Mamas, Let’s Show Each Other Some Grace

Mamas,Let's Show Each Other Some Grace

Here is a link to my latest article for the Homeschooling with Heart blog:

Mamas, Let’s Show Each Other Some Grace

 

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What I Wish I Would Have Learned Before I Began Homeschooling, Part Three: Boundaries and Ourselves

Boundaries With Ourselves

I previously shared with you some of the lessons I have been learning about how setting boundaries with our children and with others can help us homeschool more effectively.   However, sometimes the biggest boundary conflict does not come from without; it comes from within.

Have you ever felt like your homeschool day just “gets away from you”?  You have a plan of everything you were going to accomplish, but at the end of the day, you have only been able to do a fraction of it.  How do other moms manage to get it all done?

Are you a good starter but not a good finisher?  You love coming up with cool homeschool ideas but have trouble following them through to completion.  Are you easily distracted by new, exciting curriculum instead of finishing up with what you already began?  Are you unable to say “no” to other pressures that take time away from school?

Do you lose your temper and say things that are discouraging instead of encouraging?  Are you financially strapped because you can’t seem to live within your means?  You keep trying to get your act together, but nothing seems to work.

If you said “yes” to any of these questions, you might have a problem with internal boundaries.

We are often our own worst enemy.  Although setting boundaries with others can be challenging, in the end, we are only responsible to others, but not for them.  We are responsible for ourselves, though, making internal problems harder to deal with than external ones.  In addition, the strategies we gravitate toward to solve these conflicts may be ineffective.  In the book, “Boundaries:  When to Say Yes, When to Say No to Take Control of Your Life,” authors Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend point out that those with poor internal boundaries may withdraw from relationships when they most need the support of others because of the shame they feel about their personal failures.  Instead, they try to use their willpower to solve their boundary problems, thinking that they can just muscle through them.

As I re-read this chapter in preparation for writing this article, I felt convicted.  I absolutely do this.  Of course, the difficulty of reaching out is that it has to be to someone who will have empathy and respond with love and support.  If one already has weak boundaries that developed as a result of a dysfunctional or abusive childhood, it can be hard to know who to trust.

However, making an idol of our own will is not the solution.  Be honest with yourself about where you are struggling.  Take time to examine what the root causes of those struggles are.  Identify the specific boundary conflict and pray for insight into the underlying need that it is masking.  Then, admit that you cannot heal yourself, and lay it at the feet of Jesus instead.

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” – James 5:16

If you are interested in reading more about boundaries, you can find part one here and part two here.  As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

 

Experiencing a Tornado

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Our spring was kind of crazy this year.  Just as our school year and extracurricular activities were winding down, our town was hit by a tornado.  The funny thing is, we studied earth science last year, and when we learned about tornadoes, my children asked if one would ever happen where we live.  I responded that it was unlikely.  I guess I was wrong!

We were in the parking lot at the supermarket when it hit.  My cell phone had just announced “Tornado warning in your area.  Seek shelter immediately.”

Rain started pelting our car harder than I have ever seen, and the wind was out of control.  In retrospect, we should have just gone back in the supermarket until it was over.  Because we were only 10 to 15 minutes from home, though, we tried to get home as quickly as possible.  However, we live in a very wooded area, so we found that every street that we tried to go down was blocked by fallen trees, with tall trees waving threateningly everywhere around us.  We ended up having to turn back and find another road to go down.  At one point, we reached a road that was blocked, but several cars were trying to get past, so my husband and the other drivers hopped out and were able to pull the tree out of the way so that we could pass.

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We finally got to the entrance of our neighborhood and found that we couldn’t go in, because a large tree was blocking it, along with the power lines that it had taken down with it.  The storm had ended.  We briefly considered finding a hotel for the night, but our two-month-old puppy was at home, alone, in his crate.  We had to get to the house.  So, we parked our car, and my husband, two little ones and I got out and started for home on foot.  We had to hike through our neighbors’ yards because the whole length of the street was covered in downed trees and power lines.  There was so much destruction that we were afraid to see what our house looked like.

