2020 Seniors, You Can Do This


I’ve enjoyed looking at everyone’s senior photos from back in the day trending on social media. I also understand that although the intent is to encourage the Class of 2020 amidst the coronavirus quarantine, with a laugh at our expense, it could end up hurting as well as helping. In an effort to help, I’m adding my senior photo to the worldwide yearbook to offer hope for today’s graduating seniors.

Seniors, you can do this. You can graduate (however that looks) and go on to live a full and productive life reaching your goals and realizing your dreams.

Looking at myself in the photo, I don’t even remember my senior year — or 10th or 11th grade. I never attended one high school dance, including prom, due to crippling social anxiety. Pep rallies, extra-curricular activities, field trips, and basically anything outside of structured class time sent my anxiety into a tailspin.

Bucking tradition, I did not attend my high school graduation. Rather, I walked into the school office that summer and picked it up from the secretary who found it tucked away in a file cabinet.

Why did I skip it? I could not emotionally handle hearing classmates’ family and friends clap for them as they walked the stage; or seeing everyone take photos afterwards and enjoy parties for themselves and their friends knowing I didn’t have an audience for me. I was merely trying to find the strength to get out of bed and take a shower every day.

My mom was dying of breast cancer my entire junior year. I spent as much time at the hospital as I did in class. She passed away the summer before senior year, and twice divorced, there was no father in my life.

My grandparents and sister were grieving the loss of my mom as much as I was in their own ways. Frankly, I spent any extra energy apart from daily survival on trying not to fail math.

Years later, I found a letter from the principal congratulating me on my academic success of my senior year. I have zero memory of those days, so seeing I made honor roll was a shock. The letter was addressed and written to “The parents of…”

I was one of those students who fell through the cracks. The school evidently did not realize I had no parents and that my grandparents signed on as legal guardians to keep me out of foster care my senior year since I didn’t turn 18 until August after graduation.

My boyfriend broke up with me to date my best friend during my mom’s illness. Within a week of her death, life began to free fall and all I could do was watch frozen in horror.

As a minor, I had to legally vacate my childhood home and our belongings had to be sold in an estate sale to pay off family debt. I was forced to put down my 13 year-old dog (my 4th birthday present and BFF) because the stress of everything caused her to starve herself. She was emaciated beyond help and having to end her suffering was one of the worst moments of my life. My cat ran away, and the only mentor I had in the whole world announced they were moving out-of-state for a new job. Friends told me my life was a trainwreck and they didn’t know what to do with me.

I totaled my ’74 car (which had been my grandmother’s, then my mom’s, then mine), which meant losing my driver’s license and gaining a probation officer with community service hours to work off — the night before my mom’s funeral.

All of this happened the summer before senior year. I had nothing and no one except Christ, my sister’s hand-me-downs, and ironically, an empty hope chest.

I was devastatingly lonely, had no college fund to rely on, and began to struggle with an eating disorder as a result my mom’s death — with which I still wrestle.

There is always a story behind the smile.

I read a Facebook post regarding ancient senior photos floating around the world wide web which said today’s seniors don’t want to see others’ senior years in tact. *In tact* is a huge assumption.

No life is perfect. Every life has a story. It’s what we do with our story that paves our journey forward.

2020 Seniors, your grief is real. Your feelings are valid. Do not deny yourself working through the loss of your senior year. In your grieving, I encourage you to stay there only as long as necessary to heal.

Use grieving to help you take the next step forward. 

From someone who spent more time wanting to die than live because of trauma upon trauma, with no coping skills or outside help, I can tell you that you get to choose what you do with this senior season.

You can let it destroy you, or you can tap into strength you did not know you have and lean on God in ways you did not think possible.
Not only can you make it through this, but you can emerge stronger, more determined and more focused than you ever imagined on what you want for your next chapter.

Want to know what I chose to do instead of attending my graduation? I got on an airplane with my (then) boyfriend and flew from Florida to New York to meet his family. Four years my senior, he served in the Air Force and his mandated leave time overlapped with my graduation.

I had a choice. I could either attend graduation, which highlighted what I didn’t have while unresolved grief & social anxiety swallowed me alive walking across a silent stage, or forego tradition and take a leap into my future to meet a family who I already knew would be my future family.

