All posts in school

The Crushing Blow of Stereotypes- 3 Ways to Destroy Ignorance

I’m sitting here battling with the Lord about writing this, but the shaking of my hands, the racing of my heart and the intense feeling that God is pressing upon me cause my fingers to move. I will call it for what it is…FEAR.

I am a Southern, White girl about to write about the injustices of Racism. What right do I have? What authority do I have to speak out against this? The FEAR of saying something WRONG, causes me to SAY NOTHING at all.

I am the wife of a Pastor.  Am I going to offend someone? Am I going to speak out of turn?

I don’t want to go out on this ledge because it carries the risk of vulnerability, of feeling small and of being told, you have no idea what you are talking about.

But GOD…He won’t let up, so I am stepping off the ledge and saying, BRING IT. I will not respond to FEAR by FLINCHING.  I will not RETREAT into those areas of safety and comfort. SO here goes.

This week we saw in a new way how stereotypes have the incredible power to build a foundation for false thinking. How false thinking plays out into small actions that feel justified and can ultimately lead to devastating and deadly actions. While the example of what happened may seem small it stirred something almost primitive in me.

Our oldest came home from school and shared some statements her English teacher had made while they were reading the book, The House on Mango Street. While I have never read the book, Parker shared that it is about a Latino girl and her life. Conversation around racism came up in Parker’s class, which is good and right. They talked about instances of racism and some of the underlying causes. As they are discussing the recent shootings in North and South Carolina, her teacher made a casual statement, “Well, it is the South.” As if the South as a whole bear the responsibility for the actions of  a few. She went on to say that “California is more advanced than the South.”

Y’all.

Bless her heart.

I can’t even.

For the Love.

Needless to say, it caused ALL THE FEELS in this Mississippi/Tennessee hybrid. You may think yes, get your southern sass out and tell her like it is. Defend your southern roots. Give her a piece of your mind with some sweet tea, too.

So, I sat down and over the last hour, crafted an email to this teacher detailing my thoughts on her stereotypical statements that perpetuate the cycle that an external circumstance of another individual determines their worth, that the actions of a few determine the beliefs of all and the weight of careless words often rest on the shoulders of others for a lifetime.  On this Martin Luther King, Jr weekend, I wish I could say she has no basis for her beliefs, but I can’t. Our history does not give us the foundation for a defense, but dear JESUS, may that same history that was made by the choices of a few, be what spurs us to examine the lies we have believed based on assumption and make them go toe to toe with the TRUTH of who God has declared each person to be. May every person, Southern or not, realize we all have some baggage to deal with and actually decide to raise the next generation with eyes that are not color blind but rather lovers of all the colors.

We are all image bearers. We are all Created by GOD, for GOD and we must fight to view every INDIVIDUAL we encounter with the same measure of GRACE we have been shown by our FATHER.

