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!”

Lead Me Lord, Please!

Prayer: a starting and ending point for all we do as Christians. While this post talks more about where I feel God is leading for my 2018 posts, it really is about prayer, learning to trust the paths shown to us, and following where God leads. I hope you find this encouraging, if in no other way than to at least know what is coming later in the year.

Before I start writing a blog post (or anything really), I pray. A lot. I pray for guidance, for a subject, for the right words, and most importantly I pray for each of you and each word I type. While I don’t have the right words all the time or even the subject, God does. My trust is in Him; in where he wants a blog post, skit, play, sermon, blog post, Facebook comment or post, or anything I say to go — and who HE is trying to reach.

We come from a variety of backgrounds and cultures around the world. Some of us are married, some are not. Some of us are young, and some of us (cough, cough) are not. Some of us have littles, while some of us have only teens or adult kids. Some of us are new Christians, and some of us dedicated our lives years ago. We are moms, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles, sisters, or brothers. All of us are just doing the best we can with what we have and what we know. All of us need Jesus in our lives to do it. So, while all our experiences are not the same, we do share some commonalities, and I keep feeling led to find ways to encourage you all as you journey down the various paths you take.

When LaDonna asked for volunteers to become blog writers, I jumped at the chance. I love to write (and talk – seriously just ask anyone). I love to share about how Jesus has worked in my life. LOVE IT! He has performed more miracles than I can share in one blog post (although I will be over the course of this year). And, I love homeschooling my kids. Right before she posted her request (and I mean minutes before), I had just finished asking God to expand my horizons and lead me to a path to share my story, or more appropriately, His story through my life, with others.

The Sabbath before she posted I had given a sermon at my church, which turned out to be more of a testimony than I expected to give (in case you want to see it https://youtu.be/JRf0cirwH8A). It was a very personal sermon. But, God is in control — where he leads I follow. Always. Even when it doesn’t feel like that is the right path. Even when the sacrifice seems bigger than I can bear. Even when it hurts. And honestly, it was one of the hardest things I have EVER done. The pain was worth the result, the people reached and impacted. The sacrifice seemed trivial in comparison to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. And the path ALWAYS turns out to be the right one. ALWAYS! The sermon turned out to be the right choice. Or, more accurately, saying “Yes” to God was the right choice.

Where was I? Oh, blog writing. Asking God for a path and taking said path are two very different things. He didn’t just show me a path — he practically shoved it under my nose. And to be honest, I nearly turned tail and ran! I very quickly became overwhelmed with sharing those deepest parts of me with all of you. When I finally sat down to write that first blog post, I was nervous; ok, slight understatement there, I was terrified. So, like I did before and during the writing of that sermon, or any of the dramas or skits I write for church, I prayed. I prayed because, knowing what I know about myself, how was I going to get all these ideas about God, living, homeschooling, etc. onto paper (or laptop), without seeming preachy or condescending? I have not had an easy life (and I promise to share more about that as the year progresses). I wasn’t raised Adventist and I am far from the perfect Christian woman. I am not the best mother ever created. I have made and will continue to make more than my fair share of mistakes with my kids and in my marriage. Who am I to try and encourage each of you in your walks with Jesus and through homeschooling?

I put my heart and soul into my writing. It is a true expression of my innermost feelings. All my fears, regrets, pain, joy, love, and encouragement go into every word I write. Whether I am letting you know you are not alone in homeschooling, trying to get you off the worry path, or helping you find ways back into the Word, these are all things I have either experienced or am currently experiencing. Although, I did manage to not truly share myself in those posts.

I have been feeling convicted to go deeper. That what you really need and what I haven’t done yet, is share with you who I am and how God has worked in my life. I haven’t shared how or why we came to homeschool our boys. I have mentioned I have a child with a profound disability, but not how this has truly changed our lives. You don’t know I deal with chronic depression and PTSD from childhood abuse and how I cope with that. I haven’t explained how I survived, faith intact. How Jesus and getting into His Word literally saved my life. And more importantly, how I regained my trust in God afterwards. You don’t know how often I retreat into books rather than dealing with frustrations, anger, or worries. You don’t know that I struggle with parenting, marriage, homeschooling, my faith, or physical and emotional pain. You don’t know that I am or have been where many of you are now. Yet.

