Friday, December 5, 2014

Called to Follow

Funny how we judge ourselves so harshly. Held to some impossibly high standard that would topple even the most perfect. Elizabeth faithfully followed God, but yet grappled with the barrenness of her womb. I know some modern day Elizabeths. She was not made great because she gave birth to John the Baptist, it was just one way that God honored her faithfulness.

I've wrestled with that though. So many godly friends and family members that muddle through never ending infertility.  Yet, children are a blessing, so why doesn't God bless them? He has blessed me in that way, and I feel so undeserving, sometimes guilty as I talk to those that He has not blessed in that way.

In that way.

"That" way varies from season to season. Sometimes I see only the material blessings in people's lives, while mine lacks that. Sometimes I view only someone's new baby while we pray for another. Sometimes I lock in on the success of ministry for others while I turn down another serving opportunity because of sick children. Sometimes I fixate on another family's godly children while I suit up for the same battle of disciplining our strong-willed child. Rather than see the blessings, I see the lumps in the clay where God continues to shape me.

That's they key. We see a blessing withheld, but He has merely poured out elsewhere.

He took away her shame, but He had not put it there.

The shame we bring on ourselves. I've done it, often. Stumbling under the weight of unmet expectations and unrealized goals. Goals that I thought I needed to reach to prove my worth, spiritual or otherwise.

Once again, God wiped my worry and self-doubt clean today using this beautiful devotional blog that I've started following recently, Love God Greatly.

Instead of seeing my weakness as a downfall, I can see it as a trademark that God is at work. Just as they said about Elizabeth, "Nothing is impossible with God." It takes my human shortcomings to allow His glory to shine through and His clear work of redemption and transformation to get the credit. 

His plan for my life continues, not what I thought it would be 20 years ago or even 10 years ago, and yet uniquely mine, a masterpiece crafted with good works, His, not mine.

As I cherished this renewed perspective today, I received an email that pressed deeper His message for me today --  the simple daily following of my Savior as a wife and mom, that is my highest call right now. Regarding our oldest son the email said, "He is such a committed volunteer in our ministry and his skill set at his age is off the charts."

Words a mother needs to hear now and then to remind me of the blessings as I'm distracted while I look for God to bless me in "that" way. 





What blessings are you missing that God has already poured out?  
Praying we all open our eyes a little wider to God already at work.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Jesus' consistency, our random responses

John 18 and Luke 22 pressed out my thoughts today . . . 

Peter, so like me I have to chuckle at times.

Jesus says, "I am He."

Peter (what was he thinking?) lunges with his sword drawn and slices the ear of the nearest bystander. I'm sure the High Priest's servant was posing the greatest threat to Jesus at the time.

Irrational. Not well thought out. Emotional response in the wake of Christ's level headed interaction.

Christ had surrendered already. Not in defeat, but in submission. Did Satan think he had won?

Looking back at Christ's words exchanged with Judas and 600 or so of his closest friends, His holiness is magnified in this dark moment.

"Whom do you seek?"

"I AM"

"So, if you seek me, let these men go." Is there any doubt who was really in charge?

"Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?"

He had already wrestled. It wasn't an easy surrender, but He lay down His will fully to do what needed to be done to save me.

Remember what Peter had been doing? Remember Christ's warning? Peter fell asleep. Christ said, "Don't" twice. His reason -- pray so you don't fall into temptation.

What Peter needed to set him straight was time in wrestling then surrendered pray.

I'd rather sleep, or lay in bed worrying. How much sense does that make?

Wrestle, surrender. Follow in peace. Of course, that doesn't mean the road ahead offers smooth passage. The cross lay just around the corner for Jesus Christ.

Peter still floundered. "No, I don't know Him." Cursing. Denying. Emotionally distraught confused.

I can't imagine watching the world I had lived and loved for three miraculous years seemingly fall apart.

Later he would wrestle. With Christ's questions on the beach. With his own guilt.

And, God still used him, powerfully. A broken pot like me. An irrational human that gets stuck in the here and now.

Father God, help me to wrestle with You and surrender instead of worrying and reacting. Thank you for your forgiving love and using even me. ~Amen


Thursday, February 13, 2014

nudged to write

Funny to sit down to write after nearly a year of not.

Don't know if anyone will read it, since last I wrote Google Reader was still active.

But, I don't write for others, I largely write for myself. To capture a thought, an experience, a season.

Life is full to overflowing these days. Teaching, teaching, loving, growing, stretching, serving, cleaning (not enough), and worshiping, always worshiping.

High school graduation is mercifully still a year away for our oldest. So many exciting changes though as adulthood comes calling. Jobs, driving, college majors, serious volunteer work. Such a man he has become.

Number 2 has an inch on me, but seems to be leveling out. She's amazing and sweet and gentle, and so much of what I need in my home and life. Catch myself glancing at this other woman in my home. So quickly she appeared.

Faith brings the needed emotion and energy to our home. Always has. Something unique about third children. So full of life and love. Passionate about animals, friends, serving Christ, and whatever else may capture her fancy.