Our journey in California has not been some enlightened trip into the progressive land of love and acceptance. How’s that for breaking down a stereotype of love and liberalism we all have about this large West Coast state! Just like Tennessee is more than country music, riding a tractor back in the holler, drinking moonshine. There are some amazing, good and right things in people who live in every area, just like there is darkness that abides in our midst. This is not the result of where we live…it is a result of living in a fallen world. It is the result of living in a world that teaches for me to feel ok, you must feel less than.
Would you believe that our family has experienced more RACISM in CALIFORNIA than we ever did in the SOUTH? Do I blame the whole state of California for the ridiculousness of a few…no. Why? Because I have met some of the most godly people who would go to war for my family in a heartbeat. Individuals who feel, in their bones, the injustice done to our boy, who say not on my watch and respond with a fire in their belly. They are who I think of when I look around at this sunny land that still feels foreign to me at times. We are well-loved, well supported and our family is blessed to be around others who are fighting for unity, especially in the church and across churches. We are a part of a church that participates in regional efforts to promote healing and unity across all racial lines. It is beautiful and right and messy and hard. But, that is what is special about it…we still do it.
I felt compelled to share a portion of my long-winded, emotion filled email with you because it is the outpouring of my heart. This response is filled with sarcasm and over the top use of words because I wanted to display how WRONG stereotypes can be and how ingrained they are in each of us. Man has the Lord done a work on my heart in this area, and He still is. I am also going to add again, I love the people of California. It may seem a little haughty in nature and like I am going to be waving a Confederate flag soon, but this is my attempt to get the attention of a teacher who in my opinion, displayed how stereotypes, both good and bad, matter and have great influence.
And please read it in the most southern accent you can muster….
I thought I would share some things about our family to give you some insight into why I am responding to your statements so strongly.  
We are from the South.  I was born in Mississippi and my husband in Tennessee. Our parents and grandparents, who taught us to respect those in authority, work hard, have integrity, are all from the South. We were educated in the public schools of the south, attended both state and private universities in the south and actually have three Master’s degrees between us. My guess is we are more educated than many parents in your school. Three of our four children were born in Tennessee, thus making Parker from the South. This is evidenced by half the sweatshirts she wears to school with a big orange T for the University of Tennessee.  Parker is a young woman who is intelligent, compassionate, strong and kind. She is a leader, incredibly graceful and has the potential to be a world changer. She moved to California two years ago and experienced on numerous occasions the ADVANCED nature of California students. They have asked her if she eats with utensils because she is from the SOUTH. They have asked if she was born in a barn because she is from the SOUTH. The tone of these questions, while meant to be funny, indicate a level of ridiculous stereotypical thinking that is, in essence, attempting to make her feel inferior based on where she was born.  To declare that one region of the country is more “ADVANCED” than another is what allows students to think that they are superior to another based on an external circumstance which an individual has no control over…kind of like racism, which believes that a person is inferior based on the color of their skin. Most students know Parker is from Tennessee so your statements just added fuel to their false belief system. These statements did nothing but allow kids in your classroom to think they are better than kids from any other state but California!  That thought system lays a foundation that believes “you are less than because __________.”  Is that really an ADVANCED way of thinking? Is that truly what you believe?
I thought I would share another fact about our southern family. Our fourth child was born in Ethiopia. He is a beautiful African boy that we brought home to be in our very Caucasian, Southern family four years ago. Based on the stereotypical belief system you shared with your class, all southerners must be racist, so a family from Tennessee would never spend $30,000, travel to Africa and bring home a very traumatized, dark-skinned child and take him in as their own. Do you know when he first recognized his family looks different….when we moved to Rocklin, CALIFORNIA. Crazy thing about moving to California is we actually have experienced, on a gut wrenching level, more Racism than we ever did in the South. Three families actually left his preschool after we started because they felt like the “quality of the program had gone down since that family with the black boy started.” They actually believed that “he could have AIDS or something.”  So yes, California is really more “ADVANCED” since they make false assumptions based on the color of a four-year olds skin and the fact that he is from Africa. Not to mention their knowledge of how one actually becomes infected by  AIDS is remarkably ignorant. I was honestly shocked because I too had the false belief that something like this would never happen in CALIFORNIA because it is more ADVANCED.  Especially living two hours from San Francisco. The reality is these things happen everywhere…Rocklin, Nashville, Boise and New York City. 
I am extremely saddened to have to write this email and I know the verbage of it seems over the top…which is my point.  The stereotypes which lead us to believe that we are superior to another individual is what leads to racism, sexism, biases, extreme thinking and the justification of actions that are devastating and deadly. These ignorant beliefs are  not limited to a section of the country or the world, those with high education or those with very little. Sadly, Individuals all over the USA hold others in contempt based on their race. You have influence and the ability to spark conversation and thought that encourages these young minds to embrace their uniqueness, honor those who are different, learn from others with an opposite point of view, be inspired to speak out when they see injustice and choose to show grace and mercy when wronged. This is what breaks down a stereotype and allows us all to see a person for who they are and the gifts they have to offer the world around them. 
Thank you for listening. 
Here are  few ways I am FIGHTING for UNITY this year:
1. Change your Language: Do you stereotype mass groups of people, places or things? I personally don’t understand why anyone uses a PC anymore, but I still love and respect many Microsoft users.  In our family, the extreme words of ALWAYS and NEVER only are used in reference to our Creator, GOD. I doubt a PC user NEVER gets work done efficiently. Check your language….watch extreme uses of words that apply the thoughts of ONE to the shoulders of ALL.
2. Speak in Love: I’m hopeful that is what always motivates me. Hate does not change people. Shame doesn’t change people. Love and Grace, wrecks people to a point, where God changes their thoughts, their views and their actions to line up with HIMSELF. My prayer is that what is seen and heard is a love for all people, who bear the Image of my God.
3. Make One Change: For us, MLK is not just a day out of school. We will be joining the MLK walk in our city because I believe it matters. I believe it says, we are all in this fight for unity, and I am going to press through the awkwardness, the challenges and seek to bring people along with me. For you, it may be getting to know a family that looks different from your own. Invite them to dinner. Speak openly that you want to break down any tensions that may come up and again, one individual at time, destroy stereotypes.

