more than letters after your name

As a SpEducator, my mind thinks in terms of Goals and Objectives. Reevals are a good thing, especially because they include multiple perspectives and adjustments toward realisitic expectations.

I'm thankful for the perspective voices the Lord has given me as I reevaluate my own goals and objectives. My husband is perhaps my chief sounding-board, and he's so patient to listen to my whims and wonder-ifs.... Extended family, especially my parents, are extremely helpful as well, especially given the amount of time they've known me. Even my kids' voices help me reevaluate what's important--the exuberant "Thank YOU, Mommy!" or the whiny "I'm not tired" both tell me their own truths.

Recently a still, small voice helped me reevaluate a reoccuring objective--one that I still have hopes for accomplishing, but not any time in the near future. If you're a believer, you know the Voice I'm talking about: that kind yet strong Voice of the Holy Spirit of God.

As background, let me just share that my husband is currently working on his PhD in NT Interpretation. It's been a lot of work and there's still a chunk to go, but I'm completely behind him in as his desire is to give national African men the seminary tools they need to understand the Word of God and to communicate those truths to their own communities.

It's tempting to call the degree, the goal; and at times it seems very much like the goal. But the truth is, it's only an objective on the way to the real goal.

Our real goal is to bring glory to God by worshipping Him wholeheartedly with gratitude and reverence and by by cultivating discipleship relationships with people in the specific cross-section of the world He's given to us.

So the objective that I'd like to see accomplished for me: a Master's degree in Special Education, more specifically in Reading and/or Written Expression Disabilities. And a doctorate isn't beyond what I could dream about. Yes, I'm an over-goaler. But I would love to pass on a love for SPED to the next generation of educators as well....

But at certain points along the way, I have to step back and do a reeval.
*Right now, I'm teaching SPED to help my husband accomplish his objective: it's part of what I believe is within the scope of the Proverbs 31 woman, allowing him to the man God intends him to be.
*I'm also a mom: Alan and I have two growing boys, still in early elementary school, who it is our privilege to love and disciple.
*And I'm a small-group discipleship teacher for the high school and college age young women in the InnerCity Ministry at our church.
*Not to mention writing...and reading....

It's not time to pursue a degree.... At some point, when Alan's completed his degree, perhaps the Lord will allow me to begin working on the Master's. But for now, Acts 4:13 has been a huge encouragement to me. (Title linked to Acts 3, 4 nasb via Bible gateway.)

Without any letters behind their names, with no formal education (4:13), the disciples of Jesus Peter and John spoke their message with unashamed clarity (Acts 3:11-4:3). Theirs was a noteably effective ministry (4:4, 21). They were not intimidated by others with more credentialed power who could have potentially silenced them, sending them to prison (4:5-12,15-18). Instead, they were set apart by God, filled with His Holy Spirit (4:8) and uniquely gifted (4:9-10; 3:1-10). They were devoted to Christ Jesus (4:11-12, 19-20), and it was obvious--largely because of the lack of letters after their names, so to speak--it was obvious that they had been with Jesus (4:13)!

If my goal is what I say it is, to glorify God, than if He realigns my objectives and even if He omits "graduate degree" from the list, that should be fine with me. He knows what He's shaping me into and what I need to have. If the best way I can worship Him and bring others along with me in praising Him is to forget the formal training, than so be it. He's given me wide-open ministry within my own family and neighborhood; He's broadened it to include discipleship relationships in our local church and in the Christian school where I teach.

The thing I need most right now is not more formal training. It's exactly what was so apparent of Peter and John: time spent with Jesus.

And that's a relationship incomparably more valuable than any letters after a name.

New objective: Michelle L. Grover will spend a cherished amount of time each day with Jesus, by reading His Word, by talking with Him in prayer, by singing and by journaling. mlg

Reeval submitted 5/27/10.
michelle l. grover

welcoming our adorable new nephew... with love and prayers

Brandt Ethan was born May 25! He's absolutely precious!!

For more pictures and prayer updates, click on link.
http://www.brandtsbeacon.blogspot.com/
Currently holding his own with no oxygen and a great set of lungs!
1st HypoLeftPlasticHeart surgery scheduled for Tuesday, June 1.