Our fourth reached double digits this past year. A ready smile and determined spirit. She works harder than the rest of the house put together. Growing friendships and enjoying physical activity in all shapes and sizes.

Nathan is the character. He shines a little brighter with a camera rolling. Always lots to say and discover. Growing too fast and finding lots of trouble in the process.

And, my sweet little bonus baby. Already a preschooler. Learning sounds and numbers. Stretching my patience with his energy and curiosity. Loves being read to and snuggled with and always says something to make me laugh when he is on one of his infamous "spy missions."Only God knew what a blessing he would be to our not yet complete family.

Yes, life is wonderfully, splendidly full of life. God is good and has moved me through a time of treasuring his gentleness to a new season of marveling anew at his mightiness.

Maybe I'll be back. I kind of like this writing thing.

In His Mighty Grip,
Erin

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Homeschooling High School: - Try it, you'll like it


Intimidation mounts gradually as the grades tick by for homeschoolers. For some reason people don't question much that we can teach a child to read or master basic math. With middle school comes a new set of questions -- how do you know enough to teach your kids?

Are you really smarter than a 5th grader?

High school pounds this home with explosive intensity. Really? You really think you can teach Latin or Spanish, and Calculus, and Physics, and Government, and science labs, and research papers? You really think your child can go to college having never stepped foot in a traditional classroom? All with YOU as the primary teacher?

Well, yes, in fact, I think so. Maybe.

Although my passion for homeschooling doesn't waiver, my confidence in myself took a serious nose-dive.

After much prayer, we decided to press on. The benefits of enrolling in a traditional school were nearly non-existent in comparison to homeschooling, so we tried our hand at freshman year.

Honestly, that was a hard year. Really hard in some ways. This man-child inches past me in height, and in some academic subjects as well. We communicate differently, learn differently, and excel in different areas. I had to learn to capitalize on the weaknesses that hovered between us.

At the end of freshmen year I had almost had it. I felt like we were driving a hundred miles an hour -- in opposite directions. Then, something snapped.

It came right after I decided to just give up on really trying and just coast to graduation. My husband caught me in that one. A godly, loving parent could never push that ejector seat button and just bail out. 

So, I pulled back and prayed. and prayed. and prayed.

On a calmish day I sat down for a real heart-to-heart with my newly 15 year old. I dug in, searching for the deep waters that Proverbs says the heart holds. I found them. God met us there and everything changed directions.

I saw his respect for me visibly improve. I felt my love for him surge. We could carry on in a productive, God-honoring way. And I almost missed it.

I almost gave up, put him on the bus, sent him off somewhere, anywhere. But God. God spoke through my wise husband and pulled us all back together again.

Now, a year later, I cannot tell you the gratitude that I have for this past year. He asks for advice. We discuss college and courses of study. Such an exciting time! First job, college applications, placement exams, seeing the fruit of all these years, and even the pressing through those tough days and seasons.

Don't miss this time in your teen's life, or even another 6-8 hours a day of it. They'll already have work and volunteer opportunities likely pulling them away now and then, we don't need them gone for school on top of that.

Dream together. college, jobs, careers, relationships.

Discuss it all. I treasure the real life conversations we have now. No more imaginary, if I could fly or why is the sky blue talk. Now we talk about real things. The nightly news, deep biblical doctrines, international politics, church government issues, caring for orphans, and all kinds of other meaty topics that come up because we live life together.Yeah, there's still board games and laughing through Balderdash and family movie night, and so many other fun moments, too, but life is still full of teachable moments.

I had no idea I would enjoy this season as much as I do. And, I get to go through this five more times. :)


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

You can homeschool high school





You can do it, even if you don't feel like it.

Many homeschoolers get scared away by topics like trigonometry, chemistry, and foreign language. I will readily admit that it all sounds a bit intimidating, but as we charge to the end of our first child's sophomore year, I'm living proof that it can be done.

This week we experienced an exciting affirmation. My son, almost 16, went to the community college to take the entrance exams so he can begin dual-enrollment classes there this summer.

He had to take two tests -- reading and math to secure his spot in the appropriate class. He is currently nearing the end of Saxon Advance Mathematics with me as his teacher. Yep, me. The one who always has to look up what sin means (at least outside of Bible class). The one who needs reminders about what a natural logarithm is, and even with a reminder I will admit I don't really understand it.

So, how'd he do?

Proud mama moment . . . He easily passed the college level reading proficiency required by many of the classes (history, science, etc.). And, he tested into the highest class they test for -- college level calculus.

I can assure you he did not accomplish this because he had some wise knowledgeable teacher guiding him through pre-caluclus. It was just me and Saxon's book, not even the DIVE CD's.

Success is not guaranteed, but it is possible, and there are some things I did right to get here. Despite my pretty pathetic track record with blogging lately, I am going to start a series of posts and homeschooling high school and some of what I am learning, even as I admit that I am still a rookie in this venture.