Jesus, wreck us with the wrong way we look at people. Help us to be life speakers, unity builders and HOPE givers. Break our hearts for all people, all nations, all tongues. Only You Jesus…..

BackToSchool

Establishing Back To School Rhythms and Routines

Whoop Whoop! It’s a new school year! For the first time in 14 years, we have all of the StewKids in school.

Can you hear the angels singing or is that just me?

Having four kids in school, with four different pick up times, four different homework assignments, four different reading logs and four different agendas to be signed means I have to have my ducks in a row.  Over the next few days, I am going to share some tips that help our family stay on track.

First, we have to know what our goals are for our family and then look at if our life is actually living those goals out! How are we actually spending our time???

Creating Margin

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.” 1 Corinthians 14:33

While this verse is referring to worship, I think the principle is the same for life, especially in our homes. As Moms, we have the incredible opportunity to create an atmosphere of peace or one of confusion. Our goal is not to create systems that are not maintainable, but rather to establish rhythms and predictable patters that will help us accomplish the vision and values we have for our family.

Why do we want to create predictable patterns in our home?

  1. Significance: This establishes what is important in our family
  2. Security: creates a sense of security in our children and gives us the space to speak identity into them. Space for family breakfasts, to read to them before bedtime, and to have time that they can rely upon.
  3. Success: for our families and for your children.

To do this, we first have to start by

  1. Looking at how we currently spend our time and energy.
  2. Determine what is a good use of our time and what is not.
  3. Then by faith, declare what rhythms and patterns we want to establish.

Your home will not be magically organized overnight, but there are some simple, 15 minute tasks that you can do to make Back to School easier!

I would not consider myself an organization expert, but I do know that we have spent many hours in our home, determining our family goals, setting values and vision and then looking at how to best accomplish those things that we were seeking to live out. I learned that for many of those things to happen, we had to streamline some tasks in our home. As we added children, we had to reassess what works. I have made too lofty of goals, only to be left in frustration for myself and my family and I have tweaked a few routines to fit each child.

I am praying that your home will be a well-oiled machine that will leave time for more important things in life. I learned that our schedule was not something I was a slave to, but rather was something that serves us.

God gave us time to protect us. We have the joy of choosing to live for him each day, with an attitude of service to our families and those in our community.

When we adopted Judson three and a half years ago, I realized how I had been so focused on controlling our schedule, our routine, our label maker, that I had forgotten the basics of what our life was to be about. Over the last three years, we have spent a lot of hours refocusing our life around the commands that Jesus gave to go and make disciples of all nations. We looked at how Jesus lived and decided we wanted to imitate Him. In all areas. Jesus spent time with His Father, time with his boys, the Disciples and time with those in the World.

When we looked at how He lived and measured our life against those standards, we saw some areas in need of improvement! So we started creating these rhythms, these predictable patterns by looking at our calendar.

So for two weeks, I tracked all of my activities and determined that I was spending time doing some things well and was watching too much HGTV.

Next, we looked at what could be and became intentional with each day. We made sure we had the predictable rhythm of time with the Father in place. Times of prayer, bible study, worship. We also put predictable patterns of  time as a family on the calendar with family breakfasts, dates with each other, and family dinners. Lastly we put predicable patterns of living out in the world on our calendar that involved having people in our home every week, play dates and sports teams. We also put in time for rest and for play! We have watched our children become used to these rhythms, which have created security in them, that has allowed us to speak into their identity and help us aim at our target which is to live like Jesus and do what HE did.

