Confusing Comfort with Godliness

Confusing Comfort with Godliness from genvealopez2012.com

In college, I took a World Missions class as an elective.  Once, we were assigned to read a book called “Peace Child” by missionary Don Richardson.  It is the true story of how Don and his wife, Carol, shared the gospel with a remote tribe in New Guinea.  If you’ve never read it, I encourage you to and I’ll try not to spoil the story here.  In a nutshell, though, it’s a great lesson on how ministry doesn’t always look like what we think it’s going to and how, even though doing things this way has worked in the past it doesn’t always mean it’s going to work that way in every situation.  We might have to try something different.

I was reading the story of David and Goliath the other night.  It’s a story I’ve read and heard a thousand times throughout my life, but even still, the other night I grasped something new.  You know the story, probably.  Goliath, the giant Philistine warrior, terrorized the Israelites for 40 days looking for an Israelite to fight him.  No one was brave enough until David.  While visiting with his older brothers, the young shepherd boy heard Goliath’s threats and he quickly volunteered to fight the giant.  King Saul told him he was too young and untrained to fight such a warrior, but David soon convinced him to let him try.

Before David set out to fight Goliath, King Saul attempted to prepare David for the battle.  1 Samuel 17:38-39 (NIV) says:

“Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic.  He put a coat of armor on him and bronze helmet on his head.  David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them…”

I imagine that it would have been considered a great honor for a king to offer you his own armor.  And certainly suiting up in this kind of armor would have been the logical thing to do before going to face one’s enemy in battle, especially one the size of Goliath.  King Saul no doubt used his armor often in battles and it surely protected him and served him well in defeating many enemies in previous fights.

But David wasn’t used to it.  He wasn’t trained in using any of it.  When he had gone up against lions and bears when tending to the sheep at home, he used other methods and came out victoriously.  So the story goes, he took off these garments and weapons and instead took up his slingshot and 5 stones and faced the giant Philistine, claiming victory soon after.

How many times have I rejected something or someone as ungodly or wrong simply because it didn’t look like what I thought it should?  Perhaps a pastor preached a sermon this way, but I didn’t like his style of preaching, so I automatically declassified him as a man of God.  Maybe the way this artist sings or plays music goes against what I like or what I’ve always thought of as Christ-like, so I automatically snubbed them as wrong or ungodly.

The thing is, we absolutely DO have to use discernment when we listen to sermons or music or view different ministries.  We should ALWAYS make sure that whatever is being taught or sung or practiced aligns with the Word of God, even when we think the individual preaching it, singing it, or doing it is an amazing individual.  This is something we should practice daily.

But too often, we dismiss others for the simple fact that they’re “not our style.”  We reject others for doing things differently than we like or prefer.  If it takes us out of our comfort zone at all, we are quick to dismiss it without further observation, prayer, or guidance from God and unfortunately, we attempt to stifle individuals from freely flowing in their own talents and gifts from God.

In this story from 1 Samuel, it’s important to understand that King Saul wasn’t wrong in what he was doing.  He was trying to prepare David as any soldier would prepare and in the past, King Saul had been triumphant handling battles in this way.  But David decided to approach the situation differently, much differently than any one else had ever done.  To many, it probably seemed absurd.  Yet, we see that David, given the opportunity to flow from his own talents, came out victorious.  Had King Saul forced David to do it the way he would have personally chosen to do it, would David have been successful?  We’ll never know, but the point is, he was successful doing it differently than others thought he should have.

Let us be cautious, then, in being quick to judge others as wrong, based solely on our opinions or preferences.  Perhaps God has blessed you and your ministry of choice as you’ve done things one way, but do not think for one second that just because someone else does ministry different than you, that they have not been called by God and that they are not being used by God.  Let us not confuse our personal comfort levels, Friends, with the guiding voice of the Holy Spirit.

 

 

Understanding the U.S. Immigration System: Family Immigration Visas

Understanding the U.S. Immigration System: Family Immigration Visas from genevalopez2012.com

If you’re just joining me today, a friend of mine recently asked if I could elaborate on what the process entails for an individual to immigrate legally to the United States.  I decided I wanted to address this subject in various parts and posts since it’s such a complex process.  You can check out my first post on this topic here: Understanding the U.S. Immigration System: Tourist Visas, as I address the process of obtaining tourist visas.  As a reminder, I am not a lawyer and any information I share here should NEVER be substituted for competent legal advice from a lawyer. Because of my family’s own experiences going through the legal immigration process, as well as my professional experience providing counseling services to individuals who have gone through the process, I’m sometimes asked to share information on the topic.

Today’s blog may be the most eye-opening of any I do on the topic.  Today, we’re going to take a look at how someone can legally immigrate to the U.S. via family members.

Permanent Residents vs. U.S. Citizens: What’s the Difference?

First, it’s important to distinguish between lawful permanent residents and citizens of the U.S.  Both have gone through a legal process to obtain their status, both are legally allowed to live in the United States and work here, and both pay taxes.  Understand that when someone first legally enters this country as a legal immigrant, they will NOT be granted citizenship; they will be given permanent residency, first.  The individual must live in the U.S.A as a permanent resident for a certain amount of years (3-5, depending on the type of immigration case they have) before they can apply to become citizens of the United States and, of course, pay all the fees involved with THAT process.  However, an individual is never obligated to become a citizen; they can choose to remain a Permanent Resident only and they are still just as “legal” as an individual who chooses to become a citizen.

How Does Someone Qualify for Immigration Via a Family Member?

