Archive for the 'school' Category

16
Mar
13

Not the Path I Would Have Chosen

When Jeff and I moved to Nashville almost six years ago, we came here to help a struggling school. When that school closed down four years ago, we had no idea what to do with our five children (ages 4-12 at the time) who attended that school. It was sad to see so many families struggle with where they would send their kids to school, as well.

Feeling like we had no other options, we went ahead and homeschooled. We had homeschooled several years earlier when our older boys were younger, so I knew we could do it, but I didn’t really want to, to be perfectly honest.

After the school closed down, my plan was to home school our kids for a couple of years and then find a  private school our kids could attend. So, for me, homeschooling was a very temporary thing, to say the least. I love my kids, but I didn’t want to hang with them every day, all day long.

We survived homeschooling for two years, and then that next summer I begged God to release me from homeschooling my kids. I was done. When I realized He was not answering my prayers for release, I realized I might be in this for the long haul, and instead of fighting it, I chose to embrace it.

I had a decent relationship with my kids. I was physically present and took care of them, but I struggled with being emotionally present a good deal of the time. For years, I struggled with emotional affairs, always looking for greener grass elsewhere and not satisfied with God or what He had given me.

But a few years ago, God really began doing His healing work in me, and I began to have victory in an area that I thought I would struggle with for the rest of my life. As a result of His healing, I now had the time and the emotional energy to invest in my kids and began being in real relationship with them, not just passing them in the hall or cleaning up after them or even teaching them school.

We began talking and haven’t stopped yet…real conversations about God, about the stuff that they feel and what they’re going through on a daily basis. We laugh; we joke; we play games; we talk. Jeff and I love sitting in our dining room in front of the fire talking and hanging out with our kids. It is truly one of the best parts of my life.

I’m not a creative home school mom who comes up with fun activities for my kids to do, and my kids would probably say homeschooling is pretty boring for the most part. But what I’ve found in being around my kids all day long and them being around each other is that I would not exchange the relationships I now have with them and the ones they have with each other for anything in the world. It’s a gift from God. And I am just so incredibly grateful.

I would not have chosen this path for myself, but I’m thankful for my loving Abba who chose it for me and gently pushed me down it. He really does know what best for me, for all of us.

And those years the locusts ate…they’ve been reclaimed and restored many times more than I could possibly have imagined.

I will lead the blind by a way they did not know;
I will guide them on paths they have not known.
I will turn darkness to light in front of them
and rough places into level ground. (Isaiah 42)

15
Dec
10

Institutionally Dependent

I am guilty of relying on institutions to help me make and sustain relationships.

I know this because once the institution has been stripped away, in most cases, I rarely see or hear from those people again and vice versa.

So I have this feeling of “lostness” because not only have I now lost my institution, whether it be church or school or work, but now I’ve misplaced all my friendships related to that institution, and they’ve somehow replaced me as well.

So what do I do to make myself feel better? I try to find another institution, one that will give me structure and programs and ultimately friendships.  It seems like in most cases I can’t do it on my own…make friends, that is.  

I feel better about going to an institution and finding people who are similar to me and might be relatively on the same page than I do imposing myself upon my neighbor next door.

Yesterday, our neighbor’s alarm kept going off, and the police kept showing up. The police eventually knocked on our door and were surprised that we actually know our neighbors and do talk with them.  Not that we’ve had them over for dinner or anything. She gives my kids stuff and routinely gives us vegetables. And we exchange the friendly neighbor wave.

But I’d rather keep my house to myself and save dinners for my institutional friends.

But I have no more institutions left…(I know I’m really starting to sound like a hippie).

So what do I do about friends? How do I “do life” with the people around me?

Maybe I should start with the neighbors next door, and not just the ones I feel really comfortable with.

There’s that word again…comfort…I really don’t like being uncomfortable. And I really don’t like things being awkward.

Maybe my comfort+my fear=my selfishness. Ouch.

19
Mar
10

Follow Me

When Jeff decided not to finish his doctorate a few years ago, we thought we were leaving education behind. This was scary because being involved in schools is all either of us has ever known. And then Jeff became a principal, and that was a very weird thing because we really thought he was going to become a pastor. But the school, in a weird way, became church to some of the people there. So then we wondered if we made a mistake in not continuing the education route.

