Friday, November 09, 2012

Sometimes I'm speechless

Overheard in my 2nd grade art class this week while working on color theory--shades and tints:

Little girl to little boy: "Did you know you have an angel? You do. I wonder what your angel looks like."

Me: speechless as the little boy began to draw angels in his artwork

Later that same day in a 1st grade art class while working on color theory--warm and cool colors:

Little girl singing to herself: "Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so..."

Me: speechless, rejoicing inside

Overheard the day before in a drugstore checkout line:

Little girl to her mother: "Look Mom! (Pointing to bottles of 5-Hour Energy on the counter) That's what they had in Jack and Jill (the PG-rated movie starring Adam Sandler)!

Her mom and me: just speechless

I am so blessed to work in a place where teaching academics is infused and fueled by the TRUTH. My first and second graders are hearing the TRUTH in school and hopefully, at home. But the world does not serve up truth to our kids. Apparently some advertising execs and others with $$ in their eyes would rather have your child hooked on 5-Hour Energy than the eternal truth of the gospel.

The truth is, it is up to us to teach our children the TRUTH. Here's what Scripture says about it:

Deuteronomy 11:13-21
"So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied. Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them.  Then the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut up the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the Lord is giving you.  Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates,  so that your days and the days of your children may be many..."

Matthew 18:10
"Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven."

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Writers and Readers Reach Out 2012

Friends and Readers,

For those of you who read my latest novel, Beyond Molasses Creek, you know I have a heart for children who are trafficked and forced to work in bondage. But now there's something I...and you...can do about it. One of my best friends in the world also happens to be one of the kindest people on earth. Shellie Rushing Tomlinson has a heart for God and people like I've rarely seen. Being an author, she likes to give back and motivate her readers to do the same. So I am excited to be working with her in the month of November (and possibly more in the future!) to help raise funds for a worthwhile cause. We are called to love our neighbors, whether they are next door, down the road, in the next state or around the world. So, without further adieu, let me pass it along to Miss Shellie!
- Nicole Seitz
PS. I read Kimberly's book, Passport Through Darkness, and it's one that will clutch your heart and ask you to do more. Please consider donating to this worthy organization that is changing the lives of children who once had no hope.
***Update****Breaking News for Writers and Readers Reach Out 2012***Update***From Shellie: Before us is a great opportunity to partner with one another to raise awareness about human trafficking and join together to raise funds towards their rescue through Kimberly L. Smith's foundation, Make Way Partners. And yet, even as we are set to launch, one fourth of our population has been impacted by Super storm Sandy and many areas are still being in distress. Too many people have seen their homes destroyed and many others have suffered the painful loss of loved ones. The winds of Sandy have literally caused us to adjust our sails as we respond to the heartache in our own country. Writers and Readers Reach Out 2012 is enlarging the vision! 
As you make your donation to Make Way Partners, please consider making a matching donation to relief efforts underway for our neighbors on the East Coast. We believe strongly that our being mobilized to respond to the needs of our neighbors at this very moment is no coincidence. We've been given much, let us give much.
***End Update***
SHELLIE: It’s that time, y’all! This Nov. 1st we will officially launch our 30 Days of Thankfulness here at All Things Southern. Longtime readers will recognize it as our annual humanitarian effort designed to coincide with the Thanksgiving season. So many of you have joined with me in past years to express our gratitude by reaching out to those in need. Remember when we worked with Life Today to drill a well in Southern Africa? Even as you read these words that well continues to supply fresh life-sustaining water to an entire village. For that, I thank you once again!
The recipient of this year’s efforts will be Make Way Partners, an organization that works with individuals, churches and other groups to help prevent and combat the evil of human trafficking and all forms of modern-day oppression. I was in the planning stages of our drive and deeply burdened by what I was learning about human trafficking when I readPassport through Darkness by Kimberly L. Smith.  I knew immediately that MWP, the organization founded by Kimberly and her husband, was where we needed to focus our attention this holiday season. Make Way Partners works with individuals, churches, and organizations to help prevent and combat the evil of human trafficking and all forms of modern-day oppression. (Download a free chapter of Passport Through Darkness.)
In addition, this will be our second year to partner in our drive with other authors and their respective communities. The goal of Writers and Readers Reach Out 2012 is to combine our individual platforms and thus multiply our efforts.  (Honestly, I’m hoping to start a tsunami of thankfulness and hope!)
If you’ll take the time to read just a few of the real-life stories on Kimberly’s blog of women and children who Make Way Partners has rescued from slavery, and for whom they provide long-term care, I believe you’ll want to participate in this beautiful journey of restoration.
Eight years ago, Kimberly began chartering small mission planes to fly her into the war zone of Sudan where U.S. sanctions and Islamic regimes rendered thousands of orphans unadoptable. Providing food and opening a first-grade school in a lawless land with no other educational systems, MWP partnered with an indigenous leader to rescue and care for these most vulnerable orphans. Year-by-year, they’ve added a new grade to their school. Now, graduating eighth grade, the orphans of MWP have more education than many current leaders of their nation.  It is time to build a high school, making it possible to raise up the next generation of educated Christian leaders who will stop the cycle of violence and slavery.
Read about a few of these amazing students and the complete high school proposal here:
I’m so excited about the opportunity for us to join this effort! To quote the late Hellen Keller, “It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision.”  It feels so right to quote Ms. Keller to the tribes of writers and readers joining with us as it was the power of a word, written in the palm of her hand, that unlocked Ms. Keller’s heart and mind and subsequently impacted untold lives around the world!
As readers and writers, no one knows the value of education better than we. Let’s dream big and build a high school for the world’s most vulnerable orphans!
Can we catch this vision together? I think so. In years past, I’ve asked you to donate a certain small dollar amount. This year, I’m respectfully asking you to consider the weight of the subject and the scope of the work being done by Make Way Partners and make your own personal decision about your contribution. What would we be willing to do or give if it were our children and grandchildren being bought and sold?
You can make your donation online using this donate button. It’s linked to Make Way Partners. In the field that asks where you learned about Make Way Partners, please copy and paste the following label: WritersandReaders,NicoleSeitz
If you prefer to send a check or money order that address is: Make Way Partners, P.O. Box 26367 Birmingham , AL 35260
In addition to donating, everyone can be of incredible assistance by using the power of social media to spread the news of this drive. When twittering or pinning this drive please use hashtags #WritersandReaders2012 or #WR2012. (My twitter handle is @nicoleseitz)
Authors and Bloggers: It’s not too late to join this effort. If you’d like to participate please comment below and contact with your  blog site, Facebook page, website address, or any other acknowledgement you would like to use for your readers to track this opportunity.
Thirty days of thankfulness. It’s not a long time, but it’s a perfect time to join hands and do something grand, together. ~Shellie Rushing Tomlinson

