Finding God in Hardest Times? (Part One)

There is a moment.

That moment when the world feels like it is crashing down on your shoulders.

That moment when you are sure you are alone, no matter how many people are around you right then.

That moment when God feels so far away but you have nowhere to turn, nowhere else to go.

So you pray. But, deep in your heart are the doubts that this prayer (or any, really) is reaching God. That He even cares. The lies Satan is whispering have taken root and are spreading.

And, we hurt. Because that moment is pain. It is deep, unrelenting, excruciating pain. When all we can scream is WHY?! Why me? Why now?

This story is indirectly related to why we later homeschooled the boys, but that is not why I am starting here. Somewhere out there somebody needs to hear that God is there, even when we can’t feel Him. That our prayers are not going into thin air. That we can trust Him, even when His answer isn’t to turn back time and somehow make the bad news, in this case the diagnosis, go away.

The date was April 1, 1997. My husband was 27, I was 24. We only had two kids at the time: a 26-month-old easy-going, talkative son (Alex), and our 10.5-month-old daughter (Angela). Because Angela was our second child, her doctor,  Tim, and I noticed some red flags in her development. For example, she only weighed 14 lbs 9 oz, and was about 20 inches long (a nine-pound weight gain and only about two inches in length in 10 months). She was tiny and not growing well. She also couldn’t sit up, roll over, hold her head up, or interact with us; she choked on all solids, and she didn’t really play with toys. And, as a mom I knew, absolutely knew, there was something wrong. (Of course there were other things as well, but you get the idea.)

Angela with Grandma Lee – August 1996

So her doctor referred us to Children’s Hospital in Seattle. They sent us a schedule that had us in appointments from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. First on the list was aptitude testing, so they could get a baseline, as well as a variety of other tests throughout the day.

After being told Angela was 57% behind other kids her age, I was already feeling … lost. But, we had yet to see a doctor. So, the second appointment was with a geneticist. She walked into the room, introduced herself, and then asked us three questions. Just that. Three. Questions. She then left the room and came back less than 10 minutes later with a book. And a diagnosis.

It was that moment.

Because feeling something in your heart and being told something concrete, with proof, are two completely different things.

Now, I am not going to tell you that getting the diagnosis that your daughter has a permanent disability is the hardest news ever. Because it isn’t. After all, we could have been told so many other things. However, it was devastating and the loss of a dream.

By 3 p.m. that day, I had a raging headache and felt dazed. Too much information, too many tests, too much emotion. Honestly, it was just too much everything. And the emotional pain, I cannot describe the pain – or the guilt that seemed to come from it. Could I have done anything differently? Did I have caffeine, not get enough water, not eat enough? What did I do wrong? The moms out there know this guilt. It’s called Mom guilt, and I can tell you from years of experience, it’s a useless emotion that Satan uses to derail us.

Angela was diagnosed with Cornelia de Lange Syndrome (CdLS for short). This can be genetic; however, after blood testing it was concluded that hers was a mutation that occurred at conception. There was quite literally nothing we could have done differently. At the time of her diagnosis, there were 2,500 cases known worldwide (there are now more than 2,500 people in my Facebook group alone), and they didn’t yet know which gene or chromosomes were involved. There is a lot of information about those afflicted with this syndrome at www.cdls-usa.org since I could fill pages and pages with just details about it. I will also be sharing more about exactly how the syndrome has affected our lives and her medical, physical, and intellectual challenges in my next blog post.

Angela in 2014 – taken by her teacher at school one day.

And, that was just the beginning. She had more tests added to the schedule that day and over the next few days. Then, her first surgery was just 16 days after that. We went from thinking we had two healthy kids, to one healthy son and a daughter with needs we were only beginning to understand (and still struggle with, if you want the truth).

In that moment (and many others) I related to Job when he said, “I cry to you, O God, but you don’t answer. I stand before you, but you don’t even look,” Job 30:20. I felt so alone in my grief, anger, and pain. But, just like Job, I wasn’t going through it alone. God was there the whole time. Jeremiah reminds us in Lamentations 3:55-57, “But I called on your name, Lord from deep within the pit. You heard me when I cried ‘Listen to my pleading! Hear my cry for help!’ Yes, you came when I called; you told me, ‘Do not fear.’” Oh, thank YOU, Lord! You are there, even when we cannot feel You. You have not left us or forsaken us. There is a relief in that thought, isn’t there?

