Tag Archives: an uncomfortable january

Never too late to dream – from mom to recording artist

If you are just getting caught up on your blog reading, we are in the middle of a month of risking here at Lark &  Bloom. An Uncomfortable January has been full of stories and thoughts from people who are getting out of their comfort zones and chasing their dreams. ( click here to read them all ) Today, I’m happy to interview Jen Stanbro, a stay-at-home mom turned recording artist.

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Describe your dream of being a recording artist? Have you always wanted to do it?

Yes! From the time I was a little girl.

A childhood memory that resonates within me still today is of this time when I was watching one of Mariah Carey’s first ever concerts on TV. She was brand new to the scene so I couldn’t have been more than 7 years old.

I remember listening intently to every note she sang, every little melodic twist and twirl, every colorful vocal nuance. Every detail danced in my ears and all the way to my soul. I was simply and beautifully overwhelmed with appreciation and admiration for the power of music, and at a mere 7 years of age, I was moved to tears.

I wanted to make my own music. I had songs inside me that wanted to shine forth. And I dedicated my time to my craft. I’d sit in my room with my cassette player (did I just date myself?) and practice singers’ vocal riffs till I could sing them. I wasn’t born with as huge a vocal range as some of the crazy amazing singers out there, but I was committed to making the most of what I had.

Although recording my own material has always been a quiet desire, up until recently it was not anything I pursued with any amount of ambition. I just loved to sing…and to write.

What kept you from doing it earlier?

I have always felt brutally uncomfortable with the idea of marketing myself. I’ve tended to avoid anything that would expose me to being rejected by anyone. If no one ever heard my music, no one could criticize my music.

Stepping out to make an album meant displaying my soul-exposed songs for all to hear. The thought of being criticized for self-expressions that are so closely tied to who you are is a scary thing.

Not to mention the other possibility…to be unnoticed (an equally unpleasant form of rejection).

I have this natural attraction to the path of least resistance. Knowing that the pursuit of a recording career could be a very difficult and hurdle-filled road, I was perfectly content settling down and living simple and small.

So up until October 2011 the desire to record got stuffed in a box and buried in some attic corner of my heart, collecting dust.

But as a follower of Jesus Christ I’ve read a great many stories in the Bible where the characters are flawed. I’m grateful for how God in His patience and wisdom allows their flaws to shape their path, while still keeping His providential hand of guidance on their lives.

In my case, as much as my “flaws” kept me from recording in the past, I believe it all worked as it was supposed to and this album was supposed to happen precisely when it did. God gave me the boldness to overcome my fear in the very season I needed it.

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At some point, you bit the bullet and just did it. What was the turning point for you?

A great band, Shane & Shane, came to our church to play a concert. We got to hang out with them a bit and I felt this urge in my spirit to share my music with them. For me the thought of sharing my music or talking about myself to them made me want to find someplace to hide. But the feeling was so strong that night, I couldn’t shake it. So after much reluctance on my part, I shared one of my original songs.

Shane & Shane were super gracious and encouraged me to come record at their studio in Texas. I prayed and prayed to see if this was something God wanted me to do…10 months later I was convinced.

To cover the cost, the producer recommended I do a Kickstarter campaign. At the end of my campaign I had raised more money than I would have imagined in 60 days from 200+ donors.

The following month I was on a plane with my family to spend three weeks recording my first full-length album.

After you recorded your first song, what did you feel like?

Quite honestly I felt majorly insecure about my voice. The musicians were so good, I thought for sure listeners were going to say, ” I wish that singer would shut up so I can hear the awesome music behind her”.

But through it all I felt a true sense of purpose. I felt like all the crazy circumstances that had come together were enough to convince me that God had a plan for this music. Who was I to stand in the way with my silly anxieties? So, I pushed through the nerves and made it happen.

And I’m so thankful I did.

What is the main lesson you learned from getting outside your comfort zone and chasing your dreams?

That it is well worth the risk! As scary as it seemed, deep inside I was not willing to be that “path of least resistance” girl anymore. I’ll never go back to living that way again. I don’t want to be driven by or hindered by what other people may or may not think. I want to do the hard things and reap the greater rewards. And if in the process things don’t go as I intend, I’m willing to learn all that I can from it and keep moving forward.