He and I celebrated 30 years of marriage last month. My decision then was absolutely the right call and I would make the same decision a million times again. They welcomed me into their family when I was 17 and I married at 19.

We worked hard. He worked day, swing, and midshifts full-time with full class loads and I worked two jobs and took day and night classes. We put ourselves through college debt-free with every cent we had plus scholarships and grants we earned. I completed my B.A. four years later. He completed his B.S. the year after.

We bought our first home when I was 21. A tiny foreclosure on a cul-de-sac, our nicotine-drenched, ripped wallpaper, nasty bathrooms, abandoned house needed a lot of love. It was our little nest, and we slowly remodeled it room-by-room while working and going to school.

If someone had told me only four years earlier at 17, when I didn’t know what home address to put on my high school contact card, that I would own my own home — I wouldn’t have believed it.

If someone had told me when I skipped my high school graduation that I would go on to earn my bachelor’s degree and graduate on time — I couldn’t have believed it.

What I knew that night, donning a black silky robe and balancing a mortar board on my head, as I waited to take my turn to walk the university stage with my husband, grandparents, sister and her then boyfriend (now husband) and our best friends cheering for me in the stands, is that God can most certainly redeem what was lost.

The loss may be irreplaceable — as nothing could bring back my mom or replace everyone and everything ripped from my life — but if we stay in a posture of being willing to receive the gifts God has planned for us, and we continue to take a new step forward each day, then our hearts and lives can be genuinely full to overflowing with good things. Soul-filling, goal-accomplishing, dream-realizing things. Things beyond what we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

An awesome, fulfilling and rewarding life is possible after traumatic loss. 

During my junior year of college, someone I highly respected flat out told me that I would never graduate. They genuinely did not believe in me and it broke my heart in ways that silently hemorrhaged for years. I chose to extend forgiveness toward that person, and felt a personal cathartic release proving them wrong, as I shook hands with faculty on the stage that night.

Moving my tassel from right to left was a symbol that I did it. God gave me the strength and work ethic and I used all of it to run through that finish line.

I skipped my high school graduation because I was embarrassed and overwhelmed that I didn’t have a traditional posse cheering for me. One thing I’ve since learned is me cheering for me was enough. Accomplishing a goal is personal. And when I walked the stage to receive my college diploma, I was eternally grateful for those who came to cheer me on, but most of all I looked to heaven and gave thanks to God that he completed a work in me and we did it together. (Phil. 1:6)

Everyone’s journeys looks different. My husband and I were blessed to rear three kids who have grown into amazing adult children whom I highly admire. They have my heart.

One out-of-state move, three houses, multiple jobs, and being blessed to live out our heartbeat for international missions and relief work, I never could have dreamed that God would raise up beauty from ashes in the brokenness of my life. All glory goes to him.

He is absolutely the God of the impossible and only asks we trust him and take the next step that he puts in front of us.

2020 Seniors, I know inconsolable grief. Overwhelming loss. Desperate disappointment. Uncertain futures. Gripping fear. Unquenchable loneliness. Paralyzing hopelessness. Catastrophic helplessness.

I also know that you have the choice to allow how much this surreal season affects your present and future. I know there is purpose for you. I know there is an entire world waiting for you. A world who needs you to do what you were born to do. And I know that you have the power to choose whether this season breaks or benefits you.

If you’re quarantining in your home with those you call family; food in your pantry; an education to continue online or otherwise; and you have one friend who misses you; and a sport, club, volunteering or work that you miss, then you already have everything you need to graduate abundantly blessed.

Embrace what you have. Trust God that he can work for your good if you give it all to him, including your grief. Choose to let this season make you better, not bitter.

Keep looking ahead. Keep stepping forward. Take Bruce Lee’s advice and “Be water, my friend.” You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. (Phil. 4:13) And keep smiling, knowing the best is yet to come.

What a mom feels like at the end of the school year

After two separate 2-mile walks in the same day, I sat at my computer to take care of a few things when something unusual caught my eye. I looked over my shoulder and there, in the middle of the darkened hallway, laid our little dog completely passed out.