However, as you all know, prayer is hardest when your faith is weak. And, the devil strikes then! The deceiver wants us to feel alone in our pain. Have you ever felt that your prayer isn’t going past the ceiling? In a recent discussion about prayer, someone mentioned that David said in Psalm 23:4, “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid; for you are close beside me. Your rod and staff protect and comfort me” (emphasis mine). What a comforting thought!! “God is right there with us,” my friend said, “listening to every word we say.” We don’t have to worry about the prayers not going past the ceiling, He is sitting with us in that moment!

I won’t lie to you and say that feeling of being alone went away quickly. It didn’t. I won’t tell you I felt God’s arms around me in that moment. I didn’t. I will tell you I did slowly start to feel less alone and could eventually feel Jesus holding me as I cried, raged, and screamed out my pain. And, I did keep my faith, even if I was hanging on with torn fingernails.

And, He is right beside you in that moment, and the next, and the one after that. Let me say that again: JESUS IS SITTING WITH YOU RIGHT NOW! The pain and anger may keep you from feeling Him, but turn to Him anyway. Our Lord is waiting with open arms, a big lap, and strong shoulders to cry on. Let Him comfort and heal you. No, it’s not an easy process, but it is worth it.

An excerpt from Footprints in the Sand, author unknown

There is so much more to tell you (and look how long this one was!) that I have to make this a two- or three-part series. So, watch for my next blog to hear more about Angela, her diagnosis, learning to cope, and learning to trust God with all of it. For now, I leave you with this thought:

Lamentations 3:20-24 (NLT)

20 I will never forget this awful time,
as I grieve over my loss.
21 Yet I still dare to hope
when I remember this:

22 The faithful love of the Lord never ends![a]
His mercies never cease.
23 Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
therefore, I will hope in him!”

Organizing a Growing Family, One Small Step (or Book) at a Time

I never knew adding a third child would require so much organization! But, I’m not one to scoff at organization; if anything, I love my lists, I love my To-Do Binder, I love checking things off and seeing my progress, or re-arranging my day to fit what didn’t get done, and working around it. My husband is always amazed how my lists keep growing, and never seem to end, but it helps me when my brain is always thinking of a million other things to keep myself organized and keep me from forgetting something. To also be fair, adding a third child to our mix is certainly something that added to my growing lists of to-do’s, but it also showed me that if I don’t write things down, I’ll have a chaotic mess on my hands of things that I’d simply forget to do.

I also realized that adding a third meant that I’d have less time with my other two. Ollie, who’s now 3, and Holden, who just turned a year, would be getting less time with me once our Xander makes his appearance. I already split my time between them decently, but always give more time to Ollie because he’s the one homeschooling and has very high ambitions; Holden simply is learning words, and motions, and is pretty content at joining in whatever we’re doing as long as he gets to sit on my lap or make a mess with blocks a short arms reach away. Adding Xander to things will definitely rock our homeschooling world and life.

One thing I realized early on, that I can maintain as a constant, is reading time. We have so many books in our home, I feel like there’s little to no time to read them all, yet I’m always itching to crack them open! I’ve always installed a “quiet time” when Holden was napping, from the moment we brought him home from the hospital, and now I plan on doing the same thing once Xander is born in a few days time. How well that’ll turn out, I haven’t a clue. So far when I hush Holden, all he does is scream louder with a big grin on his face… He’s my little curve ball, this on;, he’s his own little man. But, at least Ollie has always understood it and respected it, and he does help me keep Holden calm when needed, but he also has come to love “quiet time” because it gives him time to do his own thing — from playing, to reading his own books (yes he can read simple books; it’s amazing how much he’s learned from us reading aloud to him), to simply using his iPad or watching cartoons on the TV (yup, we use both iPad and TV as our way to gain a few minutes of peace, and I’m not ashamed to admit it; in fact, I know my sanity will be relying on those two devices this winter when they can’t burn off energy outside).

But, as winter came closer and I finally stepped out of the denial that it was coming, whether I wanted it to or not, I knew I’d be spending a lot of time inside the house with my boys (winter, in New England, along with a newborn, is not a place you want to venture out a lot in). So, I had made a long list of books to read, or re-read, not just for myself, but for my boys as well. We have a large library collection growing within our home, and the public library is less then a three-minute drive from our house (and along Daddy’s route home), so books will never be scarce.

