Summer Unaccomplishments

Things I eagerly ponder and plan in May and June, but by the first week of July I have already abandoned:

  1. Teaching my children how to weed, vacuum, dust, fold, mop, wipe down, scrub the right waySince during the school year I mostly just do it myself or let them make lazy efforts, thinking, “When we’re home together in July I’ll really buckle down on this.”
  2. Handwriting practice for Jack. Need I say more? image
  3. Encouraging my children to read copious quantities of “quality literature” carefully selected from multicultural/award-winning/vocabulary-rich/justice-loving book lists gleaned from a myriad of sources online and from books about books that I have actually purchased that sit hardly cracked on my bedside table. Instead: are they really still checking out Geronimo Stilton at the library? Yes.
  4. Listening to Ellie diligently master “Can You Hear the People Sing” from the also newly purchased “Les Misérables” piano book so we can awe her piano teacher in September. Instead, my family is listening to me diligently pluck out “Stars” until John says something like, “I think I can recognize that song now!”
  5. Touching each and every item in my house to determine if it “sparks joy” a la Marie Kondo, simplifying and purging until my heart and soul are light and free, and so that when the Foster Care Licensor comes to inspect our home, things won’t fall on top of her when she opens cupboards and doors.
  6. Re-reading “Les Misérables” by Victor Hugo. Oh, the Foster Care archetypes I now recognize amongst its characters!

Adjusted Summer Goals:

  1. Sacrificially acquiesce to my mother-in-law’s suggestion of having Ellie to come over to her house once a week where she would teach Ellie how to clean her house and pay her for her efforts. Daughter getting paid to learn valuable life skills by a better teacher than myself = Win.
  2. Let 3rd grade teacher deal with Jack’s handwriting. Focus on teaching my nearly EIGHT-YEAR-OLD how to freaking tie his own shoes.
  3. Listen to quality literature via OverDrive and OneClickdigital library apps any time we’re in the car, which will be in copious quantities during our upcoming 3-week road trip. Already finished and highly recommend: “The Key to Extraordinary” by Natalie Lloyd, and “From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” by E. L. Konigsburg.
  4. Remind them to practice an old piano song once a day (or at least 3 times a week), if I remember, and if we aren’t having too much fun with other stuff.
  5. Handle, watching for joyful sparks, every item in my kitchen, closet, and MAYBE my bedroom. Procrastinate as long as possible, since Foster Care home inspection is likely still months weeks away.
  6. Watch “Les Misérables” with Hugh Jackman, taking no foster parenting tips from the Thenardiers. We will love like Valjean, forgive like the bishop, follow the WAC like Javert, and fight for the rights of our children like Marius! Jean Valjean

Already accomplished:

√  Go camping
√  Go to the beach
√  Play at the river at every opportunity
√  Eat dinner outside while listening to multicultural mixes on Spotify unless over 90 degrees or raining
√  Finish the library summer reading program
√  Bonfire with friends and cousins
√  Say “no” to all Sunday School volunteer opportunities

Also this:

√  Educational Opportunity at Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Ilwaco, in which we discover that Lewis and Clark spent about a week at the mouth of the Washougal River (Cottonwood Beach), exploring up and down, hunting and catching fish. Upon our return home, we looked up their detailed journals from March 31, 1806 and found that yes, indeed, they did paddle up past our very spot of beach on the Washougal (named “Seal River” by the intrepid explorers)! Perhaps they stopped for lunch at our very idyllic pebbly shore! If the waters were low enough, maybe they stood upon our very stately jumping rock and did a little fishing!

imageriver

Yep, we’re pretty much killing it at summer.

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From Bystander to Responder: An Invitation


heidi and familyThis is a guest post written by my friend Heidi Kellar. Heidi and I have been working with a team of friends to raise awareness about the largest humanitarian crisis in our world right now. Read her thoughtful words about her journey from ignorance to action. Then join us on June 4th for a family-friendly, interactive experience about the Syrian refugee crisis


That would be me, right?

