a seasoned homeschooling mom’s resume

clay

Time seems to have a way of passing very quickly without pausing for any man or woman.  I remember as though it were yesterday, starting first grade, buying two new pairs of shoes, black and white saddle oxfords and a pair of shiny black patent leather Mary Janes for Sundays.  I remember the trauma of riding the school bus and then the even worse trauma of being in junior high.

A few years ago, thinking it might be a good tool for searching for my birth mother, I set up an account at Classmates.com and have marveled at the pictures of people I used to know, the girl in my French class, the boy who took me to the Junior-Senior prom, Clay’s old army buddies, all now grandparents and some barely recognizable.

And then, I did something that doesn’t really seem to reflect the season of life that I am in….I joined Facebook.  The reaction from my children has been varied.  A couple of them had suggested that I might want to do so, even offering to set up the account for me. Others have acted like I was practically dressing in white go go boots and going off to a slumber party.  Truthfully, their reactions and comments were really hilarious and insightful at the same time.  Though being on Facebook didn’t automatically transport me back to junior high, it certainly has made me think a lot about how fast time has gone by and whether or not I am truly a grown up!

Last week I spent some time talking about the things we can do in the earlier years of parenting and homeschooling that will prepare us for the season of life when our children are grown or nearly grown.  I stressed the importance of being spiritually prepared for the changes that are certain to come and resting in the assurance that God’s perfect plan for us IS this change.  I also encouraged moms to become women of contentment, trusting that God’s plans for us are for good and not for evil.

Today I would like to explore some particular steps that homeschooling moms can take to be prepared for the time when our children are grown and the demands on our lives change.  If you have not yet done so, I would encourage you to read those thoughts before you continue.

As Christian women, we often look at the Proverbs 31 woman, as one of our favorite role models.  This icon of biblical womanhood described in detail to King Lemuel by his very wise mother, stands as  the perfect example to us of the woman who could do it all.  She not only brought home the bacon and fried it up in the pan, but she probably raised the pig in a field she bought, made footballs to sell from the pigskin, and could instruct everyone in her household how to do these things, too!

So I find it interesting that in verse 25 we are told that she is a woman of strength and dignity, a wife and mother of godly character who is prepared for the future.  Though we often think that this means she has a pantry full of good things to eat and warm clothing for her little ones when winter comes, I think it also means that the Proverbs 31 woman was ready to face the changing seasons in her life as they came her direction.  One reason I believe this is that no one woman could do all that this woman did all at once and in the same season.  I think that King Lemuel’s mom wanted him to choose a wife who would graciously and wisely move from one season of life to another, bringing him joy and blessings in all the stages that they were to go through together.  In fact, if we do not look at this passage of Scripture in the light of those changing seasons, we are doomed to failure and discouragement.

I think there are many practical ways that women need to be prepared as we face the future and the “fall and winter” seasons of our lives.

First of all, each of us need to determine our own spiritual gifts and do all we can to nurture and grow those gifts during the years we are homeschooling.  I know that this happens naturally within the homeschooling setting, often without our even realizing that that is what we are doing.  For example, those who naturally have the gift of teaching have the propensity for research and are often gifted at communication, becoming excited at every opportunity to use those gifts, whether they are in the home or in a church setting.  Those who have the gift of administration or organization, besides being able to organize and mobilize an entire family, are often asked to lead co-ops or even Christian education programs in their churches.  Other moms who have the gift of mercy usually express and exercise it by leading their children in acts of kindness and mercy toward those outside their homes.  As each of us continue to grow in grace, we will do these things organically, usually without even thinking twice about it. And because we are also discipling our children, they will also, by example in word and in deed,  learn to do these things as well, developing their own spiritual gifts that they have been given.

Sometimes we can have a difficult time identifying our spiritual gifts but I can offer two ways that have been helpful to me.  The first is by seeing how I might overuse or misuse my gifts.  Let me give you an example.  It will probably not come as any surprise to you that I believe God has given me the gift of encouragement.  More than anything else I might do, there is nothing that excites me more than when I see an opportunity to come alongside someone else and encourage them.  It doesn’t matter if it is the hugely pregnant clerk at the grocery store whose face lit up when I told her how she looked more beautiful each time I was in the store, to my neighbor down the street who beamed when I stopped to tell him that the flowers he planted along the fence in his yard made my day special every time I drove past them.  Everyone needs to be encouraged and doing so thrills me like nothing else can do.

But, I have had to learn that sometimes, in my exuberance for encouraging someone else, I can either be perceived as pressuring them or I can let discernment go out the window, often finding myself reflecting on the stupid statement I just made!