Our end goal is not Pinterest or a Facebook post that points to how organized we are. Our target is to live out the values and vision we have for our families, which for our family is to live like Jesus did and do what He did. So before we move forward discuss at your table:

  1. What is your goal for gaining time through being a bit more organized?
  2. What are some predictable rhythms you have in your home?

The fact of the matter is that we all have to get our children dressed, pack lunches, get homework done, and teach them proper hygiene. I want to encourage you to look at the time it takes to do all those things in a fresh way so you can then create margin in your home that leads to less stress and more peace!

 

Bradley’s Preschool Graduation….we think

I am so behind on chronicling the days of our lives, so even though, our boy graduated 3 weeks ago, I could not resist sharing this momentous occasion. Jason and I are still determining if he will start Kindergarten or if we will give him one more year in preschool.  We go back and forth, but for now, we will celebrate how big our boy is and how he is growing up!

Bradley had two short sentences in the play they performed, which had been pre-recorded. He sang so good and did all his motions!

Afterwards they received their diplomas…

Nana and Poppy with the graduate

Jason and I with our boy.

Bradley and Emery

The real Bradley and Emery!

Bradley we are so proud of you…now stop growing.

Meet the Teacher

Today was our first day back at school.  But, it is also our first day at a NEW school.

The story is obviously long, detailed and one that is very personal. Jason and I take the education of our children very seriously. Therefore, the decisions we have made have not been easy or obvious. Our girls have been at an AMAZING school the last three years. We have no issues with their previous school and our plan, would also include them finishing out their entire education at this school.   Our girls were cared for, loved and taught so much more than how to read and write complete sentences. But, those wonderful benefits were not free! God has been so faithful to provide for our family these last three years. I have stand amazed many times and marveled at how HE has BLESSED us. We have many instances that went above and beyond what we had asked or imagined. He even did that for this next school year in a way that completely blew us away.

Yet, in the midst of this, we also saw many signs that pointed to us pulling our family and going in a different direction.  Our decision became more than just one on how we would educate our girls, but also included, our son. It became about how we prioritize things in our family, our ability to give and creating margin in our lives.  We went through every scenario, every possibility and still would come away unsure of what decision to make. I have watched my husband LEAD us, as he struggled, to discern what we were to do.  I have struggled to determine what God wants for our family at this season of our lives.  It has been difficult, hard and stressful. Mostly because we were effecting our children, changing their lives in a very real way.

After much prayer, discussion and then finally, just making a decision, we have moved on to a local school in our county.  There are so many positives to our new school.  Yes, we still grieve for what we have known, but, that is okay.  Sometimes, following Christ is hard.  That doesn’t make it any less of God’s plan, it just makes it…..hard.  I know that no matter where my children are educated, God is with them and we are fierce in our devotion to them.

My girls are doing well.  Telling them was grueling, I am not going to lie. Parker is sad and slower to warm up to change. She is nervous and today did little to diminish that, but I am praying for quick friends, an understanding teacher and for her attitude to be that of Christ, who for the joy set before Him, endured the Cross. Emery, on the other hand, loves a new adventure, change and takes on any challenge set before her. I am praying for quick friends, an understanding teacher and for her attitude to shine for Christ.  I am sad, But, in my fears, sadness, excitement and questions, I am CHOOSING to trust HIM.

Emery outside her new school

Parker and Emery

Parker and her Mrs. R

Emery and Mrs. C

This morning, Jason claimed and read Proverbs 3:5-6 for our family this next year. In all we do, we trust HIM.

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;  6 in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.

It Must Be May…

Because my calendar is full!

This past week we had three performances to enjoy courtesy of our children. This is what is so fun about being a parent!

I love watching my kids on stage, working through their nervousness and accomplishing their goal! I also get a big kick out of all the other

parents doing the same for their kids. Video cameras, cameras and big grins are always a part of the picture of parenthood!

We all think our kids are amazing, talented and so bright….and for the most part, we are right!

This week was History Fair at the girls’ school. Each day a grade performs a small scene that pertains to

what they have been studying that year.  Emery has studied the states, the capitals, the presidents and can tell you each!

I am amazed at their capacity to memorize.

For Emery’s class, they read a book and traveled back to talk to a few presidents in history!

She got to talk to Teddy Roosevelt.

She did great!

Here she is with a few of her gal pals afterward!

