Monday, August 26, 2013

School in San Marcos

A copule of years ago we had a tough decision to make regarding school for our kids.  When we first got back from Ukraine with the girls, our plan was to homeschool them and allow Jacob to stay at the private, Christian school where he was.  He loved it there. It was stellar education, and we loved the people and environment we was surrounded by.  However, as we got used to life with three children, two of whom barely spoke English, we started to feel that homeschool would not be the best environment of learning for the girls.  We found a self-paced, private, Christian school that allowed them to come and acclimate to American education.  Holly got a second part-time job to pay for it, and it worked out well.  When it came time to decide about school for the next year, we were conflicted.

We loved the schools we had been a part of, but Holly was having to spend 4 days away from the kids just so they could go to these schools.  Additionally, staying at the same schools would've ended up with three kids getting out at three different times at two different schools.  That was a difficult season for us in general, and we felt like we needed to streamline and simplify life while also choosing a good environment for our kids.   We decided we wanted all three kids at the same place if at all possible.  That reality came down to either paying for three kids in private school (which we couldn't afford without Holly working full time) or putting three kids in public school.  

We anguished over the decision.  We talked with the kids and included them in the conversation as we met with both schools to see what going forward for our family would look like at either place.  As we prayed it through, another thing started to come into play for us.  We felt like we had been called to San Marcos.  We didn't want to come and only plant a church, be we wanted to come to be missionaries to our city.  We had gone to public school for Jacob's kindergarten, and we still have dear friends from that season of life.  The longer we prayed and discussed, we started to feel like making the move to public school was the right thing for us. 

Along with everyone else, we had heard stories of the challenges of San Marcos schools. We had questions about safety, questions about academic performance, questions about ethnic diversity, and questions of what's best for our kids.  After meeting with the school administrators and some of the teachers, we felt completely at peace about moving forward.

Our first week was met with a rude awakening.  Jacob was stabbed with a pencil.  We immediately questioned our decision and talked about bailing on our plan.  However, it was a fluke.  It was an impulsive kid in the advanced science lab who freaked out for no known reason.  It would've been easy to have jumped on the bandwagon of San Marcos schools being un-safe and left.  We initially wanted to.  However, we felt like we were supposed to stay.  That young man wrote us a letter of apology, and we got to forgive him.  It was powerful. Jacob forgave him too, and he became one of his closest friends that year. 

Last week, Jacob's choir sang at the SMCISD Convocation.  As I sat there, I was amazed at the encouraging spirit among the faculty and staff of all the school.  There are many challenges in serving the families of San Marcos, but there is literally an army of people who are facing those challenges head on with a great attitude.  What was once a place of uncertainty for us has become family.  Our kids have had wonderful experiences at Travis, and we are continually grateful for how God has provided for exactly what the girls have needed to transition into a new culture, new language, and new education system.  Additionally, God has opened so many doors for us to jump in and help serve other kids. 

We know that everyone has to choose what's best for their family when it comes to school.  We have had great experiences in both private and public schools.  We have friends who are doing well with homeschool.  There are a lot of good options.  I guess I just wish more people considered that SMCISD is another good option. The faculty, teachers, and administrators at SMCISD are great.  They are committed, they are great teachers, and they are making a difference.  We have been blessed to be among them, and our kids have had wonderful experiences.  We are glad to call Travis family, and we're grateful for how God has provided for all of our needs while allowing us to be a part of serving our city.

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Monday, August 19, 2013

Custom Made Crisis

Two Sundays ago, my dear friend John McComb gave up a Sunday to come and preach to our church family.  John is one of the most honest and faithful people I know, and my life is better because he's in it.  He preached from 2 Samuel 6 and focused on what he called a "Crisis of Faith." Days later his sermon is still resonating in my heart and soul.  So, I thought I would unload a few of those thoughts.

The first thing is that everyone will go through a crisis of faith.  John challenged us that often a crisis will come when you've been doing everything right.  When crisis comes, many people often wonder what they've done wrong to deserve such a terrible or challenging situation, but in scripture we often see people of consistent faithfulness presented with difficulty, suffering, or pain.  The purpose of the crisis is growth.  Crisis has the ability to take you to a place of faith that you never would've gotten to otherwise. God doesn't send hardship because He's mad at you.  He sends it because He loves you and wants you to know Him more.  Each crisis that we endure is custom made to take us to a new level of faith, to a deeper place of knowing and trusting God.

One of the harder things resonating with me is the idea that a crisis is designed to kill part of you.  God wants to prune away the areas of your life or church that aren't bearing fruit consistent with the calling that God has ordained for you.  Nobody enjoys pruning, but there isn't growth without it.  This reminds us of the cross.  Jesus could not have been raised in new life or power if He had not died first.  A crisis gives us that opportunity to identify with Christ in His sufferings in order that we may share in the resurrection power.  Over and over the Bible teaches this.  Suffering brings identify with Christ and closeness to God like nothing else.  Crisis builds character and maturity.  It's not fun to be pruned, and it requires faith to believe that there is life on the other side of the death.  The truth is that there is something in all of us that needs to die in order for there to be more life.  There are things in our churches that need to die in order for God to bring new life.  It's hard, but it's true.

The final thought I wanted to share is something that came back to me about a sermon I preached in Africa last December.  It's easy to blame the devil for bad things that happen, but the enemy is limited in what he can do.  God is ultimately sovereign over everything.  I told a group of pastors that the church belongs to Him. It's His church.  It's possible that a church will suffer because of sin or corruption.  Many people do a fine job of killing their church on their own.  However, it's also possible that a church will go through a crisis simply because God wants them to.  It's not that they've done anything wrong.  It's God's prerogative to bless or prune.  It's His job to protect His mission, and we pray for Him to do whatever it takes for us to be the people He has called us to be.  This may mean that circumstances in a church are radically altered.  We have prayed this at River Stone from the beginning.  If we have become anything other than what you want us to be, make whatever adjustments are necessary.  Crisis forces us to live in what we claim to believe - everything is the Lord's.  The church, our lives, everything.  He is responsible.

In crisis, the natural response is to focus on the casualties and pain. However, the spiritual response is to be open to God's why.  Everything He does is on purpose.  Everything He does is for the good and protection of His children.  As a result of believing in this, I've come into this week more open to the Lord's pruning and praying things like this...

 Kill what needs to be killed.  Prune what needs to be pruned.  Do whatever you need to do to demonstrate your power and faithfulness.  Make me into the person you created me to be.  Mold our church into the vessel of your Kingdom that will bring you the most glory.

Thanks, John for speaking so much truth and love to us.  We are better for it.

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