Cowboy Poetry

29 11 2016

My eldest is in 8th grade, and as part of their English curriculum, students composed a rhyming poem to go along with their study of “Peace Like a River” by Leif Enger.

Each class recited their poems out loud, and the students chose their class representative for the final recital.  Caleb was chosen by his classmates to represent them.

On the day of the final recital, the students were encouraged to dress in cowboy/cowgirl attire, and the four finalists read their poems in the school’s theater and before all their teachers and other guests.  Three faculty members selected the winner.  Caleb and a classmate tied for first.

Here is Caleb’s winning poem.

There lived two men so long ago,
they bought a checkered board.
The first man’s name was Skippy,
while the second was named Ford.

A game of checkers started,
in a quiet, empty room,
and both men sat there thinking,
that the other’d sure face doom.

Ford moved his black piece up one space,
and Skippy did the same.
A jeopardizing move was made,
Ford sighed with such great shame.

The game continued on and on,
and things weren’t looking good.
If Ford could take that one move back,
without a thought, he would.

Then Skippy left to get a drink,
and with him gone, Ford thought,
“I could move a piece or two,
I hope I don’t get caught.”

Integrity was lost that day,
but could it be regained?
Skippy returned and saw the change,
and hoped it’d be explained.

“Did you move some pieces round?”
a curious Skippy asked.
At this point would Ford tell the truth,
or try to keep it masked?

“Yes, I did. I’m sorry Skippy,”
Ford then chose to say.
“Please forgive me, I messed up,
just please don’t go away.”

“It’s okay, I understand,
you have received forgiveness.
Let’s restart the game and then
we can get back to business.”

Integrity was shown just then,
in Ford it was restored.
That afternoon, the two men played,
right on that checkered board.


Pursuing Creativity

19 05 2016

The following is a devotion I gave to the graduating senior class at my school yesterday.  Among the members was a group of seven students I have had the honor of “advising” for the past four years.

We’ve each had our own moments where “it” hit us – the realization that the end of their high school career is close.  Yesterday, when all of my advisees stood up during the convocation for me to address each personally was my moment. It took my breath away, and I’m glad to have made it through without completely breaking down.


Good morning,

I am honored to share a few thoughts with all of you today, only about half of which are actually mine.  The rest came from a book I recently read called Big Magic:  Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert.  Some of you may recognize that name from “Eat Pray Love” fame.  Big Magic, however, is not a novel nor memoir, but more a guidebook through the creative process.

ALL of you will go on to creative endeavors.  Hear me well, creativity is not limited to art or music or dance.  We as a culture have come to define it that way, but that definition is so, so limiting.  We often hear, or say ourselves, that someone is creative while another is not.  That is simply not true.

Among God’s many names are the author of Creation and Creator of heaven and earth.  We ourselves are created in the Creator’s image.  So by default, we are creative beings.  Whether we see ourselves that way or not, we are works of creation, and we are called to create.  “It is the creative potential itself in human beings that is the image of God.”

Now some of you will indeed go on to college and your careers after to create art or music or drama.  However, some of you will create new technology or apps or even new programming languages.  Who cares if what you create is done using a computer keyboard instead of a canvas or potter’s wheel?  It’s still a creation.

Some of you will create buildings and structures and incredible engineering feats.  Some of you may create a cure for cancer or the next, new wonder drug.  Some of you will create fashion trends.  Some of you will create through athletic endeavors.

Some of you will create order out of chaos and bring peace and healing in the brokenness in which our world lives.  That, too, is a work of creation, one I believe is near and dear to our own Creator’s heart.  If that is your gift, praise God!

Some of you will create with words and some with film and some with numbers and some with simply a smile.  And most of you I presume, will eventually create new life, though hopefully not for a long while.  You see, these are all creative works.  You are fashioning something new that didn’t exist before, and that, by definition, is creation.

In Big Magic, Gilbert states, “Sometimes I think the difference between a tormented creative life and a tranquil creative life is nothing more than the difference between the word awful and [the word] interesting. . .  A teacher once said that the biggest problem she sees with [her students] is that they quit just when things are starting to get interesting.  Which is to say, they quit as soon as it gets painful, or boring, or agitating.  They quit as soon as they see something in their minds that scares them or hurts them.  [In other words, awful.]  So they miss the good part—the part when you push past the difficulty and enter into some raw, new unexplored universe within yourself.”

So this is my prayer for all of you:  that you find your creative passion, be it through numbers, lyrics, running, or painting or a thousand other things.  I pray that you find what you love creating so much that the words failure and success essentially become irrelevant.  I pray that you create anyways and always.  And most importantly, I pray that through this lifelong creative journey, you always remember your identity is found in no one except for the one who created you.


God bless.  I adore each one of you.

