Friday, December 1, 2017

the image of homeschool vs. the reality.

The day had been hard. not like lowercase hard, but like uppercase HARD.  Attitudes sank all my best efforts teaching school, long division wrapped it's nasty tentacles around all of us and pulled us under. Long division for one kid, working on verbs for another... present, past and past participle.  The 3rd wants to go play football in the yard and totally ditch all book work. Mix that with a 3 year old who very much wants to test all boundaries... he is pushing hard for his own way and upon sitting down for dinner after a pretty exhausting day declares "That looks nasty, I'm not eating that"  Oh my.  Why the constant battle? Am I alone here? I don't think I am, but I think sometimes we make the wrong assumption that we are the only ones struggling- or that everyone else has it all figured out or can pull it all off in an effortless way. 

If you picture us merrily singing songs around our table doing school work peacefully in a clean organized home, me with a smile on my face, hair that is actually brushed and generally just having it all together...the boys sitting next to me nicely, totally enthralled with everything I'm teaching them, absolutely LOVING learning,   let me just break that little bubble of lies.  My real-life isn't like that.  Homeschooling is pretty grueling, and although I start everyday before even crawling out of bed or having coffee, literally giving my day to God, asking Him to bless our work, our home and our family... it isn't smooth sailing. Before breakfast ends there is usually spilled milk, someone doesn't like the sogginess of frosted flakes, someone is picking on someone else about something minor, that hits a nerve in some major overreacting way.  Someone needs help finding a pencil, a toothbrush or the cat food. Someone wants to wear shorts even though it's chilly in the house, someone wants their favorite shirt but it's currently on day 4 in the washer, technically having gone through the wash cycle but the familiar smell of mildew is overpowering even the strongest scent detergent from a few days prior. Get the real-life picture.  it's not glamorous. 

We plow our way along through chore lists and devotions.  My prayer being that God would be present in this mess and this chaos, because at the heart of things we really are trying to honor Him in what we are doing.  It isn't pretty, it isn't perfect or even close to perfect, but it certainly IS an act of service.  We teach, and study and laugh and honestly sometimes cry.  But when the subjects get marked off one by one, we learn and we grow and we bond more than we probably realize.  I love having all four of them home... Not that everyday I literally love it... somedays I hate it, but when all is said and done I'm grateful for this opportunity, because in the middle of tears and joy we aren't just growing in knowledge that comes from textbooks but I, for real, have a front row seat to watching these little men grow in their knowledge of the Lord and in their relationships with Him.  I have had the privilege to hear the word sounded out after trying and trying and trying to read it.  I have had the privilege to see a heart of true repentance over an attitude, or some other sin struggle.  I have been humbled to ask their forgiveness over my own attitude. I've answered questions through a Biblical worldview during every single subject studied and I know that is laying for them a foundation to continue building on. (that's the big picture goal that honestly fuels my desire to keep at this- it makes my heart soar to think I am give them a Biblical view of science & history?!) This is raw, and ugly and beautiful and glorious all wrapped up and I get to be part of this.  God has asked me to teach my boys, my husband has entrusted this HUGE job to me, and the boys have walked this road with me day after day, year after year.  Looking back it is the hardest, awesomest thing we've ever taken on!  It thrills me!  It overwhelms me and has taught me in such authentic rubber hits the road ways how God truly is our strength for what our days hold.  Not just knowing that in my mind, but knowing it because I've experienced it!

I think I have just a little glimpse of God's love for us, His children, in a better focused way because just like I choose to spend the messy, hard, exhausting days with my kiddos. He wants to be present with us through life's journeys too.  He loves us, and isn't trying to ditch us, pass us off or ignore our temper tantrums over minor things that someone said to us.  He genuinely cares. He cares enough to want to do DAILY with us.  He doesn't just want special occasion events with us, He actually chooses to do the grueling right along side of us. We all know that to do daily life with someone is a whole different level than any other kind of relationship.  What happens between 4 walls and a roof is as real as real-life can be... and He longs for this kind of friendship with each of us. It is something I take forgranted, much like I take forgranted these years schooling all my boys.  

Life is a blink, a vapor... get real. Live real-life, be authentic! 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Gratitude is a choice

Holidays can bring chaos, schedules maxed out, different expectations, trying to balance and juggle and prioritize people you love.  Relate?! Pretty sure you can because this is normal!

3 intentional things I've practiced this year have helped me keep a good perspective and be able to enjoy. 

First, be on the same page with your spouse, easier said than done at times, but SO helpful when you aren't taking out stress on eachother. communicate, listen, compromise, appreciate and repeat. 

Second, be present where you are.  I know I can't do it all, be in all places, say yes to everything... so what I do put on the calendar matters to us and I will put my best into it.  Don't over book everyday if you can help it. Say no to some things so your yes to others can be better followed through with. Then be present. If I have a house full of cousins I wanna enjoy them, not be multitasking or sweeping or food prepping. Be present. Engage. Connect. 

Turn Off Your Phone

The third thing is to choose a grateful heart, you know it IS thanksgiving and all... Seems like actually being thankful can be pushed on the back burner this time of year, ironic huh? This afternoon my guys headed out for their annual hunting shack night with my dad, brother and nephews... after their blaze orange drove away I settled in with a writing prompt.  

