Taking a Census

Chapter 21 of I Chronicles is not one of the best known stories in the Bible. While some might have peripheral knowledge of it, not many have stopped to really think about what it means today in our modern lives.

I’ve shared with this blog previously about the fact that my husband is hoping for funding to come through for a startup that he’s involved in. Because my husband is a visionary who sees the big picture, and builds virtual cities for data to live in, he doesn’t do so well with feet-on-the-ground details. And so, in the negotiating of salary and such, there were a few gaps.

When the funding was delayed, my husband went back and renegotiated these issues, and the good news is that when/if funding becomes available, we’ll be paid retroactively for two distinct periods — one from when he began working informally several months ago, and one for full-time employment as of what should have been his hard start date of March 1.

What a load off my mind!

Now mind you, there’s no guarantee that this funding will come through. However, the business plan is solid. The guy doing the startup and meeting with the venture capitalists (VCs) is very accomplished and in a position of power and influence within his field. The numbers are fantastic for profit, and the revenue streams are not ad based — or selling advertising — but transaction based; the company would profit a small amount for each transaction. Good stuff.

I am, on the other hand, a very firm pragmatist. Feet-on-the-ground is my spesh-ial-i-TEE, and so I am very aware that many good ideas, many great business schemes, go down in flames if they ever get off the ground in the first place.

However, when Whitney told me that we would receive lump-sum back pay amounts should it happen, my mind went ZIIIIING considering all the possibilities! I was driving; otherwise, I’d probably have pulled out my trusty spreadsheet to run the numbers!

Fortunately, I had only started to mutter to myself, “Okay well at [insert annual salary here], if you divide that by twe…”

And, the words “David,” “census,” and “sin” popped into my head. It wasn’t a coherent thought necessarily; it was just a half-formed memory of the story, and I immediately remembered the mild confusion I’d always felt whenever I had come across the narrative.

Why in the world was it a problem that David ordered a census of all the fighting men?

Because I’m a planner, because I’m the budgeter of the family Walters, counting, assessing, and preparing make complete sense to me! It’s only wise to figure out what you have, what you can expect, and plan accordingly, right?

But, the story continued to niggle, and so I consciously put aside my financial musings.

When I got home, I looked the story up and read the entire chapter of 1 Chronicles 21.

Wow! Have you really read that story?! It’s pretty intense!

It starts out with the context that Lucifer, the roaring lion himself, incited David to take the census! Joab protested because he knew it was wrong, but when bullied into it, fudged the numbers.

At this point David, as was his habit, realized way after the fact that he had committed a sin and begged forgiveness.

Get this. God says (through a “seer”) basically that David has to pick his punishment: three years of famine, three years of persecution for the nation from their enemies, or three days of “the sword of the Lord” — or plague.

Woah.

David chose plague and 70,000 died.

That’s a pretty strong statement of how God feels about this census business.

And so, I’ve been pondering this whole question of what exactly a census is.

David counted his fighting men so that he knew how many men he could count on in a battle.

It’s almost as if David were saying that he needed to prepare because God’s provisions might not cover it all.

God won a battle with 300 men against a whole host. The Bible described it this way: “The Midianites, the Amalekites and all the other eastern peoples had settled in the valley, thick as locusts. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore.”

Three hundred against tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands? More than a million?

How many times do we limit God by counting our “fighting men,” our dollars, our bonuses, our expected gains?

For the first time, I completely and totally understand the application of the story to my life. I get it.

You see, we just might get the funding. Or, we may not. If we get the funding, we may just get a nice raise and a lump-sum amount. Or, the business may go crazy and we get a fortune. Or, it may bite the dust and Whitney will end up having to find another job.

I’m still a budgeter. I still need to manage my family’s finances. But, I don’t have to run ahead of God. What I know for sure and certain is this. God’s provision will blow me out of the water. It’ll either be Him taking two mites and stretching it to cover exactly what we need. Or, it may involve financial blessings galore.

I’m not plugging anything into my spreadsheet. I’m not thinking about this eventuality or that. I’m thankful just for today for everything He’s given our family. He’s going to handle the rest. I will simply sit back and watch.

