No Sense of Direction

Short road trips – back in the day….

People often ask me for directions. This is a source of great amusement in our family because I was born with no sense of direction. In fact, if I say that I think we should turn left, turning right is probably the correct option. Yet, it never fails that strangers will approach me and ask for directions.

  • Phil and I were in Poland and on two occasions Polish people approached me and asked directions. Our interpreter intervened and told them I was American. They looked quite surprised.
  • I was riding public transportation in Chicago to attend our daughter’s soccer game at the University of Chicago and a young woman asked me which bus she should take to …… Of course I had no idea – just a little piece of paper where my brother had jotted down my bus number and route. (I asked someone else standing near us on her behalf.)
  • Phil will be pumping gas at a service station and people will approach me and ask directions. I always laugh a bit as I refer them to my husband – Mr. GPS himself!

For the sake of full disclosure, Phil knew from the start that he was marrying someone who had no sense of direction. The first time we drove from North Carolina to Wheaton, Illinois to meet my extended family, we were about 5 miles from the home I grew up in and we got lost and drove 40 miles west. (It didn’t scare him off!)

I will come out of a rest room in a building and have to orient myself to find my way back to where I started. Our four children learned at a young age to pay attention to landmarks – their observations have come in handy for finding our way back home. ( Was Abigail’s early fascination with maps a coping strategy?) My friends also know that I am not a reliable source when it comes to finding a particular destination. They don’t ask me to drive, do they Carol?  On road trips, I pick the songs we will sing in the car – someone else navigates.

So, the natural question that arises is “Have you ever been lost?”

Answer – Yes, many times.

God has graciously provided people to ask, or signs that “suddenly” appear, or my destination looms ahead and I really don’t know how I got there. There have been a few times when I believe Divine intervention helped me arrive where I needed to be, I have no “natural” explanation. God is faithful. I am a testimony to the truth that in our weakness  – He is strong.

When you don’t have a sense of direction, the best solution is to follow someone who knows the way.

I share this because as parents and grandparents we recognize deficiencies, handicaps, and certain lack of ability in our children and grandchildren. These may be small concerns or significant issues. Yet these concerns are very real and can result in serious problems in the lives of those we love. Our Heavenly Father knows this – He knows our strengths and our weaknesses. God has blessed me throughout my life with people who are strong where I am weak – who have been able to lead me in may ways.  As I mentioned, my husband has an internal GPS that continues to amaze me after almost 37 years. Our children are all good navigators, I am so thankful they aren’t like me! But God has also brought countless precious people who He has used to lead me in the right direction for my life – AT JUST THE RIGHT TIME!

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures;

He leads me beside quiet waters,

He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the

right paths for His name’s sake.

 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,

I will fear no evil, for You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

Although I have no sense of direction in the natural sense, God has been faithful to lead and guide me all my life.
God will do this for our children and grandchildren as well. If we were riding in the car right now – we would sing that Scripture chorus:
“He has brought us this far by His grace,
He has led us by fire and by cloud,
He will bring us to Zion to look on His face,
Oh blessed, Oh blessed be God.”
Anyone for a road trip?

No Excuses

Our grandson in the red cap is starting kindergarten!

Several years in a row, Phil and I were invited to give a talk to parents of kindergarten students at Scotts Creek School where Phil teaches 7th and 8th grade Language Arts. (Since we live in a rural community, our elementary schools have Kindergarten through 8th grade in one school.) We would introduce ourselves as parents of four grown children, one son and three daughters, and say that between us, we had many years (40+) of teaching experience. This was meant in no way to give the impression that we were experts. Yet we did want those listening to know where we were coming from. The purpose of the session was to encourage parents to start at the beginning to take an active role in their children’s education – then maintain that involvement throughout their child’s career in school. It is evident at any school open house, the higher the grade, the less parents come to meet their child’s teacher. Why do parents start out involved and present at school activities when their children are young, then fade into the background as their child grows? Unless it is an athletic event, it is difficult to get parents of teens to show up at school.

Phil would share this comment as we began – “I want to share some strategies with you while your children begin kindergarten so that by the time they reach my classes in 7th and 8th grade, they know how to be a responsible student. It will make my job a whole lot more effective and enjoyable.” This usually got several polite laughs. 🙂

If we think that the moment we turn our children over to a teacher, our responsibility for their education in over, we are sadly mistaken. As parents, we have a vital role in supporting, monitoring, advocating, and (only when absolutely necessary) intervening in our children’s education. There is no excuse to abdicate that role to a teacher. As a dedicated teacher myself, I must admit that I do not see and hear everything that goes on in my classroom. I also know that I am not aware of some of the special needs or circumstances my students face – unless the child or parent tells me.

We gave the parents of kindergarten students a handout with four suggestions as follows:

Follow Through – 

  • if you say, “No video games until you pick up your toys” stick to it.
  • Don’t say it if you don’t mean it.
  • Don’t take excuses. This leads the child to believe that your instructions are negotiable.
  • It takes effort but it will pay off!

Read to your Child –

  • This is the MOST important activity you can do to encourage your child’s academic growth
  • It will help them be the best student they can be.

Talk WITH Your Child – Listen –

  • It is important to ask them about school, then ask the “next question”,
  • i.e. “Did you learn anything new today? “What was it? “Did you enjoy it?” Why or why not?” not?”
  •  Did anything funny happen at school today?”  “What?”