While telling all of you these things won’t be the easiest path I have ever taken, I do know that God is not only with me on this path, he guided me to it and is carrying me down it. While I don’t know or understand His reasons for me sharing these pieces of myself over the coming months, He does. I know that His ways are good and true and that He has not only my best interest in mind, but yours as well.

Credit: https://i2.wp.com/www.jeremybrummel.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/study-862994_1280.jpg?resize=350%2C200&ssl=1

So, whoever you are — the one(s) God is trying to reach — I pray for you as I write these words down. I will continue to pray for each of you as I share the good, bad, and ugly of my journey to this point. There will be tears and pain, but there will also be release, joy, and love. At church, we have a saying about our big productions. “If only one person’s life is changed by what we have put together, then all the time, effort, skill, and work that has gone into it was absolutely worth every drop of sweat and tear shed. We are merely the vessel for God’s word to touch those around us.” I am the vessel of God, so I will share these things with you and pray.

Ultimately, my prayer is that you are blessed and enriched by my words and thoughts. That Jesus should lead and guide each letter I type. That He will protect my heart and mind as I share and my story will somehow bless you in your journey. I ask that you join me in prayer, and that our faith and trust in God will grow through this shared experience.

Time With Jesus

The new year is coming. I have friends who make resolutions and plans to lose weight, exercise, eat better, work harder, get a new job, or change their life. Ugh. I do not make resolutions. I break those within minutes of midnight. I do, however, make goals — goals to be a better person than I was the year before. Yes, even goals to lose weight, eat better, and exercise. But, my most important goal is to continue my walk with Jesus and to be closer to God. While these general goals never change, this year I want to make it with intent. And honestly, this came up because I have let my personal worship time suffer.

The devotional book is 5 Minutes with Jesus by Sheila Walsh. It literally takes five minutes to read that days devotion.

One Sabbath in September I was wearing multiple hats at church. I was worship coordinator, the six-minute social volunteer (a fellowship time right after the service), and I even stopped in my Juniors class (for about a minute). From the time I got to church until I left that afternoon, I focused on the details: who was moving this, who was playing here, who needed mics, getting the attendance count, and setting up juice and crackers. And, you know what? By the time I walked into my house after church, I had walked 5000 steps (approx. 2.5 miles) – AT CHURCH!

I did a lot, but do you know what I didn’t do? Listen to the sermon. Oh, I caught a few minutes of it, but I didn’t get much nourishment that morning. I didn’t even get a chance to open my Bible, something I find myself saying a lot throughout my week. And, I crave that relationship with my best friend, Jesus! I want it. I need it. I long for the time and the energy, to be honest, to fellowship with Jesus. I must find time to spend in the Word and in prayer.

Taken Aug. 5, 2017. From left to right: Me, Alex – my newly married son, Geovana – my new daughter-in-law, Angela (21), Tim – my husband, Aaron (17), Adam (15).

Like all of you, my life is busy. My oldest got married this last summer, but I still have three kids at home. Angela, 21, has a profound developmental delay and medical issues. Sadly, this means she is a toddler in mind and an adult in body. So, her care is 24/7/365. Sometimes balancing her needs and the needs of the rest of the family is difficult. My two youngest boys are 15 and 17, and of course I am still homeschooling. Between their homeschooling, volunteer work, youth group participation, and Boy Scouts — and since neither one drives yet — these are also my things to deal with. Every Friday right now I teach two classes at our local faith-based homeschool co-op to kids ages 12-18. I have even started volunteering at the local church-school every Tuesday morning to help in the library. Then there are chores, bills, shopping, etc. You get the idea.

OH! I forgot one – I am a student. I am back in college myself now and maintaining a 3.7 GPA. And, I am supposed to find time to exercise, eat right, cook healthier meals, spend time with my husband, and be with friends from time to time.

Yes, we have seasons in life where we are busier than others, but Satan is always there with an excuse we can conveniently use. When all four of my kids were little, I had the excuse that I was too busy with them. As they have gotten older, I have had new reasons to not focus on that most important relationship. I tell myself I am too busy, I don’t have time, that my life is too full.

We cannot be lights in this world (Matt 5:14) if we don’t understand the true “light” we have been given. How can we truly love what we don’t know? The Word is our greatest defense, our deepest joy, and our most sincere love.