My personal life quest is to shine God’s light, love, and  goodness on as much of this world as possible. I hope music will be a platform by which I can serve in greater and more practical ways. In order to live to our fullest potential, I believe getting uncomfortable is inevitable.

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Jen

Jen Stanbro is a wife, mom, musician and worship leader, teacher, writer and seeks to be a source of encouragement to everyone around her.

Check out her music and read more about her at JenStanbro.com

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Filed under Faith, Uncategorized, Uncomfortable January 2014

Be Fully Seen

I’ve never really had an addiction to anything until Instagram came along. That is where I found Alisha Sommers whose pictures and captions draw me in every time. She is the coolest lady , just check out her bio at the bottom if you don’t believe me. Plus, I have a total crush on her hair. So, when I was thinking through guest posts for An Uncomfortable January, I knew she would provide a very vulnerable insight about getting outside of our comfort zones. And that is what this series is about – being real with ourselves and taking risks. Alisha is taking us into the risk of being seen. So, go on and read it if you are feeling risky. 

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2013 was a transformative year for me. I learned so much about what I want in life, what my true values are, and how I want to move about in this world. I chose the word “illuminate.” I wanted to do things that lift up my soul and show others that there was another way to live if they really wanted to. But I knew the only way to do that was to fully embrace who I was becoming. So I dug deep to rediscover my heart’s desires and learn how to honor the gifts and talents given to me. As I began to write more, share more, and connect with more people, I got more attention. And I got more uncomfortable. Here I was living out this word “illuminate” and feeling uncomfortable with shining. Which meant that I was not living as fully as I wanted.

I am that woman who tilts her head down when someone makes eye contact with her as she walks down the street. When I’m having a conversation with someone I don’t know well, I will not hold their gaze for more than 3 seconds. I suppose it is out of the fear that the old saying is true: That my eyes are the window to my sould and that when you look at me – look into me – you will see everything. I can no longer hide. Yet this is how we truly connect with one another. It is why new lovers lean in across the table. It is why, when I need my children to listen to me, I get down on their level – I want to look into their eyes. But it is scary, right? It is scary because it means that I might face rejection. Just stepping outside of the door every day and choosing to be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you into something else is so uncomfortable. But I choose to do it every day. So many of us do.

This year I knew that I wanted to really embody the rediscovered me that was ready to move forward in her life. This year is all about the integration of what I believe to be true about myself and the world and finally acting upon it. Late last year, when Elizabeth asked me to contribute to this series, I knew that my challenge was to look people in the eye. Because looking people in the eye is not just about being polite or letting them know that I am paying attention to them. It is also about me being okay with being fully seen. It is about me owning my beliefs and values and standing tall in them. It is about allowing myself to be fully seen and walking with that uncomfortable feeling, while trusting that I would still be loved and accepted.

A few weeks ago I went to dinner with a friend who told me about her conscious effort to look people in the eye as she interacted with them throughout her day. She mentioned an afternoon when she saw a panhandler on the side of the street and while she did not have any money to give him, what she did give him was eye contact and a smile. She could have looked away and pretended not to see him like most of us do – like I do. Instead she chose to see him. She said there was just something about that brief moment they shared, separated by concrete and steel and glass, that moved her. I am sure it touched him too.

When we really choose to see people, we remember they are human. We see their essence. We feel a little more compassion. We feel a little more love. When I choose to let you see me, I give you the opportunity to love me too. And Love – that’s something we could all use a little more of.

Even if it makes us uncomfortable.

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Processed with VSCOcamAlisha Sommer is a writer living in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband and three children. She loves fresh-baked bread, laying in the sun, and the smell of the sea. When she’s not knee-deep in laundry and lunch-making, she edits and publishes BLACKBERRY: a magazine, a literary magazine featuring black women writers and artists. She is the co-creator of liberated lines, an Instagram-based poetry course, and a guide in the upcoming writing collective, Our Word. You can find her at her favorite playgrounds, Instagram and Pinterest.

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Filed under Uncategorized, Uncomfortable January 2014

The Adventure I Didn’t Ask For

Moving to Europe and facing the reality of cancer – two very uncomfortable things I have never done, but today’s post comes from someone who has. This whole Uncomfortable January series is about leaving our comfort zones and risking more in 2014. Beth Stedman struck a chord when she posted this fall about a severe mercy. I know you will love her again as she shares a bit more of her story.

