Monday, February 27, 2012

This crazy call of homeschooling

It is another Monday morning.  The house is quiet.  The kids are still sleeping.  I sit at my kitchen table with a small remnant of coffee left in my cup as I linger here after my quiet time.  Out the window I look to see the sunrise, but instead see the incoming rain clouds.  Inside the warmth of my house this makes me think of the proverbial calm before the storm.

We are in our second year of homeschooling our two youngest children, Hunter and Hope.  In a short while I will be at this same kitchen table (full of scratches and scuff marks from books and pencils being slid across it) trying my best to teach a kindergartner how to read and a 6th grader how to compare fractions by converting them to decimal form.  I will do my best to lovingly teach them about grace and patience, mostly by trying to live it out with them daily.  And, I will often fail.

Don't get me wrong, we have some great moments of accomplishment. 

And then we have some moments of just, well, yuck. 

Raised voices, bickering kids, an eleven year-old's frustrations over those fractions, or a five year old voicing a concern over a silent 'e'.  Hope explained it this way to me: "Why in world did someone think it was smart to put a silent 'e' on the end of a word to make an 'a' make its sound it should already make!  That 'a' has too many sounds.  It should only get one!  Aaannnnd, that's not fair that the 'e' doesn't get to say anything in that word!"  I tend to agree with Hope on this one, especially when you are the one trying to defend the silent 'e'. 

Then there are the even harder days where the teacher is the one lacking motivation.  There are times where I start to allow Satan to creep his crafty thoughts into my head.  Thoughts like, "I would have so much free time if the kids were enrolled in public school.  I could get soooo much done.  I would be such a better friend.  I would have the house clean.  I wouldn't be doing my work at 6 am in the morning. I...I....I...."  And that is the hardest lesson of all in this homeschooling journey for me ~ it's not about me.

It's not about me.  It is about God and the journey that He has called our family on. It has always been about Him.  This is definitely not something I ever thought we would be doing a mere two years ago. We didn't even know of anyone that homeschooled their children two years ago. But, little by little, God has been faithful to provide families for moral support and a community of pioneers that have gone before us if we need help in the future to teach the "hard stuff" if we get stuck.  Or I should say, when I get stuck.  I know that Chemistry is going to eat my lunch! It is about me sharing a Bible story with the kids prepared to answer their questions, and walking away from it with me being the one challenged or encouraged by the Word.  It is about me growing in Him and learning dependence on Him in a way I never even knew I needed.  It is about our kids watching us prevail and fail and how, either way, the journey makes us press that much more into our mighty Creator.  The One that knows what we need and how we need it, well before we do.

And that may come in the form of an unexpected surrender to a crazy call...oh, maybe like...homeschooling. 

So, I humbly say...Thank you Jesus for the scratches and scuff marks in my table.  Thank you Jesus for the scratches and scuff marks in my life.

One day at a time. One storm at a time. One Monday morning at a time.

Bring on the storm!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

To See, To Serve, To Feel

"What do you want to do in light of what you've learned?"

This is a question on the last page of the Beth Moore study I have just completed on the book and life of James in the Bible (James:Mercy Triumphs).  What do I want to do in light of what I've learned?  The answer I wrote to that question was this:


I want the eyes of God, the hands of Christ, and the heartbeat of the Holy Spirit.

I want to see the broken and the poor the way God sees them.  As His beautiful children. I want to really see the needs of people that I simply drive or walk by every single day too busy and caught up in my own life to take the time to really look at them. I simply say, "Hi!  How are you today?" knowing full well that I will smile, make small talk, and possibly even move toward the door while talking because I am more worried about what I have to do next. Really? What is more important than the child of God that has been placed in front of me in that moment?  I am ashamed.

I want to serve the way Jesus, our Lord in flesh, served. He fed the poor, held the meek, comforted the broken, encouraged the downcast, touched the leper, and even washed the feet of his friends.  And yet, I have a hard time even thinking of getting out of my comfortable home to work in a comfortable ministry building on a Saturday morning to help feed the poor in my community.  I am lazy.

I want to grieve, rejoice, and delight in the things that grieve, rejoice, and delight the Holy Spirit.  I desperately want to be broken over the afflicted of the world to the point that it will make me take action in His name, all for His Glory.  I want to be so overflowing with gratitude in the Lord's triumphs that I sing and dance in freedom of His Goodness.  I want to be so in tune to the desires of His heart that I unmistakeably  hear, and  more importantly follow through on, His promptings to take part in the plans that have already been set out before me.  But, a lot of times, I am instead selfish.

