Sunday, May 27, 2012

On my daughter's graduation...

In the summer of 2000, Dan and I took a step of faith and chose to homeschool our daughter, Katie.  Many people (including myself sometimes) thought we were crazy.  We didn't know anyone else who homeschooled.  We didn't know how to homeschool.  All we knew was that God through many ways and circumstances clearly showed us that it was His desire that we keep Katie at home for her education.

I thought we might homeschool through fourth or fifth grade.  Certainly we would send her to school before I had to teach her anything nasty like algebra.  

Fast forward eleven years, and the Krabel Academy has its first graduating senior.

Until last year, Katie planned to study music at EIU.  She is incredibly talented, and would have likely had a good shot at a scholarship.  She played in the orchestra there for the last three years and loved the experience.  However, last summer she began to sense that God might be calling her in a different direction.  She decided to attend Ellerslie, a mission training school in Colorado.  Then in January, she went to Haiti, and since then her heart's desire has been to return to Haiti for a season of full-time missionary service.

It seems surreal to me that Katie is old enough to be graduating, to be leaving for school in Colorado this fall.  I am so proud of the woman she has grown into, so proud of the choices and plans she is making, but at the same time, my heart is breaking as I think of how quickly the time has gone and how I will miss my girl.

 Friday evening, our homeschool group held its annual graduate recognition.  It has been a tradition in our group that the parents of each graduate will speak briefly about their child both in honor of their achievements and as a charge to their future.  I would like to share what I wrote for Katie's graduation.

Philippians 1:3-6 
            I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

            This scripture seems appropriate on this occasion, and especially when I think of Katie in particular, for a number of reasons.  When Paul says that he always prays with joy because of your partnership with the gospel from the first day…that reminds me so much of how early and enthusiastically Katie accepted the gospel.

            Katie has always possessed a spiritual maturity and passion that far exceeded her years.  Her family members will recall that even when she was as young as three and four, she would preach “sermons” from her booster seat in the car about how Jesus was going to step on the devil (although she pronounced it “debbil”).  I think she was five when she first asked to be baptized, and we put her off, convinced that she was too young to really understand the implications of that decision.  But, by the time you were seven, after her continued pleas and many, many deep discussions about sin and salvation, it was evident that God was behind your desire, and we watched with joy and wonder as you gave your life to Jesus and never looked back.

            It has not been easy to be the mother of a daughter whose spiritual maturity constantly threatens to exceed your own.  For as much as I have tried to nurture, train, lead and disciple you, God has used you in many, many ways to challenge and stretch me.  My own walk with Christ is deeper because he allowed me to be your mom.

            I am so proud of the woman you have grown into.  God has gifted you in so many ways--your amazing musical talents, your bright and curious mind, your artistic and creative nature—and we have watched you lay each of these gifts at Jesus’ feet and ask Him to use them for His glory, not your own.  You have been an example of purity, integrity and steadfastness to your family, your friends, your church and to many others that you didn’t even know were watching.

            God has indeed begun a good work in you, and I am confident that He will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

            Exactly how He will do that remains to be seen.  You have always had a tender heart for the lost and the poor.  I remember when you drew a map for your friend at daycare who didn’t know Jesus.  Just telling her wasn’t enough-you needed a visual aid.  I remember when you went to downtown Chicago with your cousins, and they told me of how you wanted to give all your money to every homeless person you saw, and how the poverty you witnessed broke your heart, and even made it hard for you to enjoy your day.  I remember how as your 16th birthday approached, you asked if it would be okay to ask your guests not to bring you gifts, but instead to bring blankets for Christians living in refugee camps in Sudan.  And just a few months ago, when you came home from Haiti, you brought with you a picture of a little girl who stole your heart, and who will now have an education, food, medical care, and most importantly discipleship because of the commitment you made to her.  It really should come as no surprise then that you are hearing and answering God’s call to a live of service to others in His name—wherever that call may take you.

