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Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Parental Mirror

As the parent of toddlers, I see myself all too often in my kids.  Sometimes this is a great thing:  trusting just because they know I love them, coming to me when they need comforted or calling out my name when they are scared at night.  Those are a few good things that I see in them that remind me of my relationship to my Heavenly Father. 

But then there are a lot of things that aren’t so great to see in the “mirror” of my children.  Disobedience, of course, but what about obedience paired with the wrong attitude - motivations for doing the right thing that are just all wrong, or lack of trust & response to my presence when I’m trying to get their attention.  I often catch myself getting so frustrated with them for the very things I struggle to do well in my walk with Christ!  I can almost picture God shaking his head as I’m disciplining my kids, likely thinking, “Take a look in the mirror, pal!”

This was brought to my attention in a very real way the other day with my daughter, Evelyn.  She’s 18 months old now and just getting comfortable with her own little will (little is probably the wrong word).  As you can probably guess, her favorite word is “No” and she uses it to say almost anything you can imagine.  “Do you want your food Evelyn?” “No.”  “It’s time for bed Evie”  “No.”  “Can you come to Daddy, please?”  “No.”  “Is your name Evelyn?”  “No.”  “Daddy loves you, sweetie.”  “No.” I think you get the picture. 

DSCN4819“Smile for the picture, Evie” … “No”

Anyway, we were walking along the roads of RVA together, she and I, waiting for her brothers to come back from playing soccer with some of the big boys down at the field.  I’m thinking, “What a nice (and rare) 5-minute window with my beautiful little girl.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to hold hands as we walk?”  She’s thinking, “No.”  So I’m constantly trying to hold her hand as she stumbles over some of the rough spots and she’s constantly responding with her favorite word and pulling away. 

And then comes the fall.  You all knew it was coming. 

A big rock right in her path that she steps on, turns her little foot and goes crashing headfirst. (why is it always headfirst??)  Then the delayed cry.  You know the one, where her face turns into the perfect blend of terror, rage, and pain, but no noise has emitted yet, and you’re concerned she might actually pass out before finally letting loose a blood-curdling scream that can be heard across Kenya.  Immediately the tears start to flow and both arms go straight up towards me with the why aren’t you holding me yet? look and I scoop her up and her head falls to my shoulder. 

Seconds ago, she didn’t need me, didn’t want to hold my hand, didn’t think it was necessary to walk carefully or follow any advice I might offer, now she clings to me for dear life and finds the comfort she knew she could count on.  Daddy’s girl :)

DSCN5008“Do you like watching the soccer game, Evie?” … “No”

How often do I walk along on my own strength?  How often do I say “No” to God when he offers his daily grace and strength and provision?  Yet how quickly I run to Him the minute something goes wrong.

My prayer life is atrocious, my devotions are often rushed, my reliance on His daily power is too often in word only while in reality I push through my checklist without more than a glance in His direction.  Evie reminded me of how ridiculous it is for me only to run to my Heavenly Father when I’m hurt or in trouble or have a really pressing prayer request to bring before Him.  Why not dwell daily in His presence?  Why not lean on Him and talk to Him and give Him my burdens like He’s asked?  His hand is out, asking for me to hold it – why not take it?

Praise God that He loves me anyway.  Praise God that there is no condemnation for me in Christ Jesus.  Praise God that He listens even when I only come to Him with the hard stuff.  Praise God that His hand reached out to me way before I ever reached back.  Praise God that His love through Christ separates my stubbornness and my hard-heartedness and my attraction to self-sufficiency as far as the East is from the West, that nothing can separate me from His love (including myself!) or snatch me out of His hand, and that if He is for me nobody of any consequence can be against me.  Praise God that He is such an awesome Heavenly Father!!            

DSCN4881“Want me to read you that book, Evie?” … “No”

Monday, September 24, 2012

On Lions, Wildebeests, and Two-step Equations

Every day at school I get to teach kids from all over the world. Countries of origin? Germany, Singapore, South Korea, United States, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and the Netherlands, just to name a few. These kids have had life experiences most of us Americans have only dreamed about, many of them growing up in remote parts of Africa, worlds away from what most Westerners would call normal.

DSCN4946Fourth period Algebra 1 class – notice the Beaver Falls polo!

As an Algebra teacher, I get pumped up about things that most wouldn’t see as normal either! Combine the cross-cultural phobia of all things beyond addition and subtraction, with the task of getting abstract mathematical concepts across to a bunch of adolescents, and you can easily see why creative analogies are often required to teach this stuff. One such approach I’ve attempted in the past is when teaching the process for solving two-step equations (math-a-phobes, bear with me).