Ever since the fourth grade, my mind has been intrigued by what some might say is a strange topic: the Holocaust. I read any book I could find, studied it in college, and even made a special visit to the world-renowned Holocaust Exhibition at the Imperial War Museum in London.

I am equally appalled and enthralled. Appalled, obviously, by the extent of the atrocities committed by ordinary men against the Jewish people.

Enthralled by the heroics of those committed to rescuing those in need.

In college, a professor assigned the book Conscience and Courage by Dr. Eva Fogelman. In this book, the author, a psychologist, researches and reports on the lives and motivations of those who rescued Jews during the Holocaust. She draws conclusions more holistically about what it takes for people to stop being a bystander during tragic events. If any book spoke to my heart and mind at that formative stage of life, it was this book.

Conscience and Courage

Here are a few of the quotes that I underlined in 2002 about the individuals and the types of people who responded during the Holocaust (all emphasis mine).

“[The rescuer’s] humanitarian response was derived from an inner core of religious values…She asked… “What if this was my child, my mother, or me needing shelter? What would Christ have done?” (p. 173).

“Similar to their World War II predecessors, today’s rescuers are not larger-than-life heroes, but ordinary people who see inhumanity and feel a personal responsibility to address it.” (p. 314)

“Modern-day models of moral courage display a willingness to see what others choose not to notice. There is a determination, some would say a stubbornness, to pursue truth no matter where it leads.” (p. 317)

My young college self read these lines and brazenly thought, “I would have been a rescuer. I would not have sat by and let my fellow man be treated so terribly. I would have pursued truth no matter where it led, darn it!”

That would have been me. Right?

Reality

Fast forward about fifteen years. I am no longer that dreamy-eyed college student. Three young children, a part-time job, church leadership responsibilities, a Mt. Everest laundry pile in my living room, a never-finished sink full of dishes. You get the idea.

Plus, when I do get a chance to relax and sit down with the paper on Sunday morning, I am more interested in the sports page and the grocery sales. The World News page is just not that interesting, okay?

This is why it took me four years. Four years to notice the largest humanitarian crisis in our world right now. In fact, the largest number of refugees in human history are right now struggling to escape to safety, struggling to wake up in a place where they do not fear death daily.

It took the image of a little boy washed up on a beach to wake me from my apathy.

refugee boy picture

A little boy who looks so much like one of my own. A little boy whose family were desperately trying to escape violence to travel to their relatives in Canada. A little boy whose father gave a heart-breaking message to the world at Christmas.

I wept. I wrote a passionate Facebook post. I sat on the bathroom floor on the phone with a friend, praying for an hour one Saturday morning. We sat with other friends over dinner to ask and pray. What can we do? What can we do?

Would we see inhumanity and feel a personal responsibility to address it?

Would we display a willingness to see what others choose not to notice and pursue truth no matter where it leads?

 Would we ask, what would Christ have done?

In the meantime, life marched on. Dishes and laundry piled. Children argued. Every-day duties summoned. Still vaguely sad and convicted about the Syrian Refugee Crisis, I felt my lens zoom back in to my own “problems”. This would still likely be true if God had not intervened, using some fellow ragamuffins like myself to compel me to action.

Loaves and Fishes

Courtney, another busy mom in our area, also felt heartbroken and drawn towards action. And at six months pregnant with her fourth child, she had even more of a reason to keep her head in the sand.

But Courtney felt a personal responsibility and bravely called a meeting in January. A half dozen of us met late one night to begin the process of asking, what can we do?

Nobody present had much money. Or time. Or resources. Or connections. But we each had a little bit. Could it be used to help somehow? We didn’t know.

Do you remember the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand hungry people with only two small loaves of bread and five fish? Do you remember who gave him those fish? A young boy. It was his lunch and it would have been so easy for him to take that lunch and feed himself with it. It wasn’t enough for more people anyway.

But, thankfully he didn’t. Instead, he gave it to Jesus. And Jesus – the Provider, the Bread of Life, the one who could have ordered that bread shower down from heaven to feed everyone (after all, God had done that before!) – took that little boy’s lunch. He gave thanks. And he multiplied it to feed all of the hungry people with plenty of leftovers.