In order for an individual to legally immigrate to the United States via a family member, they must be one of the following:

  • Spouse of a U.S citizen or permanent resident
  • Son or daughter of a U.S. citizen
  • Unmarried son or daughter of a permanent resident
  • Parent of a U.S. citizen
  • Brother or sister of a U.S. citizen

If an individual falls into one of these categories, their relative living in the United States can file a petition for them and start the process.  There are many steps and fees involved in this process and the process is different depending on the familial relationship, so rather than list all of that, you can find this information by following this link to the government website: Family Immigration Visas.  Individuals will have to meet certain health requirements, financial requirements, submit to background checks, and complete interviews, to name a view of the steps.

How Long Does the Process Take? 

So how long can a family member expect to be waiting for their application to be processed and approved?  Well, that depends.

If a family member being petitioned for is the spouse of a U.S. citizen, the unmarried child under 21 years of age of a U.S. citizen, or the parent of a U.S. citizen who is 21 years old or older, THEN this process is the fastest of all family petitions.  There are no limits to the number of family visas available each year for these three family relationships, so the process moves more quickly.  However, the amount of time it will take for these applications to be processed varies day by day, will depend on the processing center that the individual’s application has been assigned to, and will also depend on the country of origin of the family member being petitioned for.  Currently, in general, the process is said to take approximately 6 months – 1 year for these specific cases, but can be greatly impacted by many factors.    

But what about family members who do not fall into one of those three categories?  How long does their process take?

Again, it depends.

When a family member does not fall into one of the above three categories, their petition is prioritized based on the nature of their relationship with the U.S. petitioner and they will fall into one of the following 4 preferences:

  1. F1-First: Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. Citizens
  2. F2A: Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents
    F2B: Unmarried sons and daughters 21 years or older of Permanent Residents
  3. F3: Married sons and daughters of U.S. Citizens
  4. F4: Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. Citizens

As mentioned earlier, the amount of family visas allowed for immediate relatives (spouses, children under 21 years old, and parents) of U.S. Citizens is unlimited, but for family members that fall into one of these other categories, that is not the case.  Each year, the government establishes a certain amount of family visas allotted for each of these four categories.  According to the information provided on the U.S. Department of State’s website, currently the amount of visas allowed each year for each category is as follows:

  1. F1: 23,400
  2. F2: 114,200 total, with F2A members being allotted 77% of these and F2B members being allotted 23%
  3. F3: 23,400
  4. F4: 65,000

If the amount of visas allowed for a preference are not reached, then any “left over” visas will be added to the amount allowed for the subsequent preference.  For example, if only 20,000 visas are granted for individuals who fall into the F1 category, then the remaining 3,400 visas not used in that category will be added to the 114,200 total of the F2 category, bringing that total for the year to 117,600 visas allotted.

However, if that wasn’t complicated enough, there are also limitations to the number of visas allowed for each country every year.  Therefore, someone from Russia, for example, may have a much shorter waiting time than an individual from Mexico because the amount of visas allowed for Russia has not been met yet, but has been met for Mexico.

Whooo.  Still with me?

When an individual files a petition for a family member, the government will send them what is known as a priority date.  They can use this priority date to check on the status of their application throughout the process.  However, the U.S. Department of State, also publishes what is known as a Visa Bulletin each month.  This can be especially useful for individuals who are trying to immigrate from countries in which, currently, the number of visas is oversubscribed.  In other words, a country is referred to as oversubscribed when the amount of visa applicants exceeds the amount of visas allotted for that country.  According to the December, 2018 bulletin, currently the following countries are all oversubscribed: China (mainland born), El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Mexico, Philippines, and Vietnam.  

So what does this mean, exactly?  Let’s take a look at Mexico.  According to this month’s Visa Bulletin, the United States government is ready to begin immediate processing of applications who have been assigned priority dates BEFORE the following dates listed in each category:

  1. F1: April, 1999
  2. F2A: December, 2017
    F2B: August, 1997
  3. F3: October, 1999
  4. F4: September, 1998

In other words, currently, a Mexican applicant who is the unmarried son or daughter of a U.S. citizen and is is 21 years or older, will have been waiting 19 years for their turn in this process.

Currently, for countries that are not oversubscribed, for applicants who are the unmarried son or daughter of a U.S. citizen and are 21 years or older, the government is ready to begin processing applications with priority dates before August, 2011, meaning these individuals have been waiting approximately 7 years. 

When we take this information and combine it with information that I provided in this previous blog The Real Question We Should Be Asking About the Migrant Caravan (disclaimer: The blog post about the Caravan contains both facts and personal opinions, unlike the blog post you are currently reading), it may bring some clarification as to why individuals feel a need to forego the legal process.

In Summary

This information is constantly changing and, as you can see, dependent on several factors.  Also, this is a general overview of the typical process for family visas, but as always, there are exceptions.  If you take nothing else from this post, though, take this: Every case is different.  Just because John Doe did it this way and it took this amount of time, does NOT mean that Jane Doe’s process will be the same.  There are many components to this process and I’ve tried to explain that as briefly as possible in this blog.  

 

Understanding the U.S. Immigration System: Tourist Visas

Understanding the U.S. Immigration System: Tourist Visas from genevalopez2012.com

A friend of mine recently asked if I could share information on what the legal process entails for immigrating to the USA, as she is trying to gain a better understanding.  I am not a lawyer and any information I provide on this topic should never be substituted for competent legal advice from a lawyer.  However, I have personally been through the process of legal immigration, as I married a man born and raised in El Salvador, I have many friends and family members who have also been through the process, and I have worked professionally in therapy with individuals who have dealt with the system as well.  So, I’m not an expert on the subject, but I do have quite a bit of experience with it.

