Keep on keeping on

With all the trappings of Biblical Principle Approach–word studies, 4-Ring, notebooks, the Red Books, Rudiments, etc.–you can easily get overwhelmed and frustrated. Your idea of home education is not becoming reality and you find yourself tired and frustrated. What do you? Chuck it? Put the kids in school? Change to yet another curriculum? Run away from home?

Unless you are a homeschooler with steely resolve, frustrating times can make you question you methods, your philosophy and–on a bad day–maybe even your sanity. When homeschool life is hard here are some things to  help keep you going.

  • Pray and ask God to help you. The Holy Spirit is always available to listen.
  • Realize this is temporary. This crisis, this illness, this life itself is temporary. Don’t lose sight of the transient nature of life.
  •  Use a lifeline. Call a friend. Read your Bible. Take a hot bath. Take the school day off. Do something that re-energizes you.
  • Take school slow. Slow down. Find a rabbit trail, put your lessons on hold for a few days while you learn about something interesting and unexpected.
  •  Just cover the basics. Don’t try to do more until you can do more. Your kids won’t suffer.
  •  Write down your philosophy of education, any scriptures that you feel apply to your schooling and any inspiring quotes. Put them in a nice book and use it to encourage yourself. When times are hard, pull out that book and remind yourself why you are doing this.
  • Keep a journal. It is great to vent your frustrations, question things and just plain old talk to yourself. It’s also a great place to encourage yourself and to keep record of life’s little successes.
  • Take stock. Review some past work and see how far you really have come. It will jog your memory to character issues that have resolved or funny things that happened.
  • Let your kids teach you. Put them in the hot seat and let them show you what they have learned. That will be good for a laugh or two and you may be surprised at how knowledgeable they really are.
  • Reach out to encourage another mom. So many times when I am down I will call or write another mom and it lifts me up as well.

The other side of the encouragement coin

In my post on the encouragement addiction I tried to make the case that sometimes we can be a little too quick to let others be our Holy Spirit, seeking validation and affirmation from others when we should be looking to the Lord. I stand by my argument but I want to add something.

There is a place, not for empty platitudes, but for true encouragement. It is right and scriptural and compassionate. Who, while traveling the often difficult road of life, would not stop to comfort and strengthen a struggling soul along the way? Sometimes our dry and thirsty hearts long for the refreshing touch of another person.We may understand the idea that God is with us but sometimes we need a tangible sense of His presence in the form of a hug or an encouraging word.

A word spoken in season can be like a gentle rain, softening the ground for God’s Word to sprout forth. And hopefully this little sprout will become a tree of Life, offering fruit of the Spirit to another weary traveler on life’s highway. This is the Power of One, this life-giving relay race that depends on the generous love of one person for another.

Never think for a moment that someone may not need your kind words. You could be the difference in a bad day and a good day, between frustration with life and a little peace. Be liberal with your kindness and stingy with your criticism and you will be surprised how even your own burden has become a little lighter.

The encouragement addiction

As a home educating mom with a few years under my belt I’ve been around the block a few times. And in the way of home education resources there aren’t too many things I haven’t read or seen out there. When I feel I am struggling with a situation in my little homeschool I’m glad I know where to go to find some instant (or at least pretty quick) answers. After many years of this it got me thinking. I’m not so sure this is a good thing.

When writing to a friend a few months ago I asked a question in passing that has haunted me ever since: why are home educators in need of so much encouragement? We are probably the only segment of the American population that has so many resources and materials devoted to making us comfortable with our choices. Who else gets constant reassurance that they are okay, that they are doing the right thing, using the right materials, doing it the right way? Don’t get me wrong we all need encouragement. It’s scriptural to encourage one another, but I think it has replaced faith to some degree.

Why am I so reluctant to trade my life of faith for the quick affirmations of well-meaning friends? Why do I look to those around me for answers and not to God Who has all wisdom?  I shortchange myself with a quick satisfaction and once again deny myself the contentment of God’s answers in God’s time. Instead of laying my worries and concerns at His feet I pick up a magazine or visit a web site for a dose of peace. But it never lasts for long and I’m right back where I started.

So the cycle goes on and on. We feel the need for constant intermittent encouragement to satisfy the doubts and fears. This we pass on to our children without realizing it. Now we may be training another generation to require the same reassurances. They are not left with questions to wrestle or self-esteem in doubt. Soothing words flow in a stream of consciousness we probably don’t even realize we are perpetuating.

We should look for encouragement to God’s Word. In difficult times David encouraged himself in the Lord (1 Sam. 30:6, Ps. 42:11). Jude admonished his readers to build themselves up in their most holy faith through prayer (Jude 20). Today’s Christians who are persecuted and languish in prison rely on their scripture memory and their faith to encourage themselves through perilous circumstances. Encouragement has its place, but I want to lean on the Lord and take the pressure off my friends. They are not my Holy Spirit and I never want to put them in such a place.

