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My boys came home from a youth group retreat yesterday tired, hungry, and talking about orphans. While I had hoped that the weekend would have a spiritual impact on them, I wasn’t expecting this.

“Did you know,” my oldest reported,  “that if only 7 % of the Christians in the world would adopt an orphan that there would be no more orphans?”

Brace yourself, I thought, wondering if the next sentence was going to be plea to enlarge our family. It wasn’t, but the impact of that statistic is staying with him. He wants to go somewhere and do something to make the world a better place.

I remember that passion of youth that longs to change the world. My husband and I were foster parents for several years before we started our own family, and we even discussed the possibility of adoption at the time. However, we were blessed with three wonderful birth children and laid the idea aside.

But in the back of my mind, I wondered….

One weekend about 9 years ago, I went to a retreat where the speaker shared about adopting from China. I began to ponder – did it really matter to those kids that we kept for a few weeks or months at a time? If you really wanted to make a difference in a child’s life, you would adopt one, I thought.

I returned home that afternoon to the chaos that only parents of several preschoolers can appreciate. I sat down for just a few minutes when the doorbell rang. Imagine my surprise to see standing there, towering over me, a young man that we had fostered seven years before. “I was in the neighborhood and wanted to stop by,” he said. What timing!

Yes, I got the message. It DOES make a difference whether you choose to  foster, adopt, or help those who do.

amazimaMy sons were inspired by the story of Katie Davis, a young lady whose heart for Uganda lead her to establish Amazima Ministries. She was so moved by the need of the orphaned children in Uganda that she began a sponsorship program so that these children can be fed, educated, and loved.  For a sponsorship of only $300 per year, a child receives a uniform, socks and shoes, an education, two hot meals an day, and minor medical care. I certainly couldn’t provide that much for $300 here in the States!

So, how will you help care for the orphans?  Whether you adopt a child, sponsor an orphan, or support a friend or family member who adopts, you ARE making a difference.

And the children will thank you.

As my 25 year high school reunion approaches, I’m thinking about how our world has changed over the years. One of my prized graduation gifts was a huge, silver boombox that probably weighed 10 pounds…complete with radio, stereo sound, and cassette player. It provided hours of enjoyment through college and beyond.   boombox2

And now my 12 year old walks around with his Ipod touch in his pocket, downloading music instantly and volunteering to order pizza for dinner for the sheer joy of being able to do it with his wifi connection.

Those of you who have read this blog for a while know that we were wrestling last spring with finding the appropriate educational experience for our now 10th grader. The choices in our small city are fairly limited and none were just the right fit. What did not occur to us at the time was that the same technology that has made my boombox obsolete and made Facebook a household word has also transformed the face of education. No longer are we limited to schools and teachers that are within driving distance. With an inexpensive computer and an internet connection, the whole world is literally opened up to us.

This year, my son is enrolled in Veritas Scholar’s Academy, an online school with live, interactive classes. His instructors and classmates live from Hawaii to Bermuda, and everywhere in between. At first I was leery of the concept of online classes, and didn’t think of it as “real” school.  I couldn’t imagine how a teacher would explain a complex algebra problem online. Until I learned about the digital scribe. This special tool allows someone to work a problem on paper as it is simultaneously appearing on the computer screen. Thus, the kids can take turns working problems and the teacher can see exactly what they are doing.

What about class discussions, I wondered? Never fear; each student has a speaker and microphone. Debates have been an almost daily occurrence in his rhetoric class.

Because each class meets twice a week with study time in between, his schedule is much like that of a college student. He can’t miss the bus in the morning, but he can still oversleep and miss class. He may not see his classmates face to face, but he gets to interact daily with people from all over the country.  The online option has allowed him to continue studying the subjects that interest and challenge him under some of the best teachers and without having to move away from home or break the bank.

