Category Archives: Faith

Reconcile

Eight years ago I wrote a post on this blog titled How to Say, “I’m Sorry.” The working title was The Anatomy of an Apology and I gave three tips each on how to both give and accept an apology.

Today, I’m thinking, again, about the power of a sincere apology, the beauty of reconciliation, and the part I can play in it all.

Sometimes, in the thick of a hurtful situation, we can’t even believe that reconciliation is a possibility. But, as Christians, we are called to never remove reconciliation from the table.

Right here is where I usually have a moment of pure donkey-like, foot planted, stubbornness in my thought process. I don’t want to be close to some people who have hurt me! They are stinkers who deserve to rot in their horrid, awful, eye-wateringly pungent stinkiness!

(I’m joking about that to a certain degree, but it’s really not a joking matter when you recognize that in some cases you have been looking at manipulative abuse and to allow a person access to your life can be extraordinarily risky.)

So what does reconciliation even entail?

A basic search of the word reconcile reveals its a verb meaning, “to restore friendly relations between.” It can also be “to cause to coexist in harmony; to make or show to be compatible.”

Then there’s this definition, which struck me hard this morning:

“To make (one account) consistent with another, especially by allowing for transactions begun but not yet completed.”

Other definitions are “to settle (a disagreement)” and “to make someone accept (a disagreeable or unwelcome thing).”

I want to go back to this definition of reconcile as consistency and an accounting term because it has the potential for depth.

Accounting is pretty non-emotional (well, except when you can’t figure out why your checkbook is $1.23 off for months on end). Numbers are cut and dried, they represent a certain amount and that’s it.

Numbers are a glimpse at truth.

When we reconcile our accounts, what we’re really saying is that we can all agree that these are the items that came before, and this final answer, it’s real. From that basic starting point we can figure out what to do moving forward without any question about what has gone on previously.

It’s an agreement.

In our storage business, a customer must come in and make sure that there are no outstanding debts on their rental space before they may move out. There’s no antagonism about it, we just make sure the dates they used the space match up and the account is paid. When it’s settled they can walk away freely. We hope they come back as a customer in the future if they ever need storage again, but I have no expectation of them doing anything – our agreement is finished and all is good.

That’s the definition of reconciliation I want to pursue in the stinky situations.

The problem with relationships is that they are often not cut and dry. We are emotional creatures who are easily offended, or enthused, and perceptions filter into our lives and shape our experiences.

A sincere apology is pretty much the only thing that can cancel the emotion of an offense. Time passing certainly helps, but a genuine, “I’m sorry” soothes the soul and creates a consistent balance sheet that can be reconciled.

(I do know the Scripture that says, “love keeps no record of wrongs” and that you might be arguing in your head with me right now about my use of the words “balance sheet” – I’m not done with my thought process, so stick with me for a little longer.)

I’ve been a saying a good number of apologies lately. As I have pondered actions I’ve taken in the past I thought were right at the time, I have realized I was actually unkind and wrong. Uncharitable and lacking in mercy.

I don’t want to be that person. So, as situations have crossed my mind – I believe prompted by the Holy Spirit – I have reached out to folks and asked for forgiveness.

Some have not responded.

But, overwhelmingly, I have received graceful responses from those I’ve contacted. We have left our most recent interactions not necessarily as friends, but friendly. Because the accounts between us have now been settled.

Eight years ago I was delving into this topic with blog posts. I have improved at taking responsibility over time, but I still struggle. Why?

I believe that pridefulness is the number one reason we don’t see apologies all over our world. I believe we each struggle with pridefulness to a crazy degree.

Here’s a reality: it doesn’t hurt us to say “I’m sorry.” There’s no downside to saying it – unless that apology is insincere. Or qualified.

(Here’s an identification clue for an apology that will cause more friction: “I’m sorry… but…” The “but” negated everything you said prior to and is a sign you need to keep working at the problem to figure it out.)

An apology must be informed. It is inappropriate to ask for mercy from someone unless you have articulated and understand the offense that occurred (the consistent balance sheet I was mentioning earlier).

This takes effort and humility, yet it is a process that cannot be glossed over in the interest of just getting the problem solved and moving on to the next thing.

On the flip side, apologies cannot be demanded. We can’t force someone to apologize to us, especially if they don’t believe they’ve done anything wrong.

That knowledge, however, doesn’t take away the need for the apology in order to achieve reconciliation. I believe that is why the Scripture states: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18 It’s not a black and white issue.

Humans are going to mess this process up. So do the best you can with the tools you’ve got to work with right now and keep praying for opportunities to practice and become better.

We do what we can do to live at peace. Sometimes that fails and we walk for a season without reconciliation, trusting that the Holy Spirit will continue to work on the situation and ready for the next opportunity to approach it.

In my current season of begging for forgiveness I’ve reached out to apologize to folks I haven’t spoken to in years. Like I’ve had kids who weren’t born when we talked last and now that same kid is getting their adult molars!

It took me that long to realize I had an account that needed reconciliation.

But when I realized it… I moved. I refuse to let pride, insecurity, or embarrassment stop me from trying to make things right.

That’s all I can do. And that’s all I am asked to do.

If you like this post, feel free to share it (with attribution). Copyright © StealingFaith.com 2010-2019 | All rights reserved

Divisive

There’s been a lot of discussion in my household lately. I’m counting myself fortunate because my husband is an awesome man will put up with me needing to say things out loud until they make sense. He can reason well and is willing to walk down hard conversational roads as we sort through the things we know from Scripture, what we been taught, and what we’ve learned from just plain living.