Back in November, I began filtering through our books, not just mine and my husband’s collection, but the boys as well, reorganizing, donating duplicates, recycling books that were too damaged from Holden’s teething phase from us not stopping him quick enough, and doing a quick glance at books that were gifted to us that I hadn’t decided if they were worth keeping or appropriate for our home.

  • So, I sat down and went through the boys’ books first. I was amazed at how many duplicates we were actually gifted, and how many we hadn’t touched! I reorganized the books on a sheet of paper of preference of what we’ll be reading first, and on down the list, until we got to books that Ollie voiced he was excited to re-read.
  • Next, I did the same to mine and my husband’s books; filtering through so many unread books didn’t take quite as long as it did for the boys’, but it felt really good to organize myself and our many books. These I organized from appropriate enough to read aloud (Sherlock Holmes series, anyone?), to ones that I’d read quietly on my own, and ones I’ve been itching to re-read.
  • Following all that fun organization, I ran through my lists of books I’ve been wanting to borrow from the public library, and made an actual list instead of all my sticky notes, and highlighted titles in my various homeschooling books (The Well Trained Mind, Honey For A Child’s Hearty, The Read-Aloud Handbook, among many more), and my cell phone notes, and screenshots of books I came across on Pinterest and walking through Barnes and Noble. I actually wrote them all down on a list (preference didn’t matter, I was just excited to have everything in one spot) and even made a digital list on the public library’s website so when I’m ready to rent the books, I simply log on, click, and when it’s available the hubby will swing by and pick it up for me!

I can’t tell you how happy I was when I saw my list back in November! I was so proud of myself for being organized and ahead of the curve when it came to this, because I knew once Xander came, homeschooling would basically be out the window until not only was I ready to start our new routine, but Xander was ready for a routine, and Ollie and Holden were ready to start a new routine. Homeschooling will now become a household event, I feel, where as before, we could do it during nap time, or when Holden was preoccupied with rearranging my kitchen drawers. Now, I feel like we’ll need to work homeschooling into and around our “new routine.” But in November, I felt like at least our days would be filled with literature (even if it were to be for five minutes a day; I’d take what I could).

But, as December rolled around I realized that even if I could read to my sons for five minutes a day (or more preferably), it wouldn’t be “enough” for Ollie. I thought we’d be taking a break from “school” starting the week of Thanksgiving on until after Christmas, start a tad bit after Christmas, then drop everything again right before Xander was born… Oh, was I wrong on all accounts. My oldest would ask to do school at least every other day. He loved our routine, he loved what he was learning, and that flame of learning had already been ignited, and he didn’t want it to go out, and I couldn’t be the one to extinguish it. Here I was thinking he’d love a break, he’d love to just play all day and not do a thing; next thing I know he’s picking up his own books and reading them to himself or to Holden, asking me to read to him, asking me to “do school today.” My idea of a break completely went out the window! So, we’d do school when he’d ask, and I realized my original “grand plan” back in November was not going to cut it come January. I went back to the drawing board and came up with another game plan:

  • Go through the workbooks/printables I had collected for Ollie, rip the pages out of the books, organize them by easiest to hardest, and subject matter (if possible), and place them in a clear sleeve in a binder (preferably five pages to a day or more to offer variety). If possible, even attach some with sticky notes that could be used along with the book lists I designed back in November so he’d have something to do while I (or a relative who’s moving in with us for a month to help) read to him.
  • Also, I went through all our supplies of art and craft items (glue, paint, foam cut outs of letters and images, pom-poms, pipe cleaners, construction paper, etc.) and stocked up on what I was short on. If I (or my family helping) needed a break and Ollie wanted to do something more constructive and independent, I could just lay it all on the table and let him go to town without needing much from me other than a little supervision.
  • Going through the kiddos’ art supplies gave me a light bulb moment to where I could probably organize at least two coloring pages, two arts and crafts, and one book with activity planned out per day in the same binder I had originally created for the “To-Read” list. (I doubted this would work for every day, but the beauty is that it can always get pushed back, or pulled ahead, and I had options available for my kiddo other than the iPad or TV. It also gave options to those helping us the month of January into February to easily find something entertaining to do with Ollie).