I walked by him yesterday during what I knew was a class period. I heard nothing and he was looking at a book. “Aren’t you supposed to be in class?” I asked. “Yeah, we’re working on homework right now,” he replied. Right then, I heard a young lady ask,        “Mrs. S., I don’t understand this …”

And it hit me…it IS “real” school, and this is one of its new faces.

After a summer away adjusting to life in the sandwich generation and debating how to balance the blog and the new business, I decided that the blog was too therapeutic to ignore any longer. My thoughts the last few months have created a traffic jam in my brain, and the occasional leaks of incoherent ramblings ( I’m sorry, my friends who had to listen!) simply confirmed the necessity of regularly processing  my thoughts into words.


It was a different sort of summer at our house, as the effects of children growing older altered our typical family plans. My family has a reunion over the fourth of July every year, but this year our immediate family was represented only by the mother-daughter contingent. Our 15 year old spent his first summer away working at a summer camp and our 12 year old and Dad had Boy Scout camp scheduled the week of July 4. It was a pleasant trip for the two of us, but bittersweet as I realized that our days of traveling there as a family are probably over, at least for the next few years. Talking with my aunts who grew up overseas and spent their high school years in boarding schools, I gained a whole new perspective on the concept of the empty nest.  “Why does everyone always say, “When they’re gone, they’re gone?” quipped one aunt. “Here we are!  We didn’t go anywhere!”

And, my son who was “gone” for the summer was really only gone  a week at a time, as we picked him up each Friday night and brought him home long enough  to sleep and wash his clothes and take him back again on Sunday.  I was truly amazed at how smoothly the transitions went and how naturally the family dynamics flowed back and forth with and without him in the house. It gave me hope that the transition to college, early or not, will be a positive experience.  We were also thrilled to see the independence and responsibility that he exhibited at camp.  Some of that has dissipated as he has been home for several weeks now, and I’m forced to ask myself – does he feel too safe and comfortable at home?  Will I have to be that mean mother bird that pushes her baby out of the nest? I hope not.

Summer, for me, always seems to be a time to slow down and reflect on the past year. I guess I’ve been in the educational mindset for so long that the new year for me begins in the fall. And so, as summer draws to a close, I am making my lists of all the things that I’ll do differently this year and all the activities that my kids and that we as a family need. My husband and I were fortunate enough to get a weekend away with time to talk about what our priorities are for each child and for us for the coming year.  As Ecclesiastes 3:1 states,” There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”

The trick, as we all know, is not trying to fit every activity under heaven into this one season!

It all started last Sunday morning, with my husband tentatively telling me that he’d had a disturbing dream the night before. “I don’t know if I should tell you this, ” he said (as I got that queasy feeling in my stomach), “but I had a dream last night that your dad died.”  Not the way you really want your Sunday morning to start…or any other morning, for that matter.  However, since he has not been known to have prophetic visions before, and does often have unusual dreams, I didn’t think too much more about it.

Until Tuesday night.

My phone rang and my mom’s shaky voice on the other end was telling me that Dad was on the road somewhere about an hour from home and that the last people he saw noticed he was slurring his words before he left.  The conversation I had had with my husband came back to mind with gut-wrenching horror –  it couldn’t really have been true, could it? And why would anyone let someone who was obviously having difficulties get in their car and drive home?

Oh, yeah. We’re talking about my dad here – one of the last of the  Marlboro Man I can do anything and nothing can stop me generation.

For forty- five painful minutes I had visions of my dad’s car wrapped around a tree somewhere on a rural road as he lay helpless. But against the odds, he showed up at home, still not sure he needed to go to the hospital, but no longer protesting as my mom quickly drove him there.

Miraculously, he emerged with only a mild stroke affecting his speech and no paralysis, and is getting more of his words back every day. We expect a nearly complete recovery, but things will still never be the same.  We have come face to face with the frailty of life, and that even our seemingly invincible dad is getting a few chinks in his armor as he ages. I have watched my mom struggle to handle the monumental tasks that suddenly dropped with a crushing force on her shoulders.  And  I wonder…how much can I do when I live 10 hours away?

sandwichgenerationBecause I have a wonderfully supportive husband and terrific local in-laws who adore my children, I was able to escape my mom duties  to come home and help my parents.  But, I’m only here for a week, and the need is much greater than I had realized. I am beginning to feel the pull of the sandwich generation – people torn between raising their own family and helping their parents as they age.