“What if I don’t know what they’re meant to learn?”

When I first started to tell people I was going to homeschool, one frequent comment was something along the lines of, “What if you don’t know what they’re meant to be learning?” Sometimes it wasn’t put in that way. Often it was, “I could never do tha;, I’m not smart enough,” but underlying it all is the assumption that we have to know everything that we are going to teach our kids. I disagree.

Now, full disclosure before I continue: my kids are young. I don’t have any in upper years, but we’re planning to do this right through, so I’ve thought about it a lot. If you have older kids, and I come across as an ignorant fool who has lots of opinions, only because he’s not there yet — please set me straight!

This worry isn’t often about the early years, but for some, it’s there from the start. I remember a mother asking what to do for maths with her five-year-old. The father was going to take it over in two years after he finished his studies, but until then it was up to her, and she believed that she couldn’t do maths, so couldn’t teach her five-year-old. Noone should doubt their abilities like this. If you can function in everyday life, if you can buy milk, if you can serve cookies to your family without a mutiny and cut a cake into enough portions for everyone to get a share, you can do the first few years of maths.

My kids aren’t me. They’ll want to follow academic streams different to the ones I did, and that’s great. But, it doesn’t mean I need to know it all first. I know I’ll have moments of doubt, and here are a few things I hope to remember:

1) The academics they learn aren’t that important.

I believe that the academics I teach my kids don’t matter…in the same way that the mission trips I used to lead weren’t for the communities we went to. The kids we took did it for the community; we did it for the kids to develop a heart for serving and mission. Likewise, there’s a subtext to academics, and most of the lessons our kids will learn aren’t the actual lessons we teach them. When I look back on my schooling, I remember not so much the dates I had to memorise in history, but the overview and how everything influences everything else. When I remember geography, I remember a bit about tectonic plates, but more about being amazed at how huge and fragile our world is. From science, I can remember a few things about the periodic table, but more I remember the beautiful balance that exists in nature, and I notice the laws of physics all around me, even if I no longer can recite the formulas. From economics, I can’t recall the formulas either, but every time I listen to politicians making promises, I wonder at the “real cost”* of whatever they’re proposing. I believe it’ll be the same for my kids.

2) It’s an opportunity to teach them how to learn.

We all had to learn the periodic table in class. How many of us can still recite it? Academic lessons will be forgotten. Instead of worrying about knowing everything my kids need to learn, I’m much more interested in using those things to teach them how to learn. I don’t need to know everything; I need to model how to learn. If they don’t understand how to do something, they need to learn how to look it up, how to find an expert, how to use the internet to find answers, and how to use discretion to know which answers to believe. In today’s changing world there are few academic constants. Planets that we learned about are taken away, holes in the periodic table are filled, new discoveries turn our knowledge of history upside down, and depending on what country you’re in, the history you learn about the same event will be completely different. We’re bombarded with facts both real and alternate, so teaching my kids how to check things for themselves and how to think for themselves is one of the top priorities of their education. We also have a time when most people change careers several times and most of our kids will have jobs that aren’t even invented yet. How can we possibly prepare them with academic knowledge for that? All we can do is teach them to learn.

3) Nobody knows everything.

How many times have you witnessed a stupid argument because someone was too embarrassed to say that they don’t know? I have many times. Being able to admit to not knowing something is valuable. If we can teach our kids that there’s no shame in admitting it and asking others for advice, we’re teaching them humility and how to learn. People love to show off their knowledge. If you admit you don’t know something, people love to teach. Kids minds also have a wonderful ability to ask hard questions and think outside the box. I did well in school, but my oldest, at four, would regularly stump me with tough questions simply because he saw the world differently. We could look up the answers together and both learn something. I love when that happens.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this, and I’d love to hear any of your ideas about how you combat this.

*The “real cost” is whatever else could have been done with the money. Put really basically, if there’s enough money for a school or a hospital to be built, and a school is chosen, then the real cost of the school is that we don’t have a hospital. If a there is a tax cut, then the real cost is everything that money would have done.

