May 2013

Going Public

by Priscilla on May 31, 2013

Yesterday, at approximately 3:00 p.m., I sat in our living room, perched on a black bear footstool, salty tears running down my cheeks as I read the final teacher letter I would receive as a parent to third graders: I have the distant, gnawing feeling that things are about to get real up in here – that this is the autumn of his/her childhood as they enter fourth grade, she penned.   I’m infinitely grateful for this past year –a good year, a year of happy days, many books and an increased independence — a year we shared with you and your child.

The autumn of her childhood.

Oh, those words almost hurt my heart while at the same time warming it.  They affirmed the decision I’d made a year earlier to send my children to public school for the first time.

The decision to send a child to public school might not seem like a big deal to some.  To others it’s not even a decision as they have no other choice. But for me it was huge as I only attended a private, Christian school for my years in K-12, and my girls have attended Christian schools from preK-2.  I’ve never been anti-public school.  I previously taught in public school as well as Christian,  and all older seven siblings attended public schools and all have faired quite nicely both professionally and spiritually.  However, Christian schools were all I knew as a student. Yes, they have their shortcomings and failures as well as wonderful advantages as do public schools. So why the trepidation on my part? As a friend described it, It’s (private school) the devil that I know. 

Simply put – I feared the unknown.

I worship the God of the Unknown as well as the God who loves and adores my children infinitely more than I can imagine, and a little over a year ago, I got the nagging sense that this God wanted me to take a leap of faith, and relax some of  reins I held so tightly over my children. This God spoke to me quietly about exposing my children to kids from all walks of life especially those from different socio economic levels – something that doesn’t happen a lot in private schools – just the nature of the beast. This God asked me to jump into my local community, and as the neighborhood school played a huge part in the community, it was a logical place to start. This God asked me to look and see where the least of these were gathering, and I had to look no farther than the front doors of the local public schools. This God granted me children with some educational needs that grew more apparent over time – needs better served through the programs that the public schools offered as they are more expensive and can’t always be maintained by smaller budgets of a private school.

But. But. But.

So many buts did I throw up in My God’s face.  But what about their spiritual development? No prayer? No Bible classes?! I asked.  Well, that’s up to you.  It’s always been up to you,  It’s your responsibility as their parent. No one else’s, came the answer in my head more than once. But what about their friends? They have Christian friends with Christian parents? We are all on the same sheet of music. I argued. This isn’t about friends is it?  This is about your comfort zone. This is about your willingness to reach out and bring kids into your home that need My love and attention. Kids that might not be anything like yours. Parents that might not be anything like you. You think I don’t love them as well?  You think maybe I might be at work in their lives already and am asking you to join me in that work?

I realized that trying to reason with God never really worked for me because God sometimes is unreasonable.  That’s why it’s called faith.

So long story short (It’s a cool long story with so many affirmations along the way), approximately 180 school days ago, my daughters and I held hands and for the first time walked into Pinewood School. One daughter whispered as we walked down the hall, Mom this feels like Faith Christian! She was right. It felt like their former Christian school because it was filled with love and encouragement and warmth. It felt like a Christian school because God is not limited to the walls of religious institutions. God is unleashed as far as the east is from the west. God is not contained to a single habitat.  God is alive and well in the work of public school teachers. This point was driven home to me in the being of Mrs. Knapp, my girls’ teacher.

Words can’t describe what this woman means to me. Maybe her words that I shared in the first paragraph above will give you a tiny glimpse into the way she ran her classroom. Everything my terrifying third grade experience was – which took place in a Christian school by the way – my daughters’ was the complete opposite. It was challenging yet encouraging. Demanding yet gentle. It was rigorous but fun. Curious but organized. I could go on and on and on. My daughters are stronger, smarter, kinder and more engaged in the world around them thanks to this incredible woman.

Grace.

That word came to my mind over and over and over to me this year. God asked me to trust, and, grudgingly, I did, and GRACE was showered upon my children in ways I never imagined.

This isn’t a post about why public schools are better than private because for some kids that simply isn’t the case. This isn’t pleading with Christians to make public schools into their own private mission fields. It’s not  scolding homeschooling parents into thinking their kids are missing out, for I believe God asks different things of all of us in different times and different places. This experience just happened to be my thing – to put it so eloquently. This post is simply to encourage maybe one of you who might be challenged even today to take the leap of faith into the great unknown that God is holding before you. It’s a post to share that sometimes we don’t always know what’s best for our kids at any given time, but I believe God does.

My prayers are with you today, dear readers. Take that leap. Nothing is unknown to our God.

 

 

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The Church is Mine

by Priscilla on May 26, 2013

Yesterday afternoon I stood at my kitchen sink slicing strawberries and shredding cheese all in preparation for dinner guests later that evening. I’d returned home earlier from volunteer work  that I’d forced upon the girls, telling them that being part of the kingdom here on earth means working with others to keep it beautiful. They weren’t happy to discover that weeding flower beds in a city park was something I considered kingdom work. (When they are older, they can ruin their own children’s Saturday mornings any way they see fit, but for now, they have to suffer under their mother’s ridiculous demands.)

