Grace for the Super Mom

I had just given birth to my fourth child. The baby fog was thick, so the fact that we had made it to gymnastic class on time was a small miracle.

I kissed my girl goodbye, waited for her wave at the door, and off I went to the grocery store. I was feeling pretty super that day.

As I pulled out of the gym parking lot, I noticed there weren’t as many cars as there usually were. I shrugged my shoulders, assuming the other families must be on vacation or something.

I strolled happily through the store with my three boys. This was my first trip “back” and I was feeling quite capable. I eyed the mother next to me eyeing the bananas. She looked frazzled, bless her heart. And she just had one with her. I looked at my three peaceful boys. Yep, I was feeling super.

Half-way down the cereal aisle, my weeks old baby began to scream. For no reason. He simply became hysterical. Before leaving the house I’d made sure he was fed and dry so hadn’t planned on encountering a hysterical baby. My Moby Wrap was inconveniently stowed away in the car, so I carried him in one arm, pulling the cart with the other. But that was no problem for this mom, because remember, I was feeling pretty super. I could almost feel the breeze of my cape, fluttering behind me.

By the time we hit the frozen food aisle my confidence started to slip. My previously peaceful boys had reached their peaceful peak. Judah’s screams had reached a level of decibel-desperation. And now that mother who had been eyeing the bananas was now glaring at me, as she tossed her frozen peas into her cart.

I threw my items onto the belt, threatening my boys with a glare of my own. I tried to ignore the look from the cashier. You know the one, would-you-please-shut-that-baby-up look! I dug blindly into my purse looking for my credit card, while bouncing and patting and begging the baby to stop crying. After 30 minutes of incessant screaming in a public place, you start begging.

We made it to the car. I was on the verge of tears. After loading everyone and everything up we rushed to pick up my gymnastic girl, for we were now late.

This time only a single car occupied the parking lot of the gym. I felt the weight of my heart sink into my stomach.

After squealing to a stop I jumped out of the car and ran (as best I could weeks post giving birth) into the building. I was met with two large, tear filled eyes. There had been no gymnastics class that day. This super-mom wanna-be had dropped her sweet baby off at a big empty gym.

My heart wasn’t the only thing to hit the floor. My cape slid down around my ankles and so did that super feeling I had been caressing all day.

I wanted to blame the baby fog, the sleep deprivation. I wanted to blame the distraction filled life that comes along with having four kids. I didn’t want to accept the fact that I couldn’t be super mom, not even for one.single.day.

But that is the very thing God wants me to do.

“For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong… that no man should boast before God.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-28)

The heart-stopping minute that tiny, pink baby was placed in my arms and the nurse and doctors left the room I was completely overwhelmed by the weight of responsibility. I felt fearful and frail. Were they even allowed to send me home? Wasn’t there some kind of test I had to pass first? I was so unsure as I timidly stepped into motherhood.

But somewhere along the way my fearfulness turned into boastfulness.

I began to place my value as a mother on what I was able to do and be. How was it that schedules and laundry, cooking and cleaning, breastfeeding and homeschooling, t.v. time vs. book time, organic baby food and name brand car seats became the measuring stick I quantified my mothering by? Some days I measured up. Most days I didn’t.

It is an easy trap to fall into and one of Satan’s favorites I think. Satan wants us to believe there is such a thing as Super Mom. He wants us to so that we can be weighed down by the thought of her. So that we will feel judged and condemned and assume she thinks we are failures. All before we even get out of bed. So that we lose sight of the true way God measures us.

 “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1Samuel 16:7)

Is it about having well-coordinated and well behaved children whose manners don’t match their hearts? Is it about looking good and holding it all together while the inside bleeds out? Is it about stumbling under the burden of perfection at the cost of my family, or my very soul?

Or is it about grace lived out in our own lives so that our children might get a glimpse?

A glimpse of the power shown in weakness. A glimpse of a God “who remembers that we are dust” (Ps. 103:14). A glimpse of a grace whose message is, we are all lost, all sick, all in need of salvation (Give Them Grace p.71).

Granting that glimpse of grace can be a frightful thing. A life where grace is lived out is a life that calls us to expose our weakness. To break open wide the idols of our hearts. To lay down our abilities and strengths. To accept the fact that we were never expected to have it all together.

God does not ask me to be Super Mom. It is my own ideals and expectations that ask that of me. And those quite deeply reflect the idols of my heart.

“To keep me from becoming conceited…there was given me a thorn in my flesh… Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)

Sometimes it feels like my kids are that ‘thorn in my flesh’! But in all seriousness, I believe God gives us children to expose our weaknesses, not to turn us into heroes. He wants us to be faced with our failures and confronted with our incapability’s. To remind us of our need for Him and to force our reliance on a Father who knows our frame. To offer us humility, so that Christ’s power may be seen in us.

Jesus does not want us to be weighed down by the burden of our sin and shortcomings. But rather lifted up by the reminder that no matter how we fail, he loves us all the more.

“Come, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Mt. 11:28-30)

He says this to the mother who can’t keep up with the laundry. He says this to the mother who hates to cook. He says this to the mother who threw a tantrum bigger than her toddler’s. He says this to the mother who dreads getting out of bed some mornings. He says this to the mother whose kids are well behaved but their hearts are far from him. He says this to the mother who is killing herself trying to do it all. He says this to the mother who does all the right things, but her children still stray. He says this to the mother who is discontent, who is frustrated, who yells, who forgets to have her quiet time, who walks in fear, who gets angry, who is discouraged, who needs a break.

He knows our frame. He knows we are far from super. He knows all this and he still offers us his grace. He still says, Come. And he means it.

I will never forget being in the counseling room not many years ago and my counselor and friend asking me, “What do you want your children to know when they leave your home?” My answer was something like, “I want them to know how much I love them, to serve God, to be kind and respectful, to know how to work hard and to be responsible adults.” He then asked me, “What about the grace of God?”

That one question has revolutionized the way I view parenting, the way I view myself as a mother, and the way I view my children. We are simply all the same, desperately in need of the grace of God lived out in our lives.

I will end with a quote from my new favorite parenting book, Give Them Grace, by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson. Through this book (and the delightful women I am studying it with) my parenting is continuing to be revolutionized. It’s about one thing and one thing only. What Christ has done.

(Referring to the motivational theory based on promises of reward and/or threats of punishment)

Rather than trying to entice us by dangling an unattainable carrot of perfect welcome and forgiveness incessantly in front of our faces, God the Father freely feeds the carrot to us, his enemies. He simply moves outside all our categories for reward and punishment, for human motivation, and gives us all the reward and takes upon himself all the punishment. He lavishes grace upon grace on us and bears in his own person all the wrath that we deserve. Then he tells us, in light of all that he’s done, “Obey.” Yes, we do have promises of rewards in heaven, but these are not earned by us through our merit. Yes, there are promises of punishment, but not for those who are “in Christ.” All our punishment has been borne by him. The carrot is ours. The stick is his. Manage your children with beans in a jar if you must, but be sure to tell them that it isn’t the gospel. And perhaps, once in a while, just fill the far up with beans and take everyone out for ice cream, and when your son asks you, “Daddy, why do we get ice cream? How did the jar get full?” You’ll know what to say, won’t you? (Give Them Grace p.108)

I feel certain, if we get really good at knowing this one thing, we will become the most super moms on the planet. So watch out world.

