Osdalia & Alberto

2 04 2013
Osdalia & Alberto

Osdalia & Alberto

“The joy of the Lord is your strength.”
-Nehemiah 8:10

I’ve read this scripture and sung it in numerous songs hundreds of, always thinking, well . . . that’s nice. I might have smiled at the sound of it, and then promptly continued reading or singing without giving it much more thought.

Osdalia and Alberto changed that. Until I met them, I didn’t know what those eight, sacred words really meant . . . “the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

On March 3, 2013, their small home in Progreso, Texas was burglarized. The thief stole everything except an Xbox system belonging to Osdalia’s 14-year-old son, Jason. To cover his tracks, the thief burned their home to the ground. People gathered in her small community and stood around and watched, no one offering help or support. Most silently thinking, “Better her home than mine.” One church provided a dumpster for clean up, but no one from the church actually helped to clean up.

reconstructing their house in Progreso, Texas

reconstructing their house in Progreso, Texas

reconstructing their house in Progreso, Texas

reconstructing their house in Progreso, Texas

charred remnants from their house

charred remnants from their house

At the time of the fire, Alberto, Osdalia’s second husband and not yet a legal US citizen, was still living and working in Mexico. Upon hearing the news that the meager 480 sq. ft. home (smaller than the size of my classroom) which took him seven years to build was destroyed, he smuggled himself across the Mexican-American border in a trip that took eight hours of walking and running and dropping to the ground and hiding whenever he heard a car. This “trip” cost a hefty fee of $600 paid to the Mexican drug cartel.

On March 16, I met Osdalia, Alberto, and Jason. I was chaperoning a group of 15 students on a mission trip organized by Mission Discovery to Harlingen, Texas, to help this family rebuild their home. Little did I realize how this family would change my life in our five days together.

Alberto is one the hardest working men I’ve ever encountered. I like to think that I have a strong work ethic. I work hard and I don’t settle for second best. Alberto, put me to shame. Our group of 18 worked tirelessly for about five hours each day with him before heading back to the mission camp that was our temporary home. Alberto and Jason would continue to work until sundown, another five hours, and would accomplish almost as much as we had during the day.

When we first arrived at their home, Alberto had half the external framing and siding completed , a job we thought we were to tackle. By the time we left less than a week later, we helped Alberto expand their home to around 640 sq. ft. and finish 100% of the framing, siding, and roof—including shingles. We also painted their house as well as a neighbor’s home, and with some extra funds we raised, a small group of girls and I went shopping and were able to leave Osdalia and Alberto with some basic home goods like pots and pans, towels, bed sheets, kitchen and dining ware, school supplies, and an air mattress. Osdalia had been sleeping at her neighbor’s, but Alberto and Jason were sleeping in their van behind their house in order to protect the lumber and building materials from being stolen.

Of all the items we purchased for them, the 5×7 group photo we had framed, was Osdalia’s first prized possession. She held it tight to her chest, breaking the embrace periodically to look at it, and then embracing it again. This reminder of the people who came to help her family is what she clung to.

shopping for Osdalia and Alberto

shopping for Osdalia and Alberto



group photo

group photo

FRA Mission Trip group

FRA Mission Trip group

In the short spurts of time I got to spend with Osdalia and Alberto, I came to witness “the joy of the Lord is your strength” in human form as I’ve never witnessed before. I listened in as Osdalia shared with some of us about the fire and how it changed her family. Most people I know, including myself, would be vacillating between anger and grief, bitterness and self-pity. I know I would very easily succumb to the whole “why me?” mentality.

Osdalia radiated Joy. Peace. Strength. Hope.

She explained to me: before the fire, she and Alberto had been struggling in their marriage. This was Osdalia’s second marriage, and her two children were from her first marriage—Jason and a 17-year-old daughter Ashley. Jason and Ashley had also been estranged from one another in recent months and the fire separated the two siblings even more. Osdalia had not seen her daughter in about three weeks.

Despite the drama between her children, Osdalia and Alberto had grown closer since the fire, Osdalia shared. Their marriage was stronger than it had ever been. At the start of the week, Alberto still struggled with anger at the man who did this—turns out it was a neighbor just a few houses down from them on their street—but Osdalia had forgiven this man 100 times over. She said, “If this is what it takes to turn my family around, he can burn my house down next week, and the week after, and the week after that. He can burn my house down 100 times if this will help our relationships to get better.”

