Thursday, August 13, 2015

The first of many good-byes

Something just doesn't feel right. Even when a good-bye is the best thing, the timely thing, it cannot feel completely right.

An almost empty room. empty shelves, sheetless bed - the same mattress we bought for his first "big boy" bed at 2 years of age.

The memories well up. Odd ones, random ones, peppering the day. . .

Your obsession with "Hoppa-doppas" (helicopters)

The brightest smile in the room.

Figuring out on your own how to count by tens to 100 before kindergarten, while still struggling to tie a secure knot in your shoe.

A dozen big brothers five days a week.

Proud big brother in the hospital greeting sibling after sibling, after sibling.

Cubs colored rubber bands on braces.

Baseball games, all star tournaments, lots of frozen burritos as we rushed out the door.

Forts in the great room.

Learning patience with siblings.

Swimming in the summers whenever you possibly could.

A math brain I could never out-teach.

Owning your faith.

Struggling to find your life direction with college a few years away.

Pouring out skills and gifts for God.

First job, and an even better second job.

Saving every penny.

Determined to meet every goal set.

Independently driven.

Remembering the times that you pulled and we pushed, the times you questioned and we encouraged, you hesitated and we prompted,

. . . and somewhere along the way you took it all and ran with it following decisively as God directed you better than we ever could have.

And we just watch and marvel at the man you have become.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Silver Lining

Looking for joy in the times of challenge. Cultivating that grateful heart.

It's a lifelong process and one that progresses at the rate of rock climbing rather than strides on a treadmill.

And yet, as God teaches, and opens my eyes more each day, the gratitude springs up in unexpected places.

Grateful this week for . . .

  • Free antibiotics at Meijer pharmacy
  • A simple ear infection and clear lungs
  • Flexible older kids that can wait while I drop them here and there and drive back and forth to get everyone where they need to be, usually for longer than they need to be there
  • A letter for 17% off that arrives the day before we take our car in for $2k worth of repairs
  • Sleep, in uninterrupted chunks of time
  • The quiet snuggles of a fevery child
  • Spring break for many around us so the doctor had lots of appointments available
  • A steady job that provides insurance and income for our family
  • Daily homeschool flexibility that allows school to somehow stay on track despite fevers and earaches and meetings and schedules and red-eyes and energy-zapping illness

And, above all, thankful for a Savior that endured the cross on my behalf, not looking at the pain and agony of the moment, but lifting His eyes to the greater prize, the greater love, the greater purpose, He finished well.

As my not-much-longer-to-be four year old says, "Happy Great Friday!"

Monday, March 2, 2015

Why I homeschool

Although the calendar says March, the winter doldrums still hold us firmly in their grasp. Snow everywhere, very few days over freezing, and everyday -- school, school, and more school.

Now and then I dream of a "free" day. Rush around like mad for an hour or so and shuttle kids out the door to school. Then, settle into a truly quiet devotional time. A couple hours of cleaning, run some errands, prep an amazing dinner and then warmly greet my children with a plate of fresh home-baked goodies as they return. Seems like such a carefree existence, but I know I'm looking through rose colored glasses.

Then I am reminded of all I would lose in that scenario, and I need to remember the cost so I stay the course.

So, here are the first of literally thousands of reasons why I homeschool:

Academic excellence. No class of 30 students, or even 15, can come close to the one-on-one time that my kids get each day. Specifically tailored to where they are and the pace they learn at. The bar set as high as they can reach, no higher and no lower.

Spiritual excellence. Even a Christian school can have teachers that vary in their theology or their depth of spiritual insight. I don't know every answer, but we dig them out together as needed along with that constant reminder that God's Word is the ultimate authority and has the final say in everything.

Social excellence. A room full of junior highers makes me cringe. Their expressions, their clothing, their topics of conversation, their standards, etc., etc. Is that really the ideal learning environment? My kids see enough of it during a couple hours of youth group to feed our conversations the rest of the week. I'm sure there will be moments of social awkwardness here and there, but overall, they have greater opportunity, adult-mentored not peer-mentored, to gain understanding of social propriety. 

Psychological excellence. Okay, no studies that I know of prove this, but I find this interesting subtlety in the typical homeschool personality. A kind of confidence, maybe at times bordering on naivete, but a free-ness to be whoever they truly are. As they spend their days in a loving home, they have a freedom of expression unknown in a roomful or hallwayful of kids ready to deem them "uncool" or "weird." They'll learn soon enough and a little more gradually that some behaviors are unacceptable to their peers, but in the meantime they stay young a little longer, explore life a little deeper, and enjoy a little more freely.

