One of my favorite sessions of the Orange Conference was listening to Kara Powell talk about the research that the Fuller Youth Institute has done on Sticky Faith (now a book). Did you know that 40-50% of kids will not stick with their faith after graduation? The … Continue reading
Last summer, after the little girl I mentor came to Day Camp, she called me on Saturday and said, “Apurul, when I come to camp on Monday, will I need to bring my back-a-pack?”
It broke my heart to tell her that she only comes once. Because she knows that I’m at camp every single week of the summer. I can only give “my kids” one awesome week of summer, but I try to give them tons of quality time the rest of the year. And since they’re on Spring Break, I’ve been cramming.
Last week, we took a girls only trip to see Tangled.
Rapunzel: I’ve been looking out of a window for eighteen years, dreaming about what I might feel like when those lights rise in the sky. What if it’s not everything I dreamed it would be?
Flynn Rider: It will be.
Rapunzel: And what if it is? What do I do then?
Flynn Rider: Well,that’s the good part I guess. You get to go find a new dream.
How do I help these kids dream? How do I share the keys to unlock a world beyond their neighborhood? How do I instill not only one dream, but many?
Often, my dreams have been fed by great books. A while ago, I decided that I would give “my kids” a love for bookstores. Today, we tried a new one. I wish you could have seen them squealing as they discovered Schuler Books in Grand Rapids.
The three of us picked a worn couch for silent reading. I think it’s a beautiful scene.
They loved watching ME read. And I loved telling them about how fun it is to read a 700 page book that you never want to put down (The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand- read it?). They adore me, and it’s so important that they get to see this side of me.
We also sat like grown-ups in the coffee shop and read the original version of Rapunzel. You know, because we like to compare and contrast literature to film.
“Listen to the mustn’ts, child.
Listen to the don’ts.
Listen to the shouldn’ts,
Listen to the never haves,
then listen close to me…
Anything can happen, child.
Anything can be.”
I’m not a crier. So I wasn’t prepared to sit in a second grade classroom today and have tears well up in my eyes.
I showed up to mentor during my lunch hour with much excitement as always. When the teacher asked me to stay in the classroom, I was pumped. Because, let’s be honest, it makes my day to have kids huddled around me like they want my autograph (I handed out camp post cards instead).
But then, the teaching happened. It was about alliteration, metaphors, similes, and “omomatopoeias” (yes, it was spelled wrong on a GRPS worksheet). And the lesson was taught to second graders (most of whom are English as a second language learners) from a 3-ring binder. So the tears welled up. I had my first tragic, real life glimpse of our 50% graduation rate in GRPS.
These are the kids I love. They deserve so much more than this. It’s NOT FAIR.
I came home and legitimately cried. Full out, kind of crumbled for the state of our education system. I’m having a hard time getting over it.
Maybe you don’t know. Maybe you haven’t experienced what it’s like in some of our schools. You need to be aware. We all need to work together on this. Please watch David Guggenheim talk about why he made the movie, “Waiting for Superman” and why it’s not enough to “take care of my kids and move on”…
Oh, and you should DEFINITELY watch the movie. It’s my plea to the world.
I’ve always envisioned myself working forever. Until death. If you have spent 5 minutes with me, you know I have big goals and dreams for helping children.
But, I’m starting to see the appeal of being a stay-at-home mom. Because I would print those free business cards and hand them to every teacher. My title would be, “field-tripper.”
I had a day off last week, so I got to go on a field trip!!! It was with the litle girl I mentor and her 2nd grade class. Now, I’m no stranger to the class or the neighborhood. I’m definitely the only white girl that shows up at the park. And they stare. I think it’s because they wonder what color my hair really is. So do I, kids, so do I.
On the bus, I felt one of the boys in the seat behind me reach over and touch my hair. I looked back to VERY curious eyes.
“What are your eyes?” he asked.
Pause from me. (Because honestly, I really don’t know how to characterize their color).