Listening to Osdalia share this, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she meant it. Every word. Her conviction in this Truth was unmovable. She. Meant. It.

In another conversation the next day, Osdalia continued, “I have forgiven this man. I have to. I forgive him over and over. I can’t be angry. God is here. He brought you to help us—strangers from Tennessee. We have hope. I tell Alberto, we have hope. God will provide. And He has.”

All of this coming from a woman who was wearing the same clothes she had been wearing for the past three days because everything else she owned was consumed by fire.

Every encounter with Osdalia over the next few days was much the same. She never stopped smiling. She always greeted each member in our group with a hug and a kiss and made sure to say good bye in similar fashion. (Hellos and goodbyes took a while.) She always asked how she could serve us. She even offered the shirt off her back and the shoes off her feet on several occasions, even though she didn’t have another shirt or pair of shoes to change into. She surprised us with Burger King for lunch one day and sodas and ice cream another.

All of this coming from a lady who had NOTHING—no material possessions, anyway.

What Osdalia did have was something quite extraordinary that most people do not have. True peace. True joy. True hope. True forgiveness. Even now as I write this, I find there are no words to do justice to just how exceptional and uncommon is Osdalia’s happiness.

the cross

the cross

Our final gift to Osdalia and Alberto was a wood cross made from scrap pieces of the burned frame of their original home. Nailed together and then painted, the cross displayed the legacy verse chosen by the 2013 senior class, “We love because He first loved us” from 1 John 4:19. The two seniors on the trip presented this to them along with two Bibles and explained the scripture. Osdalia embraced it, too. Only when she turned it over and saw the burned wood on the back—knowing then that it came from their former home—did she break down. The dinner table, with 26 of us, became still and silent. Osdalia buried her head in the cross and wept quietly. Alberto held her tight.

Osdalia and the cross

Osdalia and the cross

Time seemed to stop as the significance of this little cross took hold of all of us. What began as a seed of hatred and bitterness from a neighbor eventually lead to the horrendous crime against Osdalia and her family. What a neighbor meant for destruction, God used to bring forth goodness and life. Relationships were restored. Hope, peace, and joy found a welcome home in the hearts of Osdalia and Alberto.

Back to Alberto for a moment. In the few days we were with him, I witnessed his smile grow wider. I saw him let go of anger and embrace peace. I observed this transformation and was privileged to be there when he shared with our group he had dedicated his life to following Christ.

As for Jason and Ashley, they still have a ways to go in redeeming their relationship, but they actually stood close enough to one another—just Alberto between the two of them—for a family photo while they were praying. After this prayer, Ashley commented that was the first time she had prayed with her eyes closed, meaning she prayed and she meant what she had prayed.

praying together

praying together

This family left a deep imprint on my heart and on my attitude. I witnessed eternity being changed with Alberto’s public declaration to follow Christ, and I saw “the joy of the Lord is your strength” move from the printed pages of scripture to living, breathing entities . . . named Osdalia and Alberto.

The joy of the Lord is OUR strength. This is God’s promise to us. We just need to claim it.


Rebuked by a 4-Year-Old

10 10 2012

Jason, my 4-year-old, recently learned a new song.  Its lyrics are simple:

“When something’s bad,
Turn it around,
And find something good.”

It’s a catchy little ditty, and there are motions, too!

Jason has been singing this a lot.  A.  LOT.  And for this, I am grateful.

The other day, I was driving around Belmont University, trying to find a place to park so that I could drop Caleb off for his choir rehearsal.  I had been sharking one particular spot; I saw the lady get in her car, and I thought she was going to leave.  However, she got on her phone and chatted away.  I realized I could pull up behind her without hindering traffic—it was a street spot—and just wait for her to leave.

On my third go around the circle, I was just feet from her when a huge monster truck (not quite) made an illegal U-turn in front of me and claimed MY space.

What came out of my mouth next would have made a sailor blush.

I have to back up and offer a little bit of history.  My dad and much of my extended family can cuss with the best of them.  Traffic and technology tend to be our main triggers.  We often joke of the “Knutson gene,” but our short tempers and rough language are no laughing matter.  I grew up in a family where the F- and S- and many other inappropriate words were used as verbs, nouns, adjectives, and adverbs.  These words were a part of my daily vocabulary.

Having a short fuse and responding to that fuse with cussing was only natural.  That’s what was modeled to me from as young as I can remember.  Didn’t everyone respond that way?