Familial excellence. I'll be the first to admit that my kids probably fight with each other a little more since they are around each other 24/7. However, at the end of the day we know each other. We talk, text (yes, even while in the same house), laugh, interact, ask, listen, argue, learn, cry, grow, and eat together all day long, pretty much everyday. There is no amount of quality time that can trump the quantity of time that we have together.

I feel better already. A little less hypnotized by that dreamy image of traditional school. And I have just scratched the surface of the many, many reasons that I homeschool.

Why do you homeschool?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Called to Follow

Funny how we judge ourselves so harshly. Held to some impossibly high standard that would topple even the most perfect. Elizabeth faithfully followed God, but yet grappled with the barrenness of her womb. I know some modern day Elizabeths. She was not made great because she gave birth to John the Baptist, it was just one way that God honored her faithfulness.

I've wrestled with that though. So many godly friends and family members that muddle through never ending infertility.  Yet, children are a blessing, so why doesn't God bless them? He has blessed me in that way, and I feel so undeserving, sometimes guilty as I talk to those that He has not blessed in that way.

In that way.

"That" way varies from season to season. Sometimes I see only the material blessings in people's lives, while mine lacks that. Sometimes I view only someone's new baby while we pray for another. Sometimes I lock in on the success of ministry for others while I turn down another serving opportunity because of sick children. Sometimes I fixate on another family's godly children while I suit up for the same battle of disciplining our strong-willed child. Rather than see the blessings, I see the lumps in the clay where God continues to shape me.

That's they key. We see a blessing withheld, but He has merely poured out elsewhere.

He took away her shame, but He had not put it there.

The shame we bring on ourselves. I've done it, often. Stumbling under the weight of unmet expectations and unrealized goals. Goals that I thought I needed to reach to prove my worth, spiritual or otherwise.

Once again, God wiped my worry and self-doubt clean today using this beautiful devotional blog that I've started following recently, Love God Greatly.

Instead of seeing my weakness as a downfall, I can see it as a trademark that God is at work. Just as they said about Elizabeth, "Nothing is impossible with God." It takes my human shortcomings to allow His glory to shine through and His clear work of redemption and transformation to get the credit. 

His plan for my life continues, not what I thought it would be 20 years ago or even 10 years ago, and yet uniquely mine, a masterpiece crafted with good works, His, not mine.

As I cherished this renewed perspective today, I received an email that pressed deeper His message for me today --  the simple daily following of my Savior as a wife and mom, that is my highest call right now. Regarding our oldest son the email said, "He is such a committed volunteer in our ministry and his skill set at his age is off the charts."

Words a mother needs to hear now and then to remind me of the blessings as I'm distracted while I look for God to bless me in "that" way. 

What blessings are you missing that God has already poured out?  
Praying we all open our eyes a little wider to God already at work.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Jesus' consistency, our random responses

John 18 and Luke 22 pressed out my thoughts today . . . 

Peter, so like me I have to chuckle at times.

Jesus says, "I am He."

Peter (what was he thinking?) lunges with his sword drawn and slices the ear of the nearest bystander. I'm sure the High Priest's servant was posing the greatest threat to Jesus at the time.

Irrational. Not well thought out. Emotional response in the wake of Christ's level headed interaction.

Christ had surrendered already. Not in defeat, but in submission. Did Satan think he had won?

Looking back at Christ's words exchanged with Judas and 600 or so of his closest friends, His holiness is magnified in this dark moment.

"Whom do you seek?"

"I AM"

"So, if you seek me, let these men go." Is there any doubt who was really in charge?

"Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?"

He had already wrestled. It wasn't an easy surrender, but He lay down His will fully to do what needed to be done to save me.

Remember what Peter had been doing? Remember Christ's warning? Peter fell asleep. Christ said, "Don't" twice. His reason -- pray so you don't fall into temptation.

What Peter needed to set him straight was time in wrestling then surrendered pray.

I'd rather sleep, or lay in bed worrying. How much sense does that make?

Wrestle, surrender. Follow in peace. Of course, that doesn't mean the road ahead offers smooth passage. The cross lay just around the corner for Jesus Christ.

Peter still floundered. "No, I don't know Him." Cursing. Denying. Emotionally distraught confused.

I can't imagine watching the world I had lived and loved for three miraculous years seemingly fall apart.

Later he would wrestle. With Christ's questions on the beach. With his own guilt.

And, God still used him, powerfully. A broken pot like me. An irrational human that gets stuck in the here and now.

