Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Next Best Thing.

No, I'm not talking about daydreams, 2nd bests, or future ambitions. I'm talking about what to do next, when everything feels a little bit pointless.

This week has been discouraging. My kids have actually been pretty average - average attitude, average performance, average enthusiasm, average in everything really. But me? My attitude has been the pits! The dark, murky, muddy, suck-everyone-in pits. Not fun for the people in my house. My behavior has been decent, but my heart has been a mess. Some of this is rooted in my inability to make a decision and stand by it. Most of it is rooted in my inability to trust God and stay in His Word.

I feel a lot worse being so distraught in my heart and mind when my week has not even been very demanding. Not a lot on the schedule, a lot of homeschooling, but nothing unreasonable. No crazy appointments, no sickness or missed naps, no friendships falling apart or deaths in the family. I feel frustrated and upset at myself, then I get even more angry at how I can feel so upset when my situation is not incredibly difficult.

If you are homeschooler, I hope you can relate to all the tiny things I allow to lead me to despair:

- multiple math lessons with multiple groans
- correcting the same words during reading time over, and over, and over, and over
- the need to harass children to brush teeth for the 10th time at 11am
- children who wander off to play if you don't monitor them every 5 seconds
- children who refuse to wander off to play and would rather wail during an already excruciating math lesson
- interruptions from anyone and everyone, multiple times a day, multiple times a lesson
- tables full of strewn papers, crayons and misplaced craft supplies
- trying to time laundry, meals & other chores conveniently between lessons and nap-time
- crumbs, mostly in just the dining area and kitchen, but so many of them
- heaps of clean, but unfolded, week-old laundry

There are a lot of other contributing factors, but I don't want this post to be full of whining the entire time. I really do have some encouragement to give, promise.

I had been trying to keep it together all yesterday, and really did have some sweet moments with my kids. I try to not grow bitter when other moms complain about dealing with their kids on a snow-day, I try not to be jealous and accept these "consequences" of my choice, and my husband's choice. I desperately try not to put this homeschooling choice up on a platter to be dissected in my mind again this week. It's all really hard, and I don't have a great explanation for why. I have a few ideas, but nothing tangible, or fixable. Yes, I am selfish and tending to the kids for a better part of the day requires a lot of selflessness. Yes, there are other ambitions I have which offer much more short-term reward, both in money and praise. Yes, there are a lot of things that would be easier in my life if I weren't homeschooling. But none of these reasons settle my heart and mind the way I desire to be settled.

A lot of good things have happened, are happening and will happen as a result of my choice. There are a lot of good things in the future for any loving parent too, even if their sacrifice has nothing to do with homeschooling. This is part of why I try not to grow jealous or bitter towards other parents, because God will bring about good in SO many places. Knowing God has goodness in store here on earth in every circumstance is a lovely reminder, but this still wasn't giving me peace in my soul or a tangible way to redirect my heart.

While the bread was baking before dinner last night, I sat down to finish a book I got for Christmas. It's called The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst, and it has been a very practical tool for me in regards to thinking about my choices. Yesterday's chapter really gave me some encouragement! She talks about how sometimes our good choices do not guarantee good results, and how we cannot allow this to make us question ourselves and our weaknesses. What we often need to do is keep moving forward and make the next best choice. Whatever that choice is. For me, it was asking my son to clear the table in a sweet voice, rather than a voice filled with angst or frustration. I have not been extremely willing to choose a cheerful attitude, but to choose to ask for this task to be done using my nice voice was a simple choice to make. So easy! And effective. And actually, he responded better and I left the interaction without guilt or frustration. Win-win.

Lysa quotes C.S. Lewis toward the very end of her book,

“[E]very time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different than it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing into a heavenly creature or a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state of the other.”

No matter where you are, take heart and make the next best choice. Even if it's a dumb, easy, seems-silly-to-even-think-about-it choice. When you do this, when you choose to do good even when you feel like being bad, you are winning over your flesh. You are allowing God to win over the sin in your heart because you are listening to what He said in His Word and are obeying His voice despite your flesh urging you the other way. This won't always still the voice of doubt in your mind, or your heart, but it's much better than digging yourself into a hole of poor choices, filled with apologies coming due. This is the simplest, easiest way to get your heart back in line - to honor God and choose good in small ways. They will add up, and you will be pointing yourself toward His goodness, His will for you, with each good choice.

I'll leave you with this over-used, well-loved, super encouraging verse. Think long term, think about what it really means to work for eternity, and don't ever give up... every small choice counts.

"And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9

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