Thankful Parents: Glenn and Lindy Markevich
Excited Big Bro's: Joel & Seth

With so much love already!
... & lots of prayers,
aunt michelle =)

family time

First-priority ministry: My family! (Some recent pix.)

My awesome husband, taken at the state park last nite...

("So much for being able to start a fire with two sticks."--Alan. ... The coals never did catch fire--even with lighter fluid doused on them--but they still managed to flavor the meat nicely, and we all enjoyed a nice picnic, complete with pasta salad and carrot cake.)

And our beloved boys, taken at Davy Crockett's birthplace in TN...


(Love that they love the historic stuff! We're reading through BJU Press' 8th grade History textbook, The American Republic, this summer. How cool is that!)

Hope you're enjoying your family this summer too!!
michelle


book review: the wormling series

I just finished reading the five-book Wormling series by Jerry B. Jenkins & Chris Fabry last night. In order from 1 to 5, the titles are: The Book of the King, The Sword of the Wormling, The Changeling, The Minions of Time, and The Author's Blood.

Rather than give you a play-by-play, I'm going to do pros and cons lists and let you decide if you want your kids to read these:

PROS:

*Plot is very possibly Jenkins/Fabry's greatest strength. They weave together an intricate map of two worlds that mirror one another and finally converge at the fulfillment of the final prophecy of the King. Commendable feat.

*Highly imaginative--though sometimes ridiculous--this series fits into the fantasy category w/o question

*Plugs for reading Scripture and living by the Book, obeying the King, living by faith regardless of sight, serving others, loving the outcast, and so on

*Highly allegorical, though not completely--this is consistent with most Christian fantasy

*Short chapters that keep the flow going--especially for today's young readers

*Multiple viewpoint characters--helpful for training the brain to hold information and wait for gratification/resolution

*Vocabulary building--defines a lot of words within the text (which is to say he tells you what the word means without you having to look it up in the dictionary)

*Classic quotes at the beginning of each book--love these!

*Good vs. evil is clearly defined; and the good triumphs over the evil--a must for truly good literature!!

*Many great truths explained and/or applied appropriately

*Uses descriptions of music as part of his scene-setting, the Dragon's being called "a percussive hymn" and "cacophony"; starkly contrasted by the King's peace-giving and joy-filled strains.

*Clever, easy-to-remember character names: Owen Reeder is the main character whose gift is reading and who lives in a bookshop; Clara Seacrest has eyes that sparkle like the sea; Watcher is the dog-like, faithful friend who has been watching for the return of the Wormling and whose gift is to recognizing even invisible presences; sometimes using synechdoche, naming the character, e.g., "White Shirt"; biblical allusions, such as Rachel (who weeps for her child) and Nicodemus....

CONS:

*Tells the story rather than showing us what happens along the way, probably to condense space, but at times it's jarring and/or disappointing.

*The whole five-book series was written within two years' time and lacks the finesse that I would've expected from a renowned author who boasts his own Writer's Guild. Specific areas: repetitive word choice/phrasing (types of verbals) and less than smooth flow/transitions. Maybe it's just me: "Not my style" (although recently I've found several others who would agree, having read other books/series, that there are some stylistic elements that could be improved in more than just the children's fiction writing). One more read-aloud would've done wonders, I'm convinced, but that takes time when you're pushing to make the deadline and/or another quick sale. Thankfully, the plot allows a forgiving reader to move on. However, and unfortunately, an additional pre-release revision would've made this series more enduring than it undoubtedly will be. ... C.S. Lewis is still the unrivaled Christian fantasy champion.

*A handful of not-helpful descriptors ("as if he'd drunk too much"--hopefully the age group he's writing to hasn't seen too much of this; "testosterone-laden" as an adjective for teens; "yeah, right you were looking at her eyes;" and so forth): sure, these are believable, but is it what we want to have our kids laugh at or focus on? The story would be just as strong, and I would argue stronger, if they were to leave these out. We choose our audience by what we write, and apparently/sadly they've chosen a pop culture group of kids versus the families that are trying to teach godly discernment to their young people. However (to use one of their favorite words), we can use even this element to help our kids learn that that's not funny or necessary.

*Cheesy, at times...

