This past week was spring break in Michigan. And it snowed, rained and sleeted most of the time. It was also cloudy, dark and cold. I’m not going to lie, we were all a little stir crazy. We did read a lot. Including Josiah’s new obsession with being read the Lord of the Rings out loud. People, it takes like twenty years for the hobbits to get out of the Shire…
Whenever I struggle, I read hard books. Kris often teases me about what sad book I am reading next. I read hard books, not because they are sad topics, but because of the proximity and perspective they give me. They fill me with hope and remind me of my purpose in Christ. I want to understand the stories of people and how to make a difference. When I want to wallow in my own uncertainties, I’m reminded of how much I have been given. Speaking of wallowing, read this great piece by Janyre Tromp. She’s the author at Ugly, Beautiful Me and I think you’ll love her.
While you are waiting for spring to arrive #TalkJustice together!
March Madness: Fill out a charity bracket with your family! Win up to 100,000 for the charity of your choice. Such a fun idea! Shelterbox: Learn about ShelterBox together. What started out as a Rotary Project for disaster relief in England has expanded globally. Each ShelterBox includes a relief tent, thermal blankets, groundsheet, water storage and purification equipment, solar lamps, cooking utensils, a basic toolkit, mosquito nets, and a children’s activity pack.
@ShelterBox, Photographer: Rebecca Novell
Sacrifice: Read this article about a couple who foregoes their dream boat to pay for the college tuition of an entire kindergarten class. Talk about the difference between needs and a wants. What could your family sacrifice that might make a difference to someone else?
Dignity: A soup kitchen disguised like a restaurant offers dignity to the homeless in Kansas City. Read the article and talk about how they are building community, treating others with dignity, and offering hope.
Clean Water: 10 things women and girls could be doing instead of collecting clean water from ONE.
Breaking Down Myths: SNAP benefits are not always enough to keep families in need fed. 1/3 of families using SNAP still have to visit food pantries to bridge gaps. Talk about hunger and stereotypes to accepting assistance.
Food Waste: Sign a pledge as a family to curb food waste with Feeding America.
Kara Tippetts is the author of The Hardest Place, and co-author of Just Show Up. Her last book And It Was Beautiful offers thoughtful responses to living and dying well. Kara passed away March of 2015 after battling cancer, leaving behind her husband and four children. She blogged faithfully at Mundane Faithfulness. Where you can still read her reflections and also new material carried forward by those close to her.
After I read Kara’s work I feel my heart softening. Could I celebrate life in the midst of the long good-bye? I might not be as gracious as she was, but I hope that I could learn. I think that is what she leaves us with. Her gentle love for a savior.
She loves despite her prayers not being answered the way she would have wanted. She wrestles. Maybe we all need to be a little more transparent about how hard life can be. How disappointing, scary, sad, and just plain angering it all can be sometimes. And also beautiful. Heartbreakingly beautiful that we get to live for Christ here in an imperfect world.
She reminds us to live in a way that each breath is an Amen.
Where we are thankful for the time we are given.
Where we see God’s faithfulness to us even in the mundane.
Where we know how desperately we need community to keep going.
Where we lean into how close God is to our hearts.
In her last days, she read to her children as they crowded into bed with her. I’d like to share a small part of her chapter, that I feel sums up so much.
Last night we finished the chapter that ended so tenderly, the one where Harry and Ron accepted Hermione as their friend: “But from that moment on, Hermione Granger became their friend. There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them.” We loved it. You see, we get it, the hard, and how you have to do it together, and how that glues you.
Thank you to Kara, for gently leading us to acknowledge a God that loves, even in the hard we do not understand, who beckons us to wrap our arms around each other, because only then do we truly live.
I will be giving away a copy of And It Was Beautiful. Just leave a comment and I will draw a name. Know that I am very grateful to be living life with all of you.
How do we #TalkJustice with our kids during this election year?
These are the things I want my kids to know and understand.
Voting. I remember walking into the voting booths of my small town and helping slide the heavy curtain shut. Voting is important. The definition of suffrage is the right to vote in political elections. Suffrage sounds an awful lot like the word suffer. People suffered to ensure our right to be heard. When you cast your vote take your kids along.
Respect. No one wants to feel stupid for their opinions. If we disagree with one another, and we will, how can we engage in love? Can we disagree and still respect one another? Yes, conflict is uncomfortable, no one really loves it, but there are ways to approach disagreement in love.
No one is perfect. We are not perfect people. Our political candidates will not be either. They have made past mistakes. They will make future mistakes. No one person can please everyone in the country. No one can change everything for the better.
Think for yourself. Maybe you identify with Republicans or Democrats, but that doesn’t mean you can’t think for yourself too. Read from various news sources. Be an independent thinker. Consider both points of view.
Kindness is still important. I can’t imagine a Jesus who steamrolled others to get to the top. He became nothing, that we might have life. Name calling. Exclusion. Rudeness. Demeaning the work of others. We teach our children not to do it, nor should we for any reason.
Standing in the Gap. In seventh grade social studies we are currently learning about the beginning of our nation and the constitution. The argument concerning the amount the government should be involved in our lives started hundreds of years ago. There are no easy answers, but if a safety net of assistance is removed or lessened, someone needs to stand in the gap. I would love that to be the church. Statistics show that 5% of adults in the United States tithe. This is an article from Relevant What Would Happen if the Church Tithed?