2015 Reading List

3 01 2016


  1. The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances by Matthew Inman
  2. Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer
  3. The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert
  4. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
  5. Managerial Accounting by Garrison, Noreen & Brewer
  6. Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker
  7. House Rules by Jodi Picoult
  8. Carry On, Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life by Glennon Doyle Melton
  9. Operations Management for MBAs by Meredith & Shafer
  10. A Topography of the Soul by Phil Dillingham
  11. Fundamentals of Corporate Finance by Ross, Westerfield & Jordan
  12. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  13. Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
  14. Messenger by Lois Lowry
  15. Son by Lois Lowry
  16. Bringing Innovation to School by Suzie Boss
  17. #EdJourney: A Roadmap to the Future of Education by Grant Lichtman
  18. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead  by Brene Brown
  19. Pure Genius: Building a Culture of Innovation and Taking 20% Time to the Next Level by Don Wettrick
  20. Strategic Management: Competitiveness and Globalization by Michael Hitt, Duane Ireland, and Robert Hoskisson
  21. I Shouldn’t Even Be Doing This! By Bob Newhart
  22. Holding Fast: The Untold Story of the Mount Hood Tragedy by Karen James
  23. Redemption by Bryan Clay
  24. Destiny’s Dwellers by DC Daugherty
  25. HBR’s 10 Must Reads: On Communication
  26. For the Love by Jen Hatmaker
  27. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
  28. Life in the Turn Lane by Jim Patton
  29. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
  30. The Scorch Trials by James Dashner
  31. The Death Cure by James Dashner
  32. The Kill Order by James Dashner
  33. Tales From Another Mother Runner by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea
  34. Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzer
  35. Thank You Power by Deborah Norville
  36. Doing Virtuous Business by Theodore Roosevelt Malloch
  37. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
  38. The Four Agreements by Manuel Ruiz
  39. Trafficked by Sophie Hayes
  40. Bossy Pants by Tina Fey
  41. Holy Bible/The Message by Eugene Peterson

Holy Bible/The Message  by Eugene Peterson
Yes, this book will always be at the top of my reading list.  This marks year five of reading through the entire thing, and I never get tired of it.  In fact, the more I read it, the more I desire to read more.  It’s a wonderful circle.  I continue to be challenged, rebuked, and encouraged, and I hope I always will.

I have been reading a different translation of the Bible the past few years, and this year I read The Message once I got to the New Testament.  It is a contemporary paraphrase, and I really didn’t like it.  I found myself reverting back to the verbiage of the NIV in many places where I found the wording particularly weird.  I know some people really like The Message, but I’m not one of them.

Pure Genius:  Building a Culture of Innovation and Taking 20% Time to the Next Level by Don Wettrick
Innovation, design thinking, and 21st Century skills are the buzz words du jour in academia these days.  And all for a good reason.  As we move toward a flatter world (more global society), our students need to learn skills for jobs that probably don’t even exist today.  In his book, Wettrick offers educators an inside view into designing an Innovations Class along with the pros and cons.

I first met Wettrick at Microsoft’s Innovative Educators Forum in 2011, and we served on the same collaborative team.  Wettrick already was a rock-star teacher and is even more so now.  I recommend this book to any educator or administrator who needs to know how to bring innovation into the classroom in a real-world, authentic, and meaningful way.

Thank You Power by Deborah Norville
Norville cites anecdotal and scientific, peer reviewed research regarding how having a positive attitude can make all facets of life better, easier, etc.  Evidence across the ages points to “an attitude of gratitude” leading to better health, greater optimism, resilience in difficult times, and just living a plain old happier life.

Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzer
The subtitle is “tools for talking when the stake are high,” and that sums it up.  This book is filled with common sense (when we’re not in a crucial conversation) and incredibly simple (in theory) strategies to help us communicate when we’re in a tough situation:  emotions are high, stakes are high, confusion is high, etc.  In these moments when human nature tends to react as poorly as possible, we can retrain ourselves to step back, ask questions, listen better, and create safety and clarity to get meaningful dialogue flowing again.  This book is recommended for anyone who interacts with anyone else on the planet.

For the Love by Jen Hatmaker
Hatmaker is one of my favorite authors.  She is as wise for her years as she is wickedly humorous and witty.  So what is this book about?  The tagline sums it up nicely:  fighting for grade in a world of impossible standards.

Bringing Innovation to School by Suzie Boss
Charged with being more innovative in the classroom this year, this book was the choice as our school-wide summer reading.  It was surprisingly interesting, and it generated several curriculum ideas for the classes I teach as well as an idea for a new class in the 2017 school year.

#EdJourney:  A Roadmap to the Future of Education by Grant Lichtman
Another required summer reading book for my work, this book was similar to the one by Suzie Boss.  In fact, they quoted many of the same authors, interviewed many of the same educators, and visited many of the same schools.  The middle section, chapters 6-10, in particular, offered several useful ideas I hope to adopt in my classroom in the coming years.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
Lencioni is quickly becoming my favorite business/leadership author.  I’ve read several of his books for my MBA work, and the ones I haven’t read for that, I’ll soon be reading for my own pleasure.  Lencioni is able to weave a short, apt narrative brimming with important—and usually ridiculously simple—leadership principles.  His storytelling manner is quite effective, not just to hold the reader’s attention, but to get his point across.  This is a short easy read, and a definite recommendation for anyone in a leadership position or who works in a team setting in any profession.