Another way I have found that helps us identify those gifts is that others will frequently comment positively when we are exercising them.   An example of this is when we see some mom who repeatedly seeks to serve others, moving in and out of a fellowship dinner, filling coffee cups, cleaning up after the kids, or remembering which dad likes which kind of pie, making sure there is enough for everyone to have his favorite.  If others comment to you about some ability that you have that reflects one of the spiritual gifts we read about in 1 Corinthians, perhaps this is the Holy Spirit prompting you to build up and exercise that gift for God’s glory.

Besides spiritual gifts, each of us has particular natural abilities as well as things that we have learned to do over the years.  Homeschooling has given us many opportunities to learn new skills and to pursue areas of study that we might not have explored on our own.  It has also allowed us many experiences and relationships that otherwise we might not have had.  As we learn alongside our children, which is what we all do, there are things that intrigue us and cause us to dream about doing ourselves and I believe that is what the Lord intends for us, as we pass through each stage of life.

As we grow older and as our children grow up and leave home, we will have more opportunities to use our spiritual gifts and to pursue our natural or acquired abilities, especially to be used for the good of the body and to witness to others.  Doing what we can to develop them through the various seasons will help us be prepared when the time comes that they will be used in a broader context.  Each stage of life with children gives us different opportunities for growing those gifts, too.  One example of this might be the fact that when our children are little, we must take into consideration what they are able to do at each stage of development and we learn to not expect more from them than they are physically, mentally, or emotionally able to do, all the while challenging them to be the best they can be at that time of growth. The same skills we acquire for approaching our children in this manner are necessary in how we relate to our elderly parents as they age and are unable to participate in life in the same way they once did.

As homeschoolers, we also learn how to teach individual children in ways that are unique to each of them and we learn to communicate to them according to their understanding and needs.  This skill is invaluable for those who seek to counsel or offer encouragement to others who are going through difficult times in their lives and is one we can never underestimate we have honed as we have taught a variety of children through many age levels, personality quirks, and temperaments.

Homeschooling moms have also learned some amazing practical hands-on skills that can be used in interesting ways.  Most of us have learned to cook meals to feed many people on budgets that usually needed to be stretched many ways.  In fact, I will bet that most homeschooling moms could each write their own cookbooks and have sage advice for any aspiring young homemaker.  There are many volunteer organizations who could use these skills and your abilities could be turned into a home catering business or even a job as a chef if you have loved this aspect of life during your mom-with-kids-at-home years.

The point I am trying to make is that we should each be aware of the gifts, both natural and spiritual, that the Lord has given to us through homeschooling that we enjoy using and that could be used in a variety of ways once we have more time available.  Some of us will choose to find employment outside of our homes.  Others will volunteer through our churches or other organizations.  Some of us will participate in helping other homeschooling moms with teaching, perhaps even enjoying the blessing of teaching grandchildren.  Others of us will find just the right niche that will bring us that joy and sense of usefulness within the body of Christ during the last half of our lives, our post homeschooling mom years.  We just need to keep our eyes open and be prepared for what the Lord brings our direction.

We also need to see this coming change in our seasons of life as the time when we can enjoy being a couple with our spouses.  Some of us never really had that experience, having a line-up of little ones early in marriage.  Once the children are gone, sitting across a quiet dinner table and looking at that handsome man with silver hair might be startling and even uncomfortable if we haven’t spent those years of homeschooling investing in our husbands, building the oneness that has to take place in a marriage.  Sadly, I hear stories all the time of couples who decided that they didn’t have anything at all in common with each other once the homeschooling days were over.  They were going their separate ways and pursuing separate interests, some of it beginning during their days at home with their children.  Rather than their own interests making each of them more interesting partners, their individual activities caused division and sometimes led to separation and divorce.

I would encourage all husbands and wives to not only grow spiritually as individuals but to do so as couples, to spend as much time together as possible, to encourage each other to become the best each of them can be but to also become the best that they can as a couple.

I have shared before that in the early years as homeschoolers, my husband, Clay, set aside a weekly date night for just the two of us, though we often took along a nursing baby.  Before we began homeschooling, this time didn’t seem quite as necessary as it did once so much of our daily energy was given to time with the children, collectively and individually, and when there was so much to do just to keep our heads above the laundry pile and kitchen chores.

We still try to have a regular date night but we also spend time talking alone every day.  We typically like to start our days with coffee and breakfast together and sometimes our conversation continues by telephone while Clay drives to work.  We have common interests but also separate ones that complement each other and have helped us to appreciate our differences as well as our similarities. Continuing to share common goals beyond the goal of homeschooling also has encouraged us to work together toward those goals and to transition from a large family to one that is growing smaller all the time.