When trying to solve for the unknown variable in any equation, your job is to get the variable by itself, thereby eliminating everything else around it. Once your equation reads “x = some numerical value”, you’ve probably succeeded in finding the solution. The confusion often arises when students are deciding which term of the equation is best to move away from the variable first. For example, take 3x + 8 = 17; if we are solving for x it is recommended that we first remove the 8 by subtracting it from both sides of the equal sign. Some students are tempted to move the 3 first since it is closest to the x, but I’ve always told them the 8 should be moved first because it is alone.

It is the most vulnerable term in the equation, all by itself, the easiest to prey upon. So my analogy has always been to get rid of the lonely term first, just like a predator will always single out the lonely, vulnerable, or youngest member of the herd to victimize (gruesome, I know –sorry).

In the States, when I presented this idea, I would encourage kids to recall scenes from The Lion King or their most recent exposure to a National Geographic video or some clip from YouTube. However, now that I’m teaching in Africa, my audience has changed dramatically. Most students have been on safari more times than they’ve been in a chlorinated swimming pool, so this time I asked for a show of hands to see how many had actually seen a wildebeest in the wild before. Every hand in all four of my Algebra classes went up. I posed the follow up question as my curiosity piqued, “How many have seen a lion actually hunt down a poor wildebeest like I want you to hunt down the lonely number in the equation?” Still, about half of the kids had their hands up - how cool is that?!

Finally, my silly analogy has found a home where it makes sense! Algebra teachers, please feel free to utilize this concept in your classes, although it will probably go over better if you move to Africa first!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Design Challenge

Those of you who know me well know that I’m an interior designer at heart.  As a full-time momma and part-time hospitality coordinator (a position I just gave myself recently as we start to host students, staff & guests in our home), I spend a great deal of time in & around my house.  Now, this is a great thing for me, a true homebody & lover of all things warm, cozy & comforting.  BUT it does present it’s struggles too. 
DSCN4920Did I mention they started painting our house?! This is our bedroom in progress.
I’m also an aspiring minimalist, striving to live simply & gratefully with less, which does carry over into the design & feel of our home. This is a complicated topic I realize and I have a lot of growing to do in the area of materialism & wealth & good stewardship, but we moved our family of five into our home at RVA with just 15 bags weighing 49.5lbs each.  We are thriving here so far and we are learning. 

I am being stretched and challenged though to make my home a warm, friendly, cozy, comforting place for us as a family and for our visitors.  Included in those 15 bags were things like my glue gun and glue sticks, my sewing machine, some scrapbook paper and a precious few other crafty things.
DSCN3022I realize that I never did purchase designer items and in fact decorated our Shenango Road house using an old ladder, an old sled, discarded panel doors and flooring underlayment.  But I also had a newly opened Hobby Lobby, a JoAnn’s, a Lowes, and a Home Depot all at my disposal.  Here I do not. (Disclaimer:  We do have a maintenance store on campus here with a few things I may be able to use and a small hardware duka in Kijabe.)
SO – It’s up to you if you want to participate in this design challenge!
Here are the rules:  If you would be willing to send us me a package with one or two or three of the craft supplies I’ve listed below OR some you come up with on your own, I will put them to good use DIY style in my home and then blog about it, giving you full credit for the item(s) used.
 Sharpie Paint Pens (black especially)
Fun Hobby Lobby knobs
Fabric
Ribbon / buttons etc.
Canvas painters drop-cloth
Scrapbook paper / double sided tape / photo tape etc.
Foamboard (will have to be cut down to fit in a flat-rate bubble mailer)
Anything Seuss (Ethan & Nate’s room in dr. seuss)
 
Sound fun?  Let me know what you think (either here or on facebook)!
Currently I’m working on getting some scrap pallets & fence for a few signs I want to make.  Trying to round up unused items is a much harder task here!  Stay tuned and happy crafting!

Monday, September 17, 2012

His grace is sufficient

I struggle with contentment. Can I get an amen?  And as someone who loves to paint and decorate and restyle and rearrange, I feel like I particularly struggle because I’m always eyeing up inspiration.  Inspiration in other people’s homes, inspiration on blogs, inspiration on Pinterest.   Inspiration.  OR comparison?

