Good Mood Gift

Kaitlin Walsh

For this blog, I was asked a simple prompt: We’ve found ourselves still living in the midst of a global pandemic. Death tolls rise and restrictions remain. And yet, God, too, is steadfast. What is God revealing to you so you know He is Trustworthy, Beautiful, and Good? 

Immediately my mind went to the highlights of the summer: The wind in my hair as I rode on a speedboat, the kids finally seeing their grandparents after quarantine, the one day my two year old actually used the potty and I thought I was seeing the end of almost a decade of diapers (spoiler: I wasn’t). These were moments that filled me with joy, and absolutely God was in every one of them. However, where I really see the proof of His presence is when I feel a joy that stems from… nothing.

Let me explain. During the slog of spring quarantine I remember telling my mom that I seemed to be on a “three days on, one day off” schedule. That is, I typically had a run of three “I got this” days, tackling the home schooling, the extra cleaning, cooking and stress with relative grace. Then came day four and it was bad news bears—I’d feel overwhelmed, crabby, lonely, you name it. My mom said she noticed the same in herself and we had a good laugh about the predictability of our mood swings and how our husbands should mark their calendars for the Day Four Meltdowns. While we spent much more time discussing the nuances of the bad days, I got to thinking about the wonder of those good ones. How I would sometimes go to bed feeling as though I just could not handle this, and wake up with a completely new outlook. Nothing in the world had changed, my circumstances were the same and the news was just as frustrating and terrifying as the day before, but something in me just felt more capable, hopeful and joyful.

And that’s it. That transformation from bad mood to positivity are the moments where God has proven His goodness and trustworthiness to me. That ability to find joy when the day before you could find none, the potential to suddenly see the good side in a bad situation, that is where God resides. An unfounded good mood is God’s beautiful gift to us and we should recognize it as such.

Our friend St. Paul is a wonderful example of a man who recognized and drew on this gift of joy regardless of hardship. Take Philippians 4:11-13: “…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Paul experienced imprisonment, beatings, being stoned, isolation and more. But through it all, his writings transmit a feeling of joy, contentment and peace. 

I’ll admit that I am not yet at his level. Facing what he faced, or for that matter, what Jesus faced, it’s hard to imagine a good mood shift taking place quickly. And I will acknowledge that I am lucky to have experienced a 3:1 ratio of happy to sad days during quarantine. I do know the beast of depression and anxiety, of experiencing more of a thirty-days-off, one-day-on type of schedule. But I know this as well: with a combination of prayer, love, faith and time, God will help those brain chemicals to shift, so that one day you will wake up ready to face the day, even when the day seemed so lousy just yesterday. 

So bring on the pandemic, the riots, the economic turmoil, the hurricanes and fires. God will be there at the moment you think you can’t handle anymore, adjusting your attitude, inducing a calmness that seems completely out of place given the circumstances. That is His good mood gift and proof of His goodness and love for us.

Painting note: This is a rather serious-looking self portrait I made after quarantine. In it I’ve highlighted the limbic system in the brain, which is your emotion-control center. I like to imagine God right there, pulling the strings on that limbic system, creating more happy hormones that put the peace right there in my brain, body and heart.

Kaitlin Walsh is an independent artist specializing in abstract anatomy paintings. She spends her time portraying the beauty and complexity of the human body through her store, Lyon Road Art. Kaitlin lives happily in Bettendorf, Iowa with her husband and three children. Two of her kids are students at MSA.

Stay the Course

Betsy Tubbs

My son began attending Morning Star Academy as a 3-year-old preschooler.  He came home from his first day of school and told his Dad and me that “School was fun, except for the work part.”  This was the beginning of a challenging educational journey through MSA up to his graduation! 

School can be hard and for a lot of kids, it is hard.  And that hard is tough for students and parents alike and sometimes we can lose perspective.  Sitting at the kitchen table night after night watching and listening to them struggle, cry, and feel dumb is so very difficult!  Sometimes it’s tempting to throw in the towel.  However, from someone on the other side of the challenging educational journey MSA offers, know it is worth it and God is good through it all.

