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When You Think You’re Failing as a Mother

Encouragement for Moms

It had been one of those mornings.

You know the kind. The kind of the morning when the attitudes and behavior displayed by your children drive you to despair that they will ever become productive, law abiding citizens.

Yeah, that kind.

There was complaining – about everything.

There was selfishness – lots of selfishness.

There were rude comments.

Oh, and did I mention complaining?

All of these things were made exponentially worse by the fact that all 6 of my kids were in the mix. 

As we loaded the car later that morning and headed to my co-op teacher training at a local park, it was hard to muster a smile to cover the insecurity and doubt that I felt about my skills as a mother, a homeschooler and co-op teacher.

It was a beautiful day and the kids eagerly scrambled out of the car onto the playground.

I watched nervously as the other co-op teachers rambled in one by one, parking their cars and unloading their broods.

I wonder if the 8-year old will get mad and push his brother?  How long until the 5-year old begins whining?  Will my awkward tween daughter engage with the other girls her age or will she hang out on her own being – well, awkward?

One teacher’s daughter walked past noticing a mom-of-many littles struggling and offered her assistance.

I observed with gratitude another teacher’s son being kind to my difficult 8-year old. 

Some of the teachers’ older boys started a game of soccer with the younger boys.

Although I was blessed by the other teachers’ well-behaved children at the park, I also began comparing their behavior to my kids’ behavior earlier in the day and couldn’t help but feel even more discouraged.

Our tutor meeting began with light chat and laughter.  How I cherished these women!  Each talented and beautiful in their own way, we talked about how school was going and how we were looking forward to Spring right around the corner. 

We poured over our lessons for the next quarter, marking notes and sharing teaching tips gained by our years of teaching.

As we wrapped things up, one teacher’s son came over to lodge a complaint (the first one of the afternoon) against a sister who was insisting on having her own way.

Another teacher commented how her kids (the helpful one earlier in my tale) had been having issues with stubbornness.  One by one we began to share bits of our struggles with our own kids. 

One child had been on kitchen duty for 4 weeks as he stubbornly refused to do the job consistently without complaining.  I could relate to that – but 4 weeks!  That was pretty bad, yes?

I scanned the horizon, as moms at parks are prone to do, counting heads, making sure all my babes were accounted for.  I noticed my often stubborn son playing peacefully under the slides with another boy. 

My 5-year old leaned into my side, content to play with his toys quietly on the blanket.

My tween was laughing and kicking a soccer ball with the other tweens with apparent ease.  (What she may have been feeling inside is another issue!)

As we packed up to leave and the kids shouted their farewells, I smiled. 

My kids aren’t’ perfect – far from it.  But they are precious works in process – just like me.

Dear mama, if you’re fretting about your kids’ behavior, I want to encourage you that we all are!


 5 Verses of Encouragement for Moms

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13

I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-4

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Never lose heart that the consistent, daily reminders and even consequences and teaching that we give our kids will result in young people who help, who are kind, who are patient. 

 

Surviving and Thriving During Trials

 

Surviving and Thriving During Trials

I hung up the phone and looked into my husband’s expectant eyes.

“She’s not coming.” I whispered.

He sighed with unspoken understanding and continued with what ever task he was attending to.  I can’t remember what it was.

My heart ached and tears threatened, but taking a deep breath, I continued to wrap the multitudes of gifts piled high on the floor in front of me.

Our adult daughter would not be joining us for the holidays.  The reason why is a long story, but suffice to say that it made this mama want to cry.

My husband and I have been walking down this parenting a prodigal path for some time now and although there are days when my heart aches and I want to cry (and do!) we have learned so much about the faithfulness of God.

If you’re going through a season of trial like us, I have few words of hope for you.  And if you’re not going through trying times now, bookmark this page because it’s probably around the corner.

“Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”  2 Timothy 3:12

Surviving and Thriving During Trials

Don’t Hide:  It’s kind of sad to say that, as Christians, we fear the judgement of other Christians.  Honestly though, God created the church for just such a time as this.  Prayerfully consider who to invite into your prayer circle.  We wrestle not against flesh and blood.  We need corporate prayer!

Don’t Make it About You:  It’s easy to fall into the trap of self-centeredness, focusing on our own pain and suffering.  There is a time for that to be sure, but ultimately a focus on self isn’t the answer.  It’s not about you!  God allows difficulties in our lives to refine us, right?  Allow God to work in you and share that with others!  There is a sweet peace in glorifying God through trials.

Don’t Seek Worldly Wisdom:  Although there is much wisdom in godly counsel from pastors, family and friends, ultimately it is God who holds the answers for your unique situation.  Remember, God is not surprised by anything that you are going through.  He wants to guide you and has an unending supply of wisdom for all who ask.

Don’t Ask Why:  While you’re seeking God’s wisdom for your situation, try asking God ‘What?’ rather than ‘Why?’.  Ask God what it is that He is trying to teach you and your family.  Likely, the ‘why’ to your situation is beyond your understanding any way.  Rest, knowing that God is working this all for the good and seek to grow through your situation.

Don’t Give Up:  This is not an easy path, Sweet Mama. There have been times that I’ve been angry with God, arrogantly rejecting His peace and demanding change.  Boy, am I thankful for grace!  Don’t give up.  God is faithful to complete the works that He began in you and your family – works that have been ordained since before time began.

When your heart feels like it will break and nothing makes sense, it can seem impossible to do as James said and ‘consider it all joy when you encounter trials’.  Be encouraged by what Paul, who was well-familiar with suffering, said in Romans 12:12, ‘rejoice in hope‘.  We can rejoice during trials because we have hope – hope in an all-powerful, all-knowing, loving God.

Won’t you trust Him today?

When Your Homeschool Year Starts Off Crazy

When Your Homeschool Year Starts Out Crazy

We started our homeschool year last week.  It went great.

For one day.

Then the crazies came to visit.  Interruptions.  Crisis.  Family stuff.  Business stuff.

Something inside me knew it was coming.  Every year it seems that something stops me from getting off to that great start that I’d dreamt of during those long uninterrupted periods of planning over the summer.

And then it happens – friends begin sharing their awesome back-to-homeschool photos and experiences on my beloved Facebook page.  This is when it starts to get ugly inside my head.

Why, after 20 years of homeschooling can’t I figure this out?  I encourage moms all summer long as a speaker at homeschool conventions!  Shame on me!  Guilt. Condemnation.  Discouragement.  I told you it was ugly.

One thing this long haul of homeschooling has taught me  is that my God is faithful.  I may be discouraged but I do not despair.  2 Corinthians 4:8  “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed but not despairing.”

I head to the bathroom – many a busy mom’s prayer closet – and pour out my heart to God.  He is the only one to go to.  Only He knows why.  There is no logical reason for my failure.  I know how to plan and organize a homeschool.  Only He has the answers for my aching heart.

As usual – I felt the Lord’s peace and presence.  There is no shame or condemnation here.

I have peace, yet there is this part of me that hurts. That is when God reminds me that the pain I’m feeling is the idol I insist on making out of my kids’ education being torn down.  God wants His best for me and my kids and that’s not going to happen if I insist on getting in the way.

Coming from a long line of highly educated people, God knew my propensity for making academics an idol.  He has blessed me with 7 kids with dyslexia to make sure that never happens.

But I still try.

I still want to teach every thing.  Teach it well.  Finish every page.  Have my kids get A’s on all the tests.

And I still want my first week of school to go well.  Is that too much to ask?

God is telling me that my homeschool is for His glory not for mine.

Honestly, looking back over my 20 years of homeschooling, I see so clearly that God has removed my signature from the lives of my kids.  Sure I’ve loved them and fed them and done my best to faithfully shepherd them alongside my husband, but their successes are nothing about me – nothing but evidence of God’s amazing grace.