But, those are my plans, at least as to what might help gain our sons some sort of stability, some sort of scheduling, but also make my life easier as I try to maneuver this new world of having three sons, a lively dog, managing our home, homeschooling, and being a good wife and partner to an amazing husband. Some of it might work, some of it might not. But, the beauty of homeschooling, the beauty of adding a curve ball to our routine, is that we get to try new things, and we get to explore these new ventures as a family. God planned our family, we didn’t, and it’s all been amazing exploring His plan for us as a growing family. We trust in Him to help guide us, because no matter how much organizing I do, there’s no way to plan for it all. I just pray that what I have put together will help make things a tad bit easier on me, the husband, the boys, and those coming to help us for the month. Either way, everything is in God’s hands, and that puts my heart and mind at ease.

Homeschool Seasons and Why We Sometimes Need to Fake It ’til We Make It!

As a blog writer for this group, and for my personal blog, I have never before experienced the writer’s block that I am currently going through.

I am a week late on my deadline, and not for unconcern. I do not take my commitment to this group lightly. Through the past month, I have frequently had ideas for blog articles buzzing around in my mind, but when the time came for me to harness them, they just didn’t seem to fit. So, I am going to write from my heart, and pray that what I share will connect with someone out there.

Sometimes on a homeschool page like this one, we present information, and it seems like we are some sort of experts on the homeschooling process. Just forget about that portrayal. I can assure you that when we share anything, it is because we have tried many ideas and finally found one that has worked, or that we hope will work out. We might not share the umpteen flops, failures, and moments of sheer desperation that led us to our “instant successes.”

This school year I prayed for opportunities for our boys to learn practical skills. I meant that prayer. But, I had no idea how that would play out. Even that is an understatement. My husband and I made plans for apprenticeship opportunities, in controlled settings, at predictable times, in mind for learning skills. I would drop off our eldest for a couple of hours with a mechanic, and go pick him up, or something like that. The details hadn’t materialized, but we had plans. Beware of plans. Of course, we have to make plans, but just be careful about holding too tightly to them.

You see, we had other plans too, plans which involved property, dabbling in homesteading, and clearing land. We had plans to ease into a “build-as-you-can” project, and slowly work our way into our off-grid Home-Sweet-Home. Through some unanticipated life turns, we suddenly realized that we would need to crank up the schedule of land preparation, and that “easing into it” would change to “get it in gear!”

The high-gear stage began when we needed to rent a piece of heavy machinery to help with the clearing. When you’re paying for a big machine, everything begins to revolve around efficiency so that you don’t waste rental hours. That’s sort of when homeschool began also to revolve around whatever we needed to do to “get ‘er done!”  Early hours, late nights, and a picnic every day became the norm, since the property is about an hour away from our home. We all got a sudden immersion into the ins and outs of putting in septic lines, rock characteristics, soil types, and so on.

This process has been exciting in many ways. After all, we prayed that God would lead us to a piece of country property, and He did. When we chose this property, we knew full well that to make it work, we would have to put in lots of work, and even that seemed like part of the romantic charm of carving out our own homestead, like in the olden days. We were all on board, eager, and gung-ho! Every day was a new challenge, but we knew that we would figure it out. Our boys suddenly had the chance to jump in and learn some practical skills as the oldest two ran the transit for the leveling of the septic lines, and everyone got to help install the field line components. Progress was clicking along pretty well, considering all of the rock we encountered. We got our garden and greenhouse site prepared, and holes dug for our orchard — 3x3x3 so we can plant them the Ellen White Method, that the angel showed her in a dream.  I remember standing up at the top of our property in the future garden, and thrilling as I looked over the wooded hills, just feeling blessed. It was my mountaintop time, when faith was easy.

Life is not all mountaintops, though, and as my husband had to go out of town for work, the full responsibility suddenly rested on me. This was fine, with what we initially had planned to accomplish. Then, additional projects popped up that needed immediate decisions.  Every day another challenge came that eventually left my head spinning, as I tried to make important decisions on the fly, figure out yet another DIY project, purchase supplies, and just keep life running. Let me say that I totally get the fast food concept now. I’m afraid Taco Bell became a more regular part of our lives, and home-cooked meals have become more a rarity than our regular fare.

