What does “Gifted” mean?

ImageSome of you may know that we have been on a bit of a journey with our oldest son Isaiah in recent months. He was having some emotional and social challenges at school (he is in Kindergarten) and we began to question if he would need some special education help. We made a decision with his teachers to pursue an evaluation through the school system, wondering if he might have Aspergers. The results of that evaluation indicate that he is not eligible for special education, as he does not fully display those characteristics.  But it did help us understand more about the basis for his frustration and difficulties at school. Isaiah has an extraordinary ability to reason and process complex concepts. He is extremely intelligent, but his emotional maturity and dexterity are those of a typical child his age. This creates tremendous frustration for him. He is also a perfectionist, and so is frustrated by his limitations and inability to produce what he pictures in his head.

We are now on the journey of really trying to understand how he thinks and learns best, and figuring out how to challenge him and help him grow in a healthy way.  This chart (at the bottom of the linked page) that describes the difference between a bright/high achiever child and a “gifted” child has been helpful to me, particularly since I was a classic high achiever as a kid.  I can certainly have the tendency to think the compliance (for lack of a better word) displayed by the high achiever is better (which just displays the reality that the sin of pride follows closely behind a high achiever – I can speak from experience, as it has long been a key sin area in my life).  But gifted children think differently and experience life differently than most of us do—just fitting in is not easy.  I am learning the great benefits and great challenges that come from having a child on the other side of the chart, and I am thankful that God gave me a child that is going to teach me so much as we walk together in this journey.  I have already learned so much from him.

We realized that the Montessori method of learning was not helpful for Isaiah at all.  We respect it tremendously, but somehow that school environment caused Isaiah severe stress that resulted in the social and behavioral problems.  So we pulled him out of the Montessori Charter school he was at and are home schooling him while we try to figure out what kind of school environment would be best for him.  It is amazing how much more at peace he is now—I don’t know why we didn’t see it sooner.

So it is a journey indeed. I have no delusions that my child is “better” than any other child.  The label “gifted” is a weird one, and I am not using it so people say “oh, good for you…”  Rather, I am just sharing my life and my thoughts—the thought of it all produces more fear and uncertainty in me because I don’t want him to founder in life. Just like any mother wants for her child, I just want to help Isaiah flourish in the talents God has given him. He is a unique child, just as my other two are incredibly unique and special.

With each of our children, we are also continually seeking to implant the Gospel deep in their hearts, so they experience God’s love and place their identity in the Lord, and so they can live out God’s incredible selfless love that motivates us to put the interests of others above our own (Philippians 2:3-4).  Doing so will bring deep and lasting joy and will bring glory to God–something selfish ambition can never do.

Update on Vanderbilt

You may have heard about our difficulties at Vanderbilt as a religious student organization that wants to ensure the integrity of our religious message and purpose by requiring that our student leaders believe in our message and the beliefs that underlie it. The University’s constant line is that they want to “end discrimination” and yet they don’t seem to see that it is discrimination to prohibit the primary means by which religious groups are able to preserve their voices and identities.  It has been difficult for our staff there (and myself as their counsel) because we want to affirm that we hate discrimination, that we want to welcome any student from any background to participate and that we want to share the message of hope found in Christ with them. Yet we believe that diversity is best accomplished when different student clubs are able to strongly and articulately represent differing viewpoints and are able to preserve those perspectives over the years (through a leadership committed to upholding them).  In light of these realities, Cru at Vanderbilt has decided not to comply with Vanderbilt’s policy at this point in time.

Here is an article sharing more about the “why” behind our decision that I wrote up for the Cru at Vanderbilt blog.

And here is another blog post from our InterVarsity colleagues at Vanderbilt that clarifies why the policy is of concern. The University is not just asking that anyone can apply for leadership; they are requiring that our groups not have any qualifications for leadership that are grounded in faith/belief criteria.

NEW UPDATE: There is a bill going through the Tennessee legislature that may force Vanderbilt’s hand a bit too. I am keeping my eye on it, and curious to see how it all plays out. Our staff are not sure how to take all these things in, and really don’t want to be constantly at odds with the University—they just want to maintain the integrity of the group and keep serving the student body there.

On a separate note: Interestingly, because we as Cru so strongly value being present and being a light in dark places in this country and around the world, we are making choices in some places to work within a framework similar to the one at Vanderbilt, even though it is not ideal. As is explained in the blog post linked above, we believe that the BEST way to preserve our voice is to have faith-based leadership requirements. But at a growing number of schools, we are being forced to use performance-based criteria for those applying for leadership, seeking to make sure they know what our organization is about and are willing to pursue the group’s purpose, whether or not they “believe” in it. We are praying that the focus on performance at these schools will not take away from the message of grace, hope and unconditional love that is the heart of the gospel message we proclaim, and that God will be glorified through our continued presence on these college campuses around the country.

Our FlagCru Spring Retreat

A couple weekends ago we had our FlagCru Spring Retreat.  The original plan was to go camping, but plans changed when we saw that a snow storm was headed our way.  We were able to find a church in Prescott (about and hour and a half away) that was super generous in letting us use their fellowship hall to stay in and have our retreat.  We were so blessed to be able to stay there. Because it was so stormy, we mostly stayed indoors and had our devotionals and played games. 

The theme the students who planned it selected was “Revival.”  I (Lori) really enjoyed sharing Saturday night about Revival as a process that starts in our hearts individually, and moves outward to impact others in expanding circles.  I shared some scripture and stories and then left them with four questions to spend some time praying and journaling about.  1) Am I hungry/Thirsty? (Ps 63:1-4); 2) Am I willing to humble myself and seek God’s face? 3) Are I willing to respond to conviction? Titus 2:11-14, Js 5:16 (seeing sin for what it is and asking God to help us remove anything we are doubtful about); 4) Will I ask for and do big things in response? (praying for God to move, and being willing to do whatever it takes to respond and glorify Him with my whole self).