When Elisha was plowing in the field, Elijah came up to him and threw his cloak over him. Elisha asked permission to go back and tell his parents goodbye which Elijah granted but told him not to forget what he had just done to him. Elisha didn’t forget, because Elisha took his yoke of oxen that he had been plowing with and killed them and fed his family and then burned up his plowing equipment…the only way of life he had ever known…his way of making a living. He made the dramatic statement…I’m not going back…ever. And then he really couldn’t…he couldn’t turn around and go back when things got tough. There was nothing to go back to.

We’re in that boat now. The school closed, and Jeff hasn’t been able to find another job, and the church thing isn’t coming together…yet. We’ve been completely in limbo for the last 10 months. At times, it feels like we’re on a merry go round, one where the person running it has left and it’s been switched to high speed, and we’re spinning out of control. It’s not fun anymore, and it’s making me dizzy and a little sick to my stomach. And I’m really ready to get off.

Jesus said to his disciples, “Follow Me.” And they left what they knew and followed Him. Immediately. They left fishing nets and tax tables and families and houses. They left not knowing what the next thing was going to be…what was going to be provided for dinner…or where they would sleep that night…or what the next year might hold. Jesus didn’t offer His disciples security…no retirement packages came with His deal. All He offered was His presence and promised that that would be enough. He said it would be hard, and it was.

And then there were the ones Jesus really discouraged from following Him, the ones who said that they wanted to follow Him, but Jesus knew their hearts weren’t really with Him. Some loved money more than Him. Some were more interested in where they were sleeping that night. And some couldn’t let go of their families. And Jesus wanted it all…wanted all of them…wants all of us.

For those who are adventurous, the command “Follow Me” sounds like a cool new adventure, but the last part is what we have trouble with because it says, “he must deny himself and take up his cross daily…” That goes beyond cool new adventure…because following Him means I actually have to die moment by moment to my selfishness and lust and greed…to my ideas of what security looks like and my independence from Him.

Honestly, I have no idea what we’re doing, or where we’re going, and it’s more than a little scary. He just hasn’t let us in on His plan yet. And that is frustrating at times. And I’ve not reacted very well. I’ve felt resentment and self-pity and anger and out of control, and I just want Jeff to be able to get a job so that we’ll be somewhat secure again. But Matthew 10 says, “If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find yourself and me.” Emerson said, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

The pathway is broken
And The signs are unclear
And I don’t know the reason why You brought me here
But just because You love me the way that You do
I’m gonna walk through the valley
If You want me to

Cause I’m not who I was
When I took my first step
And I’m clinging to the promise You’re not through with me yet
so if all of these trials bring me closer to you
Then I will walk through the fire
If You want me to
-“If You Want Me To” by Ginny Owens

I found this quote a long time ago that says, “I do not understand it, but I just keep trusting my good Shepherd that He will not lead me any place He does not want me to follow.” So, I guess it’s the merry go round for me just as long as He wants it to be…

28
Dec
09

Jeff’s Christmas Letter 2009

Christmas 2009

Dear Family and Friends,

Merry Christmas and Happy New Years! Usually Kim writes our Christmas letter, but we thought I could give it a try this year. During our time in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, our hearts were being led from a life in school world to a life in church world. Over a few years, we were becoming more and more eager to plant a new church. And then, oddly enough, in the summer of 2007, the Lord very obviously led us to Nashville to help with a school.

During the two years at Pioneer Christian, we learned a lot, met some wonderful people, and developed a heart for the families in the area. We went through a very difficult situation with a loving and gracious Father and a bunch of terrific people. Although the school closed in May 2009, our time at Pioneer was in many ways a beautiful time in our life as a family. And now for the last few months, we have been laying the groundwork for planting a new church on our side of Nashville. We’re looking forward to seeing what the Father has in store for North Hills Church. Long term, our desire is to encourage and support a growing network of new churches in our area. We’re grateful that the Father has invited us on this adventure, and it’s been encouraging to watch Him provide for us in every way.

We’re home schooling this year, and it’s definitely improved our unity and our conflict management skills. I’m incredibly thankful that I have been able to spend so much time around my family. Jesse is a compassionate, magnetic leader, a champion for the outcast and the forgotten. Jonah is a creative designer who believes firmly that what the world needs is more and better parties. Jake is an artistic lover of nature with tremendous insight into the world around him. Julia is a beautiful package of pure energy. She has the gift of gumption. Jeremiah is all brightness and joy, and he conquers everything around him with smiles and hugs.

