Choosing Hope

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34

This verse popped up on my notifications last week. I read and re-read it several times. The recent stories of mass shootings and violence in the news forced me to stop and consider its meaning.

I have always tried not to live my life based on what might happen. That mindset leads to fear and worry, which then increases my anxiety. Not an easy task, but a goal.

I learned a long time ago; I cannot keep my husband and children safe. They are not with me 24/7, nor should they be. Experience has shown that even when they are with me, bad things still happen.

I used to worry about them because of high school violence. Gart was a high school principal, my kids were attending high school at various times. High profile mass shootings in high schools were unbelievably common.

Then my list of places to worry about grew longer. The same horrific events happened at the elementary school level. Stories of precious little children killed, their teachers attempting to protect them were heartbreaking.

I am an elementary school teacher. As such, I witnessed the ushering in of intruder on campus drills. I had difficult conversations with young students who should not be worried about someone entering their school to harm them.

And now? The worry invades not only my school but also the church, shopping malls, concerts, clubs. No place is off-limits. Despite this fact, we cannot remain locked up in our homes and avoid contact with others.

What is the answer? I’m not sure. Gun control and mental health top the list of conversations and news sound bites. Lawmakers bicker back and forth but offer no real solutions. Watching the news brings feelings of desperation.

Yet, I must choose hope. Hope must lead to action. Action must lead to loving my neighbor, no matter where they are from or how they look. And that is only the beginning.

“For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14

That may seem like a simplified answer for such a terrible problem. But sometimes change begins with one step toward someone else. Suddenly, we are not walking alone. And if we continue walking together, hopefully, others will join.

As this school year starts, my children will be in new places. My two oldest are embarking on teaching careers at different high schools, my future daughter-n-law also teaches at a high school, and my youngest begins college.

Of course, I pray for them and want them to be safe. But even more than that, I want them to live each day to its fullest. Not being afraid of what might happen, but working to be part of the solution.

So, my goal for this year? Not to let worry and fear overtake me. That will require prayer, trusting God, and looking for the good in each day. I will look for it in the faces of my students. They deserve a future filled with hope and love, not fear.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Jeremiah 29:11

A Letter to Foster Parents

Dear Foster Parent,

There are some things I want to share with you. Things I noticed while spending time with my young friend who is in foster care. Although my perceptions originate from one specific child, I hope they resonate with you and provide encouragement.

The following list represents what I want my friends foster mom to know:

  • She talks about you often.
  • Asks when you will be back to pick her up.
  • Easily refers to you as “Mom.”
  • Happily shares that you call her “daughter.”
  • Confidently includes herself when describing your children.
  • Refers to your parents as Memaw and Pawpaw.
  • Talks about how hard you work.
  • Likes helping you.
  • Proudly says that you help children.
  • Wants to help children when she grows up.
  • Is happy and secure, thanks to you.

So, in case you have not heard these things with your own ears, I thought you should know. What you are doing matters. Your sacrifices do not go unnoticed. There are difficult days, trauma-induced behaviors, and unanswered questions. Yet, in the midst of all this, you love. And love is the only thing which has the power to bring healing.

My Sincerest Thanks,

Kelley

Around the Table

When the kids were younger, part of our routine included eating dinner around the table. Time not only for food but also for conversation. School happenings and family news topped our list. There was always lots of laughter.

As they grew older, as with all things family, dinners changed. Busy schedules and kids being away at college did not allow for meals together. Laughter and conversing continued, just at different times, and not always in person. Complete family dinners, with everyone present, became rare.

Last evening, our table was once again full. All the kids home at the same time-Robert, Rachel, and Ryan. Which truly is rare considering our oldest, Robert, now lives out of state. Not only were our three sitting around the table, but also Robert’s sweet fiancé, Erin.

Every seat was filled. And with Dad grilling steaks, so was every tummy. We ate, talked, and laughed at Dad’s jokes. The air filled with the contentment of family. And just like that, the table was cleared.

I do not take these times for granted. They are precious. For moments around a full table leave me with a full heart. ❤

 We sat around the table
Not one chair empty
Meal consumed; bellies filled
Smiles gracing each face
Laughter flowing freely
As each narrated their part
In this present moment
We visited the past
While creating the future
Sitting around the table

All People

I am having difficulty focusing on anything today. I wish I could say it was simply a lack of caffeine, but that is not possible. Maybe it’s the barrage of negative news. Not just today, but almost every day for what seems like a very long time.

With today’s instant information, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. We have the ability to know what is happening on the other side of the world in a matter of minutes. And we have the means through various social media outlets to express our opinions on said happenings. With that ability, however, comes responsibility.

The responsibility part seems to be missing from much of the current online posts, tweets, discussions, etc. Should I be able to spit out words of hatred toward others without consequences? I certainly don’t believe so, and hope others would agree.

