Monday, December 31, 2012

Ring in the New!

Here we are, on the brink of the new year. Bells are ringing throughout the world to celebrate the dawning of new opportunities, new seasons, new dreams. What a year we had -

January - Beach days, dessert days, & Cancer Scares
February - Mother in Law is CANCER FREE!!
March - Let the purging of the stuff begin - time to put the property on the market...
April - Doors and Windows fling wide to possibilities in Central Asia
May - Moving... Oh, Moving!
June - Haiti with Rachel. Always walk in an attitude of expectancy - Expect the New!
July - REST
August - Beach Days & the Simmons/Butler Wedding
September - New Schools - MAA & EJHS, New Home Group & the Color Run!
October - Compassion Connect Banquet - Unify & Mobilize the Church to Serve
November - Sophia is Expecting!
December - Sweet Baby Olivia, Long Talks with a great friend, & Canoeing the Santa Fe in Florida

If I were to pick three words to describe this past year, they would be
unexpected, adventurous, and daring

Unexpected - Cancer, the lack thereof... Home sales, the lack thereof.. Moving anyway...
Adventurous - Beach Days, Dessert Days, Haiti, New Schools, Florida & Central Asia
Daring - There was so much of this category... the most daring? Discussing the faith symbolism of my butterfly tattoo with a guy on the beach in Haiti. Awesome.

Lets close this year... Consider your greatest gift -  the blessing to impact and free people with the truth of Christ. The glorious mystery of grace, the beautiful joy of a whole and complete life!


Sunday, December 2, 2012

On Hospitality

Hospitality is such a funny thing. I love people and love visiting and talking and sharing a meal - Summer is an easy season for this - throw things on the grill and hang out until the sun goes down… outside… Winter means… well, I just can't think of more than 3x in the past 10 years that our family has invited friends inside our home for a visit and a meal!

A meal from the beach in Haiti - one of the
most  incredibly poor and yet truly gracious
and hospitable places on earth
The truth is - I no longer know how to have people hang out IN MY HOME and be entertained by US. When the kids were tiny it was easy, they would be off playing and we could chat with the adults… but as they have grown and become true parts of our family, well… it’s a whole new adventure that I have no experience in! We find it easiest to fragment – for Jake to have a group over to play games while I do my own thing, or for me to have a group over to chat and eat while he does his own thing… The girls, well, they naturally follow suit. Not ideal at all!

I've been learning quite a lot about hospitality through some blogs I follow, and so I want to share my unpracticed wisdom with you -

Reluctant Entertainer – this has to be my favorite hospitality blog EVER, Sandy Coughlin is a champion for the cause of hospitality and is both Hilarious and Wise! 

Simple Bites – Part of the Simple Mom Network, I love this blog because I love food and story. Since it is designed for moms, tips are practical and often very kid friendly!

Smile and Wave – not quite on the topic of hospitality but more on creating spaces in your home and life that are well lived in, practical, and clever.
Our homes speak volumes about who we really are… so I would encourage you to plan an invitation into your home this month. Think about it, what better season!

One final thought. With so many working moms out there, I wanted to share a gift that I would have never thought of on my own. A daughter and I went visiting some friends who moved an hour away. We enjoyed catching up for hours (as girls would!) Dinner was served, a delicious, healthy, scratch made casserole that I MUST get the recipe for. The family is quite large and so they are used to feeding 12 – we all crashed about their large table laughing, eating, and enjoying the best food I have had in weeks. It was better than Thanksgiving (sorry fam) and I was near tears at their generosity. How much easier it would have been to bake a handful of giant pizzas?

The icing on the cake… She made 3 casseroles, 2 very large ones and one small – and she sent the small one home with me. She knows I’m busy and weeknight dinner is often served very rapidly in 30 minutes or less… I’m so excited to enjoy this meal again, with my family, on Monday night.  I’m so thankful for friendship and the blessing we have to share with others.

Share thoughts and comments with me, and Practice LIVING!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Mentoring . . . thoughts from a college paper

For a course not so very long ago, I had to write a simple little paper. (note, this is actually the unfinished rough draft, hahahaha!) Nothing profound, mind, except that maybe... just maybe... it will resonate with the reader in some way... I just found it on my harddrive and decided to post it here. There is a group in our community working hard to have a YMCA presence in town, and I'm hoping it happens because I plan to sign up!!
As a child growing up in America during the 1980’s, I found myself in a world of welfare, poverty, single mothers, no fathers, little employment, fewer cars, and less, and less, and less. Yet I was able to break away from the world of my youth, graduate high school, marry, and not only finish college but successfully stay out of the welfare system for most of my adult life. How did I do it?

