The Sweet Life of a Homeschooling Mom Through Wisdom and Kindness

Originally presented at the 2009 Treasures retreat

 

A few weeks ago we traveled to Nashville to visit our son, Ben. For those of you who came to one of the first five years of this retreat, you will remember him as the guy with the curly blonde hair who did all of the sound for us.

Well, this past summer he graduated from Full Sail University with a degree in sound engineering and now he is completing an internship at Blackbird Studios in Nashville. There is just about nothing he would rather do than record an interesting sound, so while we were visiting him, he took us on a tour of the recording studio.

Room after room was filled with all sorts of amazing equipment…walls that were lined with wooden pegs arranged in such a way as to create a place that would record and play “perfect” music, at least as perfect as it can be made on this side of heaven. We watched as he took us into a room where many of the big names in country music have cut albumns…Martina McBride, Toby Keith, Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift. He explained how the room can be rearranged and redesigned for each individual artist by lowering or raising speakers, pulling in unique microphones, and adjusting the ambiance of the room with dimmer switches and even candlelight.

Of course, the highlight of the tour was seeing the massive sound boards where Ben tells me he could even make me sound sing like Dolly Parton if I wanted to. I watched as he explained the dials and knobs, the bells and whistles. The delight on his face and the excitement in his voice was almost more than I could stand. Finally he looked around and described the whole operation in one word: sweet!
Miriam’s dictionary defines “sweet” as being pleasing to the mind or feelings. Today I think that the word “sweet” has now replaced the word “awesome” which probably replaced other words like “cool” or “groovy” or phrases from my day like “far out.” Sweet really is the perfect word to describe what I want to celebrate today…the sweet life of the homeschooling mom.

It IS a sweet life. We have the amazing privilege of spending our days with precious little children who think we hung the moon! We get to be the ones who see those learning light bulbs go off. We get to be the ones who have all the answers, well, at least we have the answer books. We are called homemakers because that is what we do, we make homes. And is there any more wonderful word in the English language than home? We are available to bandage little knees, cuddle away big hurts, listen to dreams and are sometimes invited to dream along, too. We can make life all better with a plate of spaghetti and a cupcake. We are the ones who can, at the end of the day, tuck everyone into clean sheets and a soft bed before we collapse ourselves only to do it all over again the next day. If we step back and look all around us, at our husbands and at our children, at our homes, even at the lap book or science experiment clutter, all we can really say, if we are honest, is “sweet.”

As I began praying about this retreat and considering what I believe the Lord would want me to share with you as a devotional today, I kept coming back to two thoughts that initially didn’t seem particularly related to each other: wisdom and kindness.

As I have listened to homeschooling moms and moms who are considering homeschooling for their own children, share their struggles, I am struck by these two needs: wisdom and kindness, for you see, I believe that they are two of the “most essential” oils that we must have to keep the wheels of homeschooling running smoothly in our homes. And as I have heard grown homeschooled children share the impressions their mothers have left on them, the memories they have written in the wet cement of their lives, I believe nearly every good and bad action or attitude from moms that they remember could come under the heading of wisdom or the heading of kindness, either times their moms exhibited both wisdom and kindness in amazing ways or times when their moms lacked these qualities and left their marks on their children, often in profound ways. Then, as I began to look at the passages of Scripture where the word wisdom is found and then at those passages that address the topic of kindness, I was amazed to find this verse in, of all places, Proverbs 31: “She opens her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.”

Proverbs 31 has always been an amazing passage to me on a number of levels. There have been many times when I heard that a teaching or a Bible study was going to be taken from that passage and I cringed because I have spent so much time wanting and trying to be this Proverbs 31 woman but have fallen short. Just the thought of listening to one more sermon preached about this icon of Christian womanhood, and usually on Mother’s Day, made me tired! It is the guaranteed mom guilt passage of Scripture! So before I share some thoughts on this wonderful verse, I want to put Proverbs 31 into context for you so from now and forever more, it will be a portion of Scripture that brings encouragement and delight to you rather than an overwhelming sense of failure!

First of all, we have to remember that these verses describe the various seasons of a woman’s life. It is not suggesting that one woman do all of these things at one time in her life. That could not be possible and the passage also talks about older children and a husband who is older and has achieved some authority. So remember that.