Only after becoming a follower of Christ in my early 20s did I really begin to understand how ungodly this was.  I have been battling this generational curse for close to 20 years now.  I have definitely made progress in controlling my temper and language, but I honestly think this curse will plague me till the day I meet my maker.

Despite my deep conviction that I do not want to pass this curse on to my children, I get so caught up in it at times, it makes my head spin.  Thankfully, I have done one thing right in this; I have trained my children to rebuke me on this when it happens.  And thankfully^2 God has given me two sons who are not afraid to do that.  And thankfully^3, so far neither one seems to be carrying this cursed “Knutson gene.”  In fact, Caleb used to get so upset at my getting upset that he would cry.

Need to be convicted?  Have your child cry over your sin.

So there I was, cussing up a storm when Jason piped in from the back seat, “Mommy, you shouldn’t say that.  When something’s bad, you need to look for something good.”

Boy, did that stop me in my tracks.

Was I just rebuked by my 4-year-old?  Yup.
Did he just me tell me my behavior was ungodly  (in so many words)?  Yup.
Did he just offer me a better way to respond?  Yup.

I could hear angels in heaven rejoicing over this precious young heart.  I could also picture God shaking his head at me wondering, “Kelly, Kelly, Kelly.  Of all the things in this universe you can get upset about . . . a parking space?  Really?!?!?”

I immediately asked forgiveness from my sons and from God and thanked Jason for telling me that what I did was wrong.  I want to do better.  I need help to do better.  I’m so thankful my little ones can help me do better.

“A little child shall lead them.”
Isaiah 11:6

Left to Tell

17 06 2012

Left to Tell by Imaculee Ilibagiza

Left to Tell by Imaculee Ilibagiza

Two years ago, my mother-in-law handed me her copy of “Left to Tell” by Imaculee Ilibagiza. Little did I know how immensely this book would affect my life.

Imaculee was a college student in 1994 when the Rwandan genocide took place.  She was the lone survivor of her family during the short, devastating war that took place between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes.  For over three months, Imaculee was hidden in a 3’x4’ bathroom—along with seven other women—of a family friend, a Hutu pastor.  While those who slaughtered her mother, father, and three brothers with machetes and spears laughed and danced right outside the bathroom where she was hiding, Imaculee called out to God, and He met her.  “Left to Tell” is the story of not just the events of the Rwandan Holocaust of 1994, but more importantly, it is Imaculee’s story of the power of anger, hope, surrender, prayer, forgiveness, and obedience.

Reading the book was incredible and powerful and brought me to tears on several occasions, but I recently had the privilege of hearing Imaculee speak at the Christian Scholars Conference that was held in Nashville a week ago.  I pray that I will be able to get my hands on a recording of her talk, because there were so many things she said that I need to remind myself of on a daily basis.  I really just need to read her story again.

The Power of Anger

Imaculee spoke of the intense anger she had toward those who were encouraging and committing the senseless killings—friends, neighbors, teachers, elders.  There were even college-educated men with PhDs who were speaking on the national radio reminding the Interahamwe, the group responsible for the massacre, not to forget about killing the children.  “A child of a cockroach (referring to the Tutsis) is still a cockroach.  A child of a snake is still a snake.  We must cleanse our country of them all.”

Imaculee said, “you can grow the head, but if you don’t grow the heart, too, we can create monsters.”  This is indeed what happened within the borders of her native Rwanda.

I doubt there is anyone who would deny Imaculee had every right be angry.  Her anger consumed her every waking thought.  It weighed her down.  Once she was able to let go, she felt like she could float on air.  “Now what?” she asked herself.  “Now that I am not burdened by anger, what do I fill my time with?”  She chose to try to learn English.  She didn’t just simply choose not to be angry any more, but she replaced the all-consuming power of it with something beneficial.  Her former burden became freedom. 

The Power of Hope

In the early days of the genocide, the pastor’s house was searched several times, top to bottom, inside and out.  Never had Imaculee felt such fear—body-numbing, evil-pervading fear.  During the first search, she cried out to God to let her know that He was there.  Killers had been in and out of the house for two hours, and toward the end, a killer had his hand on the bathroom doorknob.  Instead of turning it and discovering eight hiding Tutsi women, he let go and told the pastor, “You’re a good Hutu.  You wouldn’t hide anyone.”  Then he left with the others.