Dear Levi

As I sit here, drinking my afternoon tea, I am pondering you my son.

My third baby. In such a short time, there were three. During a time when life was very uncertain and I was scared. I wasn’t sure God had things in control and didn’t feel I could trust Him. And then a baby.

A baby who changed everything. A baby who changed the course of my life.

laughing

You may be tired of this story, son. Tired of hearing the same words from this Momma. But who can ever tire of hearing of God’s sovereign grace over a life fraught with sin and pain?

God chose you, my son, for a great work. And he sent you to us as a baby to show me just how much He cared for me, for my heart. God is neat like that. Just when we think He doesn’t hear or know or see, He reaches down just in time and proves us wrong.

I knew in that moment when they yelled, “He’s still attached!” And when I felt your wet-warmth seep into my soul. And when I stared into those dark blue eyes in the middle of the night because you were confused as to when you should be awake. And a few months later when God whispered through His word to this weary heart. I knew. I knew there was more to it than what I was seeing.

“So we fix our eyes NOT on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)

In this great big maze of life sometimes we get lost and all we can see are the wrong turns, the dead ends and the unpassable wall that’s in front of our face. We think there is no way out. That there is no purpose to the wandering. That somehow we were forgotten and handed the short end of life. It’s easy to only see the bad, the hard, the suffering. But those are not the only things. And we must tell our eyes not to land there because there is so much more. So much.

Even in the midst of those hard moments, when the breath is knocked out of you and you may be crying. Yes, even then, there can be joy. It may come as buried treasure, you may have to hunt for it, but it is always there. And just like a diamond that is hewn out of a black rock, it will shine blindingly bright in the midst of depressing darkness.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show the all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)

Why do I write these grown up words to my seven year old boy? (SEVEN!!??)

Because you were my buried treasure, Levi. You were the light that began in the dark and hidden place. You were the hope that fluttered inside me. You brought the joy to a weighed down momma during the long stretches of night. You were the gift on my very own birthday. A gift of fulfilled meaning the very moment you came to be.

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God sent a baby another time in history who changed everything. A baby who changed the course of this world.

A baby born in the midst of great darkness whose purpose was to break open the light. To kindle the flame of hope and to ignite joy.

“For God, who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)

And because of that gift, we can find joy. Always. Even in and amongst the sorrow. How sweet of him to use another baby, you, to bring a smaller salvation to my soul. To bring the light of his face into the every day. To encourage me not to lose heart and that nothing, even the hardest of moments, are not wasted.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17)

I know that some of these words you may not understand right now. But I know that one day they will make sense and that is why I want you to have them now. You are precious. You have purpose. I promise.

I love each day I have with you. Sometimes I wish I could just drink you in, so that you would seep deep into my pores. It is strange sometimes for me to think that you are your own, thinking and feeling little person and no longer a part of me. I guess that might sound weird to you. But this momma-heart makes me sound that way sometimes. Letting go is a hard thing. And a wonderful thing. But sometimes it just feels strange and I’m not sure I like it. It starts the minute the cord is cut and it is a cutting that continues with every year that comes and goes by. Each year you are a little more of you and a little less of me. And really, that is so good. But it makes my heart twinge just a bit, ‘cause I wonder if it’s enough.

 View More: http://coastlineimagery.pass.us/judah

But again, I’m talking grown-up.

For now, just have fun playing with Lego’s and shooting your bow and arrow. And riding your bike and playing with friends, telling jokes and being silly. Enjoy going to school and learning cursive and a little Latin. Be a good big brother and a good little brother and a brother to a sister who sometimes drives you nuts. There is still so much divine tucked in all these beautiful, childhood wonders. Glory in them, my son. And I’ll worry with the other.

I seriously can’t even tell you how much I love you and just how thankful to God I am for you. You most definitely win the “Best Birthday Present Ever” award!

Happy Birthday!!

Love,

Your Momma

The Sacredness of Mothering

housework print by Granger

I was on the floor. Again. Underneath the highchair. My knees were wet and I was scrubbing. Scrubbing with SOS pad in hand, trying to free the who-knows-how-long-its-been-there-food off of the floor. My nails were chipped, my hair hanging haphazardly and my T-shirt splashed with bleach stains.

When I signed up to be a mother ten plus years ago, this was not the vision I had pictured in my mind. That vision was more… clean.

No one warned me of the messes, (and if you did, I blissfully ignored you) the puke, the mound of dirty diapers, the snot, the poop, the laundry, the missed-aim pee-soaked shower curtain, the dishes, the soured, chunky-milk sippy cups underneath the seat of the car. Ugh! The car!

I didn’t know about the week long process of seasonal clothes change. Or the doctor and dentist and orthodontist appointments. Or that the broom would become an extended part of my body. I didn’t know that shower mold was actually orange and not green. Or how involved playing T-Ball really is and what it takes to get there. I didn’t know about arsenic hour.

I didn’t know that most days I would feel more like a maid than a mom. And that some days I’d forget who I was underneath the constant need to serve.

But scrubbing the floor not so many days ago, God whispered something to me. Just one word.

Sacred.

Regardless of how it felt or what I looked like, I was engaged in sacred work.

housework print by Granger

The definition of sacred is – dedicated to or set apart for the worship of a deity; made or declared holy; worthy of respect.

Our work as mothers is sacred work. It is sacred because of how God uses it to daily sanctify. A gradual process of making us holy.

As this word rolled over me, I noticed my tears mixing in with the soapy water on the floor. God had set me apart for his worship through the setting aside of myself. And after many years of begrudging the task, I somehow felt honored. Honored to be on hands and knees, in servitude.

There is something about serving another that is so good for our souls. This mothering. This caring for little ones. This demanding, often dirty, lonely work is just so good for us. It strips us of ourselves and empties us of pride. It forces us to set aside self and care for the weaker, demanding one. It makes us more like Jesus.

There is less of me when I’m kneeling low in service. There just is. And that is always a good thing.