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When we finally arrived home, we were shocked to see that we only had some branches down, but not one tree had fallen.  There was no damage to our house.  The only real concern was three very large trees had been partially uprooted and were now sitting on an angle.  We ended up having two of them taken down shortly after, as they would have come down on their own in the next big storm, possibly killing someone.  The largest of the three was 96 feet tall.

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We were grateful to have made it home safely and that our home was not damaged in the storm.  There were at least two deaths in the area that day and extensive property damage.  This house, that is down the street from us, had a tree fall through the second story, landing just 5 to 10 feet away from where someone was sleeping.

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During the storm, the twister was yanking trees right out of the ground, roots and all, and then slamming them back down to the earth.  We live in a lakeside community, and as the twister traveled down the lake, it even ripped the porch right off of a house along the water.

Because of all the downed power lines, we were without power for almost a week.  Since most people in town have well water, that meant we were without running water also.

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During this adventure, my eldest son wondered why nature was so destructive at times.  I wasn’t really sure how to answer that.  As life began to return to normal and roads were opened up again, there were some very noticeable changes in the landscape, though.  A pine forest around the corner had lost so many tall trees and tops of trees that a previously dark road was now bathed in sunlight.  Our vegetable and flower gardens receive much more light as a result of the 96-footer that was taken down.

Our yard is covered in heavy, dead branches that loom threateningly and that were scheduled to be taken down in the spring but that had to be put on hold because the tree-trimmers are too busy with emergency clean-up work (our leaners fell under that category).    If left to their own devices, those dead areas aren’t going anywhere until nature sees fit to bring them down in some catastrophic way.  In the meantime, they prevent the light from nourishing the new life that is trying to emerge underneath.

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Perhaps these storms are a metaphor for our own spiritual walks.  When God comes along and tears down our strongholds, it is painful at the time and can appear to us to be destructive.  In the long run, though, we discover that it was necessary for the new growth that He wanted to work in our lives.  As long as we were clinging to those old, dead areas, the light was unable to get through and shine where it needed to.

 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. – 2 Corinthians 5:17

 

Developing Patience for the Road Ahead

Developing Patience for the Road Ahead

Back in May, I wrote this post for the Homeschooling with Heart blog.   I almost didn’t get it written, because a tornado hit our state, and we lost power for almost a week.

The first two days, my children kept asking when they’d be able to watch TV or use the computer again.  I’ve made a point to limit their screen time, and because there was less availability and dependence on these things when I was raising my two adult children, having a device always on hand to entertain them just didn’t seem natural to me.  Even so, my kids still went through a withdrawal of the screen time that they are allowed to have.

They began to wander outside frequently to entertain themselves and joined with some neighborhood children to build a shelter in the woods behind our house.  I ended up having to coax them indoors for meals.  They managed to find something to engage them that also created an opportunity for teamwork and socialization.  It was almost a blessing in disguise.

Meanwhile, I was going through the withdrawal of having running water and access to information about what was going on, without phone or internet service.  I attempted to model patience for my children, along with gratitude that our home was not damaged in the storm and none of us was injured, although it became more difficult to do as the week wore on.

My reflection on this experience is that you never know when a situation like this will happen.  Many things are out of our control, and it is easier for you and your children to deal with when the virtue of patience has been developed.  It is these moments when it is really put to the test that you begin to realize just what an important life skill it is and how much you are actually lacking it versus what you would normally give yourself credit for.

In my opinion, the real long-term benefit of learning to wait until later for what you want now is the ability to wait on God.  It took many years of waiting and praying before I met my husband.  It might be a spouse, a job, the birth of a child, or any number of things that you or your child needs to wait on God for.