Monday, August 13, 2012

If Heaven was Like American Idol

Last week, we went to see American Idol here in Charleston as a family. It was our first concert together, and I enjoyed the production and the young people who sang their hearts out. I especially loved the range of ages I saw in the audience from 6 to 96!

So it got me thinking about all those fans. What if I spent more time watching and voting for American Idol than I did with God? What it I felt like I knew Randy and Stephen and J.Lo better than I felt like I knew God--how might that skew my theology and understanding of God and Heaven? So here goes. A quick cartoon.



“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."  - Matthew 7:13-14

Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ - Matthew 7:22
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. - Matthew7:21

So I realize the cartoon is a little goofy (or a lot), but I think it speaks the truth. Whether we like it or not, getting into Heaven is very different than getting on American Idol. The one the world cheers for most tends to get on American Idol, but the one scorned by the world, the one who chooses the narrow gate - Jesus -  gets into Heaven. There's nothing "popular" about this. It offends many. It ilicits many "boos" from the crowd.

But the Bible is clear. Only children of God will enter the gates of Heaven. To God, "family" means everything, and everyone is invited to choose to be a part of that family.

My son and husband went to the PGA golf tournament this weekend, and when my husband was showing me photos on the PGA web site of Tiger teeing off, he pointed out my son...or who he thought to be my son. Yes, the person did have a white and blue striped shirt on, a hat, and was about the same size as my son. But it wasn't my son.

"He wasn't wearing sunglasses, was he?" I said.
"I think that's just a shadow."
"And I think that's just a man on his knees."

Admittedly, I have much better eyesight than my husband, so he did his best, but I said, "That's not my son. I know my son." Then I looked around the photo, saw only the leg and part of the upper body of a boy behind Tiger and said, "THAT is my son." It was obvious.

"Oh yeah," my husband said. It was easy to recognize our son even with his face covered up. Why? A parent knows his/her child. Intimately. That love relationship is a KNOWing relationship. A parent KNOWs his child and the child KNOWs the parent. How? They spend time together, invest in one another.

So ask yourself: DO YOU KNOW GOD? The Bible says the way to know God is to know and love his son, Jesus, who died for our sins. WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW HIM MORE? There are many places to start. Here's a pretty cool one.

Grab a Bible. Find a loving church that teaches the Bible. Pray every day, never ceasing, or as my grandmother used to say, "Always go First Class!"

Blessings on your journey!

Thursday, August 02, 2012

DO Diligence

Sometimes I like being lazy.