Every year I try to pick up the reigns again and make homeschooling and parenting about me – about what I can give and do and create out of these kids.

But, however much I want to be in control:

It is God that knitted them together in my womb. (Psalm 149)

God who has created them with purpose – since before the foundation of the world.  (2 Timothy 1:8-9)

It is God that causes them to will and to work for His purposes. (Philippians 2:13)

Freshly humbled, I am able, once again, to let go of my grip and let my ideals, my plans and my purposes go.

It’s a little scary and exciting all at once.  Shouldn’t that be how it is when we walk with the living God?

If you are struggling with the back to school crazies, may I encourage you with the encouragement that I myself have received?

The baby is the lesson.  Most of my homeschooling days have been filled with babies and toddlers in arms and under foot.  Even though my youngest is now five and a very enjoyable, mostly rational young fellow – I have grandkids!  When the babies and toddlers are distracting you from your plans, remember that the baby is the lesson.  Relax and enjoy them and show your older kids (who could otherwise be doing Math or English) that babies are a treasure.  Show them how to love and enjoy that noisy, messy toddler.  Mercy, kindness, compassion, service – that is the lesson for the day.

God is your Headmaster.  We can plan and research all summer long but remember what the God has to say about the plans of man.  “The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.”  Proverbs 16:9

It’s not about you.  I know this is uncomfortable.  Believe me.  I know!  Our homeschools are not for our glory.  Look how quickly we finished our studies.  Look at how well my kids did at the spelling bee.  Look at all the great hands on projects we’ve completed.  Although there is nothing wrong with these things, they are not why we homeschool.  We homeschool to raise kids to love and serve God and each other.  Academic pursuits must be second to spiritual tasks.

God is faithful, Mama.  If life is looking a little crazy today, step back and seek the One who has numbered your days.  There is rest in knowing that He is perfectly aware of how much English you finished today and you are right where He wants you.  And when others see your homeschool, though they don’t see a Pinterest perfect mama, they will see a family that is being perfected by what God is doing in their lives.

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Raising Kids to Depend on Jesus

 

Raising Kids to Depend on Jesus

 

My neighbor Dave died today.

At 87 years old, his mind was sharp as a whip, despite his ever weakening body.

My husband and I spent some time with him in the hospital recently during one of his many visits over the past few months.  Dave was cheerful, sharing the Gospel with anyone who would listen, handing out tracts that he would order by telephone – even from his hospital bed.

After the doctors and nurses left the room, he shared with us for what must have been the 100th time since we became neighbors some 20 years ago, about his life.   These stories often included sad stories of heart ache.

His mother was institutionalized for depression and possible schizophrenia when he was just three years old.  Dave and his brother were sent to live with their grandparents in rural Michigan.  Dave’s time living with his grandparents were probably some of the happiest days of his life.  Or maybe they were just some of my favorites;   stories of church picnics, outdoor shenanigans with his brother and the simplicity of farm life.

When Dave was about 12 or 13 and was becoming too much for his aging grandparents to handle, he was sent back to the city to live with his father and his father’s new wife.

That was a hard transition for a young man who had had everything done for him for so long.  Rejected by his step mother and a source of irritation to his father, Dave eventually joined the Navy, served in WWII, came home and married.

After bearing 2 children, his wife fell in to a cycle of depression and mental illness that lasted her entire life.  She was unable to care for her children or her husband and sweet Dave, in many ways still a boy himself, picked up the reigns and ran his family on his own as best as possible.

Years later, retired, widowed and alone, Dave spent many an afternoon at our house, sharing a cup of tea and reminiscing of days gone by.  There was always a deep sadness as he told his stories, but he always ended by recalling God’s hand in his life.

I can’t help thinking of Dave as a boy, just as my boys are running through our home today.

I can’t help but thinking that, as moms, we have incredible power to affect our children’s future.