I was reminded of that argument found in the Gospels. The one the disciples were having quietly among themselves. The one about who they thought was the greatest. Jesus is so patient with our pride. He didn’t point to himself (the obvious greatest) or rebuke them with a loud voice. He showed them by bringing a little child over to them saying, “…For he who is least among you all, he is the greatest.” (Luke 9:48)

There was another story, when a mother came to Jesus. She wanted to secure for her sons important positions in the kingdom of God. Jesus plainly told her, “You don’t know what you are asking.” He knew her focus was on Jesus’ earthly kingdom and reign, not on His eternal one. She was looking for security in earthly position, not in Christ himself. He responded with this, “Whoever wants to become great among you, must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first, must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mt. 20)

Servanthood was a common theme among Jesus’ teachings. He knew our hearts and how hard this would be for us. We want position. We want acclaim. We want accolades and recognition for a job well done. We want what we think we deserve. That is not easily found in the area of motherhood.

Mother’s Little Angels

Instead, it is a constant giving of yourself. It begins the moment of conception when your body is no longer your own. You become the dwelling place. A vessel of life and one that must be broken open in order for life to be given to another. There are wounds and scars left behind, your heart bearing the greatest of wounds. Your life becomes a life of sacrifice. Your wants, your desires, your needs, all sacrificed for another.

This is a hard surrender. It’s ok to admit that. Because Jesus is patient with our pride. And so are our children. Their gift of forbearance makes up one hundred fold what they’ve ever demanded from us.

We are to look to them. The least of these. The least who are the greatest.

When that first baby was laid on my chest and I felt the weight of it all, I didn’t know what I had really been given. A very high calling and privilege. One of service.

It was hard falling into that roll. My inner self screamed sometimes and my outer self cried – a lot. I just wanted to sleep or take a shower or eat a meal without nursing a baby. My selfishness cried louder than my baby did at times. It caused anger and resentment and frustration. It has taken years and four babies to chip away the bondage of that selfish pride. And still it clings.

I have to be careful not to be like the mother who came to Jesus seeking only what this earth could give. There is so much more found in Christ alone. But it looks different than what we would initially expect sometimes. It is often the very opposite in fact. We have to look through a different lens. A lens of sacrifice, a lens of daily dying, the lens of hard, sacred work that takes on the purpose of holiness.

I get distracted sometimes by the gift my children are. And I miss the real gift. They are not merely given to me so that I might teach, nurture and protect them. They are given to me so that I might be taught. That my holiness might be nurtured. And my heart protected from selfish pride.

I am thankful Jesus is patient with us and that he didn’t leave me in that place of frustration. I am thankful that he didn’t give up on this ol’ girl, that he didn’t stop hammering away at my hard heart. And that’s he’s still chipping away.  I am thankful for the work accomplished through scrubbing a floor. The inside work of the heart.

It is sacred work.

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but make himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8)

A Gift of Perspective

picture from the world-wide-web

 

We were hanging on by a thread.

Relationally. Financially. Emotionally.

The recession had sucker punched us in the jaw and our heads were spinning.

The simplest of tasks became monstrous. Taking care of three children under four, some days, was like climbing Mt. Everest in sandals. My feet were slipping and my oxygen was running low.

We were losing our house. A house we were never supposed to live in, but because real estate was at a stalemate we were forced to move into it. We tried to hold on for three years, but we were drowning in the sea of debt the economy heaved upon us. It was built by my husband. I saw his handiwork all through out it. Even the towel bar upstairs he made special for the kids. I loved that pegged towel bar. But still, it was just a house.

It was the man I was really losing.

The stress had become physical. It choked the breath right out of me and left twinges in my chest. I found myself counting the ceiling tiles in my doctor’s office while he did an EKG. I thought I was experiencing congestive heart failure. His prescription was, “Reduce the stress in your life”. Like most doctor’s hand writing, I couldn’t quite decipher what he meant. “We are going BANKRUPT!” I wanted to scream at him, but bit down hard instead.

I had to start letting go. So the dishes and toys accumulated. The mail piled up. Laundry became an eyesore. And the grass grew tall.

So tall in fact, I stopped parking in the back. The kids would have gotten lost on the way to the house from the car if I had. The weeds took over and choked out the beauty of the landscape. Much like my stress was choking the hope out of me. I imagined the many balls and yard toys hidden in the grass, buried. That felt appropriate somehow. “A graveyard of buried hopes,” to borrow the phrase from Anne. That’s how life felt in that moment. All I could see were the weeds and the other things that had a choke-hold on us.

I tried not to venture out onto the back porch unless I had to. This day I must have had to. Four year old Livie Rose had followed me, bouncing along behind me. I turned to the sound of her gasp.

“Mom!!”

“What is it?”

“Look!!!” she nearly burst.

I followed her pointed finger, but couldn’t quite figure out what she wanted me to see. All I saw were the embarrassing weeds.

“It’s a… It’s… It’s a MAGICAL FOREST!!!” Her lisp was more pronounced the more excited she got and I almost ate her right there on the spot.

I looked back out at our horrendous yard, truly hoping to see what she saw. A twinkle, a sparkle… something! Again, all I saw was a neglected yard that had once been a fun play area. So I looked back at my girl and into her eyes. That was where I saw the sparkle. Her eyes. She smiled brightly, clasped her hands and jumped the tiniest bit. Again, I almost ate her. What I saw as a symbol of hopelessness and loss, she saw as magical. A place of beauty and wonder.

Where you stand makes a difference.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about perspective, specifically in my mothering. How much it changes you in the midst of unchanging circumstances.  I have thought back to this mothering memory many times in recent days and the perspective my girl so graciously gave me that day.

Mothering can be a tough job. Many moms find themselves fighting the depression battle, getting beaten down by failure or captured by the guilt-enemy. We wallow. Feel lonely and unsatisfied. We swing in and out of victory and defeat, sometimes all within the same moment.

It’s normal. And no matter what you have told yourself, you are not alone.

But where our line of vision rests makes a difference in the daily.

Hebrews tells us to, “Fix our eyes on Jesus…” My prayer needs to be more often, “God show me where my eyes are fixed.”

When I’m feeling frustrated, when I’m yelling, when I have the proverbial towel held tight in my hand, about to send it soaring – in those moments my eyes are rarely fixed on Jesus. My ingrown eyeballs begin to throb and ache, sending a message to my soul, it’s time for extraction.

What a gross picture. Sorry for that. But really, if you let your mind go deep, to that place of sin-infection, it is a gross place. It should be seen as such, so that true cleansing can start to happen.

We are selfish beings by nature. Always. Every time. And self fights so hard to win. Most of the time, if I’m honest, it does win.

But these last few weeks, I have noticed a difference. Walking through grief is never a path I would willing choose. I don’t have to explain to you the pain of it. You know. We run from it and avoid it at all costs. But when we find ourselves sitting in the midst of it, we must receive from it what God wants to give. Perspective is a grief-gift. Yes, there are gifts amongst the painful places of grief.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights…”

We must receive it as a gift. And it must not be lost to us.