Some of my best memories from this summer are the quiet, lazy moments I've had with my family...lying on the couch doing nothing but watching Sponge Bob with my son...listening to the quiet as I stand outside my daughter's door and watch her sleeping late...sitting still so my cat can purr on my lap and rest.

Don't get me wrong, we had excitement, went on trips and drove and played hard, went to the movies, gave birthday parties, shopped and swam. But the lazy times--and the fact that I was so conscious of the fact that I was being lazy--are what I'll hold on to when the vigor of school life and teaching kick up again in the next few weeks.

Sometimes lazy is exactly what you need. Rest. Respite. Deep breaths of nothingness.

But sometimes, laziness can become a way of life. I know, because I used to be very lazy in my former days, and still, I have days when the temptation is there in the form of procrastination. But there is much to do, I know this now, "and miles to go before I sleep. And miles to go before I sleep."

Lately, I'm learning endurance. Lately, I'm learning that you can't take shortcuts to greatness or great achievements. I'm learning it the hard way, the only way...through enduring. I'll just admit to the world that I'm training again for a big race--bigger than I've ever run. This race is so big, it's God-big for me, and I need a big God to see me through. I just began training two days ago, and although I've run 1.5-3 miles regularly this summer in this amazing heat, things are heating up. I'm waking up early (for me) and being diligent to eat and drink properly, to have the right clothing and shoes, to get my mp3 player loaded and ready. And when I open the door and the humidity is so thick you could spread it like butter, I head out and take step after step because I have to do my due diligence in this training. There are no easy steps. There are no shortcuts. I have to do this right. Knowing this gets me out of bed when the alarm goes off and my head tells me to hit snooze again.

Why am I training again? After all, I ran my first half-marathon in January. For a non-runner like me, isn't that enough? Isn't it enough to have run a half-marathon and check that off my bucket list? Once upon a time, I would have told you yes. But now, something else has taken over. This learning endurance has changed the way I do things. I don't just like having run the race, I like Running.

Meet ED and ING

I used to spend a lot of time with ED. You know him. He's the guy that tells you what you've done before. How you livED in such and such house that was bigger than the one you're in now. How you lookED much younger ten years ago. How you lovED the way you felt when you were dating your soon-to-be-spouse. How he treatED you differently. Yes, ED can keep you mired in the past. Spending time with ED prompts sighs and oh wells and discontentment with your current situation.

Alternately, ED can make you feel better about yourself than you really should. ED can promote laziness and cutting corners, if you don't keep an eye on him. I remember several years ago, I was working with my very talented and patient out-of-house editor, Rachelle Gardner. I think we'd come to a sticky spot in a manuscript I was working on, when I felt like I didn't have any choices. I attempted to do the easiest thing to fix said problem when Rachelle saw right through it and set me in my place. Sure, I had published three or four novels at the time and thought I had it going on, but as she put it, You can never rest on your laurels. You have to keep challenging yourself to get better and better. Or something to that effect. At first it felt like a bee sting, but the more I rubbed it, the truer it rang.

I was quite pleased to have written. I WROTE several novels. Those were the laurels I was resting on. What I've come to understand fully these days it that it doesn't mean a hill of beans what I did in the past. Big deal. The past is where ED lives and where he wants to keep me.

Now, meet ING. She's young and hip and the future. She has momentum and good ideas. She picks me up and keeps me going. What matters is what I am doING now. What am I doing now? I am writING. I am runnING, trainING, lovING, livING, constantly movING forward, growING in my faith, learnING, listenING, waitING, wantING, laughING, blessING, honorING, hopING, expectING good things.

Who cares if I did all these things in the past? That was then and this is now.

So how about you? Who were you before? Did you like that person? Yes? No? Did you do things you were proud or ashamed of? What matters is what you DO from this moment on. Are you likING the person you are now?

I listened to a sermon by Christine Caine not long ago and she said something to this effect: Some people get mired in what God once did in their lives. I've done this. I watched God do mighty things with my marriage, my children, and my career. I told everyone about these things. I couldn't help it. Look what God did! But Caine said something that perked up my ears. She said it is wonderful what God has done in your life, but don't get stuck there. Look around you. What is God doING now?

I don't know about you, but I want to see God movING in my life all the time. Sometimes, when it seems life has stallED like an old stubborn car, it takes doING the small things again, the diligent things, to start seeING God's presence. Little things that may not seem like much. Reading scripture every day like brushing your teeth. Hugging your children. Smiling at your spouse. Washing the dishes. Cleaning the house. Lacing up your shoes and heading out the door to get some exercise. When ED seems to have deceived you into thinking that God once movED in your life and never will again--don't believe it. Start being diligent in the little things and watch how sometimes the little things are more important than you think.

