School Choice Is The Best Choice

In April, I was invited to attend one of the best conferences of which I have ever been a part. The Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity ( hosted the Amplify School Choice Atlanta Conference, and I have to tell all of you: I am excited!

I firmly believe that School Choice is the most important issue of our time. Why? Many of our children are stuck in schools that underperform, and they and their parents have had no options. Today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders, and they deserve to learn and thrive in the best possible environment that is right for them. One speaker rightly explained that the wealthy in this country have always had school choice. They can afford to put their children in private schools. They can afford to have a parent stay home and homeschool their kids. They can afford to move to better school districts where there are award-winning public schools. The School Choice endeavors that are being fought for today will afford those options to lower and middle class students, too. A true win-win!

First, I wanted to give you all a few quick definitions on the many options that are becoming more available for our young people. Thanks to * for providing this information to us.

Public School Open Enrollment

This option allows parents to choose the best public schools for their children, no matter where the school is located.

Public Charter Schools

These tuition-free schools are independent public schools that have the freedom to be more innovative with their teaching while, at the same time, being held accountable for the students’ academic achievement.

Magnet Schools

These schools are tuition-free public schools that have a focused and specific curriculum such as Science, Math, Fine Arts, etc.

Private School Choice Programs

These programs allow parents to use state-funded opportunity scholarships (school vouchers), tax credits or corporate-funded scholarships to send their children to qualified private schools. Each state has its own program.

Virtual School and Online Learning

These schools are internet-based schools/academies that instruct students via a very tough online curriculum. These programs can be combined with any type of schools listed above.


Homeschooling is where the parents educate their kids in their home. Over the years, this option has grown in popularity. All states permit homeschooling and require scores, approval and evaluation of homeschooled students.

(*Information obtained from

For me, one of the biggest takeaways from this conference is that concerned parents are not anti-public schools or anti-teachers. There are amazing public schools and teachers in ALL communities (and some not-so-amazing ones). As parents and school choice advocates, we want the option to CHOOSE the best educational environment for our kids. That is NOT the federal and state governments’ jobs! We want to be able to take advantage of any of the above-referenced educational avenues.

The attendees were also afforded a real treat! We got to visit the most amazing charter school in the city of Atlanta: Westside Atlanta Charter School ( Their vision is inspiring:

“Our innovative language and literacy focus will provide a firm educational foundation for the students we serve, enabling them to grow in leadership and character through applied learning opportunities. Each child entrusted to our care should leave our school ready to engage in meaningful ways with their broader community, having internalized our core values of imagination, rigor and service.”

Pete Settelmayer, Executive Director and Founding Principal of Westside Atlanta Charter School, is nothing short of awesome. His love for education, leading and learning is not only apparent when I talked with him, but it was even more apparent when the kids would literally run up to him with smiles on their faces.

Right now, Westside’s charter is to add a grade each year until they reach 8th grade. At this time, they have Kindergarten through 2nd grade. There is a huge waiting list to apply to Westside. I understand why. My prayer is that they extend their charter to high school. I might just go back to high school. (Not really! J)

The hardest part for me in writing this article was to choose my focus! I learned so much about School Choice, the options we have, and the hurdles we face.

I am dedicating myself to this fight, so much so that I will be totally revamping my blog and website to reflect my love and heart for kids, teachers, education and choice.

Fasten your seatbelts and stay tuned!

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Why I Choose To Forgive Myself



Forgiveness. Does the very word weigh you down? I understand. And that is why I am so excited about Ted Dekker’s new book Water Walker. And you will be, too.

Amazon reports that Water Walker “reminds us that it’s possible to live free of the hurt that keeps our souls in chains.” Doesn’t that sound great? Living free from a chained soul? I can attest to that freedom. For a huge portion of my life, I suffered from clinical depression and anorexia nervosa. I didn’t know a day that didn’t involve a certain amount of pain. I felt like a prisoner in my own body. And I wanted out. I hated myself and wondered daily what I was doing on earth. I felt like I was taking up space. But the Lord led me to an amazing Christian counselor who worked with me for many years to tackle my demons. It wasn’t easy. I had to unearth years of depression, abusive relationships, an out-of-control eating disorder and give all that pain to God. There were times where I walked out of her office absolutely spent, scared to deal with any more pain. But guess what The Lord helped me to do? Forgive myself. Forgive myself for not getting off of my own back. Forgive myself for my self-hatred. Forgive myself for not trusting Jesus Christ with all of my pain.

