Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sasha's School (shkola) Solution

школа pronounced [shkola]- the Russian word for school. From the Latin "schola" meaning a place for the discussion. Our quest to find the best "place for the discussion" for Sasha has been quite a long journey. Just a quick trip down memory lane- we adopted Sasha and brought her home from Russia on May 26, 2011. In August, not knowing quite what to do, we enrolled her in the local public Jr. High. We were living in Texas at the time. That lasted for one week and was a disaster. Some of it was the school's fault, some of it was no one's fault. Accommodating a seventh grader who cannot read or write English is a weighty task. We brought her home and I attempted to home school her. Let's just say that Sasha and I mix about like oil and water. 2011 came to an end and so did my patience.

New year, new home school instructor. For the spring semester of 2012, we hired a wonderful lady from our church to home school Sasha for us. She was truly a blessing and Sasha did well with her. But as the school year came to a close, so did Dan's job. Not knowing what our finances would look like, we once again decided to try teaching Sasha ourselves. This time Dan decided to give it a try. The fall semester of 2012 started off well, but once again as the year came to an end, so did Dan's patience. Hey, at least I wasn't the only Jensen unable to handle this.

In November 2012 Sasha started expressing an interest in trying public school again. With Dan's patience exhausted and no finances to hire a private tutor, we reluctantly gave public school another try. Sasha returned to public Jr. High for the spring semester of 2013. It was definitely better than it had been before. She made friends, which was very important and made it worth the experience, but academically it was still just such a mess. What do you do with a kid who performs above her 8th grade peers in math but can only read at about a 3rd grade level? Enter THEO located in Plano, TX.

THEO is a wonderful home school coop program. THEO provides the facility and finds qualified teachers to teach needed subjects. Parents pay teachers directly and can choose for their child to take one, some, or all of their subjects there. Since parents are pooling their money together to hire teachers, it was very very affordable. Sasha looked forward to school every day and was really learning. But no sooner had the school year started than Dan got a new job in San Jose, California. We are grateful for the job but the move felt overwhelming. Poor Sasha. She was losing the school and friends she had just found. She finished the fall semester at THEO but then had to say goodbye.

So here we are in San Jose, CA. There is no THEO here nor anything like it. I didn't know what to do. For a time I considered trying to home school Sasha myself again but knew deep down inside that it wouldn't work- remember, oil and water. I need to be this girl's mom right now, not her teacher. We had an appointment last Tuesday with a local clinic called Reading and Spelling Solutions. They specialize in helping kids like Sasha and we knew they could help her, but we weren't expecting the miracle we found there. They tested Sasha and found no learning disabilities. She is just confused because of language. Not only can they help her with her reading and English, but they have a home school program! She will attend 2 hours a day, 5 days and week and work one-on-one with a teacher. They will teach her English (reading, spelling, grammar, pronunciation), Algebra, and US History. I purchased the Geography curriculum that she had already started in the fall and we will finish it at home this spring. Hey, I can handle just one class. She's also learning to type with an online course, and continues to read and do copy work in Russian.

We have already found a church youth group for her and I'm sure she'll make friends quickly. The greatest miracle of Reading and Spelling Solutions is the people and what they believe they can accomplish with Sasha. They are wonderful Christian people and we are so impressed with how they interact with the kids who come through their doors for help. When testing Sasha, although they found her to be quite confused, they found her IQ to be quite high. They believe that they can take this kid who currently reads at about a 4th grade level and have her reading at a 9th grade level by September. She may need to keep attending school with them next fall to get completely caught up, but regardless, this is just a life changing miracle for Sasha. If she can get caught up academically now instead of when she is 25, it will really change her life and her future.

And there you have it- our long journey for a school solution for Sasha. We aren't finished yet. The journey will continue. We just keep trying things until we find something that works for her. We knew what we were signing up for when we adopted her. It's been a wonderful, frustrating, interesting, exhausting experience. If you're in a similar situation, don't give up and NEVER settle for something mediocre. Just keep trying until you find your "place for the discussion."