Also, the entire chapter was initially written from a mother to a son. This son’s name was King Lemuel and we do not know much about him. In fact, no one really knows who he was since he is only mentioned in the Bible by this name in this passage. Some scholars believe Lemuel is another name for Solomon, others believe he was a true king outside of Israel. What we do know is that he was a young man who listened to the counsel of his mom and the Holy Spirit guided both her words to him and his writing it down because it is included in the canon of Scripture.

Secondly, there are really three aspects of her counsel to him. The first she warns him that if he was to be a leader, he ought to abstain from the use of alcohol because it could pervert his judgment. The second is the admonition to be a just man, someone who speaks up for those who cannot speak up for themselves, the poor and the needy. And then she describes what character qualities, what virtues, he should look for in a wife.

The word virtue is interesting…it is the same Hebrew word used to describe David’s might men of valor. Mother Lemuel was not suggesting any wimpy woman for her son. On the contrary, she lists character quality after character quality that she believed a man would need in a wife, qualities that would make her a woman of valor, a mighty wife, a mighty mom. And two of those attributes she lists are wisdom and kindness and they are even placed together in the same verse.

So, with this context in mind, I would like to take a few minutes this morning to talk about wisdom and then when we come back this afternoon we will also be looking at the word kindness because I believe a woman who is wise and a woman who is kind will find herself living out the sweet life of a homeschooling mom every single day!
Wisdom ~ Proverbs 31:26 states “she opens her mouth with wisdom.” The Hebrew word for wisdom means exceedingly wise in mind, word, or action. The dictionary gives these definitions of the word wise: having the power of discerning and judging properly as to what is true or right; possessing discernment, judgment, or discretion,having knowledge or information as to facts, circumstances, etc.: Astute, prudent, sensible, judicious

So why is it so important for a virtuous woman to have wisdom? Why is it important for a homeschooling mom to have wisdom? Let me share with you four of the things we need to know about wisdom that I believe the Bible gives to us.

Wisdom is to be valued above all else.

Scripture tells us that it is better than rubies, is more valuable than all gold and silver, and should be desired more than wealth and power. When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, wealth and power were dangled in front of him. We later are told that Jesus was tempted in all ways that we are tempted, assuring us that we have an advocate with the Father who understands these temptations.

Perhaps these are areas where homeschooling moms do tend to struggle. 10 summers ago when our son got married and we traveled to Miami for the wedding, we stayed with our daughter-in-law’s family. Their home was quite large and they had a maid who took terrific care of us, though she spoke no English.

One day my son who was 11 at the time, came walking down the hallway with a basket full of clean and freshly ironed clothes and a starry look in his eyes. “She did my laundry!” he said. I just looked at him. Who did he think had been doing it the past 11 years? But it did make me wonder what it might be like to have my own maid and to fanaticize about living in a tropical paradise with swarthy men dressed all in white bringing me exotic mango salads and iced tea.

For the most part, we are average women who will never be part of any jet set, flitting around from a fashion show to a party at some upscale establishment. Our idea of fine cuisine is something that doesn’t come in a box with a toy. We wear something called “mom” jeans! And even if we did win the lottery, we would probably shop at Amazon for even more used books! Every once in a while, perhaps when we are discouraged or disappointed or tired, we might wistfully think about what it would be like to live in the world of the rich and famous.

And then there is the notion of power. Boy oh boy, wouldn’t that be something to possess? One day my grandson was playing super hero and decided that he would create his own new character. As he was flying into the room he announced to his brother “My superhero name is Whatever. That is because my super power is that I can do whatever I want.” Don’t we all wish we could be that character? Especially as our children get older and more autonomous? Wouldn’t it be great if we could just “make them” do whatever we would want them to do rather than to counsel and encourage them as they make life choices?

But wisdom would tell us that that is not possible nor desirable and that we are to concentrate on building them up in the faith, teaching them, opening our mouths with the same wisdom we, too, are pursing.
When we choose the career of homeschooling mom, we trade in all the dreams of wealth and power for the opportunity to spend our days pursuing truth and wisdom and relationship building with little people. We embrace the choice of reveling in the days of small things. We seek wisdom and knowledge that far exceeds any earthly wealth or kingdom. We trust that a sovereign God will give us all we need for life and godliness!

Wisdom is given to us by God to enable us to perform our duties as moms and promises to even increase our knowledge.

