Saturday, July 23, 2011

Forever Changed

So I obviously moved to Memphis to be a part of the Memphis Teacher Residency. I moved here to learn how to be the best urban educator I can be. I moved here to be a part of a movement to bring life/light to the disadvantaged children of Memphis; therefore, bringing life/light to the whole city and beyond. This is what the majority of the past year has been about.

While I believe I am a part of a huge battle for social justice in urban education, I figured that would be enough Kingdom work to be involved in for the next 40 years of my life. We have a big fight on our hands to right the wrongs that been done and equip teachers to best serve and teach our urban children.

God, apparently, has decided that urban education will not be my only fight. This summer, God graciously and kindly opened the door for me to work at a church in their Adoption and Foster Care ministry: Engage 1:17. While I thought I would be doing administrative things for the pastor overseeing this ministry, it is been much, much more than that. The pastor has graciously allowed me to help mold, shape, give ideas, attend meetings with him and some important people all in order to lay the groundwork for what is about to be launched.

Day in and day out over the summer, I have been faced with the realities of what our foster children and orphans face. Obviously, while I learned the world of foster care while I had Anthony, I often times don't want to/or simply choose not to think about the real situations that thousands of children in our city (nation and world) live every day. It gets to be so overwhelming and heartbreaking. But I don't get the choice to ignore them. You don't get the choice to ignore them. If you are a part of the Bride of Christ, the Church, then you do not get to ignore the orphans. God, our Adoptive Father, the best example of what it means to take dirty, filthy, unworthy, unloved, messed-up children, has called us to do exactly what He did for us. God mandates to the Believer to "take care of the orphan" countless times in Scripture. We are to be a picture of God's unconditional love to us in caring for the orphan. And we, as His Bride, have failed in this calling. We have allowed all responsibility for the orphan to go to the State. They have not done a good job, but who can blame them? It wasn't/isn't their responsibility!

So often I hear people talk about their desire for adoption, but they put stipulations on it. "I want an infant." "I don't want one with too many problems or issues." "I don't want to take an older child because the damage is already done." I probably would have said these same things 2 months ago. In desiring to adopt someday, I probably would have put stipulations on it. I'm so glad God has taught me some things this summer! I'm so, so grateful that God didn't have stipulations in choosing me as His adoptive daughter. If we are really going to approach adoption or fostering from a gospel-centered approach, and we are walking into it from the heart of following our God-given mandate to care for the orphan, then we don't get to have stipulations. God didn't tell us to take care of just the infant orphans, the pretty orphans, the orphan with the same color of skin that we have, the ones that have not been damaged (all orphans have been damaged in one way or another, so don't think that healthy infants will never deal with emotional issues) God simply commanded that we take care of the orphan - all orphans.

It may sound like I am standing on a soapbox. But when it is a God-given mandate, it cannot be a soapbox. This is real stuff. Kingdom stuff. It requires us to ask, "What am I going to do about it?" "What can I do to take care of the orphan?"

So you ask, "Kristin, what are you going to do about it? How are you going to take care of the orphan?"
1. I wish so badly that now was the time to foster again or adopt. But in order for me to pour out effectively in my classroom this year and shepherd my students well (many of whom will be considered orphans based on lack of parental involvement), I cannot take a child in my home at this time. And I honestly feel that the Lord wants me to be married the next time I foster and/or adopt. So I will be bold enough on my blog to say that I am praying for a husband to come along who will be passionate about adoption to where we will partner in ministry of caring for the orphans in our home. However that looks like.
2. In the meantime, I will continue working with this adoption/foster care ministry and the initiative that we are about to launch of "Adopt a Case Worker (and the children on their case)" (more to come on that at another time). We are praying that God will use this initiative to bless and serve DCS here in Memphis, the foster children, and their foster families.
3. I will continue to share the need and pray that this fight for social justice will have a solution through the Church (big C).

A great book that I highly recommend reading is Orphanology by Tony Merida and Rick Morton.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Lord's Timing is Perfect

So it has been a long wait, but the God has opened doors and I am excited for the next steps in my journey.