I was one of the fortunate ones; a good friend and her family took me in and developed a mentoring relationship with me, one which I consider to have had a long term impact on my life. As I have become a parent myself, I have found that mentoring relationships can bring about long lasting change to anyone (, but they are especially beneficial for those youth that are raised in poverty. 
Let us define poverty. It is easy to get caught up in the dire levels of need found around the globe, and therefore easy to diminish the critical level of poverty that is found in our country. Poverty, according to Mirriam-Websters dictionary is “the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions.” ( I appreciate this definition as it is appropriate for this discussion. Poverty in North America looks wealthy, when compared to the rest of the globe. Yet, the term “socially acceptable” is critical for our understanding. In a country full of people with much, yet not enough, I intend to examine the value of mentoring relationships for youth in poverty.
What are some of the long term challenges faced by children in poverty? In addition to the possibility of continuing the cycle of poverty through a second generation, there are other challenges that our youth face, which can be limited or even erased entirely through having healthy mentoring relationships (Kids in Crisis) (United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania).

· Educational rates are found to be higher among youth involved in mentoring relationships.

· Crime rates are lower when youth are involved in mentoring relationships.

· Drug and alcohol use among teens is reduced when youth have healthy mentors.

· Teen pregnancy rates are lower when youth are involved in mentoring relationships

· Youth in mentoring relationships have a greater chance of breaking the cycle of long term poverty themselves.

The topic of education in America has been hotly debated for years. But for those youth who are living under the label of poverty, a good solid education is often just out of reach. Parents who are working several jobs in an attempt to keep a roof over their family have very little time to spend reading to their toddlers, or working on math homework with their elementary age children. Unfortunately for these children, it has been determined that by the third grade test scores can fairly accurately predict how students will do over the rest of their “educational life.”

The good news is that there is hope for such families. Programs such as Head Start (Head Start Programs Overview), a nationwide program specifically geared toward at risk children in poverty, can greatly prepare a child during the preschool years, giving the boost needed to keep up or even stay ahead during elementary school.

But what happens when such a child hits junior high? Typically, children begin to identify more with their peers and form their own identity as they enter their teen years (Novella Ruffin). This is when mentoring relationships are critical for building upon the level of education attained through early childhood intervention and elementary school. The results are startling; in study after study, teens involved in some kind of mentoring or after school program do better in school, have lower absentee rates, and have a greater likelihood of going on to college immediately after high school. (Robert George)

This form of educational boost provides much toward changing the course of a young person’s life. According to the US Census Bureau in the 2005-2009 American Community Survey, the rate of poverty among those without a high school diploma was 24.2%, but was only 11.6% among those with a diploma or equivalent. (United States - Educational Attainment)

Strong mentoring relationships can reduce criminal activity among teenage boys, particularly those raised in poverty with a single mother. According to Dr. Dean Rojek, from the University Of Georgia Department Of Sociology, "(The) No. 1 problem is poverty -- single mothers have a difficult time holding a job and finding child care," he said in an e-mail. "This leads to poor educational experiences, lack of supervision, delinquency and eventually early imprisonment." (Folk)

Mentoring relationships help where parents, and in this case, primarily fathers, are not able to be. Much like when preschoolers need someone to read to them, teens are in need of continued relationships to help them develop their identity, and if they do not find it at home, they will turn to their peers. Even when both parents live in the home, living in poverty increases the likelihood that their time at home is limited.

One on one mentoring is ideal, but where one on one mentoring is not available, after school programs, such as the After School Matters program in Chicago, are an incredible asset for our teenagers.

Teen Pregnancy
The Alan Guttmacher Institute says that over three fourths of teens who have babies come from poor and low-income families, according to the book Poverty in America (Kowlaski).

Breaking the Cycle
Poverty has many roots, some of which stem from circumstances beyond a person’s control, like involuntary unemployment or poor health. There are other issues that create a level of poverty, such as lack of education or limited parental involvement. Mentoring relationships which help build healthier family structures and better educational levels have the ability to help break the cycle.

Poverty is full of hardship. Hunger, homelessness, and a lack of basic winter clothing, for example, can be common daily issues for a poor family. These types of circumstance create challenges that can have long lasting effects on children. As individuals we cannot erase poverty. However, we can help to reduce the long term impact of poverty on children, possibly changing the course of the next generation.