We talk and talk and talk as we drive to soccer tournaments, as we walk to get the mail together. We talk as we set up a temporary goat barn for our daughter’s 4H projects, as we start the horrendously long process of weeding the garden and prepping it for summer growth. We wrestle through comments that have been made to me lately in person, online, or via text messages. We sort through the ideas and the research. Bless this man and thank you, Lord, for bringing us together!

One comment that keeps coming up in our conversation is that I have been repeatedly called “divisive.”

When I was first called divisive I was truly hurt. “Divisive” has an ugly connotation and I have spent the years being supportive and a builder of programs. It felt like I was maligned and misunderstood.

So my main man and I, we talked about that divisive word. I stewed and pondered. My husband, though, he went straight to Scripture and told me: “Truth is divisive. It’s intended to be that way because deception is often so close to the truth that people get fooled.”

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” Hebrews 4:12, 13

The truth is designed to be divisive. It is not comfortable.

But, I argued with him, aren’t we also called to live at peace with other believers when at all possible?

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” Romans 12: 18, 19

“Are you trying to take revenge? Or are you trying to identify and reveal truth?’ he asked me.

Yesterday I wrote a blog post about the amount of liability that I and my friends have taken on in pursuit of serving a community of home educators. One friend texted me, “I just read the post about Liability and I think I pooped my pants a little. How did I not know this was a thing?!” Another person messaged me and said, “Please, you need to stop posting all of this dirty laundry. It’s divisive and unbecoming of a Christian, you’re only making yourself look bad.”

Here’s the deal. I haven’t been at the table with the main decision makers to discuss the nuances of specific policies and how they play out within liability and such. So I might very well be wrong! If I’m wrong, I’m not at all scared to say I’ve messed up and do everything in my power to correct it.

But what I can say is that when things are hidden, when there are half truths or not the full story, it is a sign of deception. Deception is not a tool of the Holy Spirit and half-truths insult the listener as much as a full on intentional lie.

Deception is designed to be comfortable and alluring. It poo-poos concerns and casts aspersions on the character and sanity of the one asking questions.

I live in an area where there are cults everywhere. I grew up literally three houses down from a cult that believes in communal living and that their leader has been reincarnated throughout the ages as various famous people from Alexander the Great to the Apostle Paul. These folks show up at every garage sale in the neighborhood.

My hometown is filled with folks who drop by in droves to have their aura read, visit the vortex, and check their produce in the grocery store with magical crystals to be certain their energy is in alignment.

You think I’m kidding. I’m really not.

So perhaps because of growing up in an area clearly rife with people who have been deceived, maybe I’m a little more comfortable with trying to discern truth and taking the time to sort through the marketing ploys to find the kernels of real. I don’t know.

But I do know I have intentionally chosen the classical model so that my children and I can learn how to ask hard questions in pursuit of the Truth and wrestle with big ideas. To do less than that is to refuse to utilize all of the tools the Lord has given us.

In the past few weeks, my intent in speaking up is not to do anything except reveal what has been explained to me as a half truth and figure out the whole truth. I’m not trying to be divisive or destructive.

(If you went and talked to any of my previous employers you would find I have a track record of trying to preserve the current establishment and fix the problems rather than tear everything down and start from scratch.)

(I guess you could say I’m better at a remodel than a new build.)

(They also would say that I’m a really difficult person to manage because I ask a lot of questions so that I understand the why of something. Once I understand the why, however, I’m extraordinarily loyal.)

(And because I know this is a question from the naysayers, I tried to speak to people privately. Yes. Repeatedly. Without success in the last year because people were too busy. And, honestly, probably with less success now because I’m being labeled a “tool of Satan” and “contentious.”)

So be it.

When I’m told that I just don’t understand the whole story, in the absence of any other details, it’s in my nature to attempt to figure out the whole story using the tools I have at my disposal. I am trained as a journalist. I learned how to research and use public records. I investigate, I interview, I try to connect the dots and figure out the timelines because I know that we rarely experience events in isolation.

When that investigation results in new information that I hadn’t realized – common practices put my family at risk and that I have personally promoted over the years… I feel compelled to share with others that this is a THING so that they can learn from my mistakes.

That is a working result of repentance.

That is loving my neighbors as myself.

And, when that comes out in opposition to others, it feels really divisive. I get that and I’m genuinely sorry for “rattling the gates of Hell” as one person sent me in a message.

But here’s the deal: Would you rather be uncomfortable and have wisdom? Or comfortable and at risk?

If you like this post, feel free to share it (with attribution). Copyright © StealingFaith.com 2010-2019 | All rights reserved

What God Can Do With Leftovers

Yesterday was Mother’s Day and I saw a flood of recognition everywhere I went – the grocery store, social media, in restaurants packed with families, even at the soccer fields we were haunting the players gave their mothers roses at the end of the game in recognition of their status and sacrifice.

Moms matter.

Isn’t it funny, then, that Moms often feel invisible?

That Moms often feel inadequate?

My sister, who is very wise, once stopped me mid-pity party and said,

“You know, there is no ONE way to be a perfect mother. But there are THOUSANDS of ways to be a good mother.”

She is so right! Within our Pinterest world and desire to sanitize the mess of living, we forget that life, lived to its fullest, is often messy. It’s far from perfect, and that all of us wear multitudes of hats and are stretched in different directions every single day.

The mom of three that I sat next to during the soccer games this weekend? She works full time. She’s taking college classes to earn an accounting degree and just turned in her last final. And her kitchen sink sprang a leak that caused extensive damage so she’s had to do dishes in the bathroom sink for weeks while they make the repairs.

She feels guilty that she’s not giving her all to every area of her life. That the leftovers of time and energy are inadequate and she’s failing.

