Our homeschool support group does a yearbook each year, which is a wonderful record of the activities and events of the year. It is a big project, and several high schoolers generally work on it each year, along with a couple of moms. This year's yearbook almost didn't happen, but Cathleen came to the rescue at the final hour, and we now have a lovely keepsake. Thank you for all your hard work, Cathleen!
The yearbook is created using Microsoft Publisher. Members are encouraged to email photos or submit them on a CD, and the student & parent editors create the layouts on their home computers. They then copy the pages onto a jump drive and transfer them to the Yearbook Coordinator's computer. She then puts them all onto one jump drive and takes the finished yearbook to the printer. The books are spiral bound, with a clear plastic cover and hard back. The cost is $30 each.
Families can submit photos and info for their Family Page. I only wish more families participated. Out of 200 families, only about 35 submitted pictures. My kids love flipping through the pages and finding their friends, and I like being able to put names with faces of many people that I see throughout the year, but sadly, only a few of them are in there.
Seniors have a group picture page, and also individual 2-page spreads.
The rest of the book has pages for field trips, Lighthouse events, other homeschool activities, sports, music.
Instead of selling business ads, we sell Congratulatory Ads - 1/4, 1/2, or whole page - to individuals who would like to send a congratulatory message to someone in the group.
Last week Jason attended Runners Camp, a track & field camp for kids age 6-12 put on by North Wake Church. Camp was held every morning from 8:30 - 11:00 at the middle school field, and culminated in a track meet at the high school on Friday afternoon and evening. Since Jason also had a baseball game on Friday evening, he only participated in the afternoon field events, and skipped his running races. But he had a great time, as he enjoys just about any athletic activity, and that night he got to do two.
Your show, Jon & Kate Plus 8, has been all about the ups and downs of raising a big family. You have put your lives as parents and as spouses in public view, and we have laughed, cried, sighed, winced, smiled and sometimes shaken our heads in disbelief. But we admired you and Jon for the effort and struggle and devotion put into raising your 8 young children.
Less than a year ago you spoke these words at your beautiful vow renewal ceremony. "Our first wedding was for us. This time it is also for us but mostly to publicly promise our children that we will always be together, complete as a family always." Jon spoke these words: "I am the happiest father and husband knowing that you are by my side always. I will always be your partner for life."
And this week you sat on the interview couch and told us that your marriage was over, and that this wasn't the show's fault, but would probably have happened no matter what. I don't believe that for a second. What has been obvious to the public and apparently to those closest to you who love you and your kids, is that the realities of living your life on television, for all to see and scrutinize, have put a tremendous strain on your family and on your marriage. Did the percs became too important, the "good life" for your kids more important than an intact family? What about that promise you made?
Marriage is hard work. Period. All couples go through hard times, times when they don't like one another very much, when communication breaks down, when the struggle of each day threatens to overwhelm us. But you had something that could have gotten you through all that. You had God. I think you have listened to the wrong voices.
On your show the other night, I heard you say things like "this is for the best", you "have to do what it takes", and you were "starting a new chapter". I also saw your chin tremble and your eyes fill with tears and your voice whisper, "I don't want to be alone. I don't want to do this by myself." You know what it sounded like to me? It sounded like you were repeating things being told to you by those immersed in our society's culture of "Me First". It sounded to me like you didn't really believe what you were saying, but were resigning yourself to something inevitable, because you have believed the lie that marriages just don't last. How can two people with two very different personalities and two different visions for what their family needs stay together? They stay together by sheer force of will. Commitment. Sacrifice of personal rights and wants. A decision to never, never, NEVER let the needs of one become more important than the needs of two.
Your kids don't come first. God comes first. Then your husband comes second. Then out of the wholeness of your marriage relationship, your children's needs are met. Then comes everything else.
I won't be watching your show any more. What's the point? To see how to "do divorce"? No thanks. I will pray for the restoration and reparation of what has been damaged. That's what the world really needs to see. If there is a TV special showing a 2nd vow renewal, with you and your husband back together as a family because God has restored your love and commitment to one another, now that I might watch.
When I was growing up, summer meant family camping trips and days spent at the little lakefront town beach about 2 miles from my home, where town residents benefited from free swimming lessons, arts & crafts class, swim team, and special recreation events. I didn't know anyone who went to "camp" - that was for rich kids or city kids who needed to get out to the country for fresh air. But for my kids, summer means CAMP!
Amanda is at New Life Camp this week for Teen Week; she worked as a CIT ( counselor-in-training ) there 2 weeks ago during Early Week, when Jason was a camper. My kids LOVE LOVE LOVE New Life Camp. They know the routine by heart, can tell you what is on the menu any night of the week, look forward to Ultimate Elimination Dodge Ball and The Big Game and Snack Shack. They can pack for camp in about 30 minutes, because they know exactly what to bring - t -shirts, shorts, sweatshirt, jammies, swimsuit, towels, shower sandals, towels, bathroom bag, Bible, Sharpies, clip on fan, pillow & bedding, bug spray, sunscreen. Plus a couple of favorite snacks, a camera, and they are all set!
Jason is at Runners Camp this week, which is a Christian Track & Field camp that runs M-F from 8:30 - 12, for kids 6-12 years old. When I first signed him up a couple of years ago, his reaction was " Runners Camp? You mean, its for running? No ball? What's the point?" But once he went he had a blast! And now he looks forward to it every summer.