            I have to confess that as your mom, that’s a bit hard for me.  It’s hard to see you grow up, hard to let go of the little girl I still think of you as sometimes.  Hard to think that you might go very far away and how I won’t see you often, and how much I will miss you.

            But as your sister in Christ, I am so very excited for you, and for all the amazing experiences that await you as you set out in life seeking nothing but to be in the center of God’s perfect will, prepared to go wherever He may send and do whatever He may ask.

            And in light of that, my prayer for you is the same as Paul’s prayer for the Phillippian church, which comes just a few verses later than those I began with:

Philippians 1:9-11
“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”
That is my hope and prayer for you, Katie, and for the rest of our graduates as well.  That from now until the last, you will continue to love Him more and know Him more.  That you will be able to discern what is best-His perfect will and live to the glory and praise of God.

I am so grateful that God called us on this homeschooling journey.  I am grateful for every day that we spent working and learning together. Through all the good times and all the hard times, I believe that the Lord has brought us closer to each other and closer to Him through homeschooling.  I am grateful that he brought Samantha, Camille, Lauren and Lindsay into your life.  One of my concerns when we began homeschooling was if you would have friends, and He answered my prayers in that area far more wonderfully than I could have ever hoped for.  It has been a blessing to watch your friendships grow.  I am grateful also for the encouragement, friendship and support of my fellow PATH moms.  Without you all, I am not sure we would have made it this far.

Congratulations on all you have accomplished.  I love you, I am proud of you, and I am blessed and privileged to be your mom.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Oh be careful, little eyes, what you read...(part 3)

Who would have thought that a yard sale would be one of the most faith-building experiences of my life?  But is has been.  I have seen a glimpse of what is possible when we really surrender our wants, our possessions and our lives to Him.  And this was small stuff.  A yard sale, for Pete's sake!

And it wasn't altogether easy.  I sold things I would rather have kept.  It was harder than it should have been.  (Katie lamented that selling good books was like selling good friends.  I totally agree!)  
Why are we so attached to our material possessions?  I cringe at the thought of how much time I spend managing the "stuff" in our home.  The clothes, the toys, the dishes, the nick-knacks, even the books take up so much space in our house and in our schedules.  How often do I feel overwhelmed at the prospect of just finding a place for everything?  How much better could my time be spent than cleaning and organizing all this stuff?  What if I could redeem even part of that time and invest in relationships with my children, my husband, neighbors, friends, church family, or the Lord?  Isn't that worth unloading some of the load for?  I think so.

I also struggled with some doubts.  We sold some big-ticket items like furniture that we aren't going to move with us.  Sometimes I would think about those things and wonder if we should really donate all of the money...after all, we have a daughter who is planning to attend a really-excellent-but-not-cheap missionary training program this fall.  Couldn't we keep some of the money to help pay those expenses?  Wouldn't that be worthwhile, too?

The answer is yes, it would have been worthwhile.  Yes, it would have been okay to keep some of the money for that or for any other good purpose, really.  But the question I found myself asking, or maybe (probably) it was God asking me was, "Do I really believe that if I sell all of this stuff and give the money away now, that when Katie is ready to surrender her future to the Lord and seek a life of missionary service, that He won't provide the funds for her to do that?"  I am ashamed to admit that my gut reaction to that question was not immediate and complete trust.  I feel like I have to plan, to control, to secure my own future and the future of my family.  And while we are to be wise, and we are to be good stewards, scripture clearly teaches that the Lord is our hope and our security.  If we surrender to His will, He will meet our needs.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." 
~ Matthew 6:25-34

Over the last several years, I have sensed the Lord teaching me to live with open hands, to hold on to the things of this world loosely.  Possessions come and go.  Fortune comes and goes.  Power, position and prestige will come and go.  Even health will come and go.  Chasing them is like chasing the wind.

 People are forever.  Souls are forever.

The souls of my family, my friends, my neighbors, and beautiful adolescent Haitian girls are forever.
These things are things I can hope to take to Heaven with me.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." ~ Matthew 6:19-20

I am so grateful and humbled that God called me on this adventure with Him.  I am so thankful for all He is teaching me.  I know there is so much more for me to learn, and I know that the lessons will not be easy.  