After some amazing worship time led by a friend in Prescott, we split off guys and gals and the women had a great sharing time.  I love seeing women open up, and although it is hard to hear of some of the pain in their past and present experiences, it is often right in that pain that God is able to do the most work of transformation.

Finally, Sunday, we were able to finish off the retreat by seeing one of our new believers from this year get baptized. It was exciting to hear him share his testimony and to remember just how much God has transformed him and is building him up.  He is going to be our MC next year for our Cru meetings and is already taking seriously the call to live a life honoring to God. Although he comes with almost no spiritual background and a long-time habit of partying, he recently committed to not drinking anymore and said he is more joyful than ever. Jeremiah was able to close off that time encouraging the students to live, not for mountaintop experiences like retreats, but with a steady fire under us that comes from living with God’s Word and genuine fellowship as part of our daily lives.

God is at work changing hearts and lives and we Praise Him!  Please do pray that these students continue to grow, and that God will raise several of them up for leadership in this ministry.

Spring Break trip in the Dominican Republic

So a lot of time has passed since mid-March, when Jeremiah helped lead a trip to the Dominican Republic for UofA and NAU students.  It was his 6th time in country for ministry, and it was great to re-connect with the STINT team that he had visited on a coaching trip in the Fall.  I (Lori) did not go this time (after having helped lead the previous two Spring Break trips), but it was good to be able to pray for them from home. We had 3 NAU students go, and there were about 9 UofA students, along with several staff.

The trip turned out well. Many of the US students were young spiritually, so it was a very stretching experience for them.  In order to bless the student ministry there in Santo Domingo at UASD (the HUGE university there), each person in our group focused on really getting to know a few Dominican students, having in-depth spiritual conversations with them that included some basics of the faith and how to grow as a Christian, and then seeking to connect them socially to the Dominican Cru movement there (called Vida Estudiantil).  It was exciting to see God at work in Dominican students and US students through the trip.

Star, one of our students, has been taking intensive Spanish this semester, and loved engaging with the students about the very things that are most dear to her heart. She came back interested in pursuing missions in Latin America for a year or so after she graduates.  Another of our students, Dylan–who grew up in a Christian home–seemed to finally internalize the gospel for himself as he did ministry there and spoke with Jeremiah.  He is transformed, experiencing the joy of the Lord for real for the first time, and we are so excited to see his heart for God and God’s work continue to grow.

Please continue to pray for the Dominican movement at UASD!

Birthday and Easter celebrations

It is kind of fun that two of my three kids have birthdays right around Easter (Isaiah March 18 and Bethany April 10.  We celebrate their life and the gift they are to us from God, and then we are able to focus as a family on the new life we have in Christ because of his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead.  This year it was fun because both Isaiah and Bethany understand so much more about Jesus’ sacrifice and really engaged when we read the story from Luke.  They both have great questions and it is very clear that they are trying to internalize what it really means for them.  It was 2 years ago on Easter, when we watched the Jesus Film for Children, that Isaiah indicated that he wanted to give his life to Christ, so that is a special memory associated with Easter too. He is now wrestling with why it is hard to do what he knows he should do, and we are trying to point him to God’s grace and the hope we have in Christ.

Here are some pictures of the kids on Easter. Classic evidence of the reality that it is near impossible to get 3 children to all have pleasant expressions for a picture at the same time…

And here are a couple pictures from the little birthday party we had for the kids with some good friends in town.  I’m afraid I ran out of time to make the cakes particularly cool looking, but everyone had fun – even the 3 dads who were there as they retreated to the kitchen to chat… We are so thankful for our friends and community here in Flagstaff.

We also enjoyed one of the kids’ birthday gifts the very next day – and had our first family kite-flying experience, at the park right near our house.  Bethany wasn’t so sure, but Isaiah took to it right away.


Where is our Hope?

I was reminded this week of our desperate need for our hope being placed in Christ. I found myself, once again, turning to frustration when little things didn’t go my way.  Thankfully, the Holy Spirit prompted me to see my own sin and turn to God, asking Him to be my satisfaction–not little up and down circumstances.  I also saw things around me that reminded me of the desperate need we all have for Christ. I saw a friend struggling with being overwhelmed by her kids not behaving the way she wants them to; I talked to a friend struggling with wanting to get pregnant and not seeing that desire fulfilled; I met with a student who is struggling to understand and clarify her own desires for the future.

I know the only place that we can place our Hope that will not disappoint us is in Christ. So why? I came up with a little list that I’m sure barely scratches the surface, but it is helpful for me.

  • Because He knows us intimately, and loves us (Eph 2:4-6).
  • Because He has defeated death and sin – the things that torment us and tear us up inside (Rom 5:1-3; Rev 1:17-18).
  • Because His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23-24)
  • Because our eternal future and inheritance is secure in Him (Eph 1:11-14).
  • Because we are a new creation here and now if we believe in Him (2 Cor 5:17; Gal 2:20; 2 Pet 1:3-4).
  • Because he is our king and he is the one and only truly GOOD king (Heb 12:1-2; Jn 18:37; Rev 22:1-5).

Today is Palm Sunday, when Christ came into Jerusalem riding on a donkey – the humble servant king. And he will come again, as powerful reigning king. Yet his character is the same in both cases–He is the one true God, full of Grace and truth, full of love and mercy and justice.  Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and today and forever (Heb 13:8). We can place our hope in Him and He will not disappoint. When we fix our eyes on Him we will not be disappointed.