There are times when God brings us to the low places. It changes the way we see life. Small things become big. The unimportant, crucial. And things that drive us, disappear altogether. Other times God brings us to the high places. Big things becomes small. What was most important no longer matters. And things that never mattered become the most important. Messes become opportunities to serve those we love most. Quarrels show us our SELF and how to die easier next time. In the midnight moments of nursing again when your body screams for sleep, are moments that can forever change the way you pray. When shoes and lunches and papers are lost again, we can be thankful that those are the only things lost.

There is a strange reversal when we have perspective. It doesn’t have to come through grief. It can come through asking. And when you find yourself being choked out from the life-threatening weeds of those miserable-mothering-moments, know that you can have it. It can change you and your mothering.

“Fix your eyes on Jesus…”

Dear Olivia

I think I may have blinked.

I didn’t listen when they told me not to.

Somehow you are ten now and I’m not sure I’m ready for this.

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I finally figured out how to be a mommy to little’s. I know what to do when my baby or toddler cries. And what to do when they need a nap. I understand what it means to lose a favorite toy and what must be done to retrieve it. I’ve learned to be calm(er) when nothing I do seems to make it better. I breathe more often. I know how to pray for the little years, for protection and perseverance and to give thanks for the chaos. I’ve grown into this mothering-of-little-people and it fits quite well.

But this. I don’t know quite as well.

I was watching you as you ate your birthday dinner. I had to look twice because I wasn’t sure I was seeing the same girl. This one looked so grown up. So very pretty and mature. It makes this Mama’s heart quiver just a bit.

I remembered back to when I was 10. I remember being in 4th grade. I remember curling my bangs every morning and using way too much hairspray. I remember playing on the play ground at school and flipping my cocky ponytail around. I remember the layered socks I wore and how I had to scrunch them down just right. I remember making fun of my best friend because I thought it would make this boy I liked like me. I remember her face. I remember mine and how I promised myself I would never do that again. I remember going to a different church. And listening to the Bible preached for the first time. I remember all the notes I took and how I couldn’t wait to tithe my money. I was so proud of myself and told all my friends. I remember reading my Bible for the first time and understanding that it was written for me. I felt the weight of it all and it would make me cry. I remember missing my friends when we started to homeschool. I remember playing house with my dolls and wishing so much to be a mommy. I would even put a blanket under my shirt and pretend to be pregnant. It was all I ever really wanted out of life.

And you, my girl, made me just that. A mommy. So thanks!

When they told me you were a girl I was so happy. I wanted a girl. But it made me a little scared too. Raising a girl takes so much. It’s such an important job. And I wasn’t sure I had what it takes. Part of growing up as a mother, means realizing you never will have all that it takes. That’s the scary part I think. Knowing that we are just stewards of our children, that God is the real parent and the results of our parenting rests assuredly in His hands. These things may not make sense to you right now. But one day, when you are on the phone with me, crying because your baby wont sleep, or because he just hit you for the first time, or you’re afraid you are losing him or her, you will remember these words and it will all make sense to you then.

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I tease you all the time and tell you that “Mommy knows everything!” And sometimes I do know more than you think I do. =)

But really, sweetie, most days I still feel like that 10 year old girl and I’m playing house. But this time it’s for real and it makes me pray all the harder.

It’s a funny thing, this growing up. Your body gets bigger and goes through so many changes, but your inside stays the same for so much longer. I still get nervous and scared about things. I get my feelings hurt too. I wish I could have my own box of cereal and read all day. I want to swing on the playground and play with my friends. And I still use too much hairspray. I wonder if I’m pretty and if people will like me. I still feel peer pressure and make unwise choices. I cry. I want to talk for no reason about absolutely nothing and that makes me feel better somehow. I want to be wanted.

Do you ever feel those things? Do you ever wonder if you are enough, if you belong, if you are loved? Do you want others to like you and think you are special? Do you want to feel important and needed? Yes?? Oh, good. That means you are a normal girl. =)

You will feel a lot of things. Sometimes in the span of just a couple of minutes. It’s how God created us and it’s a normal part of growing up. And this Mama, she understands. Because I think I’m still growing up too.

God understands these moments too. He understands our wonderings if we are enough and He’s not afraid to answer them. He tells us in Isaiah 55:

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“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you.”

God invites us to a Tea Party of sorts. He has everything there all pretty and scrumptious and waiting. We must simply come. Come with our nothing. Come to Him when we are thirsty. Thirsty for recognition and approval. We must come to Him when we are hungry for friendship and love and the things that do not satisfy. We must not waste or ‘money’, our time and effort and desires, on the things that will only leave us empty. We must come to Him and ‘eat’ from Him, for He only has good things to give us that will make our very souls delight in.

So often we settle for the crumbs on the floor. We sit under the table and hide. From Him and all that is good. To be a strong woman of God, you must trust in His goodness. That means opening your heart to Him and drinking deeply. “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” We must. Because only then will we not settle and will want for nothing.

Take it from this grown-up-girl. There will always be so much that we will not have, whether it’s material things, emotional, relational or otherwise. This is a broken world we live in. One that does not offer complete satisfaction. Only God can offer that. And you can have it.

These are my words for this tenth year… and every year. You are never too young to learn this vital truth.

I can’t believe I am a Mama to a 10 year old! I am so glad it’s you. Happy Birthday. I love you.

Love,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Your Mama

Sometimes

Sometimes I see you and I’m just so glad to see you.

Sometimes I wonder how you’re really doing and what’s really going on.

Sometimes I ask you.

Sometimes I don’t and then I wished that I had.

Sometimes we talk and we really talk.

Sometimes life is too busy or the kids are too loud and we try, but we can’t.

Sometimes we just don’t try hard enough.

Sometimes I’m honest and I tell you what I’m really thinking, what I’m really feeling.

Sometimes you do too.

Sometimes it’s powerful, that kinship we have.

Sometimes it can change our path.

Sometimes distractions get in the way.

Sometimes we are discouraged and don’t know how to keep going.

Sometimes we are stuck and need each other’s help to be freed from our bondage.

Sometimes we just need to cry together or dry the eyes of the other.

Sometimes there’s joy and it over takes us and spills out over all and all over the other.

Sometimes there’s pain and the pain threatens to drown us and we ride the wave together.

Sometimes I’m afraid to say what I think is true, because what if it hurt you or what if it changed you?

Sometimes we walk away from each other never knowing, never seeing, missing the most important.

Sometimes we see and we really see and we meet the need.

And sometimes, just sometimes, we are true friends, sisters who would give up anything to see the smile of the other. To know they are doing ok on this road called life, or to be there to answer the call when they’re not. Sometimes God has us be His hands and His feet.

Sometimes and we will never be the same.

Dear Judah

Your first birthday has come and gone. More than two weeks have gone by… and I’m just now sitting to write your birthday letter.

I’m sure you would understand if I gave the excuse, “I’ve just been too busy or I’ve not had a moment to…”

Because that would be true. The past few weeks have been very busy.

But it wouldn’t be entirely true. 