So cute in her red and white!

Parker’s grade has learned about Egypt this year.  How fun is that!

They have studied Exodus and about Pharoah, the Pyramids, King Tut and

about how God delivered the Israelites.  She played an Israelite, but check out how decked out the Egyptians were!

It was soo interesting and they all did an amazing job!

This is a part of classical education. They start them early with speaking in front of people to instill a confidence in public speaking, as well learning how

to communicate.

This is Parker’s grade all decked out in their Egyptian garb…as well as a few Israelites!

Check out the Burning Bush in front!

Here is our little Israelite talking about how God gave Moses the 10 Commandments.

I was so proud of her. This was a struggle for her last year, and she did a great job.

I don’t think it occurred to her to be nervous! We worked on her part a lot, and I think it made the difference.

Now, we couldn’t leave Bradley out of the week of starring on stage!

He participates in a Tumbling class at his MDO. She comes once a week

and I am sooo glad we put him in this year. That boy has some serious energy and

this has been a great outlet for him. He is such a ham and loves being in front of  people.

Here he is lined up with his class after stretching.

The first thing they did was run to warm up.  He zoomed to the front and even lapped some kids.

He is all about making everything a competition…..not sure where he gets that from (his dad, he totally gets it from his dad).

PURE JOY!

Here he is tacking the balance beam….not bad!

This is his crab walk. He was so stinkin cute…

Then, came the catepillar crawl…or his intro into breakdancing.

I think he will be breakin it down one day!

Here is his horsey kicks!

Lastly, he got his very own MEDAL….such excitement.

Not sure how I feel about him having men in tights on it, but hey, gotta start somewhere!

I am so proud of my kiddos!

Because she will thank me one day..

Last week, I picked the girls up from school and was met with a very animated Parker.  Here is a glimpse of our conversations…

P: “Mom, a boy in Mrs. M’s class, a first grader has a crush on me.”

Me: “He does, well how do you know he has a crush on you?”

P: “Because we were standing outside of the bathrooms at break and his class came out and he kept looking at me.  Then, he wiggled his eyebrows up and down, winked at me and did this….” She proceeded to show me the move, which proved this boy, had a crush on her.  She did the double, fingers pointed like a gun move and winked… I about busted out laughing on the spot, but realized that this was not a good move, so I smiled and said…

Me: “Well, what do you think about that?”

P: “It is embarrassing, He is in first grade and he won’t stop looking at me….”  She proceeds to tell me he is a new kid in the 1st grade and we talk about being kind, being a friend….yada, yada.

Of course, I set her up to tell the story to her daddy and had to fight even harder not to laugh when I watched him trying not to laugh.

Then, the next day…. same scenario of her getting in the car.

P: “Mom, you know the boy who is in love with me?”

Me: Taking a moment to collect myself before I open my mouth, “Parker, love is for grown ups, but yes, I know the boy you are talking about.”

P: “He followed me around the whole time on the playground today, so Z and JW told me that they would take care of it for me. (these are 2 precious boys in her class, so I am awwing on the inside thinking how they are looking out for their friend…..) They were going to tell him to not bother me anymore and you know what they did? They brought him right up to me!  I should have known I can’t trust them!” (Laughing on the inside.)

Me: Thinking I wish I had a video camera at this moment… “Well what did you do?”

P: “I ran away and Y and I started playing on the monkey bars.”

Me: “Parker, remember he is new and to be kind to him.  You can talk to him, NICELY, and tell him you are playing with your friends.”

P: “I know mom, it is just so embarrassing.”

Of course, I set her up to share this bit of story with Jason.  SOOOO funny.

He goes straight to the he is not in love with you talk with her…..Such a dad.

We have had several more incidents with this younger boy.  She seems to be handling it well, but she is SO EMBARRASSED.  That is her new word.  I am quickly seeing how fast it really all does go. Never in my wildest dreams did I think my 7 year old would be dealing with “crush.”  Jason and I talk a lot about what characteristics and values we want to develop in our kids.  We dream big for them and pray that we are bringing forth the personalities and talents God has given them, helping them learn more about Him.  I was struck again, how if I dream big for my kids, desire for them to live out a passionate, bold, faithful walk with Christ, then that is exactly what they need to see their parents doing.  I fear I talk the talk A LOT, and sometimes, walk the walk a little more slowly.  My biggest fear as a mom is that they will look back and think, My mom loved God, but she didn’t put her feet behind all those lessons she was teaching us.