In that moment, Imaculee felt the presence of God in a more real way than she’d ever known before.  She knew God was not just with her, but in her as well.  From that moment on, she had a hope like none other.  If God was with and in her, He was with and in the killers.  If God could reveal himself to her in her distress, God could reveal himself to the killers.  She called on the LORD Almighty, and he was there.  God asked her if she knew what almighty meant.  “It means I can do ANTYHING!”   And part of anything was resucing Imaculee and the other women.  Part of anything included giving her hope in an otherwise hopeless situation.

The Power of Surrender

Once Imaculee found hope and let go of her anger, she completely surrendered herself to Christ.  Through her surrender, she realized that eternity is much bigger than her life and what was going on around her.  She began to focus on what eternity with Christ meant, and that made her life seem like a blip on the radar.  It was there for but a second in the grand scheme of eternity.  It didn’t matter anymore.  Eternity mattered.  Surrendering to Christ’s will, even if that meant a gruesome death by machete, was all that mattered.

The Power of Prayer

Reading about and listening to Imaculee talk about her time spent in prayer in that bathroom was fascinating.  She had her father’s rosary with her, and she would pray it hundreds of times a day.  She spoke of being transported into another realm, and hours would slip by, but it seemed as if just a few minutes to her.  Her time in prayer and reading scripture brought her a peace and strength that our human minds cannot fathom.  Yes, she was hiding for her life.  Yes, her killers were often times just feet away outside the pastor’s home.  Yes, if found, she would probably be raped then die a slow, painful, gruesome death by machete.  Yes, her killers were former friends and neighbors.  And yes, she found peace through it all through prayer. 

The Power of Forgiveness

Imaculee’s words on forgiveness were the most powerful and life-changing for me.  I wept openly in the airport of Santo Domingo, Domincan Republic as I read the final chapters of “Left to Tell” when Imaculee recounted her story of forgiving one of the men who killed several members of her family.  That she was able to forgive is remarkable enough, but how she came to this forgiveness is also remarkable.

In hiding, Imaculee would recite the rosary for hours.  For a while, whenever she came to the line in the Lord’s Prayer, “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us,” she would skip over it.  She did not want to lie to God about wanting to forgive those who killed her family.  God eventually reminded her of these very important words, and Imaculee could no longer ignore them.  God reminded her that he could do ANYTHING.  This anything included forgiveness.

God reminded Imaculee of Jesus’ words as he hung on the cross, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”  As those words penetrated her mind and heart, she realized that her killers didn’t know what they were doing.  They were lost sheep following a lost leader.  This realization not only helped Imaculee say the words in the prayer, but helped her believe them as well.  She began praying for the killers.  And when the time came for her to visit one of them in jail, she forgave.

The jailor who was with her during this visit was outraged by her act of forgiveness.  His wife, children, and other family members were also slaughtered by the Interahamwe.  He would beat the prisoners each day and go home angry, depressed, and defeated only to repeat this cycle the next day.  And the next.  And the next.  Only after seeing Imaculee forgive this one man, did he eventually realize forgiveness was even possible.  He later thanked Imaculee.  Seeing her forgive gave him the hope and courage to forgive.

The Power of Obedience

When Imaculee’s father implored her to go into hiding, she had a decision to make.  She could stay with her family which she desperately wanted to do.  Or she could be obedient to her father.  As she left, her father gave her his rosary.  In that moment, she knew she would never see him again.  She chose to obey anyway.  Because of her obedience in that one moment, Imaculee lives.  Her family died horrible deaths, but she lived to share her story with the world.  A story that is changing lives.  A story that has impacted my life in numerous ways.  A story that would not be here today were it not for her obedience to her earthly father and her heavenly father.

40 Days of Forgiveness

10 04 2012

At the beginning of Lent this year, I decided to journal each day about ways I have been forgiven.  Here is what God revealed to me over the next few weeks.

Day 1 – Wednesday, February 22, 2012

I woke up around 2:30 a.m. as Jason tried to call in bed with me to snuggle.  After I took him back to his room and crawled back into my bed, I asked God to reveal to me one thing He has forgiven me for.  His answer was immediate.

“All your sins.  Forever.”

Day 2 – Thursday, February 23, 2012

I asked God to reveal to me today one of my oldest, longest-standing sins for which I have been forgiven. 

“Every ugly word that has ever come out of your mouth.”