This excuse might not make sense to you. But my mommy-heart hasn’t been quite ready to write your first birthday letter. And my mommy-heart can be a tricky thing.

This past year has been such a joy for me. I just didn’t want it to end. I haven’t wanted to admit, really admit, that your first year has come and gone. But it has. And I can say it now, if not a little quietly.

A couple of years before you were born I was somewhere. I can’t remember where now, but it was away from home. I had Olivia, Deacon and Levi with me and maybe Daddy too. We were busy and there were lots of people buzzing about, so I counted.

I counted the heads. One… two… three…

I counted again. One… two… three…

Everyone was there, but for some reason, I couldn’t shake that feeling that someone was missing. I looked around, waiting to see who it was that I was missing… but you weren’t here yet.

That kept happening. Sometimes I would get a little panicky about it. And then I would feel a little silly. So I decided to pray and ask God why it was that I was feeling that way.

And then He showed me.

I’ll never forget the first time I thought that I might be pregnant with you.

I was downtown and wanted a coffee. But as soon as I walked into the coffee shop, I didn’t want coffee anymore. So I got tea. But it just didn’t taste right, so I threw it out.

I paused for a moment. Hmmm… could it be? A few days later we would know for sure.

I remember laying in bed with my hand over my tummy and my tears streaming down into my ears. My heart was so full. Yes, that mommy-heart of mine. That one that can be so tricky. It was so happy and full of joy and I wondered who you would be.

I thought of your forming body and that verse that talks about God knitting you together. I pictured His hands at work, even then, in the hidden place of my womb. My heart rejoiced.

I didn’t know then that you would be a boy, but I knew if you were what I would name you. I would name you Judah, for my heart was Praising the Lord.

I thought I was done having babies. That’s what we had said. We had even given all of our baby things away! My heart was content with that. But I’m so glad God decided something different. For my heart has been full of praise since the moment I knew you were on your way.

As you grow, you will learn that God is always working and preparing us and those around us for… something. Sometimes it may seem like a small thing, an unimportant thing. But looking back you will see that it wasn’t unimportant after all. That God had a plan for that something and used it in a very big way.

Adding children to a family is a special thing. It is also a very natural thing. And although every baby is a miracle of God’s creation, it is also very normal and not unusual. I know I may be sounding a little wishy-washy. I blame it on my mommy-heart. It can sound that way sometimes.

But what I’m trying to say, is that God used the very natural occurrence of having a baby to do something big in the heart of this mommy.

We are all born for a purpose. God plans the time and place and family He places a baby in. It’s never an accident. I want you to grow to believe that, David Judah. He numbers our days before we ever see one of them. And God has a book that He writes all these things down in. He knows us. He loves us. And He uses our lives to change the lives of others.

And God is already using you, sweet boy. To encourage this mommy-heart. To confirm God’s blessings over my life. To whisper… I still hear the cries of your heart. Cause sometimes, this mommy-heart cries.

And just as I held you those long hours and days and months when all you did was cry…

God is holding me.

And when I didn’t sleep at night, but nursed you instead, breathing you in…

I remembered how God never sleeps, and always tends to our needs.

And when my heart would expand to yet another size and the tears would stream down at your first smile….

My heart would be refreshed at the thought of God’s favor over His children.

I have praised the Lord, my son. I have praised Him with my whole being for giving us you. I have praised Him for another chance to be a mommy.

I have praised Him for 10 more little fingers and toes…


And for the way you just wanted to be held all the time and how you don’t mind wearing your jammies to the park….

And for how you loved your first Christmas, even though you napped through the family picture and mommy forgot about you needing to be in it! And the way you are so good at eating your food all by yourself….

 
And for your chubbily scrumptious cheeks (sometimes I eat them!) And for the way you LOVE your lovey (it truly as magical powers) and suck your tongue when you are sleepy…

 





For your ears and your duck hair and the way you meow every time you see the kitties…

 


For your new teeth and the way you love to play in your Pack N’ Play… (and how you love balloons!)

 For the way you love your Uncle B. and how you ROCK a faux hawk!

For how I don’t have to see your smile to know you are smiling! And the way you are mommy’s helper in the kitchen (and yes you are wearing a tie here =)).

 
I am praising Him that you are my fourth blessing (whether you like it or not).

And for the way you are trying so hard to stand even though you’d rather just sit on my lap and smile.

And for how much you love to play with your toys and your brothers and sister. And for how you knew exactly what to do with that cupcake (eat it) and that number one (throw it on the floor).

And for how simply beautiful you are. You take my breath away. I love you my son. Thank you for filling this mommy-heart to overflowing. Happy Birthday.



You Know You’re a Momma When…

You pick up 100 Lego pieces in a day and instead of throwing them away, you put them back in the box because you know they will need them for their next building project.

You do 8 loads of laundry in a day.

You load and unload the dishwasher at least twice before dinner.

The only time the house stays clean is when your children are sick.

You reach in your purse to find your sunglasses and instead your hand comes out covered in goldfish crumbs.

You don’t hear your name until the 11th time they’ve said it.

You feel guilty for no reason.

People stare at you in Wal-mart.

You ask your waitress to change the channel on the restaurant T.V. and ignore her belittling stare.

You opt for casual comfort rather than the latest fashions.

You wonder, just what do they do with all of that toilet paper?

You play peek-a-boo through the window of the car while pumping gas… and again people stare at you.

You cry when your child’s hamster gets hurt.

You cuddle your hurt boy and kiss his sweaty head, ignoring his puppy dog smell.

You talk about your kids on dates, even though you know you’re ‘not supposed to’.

You collapse in the bed at the end of the day.

You stay up all night watching your child breathe when they are sick.

Your heart aches with love.

You have all of your lunch dates at Chic-Fil-A.

You stand up for your kids when know one else does.

You feel glamorous walking into church Sunday because it’s the first time you’ve worn make-up in a week.

Your favorite shows are Veggie Tales and Cars ‘Number 2’, and My Little Pony…

Some of your favorite conversations are with people 3 feet tall.

You cheer very loudly at T-Ball games.

You hear phantom baby cries in the middle of the night.

You hold her hand after someone called her a name… and take captive thoughts of inflicting harm on another child.

You are embarrassed to open your car door.

You step on cheerios and march their crumbs through the house… and in between your sheets.

You wash his camouflage clothes after he goes to bed so he can wear them again the next day.

You swallow your pride and let them dress themselves.

You get your exercise by dancing in the kitchen.

You don’t mind smelling like spit up.

You become a pro at hiding greasy hair.

You spend hours begging God in prayer.

You try really hard to believe Jesus wasn’t kidding when He said, “Don’t worry..”

Johnson and Johnson baby shampoo becomes your favorite scent.

You cry every time your read “You are Special” by Max Lucado.

Wooden spoons have multiple purposes.

Mosquito bites make you angry.

You find dirty diapers in strange places.

You feel like a champion after only 4 hours of sleep.