The six of us didn’t have much more than our lunch to give, but we decided to gingerly offer it up. Offer it up to the One who multiplies.

And it worked! Through teamwork, prayer, meetings and effort, we eventually decided to host an event for families.

The purpose is, first of all, to help others see the inhumanity behind the Syrian Refugee Crisis.

Second, we hope to help people feel a personal responsibility to address the needs.

Third, we want to invite people to offer up a small loaf or fish so that together we can watch it multiply. 

Are you willing to see what others choose not to notice?

Will you pursue the truth no matter where it leads?

After all, today’s rescuers are not larger-than-life heroes, just ordinary people offering up the little they have to the One who provides.

If you are interested in joining us, please consider attending our Syrian Refugee Awareness Night next Saturday from 4-6 at Compass Church. Please read the invitation below and invite friends!

Syrian Refugee Night Info Sheet

Want to know more, but can’t attend on June 4th? Check out the website my sister-in-law, Heidi Dryden created with loads of information, videos, and interactive websites you can view with your family: Syrian Refugee Awareness Night.

Kid Abolitionists Read 1,000 Books

I have two fairly normal, grade school-age American kids. They like Legos, comic books, candy, screens, The Dollar Store, terrorizing each other, and avoiding all manner of hard or boring work. They daily need reminders to be polite, generous, grateful, and diligent.

They have kind of a weird mom. One who spends her summer trying to sneak into their Red, White and Blue childhood colorful, abstract concepts like justice, abolitionist, commitment, overcoming obstacles, compassion, slavery, bystander, educational equality. At the same time I worry that both my kids will end up in therapy because they haven’t yet been to Disneyland.

Can you feel my angst?

My friend Heidi and I lead book clubs for kids and moms during the summer in which we attempt to impart these lofty ideas to five-to-ten year-olds.

Juliette

We are educators and enjoy the challenge of making the abstract concrete and empowering children to learn and impact their world. This is what teachers do. Likewise, we ourselves never want to stop learning and impacting our world!

heidi

At the beginning of the summer, Heidi and I met and discussed how to help our book club kids’ hearts and heads get smarter and do something to help raise awareness about modern day slavery and funds for International Justice Mission.

The book we read with the boys this summer was “Snow Treasure” by Marie McSwigan.

Snow Treasure

In this story, children in Norway during WWII secretly transported over 1,000 bricks of gold bullion on their sleds past Nazi soldiers to a hidden ship ready to embark for America. It took the cooperation and teamwork of the entire village to ensure that the gold made it safely to America, away from the Nazis’ knowledge and hands. The book was full of Big Ideas like teamwork, bravery, commitment, perseverance, creativity, and sneakiness.

In book club, we set a big goal: Reading 1,000 books together as families during the summer. Stacking up (figuratively) 1,000 bricks (of the literature type) required teamwork and effort. The idea was to raise awareness and challenge friends and family to support our fundraising campaign.

book poster

On the other side of the world, on Lake Volta in the African nation of Ghana, there are thousands of boys who are trapped in slavery in the fishing industry. Just this year IJM started its first rescue operations and is in the process of working with the government and local law enforcement to put an end to impunity for slave owners. Putting slave masters behind bars prevents the continuation of the slave trade on Lake Volta and shows that justice for the poor is possible.

Latest figures from the Global Slavery Index reveal that there are an estimated 36 million slaves in the world today – more than at any other time in history. IJM has operations and casework all over the world, but it is these boys in Ghana that our book club has chosen to learn about, pray for, and advocate for.

The abstract became concrete to me and my kids when we read about the first rescue operations on the Lake last March. This summer we retold the story at book club using Lego minifigures. We showed the book club kids the note signed by IJM’s Office of Investigations for our book club’s advocacy and support: “Your encouragement means the world to us and to those living in freedom because of you,” they told us.

IMG_4853

I love looking for and strengthening the connections between my little family and community and the wider world. A thousand gold bricks, a thousand books, a thousand dollars, a thousand prayers, a thousand slaves, a thousand ways a person, even a child, can make a difference.