I am also so thankful to the many people who gave generously.  I continue to be amazed at how the Lord not only gave me a vision to get rid of my excess to bless others, but how He spread that vision throughout so many others in my church and family.  It is encouraging to see the family of God come together in His service.  

When two days of yard sales netted over $2900, I knew that only God could have accomplished such a result.  However, He wasn't done yet.  Over the weekend, a most incredible gift was given.  A gift intended to complete the safehouse project. are reading this right.  This little yard sale has raised $6000.

We built those girls a house!

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. ~ Ephesians 3:20-21

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Oh be careful, little eyes, what you read... (part 2)

So now what do I do???

It's an overwhelming question, really.  What do I do?  What can I do?  
Compared to the staggering need in the world..I can't do much.
Compared to what I'm doing now...a whole lot more.

So I continued puttering through my life with all this conviction and confusion swirling around in my head, and found myself reading Jen Hatmaker's blog. (Warning-stay far, far away from this woman and her writings if you want to continue enjoying life as is.  Jen will mess you up for Jesus.)  In this particular post, she was talking about her book, 7, and some ideas about how her readers could use to start living the spirit of the book without driving themselves stark-raving mad.  That's where I found these words:

H.E.L.P. has this smart idea: Use our excess to serve the poor. Clever, right? And this is how: Garage Sale for Orphans. Sell what we’ve already bought and give the money to support the most vulnerable kids on earth.

There is a paper-thin line between orphans and human trafficking. Kids on the streets or those just aged-out of the system, children with no options and no advocates, are targeted almost immediately for sex and labor trafficking. They are exploited and abused relentlessly, low-hanging fruit for predators.

H.E.L.P. is stepping inbuilding safe homes in Haiti for the whopping price of $6000 each, out the door. This is how Chris Marlow, founder of H.E.L.P., explains it:

One of the best and most effective ways to fight trafficking is to prevent trafficking in the first place. Traffickers TARGET orphaned children.

We will build these homes within 20 minutes of the Dominican border. Kids are being sold at this border right now, into the Dominican Republic, where they will become sex and labor slaves. H.E.L.P., in partnership with Austin New Church and, is going to build 12 preventative safe homes in 2012.

We will rescue "the worst case scenarios" orphans - kids that are homeless, doubled-orphaned, abandoned, etc. And we will rescue girls that age out of their current orphanage. Which means: 12- and 13-year-old girls kicked out of the orphanage because they're too old. These girls usually become prostitutes locally in Haiti or sold into the DR.

Each home will have an overseer, or house mom/dad, potentially a widow. We hope to create a family style orphan care. Our local leader in Haiti will oversee the entire project. The kids will be sponsored, so they will get food, water, clothing, and will also be able to attend school. Once we rescue a child, we will raise that child until they graduate college or trade school, so they can then take care of their own families.


Good reader, let's knock out one of those homes together, yes?  Two?  Five?  And by the revolutionary idea of selling what we've already bought.  Redemption!  What if we took trash bags and dollies through our homes and purged, purged, purged, converting our indulgences into bricks and mortar and safety and a future for these precious, beloved-by-Jesus Haitian girls?  Plain old garage sales, re-imagined.

And that's when I knew what I was going to do first!

Every.single.time. I read about these girls aging out of their orphanages at 12 or 13, I get teary.  I cannot wrap my mind around that kind of hopelessness, loneliness and destitution.  For all of my life, I have had family surrounding me...sometimes more than I even wanted!   I have always known that no matter what happened there were not one or two, but dozens of people who loved me fiercely, and would be willing and able to care for me if I needed them to.  In fact, I have never really given the matter much thought.  I've been able to take for granted all my life that I would always have a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and food on my plate.  To consider life otherwise is unfathomable to me.  But it is reality for so many around the world.