One of the arguments many people give for opposing “illegal immigration” is that they believe people should follow our laws and regulations and “do it the right and legal way.”  But what does that process entail, exactly?

I decided I wanted to tackle this topic in parts, as it’s quite a complicated process.  Though I’m known for being long-winded in my writing, even I will admit that most people aren’t going to sit through one, big post on this topic.  Ha!  While I won’t be able to address every single facet of legal immigration, the plan is to write several posts on the topic addressing some of the key elements.  Each original post will avoid my personal opinion on the topic and will simply be a resource to educate and inform, providing information from both government websites and personal examples.

Let’s Get Started.  First topic: Tourist Visas.

Whenever any citizen of a foreign country wants to visit the United States, not only must they have a passport, but they must also apply and be approved for what is known as a tourist visa or B-2 visa.  According to the U.S. Department of State website, appropriate uses of this visa include tourism, vacation, visiting friends/family, medical treatment, participation in social events, participation in amateur events as a musician, athlete, or something similar as long as the individual is not being paid for participation, and enrollment in a short course of study that does not count as credit towards a degree.

In order to apply for this visa, in most cases, one would adhere to the following process:

  1. Complete Form DS-160, the application form for a tourist visa, which can be found at the U.S. Department of State website.
  2. Schedule a visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate of the country in which one lives.  Wait times for these interviews vary by country.  You can find approximate wait times for the city in which you live at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/tourism-visit/visitor.html.  Current wait times for this visa interview as of today’s date, for example, are approximately 9 days for Tokyo, 16 for Baghdad, and 20 for San Salvador.
  3. Pay a processing fee of $160.  This fee will NOT be refunded whether the visa is granted or not.  
  4. Gather any required documents for the visa interview, which will vary depending on the country of origin and purpose of visit.
  5. Attend the visa interview appointment.

After the visa interview, the applicant will find out whether they are approved for a B-2 visa or not.  I recently polled a small, anonymous audience on Facebook regarding this topic.  I asked the following question:

True or False: Pending there is no serious criminal history or known ties to terrorists, the individual should be approved for the visa.

The results of my poll, found that approximately 67% of the individuals who answered the poll, believed this to be a true statement, while 33% of the individuals who answered the poll, believed this to be a false statement.  So, what’s the answer?

FALSE.

While this criteria will certainly play a role in determining whether or not an applicant is approved for a B-2 tourist visa, there is actually quite a bit more criteria that must be met for approval.  You can read the extensive list of reasons why an individual may be denied a tourist visit, by copying and pasting this link in your browser: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/waivers.html. 

An example of a reason one may be denied a visitor’s visa is that the interviewing officer believes the applicant may become a public charge while in the United States.  To determine this, the officer will consider the applicant’s age, health, family status (single, married, etc), assets and financial status, and education and skills.

When my husband and I were getting married in 2008, we really wanted his family in El Salvador to be here.  The family members who applied for a B-2 visa, brought an invitation to our wedding with them to their visa interviews.  Of those who applied, his mother, one sister, and his brother were all, thankfully, granted a tourist visa and were able to attend our wedding.  However, one sister who applied at the same time for the same reasons, was denied the visa and unable to attend.  She had no criminal history and no health issues, but was most likely denied due to lack of financial assets at the time.  According to the U.S. Department of State’s website, “The sole authority to approve or deny (called adjudicate) visa applications, under U.S. immigration law section 104(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, is given to consular officers at U.S. Embassies and Consulates.”  

If a B-2 visa is granted, it can be awarded for various time frames.  Some individuals are approved for a 5-year visa, some a 10-year visa, and others a visa that expires after a few days after entry into the United States.  This does not mean, however, that an individual awarded a 10-year, B-2 visa can enter the United States and legally stay for 10 consecutive years; it just means that their visa is good for a total of 10 years and they will not have to re-apply for a visitor’s visa each time they travel to the United States within that 10-year period.  Once an individual enters the U.S., the officer who reviews the individual’s documents at customs, determines how long the individual can stay during the particular visit, with the longest stay allowed on this specific type of visa being 6 months.

This is a brief synopsis of the typical process required for a tourist visa to the United States.  What do you think?  Any of the information surprise you?  I would encourage you to spend more time on the websites provided throughout this post to gain an even better understanding of B-2 visas.

And as always, thank you for trying to educate yourself on the process of legal immigration into the United States so that you can form your own informed opinion on the topic.

Does God Want Me to Forgive and Forget?

Before David inherited the throne, he was a servant of King Saul. The Bible talks about how well David served Saul, his loyalty to the King, and Saul’s appreciation for David’s work. But as time went on, King Saul soon became jealous of David, so much so, that he even began to try and kill the servant he once loved. As we read through 1 Samuel, we see the dark and dismal fall of King Saul as his jealousy consumes him. It’s a depressing end to what was once an incredible friendship and mentorship.

When reading these Scriptures, we often emphasize David’s response to this situation. The Psalms he most likely wrote during this turbulent time paint a better picture of David’s own struggles through it all. I imagine all he must have been thinking, all the emotions he must have been feeling. Shock, fear, anger, brokenness, sadness, confusion, grief. What a dark time in David’s life it must have been.

While David certainly experienced personal highs and lows through this time in his life, we eventually read about David’s incredible example of mercy and forgiveness. Though he had the opportunity to easily kill King Saul throughout this ordeal, he chose to spare his life. And when, later on in the story, David learned of Saul and Jonathan’s deaths, we witness him grieve deeply for them both, witness him refer to Saul, even after all he had done, as God’s “anointed one,” and compose a song praising the king for good things he had done.