The word wisdom is used in Exodus to describe the knowledge that the Lord gave to the skilled artisans so they could make Aaron’s garments for worship. We are told that these workers “were given wisdom and understanding in knowledge and all manner of workmanship.”

I have never had to sew any garments for a priest to wear for worship. I have not had to sew any draperies or build any walls or prepare any inner sanctuary as per the Lord’s instructions. But I have been called to give all I can toward the goal of building up children in the faith, preparing children for life outside my home, children whose bodies we are told are called the very temple of the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes that has been a terribly difficult job. There have been so many academic things that I didn’t know before we began homeschooling. And now at this point there are still many things that I do not know. But I am confident that the Lord gave me the wisdom to learn and increase my knowledge in the specific areas He knew my children were going to need to know.

One of the great fallacies that those who hate homeschooling would like to promote is that homeschoolers cannot possibly teach all subjects to their children, that homeschooling moms can’t know everything. I am the first one to admit that this is true. In fact, at least I am honest and can admit that I will never possess all the knowledge available today. The sheer amount of information that there is to know in the world today increases regularly and exponentially. No school, no one can teach EVERYTHING. But, by God’s grace, we can learn all we need to prepare our children to learn in the future, as they pursue college or career paths that are specialized. We need to trust that the Lord will continue to give us wisdom as we need it, as we teach our children. James 1:5 tells us: “Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to everyone generously without a rebuke, and it will be given to him.” And then in Psalm 37:30, we are told that a wise man (or woman) will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel.” Which brings me to the third truth about wisdom that is so crucial for homeschooling moms.

Wisdom in not found in man’s ways, no matter how great those ways seem or how lovely and pleasing the person is who presents them.

The Bible says that there are two kinds of wisdom, God’s wisdom and the wisdom of this world, or fleshly wisdom. I Corinthians refers to this as the wisdom of the age and it comes in many forms, some of them unexpected.

We only have to go as far as our living rooms to take in the best of fleshly wisdom. We just need to turn on the TV and listen to the advice of Oprah and her new age counsel. Or we can go to the bookstore and scan the titles of what seems like limitless numbers of self-help books to learn that most who offer wisdom call upon their own experience or the sage advice of pagans.
Recently we watched Ken Burn’s latest documentary series on the National Parks and learned that much of the credit for the protection of these amazing places around our country can be given to a man by the name John Muir. Muir worked tirelessly to bring an awareness of the need to set aside wilderness lands for the enjoyment of future generations. A dear friend of Teddy Roosevelt, he devoted his entire life to teaching and inspiring government leaders so that a national park system could be put in place.

John Muir was raised in a Christian home, the son of a pastor, and had memorized all of the New Testament and 2/3 of the Old Testament. Yet he rejected the one true God of the Bible and, believing that he had found God in nature, he promoted pantheism until his dying days. His love affair with nature, drew him into the same false religion we see growing in our own time.

As I listened to the various historians describe Muir’s version of Christianity, as they called it, I remembered this passage from Job:

“From where then does wisdom come? And where is the place of understanding? The deep says, ‘It is not in me’; And the sea says, ‘It is not with me. Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, And to depart from evil is understanding.”

Over the summer I spent some time reading a couple of books that have analyzed and evaluated the Barna research and the studies by Christian Smith that have been done to understand why so many young people are leaving the faith and leaving the church. The statistics show that roughly 80% of young people who were raised in Christian homes fail to maintain that faith into adulthood and some of them even abandon it during their teen years. As alarming as the numbers are, to me, the most sobering fact they discovered is that less than 10% of Christian adults, the parents of these young people, even have a Biblical worldview. In other words, they do not possess the wisdom or the ability to think Biblically or to even do what a Christian ought to do.

The book of 2 John has an interesting and particular message to us as moms. It was written to a Christian mother and warns her to be aware of those who would deceive her and draw her away from the faith. John knew what was at stake…the very spiritual lives of this woman’s children. He emphasized that the way to avoid being deceived is to place all confidence and faith in the person of Jesus Christ, on His finished work on the cross, on the very message of the Gospel that we are saved by faith in Jesus and not in our own works.