While the harvest season is when we enjoy the fruit of our labors, it is also the time to consider the coming winter months, the time when we will face changes in our lives that bring us considerable grief and perhaps major upheaval in lifestyle.  Our parents will most likely die before we do, which causes each of us to consider our own mortality, especially as we lose the last family members in the generation just before ours.  Perhaps you are the oldest of younger siblings and find yourself in the position of being the ones others in your extended family turn to for comfort or leadership.

This is also the season when you become the older man and older woman in your church, the peer group from which church leaders ought to be chosen.  You notice that your friends are wiser than they used to be, too,  confirming that Job was correct, wisdom is found among the aged and long life brings understanding. You also don’t fret about the same things that used to bother you, you are more settled and content with who you are.  You are more confident.  You also realize that heaven is closer every day and you can rejoice that you know the Lord Jesus as He becomes more precious to you, even though you experience the natural consequences of living in a slowly deteriorating earthly body.

It is also a season when, perhaps for the first time in your life you may live alone.  Statistics show that about 800,000 women become widows every year and that on average, a woman will live for 14 years after the death of her husband.   You once again become dependent on others, sometimes in the same way that you were when you were a child and you can even find that there is a reversal of roles, where your children now become like your parents.

I believe that if we are to accept these changes in our lives, we need to trust in the sovereignty of God who has given to us each and every day as a gift to us to use for His glory alone.  It is normal and expected to grieve the passing of the seasons.  It is healthy to anticipate the next season of life, too.  But our usefulness to the Lord will be measured in how well we embrace the changes God gives to us, relishing each joy that comes in each season, trusting the He will continue to work in us to will and to do all things for his good pleasure, having every confidence that we can hold on to this promise from Psalm 92:

The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;

planted in the house of the LORD,
they will flourish in the courts of our God.

They will still bear fruit in old age,
they will stay fresh and green,

proclaiming, “The LORD is upright;
he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”

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welcoming the changing seasons of motherhood

more grands

 

I love fall and wish that it could last longer. Here in Illinois, it begins in late August when the cornstalks turn a warm wheat color and the soybeans are a beautiful green-gold. The scene is transformed daily as, one by one, fence rows of maple and pin oak trees turn from green to glorious yellows, crimsons, and molasses-browns, changing their clothes as quickly as an actress in a summer stock production. The sky becomes more azure as the days go by and soon sumac joins the parade of color, turning a deep magenta-red, becoming the backdrop for wild black-eyed Lazy Susans and tall, gangly golden rod.

September comes and the days are often cool and rainy. The farmers have to work strategically now, harvesting only when the plants are dry. On those days, there is a cloud of corn and bean powder that drifts across the fields and smells amazingly like fresh-baked bread.

October is right behind with the first frost that means hooded sweatshirts, wiener roasts and hayrides, and the unmistakable rosy pink of the Indian prairie grasses. Pumpkins and mums take their front-row seats at the supermarkets before they come home to rest in the yard among the leaves that start to fall more frequently now.

The colors are even more glorious and distracting through my window. The whole house takes on a warm glow as the trees put on their golden dresses and wave at me to look at them from inside….”See me, see me!” they seem to say, “I will soon be changing my clothes again, and I know this is your favorite dress.” I pull out the pumpkin cake recipe, enticing my children with the smell of cinnamon and nutmeg. The crock-pot takes up permanent residency on the kitchen counter with vegetable beef soup or chili a near-daily tummy warmer for those who must go outdoors.

At last, November blows in and gray and brown are the palette of choice.   I have to blink to be sure I didn’t really see Indians and Pilgrims breaking bread together across the field and along the fence line. Birds come to my feeder, anticipating another sort of feast, often just dropping by for a quick bite before they continue on south to warmer climes. Squirrels grocery shop in my yard, disappearing into the front doors of their homes in my neighbors’ old oak trees.

Yes it is fall, the season of harvest, of enjoying the fruits of our labors, of pulling our favorite corduroy jeans and wool sweaters from storage, sliding our sandals under the bed and donning socks and boots and cozy knit scarves. We long for comfort foods and comfort clothes, sensing that winter won’t be far behind and the days of spring and summer will be only a distant memory as the winds blow.

I have long thought of my time as a homeschooling mom as really days on a calendar, each season bringing with it something fresh and exciting, new challenges and events that will shape both the lives of my children and of me.

I remember the thrill of choosing a phonics program when my younger three children were still small, of looking through catalogs and listening to friends described the various ways they taught their children to read. And I remember excitedly planning unit study projects, loving everything from the paste and glue to the frogs in tiny portable aquariums. That was in the spring of homeschooling, when everything was a new beginning, when I was young and more eager, full of ideas and surrounded by babies and toddlers, just beginning to till the soil and place tender seedlings into the ground. Gently we tended them, fertilizing with love and staking them to what was good and true and right. Strong winds of discouragement and exhaustion threatened to beat all of us down but God, in His mercy, kept us.