Day 3 – Friday, February 24, 2012

“Your impatience.”

A couple years ago, I read a book called If Grace Were True.  I disagreed with the main premise of the book, but I will always remember this one short statement by the author:  “Impatience is the absence of grace.”  That was a double-whammy for me.  Not only am I impatient, but I do not extend grace to those around me.

Day 4 – Saturday, February 25 2012

During a particularly intense team meeting with our home church group, this flaw was one of the main topics of the night.

“You do not show your husband the respect he deserves.”

Day 5 – Sunday, February 26, 2012

I was hyper-emotional on the morning after our team meeting dealing with how I disrespect my husband.  I regarded the night as a “spiritual ass-whooping.”  My friends who love and adore me rebuked and admonished me pretty severely, but with love. 

In a time of quiet and rest and stillness before the Lord on Sunday morning, he revealed to me:

“You do not accept rebuke well.  Yes, it is painful, but accept it with joy instead of trepidation.  I do not discipline those whom I do not love.”

Day 6 – Monday, February 27, 2012


Day 7 – Tuesday, February 28, 2012

“You have a hard time seeing yourself as I see you—a daughter of the King, a princess, dearly loved and always beautiful to me.  You are most beautiful when you are broken and recognize your ugliness.”

Day 8 – Wednesday, February 29, 2012

“Your children are the most forgiving people in your life.  The will forgive you always, for anything, because they love you with such a pure, unburdened love.  This is but a small glimpse of the love and forgiveness I offer you.”

Day 9 – Thursday, March 1, 2012

“Internal road rage.  No, you don’t drive erratically.  You don’t speed.  You stop completely at stop signs at midnight.  You always use your turn signal.  You don’t talk on the phone or text while driving.  It’s not the outward things you do when you are behind the wheel of a moving vehicle that displease me.  It’s the all the ugliness going through your head.  You may not utter a curse anymore, but you certainly still think plenty of things that sadden me and blaspheme my name.  You must do better.”

Day 10 – Friday, March 2, 2012

“Holding grudges.  You have been forgiven.  You MUST forgive.  Your sins are so much more than those against whom you hold a grudge.  They may have wronged you, but you MUST let go.  I will deal with them as they need to be dealt with.  I will also deal with you as you need to be dealt with.  Rejoice in my love and forgiveness, but tremble at my discipline.  Never forget that I am sovereign and just and merciful in all I do.”

Day 11 – Saturday, March 3, 2012

“Little white lies.”

Sure, everyone tells little white lies many times each day:  “You look great!”  “I love your new hair color.”  “I’m sorry, I didn’t get your text.”  I certainly tell my share.  Some are told to simply be kind.  Some are told to save face.  Some are told because I’m lazy.  It’s those last two I need to work on.  Fess up and be honest.

Day 12 – Sunday, March 4, 2012

“You often take your frustrations and stress out on the innocent—your family.  Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.   Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Day 13:  Monday, March 5, 2012

“Worry.  Why worry about what is ahead of you?  Nothing in the future is guaranteed—good or bad.  Live in the moment and draw on Me for your next breath when you are overwhelmed.”

Day 14:  Tuesday, March 6, 2012

“Mis-aligned priorities.  Your work is not more important than your family.  And, it is most definitely not more important than Me.  Keep ME front and center always, and I promise you, I will not let you fall.”

Day 15:  Wednesday, March 7, 2012

“Complaining.  Really, Kelly?  You complain about your job?  Be thankful you have one, and you really do it enjoy it.  You complain about being busy?  Be thankful people view you as competent and valued and know you are a woman of your word.  Be thankful you lived a ridiculously blessed life.”

Day 16:  Thursday, March 8, 2012

“Your short temper.” 

In my pursuit of being more patient and willing to extend grace, I believe my temper will rear its ugly head less and less.  It’s all connected.

Day 17:  Friday, March 9, 2012

“Your unfair judgment of others.  I am the judge.  Ultimately, no one has to answer to you, only Me.  With the measure you use to judge others, that same measure will be used against you.”

Day 18:  Saturday, March 10, 2012

Many of the past items keep repeating themselves:  my impatience, my short temper, my foul language.  I am thankful for God’s continual forgiveness for each transgression . . . and there are many.

Day 19:  Sunday, March 11, 2012

“You always want to be in charge.”  My organization skills and goal-oriented personality are a great blessing and a great curse.  I do a lot because I am very good at what I do.  However, I get weary easily which leads to burnout which leads to bitterness.  I need to let go and let others step up.