In the ancient Babylonian and Asyrian cultures and even in the Mayan and Aztec nations of Central America, men built temples to worship their Gods through sacrifice. These temples were called ziggurats and were built in receding tiers on a rectangular or square or sometimes an oval platform with a place to make sacrifices on their summit. Ramps or stairs allowed access to the top, sometimes as many as 7 tiers on any given ziggurat. They believed that these were stairways they could climb in order to reach their gods to offer sacrifices, works they could perform in order to please their deities.

In Genesis 28, Jacob dreams of a similar stairway into heaven but in his vision, angels of God were ascending and descending on it. Jesus explained Jacob’s dream in John 1 when he said “you will see heaven and the angels of God descending and ascending upon the Son of Man.” Jesus is saying that He is our ziggurat, our stairway, our only means to reaching God.

Sometimes I think that we, as homeschooling moms, build our own stairways to heaven, our own versions of good works, actually believing that they are the means by which we can find approval from God. We have a vision in our minds of what a perfect homeschooling situation would look like, a line-up of clean and perfectly obedient children who perfectly complete the perfect assignments we give them from our perfect lesson plans. We write mental checklists of what we need to do in order to be acceptable and worthy of our salvation, lists that define biblical or godly womanhood. We believe that our worth to God is measured by how many of those items we can check off on our quest to become the perfect combination of Martha Stewart and Elisabeth Elliott. Our celestial stairways are steep and polished and somehow we can never get to the top of them.

It isn’t always the secular world that introduces fleshly wisdom into our lives. Often this wisdom is introduced to us by those who profess to be Christians who seek to add to the word of God. It is often a difficult task to recognize deceivers because they may still maintain a form of godliness but they will deny the power of the one true God.

In a letter to Timothy, Paul warned the young pastor that those who deceive the saints are “lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, dishonoring to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” Deceivers, in essence, do not love God or others, they love only themselves and they use others to their own advantage, they love the world and the cravings of sinful man, they lust with their eyes, they continually boast.

I always think of Sinclair Lewis’ Elmer Gantry when I read this passage of Scripture. The fictional character Gantry was raised in a Christian home and studied at a seminary, eventually becoming an evangelist, but his love for the things of this world…sex outside of a one man/one woman marriage, power, and money….all became his undoing and he used religion as a cover to acquire these things. He was a charlatan of the worst sort. He was a deceiver.

I would beg you to be alert and not passively accept just any teachings as they come along. Do not be fooled by those who turn the narratives of the Bible into commands for all of us to keep. Do not be lead astray by those who might elevate the value of the family above proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ and a personal relationship with him. Keep your Bible beside you at all times and measure all words by THE WORD of God. And that brings me to the 4th reason that wisdom is so important in the life of the homeschooling mom.

Wisdom is only found in one place: in Jesus Christ.

Believe it or not, we are only 48 days away from Christmas! Soon I will begin holiday baking, freezing dozens of cowboy cookies and loaves of cranberry bread and there will be enough pecan pies to feed an army. I know that my family associates certain yummy foods with our home and I want to be ready to nurture them with the comfort food they look forward to having.

In the past couple of years, the book of Colossians has become my Scriptural equivalent of comfort food, the place I come to again and again to be encouraged and nurtured in the faith. Paul describes for us Jesus, in whom, he tells us, are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation, by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”

I would like to ask you this morning….do you have a personal relationship with this Jesus Christ? When you die, will you go to heaven? Why will the Lord let you in? Because of the good works you have done? Because you have been a homeschool mom? No!!! We need to examine our lives and honestly recognize that even one sin we have committed violates God’s standards and will send us to hell. We must believe that our only hope is to throw ourselves on the mercy of God, trusting in the blood of Christ alone to save us.

Proverbs 14:1 tells us that a wise woman will build her house, but a foolish woman will tear it down with her own hands. Let us purpose to be women who build our homes upon wisdom, wisdom that is more valuable than all the wealth and power the world has to offer. Wisdom that empowers us to accomplish the tasks before us. Wisdom that is based on God’s eternal truths rather than man’s ideas. Wisdom that is found only in the person of Jesus Christ. I believe if we do, we will enjoy the sweet, sweet life of the homeschooling mom.

Mr. Perfect

(This was originally presented at the 2009 Treasures retreat.)

Let me see the hands of those who LOVE garage sales? Rummage sales? Tag sales? Junk stores? The Fulton County Scenic Drive flea markets? Perhaps there is nothing more wonderful than pulling a few dollars or a few coins out of your purse and bringing home some wonderful treasure.