These are all the things I want to do in light of what I learned from James, the half-brother of Jesus.  But, I can do none of these things.  However, my Lord can.

God, my Creator, can transform me to see the way He sees.

Jesus, my Savior, can teach me by his example to serve the way He serves.

Holy Spirit, my Comforter and Intercessor, can guide me by His promptings.

Thank you James for reminding me of the necessary "rubber meets the road" moments.  Thank you James for challenging me to pray hard, transforming prayers.  Thank you James for your devotion to our Savior and in turn, your example to me.  Thank you James, for encouraging me.  Thank you James for reminding me that although I may be ashamed, lazy, and selfish...most importantly...

I am forgiven.

Lord, continue to break me. Humble me. Use me. All for your Glory.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

86,400 Moments

Every morning. Tick. Tick. Tick.  A little rhythm I hear as I rise each day by the seemingly small clock next to my bathroom sink.  Tick. Tick.  It's a subconscious reminder that a new day has begun.  Minute by minute. Second by second.

I have 86,400 seconds every single day to either use or waste, depending on the day and the perspective.
Tick. Time is so fleeting.  

However, as I woke this morning, there was just silence.  The seemingly insignificant little clock next to my sink was silent.  No sound. No rhythmical reminder that a new day is upon me.

As I woke from my sleepy fog and it began to register that something was quiet, too quiet, it took me aback to realize that something so seemingly small took me by such big surprise. The silence. It was almost uncomfortable.  I had this overwhelming desire to have to quickly make my way to the laundry room for a new, refreshed AA battery to replace the cavity holding the worn out, dead one.  There.  There it was again. Tick. Tick. Tick.  Steady.  Familiar.  Safe.

As I started to walk away from this small keeper-of-time, I began to realize how deeply I am desiring reminders of being alive at this point in my life!  Maybe it is my age.  I embraced 40 last year and as time keeps flying by I am reminded more and more of the words of James, Jesus' half-brother:

What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (James 4:14)

And the words of Job as he cried out in his afflictions:

Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath. (Job 7:7a)

Yes, the older I get, the more I realize these truths, and the more I crave to find ways to make time stand still.  This is probably why I am loving my newest interest and hobby of photography.  I can capture a moment and truly time can stand still.  For one second.  It is completely captured. One second, out of 86,400 in a day.  Or even better, one second out of 31,556,926 in a year.  Wow. Overwhelming. Overwhelming in good ways, and challenging ones.

Don't get me wrong, I am truly loving the age I am and the place God has me.  I am old enough to know better, and learned from the years where I didn't.  I love more freely because I am learning to embrace not caring as much what people think and working hard to value first the opinion of my Creator. I have lived long enough to know that I have to appreciate each moment.  Because they are gone, in a moment.  Each laugh. Each triumph.  Each challenge.  Each tear.  To appreciate each moment.  It is learned.

So, as time marches on, to the rhythm of a tick, tick, tick, I will rejoice in the moments.  I will choose to capture and freeze as many I can. I will choose to look forward to the next one.  I will choose to embrace the rhythm of the clock.  I will choose to rest in the very next verse in James (4:15):

Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."

Let's see what the Lord has for our next 86,400 moments...tick, tick, tick. Lord willing... 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

God's grace flows to open hands

Closed-fisted.  This is my general approach to life.  I enter each day tightly grasping on to the things I know.  The things I love.  The things I have.  All of these things only allowed to be mine by the grace of a loving God. And even then, never really mine at all.

This has been learned over 17 years of being a Christian.  And I am a slow learner. The older I get, the more I watch my younger children and long for the ability to rejoice in simple, untainted, faith. The kind of faith that has them pray with their hands open wide.  Open to blessings they believe in faith will be there.  They haven't yet been weathered by the storms.  Storms of broken families, broken people, and a broken world.

The storms.  They are there.  They come. Satan laughs in triumph when I close my fists and cling to what I have because I want to hang on to the little bit of good in today for fear of the storm of tomorrow. The Truths of scripture tell me better. But I still choose to keep my fists closed.  In pride.  I can do this. I can fix this.  I can control this.

I can't. So simple.  But so freeing.

I was talking to a friend this week and we were praying through some struggles in our lives. Struggles so familiar to us both.  And familiar to others I have spoken with.  It was freeing to be honest.  Honest about how insecure I am.  Honest about how much time I waste in this precious life worrying about what other people think.  Honest about the truth of this quote:

"If I focus on humility, I look inward to assess if I'm sufficiently humble, and in the very act, humility darts and I'm proud, self-focused.  It doesn't work." ~ Ann Voskamp

It is a struggle.  Pride.  Pride in self-sufficiency.  Pride in family.  Pride in talents. Just stupid pride. Where is the balance?  Where is the line drawn?