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
This autobiography details Malala’s life as a normal Pakistani little girl up to a being an activist teenager speaking against the Taliban and advocating for girls/women’s right to receive an education.  Her boldness, the support of her family—particularly her father—are inspiring.  This was a good reminder of how blessed we are in Western societies with our freedoms and rights, many of which we not just take for granted but complain wildly about when we don’t get our way.

The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances by Matthew Inman
Cartoons illustrate this humorous book based on its title.  I could relate to just about every single item Inman mentioned.  My favorite being how long distance runners begin to invent really creative ways to measure time and distance.  It’s a short, easy read, and I’d definitely recommend this for any runner.

Trafficked by Sophie Hayes
Hayes tells her harrowing story of how she was “groomed” for four years by her “best friend” who overnight turned into her pimp to pay off a drug deal.  Hayes was an educated, middle class young woman with a decent job.  Lured away for a weekend get-away, her world was turned upside down into one of physical and psychological abuse, illness, and prostitution.  I was stunned how quickly and easily her trafficker gained full control of her body and mind.

Tales from Another Mother Runner by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea
This is a collection of short essays submitted by women—specifically mother—runners from around the country.  Each telling her own story, some are serious, some hilarious, all meaningful.  Any mother who is a runner will easily relate to many/most of what these women share.

Daring Greatly:  How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead  by Brene Brown
Brown takes us through her many years of research on Wholehearted Living, as she coins it:  being vulnerable as we live in community with one another.  Her chapter on shame and guilt resonated with me a lot as this is something I struggle with every day.  This is not light reading, and you really need to process what Brown says, but it was enlightening.

Carry On, Warrior:  The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life by Glennon Doyle Melton
Glennon Doyle Mention shares her life’s story in hilarious fashion in this book.  It’s the first thing of hers I’ve read, and I was won over by the end of page one.  Her blog, Momastery, is just as riveting, insightful, and entertaining.  Much like Jen Hatmaker, she is a new favorite contemporary author and blogger.

Life in the Turn Lane by Jim Patton
Patton describes his “rags to riches” story from being a rejected HVAC repairman to becoming a M&A expert handling international billion dollar transactions.  Not only does Patton explain his business dealings a pragmatic sense, he intertwines his faith in Christ throughout his story.  A good book for any business man, especially one who follows Christ.

The Maze Runner Trilogy and Prequel #1 by James Dashner
Another series in the genre of post-apocalyptic dystopian societies trying to figure out how to save the human race after a mind-altering virus has been let loose on the world as a means of population control.  Having read the Giver Quartet, the Divergent trilogy, and the Hunger Games series, this one held my attention, but I quickly tired of reading fight scene after fight scene of something that sounded like it came from World War Z (or any other human-turned-crazy zombie-like creature movie of your choice.)

The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry
A mingling of science fiction and fantasy, the Giver quartet was perhaps the first of the new genre of dystopian teen fiction, long before The Hunger Games or Divergent series.  Lowry loosely crafts the four books together, with the first and last most closely tied.  It is a world devoid of emotion in one area, devoid of technology in another, but all have young men and women with special “gifts,” when brought together, can create a better world for everyone.  If you’re a fan of this genre, these four novels are a quick, easy, interesting read.

Holding Fast:  The Untold Story of the Mount Hood Tragedy by Karen James,
Karen James, the widow of climber Kelly James, details the week-long search and rescue efforts to find her husband and two climbing friends trapped on Mount Hood in the storm of the century.  Clear, concise, and well written, Karen also discussed her struggles with being a new widow, and she intertwines her faith and her family’s faith throughout.  It’s simultaneously tragic and inspiring.

Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker
Interrupted details the Hatmaker’s life-changing, God-calling “interruption” on their comfortable lives.  Much like Abraham, the family was called to leave all that they knew for something unseen and unknown.  Placing their trust in Him, they obeyed and followed.

I’m a huge fan of Jen Hatmaker, and I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Seven, but I could not relate to this book as I can to almost all of the rest of her writing.

A Topography of the Soul by Phil Dillingham
Phil is my pastor so I have the pleasure of learning from him almost every week.  He is a wise man, a godly man, a disciplined man, and he has a tremendous gift of teaching.  Even the most difficult concepts can be conveyed in simple terms.  Philosophy majors and convicts alike enjoy his teachings.

HBR’s 10 Must Reads:  On Communications
Harvard Business Review (HBR) has a series of books on different business topics, each featuring the 10 most popular/important contributions in their fields from the past several decades.  I had to read a few of the articles during my MBA program, but I was so impressed with them, I went back after I had graduated and finished reading the rest.  This series is truly a “must read” for any business professional.