My son graduated from MSA, went on to college, where he thrived, enjoyed learning and graduated with his BA.  MSA prepared him to defend his beliefs and respectfully challenge his professors!  The transition from MSA to college was easy.  He watched his new friends struggle while he adapted easily.  He finally felt like the smart one!  He wrote numerous papers, was regularly praised for his writing ability and was asked to present and defend one of his undergraduate papers at a national conference.  Who would have guessed that the struggling MSA student would earn the honor graduate award of his major?   

Fast forward a few years, he is in an intense language program for his job.  He is taught Spanish for 8 hours a day, for 6 months with the goal of passing an oral interview test that grades his fluency in the language.  When he started the program, he told me he was light years ahead of his co-workers.  He could see exactly where his Shurley grammar lessons were helping; he could see exactly where his Latin classes were helping and of course, he could see where his Spanish classes were helping.  My son, 20+ years after beginning MSA can truly see and experience the benefits of his challenging educational journey.

To those parents that are tired – stay the course!  To the teachers that are tired – stay the course.  To the students that feel dumb and don’t understand why MSA is having them do what they have to do – stay the course.  Know your parents and MSA teachers want the very best for you and of you!  When you feel like throwing in the towel, don’t!  It is worth it – every dollar, every assignment and every night at the kitchen table!  God is good and He is working through the Morning Star Academy community.

Betsy Tubbs is the Senior Parks Manager for the City of Davenport Parks and Recreation Department. She and her husband are members of Bettendorf Christian Church.  Betsy served on the MSA school board for 12 years. The Tubbs’ have two children – a son and a daughter – both are graduates of Morning Star Academy.  

One Day at a Time

Mary Sievers

The week of March 8th, 2020 feels like one that will be engrained in my memories for the rest of my days. “Coronavirus” had become a household term, the jokes were clogging our Facebook feeds, and cruise ships coming back to the United States were being quarantined. My husband had been telling me for several weeks prior to be ready for the possibility that Coronavirus could hit the United States fast and hard, and that it likely meant sheltering in place with our family for a period of time. To which he assured me “You won’t have to do it alone.”

That week, we were taking care of the final plans for our spring break trip to Florida, but I could sense that things were changing quickly. Cities on the west and east coasts were issuing shelter-in-place orders, and the “stay home” hashtags were popping up on social media. I thought through some of the simple pleasures of life that might be put on pause and tried to make sure to cram them in to our week: lingering in the coffee shop, ruining our supper with “Here’s The Scoop” ice cream on our way home from school, and enjoying dinner out with friends.

Throughout the week, the inevitable toilet paper jokes began, but the actual panic was evident as I entered Costco and watched the people head to the toilet paper aisle in droves. Rare was the passed cart that didn’t have a case, as I checked off our grocery list. As the last pallet of toilet paper emptied, I noticed a woman following people around the store waiting on the abandoned cart to find her opportunity to purchase some. Honestly, it was an eerie feeling and I began to wonder if this is how heading to the grocery store would always look, from now on.

As our children played at home that evening, my husband and I began to discuss the distinct possibility that on Monday morning our children would not be returning to the school building. That he would likely not be headed in to his office, and the feeling that things were beginning to feel, different. But, as I watched my children at play, the peace of the Holy Spirit came over me, and laid on my heart “I know what is going on, I am in control, I have given you enough for today”. I snapped a quick picture of my children at play, and fired off a quick text to a friend that said “quarantine us for 14 days, we’ll be fine”.  

I clearly remember picking my children up from school the next day. As I watched them come out of school, a couple of tears slid down my face. We had been paying close enough attention at home to be prepared that our kids would not be headed back to school for a few weeks, and likely not at all. And yet, as the announcements came about at the end of March that schools in Iowa would not open for the remainder of the school year, my heart was grieved again. 

The 2019-2020 school year was our family’s first year as a part of the Morning Star Academy family, and I was sad to watch it end prematurely and abruptly. I suddenly felt that they had been robbed of precious time and memories. And yet again, the Holy Spirit quickly laid on my heart “I know what is going on, I knew that this is how their first year at Morning Star was going to look, and you can do this one day at a time.