How do you find the difference in rejoicing in thankfulness for the provision the LORD has provided and not on your own means to provide? How do you rejoice in gratitude over the gift of family the LORD has given you without making your spouse, children or grandchildren idols?  How do you use your God-given talents for His glory in humility without it becoming a stumbling block for yourself?

I can't.  But the gift of daily grace for me can.  Thank you Lord for the gift of a new day.  Thank you for your mercy!

The faithful love of the LORD never ends! 
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning. ~ Lamentations 3:22-23

Thank you Jesus for your good and perfect gifts.  Thank you Jesus for the gift of children that can so vividly remind me how to love freely, laugh often, and pray in faith.  Thank you Jesus for the gifts you've given me (and every believer) that are to be used for your glory alone.  Thank you Jesus for conviction of heart, whether that comes from a small, sweet prompting or the spiteful words of another. I will choose to give you glory. All of this will break me to come to you and beg for humility of spirit.  Praise You for open hands!

You Alone are Good.


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Darkness to Hope

Ever since I allowed myself to write a few days ago, I have been extremely weepy.  I have cried more the last few days than I have in 8 months.  I am crying at everything.  Happy tears. Sad tears.  Just because tears, which are maybe really cleansing tears.  I am realizing I am feeling again.  I think in a lot of areas I had been going through the motions of life for a while now, and didn't even realize it.  As I have been reflecting these last few days and allowing myself to embrace what it feels like to be emotionally raw, I have been shown scriptures that have to do with remembering.  God remembering his covenant with Noah through the symbol of a rainbow (Genesis 9:15). God commanding his people to "Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm." (Deuteronomy 5:15)  And as I've been reading this, I feel God calling me to do some remembering of my own.

There was another time in my life that was marked by a darkness.  It began shortly after the birth of our second son in 2000. I was completely blessed with two step-daughters that I gladly claimed as my own (the oldest lived with us), our seven year old son, and now our newborn baby boy.  We made the choice for me to have a tubal ligation during my last cesarean.  Our family was complete.  

However, within a month of having this sweet, baby boy my heart began to ache.  Truly ache for a little girl we would never have as husband and wife.  It became a completely frustrating situation.  I could not even begin to guess how many conversations I had initiated with my husband over that six year time frame about "never having a little girl" and all the things I would "never" do that ended up with me in tears.  He would just simply say with the saddest look in his eyes for me, "I'm sorry."  And that is where it would end.  It had to end there.  There were no options.  God, please just make this go away.  I am so selfish.

But, this feeling didn't go away.  And the more I prayed for God to relieve me of this overwhelming desire, the more suppressing it felt. I lived in a private world of complete heartache and isolation that I could not explain.  I didn't think I could share my emotions with anyone that I mourned the loss of a little girl that I never had.  Even the thought of it sounded ridiculous.  I was blessed with four children through marriage and births, and yet I was having nightmares about empty pink cribs. There were three different times over those years that I walked into the local grocery store only to leave a full basket of groceries and walk out in tears because I had been so overwhelmed by watching a mom push a little brown-haired girl in a cart while they giggled and smiled.  This same image was a frequent of my dreams at night.  It was always a brown-haired little girl. I could never see her face in my dreams, but I could always see that she had long brown hair, sometimes pulled up, and sometimes I would hear the sweetest, most infectious giggle as she threw her head back in joyous abandon while I smiled.  They felt so real. 

Then, finally. An answer, or so I thought. I had to have a complete hysterectomy in March of 2005. Relief and rest in knowing that the thoughts in the back of my mind to ask my husband to support me in a tubal reversal were gone.  No turning back now.  Right?  Wrong.  Again, the darkness quickly came back. 

I was so selfish. I had friends dealing with infertility, so what right at all did I have to desire more? What was wrong with me? Weren't my boys enough? That was the question I feared the most. I struggled to put into audible words what I was feeling for fear of this single question. Why weren't they enough?  

However, one moment can change everything. I hit a point where I could not breathe.  I finally cried out to my husband on that summer day in August of 2006 and through gasps for air and a flood of tears, I said out loud what I had been burdening alone for six years. I read him my journal entry from that day.  I don't think at first he knew what to do with me, let alone with what I was saying. I just knew I was to a point that he had to make it better.  He had to make me better.  He had to help me get out of this pain I had been carrying around in secret.  Even though I feared all of this probably made no sense to him at all, he had to do something.