Redemption by Bryan Clay
Clay details the journey of his life beginning as a rebellious young boy constantly in trouble and getting into physical fights at school all the way through winning an Olympic gold in the decathlon in 2008.  Clay illustrates lesson after lesson of what it means to really trust God, persevere through doubt during times of trial.

House Rules by Jodi Picoult
House Rules explores how a family deals with the effects of autism, and how those who communicate differently are challenged by a justice system that will not accommodate them.

This is my first novel by Jodi Picoult, but it was interesting and moved at a good pace despite the 500+ pages.  It was a selection for a book club I’m in, and the lady who chose it is a professional career counselor who deals with adult students with disabilities.  From her perspective, this was an accurate picture of what it’s like for a family dealing with an autistic child (Asperger’s).

Under the Banner of Heaven:  A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer
Krakauer tells the story of Joseph Smith and the early history of the Mormon church up through present day with a special focus on the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS).  Several times while reading through the book, I had to walk away from it due to its disturbing narratives.  I’ve read numerous books on the Jewish and Rwandan holocausts, but there was something markedly different about the atrocities proliferated among the FLDS—the plural marriages, the child brides, marrying off a 12-year-old girl to a man in his 60s, the incest between fathers and daughters, the brainwashing.  This was not an easy book to get through, but if you’re looking for an unadulterated history of the Church of Latter Day Saints, this is it.

The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert
Gilbert tells the true story of Eustace Conway, a rare breed in today’s world—one who lives off the land in every regard, from making his own clothing out of buckskins, to farming with horses and mules, to building and living in his own teepee.  Gilbert does a masterful job of weaving through Conway’s life and how his childhood influenced who he is today.  It’s a fascinating read for anyone who appreciates nature on a deep level—deeper than “it’s pretty outside”—or who fancies himself an outdoorsman.  If you are the latter, you will be put to shame.

Bossy Pants by Tina Fey
This is Fey’s autobiography/memoir of sorts.  It’s funny and a little crude at times, but I appreciated her transparency in writing about how she worked her way to the top with integrity as well as her honesty in talking about the struggles of being a working mom.

Destiny’s Dwellers by DC Daugherty
Full disclosure, I work with the author.  That said, this is the third fantasy/sci-fi/young adult novel he’s written, and I’ve enjoyed them all.  This is volume 1 (of how many, I’m not sure) and tells the story of Destin and his work among the “Dwellers,” a group of dead kids, ages 5-15, who help others move on to their final resting place.  However, evil lurks in the streets of Chicago, and Destin feels called to offer himself as the final sacrifice to end the fear.  The redemption/sacrifice theme at the end of the novel was quite moving.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Mango Street is a series of vignettes about Esperanza Corderos, a young Latina girl, growing up in Chicago.  Incoming freshmen read this as part of their summer reading every year, and I wanted to read it for that reason.  I imagine the boys have a difficult time with the story.

Doing Virtuous Business by Theodore Roosevelt Malloch
Malloch highlights various businesses around the globe which have invested in “spiritual capital” and have reaped success and profits from which.  I didn’t care for Malloch’s clear denigrating of pretty much any primarily Democratic-created social program in America.  He also presented case studies that, while presenting good evidence to support faith-based business acumen, really didn’t have much to do with his chapter or section headings.

I Shouldn’t Even Be Doing This! By Bob Newhart
I have always been a fan of Bob Newhart so I was excited to see this book at Dollar Tree for $1.  However, it was disappointing.  It was not well written, which I fault the editors more than the writer.  The stories were choppy, lacking in important detail, and ended abruptly.  Sadly, I cannot recommend this to anyone, including diehard fans.

The Four Agreements by Manuel Ruiz
This was recommended by several fellow MBA students in my cohort, so I thought, “can’t wait to read it!”  Disappointing is mild.  I struggled to stay awake while reading it, and it is one of the few books, besides MBA textbooks (see below) that I resorted to skimming just to say I read the entire thing.

The overarching advice:  stay true to your word, try your best, forgive, move on, etc. are all well and good and are things I definitely believe in.  However, the manner in which these ideas were presented seemed like they were written by an elementary aged child for other elementary aged children.  Read your Bible if you want the same advice.

Strategic Management:  Competitiveness and Globalization by Michael Hitt, Duane Ireland, and Robert Hoskisson
Textbook for my last MBA class on strategic management and competitiveness and globalization, just as the name implies.  It was a bit redundant from other textbooks I’ve read during this program, and it was incredibly dry.  It would take several hours just to get through one 25-page chapter, and I almost always fell asleep while reading.

Operations Management for MBAs by Meredith & Shafer
It was a text book for Operations Management.  Normally things like process, flow, and efficiency are right up my alley, but this book was a little dry.

Fundamentals of Corporate Finance by Ross, Westerfield, & Jordan
Advance managerial finance text book.  It was a toss-up between this and the accounting text book as to which I disliked more.