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When I hear things about risk,  adventure, and living uncomfortably, my heart starts to do little excited somersaults. These things resonate with me. I have never wanted to live a normal cookie-cutter life. I have wanted something different. Something bigger. I have wanted adventure. And I have understood that adventure requires risk and discomfort.

So, when Liz first told me about this Uncomfortable January series I wasn’t just excited I was thrilled. These are ideas that have shaped a big part of my life and character. But, then I started to think about the present. I began to thing about what risks I want to take right now, and suddenly I was at a blank. As I stared at the blank page I realized something very uncomfortable for me. Right now, I lack all desire to risk. Where had that heart for adventure and that desire to stretch myself gone?

In order for you to understand where I’m coming from I want to take you on a little journey. I want to show you a snap shot that displays my past love for adventure and one of the biggest risks I have taken, and then I want to show you a snap shot that I think displays why I currently don’t desire risk or discomfort.

Snap Shot One: A Risk I Chose

We walk slowly, hand-in-hand, watching as the sun’s rays disappear over the city of a thousands spires. The bricks that make up the bridge under our feet are hundreds of years old and each step seems to whisper stories to us of times past. We stop near a statue and watch the rushing Vlatava river sweep under us. It has rained most of the week in Prauge but today it is dry and the river sings a merry and contented song.

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Prague

“So, should we do it? Should we move here?” I ask the question with as much fear as excitement and before Bryan has a chance to respond I am processing through my own answers. Admitting my fear. It feels too risky. Too unknown. Too uncomfortable. But, I want that. I want a life that is different from the norm, a life that is bigger, a life of adventure. I want to be the kind of people who move to Europe for no other reason than because we want to.

I fluctuate with every sentence.

Together we talk through every fear, but we keep coming back to one question, “What kind of people do we want to be?” And suddenly it’s clear.

“Fear is not a good reason to make a decision.” My husband’s words seem to echo on the stone bridge. “It is scary to think of moving here, but we don’t want to be people who live in fear. We don’t want fear to dictate our decisions. We want to be the kind of people who intentionally stretch themselves, who take risks and seek out adventure . We want to be the kind of people who move to Europe.” He pauses before adding, ” I think we should do it.”

” I think we should too.” And with that a decision was made that would change my life.

We spent four years in Prague. It is the longest my husband and I have lived anywhere together. The friendships that we made there are some of the closest relationships that I have ever had. Those friends are family.

Living in Prague shaped us and changed us. It strengthened our marriage, it shifted our values, it expanded our minds, and it taught us how very strong we really are. It was not easy. There were dark seasons and heart aches, there were stressful situations and failures. Moving to an unknown country was a massive risk and it was not without expense. All risk comes at some expense though, and often it is worth the cost. Prague was worth the cost for us.

Snap Shot Two: A Risk I Did Not Choose:

Bryan says a shallow goodbye and sets down the phone.

“Who was it?” I ask right away, eager to solve the mystery that has been going on in my head.

” The dermatologists office. They got the pathology report back from that mass that was under my thumb nail.” His voice is controlled and calm. “It’s melanoma.”

The words crash over me like a wave. I feel adrift. I can’t seem to focus or completely grasp what that means.

“What does that mean?” The words escape my lips as a question, but I am not sure I really want an answer. I know it is bad. I know it is cancer, but I can’t wrap my mind around it. Bryan’s young. He’s healthy. It doesn’t mean what I think it means, right? It couldn’t mean that.

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But, it did mean that. Just over a year later I would be looking over Bryan’s shoulder at a scan of his body that took my breath away. There was one shot where his body was shown in white and the tumors in black. It looked like swiss cheese. I will never forget it. His cancer had progressed aggressively.

I asked God for a life of adventure and now that he’s given it to me, I don’t want it.

This is an adventure I didn’t ask for. This life I have been walking for the past two years, this path labeled cancer, it’s too far outside my comfort zone. It’s too risky. Fear has become my constant companion – and I don’t like it.

My husband and I value risk and adventure and even being a little uncomfortable. We don’t want fear to control or guide our decisions. But, what do you do when you are thrown into an adventure that feels too risky? An adventure that comes hand-in-hand with fear? When all of life becomes a great risk, when the adventure feels too stressful to take anymore, well, what do you do then? You go into survival mode. You stop seeking risk. You seek out comfort, not the uncomfortable. And instead of your life expanding, it shrinks.