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It seems as though Satan uses the same schemes internationally.  It doesn’t matter whether we own our own home and earn an income in the states or if we live in RVA’s house and rely on financial donors in Africa. Comparison leads to discontentment here in Africa too.  And all of it breeds an ugly dishonoring mess.  Oh how we need a Savior!

Its not as if it only rears its ugly head about d├ęcor and paint colors.  It doesn’t.

It also comes up when I work hard to list the things I’m contributing here at RVA, as though to say that my primary calling to raising my three littles is somehow an unworthy thing to report: the shaping of two boys into men of God & the guarding and molding of this young girl’s heart.  I know deep down that is a worthy high calling, but still I explain away.

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Satan is alive and well in Africa, deceiving and robbing and stealing.  And he tries (and at times succeeds) to convince me that I’m not doing enough, not contributing, not staying afloat and that my house and my things aren’t good enough.   

But Praise be to God that He is indeed living and active and available (and He already won the battle anyway), that His grace IS sufficient and overflowing really, that His plans and purposes are supreme.  

Praise be that He gave us these three young ones to grow up in Him, and that He placed us here at RVA to do life with 400 children of missionaries! Praise be to God that these MK’s are an amazing witness & example to my three (an unexpected blessing of being here).

Praising God for His abundant provision and grace this day!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

a week in the life …

The students arrived. First term is underway. You can probably gather [since my last post was over a week ago] that we’re keeping quite busy here.  RVA houses it’s students for each three month term and this lends itself to afternoon, evening, and weekend activities that involve students and staff alike.  There are sports practices after school each day [first term has women’s basketball, men’s football (soccer), men’s and women’s tennis], dinner in the cafo, evening library study hall, devotions in dorms, etc.   Weekends boast class meetings, special events, caring community groups, Sunday school and church, student-led evening worship, and more I’m sure. 

When we first got appointed with AIM in 2011 with the anticipation of serving at RVA, the candidate director let us know that he didn’t know of any math positions opening up.  He asked us to consider serving in another capacity (likely as dorm parents).  So we talked and prayed about what exactly we were being called to do.  What did the Lord have for us at RVA?  And we came to the conclusion that we felt strongly about caring for missionary kids and their families, to encourage and equip them to stay on the field by supporting their kids.   We didn’t feel like teaching them math was necessarily the end-all of our calling.  Later we did find out that there was indeed an open math position here and we were ushered into that role.  So yes, Dan’s primary role here is as a math teacher.  He’s teaching full-time, four sections of Algebra and one section of Math 7, and so far he loves teaching here.   It’s been a huge encouragement to him and to our family, but we were called to RVA for more than Dan’s 7:30-3:30 school day.   We were led here for all of those “extras” and we’ve started in with a few of them already. 

Dan is coaching junior high boys football (soccer).  Practices are 4 times a week and the game schedule is far less intimidating than JV or Varsity, as scheduled games don’t begin until after mid-term break in October.   He’s thrilled to be coaching and it was a great fit for our family since the time commitments are not as demanding. 

Dan’s also covering a dorm Monday nights from 7-10pm.  Our dorm parents work a 24/7 job and they get one evening off a week to do as they please.  Many go to Bible Study or hang out as a family without the demands of their dorm. 

I’m working in the library on Wednesday evenings from 7-8:30pm. The library is open as a study hall four nights a week until 8:30.  It’s a great opportunity to meet some of the upperclassmen as they come to work on homework (calculus mostly). 

Dan and I are hosting a caring community group in our home once a month.  We will meet with the same caring community group all year long.  We just had our first one this past Saturday evening with six 9th graders (we have seven total, but one of our girls doesn’t arrive until second term).   We had a blast talking/hanging out with them!  I am really looking forward to getting to know them better this year!

Sunday school for all grades (preschool through grade 12) happens each Sunday morning, and the 9th grade men & women do a study on Biblical masculinity/femininity.  Dan is helping to lead that class, along with 5 or 6 other staff members.  Sunday mornings also yield opportunities to serve in the nursery and at children’s church and I’ll be serving there occasionally too.

One last bit that we are doing is attending Bible studies ourselves.  Dan has lunch with a group of male staff on Fridays for a time of Bible study and I am in a study on Thursdays with about 10 women.  We’ve only just started meeting together, but the staff here have been over-the-top fabulous in terms of intentionality in prayer and encouragement.  We could not feel more positively so far with how the Lord has taken care of us on this end. 

And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in Glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

Praise God that no good thing does He withhold!
 
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