Time went by so quickly and had I blinked I might have missed those long days of summer, the season of enriching the soil of their hearts and minds with good things, taking their yearnings and dreams and helping them prepare to see their own fruit. This was the season of toil, of pulling out weeds that encroached on the now sturdy plants, of watching the soil every day for bugs or insects that might destroy, of drawing up a plan for harvest.

And then one day, noticing the blossoms were now gone, amazingly, fruit appeared and it was fall. Our job was to continue to nurture that tiny fruit, watching it grow, trusting it to become mature in God’s perfect timing and by the full measure of His grace. It was now fall and harvest was approaching.

I love to call this fall season of homeschooling, of mothering, the sweater years. It is when we can enjoy our children who have grown into adulthood, experiencing some of the harvest after spending years in the growing seasons that brought us to this point.

But, one of my greatest concerns about moms who have reached the sweater years is that they will not be prepared for the changes that are coming, that they will not be willing to not only accept but to embrace what the Lord has for them in the next season of their lives. In essence, I wonder how many of us have put on that comfortable sweater and are ready for the cold days that are certain to come. How many of us actually look forward to this season and excitedly anticipate even the winter that will be certain to follow?

We know that changing seasons are of the Lord, they are part of His perfect design for His whole creation. In the second chapter of Daniel we are told: “Praise be to the name of God forever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.” This passage reminds us that we serve a God who is sovereign, who rules over all things, including the changing years of our lives.

As women, we are hit right between the eyes with this bittersweet time of life as we experience both our children leaving home and our physical bodies changing, most of us aware that our days of pregnancy and babies are behind us. We should not be surprised when the fall season comes. All of our lives have been spent working toward this time. In fact, the whole world around us is moving in the same direction.  Jeremiah 8 says “Even the stork in the sky knows her appointed seasons, and the dove, the swift and the thrush observe the time of their migration.” Should we, too, not look upon growing older and seeing major changes in our lives as a natural part of life?

I love so much that familiar passage in Ecclesiastes 3 that says “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven, a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build.” It assures us that God gives us just the time that we need to accomplish all that he has for us in each in every season of life. We never need to fret that our childbearing days are gone or that we somehow missed something that he might have intended for us in another season. We don’t have to fear that we might “die before our time” as some foolishly say. We can have every confidence that God has every stage of our lives under control. We can rejoice with the psalmist that “I trust in you, O Lord, You are my god. My times are in your hands.”   We can claim God’s promises that He, the Lord never changes. We can rejoice in the assurance that, as he promised to the prophet Isaiah, “even to your old age and gray hairs, I am He. I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you, I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”

But I have to ask these questions:

What are you doing now to prepare for those days?

Are you investing in the lives of your children in such ways that the harvest season of life, the sweater years, will be ones that brings joy and delight to you or investing in ways that will bring regret and sorrow?

Do you have goals you are working on to bring you confidently into the changes that are inevitable or are you putting off thinking about what might be in the future for you?

How are you preparing spiritually for the coming changes in your life?

Are you dwelling on things on earth or on things in heaven?

Are you pondering the ways God might be able to use you in future ministry, to be a blessing, encouragement, and even a source of hope and joy to others? Or are you spending your time fretting about the temporal issues of life, those things that are truly beyond your control?   It is so easy to be caught up in today because we live in the here and now. Most of us have been living on one income and as such have no retirement plan that comes along with a salaried job. We have invested our time and money into raising and educating children and are a virtual of fountain of information without a sticker price. We know things like the fact that hanging cloth diapers in the sun will bleach out the stains and remove diaper odor and but how does that translate on a resume?

Instead of trying to evaluate our lives based on what the world sees as important or worthy, we must learn to see all the wonderful things that God has taught us about Himself and the blessings and privileges he has given to us, opportunities that have equipped us for the task He gave us in raising children, wisdom and knowledge that we can pass along to others who are still on that same path.

As older moms, Titus 2 tells us that we have an important role in the lives of younger moms, teaching them both in word and by our very own lives, to love their husbands and children. As we become more and more like Jesus ourselves through the years, we will gain both the ability and the credibility to teach what is good. As younger moms, we are to seek out older women for this sort of encouragement, not just the ones who are in the same season of life and who struggle in the same ways that we do. God’s plan is that those who have gone through the seasons of life must be willing to share their joys and sorrows as they have reaped them, with those who are still planting.