A hot cup of coffee, a spice scented candle and a little of my fav. chocolate helped. Filling this page only took a handful of minutes, but it was really good for my soul. Seeing all these things that I DO have to be thankful for, sitting there staring back at me; Then following with some time of prayer thanking the One from whom all good things come. Now I'm ready for Thanksgiving starting at my heart, real-life and all.


Thursday, November 2, 2017

When God answers our prayers with "No"

When God says "No"

We are praying for something, earnestly. faithfully we ask God for this plan, this healing, this door to open.  We give our best effort to walk by faith, and to trust.  And as worry or anxiety seep in we keep giving it back to God and asking for peace, for direction and wisdom.  He answers those prayers, not in the way we hoped or asked... but in a firm "No".  What then?  

I think this is something we all can relate to in different ways.  Some ways are minor, some more foundational.  What does our faith do when it's shaken like that? When life feels like it's picked right up, turned upside down and shaken to the core? Where is our anchor when life is a little more real than we would like, a little more difficult, a LOT more challenging.  Even more devastating, heartbreaking, disappointing, painful.  Where is God when life is raw.  Where is He when suffering about snuffs the life right out of us?

First we need to keep in mind that the world we live in is broken.  Because we are surrounded by sin and the effects of sin, this world is never going to be the easy ride we would sometimes wish it would be.  We aren't promised a pain free life, in fact, Christians are promised the opposite.  (I know, super encouraging right?)  One of my favorite verses is John 16:33... I love the way it takes real-life and shifts the perspective to where our hope can take root.  

"These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world."

God isn't promising peace in this world-  He is promising peace in HIM. Then we are promised trouble.  He isn't trying to blind side us when life gets hard, He is preparing us for the hardship we all will face in a million different forms.  Should we be shocked, surprised or depressed when trouble comes? Not if we are prepared with the right perspective.  We can take courage, because our hope doesn't rest on this side of eternity... it rests IN eternity.  Jesus has overcome the world, and all the sin, brokenness, pain this world brings.  He holds the VICTORY!  

Secondly we need to remind ourselves that prayer doesn't make God our own personal wish granter-  but rather my prayers should be to align myself to HIS will... not the other way around.  I don't see the big picture like He does. and honestly, I don't know what is best the way He knows what is best.  Looking back at my life I am very thankful for some of the closed doors God gave me, although at the time it felt totally awful.  That door shutting sometimes stretched me more than what's comfortable.  And in those really difficult times God was nearby.  I was never abandoned the way my emotions wanted me to believe.  I was never forgotten.  His ways are not my ways, To His Glory! 

How can you use the hard things to light up darkness? How can you glorify Him with your redemption story? How can you learn and grow and root out that bitterness that is constantly tempting you to take root. These are questions worth giving some thought.  We will all face tribulation, we are promised that.  Where does our HOPE rest?  

So today, if the answer is "No"... today, take heart, because He has overcome the world!  

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Smoke Alarms and Perspective

We had a pretty normal start to our Friday, we were chipping away at the end of week school subjects. I was working on English with Ledger when I heard the smoke alarms both upstairs and downstairs go off.  My 9 year old's room was hazy and smelled of burnt plastic. I knew something wasn't okay, but I couldn't find the source of the smoke.  The breaker in that section of the house kicked off. I called my husband at work to come home, and the boys and I all exited the house to wait.  

Emergencies do something to our nerves.  I was calm and a wreck all wrapped into one.  I couldn't help but think if it had been the middle of the night, how scary that alarm would be for my boys (& me!)

Josh got home and after looking for the source found our dehumidifier overheating and was actually starting to melt. The inside was charred, and I know could have caught fire.  We are all safe. Our home is fine. No harm done other than we need to replace the appliance. 

But I'm left with all of this. The what if's. The almosts. The could have beens. The images of my boys asleep in that room.  The God who I can trust, through life's close calls, and also life's tragedies.  God isn't more loving today when the outcome was what I would have picked than He would be if the outcome was complete devastation. Because God protected us today doesn't mean we are more in His favor than the family who is suffering total loss, or heartbreaking tragedy.  God doesn't change.  He IS love in both outcomes.  Life on earth holds devastation because it is broken.   

This verse has been meaning a lot to me lately for many reasons, and today I was reminded once again how little this life here on earth guarantees. We are not promised tomorrow.  We only have right now.  

James 4:14New American Standard Bible (NASB)

14 [a]Yet you do not know [b]what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.

A life that hardly has a chance to begin and is snatched back to Glory- or the life that reaches the century mark and every single age in-between- ALL life here on earth is so tiny, so brief... Just a vapor compared to Eternity.  What will we do with that perspective? Are we confident in our eternal destination? We can be. The promises in the Bible and the free gift of Salvation through faith in Jesus' work on the cross can be the anchor of hope in a very tragedy, emergency filled life on earth. If today would have ended in my vapor of a life being over, I have complete confidence in where I would be... not one bit because of who I am, anything I've done or not done, it has nothing to do with who I know, how I spend my time or anything I could have possibly ever earned.  My Eternity is secure because Jesus offered to pay my ransom, He loved me so deeply that He wanted to rescue me. He is offering you the same! That gift, that GRACE, that place He took for me is my promise. It can be yours too- take some time to reflect on your vapor of a life... and where your hope is placed. 
It is well with my soul tonight when we are all safe, and my soul would be well if we were enduring heartbreak.  He goes before me and beside me.