He Shows Up!

December 5, 2009 by kristen  
Filed under Learning

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Advent, of course, means coming. It is good and right that we have a time to remember the longing for Christ’s incarnation, remember that we are longing for his second coming when he will put the world to rights. One thing that struck me this week in a new way is how much Christ’s coming is not just a past and future event, but something that is happening continually.

When a friend drops everything to be with me when I need a friend, Christ is near. When our hearts break with those in sorrow, when we fight for the oppressed, Christ shows up. When we gather at his table, Jesus comes and meets us there. He has come and is coming again, but He IS risen. And that has present implications.

I am still longing for the new heavens and the new earth, for all things to be made new. But I am comforted as I see the ways that he is near, even now.

Reposted from This Classical Life.

Choosing a School or Why Cornerstone?

July 22, 2009 by kristen  
Filed under Grace for Life, Learning

A year ago, we were in the midst of trying to start a small grammar campus in the city – starting with just one class – of the local classical school that is sponsored by a large suburban PCA church. In a lot of ways, this was our ideal. School in the city, with an urban culture, but under the oversight of an established school and its board, with most of the factors such as curricula already decided for us.  Michael taught at the upper school before law school, and we saw firsthand its many benefits and excellent results. However, the idea of sending our children 15 miles into the depths of the suburbs for 13 years of education (and driving our fair share of carpools there and back) was not that attractive. So the idea of a grammar school in the city (and then maybe a bus!) sat well with us, and we were very hopeful that we had a good chance of pulling it off.  Both of us have taught in private schools, and tutored homeschoolers in both class and one-on-one settings, and feel led to have our children in school if possible, some we were not considering homeschooling very seriously.

Due to a number of different disappointing factors, things never coalesced, and we never reached the momentum we’d need to open with even ONE class. In mourning the loss of a great idea unrealized, I had a really hard time getting excited about the good and fine grammar school in the suburbs. Trying to think about how I would make it work even with carpooling gave me a headache, since the preschool we love that our second daughter attends is 5 miles in the other direction (and it takes 40+ minutes to drive between the two.)  And I feared the headache would continue every school day for the next two years as I drove non-stop, tiring myself out.

And then, another option came out of nowhere. An established Christian school in the city, almost 20 years old, SACS accredited and doing neat things academically, located just a mile or so from Lexi’s preschool. There’s a simple reason this option never occurred to us before: this school has traditionally had a uniformly black student body. The board, faculty and staff are diverse, and the school was founded by the white father of a fellow church member (we actually know a good number of people who have been involved there.) As an excellent school, it has long attracted a socially and economically diverse student body, but as they went through accreditation and looked forward to the future (including starting an International Baccalaureate primary program this fall and a very exciting move downtown the following fall) the leadership felt that the school needed more racial diversity to best educate students.

Another family at church is jumping into this endeavor with us, so between the two of us, we have K4, K5 and 1st grade students (with Lexi on deck for next year’s K4.) I’ve appreciated the welcome I’ve felt from parents I have met at kindergarten testing and around the school. It’s not a huge shift in demographics, but it may be the start of something big. Even if it isn’t, we can think of many advantages in giving this a good college try. Relatively few middle class white kids experience being a minority, and our children get to do that in a loving, Christian environment where they will share a great deal of common values with their fellow pupils. They will see the church more broadly than the our denomination and circles, and I hope that it will shape them to be gracious and welcoming to other believers. We avoid sending our children to spend most of their waking moments outside the city, and get to connect with others in the city we never would have met.

This isn’t a contract in blood, and even if the school adds a high school (it has always been K4-8th grade) I am not sure that we will stay forever. Our desires for our children at different points may be better fulfilled other places, even if it means a drive. But right now (and for the foreseeable future if things go well) I wholeheartedly believe that this is the place that best fits the values we want to instill in our kids: solid basic academics, Christian nurture and loving our city as neighbors. It also complements the culture of our home and church by filling in some of our gaps.