She kept the pace with me through both exercise sessions and was a real sport, but somewhere between her dog bed in the family room and her other dog bed under my desk, she just couldn’t walk another step and plopped onto the floor – mid-journey – to take a needed nap.

The good, bad and ugly all in, I looked at her and thought, If I could describe what being a mother feels like by the end of the school year… This. Is. It.  

A picture really is worth a thousand euphoric, exhausted, hopeful, disappointed, excited, anxious, relieved, frustrated, happy, sad, and proud mamma words. It’s all worth it.

Now for that nap…




Perhaps that’s the problem

The downpours and cold wind this morning reflect not only the weather, but the atmosphere inside our home today.  Between oversleeping, bad traffic, final exams, and PowerPoint presentations due, we all scurried around trying to get everything together and still be on time to everywhere we needed to be.

My daughter, in particular, was having a hard time.  We all have those days where nothing seems to go right – and feeling rushed adds insult in injury.

Finally, everyone was there they needed to be, even at the expense of me missing my commitment.  As I stood still, trying to figure out where the day goes from here, God whispered to me that my baby girl needed something.

Like what? I asked.

Love, He answered.

I immediately began to think up ways I could show her love this afternoon like going to Starbucks, replenishing her eye shadow that just ran out, having a nail painting session, etc.

But all of that would have to happen after school.  God pressed me that her need just couldn’t wait.

I literally looked at the shower stall in my bathroom and thought how badly I needed one.

Nonetheless, I replied, I’m on board, God.  Mission Love.  What do You want to do?

I want to give her flowers, He answered.

Can I tell you that just makes me cry?  God is our Good Father, Abba Father, Sovereign God, and Lover of our soul.  He wanted to give His child, His beloved daughter, flowers.

I swallowed the lump in my throat and looked at the clock.  I had less than 30 minutes to get out the door, buy the flowers and deliver them to the school before the window of calling students to the office closed until this afternoon.

I raced to the coat closet and grabbed my parka.  I threw on my faithful baseball cap that covers a multitude of mistakes with unwashed hair and put on my athletic pants and running shoes – not caring in the least what I looked like.

Jumping in the van, I took off for the grocery store.

Tick tock.

Standing in front of the flower selection, one beautiful bouquet stood out among the rest, and it just so happen to have her favorite colors flowers in it.  Got it!

Next, I passed by the Valentines Day candy selection and chose a small, 3 piece box of chocolate shaped like a heart with a picture of a rose on the front of it.

I already had a card set aside just for her.

Saying hello to one of my favorite cashiers who is like family to us, I paid for everything, and bolted.

Tick tock.

Arriving at school, I parked and began to sign the card.  I wrote that God wanted our girl to have these flowers.  His words went something like this,  Just like I designed and dressed these flowers beautifully, so  I designed and dressed you, my beloved daughter, even more beautifully!  

On Bruce’s and my behalf, I wrote, The chocolates are from your dad and me because we think you are really, really, really, really sweet!  Remember, no matter how dark the clouds are, and no matter how much they may rain on us, behind them, the “Son” still shines for you and through you.

Tick tock.

I brought a roll of tape along and taped the chocolates to the card and taped the card to the bouquet.

Daring the downpour, with no time left to spare, I raced across the parking lot into the dry building.  Breathless, I asked, Good morning!  Have they called the announcements yet?

The woman staffing the front desk said they just took the list to the office.

Off to the office I raced.

I threw open the door to the office and both women at their desks looked up at me and the bouquet of flowers in surprise.

May I add my daughter’s name to the list to be called?

We are new to this school, so I am still learning the ropes.  Their response was unexpected.

Um.  I’m not sure.  Let me check.  I think it’s against policy to allow these.

Whoa.  Really?  I never saw that coming.  But, they were from God, so how do I explain that???

Rather reluctantly, the woman went into an office to ask.  I was puzzled at her anti-climatic attitude.

Before she left the room, she left me with some thoughts.  She said, We usually don’t get flowers except for teachers.  Is this a birthday?  

No, it’s not, I replied.

She continued, At my old school, it was against school policy to carry flowers around all day.

Uh, okay, I said, hoping her old school policy didn’t apply here.