This season has honestly been the most stressful season of homeschool that we have gone through, and are currently involved in. When I have more projects on my plate than I know how to deal with, I short circuit, and then we certainly experience the trickle-down effect through the ranks. As challenge after challenge has hit, I have seen myself at close to my worst. I have analyzed what we should and could be doing differently, but just keep coming back to the fact that life right now is not our ideal situation, but we have to keep plugging away. I have cried many times, overwhelmed with what new thing we must handle. And, I am finding that it is not always the biggest challenges that I crumble under, but the little annoyances — the loud noises when my mind screams for some silence, and the mental load of trying to understand multiple projects simultaneously.

In the last months, we have stacked up the projects, leaving little time for quiet reflection. As the mental pressures pile up, I found myself unable to process much more mentally, so I have been so grateful that my boys know how to cook. When I hear, “Mom, what’s for breakfast?” before I even have a chance to get the cobwebs out of my head, I am thankful when they just make it happen so that I don’t have to make another decision. My mind has been stuffed with septic line assembly, dump truck rental, fruit tree placement, hole size, distance and diameter, house site clearing, basement excavation, footer dimensions, root cellar placement and size, finances, sick child, phone that quit making calls, floor plans, mud and rain, driveway excavation, packing, and employee coordination. Then our sink and countertop failed us, and we found out just how poor we are at “figuring out” DIY.  Did I mention school? Allll this without Dad! Literally, when our month of focused excavation was completed, our eldest asked me what we were going to do the next day. I replied, “School.” “Only school?” he asked. “Yes.” He let out an audible sigh of relief at “only school,” and I realized that we all were just completely exhausted, physically and mentally.

The more overwhelmed I felt, the more time I noticed myself turning to Facebook. I realized it was/is an escape for me, and a natural way to “interact” while my husband and I have had decreased communication because of distance. I enjoy catching up, but I realized that my already overwhelmed mind didn’t need more material to think about. I have consciously been watching my time on FB this last week or more, and I see that it helps me. My mind can only take on so much before it reaches saturation. And then, when things are already challenging, the temptation to compare your life to the lives portrayed by others is quite high. This can compound feelings of inadequacy and frustration. But, what we need to realize is that on any journey, there are shadows and rainbows. Facebook posts tend to showcase the rainbows, and maybe it’s because we all need to cling to those moments where something actually does happen right. We as homeschoolers especially need to keep this in mind.

During this time, I have admittedly fallen behind in reading other blogs in our group. The other day, I randomly (I thought), while weary, feeling knocked down and dragged under the bus, stumbled upon this post on our blog. It’s the only blog post I have read in over a month. I don’t even know how I got through it, I was that tired, but somehow, some bells started to go off in my head. I particularly appreciated the links that were shared to Dr. Caroline Leaf’s materials. I began to listen to some of the messages, and I saw so clearly how, even though I legitimately have real challenges in our situation right now, I don’t have to drown under them. Jesus offers help, and it is with my cooperation, especially in my thought life. Wow. There is abundant material about the brain and how our thoughts form connections that contribute to our health, both mentally and physically. Truly, we are what we think. I haven’t read part two of the blog about our thoughts, but I will soon be doing so.

I feel like that reminder about choosing my thoughts has helped me. It has made me more aware of what I say since it reacts on me and others, like my children, reinforcing the positive or negative. And, I have seen how much the Lord really wants to help me to have a victory, not a defeat.

I will say that old habits are those that surface without our effort, and so much so in this area of what we say. I am literally praying often that God will give me a kind word, because when I feel overwhelmed, my natural reaction is negativity. Barbara O’Neill, a favorite speaker of mine, says that we must “fake it ’til we make it,” and that this indeed is a spiritual principle. This is a very helpful talk about the laws that govern our minds. I highly recommend it, and I need to go back and re-listen to it too!

Don’t misunderstand the Fake It ‘Til You Make It outlook. This does not mean to pretend your worries away, expecting that they will just vanish. Instead, it means choosing what we tell ourselves about what we are going through, and choosing to turn to beneficial sources like Bible promises to get our mental dialogue pointed in a positive direction. The Bible says, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in Thee,” Isaiah 26:3. This strongly suggests a partnership between us and the Lord. He promises us peace, but first we choose to train our minds on Him, His power, His ability, His goodness towards us. He is able to help us in every emergency.

Cheezburger Image 6084583680

Another talk that I appreciated is this talk by Maria Neblett, called The Language of Encouragement. She speaks so honestly about her struggles, and I really can relate to what she shared. But, she also shows us how to strive for victory and change the course of our homes. This talk I have listened to a couple of times, but really need to go back over it until I can truly make it my experience.