His Word is our food — our spiritual food, yes, but it is as necessary to us as breathing. John 1:1 says, “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God and the Word was God.” So, if we are not spending time reading His Word, learning His character, finding that trust, finding that spiritual renewal – how can we KNOW Jesus? Because, as John goes on to say in verses 2-5, “He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” The Word is Jesus, Jesus is the Word.

So, how do we find time in our schedules to meet with God. Well … just that way — we schedule a meeting with God. I have a friend who gets up early every morning to spend time in the Word and with Jesus before she goes to the gym and then goes to work. Another friend says to Jesus every day, “Let’s do lunch.” I know a couple that studies and prays together in the evenings, after they have put the kids to bed.

Another friend who homeschools her seven children and helps her husband with their ministry, recently told me she felt like she was drowning. She was struggling in her personal worship life. After some prayer and talking to a friend, she decided to start getting up at 4:30 every morning. Yes, I said morning, now pick up your jaw! She takes that time every morning and studies and prays. And, you know what? God BLESSES that time. She has the energy to teach, play with, and enjoy her kids and husband all day long every single day, because she chooses to get up and spend that time with Him.

If you just cannot find 15 minutes or more in one block, that’s OK. Spread it out. Even five minutes while in the bathroom (yes, I hide there too) can influence the rest of our day. Read a Bible verse while the eggs cook or while sitting in the car waiting for a kid. Consider listening to the Bible; find an app that will read it to you while you are vacuuming or resting. Take advantage of nap time, PE, or other time when the kids do not need direct supervision, and read a page from a devotional. And, don’t forget to pray throughout your day while doing the dishes, driving, or dusting. Do what you must to get that few minutes in the Word and with our Savior; He will bless those minutes. And once you start, you will find you have more time than you thought.

Jesus desires that relationship with us as much as we do with Him. There is a craving in each of us, a hole in our hearts, a hole that can only be filled by Jesus. He went to the cross with intent — intent to save us. We can set aside time in our lives with purpose and intent to spend with Him.

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!”

Taking Care of Everyone…But you?

As we begin a new homeschool chapter, I have been chewing on what my first blog post of the year should focus on. I have many ideas for the future, but the one thing that keeps coming back to me is this — how is mom holding up?

Some of us are “seasoned” homeschoolers, whatever that means. Some of us are just starting out. I think I am in the “half-baked” stage — not done yet, and so I still need some more seasoning. So much to learn, and at times I feel like I need to unlearn some things so that I can have more flavor in our school. Life would be pretty boring if every family school consisted of the same ingredients. It’s something to chew on.

But, as we begin a new year, I am reminded of mom. Most likely, you are the principal teacher in your homeschool. I realize there are exceptions, and I’m not trying to exclude anyone; if this applies to you as dad, grandma, or whomever, then take it to heart. I know it applies to moms.

As teaching moms, we get excited about new projects, new curriculum, methods of teaching, craft supplies, fun field trips, and the list goes on and on, doesn’t it? We drive our troops to music lessons, practices, clubs, counseling sessions, play dates, Bible studies, birthday parties, service opportunities, jobs, and Grandma’s, not to mention the hours at the table, in the garden, reading on the sofa, or in the woods taking nature walks. And then, there’s often a husband who has needs and expectations too! But, what about you, homeschooling mom? How do you meet your needs? How do you avoid burning the midnight oil to get everything done? How do you avoid burning out because you’re so busy doing good for everyone else that you forget about your own needs?

As I sit here on a Friday afternoon, reminding myself to guzzle more water to battle a nagging UTI, I just want to encourage you — not because I have it all together as a home educator, but because I see a genuine need in all mothers who tend to take on too much. My words to you are these: It is not selfish to take care of your own physical needs. Your family needs you, and you are very much aware of that. But, they need you healthy. They need you cheerful, and that’s very difficult to pull off when you’ve stayed up until midnight again. How do I know this? Well, because I’m living it! We are instructed to teach our children cause-effect relationships. But, we have to be real with ourselves and realize that bedtime is not just for babies; our bodies need water; and a little exercise and fresh air will do wonders for our attitudes as moms, just as much as for our children.

Home educating is no joke! It’s not a tea party, and despite what some will think, we do much more than just sit around and do crafts with our children! We have real stresses. We worry about our children’s attitudes and characters — a LOT! We wonder about their futures, and wonder if we are doing it all right, because we don’t have a second chance. Often as we take on all of those unknowns, we find ourselves running around to grab at any perceived learning opportunity, maybe even to the detriment of our peace of mind.