First of all, I'm DONE with my first year of MTR, which also means I now have my MASTERS degree!! It has been a busy year filled with a lot of hard work and a lot of learning. I have grown SO much over this past year in so many areas. I am blessed beyond measure to be a part of this program.

The day before I graduated, I was offered a teaching job for next year! I will be teaching 4th grade in an area of Memphis called Orange Mound. It is the historically all African-American neighborhood/part of town where deep pride resides. It is, also, one of the roughest parts of Memphis. However, I could not be more excited that the Lord has placed me there! Four other MTR graduates from my class were also hired there, and we have a graduate from last year's MTR class who has been teaching there for a year already. Two of the new class residents have been placed there for their internships this new year too. So I will have a strong community of support! This will be the pilot school, also, for a new"ish" vision of MTR's - to take over the professional development within a school to teach the WHOLE staff our effective teaching strategies. Eight of us in a school can/will be able to only do so much. But if the whole staff buys into and puts into practice what we have learned/are held accountable to, then we will begin to see change to a much greater degree. God is up to big things!

Summer job! God never ceases to amaze me. He opened the door for me to work for a local church (not the church I attend) who is preparing to launch an adoption/foster care initiative with the Church (big C) leading the way. We want this to be a city-wide initiative where the Church takes ownership and responsibility of the "orphans" of our city. God has commanded us countless times in Scripture to "take care of the orphans." The Church has not been living up to her calling in this area. Therefore, we are trying to remedy that here in Memphis. God, so graciously, has allowed me to get hired for the summer to help lay the groundwork for what is going to be launched in the fall. I know, though, that this will be an area that I am involved with beyond just these two summer months! I'm excited to see all that God is going to do through this initiative!

Housing... I have gone back and forth over the past 4 months on whether I want to buy a house again or rent. There are pros and cons of both. However, it seems that the Lord has opened the door for me to buy a house! I'm still in the initial stages of the process, but hope to close on it in July!

I thought life would slow down once summer got here, but it doesn't seem to be the case! The new group of residents have arrived, so we have new "babies" around. It's a bit of new world for all of us. However, I am grateful to have been in Memphis for a year now. I'm glad I feel "at home" in this city. I don't miss the days of everything feeling so new!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Still Waiting

I have been meaning to update, but I have no new news! So while I thought I should have a plan two months ago, I still don't know the plan and graduation is in just 3 weeks!

I can tell you that I will be done with graduate school in 3 weeks!! May 21st! I cannot believe I have been in Memphis for almost a year now, and that I am just a few short weeks away from my masters. Time has flown.

Some things are in the works for a summer job that I am VERY excited about. However, I am waiting to hear whether a position can be created for me and therefore, whether they can pay me. :) More details on that (hopefully) to come.

Still waiting on a job for next school year too. MTR is very intentional about where we get placed (specific schools in specific feeder patterns that we are targeting), and right now there are just not openings at these specific schools - yet. So we are praying and waiting for doors to open.

So I, sadly, don't really have much to fill you in on. I would covet your prayers in regards to God's timing and open doors for a teaching position, summer job, and a place to live after the summer.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I have no idea, but.... I know.

Those of you who know me well, know that I really like to have a plan in place. I'm a planner (and I typically like to work ahead!). Other than two occasions (when I had a week to prepare for Anthony's arrival and when I had a week to prepare for Anthony's departure), God has been good to give me at least some direction for where I am going with time to plan ahead.

Well, here I am on March 9th, and I have no idea what life will look like after May 21st. I have no idea where I am going to live (house wise), no idea where I am going to work over the summer (need to have a job over the summer because income stops May 15th and won't start again until September), and no idea where I am going to teach next year. This for me is unsettling because, again, I am a planner and May 21st is quickly approaching. I want to not only have the answers to these questions, but have a plan in place of specific weekend I will move my things, whether I will still need my storage unit, etc. It is hard for me to not know.