Kim amazes me. Everything about her is touched with the grace of authenticity. Her awareness of her Abba’s love can be almost overpowering at times. As for me, I’m still becoming Jeff, becoming more and more grateful, becoming more open and aware.

If you’d like to keep in touch, Kim and I are both on Facebook. Kim writes a blog at
https://lovegracepeace.wordpress.com. I’ll be starting a North Hills Church blog soon. Our emails are darnell.jeff@gmail.com and lovegracepeace@gmail.com.

May you see your self and those around you through the eyes of your Father.

Grace and Peace,
Jeff

07
Dec
09

Hope Found

It’s been a tough three years. Before we moved to Nashville, Jeff and I walked through a really rough time in our marriage. And then when we moved to Nashville, we walked into a school (Pioneer…see Does Jesus Care About a School? parts 1 and 2) that was in the process of a slow death and was so full of legalism that we felt like we’d been shot back in time about 10 years. Then, after all the good but difficult changes that Jeff made in the first year at Pioneer, we walked into the second year there, and because of the recession we didn’t have enough students. So every month, we didn’t know how the teachers and the bills were going to be paid. We tried many different ways to keep the school open and spent hours praying for a miracle. I found myself often putting my hope in some mystery person who was going to walk in and save the day and the school, and it didn’t happen. But in the middle of it all, Abba kept telling me that He is a God of hope, no matter what happened. And even though the school ended up closing, I began to really believe that He truly is my Hope no matter what happens with schools and situations and people.

But this summer I struggled with a lot of different things…I grieved about Pioneer closing. And I worried about what we would do about school for our children (we are currently home schooling) and then I worried about how we were going to be able to survive financially.

At one point, I became angry and fearful because I was hoping my life would be more secure…more comfortable…enough money to do what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to have to trust every day that He would provide. I didn’t want to have to even think about it. I just wanted to live my life the way I wanted to and not really depend on Abba moment by moment.

I remember hearing the story about George Mueller, who ran an orphanage, and how they would sit down to breakfast, and there would be nothing to eat, and they would pray and thank God for the food that He was going to provide, and then a milk truck would break down on the street in front of their door. This kind of crazy stuff happened a lot for them. They rarely seemed to have what they needed before they needed it. They always got enough right when the need arose. And that made me frustrated that we might have to live that way. I was fearful that my family might not have enough.

But in the middle of all this fear, Abba brought the verse to mind in I Timothy that says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” Fear always seems to push the other three out…the power, the love and the sound mind…they just seem to vanish because fear paralyzes us. No wonder “Do Not Fear” is the most often repeated command in the Bible.

I really wrestled with this. At one point, I’m not even really sure when, I threw up my hands and finally accepted whatever it was He had for me and my family. There are still fearful days, but I’m learning to hold my hands palms up and receive what comes from Him. I am learning to trust…not in my ability to be frugal, not in a job, not in my husband, not in a school, not in the church…just Him.

So here’s our modern day George Mueller story…a few months ago, one of the Nashville transit buses bumped into the back of our van while Jeff was sitting at a red light. Thankfully, Jeff wasn’t hurt at all. It messed up our bumper a little more than it already was (it already had a dent in it) but did very minimal damage. So, right when our need arose, we got a check in the mail with Jeff’s name on it. The Nashville transit bus just turned out to be one of our crazy milk trucks.

So, Jeff and I are in the middle of doing a church plant in North Nashville. Jeff has a pastor’s heart, but Jeff and I are not church planters…This is one of those weird God-things. The desire to unearth this community called North Hills Church is totally from Him. And then I ran across this a few weeks ago…

Go the lost and confused people right here in the neighborhood.
Tell them that the kingdom is here…Don’t think you have to put
on a fund-raising campaign before you start. You don’t need a
lot of equipment. You are the equipment, and all you need to
keep that going is three meals a day. Travel light. (Matthew 10)

Some days these verses feel totally overwhelming and insane. But Isaiah 43 says, “when you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end-”

Everything always comes back to Him…Jesus was sent so that we could have hope…not in money, not in jobs, not in situations, not in people, not in schools, not in churches…He came so that He could BE our Hope.