You consider glue and play dough and crayons and markers and puzzles a great investment.

You send messages of love in lunch boxes every day.

You somehow change an explosive poop on your lap on a crowded air plane and enlist the help of the passenger sitting next to you.

You answer letters to the Tooth Fairy in curly hand writing.

While driving yourself to the doctor, after hacking for a week, your kids ask you if you are sick and you refrain from glaring at them.

You learn to share the gospel in a very simple, childlike way… and cry tears of joy when they come to you late at night and tell you they want to become a Christian.

And then you realize that all the dirty work and long hours and tired shoulders and frustrated moments were all worth it. Because moments like these are why we are here being their mothers. To take them by the little hand, dirty finger nails and all, and lead them to the Saviour who will lead them far better than we ever could.

And we leave them at the cross for a moment, before we pick them up again, and in that moment there is peace. And we wish we could stay in that moment, but mostly we just remember those moments of peace and surrender. Because as mothers it’s the hardest thing to hand them over to God and not worry and strive and try harder. Because that is what we do. We mother. And sometimes there is fear and we wonder if it will be enough.

But it will never be enough. Only God can be enough. And we are reminded once again and try and let go a little bit more.

God knows. His heart is more mother than ours. And because He let go of His Son… we can hold tighter to Him.

Happy Mothering.

Goodnight Moon

It’s one of my favorites. That little book. I used to have it memorized, now it’s only parts I remember.

Bedtime has always been my favorite time of day.

It’s still a favorite. But I think my reasons have changed.

Before it was because I was tired. I mean, really exhausted. Mommy was done. I had been going since my feet hit the floor. Giving, giving, giving. There were battles over bowls and cups and the right color. Toy wars had ensued. Sometimes I came out the victor. Sometimes. Discipline had been accomplished. Spankings, timeouts, no t.v., no snack, come inside NOW!

We may have gone to the grocery store, if we absolutely had to. That meant one car seat captive in the back of the buggy, a walking 20 month old beside me and the older 3 year old in the front seat of the buggy. Believe me, this was how it had to be, as funny as it may have looked.

I endured the stares and comments… My you have your hands full! …You must be military, he’s home just long enough to get you pregnant! (really, do people have no couth these days!?) …God bless your SOUL!  I repeated my rehearsed replies, Why yes I do and I’m so thankful! … No, I’m not military, but am so thankful for their service to our country, military wives included … God HAS blessed me, yes. That shut them up, most of the time.

After several melt downs along the way, the kids included, we would arrive home. It was usually nap time by this point. I would quickly deposit the kids in their nap locations, some on my bed with books, others in cribs. Then I would tackle the bags and bags of groceries, which would hopefully last more than a week. This is why I didn’t need to go to the gym.

I would try and take advantage of the quiet to get dinner started, but usually got distracted at some point while putting things away. I’d end up cleaning behind the dryer or something and would later wonder why my back hurt.

By the time dinner was well under way there was usually someone on my hip and another one clinging to my leg. I had the other watching Cinderella for sanity purposes.

Daddy would come home. We’d try and have a conversation while inhaling our food over the high volume level of little ones and in between the 20 times I had to get up and go back to the kitchen for something. I’m sure someone had spilled something or picked that time to want to try and go potty and don’t forget about the nursing baby who’s internal radar senses the precise moment you sit down to eat.

Bath time was essential after dinner. Mashed potatoes were now in ears and caked over eyebrows and they smelled like whatever chicken dish I had haphazardly thrown together. I couldn’t risk a tiger picking up their scent in the middle of the night. We would all be wet by the time it was over. But they were clean and smelling so good and I would just breathe them in.

Some nights we would rock and sing and read books before bed. Most nights we would. I would pray over their fuzzy heads as I laid them down in their beds, 1, 2, and 3.  I would sigh a huge sigh of relief as I tiptoed out of their rooms, crossing my fingers in hopes of not having to return sometime in the middle of the night.

Walking down the stairs I felt satisfied. Another day done. I had survived it. A smile would creep over my potato crusted face. I would get to that later. For now, it was the kitchen that must be tackled and then the slippery bathroom and the 10,000 toys that seemed to multiply by themselves which were scattered across the floor, just beckoning you to come and step on one. It may be quiet, but the work was not done.

Many hours later I myself would crawl in bed. I may have tried to read, but wouldn’t get very far. The book would have fallen across my chest. I would turn off the light after waking around 2am. I’d make sure the monitor was on. I may have traveled up the stairs just to make sure that tiger hadn’t found them and would again revel in their stillness.

During the rest of the night my mind and body would be renewed by precious sleep. Unlikely uninterrupted, but precious all the same.

I would wake again the next morning to more diapers and tantrums and laundry and spit up and… well you probably get the picture.

I’m not proud to admit the survival-mode mentality I lived with in those first few years of mothering. But I was a different person back then. A different mother. I was in a very different season of life and I’d like to think that I’ve seasoned over time and matured just a bit. Just like with every other thing, I’ve grown better at mothering the more experience I’ve had.

Many have commented on how differently I’m doing things with number four. Again, it’s a different season, I’m a different mommy.

Tucking them in at night is different too. I’m still tired at the end of the day. They are still loud and still fight and we still battle through the grocery store. But my perspective has been tweaked just a bit. I’m not always in such a hurry to end another day.

If you combine all of my kid’s years, then we have celebrated 22 birthdays so far. That’s a lot. And I can’t believe Judah’s first is next month! The more years that flash by, I think the more a Mama realizes just how fast it really goes.

You also realize that no matter what mess or catastrophe may happen in a day, you will survive it. Even if you’ve been up all night with a sick one, you know you will sleep again. You know the crying will stop and the food throwing and the booger wiping (well, maybe) and the constant bickering and running through the house with muddy shoes… one day we will all have clean houses and we will hate it.

There will be an end to this crazy season of ‘mothering’. We will never stop being mothers, but will stop the mothering part. And we will stop tucking them in at night too. They will grow too old for Good Night Moon and I Love You This Much and all my other favorites. Some of mine already have.

That’s what I think of when I tuck them in sometimes. So I don’t mind laying just a bit longer and snuggling a bit closer. And don’t mind giving one more kiss or hug or listening to one more thing that happened in their day or meeting the challenge of tickle me too! They just love that. But I think I love it more.

So as we say good night to our young ones, let’s remember that we will one day say good bye to these precious days. We will heave a sigh of relief I’m sure, but I think we’ll miss it more. This shouldn’t make us sad. Great things and great hope come with every season of life. But maybe it will help to give us a better perspective as we fight off the temptation to rush things and wish it away.