I have found all sorts of amazing cheap things to feather my nest and have been collecting and enjoying my finds for longer than I have been married. But imagine my surprise when I discovered that someone could find the perfect man at a garage sale! You young single women, take note of this. Out there among the burpless Tupperware, the boxes of steamy romance novels, the faded Christmas ornaments from 1988, and Wal-Mart tubs full of discarded Happy Meal toys, you CAN find Mr. Perfect. Believe me, it is true because I brought him along with me today. Oh, sorry, it isn’t Clay. It really is Mr. Perfect!

Just look at this guy. He is so manly in his button down shirt. He always has a huge smile on his face, perfect wavy hair that is never out of place, (I just love the floop doop in the front.) He sort of has that rugged Hugh Jackman look, doesn’t he? And, Mr. Perfect ALWAYS has the perfect phrase just to make your day. Listen what he says to me when we hold hands…

SNOOKLEMS, I LEFT YOU WITH SOME EXTRA CASH TO GO SHOPPING WITH THE GIRLS.

HONEY, I LOVE DOING THE DISHES FOR YOU.

SWEETIE, YOU DON’T NEED MAKEUP, YOU’RE ALWAYS BEAUTIFUL.

I GOT AN IDEA, LET’S INVITE YOUR PARENTS OVER FOR DINNER

LET’S GO SEE THAT CHICK FLICK AGAIN.

HONEY, I HOPE WE CAN SPEND THE HOLIDAYS WITH YOUR FAMILY AGAIN THIS YEAR.

I’LL BE DRIVING YOUR CAR TO WORK TODAY BECAUSE I’M TAKING IT IN FOR SERVICE.

SWEETHEART, YOUR HOT BUBBLE BATH IS READY.

I’LL PAY FOR THAT HONEY DON’T YOU WORRY ABOUT IT.

NOOKLES, I LEFT YOU WITH SOME EXTRA CASH TO GO SHOPPING WITH THE GIRLS.

HONEY, I LOVE DOING THE DISHES FOR YOU.

Sorry to say, I do not have a Mr. Perfect doll for everyone to take home today, (I will let you hold mine afterwards if you want to) but during our last Bible study time this afternoon, as we look at the second part of Proverbs 31:26 “She opens her mouth with wisdom and on her tongue is the law of kindness,” I would like us to think about the phrases we use, both with our children and with our husbands and then at the attitudes that we have that are behind what happens when our buttons are pushed.

The word “kindness” that is found in this verse in Proverbs 31 literally means to show yourself merciful to someone else, to demonstrate grace toward others, to display gentleness toward those we are serving. Kindness, grace, gentleness, mercy, words that describe the way we want to be treated by others, words that define the way Jesus treats us. But are they words that define the way we speak to or the way we treat those we love the most? And what is behind our words? Do the words grace, gentleness, and mercy describe our attitudes toward husbands and children? Let me share with you four truths about kindness that I believe we must apply to our lives:

We, ourselves, have been the recipients of kindness.

We have received mercy, grace, and gentleness from God in the person of Jesus Christ. God has treated us with gentleness and patience, forbearing with us when we sin, restoring us when we repent. Remember the story of the Ninevites in the book of Jonah? The Bible describes them as wicked and so He sends Jonah to warn them that He was going to destroy them, which was his first act of mercy toward these people who were grossly sinning against him. Then, when they repented and He decided to preserve their lives, which was his second act of mercy toward them, Jonah described God as “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness.” God’s expresses his kindness to us in the same way, giving us the 10 commandments so that we will understand what sin actually is and then providing a means of redemption through the blood of Christ.

In Ephesians 2, as believers, we are promised that God’s mercy will continue, “in the ages to come He will show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” We have received God’s kindness to us in our salvation and we will continue to receive his kindness through our relationship with Him through Jesus!

God has given us the gift of kindness and expects us to extend it to others.

In fact, it is listed as one of the fruits of the spirit that becomes a part of our lives and our character through the power of the Holy Spirit. Those fruits are: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.

Years ago in our town, there was a very wealthy man who died and left a great deal of money to several organizations through annual endowments of $100,000.00 apiece and included in his gift were several churches who looked forward to that gift of money every year.