“Baby Brown,” he said with confidence. There you have it. Makes perfect sense. I’m claiming it as my color. Second grade genius.
The rest was magical. Forever captured by my camera. The kids LOVE having someone take their picture. Here are a few of the little girl I mentor at the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum.
- Within 30 seconds, I knew all 7 kids in my group by name (and never forgot them)
- I played along at the dentist, the bank, the post office, the puppet show, etc. And of course, created memorable learning experiences along the way. That’s what we do, right SpringHill?
- Only 3 of my 7 kids got lost. And it was only for 5 minutes. At the end. When everyone was trying to get on the bus. No big deal.
I got invited back on today’s field trip. That’s right. They had one last week and this week. I can’t go, of course, because I’m a working woman. But I’m really hoping to have some time off on St. Patrick’s day. At the Valentine’s party I got to hand out bingo chips! I’m really getting into this “Room Mom” gig.:)
The after-party when I was 21 was very Taylor University-like. I came home to a surprise party thrown by my dorm. Those Christian college kids even got special permission to have boys on the floor. Scandalous, I know. We drank sparkling cider straight out of the bottle!
In between, I’ve had some memorable birthdays. And after-parties.
But I think this year will stick with me for a long time. We threw a getaway at my dad’s lake house. And when the rest of the world got silent, I made my way to the hot tub with one of my best friends, co-workers and fellow child-champions. For hours, Danae and I sat under the winter stars and talked about how we can better define our purpose, our methodologies, and our contributions to help kids and families. It was the perfect way to ring in a new year of life.
This video captures some of the feeling behind what we want to do for children. It will change you.
You’re a little teary, right?
Every child, every prisoner, every coach needs to be cheered on.
Maybe you’ve been pondering what to do with your life. Or your year. Or your day. What if we all just lived out this video? What if we look for the people around us that don’t have fans? The children that need their names chanted the most?
And we’ll be their fans. We’ll cheer them on. We’ll show them that they’re worthy. And champions. And when they go to bed, they’ll have memories of people chanting their names. And those memories won’t go away when the hard times come again.
A few weekends ago, I found myself in a beachside Westin with four kids ages 7-10. We were quite the possy. I started baby-sitting for them when all four were under 4. Which is seriously my idea of fun. But I realize that not all adults appreciate kids- especially in hotel lobbies.
On our first morning, I acted quickly. Right there in the elevator, I gathered the kids close to me.
“You guys, I need to tell you something very important. Do you know that not all adults like kids?”
Shock. Awe. Dismay. Just the reaction I’m hoping for.
“And some of those people are actually staying in THIS hotel with us. They are going to be in the lobby when we get off the elevator.”
Horrified looks. They can’t believe it. The oldest two verify that it might be true. They heard that some people HATE kids. More terror in the group.
“I have a great plan. Do you guys know what an ambassador is?”
One of the ten year olds explains it brilliantly to her siblings (genius parents).
“So, we are on a special mission this weekend. We are here to be KID AMBASSADORS to all the people that don’t like kids. We’re going to show them how awesome and cool kids are. After they see us, they are going to LOVE kids. Do you guys think you can accept this mission?”
Elevator opens. Perfect timing. They are beyond pumped to save the world for kids.
Let’s be realistic. It’s sometimes hard to remember your mission. We all get a little sidetracked by trying to jump over lines in the floor or the inexplicable need to antagonize a sister. But, all I had to do was whisper, “Ambassador” and said child would straighten up and act his best. And if one fell out of line, you better believe the other siblings would make sure to get her back on track. After all, they wouldn’t want to mis-represent ALL kids.
Of course, I came prepared with a few a gazillion games in my head. Because sometimes your first trick gets old. Here they are playing “Order Up” in the lobby.
My favorite quote of the weekend? From the youngest. She came running up to me.
“April, do you just LIVE for kids?”
Yes. Absolutely. So glad they know.
Sometimes, the greatest spiritual truths are taught from a child’s perspective.
Like the creation story.