While she was gone, the other woman said to me, I have to ask, if they are not for a birthday, then why?

Trying to hold back my mamma’s tears, knowing what a hard time my daughter was having, I answered honestly, Because sometimes a girl just needs to get flowers.

She paused, took her glasses off, and stood up.

Great.  I’m probably in trouble now, I thought to myself.

She walked over to the counter where I stood and said, You’re absolutely right.  In that moment, her heart melted, as most women’s do over flowers.

She continued, If they won’t let you give these flowers to her, then she can keep them up here for the day and pick them up on her way home.

At that moment, MY heart melted at her kindness.

She sat back down at her desk and mouthed to me silently, Just know it’s an option.

The first lady came back out to me and said, I’m sorry, but they are just not allowed.

Why? I asked – genuinely confused.

She’s not allowed to take them to class because it will cause a disruption.

Okay, so can she keep them in her locker?

They will die.

I don’t think they will die in a matter of a few hours of a school day.

To know me is to know I hate conflict.  I just hate it and all the drama that goes with it. But, God wanted His daughter to have these flowers, and by golly I was going to fight for Him to give them to her…and asked for Him to fight for me as I stood there dripping wet, still holding the flowers.

It’s just not allowed.

I’m sorry, but why?

Because if we allow her to get flowers, then we’d have to allow that for all of the students.

And…what’s the problem with that?

Ha!  I stumped her.  She had no legitimate response and stood looking at me with frustration.

May I speak with who you asked? I asked calmly and with a smile.

Tick tock.

Sure, she said with displeasure.

The dean of students came out to greet me and told me the same thing I had just heard.  And by now, another woman (I have no idea who she was) was standing and watching this.

Oh, but they didn’t know I had a wild card.  Remembering the offer of letting the flowers stay in the office for the day (for everyone to enjoy on this gloomy day I might add) I played that card and proposed the office option.

The names of students to come to the office were literally being called as the dean and I spoke.

Tick tock tick tock!!!!!!

I held my breath, waiting for the okay from the dean.

She agreed, and just as she did, my daughter’s name was called over the intercom.

With not a second to spare.

I asked if I may wait and give them to her in person and explain the office procedure.

So there I stood in the hallway as a swarm of students passed by looking at a mom in a soaking wet parka and running shoes, holding a big, bright bouquet of flowers.

I turned around and saw my girl waiting in line with the other students that were called.

I held out the flowers and said smiling, These are for you.  The card will explain why.

We walked to the office together and put them in a pretty vase they set out just for us.  She and I turned to leave, but as I did I looked over my shoulder and mouthed to the compassionate woman at the desk who offered the wild card, Thank you, as a tear trickled down my cheek.

She smiled silently back at me and nodded.

As I left the school, something the first woman said to me wouldn’t let me go.  It’s why I am writing this post today.  She said, If we allow her to get flowers, then we’d have to allow that for all of the students.

Maybe that’s the problem?  Remember, God told me to do this so I take no credit, I was just the messenger.  But, perhaps if more parents would be willing to make their family second priority under God, then a ripple effect of love and confidence would be evident at school.  Statistics today show that children are more stressed out, are on more medications, and attempt suicide more often than in preceding decades.

Maybe they need a mom or dad to allow their day to be interrupted and do something out of the box for their child.  Kids are sending us signals all the time of what they need from us.  Are we listening?

God is sending us a word to speak over, or something special to do for our children, are we listening?

Are we willing to play the fool and be embarrassed over showing our children they are dearly loved?

I’m not advocating causing a scene or breaking rules, but as I found out today, there are often ways around an obstacle that offers a peaceful resolution.  Are we willing to advocate for our kids?

If not, why?

If not us, who will?

Now I know some would say that it wouldn’t be fair to the students who don’t have a dad or mom.  It would make them feel worse.

I get that because I lost my mom the summer before my senior year and didn’t have a dad. If anyone gets that point, I do.  But, think of how it could spill over to friends, mentors, and other relatives’ lives who could pick up the ball and run with it!