1000 book challenge

On August 18th, I was a little worried we wouldn’t reach our goal – we were barely halfway to 1,000 books. I should have known that procrastination and fighting for justice are not mutually exclusive. By the end of August, we surpassed our goal of reading 1,000 books and surpassed our fundraising goal of $1,000.

Then, we celebrated. I have found that joy is a fruit of doing justice. Gary Haugen, President of IJM, once said to an audience of aspiring abolitionists, “Jesus wants to give you five things: extravagant compassion, moral clarity, sacrificial courage, persevering hope, and refreshing joy.” When we move in obedience to him, God has a way of showing up and moving in power on behalf of the powerless and oppressed. He multiplies our small offerings and equips us for the journey. It is only natural to celebrate and give thanks together when we see him move and big challenges are overcome.

A group of book club families and others who support our book club gathered together this month to celebrate meeting our reading and fundraising goals. We also invited Mike Hogan, an IJM director who lives locally.

Mike gave us a snapshot of IJM’s work around the world, and the many different types of people who skills and passions are needed to make the organization function (he all but guaranteed future jobs at IJM for our book club kids). He passed on greetings from the Ghana team who had seen our video last year, and gave us updates about their ongoing casework.

Currently, IJM’s focus in Ghana is to strengthen its ties with local and national law enforcement, help shape government policy, and restructure the justice system, so that Ghanaians themselves can bring rescue and justice to their own people. Based on IJM’s successful interventions in other regions of the world, it is estimated that the system of slavery on Lake Volta could be completely eradicated within the next 10 years.

Mike introduced us via a photograph to Benson, the Ghana team’s aftercare director who ensures that every child rescued from the lake is brought to physical, emotional, and spiritual health, educated, and when possible, reunited with family.

Mike concluded by giving the kids some action steps. He told them that one of the most powerful things they could do to bring an end to slavery is to tell their story. He encouraged them to tell friends and family about slavery in Ghana and what their book club is doing about it. Simple advocacy of regular people telling their story builds and multiplies awareness, which in turn becomes a grassroots movement that becomes loud enough to draw the attention of legislators, corporations, and philanthropists.

Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 1.54.22 PM

Ellie took his words to heart. That night after we came home, her fourth grade homework assignment was to write for 20 minutes on any topic of her choice. She chose to write about what she learned from Mike about slavery on Lake Volta. The next day at school, she volunteered to read her paper aloud to the class.

The words we speak, Mike told us, will have an even greater impact that the dollars we collect. I pray that these kids bravely use their voice and their pencils for good, for the rest of their lives.

Banceusesther

We did end up collecting a few dollars for IJM, however. As of today, our fundraising total is $3,075 – three times our goal of $1,000!

And reading 1,000 books is not a bad way to spend a summer.

Mike asked the kids if they had any time to play with all that reading. Of course, they reassured him. They are just normal American kids. But they are also kids who want to make sure every child, everywhere has opportunity to read and play.

boys book clubgirls

They are abolitionists.

1000 books

 

Water, Earth, Fire, and Books

Despite being an educator and loving pumpkin spice coffee, I just can’t get into fall. I have friends who get positively giddy over freshly sharpened Ticonderogas, a new box of crayons, chai tea concentrate, and scarves, sweaters, and boots. (You know I love you guys and I forgive you for blasting my social media feeds with these unpleasant images when I’m just trying to savor August.) Don’t they know what those items mean?! The end of summer!

I think I’m missing the organizational/schedule-loving/fall-fashion gene that these friends have. My personal preference is the summer routine of: optional breakfast, eat lunch whenever, warm skin=happy heart, library=good-enough-education.

ellie raft

But back-to-school activities commenced, I willingly participated in 18 hours of teacher inservices, and so many cute first-day-of-school pictures popped up on Facebook, so I succumbed.

first day of school

I will step into fall (even though it’s not fall for 21 more days) and look for the good and lovely. But not before I give thanks for summer.

blueberries

This summer was just the best. I already told you about Kenya. The best. 