Here’s the thing.  Dave knew Jesus.  He was brought to church and his loneliness drew him to know his savior.  When the turns of his life let him down, when his mother and father failed him, his wife failed him, even his children failed him – God never did.

When we’re in the midst of babies and sleep deprivation, new marriages and new challenges, it is hard to see the end from the beginning.  Who can imagine their toddler as a confused 12 year old moving to a new state to live with a father he never knew, or as a 40 year old father of 3 with a mentally ill wife or as an 87 year old man with broken dreams and little worldly success to show for his time on earth.

Here’s the thing. Our kids may have all the best toys and clothes.  Our kids may have all the best opportunities, get in to the best colleges and have the best jobs. But without a dependence on God – it’s all for nothing.

Raising Kids to Love and Depend on Jesus

  1. Pray for them.  Pray with them.  Pray without ceasing.  Pray that they would have a supernatural love for God’s Word.
  2. Model a love for God’s Word.  Read it.  Teach from it in the Deuteronomy 6 way – as you sit, walk, rise and rest.  Share with them what God is showing you through His Word and how He is working in your life.
  3. Use times of discipline as a time for discipleship.  Our kids’ character issues are an opportunity to show them that they NEED a savior, that they can’t do it on their own.  Teach them to pray and ask Jesus to help them.  Then, when they experience success, stop to thank Jesus for helping them!
  4. Show them your dependence on God.  We all fail everyday.  Show your kids what a repentant and humble heart looks like.
  5. Don’t be afraid when your children experience trials.  Handled properly, our trials draw us nearer to God. Much like a fever acts for our good by killing an overgrowth of bacteria or a potent virus, trials purify us (and our kids) and draw us into a deeper dependence on God.  If you can’t help but worry, refer to number 1 above!

During this season of back to school, sports, classes and clubs and all of the accompanying pressures and demands – remember Dave.  Remember that the most important thing you can do for your child as you prepare them to go out into the world is to show them and teach them a love and dependence on Jesus!

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What Parents of Prodigals Need to Know

parenting prodigals

 

My daughter’s eyes shifted nervously, avoiding my gaze, as she threw her clothing and makeup haphazardly into her suitcase.

She would be 18 in a few days and had made clear her intentions – get out of our house and get out fast.

Homeschooled her whole life and an easy going, cheerful child, there had been little to prepare me for what was happening, and try as I may to dissuade her, she was determined to go.

That was 3 years ago.  That daughter is now happily married and joyfully back in our family.  I’m not going to lie, it has been a long, hard road with many heart breaks and hurts along the way.

Have you ‘done everything right’ and still had a child jump ship?  You are not alone!

I walked around with my head hanging in shame for months after our daughter left, believing that it was my neglect of some aspect of her education or upbringing that had caused all of this.  Surely it was my fault that she rejected our family and our beliefs!  I wracked my brains at night, unable to sleep, as I relived the key moments of her life.

Did she eat too much junk food, too many carbs, too much protein or not enough?  Did she watch the wrong TV shows and movies, or were we too strict?  Was our theology wrong?  Were we too legalistic or too liberal?  Did we miss some other critical opportunity in her life?

The answer to these questions is yes, and no. There is no perfect parent.  We surely made many mistakes along the path. But that is not why our daughter rebelled.

Adam and Eve did have a perfect parent.  They had the perfect environment and the most accurate theology possible – received straight from the mouth of God!  And they still rebelled.

You see, your child, like Adam and Eve, has free will.  Oh, they know the truth, you have taught them well.  They know the truth and they have chosen to rebel, just like every other person, including you and me.

Your child may blame you for their poor decisions, but ultimately the decisions are their own.

There are two things that I have learned from being the parent of a prodigal.  There are lots actually but we’ll save those for another day.

Keep your focus on Jesus.  Take your eyes off of your child, your parenting and the hurt you are feeling and put them on Jesus.  Get on your knees and get in the Word.  God will use this experience to refine you, dear mama!  By staying close to God and listening for His guidance, the lessons are learned much quicker than if we are kicking and screaming the whole way.