As we continued to navigate distance learning and “crisis schooling,” a close friend and I talked through that same sentiment, one day at a time. Within days of that conversation, it was Easter Sunday. That morning, I received an e-mail from my mom. She was sharing a link to the sermon from her church, and encouraged me to watch, because the pastor was sharing a story about my dad (whom we had lost to cancer in May of 2019). The sermon was answering the question, “Where do we put our hope?”. The pastor had walked closely with my dad during his battle, and was sharing words from some of the last pages of my dad’s journal. “This is my walk with the Lord. One day a a time. God is my refuge and strength, my ever present help in trouble. I rely on the Lord Jesus Christ to carry me through. I turn myself over to his strength.” One day at a time.

I have been learning, through all of this, that when we stop putting our hope in things of this world (for me, through this: vacation, our children’s education and activities, social gatherings, friends, and being in control of our schedule), and shift our hope to the Savior, who has taught us to pray “give us this day our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11) we begin to better know our Savior that reminds us that we should not worry about tomorrow (v 34). While we sleep, our Father is at work. When we knock, He answers (Matthew 7:7). When we put our hope in the Risen King, who has won victory over the grave, we can put our eyes on eternity and find our refuge in God. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Mary Sievers, and her husband Jon, raise four children on an acreage just west of the Quad Cities. Their three sons attend Morning Star Academy, with their daughter headed to MSA preschool in the fall. Mary enjoys being outdoors, great coffee, and is a “work from home mom” as a co-owner of a women’s boutique, Caty + Rose Market, in the Village of East Davenport.

Quarantine Heat

Amanda Dean

Eight-and-a-half weeks ago on a Friday night I gathered with some of my girlfriends at a local restaurant to celebrate two of our birthdays. We lingered at the table for several hours, the atmosphere was busy and full of laughter and conversation. No one was wearing a mask.

Two days later my family attended church. We worshipped side by side with other believers, exchanged handshakes and hugs, had conversations with friends standing much closer than six feet apart. Little did I know that those events would be the last social gatherings that I would experience for a very long time.

Looking back on the past 8 weeks, the amount of change that has occurred is surreal. So many of the things that we have depended on as a normal part of daily life have been stripped away. Corporate worship, gathering with friends and the privilege of sending my children to a classical Christian school where they are enriched in so many ways. These especially feel like deep, deep losses. And indeed they are! There are many things to grieve during this season.

Transitions tend to bring out the worst in us. When we are deprived of what we
think we need to be happy and comfortable, our true nature is revealed. This pandemic hasn’t suddenly turned us into irritable, frustrated, demanding people. Rather, these circumstances have not-so-subtly revealed the sin that has been there all along. A couple months ago, it was easier to prevent these hidden sins from bleeding out because we could apply our bandaids of choice: shopping, sports, dining out, coffee indulgences, time with friends…busyness. Personally, the “2 hour stroll through TJ Maxx” bandaid is one of my favorites. I just know that finding a cute new pair of shoes would surely settle this discontentment in my soul!

Our current situation has turned up the heat on our idols. Much like the method that a goldsmith uses to purify gold, the heat of our circumstances has brought the impurities in our hearts to the surface. It has revealed even more deeply to me my idol of comfort.

There is nothing comfortable about our current situation. I’m uncomfortable teaching my children, which has been revealed by my lack of patience and knowledge. I am uncomfortable navigating Zoom calls. I am uncomfortable with the constant swirling of noise around me and lack of alone time.

It is good to look forward to something better and to long for the other side of this
darkness. But we are often mistaken at what that better thing is, and what we should be longing for. I have found myself thinking when things get back to normal, and making plans for all of the places we will go, things we will do and restaurants we will visit. I know I am grasping at the air for some sense of control and hope.

Placing our hope in life post-quarantine will only prove to disappoint and fail us. A
world free from Covid-19 will still be covered in a dark blanket of sin. Even when life returns to normal, we will still suffer from discontentment and unhappiness, and our hidden sins will still fight to overtake us.

Our hearts have been crafted to long for and rest in Christ alone. In all circumstances, we are called to believe His promises. He is making all things new, even when we don’t understand His plans and can’t see the outcome.