Here is what I do know: I know I will be in Memphis. I know I have an amazing support system in the MTR staff and residents (soon to be graduates!) and, also, in my church community. I know that just as God has been faithful every time in my past, He will provide and open doors for me to be exactly where HE wants me to be - house, summer, and teaching. I know that God will be with me through each step and will give me the answers when I need to know. I am realizing (haven't fully learned it or I would, also, make another "I know" statement) that I don't always have to know. While it is good to have plans in place and be prepared in what God is calling us to do, sometimes God just wants me to trust and leave the knowing to Him.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Well, now two weeks later, I am finally writing about my birthday! 28. I officially feel old. I know, some of you are saying, "oh, that's young!" Others of you (especially most of my MTR friends) are saying, "um, yeah, you are old." Regardless, I am living in my 28th year. My birthday was by far one of the best I have had! It really was a great day.

A friend from Oklahoma started a tradition among my friends there. Each year as her birthday was nearing, she would pray and ask God to give her a word for the next year, so we all started doing the same. The word that God gave me for my 27th birthday was "fulfill." It's always so incredible to look back on a year and see meaning come to that word.

My 27th year was one filled with transition, closing one chapter, and starting another. While it was incredibly hard to say good-bye to a home and city and friends that I love, I believe that the biggest way that "fulfill" was brought to meaning was in God planting me in Memphis. I have said it before, I really feel like Memphis is home. But more than that, I really feel that I finally am settled in the mission/purpose that God has called me to. Not in the way that I was fighting his calling, but that for the past 5ish years I have kind of been a nomad - God moved me around in the things that He called me to. So when I committed to 4 years in Memphis, I thought, "I haven't been in one spot for that long in a while." But now the thought of doing or being a part of anything else, is unthinkable. It is hard to explain just how fulfilled in mission that I am with being a part of MTR. The things that God is doing and the hope of all that is to come through the MTR, is far too hard to explain or grasp if you are an outsider looking in. It is bigger than getting a masters, learning good teaching strategies, or simply teaching in an urban school for 3 years. It is a mission. A movement. We fully believe that God is going to break through time and space and perform miracles in urban education in order to bring justice to urban students, their families, and this nation. We are/will continue to work tirelessly to be the best urban educators that we can be in order for God's glory to shine. We will/are choosing to live our lives inside of God's Story in order to bring a glimpse of heaven to earth now while we await Jesus' return and final justice. All that to say, God has brought fulfillment in purpose/mission over this past year.

As I prayed this year for a new word, it took a few days for God to really settle one on my heart. This years word is Satisfy. "Satisfy us (me) each morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives." Ps. 90:14

Monday, January 31, 2011

Thoughts from New Orleans

Last week, the MTR traveled on a bus to New Orleans for a few days of work/retreat. It was 4 days filled with laughter, fun, critical thinking, and re-evaluating how to teach more effectively. We, also, visited the National WWII museum Saturday morning before we got on the bus to return.

Here are my 3 biggest "take-aways" from the days in New Orleans:

1. We visited several high achieving urban schools (charter schools). We, essentially, were told by one of the principals that charter schools are the "only" way we are going to solve the problems of urban education. We were, also, told by another school's principal that people who want to teach in urban traditional public schools typically have a hero mentality. For a brief moment, I was discouraged by their analysis. But here is the good news: The fact that we were told it is impossible for us (MTR and other organizations like us) to make a large scale impact on urban, traditional public schools, only sets the stage on a greater level for God to break through and do miracles. This statement only allows for WHEN change comes to urban, traditional public schools, that God gets ALL glory and recognition. Then secondly, in regards to a "hero mentality" for those of us who teach/will teach in urban, traditional public schools. Yes, I say we have a hero mentality. Not one where I get to be the hero (because in my own strength and skills, I will never be a hero), but one where I say with full confidence that Jesus gets to/will be the hero. So, yes, I will walk into my school and classroom with a hero mentality - walking in confident that Jesus will be the strength, wisdom, and love that I need in order to be a fully effective urban educator.