Day 20:  Monday, March 12, 2012

“Name dropping.”  I admit it is pretty cool to have Aaron Carter lying at your feet in a Broadway musical, but do I have to broadcast it to feel special?

Day 21:  Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Once again, selfishness came to mind more than once.

Day 22:  Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Today was different, I was reminded of the many, many, many blessings God has given me.  That list would be just as long as the ways I have been forgiven.

Day 23:  Thursday, March 15, 2012

“When you fast, do not make it obvious as the hypocrites do.”  There was no need for me to let other people know I was fasting.  That was prideful.

Day 24:  Friday, March 16, 2012

“You did not greet your husband as you should have last night upon returning home from your trip to New York.  Yes, you were exhausted, but you should have done better.  You could have done better.  You desperately needed to do better.”

Day 25:  Saturday, March 17, 2012

“Bragging.  There is a time and a place to share about giving, but do not ever do so in an arrogant manner.”

Day 26:  Sunday, March 18, 2012

This one was super pitiful.  Church was running a little long today, and I was eager to get home and have lunch.  The pastor gave an alter call at the close of his message, which is not usual.  For one brief moment I thought, “please let no one come.”  As soon as that thought entered my mind, I was immediately rebuked.  “Is food more important than lost souls finding their way home?”

Day 27:  Monday, March 19, 2012

“Gluttony.  You really didn’t need that second, or third, piece of cake last night.”

Day 28:  Tuesday, March 20, 2012

“Withdrawing into yourself instead of practicing hospitality with strangers.”

Day 29:  Wednesday, March 21, 2012

“Not doing good when you are able.”

Day 30:  Thursday, March 22, 2012

“Answering your children with harshness.  Do not crush their sweet, innocent, sensitive spirits.”

Day 31:  Friday, March 23, 2012

“Letting others do your work when you are completely able.”

Day 32:  Saturday, March 24, 2012

“Gluttony.”  Again.  Cupcake Palooza did me in this time.  Cupcake Palooza is a yearly fundraiser for an amazing charity, Books From Birth, that provides one book each month for any child from ages newborn through five years old, in the state of Tennessee, FREE of charge.  The money certainly goes toward a very worthy cause; however, I really didn’t need 25 cupcakes.  Yes, 25 cupcakes.  And no, I didn’t eat them all at once.  But still . . . 25 cupcakes?

Day 33:  Sunday, March 25, 2012


Day 34:  Monday, March 26, 2012

“Your short temper, foul mouth and complete impatience when you experience bad traffic is deplorable.  Have you never done anything stupid behind the wheel of the car?  Your judgment of others will fall right back on you.”

Day 35:  Tuesday, March 27, 2012

“You show more disrespect to more people in more ways than you probably realize.  When your dental hygienist wants to talk about her dog, be kind and give her your attention.”

Day 36:  Wednesday, March 28, 2012

“Pushing your way on others till they feel there is no choice but to give in.”

Day 37:  Thursday, March 29, 2012

“Do not be a ‘Do as I Say, Not as I Do’ parent.  You must be a better role model.  Your habits, both positive and negative, will become their habits.”

Day 38:  Friday, March 30, 2012

“Selfishness.  Again.”  It’s amazing to me how many different ways selfishness manifests itself into every day life.  I’m tired.  I’m too busy.  I have this, this, and this already on my to do list.  Sometimes these are valid reasons, but many times they are excuses.

Day 39:  Saturday, March 31, 2012

“Why do you feel the need to come across as a Know-It-All?”

Day 40:  Sunday, April 1, 2012


Day 41:  Monday, April 2, 2012

“Thinking you are better than others when in reality you have the same struggles and commit the same sins as those you judge.”

Day 42:  Tuesday, April 3, 2012

“What you see as annoyances in your day are blessings in disguise.  See them as opportunities, not irritations.”

Day 43:  Wednesday, April 4, 2012

“You worry about things that don’t matter in the grand scheme of life.  Your car will rust.  Your money will burn.  Rejoice in the LIFE I have given you.  Be at peace that I will take care of you.”

Day 44:  Thursday, April 5, 2012

“Don’t offer to pray for someone unless you are really going to do it.  Lip service is no service at all.”

Day 45:  Friday, April 6, 2012

“Letting others do for you what you should be doing for them.”