I don’t see that at all. I’m seeing that she’s supportive and showing resilience and dedication to following through on commitments she’s made.

If you consider that each responsibility she has is a main dish at a dinner table, I applaud that she has been able to do a lot of managing life and pulling it together with the leftovers from those dishes!

For those who are pursuing Christianity, we always talk about putting things in the proper order. Mary Kay Ash had a motto that it should always be “God, Family, Work,” in that order.

By capitalizing on that philosophy, Mary Kay was able to take the leftovers of women’s everyday lives and build a multi-million dollar company and pass out pink Cadillacs.

(I personally lived in a home during college that had pink bathroom counters so the Mary Kay products would match better. Dude – you know you have arrived when people make their bathroom countertop decisions based on how it will match your toiletry products.)

My point is that maybe moms should be a little kinder and gentler to themselves. Instead of pushing for perfection and being the super mom, let’s move toward being a mom who puts the priorities in order, then dedicates the leftover energy and enthusiasm to whatever God calls us to do for this season.

There are success stories everywhere that reveal what can be done with the leftover bits of time and energy that are dedicated to an ordained purpose.

A home education company built on mainly women who served with the bits of time and energy leftover from caring for their families has become the “Walmart of education.”

The book that was written in increments while caring for a newborn and managing grief.

The man who was crippled and chose to train his body by just consistently showing up one day after another.

The community garden that is grown by pulling weeds every day after work and ends up changing the landscape of an area.

Even when we can’t focus as thoroughly as the perfectionist in us would like, our leftovers are valuable and shouldn’t be discarded. First fruits belong to God. But so do second and third fruits. He’s creative and will enhance your efforts in a special way.

So do something with the leftovers – they can change the world if you let them!

What has been accomplished through the dedication of YOUR leftovers? Let us know in the comments!

If you like this post, feel free to share it (with attribution). Copyright © StealingFaith.com 2010-2019 | All rights reserved

Stewarding Batman & Silencing Fear

I let my kid go to the feed store dressed as Batman two days ago.

He’s old enough to know better.

People were staring. All the rancher-types we ran into, the ones who wear boots that have been worn hard and who have creases at the corners of their eyes from squinting, they looked twice, looked at me, and then kind of smiled.

Yesterday, the same kid wore six shirts.

I asked him, “Why?”

He answered, “It just felt right to me.”

I said, “Ok, I get that. But can you please not put the sandwich shirts, the four in the middle, into the laundry? When you get done with them, fold them and put them back in your drawer because they aren’t dirty.”

“Sure, mama!” he answered. And he did.

A few years ago our family attended a rabbit conference. Yep, those are a thing. You get with a whole bunch of other people who want to breed and raise rabbits that fit the show standards of one of the 49 distinct breeds of domestic rabbits in the US, it smells like hay and there are people holding rabbits everywhere, waiting to put their special competitor on the table for the judge to assess.

We spent time in the showroom with people we only know because of a shared affection for the lagomorph.

“I’ve never met a family quite like yours before,” said a fellow bunny lover.

“Oh no!” I said. “That could go in a lot of different ways. What do you mean? Have we scared you? Should I apologize? What did the kids say?!”

“No, it’s not that at all,” she said. “Each of your kids has a really distinct personality and it is given the space to exist within the family. I’ve never seen that before.”

Space to exist. Hm.

Friends, I can’t explain why I write the things I write. I’ve taken an almost-four year break from blogging and now I’m back at the daily posts. I don’t know if/when I will go back to my previously-typical posts about parenting, education, and the most bizarre news stories of the moment.

I don’t even have a true writing “process.” I usually sit down at the computer and just let my fingers start going. I wish I would plan. I see the kids doing key word outlines and ANI charts and I know that’s a logical and time saving way of writing. That my writing (and maybe my typo issues) would improve if I would do that a little.

But, so far it’s just not me. And I’m trying to do me, well. So I just sit down and write from the heart.

This morning, my heart is telling me two things:

One: Stewardship of persons is hard. This is not like hoarding all the marshmallows out of the Lucky Charms box so you can eat them at once and enjoy their plasticy goodness. It’s not like throwing kernels of corn to the chickens, scattering them wildly to the wind.

Stewardship of persons, these little children, image-bearers of the Lord… stewardship of persons, to me, means giving the entities space to grow and bloom.

This counts for all relationships (although parenting is often most present on my mind these days). Marriages, friendships, co-workers, the cashier at Walmart… Persons need space to be able to be themselves, authentically loved even when they’re messy, inconvenient, different from us, and maybe even sometimes a little embarrassing (a la my tiny Batman at the feed store).

If I can love my husband well enough to encourage him to follow his passions – even if they aren’t my own – I’m stewarding a gift (my husband) that actually belongs to God and I only set my hands to for a life season. So I tend my marriage in a faulty but whole way, as best I can, with the best tools I have available each day.

If I can choose which battles to fight with these children, allow them the space to explore and create and test within a boundary that doesn’t allow them to forget the importance of community – I’m tending to my parenting. I will do it only adequately, many days. But I will continue to get up each day and make an effort to improve, because this is the job God has given to me for this life season and practice makes progress.

Our oldest is into goats right now. We have a milk goat I will help her tend in about three minutes, gently coaxing milk into a Tupperware bowl that matches the exact same bowl my father used to milk our goats growing up. The wild cats from the neighborhood have started showing up in our yard in 12-hour intervals, hoping for some milk to be spilled so they can lap it up enthusiastically.

The kids hope to tame those cats because they know I’ll never ok an intentional cat adoption around here. My allergies are too strong and I remember too clearly the demon cat of my childhood. I don’t know if these cats will ever be friendly to us but for the kids, hope springs eternal. I give the cats extra milk because it pleases me to see trust developing. It makes me think about trust in relationships to watch those cats. I see God’s fingerprint on their creation.