As we spent time raising our children, I think one of the things that is often seen as optional is spending time in the Word and really studying what the Scripture has to say to us. Many families see the spiritual nourishment of mom as something that can be placed in a holding pattern, waiting for another season of life. I can remember spending many hours in a nursing mom’s room back in the bowels of the church thinking “one day, I will be able to hear an entire sermon.” I also remember seeing many other moms in the same situation and after 4 or 5 little ones in a row who needed to nurse and burp and walk, before they knew it, years had gone by and their spirits felt dry and their souls cried to be fed. And life and home was full of even more responsibilities that they allowed to keep them from having a quiet time with the Lord.

Moms, the sweater years of your life will be so much more rewarding and full of contentment if you prepare for them by seeking to grow in God’s grace through reading his word, actively participating in worship, feasting on solid Bible teaching that will inspire you to be like Jesus. Do whatever it takes to spend time with the Lord, to hear good Bible preaching, to fellowship with older moms who have experienced many seasons of life. It is an investment you will never regret.

And, are you learning to be content now so you will be prepared for whatever changes come to you, understanding on a deep level what it means to live each day to the fullest and not to worry about tomorrow? The Apostle Paul admonished his hearers that true gain, true riches are godliness with contentment and that ought to be central to any retirement plan we make. Our only true spiritual goal is to know Jesus and to be like him, looking forward to spending eternity in heaven with him. And along with that, we are to seek to take as many people long with us as possible. If we are preparing for heaven and are witnessing to and discipling others, we are on the right path that will take us into our sweater years with grace and confidence.

Genuine contentment means that we will not only accept the changing seasons of life as homeschooling moms but we will recognize how, through homeschooling, God has been preparing us for the next season!

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the powerlessness of the law

pilgram

 

“Then the Interpreter took Christian by the hand and led him into a very large parlor that was full of dust because it was never swept. After He had reviewed it a little while, the Interpreter called for a man to come and sweep. Now when he began to sweep, the dust began to fly about so much and was so thick that Christian almost choked. Then said the Interpreter to a damsel who stood nearby, “Bring water, and sprinkle the room.” When she had done as requested, it was swept and cleansed very pleasantly.
Then Christian asked, “What does this mean?”
The Interpreter answered, “This parlor is the heart of a man that has never been sanctified by the sweet grace of the gospel; the dust is his original sin and inward corruptions that have defiled the whole man. The first man that began to sweep is the Law; the damsel that brought water and sprinkled it is the gospel. You saw that as soon as the first man began to sweep, the dust filled the room so thickly that it could not be cleansed, and you almost choked on it. This is to show you that the Law, instead of cleansing the heart from sin, actually revives, increases, and adds strength to it. Even though the Law uncovers and forbids sin, it is powerless to conquer or subdue.”

~ John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress

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showing hospitality to our children

Lola-and-Grandpa1

 

As believers, everything about our lives should say, “Welcome.” We are encouraged to practice hospitality often, to welcome others into our homes, beyond just the front porch, for times of refreshment, fellowship and friendship. In fact, it is so central to the life of a Christian that it is to be used as a standard for whether or not someone is qualified for church leadership (1 Timothy 3:2)! It begins with how we extend hospitality to our own children.

In Romans 12 Paul tells us: Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. He then continues through the chapter, listing some things that reflect what it means to be in God’s good, acceptable, and perfect will, with verse 13 saying “Practice hospitality.” Showing hospitality to others, especially our children, is not just a nice idea, it is a requirement if we are to live in God’s will; it is an act of worship to God.

Jesus repeatedly warned his disciples of this truth. Several times in the Gospels, it is recorded that the disciples argued over who was first in the kingdom, even asking Jesus who was greatest, hoping, I am sure, that He would list their names. Imagine the surprise they experienced when He told them that the one who serves is the greatest and then, calling a little child, said that unless these grown men became like little children they would never enter heaven! He reminded them that not only were they welcoming Jesus when they welcomed children, but if they harmed any child, they were in danger of eternal punishment.

Jesus set the tone for all of us regarding the importance of children in His kingdom, in His order of life. They are not the ones to be set aside and out of the way in our churches, placed somewhere so they don’t disturb the “real worshippers.” Children are not the ones who should be taught to always go to the end of the line or to sit at the “children’s tables.” Children are not the ones to be treated with disrespect and told ”children are to be seen and not heard.” They are not to be trained as dogs or frightened into compliance with “disciplinary” weaponry. Instead, Jesus “took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them. (Mark 10:16).