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Trust Your Husband

Job security. Not many people have it. Though Dan and I have walked through many tragedies and hardships, losing a job was not something we had ever had to deal with. Dan began his career with Texas Instruments right out of college and remained there for 21 years- that is until June of this year. On Monday after Father's Day Dan left his career of 21 years and stepped into a sabbatical from corporate America.
The last several months have been a time of discovery and rest for him. But as we entered the month of October, we knew that God was ready to start focusing us and pointing us toward what He has next. I use the word "Us" because that is how we've approached this. That's how we approach everything as a couple. As a result, I found myself completely caught off guard at what God said to me. A few weeks ago, Dan took me out on a wonderful date. After dinner, we sat together next to a lovely fountain of water and talked for a long time. As Dan was sharing his heart with me I very clearly heard God say, "I don't want you to ask me for direction or vision any more. I simply want you to pray for Dan. I'll give direction and vision to him. When you hear from him, you will hear from me. You can trust him."
Um, okay- or maybe not. Wouldn't it be better if God spoke to both of us? That way I could confirm for Dan that he is indeed hearing from God. Sounds like a great argument, but in the end I knew I wasn't convincing God of anything. My reasoning wasn't driven by wisdom, it was driven by fear. Dan needs to hear from God himself. He doesn't need me to convince him that he's heard God. As for me, I'm being asked to stretch my trust muscles. I wrestled with this for a couple of weeks and then God, being the gentle and loving Dad that He is, reminded me that Dan has a stellar track record. He walked me through all the times in our 23 years of marriage that Dan heard His voice. There were several instances where I doubted at first but relented and followed Dan. There isn't a single instance I can think of where I was sorry that I trusted Dan and followed him.
So does this mean I'm trusting a man instead of God? The answer is a resounding NO. The only reason I can trust Dan is because I know that he trusts God. I can trust Dan because I know who he trusts.

Friday, September 21, 2012

"I Don't Believe In God."

"I don't believe in God." That was the result of our first spiritual conversation with Sasha when we brought her home in May of 2011. Here I was, the worship pastor of a Christian church, and I just adopted a teenager who doesn't even believe in God. Thanks God. No pressure. Well, at least she was honest.
It's been quite a journey- a quiet journey. What do I mean by quiet? I mean we really haven't said much. Keeping my mouth shut has been the hardest part. We've had countless deep, meaningful conversations with Sasha in the past year, but very few of them about God.
When Sasha told us she didn't believe in God, we responded by telling her that was fine. She was free to believe whatever she wanted. A deal was struck. We would sit through her gymnastics class for an hour each week to support her. In return, she would sit through a church service for an hour each week to support me. It also helped when we pointed out she could make friends at church. In closing the conversation, I challenged her to ask God to prove to her that he is real.  And that's pretty much where we left it.
A question here, a question there. Worship music. Could I download some songs to her iPod? Why yes, yes I can. Youth Group. Would I drive her to youth group? Why yes, yes I can. A deeper question here, a deeper question there. Over the spring there were questions such as, "How do you hear God's voice?" "How do you pray?" And then came summer and youth camp.
Now, a normal person might just simply ask God to reveal himself to them. But not Sasha. She had literally drawn a line in the sand and dared him to cross it. Her fists were up and she was ready for a fight. But she arrived home from camp to tell us that she heard God's voice for the first time. She was deeply moved and clearly shaken- in a good way. She also said she worshiped for the first time in the services because she now knows that God is real.
Last weekend we took her to a Night Of Worship at Christ For the Nations in Dallas. We weren't sure what her reaction would be. She clapped and sang along with the first couple of songs. Then the band started to play a song titled "Great I Am." Sasha leaned over and said, "Ooh, this is my favorite song." She closed her eyes, bowed her head, and lifted her hands in worship. And me? Well, I melted into a puddle of tears on the floor.
I'm glad I kept my mouth shut and let God do his thing in his time. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

You Know Me

I have many "favorite" verses in the Bible but this is definitely one of them.

The Lord replied to Moses, "I will indeed do what you have asked, for I look favorably on you, and I know you by name."- Exodus 33:17

It's where God says he knows Moses by name that really gets me. I love that. I love the thought of being on a first-name-basis with God.

Although I spend time with God each day, I did not have a nice size chunk of time carved out in my week to really process, listen to his voice, and journal my thoughts and feelings and what I felt he was saying to me. That's always an important thing to have, but it's especially important in this season of my life. My husband Dan is currently going through a major career change. He has taken a sabbatical from corporate America to seek God for direction for the next season of his life. Will we move? Will we stay? Will God have something new for me in this season as well? It's all very unsettling and can become overwhelming to me if I allow it. And so I carved out the needed space to decompress and process.

I didn't expect much out of the first night of carved space. I thought I'd be happy if I just had some quiet time to myself to think.  So there I was with my iPod, journal and pen. I listened to a favorite song and then turned my iPod off. I sat there in the quiet for a few moments and out of nowhere I heard him- such a sweet voice. "Kerri, I know you don't know where you're going. And I know you don't know what you'll be doing. But you do know me. You know me well enough to know that you can trust me." 