We tend to those we care about. We steward things that matter. If they don’t matter, there is no need to cultivate them.

“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Romans 15:7

The second thought on my mind this morning: Fear is not of the Lord.

I am an anxious person. I don’t know that I have always been anxious, but in recent memory I have discovered that my ability to analyze and process things can cause paralysis. It seems I have to embrace the results of the worst case scenario before I can make a decision for action.

I second guess. I try to think of all angles. I try to extend grace and stay silent until I cannot NOT say something. And then I feel guilty for speaking, like my voice is not worthy to be heard. Like silence is the best policy.

As though the spirit of growth and space I actively cultivate in our home with the kids doesn’t apply to me. In our house, If the idea is not destructive and doesn’t involve glitter, we typically give it a shot. I struggle to offer that same openness to myself.

Fear, Anxiety. They are not the tools of the Holy Spirit and if I don’t call them by name and tell them, “STOP IT!” they can consume me. I must change this and support my gut, my “Spidey-sense” that is prompted by the Holy Spirit, with measured fervor. Fear is a silencer.

“God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.” Psalm 46:2-3

“…being fully assured that what God has promised, He was able also to perform.” Romans 4:21

So, in sum, I ask you, if you’re the praying type and still with me on this rambling journey, please pray for me.

Pray for words that should be written, that the Holy Spirit would whisper to my heart and give me the boldness to speak Truth into the lives of anyone who stumbles by this blog. Truth that isn’t about any one organization or thought process, but about this living of life, of ways we can do it better, and in a more wholesome and holy manner.

“‘And every day, the world will drag you by the hand, yelling, “This is important! And this is important! And this is important! You need to worry about this! And this! And this!’ And each day, it’s up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your heart and say, ‘No. This is what’s important.'” – Iain Thomas

If you like this post, feel free to share it (with attribution). Copyright © StealingFaith.com 2010-2019 | All rights reserved

My Community is Closing – Now what?

Last week I heard of another community in our area closing.

With this particular community, the church is booting them from the building because renting space to a for-profit entity puts the church’s property tax exemption at risk in their county.

The whole adventure caused the Director to take a hard look at her own licensing agreement and she realized she was carrying complete liability as a sole proprietor for the community and, after prayer, she and her husband decided that the risk was too high for them to bear. No one else is willing to be the liable, sacrificial lamb for the community, and just like, a snap of the fingers, and a full community of folks is without a direction for the next year.

See, the tricky thing about relationships – many of us find our communities extremely valuable and just plain like them! Many are loyal to the leadership that exists and, after realizing that our financial involvement puts their family in a precarious position with liability… we just don’t want to wish that uncertainty upon the people we care about.

That’s a reason why relationships matter.

Some folks might think that the answer to a community closing is to just close up shop, run away to suck their thumb, and grieve for the good ‘ol days.

Hold that thought. There might be a better way…

Ya’ll, you realize that there are communities of homeschoolers meeting all over the country who don’t place an insane amount of liability on one individual?

Ya’ll realize that there are people who are able to locally govern themselves and have accountability, community, and academic rigor?

Friends! Groups of people meeting in community to educate together are not a proprietary issue!

If you’ve been in a community and love it, you don’t have to stop.

But it will take work. It will take thoughtfulness, and it will require your core group to jump through hoops.

So the questions you really need to ask yourself:

  • Is this what God is calling me to do?
  • Do I do hard things?
  • Does my life have the margin to move from consumer in this area to provider?
  • Who’s willing to journey with me?

(Realize, your previous Director(s) might be very quiet about the whole topic for awhile and they likely won’t take a leadership role. That’s because they are under a non-compete clause of their previous licensing agreement and even though those have been proven to be pretty much unenforceable in court, chances are good they’re trying to “do the right thing” by their previous position. That’s a reason you like them. Keep them informed of your activities.)

“For the sole true end of education is simply this: to teach men how to learn for themselves…”

Dorothy Sayers, “Lost Tools of Learning” (1947)

The lovely thing about the classical model that many folks in communities have been experiencing, and that the natural tendencies of home educators is to look beyond what is easily provided for them, is that no topic is unapproachable to you! You have all the skills needed to approach this lack of community problem, tackle it methodically, and find success!

Here are a few options to get you started in the right direction:

Lost Tools of Learning. Dorothy Sayers’ lecture on the Lost Tools of Learning is fabulous. Many people have heard of it but fewer have actually read it. Stop. Take a moment and read it. You won’t be sorry.

Homeschool CPA. Carol Topp has created a website, books, and workshops that are invaluable to a group wanting to figure out how to create a legally compliant organization that doesn’t place any member in a precarious position. She is available for consultations as well. I bought my first book from her three years ago and now I have three of them as well as a workshop… her blog posts over the years have helped me realize items where I can adjust and lead well.

Jamie Buckland – Classical Program Consultant. Jamie Buckland has opened her services to the public since the beginning of this year and what she has to offer is valuable and helpful for those trying to find their own way to a homeschool community. She offers workshops, consultations, and her desire is to help folks cut through the chase and focus on the main priorities of your home education endeavor.

Do any of you have other resources you would add to this list? Please leave it in the comments!

If you like this post, feel free to share it (with attribution). Copyright © StealingFaith.com 2010-2019 | All rights reserved

Gaslighting – What is it?

There’s a term that has emerged into my awareness in recent years called “gaslighting.” I have used it lately and had people look at me with questioning eyes, so it seems worth a discussion of the definition!