One day, as I chatted with a woman who was cutting slices of cheesecake to be served at a church potluck, my nine-year-old son, hungry and anxious to eat, spied the dessert table and bounded up to us announcing “Oh, boy, cheesecake, my favorite! I can’t wait to have some!” The woman turned to both of us and announced, “This is for the adults but there are plenty of other choices for the children.” Crestfallen, my son looked at me and blinked back tears, feeling both rebuked and belittled. Then, as if to add insult to injury, the woman turned to me and said, “Karen, would you like a slice?” I nodded and held out my dessert plate, and then turned and said, “Here, Joe, you can have mine,” leaving the woman irritated and speechless. If we really believe that our children are fellow believers, if we see them baptized and share around the Lord’s Table with them, then why do we have a different attitude when it comes to showing hospitality to them?

Why should our standards for hospitality toward those inside our family be different than our standards for others, especially other adults? Though most passages in Scripture direct hospitality toward strangers, why would we show any less care and affection toward our children? We prepare for our guests, we anticipate their arrival, we provide our best food, a clean house, and a comfortable bed at night! We use our best sheets and towels, the ones that match! We prepare food they will like and if we know they don’t care for certain foods, we don’t say, “You will finish this or you will be eating it cold for breakfast.” Just imagine saying that to your visiting pastor or missionary! We don’t think, “We will wait until they go to bed and then bring out the best dessert.” A child will know he is welcomed in your home when he receives the royal treatment reserved for guests!

Since hospitality usually involves offering food to others, it is especially important that we consider how we offer food to our children. It is baffling to me how this has become such an issue with parents. Not long ago I read the testimony of a mother who thought she was properly “training” her children by making them eat all sorts of things they didn’t like. It wasn’t a matter of having children try new foods…that is something all good moms do…but this mom believed it was important to train her children to like everything she thought was good for them, even to the point of making one of her children eat Brussels sprouts “at least a hundred times” though the child found them horribly distasteful!

The fact is, when it comes to children having particular opinions about food, this is one area where it is really important to listen to our child’s likes and dislikes and not force him to eat. Many times children will react negatively to the idea of eating a particular food, only to find out later the child is, indeed, allergic to that food. When children are born, they have approximately 250 taste buds on each of the papillae on the tongue. By the time someone has reached middle age, there are less than 90 on each. You see, some foods really are repugnant to children for good reason! Many teen and adult eating disorders can be traced back to children being forced to eat either foods they didn’t like or to clean their plates even though they felt full. But most importantly, ask yourself how you would like to be forced to eat foods you personally hated!

Some moms believe that by making a child eat foods he dislikes, she is training him to be thankful for what the Lord provides. But thankfulness is a heart response, one that comes by knowing who God is and one that comes by His grace alone, not by punitive measures. As we disciple our children and demonstrate by our own examples what genuine thankfulness looks like, we can trust that God will impress on their hearts the desire to worship Him with a thankful heart. While we may force our children to eat everything on their plates, believing we are training them to be thankful, we might really be teaching them to be great Pharisees, outwardly conforming but inwardly becoming bitter because we treat them in ways we would not treat others who share around the table with us! We might even be sending the message to them that they aren’t equal members in the body of Christ.

Author Anne Ortlund, in her book Children are Wet Cement, tells of her vivid memory of going out for lunch with her family every Sunday after morning worship and how her father always allowed the children to c choose from the adult side of the menu rather than from the children’s selections. She said that that simple act made her feel valued as a fellow believer in Christ and opened her heart to receive spiritual truth from her parents. The “pattern of this world,” as Romans talks about, is to not value children as the precious image bearers of Christ that they are, but rather to see them as little extensions of ourselves or as projects that are to be made in our own image.

excerpt taken from The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling ~ when the one anothers come home 

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experiencing the “real” world

kids2

 

Urban legends of homeschooling abound and often end up being the stuff that questions are made of when we visit with well-meaning Aunt Bess at the family reunion or Mr. Armbruster at the church potluck.
“What about socialization?”

“How will you ever teach math and science?”

“You don’t have a teaching certificate. Are you really qualified to teach your children?”

“Don’t you want your children to experience the real world?”

And on and on the list goes.

As those of us who are homeschoolers know, these are loaded questions that have little to do with what is best for our own children. Rather, they convey to us what the questioner actually thinks about homeschooling as an educational choice, and sometimes it is even a passive aggressive way to express their disapproval.

That last question, especially, always makes me laugh. Is a 30 X 30 foot classroom full of boring textbooks and 29 other equally foolish and insecure young people the real life of which we speak? The lucridiousness of this statement hit me again as I stood at one of the Wal-Mart “intersections,” waiting for my unsocialized and inexperienced homeschooled children to finish their shopping. In an act that I am certain would make Margaret Sanger proud, in strolled a teenage girl pushing a cart that held a doll-sized infant carrier that slid back and forth in the basket as the driver rummaged in her purse. Circling around and heading down the make-up aisle, another 5 girls appeared and all began talking at once.