How do you find the balance between pouring your efforts into raising  the children God has blessed you with and giving back to the people who gave unselfishly to you as you grew up ?  Particularly when you don’t live nearby? According to the Pew Research Center, there are over 10 million people in the US juggling this load every day. So, I am certainly not alone. And I do have a sister, who lives only four hours  from my parents, but she has four young children and a job, so it’s not any easier for her to be here on short notice.

I find myself re-evaluating the life decisions I made years ago – should I ask my husband to leave a job he enjoys,  uproot my kids, and move closer to home?  But then we leave my husband’s parents behind, and his only sibling does not live in town.

There are no easy answers in a culture that prides itself on independence and freedom of choice. If I had understood in my early 20’s the choices that I would face 20 years later, would it have made a difference in the path I chose? I don’t know. Experience is the best teacher, and wisdom is rarely bestowed upon the young.

But of this much I am sure –   life is precious and can be snuffed out without warning.  We were granted a reprieve this time, and it will make every day together that much sweeter.

Educational Excellence in a Personal Environment

That is the motto of the University of West Georgia, which we visited last weekend, and is also in line with our family’s values.  They have one of the few residential early-college entrance programs in the country. These programs are designed for gifted high school students who are not sufficiently challenged in their home high school.

Even though it is a medium-sized state university, every staff member, including the president himself,  is required to teach at least one undergraduate class per year. To us, that clearly demonstrated the commitment to the personal environment; there are no administrators sitting in offices, ignorant of the “real world” of student life. The president, Dr. Sethna, is passionate about the early college program, known as the Advanced Academy, and the students who are part of it. He encourages many of them to collaborate on research with their professors, and some high school students have the opportunity to present papers at national professional meetings.

The Advanced Academy students that we met seemed to be much like our son – bright, discontented with high school, a little bit geeky, and eager to face the academic challenges of college classes at an early age.

univwga-picThe academic experience appeared wonderful, while the buildings themselves were…not. I am inspired by beautiful surroundings, and 1970’s era brick buildings are not my idea of beauty. But, as my son pointed out, he doesn’t care about the  buildings, and he’s the one who would be living there.

So, what’s not to like about a high school experience where the students are among the nation’s brightest, are taught college level courses in small, seminar style classes by full professors, and who graduate high school effectively as college juniors, often with wonderful scholarship opportunities?

It is four hours away from our house.

My then-16 year old would move away from home before he even learns how to drive.

I tear up just thinking about it. We would only have 16 more months of life together as a family as we now know it.

But, what is the cost of keeping him here? For no choice is without a cost, and a decision to keep him here is a decision to close doors for him that might not open again.

Can we offer him a stimulating, excellent education with peers like himself while still keeping him at home? We’ve been trying, but the options are few and looking less promising all the time.

One alternative we have just discovered is an online classical school. It offers classes in line with our educational philosophy that he could not get anywhere locally. The online school offers educational excellence, but is it a personal environment? Depends on how you define it, I guess.

The wonders of modern technology would allow him to take classes in real time and hold discussions with the teacher and a small group of students during class. They can share written material via an online whiteboard and comment on each other’s work.  It’s almost as good as really being there. Almost.

But there are no friends to eat lunch with or to hang out with on the weekends, except in the virtual chat rooms. No sports or clubs with friends from class.

Virtual friendships are great, but everyone needs some friends with skin on.

And I need some more time with my son at home.

Choices, choices. Wish life didn’t have to be so hard.

Choices are the hinges of destiny.