Managerial Accounting by Garrison, Noreen, & Brewer
It was an accounting text book.  Nothing more to say.

Entering the Teenage Years

28 11 2015


You’re a teenager!  (Though you’ve been eating like one for a while now.)  You are almost taller than me, but I am still faster and stronger and smarter.  And, I can drive and you can’t.  At least I have that.

Not only have you grown up physically, you’ve grown more mature.  Academically, you are (have always been) gifted.  I was super proud, perhaps a little too proud, to see you standing on the stage when they announced the first quarter Heads List recipients, and there were only six kids.  You, the only boy in the group, were among them.

Spiritually, I can see your faith turning into your faith, not my faith or Daddy’s faith, but one of your own.  This excites me and scares me.  You have conquered some feats I was a little hesitant about (ROP), and I see you wrestling with God sometimes as you try to make sense of the world around you.  As long as you always lean into God and not away from Him, these times of wrestling can lead to great peace and joy and wisdom.

Highlights from your twelfth year include:

  • Successfully completing the Rite of Passage, even on a weekend with pretty miserable weather.  (No pneumonia, thank you, Lord!)
  • Receiving a “real” phone with a “real” plan. Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, Happy Easter and Fourth of July for that one.
  • You made Honors Choir and had your first piano recital where you played the Star Wars theme song. I honestly thought you sounded better than some of the kids who had been playing longer than you.  But I am your mother, so I am automatically biased in your favor.
  • I love that you prefer to listen to K-Love or The Fish as your music of choice. I also like all the classical and movie soundtracks you listen to as well.
  • Lego Dimensions. (Even I admit, it is kind of cool.  But not quiet so cool as what you paid for it.)

Looking ahead:

  • Only one more year until you can start working at Publix. (You have no idea how excited I am about this!)
  • Only three more years until you can drive on your own. (I know I will eventually be excited about this once I get over the terror of my first-born driving on his own.)
  • You’ve got great teachers this year, and I am so, so grateful for how you enjoy and excel in school. That does a momma’s heart good.
  • You’ve got many more years until you’re a parent, but please stop practicing on your little brother so much. However, if that’s our main point of contention with you as you navigate the tumultuous waters of middle school and puberty, we are so very blessed!

And we are blessed by you, Caleb.  You have such a good, kind, generous heart.  You care about your work.  You always desire to do your best.  You are creative.  You are musical.  You have a good group of friends.  You make us proud, and you are a gift from God.

My prayer for you as enter the teen years . . .

  • Don’t get bogged down by things that don’t matter. Always remember what’s most important in any situation; it’s probably not what is most obvious.
  • Don’t let the stress of getting a certain grade weigh you down. Earning a B is not the end of the world.  (I promise, we won’t love you any less if a B ever makes its way onto your report card.)
  • Remember your little brother is 5 ½ years younger than you. He loves you and adores you and looks up to you in ways you don’t fully recognize yet.  That is a tremendous privilege, and with it comes tremendous power and responsibility.  Don’t abuse it.
  • Honor and respect the young women in your life, be they classmates, friends, or someday girlfriends. When you find yourself becoming “interested” in a young lady, read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, replacing the word love with the name of the girl.  If you can’t read it without questioning the fit of the girl to the scripture, keep it platonic.  (Actually, keep it platonic anyway.  You’re far too young.)
  • Always turn to God first. When you’re happy as well as frustrated, take all of your emotions to God.  Cry out to Him when life seems unfair and you’re hurting.  Thank Him when you are surprised with an unexpected gift.  Talk to Him when you’re bored.  Seek His counsel and wisdom when you are unsure.  Rest in His presence every night.

I love you with every fiber of my being.

I Have Called You to This, I Will See You Through It

23 08 2015
TNU graduation

TNU graduation, May 2015

I’m 42. I have a full-time job. I have a family.  Most people who know me would say that I am busy enough as it is with my “normal” life (whatever “normal” looks like these days.)  So why did I start grad school again two years ago to pursue my MBA?

Since high school, I have wanted an MBA.  I wanted to be a business woman, not a teacher.  In fact, growing up, my mom often recommended I go into teaching.  I fought her every step of the way.  How I came to be a teacher is a completely different and wild story, but that will be told another time.

The MBA was put on hold for a couple of decades for many reasons.  When we got married, my husband was working on his Ph.D., so it was not a god time for me to go back to school since we had bills to pay.  Since I was teaching, a Master’s in Education made more sense so that is the first higher degree I received.  And we had a couple of kids.  That always makes going back to school a little more difficult for a working mom, too.

An MBA was on the back burner for a long time, and I was just fine keeping it there indefinitely.

Until two years ago.  Through some personal and professional situations going on at the time, I felt a calling, from God to “Do.  This.  Now.”  He was emphatic on the “NOW” part.  This was in March 2013.