I wasted a lot of time worrying, blaming myself and thinking about what others thought of me during those three years.  I had trouble remembering that God was working all of our experiences for the good.  He wants us to check our hearts, to be sure, but He is kind and gracious.  It is our enemy that wishes for this to tear our family apart.

Our earthly struggles are not to bring shame, they are to bring wisdom and humility and to prepare us to encourage others with the encouragement that we ourselves have received.

What God wants from us is that we learn to walk by faith, not by sight.  Do you believe that God is in total control of your situation?

This kind of faith only comes through testing.  A faith not tested is a faith not true.  Being refined is not comfortable nor is it enjoyable.  Take it from me, however, as we wrestle with our doubts and fears, God will faithfully bring us to a place of quiet rest – in Him.

Give God the driver’s seat.  This next lesson is difficult to share but I pray that God will use it for good.  God used the pain and humility of having a prodigal child to show me how I had created an idol out of our homeschool and parenting methods.  I was so sure that we were ‘doing it’ right, that we had cracked the code of parenting. Our kids were doing great, our marriage was strong.  This, my friends, is a recipe for disaster.

As parents, especially homeschooling, Christian parents,  it can be too easy to think we have discovered the correct way to produce good kids.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m a huge proponent of the benefits of Christian home education.  But there is no formula for raising kids.

Somehow, after surviving the first few years of homeschooling, I assumed I had it all figured out and all but stopped asked God for direction.  Instead of thinking how great we were for raising good kids and having a strong marriage, we should have been thanking God for these blessings.  Every good thing comes from God.

I know that in our family, God has used our trials in many ways for great good.  Without them we surely would have kept on doing things in the way that seemed right to us.  Our trials caused us to cry out to God for His guidance and direction and the path that he subsequently led us on was far above and beyond what could ever have planned or imagined for ourselves.

Are you in the midst of a parenting crisis?  Please let us know in the comments and we will pray for you.  

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How to Make Peace With Family This Christmas

Christmas is right around the corner.  All of our preparations – the gifts, the decorations, the cooking and baking – will soon culminate in some sort of family gathering meant to inspire faith and fellowship.  While family gatherings at Christmastime can be a great source of joy, in some circumstances they can become a source of stress, or even in extreme cases, dread. Childhood memories may be fond but as we grow and become independent adults, often our viewpoints and values take different paths. This can cause a lot of friction, but with some careful thought and the preparation of our hearts we can make peace with our families this Christmas.

Making Peace With Family at Christmas

While none of us will achieve perfect peace with our families this side of heaven, there are some simple and practical things that we can do until then, to be able to enjoy our time together.

Pray Ahead of Time

Pray for the days that you will be together.  Ask others to pray.  Pray that God would give you a heart like Jesus;  a heart that loved and served and forgave and a heart of humility that understands that we humans are a broken and sinful lot.  We all need grace!  Pray also for the hearts and souls of everyone gathered (but not over the Christmas dinner!).  Pray for unity of mind and spirit for all.

Set Boundaries

If debating politics causes aggravation, agree to leave those discussions for another time.  Remember, Christmas is a time of rejoicing and, for kids, making lots of happy memories and showing them what family is all about.  If religious beliefs are vastly different, agree to disagree and let. it. go.  People will be more impressed by your behavior than your words.

Focus on the Positive

One of the things that is so difficult about family gatherings is that family members know one another so very well.  We know each others’ strengths and weaknesses.  In treating one another as we would like to be treated, is it possible to overlook another’s faults and focus on the things that you like about each other?  What do you have in common?  Focus on the things  you both enjoy or find interesting.  Smile and choose to be joyful.

Show Respect

If, despite your best efforts, the conversation turns towards things that cause conflict, show one another the respect that all human beings, especially family, deserve.  Many a lively (yet respectful) conversation has been the cause of new understanding and changed hearts.  Insults and put downs will only serve to alienate the other person from you and your ideas anyway.  Is it all about being right? Or is there a bigger picture?