Restoring My Boat

I have spent the last few minutes reading my past posts on this blog, and I realized that God has had me on a journey to explore the whole boat analogy as it relates to my life and my walk with Jesus.

My first post relating to boats was about how the disciples went out with Jesus in a boat, and when things got rough, they completely forgot about him. Jesus, sleeping quietly in a corner somewhere, was completely overlooked.

My lesson was not to let fear make me forget about the One who has the ability to calm the storm and sea.

Soon after, I continued the sleeping-in-the-boat analogy, except I longed, like Jesus, to sleep in the midst of all the chaos and fear that life throws at me. Seems like I’ve had more than my share of chaos and disruptions in the last decade! I wanted to learn to trust so completely that someone has to wake me up to see how God’s put it all in place!

I just watched the movie “The Shack,” and it seems like maybe there’s a new lesson for me to be learned from boats!

To set the scene up for you, the main character, Mack, has gone out on a lake in a rowboat. Jesus tells him that there’s something He wants to show Mack on the other side of the lake, but that He will join him after finishing something up in the shop.

Rowing across the lake

Mack gets halfway across the lake and then stops, almost as if he’s enjoying the peace, the slap of the water against the sides of the boat. Dipping his hand into the water and pulling it back out, he realizes that the water is oily, black, and nasty.

At this point, the boat begins breaking apart. First a crack and then a hole spurting water, it’s clear that the boat won’t last much longer.

In the middle of the chaos, Mack hears Jesus’ voice telling him not to look at the battered boat, to focus on Him, Jesus. He stares horrified and transfixed as the water continues to pour in; he glances at Jesus, but his eyes are drawn back to the disaster that’s happening to him. The boat is soon half submerged. It’s only as it is almost under the murky water, Mack sitting in water up to his waist, that he locks eyes with Jesus.

In that very moment, the boat is once again under him, intact, bobbing on the waves. He breathes a huge sigh of relief. His boat is as he knows and wants it, once again secure.

Mack is relieved when the boat appears beneath him once again.

Then Jesus holds out a hand, inviting him out of the boat onto the waves.

Let me interrupt myself to tell you what’s been going on with us in the first quarter of this year!

Late last year, 2016, my husband was contacted by a businessman that he knew and trusted about being involved in a start-up offering services to the military. It seemed like an awesome opportunity, and he’s been working part time, unpaid, to create budgets, meet with potential employees, etc. His start date — as in full-time and starting to get a paycheck — was March 1, just a month or so ago.

At the end of January, we were contacted by the man who owns the house we live in. For the second time in three years, we found out that the rental property we were living in would be sold. This time, however, we had ample time to plan; our landlord indicated that they would be selling in August.

Then also in late January, we found out that our still-new-to-us minivan had sustained subtle and undetected damage last summer during a hailstorm, and after a month of negotiating, the insurance company determined that it was totaled. Unfortunately, what they valued the van at wouldn’t cover the balance of our loan.

So, right around March 1 of this year, we found out that funding for the new job hadn’t come through, despite the fact that my husband had already given his two-week notice at his former job, leaving us with no paycheck anywhere on the horizon.

Our vehicle was totaled, leaving us with a $2,000 balance to pay on the auto loan.

And, we’ll have to find a new house in the next four or five months.

Yeah. My boat’s breaking apart and the water’s pouring in!

I’ve been watching in horror as each new thing hits, trying to focus on Jesus, knowing that He’s got it all handled and that He’s taken care of our family in the past faithfully.

It’s not like I want outrageous things! My hopes are relatively modest, I believe. I simply want a paycheck to cover bills. I want a new, used, decent vehicle. Tired of feeling like we have no control over our own housing, we want to buy a house rather than rent again.

In fact, with this new start-up opportunity, there was enough of a raise that I’d even begun to hope for upgrades to my boat! A nicer, newer used vehicle! Perhaps we might actually be able to look for a home with horse property — a dream of mine since childhood!

I didn’t want a yacht. I wasn’t hoping for new and shiny. I would have been happy with cushions on the bow seat and perhaps an outboard motor. Nothing fancy.