I rarely get such a direct call from God.  I didn’t question it, but prayed (a lot) that if this wasn’t really from God, the doors would close.

But they didn’t close.  They opened wide. An application was submitted and the acceptance was received.  My first class was in September 2013.

In those first few months, there was much crying and much cursing.  And more crying.  And more cursing.  I complained to God, “Why?  This is cursing my family more than it is blessing it.”

When I needed it most, God confirmed on several occasions this is what I was, indeed, supposed to be doing.

Twice he reminded me, “I have called you to this, I will see you through it.”  Both times were amidst severe doubt and praying for a sign to quit.

Once, through tears on the way home from class (Economics to be specific), I prayed for a sign to let me know I was still doing what He wanted me to do.  I turned on the radio and heard, “You’re an overcomer.”  Normally, I don’t take too much stock in such things, but I needed this song at that time.

Another time as I pulled onto the campus, I noticed a stained glass window on the main library’s dome I had never noticed before.  I thought to myself, “I wonder what it would be like to teach here someday?”  The immediate reply was, “I have greater things in store for you than this.”

What does one even do with that kind of answer?  I immediately felt a surge of excitement followed by trepidation. Greater than being a university professor?  I guess for many people, there are a million careers greater than being an educator, but being a university professor has been a dream of mine for a while.  Every time I step onto a college campus, I feel “home” in terms of my career.

I began to dissect what “greater” often means in the Kingdom mindset.  It usually doesn’t mean wealth, fame, or success, at least not by human standards.  I want to explore this idea, too, but that will also be the topic of another post.

I began my MBA at Trevecca Nazarene University on September 12, 2013, and I finished on August 6, 2015, with a 4.0, which still amazes me considering I’m not even a business professional.  I learned a tremendous amount of material, and I am so thankful for the professors I had who were not just experts in their fields, but who modeled Christ throughout their teaching and who challenged us to model Christ throughout our coursework and in all aspects of our lives.

Here a few fun facts about this journey I just completed (for those of you considering something similar):

  • I took 14 courses, one at a time with each lasting 6 weeks. Class meetings were held every Thursday from 6:00-10:00 p.m.
  • I literally wrote over 1,000 pages of papers, projects, and homework assignments.
  • My lowest grade final grade in a class was a 95% and my highest a 116%.
  • I failed two quizzes in Economics, but they didn’t count toward my grade since our four lowest ones were dropped.
  • The longest textbook I read was just over 1200 pages (thank you, Project Management).  Yes, I did read all of it even though we weren’t required to.
  • The longest paper I wrote was 59 pages and had 38 sources (Marketing).
  • I averaged 15-30 hours per week of course work, depending on the class.

Despite all the accolades, I still don’t know why I was called to this program at this time.  The MBA won’t affect my current teaching position, and I have no plans to enter the world as a business professional.  I need a doctorate to move up to university level teaching.  An Ed.D. is actually my next goal, but I plan to take a few months off to reacquaint myself with my family and friends and to read as many books as I can of my own choosing before jumping back into my final round of grad school.

This was a wild, difficult, and incredibly challenging season for me and my family.  My professor in my very class told us as we embarked on this endeavor, “the greater the sacrifice, the greater the potential reward.”  I have no idea what this “reward” might be for me, but I am nonetheless filled with gratitude that God made good on his promise to “see me through it.”


4 07 2015
Matthew, me, Erlin - Flores, Guatemala

Matthew, me, Erlin – Flores, Guatemala

While in Guatemala a few days ago, I was reading through two required summer reading books for the faculty at my school.  Both were on innovation in education, and both gave me some really good ideas on curriculum changes I want to make this year and even a new course I want to submit for approval for 2016.

As our rental bus in Flores, Guatemala (not a car, BUS) made its way from our hotel to the neighborhood where our Compassion International child lives, I was reading about the resources afforded to one school in the US to create innovative experiences—in their various forms—to the educational experience for middle schoolers.

We pulled into the Compassion project in Flores, Guatemala, and I was surprised at the lack of “things.”  Now, this was our sixth visit to Compassion kids we sponsor.  We’ve been to projects in Peru, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, two in India, and this one in Guatemala.  This was the sparsest one yet.  The classrooms only had three walls and were pretty much bare.  Another classroom that looked more like a cage had a huge padlock on it.  The prized possessions under lock and key were student desks.  These desks were so rundown they would have been tossed in a dumpster immediately if they had tried to make their way into the private Christian, uber-upper class school I teach at.

Compassion project center in Flores, Guatemala

Compassion project center in Flores, Guatemala

empty classroom (the project was closed for the day)

empty classroom (the project was closed for the day)

Compassion project center in Flores, Guatemala - padlocked desks

Compassion project center in Flores, Guatemala – padlocked desks

Compassion project center in Flores, Guatemala - the pastor lives on the second floor, and the classrooms are the three open areas underneath (only three walls, no doors)

Compassion project center in Flores, Guatemala – the pastor lives on the second floor, and the classrooms are the three open areas underneath (only three walls, no doors)

Compassion project center in Flores, Guatemala - where the desks are padlocked when not in session

Compassion project center in Flores, Guatemala – where the desks are padlocked when not in session

The contrast between haves and have-nots was profound.

