Sunday, August 18, 2013

Brunch with a Super Model

Yep.  I did.  I ate chicken-salad croissants and muffins and fruit with a super model yesterday.

But I'll get back to that in just a minute...

If you happened to read this post back in February, Tea, My First-Born and Me, then you already know I have been going through the Secret Keeper Girl book, 8 Great Dates for Moms and Daughters, with my oldest, Grace.

When I wrote that post, we'd only been out on our first date.  Our intention from the start was to go on one special date per month, leading up to Grace's 10th birthday in October.  Amazingly, I can say we've done just that!  So, date #7 was slated for the month of August. (I know, I know.  I need to go back and post about dates #2-6...) 

With the start of school and other responsibilities, I confess I'd not given this month's date all that much thought.  I knew the suggested activity was for me to take Grace to a hair salon and allow her to get a new "do".  But we'd just done that last month--not because it was fun, but because girlfriend desperately needed a haircut.

A couple weeks ago, our church announced an upcoming women's event: a brunch and a guest speaker.  The scheduled guest speaker was Kylie Bisutti.  Don't know the name?  Neither did I at first.  Let me introduce you to her.

Kylie is a former Victoria Secret's model turned role model who’s written a book entitled, I’m No Angel. 

By His grace, God rescued Kylie from a destructive industry and set her onto a path to give Him glory through her story when she chose to walk away from it all.  The fame.  The notoriety.  The money.  All of it.

Today, Kylie is 23 years old, married, and expecting her first child.  From my limited observation, she is a quiet, humble young woman whose heart still breaks when she speaks of her intense struggles for affirmation and attention during her modeling career. 

Now, she feels compelled to help young girls (and women) see and shatter the illusion the enemy presents in the form of worldly beauty and acceptance.

When I first heard about the women's event and the speaker, I must confess, I wasn't keen on the idea.  For several reasons, I just wasn't.  I couldn't figure out how Kylie's story of walking away from the fashion world would intersect with my life today.  I mean, what on earth could a stay-at-home, homeschooling mama possibly have in common with a super model?  No. I couldn't see the connection, but I decided to go anyway.

Then several of my mama friends mentioned they were bringing their daughters to hear Kylie speak.  I asked Grace if she wanted to come and she did. 

A couple days before the brunch, I looked back over date #7 and noticed the title, "Internal Fashion".  The premise of date #7 was the emphasis on inner beauty.  Paying more attention to what our hearts are wearing on the inside versus what we're wearing on the outside.  With submission being the main focus.

The author, Dannah Gresh, describes submission (that often misunderstood word in our society) as "allowing someone else to lead you."

The more I read the chapter on date #7 and armed with what I already knew of Kylie's story, I thought, "Hmm...I think I'll let this brunch fulfill our date for the month."  I had no idea how much it would do just that.

As she spoke to a room filled with about 400 females, I listened as Kylie shared her heart.  She spoke about the ungodly things she did and then how God’s kindness led her to repentance.  I heard her say (without actually saying) how she learned to submit to God, allowing Him to clothe her with strength and dignity, good deeds, and the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. 

Afterwards, I had the privilege of relating those observations to my daughter.  No, we didn’t make it to the hair salon today as instructed in date #7, but we heard and saw a living testimony of submission.  A gorgeous girl with an even more gorgeous soul, telling and showing what true beauty is.  An example of modesty, renewed purity and redemption.

I spoke with Kylie when the brunch was over and nearly everyone else had left.  I asked her if she'd ever heard of Secret Keeper Girl.  She had not, but seemed genuinely interested in knowing more about it.  Briefly, I went on to explain about the ministry and my love for it. 

I told her I felt Secret Keeper Girl might really like her message.  She was very intrigued and told me she would definitely look them up.  Then, before I walked away, I encouraged her with the fact that she never knows what God's plans could be for her and what platform He might present to her next.  Maybe working on the Secret Keeper Girl team???
How awesome would it be if Kylie's path and Secret Keeper Girls' paths intersected?  I feel her heart’s message, the message of true beauty and modesty, resonates with theirs.  She wants to be a positive role model now and help as many young girls as she can.  I believe young girls might really respond to seeing a young, beautiful, successful model who left the fashion industry tell them what God really thinks about beauty. 
Don't you agree?
I believe Kylie is a treasure in the kingdom of God and He’s using her in amazing ways with this generation of young girls. 
And how awesome would it be for her to exchange one kind of secret for another?

From Victoria's Secret to Secret Keeper Girl.