I never understood before how the parents of young Olympic athletes in our country could fathom allowing their child to move away from home while still a child, live in a dorm with other highly driven and dedicated athletes, and only visit their families a few times a year. Now, we were not blessed with gifted athletes in our family, so it was always just an academic discussion, a “what-if” scenario where my husband and I were sure that we would never make those choices for our children. Family is too important and the gold medal too elusive — the cost was just too high. Well, you know what they say about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes….

We still do not have an Olympic-caliber athlete in our home, but we do have a brilliant young son who has hit an academic wall of sorts; the kind of wall every mother thinks she wants to face. When I called the guidance counselor to explain that he just didn’t feel challenged in his honors classes, she responded, “Well, that’s a great problem to have. That’s wonderful!” Only it isn’t. It means that he faces the very real possibility of being unchallenged for 3-1/2 more years before college. That he could cave to the pressure of the masses and just stop caring, never to be all that he is capable of becoming.

So, how do we stave off this potential disaster and help him find a way to stretch himself and his mind? We have met with the teachers and guidance counselor, but their solution seems to be to let him continue on the current path. After all, he is making A’s, so why are we complaining? Also, their hands are tied by local regulations so they can’t let him skip ahead without extensive and expensive testing which they seem unwilling to do.  The other students are already calling him “the kid who knows everything” because of his great vocabulary. He insists that he doesn’t; that there is plenty left for him to learn, but it falls on deaf ears when he appears light years ahead of the rest of them.

He needs a peer group of students who love learning as much as he does and who can feel the thrill of the academic challenge. And where can we find that for him? One option we are seriously considering is an early-college entrance program. There are only a handful of programs like this in the country, where gifted high school juniors and seniors enroll in a particular college, but all live together in a dorm just for them, with more restrictions than the regular college students but all of the academic opportunities.

Yes, I have shed many a tear over this, wrestling with the idea that my first-born may be leaving home two years sooner than we expected. He has a close relationship with us and with his brother and sister, so it would be a tough transition. It’s all still in the discussion stages – no bags packed yet-but when I watched the promo video for this program, I knew. When he watched it, his face lit up. His dad got excited about all of the opportunities it would offer him. Next week, we will attend a Preview Day to get a taste of life on campus.

It’s not a done deal yet. But in my heart, I’m sympathizing with all the parents of young Olympic athletes out there. I get it now – they didn’t make those hard choices for their kids; the children chose because it was who they were created to be. Having a child with an exceptional gift or talent is certainly a blessing, but helping them to find the right outlet to refine their skills can be a bittersweet experience.

It finally hit me yesterday why I’ve been so wishy-washy lately. I have recognized how I was acting, but couldn’t put my finger on why it was happening. I kept blaming it on my “mid-life crisis” and getting more and more frustrated at my indecisive self. I’ve always been the leader of groups, the organizer, the generator of new ideas -what was wrong with me?

So, yesterday I was listening to an audioclass on writing a business plan and it hit me. The culprit was FEAR, pure and simple. I’m planning to move turtle fearoutside of the comfort zone I’ve been in for nearly 20 years. After much thought and prayer, I believe this is the right direction, but it requires learning some new skills. Part of me periodically fights the idea, preferring to remain in the safety and familiarity of the status quo. FEAR keeps many people from ever living up to their potential, and I could have easily become one of its victims.

Ever had one of those days where you get in the car and the lyrics of a song on the radio seem to be written just for you? God was speaking to me, loud and clear, through Brandon Heath’s song Don’t Get Comfortable. The words are not profound, but they were exactly the message that I needed:

Comfortable, don’t get comfortable. I am gonna move this mountain then I’m gonna move you in.

Okay, God, I get it. I can justify myself and make up great excuses all day long, but in the end, You are big enough to overcome all the obstacles that I can dream up. You have a great plan for me and I would be a fool not to let You carry it out.

Yesterday, this is not yesterday.
You were standing on my shoulders ; now you’re standing on the edge.