“Then God said, “Hello animals!” And everyone came out to play. The earth was filled with noisy noises — growling and gobbling and snapping and snorting and happy skerfuffling. “You’re good,” God said. And they were. God saw all that he had made and he loved them. And they were lovely because he loved them. But God saved the best for last…..So God breathed life into Adam and Eve. When they opened their eyes, the first thing they ever saw was God’s face. And when God saw them he was like a new dad. “You look like me,” he said. “You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever made!” God loved them with all of his heart. And they were lovely because he loved them.”
And I don’t care who you are. Or what your adult theology/philosophy is on the creation story. Every child, every person, every creation needs to know:
You are lovely because He loves you.
Do you know that today?
Good, now about my source…
The Jesus Storybook Bible. It’s my favorite.
- If you have kids, this is the best bible out there. (See what my friend Kate said about it). Some adults have been known to keep reading it after the kids go to bed, too…
- Even if you’re not a Christian, I think you might still appreciate the refreshing writing and illustrating of this story. Art.
- If you do kid’s programming, this is a great tool. We use it at SpringHill for improv skits. I narrate and my staff perform hilarious renditions of the stories. We love that it clearly and humorously communicates the message of Jesus. Because our God is funny.
Image is from the JSB Website. Click here to download the full creation story and other videos!
I wanted to get one final November post in. Because it’s a very special month– National Adoption Awareness Month. And because my brother insisted on his own post.
Yes, those glasses were really mine…I’m a child of the 80′s. Not sure about the blue eye shadow at age 10…but back to my baby brother….
Adoption is my first memory of having a dependence on God and watching Him answer prayers. For four years, we prayed as a family each night for this baby. When he finally came, we named him Jonathan, meaning, God’s gracious gift.
Our family was adopting a baby with special needs- and Jonathan’s need was a perfect fit- he was hearing impaired and my mom was fluent in sign language! However, we quickly noticed that our new baby was turning to sounds and soothed by music. Yes, he has perfect hearing. And that, my friends was the first miracle I experienced–not that his hearing was fine, because we would have loved him regardless–but that the only way for God to get Jonathan into our family was for this perfectly-hearing baby to appear to have a special need.
And I can’t for a second imagine what our lives would have been like without him. To know Jonathan is to be blessed by joy, love, laughter and fullness of life. What a blast it’s been to journey through life as this little boy’s big sister…and to watch him grow-up into such a wonderful man and teammate (he works for me at SpringHill). I’m forever grateful that I have an adoption story (and hope to adopt someday, too). I am wholeheartedly convinced that adopting a child brings great honor to God. It’s living out what He’s done for us. Come join my family. Sight unseen. Just as you are. I’ve chosen to love you forever and then some.
Love you, buddy! So glad you’re my brother forever!
In order to kick off the keepin’ it real posts, I thought I’d share some recent photos. My dad got re-married a week ago and the wedding was very nice. But, of course, it’s always a little awkward when you are meeting your new step-family for the first time at the wedding. In front of a hundred other people. I loved my brothers’ approach- they never thought about being anyone but their authentic, crazy selves. They teach me so much about living and loving. I do adore this picture of the three of us, but what if we only had this kind of picture to remember the night? The one of my brothers with their props completely shows off their personalities. Much more than anything posed. Love them.
And back in Grand Rapids, I continue to spend a lot of my free time with the little girl I mentor. And her brothers. And neighbors. And cousins (who are mostly the neighbors, too). We took our own family picture at our Fall Family Luncheon a few weeks ago. Let’s just recognize how hard it is to get all kids to smile authentically at the same time. So, never to be defeated by an unsmiling child, I started taking “goofy” pictures. Guess what? We laughed harder than ever. And I think we captured the heart of what it’s like to spend time in relationship with a child. Love them.
So, friends, bring a prop to a wedding or put a turkey craft on your head and pose with a kid you love. Those are the memories I want.
P.S. The new step-family is totally cool and nice. I’m not just saying that. Very thankful for that.