08
May
09

Does Jesus Care About a School? (Part 2)

Pioneer Christian Academy (see Does Jesus Care About a School?) is closing at the end of this school year. After being open for 39 years, it’s over. It’s the school my husband graduated from, and the school he’s been the headmaster of for the last two years. It’s where my own children have felt at home and have made good friends, and it’s the school I now work at due to default (the 5th grade teacher quitting in early December).

But Pioneer’s closing is a done deal. We prayed for God’s will, and this is it. Sometimes, it’s hard to see the greater good in it all, but I know that Abba is in control, He loves each one of us, and He is good. So this is good, even though at times it doesn’t feel like it. I’m not going to lie and say it’s been easy because it hasn’t. In fact, it’s been downright hard and ugly at times. And there are times when I just want to bang my head against the wall in frustration…frustration that there’s nothing anyone can do about all this…

It’s been painful having to watch my co-workers, who have become my friends try to find other jobs when there’s a shortage of teaching jobs and to watch my students be sad about not seeing each other anymore. This has been the school where some of them have been since kindergarten…It’s not easy for them to walk away and have to find another school and new friends where they might not feel as loved and accepted. There’s just a lot of uncertainty and instability for everyone right now. We, too, have no idea what the next thing is for our family either. But I’m clinging to the fact that Abba is still in all this…and some moments that’s all I’ve got.

A couple months ago, Jeff and I both woke up mad…angry that we had to deal with all the stuff that’s involved in a school closing. There are so many emotions…just wanting to be done with it all and then just wanting to hang on just a little while longer but then in the very next breath just wanting it to be over already…it makes me crazy at times.

But on this particular morning, Jeff and I went around and around about how difficult this has been. I went from trying to be supportive to wanting to chuck my hairdryer across the room (not at him, just against the wall, and I really wasn’t angry at him…I was just frustrated about the seemingly stupid situation I’m in.) And then I proceeded to tell Jeff, “I quit. I cannot deal with this any longer.” I put my jeans on and threw myself down on the bed. Jeff told me that I couldn’t abandon my students and started listing off the names of the kids in my class…I thought that his calling out the names of the kids in my class was a pretty low-down dirty trick, but it worked because I began picturing their faces…those kids who have been through so much in the last couple of years…such legalism and then such freedom… and now the loss of a place where they finally feel loved and accepted…and that some see as a haven.

After my temper tantrum, I agreed to go back to school but was still very much struggling to get a grip. After Jeff left our bedroom, I began to cry. I stood at the ironing board in my room and cried to Abba, sobbing out loud, “I can’t hear you anymore. I just can’t hear you over there, at that place.” And He said to me very, very clearly, “Take care of My sheep.”

So I finished getting ready and went in to school and did as I was told. I took care of His sheep for one more day. And that’s what I’ve been doing. But some days are just really hard…I can’t help but feel like we’re on our own version of the Titanic…one that’s been in the process of sinking for a long, long time. Most days, Jeff prefers to see Pioneer closing as a launching pad…where each one of us is being launched off in a different direction…to other places to be the hands and feet of Jesus to other people. And that’s a great way to look at it, but most days it still really feels like the Titanic to me.

I guess one of the hard things is that there have been some who have already left…parents, students, staff…, and it feels sometimes like those who have left have taken the lifeboats and the lifejackets and have left us to keep pitching water at the bottom of the ship, which is pretty hopeless at this point, and everyone knows it.

As some have left and said their goodbyes, I have had the crazy urge to cling to their legs like a little kid who won’t let go of his mom, the kid whose arms have to be pried from around her legs. I can sometimes picture myself as that little kid, wailing, “Please don’t go. Please don’t leave us. It’s not fair.” But on the other hand, I feel a little giddy for them because they got out…they got out in one piece, and I may not…well, at least it feels that way at times.

And I know it’s what Abba wants them to do, but I still can’t help but feel gut-punched at times…abandoned even. But this is what I’m supposed to do…It’s what I’ve been clearly told to do…”Take care of His sheep”…so that’s it …that’s all I can do. And I look around at the faces in my class, and I know it’s where I’m supposed to be. I have to see this thing through…finish it out. A friend of ours says that sometimes it’s necessary to “hold the hand of a dying ministry.” So, I guess in essence that’s what we’re all really doing.