The stripping away of comforts and the revealing of idols is painful. But much like the goldsmith at work, the heat is full of purpose. My prayer is that on the other side of this pandemic, hindsight will show that this was a season of our deep need driving us to the Father, and refining us in ways that our bandaid-covered life never could.

Amanda is a stay at home mom and pastor’s wife. She and her husband, Justin, planted Sacred City Church nine years ago. Amanda is a true homebody. In her downtime she enjoys painting, singing, decorating, and just about anything creative. All four of Justin and Amanda’s kids attend Morning Star Academy.

A few thoughts from our foxhole:

Kat Carter

Having just retired from the Army within days of the COVID-19 quarantine (yes, God’s timing is perfect!), I’m still somewhat in the military mindset.  In the Army, we typically document significant operations with an After Action Review (AAR). Oftentimes, an AAR is abbreviated with “three ups and three downs.”  Looking back after nearly eight weeks of quarantine, I thought I’d share a few of our family’s AAR comments:

Three Ups

1.) Unhurried family time. Everyone eats together every night with no rushing to get to activities. Our evenings now often include walks around the neighborhood, board games, or just sitting around the firepit. When we look back on the Quarantine of 2020, I’m confident we’ll remember the slower pace of life and increased family time with fond memories and thankful hearts.

2.) Learning is fun! It has been a great joy to learn alongside my kids. It’s a thrill to see their eyes sparkle when they understand a concept for the first time. It’s also been fun to see my kids’ “school personalities” and eavesdrop overhear their conversations in class Zoom sessions. (Other parents do this too, right?)

3.)  Family devotions.  This often-allusive goal has been difficult for us to achieve and maintain. With less competing demands, we’ve been able to prioritize this time.  Though sometimes awkward and never without a handful of distractions, our devotion time frequently leads to deeper follow-up conversations later in the day.

Three Downs

1.)  IT support. We were not prepared, tech-wise, for online schooling. There were not enough laptops or tablets to go around, the printer was out of ink, and our internet is sometimes spotty.  Adding to these frustrations was the fact that our kids had never really used a computer before. Nevertheless, four kids sharing devices has been an opportunity to accommodate others, as well as a chance to learn how to prioritize tasks and manage time.

2.)   Burn out. We are all approaching electronic burn out.  Even my young children get tired of screen time, yet most resources from school and our church require computer/internet access.  As a result, my kids have become even more interested in imaginary play.  Schooling now frequently occurs in superhero costumes (over PJs, of course) so that they are ready to dash out to play at recess.

3.)  The human touch. We really miss our friends and our in-town grandparents. After two months of waving through the car windows or saying hi from the front porch, my parents came over last week wearing clear plastic tarps so they could pick up the kids and hug them.  For years to come, we will all have a greater appreciation of the gift of giving and receiving physical affection.

These AAR comments have been helpful to us as we reassess what getting back to “normal” will look like once quarantine restrictions begin to lift. What are your family’s quarantine AAR reflections?  What new habits or practices might your family add back in or, conversely, leave out, as quarantine lifts?   Praying for all our families of faith as we Charlie Mike (Army for “continue the mission”) on our Great Commission.

Kat Carter provides operational, logistical, and emotional care support services for her squad on a full time basis (AKA stay-at-home mom). She and her husband, Bill, are the parents of Jon (4th grade), Ben (2nd grade), Nate (1st grade) and Hope (preschool).

COVID-19 and Lectio Divina

Reid Walters

The Christian tradition is rich with liturgies and practices designed to bring the practitioner closer to their Heavenly Father. One such practice is that of Lectio Divina. Lectio Divina, Latin for divine reading, is composed of four equally important parts: Lectio, Meditatio, Contemplatio, and Oratio. In order, these terms translate too: read, reflect, respond, and rest. The practice of the Lectio Divina can be a bit time consuming and slightly tedious when first beginning but that is precisely what makes it perfect for when COVID-19 thrusts us into a time of social distancing.

As COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, I was sitting on a beach south of Tampa with friends, blissfully unaware of the coming pandemonium. Suddenly, life as we knew it changed. I first received an email warning me of the possibility that my medical mission trip to Papua New Guinea could be cancelled. What came next, I could not have predicted. Within a matter of 36 hours I would no longer be returning to school, my summer mission trip was cancelled, and I would be moving home for the foreseeable future. As soon as I arrived at home, I found myself sitting in my bed thinking “Wow, I have way too much time on my hands.” The abundance of time brought me back to a practice I had learned about in an epistemology class I took in the Fall of 2019, Lectio Divina.

Lectio Divina, draws from the way in which Jews read the Haggadah on the first night of Passover. The word Haggadah means “telling” and the practice finds its origins in Exodus 13:8. In this passage, God commands the Israelites, who have just been freed from Egypt, to tell their children of the miracles He performed. In Lectio Divina, a passage of scripture is read four times to let the hearer internalize the scripture. Followed by a time of silent meditation on what stands out. It is here that we give the spirit time to work, time to bring to light what we might otherwise read over or fail to grasp. Next, it is important to respond to what has been brought to mind. Some do this through journaling while others, like myself, prefer to spend the next few minutes in intent prayer. Lastly, is to take a brief time to rest. This time of rest looks different for everyone. Some simply sit silently and allow their mind time to return to the present before proceeding with the day, while others prefer continuing to reflect until their mind is drawn elsewhere.

In the days to come, there is a good chance that you will find yourself with little or nothing to do. It is with this time that we have been blessed. While being made to slow down and sit still can certainly be a challenge, let us not waste this glorious opportunity to commune with our Heavenly Father. The word of the Lord holds teachings for all who are willing to pause and listen. Will you?

Reid Walters graduated from Morning Star Academy in 2017 and now is a senior at Olivet Nazarene University. Reid majors in philosophy with minors in biology and chemistry with the hope of going to medical school after graduation. Outside of school Reid is an avid reader, rock climber, and photographer.

Just Do Your Job

‘Work’ by Ford Madox Brown

Brenda Porter

Cold Case is a mid-2000s procedural drama about a homicide unit in the Philadelphia Police Department—great pandemic viewing for those who like this genre. As the detectives investigate unsolved murders, they’re forced to confront violence, brutality, hatred, greed, and injustice. Some days, they are overwhelmed. At the height of a challenging case, their Lieutenant, John Stillman, says to one of them, “Just do your job. Let the rest work itself out.”

Though our pandemic challenges are quite unlike those faced by homicide detectives, the restrictions on our lives and the uncertainty about the future are deeply unsettling. The simplest acts—grocery shopping, even opening a door—now seem complex. A mid-March grocery trip brought me to that realization when I noticed that I had contaminated the sanitary left pocket of my jacket by placing my unsanitary keys in it! With frustrations like these foremost in our minds, it’s easy to slide further into discouragement, anger, and even judgment. It’s easy to judge the response to this crisis and find fault with the decision-makers. It’s easy to get caught up in the frustrations of our new daily lives and take out those frustrations on others.

I knew I didn’t want that, so I was ready to take the Lieutenant’s timely words to heart. What is my job? I thought. I felt unsure about the answer. I waited. I felt anxious. Eventually, though, I realized that I was asking the right question of the wrong person. It’s God who knows best what He needs me to accomplish. “What is my job?” I ask God, the omnipotent, the lover of my soul, the great artist of this amazing tapestry. His answer has been remarkably clear and uncomplicated. He asks me to do the work I’ve been tasked to do, so I plan my lessons, interact with students, cooperate with colleagues (Ecclesiastes 9:10). He asks me to encourage those in my sphere of influence (Hebrews 10:24), so I listen, text, cook, play games, and send care packages. And my most important job hasn’t changed at all. He tells me to guard my heart (Proverbs 4:23), so I keep following my reading plan, I worship, and I pray.

I don’t need to know the outcome of this pandemic in order to do my job. In fact, it’s almost fun to wait expectantly on God, to follow his leading through this new adventure, and it is an adventure! The more of life I see, the more I have come to revel in the “gracious uncertainty” (Oswald Chambers) that God invites his children to enjoy.

Early in the pandemic days, a friend of mine, formerly the headmaster of a classical Christian school, posted this excerpt from a letter written by Martin Luther:

I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.