In the great green room there was a telephone
And a red balloon and a picture of–

The cow jumping over the moon

and there were three little bears, sitting on chairs
and two little kittens and a pair of mittens

and a little toy house and a young mouse
and a comb and a brush and bowl full of mush
and a quiet old lady who was whispering “hush”

Goodnight room goodnight moon
goodnight cow jumping over the moon
goodnight light and the red balloon

goodnight bears goodnight chairs
goodnight kittens goodnight mittens
goodnight clocks and goodnight socks
goodnight little house and goodnight mouse
 
goodnight comb and goodnight brush
goodnight nobody goodnight mush
and goodnight to the old lady whispering “hush”

goodnight stars, goodnight air

goodnight noises everywhere

Why We Decided to Homeschool… And Then Changed Our Minds

I have been very slow at posting posts lately. I have had several in the works and for whatever reason, well I could probably name four,  have not been able to finish and publish!

This has been a very difficult one for me to actually write. I’ve literally started it more times than I know.

I think it’s because homeschooling has been such a part of my life since I was in 5th grade. It has played a huge role in shaping the person, wife and mother I have become (good and bad!) .

I love so much about it. I hate so much about it! It can definitely be a topic of one of the most emotionally charged conversations you will have. I know from experience. I think that is because so many have such strong convictions about it. Which is important and can be a good thing. It can also build walls and burn bridges. Both of which I have been a victim of and participator in.

Yeah, I’m so sorry.

Well, to catch those of you up who are not on facebook… We enrolled our sweet Livie Rose in a private Classical Christian school after Christmas.

Surprise!!

I have been asked a lot of questions since then. And I want to take the time to explain where we are coming from and what brought us to this point.

Many of you already know this, but Dustin and I were both homeschooled as children. And when it came time for us to decide what we were going to do for our own children’s education it was a lot harder than I thought it would be.

I had always assumed we would homeschool. I was a staunch believer in it. Quite legalistic even. I had pretty much made a blanket decision for all of humanity that homeschooling was the best and only option if you were to produce obedient, God fearing children.

In college I even wrote a few research papers on the topic. Home Schooling Vs. Public Schooling was the title of one. I think I’ve burned it since… at least I should if I haven’t already done so.

But isn’t that how it usually is? Most pre-parents have a lot of preconceived notions of how raising children will be. They have it all figured out, until the doctor places that sweet baby in their arms. Can’t you envision their panick stricken faces?? Or are you just remembering your own?

See, I began to see homeschooling as a Biblical mandate. When we apply Biblical principles as
though it were a Biblical mandate, that’s when things start to get fishy.*

We LIKE rules. Yeah, we really do. It’s our nature… the nature that God gave us. He has written His moral code on each of our hearts. We were given the Ten Commandments. The Law. And whether we follow that law or not, we like to make sure others do!

You don’t have to dig very deep to see this. Just sit in a room of 2 and 3 year olds for a few minutes and you’ll see what I’m talking about. We do not have to be taught this. Again, it’s in our nature.

Unfortunately, there is also sin in our nature. So any bit of ‘good’ qualities we may have are often and quickly warped by sin. And this area is no exception.

We hear a really good Biblical principle and find a really good application of that principle and we automatically assume that EVERYONE should ALWAYS follow suit. (I remember learning in a counseling class I took in college that ‘extreme statements’ are NEVER good. EVER!)

I am so guilty of this and not just on this issue.

When Olivia was a young toddler I remember talking to a friend who had children in elementary school. They were having a hard time and she said, “Education is the hardest thing about parenting. It’s just so hard.”

I thought she was overreacting. I mean, really. Education is easy. You just homeschool them! I so unfairly judged her because she had her kids in a brick and mortar school. Sure, you will have hard days and it wont always be easy, but bring your kids home and all of your problems will be solved! Thankfully I didn’t say that to her, but that’s what I was thinking!

The closer the time came to make that decision for us, the more doubts I had. A lot of change had taken place in my mind and heart regarding this issue. And I wasn’t so sure it was always the best option for every family.

I began to understand that I had become super legalistic about a lot of things. I wasn’t really looking at people (or myself) as individuals with individual needs. It had become more about fitting into a certain mold so that I would be accepted by my peers, the leaders of the church, even God. I realized I had become more concerned with what others thought about what I was doing than what God might think. Our decision was being motivated by fear. Fear of man.

There was another kind of fear that was a huge motivator. And I think this is pretty common among many (and sometimes justified). Fear that if I didn’t homeschool, than I would ‘lose’ my kids. That they would ‘fall away from God’. And ultimately, that I would fail as a parent.

Yes, by putting your children in an anti-God environment 8 hours of their day, you take the risk of that happening. No question. Especially if you are not combating that at home with intentional, Biblical teaching.

But I began to take a closer look at the many homeschool families that I had grown up with. What I found was a little confusing to me. I found that if all of those children were put into a basket and you reached your hand in and grabbed a handful, half would come out following God and the other half sadly lost. They didn’t seem to know who they were or where they were going, much less who God was or what He meant to them.

How could this be?

So it wasn’t the ‘fix all’ answer to our problems after all. It didn’t come with a guarantee that our kids would ‘turn out alright’ or that I would even get the ‘perfect parent’ award.

So maybe it wasn’t the best option for every family.

We hesitated.

Things had been so clear before and now we were left with a whole lot of questions that we couldn’t find answers to. It’s hard trusting God when you can’t see the outcome.

To make an already long story a bit shorter…

We ended up enrolling Olivia in preschool at The Parish Church of St. Helena when she was three with much hesitation and trepidation. I was nervous at first. But it turned out to be a wonderful experience for all of us. Especially for my sweet, very rambunctious, very strong-willed three year old, who really did need more than I could give her at the time. I also had a 2 year old and a 6 month old at home and life was really busy for me. Hard even. Very hard.

She ended up staying at that little school for 3 years, including her Kindergarten year. We loved it. I assisted in a preschool class one of those years and had my boys in the preschool program as well. We were all there together. I got to see them on the playground and in their classes. It was so fun.

The following year they were not offering first grade. I wasn’t sure what we were going to do. I wasn’t ‘afraid’ of school anymore, the brick and mortar kind that is… Or was I?

I was so comfortable with the situation we had. We were all there together. I loved the environment. Olivia was thriving. Could I put her in a public school?

We explored many options and prayed A LOT! By the end of her Kindergarten school year I was almost beside myself. We were still undecided and I had no idea what to do.

Finally God offered clarity through my husband. Oh how thankful I was for him. He sat me down and said, “This is crazy! You are going crazy! And it’s making me crazy!!” He went on to say that he felt God was leading us to homeschool.

At that point I didn’t care what he told me to do. I was just glad to finally have an answer and be able to move forward.

That first year was quite challenging. Even though I had been homeschooled I had never actually home-schooled! It was tough, especially since I’m not the nurturing, teacher type. I don’t do lesson plans. I find no joy in coming up with fun crafts. Explaining how to add numbers made me feel a little loony at times. And being in a small space with three little ones all day took some major adjusting (attitude adjusting that is)!