If this is the sort of thing that makes you excited, pray with us, for Kate, Brady and Riley, and for their parents, as we learn to navigate the inevitable cultural differences and find grace along the way. Five weeks until the first day of school.

Cross-posted at This Classical Life

MbG Giveaway! Families Where Grace Is In Place

July 6, 2009 by MommyGirl  
Filed under Grace for Life, Learning, Reading Circle

We love giveaways — both the giving and getting of unexpected goodies. Our first MbG giveaway is Jeff VonVonderen’s great book, “Families Where Grace Is in Place.”

Here’s a mini-review of the book:

Families Where Grace Is in Place by Jeff VanVonderen.

This book jarred us both from the unbiblical errors and extra-biblical extremes that run rampant in our previous life. Most startling is VanVonderen’s rather matter-of-fact correction that the Bible doesn’t say that I’m supposed to make my husband love me, nor is he supposed to make me submit. I have my responsibility to submit, and he has his responsibility to love. That’s our division of labor, so to speak.

The same goes with parents and children. My responsibility to not provoke my sons to wrath is actually greater than their responsibility to obey/honor me. I can’t make them honor me, but I need to act honorably. VanVonderen was the first for me that made that very simple, mind-blowing point.

This book is great for refocusing our hearts on Christ and having that overflow of the Gospel impact our families — and I wish we could send everyone a copy! But since we can’t, we’re doing a drawing with lots of ways to be eligible to win.

Three ways to enter. . .

1. Comment on this thread (make sure the email address you put in is correct — it won’t show, though, when you comment.) Limit one entry by commenting.

2. Mention MbG and the giveaway on your blog, facebook, twitter, community forum or an email to friends. You have to comment again, to let us know that you did that. Limit five entries — one for each avenue.

3. If you already have the book, but want to win this one to give away, share something from the book that impacted you in the comments. Limit one entry.

The contest will close Saturday, July 11th, at 7 pm Eastern. The winner will be picked by random drawing. The winner will be emailed and announced here, and Amazon will deliver Families Where Grace Is in Place to your doorstep!

Families Where Grace Is in Place has provided much food for thought and conversation here at MbG, including the following threads. If you want to join the conversation, it’s easy to register at MbG.

Quotes from Grace-Based Parenting Books on Discipline
I need a grace filled parenting bootcamp. STAT.
How do you help your child really know that God loves them?
Heading down the Positive Discipline Journey
Why graceful parenting………
Needing Input: What Do I Do (to Help Children Obey)?
Hebrews 12 and Positive Discipline
Books and Your Theology

7/11/09: Comments closed! Thanks for helping make our first MbG giveaway a success! The winner will be announced soon!

Sweeter than Wine

June 27, 2009 by Camille  
Filed under Learning

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It’s been eight years since we said goodbye to our Elise. I still get anxious as June comes to an end. I get urpy when the starry bunting goes up for sale. I still feel wistful when we watch the fireworks in uncomfortable lawn chairs. It still feels like someone’s missing.

I still try to make her extra short life meaningful and happy. I’ve smocked some dresses for other little girls who’ve gone to Heaven before their first breath. I try to do it every year, but once my little brood on Earth doubled, I had a hard time finishing. I started one dress three years ago (!) that I’m determined to finish this summer.

But my grief has changed. I’d like to think it’s “aged.” Like wine. Sweeter.

All because of these little people around me.

When they see a little girl in a picture book, Isaac explains to his brother, “Gavin, that’s Elise!”

When he asks about Heaven, he imagines that her house “smells like grapes.”

When they look at my baby charm bracelet, they ask about each charm — the ones for themselves and for their siblings in Heaven. I explain that they for sure had an older brother in Heaven.

“What’s his name?” Isaac wonders.

“Well, we didn’t name him, honey, because we didn’t get to know him enough. What do you think his name is?”

He thinks. For a long, long time. “Sonic. Yes, Sonic!”

Awhile back I told them that when they find a penny on the ground, that’s Elise saying “hello!” This helps them and me. They feel connected to their sister and it helps me remember. And it saves me from having to lean over to pick up any change we find.