This is the first summer in several years that my older kids are NOT working as summer camp counselors at New Life Camp! Sarah is in Africa this month, volunteering at a school for orphans and destitute children, and Eric is working as a lifeguard at the YMCA in order to earn enough money to go back to college in the fall.
So after this week, we are done. No more camp this summer. We are planning a week of family camping. We'll be spending a long weekend at the beach for Amanda's 16th birthday. And we'll be heading to Massachusetts for our annual week of visiting grandparents and relatives.
Last Monday night was Jason's piano recital. His piano teacher is a sweet homeschool mom with 6 kids of her own, and she teaches piano to a just a few students. Jason started lessons last September, and is doing well and enjoys it. His best friend, Nathan, also takes lessons from Miss Lynn.
Homeschool support group leadership seems to be my area of ministry during this season of my life, and I am the new president of Lighthouse, the support group I helped start 13 years ago. This is a 2 year term - I have been president of the support group twice before, and am returning for another term. So either God called has called me to serve in this area, or I am a hanger-on- control-freak who cannot let go...boy, I pray that's not the case!
The Board is having a Planning Retreat this weekend, which I have been preparing for all week. We aren't going away anywhere, but just meeting together for 10 hours over Friday and Saturday. So it's not a "retreat" in the restful sense of the word! But we will hopefully get a good working relationship going and talk about what we are doing in this support group and why!
The Lighthouse Board is made up of seven members - a President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, Membership Coordinator, Field Trips & Events Coordinator, and Member-at-large. ( the members filling this last position request a name change - females have issue with "that word" ) Board members serve for 2 year terms, with either 3 or 4 positions being filled with new members every year. Our By Laws set the qualifications for a Board Member as someone who has homeschooled a child for at least the two previous years and has been a member in good standing of Lighthouse for two consecutive years. In filling positions, the Board looks for support group members who are active in the group, committed to homeschooling, and show a willingness to serve others. They are asked to consider filling certain positions on the Board, and if they accept, their names are then presented to the group for approval.
As the support group has grown in size over the years, the responsibilities of Board Members has increased significantly as well. We are now a group of about 200 families, so processing membership applications, coordinating field trips & events, and dealing with questions and issues have become major tasks. Several years ago we filed for non-profit status with the IRS, and more recently filed the paperwork with the state to become Incorporated, so that means our Treasurer has to be on top of her game! We are very blessed to have a CPA serving in that role right now, and I don't think she realizes that the rest of us are conspiring to make her Treasurer-for-life! Leading a large support group is not a little job... it is a big commitment and it is a ministry to other families. And as Christian sisters we have to hold one another accountable to keep our priorities in line - we are wives first, then moms - who have the huge job of homeschooling our kids - , and then support group leaders.
So, we are having this "retreat". Our husbands have been asked to join us for two reasons - they should know what their wives have committed to(!), and they offer a male perspective that I think provides balance in our discussions. In addition to discussing the policies and operations of Lighthouse, setting the calendar for next year, and planning the upcoming parent meeting, we will be discussing our purpose and vision for the support group, how to balance leadership with responsibilities at home, raising up new leaders, generating enthusiasm and creating unity in the group, and dealing with conflict. All of this will be brought first before the Lord, so that our hearts and minds will be focused on the true priority, and that is pleasing him with our words, our actions, and our lives. I'm hoping for a very productive meeting.
Sarah is keeping a daily journal during her trip to Ethiopia, which she emails to me and I post on her blog. Apparently, blogs and facebook are either blocked over there, or just too hard to access due to slow computer connections. She is having some amazing experiences - I can't wait to see all her pictures when she gets back! She loves the kids at the school where she's volunteering ( no surprise there!), getting around by mini-buses is a real challenge, and she apparently needs to hurry up and find a husband! :-) If you'd like to check out her blog, it is at www.sherbert-footsteps.blogspot.com
Having two kids far away overseas is a little harder than I expected. When they're away at college, I can still call whenever I want to on the cell phone, send emails and get a pretty quick answer, check up with what they are doing on Facebook, etc. But the difficulty of communicating to and from Iraq / Ethiopia is quite different. Alex has been in Iraq since February, and will be there until next spring. We only get to talk via Skype ( free internet video phone ) once every couple of weeks. He called Wednesday and the connection was very slow, causing about a 20 second delay between when I spoke and when he heard me, so we resorted to using the Skype instant messager and typing out our conversation. I still got to see him, though, and he looks good, but tired ( it was after midnight there ). He is frustrated by some things, but couldn't really talk about them. There is a lot he can't really tell us ... security concerns, you know.
Sarah is spending the month of June in Ethiopia. She arrived in Addis Ababa on Sunday, and sent an email right away. But that is the last we've heard from her. Yesterday, I did email the American program manager at the house where she is staying, and got a reply that everything is fine. But the internet connection there is unreliable and power outages are common. Hopefully she'll be able to get through over the weekend.
I want to know what they are doing. I long for pictures, details... c'mon people, this is the Information Age! I am totally spoiled by being able to find out just about anything I want at a moment's notice via the internet or cell phone. But that just isn't happening with these two. So... that leaves me right where I'm supposed to be, I guess, and that is on my knees. I pray for their safety, for their health, for friends to encourage them, for emotional strength and spiritual growth, for God to show himself to them in big ways and little ways every day.