“I was sooo wasted last night.”

“Yeah. Did you hear about Cassie? She was so wasted, too. They thought she died.”

“She didn’t die, she just passed out in her own puke.”

“No, I heard she died.”

“Whatever.”

“Hey, I forgot to take the kid along last night,” said the “mother” of the group, pointing at a 5 pound bag of flour that had been dressed in a pink knitted hat and wrapped in a pale pink blanket. “Yeah, but I brought it along today.”

One of the group reached down inside the cart and, picking up the “baby,” laughed as she adjusted the blanket and held the bundle under one arm.

“So, you wanna go out tonight?” asked another one of the girls.

“OK, said the “mom.”

“Hey, did you see who Tyler left with after the game?”

“Yeah, I saw. And they were both so wasted.”

Tossing the “baby” back into the seat, but failing to fasten the seat belt, all six of them disappeared into the nail polish as I pondered this notion of the “real world.” In my real world, most homeschoolers have instant access to babies, whether it is younger siblings or nieces and nephews of older ones. No one needs to tell them that babies require responsibility and hard work because they watch their moms every single day. They are the most often requested babysitters of parents in the church because they know how to change diapers, are fun for kids to hang out with, and they actually enjoy being with little children. “I was so wasted” is not in their vocabulary because they are too busy writing computer programs, attending NASA science camps, maintaining home businesses, creating culinary works of art in the kitchen, and writing novels. I couldn’t help but wonder if Aunt Bess and Mr. Armbruster even know what “the real world” is in 2010.

And, by the way, in my real world, flour is used for baking. I wonder how many of those girls knew that.

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the power of repentance

baby isaac

One evening when he was still quite young, Paul had been playing in the kitchen with a friend who had stopped by after his normal bedtime hour. His father, evangelist Dwight L. Moody, observed this and then commanded that his son go to bed. Paul Moody said: “I retreated immediately and in tears, for it was an almost unheard of thing that he should speak with such directness or give an order unaccompanied by a smile. But I had barely gotten into my little bed before he was kneeling beside it in tears and seeking my forgiveness for having spoken so harshly. He never, he said, intended to speak crossly to one of his children.”

This childhood experience remained with Paul and later he acknowledged the impact it had upon his religious life. He said “Half a century must have passed since then and while it is not the earliest of my recollections I think it is the most vivid, and I can still see that room in the twilight and that large bearded figure with the great shoulders bowed above me and hear the broken voice and the tenderness in it. I like best to think of him that way. Before then and after I saw him holding the attention of thousands of people, but asking the forgiveness of his unconsciously disobedient little boy for having spoken harshly seemed to me then and seems now a finer and a greater thing and to it I owe more that I owe to any of his sermons. For to this I am indebted for an understanding of the meaning of the Fatherhood of God and a belief in the love of God had its beginnings that night in my childish mind.” ~ from My Father: An Intimate Portrait of Dwight L. Moody by his son, Paul Moody

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power in the cross

cross

December’s ice storms brought a lot of damage to my town and for a week I could hear tree limbs cracking and limbs crashing to the ground all around this old neighborhood where I live. The shrill buzz of chain saws followed as city workers and home owners cleared the streets every day for a couple weeks. Some roads were blocked off entirely as branches, beautiful but fragile under their burden, continued to drop. It was a dangerous situation and required the road crews to be alert to downed wires and even citizens trapped in their homes.

Now that spring is here, the chain saws are out again. The eminent danger of falling debris has long passed but people are looking more closely at their properties and deciding which trees could cause problems in the future.

Hebrews 12:1 reminds us that, in order to be Christians who have a testimony before a watching world, we are to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” so we can “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

Sometimes this means clearing the path of the obvious weighty matter that keeps us from following hard after Christ. Temptations, wrong opinions, attitudes, and patterns of wrong behavior, all are right in front of us along our spiritual paths. When we continually place our own lives up against the backdrop of Jesus’ teachings, we quickly see the stark contrast and we are convicted.

Other times, finding the less obvious sin requires taking the spiritual chain saw to those threatening things that weigh us down, those heart idols that make us fragile and in danger of destruction. I believe it is these more subtle temptations, these hidden issues of the heart, that can be the most dangerous because they often come disguised as insignificant or even as something good.

The last few weeks I have been repeatedly brought back to Jonah 2:8: “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” Oh how often it applies to me! I want to believe that my good works count for something, that I am piling up righteousness points, adding badges to my own personal Good Christian vest. I want to compare myself to someone I think is not measuring up, either to God or even to me. Though I profess faith in Christ alone by grace alone through faith alone, I find myself trying to hang the temple veil back up, struggling on the ladder of my own goodness, looking for that illusive earthly priest who will take my “humble” sacrifice. And the result is that I forfeit the grace God so willingly and lovingly wants to lavish upon my life.