Forgiveness is not easy, but it is so worth it. We cannot live our lives effectively for Christ until we tackle forgiveness. And our situations are vastly different, but Christ can set us free. All we have to do is ask Him. God Bless each one of you! <><

Thank you in advance to Ted Dekker for writing such a relevant book. Be sure to check it out!


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Five Minute Friday: Ordinary

Happy Friday! I am linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker for Five Minute Friday. Each Friday, Lisa-Jo give us one word to write about, and we write for no more than five minutes. Whatever is in our heart jumps onto our posts. Ready. Set. Let’s write!


This is the word that I used to say to myself when I looked in the mirror. I am not pretty. I am not smart. I am nothing. I am ordinary.

I battled anorexia for a huge chunk of my life, and, thankfully, I have been in recovery for over two decades. However, I began to look at myself in such a cruel way, and I thought starving myself would make me look glamorous. Intelligent. Popular. And, I prayed, no more ordinary Lara. The more I starved myself, the weaker I became, and the more ordinary I felt. “Why don’t I feel better? Why don’t I look incredible?” Oh, I played those questions in my head everyday for over a decade of my life. Little did I know, I really needed Jesus.

Jesus. My Jesus. He was and is all that I need. He lifted me up, told me how much He adored me, and affirmed that I was His. Today, I am whole and healed in His name. And I am here to yell from the rooftops that Jesus is Everything. And He is definitely NOT ordinary.

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Day 1: Pay It Forward


I have realized many things on my walk with Christ, and one of those is my favorite quote from Mother Teresa:  “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” As Christians, we all want to be more like Christ in everything we do and say, right? Do any of you get overwhelmed thinking that you have to do something ginormous for someone to make you more Christ-like? If I were not typing, I would be raising my hand high! :-) It’s the little things that mean the most.  I am a huge fan of PAYING IT FORWARD. And, apparently, so is Snoopy!

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Sometimes all a person needs is a hug. Right Snoopy? :-) A good hug always puts a huge smile on my face.  How about you? This is just one example of how we can live more like Christ.

Over these next 31 days, you all will discover that I am a huge fan of Chick-fil-A. Not only is their food yummy, but their employees always shine like the sun.  One day at “The Chick,” I witnessed a lady pick up the tab for another customer’s lunch. She did not know this person, and I do not know if the recipient of that lovely gesture was having the best day ever or the worst day on earth, but I saw her eyes light up like a Christmas tree on Christmas morning, Her day was transformed. All through a chicken sandwich. Isn’t that how our Jesus works? He blesses us with big things like our salvation, but He also works through other people in the littlest ways to lift our spirits and our hearts towards Him. Christ at work through us.  I just love Him.

So I encourage you today – how can you pay Jesus’ love forward to someone else? Not in any expensive ways – just the little things. Because Christ is in every detail.

Here is to living a Christ-Centered Life … one day at a time! I pray that He shines His light on you so you can shine His light on others.

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” ~Isaiah 26:3

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31 Days to a Christ-Centered Life

Greetings! And welcome to 31 Days of Christ-Centered Living!

I am linking up with The Nester for the month of October. Each day (31 days to be exact), I will highlight different ways that we can keep Christ in our everyday lives. Personally, I am really excited to be tackling this subject because I need good reminders. :-)

I will keep a directory of each day’s topic here in this post, so this is where you will land each day. I will have links on each day’s topic so you can connect to each one easily.

Now do I have the market cornered on living a Christ-centered life? ABSOLUTELY NOT! But I know the Creator, and He desires for me and for all of us to be more like Him each day. All we have to do is ask Him. What an awesome God we serve!

I am really excited to share with you all. So come on back with your cup of coffee (or tea!) tomorrow, and we will walk this journey together…. <><

Day 1:  Pay It Forward


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This is the first day that I have linked up to Lisa Jo Baker’s Five-Minute Friday blog party, and I am glad to begin today. This word TRUE really resonated with me. Sometimes I can put my best foot forward but not let all of my feet out. Make sense? Let me try again. Sometimes I hide a bunch of the bad stuff because I think people will think badly of me. There. I said it. Let me tell you more.