On a recent and long car ride, Isaac pensively decided, “Mommy? I think that Papa and Sonic are sending me pennies from Heaven too.”

He is planning a party for Elise’s birthday. “She’s never seen a train movie. So I think it should be trains. . . . and red. She needs a red cake!”

Celebrating is so easy for him. So joyful. I think, thanks to these little ones, my grief is growing up to be more like theirs. It’s maturing to be more like a child’s.

A foretaste of Heaven, if you ask me.

Coping with Disappointment

June 25, 2009 by Elizabeth  
Filed under Learning, Loving

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Do you remember any of the disappointments that you experienced in childhood? I know we all had them, times when some promised treat never materialized, a parent failed to follow-through on a promise, something important to you but not so important to others was put aside or forgotten…

As a parent, I try not to promise too much, to guard against too much anticipation from my “I can’t WAIT until Christmas it is too long!” daughter. But sometimes she knows of events ahead of time, such as when an invitation arrives for her to a little friend’s “Monster Truck Birthday Party.” I dutifully note it on my calendar, and do plan to take her…

But then I get busy and forget to look at my calendar… funny how that happens, right? And plan a family gathering for family members who are shortly moving far, far away, that is where my focus is. The day goes by in a blur, another family friend arrives and invites 5 year old Charlotte for a sleep-over and Charlotte is elated and immediately packing, ready to rush home with her for a night of fun and movies that Mommy might not let her see (which I know will largely be ignored because she will be too busy playing and chatting). In the rush and excitement, the Monster Truck party is forgotten…

Until I remember the next day. “Oh NO!” I exclaim to my husband, my stomach turning over, because I know how very, very disappointed she will be. She LOVES parties, and it was for a favorite friend she doesn’t see often. I fret, not sure whether to break the news as soon as I can or keep silent, waiting for it to occur to her to ask me about it, since though sometimes her sense of time is accurate other times she seems to float along in her own world unaware of Important Days until reminded by someone. I mentally braced myself against what I anticipated would be tidal wave of disappointment when she remembered… because I too remember missing the party of my best friend when I was her age. Driving with my parents somewhere, an aimless drive to me because I didn’t know where we were going, a soft exclamation by my mother and muttered comment to my father, which I of course heard, “Oh no, Beth was supposed to go to Amy’s birthday party this afternoon!” The tears and begging on my part, couldn’t I just go late, just to say hi! The calm explanations from my parents, the lingering sadness and disappointment on my part… oh, I knew just how Charlotte would feel.

Today was the day that she remembered. “Mommy, did we miss the Monster Truck party?” My explanation, which immediately seemed to anger her. “You shouldn’t have family parties when I have my friend’s birthday parties! I didn’t want to be at that party anyway!” Tears and upset give way to insults, “I wish you weren’t my parents!” implying other parents would not have forgotten the much anticipated Monster Truck party. I quickly drew a line… “It’s OK to be mad and sad that you missed the party… I feel sad too! But it’s not OK to insult your family and say mean things about us just because we forgot. I’m very sorry, sweetie…”

Amazingly, the tidal wave of disappointment was smaller than I expected. Obviously upset, she stopped her angry words and thought for a while. “How about we have a birthday party playdate with him? Maybe with cupcakes?” It would be a good idea to do a playdate… I could pick up some grocery store cupcakes, I thought.

“Maybe I’ll talk to his mommy about it…” No promises, though I’m aware that to her that is probably as good as a yes.

I decided that a special mommy-daughter outing would be fun. Not to necessarily make up for the missed party, but sometimes I feel that I don’t get to spend enough time just with Charlotte. She’s fun to take places, generally cooperative and always chatty. I propose a breakfast at Starbucks and heading to the local Farmer’s Market together. Her eyes light up, and I’m rewarded with a big hug.

All is not forgotten, but I know that she’s coping with her disappointment… it’s Ok to feel sad, and I know that she can handle it. A hard life lesson but I know that she will be better for it. And I have a feeling that she might start keeping her own social calendar soon, too, help out her absent-minded mama!

Cross-posted at In the Thicket