Where I was yesterday was the right place at that point in my life, but this is a new day and He has a new plan for me. Though I have stood securely in the center of His will, confident that I was where I should be, He is now asking me to take a leap of faith -and that’s not so comfortable!

You’ve been looking for a sign all this time.
If you seek you’ll find me every time.

I was looking for a sign; it just didn’t appear the way I expected. Did it really take this many months for me to be ready to hear what God had to say? How embarrassing!

I am gonna show you what I mean
I am gonna love like you’ve never seen
You are gonna live like you used to dream
This is your new song

Why do we doubt that God wants to do great things for us? We know how much He loves us, so why is it so easy to get caught in the trap of believing that we don’t deserve better?

So afraid but you don’t have to be afraid
Even if you make mistakes
You know that I’ll remain

How did He know that I’ve been literally paralyzed by fear and didn’t even recognize it? I guess my perfectionist side found it easier to create endless diversions and alternate plans rather than face the fact that I might make mistakes doing something new.

Do you want to live like you used to dream?

You’ve got a new song

I think (I hope!) I’m finally ready to push forward with passion and determination towards the new adventure God has for me. My new song is being written; how about yours?

dream reach for star stand on edge

It will cost you nothing to dream...and everything not to

A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body.
Benjamin Franklin


Lectures, DARE presentations, and well-scripted movies have nothing over a bonfire for keeping your kids off drugs. Why? Because one of the top ways to keep your kids clean is to have strong family relationships, and one of the best ways our family has found to enjoy each other’s company is around our backyard firepit, warming up by the bonfire.

On Valentine’s Day, rather than enjoying an intimate evening out with every other couple in town, my husband and I opted for a relaxing evening at home with our kids. Since there was a hint of spring in the air, the kids requested one of their favorite activities, which is gathering around the fire pit to enjoy a bonfire. Something about just being outside of the house helps everyone relax and talk more freely.

This time, we read stories about Hudson Taylor, a famous missionary to China, and talked about the amazing ways God had helped him through some difficult trials. One thing led to another, and before we knew it, we were having a very frank discussion with our teen and tweens about the dangers of drunk driving and of playing around with drugs. What seemed to be just an innocent evening out under the stars became a wonderful opportunity to reinforce the boundaries protecting our children’s innocence, with no lecture necessary.

So, why do we need the bonfire to stimulate these discussions? I think stepping outside, even just a few feet from our home, takes away the pull of the computer and video games and myriad distractions of daily life. Gathering the wood and lighting the fire creates a sense of freedom, of being on vacation, where it is easier to let down your guard and open your heart. Something about the outside air causes our children to waver back and forth between utter abandon in play and serious contemplation. They run around playing chase in the dark and then huddle by the fire, drinking hot chocolate, watching the stars, and considering the great questions of the world. Every time we spend an evening out there, we agree to do it more often, but we often allow too many weeks, or months, to go by before we do it again.

The time that used to be spent reading fairy tales is now sometimes spent talking about things no parent wants to discuss, but can’t abide the consequences of avoiding. Our kids are growing up quickly, and our bonfires are numbered. We’re going to light as many fires as we can, and pray that the discussions that result will continue to guide our kids’ choices as they move further away from that familiar glow.

Perhaps you have seen this story circulating before, but I read it for the first time recently and thought it was worth passing along.

Carrots, Eggs, And Coffee

A certain daughter complained to her father about her life and how things have been so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and she wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed that just as one problem was solved another arose.
Her father, a chef, took her to the kitchen, filled three pots with water and placed the fire on high. Soon the three pots came to a boil. In one he placed carrots, in the other he placed eggs, and in the last he placed ground coffee beans. He let them sit and boil, without saying a word.
The daughter sat impatiently and wondered what he was trying to do. She had problems, and he was making this strange concoction. In half an hour he walked over to the oven and turned down the fire. He pulled the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. He pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then he ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.

Turning to her he asked. “Darling ,what do you see,”

Smartly, she replied. “Carrots, eggs, and coffee.”

He brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. He then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, he asked her to sip the coffee. Her face frowned from the strength of the coffee.

Humbly, she asked. “What does it mean, Father?”

He explained. “Each of them faced the same adversity, 212 degrees of boiling water. However, each reacted differently.”
“The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. But after going through boiling water, it softened and became weak.”
“The egg was fragile. A thin outer shell protected a liquid center. But after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened.”

“The coffee beans are unique however. After they were in the boiling water, it became stronger and richer.” “Which are you?” he asked his daughter.

When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond?
Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?

Are you like a carrot, normally strong, but after facing pain and adversity, do you wilt, become soft and lose your natural inner strength?

Are you like the egg, starting with a malleable heart, but changed by the heat? Did you have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, your outside shell looks the same, but on the inside are you bitter and tough with a hardened heart?

Or are you like the coffee bean? The bean does not get its peak flavor and robust taste until it reaches 212 degrees Fahrenheit. The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. As the water gets hot, the coffee beans release their fragrance and flavor.

If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you.

When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate yourself to another level? How do you handle adversity?

Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

This weekend was an eye-opener for me. I attended my first ever blogging conference, sponsored by Blissfully Domestic and One2OneNetwork, and got a taste of just how popular blogging has become and of what a techno-dinosaur I really am. My geeky husband was probably surprised to learn that I now have computer envy – me, who relies on him for all of my html code needs. I’ve been perfectly content with my hand-me down laptop until I spent a weekend with all the latest and greatest. Hmm… new laptop, or school tuition payment….

Facebook became my friend several months ago, and I thought I was pretty progressive. I was introduced to Twitter at this conference and was simply amazed to watch a roomful of women communicating with each other all day long without actually speaking. Yes, there was lots of talking going on as well, but the amount of online conversation, even during speakers and performers, was just mind-boggling to me. I succumbed to the pressure and opened a Twitter account, so please come follow me, @wisdompursuit, as I attempt to join the party.

Because women bloggers are becoming recognized as a powerful marketing voice, there were several prominent public relations specialists in attendance, including John Andrews, the social media representative from Wal-Mart. He discussed the value of the Eleven Moms blog and offered to send two people in attendance to South by Southwest. Okay, I admit I’m getting old; I had no idea what that was when he offered it, but the crowd sure got excited! One of the lucky winners was Robin of Pensieve, so be sure to see what she has to say, since I, techno and music dinosaur, will not be attending.

Thanks to Barbara Jones of One2OneNetwork, we were treated to a sneak preview of a soon to be released Disney project called Yanni Voices. It is a stunning concert of up and coming talented young singers who have put words to some of Yanni’s best music. We thoroughly enjoyed the wide-screen show and I highly recommend watching the debut on PBS in March, and attending live if you have the chance. The real surprise came afterwards, though, when two of the singers, Nathan Pacheco and Ender Thomas, walked into the room. A room full of baby sling-wearing “mommy bloggers” was suddenly transformed into a teenage swooning party. Yes, they were very talented singers, and yes, they were cute, but in the almost-young -enough- to-be-my-child sort of way. Not in the I’ll-just-die-if-he-speaks-to-me sort of way. At least not for me. I’ve moved on to a different phase of life, and I think it shows in the one comment I remember from their appearance. Nathan Pacheco told us that the one thing he wanted us to remember about him was this:

A mother carried her son to her dream. You mothers have more power than you know.

Kudos to Mrs. Pacheco, wherever she is. There is a mother who was dedicated to being a mom, and it paid off for her and her son. She has accomplished what I am striving to achieve – launching a child into the world who is pursuing his dream, confident in who he was created to be, and thankful to the people in his life who helped him to get there.

We were encouraged this weekend to consider why we blog and what we hope to accomplish with it. For me, blogging is a way to process my reflections on life and share them with others in the hopes that together, we can journey through life with a clearer purpose and end up at our destinations surrounded by people who love us and who are cheering us on as we arrive.

Who’s up for the journey?

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