Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Keeping Sight of What We Value.

Back and forth, doubting and problem-solving.

This is how I spend too many of my days. Sometimes, the problem-solving revolves around entertaining the two-year-old, and other days I have been to all the corners of my mind in an attempt to console my worried self about Math. Lately, something seems to rear its head once a week and demand the dark side of my mind to brood and fret until I've "got it all figured out." It feels impossible to find peace in all of it, especially when kids talk back, or the toddler is whiney. My thoughts race, never finding a finish line, and there are not enough books in the world or decadent coffees that fit in my meal-plan to put my heart and mind at ease. I find myself frustrated all day long until I land somewhere, on some solution, to make this homeschooling gig more like a ride in the park, and less like a battlefield. When I get this way I really need to get grounded, to come full-circle, and go back to the place I started in order to find peace.

During the last several years, I have done enormous amounts research, made countless observations, and talked endlessly with my husband and friends. I've read hundreds of articles and far too many many books about education. We've prayed in, out, around, and about numerous opportunities, and still we have decided to homeschool. This is what we know to be best for the kids right now. I've written before about the need to be grounded, to be convinced of the path you are on, but I still need to remind myself.

When explaining math concepts feels worse than cleaning nasty toilets, I have to take a step back, recognize what I value in life, and see how this affects all of us with our choice to school at home. When I question if my kids are missing anything in their rigorous Math studies, I have to take a deep breath and admit it... Math is not my highest priority. There are days when making progress in Math is priority number one, but overall, my kids becoming Math experts is not my life's goal. Maybe if one child emerges as a Math genius, and expresses a desire to become more proficient, it might become my second goal in their schooling. But our ultimate goal has always been, and always will be, to educate my children about God and the world He made.

This doesn't mean all my curriculum is overtly Christian. It does mean everything they learn can be traced back to how God made all things, and holds the world together. It doesn't mean we do specifically "Christian" activities every day. It does mean we look to God in prayer every day, and study His word together. It means we learn about the world with the underlying goal to know Him and make Him known.

There are times when this goal is easy to pursue. It pleases my heart beyond all measure to hear my seven-year-old ask me questions about people, places, or natural things with an interest in understanding God's work in all of it. I'm happy to explain over and over again the mysteries of God's love and care for us, how we see His detailed mind in enabling us to express the concrete world with numbers. It's wonderful to talk about His consistency in each morning's sunrise, and His wonder in how the planets spin and move. To have the time to explain how a flower seed grows and sprouts is a magnificent gift I want to keep and cherish.

I wish knowing God and making Him know was more solid in my heart, especially during difficult times, because hashing it out over and over again every few weeks is quite the mental workout. I allow too many distractions and hold up endeavors higher than they deserve to be held. I have to think back to my true goal often. This is why fellowship with others on the same path is crucial. The world will tell you this "religious agenda" is a waste of time, that this is folly, sheltering, and a poor use of resources. And if you are listening to them, your long-term goal will get buried in all the dirt, needing to be dug out again, week after week. You might even have Christian friends who encourage you to bury that lofty idea. But hang tight, weary mother. Find a bag to tuck that beauty into. Carry it with you always. Don't sit back and simply compose arguments to fight on its behalf, but rather, secure the truth of God's word into your heart and mind. Allow His sovereign plans to bring peace to your soul. Trust in His ability to accomplish more than you could ever hope or dream.

Ephesians 3:30-21 says "Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen."

Don't let Math woes, sibling drama, discouragement in your weaknesses, or worry of the future rob you of knowing the great power God is willing to display in your life and your children's lives. It takes a lot of bravery to sacrifice your life, against what others suggest, and educate your children. If you are seeking to see God glorified, and willing to call on Him in all your struggles, He will do far more than you can imagine. The way He will show Himself through your life is not something you are guaranteed to see in your lifetime, so it will require your expectant faith and hopeful diligence. Don't lose heart!

Instead, pray. And while you pray, get a teensy bit practical too. Recently, I encouraged you to start reaching out to friends, inviting a person to coffee or tea, and writing an encouraging note. Now let's take it another step further:

This time, find three women who will help shape this homeschooling journey of yours.

Find one woman ahead of you on your journey, who can enlighten and encourage you. She probably needs encouragement too, but she can offer you advice from hindsight, motivation, and more. In turn, you will be giving her hope for future generations, encouragement that her work has not been in vain, and confirmation of her calling.

Find one woman in the same place as you. Have dessert together, read books together, and pray for each other as you let your children develop friendships around learning, God's word, and childhood adventure.

Lastly, find a woman further behind you. Don't go to her assuming she admires you, or needs your advice. Go to her with a genuine interest in knowing her better. She will be encouraged to see she is not alone, and feel blessed gaining from your personal investment in her life. Recommend books, give a listening ear, and be a safe person in which she can confide.

I need to work on being invested in these kinds of women in my life too. I have a few of these relationships, but I'm not always intentional about serving them or reaching out to them. I suspect I would feel a lot better giving of myself in this way, even if I never receive anything in return.

So this week, instead of doubting your calling, or being frustrated at the cost, cling to God's promise of abundant, eternal glory and seek out women to share it with. If bringing God glory through your homeschooling is not already a part of your plan, I highly recommend it ;) You will not regret playing a part in this plan. In fact, I would never have survived this long without committing to it! Your children will reap the benefits, as will those who see your commitment.

When you have discouraging days, pull out that pearl of great beauty, that hope which obliterates other temporal goals or ideas. See God's love in providing you a reason to look to Him, even if that reason is tears and errors on a Math worksheet. He can make all things lovely, and turns ashes into beauty every day. Let today be another day where those ashes bring clarity to your vision. Teaching Math has an expiration date, but seeing God's beautiful purpose in our struggles is perpetually more rewarding the more we turn aside to see it.

It can be embarrassing to admit our how our struggles and failures have actually brought forth goodness. It feels lousy to look at our trials and confess that we didn't know best, that it was not the end of the world, and then show how it all worked out for the better. But the more often we do this, the easier it will be. In fact, we should invite every opportunity to clearly see our values proved worthy before our eyes. It may seem scary, like admitting defeat, or succumbing to failure, but every time we see God's goodness displayed in our lives is actually a time for rejoicing. If we truly value knowing God, it doesn't matter what path leads us there. Seeing and savoring Christ will be worth suffering the greatest defeat... even if it's in Math.

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