As I was lamenting to a friend about being in the bottom of the Titanic bailing water, she said, “Oh no, you’re not bailing water…you’re the musicians…you’re playing the music.” So, for those of us who are left, for those who have stayed on board…we’re the musicians, playing the music as the ship goes down…making sure everyone doesn’t panic…helping quiet the terror that rages within when change happens…playing the music that lifts the soul and takes a person beyond what their present circumstances are…helping everyone see the beauty around them…helping everyone hear the voice of God…”Peace…Peace be to you.”

27
Jan
09

Finding Strength in Weakness

 
In the Bible, Paul asked three times for a certain affliction to be taken away, to which Jesus responded, “My grace is enough, because my strength is perfected in your weakness.” In a way I think He was saying, “Hey buddy, you’re going to be weak because I want to be your strength.” That’s what He’s been saying to me lately anyway. But being weak is hard…it’s admitting self-defeat, which I’m pretty sure Jesus is in favor of me doing. When I’m forced to be weak, there are only two choices, as I see it…to kick and scream and try to claw my way to independence and miss seeing all that Abba is doing in the middle of it…or to accept my weakness as a gift, knowing that Abba is working some greater good, scraping off a little more of the gunk of life, more of the selfishness, more of the greed that’s become encrusted over my true self…the person Jesus is in the process of making.

Last semester, I had a life of relative ease. Well, as much ease as a person who has 5 children can have. I had ten hours a week all to myself, to do whatever I wanted while all the kids were at school and Jeremiah was at preschool. But all that changed right after Thanksgiving. Jeff had a teacher quit, the one I had been subbing for every Wednesday morning. So I stepped into the 5th grade position two weeks before Christmas break. I should have known back in October that I was in for something when I was in the class picture, which seemed very odd to me at the time, but Abba’s sense of humor and foreshadowing is always really funny to me. I love my students, and I love the people I work with, and I have a serious crush on my boss Jeff. My son Jonah is in my class as well as my nephew Eli. But, honestly, working full-time was kicking my butt with our family of seven. Many nights, I came home and went to bed with Julia and Jeremiah around 8, never to get back up again until the following morning. But I knew that that was what Abba had called me to do, and somehow he was giving me the strength to do it.

A couple weeks after Christmas break was over, there was a situation at school where we felt Abba was leading us to provide a temporary home for a couple of the boys in the school which was, I might add, way, way beyond our comfort zone as a family.  And not only that, but one of these children has diabetes, which requires counting carbs and giving shots after each meal. Honestly, for two weeks, I cried every day I was so overwhelmed with all the stuff that had to be done. I’m such a low maintenance person that this was way beyond me and my capacity to cope. The funny thing is that I would usually start crying out of frustration and selfishness and just general pity-party kind of junk, but my cries ended up as a sacrifice, in a sense, that I offered up to Abba each day, throwing my hands up, admitting my weakness and begging for His strength. And in the process I found Him unbelievably strong. One day, He told me, “Get on your knees now.” I refused for a little while, trying so hard to hang on to my own strength, but when I finally gave in, I dropped to my knees and my junk erupted out of me, like a volcano spewing lava. And then there was a calm again, because I had once again been emptied of myself.

The phrase “God won’t give you anything you can’t handle” makes me guffaw and almost fall in the floor because I’m laughing so hard. I mean, who came up with that anyway? Apparently that person was either delusional or lying. Why wouldn’t Abba give us more than we can handle? If He never gives me more than I can handle, then that makes whatever I am given in life do-able. So, then, who really needs Jesus anyway?

I’m hear to say that God gives us way more than we can handle and then some, and then sometimes, gives some more. But Abba keeps reminding me that this is not a time to endure but rather a time to embrace and to love…love the people and the life I’ve been given…even on those mornings when I think, “I really don’t want to do this today…any of it.” But admitting it, embracing Him, and moving on in His strength is when I realize He’s right there walking this path with me. He created it for me. Two weeks ago, the day the two boys came to live with us, I was driving Jonah to choir practice, and in front of me there was a car with a license plate that said, “Unity 9.” For me, Abba couldn’t have been any more lovingly clearer.

“To step out of my comfort zone
Into the realm of the unknown
Where Jesus is,
And He’s holding out His hand…”




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