*Lack of discernment at one major point: Throughout most of the book, the words from the Book of the King are loosely translated from the Bible. Then in book 3 (p. 108), they quote the following from the book of the King: "As long as the King gives me breath, I will honor him and thank him... [an obviously biblical allusion; but then following right on its tale is some flagrant psychobabble:] ... Allow your heart the freedom it craves and then have the courage to follow it." This teaching doesn't fit the whole rest of the Book. Be careful. The intended audience age may not be discerning enough to pull this out, especially since it's so craftily wedged amidst really good, biblical thoughts.

*Definitely aimed at a specific age audience, rather than "the childlike of all ages" (George MacDonald, classic fantasy author and inspiration for C.S. Lewis).

CONCLUSION:
*I made notes in my copies at each of the points that lack discernment as well as at points where literary techniques or biblical truths are used with skill. I always recommend parents/teachers pre-read books they give their kids and talk through any crucial and/or questionable concepts as well as any literary devices their kids could incorporate into their own writing.

*The story begins with good intrigue, wanes a little in books two, three and four with journeys and battles that get a bit long and somewhat repetitive, though interesting and important characters are added along the way. The authors leave enough threads dangling that the reader is encouraged to press on and tie it all together--which is what the fifth book in the series does. Book Five is, in my opinion, the best of the five.

To read Michele Howe's plot summary for each of the five books in Jenkins/Fabry's Wormling series, click on the title link for this blog post.

And then, you decide.

michelle

book review: same lake, different boat--final installment


The final chapter of Same Lake, Different Boat was perhaps the most convicting for me: "On Change: Revolution or Reformation."

Having taught through a fiction title based in the French Revolution this year, and loving Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, the very word revolution conjurs up various and sundry graphic images. Once fully persuaded in our minds of the need for implementing the truths in Same Lake, Different Boat, truths founded clearly in Scripture, it is only natural to want to convince everyone else of their need to change too. But the manner in which we educate others and exhort them to change must be full of grace. I am so thankful for this timely admonition from a sister in Christ.


"Revolution," Stephanie writes, "is energized by frustration, promotes the forcible change of external behaviors, values the attainment of its cause above the worth of others, and focuses on the acquisition of power from its enemies" (224). Ouch! She doesn't mince words here. And she shouldn't. "If we conform to the world's pattern--revolution" (216), we will very likely end up with wounded souls in the process.


"Reformation is energized to promote change as a heartfelt response of gratitude toward God for His merciful intervention in our own lives" (216). "God's pattern for transformation--reformation--always starts with with personal Spirit-led change from within the human heart" (217). It is an "ongoing" process in my heart. It "retains a sense of personal perspective while simultaneously valuing all people, and focuses on the expression of love toward others" (224).


I love the way she sums up this idea of "reformation": "the narrow road ... a long obedience ... small beginnings, quiet faithfulness, and a humble reputation" (ibid).


It is my sincere desire that these posts have been helpful to you. I am convinced that you will be encouraged by Stephanie's book. And whereas Stephanie is from the Presbyterian theological perspective and utilizes the word "covenant" far more than I am used to having grown up in a Baptist church, how can we not love and learn from this woman who clearly embraces the cross of Jesus Christ and so obviously has a vibrant personal relationship with Him, a woman who doesn't just tell others what they should do but sets the example--and sets it high.

Thank you, Stephanie, for your "justice, mercy and faithfulness" in sharing with us the things God has so graciously taught you. You have been an encouragement to my heart and made an impact that will be enduring.

And so, book read, highlighter expired, and truths still working their way in, I commend to you Same Lake, Different Boat: Coming Alongside People Touched by Disability by Stephanie O. Hubach, published by P&R Publishing.

And if a condensed audio format is helpful, visit http://www.archive.org/details/StephanieHubachSameLake_DifferentBoat_IdentifyingwithandMinisteringAlongsidePeopleTouc or click on the title to part 1 of these book reviews.

Grace to you, and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, and power from the Spirit of truth and love,
michelle

book review: same lake, different boat--part three

In the third and final section of the fabulously helpful, intensely practical book Same Lake, Different Boat, Stephanie Hubach makes direct application to the Church. Part three of this blog review will cover chapters 10 through 12, and I will reserve a final post for the concluding chapter.