I’ve always read those Scriptures as a beautiful picture of how God defines true forgiveness, focused on David’s refusal to seek revenge in both word and deed. And undoubtedly, it certainly does all of that. But as I was reading through these passages a few years ago, I was struck by something I’d never given much thought to before.

As Christ-followers, I think we can often be confused as to what forgiveness, as the Bible defines it, is and what it is not. I’ve often seen it taught in churches, or at the very least, implied, that biblical forgiveness is the equivalent of forgetting. After all, Scripture teaches us to turn the other cheek and forgive others 70 x 7 when they sin against us. But this notion wasn’t settling well with me, especially in situations where abuse was occurring.

Webster’s Dictionary defines “forgive” as the following:

  • stop feeling angry or resentful toward someone for (an offense, flaw, or mistake).
  • cancel (a debt).

When we look at David and Saul’s story here, we see David wrestle through this process, but eventually, he most certainly lives up to this definition. Webster doesn’t mention anything about forgetting the offense when defining forgiveness, but does that align with Scripture? I found my answer in 1 Samuel 24.

In this chapter, we learn about how David spared Saul’s life when given the opportunity to kill him. When he makes this fact known to Saul, the king weeps and essentially begs David for mercy, which David agrees to. But then the Scripture reads in verse 22,

“…Then Saul returned home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold.”

Prior to Saul’s jealous rampage, David had lived with Saul and served as a high commanding officer in Saul’s army. David was best friends with Saul’s son Jonathan and several times, we even read David referring to Saul as “my father” and King Saul referring to David as “my son.” But despite all of this, we see in this verse of 1 Samuel 24, that though David chose to show mercy and not collect a debt from Saul, so to speak, it is also just as important to note, I think, that he did not return with Saul. In fact, he returned to a stronghold, which is a place where one seeks protection from attack.

While I believe the Church certainly gets some of the most vital components of biblical forgiveness right, we cannot forsake this equally important piece here: That forgiveness is letting go of revenge and animosity towards those who do us harm, but it does not require us to put ourselves back in situations where we are in danger, whether physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. Just as a physical stronghold protects us against those who seek to do us harm, personal boundaries work the same way, and they are necessary in life.

Forgive others, as Christ commands us. Allow Him to help you release resentment and bitterness towards those who have harmed you. But seek His wisdom and guidance, too, in learning how to set healthy boundaries with those who have harmed you. In some situations, perhaps He is calling you to reconcile the relationship and live as though it did not happen. But in other situations, He may want you to lean on Him as you let go of that toxic relationship, where there should be no reconciliation because it will only bring death and destruction to your life. Release the notion that biblical forgiveness is synonymous with forgetting and understand that Scripture teaches us that we can forgive an individual, but still protect our well-being by using the memory of the offense as the explanation for new and healthy boundaries with that individual.

DISCLAIMER:

This blog is for personal use only and not to provide specific mental health advice. By using this blog site, you understand that there is no therapist-client relationship between you and Geneva. This blog should NOT be used as a substitute for competent medical or mental health advice from a licensed professional counselor in your state.

The Biggest Threat to Christian America? Christians.

Christians: Christian America's Biggest Threat from genevalopez2012.com

 

“When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, ‘Lord, should we strike with our swords?’ And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.

But Jesus answered, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. (Luke 22:49-51)

I fear for the Christian faith in our nation, America, but probably not for the same reasons so many of my Conservative friends do.  I’m not living in fear of the Liberals, the Muslim refugees, the feminists, the LGBTQ community, the ACLU, and any other alleged enemy of our Christian ideals.   No, I’m much more frightened by my own brothers and sisters in Christ who seem to have forgotten that our entire Faith is based on Love and that the world will know we are Christ’s disciples only by our love for one another (John 13:35).

We have our precious Supreme Court Justices, now.  We have our National Day of Prayer.  We have our unwavering support of Israel.  We have our real news stories that always align perfectly with what we think we know and believe to be true.

But at what cost, my Friends?  I’m not saying that any of those things in and of themselves are bad, but I am asking, what did it cost us?  With all of that, do we also have more converts to our Christian Faith?  Do we have more people who don’t know Christ as their Savior, asking us how to know this God we serve?  Because while we posted that meme with the derogatory message against the “Libtards,” “Snowflakes,” and “Idiots” on our Facebook wall, we followed it right up with that inspirational message about the goodness of God’s grace and forgiveness.  Surely that counts for something.  Surely that “Libtard” who doesn’t know Christ, knows me by my love for others NOW.

We have become so fearful that our supposedly Christian ideals will be trampled on by those who do not know Christ, that upholding those ideals has become more important to us than even Christ himself.  We have forgotten to look to Jesus as our example of how Christ-followers should respond to a world lost in sin. We have forgotten, as Christ shows us through His own life, that it is entirely possible to uphold Truth, refuse to compromise our beliefs, and still love those who do not yet know that Truth.

Instead, like the disciple, we have responded to the lost who threaten Christ and His teachings, with violence, whether physically or verbally. And while we’re busy thrashing about our swords with little thought to our words or actions, Jesus is pleading, “No more of this!”  While we’re busy looking for that next best meme to attack our “enemies,” Jesus is still trying to work on patching up the bloody mess we’ve left behind in our last self-righteous rant against those who don’t yet know Him.

Let us be reminded that God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts.  And while Jesus was blameless and more pure than any of us before or after Him, He never once fought or slandered those who persecuted Him, falsely accused Him, beat Him, or crucified Him.  In fact, some of His very last words that day were, “Father, forgive them.”