It’s incredibly comforting to know that 500 years ago, Luther had to ask the same kinds of questions that we’re now asking. It’s clear Luther understood his job. There’s not a hint of fear, no tone of discouragement, and no judgment of others in his words. As Luther did his job, joyfully, graciously uncertain, with confidence in his Father, he learned then what we have the chance to learn right now—that we need only do our jobs because God will take care of the rest.

Brenda Porter teaches English, writing, and rhetoric at Morning Star Academy. She and her husband, Rob, are the parents of three grown daughters. 

Front Lines

Kaitlin Walsh

I call this watercolor painting, “Front Lines”. It portrays a cloud of coronavirus parasites as they start to engulf a healthcare professional. The individual, though, is protected by a subtle yellow glow, representing the indomitable spirit and the mental fortitude these brave soldiers have when facing the virus head-on. 

I painted this several weeks ago when COVID first started its significant uptick in the US. News sources and social media feeds were suddenly inundated with the horrific stories of what it was like on the front lines for medical professionals. I read about sores on doctors’ faces from constant mask-wear, about providers living away from their families for weeks in order to protect them, about a 25 patient caseload per nurse in Detroit. I couldn’t believe how hard they were working, how much they were risking, for the benefit of all, and so I was inspired to paint my Front Lines piece.

Fast forward five weeks later and not much has changed, except that my heartache and worry has expanded to include many sectors beyond medical professionals. I’m realizing that there are many different front lines in this strangely silent war. We have the economic front lines, where people are forced to shut down beloved small businesses or find themselves furloughed, suffering through a gut-wrenching fear of an unknown economic future. The battle of staying home with kids, where parents are overwhelmed and overworked and children are disoriented, frustrated and confused. Or the front lines of loneliness, where the lack of human interaction combined with an unknown future are causing an unsettling increase in anxiety and depression.

The common thread amongst these scenarios is that they all require a certain mental stamina, an internal peace, to withstand the hardship. As the weeks drag on, it seems that that emotional fortitude has become harder and harder to come by. We are all going to need to dig deep and find it, though, for regardless of the decisions made by our governmental leaders, it seems that COVID and its long-term effects will not be going away in the near future. 

Enter Jesus. It is through Him that we will find the power to withstand all kinds of suffering, to find that elusive peace in the face of adversity. Recall when Jesus calms the storm in the Gospel of Mark. Jesus fell asleep in a boat with his disciples after a long day of parable-teaching. A fierce storm came upon them and the disciples feared they would capsize and so they woke Jesus up, saying “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” He wakes up and tells the wind, “Peace! Be still!” and the wind obeys. And then He asks his disciples, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” (Mark 4:35-41).

Why are we afraid, when we know that anything is possible through Christ? He has the power to calm the most ferocious storm, and I think we need to take a moment to ponder this, lean on this. We need to remember that our omnipotent Christ can calm any storm, physical or mental. Important since the real battle that many of us face day to day is not necessarily the virus itself, but the turmoil inside. If you are feeling any type of despair, anxiety or fear, take a moment or two or three to stop moving, stop scrolling, stop thinking. Simply pray for Jesus’ intercession, for the grace of serenity, strength and joy amidst all this upheaval. It is easily in His power to provide that strength you need, He is just waiting to be woken up and asked.

Regardless of the front lines you are facing, remember: Peace. Be still. Don’t be afraid.

Kaitlin Walsh is an independent artist specializing in abstract anatomy paintings.
She spends her time portraying the beauty and complexity of the human body
through her store, Lyon Road Art. Kaitlin lives happily in Bettendorf, Iowa with her
husband and three children. She is also a Morning Star parent.

Plumbers Who Love Milton

Kendra Thompson

When considering options for the kids’ schooling, I read Leigh Bortins’ The Core about the classical Christian education model and the homeschooling approach. I’ve appreciated it for a while now because the goal of classical Christian education involves more than fulfilling state-sanctioned objectives; the aim is to instill a love of lifelong learning. Bortins paints a picture of it this way – that the result would be the development of well-rounded professionals. Not just academic classics’ scholars but also “plumbers who love Milton.”