The definition of gaslighting is: to manipulate someone by psychological means into questioning their own sanity. “‘Gaslighting’ is used to describe abusive behavior, specifically when an abuser manipulates information in such a way as to make a victim question his or her own sanity. Gaslighting intentionally makes someone doubt their memories or perception of reality.” (PRI)

Gaslighting is a tricky concept, and it absolutely takes advantage of the one who is trying to be a people pleaser. It can be a tool used to silence discussion, to rebuild a shared history into a more favorable final outcome, and to assert superiority of one person over another.

An example of gaslighting from my experience:

CC has never expected folks to travel more than 100 miles to practicums or community visits, etc. I know this because I’ve served in a huge geographical territory and this is a staple of what we talk about to leaders. However, when I pushed back on current leadership about requiring tutors to attend a practicum after the location was moved to 100+ miles away from their home, I was told that rule never existed.

It took me texting folks who have been serving in large territories and asking them, “This is a thing, right? I didn’t make it up?” and much research to discover that the 100 mile expectation is clearly stated in the Family Covenant that each family signs. Triumphant, I said – “This is a thing! I promise, I’m not crazy!” at which point the team leadership told me that the stricture only applied to families, whereas tutors were called to a higher standard. That I was still crazy for not recognizing this.

But… tutors who are independent contractors are held to a lesser standard by law in our state and should not be expected to attend any training whatsoever – they should be contracted because they already possess the skill set needed to fulfill the job!

That’s gaslighting.

I was led to believe that I was making up a common practice and a little insane – or contrary – or causing confusion – so the leadership could put all of the responsibility for all of the conflict onto my own shoulders. But I never initiated the conflict; I only got involved when the appropriate boundaries were overstepped and it threatened the lawful operation of my community… and yet I walked away from the conversations questioning if I was the problem.

That’s gaslighting.

When an organization changes its practices regularly, it lends itself to situations where gaslighting can occur easily. When an organization preaches humility to it’s leadership – which is a good thing – it lends itself to difficulty thinking a differing opinion is allowed to exist. When leaders speak down to you, or tell you that you just don’t understand from the correct perspective – without giving you the tools to see it from “the right perspective” – it sets up an unhealthy, abusive relationship.

Goodness gracious – I sat for years on situations that made me uncomfortable because I refused to say anything just in case it was a preference issue instead of a sin issue! There is so much gray in this world and I don’t want to be a destroyer – I want to build things up!

Repeatedly, almost as a mantra, I have spent this spring saying, “I have common sense. I use good judgement, I am a leader with integrity, I am not overreacting,” because the folks above me were telling me that by speaking up, by going to bat for my tutors and community, I was subversive, unsubmissive, acting like a spoiled child who wasn’t getting their way, and divisive. (And don’t let me get started on what my husband thinks about the manipulative assault he saw taking place on my character and self-perception over this!)

THIS IS GASLIGHTING.

“Gaslighting is an insidious act that makes the victim doubt and mistrust what they think, experience, or feel. In short, it’s a brilliantly brutal way of messing with someone’s mind.” (The Date Mix)

Here are some suggestions to help you if you’ve been gaslighted:

Don’t Waffle.

If you’ve made a decision, stand by it. Yes, you could be wrong – so what are the consequences if you’ve messed up? Can you live with them? Yes? Then stand by your decision. Test your decision with writing a list. Research your decision. Then, even if it’s a gray area, STAND.

Keep a Record.

May I just say that it might be wise to figure out how to record your conflict conversations? (Obviously, don’t break your state law here. But, in all but 11 states, federal law allows for one-party consent, enabling you to record a conversation in person or over the phone, if you are a participant in the conversation.)

Recording your calls allows you to go back later and actually know what was said. It has been a wonderful antidote to “I never said that,” when I can say, “Actually, you did say that – it’s a direct quote from this conversation right here.” Since gaslighting techniques prey on making you believe you’re misunderstanding, actually knowing what was said has a liberating affect on the whole resolution process.

(And yes, I do realize how messed up it is that I’m saying you should record conversations within a Christian organization in order to ensure truthful statements….)

Confide in a Trusted Support System.

You need to have someone who can help you see reason and logic. This is not gossip, this is survival. You don’t necessarily need a dozen people to help you see truth, but you do need one or maybe two folks who can help you walk through these issues. They don’t even have to be a part of the organization! Try a parent, a friend, a spouse, a sibling, or even a therapist. Have someone who is willing to listen to you sort stuff the tangled issues – isolation is a key technique to making sure you stay confused and doubtful of your own convictions.

Disengage.

The time might come for you to give up. I know the fighter in you recoils when you read that! But you can honor the call for unity within the body of Christ without being in constant, daily relationship with another. Sometimes the best choice is to make a clean break and walk.

How do you know when enough is enough? “If your partner genuinely wants to change, then they’ll acknowledge their part, apologize for any wrongdoing, and want to work on the relationship, which will be evident to you… [but] the sad truth is that your abuser may never realize or admit what they were doing – mostly because they don’t think they’re doing anything wrong.” (Brianne Hogan)

Your healthiest choice might very well be to walk away and let them just simmer in their wrongy-wrongness, especially if there is no acknowledgement that they can see anything from your perspective.

Don’t Blame Yourself.

“Logic and reasoning don’t work with a gaslighter. While things might never make sense to you, that doesn’t mean you should shoulder the blame.” (Brianne Hogan) For those who are genuinely wanting to come at conflict from a consensus based approach, who are trying to avoid pridefulness, it can be really hard to not look around and take the blame for things going wrong on your own shoulders.