I believe in this so much that I actually typed out a two-page letter on behalf of Kylie and sent it to Dannah Gresh.  I know.  Completely crazy, right?  (Now pray Dannah will actually receive it and read it!)
I've never done anything like that before in my life.  But after sitting next to Kylie at the table and listening to her share her heart as my friend interviewed her on stage, I was compelled to do so. 

I saw God's child.  And someone's daughter whom I could have easily taught in first grade back in the day.  And a young woman who's seen and experienced much darkness in her few years.  And a wife and mom-to-be now basking in Christ's light and favor shining around her.
So I guess I was wrong...again.  Kylie's story did, in fact, intersect with my life.  Just not in any way I thought it would.  But only God could do that.  And I'm glad He did. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Why We're Homeschooling Again This Year

As much as we'd like to proclaim, "LONG LIVE SUMMER!" from the tops of our lungs, we have to face the fact.  It's that time of year. 

Back to school.

Before moving ahead to our third year, let's venture back just a few months ago here at Fort Academy.  Last May we celebrated both Gloria's kindergarten graduation and the end of another successful year.  Here are a few pics.

Rocked out our 2nd year!
Girls helped me set the table for our end-of-school celebration
The staff and student body
Best. Class. Ever.
Cue the "Pomp and Circumstance"
Singing the "Magic e Song"

Sharing a piece of poetry

Girls were tickled to give me this...
Yes!  Teacher of the Year!  Tough race, but SO glad I came out on top. ;)

As my girls start 1st grade and 4th grade, I want to step back and remind myself why we do what we do.

We know the choice we've made to homeschool our girls is the best fit for us in this season with our family.  Right now it just works.  We're aware that one day it might not.  That's why we take one year at a time, constantly reevaluating and reconsidering the needs of our girls and of ourselves.

And just like any parent trying to help any child with anything, particularly homework, we have bumpy moments in this journey.  Some days it is inevitable.  Lots of pouting, grumbling, and crying. And then on other days, it's my girls' turn. :)

For the record, I attended a public elementary, middle and high school.  So did my husband.  We loved it.
I graduated from a Christian college and then began teaching in a public elementary school.  Loved it.
I married my husband who has been teaching in the public education system for 16 years.  He loves...okay...most days, he likes it.
My oldest attended preschool, kindergarten and first grade in a fabulous local Christian school.  She loved it.
My youngest attended preschool at the same school.  Also loved it.
I was a long-term substitute at that exact school.  Loved it.
And my husband is currently serving in his second year on the school board there as well.  Loves it.

But yet...

We homeschool.  And you guessed it.  We love it.

Maybe we just love education.  Maybe we're just school nerds who are capable of being content learning wherever, whenever.  Maybe.

But maybe we have chosen to homeschool because we felt the Lord leading us strongly in this direction three years ago and still choosing to keep us here now.

While God continued to nudge us toward to homeschool, simultaneously I sensed His call to die to selfishness.  Always the hardest part for me.  (Still is.)  In this case, I struggled with wanting MY freedom.  MY independence.  MY time. 

As I continued to wrestle with the Lord about this, I found my clear answer one evening in a very familiar story in Matthew 14. You know the one. Hungry crowd. Little boy. Bread and fish. Big miracle.

Simply put, the people were starving after being outside all day long.  Jesus' disciples, who were probably feeling the hunger pangs themselves, came up with their own solution.  Send the people away to get their own food.

But Jesus had a different plan and a completely different response: 

"They do not need to go away. 
You give them something to eat."

Without a doubt, I knew in that moment, God had given me a directive through His Word.

I was not to send my girls away to get their needs met by anyone else.  I was to do it.  It was to be my job.  My responsibility.  I was to give them "something to eat."

*what if I screwed up?
*what if I didn't have enough patience?
*what about friends?  Mine and theirs?

As my list of questions grew, and as insecure and incompetent I felt, I still knew what I had to do. 

I did the same thing the little boy did with his five loaves and two fish. 

I took the little bit I had (the little bit of educational experience, the little bit of desire, the little bit of patience, the little bit of unselfishness, the little bit of confidence, etc.) and offered it to Jesus

Looking in, my basket held little to boast about.  Little to make a difference.  But humbly and willingly, I lifted it up to the only One who can multiply equations far more complex than any I ever tried to solve in school.

My job was to submit to His plan for our family. 
My joy has been watching Him feed His little sheep.

Out of curiosity last night, I asked my husband and both of the girls why we homeschool and why they like it.

