Monthly Archives: August 2013

Jubilee Academy: The Dream is Coming True

Jubilee Classroom 7As I look forward to Jubilee Academy’s Back-to-School Night this Thursday, and our first day of school the following Wednesday, I can hardly believe it’s finally here. I’ve dreamed this dream for years, and it’s finally coming true!

During these last few days before school begins, there is much to do. This week, Cheri Withrow (Primary Grades Teacher), Janet Schweinhart (Instructional Assistant/Special Areas Teacher), and I are finalizing our lesson plans and making sure the rooms are organized to meet our students’ needs. We’re preparing a school handbook and discussing expectations and procedures. We want to make sure the Back-to-School night and the first week of school go smoothly.

During Back-to-School Night, families will get to know a little about each other, students will drop off supplies, and we will meet with parents to share goals and procedures. This also is a time for parents to get to know the staff. During the parent meeting, students will participate in supervised play.

Saturday, Aug. 31, will be a “work day.” We have invited parents to assist us in moving into our third room. Kavanaugh staff members are working hard to ensure that the room is available that day. The room will serve as an office, library, and additional classroom. 

The first day of school comes on Sept. 4. I’m so excited to have the privilege of teaching in my own school. God has brought together an amazing, dynamic group of families. We get to meet families where they are to provide a quality education to their children. Families have selected from a variety of educational plans, from half day twice a week to full-time. I love the flexibility that we’ve been able to provide.

I am amazed and humbled when I reflect on God’s obvious involvement in my dream of having my own school. In the beginning, I had planned to teach ten students in my own home twice a week. God had different plans. He expanded my dream until it became His vision. Isn’t that fabulous? Now we have 29 students, three teachers, a breathtaking location, three classrooms, and the encouragement that our great God has His hand in every part of this endeavor. Jubilee Academy is a dream come true!

God is good ALL the time

Psalm 23

Have you ever heard someone say, after something goes right, “God is good!”? If you’re like me, you’ve heard that phrase countless times. But how many times have you heard someone say, “God is good!” after something goes wrong, or when they’re going through a tough time? Here’s a more challenging question: How many times have you said, “God is good!” when something has gone wrong in your own life?

Is God good all the time? Of course He is. If you’re a Christian, you probably think that’s a ridiculous question. But since we seldom celebrate our sorrows by stating that, “God is good!”, I believe it’s a fair question.

Yes, God is good all the time. He’s good when you get the promotion and when you lose the job. He’s good when you find out you’re pregnant and when you miscarry. He’s good when your kids make you proud and when they devastate you. He’s good on your wedding day and on the day you find out your spouse has had an affair. He’s good when the tests come back negative and when you find out you’ve got six weeks to live. He’s good when your name is clear and when you finally have to admit the ugly truth of what you’ve done. God is good ALL the time. Not just when things go right.

In my own life, the past couple of years have taught me more about this concept than the rest of my life put together. I have been a Christian for 20 years this month, and God’s grace has carried me through many small and medium difficulties. But I’m convinced that, the longer we live, the larger the difficulties we have to face. At least that’s been my experience.

Right now, I’m seeing God do amazing work at Jubilee Academy, and that is so encouraging! It’s exciting! It’s something to celebrate! It’s a feel-good kind of thing. God is good!

But I’m also seeing God do extraordinary work in other areas of my life, but it’s a struggle. It’s not enjoyable. It’s painful. It’s definitely not feel-good. At times it’s discouraging–even devastating. But, because God is at work, it is exciting and it is something to celebrate. God is good!

So, the next time you hear that phrase, “God is good!”, remember, God is always good, no matter what we’re going through or how our circumstances appear. I challenge you to say and to believe that “God is good!” all the time, no matter what’s going on.

Can we admit we’re not “close to perfect?”

Maskerade-0

I would love to present myself as a close-to-perfect person with a close-to-perfect family. I know I can’t present myself, or my family, as completely perfect, because there was only one perfect person who ever lived. However, I can try to make you think that we’re close to perfect. Think about our Facebook pages and our blogs. We can make our lives look ideal, despite struggling through great difficulties (or just through the day-to-day challenges).

I’m not going to chronicle all of the adversity in my life, but I want to be clear when I say that I’m far from perfect and so is my family. I realize that you probably already know that, especially if you know us personally. Even if you don’t know us, you know we’re not close to perfect, because you and your family aren’t either.

Why, though, is it so difficult for us to admit this? Why do we put on masks for each other, pretending that everything is fabulous and that our families have it all together, even when we’re really struggling? (Isn’t this hypocrisy?)

We argue with our spouses and children in the car on the way to church, then step out with our Sunday smiles and tell everyone we’re fine. If our kids won’t behave or we have marital strife, we keep it all to ourselves, giving the impression that things are great in our homes. Why?

For many of us, it’s because we don’t want to be judged, and we suspect we would be. Maybe we have been in the past. Perhaps we’ve known of others who were open and who suffered for it. Our fear and our pride keep us from intimacy with other believers. I’ve heard it said that the Church is the only army that shoots its own wounded. Unfortunately, I’ve seen evidence that this is sometimes a true statement.