Yes, there are likely things you could have done better – but that’s the human experience and it’s part of learning! If things go badly for the other party (or if the organization fails), there needs to be reckoning on their part for the role they played through subterfuge, tricky wording, and guilted expectations. Their failure is not your fault for saying, “No, I refuse to be used anymore.” Your stand for logic and reasoning is actually a sign of health, strength, and beauty.

Recognizing gaslighting is hard, but it’s also really hard to acknowledge that you’ve been the victim of the techniques. I’m so sorry if you have experienced this! I know that I’m continuing to work through my own experiences with gaslighting – calling a spade a spade is part of my healing process.

Do you have experiences you realize were ultimately gaslighting techniques? I’d love to hear in the comments, as well as how you’ve found healing!

If you like this post, feel free to share it (with attribution). Copyright © StealingFaith.com 2010-2019 | All rights reserved

“Can I Still Be In Leadership?”

Updated 5/13/19: I’ve been doing a lot of research and am on a major learning curve about how business practices have been conducted within this organization. Situations have been brought to light that are not regional and cross the board into the various roles that place a significant amount of liability on individuals who, in general, I do not believe are prepared to accept that risk. Everyone should do their own research but I can no longer support with my original assessment that it depends on the area and individual situation. I cannot recommend stepping into leadership or staying in leadership unless there is a MAJOR overhaul of the current setup.

UPDATED 5/7/19: I was contacted by someone who read this post and was shocked that I would write anyone could still lead within the organization. “I’m not trying to argue,” she wrote, “I’m genuinely baffled by the whole situation. I don’t see any way for someone to direct, at least at a F/E community, in a way that is compliant with CC without violating some code somewhere… and SRs and ARs are given the task of recruiting those directors…” As we teased through her concerns it became clear that she, in a different area of the country, has experienced expectations and mandates that were different from my area. In her case, her assessment is spot on. So, as you read this, realize that what I assessed as “sketchy but doable” in my area is not possible to do with compliance to federal laws in a different geographical area with different leadership expectations.

I was contacted by someone this morning who is aware of our, ahem, recent homeschooling change of direction, and she asked a really simple question:

“Based on what you know, can I still be in leadership? Can anyone?”

My answer, unequivocally? YES. NO

You see, I categorize things into sin issues and preference issues. I can see preference issues all over the place but I don’t have to act on them. But if something turns into a sin issue, I believe that according to James 4:17, you simply cannot sit by and do or say nothing.

What has moved me from just fading away into silence has been that I see sin issues – but I also am realistic and rational enough to see that these sin issues might not affect everyone in the organization!

Can you still serve in leadership? Absolutely. Should you still serve in leadership? Only you can decide based on your personal situation. Only if you have thoroughly vetted the contract and feel comfortable with the enormous amount of liability you sign up for with the contracts.

I have a sort of pro/con list that I wrote out of points of contention I have identified. There are 13 items on that list that are active, current issues that have crossed the line into sin (in my assessment) because of unlawfulness in their enactment or abusiveness from a relational perspective.

Of those, six of them are items that land on the sin of abuse of power in my state that might not be transferable to other states or leadership structures.

Then, the corporate body has their fingers in 11 of the items (yes, there is some overlap) from a corporate philosophy, lack of transparency regarding liability, or lack of communication standpoint.

So, yes, I believe there are significant items. I believe there are things that need to be addressed by both every leader through self-scrutiny and by the organizational structure through change of policy.

The issues that drew the line in the sand for our family are transferable to other areas but not blanket for other locations. I do believe they could be resolved with integrity a major overhaul of the existing structure.

These are things that can be managed by someone who is willing to do the extra legwork and take on the mantle that their involvement is with a business, not a ministry! (Yes, ministry is often a byproduct, but that’s not the main goal.)

(But, let’s just take a moment to point out that a Matthew 18 conflict resolution philosophy and PERPL only work if people are willing to talk to you. I’ve only had success reaching out to two of the five people who were in my team line… over the course of 10 months.)

But see, friends, after going through all of this and the sorting through sin versus preference, following through with Matthew 18 conversations that don’t actually resolve the issues… I am weary. I don’t want to be the clingy girlfriend in a relationship that will never work out. I don’t want to be the dog that goes back to its own vomit.

The sin issues make me furious. The multitude of preference issues make me weary. In my weariness, I now trust that God has moved our family away from anything involving corporate oversight in our homeschool. Our goal initially in participating in this organization was for it to make it easier to home school – that’s not what it looked like for us at the end.

That doesn’t mean that leaving is the right decision for everybody.

One person who is precious to me is in the process of pursing a Director role in another state right now. I’m excited for her! She’s looking into this because of being introduced to it by my family and I wish her well!

But I told her that she cannot skip the step of talking to her accountant and seeing an attorney to be certain that her family is protected in a worst case scenario. (Bring the contract!)

(The corporate organization has been recommending this forever! It’s just that the team support has not pushed it, not emphasized how important it is in far too many cases. Community members largely have no idea how much liability is taken on by the Directors.)

My recommendation is that anyone look carefully at the legal aspects of what they have signed and the liability that comes with that signature. (In retrospect I would never, ever sign anything as a sole proprietor again, the risk to my family of the what if is far too great.)

If you’re in middle management, carefully tread the line of what expectations you can have of your folks that are actually permissible by law versus what is expected by the organization as “best practice” and clearly articulate those things to those you oversee. Be really cautious using the word “required” in almost every circumstance.

Contact the officials of your area to explore the tax implications of for-profit classified businesses being hosted by non-profit entities. There may be NO ISSUE in your area because this is decided locally, but you won’t know unless you ask.

And finally, but really primarily and throughout every single bit of this, pray, pray, pray. There is sometimes a large gap between what you could do and what you should do. Only God through the discernment provided by the Holy Spirit will be able to guide into what’s right and accurate for your family.