My husband gave his list.  It was full of great answers like: deep, meaningful individualized instruction, a biblical worldview, chance to illuminate Christ throughout every subject, creating life-long learners, privilege of knowing and attending specifically to our girls' strengths and weaknesses, the intimate fellowship with family, etc.

My girls gave their list.  It included: getting to stay home all day, sleeping late, wearing pajamas/dressing how they want, no homework, getting done early, having lots of time to play, getting to be with each other, hearing great stories read to them, cuddling in Mommy's lap to read, moving at their own pace with work/not having to wait for others to finish, having Mommy as a teacher (yes, they really said that one), etc.

After they were all finished, and I'd recorded their answers, I asked again, "So, is that it?  Any other reasons why we homeschool?"

Grace turns to me and says, "Mom, because God told you to.  Remember?"

So, yeah, I guess that's it. 

Until we hear differently, until we are led in another direction, the plan is to continue homeschooling.  We will continue to give them something to eat.  We will continue to offer up our baskets in obedience and wait as He provides in miraculous ways.

My prayer for my girls is the same result the crowd (and the disciples) had after Jesus took care of their needs.

"They all ate and were satisfied..."
Matthew 14:20

Disclaimer: We know homeschooling is not the best fit, nor God's plan for every family. (gasp!)  We have friends and family who homeschool, some who send their children to Christian school, some who attend public school.  Each family has to do what is best for each individual child at each stage in his/her life.  We fully support all three options and the families who represent them.  As stated before, this is the best plan for us at this season in our lives.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Clutching the Lion

One last thing I wanted to do before our summer was officially over.

I wanted to introduce the girls to my all-time, favorite hero in all of children's literature.

I wanted to read the same book to them which was read to me when I was in elementary school.  The same book I couldn't help but read again as an adult.

I had to tell them about an epic adventure in an enchanted land.

I had to introduce them to Peter and Susan and Edmund and Lucy.  And to Narnia.  And more than anything, they just had to know Aslan.

So I found my copy of, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and I started reading.  Prodded along by the girls, I finished the book in less than three days. 

I've read a LOT of books to my girls over the years, but nothing I can recall has captured their little hearts and minds as this story. 

And why wouldn't it?  It's filled with fantasy, wonder, imagination, good, evil, betrayal, redemption, battle, and triumph. 

But mostly because the main character, Aslan the lion, is a representation of Christ.  I'm grateful my girls were able to see Him and hear Him loudly and clearly throughout the pages. 

They saw His power.   His wildness.  His wisdom.  His friendship.  His protection.  His authority.   His sacrifice.  His love.

And they saw themselves in each of the Pevensie children.  So did I.

Though more like Susan, I would rather identify with the youngest, little Lucy.

Fearless and brave, full of belief.  In all things at all times.

Here's an excerpt regarding Narnia and the Lucy we so love from Jennie Allen's A-MAZING book, Anything,

Aslan is running wild to battle, and she (Lucy) is clutching his fur, just trying to hold on for her life.  When they arrive, everyone has been turned to stone.  Aslan begins to turn them, miraculously turn them back to flesh.  And Lucy gets to be part of that!  She just held on for the wild ride and she gets to see all of that.
All Lucy did was hang on and believeShe believed.  God wants all of us to be a part of these stories with him, and because she hung on, she participated in the most moving of stories, winning wars and healing and restoring souls.  This is the epic stuff spiritual stuff is made of.  I wanted to hold on.  Despite all my fear, I wanted to not miss a thing.
Over and over I'm reminded life is meant to be lived as an adventure.  Safe, comfortable and happy just doesn't seem to cut it anymore.  Neither does living in the middle.  Stuck somewhere in the wardrobe when there's a whole other world waiting to be experienced.

I want to be a part.  So like Lucy, I'm hanging on.

I'm trusting God is still at work.  Still working all things together for the good.  Particularly in the adoption.  I'm clutching tight to His hand, waiting for His Spirit to breathe new life into our situation.

I'm hanging on, keeping my eyes wide open so I don't miss a thing.  I'm hanging on and believing even when it all seems like a crazy, unsafe dream from a long time ago in a faraway land.

Upon hearing about Aslan for the first time from Mr. Beaver at the beginning of the book, Lucy asks,

"Then he isn't safe?"

Mr. Beaver responds with...
It was a necessary reminder for me.  No, He's not safe.  Neither are His ways sometimes. 

But yes, He is good.  And because He's my King, I will trust Him, clutching onto Him for dear life, wherever He chooses to take us on this wild ride.

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