Father God, help me to wrestle with You and surrender instead of worrying and reacting. Thank you for your forgiving love and using even me. ~Amen

Thursday, February 13, 2014

nudged to write

Funny to sit down to write after nearly a year of not.

Don't know if anyone will read it, since last I wrote Google Reader was still active.

But, I don't write for others, I largely write for myself. To capture a thought, an experience, a season.

Life is full to overflowing these days. Teaching, teaching, loving, growing, stretching, serving, cleaning (not enough), and worshiping, always worshiping.

High school graduation is mercifully still a year away for our oldest. So many exciting changes though as adulthood comes calling. Jobs, driving, college majors, serious volunteer work. Such a man he has become.

Number 2 has an inch on me, but seems to be leveling out. She's amazing and sweet and gentle, and so much of what I need in my home and life. Catch myself glancing at this other woman in my home. So quickly she appeared.

Faith brings the needed emotion and energy to our home. Always has. Something unique about third children. So full of life and love. Passionate about animals, friends, serving Christ, and whatever else may capture her fancy.

Our fourth reached double digits this past year. A ready smile and determined spirit. She works harder than the rest of the house put together. Growing friendships and enjoying physical activity in all shapes and sizes.

Nathan is the character. He shines a little brighter with a camera rolling. Always lots to say and discover. Growing too fast and finding lots of trouble in the process.

And, my sweet little bonus baby. Already a preschooler. Learning sounds and numbers. Stretching my patience with his energy and curiosity. Loves being read to and snuggled with and always says something to make me laugh when he is on one of his infamous "spy missions."Only God knew what a blessing he would be to our not yet complete family.

Yes, life is wonderfully, splendidly full of life. God is good and has moved me through a time of treasuring his gentleness to a new season of marveling anew at his mightiness.

Maybe I'll be back. I kind of like this writing thing.

In His Mighty Grip,

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Homeschooling High School: - Try it, you'll like it

Intimidation mounts gradually as the grades tick by for homeschoolers. For some reason people don't question much that we can teach a child to read or master basic math. With middle school comes a new set of questions -- how do you know enough to teach your kids?

Are you really smarter than a 5th grader?

High school pounds this home with explosive intensity. Really? You really think you can teach Latin or Spanish, and Calculus, and Physics, and Government, and science labs, and research papers? You really think your child can go to college having never stepped foot in a traditional classroom? All with YOU as the primary teacher?

Well, yes, in fact, I think so. Maybe.

Although my passion for homeschooling doesn't waiver, my confidence in myself took a serious nose-dive.

After much prayer, we decided to press on. The benefits of enrolling in a traditional school were nearly non-existent in comparison to homeschooling, so we tried our hand at freshman year.

Honestly, that was a hard year. Really hard in some ways. This man-child inches past me in height, and in some academic subjects as well. We communicate differently, learn differently, and excel in different areas. I had to learn to capitalize on the weaknesses that hovered between us.

At the end of freshmen year I had almost had it. I felt like we were driving a hundred miles an hour -- in opposite directions. Then, something snapped.

It came right after I decided to just give up on really trying and just coast to graduation. My husband caught me in that one. A godly, loving parent could never push that ejector seat button and just bail out. 

So, I pulled back and prayed. and prayed. and prayed.

On a calmish day I sat down for a real heart-to-heart with my newly 15 year old. I dug in, searching for the deep waters that Proverbs says the heart holds. I found them. God met us there and everything changed directions.

I saw his respect for me visibly improve. I felt my love for him surge. We could carry on in a productive, God-honoring way. And I almost missed it.

I almost gave up, put him on the bus, sent him off somewhere, anywhere. But God. God spoke through my wise husband and pulled us all back together again.

Now, a year later, I cannot tell you the gratitude that I have for this past year. He asks for advice. We discuss college and courses of study. Such an exciting time! First job, college applications, placement exams, seeing the fruit of all these years, and even the pressing through those tough days and seasons.

Don't miss this time in your teen's life, or even another 6-8 hours a day of it. They'll already have work and volunteer opportunities likely pulling them away now and then, we don't need them gone for school on top of that.

Dream together. college, jobs, careers, relationships.

Discuss it all. I treasure the real life conversations we have now. No more imaginary, if I could fly or why is the sky blue talk. Now we talk about real things. The nightly news, deep biblical doctrines, international politics, church government issues, caring for orphans, and all kinds of other meaty topics that come up because we live life together.Yeah, there's still board games and laughing through Balderdash and family movie night, and so many other fun moments, too, but life is still full of teachable moments.

I had no idea I would enjoy this season as much as I do. And, I get to go through this five more times. :)