Be Thankful

I would rather use caution in my conversations and overlook an insult than not spend time at all with family.  Isn’t that a large part of what Christmas has become?  We are celebrating the birth of our Savior, yes.  The tradition of spending this special day with family is a large part of that experience.  Sharing the joy of the season with family is a blessing.  If we are going to insist on only spending time with those that think and feel exactly like us, there is a good chance that we will spend much of our lives, including the holidays, alone.

If you want a joyful celebration this Christmastime, it may take some care, but not only is it doable, it is totally worth it!

What tips do you have for making peace with your family this Christmas?

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A Little Homeschool Truth From a Veteran Homeschool Mom

 Homeschool Truth From a Veteran Homeschool Mom

I sat at the kitchen table, pencil tapping my teacher’s guide impatiently.  Knowing that the reading lesson I was attempting to teach was only a fraction of the way finished and that we still had Math, History and Science to complete, this mama was getting antsy.

My son, full of life and joy was elaborately illustrating his every written response.  Yes, his letters were going ‘fishing’.  As the mom of 7 kids with dyslexia, the fact that he knew his letters and was able to write them was the hope that kept me going;  waiting quietly as he shared the silly story of ‘J’s fishing success.

And so here we are.  School has started and reality has set in.  Homeschooling sure looks different mid-summer while absolutely no school is being done and we’re casually reading colorful catalogues detailing curriculum that will practically teach your kids themselves.  Ah, yes, peaceful, sunny July afternoons spent at the beach with memories of crumby floors and crabby attitudes far behind.

Sitting here across from my joyful – yet painfully slow – second grader caused me to dig deep into my reserves of homeschool truth to bring myself to remain calm and committed.

Here is some homeschool truth for you, Mama.

Slow and steady does in fact win the race.  A little learning every day adds up to a lot of learning over time.  Your faithfulness to do what you can will be rewarded.  Do what you can, do it well and don’t fret about what didn’t get done.

I know that for me as the productive type, I like to get stuff done.  I like to check off the boxes so I can coast for a bit.

Get child reading – check.

Instill a Biblical worldview – check.

As if these things don’t take years of daily instruction, testing and trying to really do well.

I am teaching myself to let go of the notion of finishing.  Not only is the notion that I can finish parenting, schooling, or cleaning and then coast for some extended period of time absurd as a mom of 8, it is flawed for several reasons.

My work as a wife and mother will never be finished (and likely, at least for some time, my home will never be entirely clean).  Jesus calls me to be about the business of blessing others with my talents.  If not my family, as it is now with my full house, then for others in need.  God has blessed me with gifts so that I can give them away to others.  That is not something that ends when the kids turn 18 and are finally independent or when I turn 65 and can officially retire.

Just as God has stripped me from worshiping many of my previous homeschool idols; having well-behaved kids (at the expense of having clean hearts) or of owning the best curriculum or of volunteering for every important looking job or of having kids get into the ‘best’ colleges;  God is stripping me from the idol of finishing it all so I can rest.

Lord, when will I ever just stop thinking so much of me?!

Please, don’t get me wrong, there is much gain in finding balance in your days.

However, I am learning to enjoy (and at times patiently endure) my days however they unfold.  When the phonics lesson is over and my young guy heads outside to fashion himself a fishing rod, math lessons can wait.  My list of homeschool tasks can wait because life and school is so much more.

Slow down and enjoy the moments.  Believe me, silly fishing stories during phonics instruction, though somewhat painful for busy homeschool moms, will be preferable to the seriousness of the day that you are helping that same boy as a high schooler to analyze expressions of love found in Shakespeare.

Take it from me, if your day is waxing long and the to-do list is largely untouched, it will be okay.  Do what you can, do it well, and trust the Lord to take care of the rest.

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