Friday, February 24, 2012


This past weekend I had the opportunity to travel to Washington, DC with eighth graders from our school. Although I have been to our nation's capital before, this was my first chaperone experience. The more experienced chaperones felt that the group on our bus, more than any other group they had taken to DC, just didn't get it.
What this group didn't seem to get was not just the historical significance of where we were, but also the concept of respect for those who've gone before and made sacrifices that we now benefit from. Whether it was our tour guide whose experience enabled us to travel easily through the city and learn a great deal about it and it's history, or those being memorialized by the various monuments, most of this group was unimpressed.
The teachers in charge were frustrated and did their best to try to make that connection for the students, but I know they felt like they had failed. I don't believe that they did.
As parents, or as adults responsible for training children, we feel successful when we are sure the children in our care have "got it". The truth is that many times they don't get it the first time or even the twentieth time. Does that mean that we give up? Of course not! We keep training and giving them the information they need until they begin to connect for themselves. The difficulty for these teachers was that they only had these students for a brief period if time. They didn't get a chance to see the connection, but they did fulfill their responsibility. They taught. They imparted information and they reiterated the need for respect. At some point in the future these kids will get it. They will understand. They will appreciate. The teachers who guided them through this trip won't get to see it, but their influence will be felt all the same.
I understand the frustration these teachers felt. I have often felt that way as a parent. It's difficult not to feel like I've failed when my kids don't seem to get what I've put effort into teaching. I've had to remind myself that training kids is a marathon. The results are still in the distance. Unlike these dedicated teachers, I will have the opportunity to see my kids "get it". That will be a glorious day!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Circumstances beyond our control

Ever feel like life is just swirling around you? Events seem to cascade by before you can really process them. Things you never imagined could happen begin to happen. Before you realize it, life as you know it is completely changed. Sometimes those changes are for the better and other times...

My place of work is in a time of tremendous upheaval. Unanticipated changes are occurring and more are on the way. People's lives are being drastically changed and the ripples of their changes affect the whole community. The hard part for all involved, from those delivering the changes to those receiving them, to everyone affected by them, is that no one really feels like they have control.

It's really tempting to try to fix blame. I hear many people trying to blame someone for the challenges we are all facing. I've even caught myself trying to find someone to blame. It's easier for me to fix blame on a nameless, faceless "entity" than on a person or people, but really, in the end, what good does it do any of us to fix blame? It gives us a place to direct our anger because we feel like something wrong is happening, but does it really solve anything? I suppose by being able to direct anger it gives us some sense of control, but the truth is, we have none. That is, we have no control over the circumstances.

At the end of the day, however, there is one area each of us does have control over. We each have control over our own attitude and our own responses to these circumstances beyond our control. I, for one, don't want to allow these swirling circumstances to keep me afraid or angry. I want to face each new challenge with faith that in the end I can grow from whatever difficulty I personally face, and that somehow these circumstances can work for the good of each person affected. I want to be someone that others can lean on while we all face difficulties. I don't want anger or bitterness to keep others away from me or cause them additional pain.  I can be a source of continued anguish and reignited anger or I can be a source of help, comfort and healing.  My choice is made. That's what I have control over.

Scripture encourages us to "weep with those who weep", but also that God is "the god of all comfort" and with the comfort He gives we can comfort others. As I face these circumstances beyond my control, I want to find and give comfort and hope rather than spout anger and blame. You may be facing your own tornado of change right now, your own "circumstances beyond your control". I pray that you will find and give comfort, hope and healing in the midst of your trial.

Blessings, Friend.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Fifteen Minutes of Fame

Jessica Buchanan. Does that name ring a bell? No? What if I said she is an American woman who was rescued by Navy SEALS from her Somalian captors not long ago? Does that sound familiar? I would bet you remember hearing that in the news even if you didn't recognize her name. So, why do I bring her up and what does Jessica Buchanan have to do with me?

I heard of her capture months ago from a young friend of ours who had gone to college with her. That college is my connection with her. She attended Valley Forge Christian College in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. Many people had never heard of it until Jessica's rescue. That is the college my son attends. Not only that, my husband serves on the Board of Trustees for VFCC. These connections made me very interested in Jessica and her story, her "fifteen minutes of fame", if you will.

For a few days Jessica was international news. The AP and BBC and CNN and every other news source carried, not only the story of her capture and rescue, but the story of how she got to Somalia in the first place. This made Valley Forge Christian College international news as well since it was through her experience at VFCC that she "fell in love with Africa" and decided to go there as a missionary. So Jessica's "fifteen minutes of fame" also included VFCC. Dr. Don Meyer, President of the college, was interviewed on ABC, CNN and several other TV news outlets. He was quoted in an AP news bulletin which was quoted in USA Today and BBC news articles among any others. For a few days there were news trucks at the college. And then everything was back to normal.

So, in her few moments of fame,what did people say about Jessica ? What was said about VFCC? What would I want to be my legacy if I had the same opportunity for "fifteen minutes of fame"?

There were just enough details shared about Jessica to depict her as a passionate young woman, in love with Africa, who sold everything she had to serve Africa's people, first as a teacher and most recently as education director for a Danish relief organization. When Dr. Meyer spoke to the media he came across as the genuine, caring man I have met. The focus of his comments were on Jessica and the many prayers the VFCC community had prayed for her as one of their own.

What does all this media exposure mean for the future of VFCC? Will their enrollment increase? Will financial support of the college increase... or will the college quietly continue the work it has always done that produces many people like Jessica Buchanan?  What does it mean for Jessica? Will she write a book or will there be a movie made about her experience... or will she just go back to Africa and continue doing what she loved before all of this happened? What will people remember after all the dust finally settles?

If it were you or I in the spotlight, what would people be saying about us? Before all this happened no considered Jessica Buchanan or Valley Forge Christian College newsworthy. Actions by others brought them to attention. Who's to say that someone else's actions might not bring your or I into the public eye? Could my life bear the scrutiny? Would my character inspire others? Would my life speak the way that Jessica's has to many? And after it was all over... would I miss the attention or would I just go on the way I always have and try to make some kind of difference in my small sphere of influence?

Things to think about. What do you think?

Here are a few links to articles about Jessica Buchanan. If you missed them I hope they inspire you as they have inspired me.

Jessica Buchanan Sold Her Belongings to become a Missionary

Jessica Buchanan, Dedicated Teacher, Lover of Africa