This summer had so many books. The four of us together read 90 books. So many adventures, new places, belly laughs, and interesting ideas.

Here were our favorites:

Jack: Capital Mysteries: Trapped on the DC Train by Ron Roy; Wayside School is Falling Down by Louis Sachar; The Golden Statue Plot by Geronimo Stilton; Marvin Redpost: A Magic Crystal? by Louis Sachar

Wayside School is Falling Down

Ellie: Ronia the Robber’s Daughter by Astrid Lindgren; Number the Stars by Lois Lowry; Mattimeo by Brian Jacques

Ronia the Robber's Daughter

Jenae: To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee; Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe; For the Love by Jen Hatmaker; Clay, Water, Brick by Jessica Jackley; Matthew, Mark, Luke, John (ESV)

For the Love

John: Selections from the Aubrey-Maturin Series by Patrick O’Brian; Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton

Master and Commander

Favorite Read Aloud: The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

The Penderwicks

This summer was hot for the Pacific Northwest, and we enjoyed so much cool, lovely water.

We visited Mason Lake, where my grandparents live. We swam, paddled, dipped toes, and let the sun warm and tan our skin. We ate big dinners with my family, and tried to distract the kids from my grandpa’s Fox News reports about ISIS and Hillary’s emails. My mom’s cousins took us out on their boat and John got to wakeboard for the first time in 15 years, and Ellie got a personalized lesson from an expert.

Ellie wakeboard john wakeboarding

We read books.

Clay Water Brick

We hiked down the trail to the Washougal River countless times, with friends, family, and by ourselves. We searched for agates, petrified wood, crawdads, and minnows. The kids swam a lot, I swam a little. I mostly read books.

river

Chike and the River

We took a day trip to the beach on a deliciously warm day with little wind. We picnicked, dug in sand, and John and the kids splashed and jumped over waves. I read a book.

beach

Conscience and Courage

We hiked longer distances and more treacherous trails than we ever have before as a family of four (and unabashedly bribed the children with Skittles).

hiking 2During some bits, I made John walk between Jack and me so I wouldn’t have to watch my seven-year-old blithely stumble along narrow, rocky paths hugging cliff-like drop-offs (John is used to me transferring all anxiety producing encounters onto his plate of responsibility). We listened to a book on the long drive home.

The Surgeon's Mate

All that dry, hot weather had consequences, unfortunately. August ended, as all of us in Washington and Oregon know, with record-breakingly huge wildfires. John works for the Forest Service and is trained to set-up and maintain radio and communications equipment for fire teams, so he was out on an Oregon fire for the last half of August. We missed him, but felt so proud of our man who worked 17-hour days, slept in tents, and ate…(I’m not sure what he ate, other than it was in large quantities), working hard to protect homes, buildings, and wild land.

fire campradiowarm springs

John became known as The Guy With Books In His Truck, and gladly loaned out his Patrick O’Brians and Wendell Berrys.

Our Only World

We are now obliged to bid farewell to summer routines, but water, earth, fire, and books (air for the soul, if I may) will linger into fall. Wildfires are still raging, not really caring that school has started and fire-fighting dads need to be around for after-school pickup two days a week. We’ll sneak in a back-packing trip with some friends over Labor Day weekend, hammering pegs into the earth and snaking along trails. September always gives us a few sunny, warm days sure to find us at the river. And teachers tend to be fans of books, so fall bodes well in the reading department.

Tiger Boy

I’ll buck up and start making lunches, writing IEPs, and monitoring homework again. I won’t mourn my fading tan. Just please don’t tell me you want to be cold and wet so you can use your wood stove and wear boots and sweaters again. You’ll have October, November, December, January, February, March, and April for all of that nonsense. Let me ease into fall in my September flip-flops and fair fahrenheits. Then, I’ll be ready to join you in celebrating pumpkin spice coffee, a cozy fire, and of course, a good book.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

What Legos and the Virginia Reel have to do with Justice

Last week we concluded our fifth summer of justice-related book clubs for kids and moms. Each summer I have met new people, discovered a new author, strengthened ties with the larger, global justice community, and been witness to God’s work in the world and in our family.