I would have given anything for someone to have brought me flowers in the middle of English class when every…single…day I struggled to find purpose for my life – feeling like I was a mistake and was left here to be nothing but a burden to my family and society.  I needed one person to show me I mattered.  That I was worth something of value.  I was loved. I would’ve been grateful no matter who the flowers, or note or chocolates, or whatever it was came from.

Our children today need to hear that they matter and they are worth it.  They need to hear God loves them.  We love them.  They have a future.  That they do fit in, even if we are their only safe place to feel accepted.

The easy thing would have been to wait and give the flowers to my girl at the end of the day when she came home.  But, God’s ways are not like ours.  We see only this moment in time. He sees time as one continuum, and if He took the time to urge me so in telling me it was as much about the timing as it was about the gift, then I’d better stop my agenda and listen.

If parents think their children are a-okay and are the exception and don’t need any extra effort from us to show how wonderfully they have been made, then parents aren’t listening. Their are no children who have it all figured out at 12, 14 or 17 – regardless of how many times their only response is, I’m fine.

Today, it was my daughter’s turn to feel special.  Wanted.  Loved.  Valued.  Important.  My boys will have their days, too, and I’m guessing God won’t ask me to bring them flowers to school, but I will be listening closely to the heartbeat of their lives to know when they need a boost, and I will be keeping an ear pointed to heaven waiting for instructions on how to show them they are so very loved.

Listen to your children.  Listen to the Lord.  Count it a privilege to get to be the secret agent acting as the messenger delivering God’s word of hope, love and a future.  Watch for the moment, and don’t let it slip by.  You may not get another chance.

The pink backpack

I don’t know about you, but today, my whole household is so thankful it’s Friday!  What a week.  Weathering peaks and valleys, failures and victories, at the close of this day we will tuck this week into the history books and look forward to much needed rest this weekend.

But before I can go into chillaxin’ mode, one last day must be completed.  This began with 2 carpool runs to the same school.  My kids were struggling to get ready on time, and when one was finally good to go, I decided to make the first run.

On the way, I passed a dad walking his little girl to school.

Once through the drop off line, I headed back home for my second child.  Making an about face with my van, I headed back to school with my teen in tow.

Going through the same carpool line again, I noticed at the intersection of the school light was the dad and little girl I passed before.

They stood on the corner together, and what they were doing caught my eye.

He had her bubblegum pink backpack on his back and her lunchbox in his hand.  Slowly, he pulled the backpack off and gave it to her.  He handed her the lunchbox and told her he loved her.

I’m sure it was the blazing morning sun shining offensively in my eyes that made them water.  Or was it?  Pulling out of the school parking lot, I rounded the corner and glanced at them in my rear view mirror.

All the way home, I replayed the image of this very tall dad with a small, pink backpack strapped to his back.

I stopped the day long enough to grab some breakfast and have a moment with God.  I read my devotion, some Scripture and began to pray.  This week, I confess, has been filled with prayers on the run.  Not something I am proud of.

Today was different.  After hearing a message from David Jeremiah yesterday on the radio about the importance of giving our daily priorities to God, I realized I had asked God to go along for the ride instead of asking Him to drive.

So today, I stopped and prayed.  My raw, honest words surprised me.  I said something like, I’m sorry God that I cannot present to you a prettier me.  I am weary.  Weary of the stuff in life that won’t turn me loose.  I’m trying to live in the spiritual realm, but it’s really hard when tangible stuff grabs a hold of me and won’t let me go.  Things that demand my time and attention.  I feel like…like…like my office desk.  I am the desk, and all of the stuff in life is burying me.  Everything demands, ‘Do me first!’  Everything screams, ‘I’m most important!’  Paperwork, phone calls, emails, errands, medical stuff, school stuff, volunteer stuff, so many kinds of stuff!  I am supposed to take care of everything, at the same time and with the same amount of energy and effort, while standing and holding myself and all of it up – with a bad foot.  It’s just so much!  I’m weary of it all.  And, I’m weary of my foot recovery.  I’m weary of my husband’s injury and the havoc both of these have reeked in our family life.  I’m weary of homework, watching my kids struggle for sleep, clutter everywhere because 24 hours in a day aren’t enough, and that no matter how behind I feel, or how slow I’m moving with my dumb, hurting foot, life just keeps bringing it.  I dread getting out of bed in the morning because from the moment my eyes open, the problems are right there – staring at me while I bury my head in the pillow.  From the time my feet hit the floor, the issues demand my attention – before I can brush my teeth.  I wish I could present to You a beautiful bride of Christ who radiates calm and who is organized, and efficient.  Instead, it’s me.  The office desk.  Flat, silent, and who feels more practical than pretty.  Will You help me order my day?  See, I’ve written it all down.  Everything that must be done.  Please arrange it according to Your divine plan – and grant me the strength to do it.