There has been a lot of shrinking in our lives in the past two years. At times our fears and pains have been so great that they served as giant blinders keeping us from seeing anything but ourselves.

Right now if you asked me that same question that my husband and I asked each other so long ago on Charles’ Bridge I would not answer that I want to be a person of risk or adventure. In fact, even asking the question, “What kind of person do you want to be?” feels too risky, to grand, to intentioned for me. For the past year ( or more ) my only answer to that question would have been ” an  alive one”.

I don’t want to live that way anymore. I want to keep stepping out and taking risks even amidst a risky uncomfortable adventure that I didn’t choose.

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Bryan

I want to go back to choosing to risk and I know exactly where I want to start.

With the biggest risk of all … Love.

In the adventures I’m currently walking it would be easy to wall off my heart for protection. Loving is risky. Loving means the potential for loss. But, I don’t want to let the fear or pain of loss serve as a blinder for me anymore. I’m throwing off the blinders. I’m inviting in the hurt and accepting it with kindness. I’m telling fear to take a hike and replacing it with prayerful trust.

I want to choose again. I want to choose to get out of survival mode and open myself up. I want to choose to dream big dreams again and take the scary risky steps to pursue them. And most of all I want to choose to risk opening my heart to all the love that is around me.

Rejoicing in the journey,

Bethany

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headshotsBethany Stedman is a mom and writer who often wishes she was saving the world with a super hero cape, a quill, and some rocking literature. Instead she spends most days playing peek-a-boo with her baby girl, reading Goodnight Moon, and racing around the house with her preschooler. She’s completely addicted to Pinterest, peanut butter, and Doctor Who ( yup, nerd to the core). She blogs about life with God, parenting, marriage, and anything else that comes to mind at http://www.bethstedman.com. Come stop by and say hello.

*** Lark & Bloom goes great with your morning commute, lunch break and bouts of insomnia. Subscribe via email in the sidebar to get posts sent directly to your inbox. ***

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Filed under Faith, Fire, Global, Uncategorized, Uncomfortable January 2014

The Risk of Pursuit

Just when I thought I was getting comfortable with being risky, my friend Jonathan Gulley sent me his guest post for An Uncomfortable January. I’ve known Jonathan since I was a kid and have a deep respect for both he and his wife. This past year they have taken extreme risks and I asked him to join us this month as we talk about being risky in 2014 in order to do what we really want to do and become who we want to become. I think you will like what he has to say. Take it away, Jonathan.

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2013 was a huge year for my family and me. It started out like normal. Every New Years Eve, I come up with my one word for the year. I got this idea from a book and really like it. This word helps remind me of the main thing I want to be about for the next 12 months. Doesn’t that sound like an awesome idea? I like it so much I’ve thought about getting it tattooed on my body, but didn’t especially like the idea of 50 words on my skin between now and the time I die.

Last year, my word for the year was ‘Astonished.’ And no one was more shocked than me that after 10-15 years of being in full-time ministry, starting a wonderful and vibrant church in Chicago-land through one of the most amazing and dynamic organizations on the planet that I would hang up my ministry cleats, move cities and churches and change professions. Now, some have thought that I must be having a quarter life crisis. Others have wondered if my reason stemmed from some beneath-the-surface relational fallout. But though people mean well, what makes this journey so crazy is that the opposite is true.

All of my brothers and their wives are in ministry with this organization. Most of my best friends are somehow tied to this church community around the world. On top of that, as far as I know, I don’t have any enemies in the organization. So why, if you have influence, history, a church and staff that love your leadership and well-cultivated relationships over many years with the same tribe, would you leave all of that and embark on a journey with few particulars?

Because, in the words of John Legend, “[she] is crazy and I’m out of my mind.” Just kidding. I just felt God leading me to risk everything again and head in a new direction. Plain and simple! Plain and difficult!

One of the things I have learned in 2013 is that new beginnings are exciting to talk about but they require enormous iniative and energy. Maybe that is why in 2014, my word for the year is: ‘Pursuit’. I believe in order to start anew, I must devote this year to applying myself to the pursuit of people and opportunities like never before. Easy, right? I am not so sure.