So, what is the answer?

I can only share with you what I am learning myself on this enjoyable, yet, exhausting road. These tips are not in any particular order, except for the first one.

  1. We as home educators absolutely need our time with God! I find that I can get so edgy and driven with my children if I don’t have the softening influence of the Holy Spirit for myself! And, praying for my family particularly helps me to look at them differently. Sometimes I wake up late, in a rush, and find that mid-morning, or sooner, I have to go close myself in my closet with the Lord to regain my perspective, and to just cry out to Him for help. Satan will capitalize on any chink in our armor, so putting on the full armor is so important! This is truly the best gift we can give to our children and husbands — a heart that has met with Jesus and surrendered, so that when we deal with them, we will treat them with grace.
  2. Sleep. I can’t say how much you need, but I know when I need more of it! That’s when I get irritable about little things, feel like weeping over trifles, and start to feel fuzzy in my head the next day. I have gone through times when literally every time I sit down to read with my kiddos, I knock out. A little more sleep is needed! For me, practically, this means putting school away in the evenings; logging off of Facebook, even when I am reading helpful, school-related information; and heading to the bed around a half an hour before I need to be in bed. This is because, inevitably, there will be distractions along the path, such as clothes that I need to put away, something I needed to write down, or catch-up with my husband that needs to happen. This is a real struggle for me, but little by little I am seeing that I gain much more than I lose when I get to bed on time. Even Jesus as our Creator didn’t keep going — He rested after creating our world, and He took time away, even though all of the work was not done while He was on Earth!
  3. Water—don’t forget it! That’s pretty self-explanatory, but overlooked. When our brains get dehydrated, they don’t think well, and irritation also pops out! Consider this article on dehydration and mood swings, and this one too. This is one good reason for us to drink water ourselves, and to strongly encourage our students to drink theirs regularly! We drink water before breakfast, and I have to stop and remind everyone to take drinks throughout the day! One thing that works for us is to fill up a large jar with the minimum ounces that I want them to drink; then they have until bedtime to drink it. This helps them to see how much they’ve had so far, and how much more they need to drink.
  4. Time for You!  I don’t mean time away all of the time, because who really can do that, but just little snatches of time that serve to refresh your tired mind. I have a little shelf in our bathroom that I keep a small Bible and two encouraging books. My refresher often takes place behind that closed door! Even just a few verses or half a page during the midst of a busy day means a lot to me. I try to keep a book there that is specifically for me, such as another homeschooling mom telling her journey. It’s a reminder to me that I am not alone, and that there is help for every emergency!
  5. A walk out in nature can also be a great way to refresh, and this is a great way to break up the school day!  We often just stop mid-morning to jog/walk out to the mailbox or pond, and we come back more energized. Sometimes I or my Type A son resist this intrusion into our “plan” of getting something done, but we both need it and are never sorry that we choose to take a nature break.
  6. Pick and choose! No one can do it all! There is no way we can attend every church function, field trip, play date, birthday party, hobby, or music opportunity — or even, dare I say it, every service opportunity! If we are pursuing that quiet, simple life which will do so much for our children’s characters, we are told me must be much at home! This, frankly, is overwhelming to me, and yet freeing!  Overwhelming, because I want to provide many good things for my children; freeing, because I see that the best thing that they need is my love, attention, and time! A weakness in our family is believing that we can do too many things for others, and forgetting that we need to say no to even good things so that we may do our first task by our own fireside. So, we need to pray that God will show us our first priorities, and then add other things as they do not take away from those.

“The family circle is the school in which the child receives its first and most enduring lessons. Hence parents should be much at home. By precept and example, they should teach their children the love and the fear of God; teach them to be intelligent, social, affectionate, to cultivate habits of industry, economy, and self-denial. By giving their children love, sympathy, and encouragement at home, parents may provide for them a safe and welcome retreat from many of the world’s temptations,” Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 65.2.

We have a high calling. We yearn for much as we think of our children and their futures! And, we have the promise that God will lead us in every endeavor. With this knowledge, let us as mothers step back a bit and let God do what He has promised He would do!

My favorite Bible text is this one:

“And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children,” Isaiah 54:13.

Be kind to yourselves, mothers, so that you can keep doing the great work that you are called to do!