Suddenly, instead of upgrades, I watched my boat begin to slide under the waters.

Then, in the movie, Jesus restores Mack’s boat! All is well! This has been my hope and prayer since everything started caving in! It’s what I’ve believed God for in our lives!

And, then it hits me.

God doesn’t want us in the boat at all. He wants us out of the boat!

Jesus invites us to get out of the boat!

How much time and energy we devote to taking care of the boat! Tending the boat, upgrading the boat, and praying thanks for the boat — when all along, it might be the very thing that’s standing between us and what would be best for us in our walk with Jesus!

I’ve decided that I’m going to be thankful when my boat is restored…even if it’s a life raft…or a half-submerged log floating by. What I’m going to start praying for is that I will see opportunity to step out of the boat!

I’m going to pray that God changes my heart from dreading uncertainty, and that He shows me the delight and the miracles along the way, just like Jesus then shows Mack the beauty of His creation as they walk along the top of the waves.

Homeschooling as a Single Parent, Part 2: Preparing for Sabbath While Going it Alone

I think one of the hardest challenges I had as a single parent was trying to get all the kids ready for church, arrive in time, and still maintain some type of spiritual awareness. I have to confess that I failed on that last point many times.

It’s hard being a single parent no matter what school choice you make. It’s harder when you are going it alone as a homeschooling parent. You have hardly any free time to just focus on the house or even have “me” time. Then there is the issue of Sabbath and trying to get things ready so the house is ready, Sabbath lunch is prepared, the kids are up and dressed, you are out of the door on time, AND you are spiritually ready to be fed by the pastor that morning.

As I type those words, I can just feel the old feelings coming up in my body, and the thoughts of “that’s impossible” resonate in my mind.

Let me assure you that it is possible. It is not easy, but it is possible.

Many times I have read posts of parents trying to schedule each moment in the school day; yet on Sabbath, the schedule falls to the wayside. In my opinion, the Sabbath is one day when a schedule needs to be followed as much as possible in order to maintain some semblance of order when you are going it alone.

Today, I want to share with you some ideas I’ve garnered over the years on how to maintain a Sabbath rest while dealing with all the challenges of single parenting.

One of the most helpful things someone suggested to me when my kids were young was to make sure I had Sabbath clothes clean and ready on Sunday rather than waking up on Saturday morning with a child yelling they had nothing to wear that was clean. So, Sunday was laundry day. When the children are older, they can become responsible for their own laundry. I assigned days for each child where they would wash their own clothes, once they reached the tween years.

So, once the clothes are washed, dried, and put away (yes, instead of on the couch), each child can pick out their outfit and have it ready on the hanger. Shoes are nearby also.

Weekly housework can be divided up so that most of everything is done by Thursday rather than waiting until Friday. Wait, isn’t Friday Preparation Day? Yes, and unless you want to run yourself ragged trying to get everything done, it’s best to assign chores so that throughout the week, everything is taken care of. The only thing left on Friday should be meal prep for Sabbath, getting things together for the next morning’s rush, and even planning a Sabbath afternoon activity.

If your children are walking, they can be doing chores, even if it is just picking up their own toys. By the time they are teenagers, they would benefit from having learned how to run the whole house on their own. Believe me! I graduated without knowing how to do this. I made sure my children learned. They will be much better off in the long run; plus, it relieves stress and responsibility from you.

For meal planning, the older ones can take turns deciding menus and even cooking the meal. This is good life preparation. It also helps develop good habits for when they are on their own. Sabbath afternoon plans can also be planned by the younger ones. This also teaches life skills. Plus, it gives them ownership in the family. They also learn more about what’s appropriate and what’s not. It also lessens the stress on the parent.

If you need help in getting the house chores done before Friday, FlyLady is a great resource. Donna Young’s site also has some good resources on home management, along with homeschooling. There are also chore lists available to help parents know which chores are appropriate for what age.

Clothes are done. Chores are finished. The house is ready for Sabbath. The menu is planned and prepared. Activity is planned. Now, for the finishing touches of actually going into the Sabbath hours.