Quoting from Matthew 23:23-24 in chapter 10, the author urges us to apply Jesus' emphasis on "justice, mercy and faithfulness."

Justice "does not promote compensation of the 'poor' at the expense of the 'great,' but calls for the restoration of a level playing field with regard to the treatment of both groups. The goal is not to show partiality to anyone, but fairness to all... not to convey that people with special needs are somehow God's special people--those who are due extraordinary rights and privileges [but] to restore a fair and respectful treatment of every person as a unique individual created in the image of God" (155). "The antithesis [or opposite] of justice is oppression--the holding down of another--through the use of power ina way that is immoral and inequitable...either actively or passively" (ibid). But she tempers her challenge to those who neglect justice with a warning to those of us who are passionate about advocating for persons with disabilities: "Don't let the callousness of others cause your own heart to become hard or self-righteous. Peaceful change comes through a posture of humility" (158).

Mercy, according to St. Gregory of Nyssa is "a voluntary sorrow which enjoins itself to the suffering of another" (qtd 159). Stephanie points out this definition does not say "others in general--but another--a single, individual, unique, and precious person" (161). Well spoken, Steph!

Faithfulness, finally, is an "unwavering, personal commitment for the duration" reflective of God's faithfulness demonstrated via loyal love.

Chapter 11 discusses God's beautiful design for "unity in diversity" (171). This chapter is chock full of Scripture and then gives practical applications for Christian education (which Stephanie broadens to include Sunday School and other teaching times in a Christian setting, not just formal instruction in a private school setting). Implementing some alliteration, she goes on to discuss applications for Community Life (helping make social connections within the Body), Corporate Worship (urging us to rethink how we define a "disruption," Caring, allowing those with disabilities to Contribute to the life of the Body.

"It takes wisdom to know how to implement those principles effectively" (188). But "graciously engaging individuals and their families in justice, mercy, and faithfulness [is not necessarily] straightforward. [If it were, chapter 12] would be titled 'On Rules: What Every Church Should Do.' Instead, it is aptly titled, 'On Wisdom: Questions Every Church Should Answer'" and asks the following questions: "whom do we help?", "how much do we help?", "when do we help?", "how do we help?", "from where do we help?", and "with what attitude do we help?". This chapter was incredibly helpful for thinking through philosophy of ministry in general, not just disability ministry. For example, my heart was pricked in thinking through some times in our church's inner-city ministry with the following quote: "Carrying around an overinflated view of ourselves and one that lacks genuine respect, we will likely create more harm than good as we condescend to the person who is, quite literally, the 'object' of our ministry" (206). It is so important that we are worshiping with not just to. And that we are ministering from a posture of grace, realizing how great grace has been necessarily bestowed on each of us.

May each of us prayerfully consider the applications and how to answer the questions God has brought to our minds and hearts.

book review: same lake, different boat--part two

In chapter four, author Stephanie Hubach effectively speaks to the "relentlessness" of disability: "For some families touched by disability, relentlessness comes in the form of providing decades of personal care, or heart-wrenching struggles with communication, aggression, or self-injury on the part of the individual with special needs. Maybe it arrives in the form of endless hospitalizations, lack of access to transportation, joblessness, social isolation, or any of a myriad of other issues"(56). I love the way this author paints the realistic picture with brush strokes of specific examples to help us think through the variety of struggles a family faces.

In the face of relentlessness, the only response that offers any true hope is one of "God-reliance." We are all tempted toward one of two extremes--the "victim mentality" or the "'I will beat this' attitude." But Scripture gives us the counter-cultural, God-dependent perspective for dealing with difficulty, in part illustrated through the OT biblical hero of Joseph, a man who was also "thrust into a difficulty not of his own choosing" and found success both in the end and in the meantime.

After firmly laying a biblical foundation for understanding disability, Stephanie moves on to "Part 2" where she specifically addresses needs in a family setting, things such as giving a family time to deal with the natural emotion of grief and allowing them the time to adjust to a "new normal" while they process the changes to their family life. She so graciously challenges to a balance between "privacy" for the family and availability/"presence."

I would do the author and her book an injustice if I were to try to sum up the next few chapters. They are so rich with practical suggestions for building acceptance ("embracing reality as it is right now [and being willing] to embrace reality as it will be when the future becomes the present"), rich with Scripture, and rich in real-life examples that aptly illustrate the truths she is presenting.