One day, I heard an interesting story by a woman who worked with a children’s ministry in one of these churches. Each year the church children would attend a week at camp and some of the youth sponsors thought it would be a great idea to make it possible for a group of poor children who attended the church to be able to go to camp through scholarships. This woman approached the church board and asked if they might allocate $500.00 to be used for the camp fund. The financial committee met and then explained to the woman that they would not be able to sponsor the poor children and this was their reason. Their bank balance showed that they were only a little over a thousand dollars away from having one million dollars in the bank. The board was so excited to see that balance and they had always wanted to have a million dollars in the bank. They decided that giving that $500.00 for poor children to attend camp would delay their attaining of that goal!

Isn’t it a funny thing about kindness? We are so glad to receive it, so happy to be the recipients of grace and mercy and gentleness and yet, we are so hesitant to give it to others for fear that it might take something away from us. We typically see ourselves as being giving and self-sacrificing, and, as moms, we are! But sometimes I believe we are so tempted to withhold grace from our husbands or our kids for fear of what we might lose….our reputations as perfect wives and homeschooling moms, our control over our children, our own desires and dreams for our marriage or our families.

I heard an interesting true story about kindness. There was a homeschooling dad who decided to take his 7 children out to breakfast one morning. When they arrived at the restaurant, he saw that they were offering a special: all you could eat pancakes or waffles for one price. When the waitress came, he said “We will have 8 pancake breakfasts and 8 glasses of water.” His little 6 year old son, who had just learned to read, read the sign and leaned over to his daddy and asked “Daddy since pancakes and waffles are the same price, may I please have waffles instead?” So when the waitress returned, the dad said, “Excuse me, ma’am, but that will be 8 glasses of water and 7 pancake breakfasts.” Then he turned to his son and said, “Son you must learn to take what I give you. You will have only water to learn this lesson.”

I ask you, what did that small child learn about kindness that morning as he drank his glass of water while the rest of the family ate breakfast? And what lesson was he taught regarding our Father God? Interestingly enough, that story was told by the father who was bragging about the lesson he had taught his son that morning.

Kindness demands that we see our husbands and children for whom God has called them to be, not who we want them to be.

When we began homeschooling in the early 1980’s, we homeschooled for a year before we joined a homeschooling group and began attending their conferences. One of the highlights, for me, of these week long meetings during the summer was the mass choir made up of several thousand smiling students dressed in navy blue dress pants or skirts, crisp white shirts and blouses with navy blue ties and neck bows. It was a sight to behold as they sang “It will be worth it all when we see Jesus,” my heart responding to the intended message “Hang in there, moms. One day you will see Jesus and all those years of giving your life to raising children will be worth it.” But, if you had a trained eye, there was something interesting you could observe about these young men and women. In that sea of navy and white uniformity that I so dearly loved, there would be imaginative touches in the accessories…flashes of other colors in the ties, neck bows with flair or shoes that made a fashion statement, hair styles that were just under the radar of acceptable conformity but obviously “toned down” for the week.

For many years I “just knew” what was acceptable dress for homeschooled kids but my ideas were challenged as the artistic children among us grew older. Though each of our children are creative and artistic in their own ways, clearly three of them, 50% of my children, obviously march to the beat of a different drummer when it comes to personal style. My daughter was Anthropology nearly 10 years before there was Anthropology, which was often hard for me to understand in my personal, preppy, matchy-matchy life. I would hear myself saying to her: Do you really think that red velvet jacket goes with EVERYTHING? What do you mean your new hair color is called pomegranate? You’re covering your footstool with what? Faux fur? I just couldn’t get it. Then there is the youngest who thinks the 1930’s is the best fashion look and argyle rules the day. His peers may think his dress is odd but little old ladies love it because he looks like their high school beaus.

Well, it took the 4th born child to really show me what grace ought to look like as you stare it right in the face. The boy wanted a tattoo.

I had read all the admonitions about tattoos being the sign of slavery. Sermons and articles in homeschooling publications that addressed teen rebellion always threw in a tattoo reference or two for good measure along with drug use and riotous living. Certainly the prodigal son MUST have spent some of daddy’s inheritance on a tattoo.