But …

What if we really viewed the church as a place for sinners and those redeemed by grace to gather and to authentically worship our great Savior?

What if we accepted everyone exactly as they are, acknowledging that we all need to grow to become more Christlike?

What if we didn’t judge by appearances, but took the time to examine the heart?

What if we didn’t judge by circumstances, but understood that there always are factors we don’t know about?

What if we openly accepted people who struggle, and helped them grow or recover?

What if we supported people who are victims of other people’s sin?

What if I could really tell you my struggles and my family’s struggles?

If so, then …

Couldn’t we help each other out?

Wouldn’t it be refreshing not to have to pretend?

Might our worship be more authentic?

Couldn’t we comfort each other?

Might others benefit from hearing of our own life experiences?

Might we benefit from hearing of their life experiences?

Couldn’t we hold each other accountable in a loving manner?

Wouldn’t we feel freer, lighter, more joyful?

And, most of all …

Wouldn’t we look a lot more like Jesus?

Sowing with tears and reaping with joy

English: Still to harvest.
English: Still to harvest. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Two days in a row the Lord has given me a verse I’ve never really paid attention to before: “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.” (Psalm 126:5)

It’s amazing to me how God gives us, through His Word, exactly what we need at the moment. (Of course, we need to be in the Word in order for Him to speak to us through it.) Right now I need to know that He will use the work that I do while in a season of sorrow, and that He will bring joy out of that work.

Currently I’m in a strange season of life. There is great joy in the way the Lord has guided and provided for Jubilee Academy to be a success. I’m so excited for the school year to start in three weeks. And there’s a good deal of work to do to prepare for that. So there’s plenty of sowing to do right now.

But there also is some serious sorrow due to some circumstances in my life. I’m not going to go into detail here about that, but I think the lesson applies no matter what the circumstances are. If we seek God, listen to His voice, and obey Him through joyful times and sorrowful times, He will bring glory out of it, and that will give us joy in the end! It may take awhile, but He will bring healing and He will work it for good.

 

How should we respond to the consequences of other people’s choices?

Ripple effect on water.
Ripple effect on water. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes life is just hard. Much of the difficulty comes from the fact that we can’t control other people. As hard as we may try or as sincere as we may be, we simply aren’t capable of making anyone do anything. Sometimes it may even seem that we can’t make ourselves do what we know we must do. Old patterns are extremely difficult to change.

There are times when we’re at fault for the difficulties in our lives. Other times, though, we’ve done nothing to deserve suffering.

People’s actions often have a ripple effect. Picture yourself tapping your finger on water. What happens? You make a ripple—a series of circles that generates from the spot where you touched the water. The circles continue until they reach the water’s edge or until they’re intercepted by other objects or patterns. The same is true in our lives. The ripples we begin often have far-reaching effects as they intercept other people’s ripples and obstacles. They continue on for so much longer than just that tiny finger tap that started it all.

Just as our ripples affect others, theirs affect us. Oftentimes the ripples bring good things. Sometimes, however, they bring pain. Heartbreak. Even life change.

So what do we do when this happens? When the ripples bring a tide of tears and torment? It depends. Sometimes there’s nothing we can do but cling to our great God, our Abba (Daddy). Other times, we can add personal action to our faith.

In times of distress, I recall the Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity 
to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can;
 and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time; 
Enjoying one moment at a time; 
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; 
Taking, as He did, this sinful world 
as it is, not as I would have it; 
Trusting that He will make all things right 
if I surrender to His Will;
 That I may be reasonably happy in this life 
and supremely happy with Him 
Forever in the next.
 Amen.

Reinhold Niebuhr

There’s so much wisdom in this beloved prayer. First of all, I’ve wasted countless hours and energy trying to change things over which I have no control. I’m getting better at letting go of these things. But the next couple of lines are the main challenge for me–“the courage to change the things I can.” Now that, coupled with “the wisdom to know the difference,” can be difficult. It can be easy to fall into a victim mentality, thinking I just have to endure my circumstances. Or I can find myself thinking of good solutions, but not carrying them out. Or debating with myself over a solution and neglecting to take action.

As an adult child of an alcoholic, I’m more prone to bear these kinds of burdens. But I know I’m not alone. Many people struggle with how to deal with the consequences of other people’s actions.

So, as I find myself being affected by the ripples of another person’s choices, I have some decisions of my own to make. I need to sort out “the things I cannot change,” and “the things I can.” Then I need to have serenity and courage to deal with the things in each category. That requires that God grant me “the wisdom to know the difference.”

This path isn’t easy. It isn’t pretty. It isn’t comfortable. But it is freeing. And it brings peace.