I hope that my ramblings have not been too random. God is good. He is real, and He is here for us. Satan wants to weigh us down and defeat us in any way that he can. We do have a part to play to cooperate with our Saviour, even if we have to “Fake it ’til we make it!”

Another Mile to Share

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, or at least my posts, I’ve shared the journey that I’m on with my oldest, Ethan. He’s my prodigal son. I am the father left waiting to carry on with business. Each day, I watch the road.

It’s time for another update. In sharing my story, I hope to give hope! I hope to encourage! When we read these amazing stories of families who raise strong men and women of God, who finish their schooling with kudos and prizes and scholarships, it can be sad and disheartening to those of us with children who’ve gone a different direction.

We celebrate with you, moms and dads of those kids! But, our hearts hurt.

When last I wrote my blog post, The Prodigal, Ethan had left home, telling us that he didn’t want to live like he’d been raised. He loved us, but wasn’t interested in anything having to do with God or religion.

In fact, one conversation he and I had several months after he moved out had me questioning whether he had a mental illness. He was reading a book by a guy named David Icke (don’t even Google it — it’s awful) and according to him it was his new “bible” that he carried around everywhere. He demonstrated this by showing it to me.

David Icke proposes, among other things, that the government is run by an oligarchy comprised of inter-dimensional lizard people who brought the moon with them when they took over the world.

No, I am not kidding.

Yes, my heart was breaking as I listened to this intelligent, thoughtful young man speak so passionately about these new beliefs of his.

At this moment in time, I pause to allow one of three reactions:

  1. Ho hum…my children are babies and will never ever do anything like this. I’ll do my best to do things mostly right and we’ll live happily ever after. OR, a subset of this group is, “My teens are busy and involved in church and set to graduate at 16 years old with honors.”
  2. Good grief! I’m so thankful for my kids and the problems I am dealing with, with them! Perhaps I should just take a chill pill and realize that things aren’t as bad as they could be!
  3. WOW! I’m so thankful to know that I’m not alone! I thought it was only my kid that had gone off the rails!

If you’re in one of the groups that have no idea what it is to struggle with a child, at least not yet if your children are young, then you might not have even gotten this far reading! I know I wouldn’t have when Ethan was five and teaching himself to read and wise beyond his years!

My word to you is, “Enjoy it! Be thankful for it! Count your blessings!” And perhaps even, “Remember to pray for those of us who have more challenges!”

If you’re still reading, you probably have a measure of OCD and feel compelled to finish since you’ve gotten this far. Or, it seems like a train wreck and you just can’t look away! Well, stick around! You never know what you might learn!

To those in the second group, my advise to you is, “Take a chill pill!” Okay, I’m mostly kidding. It’s hard to relax when it’s your child and your struggles. You might possibly read to the end. Because there is hope! And, the struggle is real!

My brothers and sisters in the third group, you need to settle right on in, grab a cup of whatever you enjoy drinking hot, and take a deep breath! We are in this together and this is the “keeping-it-real zone!” I’ll share my story, warts and all, and somehow, someone might find hope and blessing from it!

The first time Ethan and I talked, he shared all about this guy Icke’s ideas, and I sat there with a mildly-interested look on my face, a stone in my heart, and a roiling in my stomach. I didn’t challenge, I didn’t argue, I didn’t reason. I simply gave him the gift of listening quietly but engaged. I didn’t ask him any questions because I didn’t want to hear the answers!

What I’d learned about my son is that if I disagreed, he would become more solidly lodged in that opinion. If I questioned or challenged, he would hear disapproval. I was going to give him neither of these things.

And so we talked about this and that as if it were the most normal thing in the world. And, my heart broke and I wanted to weep.

The second major conversation we had, I did the same while his behavior was, again, very odd and left me thinking that perhaps I was dealing with some kind of a mental illness. What a hopeless feeling; even if he were, what could I do? He wasn’t living with us, and should I do anything at all, it would likely put a wedge in our relationship that might be irreparable!

Our interactions, though infrequent, went much like this over the course of the next six months or so. Never once did I disagree with him or challenge him. I simply listened and smiled and nodded and left him with no doubt whatsoever that I loved him more than life. Period.