So, to me, being a homeschooler with a tattoo did not compute. Clay told him that we, personally, didn’t really like the idea of a tattoo but that we wanted him to think about it for a while and to really consider the pros and cons before he got one and to do so in light of being a Christian. Visions of skulls and crossbones danced in my head.
And then this son came home for a Christmas break from school and on his forearm there it was…not just a tattoo but one he had designed himself. When he showed it to us, he gave us the whole story.

After our initial talk with him, he had gone to see his Old Testament professor to ask him about the teachings we had heard about tattoos. Together they examined all the Bible references and related verses. After considering the context of the passages and being sure that he would not be sinning by getting one, he drew his own design and went to a tattoo artist.

As he explained it to me I found myself quite moved and ashamed of how judgmental I had been toward him. The drawing was of a face with a cross forming the nose and eyes in the center and he explained that it represented the concept of imagio deo, being made in the image of Christ. He told us that it is a constant reminder in front of him of who he is in Christ and shared how he had been able to present the Gospel to several people who asked about its uniqueness.

In his wonderful book Grace-Based Parenting, author Tim Kimmel notes that the first characteristic of grace-filled homes is that they allow children the freedom to be different. He says “Grace can’t be some abstract concept that you talk about in your home. It has to be a real-time action that ultimately imprints itself in your children’s hearts. To talk about grace, sing about grace, and have our children memorize verses about grace – but not give them specific gifts of grace – is to undermine God’s words of grace in their hearts. Grace means that God not only loves them but that He loves them uniquely and specially. The primary way to give our children receive grace is to offer it in place of our selfish preferences.”

As I read these words, I realize how often I have been loath to extend grace to my children and have allowed my own tastes and opinions to be presented to them as a holy standard, when the truth is that God’s Word is the standard we ought to be pointing toward. How often I have even been tempted to put my own spin on Scripture in order to “prove” that my preference is the “right” one. And I have remembered the times when my first thought was “what would other people think about me, especially as a homeschooling mom, if my kid does x, y, or z.” It has caused me to repent of my own sin of loving myself more than I have loved God or my children. Pastor and author, Norm Wakefield, refers to this as “idolatry masquerading as love” and I believe he is correct.

And what about how we relate to our husbands? Do we have expectations on them that are unrealistic? What phrases would we make the “perfect man” say to us? Do we compare them to other husbands, to other fathers? Do we find some arbitrary list from some magazine article or book and seek ways to impose someone else’s preferences on our own husbands?

Did you ever hear the story of the 8 cow wife? On an island in the South Pacific, a young woman named Sarita lived with her father. In that village, it was customary for a young man to pay a bride price to the father of a girl he wished to marry. Typically 4 or 5 cows was considered top dollar for a pretty woman. Sarita was so homely that no one had even offered one cow for her.

One day it was rumored that a business man visiting from another island had decided to he wanted to marry Sarita and everyone began to whisper and speculate as to how much money this father could ask. Certainly Sarita was so homely that she might not bring more than 1 or possibly 2 cows. They were stunned, however, to learn that Sarita’s dad had received 8 cows for her. No one had ever paid 8 cows for a bride! The businessman and Sarita were married and moved away. Several years later, the business man returned and on his arm was the most beautiful woman anyone had ever seen. Immediately, the townspeople began to whisper again, “Certainly he had divorced Sarita and found another.” Poor, Sarita, they thought! They wondered what had become of her. But, squinting his eyes, the father, watching from afar, soon realized that this was his beloved, but once homely, daughter. Everyone began asking the business man what had happened and he explained. “When you pay 8 cows for a wife and she believes that you think she is an 8 cow wife, that is exactly what she will become!”

All of us either have 8 cow husbands or ones who are on their way to becoming 8 cow husbands if they know that is what we believe about them! I know dozens of homeschooling dads and they are at least 8 cow husbands! They work long, hard hours to provide everything their families need so that mom can be home and teach the children. They take their families to church and are usually the ones who are serving as Sunday school teachers, Awana commanders, Bible study coordinators, elders, deacons, trustees, and Evangelism Explosion leaders. They keep the car in good repair, mow the grass, unclog the toilets, paint and wallpaper the house, coach little league, grill the burgers, hang the storm doors, change diapers, give baths, tell bed time stories, sit through piano recitals, pray with their children, read their Bibles to their families, encourage their wives during labor and delivery, walk the dog, pay the bills, shovel the snow, drive their kids on their paper routes, and fall into bed at night, more than happy to get up the next morning and do it all over again. They are faithful stewards of what God gives to them, using their own particular gifts to serve their families. They are one way God demonstrates his kindness to us! I would encourage you moms to go home this evening and thank your husband for all he has done to make it possible for your family to enjoy the sweetness of homeschooling! And tell him that he is Mr. Perfect!

