Monday, May 30, 2011

Our first year with KIPP Austin Public Schools

Wesley-Grant with some friends from his class
The playground
Principal Justin Scott with kids at the Exhibition for the kids
Family Saturday Schools....watching some accomplishments from the year
Art Show downtown with students from Kipp...and Ms. Boswell the Art teacher
Handicap spots the kids made to apply things they learned to help their community

Engineering Class display from the year
Playing Haitian Futbol after talking to the kids about Haiti and Kelly
One of many gardens the kids have planted this year on their campus.

KIPP AUSTIN COMUNIDAD was first introduced to us December of 2009. We had been praying about school for wesley-grant. Never did i ever expect the amount of choices before us when it comes to schooling a child. I grew up in public school and that was all i knew existed. Now, there are so many systems of education. I am thankful to live in a country with options and so many opportunities for education. There are many systems and all of them have great things...all of them are broken in some places. In all the research, I have not found anything perfect. But what we have found for our family is specific provision for all that we asked of from the Lord when it came to education as we entered that season with Wesley-Grant last year.

We wrestled with which option to pursue when it came to kindergarten for Wesley-Grant. If you want to know all the specifics, let me know and i will share. But for now, I just wanted to post about the school that we ended up choosing, or really, ended up choosing us.

So, it was December of 2009 when we were told about KIPP from a previous teacher who was at our house at a gathering. That is where we heard about their first elementary opening and that it would be Dual Language. Spanish/english. Long story short, we enrolled in the lottery. Wesley-Grant's name was drawn and we began our journey into charter schools before we ever knew all behind their name.

I could write a book on all we have experienced this year. Ask me if you are interested. Tears run down my face when I think back to all that we valued when it came to education and how KIPP has provided more than we ever expected. Here are some of the highlights from our first year there:

Defining Education: Kipp goes beyond skill academics and focuses a lot on character. Being nice, working hard, Be safe, Tenacity, Honor, Quality, and respect are always taught. They value language and their students perform above AISD reading levels in both languages at the end of the year. Education has always meant more than academics to us and we have found the same at KIPP.

Language is valued: They take kids that speak spanish and kids that speak english and tell them that their language is valuable and teach them each other's language. They teach the value of both languages to each other and it creates an equal environment for both.

Community: Students are taught to apply what they learn to help their community. WG's class had to learn about difference and same...about disabilities. They spent a day being blind folded or riding in a wheel chair to experience what it is like to have a disability. The kids painted handicap spots on their school parking lot. They talked about bullying and how they treat each other who are different. They even talked about adoption and WG was able to share about Kelly. At 4th grade they will be working with Non-Profits to learn about community in their city.

Commitment:The staff at KIPP works harder than any teachers I have known. They are there morning until 5pm and sometimes longer. They work at saturday schools once a month. They are always available to answer crazy questions from us parents. One of the things that is amazing is how they support each other. When one teacher is out, the others step in to help. There are no subs. They are a team that is commited to excellence from the teacher to the principal. They see the kids for what they can be and teach them accordingly. They don't see them as they are, but where they are going.

Making a difference:KIPP teachers are telling the kids constantly that they "CAN". They let them know that they were made to be something in their family, community, city and in the world. They serve under-resourced kids and continually serve to support the families of each child. Hands down, they are training leaders of tomorrow and impacting the city of austin and beyond.

We are so thankful for KIPP. We are so thankful for the staff, for the families that we have met through saturday school and everyday life with students. Sally will start kindergarten next year.

Wesley-Grant has grown so much this year. It is a great commitment for us as a family, but not too much. Life is being grown everyday as we are apart of this school. We are growing as a family and growing in community with other families. We are so proud of WG and look forward to another year for him.
For more info on KIPP, you can visit their website at It is one of many educational systems. We have found it to be a place of provision for our family as we have started down the road of education with our kids.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Saying "yes" to everything, not knowing anything

I remember the moment when Stew looked across the dinner table at me and pulled out a map and said, "it is time". We began to walk openly towards adopting. You know, the journey so far is kind of like marriage. You walk down the aisle and you make a vow. You vow to everything when you know nothing. You vow to take the good and the bad, not able to imagine there would ever be bad.

That has been how our adoption process has gone so far. We vowed to go forward no matter what...vowing to everything but knowing nothing until the Lord would/will show us or lead us through it.

The Lord has shown so much! Our agency, our country, our son. He has given us people, money, resources, packing lists, encouraging words, new friends, suitcases, plane miles, babysitters, car rides, provisions beyond our recall. Most of all he has given us His heart and story of our own adoption. We still have not recovered, and I pray we don't, from the mirror picture of Kelly's adoption to our own adoption through Jesus to God Himself.

But you know when you get to that point when the "honeymoon" time all good things here do....and you find the hard things...the waiting...the new things seem old. It is at that point when we either push through and find newness of spring after the winter snow....or we shatter in the waiting and turn to something else for comfort.