But before any of this, after His miracle of feeding the 5,000, people recognized Jesus as the One who had been prophesied about and they, not understanding from an eternal perspective, wanted to make Him king on earth.  And what was Jesus’ response to this?

 “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.”  (John 6:15)

Perhaps, then, in trying to force a Christian kingdom on this earth,whatever the cost, we not only further isolate the lost, but we also isolate ourselves from the very One we say we are defending, leaving us with a shiny earthly kingdom that has absolutely no eternal value and consists of only those who look just like us, think just like us, and vote just like us.

Heavenly Father,

Forgive me when I lose my temper.  Forgive me when I get in the way of Your Kingdom and Your ways.  Forgive me when, rather than lead others to You, I become a stumbling block in their path to You.  I pray that You would help me trade my earthly perspective for an eternal one.  I pray that You would lead me and guide me in standing firm in what Your Word says is true, while also loving others as You have commanded me to do.  Help me find the balance of a resolute Faith, unwilling to compromise Truth, with the tempering of Your unconditional love for all mankind.  And when I am tempted to yield my sword of self-righteousness against those who oppose You, help me instead, respond as Jesus would. 

Prayer

7 Things Our Kids Will Never, Ever Learn How to Do

7 Things Our Kids Will Never, Ever Learn How to Do from https://genevalopez2012.wordpress.com

Listen, Guys.  I’m usually that annoyingly optimistic, always-sees-the-glass-half-full kind of gal.  But even I have my limits and today, I’m here to deliver some pretty tough news: There are a few things that our kids are just never going to learn how to do.  Now, I can’t provide you with tons of documented research on this, but I can speak from my own experiences as a mom, the experiences of my friends, and my own observations in the Wal-Mart checkout lines and that’s basically the same thing, right?

I’m currently Mom of a 6-year old boy, a 2-year old girl, and as of sometime around the beginning of January, they tell me I’m going to also be the mom of a newborn boy.  So, sure, my kids are far from grown, but even still, I’m already convinced that the following information is factual and cannot be refuted.  As much as I want them to learn how to do these things, or in some cases, NOT to do these things, I’m convinced it’s just never going to happen.  I’ve accepted it and I’m here to make sure I crush your hopes and dreams, too. I mean, (cough, cough) I’m here to share my wisdom with the world.

When I had my first kiddo, I had absolutely no idea what the heck I was doing, so I often turned to experts in the field and saturated my mind with all the information I could find about how to be good at this Momma thing.  And you know, a lot of it worked pretty well. Our pediatrician even congratulated me at my son’s 1-month wellness visit on “keeping my child alive.”  True story!

But I don’t care how much information I’ve read, how many experts I’ve listened to, or what research I’ve found, nothing has worked to help my children learn how to do these 7 things.  I’ve gently reprimanded, begged, tried a reward-system, shamelessly bribed, and even had my 6-year old memorize Philipians 4:13 so we could repeat it together when feeling frustrated.  (Yelling through gritted teeth, “I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO GIVES ME STRENGTH” should still totally be effective, right?? Asking for a friend).

So without further ado, let’s just rip that band-aid off and get to it.

7 Things Our Kids Will Never, Ever Learn How to Do:

7 Things Our Kids Will Never, Ever Learn How to Do from https://genevalopez2012.wordpress.com

1. Find their shoes.

They can find a pimple on your face in 2.5 seconds that you worked for over 30 minutes to cover with layers of concealer and foundation, but they’ll never be able to find their shoes when it’s time to leave the house.

2. Drink the water (or not).  

It takes all day and multiple threats to your own sanity to get them to finish the 1 glass of fresh water you fixed for them this morning, but only 5 seconds for them to gulp mouthfuls of the bath water their disgusting, germ-covered, crusty rear-ends have been soaking in the last 15 minutes.  Gotta be building that immune system, though, right? Right?

3. Not to leave their winter coat at school.

They can remember every word, chord, and irritating special effect to every single one of the most annoying kids’ songs in the world, but they can’t remember to not leave their new winter coat on the school playground, the gym, or the school bus.  Every. Single. Year.

4. Pee in the toilet.

They can’t figure out how to consistently pee in the big, round, open toilet bowl and not on the seat, wall, floor, or their new underwear.  However, do not be dismayed.  Their ability to hit a target is in-tact and functioning because you better believe that when they’re sick, they’re always going to hit the bulls-eye and puke all over you.

5. Not to eat their boogers.

They scream, gag, and wail “BECAUSE IT’S GREEN!!” when you ask them to eat a piece of broccoli, but you can’t get them to stop chomping on their own boogers in the back seat while you’re driving down the interstate.

6. Sleep in.

You have to drag them out of bed at 9 a.m., yell until you’re blue in the face, and pray for repentance on your way to church every Sunday morning, but they’re whispering “Mommy, I’m hungry” over and over again with their putrid morning breath 2 inches from your face at 6:30 a.m. every Saturday.

7.  Just sleep in general.  

They’ll fall asleep in their car seat with their head bent at strangle angles, or in their plate of rice at dinner time, or on the front row of a rock concert.  They’ll fall asleep anywhere, anytime, but put them in that $200 crib you bought them, with the $500 mattress “guaranteed to have your toddler sleeping soundly all night,” with the down comforter, memory foam pillow, and rainfall white noise machine running, and they’re suddenly 2-year old scholars who want to read every book in their library, play peek-a-boo 8 million times, and see how many times they can get you to sing “You Are My Sunshine.” Oh, and you remember that glass of water you begged them to drink all day? Yeah, our little dictators are finally ready to drink it now.  Every single drop.