As I added more and more strawberry tops to the bowl of scraps headed to the compost pile in the backyard, I flipped on NPR and began listening to the program On the Media, and immediately was drawn into the story of a group called Catholic Whistleblowers. For the past six months I’ve  stumbled upon more and more stories of abuse and cover up within the Evangelical Church – the church of my youth, and my emotions range from mournfulness to rage upon reading the accounts of abuse from victims themselves to the denials and the I’m so sorry the abuse happened, but it’s not my fault so I’m not stepping down’s or The stature of limitations has run out so legally there’s nothing we can do‘s,  from so-called leaders of large churches and evangelical organizations who fill their coffers with speaking fees and book deals. Although I am in no way a victim of any kind of abuse myself, I’ve had my fill of those church leaders who continue to whitewash tombs while abuse victims simply ask to be heard and believed and protected. Quite frankly, all these events have caused me to consider walking away from it all – not my faith, but the church. I get it. I get why those harmed so deeply and callously by church leaders have nothing to do with any house of worship.

But as I was listening to the story of Sister Sally Butler, (Please consider listening to it in its entirety. It’s educational and insightful.) an original Catholic Whistlblower beginning back in the 1968 when she as a nun became aware of priests sexually abusing parishioners, I was struck  by her answer when posed  the question, Have you ever thought of leaving the church?

 The Church?  No. The Church is mine. They (those leaders who cover up abuse) should leave.

I started cheering right there. In the middle of potato salad making and dishwashing, I cheered this 85 year old heroine of the faith who dared to say to her leaders- her bosses- I’m not going anywhere, but you should. 

I’m cheering it now, too.  Not only for those like Butler who have worked tirelessly for decades as victims’ advocates, but even more so for believers who were victims of abuse at the hands of the Church themselves.

The church is yours. You should stay.You should return. Wherever you are with God, we stand with you. The church is not the leaders who stand before us in robes or suits every mass or communion or Sunday service. It’s not choir directors, or worship leaders. It’s not a gathering place or a meeting time. It’s not a sanctuary or a fellowship hall. The church is most definitely is not abusers or their so-called friends. It is the house of God, Lord, Creator, Most High, and if you believe that this God dwells in you and through you, then you are the church. It is yours, and you are needed.

You aren’t needed so some of us can feel good about ourselves and say, Oh, look at the wonderful things we are doing on behalf of such and such disenfranchised group. You are needed and wanted and desired simply because you matter. You bring something to the table – something that has nothing to do with the sin forced upon you by another human being, but rather has to do with your soul, with the love of God indwelling in you that longs to commune with others. It has to do with your will and your spirit and your life. It has to do with not only the pain from your past, but also the glory of your future. It has to do with your gifts and talents and whatever work God has for you, that only you can perform for the kingdom.

So today my prayers are with Sister Sally Butler and those like her who declare, The church is mine. They should leave. They are also with those who say The church hurt me, but I’m not going anywhere. I am going to stay put and work for change. We don’t need more book writers or message speakers. We need more courageous souls like you. The church is yours.

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Run Like a Girl

by Priscilla on May 20, 2013

Women drive me nuts.  I’d rather work with all men than a group of women!

Anyone else guilty of muttering these words?  Any other women, I mean. For years this was my mindset. Sure, I had girlfriends – great ones at that, but something deep in my heart closed off my soul from truly loving the members of my sex. I don’t know if it was bitterness or jealousy or feelings of inadequacy or sheet stupidity on my part.  It was as if these feelings represented the traffic circle of my mind, and every time I felt the pull to veer right off onto a particular path of encouragement, something or someone would yank the steering wheel back towards the left, and I’d find myself circling around again in the frustrating world of female relationships.

And then I gave birth to girls…two of them…at once. Changed my whole outlook on women.

This past Saturday, when I found myself looking down at nine year old Twin B as we were running through the campus of IUPUI in South Bend, Indiana, as part of the Girls on the Run 5k celebration, I couldn’t help but think her face reflected not only mine, but all the women in my life who shaped me, and that this time running with her was more than a race, but a culmination of 42 years of gleaning wit and wisdom from some of the most incredible women I’ve had the privilege and pleasure of working with and learning from.  On more than one occasion she wanted to stop, and to be honest, she looked like she was going to hurl right there, but I’d whisper, I’m so proud of you. You can do this.  You are stronger than you know. 

I realized as I ran holding this future adult woman’s hand that womanhood doesn’t have to be a competition. Oh, I’m all for healthy competition – nothing wrong with it – but I think women do relationships so much more beautifully than we do competition.

The grand  ladies in my life never held public office or sat on  powerful boards, but that doesn’t preclude  them from holding power over the hearts and futures of the next generation.  If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to share a few names that came to my mind as I put one foot in front of the other for 3.1 miles.

Miss Maylou – a high school teacher who instead of lecturing me and telling me I was rebellious (I heard that word a lot.), gave me the book To Kill A Mockingbird to read. It was as if she recognized the Scout in me longing to break out into understanding, and her gift of seeing past the anger and the hurt and the frustration to a diamond (her nickname for me) still brings tears to my eyes. I hope I can be the same kind of woman to just one girl.