In closing, if I may offer you a bit of encouragement inspiration, I leave you with my new favorite song, by Sara Groves. And the lyrics to another song that I think fits this post.

You are my strength

Strength like no other

Strength like no other

Reaches to me

You are my hope

Hope like no other

Hope like no other

Reaches to me

In the fullness of Your grace

In the power of Your Name

You lift me up

You lift me up

Unfailing love

Stronger than mountains

Deeper than oceans

Reaches to me

Your love O Lord

Reaches to the heavens

Your faithfulness

Reaches to the skies

My place in God’s symphony

I love the violin. And the cello. Especially if I can hear them together. Nothing warms my heart like a well-trained musician playing a beautiful melody. All the strings tuned and in their places, singing out the tones that they were designed to make. Each string is made to do its own thing and do it well. If you were to tune the low string to the high note it would break, and the high notes would go limp in the low string’s spot.

Some people are really busy and seem to make it function well. Some might call them “high strung” but maybe they just resonate at a higher frequency. Thriving on activity and a full schedule, they usually get more attention and are a bit busier on the musical staff than the lower notes. This is natural for the human ear to hear.

Others prefer a slower pace and folks may label them “quaint” or just behind the times. Maybe they are simply the bass notes of our society, laying the foundation that grounds the higher strings. Slow and melodic, they bring richness and depth so important to a composition.

Separately these make lovely melodies but when you put these together they complete the harmony. We need to find the tone God has designed us to make. There may be some sour notes as we find our way to that perfect pitch, and even when we do we may slip a bit off pitch. But the more we submit to the Master’s touch the more we will find, like a fine instrument, we are making our own sweet song to the Lord, happy in our place and resonating with joy.

At his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord. 

Ps. 27:6b KJV

Comfy shoes

Chicks like me love buying new shoes. They are cute and perfect with that certain outfit. The only problem is breaking them in. I don’t care how much I pay for shoes, the cuter they are the more they must be “broken in” to be anything less than a torture tactic.

Funny how homeschooling can be like that. You have a new method you are trying out and it is just uncomfortable, bunching and squeezing and generally uncomfortable-making. This isn’t so bad, if you stick with it through the breaking in time.

Constantly changing plans and methods can be a lot like new shoes. Always trying some new thing new gets old. Nothing is comfy, familiar, certain. You are always chafing from the rub. You stumble because you aren’t used to them. They are a generic size so they don’t fit well.

If you never push past the breaking in you never get to the comfy stage, where your shoes have formed to the shape of your foot. They move from once-in-while-shoes to your “go to” shoes. They may not be the prettiest in your closet but they are your favorite because they feel so good. It’s like cosy sunshine for your feet.

This time of year it is tempting to make big changes, try new things. But the cost can be high to chuck your methods and always start something new. New is often not better, especially when kids are involved. They rely on the comfort of routine.

Homeschool shoes are not really made for outer beauty, but for use—to carry the Gospel, to help a friend in need, to lead the way for others. Vanity is a poor reason for choosing a shoe. We all have shoes in our closet that we just had to have but they were not meant for the “real world.” Either we wear them and smile through the pain or we never wear them. Either way they were a bad investment.

I encourage you to think twice about tossing out that pair of comfy shoes. I bet they have a lot of life left in them. Maybe they just need new soles or a little patch. Maybe a good shine is all they need to breathe new life into them. God has the perfect pair just for you. They will help you (and your children) run the race and finish with joy.

Artful Maundy Monday Oct 27

I know, it’s up a little late. My hubbie is out of town on business and I’m surprised how much his absence throws us off. We are really a team and I miss him when he’s not here. That said, let’s dive into our quote this week:

It seems to me that the marks of personality–love, communication, and moral sensitivity–which are meant to sharpen as we are returning to communication with God, should lead to an increased rather than decreased creativity. The Christian should have more vividly expressed creativity in his daily life, and have more creative freedom, as well as the possibility of a continuing development in creative activities.

–Edith Schaeffer, The Hidden Art of Homemaking

I must say that I love that book, but that is another discussion. I totally agree that as Christians, looking more like Christ includes increased creativity. It can’t be helped. It always makes me sad to hear Christians downplay their talents and dismiss the idea that they possess any creativity. It’s dismissing a part of you when you deny your creative self. Enjoy exploring your creative side. Take some risks. Ask the Holy Spirit for some inspiration and get out there and create something!

Artful Maundy Monday Oct 20

A sincere artist is not one who makes a faithful attempt to put on to canvas what is in front of him, but one who tries to create something which is, in itself, a living thing.