It was tough. But I soon found myself learning to love it, if not parts of it. I didn’t feel like it was something we had to do to earn God’s approval or man’s approval. I wasn’t doing it out of fear (well, maybe a little). Mostly we were homeschooling because that was what God had lead us to do that year for that child. It was such a relief.

The next year came around and it was still hard. But I felt more confident and everything was just a bit easier than the year before. I added a kindergartner. We were finding our groove and I was enjoying the routine.

Maybe we’ll become a homeschool for life family after all!

We were approaching our third year of homeschooling. I was expecting our fourth child. For some reason I just wasn’t that nervous about it. It was the first year that I attended our local homeschool conference and didn’t burst into tears upon entering the building!

I had a plan. I knew more of what to expect. I knew which curriculum we were going to use. I had adjusted to being with my children all day every day and had come to love it. And I was excited!

The start of our third year was the best by far. It was fun even! Even with a newborn and schooling an additional one (a total of 3) I didn’t feel too overwhelmed.

And then…

Wham!!

It stopped working.

It had never been easy. We had our usual ups and downs and ruts as most homeschoolers can relate to. So I think my expectations were realistic as far as that goes.

But it became very apparent that we had hit a wall. I don’t know how else to describe it. Other than to add it was extremely intense.

I woke up dreading the day. We couldn’t even make it through a devotional. It was emotionally and mentally draining. And I didn’t know how to move passed it.

That was the thing. We couldn’t move on. I had to stop and that meant getting more and more behind academically. And we were getting absolutely no where relationally either. This was the part that disturbed me the most. 

To sacrifice your child’s education for the sake of bettering a relationship makes sense to me.
But sacrificing you and your child’s relationship for the sake of homeschooling is stupid and prideful.

That’s what we were doing.

I know this sounds a little backwards. If I hadn’t experienced it for myself I don’t think I would have believed it. Homeschooling is supposed to have the opposite affect. If you have a strained relationship with your child and you are able to focus more on them and their heart through the flexibility of homeschooling, then your relationship should be mended! It worked for me as a young elementary-age child and I had seen it work in the heart of Olivia as a first grader.

So I was genuinely caught off guard when the opposite began to take place. The harder I tried, the further I pushed her away. Is it a heart issue vs. a behavior issue? No doubt. Was I aware of that? Yep. Was I taking intentional steps to address that and not just the behavior? You betcha. Did I have the capability to change her heart? Absolutely not. Never will I ever have the ability to change the heart of my child.

I can do my best to foster an atmosphere of repentance through prayer and teaching and heart focus. But it is ultimately up to God if actual heart change is to occur.

The approach we were taking just wasn’t working and her overall spirit was taking a rapid decline. We had to make a change.

A change was needed for other reasons as well.

I have never believed that education is everything. Especially class room education. I truly believe you can produce healthy minded, well rounded, intelligent children in a home education environment. I have seen many encouraging examples of this.

I have also never taken the stance that “It’s just third grade” as I’ve heard many say. I believe it’s important. No matter what grade. Each year you are adding to the foundation of education that will take them throughout their entire educational career! If that is not a strong foundation it wont continue to get stronger on it’s own. It will get shakier and shakier and will make things much harder for them in the end.

So although education isn’t everything, it is VERY important and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

During this time of my life a lot was being demanded of me. And maybe the emotional strain was making things ten times harder than it should have been, but I just wasn’t doing my job as home-educator well – enough.

Things were falling through the cracks. There were many days that I just couldn’t get to everything… or to one of my kids at all. I had a HUGE cloud of guilt hanging over me. I don’t need my children to be academic geniuses. But I do want them to have a fair chance and to receive a good education.

I wasn’t providing that for them.

I also wasn’t providing an atmosphere of learning for Olivia that was suited to her needs. Instead I was squelching them. She is a very bright child. Very artsy if you will. Creative and fun and simply put, beautiful. Gosh, I love this kid. But I am sooo different from her! I admire her abilities and wish I could be more like her and enter her world better than I do. But the fact is, God created me to be who I am… with limitations. I was not cultivating the atmoshpere of learning that she needed to thrive in. In fact, as I mentioned before, the opposite was taking place. None of us (including her brothers) were able to thrive educationally, emotionally or spiritually.

So something had to change.

Some might be thinking, “Well the change needed to happen in you (me) not your educational choice.”

Ok, so now’s my chance to address the home-schooling Mom, thanks for bringing that up!

I think there is a tremendous burden placed on us home-schooling Moms. By others and by our own selves.

It is ingrained in our thinking that we can be and must be everything to our kids. And when we find ourselves failing in some sense we start viewing ourselves as just that, failures, instead of simply overburdened human beings who, wait for it…  have limitations!

 It’s an unfair burden we place on ourselves and others. And it’s also unbiblical.

Only Christ can be everything to our children. And that is not conditional on your educational choices. Christ is so much bigger than that.

I’m so glad that I don’t have to be omni-present in my children’s life to ensure that they will turn out alright. I’m so glad that I can trust a much bigger (than myself) God who cares infinitely more for my children than I will ever have the capability of. And I’m so glad that I don’t have to fit a certain mold in order to have God’s blessings over my life. In our absolute worst state, God chose that moment to bless us with the most incredible mind-blowing blessing – forgiveness and freedom.

I will finish with this.

It was very scary for us to make this step. It kinda happened fast and unexpectedly, although a lot of prayer went into it. I never would have predicted enrolling one of my children in a school mid-year. This was not the plan. But really I guess you could say it was the plan… I just wasn’t aware of it. God had planned this all along.

And I can say that with honesty and assurance and excitement.

I am watching my girl thrive in ways that I’ve never seen before. She is meeting the challenge. She is loving making new friends. She LOVES her teacher (yes, I’ve had to deal with some jealous feelings when I’ve read the “I love you” notes she’s written to her). And she is blossoming as we prayed she would. There have been tears. It has been a huge adjustment for all of us. But overall it has been one of the best things that has happened to our family. I have even seen a huge improvement in my boys, who I’m still homeschooling. The tension is gone and they are thriving.  I have more time for them and the difference is undeniable.

I am so thankful for this confirmation.

I know this is really long, but there is probably a lot more I could say on the subject. But I don’t want to kick a dead horse.

Just remember, no matter what educational decision you make it will never come with a guarantee that your kids will turn out perfect.  As long as you do your best and what works for each child and stay accountable to God instead of man, well, that’s all you can do. And that’s simply what we are trying to do.

We are taking one year, one child at a time and trying to be flexible to the changes that are needed. And we are finding freedom in that.

I see now that my friend of long ago really wasn’t overreacting at all. Education IS one of the hardest things about parenting. You have to do it! There is just no way around it. But it doesn’t have to cripple you either. God really is bigger than you think He is.

*Thanks Russ for helping me put words to my chaotic thoughts. Not that you would ever read my blog, but thought I’d say thanks anyway!