Kindness is being a wife and mom who is willing to change.

Earlier this year, a woman wrote to tell me of an interesting experience she had at a homeschooling support group meeting she was attending for the first time. As they all went around the circle introducing themselves, one after another of these mothers shared how their older sons and daughters had left their homes in less than positive ways. Some of them had denied the faith, others were in terrific rebellion. Some of the moms didn’t elaborate. But the woman who shared this story with me was amazed at how many homeschooling families represented in one room could have lost their children, some of them grieving the estrangement from more than one child.

Not long after that, Clay and I met two young women who had also left their homes in unpleasant situations. One of them was nearly 23 years of age and had never had a job, had no driver’s license, no high school diploma, and was expected to stay in her home until her dad had found a suitable husband for her. As we heard their stories, we were amazed at what they had experienced and we have grieved over the broken relationships.

In the past few months I have heard more sad stories about homeschooling families than at any time in the past than I can remember. Typically, these stories involve young men and women, most of them in their early twenties, who have been excommunicated from their families and even their churches for not going along with some sort of paradigm that has been established for them. They have been forced to move out of their homes, some of them not being allowed to take anything but the clothes on their backs. Most of them are also kept from seeing their younger siblings because the parents have determined that they are a bad influence. Moms are broken hearted because of lost relationships with children; years later, some have never met their grandchildren.

But here is the interesting part of the story. Every single young person who has talked to me personally, and there have been dozens, have not abandoned their faith. In fact, they are young adults who actually read their Bibles and are active in Bible-teaching churches, brothers and sisters in Christ who desire to not only walk faithfully with the Lord but to see restoration with their families.

What happened? Many of them found out for themselves that the standards their families had been imposing were not found anywhere whatsoever on the pages of Scripture but rather they were notions their parents had picked up somewhere. When they approached their parents with their own convictions and concerns, the parents chose a paradigm over a relationship with their children, expectations were not met, harsh words and accusations were spoken, ties were severed.

I believe these stories are becoming more common as parents look at the culture around us and want to protect their children, which we must do. But, in our zeal to do so, we cannot set up paradigms and miniature kingdoms of our own. We must recognize paradigms for what they are, a list of do’s and don’ts that someone, not God, has created. Instead of embracing a list, I have discovered that it is best for me to run all ideas, philosophies, and paradigms through my “one-anothering hopper.” I ask myself if the suggestions or ideas I am hearing will serve to build my relationships or will serve to tear them down; will they reflect the one-anothering commands of Scripture? I ask if they are a picture of Christ and His relationship with me as His needy daughter. If not, I am not interested, no matter how much appeal they might have for any number of reasons.

We must also realize that a sovereign God is working in the lives of each of our children individually and that He will accomplish his purposes. We must seek the Lord and ask Him what he would have for our own family. We must listen to our children and come together with them to determine their future plans. And before any of this happens, we must do all we can to build solid, godly relationships with them, placing them as individuals and as precious brothers and sisters in Christ above any imaginary standard or model we have built in our minds.

Do you remember this morning when I talked about the great conservationist John Muir, who had been raised in a Christian home? Muir had abandoned his faith and created his own religion that he called “redemption through nature.” As a child, Muir had memorized massive passages of Scripture. But, his parents had forced him to memorize it by beating him until he had learned it! In their zeal to get God’s word into him, they had hardened his heart and turned him away from the one true God.

We must become women who demonstrate kindness in our homes. Wisdom would tell us that it is necessary. In describing Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, Scripture says that God gave Solomon “wisdom and exceedingly great understanding, and largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore.” We may need to repent of past actions or attitudes toward our husbands and children, of times when our hearts were small. But here is the wonderful truth of applying kindness, mercy, gentleness, and grace in our lives: 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Praise God, “all” includes those times when we have failed to extend the same kindness to our precious families that the Lord has extended to us! May we face tomorrow with the assurance that repentance leads to restoration with both God and man, leading us to kindness and the sweet life of a homeschooling mom!

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