William Dobell

I agree whole heartedly with Mr. Dobell. Even though we use different media, the principle is the same. As a Christian I strive for life in all my work because God is alive and I want Him to be in all of it. He created life, all living things. I strive, as I become more like Him, to also create things with His life. A book, a collage canvas, a clay pot are inanimate objects but when we allow God to participate in our work then it takes on a whole new dimension of life that other artists could not duplicate, not because we are great artists but because we collaborate with the Greatest Artist.

And He is not necessarily looking for me to recreate His creation, but for me to find my own interpretation of His handiwork. I love the impressionist masters’ abilities to look out on a landscape and see a whole other world of color, texture and design. I think that sort of individual voice makes God very happy.

For me this takes the pressure off. I am free to be me, using the perspective that God gave me. Together we can create living works that glorify Him on many levels.

Luther on motherhood

Our natural reason looks at marriage and turns up its nose and says, “Alas! Must I rock the baby? wash its diapers? make its bed? smell its stench? stay at nights with it? take care of it when it cries? heal its rashes and sores? and on top of that care for my spouse, provide labor at my trade, take care of this and take care of that? do this and do that? and endure this and endure that? Why should I make such a prisoner of myself?”What then does Christian faith say to this? It opens its eyes, looks upon all these insignificant, distasteful and despised duties in the spirit, and is aware that they are all adorned with divine approval as with the costliest gold and jewels.

Its says, “O God, I confess I am not worthy to rock that little babe or wash its diapers, or to be entrusted with the care of a child and its mother. How is it that I without any merit have come to this distinction of being certain that I am serving thy creature and thy most precious will? Oh, how gladly will I do so. Though the duty should be even more insignificant and despised, neither frost nor heat, neither drudgery nor labor will distress me for I am certain that it is thus pleasing in thy sight.”

Hope for the guilty heart

It’s so easy as a home educator to “feel guilty.” There’s no shortage of stuff to feel guilty about concerning our kids (whether the guilt is deserved or not): too much free time, not enough social time with friends, not enough rigorous academics, too much sugar, too late getting to bed, too little spiritual discussion/application, too little fun and games, too much yelling…

The Holy Spirit reminded me of a scripture today and I wanted to share it here, just in case a reader may struggle with feelings of guilt and/or condemnation.

18 My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. 19 This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality.20 It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves. 21 And friends, once that’s taken care of and we’re no longer accusing or condemning ourselves, we’re bold and free before God! 22 We’re able to stretch our hands out and receive what we asked for because we’re doing what he said, doing what pleases him.                  1 John 3:18-22 The Message

It is so comforting to know that God knows our hearts (Jer 17:9, 10) and He is greater. With God’s grace we can be free of guilt, whether it is appropriate or not. Guilt keeps us focused on ourselves. Self-criticism keeps us swirling in our own thoughts and actions. Our worried hearts keep us from resting, physically and mentally.

What is the key to freedom from guilt? L-O-V-E. This passage says to practice real love and that it will “shut down debilitating self-criticism.” Mature love (God’s kind of love) is the key to many things, like:

freedom from fear–

There is no fear in love [dread does not exist], but full-grown (complete, perfect) love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror!        1 John 4:18 AMP

stability–

17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.             Eph. 3:17-19 KJV
God is love (1 Jn 4:8). All you need is wrapped up in Him (Eph 1:23). He sent Jesus to us (John 3:16) and He continues to love us as He always has (Eph 2:4-8).

So we are free from guilt because of the work of Christ. If He, as the only one who has a right, does not condemn us, we should not do so ourselves (Rom 8:31-34). Rom 8:31-39 is blessed confirmation of God’s commitment to love us:

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Rejoice that you are set free, even from your own worried, self-criticising heart. Nothing you have done, or have yet to do, can separate you from Him and His love, His love that covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). Now you can walk free in boldness and get busy living for Christ. Praise God!

The sisterhood of motherhood

Today I had a lovely luncheon with the mothers in my family. The invited them over for a yummy lunch and we had a wonderful time. As I sat around the table with my mom, grandmother, mother-in-law and sister-in-law I had to smile.

We are all unique women. My sister-in-law is Hispanic. My grandmother is 87 and from a very different generation. My mother-in-law only had one child. My mother is a widow. If we were not related our paths may never have crossed. But with all our differences we share a most common bond–motherhood.

For Mother’s Day this year I wanted to cook for my family, as it is one way I express love. Our table was decorated with flowers, candles and other girly things, punctuated with construction paper cards for all from my kids. And there were little expressions of love all around, including glycerine soap and brass bookmarks. Through three courses we laughed and reminisced as we shared tales of our mothering experiences. There were stories of children and all that raising children entails. The day was simply wonderful. (A lunch at home beats a crazy mother’s day restaurant meal any day!)

It was nice to remind myself that all moms everywhere understand the language of motherhood. It is a language of hope, of compassion and of angst. It is bittersweet to raise up children to not be dependent on you anymore. But as moms we are all on some point in this path and it’s nice to reach out a hand from time to time and share the journey.