If you like this post, feel free to share it (with attribution). Copyright © StealingFaith.com 2010-2019 | All rights reserved

Mountain, MOVE!

You have been assigned this mountain to show others it can be moved.
“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to the mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20

I was up at 2am. I’ve been doing this lately, up in the middle of the night, stomach churning, filled with thoughts about the future and analyzing past conversations. I’ve even broken out into stress hives across my forearms, which is a new condition I find totally lacking in charm.

It’s safe to say, “I’ve had a lot on my mind.”

In the wee hours of the morning, I ruminate on the future, filled with self-doubt about whether we can do this homeschooling thing now that our path forward isn’t as clear as it used to be.

It’s like when we go bowling with the kids and they have those nifty rails that make it so kids can’t throw a gutter ball… well, now the rails have been put down off of our homeschooling and I’m staring at a potential strike… or a terrifying gutter ball as we continue moving forward.

It eats at me. I pray it away, I throw logic at it, but it’s a persistent attack. It is a voice of shame (why didn’t I see this coming?), fear (my kids are going to end up in a box down by the river), and insecurity (what if I choose the wrong path?).

Eventually last night I sorted through the thoughts enough to find peace and headed back to bed. When I got up at my normal time this morning I saw a friend had posted a quote that hit me like an arrow through the heart:

“You have been assigned this mountain to show others it can be moved.”

Guys, this “educating our children” thing is a big, freakin’ mountain. It’s a calling, an effort of insanity, filled with twists and turns, highs and lows, moments that take your breath straight away, and experiences that leave you crying in the shower. It’s all the things.

(And that’s only with one child. Throw multiple children in there and you’ve got a stinkin’ mountain range!)

This is overwhelming heart and soul work and it leaves so many opportunities for us to be assaulted by voices of insecurity. But let’s pull back for a minute and remember the main life principles:

God has called us to train our children to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength and their neighbor as themselves.

God calls us to homeschooling. He’s not in the business of calling us into an effort that is impossible or that He will not sustain us through. That would be sneaky and misleading – but deception is NOT an attribute of God. He’s called us to it and He will see us through it.

We’re on a winning path.

Take a look at this article (the statistics shocked me so much!): Educational Fraud Continues.

  • Only 37% of 12th graders tested proficient or better in reading. (17% of black students.)
  • Only 25% of 12th graders tested proficient or better in math. (7% of black students.)

“It’s grossly dishonest for the education establishment and politicians to boast about unprecedented graduation rates when the high school diplomas, for the most part, do not represent academic achievement. At best they certify attendance.”

Friends. Our alternative to homeschooling is not working right now. It’s dismal. Yes, we know that there are students getting well rounded educations in the public school system, but that is clearly NOT the majority. The odds are in ever favor of homeschooling being successful.

All you have to do is show up and try.

You know what? I can do that. So can you.

“Hey, Mountain! I’ve got this mustard seed and it’s labeled Show Up and Try!”

And I’ve got this God who promises, “I will sustain you, I will illuminate your path and make it straight” and when He talks, He’s trustworthy and things get done!

MOVE IT, MOUNTAIN.

One last thought that has literally brought me to tears this morning is a piece of advice from a super smart and encouraging friend:

“The Holy Spirit will convict you, but the tools of conviction are NEVER fear and shame.”

Get thee behind me insecurity, fear, and shame! I know your master and it’s not the same as mine. My Daddy can beat your Daddy up.

“You have been assigned this mountain to show others it can be moved.”

It’s going to be ok. Go do your work.

If you like this post, feel free to share it (with attribution). Copyright © StealingFaith.com 2010-2019 | All rights reserved

Homeschool Idol

I have the smartest friends ever, ya’ll.

Last night I had a friend over for dinner. She and I have been in the thick of it together with everything – we have a photo of our babies together on a blanket before they could walk, and a photo of our babies together on the first day of Challenge A. I mean, we have been through all of it together, including the decision to leave CC.

You know, it’s actually all her fault that we’ve left.

(Not really, I’m just saying that because I like to be sassy. It’s actually the fault of poor team leadership, an expectation of blind loyalty and illogical decisions in the face of complete over reach of roles… to name a few things. But she was the one who realized before me that I could no longer choose the good of protecting and maintaining our community over the liability risk to my family.)

At that time I was wallowing back and forth in indecision she looked at me and said, “Could you lead an Information Meeting right now?”

Her question… it broke my heart, because the IM is the thing I have loved doing sooo very much over the years. Yet I realized that now, having actually read my contract and seeing the way things are playing out in our state and across the country, I couldn’t in good conscience recruit anyone else to travel on this vehicle through the homeschooling journey. So the decision was made. Road Closed, Detour Ahead.

Well, last night she did it again.

Right in the middle of chowing down a piece of pizza and the chaos of children swirling around, our husbands watching a video clip of Derek Zoolander’s School for Kids Who Don’t Read Good (and who wanna learn to do other stuff good too)(and they think that’s a prime name for our homeschool, by the way), she dropped a truth bomb:

“All this time I’ve been saying I couldn’t homeschool without CC. What I should have been saying is I couldn’t homeschool without GOD.”

She stuck her fingers right into the middle of why this has been a gut-wrenching decision. We’ve been putting an organization in the center of what should be a holy endeavor.

We know better.

It’s not like I haven’t already heard this “making CC an idol” idea:

  • Brandy from Half a Hundred Acre Wood identified it when she came out that their family was stepping away from Classical Conversations.  She writes, “[CC] had become an idol in our lives… we had poured so much of ourselves into the program that it was drawing us away from each other and away from God… we kept blindly following a system instead of listening to God’s leading…”
  • I’ve spoken to leaders and told them, “You should never sacrifice your family on the altar of CC.”
  • I’ve literally told parents at practicums, “CC is not a church, it’s not a religion, just a tool to help us frame our home education journey.”