Open Hands. I try to remember that Jesus met others with open hands. He didn’t protect himself, even from death. I want to open my hands like Jesus did. He didn’t judge, build walls, or only pick privileged and powerful. He denied convention and associated with those that were considered sinners.
The Fear of Different. There is a certain candidate in this election that has not been kind to a majority of the American people. Numerous times people have said they support him because, he says what everything is thinking, but just doesn’t say. If this is the truth, we need to be honest that there is underlying fear and hatred for what is different. I work at, and my kids attend a diverse school. Most of our communities are diverse and our schools reflect this. Ethnically. Religiously. Socio-economically. When we talk about slavery, civil-rights and suffrage, the kids are surprised and saddened. They don’t necessarily understand a world where these things occurred. They are our example right now. Different can coexist. Different does not lessen our beliefs. Different does not threaten our well-being.
Refining. When Kris was in seminary we job shared. Being married and working together is a careful balance. We did not always agree. Honestly, we argued a fair amount. We would lay it all out and then construct our best ideas back together. What we ended up with was always so much better than what we could have came up with individually. We need leaders that will listen to one another. We need leaders that will work together. We need leaders that are humble enough to be refined by others.
Honesty. There are Christians that are Republican. There are Christians that are Democrats. This stuff is not easy. Look at world history. We have not been kind to one another whether publicly or in our heads. I work with kids all day. Our kids hear us. They repeat what we say. They see your memes. Hear your laughter. They are fiercely loyal. What do you want them to hear?
Pray. That we might all have courage and be kind.
What do you most want your kids to know this year?
Have you heard of blackout poetry? You can see some great examples here, along with the book by Austin Kleon. Learn more about the newspaper blackout project here. Give it a try… you might find it addicting. I think I do.
This was my first try:
impossibly. a thousand feet. bone tired. my soul rusting. dark times.
startlingly beautiful. from afar. deep. sacred place.
It didn’t surprise me that an article stripped down to these words emerged. I’ve been wrestling with all kinds of tangled emotions in the last months. Soul rusting times can led to sacred places in your journey. Sometimes I just don’t want to hear that, like the Sunday morning I walked out of church and all the way home. I didn’t want to sing praise songs, when I was angry at God. You know what, he walked right home with me. He doesn’t leave us, even in our struggle. What he does in us is startlingly beautiful, even if we won’t know the depth of it all until heaven. You are there God, loving us.
I would love to introduce you to someone who understands this. Susie Finkbeiner is a novelist from West Michigan. She blogs regularly here. I think you will find her beautiful, thoughtful, wise and funny. Also real.
Why I love her as a writer is she is not afraid to tackle messy and difficult.
Her lastest novel is A Cup of Dust, which takes place during the Dust Bowl. Pearl Spence, though only ten, is resilient in the midst of a trying and dark time. No matter where we come from, we can be assured that we are loved. You will be challenged by her voice and spirit. (best of all, Susie is currently working on a sequel to A Cup of Dust.)
Comment here to win a signed copy of the book! How are you reminded of God loving you, even during times full of the dust of doubt?
Photographer Michaela Noroc continues her quest to photograph women from every country in the world. She documents through The Atlas of Beauty.
The Flint Water Crisis
A piece by Nicholas Kristof shedding light on the lead poisoning of water in Flint, and also the elevated levels of lead in impoverished cities across America. Talk about why this might still happen in a developed nation like the United States.
Serve together by using our voices in a photo booth to share how immigrants have blessed you.
Read The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi about new Korean immigrant Unhei. As she decides on a new name, she finds her classmates eager to help her transition to America. Friendship opens the door for her to embrace her Korean identity.
Participate in play stations-
crafting- with stencils and passport stickers and world coloring pages
an old-fashioned Ellis Island simulation
immigration timeline walk from The Church Between Borders
take a citizenship quiz
world landmark sensory tub
play doh with letters to make your name
who is my neighbor Instagram interactive art.
what would you pack? station
Immigration Family History Handout
Ways to get involved in the Blessing Not Burden Campaign
All Ages Welcome! Zeeland Christian School is located at 334 W. Central Ave. Zeeland, MI.
Keep updated at the Facebook Event Page. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to receive email updates about what is new with #TalkJustice playgroups. Exciting things are happening this coming year! And I would love you, your families, and your wise voices to be a part of it.
A few weeks ago, I stood outside waiting to direct participants to our playgroup. The evening was dark and cold. I took a picture of the street lamp piercing the dark. I wanted to remember the prayer I prayed that night, to not give up if God had something to do through me.
Over break I read Brene Brown, a New York Time Bestselling author. She is a researcher and spot on about messy things of the heart and how to meet them head on. In Rising Strong she says this about the messy middle:
You’re too far in to turn around and not close enough to the end to see the light.”
God, don’t let me give up. Let me hit my fears, insecurities, and rejections head on.
If you have something to do through me, I want to show up. Very much.
There is a plaque on my fireplace mantle that reads: Its hard to stumble when you’re on your knees. Ever since I read about adopting one word for each new year, mine has been the same. I wonder when I will let it go… or if it will always be a part of me. Kneel. It has to be for me, I know no other way. It all has to come from that place kneeling before God, or I am not me. I would not have the strength to show up. I would run far, far away.
My prayer for you this new year:
To not give up. You are enough. He has something beautiful to do in you and through you.