And so what do I do now?  I'm going to build those girls a house, that's what!!! 
(or at least a wall or two)

The purging began.  My family hid their stuff from me.  I was looking at everything we owned with new eyes.  "Do we need this?"  "Do we need this more than the girls in Haiti need a house?"

Lots and lots of stuff was set aside to sell.  Eventually my hubby and kids got on board, too.  Some were quicker than others.  God has been doing lots of work in their lives, too.  Katie and Mackenzie would donate kidneys and send them to Haiti right now.  They already left their hearts there in January.  

Friends and church family donated generously.  And pretty soon, the chapels of our funeral homes looked like a thrift store:

Two Saturdays.  Grand total = over $2900!!!!
To borrow Jen Hatmaker's own words...DUDE!
(that's almost half a house)

Never, ever in my grandest daydreams about this sale did I ever imagine that we would raise that kind of money.  The God we serve is so incredible.  He doesn't ask us to do great things.  He only asks us to follow Him and He will do great things, and let us go along for the ride.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Oh be careful little eyes, what you read... (part 1)

A couple of years ago, I picked up this innocent little book.  The bright orange cover and upside down house caught my eye.  The subtitle, "Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream" intrigued me.

The two hundred forty pages inside turned me upside down.

So then another so-called friend recommended this book to me.  Again with the cool title and cool cover.

Again with the turning me upside down and inside out.

Not too long ago, I bought this book and read it in a matter of days.  I should have known better, since I've followed Katie Davis' blog for a while.
Katie's story inspires me, breaks my heart, and makes must ever so slightly uncomfortable.
Really uncomfortable, actually.  Because my life is just so comfortable.

So about a month ago, another former friend (she will know who she is if she reads this) tells me about this book.  A most unusual title, indeed.  A mutiny against excess?  Hmm.

That's it.  I'm done.  Or undone.  Or both.

All of these books have me looking at my life, and my house, and my family and I keep asking myself the same hard questions and not liking the answers very much because I'm so afraid that if I admit the truth, then I will have to act on it.  And that could be hard.  And the ugly truth is 
that I am a spoiled little rich girl.

I am a spoiled little rich girl.  
God help me.

Now if you really know me, you've seen what I drive, you've heard my kids talk about shopping at Goodwill (or GW's as some call it) and you know that by our culture's standards, we are not rich.

But we are.  Want the proof?

Everyone in my family sleeps in a bed every night.
When we are hot, we turn on air conditioning.
When we are cold, we turn on heat.  
When I want water, I turn on the faucet.
We have more clothes than we could ever need to suit every season, occasion and mood.
Our cabinets, refrigerators and freezers are full of food.
Sometimes we throw  food  away because we just never got around to eating it.
Sometimes we eat out when there is plenty of food at home just because I don't feel like cooking it.
I have never, ever, even once worried that my kids would go hungry.

And that does not even begin to scratch the surface of the ways that I am so abundantly blessed.

Admitting this truth only leads to more hard questions.  Why? Why do I get to tuck my beautiful children into soft warm beds at night when other moms must raise their babies on the street?  Why do I get to serve three meals a day plus a gazillion snacks all day long to my kids when other moms watch their babies starve to death?  Why was I born into a nation of freedom and health and wealth and comfort and convenience when others are born into oppression, disease, corruption and poverty?  Why?  Do I deserve it?

Um, no.

Is it just good fortune?  Was I just dealt a good hand in a random game of life?

I don't believe so.  The longer I live (40 years now) the more I am able to look back and clearly see God at work, orchestrating events and circumstances to bring me to the places where He wanted me.  I do not claim to have a firm grasp on the whole predestination/free will issue.  I am not that smart.  But this I know:  The experiences in my life, the people I have met, the blessings I have received and the hardships I have endured have not been chance.  God has been at work every minute of every day.  I am where I am with what I have because He has brought me here.  So...why?

I think perhaps He wants me to do something with my prosperity.

Or maybe He expects me to do something with it.
Or requires that I do something with it.
Besides keep it, I mean.


So now what do I do?