Limit Screen Time –

  • Watching TV, videos, playing video games, even educational content, may rob children of doing many things that are important to their physical, emotional, and social development.
  • Some content is excellent and very productive.  Check out creationscience4kids.com and igamemom.com)

These suggestions are just that, you may feel led to do other things. God speaks to the children of Israel and says the following:

Deuteronomy 11:18-19 (NIV)

18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children,  talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

There is no excuse for being actively involved with our children.

Imperfect Parenting

What is he eating?!

If you were in a bookstore or library and saw a book titled Imperfect Parenting by Paul Apostle would you buy it or check it out? Most of us would ignore such a book – the title alone lacks enticement – no matter who wrote it. When we look for advice or guidance about something, we want positive, encouraging information, even if we sense that something doesn’t ring true. Why would I want to learn to be an imperfect parent?

The truth is that just as we are imperfect individuals, we are also imperfect as parents. That is not to say that we are “off the hook”, or that we can’t improve our performance as parents.

I enjoy hearing the stories behind the athletes that recently participated in the Olympics. It is especially inspiring to hear about those who have overcome daunting obstacles to achieve the goal of representing their country in the Olympics. Some were told they would never “amount to anything”; some were singled out for glory when they were very young and have had to “live up to” burdensome expectations. One common thread thoughout these stories, is that along the way someone believed in them. No athlete at that level makes it on their own. Most of these elite athletes had outstanding coaches, mentors, teammates, siblings, and often parents who encouraged, challenged, and pushed when needed. Many of these athletes reached a point where they felt like giving up, yet someone stepped in to inspire them to press on to reach their goal.

Paul inspires us in Philippians 3: 12-14

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Paul inspires us to “forget what is behind”. That means to forget our mistakes from the past – don’t wallow in the despair of past shortcomings and failures. “Strain toward what is ahead” – press on by doing the things that make us better parents.

  • Turn off the media that distracts us from interacting with our children.
  • Control our tone of voice – even when we are tired and stressed.
  • Follow through when we give our children directions

Each of us has our own areas in which to “press on”. By God’s grace we will come closer to being the parent we should be – still imperfect – but closer to our goal.

Back to School – That is the Question!

School is starting this week here in our community.  Some of you have over a month before your child or children begin school for the 2012-2013 school term, some of you may have years before your child reaches that magic age – 5 years old!

 Home school, public school, private school, Christian school, or charter school? Which option is best for your child and when? There are valid, compelling cases to be made for each of the above options. Many of you have talked to family, friends, and acquaintances that have STRONG opinions about which option is best. Some of these well-meaning folks will share their opinions with you even when you don’t ask. Some hold strong opinions because they feel that the path they chose had the positive outcomes they desired for their child. Others are equally convinced that their child suffered because of the educational choices the parents made, so they discourage making the same “mistake”. As with many things in parenting, there is no ONE RIGHT answer.

As parents of young children, my husband and I did all of the following at one time or another – homeschooling, Christian school, and public school.  It was not because we couldn’t make up our minds – it was because at different times, for different children, we felt led by God to choose various options.

If our goal as parents is to raise children that will seek and follow God’s will for their lives, then selecting their means of education is very important. Yet, the method must never be selected to ensure the child’s spiritual future. There is no Bible verse that says, “For it is by home schooling you are saved, that not of yourself, it is the instruction of parents or Godly teachers, least anyone should boast.” No, the Bible verse that illuminates Truth in this area is

Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV)

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Even the best instruction by the best teachers in the best home, Christian school, public, private or charter school will not ensure our children’s salvation.

Some of you are searching for assurance that the educational decision you have made for your child is the “right” one, the one that will guarantee a positive outcome. It may be the right decision – yet the outcome is up to God.  There is no one blanket solution that applies to everyone.  In making your decision, it may be helpful to prayerfully consider the following:

  • What options are available to us? This may make the choice simple.
  • Is my child naturally a leader or a follower?  If my child follows their peers, social pressure may be an issue.
  • Are they socially mature? Does my child need to be around other children to learn to share, take turns, realize they are NOT the center of the universe?
  • Are there services (special education classes, speech therapy, etc.) that the public school offers that will benefit my child? Often, children with special needs have more services available in public school. Some services are available to those who home school as well.
  • Are the teachers my children have equipped, nurturing, and do they love what they do? This MUST be the case whether the teacher is a parent, or in any of the various school settings. Sadly, not all Christian teachers have the above qualities. I know many public school teachers who see their profession as a calling from God and it is evident in their classrooms.

As a parent, you still have the most important influence on your child’s education. What you say and do at home is far more influential then what happens in the classroom, even if the classroom is the dining room. Your role as a parent carries over from year to year throughout your child’s life and informs everything else that happens to your child.

I can remember being so concerned as each of our children started school – even when I was their teacher! The Biblical account in Daniel of the four boys taken into captivity in Babylon gave me great comfort and hope, especially as our teenagers started public high school. These boys were about 12 years old, taken from their homes and families to a foreign land and educated by a secular, pagan culture. Yet the teaching they had at home was imbedded in their hearts and even when they were tempted with the king’s rich food and drink and the choice between compromise and death – they did not give in.

Daniel 3:16-17

16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if He does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. 

God is faithful….

…WHATEVER TYPE OF SCHOOL SETTING!