*****

So there it is, Friends.  The ugly list of parenting realities.  Take a deep breath and try to relax.  Somewhere out there some other exhausted parent is learning to accept these truths, too.  You are not alone!  We will survive, Friends!  We will!

I think.

7 Things Our Kids Will Never, Ever Learn How to Do from https://genevalopez2012.wordpress.com

5 Tips for Surviving Your First Week Ever of Homeschool

Well, we did it. My 7-year old son and I started our homeschool journey this past week and we survived it! Ha! I don’t know what’s brought you to my blog today. Maybe you’re getting ready to also start your first year of homeschool and you’re looking for advice. Or perhaps you’re a homeschool guru and you’re looking to see how badly this rookie messed up.

But whatever your reasons, I thought I’d post about our first week ever as a homeschool family right after we did it so that everything-the memories, the thoughts, the experiences, and the emotions-are fresh and raw. We’re only just beginning, but I’ve already learned so much and I’m here to share that with you in the hopes that if you’re starting this journey as well, you can be encouraged and motivated, and can learn from my mistakes.

1. Start slow.

When talking with friends and others who have experience homeschooling, many of them suggested a “soft start” to the school year. They suggested that rather than trying to do every school subject the first few days of school, that I start with one or two and gradually work our way up to the full schedule. I took this advice to heart and did try to start slow. The week before we officially started our year, we started working on Scripture memorization and Spanish lessons. But when our first homeschool week arrived, I added everything else. I think I justified doing this because my son was so excited to get started, but once he realized that not everything is totally fun in homeschool, I realized I should have started slower. Next year (hopefully), I will adhere to a much softer start and I’d strongly suggest you do, too.

2. Have realistic expectations.

Our first week was a pretty good week, I think, but it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. Now I am a very idealistic individual. I’m a dreamer and I love that, but it can also get me in trouble when I have grand expectations of perfection. If I’m not careful, I’ll build up some upcoming event like a family vacation so high in my mind, imagining all the wonderful things we’re going to do and see, that when my 2-year old throws a tantrum mimicing an exorcism on our 1.5-hour “family bonding” hike up a mountain because I let her skip her nap that day, it can feel like a complete and utter failure. Because in my excessive planning to make this trip “The best family vacation ever!” I choose to avoid the realities of our situation, like the fact that 2-year olds need naps, even on vacation. I know this about myself, so I worked really hard when planning our homeschool year, to dream about all the potential, but to also go into this with realistic expectations by talking with homeschool veterans, researching, and reading blogs like this one.

So when my kiddo wasn’t enjoying absolutely everything about his first week of homeschool, because I’d prepared for this reality, the struggles didn’t devastate me or render me completely discouraged. Reality is going to look different for every family, but go into your homeschool year with the understanding of your individual realities so you’re emotionally better prepared when you hit a stumbling block.

3. Be understanding of your child’s emotions.

When we discussed the possibility of homeschooling with my son earlier this year, he was all for it. He hadn’t had any really bad experiences in the public school system and was actually doing quite well there. But he wasn’t super attached to his school experiences yet, and there were many components of homeschool that really attracted him to the idea. However, even change that we’re excited about is still change, and change is usually hard, especially for children.

My son spent Kindergarten and 1st grade in the public school system and he’s used to being in school til 3:30pm during the week. While I thought a 7-year old boy would be thrilled to be done with school by 12pm or 1pm every day, that’s actually been a struggle for my son. He hasn’t loved that like I thought he would because he says, “It’s different.” There have been several other things he’s found hard to adjust to as we’ve started our year and he even shed some tears about it this week.

My initial reaction was to be discouraged and frustrated with that, especially since I’m nervous about all this! But God really guided me through this this week and reminded me that my son is nervous, too. Even all the great perks of homeschool can feel uncomfortable for my kiddo because “it’s different” than what he’s used to.

So keeping this in mind, I made checking-in with my son a priority each day. I’d ask him how he was feeling about everything, what did he like about the day, what did he not like about the day, and even asked him for his suggestions on what we could do to make things better. I think my son, though he couldn’t necessarily communicate this verbally, really appreciated that I wasn’t mad at him for not liking everything about homeschool and that I wanted his input. Be understanding and it will make for a much better week.

4. Be flexible.

I tried my best to be diligent in preparing for the school year. I went through my chosen curriculum’s instructor guide, mapped out different things on my calendar each week, gathered all the material and supplies, and tried to get everything organized. I don’t regret that planning at all, but I also recognize that not everything is going to go as planned. The sooner we can accept that fact, the better our homeschool year (and just life in general!) will be.

Even this first week, I had to be flexible and willing to adjust things. For example, I had planned to follow my instructor guide for math this week, but once we got started, I realized my son already had a solid understanding of some of the concepts we were supposed to cover this week. Rather than bore him to tears by strictly sticking to what I had scheduled for math this week, I ended up skipping some of the lessons I had planned and covering something new instead. Similarly, we spent more time covering nouns and adjectives than I had planned for because I felt my son needed more practice.

One of the beauties of homeschool is being able to be this flexible and really tailor your child’s education. It’s one of the things I am most excited about with homeschool and I can’t stress its importance enough.