I am reminded that they are growing up… growing wiser…. growing stronger….. growing little minds….that think for themselves…..that make choices….

I pray I don’t fail them……..

Good-bye, Hello….

Good-bye lazy days of no schedule, hours spent at the pool, relaxing mornings, sleeping later than 6:30, walking chaos while grocery shopping, refereeing many sibling arguments, and trips far and near. (the last few are just to add dramatic effect. We will still do those things….)

I asked the kids what were their 3 favorite things we did this summer vacation.  They are listed in no particular order to protect the innocent:

Parker- Swimming, Going to Mississippi, LuLu Camp:  To explain, LuLu camp is what we lovingly refer to as going to spend a few days with Grandma.  This summer each child went, INDIVIDUALLY, to spend a few days being spoiled rotten by LuLu.  Parker had the added bonus of her cousin, Lily, along for the trip.  They swam, played in the hot tub, got their nails and toes done professionally and played with their neighbors.  She loved it!

Emery- Going to Mississippi, Kid’s Camp and LuLu Camp: She was the first to go to LuLu camp and was tickled pink.  She is the middle child and energy focused on her is her love language!  She is so laid back and goes with the flow that she can sometimes take the backseat to the other two.  NOT that we intend to do this or think it is okay, it is just parenting her is not as complex as it can be with her brother and sister.  Oh the trials of the middle child!  So, we were thrilled that she got to be the first to go and she had a lot of fun. She got to do the same things Parker did, but also got to go to Wendy’s to eat with her PawPaw, which is her great Grandfather, and she brought us all back gifts from the Dollar Tree!

Bradley- Swim, LuLu camp and Go to Missippi (B’s phonetics!) He is dangerous around the water.  Period.  He is fearless. He loves everything to do with the water.  So we are not surprised by his response.  He was the last to go to LuLu camp and he came home with a huge bag of trucks.  Full bag of new trucks.  LuLu loves having a boy around so they have so much fun together. He also swam, went to the dump and Walmart with Wally, who STRUGGLES to tell the boy No!  He also played with Uncle Matt’s dog and had a big O time!

Kelly- Swimming, Going to Mississippi and Booking our DISNEY trip! We have had a lot of fun with friends this summer swimming and hanging out. We have also spent time with family and I really loved the kids going and visiting my family in Mississippi.  They did well and it was enjoyable.  We postponed our vacation until October this year, which is a great advantage to year round school.  We are headed to Disney World for the first time with the kids. We are going with friends and many families from our church will be there at the same time, so it is a guranteed good, exhausting time!

Today, the girls started school and they were thrilled to get the teachers they were hoping for.  We are so looking forward to see all they learn this year.

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The standard pre-school picture

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Ready to go…

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The outtakes….

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Emery and Mrs. F (parker’s 1st grade teacher, too)

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Parker and Mrs. L

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Bradley refusing to be left out…

This was in Parker’s folder today:

Greetings from a past 2nd grader

Dear Amazing Second Grader,

Welcome to the second grade! You’ll love Mrs. L.  She is awesome. You get to learn about cursive, money, and multipilication. There a lot of things ahead of you. You will love the history fair, science experiments, history, and more good things. You would like both teachers, Mrs. D and Mrs. L.  God always will stand right be side you where ever you go. I am you number one fan second grader,

Your fames Football,

player Donovan M.

How sweet is that?  It is dated May 22, 2009 and is from a former second grader!

Hello School year……

Kindergarten Graduation- It’s Emery’s Turn!!!

So, obviously  our children are close in age which brings challenges, but also great blessings!  We were able to celebrate with Emery this past week for completing her Kindergarten year.  She has done so well and we are so proud of her.  She has shown herself to be a great reader and has gotten along well with all the kids in her class.  She has always been the social one, so that is no surprise!  This year each student had several lines to say during thier program.  The program was about Praise and boy did they shine their sweet little lights for the Lord.  They preached the Gospel and it was precious to see!  One technique in classical education is to start at an early age having students memorize and recite what they have learned in front of the class or in this case, the whole school, faculty and parents.  This helps develop them as speakers.  They all did so well and I loved it!