I did a lot of things wrong -- started serious record keeping late, didn't do enough writing over the years, let myself get intimidated by my weaknesses, let high school sneak up on me, and on and on. God gives grace and wisdom where I had none. You don't need to be the perfect parent or the perfect teacher, just a God- surrendered one willing to seek out the answers, and surround your home with the resources for each child to be all that God has created him or her to be. And, when you have an off week, or an off month, or even an off year, God can restore those seasons.

I walked through some seasons of the locust devouring everything around me and I thought we could never make up the last opportunities and time. God is so good, and we stand here jaw dropped at test scores that live that out.

Surprise, surprise, my kids' success isn't all about me.But, stay tuned and I will share some of what we did right along the way to get here.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Strike is imminent . . .

All the striking teachers over the course of this school year have gotten me thinking . . .

I think I'm long overdue for a strike. Twelve years without a raise, and the work load just keeps increasing. Here are some of the demands I could seek, followed by my current working conditions.



We could definitely use some better working conditions.
- cleaning vomit from student's bed sheets before school can begin
- maintaining the cleanliness of the entire school building before during and after school hours
- no breaks, unless you count stopping to prepare the students' lunches
- holidays may be taken at your discretion unless any student might decide to want to do some extra work

Or at least, more narrowed work responsibilities
- Lunch lady
- transportation coordinator
- curriculum selector and purchaser
- handle all classroom discipline no matter the extent including any detentions or outside consequences.
- manage all extra curricular activities, or research, hire and fund any personnel outside of regular classroom
- after school care
- study hall supervisor
- school secretary, security, and assistant principal. Must screen all calls and visitors before during and after school hours.


Maybe more reasonable hours?
- Monday through Friday and occasional weekends. Teaching might begin as early as 8:00 and continue through dinner for various students. Weekends are not guaranteed off, and teachers are expected to always be on the lookout for teachable moments to reinforce classroom learning. On call tutoring at any time, even as late as 8:30 pm on occasion. 
- Teaching will diminish during summer months, with occasional days off here and there.

Adequate pay
- No monetary compensation whatsoever.

Continuation of employment not based on student performance (and yet, many want homeschooler's to submit to annual tests and perhaps relinquish their right to homeschool if their child isn't meeting standards. Seems a little inconsistent on the part of educators, don't ya' think?)
- This is really kind of irrelevant, my kids are all thankfully thriving, I just threw it in there for the sake of argument.


So, why do I keep at it?

Benefits:
- Relational bond with students for the remainder of your life
- Intimate knowledge of students and boundless opportunities to pour into a priceless life.
- Sticky kisses from younger students
- Aha! moments
- Inside jokes
- Visible impact academically, spiritually, emotionally, etc.
- Truly immeasurable

Of course, I'll be back at it in the morning, and most mornings for the next 16 years. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

One Word

Yes, once again, February is my new January . . . Although I have been mentally going after this goal already, it has taken me a month to actually sit down and write about it, and give me the tenacity to speak my goals publicly.

This word came as it often does, rather suddenly.

I thought I wouldn't have a word this year, just focus on some specific areas that I want to re-establish and suddenly I realized that it all fit neatly in one goal, one word -- discipline.

Honestly, an area that I have often struggled in. People label me organized, responsible, and other orderly sounding words, but I knew the discipline that truly merited those labels was not a part of my character.

Well, I can be disciplined for a day, or two. But, true discipline requires long term commitment and change. Discipline needs to seep into your habits and character and change you, not just an hour.

Now, I have a year to tackle that.

Discipline in my health, in homeschool records, in housekeeping, in bedtime schedules, in stewardship, in budgeting, in life. Discipline.

How's it going so far? Well, I've blogged 5 times in one month! I haven't done that in a year, so that's looking up. :) Granted, 5 is barely more than once a week, so I have a ways to go before that habit is back in shape.

I've kept track of money spent for a whole month and stayed under budget in groceries. Yeah! It always catches up with me at some point, but I really want to stay on top of that more consistently. Discipline does not deserve its name if it lacks consistency.

My real excitement has come with a new schedule for exercise, better eating habits, and some weight loss goals. I haven't set a weight loss goal in 20 years. I've occasionally focused on getting in shape, exercising more or being healthier, but a specific number has never been a target for me since shortly before my wedding (my college roommate and I set ourselves a little challenge to lose a few pounds together over the summer). Anyway, I lost 5 pounds in January and have the goal of losing (oh, I cringe to say this for fear of falling short . . .) 15 more. Okay, there it is. I think it's doable, but I'm terrified of fizzling out or getting stuck, or realizing that it was unrealistic for an old lady like myself to trim down that much.

Spark People has been a great tool in helping me stay on track and making me aware of the little calories that add up, and how often I forget to drink water.

The other areas, record keeping, bedtime, and housekeeping are still needing more of my "One Word," But that's why I have a year to focus on it.

Discipline. I'm in for the long haul.