I was diagnosed with clinical depression when I was in my late 20’s – early 30’s. In a way, it was a blessing because I finally got an answer to why I felt so sad and useless so much of my life. But on the other hand, I thought I would always have the Scarlet “D” on my forehead. I hid it well for quite a long time. Learning to have a smile on my face no matter what, I was always everyone’s best friend and cheerleader. I was involved with everything under the sun in high school and college. I had tons of friends. I figured that if I always let people lean on my shoulders that I did not have to face my demons. It worked. For a while. But then the acting had to end. No more Academy Award-winning performances for me.

The Lord brought me to my knees and showed me that I desperately needed Him. I believed in Him, but I don’t think I really BELIEVED HIM to heal me. He led me to an amazing Christian counselor and psychiatrist. I spent quite a number of years in counseling, unpacking all of the pain I tried so desperately to bury. My doctor then prescribed medication for me, and I take it to this day. I am not ashamed of it, but for a while, I was. “What would people think?” I asked myself. Would others think that I am not a real Christian for taking medication? My counselor and I wrestled with that fear, and she showed me that God created doctors and pharmacists to help people. I needed the help. Therefore, I needed to let that go. Easy to do? Not really, but I am at total peace about everything. And I have so much support, so it really is all good.

I began to speak about my diagnosis to friends, family and others, and I found that God was leading me to not only tell people about what He did for me, but to also tell people of His GREATNESS, LOVE AND MERCY. That hope led me to pick up my writing that I have loved to do my whole life. The writing led to blogging which led me to this site I love so much. It is a place God carved out to me to encourage others to be courageous in all things. He is also leading me to speak to others. That one is hard! Even though my husband always says that I have at least 50,000 words to get out a day before bed, I am not a natural public speaker. In my own strength, I cannot. In His strength, I can.

Every day, the sun rises. The Lord is on His throne. And all is truly good.

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Hello there!!

Yes, it has been a loooooong time since I have blogged, and, boy, I have missed it! And I have missed all of you, too! Today, I just wanted to let you know that I am in the process of getting a regular blogging schedule going, so stay tuned. I have so much to learn, but the best thing for me to do is to just WRITE!! The plan will happen as God leads me. Isn’t He wonderful???? Love our AWESOME God!

I also wanted to let you know that I am being featured on Encouragement Cafe today talking about my ONE WORD for 2013: JOY! Go on over, kick off your shoes, get a fresh cup of coffee and relax. Know that the joy of the Lord is your strength!

OK – TTFN (that is “Tigger-Speak” for “Ta-Ta For Now!)! Y’all have a blessed day. See you all soon!


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No Doubt About It!

Hi everyone:

Welcome to a wonderful Tuesday! My prayers are continuing to go out to those of you who have been affected by Hurricane Sandy. You will not go through the devastation alone – guaranteed.

Today, I am blogging over at Encouragement Cafe where I am discussing stress-free living. I would love for you to join me there.

Everyone take care today and know that the Lord LOVES you!

P.S. And speaking of stress-free living, I have been so swamped with work the last couple of months that I have not gotten a chance to respond to comments left on my blog! :-> I promise that I am going to get to those this week. Please know that I appreciate you all so much!!! Blessings on each one of you today.

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It’s an “Encouragement Cafe” Kind of Day


I am guest blogging on Encouragement Cafe today, discussing how our Lord does not make mistakes in His creation.

I would love to hear from you! Remember that Jesus loves you – never forget that! What a wonderful promise … He will never leave us nor forsake us. Praise Him!


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Hi everyone!

I am so excited about my new online home for Journey of a Southern Gal! I hope you all love it as much as I do.

Jami Leigh from Fount of Inspiration designed everything, and I have to say that she is AMAZING! If your site needs a “spruce-up,” or if you are on the starting line wondering how to start a blog/website, give Jami a call or shoot her an email. Check out her site – that girl knows her stuff!

Please spread the word and let people know about my new place. Feel free to grab the button on the right hand side and display it on your site. The ice tea is cold and sweet, the Peach Cobbler is warm and the conversation is always hopeful and encouraging.

Happy Wednesday to you all!

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