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Here is Emery reciting that Jesus is our Redeemer.

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We adore Mrs. B, who has been Parker and Emery’s teacher.  She has been such a blessing and is the picture of what a Kindergarten teacher should be!

We are praying Bradley is in her class as well, in a couple of years.  We hope….

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Here she is proclaiming that He is our Eternal Father.

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Sweet graduates!!

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Emery’s Kindergarten class…. they made it!

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Nana and Poppy came for Graduation and gave Emery her own purple Bible.

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Emery Kate, we are so proud to be your parents.  We think you are an amazing little girl and are excited to see what first grade brings for you.  You have worked hard, been a helper to your teachers and have made some great new friends.  You have a joy of learning and we love how well you have done!

We are reminded, yet again, that our kids are where God wants them to be for school.  We are thankful for the example the teachers have set for them, the love and grace that has been extended to them and for a  faculty that truly cares for our girls.   We beleive that God leads each family to the school situation their kids are supposed to be in whether public, private or at home.  This was a leap of faith for us, and God has proven faithful over and over and we are forever grateful for His leading.

May….so far

I can not believe that it is already May 12.  Seriously?  Almost half way gone is the month of May?

We, like many, have a crazy amount of things going on this month.  Most of it centers around end of the year school events. Throw in soccer, dance, dance recitials, birthday and you get the picture!

I wanted to share some pics of our month so far!

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Emery and Jason going on a date for her birthday!  She wanted to wear a dress and for me to curl her hair. How cute is that?  She is already beginning

to understand what it means to be treated well by the men in her life because Jason has done such a great job of setting an example for her.  They went to IHOP to eat breakfast for their date, which is where she chose!

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She loves to wear dresses and I picked this one up at Target for a big $3.74.  She went for her well child check on Friday and we found out her lung functioning is great so we can come off of her maintenance med for her restricted airways.  We then found out through some allergy testing that she is allergice to ALOT of things.  Many are environmental, dog, cat, and some food allergies.  So we are going to see an allergist to determine a good course of action for her.  She is such a trooper!

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This is Bradley before church last Sunday.  He is wearing his Lion Chaser polo!  That is our desire for him- that he would be a leader, bold and fearless!  Right now, he has the fearless down pat, except when it comes to bugs or the Chick-fil-A cow!

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This is Parker in her favorite dress! She instructed me on how to fix her hair as well!  She is such a unique girl and Jason and I are working through how to parent her in a way that champions her strengths and challenges her in her weaknesses.  She is so sweet and loving, yet has her moments of fierce stubborness and righteousness.  She wants to have the last word and when you are 7, that is not a good thing, at times!  We are really seeing her personality being shaped right before our eyes and it is amazing and overwhelming.

Earlier this week, she participated in the History Fair at her school.  Her class performed a play about the Liberty Bell.  This year, she has studied and learned all the Presidents in chronological order, American symbols, and states.  She has learned so much and we continue to feel blessed for them to be at their school.  We absolutely adore their teachers and are so thankful for how they speak Christ into their lives.

This was her first time to perform in front of a crowd and she was nervous.  She did good.  Notice the arms….

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and again…..

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and again…..

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and again….

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As a trained counselor, I will point out that this is a defensive, self preservation pose!

While I am airing all her dirty laundry, I wanted to share what I read in one of her many notebooks this week.  She wrote in her Troy Bolton diary which came with a lock, but has since been lost, so I did not feel I was invading her privacy, but honestly, I won’t bat at eye and breaking a lock, if I have too!

In the words of Parker, age 7:

“I love my mom and dad but sometime I can get frushtrated with them. But I will olwas love them.”

Back at you, Parker, back at you……

Africa……The coolest experience

While visiting with the ladies in the first village, we began to hear the drums.  We happened to be sitting very close to the area where we would have the musical extravaganza!  The men were warming up their drums, using fire to heat the skins, so they would be louder.  Penda informed us that we needed to go to the area where the drummers were gathering.  We walked over and they had brought us benches and chairs to sit in.  While we were sitting, listening, I was wondering where the rest of our group was at and if they were coming!  The group kept growing and growing and formed a circle.  More of our group kept coming and then we were informed that the dancers were coming up!