Final Illustration
I've been thinking about this topic for a while, but I read an article in the Post and Courier today about a man who was a disgruntled employee at a dialysis clinic in West Columbia. He had been suspended for luring elderly people into the clinic and supplying them with narcotics. Upset that he had been asked to leave the facility, he allegedly sneaked back in that Saturday night and poured bleach into the water tank that was to be used for the dialysis machines.

"We believe that this individual, with full knowledge and intent to harm or kill these clients coming in for dialysis, that he knew what he was doing and that this would kill the patients who would receive this contaminated water while they underwent dialysis treatment in the clinic," (Sherriff) Metts said.

Apparently there were 20 patients scheduled for treatment on Monday. Twenty lives about to be taken.

"Thank goodness, his plan failed due to the fact that the technicians, even though they had checked the water on Saturday afternoon after they finished all of their clients for the day and took no clients on Sunday and was going to begin back on Monday, they went through their checks and found the high contamination of the chlorine in the water," Metts said.

Thank goodness, indeed. It seems that God worked in a mighty way that day, sparing the lives of those 20 people and thwarting such an evil plot. And how did he work? Through diligence. The technicians could have cut one little corner and not tested the water. They'd probably done it a thousand times with no issue. But they decided to take the time and do it one more time.

"Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.  Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers." 1 Timothy 4:15-16

What is it that you are so tired of doing? Did you do something great once and now you're tired and ready to pack it in? Are you not seeing results quickly enough in your diet or exercise, in your prayer life, in your love life, in your walk with God? It doesn't have to be so difficult. The tortoise really does win the race because he moves along diligently and doesn't give up.

I'll remember my own words in a couple days when I set out for my next run in this Lowcountry heat. The old me would have given up long ago, I assure you, but the new me knows I have an all-Powerful God ever-present in my life, livING, and lovING, and coachING me to the finish line.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Around the World in a Week

Yesterday marked the end of an amazing week of my Passport Kids: Around the World Art Camp. The campers were the amazing part. These rising 1st through 4th graders were energetic, eager learners as we explored a different country each day through art, literature, food, music and culture.

Pull out your passport!

Day One: Ghana
Today we jumped head-first into pottery as we created our own miniature pots and then painted with watercolors when they were dry. The women in Ghana usually make the pots and put them all in a bonfire to dry. Instead of lighting matches, we used air dry clay and painted on day three.

Next we created Adinkra cloths, or ceremonial fabrics traditionally made by the Asante people.  Our versions used carved styrofoam blocks and fabric paint printed on white bandanas.

Perhaps the big hit of the day was the chocolate! The kids were excited to find out that chococate is made from cocoa beans that grow on a plant. Then they were excited to eat it!

Day Two: France
Learning about France was great fun with the kids, and spending a day there in spirit made me want to go there even more in person.

We began our day by looking at architecture and drawing the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame cathedral, and the Arc de Triomphe. These observational drawings were challenging, but these kids were up to the challenge!

Next we shared croissants and grapes (it is wine-country), and then learned about artist Henri Matisse through a wonderful children's book called Matisse: The King of Color. In his latter days, Matisse was bed-ridden and took to cutting out collages of his marvelous, colorful shapes. So we did the same. We also learned about theatrical mise en scene, and created our own backdrops for our own stories.

Day 3: Russia
I visited Russia in 1989 (actually, it was the USSR back then) and shared some of my souvenirs with the kids. It was hard to keep our hands off of the nesting dolls or matryoshka, but we did it long enough to paint our own! For those who wanted a little more architectural challenge, they painted watercolor images of St. Basil's Cathedral in Red Square.
Next, we studied artist Marc Chagall and his dream-like images, and then made some ourselves using oil pastels to memorialize a special dream.

I remember fondly the black bread and white cheese I ate for breakfast every day when I was there long ago, and so our snack for today was as close as I could get...pumpernickel and provolone. The kids couldn't get enough! But the absolute favorite of our day in Russia were the fabulous Faberge eggs made from foam eggs and Crayola Model Magic. These are bookshelf-worthy!

Day 4: India
In India, we got our groove on, listening to some Indian music, and enjoyed our nan and Major Greys chutney. The kids then traced their hands and created their very own henna tattoos or Mehndi designs.

Day 5: Madagascar
The animals and flora of the island nation Madagascar captivated us today! First we created prints of lemurs and chameleons.

Next, we painted Baobab trees, which look like they are upside down! Last, we painted wooden beads and made necklaces. Now, I'm dying to see Madagascar 3!

The kids and their work are so inspiring. Below are some more photos to enjoy.
God bless,
Nicole (Mrs. Seitz)