Top Ten Reasons I’m Excited About Jubilee Academy

ImageFour weeks from today we begin the school year at Jubilee Academy. 28 days. That’s really not much time. I’m excited about this school year for several reasons:

1. God has proven that He is in this. He has provided and blessed beyond what I would have  imagined throughout the process of starting this school. We have a fabulous location with truly kind and encouraging hosts. I just learned that we will have a third classroom available, which is an unexpected blessing.

2. I get to teach my own children. This was the catalyst for launching Jubilee Academy. I wanted to teach my children, but I also desired to remain a classroom teacher. God has worked this out beautifully.

3. Children from amazing families are registered. There are many Godly families who have decided to enroll their children in both the full-time and part-time programs. These families share my vision for an education that equips their children to not just know the what and the how, but the why, an education that equips them to know what they believe and to be able to defend those beliefs.

4. I get to teach children from diverse backgrounds. Some of the families who have joined our school have adopted children from all over the world. I admire these families so much and am honored to be able to teach a diverse group of students. When I started this endeavor, I hoped and prayed for a diverse population. Now I will work with students from countries such as Ethiopia, Liberia, India, and China.

5. I get to partner with families to disciple their children in the Christian faith. Having worked in public school for the past couple of years, I was not allowed to openly share my faith as part of my everyday curriculum. I did have opportunities to mention matters of faith, and I took full advantage of any occasion to legally discuss the Gospel, but at Jubilee Academy, faith is central.

6. I get to use the best research-based strategies and to meet students’ individual needs without being constrained by a superintendent’s or principal’s agenda, or by laws such as No Child Left Behind or Common Core Standards. The absence of bureaucracy will be refreshing!

7. Jubilee Academy offers programs to meet a variety of needs. Students get to come 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 days. Some will attend half-days. I have been able to partner with families to address their individual situations. There are typical students, students on the Autism Spectrum, students with ADHD, and students for whom English is a second language. From the family who is bringing 10 adopted children for reading and writing instruction, to the pastor who wants more time with his kids during the week, to the mom who just wants a little help with math, to the single mom who works full-time but wants an affordable faith-based education–Jubilee Academy is a place where they all can get their children’s needs met.  I am truly amazed that God is allowing me to be a part of  serving these incredible families!

8. I’m partnering with two amazing educators who share my vision, are flexible, and support me 100 percent. They will be a blessing to our students. Thank you, Cheri and Janet!

9. We have a beautiful setting in which to learn. It’s a wooded area with nature trails, campfire areas that make excellent outdoor classrooms, playgrounds, picnic tables, and natural beauty as far as we can see. We will be constantly reminded of our Creator as we learn to grow closer to Him.

10. Since God is clearly doing this, I don’t have to fake being perfect! Throughout the year, I will make mistakes. It’s inevitable. I’m a recovering perfectionist, so this bothers me. I want to be perfect for these incredible students and families. But I just can’t. There is freedom in acknowledging this. Our pastor has been going through a sermon series that has resonated with me. It’s about the beatitudes. According to the beatitudes, in order to be truly healthy, we need to acknowledge that we need help. We can’t pull off a Godly life in our own strength. The week he preached that sermon, I asked God to provide help for a particular situation that affected my role at Jubilee. He did–almost immediately. Another thing the beatitudes teach us is that we don’t have it all together, so we don’t need to pretend. We need to be authentic. So, I’m not pretending: I’m not going to be the perfect teacher or administrator. But I’m depending on the One who is. I’m excited to see what He has in store for all of us as we embark on the adventure ahead!

Reading/Writing Camp students were a joy to teach

Jubilee Camp Noah presentingLast week we finished up a two-week reading writing camp at Jubilee Academy. There were 12 students from four families, ranging from age 8-19. Teaching this group of young people was such a privilege. Many of the students had been adopted from such places as Liberia, Ethiopia, India, Nepal, and China. I appreciated the multicultural perspectives shared during our time together.

During the camp, I taught research-based reading strategies, such as Reciprocal Teaching. Students examined articles and stories and applied the Reciprocal Teaching strategies of predicting, clarifying, questioning, and summarizing. This helped them to slow down and comprehend what they read. It also stimulated discussion that led to deeper understanding of the material and to vocabulary acquisition.

During the writing portion, students had the opportunity to write three pieces. For the first one, we took a nature walk. Each student found an object of interest. We sat in an outdoor “classroom” and students wrote descriptions of what they had found. For the second piece, students brought meaningful objects to camp and wrote narratives about events connected to those objects. For the last piece, students selected from three options–a personal testimony of how God has worked in their lives, what they knew about God, or a letter to a friend telling them about God.

As students worked together, they exchanged meaningful ideas and they had a good time learning strategies that will make them better readers and writers. They also developed friendships that will carry into the school year at Jubilee Academy. Some of the parents decided to enroll at Jubilee while attending the camp.

As a teacher, I can say that this is one of the most delightful groups I’ve ever taught. They were cooperative, attentive, and inquisitive. They worked hard and seemed to have a wonderful time, even though they were doing schoolwork during the summer! Many of the students thanked me for taking the time to teach them. I am so looking forward to working with them this school year.