5. Celebrate the victories.

Our first week of homeschool may have had its share of struggles and hiccups, but it also had some great victories! Two of our biggest goals for the homeschool year are to 1) Focus on teaching my son the Bible and 2) Improve my son’s Spanish. I am so excited that through our focus this week, my son can now recite Colossians 3:23 by heart in both English AND Spanish. Not only that, but we were really able to talk about and understand what that verse really means when doing school work and chores. Also, my husband even noticed that my son’s Spanish pronunciation has improved sooo much in just this 1st week and it’s got me that much more excited about working on this goal!

Other victories might not seem as grand, but to me they were just as important, like being able to listen to Christian music while we worked on a school craft or squeezing in some one-on-one time with my son doing school work while his little brother and sister were still sleeping in the mornings. To me, these things are priceless and I am trying to be very intentional in cherishing every good moment.

No, our first week wasn’t perfect-far from it. But while we’re trying to learn from the mistakes and set-backs, I think it’s incredibly important to also bask in the good moments, no matter how small they may seem.

Aaagghh! We’re Homeschooling!

It’s been a while since I have posted anything. Having another baby in January probably has something to do with that. Ha! Yes, life has certainly been busy.

This week, our oldest is finishing up 1st grade. He’s had a great year academically and we are very thankful for such amazing teachers who have taught him so much these past 2 years. Yet, we are embarking on a new journey this coming school year. We are starting homeschool.

Now, you may be wondering why someone who has had a good experience in the public school system would decide to rock the apple cart and homeschool. Sounds crazy, huh?

When Luke was getting ready to start Kindergarten, I really wanted to homeschool him. I know a lot of parents who choose homeschooling can endure a lot of criticism from family members and friends, but that wasn’t really the case for us. In fact, most of my family hoped we’d homeschool. But after a lot of praying, I felt that homeschool was not what God wanted for us at the time. Two years later, I still believe that to be true and stand by that decision. I can’t tell you all the reasons why God didn’t want that for us at the time because I don’t know that I know them. I will say, though, that one of the biggest reasons I felt God leading us in a different direction was because my decision to want to homeschool at the time was largely driven by fear. Watch the news any day and it’s easy to understand why a parent’s heart might be gripped by fear for their children and why they’d want to try to do anything to protect them.

While we believe it’s very important as parents to lead and guide our children, to be aware and informed of the dangers that threaten our children and homes, as Christ-followers we do not believe we should be driven by fear. Search the Scriptures and you’ll find countless times where the Lord says, “Do not be afraid.” At the time, I could try to justify homeschooling Luke, but deep down I knew that fear was why I wanted this so badly and God was telling me, “Trust me.”

God has been ever faithful in our short journey with public school. He’s placed Luke in the hands of excellent teachers and friends. We have decided to homeschool for many reasons, but fear is no longer what drives that decision and perhaps why God is releasing us to do so now. I don’t know. It’s not my responsibility to know all the reasons or have all the answers. It is, however, my responsibility to obey, so we did what we felt God asking us to do at the time.

I believe that deciding to homeschool is a very personal decision and what’s right for my family may not be right for yours. We have received some criticism but mostly from well-meaning individuals who really love us and our kids. I am new to this journey, but one thing I can definitely testify to is that if you do this, people are going to criticize you. Get comfortable with that fact. While it’s important to seek wisdom and godly counsel from those who have earned that role, the most important step in making this decision is prayer. What does God say and how is He guiding you and your family? Also, this is what we feel called to do at this time, but it doesn’t mean it won’t change at some point. We are taking this a year at a time, but I pray we stay in-tune to the Holy Spirit and His guidance for our family, understanding that what’s right for us now, may not be right for us next year.

Again, I’m totally new to this journey, but if you’re also new, I would encourage you to attend a homeschool conference in your area if you can. I just attended one last week and it was so helpful! I learned so much, I was encouraged by all of the research out there supporting homeschool, and I left pumped to do this! I also left feeling more empowered to get a plan together for our school year. And even though I’m new, I feel like I’m probably going to want to attend that conference every year for encouragement!

If you can’t attend a conference, though, DO seek out advice and tips from other homeschool families. I have not been shy in asking veteran homeschool families for their help! I even had a friend who graciously allowed me to come observe a homeschool day at her house and that was probably one of the most beneficial things I could have done. Also, at the advice from others, I am joining my local homeschool group this 1st year where I’ll get support from other homeschool families and keep abreast of lots of opportunities out there for homeschool kids like field trips and activities.

So, do I have my concerns about homeschooling? Absolutely! This journey is going to be just as much of a learning experience for me as it will be for my kids. I know that it will be hard often and I am positive I will be discouraged at times. But I’m also very excited about all the possibilities! I LOVE the flexibility that homeschool offers. We’re going to start our school year in mid-July this year and run on a mostly 6 weeks on, 1 week off kind of schedule, ending our school year in May. My husband works construction and his current project will end at some point this fall. As he works 50-60 hours a week typically, we are so excited that homeschool is going to allow us to take a family vacation together once that project ends and we won’t have to worry about being restricted to the school calendar. October, November, who knows and who cares!? We’re homeschooling so we can make it work! And two of our biggest goals for the homeschool year are 1) To work on discipleship with our kiddos and 2) To put a major focus on teaching our kiddos to be fluent in Spanish rather than “rusty.” We are so excited that homeschool is going to allow us to really focus on these things that are important to our family.

I’m interested to see how my homeschool philosophy will transform this year through experience. Will my ideas about curriculum change? Will we like this somewhat year-long homeschool approach or will we find we need something different? What mistakes will I make and how can I learn from them? What am I going to find to be the most difficult and what am I going to love? Only time will tell, but for now, Arrows Academy is just about ready to embark on its 1st year. Pray for us! I am sure we will need it! ☺

Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.
5 Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their opponents in court.