One thing that I have found helpful for my own children is making it the default that they wait in public (at a sibling’s extracurricular activity; at the DMV) without devices to entertain them.  If they’ve had practice stretching and developing those muscles during these short periods of waiting, I believe it will help them to be better prepared for the marathon when it inevitably comes.

My goals for the future are to be a better example of patient waiting in times of stress, to pray that God strengthens both my patience and that of my children, and to trust that He can do this work in us.

 

“A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him by heaven.” – John 4:27

“But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.” – Luke 8:15

The Importance of Outdoor Education in a Digital World

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I grew up in a large city.  Swapping childhood stories with my husband, he was appalled when I explained that recess at the schools that I attended meant being released to an enclosed, asphalt yard.  I counted myself lucky that I actually had a backyard at home with trees and flowers.  Most of my friends only had a small square of grass in front of their house.  Needless to say, our exposure to nature was a bit limited.

Luckily, the private school that I went to recognized this need.  We had an environmental education program in grades 4 through 6, where we got to stay at a campground for a few days in the fall and the spring.  I recently asked some old schoolmates about it, and found that they have as many treasured memories of the experience as I do.

Unlike me, my children are growing up in a more rural area.  They have much more experience with nature than I did.  Even so, when we went camping for our family vacation this year, and completely disconnected from electronics (no TV, cell phones, or other devices), my children were even more engaged with the world around them than normal.  Some of the things that we did were:

  • Identified leaves and plants that we found
  • Learned about wildlife that was native to the area
    • Learned the differences between venomous and non-venomous snakes
    • Learned how to identify raptors in flight
  • Collected leaves, ferns, etc. and made charcoal rubbings and sketches in nature journals
  • Observed and felt moss growing
  • Found a bird’s nest
  • Saw the natural growth and decay of the forest
  • Learned how to build a fire and cook over it
  • Practiced carving wood
  • Collected pine resin and learned some uses for it

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My son actually remarked that he thought life was better without TV!  Being outside without the distractions of modern society allows for more intimacy with nature and with each other.  We interact more fully with each other.  It inspires awe.  It demands use of all of the senses and strengthens observation skills.  Navigating on uneven terrain helps to develop core strength and a sense of balance.  Self-directed learning occurs naturally in the outdoors, as children ask questions about the world around them.

In my son’s case, I’ve watched his confidence grow as he is now able to answer some of his younger sister’s questions.  Sometimes, he can even answer mine, when he shares a tidbit that he has learned from his father.

Of course, we can’t camp all the time, but now that it is spring, we often finish up our school day with a walk.  I ask them to point out any signs of spring that they notice and it is fun to witness the progression from day to day.  The exercise, fresh air, and connection with nature is calming and has pretty much the opposite effect on them that screen time does.  Screens have their place in our lives, but they cannot replace time spent outdoors, which meets a need that seems to be instilled in us from our Creator, to recognize our part in His creation.

 

“But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you;

And the birds of the air, and they will tell you;

Or speak to the earth, and it will teach you;

And the fish of the sea will explain to you.

Who among all these does not know

That the hand of the Lord has done this,

In whose hand is the life of every living thing,

And the breath of all mankind?”  – Job 12:7-10

 

Trusting God’s Plans for My Children

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This is my daughter’s third year studying classical ballet, and she loves it.  After her first year, her teacher decided to keep her in level one.  I agreed that if she hadn’t mastered the basics, it made sense for her to remain there until she was ready to move on.  After all, as a homeschool parent, I understand how important mastery is in any subject.

At the end of her second year, her teacher decided to hold her back again.  Most of her friends had moved on without her after the first year, and now, this year’s classmates would do the same, including her best friend.  I was afraid that watching her peers move ahead without her would damage her self-esteem and wondered if she should try a different activity.  Maybe she would be more successful at something else.

My husband was the voice of reason.  He said, “She loves dance.  As long as she wants to do it, who cares what level she’s at?”