All my childhood girlfriends from Heritage Hall Christian School in Muncie, IN.  These ladies have taught me the fierceness of friendship that can span decades. We pick up right where we left off whenever we can enjoy each other’s company. I never saw any of them – not one – as competition. I realize that now, and I don’t know what has taken me so long to recognize this beautiful gift they’ve given me.

Miss Judy – my very first swim teacher who smoked like a chimney and sometimes used language I wasn’t used to, but who loved me. I could just tell it.  My mom later told me that Miss Judy sometimes lived in her car – refusing help from my mom and others. I don’t know why. All I know is that none of this matters to me – all I remember is her love and her encouragement and her patience with a little girl who truly believed that monsters were going to erupt out of the grate at the bottom of the deep end of the YWCA pool and swim up to grab her and whisk her back into the great darkness. Miss Judy, wherever you are, I’ve never forgotten you.

My friend Judy whom I met at Grace Bible Church in Clarksville, TN, when my husband was stationed at Fort Campbell. A mother of five, she taught me that the gift of hospitality begins in the heart not the home, and one doesn’t need fancy trappings to make others feel comfortable. Her house was always full of laughter and love and encouragement…and people.  Judy and her family recently endured gut wrenching tragedy, and all the love and kindness and encouragement she’s showed to others over the year flowed back to her 10 fold.

Fort Campbell, Kentucky held so many  other great relationships for me. My friend and coworker, Hope, who pushed me to break out of my comfort zone and try new books as well as a new career. Amy, who taught me class and beauty and thrift can co-exist. Lanette and Kelsey, who held my sweet babies and forced me to rest or get out of the house when I was just too exhausted to mother my twins. It also brought a shy young woman into my life named Tana who, at the time of our meeting, neither she nor I knew what an important role she would play to both my girls and me as role of friend and caregiver.  There was also my coworker and friend Lee. I had been teaching for only a few months at a school there, and to be honest, I felt like I wasn’t a very good fit in the South.  But she pulled me aside one day and said, I’m so glad you are here and that we are friends.  Talk about the power of a few simple words.

At our first post in Vilseck, Germany, my coworker, Catherine, taught me that positive takes on people and situations will get me much farther in life than whining and muttering while my friend, Sandi, proved a woman can have it all, but it takes, hard work, devotion, patience and a lot of love.

I’ve mentioned My Oaks from Lafayette, IN, before, but I need to highlight Yolanda and Lisa – to of the toughest, grittiest women I know. Single moms, they sacrificed so much emotionally for their children to live better lives than their own. What deep reservoirs of love those women’s souls held.

From my own family to my girlfriends scattered all over the place, I have so many more names and lives than I have room to mention. You know who you are.  You are the clouds of witnesses surrounding me, and you will live on in the lives of my daughters.

Thank you all for running like girls through the portions of my life’s race that you shared with me. May my daughters be blessed with the same kind of partners.

girls on the run

 

 

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Oh, it’s you.

Izzy3 5.2.13

Izzy 5.2.13

 

 

 

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All I Mentioned Were Some Dead Limbs…

by Priscilla on May 15, 2013

..and the next thing I knew, I was standing at the kitchen sink, looking out the kitchen window at this…

 

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Yes, that is my 70 something father-in-law taking it upon himself to rid my very old redbud  tree of its dead limbs while Twin A looks on. I think next time I need to clarify that I am simply making an observation not a demand. (I will say this for the man – he looks very dapper in his tree climbing attire.)

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All I Wanted To Do Was Plant Some Flowers

by Priscilla on May 13, 2013

Mother’s Day Eve found me and 3,000 other good folks at a local wholesale nursery where I commenced with my once a spring traditional activity of overbuying flats of annuals for all my hanging baskets and urns.  True to Indiana form, the warm weather quickly changed from warm and sunny to frigid and frosty so the flats of plants stayed put in our garage for two nights in order to avoid an early death – well, earlier than usual – I’m still working on my green thumb.

This morning Mr. TIS survived an ACL reconstructive surgery, and while he lay on the sofa doped on on Percocet and Oxycontin, muttering over and over, I’m leaving you everything.  It’s all yours, I decided now was as good as time as any to get some fresh air and sunshine and drag all the plants out and ready them for transplant. (My entire family agrees it is for the best that I didn’t follow my parents into the medical field seeing as my empathy and bedside manner leaves much to be desired.)

Apparently, the animals thought so too, including The Cat Formerly Known as Priscilla because when I opened the back door both she and our dog, Suki, zipped out hissing and barking all the way into the back yard.  Ignoring them, I began digging up and swearing at invasive vinca vines when I noticed things were strangely quiet.  I looked around to see Suki staring and pointing up a tree at a cardinal.

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Why in the world is she now, all of the sudden interested in birds?  I thought. Then I looked again and thought, Good grief she’s treed a coon. 

Until I looked closer….

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It was neither a bird nor a coon that captured her interest.

 

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