He did.  God had prepared my precious husband's heart for this moment.  He stayed very calm and I could see in his eyes he understood.  He processed my cry for help for barely a moment, and then looked right at me and stated with the confidence and clarity that I so desperately needed, "We need to adopt a little girl." Wow.  Why had I not thought of that? That is honestly what I thought.  I am sure partly I thought this because in fourteen years of marriage, we had never talked about adoption, at least not for us.  Through all of the years of desolate heartache, I never allowed myself to think that we could adopt.  Why would I?  It made no sense with four kids (couples adopt that couldn't have children), where would the money come from (we already supported four kids), and we are older (at the time my sweet husband had barely turned 42 and our oldest daughter was married).  It didn't make sense.  But it did.  To God it did.  To God it always did.

You see, in that moment, God allowed a new journey to begin to overcome my darkness.  One that my husband, not me, would lead.  One that showed me in an instant how God had required me to carry an unrelenting burden for a little girl I did not know to force us to do something to "make me better" which in turn would lead us to her.  One that showed me that it was NEVER about my boys not being ENOUGH, but it was ALWAYS about the fact that our family really wasn't yet COMPLETE.  

Praise God for never forgetting us, and being willing to always remind us to remember Him. Always. In all things. Even the darkness.

And so, our journey to overcome this darkness began on August 19, 2006.  Little did we know at that time that our daughter was about to turn four months old.  

What a blessing it is to remember a journey from darkness to Hope...

PS~This is a re-post shared on Ann Voskamp's site A Holy Experience for Walk with Him Wednesdays.  Please join her and others for encouragement to find Joy during times of suffering.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Too long

My 5 year-old's reading lesson this week includes three new sight, too, and two.  She understood the concept of two (the number) and to (in the direction of) pretty quickly.  It took a bit more to understand the word too.  Too - also or very.  As I was trying to give her examples of how to correctly use this word, I kept coming back to "too long" as in, "it has been too long since ____" and she would fill in the blank.  Later that evening, my mind kept coming back to that phrase.

It has been too long.  Too long for many things.  Too long since I have allowed myself the freedom to write in the quiet moments.  Too long since I have slowed down enough to appreciate the gray that is being added to mine and my husband's hair that represent wonderful years together.  Too long since I have sat back and just listened with contentment to my children laughing.  It has been too long since I have eagerly embraced whatever it is the Lord may be doing, knowing full well that we should count it all joy.  It has been too long since I have counted it all joy.

It has been almost a year since our family began a journey of new ministry, adoption, and surrender to whatever the Lord had planned on those journeys...with great excitement!  However, just because you seek hard after the Lord and follow Him, doesn't mean you are going to end up in the place you thought He was leading.  Excitement turned to heartache, overwhelming sadness, and a brokenness unlike anything experienced before in my life.  For too long there was a darkness over our home due to a failed adoption of a sibling group.  Friends and family did not know what to do with us during this time we now just simply call the "darkness."  So, instead of saying the wrong thing, they just didn't say anything at all.  We felt abandoned.  They felt abandoned.  Guilt is heavy. You get up every day and put one foot in front of the other because you have to not because you want to.  Darkness is thick.  Isolation results.  But then, in a moment where you feel your next breath just might not come, something happens.  Something stirs.  It comes in a whispered prayer from your broken husband late at night.  I didn't want to hear it because in that moment, months later, I realized I was mad.  At family.  At friends.  At God.  But, God loves me.  A God who won't relent.  Thank God.

After that late night prayer, for the first time in months, I reach for the Word.  This was my gift God gave me in that moment.  I reached for my phone on the bedside table as I begged God to let me know He had not forgotten me and saw me in my darkness.  I pushed a bible ap and the random reading for the day shows.  This is what it read (highlighted in yellow on my phone!) I am worn out from my groaning.  All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.  Psalm 6:6

God heard my prayer.  God had not forgotten me.  God saw me.  Even though it had been too long since I had trusted Him as the Sovereign God he is.  As I awoke the next morning, for the first time in months, I knelt beside my bed and prayed out to Him.  I could hear the pages of my bible turning on their own by the force of the fan while I talked to Jesus.  When I finished praying, in the middle of the page, already highlighted in my familiar worn yellow, were these verses - "But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.  I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me." Psalm 13:5-6  Restoration is such a beautiful, overwhelming thing.

God is Sovereign.  He can do what he wants in the way he chooses to do it.  But, it is all good.  It is all right.  It is all for our best.  It is all because He loves us so very much.  I am so incredibly humbled that the God who created the universe loves me enough to speak to me in my darkness even when it had been too long since my heart had been open to Him. 

Praise God that He doesn't consider it EVER too long.