So, she began her third year in level one, while taking some private lessons in addition to help her catch up.  She also wanted to try scouting, like her brother, but I had a lot of trouble finding a local troop for her.  Her best friend’s mom told me about a group that her daughter was attending that was similar to scouts, but Bible-focused instead, so we decided to try that.  However, it turned out that the time of her friend’s level two dance class conflicted with the other activity, so she couldn’t participate this year.  I briefly wondered if we should forget about it, but decided to let my daughter try it out, anyway.

She absolutely loved the new club and was very motivated to bring her book home to read the lessons with me and practice memorizing Bible verses.  Before I knew it, she was earning rewards almost every week and feeling proud of her accomplishments.  She also enjoys the time each week with her new friends.

This past week, I overheard her dance teacher compliment her during class and the thought crossed my mind that maybe she was getting ready to move up, which could happen at any time during the year.  I was initially pleased, until it occurred to me that attending the level two classes would prevent her from going to her other club.  I know that would disappoint her.

This made me reflect on how God has assigned each of us individual gifts and has a plan for us to use them.  While I was concerned about her lack of success in one area, He knew that he had another place for her, one in which she not only would excel but would do so while being immersed in His Word and learning to write the words of it on her heart.

As we enter a new year, I want to learn to trust His plans for my children more and worry less.  I know that I am leaving them in the best possible hands.

 

The Baptism and Racism

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Last Sunday, we held an indoor immersion baptism at my church.  A large, metal trough was brought into the church and filled with water.  To be honest, I thought it was a little weird when I heard of that plan.  The experience far exceeded my expectations, though.  There was a brief sermon, and for the rest of the service, the worship team played while people lined up to be baptized.

Now, I’ve been to plenty of baptisms in my day – infant christenings where they sprinkle a little water on the baby’s head; lake, pond and even swimming pool immersions.  My pastor baptized me in a swimming pool at his parents’ house.  This was something altogether different.  It was as though there was electricity in the air last weekend.  You could just feel the Holy Spirit moving in a powerful way.  I was singing really loud, dancing in my seat, and I briefly thought about how, as a new believer, I would have wanted to let my hair down that way, but would have been afraid to.  Before I got saved, I would have been intimidated by that whole scene – people standing with their hands raised, etc.  Deep down, I would have known it was authentic, though.  It was that sort of feeling that hooked me when my Nana convinced me to visit her church one Easter, sixteen years ago.  The joy that I felt in that service was like nothing I’d experienced in my church upbringing.  This service blew that one out of the water, though.  I was giddy afterwards, and so was everyone else that I talked to.

For me, one of the beautiful things about it was seeing people of different races lined up together to get in the water.  I live in a very monochromatic area, so it is no surprise that our church has typically reflected that.  Having grown up in the city, that is not normal to me, though.  Our church has experienced a lot of growth over the past few years, and I believe it is a blessing that we are beginning to look more like a melting pot now.

After returning home that day and having some lunch, I made the mistake of getting on social media.  A friend from my youth, who has been actively posting a lot of political stuff lately, shared a clickbait article about some racist white woman with the commentary “I’m beginning to think they are all like this.”  Well, so much for feeling giddy.  It was bad enough that he was stereotyping me unfairly, but to make matters worse, this man is married to a white woman and his only child is half white.

I was tempted to respond, but I don’t believe you can talk someone out of prejudice.  Some people open their eyes eventually, but you can’t pry them open for them.  The conclusion that I came to is this.  What I witnessed in my church is what happens when we let Jesus have control.  He brings truth, love, unity, joy and peace.  People loving one another and rejoicing over their new brothers and sisters – that is what Jesus does.

Satan brings deceit, fear and hate.  When media outlets write and publish divisive articles that sacrifice unity on the altar of the god of mammon, it’s obvious who they are giving control to.  It’s sad that there are people who allow their view of the world to be shaped by that.

Personally, I’ll take Jesus.  The view from here is a lot sweeter.

 

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” – Ephesians 4:4-6