I found myself there the last few days of our recent trip to Haiti. It was like someone took a bag and put it over my head and didn't lift it until i got on the plane heading back for the US. I hated it and struggled to push through it. I am still processing it. I couldn't wait to go see Kelly and hold him and i found myself in the end wishing i was back home. I can't tell you exactly why, but as I have processed it over the last few days I have found a few things. 1. I never like to anticipate pain-Saying good bye to Kelly was something i found myself wanting to just run from this time. 2. The reality of the waiting for our son to come home completely disappointed me and I wanted to bail. 3. I became so self consumed with my feelings that I couldn't even see the needs of my own family...(Stew and kelly)

This trip was full of wonderful things. We learned more of Kelly's first mother. I am thankful to gather the stories to share with him and hold honor for him and her. We celebrated kelly's 4th birthday with a party. It was a wonderful normal! (birthday kid throws a tantrum and spits out his cake...but everyone else is taking pictures and says it is wonderful eating so much candy! have to be honest, but still enjoyed it none the less) We got to talk to Kelly about his name. "Kelly Josiah Stewart" He will tell you if you ask is so cute! We got to talk to him about our house here and tell him we are preparing it for him. We got to love him through tantrums and fun times playing together! We learned that his stuff for his dossier is getting ready quickly to meet up with ours when it gets there in a few weeks.

I could and will write down a "proverbs 31" account of all the right and good things and celebrate them. And I will. But in between all the good and right are valleys we don't expect that teach us truths about ourselves, and ultimately are to point us to truth about God. And I want to write down those moments too. Because I have found it is in the moments of valley's or pain that we find our need for God and grow close to Him.

So in our "bliss" I have experienced the truth of myself that I can't keep a "vow". I really only want the right things...the fun things...the happy things...I don't want the low times, the dark times, or the self-centered times. I don't want the waiting. I don't want the pain. But I am learning that the very story we are experiencing of truth, grace and love with Kelly is my own needed story. I can't do anything apart from the LORD. I can never stand without truth, grace or love. I need it as much as Kelly needs it. The last few days there with Kelly are a blur...i remember feeling every insecurity I could have ever felt in my life. All my failures flooding my mind and me doubting everything behind and ahead. But someone told me they were praying that "hope would rise as I waited on the LORD" I could hear that faintly in the midst. By God's grace I waited through it without leaving michael, screaming in the streets of Haiti or hurting kelly. I waited. And hope rose. In my failures comes God's redemption. And all over again, I experienced saving grace...the need for every human life.

And so from this trip I was brought back to the strong truth that adoption (and marriage too) has always been God's doing and only He can do it. And by His love and grace we will all be changed from it in the end.

Continuing on ahead, knowing that to step into everything, knowing little to nothing of what lies ahead, is okay. If there is a step, then there is a place ahead to go. And Jesus will be there all along the way.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Heading to Haiti again

Isaiah 30:18
Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him.

A mentor of mine sent me this verse today saying she was praying for my time in Haiti this week. It gave comfort in so many ways. The grace, compassion, justice and blessings that come from my Lord was what I needed to read and what my heart needed to cling to.

We are so thankful for all of you who are praying for us. All of you who serve us in all the details that it takes to go to Haiti. We are so thankful for all of you who are getting documents, sending requests and referral letters for us. To our agency who tirelessly works to get our documents ready for Haiti. We are so thankful for each penny that comes from each of you when we least expect it or when we never expected it. We are in the middle of this first part of our journey, but I just can't even keep count of all that the Lord has given.

He is writing His story on all of our hearts.

I found myself back at the post office again for the same document! =) Without kids, longer line, but with hope. I was able to ask so much of my Father in that line that worrying about the document or timing or kelly or picking up my son in 20 minutes faded away. I am finding in this season to trust the LORD in all the details of my life. I long for Kelly to come home, but I would never trade what God is teaching us as a family or displaying to all of you watching.

We are headed to Haiti again.
May 9-15th we will be there. So, here are some things you can pray for this next week. Every time you take a drink, will you pray for us?

1. Pray for our children in Austin. Our prayer for them is not that they would be happy and never sad, but that God would show himself to them in this tension of being away from us. Pray that they would know and trust that we love them, but more that God loves them and has a purpose in all of this. I pray they would sense the story of God. That what we teach them of our LORD would become real life for them.

2. Pray for Kelly Josiah Stewart. That the Lord would give him grace to accept and understand us and what is happening. Pray for courage as he takes steps towards us as we are moving towards him. Pray that he would feel our love for him. Pray for a soft heart that is full of hope.

3. Pray for us. Pray that stew and I would grow closer together in this process. Pray for our marriage to be strengthened. Pray for us to love and respect each other. Pray for our own courage and trust of the Lord in leaving kelly there.

Thank you for praying for us each time you take a drink. Our cups are full and we will drink of our Lord's goodness as we head to Haiti again. And of course, we will continue to share it all with you! Look for updates on facebook as we can.