We had evening and morning worship in our home. On Friday evening, it would be nice if some special activities could be planned. Perhaps even a special Friday evening meal could be made. Candles could be used. Songs sung. Favorite verses recited. Blessings of the week shared.

Some meal ideas could be potato bar, pizza night, popcorn and smoothies, or whatever is a family favorite. We loved haystacks. It was easy to fix and easy to clean up. Some families will use disposables on Sabbath to save time in clean up. Other families will use the special china on Sabbath. You determine yourself what is most important. Just develop a nice family evening that can be fun and relaxing, while helping you turn your thoughts to God in a special way.

Since the clothes were made ready last Sunday, Fridays can be time to grab baths, perhaps before supper so that evening worship is calm and relaxing. Saturday morning, try to get up early enough yourself so you can have time for your own personal devotion time. I know I would often skip this on Sabbath, thinking I would still have spiritual food at the church service. The problem is that it would lead me where I was not focused on God so much as the things I needed to get done in time.

Always get the kids down to bed on time on Friday so that Saturday morning is easier with a full night’s rest. If you have little kids, be sure to have their Sabbath bags ready on Friday so they are ready to grab as you walk out the door. You can even have the bags in the car when you get the car ready for Sabbath. If you have a diaper bag, that can be ready and in the car already. Snacks, if used, can also be done on Friday.

I am one who feels like if I am not at least 10 minutes early, I am late. It would create stress on me, trying to get the kids up and out the door on time. Give yourself time for those last-minute happenings. We can plan and schedule, but life happens. Build in a time cushion. It’s important for children to learn to be to church on time. Teach them by example. On the other hand, it is also important for them to learn that when we mess up or something happens, it is up to us to show them how to cope with stress. Breathe, pray, ask for forgiveness (if needed), and move on. I hope that the event doesn’t cause yelling and scolding. This can lead to everyone in the home losing Sabbath blessings. Instead, the young ones can learn so many spiritual blessings even in these times.

Once at church, breathe, relax — no matter how things were that morning — and let God bless you. Be sure to enjoy the interaction of your church family. This is a good time to allow those adoptive grandparents to step in and help with the kids. If you do not have to, please do not volunteer for children’s Sabbath School. With you homeschooling and being a single parent, it is good for the children to have other godly adults speak into their lives. Plus, it gives you a chance to soak in spiritual support from other adults.

Sabbath does not have to be the hardest day of the week. It can be the blessing God intends it to be. It takes planning and consistency. It takes asking God for the strength and wisdom each day, especially on the Sabbath.

As you finish the Sabbath hours, it can include family worship, a fun family meal like pizza and popcorn, along with a family activity. We would rotate between board games and family movies. It’s a good time to thank God for the day’s blessings.

 

What is Your Why?

Homeschooling by our passions… Why do you home school? What is the passion behind your choice? Understanding your own personal “why” helps you understand where to take your journey next, and also helps to develop your child’s passion.

As our school year draws to a close, many start wondering if they want to continue on the homeschool journey next year. Many are battling the negative opinion of family members, or a general lack of support in the community. It’s been a seven-year journey of home education for us, and I still sometimes flounder and flail when people ask me about socialization, when they voice their (usually strong) opinion that children should be institutionalized for education and socialization! I still doubt myself occasionally and sometimes I want to throw in the towel!

What keeps me going? My passion. Remembering the “Why.”

I homeschool because it is the best choice for my children. It’s a sacrifice and one I don’t make lightly. (None of us do!) Because of their special needs and multiple failed attempts at class work, I see clearly that an institutionalized education would fail my children. I don’t want them to fail at life. I want them to pursue their passions, just as every other parent out there desires. We all want the best for our children!

When we discover the joy of pursuing our passions, it is easier to encourage others to do the same. Without knowing or understanding our personal “why,” without exploring our passion, we quickly lose the enjoyment of homeschooling. Once we engage our own passions, we can better inspire our children’s passions. Helping our children discover their “why” for education helps them develop a joy of lifelong learning.

I give you a challenge today: Engage your passion. Write it down, make it a vision board, rediscover your joy in the journey. See how it changes your home education journey!