God met me in that moment.  He brought to mind that dad, his little girl, and her backpack.  He said, I’m with you Baby Girl, every day, from the moment the sun rises.  In fact, I’ve been with you all night.  Watching over you (Psalm 121), singing over you (Zephaniah 3:17) and tending to you.  Everything you have on that list is packed in your backpack.  It may not be bubblegum pink, but it’s heavy for you, with things you must do and what is expected of you, like that little girl’s was.  And like her father carried her load for her, so I want to carry yours.  Let me strap it on and walk with you on this journey we call Today.  I’ll even hold your hand and carry your lunchbox full of needs.  I’d carry your backpack of demands even if it were girly pink because I am secure enough in who I AM to my children.  I am strong.  Capable.  Loving.  Willing.

Wow.  God has a way of breaking through walls around our hearts and going right into the deepest part of our souls.  The hidden places we guard so carefully.

I remembered feeling so touched by the moment of watching that dad and his little girl, but couldn’t put my finger on it as to why.  Now I understood.  It was bittersweet, quite honestly.  Part of me felt sad, okay, maybe a little sorry for myself, that not for one day in my entire life have I felt the tender touch of a father.  Neither by my biological father or stepfather.  Not for one day have I known what it’s like to rely on either dad to help me or be there for me in the tough stuff.  I felt those feelings first.

But, God paralleled those thoughts with Truth.  I may not have a human father figure to care for me, but God is my Abba Father, a.k.a. Daddy, and He loves me very much.  He always has, and always will, be happy to help.  He is there to share the journey, hold our hand, and provide for our needs.  Moreover, He’s not just there to accompany us, but He offers to carry our load for us while we sojourney the 24/7/365 with Him.  His grace, love and faithfulness to His promise to never leave us fills my heart with peace and gives me everything I need to do the day…and smile doing it!

I’m glad my kids were running late today.  What began as a harried moment, transformed into an entirely different perspective on the day.  Had they ridden the bus, I never would have seen that dad and his little girl – or her pink backpack strapped over his broad shoulders.

What was heavy for her, was easy for him – sipping his coffee as they walked.

What’s in your backpack today?  Is the weight of it cutting into your shoulders or bruising the muscles in your back?  God is more than willing to carry it for you – if you will trust Him and release it into His care.

Psalm 91:1, He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

Psalm 55:22, Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.

Isaiah 40:11, He tends his flock like a shepherd:  He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.

1 Peter 5:7, Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Matthew 11:28-30, “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.”

When I grow up…

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life… ~ Philippians 2:14-15

As our family, along with thousands of other families, adapts to the newness of the start of another school year, my mind drifts back to Kenya – to a special young lady who lives there.

Travel with me today, up a rocky mountain on a small bus with no air conditioning.  All but a few seats are taken by our teammates who are going to hold a soccer clinic with hundreds of Kenyan children who live on this mountain.  Many of them have never seen a Caucasian person before and almost all do not speak English.  This is surely a first for my family and we are excited!

The scenery is breathtaking.  Such beauty envelops us on every side.  After quite a long, slow drive up, we stop.  There, some local children are waiting.  Clustered together, they giggle as they look at us. We smile real big and wave.  That makes them giggle more.  They are shy. Meek. Kind.

We are just about to continue our journey to the top of the mountain, when a young lady, probably 13 or 14, spontaneously steps onto the bus and sits down next to me.  I am delighted to have her company, but am perplexed as to why she got on.

I asked her if she spoke English.  She replied, A little.  I was thrilled!  That was more than I spoke of her native tongue.