Maundy Thursday is past, Good Friday is here and Easter is upon us. Let’s spend some time looking at Jesus alone, resting in His grace. Let’s clear out those things that threaten our path. And let’s strike down the personal idols, one at a time. Let’s embrace the triumph of grace.

(originally posted 2009)

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homeschooling and sacrifice

 

baltimore harbor

 

“During the War of 1812, the harbor of Baltimore became a prime target for British ships determined to shut down commerce between England and the fledgling United States. Nearly bankrupt from years spent struggling for independence, there was little money to support a military defense of this strategic target. However, the citizens of Baltimore who understood what was at risk banded together and lined up their own vessels, small and large, and sank them, creating an underwater barrier deterring the British armada. They willingly sacrificed all they had, their own financial resources and even their very lives, to defeat the enemy that threatened the lives and the futures of their families.

Agape love calls for this kind of sacrifice and homeschooling is most successful when this sacrificial relationship becomes the cornerstone of everything else we do. As our children witness our commitment to them through homeschooling, their view of who we are in their lives is shaped in a powerful way. One time our eight-year-old son overheard us talking about the homeschooling conference we had attended and the training we had received. In astonishment, he asked, “Wow, you did all that for us?”

Choosing to homeschool our children over our personal interests, hobbies, and even financial gain opens and prepares the soil of their hearts to receive the Word. The fruits of obeying the love one another commands will be seen and shared not only in the here and now in our homes, but will be experienced far and wide and even into future generations. Not only will it alter the course of many lives lived on earth but it will have eternal consequences.” ~ from The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling ~ when the one anothers come home

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celebrating women’s history month: the Rosies of WW II

Rosie-The-Riveter-Norman-Rockwell-1943

Today we are celebrating some of the Rosies whose tireless efforts on the home front during World War II gave us a tremendous victory as a nation!

Unlike regional wars that we are most familiar with today, world wars involve the efforts of entire nations whose citizens rally together alongside their allies in order to defeat a common enemy. World War II, particularly, saw the people of the United States working together, men and women of all ages and social status, to support the 6 million men in the various branches of the US armed services. Moms, sisters, daughters, aunts, cousins, grandmothers, and sweethearts all participated in amazing ways toward the war effort and attempted things no women had ever done before.

Because of the enormous numbers of men drafted into service, women had to step into their factory positions, learning manufacturing skills and finding creative ways to care for their families as they did. By the end of the war, over 19 million women had joined the work force to support the troops here at home. One government advertisement asked women: “Can you use an electric mixer? If so, you can learn to operate a drill.”

In 1942, Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb wrote the song “Rosie the Riviter” to recognize the contribution of these women and Norman Rockwell’s famous drawing on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post a year later iconized her for posterity. The illustration depicts a muscular woman eating lunch with a rivet gun on her lap and a copy of Hitler’s manifesto, Mein Kampf, under her penny loafer!

Other women contributed their energies by creatively providing food. Almost every backyard had a victory garden for feeding not only families to supplement rationed staples but also to feed the troops. Perhaps my all-time favorite story from WW II involves the women from North Platte, Nebraska who volunteered and fed millions of soldiers who came through by train during the war years. Offering encouragement, a warm meal, and often a listening ear, the women of North Platte represented all Americans. For more on their amazing story, listen to one of the women who was a part of the canteen. Also, listen to one of my favorite podcasts and remember the women who went before us in ministry to others using their own unique gifts and talents!

canteen-cake1

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would love to see you!

I will be speaking about Relationship Homeschooling at a couple upcoming homeschool events and would love to connect with you if you are in the area! My workshop will discuss the Principles of Organic Mentoring and my book will be available! And an added treat is that Clay will be with me! Yeah!

 

Quad City Homeschool Convention

North Ridge Community Church – 1700 Blackhawk Trail Road; Eldridge, IA

March 28th, 2015

The convention is free and  great opportunity to connect to with other homeschooling families in the area. Check out their Facebook page for more information! 

Also, I am excited to be included as a Featured Speaker at this awesome event! I will be giving three workshops, including The Curse of the Amazon Barbie, Restoring Relationships with Adult Children, and Relationship Homeschooling Principles. If you will be in Cincinnati, please come to a workshop and stop by my book table! I would love to chat!!!

ghc

MIDWEST Homeschool Convention

Duke Energy Convention Center.

 Cincinnati, Ohio, April 9-11, 2015

Be sure to check out their website for registration information! 

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