At a certain moment in time, I can’t pinpoint when, he stopped talking about Icke. He didn’t look up at the stars suspiciously. He stopped insisting that oil wells were not what they seemed. And, he referenced the Bible. He referenced it like, “The Bible says so too…” And though it wasn’t completely accurate, I thought it interesting that he brought it up at all.

While relaying my story and my struggles, I’ve always tried to propose that there is a different way to approach things than makes logical sense. In dealing with soon-to-be-adult children, it makes sense that we resist behavior that we feel is wrong. It makes sense to argue with someone who seems to be making poor decisions or entertaining beliefs that are not in line with what we’ve taught.

What I’d like to put out there for consideration is that we drive our children away with our rightness, our arguments, even perhaps our subtle emotional blackmail or manipulation. I’m not talking blatant blackmail or manipulation. Many times it is much more subtle and harder to see, especially when our intentions, our motives, are only for their best!

What I can tell you is that he’s no longer talking about lizard people. He’s starting to comment about how events seem to be pointing to all the things found in Revelation. He’s beginning to talk about praying. In fact, he alluded to the fact that the new job he had is making him work on Sabbath when he preferred to work on Friday and Sunday. He’s still working on Sabbath, but being aware of it? That gives me hope, right there!

Just last month he texted me this picture, excited about his thrift shop find. I about fell over! Of course, responding to him I played it cool, “That is cool! Great condition!”

I can’t tell you how this story ends. He’s still living with his girlfriend and making dubious choices; I don’t point them out. He still believes that the earth is flat. Sighs.

But, we’re a mile further on and I thought I’d share.

National Day of Listening

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” James 1:19.

Today, November 23, is the (unofficial) National Day of Listening in the United States of America. Today, I want to encourage everyone, no matter where you may live, to take part in this as well. Modern times have us so busy we often don’t take time out to just listen and to be actively involved in listening. What makes this so special for us homeschoolers, is this can really clue us in to our surrounding family and friends, and can be a great ice breaker and guide to interviews, including community outreach.

Questions you may want to ask yourself today:

  • What is “active listening”? Active listening is the involvement of both verbal and non-verbal listening skills. The listener will listen with all five senses. The key is that you are responding and paying attention to the speaker. Non-verbal responses can include smiling, eye-contact, posture, and nods of the head. Verbal responses can include remembering, questioning, reflection, clarification, and summarization.
  • Am I an active listener? If you do most or all of the above, you could consider yourself an active listener. Active listening promotes positive relationships with others, and helps you to feel better about yourself. Sympathy and empathy can be reflected in emotional times as well.
  • How can I become a more active listener? Listening doesn’t “just happen.” When you use your senses, you become involved and seek to understand what is being said. Some helpful tips: Don’t take sides (stay neutral), have patience, don’t jump in with questions or commentary every time there is a bit of silence. As a pastor once told me, “Be sure to hold the heart of the other while listening.” Also, be careful of too much eye-contact, as it can appear intimidating. You will also find that when you successfully listen, that you will naturally mirror the speaker’s emotions as well (excitement, sadness, etc). Also, be careful that you refrain from being distracted while listening, as it can appear that what the speaker is sharing with you is unimportant and not interesting.
  • What are the benefits of active listening in the homeschool environment? When active listening is used in the homeschool environment, it deepens the student/teacher (parent) relationship. When a student feels they are being really listened to, they will feel cared for and connected. The student will become emotionally connected to their environment, and have a deeper desire and motivation to learn. Active listening is a huge motivator. The skill will help the student gain self-understanding, improve relationships, feel understood, feel cared about, build trust, and overcome poor-listening habits. Poor listening habits interfere with learning and feedback. Active listening will promote learning and feedback, and may also improve study skills.

To help you be an effective listener, these tips can help:

  1. Look at the person.
  2. Listen to words and feeling content.
  3. Be sincerely interested in the speaker.
  4. Restate what is said.
  5. Ask for clarification, when needed.
  6. Be aware of your own feelings and opinions.
  7. If you must state your views, don’t forget to “hold their heart” and use words carefully.
  8. Above all, don’t forget to ask God for guidance!

Active listening can be hard sometimes (it is a learning curve in my home), but with God, all things are possible. I hope this helps you as much as it has helped me!

 

Sources:

https://www.thoughtco.com/active-listening-for-the-classroom-6385

https://www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/active-listening.html