2. Saturday morning we visited the World War II museum in New Orleans which is worth the visit if you are ever in New Orleans. The movie that is offered to view at the beginning of the museum experience is by far the best movie experience I have had and tells the story of the war very well. We were able to converse with veterans from the war and hear their stories (incredible!). The whole experience made me miss my grandfather (who fought in the war) and made me wish I had asked him more about his story before he died.
It was reiterated during the movie that the United States did not think they would enter the war, and they didn't want to. However, as time proceeded, there was no option to not be involved. They knew they had to. They knew it was the right thing to do. Urban education is not something that as a young girl I dreamed I would be involved in. It is not something that 8 years ago I would have wanted to be involved in. However, when faced with the injustice of what is going on in our country for urban children, there was no choice for me. This is what God has called me to because it is the right thing to do.
While walking through the museum, I was overwhelmed with just how the country as a whole pulled together during this time; how the women started working in professions that they would never have dreamed of. I just kept thinking, "If I had lived during this time in history, what would i have done? Would I have worked in a lumber mill? Built planes? Been a nurse? What would I have done to help with the war effort?" I have often thought I would have liked to live during the 40s. However, I clearly felt the Holy Spirit whispering to me while walking through the museum, "This isn't your fight. This isn't the fight I have made you for. You were made to live today and fight for justice for urban children who desperately need someone to fight for them."

3. I know I am exactly where God wants me to be. I love my MTR family and the vision for the present and what's to come. Memphis is home.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Letter

So I thought I would be better about this blogging thing. Sadly, I have not!

Two weeks after being in Memphis, the directors of MTR had us write a letter to ourselves that they would mail us 6 months later. We just got our letters in the mail this past week. I had completely forgotten that we had written them. It is incredible that God knew exactly what I would need to hear 6 months from the time I wrote it. I thought I would share it with you all. If you read it knowing that all the advice applies, you can get a picture of some of the things that I have been feeling over the past several months.

"So you have now been back in the classroom for a few months now. I'm pretty sure you are tired and worn out. I'm curious how teaching in a middle school is working out and how sharing a classroom is going. I'm so curious how the kids are!

Regardless of whether it is good or challenging, let me remind you why you are here. - God is worth it. Your students are worth it. Out of all the things you could be doing in this world, this is one of the highest callings. God's heart is for the poor, needy, orphans, and aliens. And guess what? He chose this purpose for you - to love them, bring justice for them, and push them to be the best they can be. You get to believe in kids because God believes in you. he saw that you were wroth his Son on the cross, so now you get the blessing of giving up your life so that your kids can have a future and a hope.

I know this isn't easy. I know there are moments that you want to give up. But please remember. Please, please remember the moments and school years where you pushed through. You have had the days and weeks in past years when you said, 'I can't do this anymore.' but through the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, you persevered. Remember how good those years turned out. Remember the change in your students BECAUSE you stuck it out. Remember Brandy, Jameka, Tyshawn, Imani, Gregory, and Anthony.

Please know, now, that by pushing through this year you are making an eternal investment into the lives of countless children and their families. And the exciting thing is you are not alone. You have a group of 26 friends feeling the same things. More importantly your Father is walking every step with you, has gone before you, and will follow behind you. You get to have hope because he will do this through you, in you, and around you.

So be encouraged. Have hope. Rejoice in the suffering.

'Greater is He that is in you, then he that is in the world.'

'I will fight for you. You need only to be still.'

'Be still and know that I am God.'


There have definitely been some hard days and hard weeks, but God has really been encouraging me lately along with friends. I cannot believe I have made it through just a little over 6 months in Memphis and half way through this school year. I am now finished with all my grad school course work!! That is a huge victory! We (MTR residences) will spend the spring semester working on our 40 page capstone research paper while still doing our internships.

Christmas break is just a few short days away, and I am excited to spend time in Oklahoma - both in OKC visiting friends and at the parentals' in Enid. I'm really just excited for a break and a time of rest.