Well, that's enough for me. He knows my name. He even confirmed that I know him. I know him well enough to really trust him. I just needed that reassurance that I do know him and am capable of hearing his voice. I needed to be be reminded that he's walking this out with me.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Bride

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of attending the wedding of a very special young bride named Jill. It was a bitter sweet experience for Dan and I. You see, Jill had once been the "girlfriend" of our son Alex. He was 12, she was 11. I'm not sure what it really means to be boyfriend and girlfriend when you're 11 and 12 years old but, whatever it means, that is what they were. Alex died in a tragic ski accident over Christmas break that year. Jill was his "girlfriend" at the time and it left her with a broken heart to say the least.
We've watched Jill grow into a beautiful young woman over the years. I knew she would grow up and get married one day, and yet, it caught me off guard. The wedding invitation arrived in the mail. I stood there holding it in a bit of shock and disbelief. When did she grow up? She's getting married? To someone else?
Alex died at 12, therefore, Alex is eternally 12 years old in our memory. It felt a bit like Jill was getting married at 12 years old- an odd feeling. And although I know it's highly unlikely that Alex would have ever married Jill even if he had lived, it was still a bit unsettling. It's unsettling because it just proves again that life goes on. Her life goes on and his does not. She got to walk down the aisle and into her future. He will never walk down the aisle and I will never share that joy with him. That's a hard pill for a mom to swallow.
I will say that once I was able to wrap my mind around the fact that Jill is not 12 and is not marrying Alex, I had a wonderful time celebrating her wedding day. Such a beautiful bride, Jill will be a wonderful wife and mother. I'm privileged to be even a small part of her life.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Worship Lady

This past Sunday I had a cute and inspiring experience with a child at our church. I serve as the worship pastor and after the service had ended a young boy approached me at the front of the auditorium. He couldn't have been more than about 7 years old. He looked very serious and approached me asking, "Excuse me, but are you the worship lady?"

You need to first understand that I have been dubbed many varied titles since taking this role. I've been called worship pastor, worship leader, music director, song leader, and the list goes on. Worship lady was a new one, and I kind of like it.

I assured him that yes, I am indeed the "worship lady." He handed me a single $1 bill and, looking very concerned, asked me if I could please put it with the offering. You see, he had gone to the restroom and missed the passing of the offering bags and was distraught that his dollar bill might not make it into this week's offering. His mother told him to find the worship lady and give it to her. I assured him that I would turn it in with this week's offering and he thanked me and left.

I stood there somewhat struck by what had just happened. On the surface it is cute and makes you smile. But, looking a little deeper, I felt the weight of it. This child had just trusted me with his offering- his sacrifice. That's a pretty serious and weighty thing when you think about it.

I think that sometimes when you're in leadership you settle into your role and, after a while, you get a little lazy. You perhaps get too comfortable in it and forget how serious it is. People are watching. People trust you. People call you the "worship lady." :)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Staying In Tune

Today is a great day. Why? Because the piano tuner is at my house. I have a beautiful Baldwin grand piano that proudly sits in my living room. It's arguably my most valuable earthly possession. Although I guess it's nice to look at, it's pretty worthless if I can't play it, interact with it. Over time my Baldwin goes a little flat or a little sharp, and eventually I lose interest in playing it because what was once beautiful music is now just noise. This is why I clap and jump for joy when I see the piano tuner approaching my front door.

I think my attitude is often like my Baldwin piano. Over time I can get a little flat, or a little sharp, and eventually the previously pleasant sounds flowing out of me are now just annoying noise. Noise to God. Noise to others. I need to be tuned.

When the piano tuner tunes my piano, he never tunes it to itself. Instead, he strikes a tuning fork and tunes my piano to the tuning fork. After all, just because my piano is in tune with itself, that doesn't mean that it's actually "in tune." He tunes to the tuning fork because the tuning fork is constant. Unlike my Baldwin, the tuning fork never goes out of tune. It resonates a pure A always and forever.

Just like my piano, I cannot tune my attitude to myself, or to anyone else for that matter. If I do, I'm pretty sure I'll be the only person who thinks I'm "in tune." I need a tuning fork. I need the Holy Spirit filling me up and resonating a pure and constant A. I need this not only for my sake, but for the sake of others, particularly my children. I've been a mom for a long time and if there's one thing I've noticed it's that as goes my attitude, goes the attitude of my kids. Until my kids have completely learned to tune themselves to God, they tune themselves to me. I'm their tuning fork until they learn to make God their tuning fork. Whoever or whatever I tune myself to will be what they tune themselves to.

Well, the piano tuner just finished. I once again have beautiful music resonating from my piano instead of noise. I think I'll go spend some time with God and make sure I'm in tune also.