She sat quietly, holding onto the seat in front of her as our bus rocked side-to-side up the stony incline.

Curious, I asked her why she hopped on the bus.  She replied, I want to know what it feels like to ride one.

I was completely taken back by her words.  She’s never ridden a bus before – or any transportation.  The 2,400 families that live on this mountain never leave it.  They farthest they go is a very long hike down to reach extremely contaminated streams at the bottom to fetch water.  A trek they make every single day up and down the entire mountain.  That is one reason we are there – in addition to presenting the Gospel and running soccer clinics – to help dedicate two rainwater catchers past teams of ours helped build with the locals at the very top of the mountain so no one ever has to die from water-borne illnesses again.

Wanting to let her enjoy the ride, I didn’t speak much, though I had a thousand questions about her, their way of life, their thoughts on things.  I am always full of questions, and sometimes it drives my family crazy! 🙂

However, I had a question burning the tip of my tongue.  If I didn’t ask it, I thought my tongue would catch on fire or I would burst.  So I asked it.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

She did not hesitate with her answer.  A doctor or a teacher.

You can be anything you want to be.  Go for your dreams, I replied with a smile.

She sheepishly smiled back.

As we continued up the mountain together, I couldn’t help but stare at her out the corner of my eye.  She is beautiful.  She has dreams.  Aspirations.  And, they begin with wanting to know what it feels like to ride man-made transportation.

Her inquisitiveness is colorful.  Her courage to get on the bus with a bunch of foreigners is inspiring.  She’s already unafraid to chase her dreams and go for it.

A doctor or a teacher.  Why?  On this mountain, it really is all about daily survival in the most primitive of estates.  They have one school and there are many cultural superstitions involved in treating their medical ailments that oppress the one government-ran clinic staffed by two nurses that service this clinic twice a week.

I believe it is because she sees firsthand, the difference one person can make.  She is surrounded by her village of family and neighbors.  Not too many doctors and teachers.  But, oh what an impression a nurse here, or a teacher there, has already made on her.

Someone has made such an impact on this young lady’s life that she believes her life is bigger than the mountain she lives on.  For instance, I met one woman who is incredibly talented.  She is a Kenyan college graduate who has devoted her life to giving these kids an education.  She is jaw-dropping impressive, because despite her tireless efforts and huge impact on the community, she one of the most humble, soft-spoken and unassuming people I’ve ever met.

My young friend has already realized that her purpose is more than daily survival.  She owns nothing of value to this world, yet she possesses a spirit rich in hope and determination.

All because someone, a doctor or teacher or both, has touched her life in a unique way, sparking a love for life that God placed inside her when He breathed life into her.

As a new school year begins in places all over the world, my first thought is of this young lady. If she can have such amazing aspirations, so can other children who live in a longitude and latitude with ample resources available.  It literally pains me to see kids nowadays sluff off school and whine and complain about it like they were being asked to donate a kidney just by showing up.  It is a cliche to complain about waking up early, school bus rides, school rules, cafeteria food and homework.  What privileges these are!  And, this is not being said by a middle-aged adult who has forgotten how much homework can consume an evening, or the obnoxious pitch of the alarm clock screaming in my ear way before I’m ready to here it.

No.  I say this because there are countless children all over the world who would give anything to have the resources other kids have – like my bus-buddy.  They would give anything for someone to take a chance on them and let them learn.  To give them the resources they need to chase their dreams.

How many poverty-stricken children in this world are being born, living and dying without one day of their life being given a chance to make a contribution to this world? How many of them have already died (26,000 children die every single day from preventable diseases), or are living now in a life shackled to grim, unforgiving circumstances, have the ability to learn and grow and accomplish miracles like curing cancer, finding new energy solutions, becoming agricultural geniuses, outstanding political leaders, pastors, ambassadors, surgeons, pediatricians for the 26,000 children dying in mothers’ arms every 24 hours, and teachers who train up another group of kids to chase their dreams and show them they are priceless, they count, they matter?  It is well worth investing time and energy into these kids so they can understand the world around them and have a better quality of life right there in their own communities and beyond.