Much of the current news involves immigration. Personally, I cannot begin to understand the plight of individuals seeking freedom and safety. I’ve never had to worry about fleeing my home due to fear. Yet, it is my responsibility as someone who has experienced the love of Christ to view the situation through the lens of love.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” I Corinthians 13:4-5

At this moment, I’m not sure what that looks like in terms of personal action. But I do know it begins with my attitude. My heart. And my heart tells me people need to experience love. People desire to live in safety. People deserve to live in freedom. All people.

“He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.” Deuteronomy 10:18

Carry Them With Me

My daughter, Rachel, and I made a trip to Hobby Lobby yesterday. Her goal was to purchase frames for her newly acquired teaching certificate and college diploma! They are now ready to be proudly displayed.

I was also shopping for something to display. A storage box or pretty container for storing letters. Not just any old letters. Letters which were written by my husband, Gart.

We have moved many times over the last twenty-six years. Somehow, I managed to keep up with the letters. They have occupied several different boxes and resided on a variety of closet shelves. As we prepare to move from our current home after fifteen years, I decided they need a more prominent location.

Rachel and I walked down the aisle of decorative boxes. There were many shapes, styles, and colors. One immediately caught her eye. “Ooh look. This is cute! It looks like a mini-suitcase.” After exploring several others, I returned to Rachel’s pick. Perfect!

Once home, I carefully transferred Gart’s letters to their new home. I couldn’t walk away without reading several. Sweet memories.

Some were typed, carefully folded, and placed in envelopes. Others hand-written on notebook paper and folded in half. Each marked with his unmistakable signature. 😉

The messages were just as varied as the paper on which they were written. Notes from when we dated, the rest scattered throughout our twenty-six-year marriage.

I miss you. I love you. I’m sorry.

The new box is proudly displayed on my dresser. As I glanced at it this morning, my first thought was, “How perfect! My collection of love letters carefully placed in their very own suitcase.”

I will always carry the sentiments expressed by the words in my heart. And the papers on which the words were written? I will continue to carry them with me, in their very own suitcase, wherever this life leads. ❤

Front-Yard Goodbyes

I’ve had many experiences, too many to count, with front-yard goodbyes. A close friend or family member prepare to move away or go home after a visit. I walk them to the door. Hugs given and received, well-wishes spoken, but it doesn’t end at the front door.

We walk outside together, down the sidewalk. One more hug, one last “be careful,” conversation continuing until the car door closes. As they drive away, I stand firm in the yard. We wave, and I watch until they are out of sight.

These memories range from my childhood all the way up to this very day. Each filled with images of people I love. People I hope to see again soon. People who are difficult to watch drive away.

An emotional reaction from me is pretty much a guarantee. Sometimes it is immediate. Uncontrolled tears flow for all to see. Attempts to dry them to no avail.

Other times, my reaction is delayed. Although I feel sad as they drive away, there are no tears. And just when I think, “Wow! I didn’t cry” they are mentioned later in the day, and I’m suddenly fighting back tears.

Whether the emotions are instantaneous or deferred really does not matter. What matters is time. Taking the time to say goodbye not only once, but two or three times. Taking the time to follow, stand firm, wave, and watch.

Showing them how much they are loved through a simple front-yard goodbye.

When Your Dad is the Principal

As I reflect on yesterday’s graduation ceremonies, my thoughts keep floating back to my husband, Gart. He is a career educator, twenty-six years now. His path began with band directing and moved through various levels of administration. Because of this, our kids’ educational experiences included “Dad as principal.”

What is it like when your dad is the principal? I’m sure my kids would have things to add, but today I’ll share my perspective.

When the kids were younger, elementary and junior high age, it meant riding the bus to his school in the afternoons. It meant exploring every inch of his building. It meant finding all the secret hiding places while staying out of trouble.

As they got older, the meaning changed. The following questions should help paint the picture.

  • Do I need to spend the day with you at your school?
  • Do I need to contact your teacher?
  • Exactly why have you not turned in your assignments this week?

Those questions and the conversations which followed carried a heavier weight than their earlier building adventures. They were only matched by statements like these:

  • I received a call/email today from your principal/teacher.
  • I contacted your teacher today, and you will be…
  • Due to your choices, you will not be able to…

Thankfully, these did not happen often. But when they did, they were not taken lightly. There were some difficult, uncomfortable conversations around the dinner table. But we all survived and are stronger because of them.

Experiencing their dad as principal also meant wisdom and guidance in planning for the future. He witnessed the impact poor choices can have on a student’s future many times. And although he was always ready to share advice or answer questions, he encouraged them to choose their own path.

“Just do you,” he still loves to tell them.

There is no question as to the best part of “dad as principal.” When each of them completed high school and walked across that graduation stage, Dad was waiting there to greet them. He stood with open arms, ready to hand them their diploma, and say, “Congratulations! I’m so proud of you!” And just as quickly, he watched them walk away.

Of course, Gart is much more than “principal” to our three kids. But the impact that title had on our family will be felt for years to come. It helped shape the three of them into amazing young adults.

Each of our children has their own goals and aspirations. Each shows the determination to see them fulfilled. Most importantly, each of them loves their dad. And from my perspective, that’s what happens when your dad is the principal.