Psalms 127:4-5, NIV

The Real Question We Should Be Asking About the Migrant Caravan

Migrant Caravan: When Wanting a Better Life is a Crime from genevalopez2012.com

My stomach was recently turned when watching a news station’s report on The Migrant Caravan(s). I couldn’t believe some of the things “professionals” were stating about these groups of human beings making their way here, flippantly throwing around words like “invaders,” “diseases,” and “terrorists.” It was disheartening and even more disturbing to me that their large audience was taking it all in and blindly agreeing with their discourse.

I am not here today to try to change your mind about who you vote for. I am not here today to try and even change your mind about how our country should handle immigration reform. Today, I’m here simply asking us to treat human beings like human beings, in both our actions and our words.

So many individuals, including our government entities, have placed a major focus on the theory that someone is paying the caravans to do this. It might surprise you to know, that I don’t dismiss that theory. Heck, not even my husband, a native of El Salvador, rejects that theory. We both think it’s quite possible that some of these individuals are being paid, though we believe it could be either political party behind it. But, Friends, why are we not asking the more important questions?

For argument’s sake, let’s propose that some of the members in these groups of individuals are, in fact, being paid to make this journey. Even if that’s happening, they’re not being paid much. Maybe-maybe-a few hundred bucks. Maybe. But let’s look at the bigger picture, here.

These individuals are traveling mostly by foot from Honduras and El Salvador. From El Salvador to Texas, there are approximately 1,400 miles. Let me repeat that: 1,400 miles distance between the Texas border and El Salvador and these groups are traveling it by foot. Additionally, many of these migrants are making this journey with infants and children in tow, sleeping on the streets and walking the harsh terrains. It will take them more than 1 month to make this trek by foot.

The most important question here isn’t whether or not these groups are being paid to do this. The most important question here is that even if they are, why are they doing it? What would possess a woman to journey on foot, 1,400+ miles with her 6-month old baby, to a land where she knows political tension is high, where she knows she is not wanted by a great many, where she knows that she will most likely be detained by authorizing agencies that have many claims against them of violations of human rights? What would make anyone willing to do that, even for a few hundred dollars?

The answer? Desperation.

Even if you believe these recent caravans in the news are fake and made up of paid actors, the truth is, they represent reality. Because even if these aren’t “real” people (and I believe the majority are, in fact, “real”), there are thousands before them and after them who are real and who are making dangerous journeys here. We can try to pass it off as fake news, we can shut our eyes to it, and we can bury our heads in the sand, but it will not change the fact that these caravans represent the very real reality.

Even if “real” people aren’t traveling the whole way by foot, their journey is still incredibly dangerous. Women and children who try to make the trip are often raped and violated on the way. Many migrants die on the journeys through the harsh climate of the desert. Parents will take out loans to pay “coyotes” to transport their minor children to the USA. Why? Why would anyone be willing to take such risks with their own lives or the lives of their children?

Desperation.

Let’s look at a few facts. I focus on El Salvador in this post because I am the most personally involved with it and have the most knowledge about its problems compared to the other countries involved. However, the other Central American countries affected have very similar statistics.

  • According to the World Bank, 1 in 3 Salvadoran inhabitants lives in poverty, which means they make less than $5.50 per day.
  • The World Health Organization classifies homicide rates at epidemic proportions once it reaches a ratio of 10 for every 100,000 inhabitants. In 2017, the average homicide rate in El Salvador was 60 per 100,000 inhabitants, one of the highest in the entire world.
  • In 2017, the homicide rate of children and adolescents in El Salvador was 16 per 100,000 inhabitants. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a lot to you, so let me try to make it a little more real to you: That would wipe out my 6-year old son’s entire 1st grade class.
  • Businesses are being extorted by gangs, forced to pay money to the area gangsters in order to keep their business; in order to stay alive, even.
  • Children and youth are being forced to join the violent gangs and if they refuse, the lives of their family members are threatened and the innocence of their sisters taken as retaliation.

This is the reality that these individuals are living in every day, so even with all the risks that come with an “illegal” journey to the US border, it all seems worth it. For many, it’s no worse than the risks they face every single day in their home countries.

THIS is what we should be focused on when we look at the caravans. Maybe these particular caravans are a ruse, but ruse or not, they represent the very real reality of thousands of other migrants. We don’t have to agree with their methods. I’m not even suggesting that we should allow all of these individuals into the United States. But can we please stop treating them like dirt and referring to them as animals? Can we treat them with the dignity they deserve as human beings? Can we stop spreading rumors and fear among our citizens? Can we get out and meet our neighbors? Can we stop relying on the media, our President, and our government for all the facts about these people and can we step out of our comfort zone and start having open conversations with people who are different from us? Can we think about what we would do if we were faced with the situation many of these migrants find themselves in? Can you really sit there and try to tell me you would do anything different if you were in their shoes?

While not all who make the journey have good intentions, the majority are simply desperate for a better life. Let’s thank God that most of us in the United States can’t even fathom this level of desperation and let’s treat these people with decency. Let’s look past our political parties, our political beliefs, and for goodness sakes, let’s show some integrity and stand up for the humane treatment of a group of individuals who are literally willing to put their lives at risk to come here. Let’s refuse to justify everything that is said by someone simply because they’re on the same “team” as us. Let’s agree to disagree on political reform, but let’s all agree to treat human beings with decency and respect, both in our actions and the words we use to describe them.

They are not invaders. They are simply human beings desperate for life.

Migrant Caravan: When Wanting a Better Life is a Crime from genevalopez2012@gmail.com