For families connected to Morning Star Academy, we’re all giving homeschooling a try these days. How we embrace this temporary “calling” varies, but it’s safe to say that we’re all trying something new. For us, the dining room became the classroom and at any given point papers, glue sticks, and crayons litter the previously formal space. The kitchen table seems a retreat – where mom hops on Zoom or where Google Classroom holds session as dad tackles dishes or mom preps dinner. With stay at home orders, our schedules are more fluid, we are often together. And since we’re together, we’re all learning.

Learning has spilled out over all our lives in this time and that’s what Bortins would want. Theoretical value has become actualized reality as we count money together and learn the story behind a language. Thanks to Mrs. Mercy’s engaging “Bobby’s Bedtime Stories,” we’re all Latin students. To quiz my son, I have to know the vocabulary myself. Andi, who is four, is joining in the fun too.

 I’m a mom and a minister. I busy my days caring for my kids and providing faith formation resources for other families, too. My Latin prowess is about as sharp as my kindergartner’s. But thanks to this time at home, I remember that “unda” means wave and my four-year-old will tell you that “cancer” is crab. These realities are woven into a story about our time here at home, too. A time when, let’s be honest; sometimes the stress undulates and we can all be a bit “crabby.”

I am aware that we are fortunate to have what we have; meaningful work we could transition to accomplishing from home, availability to be present to our children in ways that fill and nurture them, a topnotch school to streamline their learning in a time of extended distance.

All of these I count as blessings. What I didn’t anticipate is how much the togetherness would shape us. That my son would step away from an evening viewing Star Wars to help me with yardwork, just so we could be together. That my daughter might get a jumpstart on phonics, just because she’s daily within earshot of Mrs. Norton’s helpful reminders. I have yet to discern what my children will become in their professional futures. Frankly, I’m not too worried about it. But what I hope is that seeds are germinating now that continue to fill them with a deep love and curiosity for what they are learning.

Kendra Thompson is a children’s minister, a writer, a Morning Star parent and the school’s part-time director of communications. She and her husband, John, love that their kids’ faith is incorporated into their learning at Morning Star Academy.

Isolation and Easter Hope

Rob Spykstra

Today, many of us will be doing something for the first time ever . . . celebrating Easter alone. I don’t mean totally alone — I, like you, will have my immediate family — but yet isolated and away from my church family in whom I am connected by something deeper than blood . . . Christ’s blood.  


Loneliness, and the fear of being alone, is an inevitable reality of human existence. No one really knows me, not even my wife of 32 years. Poet Robert Hass writes,

 “. . . and one day, running at sunset, the woman says to the man, 

I woke up feeling so sad this morning because I realized

that you could not, so much as I love you,

dear heart, cure my loneliness.

Even the best and most intimate of relationships have their limits.


It is this loneliness that Jesus came to cure. He did so by becoming lonely for us. We hear His profound loneliness when on the cross He cries, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Answer? Our sins. Our sins created an unimaginable gulf between the Father and the Son. He became profoundly lonely to heal our loneliness and make possible again, intimacy with the Father.  

Today, Resurrection Sunday, we celebrate, “no longer alone; no longer isolated by my sin.”  The resurrection declares there is hope for all those who are isolated and alone. Christ’s resurrection erases “until death do you part” from all who are joined to him. The resurrection declares his offer of unwavering, eternal fidelity to all who trust in his work on the cross. 

Christ takes residence in our hearts. Paul anticipated that this might seem too good to be true so he writes, “Do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?” (2 Cor. 13:5) The resurrection underscores his promise, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). 

So use today’s isolation, meditate on the separation, and celebrate the declaration of the resurrection that you are not alone and will never be alone.

“Christ in you, the hope of glory.” ~ Colossians 1:27    

Rob Spykstra has been part of the classical Christian movement for nearly twenty years, first as a homeschool dad, then as a fundraiser, and now as a headmaster. Rob is married to Tamra. They have four children, all classically trained. He serves as an elder at Sacred City Church. Tamra and Rob enjoy hiking and walking particularly in Rob’s home state of Colorado.