No matter who you are, regardless of whether you like the adrenaline rush of risk-taking or not, to pursue or be pursued takes a truckload of courage. You better believe the moment you put your heart on the line, the fear of rejection, the fear of failure, passivity, and in my case, self-protection will claw at you and try to talk you down from being the pursuer you were born to be. If that is true then I believe the largest risks we ever take in life are the risks we take on relationships. Starting a new job in a new culture is a risk. Finding a new church community is a risk. Marrying that person you love but have only known for a short time compared to the years you’ve been born is a risk.

Being a change agent, one of the hardest things for me to do when someone responds wrongly towards me is resisting that urge to change them into someone I’d like to be around. Now, this is something that I’ve never liked about myself. Don’t get me wrong. I love change.

I love dreaming about seeing God-sized change happen all across America, in every industry, and neighborhood. But sometimes I would like to change people more than love them…especially when they are hard to be around.

My Uncomfortable January and the next 11 months are devoted to offering warm pursuit towards those who are colds towards me. Yikes! The risk of pursuit is a risk I will need help with for sure. How about you? What relational risk are you willing to take this month?

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Filed under Uncategorized, Uncomfortable January 2014

Dying to Live

January

I am beyond excited to run full on into our Uncomfortable January  series. Examining what we want and taking the risks getting there is what this month is all about. I could think of no better way to start it off than by getting really uncomfortable with the reality that our life is short. And we are taking risks because we know that another opportunity is not guaranteed to come our way.

I’m happy to introduce you to my friend and our first guest in this series : Robert Fuller. He is a master storyteller, igniter of laughter, and very much a dreamer. Robert writes at Fuller Stories and is going to remind us today why we are risking big in 2014…because we are here now. But not forever.

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Lets start out with a simple fact : I almost died last summer.

It’s safe to say few things are as risky as standing on the precipice of death.

I’d gone in for a standard hernia surgery and ended up with a gnarly post operative infection that inflated my abdomen to almost Jabba-like proportions (gross, I know.) The doctors were perplexed (never a good sign), and pumped me with so many antibiotics I languished in hazy delirium for days. In the process I underwent two additional surgeries that left me with a gaping wound the size of a butcher knife on my belly. I looked straight out of a slasher movie – like one who wouldn’t survive.

As I lay there with all those tubes and i.v.’s and beeping machines my mind began to ponder the possibility of my demise. Who would teach my children about love and courage if I was gone? Who would write them stories at night, their eyes wide with wonder before drooping toward sleep? And what of my wife? She’d always told me she could never love another man if I left the earth before her. But I found myself hoping she would not be alone for the rest of her life. And what of me? Was the curtain to be closed so soon? There were so many things I wanted to do. So many dreams left unrealized.

In that moment of agony, when everything seemed ready to be stripped away forever, I could only weep. But my tears came not from fear, or pain, or anger, or despair. But gratitude. All I could think of was how good God had been to me. That He’d given me thirty-seven years of blessing: a rich childhood, loving family, friends upon friends, adventure, joy, laughter, love, children, and most of all, Himself. My life had been a gift. And if this was all there was to be, I was thankful.

But, as this post attests, I did not die.

My fever abated as the infection was driven back like a vanquished horde. Soon the doctors were smiling (always a good sign) and I slowly returned to the land of the living. My recovery would be a long one, considering the gaping chasm on my abdomen. But I was alive. There was breath in my lungs. And the curtain hadn’t closed after all.

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This experience was a crossroads for me. A kind of wake up call. In the following weeks (when I wasn’t high on pain meds) I thought much about how I wanted to live in light of my survival. So in honor of the New Year, I present my top ten lessons learned from almost going to the grave. May they propel you to greater heights in 2014.

1. I am not the center of the universe. As obvious as this sounds, I need reminding. Selfishness is a plague.

2. Timidity is not humility and confidence is not pride. How do I help the world by being so paranoid about looking arrogant that I don’t take initiative with things I’m passionate about? As long as I’m loving, who cares?

3. Fear is not your friend. It might seem a protective ally, but the only thing fear will do is keep you hiding in your foxhole. It will tell you not to do anything that rocks the boat. It will convince you to play it safe. Lame.

4. Consume less, create more. Instead of trolling on Facebook or being on YouTube or obsessing over Pinterest…add something to the world. Write someone a note. Cook someone a meal. Write a poem, a story, a song.