And then, God forgive me, I’ve behaved differently in my own home. I’ve been an idol worshipper.

Thank goodness we have time for a course correction! Let’s make it count!

Recently another of my friends told me that this departure from CC has made her question everything she thought she knew about homeschooling. (They jumped into CC from the very beginning of their home education journey.)

“I met you at the Info Meeting and I fell in love with Classical Conversations. We committed that this is what we’d do through high school and didn’t have any doubts,” she said. “But now, I’m realizing that it’s like I moved to a new town named Homeschool and never got to know any of my neighbors. I need to know my neighbors to know what to do next.”

If you’re wanting to get to know your “neighbors,” the blog post is very detailed regarding the seven popular types of educational models: Homeschooling: Which Model Is Right For You?

Remember – you can choose something besides classical and the homeschooling police won’t come after you.

The last thing I want to say today is something I’ve forgotten in my time supporting and pursuing CC: God doesn’t actually tell us whether to homeschool or not, or what educational model to use… He tells us to teach our kids to:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.

Don’t let anything get in the way of the priority of God in your life. And if you have… make it right as quickly as you can.

If you like this post, feel free to share it (with attribution). Copyright © StealingFaith.com 2010-2019 | All rights reserved

Eager Anticipation

We can Eagerly Anticipate the way God is about to work through our fear of change.

This summer I was down in the dumps. I had a lot weighing on my mind and then one thing after another happened: our house required major work to be done, our CC community was having difficulty filling all of the Challenge level spots, after months of warning signs my health finally took a nosedive so dramatically I had to get professional help, and, of course, it was crunch time for 4H involvement and the upcoming county fair.

During this time I attended the birthday party of a childhood friend. While there I ran into another friend I rarely see and while we were catching up she related some heavy events from her life. Then said some words that I think will be with me forever:

“Our life had so many burdens on it I knew without a doubt it was impossible for me to manage. So I stopped trying. I started telling God, ‘I eagerly anticipate the way You are about to show Yourself to be Big and Faithful and True and Loving’… and you know what? HE DID.

We are in the midst of a major life change in our homeschool since we have made the decision to separate from Classical Conversations. I know that for some folks this probably sounds very melodramatic to be fretting and crying over whether to participate in a tuition program (I’ve never heard of anyone freaking out like this over leaving AWANA or their gymnastics gym!) but, man, it’s been a BIG deal for us. It’s all we’ve ever known for our homeschool. We’ve loved it tremendously… and now we know that God has moved us away.

I’m going back to things I know to be true from other seasons of life and thought I’d share them with you in case you’re spinning as much as yours truly. For any life altering, directionally changing decision you might be considering:

First, you can EAGERLY ANTICIPATE the way God is about to show up for you.

So many times God works before us in ways we would literally have never imagined. He’s got this. He’s also completely trustworthy! (He is literally the definition of trustworthy, so we should probably pay attention to that.) We know that He has our best interests at heart – not necessarily to help us know how to homeschool next year (I mean, maybe, but who knows?) but to set us up for situations that draw us closer to HIM and give us opportunities to praise Him for His faithfulness and greatness. Dude. That’s a big deal. Homeschooling will fall in line because the big rocks are already present.

Second, you will never change things until the pain of staying the same outweighs the pain of change.

Change is uncomfortable, painful, and messy. We like our habits; we like our predictability. Yes, a few of us have enthusiasm for change, but the vast majority of us are really comforted by stability and patterns. So what does that mean in a season of turmoil? We won’t change unless we must change. We shouldn’t take our grief over change as a sign that we shouldn’t move… instead we should accept that grief as natural, embrace it as proof we’re humans, and move forward in eager anticipation.

Third, expect the pain of loss of the relationship to take about half as long as the relationship endured.

I used this rule of thumb all the time when I worked with college students who were going through a breakup. When you break up with someone, it’s difficult! Expect that there will be moments of depression and railing against reality and just ickiness for about half as long as your relationship lasted. (For example, if you dated someone for six months, you’re probably on about a three month recovery process before you realize one day you haven’t thought about them or wailed while singing All by Myself.) In my particular situation of grieving right now, I was a part of this homeschool organization for eight years. Probably about four years from now I’ll be able to look back at our involvement and not feel like someone’s poking a bruise. Until then, it’s ok to be sad and wish I had more answers. But… in the fullness of time… it will work itself out.

The Plan

If you, like me, are in a season right now that has been proceeded by uncertainty and dread, stop and pray. Put your copy of the Well Trained Mind Aside and sit quietly with the Lord.

  1. Spend some time reminding yourself of how very much He loves you and how trustworthy He is (I love following along in Beth Moore’s Praying God’s Word books for this!).
  2. Petition Him with your concerns and worries because He’s waiting and willing to respond (Cast all your cares on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7).
  3. Pull out a piece of paper, date it, and start writing down your stresses and hopes and dreams – dump it all out and then simply say, “I eagerly anticipate seeing the way this is going to work out.” THEN PUT YOUR LIST AWAY FOR AT LEAST A WEEK (more if you can stand it).
  4. When time has passed, bring out your list and spend time in amazement at the way He has worked in your life (The LORD will fight for you, you need only to be still. Exodus 14:14).

In the meantime, know that you’re not alone. God’s got this and His hands are much better than anyone else’s!

If you like this post, feel free to share it (with attribution). Copyright © StealingFaith.com 2010-2019 | All rights reserved
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