Thursday, January 21, 2016

Being a Thinker.

Whenever I take personality quizzes, I have to laugh when I read some of the descriptions. Not because they are wrong, but because they are ever so right. They usually say something like "You sometimes overanalyze problems" or "You often overthink a scenario that might come to pass". It may seem like I am always changing to some people, but this personality trait has stuck with me since I can remember. If you know me well, you might be laughing about it too. When I try to explain problems I am dealing with to friends, the first response is usually "I think you might be thinking about this too much." Thinking about everything, all the time can sometimes be helpful, and it definitely has its place, but it may be my biggest hindrance in life.

Thinking deeply about critical and significant issues is commonplace to me. It's rare for a day to go by where I have not despaired about the state of our world or the tragedy taking place in the lives of people all over the globe. It's easy to let these thoughts run my day while running me into the ground. It is important to take time to understand the difficult circumstances people are in around the world, and it's important for us to consider the roots of these problems. We should consider how we contribute to any of these issues, how history has shaped the countries struggling around the globe, how our culture encourages materialism and physical success, and how those affect the people we live around and engage with.

Those are hard topics. It takes forever to gain a base of knowledge to feel remotely capable of finding a helpful solution. Trust me, I've wracked my brain over it more times than I can count. It can be exhausting to contemplate all of these difficult things and not have opportunity to affect change in what we think is powerful and effective. But, global crisis and hardships are not the only topics that deserve our deep thinking.

Thinking about our children, their strengths, their weaknesses, their habits, their loves and their needs is extremely important too. More important than the world will tell you. But then again, there are so many different opinions on where we find value in our children and what they mean to us. They vary from being the best thing that ever happened to us, the sunshine in our days, to just another member of the family. They can be seen as a hindrance on our ability to accomplish success, or an opportunity to spread the gospel, and more. I believe there is a balance to be found in all of it. Obviously, my kids' education is important enough for me to make it my full-time, low-paying job. Well, I actually only get paid for tutoring at CC, but that's still something. No matter where we place that line of how valuable our children are, we still have a lot of thinking to do when it comes to raising them.

We need to think long enough and hard enough about our decisions in order to move forward with confidence. If you can't do that, you will struggle with every challenging day (trust me, I do this way too often). Yesterday morning I was thinking way too hard about some writing I did the previous night. Words were not spilling out of me the way I had hoped. There were far fewer than I realized, which hardly ever happens in my mind or conversations. I woke up still feeling annoyed about it, then saw a homeschooling conference opportunity I was pretty sure wouldn't work out for me to attend. So what did I do? I just kept thinking! It was terrible. I was consumed in looking at what I needed to do and seeing it as a hindrance compared to what I wanted to do. I looked at all the dirty laundry and moaned because it would require some hours of light labor. I looked at my dirty shower and was pouty because I would need to spend another 10 minutes or so scrubbing. My brain was taking me to an unlovely place, and while I wasn't ready to admit I didn't want to go there, I really knew I was in some sort of trouble.

Then, the kids were kids. The boys were playing football in the hallway, Jovi was crying about everything, and I was ready for a nap at 9:30am. I showered, scrubbed, got dressed and even put on makeup. The boys were asking about going to a local football field and, by God's grace, I decided to go for it. We only spent 45 minutes there, but it was the most perfect 45 minutes. Oh, Jovi threw three lovely screaming fits, Asher and Cole fought about who was faster, Cole yelled about not playing anymore because Asher was indeed faster, but somehow, it was exactly what we all needed. The space, the endorphins, the cold air - it all worked out to restart my brain. My thoughts went from a high speed chase of over-thinking this time in my life, to considering my children, my job and my future as a glorious task God has granted me.

I really wanted to share this with you because being stuck in my own head seems to be the biggest wall I face in homeschooling on a pretty regular basis. Homeschooling doesn't feel hard because of my kids' attitudes (though it definitely makes it harder), or because of my laundry schedule, or even because of my weariness. Homeschooling is hard because my mind gets caught up on things which have no bearing, no place in my mind and soul. I don't need to waste time moaning about the loss of 10 more minutes, or two more loads of laundry. God has got it more than covered. I would rather save that mental energy for looking into the lives of my children, seeing what they see, and giving them what only I can give.

When my husband and I were first making the decision of whether or not to homeschool, we landed on this: we believe personal investment and the knowledge of Jesus our savior to be the most important factors in our kids' educations and lives. We believe we are able to give this to them better than any affordable school option we've found. If there comes a day where we are no longer able to give them these things, we will reconsider how we school. For now, these two ambitions are my priority, our family's priority. They come before accomplishing my personal writing goals (though I am making headway on them), before reading the latest book on my ever growing list, before feeling like I have got it all under control or staying on top of my social calendar. I am still ambitious, full of goals and dreams, but my selfishness needs to take a back seat, probably permanently, so I can show my family Jesus by giving up my life for theirs. This might sound terribly self-demeaning, but I am confident I will not regret it. My investment in them is also an investment in myself, both here on earth and in eternity. I'm convinced I will never regret teaching them the gospel by first living it out. Living it out perfectly, or even very well, every day is more than impossible, but God enjoys using us for these types of impossible tasks. I'm going to stay ambitious, stay driven, and seek His excellence every day. The more I see it, the more my kids will see it, and eventually, the more the world will see it too. I can think of no greater honor than to behold and partake in the glory and excellence of Christ. I'm grateful I can do it every day, and that I can share it with my children as well.

I challenge you to look at your thoughts today. Don't only observe what they are, but take time to consider where they come from, if they are rooted in truth, and what they are leading you towards. The big issues in our world eventually dwindle down to small things. Each large movement in history has started with just thoughts and intentions, eventually becoming actions of the people involved. It is worthwhile to spend time thinking, and it is necessary for you too. The time you spend placing your mind where it should be, the less time you spend fighting it on difficult days. You will know the place this work has in your life, and your heart will settle on it contentedly. You will not be lacking passion, but your passion will be ignited with confidence. This is what I dream about - confidence in my daily work, leading to excellence, exuberance and a joy that will never diminish. This is what we have in Christ. And this is what we can offer our children. What a gift!


  1. Well said, Joellen! This does not sound self-demeaning - it sounds the opposite of selfish though, and I love it. God is using you in wonderful ways - your children are growing in their knowledge of Christ, both by your words and deeds. You are an inspiring wife and mother, something I hope to be one day too. I can get wrapped up in my thoughts and overwhelmed by thing little tasks in the way of the great things I want to do, but God put me right here in today with a purpose. I want to "destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ" (II Cor 10:5). Thanks for your encouragement, and I hope you are encouraged too!

    1. Thanks so much sis. It means a lot that you would ever consider looking to me for anything! Love you :)