Jason was no where to be found.  He had the camera and the video, so I was hoping he would show up sooner than later!  He was sharing Jesus with a family in a hut, much farther from the group!  He showed up about 45 minutes after I did, so he missed a lot of the actions.

Back to the dancers!  They were actually men, dressed as women and one had a mask on.  Not really sure about the cultural significance of them dressing as women is, but I do know that many follow the traditional African folk religion, which includes a lot of superstition, voodoo, black magic, and the use of festishes.  A fetish is anything that the “fetisher” puts a special power on.  Many of the babies had a string tied loosely around their bellies.  This was a fetish that the mom’s used to ward off evil spirits, or so is thier belief.  Masks are often used in ceremonies and are often a fetish.  Sacrifice is still practiced in many villages, as well, usually of an animal.  D did tell me that she has heard of some child sacrfice still occurring in some places.  Mind blowing, isn’t it?

The drums were amazing, no doubt.  Then the two dancers started and it was one of those moments I will never forget.  I thought to myself, “I am in Africa, experiencing something purely African in nature.”  This was experiencing their culture, thier traditions and something that has been passed down for thousands of years.  Absolutely amazing.

I loved every minute of it, especially when they started getting our group up there to dance.  Scott when first and it was funny, to say the least.  They eventually got most of us up there, and our whiteness truly showed!  The villagers would clap, laugh and grin from ear to ear!

After they were done, our guys got up and played some worship songs using the guitar and ukele.  It was really cool, just thinking that praises to the Father were being lifted up in a place where that has probably never happened.  I loved it.  Then, Morey would translate what the song was about.

Next, we presented them with our gifts- soccer balls and machetes.  They were gratefully accepted.

One small section of people watching the musical extravaganza

One small section of people watching the musical extravaganza

The dancers, pure African style

The dancers, pure African style

The danced so hard, they wore out fast in the 95 degree weather.

The danced so hard, they wore out fast in the 95 degree weather.

One of the drummers.

One of the drummers.

Our group singing worship songs in the village.  I loved hearing and singing praises to Jesus, in a place where that has probably never happened!

Our group singing worship songs in the village. I loved hearing and singing praises to Jesus, in a place where that has probably never happened!

At this point, I thought it was time to go and after the emotional beating I had taken, I was okay with that.  But, that was not to be.

We headed back to the chief’s hut and met with him and the elders. We basically went through the whole greeting sequence again, but with goodbyes.  He informed us that he was having a meal prepared for us.  At this point, I started praying and taking deep breathes.

I will admit, I was terrified of getting sick.  Which would make Africa a weird choice for travel, huh?  I had prayed for weeks for health.  I am not normally a huge germaphobe, but in Africa, I really struggled.  I think there is a balance between being smart and taking precautions and letting the fear overwhelm you.  I was more on the fear side of the spectrum.

We waited about 30 more minutes for the food. All the while, my mind was racing, we had people pressed upon us, it was 95 degrees  and I was anxious about getting back to the bridge, of not being able to cross, is some child going to go hungry because I am eating their food, and the list goes on and on.  Basically, I was overwhelmed, panicky, and Satan was having a field day with me in the middle of an African village and I was letting him.  I finally got up and moved away from the group for a minute to get a breather.

We went to a different home for the meal.  They had prepared rice, a sauce and fish.  The Africa style is to eat out of a common bowl, using your hands.  We passed around the antibacterial wipes, Purell,  prayed and dug in.  Dug in might be a bit of an exaggeration for me, but I did take some bites of rice and sauce.  It was pretty good.

This is the group of elders and the chief

This is the group of elders and the chief

Waiting to eat....

Waiting to eat....

Rice and fish.
MC and Penda added the sauce to the rice for us..

MC and Penda added the sauce to the rice for us.. They gave us so much rice to eat. Very humbling. Just to prove I did eat some of the rice...

And, it was fine.....

And, it was fine.....

After we finished, we walked back to the trucks and headed out. We did stop at the other two villages to give the message that we would be coming tomorrow, since this village had not gotten our previous message.

We also ate an African meal that night.  It was called Ru Grois.  It was a rice dish with tomatoes and beef. It was wonderful!

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