“Innovate!  Request more resources!  Do more!  Educate outside the classroom!  Provide authentic experiences!”  scream the books I was reading and indeed my own experience as a teacher in a first-world country to families with a ridiculous amount of discretionary income.

The walls of this Compassion center in Flores humbly tell another story about education:  “We’re thankful to have a place where we can keep our desks from being stolen.  We’re thankful to have running water where we can teach our students about basic hygiene, even though it’s not safe to drink.  We’re thankful for the few posters that remain on the walls.  We’re thankful . . .”

Maybe I wouldn’t have been struck as intensely by this contrast had I not for the past few days been reading these two particular books, but that was the serendipitous timing of these two events.

School in Guatemala was out for a week-long break to celebrate Teacher’s Day (YES!  Other places around the world actually celebrate and esteem their educators!)  The Compassion center was also closed the day we visited so we traveled to Erlin’s house to meet her and her family.

Again, the disparity was evident between my world and hers.  Her home was on a quiet corner in Santa Elena, just a few kilometers south of Flores.  She greeted us at the door, followed by the rest of the family comprised of her mother, maternal grandmother, older brother, and baby brother.  The paternal grandfather had died one year almost to the day before our visit, and no father was in the picture.

They did have electricity and running water, but other than in Guatemala City, there is no potable water for drinking anywhere else in the country.  All water for human consumption must be purchased.  Erlin’s family had lived in this house for close to 30 years, and it was paid off—a HUGE blessing—since her mother and grandmother made less than $10 a day to feed, house, clothe, and provide for everything else a family needs to survive.

Erlin’s mother was a hairdresser, and her grandmother sold cakes and homemade tortillas.  Both woman had the opportunity to attend vocational schools for their trades—another blessing that would not have been possible without Erlin’s sponsorship through Compassion.  Erlin, or Faby as she is known at school (Fabiola is her middle name), helps her mom by painting nails in their little one room salon attached to the front of the house.

Erlin's mother's salon (Erlin's middle name is Fabiola and her nickname is Faby)

Erlin’s mother’s salon (Erlin’s middle name is Fabiola and her nickname is Faby)

Erlin's mother's salon

Erlin’s mother’s salon

Erlin's family house

Erlin’s family house

Erlin’s older brother was 15 and was sponsored by a family from Korea, but his sponsors had never written to him.  He wasn’t even sure of their names.  Erlin’s 9-month-old baby brother will have the opportunity to be sponsored in a few years.  An older male cousin also lives with the family, and their immediate neighbors are relatives.

Their home consisted of two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen/dining area, and an outdoor area for laundry, processing the corn for tortillas, and a crude toilet and shower.  It was the largest home of the Compassion kids we’ve sponsored, but it was also encouraging to see how our financial contributions to this family was helping to lift them out of poverty into a more sustainable life—one in which every member could thrive instead of just survive.

Erlin's older brother, mother, Erlin, me, Matthew

Erlin’s older brother, mother, Erlin, me, Matthew

one bedroom in Erlin's house (yes, that's a half-wall with the living room on the other side)

one bedroom in Erlin’s house (yes, that’s a half-wall with the living room on the other side)

bedroom two where Erlin, her mother, her grandmother and baby brother sleep (there is another bed behind me)

bedroom two where Erlin, her mother, her grandmother and baby brother sleep (there is another bed behind me)

Erlin and her grandmother

Erlin and her grandmother

Erlin's family kitchen

Erlin’s family kitchen

laundry area

laundry area

laundry/storage area

laundry/storage area

toilet and shower rooms

toilet and shower rooms

Erlin and her 1-year-old cat (who almost died from eating a nest of baby pigeons)

Erlin and her 1-year-old cat (who almost died from eating a nest of baby pigeons)

We spent the morning at her home talking about everything, and then Erlin got to pick the restaurant for lunch.  Of all the choices available to her:  Pizza Hut.  To us, it’s too common a place to visit in the States.  If we wanted pizza, we’d try any number of gourmet eateries in which to partake.  For Erlin, Pizza Hut was a luxury, so off to Pizza Hut we went.  The entire family joined us at our request, and we talked some more about everything.

lunch at Pizza Hut

lunch at Pizza Hut

outside Pizza Hut - there are five people, 2 adults and 3 children, on the motorcycle

outside Pizza Hut – there are five people, 2 adults and 3 children, on the motorcycle

The Pizza Hut was part of a small strip mall, so we walked around after eating, and then we had a couple hours to kill before the bus would pick us up.  Thankfully there was a nice little playground at the mall, so we adults sat there and continued to talk about everything while Erlin and her brothers played.  Back at her house, we said our goodbyes and prayed with one another before heading back to our hotel.

at the playground - Erlin's baby brother and mother

at the playground – Erlin’s baby brother and mother

Erlin and her baby brother

Erlin and her baby brother

Erlin and her two brothers

Erlin and her two brothers

Erlin's two brothers

Erlin’s two brothers

Erlin's grandmother and baby brother - she held a towel under his arms so he could learn to walk without holding on to anything. (I commented to Matthew that someone in the US could invent a similar contraption and sell it for a ridiculous amount of money if it had the right branding.)

