my grandkids will try to spin the truth at times, especially if it is to their advantage to do so. “I have no idea who did that” turns to “actually I think so-and-so did it” and then to “well he sort of made me do it.” They haven’t figured out the finesse of deception well enough to get by with it consistently and I hope they never do!  I find them pretty easy to still “read.” Evolving stories. Downcast faces. No eye contact. A fretful disposition. This gives me hope that deception has not become a comfortable pattern for them. Honesty was a virtue my father highly esteemed. I pray that my own grandchildren will come to embrace honestly as well and that they will choose to abide by the truth in Proverbs 10:9 that “whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.” Deception is sadly very common among today’s students, especially as they age. As the school’s disciplinarian, the most common misbehavior my husband addresses is cheating, another form of deceit. According to confidential surveys of our nation’s high school students, 74% admit to cheating on an examination at least once in the past year. And that percentage is merely those who admit to it. Here’s a few other facts about academic cheating from the Educational Testing Service Website. Cheating no longer carries the stigma that it used to. Grades, rather than education, have become the major focus of many students. Students who cheat often feel justified in what they are doing. They cheat because they...

The Rule Above All Rules

On Tuesdays I hold “Oma School” for my grandkids who attend Veritas Academy. On the very first Tuesday, I told them we would be abiding by just one rule this year. “Just one?” they whispered, glancing at each other with amusement. “What rule do you think that should be?” I asked them.                “Not interrupt?”                “Pay attention?”                “Work diligently?” I chuckled silently as they chose rules that had applied to them personally the previous school year.  “These are all good ideas,” I replied, “but you are all wrong.” “This year we are going to abide by the one rule spoken by Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:12), ”  I told them. So whatever you wish that others would to you, do also to them. “Now that sounds pretty simple doesn’t it?” I asked them. “But it actually means doing ALL those things you mentioned earlier.” I went on to explain how in Galatians 5:14 this same rule is defined this way: “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  It means thinking of others and not just yourself. It’s choosing honor and justice for those around you as much as you desire it for yourself. Sometimes it’s even choosing grace rather than what you think others deserve. The day played out pretty nicely. I had plenty of opportunity to also acknowledge “golden” moments.  Then each time they interrupted or argued, or chose to not listen to instruction, I...

What a Blessing!

Back in August of 2005, when Veritas Academy first opened its doors, I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of my first grandchild. We didn’t even know if it would be boy or a girl, but we knew that come Christmas, we would hold that baby in our arms and start a new chapter in our lives. And so work began, I dug into my new job, building a school that I really believed in, that I hoped, maybe one day, that precious grandchild would be able to attend. Joey was born in December. That fall, Erin brought him into my office wrapped in a blue and white checked blanket to visit. I remember holding him and praying that maybe some day, maybe, I would have him with me in this place where I had poured my heart. But it seemed like it wasn’t to be. Cam and Erin made it clear that they would be enrolling Joey and their kids in the neighborhood public school. My son Troy and his wife had moved to Kentucky to attend seminary. And Alisa and her husband were struggling with health issues and infertility. Yet, I felt something in me niggling at me to pray. And so pray I did. First, Troy and Stevi made the decision to move back to Austin. Then, Alisa and Peter had a miracle baby. (Follow by, later, another, then another…. and then another.) Then, four years ago, after Joey had completed two years in public school, Erin woke up one morning in a cold sweat feeling definitively that she needed to move Joey to Veritas. At that...

Gentleness

Taking care of my 88-year-old mom, who is afflicted with Alzheimer’s, reminds me of the days when my own kids were toddlers.  The fits. Her need for supervision.  Her efforts to do things independently despite the fact that she can’t.  The spills and accidents.  The need for repeated reminders.   Yesterday had been a particularly difficult day and I needed a fresh perspective, so I decided to replace my grumpy attitude by trying to be grateful instead and by focusing on what God was doing within me in this journey with my mom.   “Thank you for these moments with my mom and thank you for using this time to grow my patience and gentleness,” I wrote in my journal. Immediately as I penned these words, it dawned on me that being gentle was exactly what God was perfecting in me.  Just like with my own kids, being impatient and reacting harshly served only to breed fear and insecurity.  I need to be more gentle. Like Jesus.  Isaiah 40:11 speaks of his gentle nature, stating “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.”    King David proclaims in Psalm 18:35 that “Your gentleness made me great.”  I reflected back to yesterday when I had reminded my mom, again, to put her dirty clothes in the laundry hamper and not her dirty tissues. To be sure, I had reminded her a bit sternly, having grown impatient over her daily practice of filling her laundry basket with soiled tissues and...