It saddens me to see slothful, whining kids portrayed in movies, in books, on tv and in person take such an incredible gift of education for granted.  Would they want to trade places with the young lady I met on the bus?  Not for one day could they handle her life.  She is a survivor. Strong.  Driven.

Will she have the opportunities needed to fulfill her dream?  Only God knows.  How I hope so. And how I hope other kids will mature to a point where they see their education as a gift and are thankful for it.

May this new school year be a turning point for children every to embrace their potential.  And, may teachers be refreshed in knowing that they do make a difference.  It’s not about numbers. It’s about lives.  And making a lifelong difference in one child has the potential to change our world.  Run your race strong.  These children are the future of our world, our countries, our states, our communities, our neighborhoods, and our families.  You, in fact, hold the future in your hands.  What impact will you determine to have this year?

Here are some of my photographs from the mountain.  May the images be etched in our hearts to never forget this young lady, or the many other children in this world she represents, who dare to look beyond their circumstances and chase their dreams.

Our greeters! 🙂

A typical home

Of one my children meeting new friends!

School uniforms are required, regardless…

We brought oranges as a gift of friendship

Harvesting tea leaves

A First Day For All of Us

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 4: 6-8

Today, I join the ranks of mothers everywhere sending their children off to school for another year.  As much as I am excited about this day, it is bittersweet.  For three years, I treasured homeschooling two of my children (before that, all 3 of them attended private school).  Now, my middle schoolers are catching the big yellow bus with backpacks slung over their shoulders and offering me a smile goodbye.  My oldest begins another year of high school, and that means college is a year closer.  Be still my heart.

I’m transitioning all over again – finding my place in the world.  I will have to get used to being without my kids during the day; to the quiet – which has its pros and cons.

As mixed as I feel about our new phase of life (happy for them & sad for me) I must choose which attitude I will wear today as real as I choose my clothes.  I choose to look at the good in the day.  The sad moments will come, and that’s okay.  But, I can’t live in the sadness.  God has given me too much to be joyful about that deserves to be celebrated.  So, I’ll let the tears fall, but I am turning my eyes and ears to what are His gifts of joy which are meant to be enjoyed.  I will unwrap each of them them slowly, thoughtfully and hold them close to my heart.  And I will be thankful in all things.

Blessings I count today…

* God is with me every step on this amazing journey of parenthood.  He is always caught up to my life, so at any moment I can talk to Him and know He gets it.

* My children are healthy and have an opportunity for a great education.

* They are excited about school.

* God’s provision to send them with new school supplies.  We are grateful.

* My sweet husband understands this is a tricky time for me and accepts that moodiness comes with the territory.

* My dog that will shadow me because she will miss them almost as much as I do.

* Finishing projects that have waited for years for attention.

* Caring for my family.

* Caring for others.

* My 2 new neighbors, who have quickly become new friends – invited me on a walk after everyone left for the day.  Fun!

* All of my friends and time to catch up with them.  They have been so tender toward me with prayers, texts, FB, emails and conversations – knowing this school year is a new normal for me.  I have the BEST friends in the entire world!!

* Flexibility

* Rest

* Work

* Play

* Tending

* Healing

* Writing

* Breathing

* Knowing that not knowing who I am now is okay.  Transition takes time.

* Leftover chocolate chip pancakes that I got up before sunrise to make today by special request.

* The smell of my perfume lingering in the bathroom from my daughter who wanted to wear a little today.

* The sound of jazz music still playing in the family room from my youngest son who wanted it to help calm his jitters.

* The aroma of homemade pasta sauce simmering for a “comfort food” meal tonight to celebrate the completion of the first day.

* So happy that I was able to slip Scripture into each of their notebooks for encouragement.  I fell asleep too quickly last night to do it, but got it done between flipping pancakes and waking up those who overslept! (Scriptures I used – Philippians 4:13, Philippians 1:6 & Proverbs 3: 5-6)

* Tears of joy and sorrow

* Laughter

* New beginnings

* God’s peace that is beyond my understanding.

* Anticipating my children back in the nest at the end of the day.

* Sharing all of this with my husband, my best friend.

Yep.  There is much to be excited about, and I don’t want to miss a second of any of it.  Think I’ll go eat a pancake. And I will be thankful. 🙂