5. Failure is an option. Face it… you will fail. And the more you risk, the bigger the failures will be. It’s a promise. Whoever said that failure wasn’t an option was either delusional, or a flat out liar. If you want to do anything in life more than watch T.V., of course failure is an option. But giving up is not.

6. People will fail you, give them a break. Make forgiveness your bottom line. Giving grace to others is a pleasure. Try it.

7. Spend time with those who love you. There will always be more work to do. More rooms to clean. More money to make. But the best moments are spent with friends, family, and children. I will relish bedtime with the kids, for one day they will be gone. I will take my wife on dates, because let’s face it. She’s hot.

8. Journal. If not for yourself, then at least for your kids. Document your life for someone down the road. It will change them.

9. Never underestimate the power of laughter. People take themselves way too seriously. Help them. Tell a funny story. Play a prank. Poke fun, in love.

10. Live like it’s your final day. Who will you talk to? What will you say? What are you waiting for?

If it all ended now, what are the things you wish you would have done? So, then. What are you waiting for? 

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Filed under Uncomfortable January 2014

See you next year, January.

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January was quite a month around here. I started off on January 1st with a challenge to do something uncomfortable each day. It was a naive on my part because I had no idea how difficult that would be.

I cried a few tears, shared awkward photos, did some subtraction, and talked about the one that got away. 

I learned a lot this month. I hadn’t realized how protective I was of my comfort. Or how much my ‘business as usual’ mentality holds me back.

If I want to grow, I have to risk.  That means regularly getting uncomfortable and be willing to fail in the process.

Risks do pay off though. My friend , the one that got away, has contacted me since that post! There was a happy ending I wasn’t expecting.

Thanks to everyone who participated with me, wrote guest posts and emailed me some of your stories. I’ve been so inspired by what different ones of you have done.

Here is to the rest of 2013 being full of breaking down barriers, growing and doing the unimaginable.

See you next year, January!

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January 31, 2013 · 4:30 pm

why my daughter goes to public school

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A few days ago I said I would pick one question to answer for An Uncomfortable January post. You guys sent in some good ones & I may just have to answer more in the future. The question I am answering is the one that sent me into a panic , so I knew it was the right one to respond to.

Why does my daughter go to public school?

From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I realized parenting is dangerous waters. Never, ever, have I experienced anything with so much judgement and opinion.

Will you use a midwife or OBGYN?

Will you do it naturally or with an epidural?

Are you going to do vaccines? 

Will you discipline or do a more child-centered parenting?

Co-sleeping or cry it our in her crib?

You will know if you answered the question wrong because they will smile and say, “Oh, well… um. If that is what you felt was best then you have to go with that I suppose.”

Translation: You are a parenting failure.

My goodness. If you aren’t a parent yet, brace yourself. Some people have strong opinions based on personal experience. Actually, we all do. And some parents are obsessive because they are totally afraid they will irreversibly screw up their kids.

To add fuel to the fire, my daughter started kindergarten this year. We looked at private schools, thought about homeschooling for maybe 3 seconds before scratching that option from the list, and visited our local public school.

We picked public school.

Why? We have a really good public school. Great academics, most of the kids come from strong families, and we know the principal. Several teachers there go to our church and told us what a truly great environment it is.

I don’t think I am sacrificing my daughter to secular thought or think she will turn into a meth addict when she graduates.

I realize that not everyone has a positive public school option. And even if you do, then you may choose to homeschool or use a private school. That is fine and there are plenty of reasons those are good choices. If your life gives you no choice but to send your kids to a underperforming public school, they will be fine too. Because God’s got their back.

Making the choice of where you send your kids is a big decision and an important one. We just have to understand that there isn’t a right or wrong answer. Every situation is different. Each kid is different.

Will all public school children become sexually active and fail to get into a good university? No.

Are all private school kids snobby with a sense of entitlement? No.

Will home schooled kids turn out socially awkward and unable to adjust to the “real” world? No. 

The important thing is that we don’t make decisions out of fear. That never leads us or our kids anywhere worth going.

So, lets all just take a deep breath. My daughter goes to public school. Maybe yours doesn’t. Guess what? We can still be friends.

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Filed under An Uncomfortable January, Kiddos