Day 46:  Saturday, April 7, 2012

“This Lenten season is coming to a close.  Don’t forget all that I have revealed to you.”

Day 47:  Sunday, April 8, 2012

“All your sins!  Forever!”

Things That Make Me a Bad Parent

17 10 2011

A friend recently started blogging (Painter’s Canvas), and her first post was a list of things she does that show her imperfections as a mother, a wife, and a child of God.  It was brilliant!  I laughed many a time, mainly because so many of her thoughts resonated with me and my struggles.

So thank you, Annette, for the idea for my blog post this week:  Things That Make Me a Bad Parent.

We have two boys; Jason is 3.5 and Caleb is almost 9.  Perhaps you can relate to some of these?  In no particular order:

  1. We let our sons watch The Simpsons and King of the Hill.  Caleb could hum the theme song to The Simpsons around age 3, and Jason gets very excited when he hears the King of the Hill theme song because he knows “Bobby is on.”
  2. Our boys might go several days without bathing.  We do sniff them on a regular basis.
  3. Oral hygiene?  Even less regular than bathing.  Caleb is pretty good about brushing his teeth on a daily basis.  Jason is another story.  Some days, he’ll even ask me to brush his teeth, and I’ll say no.
  4. We sometimes count popcorn as a veggie at meal times.
  5. I despise Sesame Street, The Electric Company, Teletubbies, PooBah, and the Wiggles.
  6. I can’t stand reading “The Little Engine That Could,” one of Jason’s favorites.  If Jason picks that story at bedtime, I’ll tell him to have Daddy read it, and I’ll pick a different, usually shorter, story that I will read.
  7. I take pictures of Jason’s sneezes because they are so incredibly epic.  People don’t believe me when I describe them.  Now I have proof.
  8. New iPhones arrive?  Children . . . what children?
  9. Arts and crafts?  Forget it.  I hate play-do, glitter, stamps, ink, markers, and paint.  I can handle stickers.
  10. If you are having a birthday party that involves catered food, bouncy play things, pony rides, climbing walls, or anything else that is going to make my child walk away saying, “I want hot air balloon rides at my next party,” we’re not coming, and I will make up some excuse about a prior commitment.  Thank you for setting unattainable and ridiculously expensive expectations that we cannot reach.
  11. I loathe the idea of goodie bags.  I grew up with the impression that the birthday boy or girl was supposed to be the only one getting goodies on his or her special day.
  12. I detest the practice of giving children ribbons when they finish in 32nd place, or anything past third. 
  13. I find it ridiculous that Caleb will receive a trophy for selling popcorn for a cub scout fundraiser. 
  14. If a playground has sand, I will make up a pathetic excuse why we can’t play there.
  15. On Mother’s Day, my favorite gift—which I will never ask for—is a day to myself, away from my kids, or at least not having to take care of them.  At. All.

I do plenty of things right as well.  I play with my kids.  I pray with my kids many times a day.  I read to them and sing to them and tell them made up stories about the troll who lives in the woods behind our house who guards the golden egg that their friend, the baby dragon, needs to get better.  I teach them about God and Jesus, forgiveness, and how to be kind to one another.  I let them know as often as I can that they are adored and cherished and loved very deeply.  I tell them how special they are to me, what blessings they are to me, and I thank God for them every day.

This I Believe

10 04 2011

I just finished reading This I Believe:  The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women, edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman.  This I Believe is based on NPR’s radio series of the same name that was wildly popular in the 1950s.  Eighty essays by famous and not-until-recently famous Americans each complete the thought that begins the title of the book.


I received several gems of wisdom and conviction that I am not likely to forget.

  • In an essay titled “Always Go to the Funeral” by Deirdre Sullivan, an attorney in Brooklyn, Sullivan writes of the values her father instilled in her by making her attend funerals of people she knew.  Sullivan writes, “In my humdrum life, the daily battle hasn’t been good versus evil.  It’s hardly so epic.  Most days, my real battle is doing good versus doing nothing.”
  • In an essay titled “When Ordinary People Achieve Ordinary Things” by Jody Williams, the founding coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Williams touches on the same idea.  “I believe words are easy.  I believe the truth is told in the actions we take.”

These essays, among others, caused me to really think about what I believe.  If I were asked to write such an essay, what would mine be about? 


None of the following thoughts are essays in and of themselves.  Some are core beliefs, others are not. 