In the final paragraph of Part 2, Stephanie draws the following conclusion: "Living with long-term disability can provide a Great Opportunity to illuminate the entrance to the narrow gate" (146).

I will conclude with one of my favorite illustrations quoted from Christopher deVinck:
"I grew up in a house where my brother was on his back in his bed for thirty-two years, in the same corner of his room, under the same window, beside the same yellow walls. He was blind, mute. His legs were twisted. He didn't have the strength to lift his head or the intelligence to learn anything.... I asked my father, 'How did you care for Oliver for thirty-two years?' 'It was not thirty-two years,' he said. 'I just asked myself, 'Can I feed Oliver today?' and the answer was always, "Yes, I can."' We lived with Oliver moment by moment" (qtd 104).

book review: same lake, different boat--part one

Disability has a way of taking us by surprise and stirring fear in our hearts. We're uncomfortable with the appropriate way to respond to socially awkward situations. We're afraid we'll do the wrong thing. We're inexperienced with how to help.

In her completely honest and in her sweet, coming-alongside-you manner of hospitality, Stephanie Hubach puts her arm around each individual who has a heart to learn about meeting the needs of individuals and families touched by disability and gently shepherds us in theologically-based, throughly practical applications of Biblical love exercised in the Body of Christ.

Beginning by establishing a Biblical view of disability as "a normal part of an abnormal world" (as contrasted with the historical or modern view as "an abnormal part of a normal world" and the postmodern view as "a normal part of a normal world"), Steph identifies "disability [as] essentially a more noticeable form of the brokenness that is common to the human experience" (29). We live in an abnormal world, the result of the Fall of man. Were it not for the effects of sin, there would be no disability. That is not at all to say that there is a direct causal factor with an individual or family's experience with disability; in fact, the Gospel is very clear that God ordains disability in the lives of some for the sole purpose of displaying His work in their lives for their benefit and the benefit of others (see John 9:1-3).

One of the gem-like truths of Scripture that Stephanie repeatedly holds to the light is the fact that we are all created in the image of God. If we believe this, that each individual to varying degrees reflects God's image, we will value the sanctity of human life and will both cherish and respect one another. I love the picture Steph uses to illustrate this concept: "the image of God within each individual can be likened to a mirror that reflects God's glory, in part, to others. Unmarred at creation, what an incredible and awesome reflection that must have been! In a world now impacted by the fall, each person's mirror is cracked, yet all the pieces still remain. Consequently, the looking glass reflects a distorted view of God's glory--but it remains a partial mirror of him just the same. Our struggle enters in because we find it so much easier to identify the cracks in the mirror, and so we miss the image entirely. It takes a conscious effort for us to concentrate on the most fundamental blessing of creation--that we are all created in the image of God--and to gaze speechlessly at his goodness, truth, and beauty in others. Yet lives are radically transformed--ours and those around us--when we intentionally choose to focus on the image of God within" (46). I love that!

To hear author Stephanie Hubach talk about these topics, click on the title above. I plan to continue this review in subsequent posts, but that ought to whet your appetite for now.

Praying for you as you digest this information,
michelle

creative bud vase

A flower is a gift of beauty to be enjoyed. Micah and Jordan-Elliot and I cut these together this morning, two from each of them. I hope if you're a mom you are as eagerly gifted with the various weeds and wonders little fingers find in creation.

In addition to flowers, I love quality herbs and spices, as evidenced by the empty jars. Aside from fresh-cut from the garden, McCormick's are the best. Tarragon, Dill Weed and Ground Coriander Seed are three of my favorite spices currently.

I grew up using dill, thanks to the Polish roots; Mom's chicken salad is kissed with tarragon and oh, so sweet; and the infamous recipe postcard for "Falafel--Israel's national snack" from Alan's trip last summer introduced me to coriander (also a gentle substitute for those allergic to pepper).

The glass McCormick's jars provide a fitting way to enjoy the kids' top picks in my kitchen. They're just the right size and such a fun, fresh way to showcase my little guys' gifts of love.

A transparent ribbon around the mouth of the jar would be a sweet touch as well.

Hope you have a wonderful summer, staying creative and cherishing all the memory-making moments.