Last year I shared how I came to start leading book clubs for moms and kids around the topic of justice. This time, I want to process how I see the book club facilitates developing a heart and mind for justice in a child and a family.

~ A circle of moms, daughters, and sons: When we gather at a local park on summer mornings for book club, we form a large circle-ish shape. The moms sit on blankets with their littles and bigs huddled next to them or on laps. I love seeing all their faces – most of whom I know well. Some are friends of friends. Some of their children I already know and love, and all are loved intimately by God.

I heard an interview with Atinuke, an author of books we read last year. She said that her name means: You were loved before you were born. This is what I know about each child and mother in that circle: You were loved before you were born.

We gather together around a common purpose and each of us approaches the learning and activities differently. Each mom brings her own experiences and talents, each child brings her and his own readiness, attention span, and personality. We form connections with each other and to the larger world around us. Seeds are planted and watered in moms and kids, and the One who loved us before we were born will grow those seeds in time.

Juliette

~ Books: Together, we read a book throughout the summer, one that was carefully chosen to stimulate our heads and our hearts. Our “head and heart” books have been vehicles for discovering different places, cultures, and perspectives that a child growing up in the sheltered environment most of us live in needs opportunities to explore.

readingSnow Treasure Ghana PosterNaomi Reflection

Justice Heroes: Each time we gather, we learn about a real justice hero – men, women, and children who have stood for justice and acted with courage and compassion in their time and place. These are people who were not bystanders, but acted in the face of injustice, and we are inspired to do the same.

~ Action: Sometimes we read, talk, and listen, and our heads and hearts get smarter, but then we keep that smartness to ourselves and never do anything with it. At book club, we encourage the kids to do something. So, they become abolitionists. They use their words and actions to raise awareness about modern day slavery, and support International Justice Mission, a global organization that protects the poor from violence in the developing world.

They write thank-you notes to encourage the rescuers, office workers, survivors, care providers, and investigators on IJM’s Ghana Team. They are encouraged think creatively about acting justly now as children and as grownups.

IJM letter

Together as families, we challenged ourselves to read 1,000 books and raise $1,000 for IJM by September! As of this week, we are very close to meeting our goal.

Counting books

~ What Legos and Dancing have to do with Justice: Engaged brains and happy hearts facilitate learning. But a lot of the content related to global justice issues is complicated and sad or frightening.

So we play with legos, or more accurately, use legos to teach about justice.

IMG_4853

Telling the story of IJM’s casework on Lake Volta using Legos

We dance. I am so grateful to have a friend to whom I can say, “Hey, you know that one part in “The Year of Miss Agnes” where the village has a dance? Do you think you could teach our book club girls “The Virginia Reel?” I wish you could have heard the peels of laughter in the park that morning (scroll down to hear a sample).

~ Widening the Circle: We teach our children that being an abolitionist means speaking up on behalf of those who are oppressed. So the kids sent letters to grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends. They answered questions and tried to speak up when a grownup asked them about the book club. They tell about slavery in Ghana and what our book club is trying to do about it.

And the circle widens. Five-year-old Genevieve’s grandfather in California received a letter from his granddaughter and shared it with his co-workers at an auto shop, who were encouraged by the little girl’s initiative and responded with a donation to IJM.

Genevieve

Ripples of relationships from each book club family grow ever wider, and more come to know about modern day slavery through the words and actions of small children.

Together, we grasp the outstretched arm of God who hears the cries of the brokenhearted and uses his children to bind their wounds and set captives free.

boys circle 2

We clasp the hands of those that go before us,
And the hands of those who come after us.
We enter the little circle of each other’s arms
And the larger circle of lovers,
Whose hands are joined in a dance,
And the larger circle of all creatures,
Passing in and out of life,
Who move also in a dance,
To a music so subtle and vast that no ear hears it
Except in fragments.
(The Larger Circle by Wendell Berry)


Thanks, Katie Jenks and Shawna Demaray for the photos and video!