Regarding my spiritual beliefs:

  • I believe there is only one way to eternal life in paradise, through acknowledgement that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.  “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” –John 14:6
  • I believe Satan is real.  I believe his powers are limited.  I believe he is defeated by the name of Jesus Christ.
  • I believe in the power of forgiveness.
  • I believe that only through grace and faith can we truly find “peace that passes all understanding” –Philippians 4:7, even in the darkest of circumstances.
  • I believe in that through prayer, we have the power of the creator of the universe at our disposal.
  • I believe God can redeem any situation—the most miserable marriage, the longest-held grudge, the hardest of hearts.  “Nothing is too hard for you.” –Jeremiah 32:17.
  • I believe in fasting to draw nearer to the heart of God.
  • I believe in the power of community and teamship.  Jesus did not live in isolation; neither should I.  I believe in being transparent and honest and with my team members, and I believe living this way will lead to blessings.
  • I believe life begins at conception.  As such, I believe abortion for any reason and at any time is the murder of an innocent human life.
  • I believe God created sexual intimacy to be an incredible blessing for the covenant of a heterosexual, monogamous marriage.  I believe that remaining sexually pure until after the wedding offers the most amazing blessings  God has given us in this gift.


Concerning parenting:

  • I believe parents should be parents first, not friends—until much later in life.  I believe in setting boundaries for your children and enforcing discipline.
  • I believe I am my sons’ greatest role model in all areas of life.  I believe it is my duty, first and foremost before it is anyone else’s duty, to train my children to make good decisions, to value education, to be financially responsible, to be sexually pure and honor their bodies (among many other things.)  I believe none of these issues is a one-time discussion, but a life-long continual dialogue.
  • I believe that parents should not live vicariously through their children.  Be an adult and get a life of your own.


In terms of education:

  • I believe that parents play a crucial role in their children’s education.  I believe a teacher can only do so much.  I believe testing can only accomplish so much.  I believe new resources and free lunches only go so far.  I believe extraordinary facilities and modern technology cannot replace a parent’s influence on the home front.
  • I believe in memorizing the multiplication tables.  I believe America is in a sad, sad state when high school students need a calculator to multiply 72 x 2.
  • I believe tenure is a bad idea.  (This coming from an educator of 15 years who has taught in both public and private institutions.)


Other random thoughts:

  • I believe in serving others as much as we possibly can.  I believe giving of my time is as important as giving of my financial resources.
  • I believe in the supremacy of the First Amendment.  I believe that all people should be allowed to freely and peacefully express their opinions and beliefs without threat of persecution.
  • I believe that sometimes it is best to agree to disagree.

May your words benefit those who listen

30 08 2010

I advise the yearbook program where I teach.  Our 2009-2010 yearbooks were distributed last week.  I am so proud of my students who worked all year and into the summer to create this memory book for our school.   I had been riding a wave of elation and relief that all is well in the land of yearbook.  At least until the next morning when I received a short, but pointed email from one mother.  It only took a few words from her to crush my spirit (temporarily).

What was our transgression?  We spelled her child’s name wrong in one place in the yearbook.  To my knowledge, it’s correct everywhere else.

This mother commented that someone should “at least proofread the names.”  Well, we do.  At least three sets of eyes see every page—the student who created the page, myself, and one other adult in the school proofs every single page before it goes to print.  I am always amazed that errors like a misspelled name slip through our editing process, but they do. 

I really wish parents, students, teachers—anyone really—would understand that we are only human.  The last time I checked, humans make mistakes.  In a 240 page book featuring approximately 5,000 pictures and over 1,000 individual names that was created by a group of high school students, there are bound to be a few mistakes.  All I can do at this point is apologize and pray that those we’ve unintentionally wronged will show us grace, understanding, and forgiveness.

I readily admit I have long struggled with being too quick to judge and too slow to forgive.  This job as yearbook advisor has taught me I need to show more grace.  I have grown a lot in this area in the past few years, but every day I must continue to do better.

This job has also reinforced to me the power of words.  Ephesians 4:29 is one of my favorite (and most convicting) scriptures:  “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”  While the email I received last week wasn’t unwholesome by any means, I wonder if the mother considered how her words would be helpful or beneficial to me or my students on the yearbook staff.  I was saddened, embarrassed, and angered by the few words she emailed to me.  I pray I never have the same affect on anyone God places in my path.