Erlin’s grandmother and baby brother – she held a towel under his arms so he could learn to walk without holding on to anything. (I commented to Matthew that someone in the US could invent a similar contraption and sell it for a ridiculous amount of money if it had the right branding.)

Visits like this are always surreal to me.  We plan months in advance:  submitting the paperwork, going through the background checks, arranging the travel logistics.  When the day finally comes, I’m almost always at a loss for words, and my emotions have to work overtime to process everything.

The work of Compassion is incredible, and we have been privileged to experience it first-hand six times now around the world.  If you are looking for a worthy charity to contribute to, one that really does make a positive impact on children, their families, and their entire community, this is the place.  If you don’t sponsor a child, please consider doing so today.  For those who already sponsor a child, please write to him/her.  You have no idea how much a letter means to these kids, and you can even do so online at the Compassion website.  These are treasures to be sure.  For those who sponsor and have the financial resources to do so, please consider visiting your child.  The impact will last for generations.

Guatemala 2015 – Musings and Observations

3 07 2015

My husband I and just returned from a whirlwind tour of Guatemala, our 2015 international trip.  We only had eight days in the country due to my grad school schedule, but it was a fabulous trip.  Here are my observations and musings about Guatemala and travel in general. (Photos below.)

  1. I no longer find long layovers annoying. Give me a kindle loaded with good books, and I’m a happy camper for hours.  14 hours of travel to get back home?  No problema.
  2. I go to bed earlier when I’m traveling. Probably because I’m not up till 1 or 2 a.m. working on homework.
  3. I eat a lot less when traveling. When I have to shell out cash at every single meal, I tend to eat on the cheap.
  4. Speaking of eating cheaply, I love to eat street food. Tamales, chorizo grilling on a dirty grill in the middle of the street, chocolate cake sitting out in the sun, it’s all bueno.
  5. I also eat a lot of ice cream. And it must be chocolate in a waffle cone.  Nothing else will do.
  6. Guatemala has the most amazing guacamole ever. We ate it at almost every meal.  I need to add way more lime to mine when we make it from scratch.
  7. I drink tea when traveling abroad.  I never drink tea anywhere else, and my version of tea is pretty much sugar water.  Why?  I know the water is safe to drink.
  8. I don’t think I’d ever get tired of looking at volcanos. Antigua, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala City . . . you can look in pretty much any direction and see a volcano or two . . . or three.
  9. Overnight busses are cooooold. I would take them again if I needed to, but I’d bring a big blanket.
  10. The only straight roads in the country are in Antigua and the north.
  11. Tikal is much more impressive than any other Mayan ruin in the Americas. Chichen Itza does not at all deserve to be on the new list of Wonders of the World.  We even got a private, behind-the-scenes tour with an amazing guide who took us on all of the back trails through the jungles so we could avoid the crowds and see more monkeys.  We could even climb many of the temple structures to the top which visitors are not allowed at the other sites like Chichen Itza or Tulum.  If you only see one Mayan ruin in your life, Tikal is the one.
  12. Guatemala was surprisingly clean, compared to many other Central American and developing countries. The people are humble and poor, but they take pride in the beauty of their country.
  13. At some point in my life or retirement, I need to live on a coast with a view of the ocean, or a very large lake AND mountains (or volcanos).
  14. hotel in Antigua

    hotel in Antigua





    Antigua, view from Cerro San Cristobal, an organic farm-to-table restaurant

    Antigua, view from Cerro San Cristobal, an organic farm-to-table restaurant

    Antigua sunset

    Antigua sunset

    Antigua sunset

    Antigua sunset

    Chichicastanego market

    Chichicastanego market

    Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, view from our hotel

    Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, view from our hotel

    San Pedro, Lake Atitlan, touring an organic coffee plantation co-op

    San Pedro, Lake Atitlan, touring an organic coffee plantation co-op

    Tikal tour

    Tikal tour

    Tikal tour

    Tikal tour

    Tikal tour

    Tikal tour

    Tikal tour

    Tikal tour

    Tikal tour

    Tikal tour

    Tikal tour

    Tikal tour

    Tikal tour

    Tikal tour

    Tikal turkey

    Tikal turkey

    La Isla de Flores

    La Isla de Flores

    La Isla de Flores

    La Isla de Flores

    Guatemala City, view from hotel

    Guatemala City, view from hotel

  15. I look at clocks and care about the time much less than when I’m in the States. My soul needs this.