Feeling BLAH About Homeschooling? How To Keep On When You Want to Quit

LauraAll Posts, Homeschooling, Sonlight0 Comments

For the first time in my life I feel uninspired about homeschooling.

There’s no magic. No sparkly feelings. Nothing.

This is odd for me because I’ve been a homeschool enthusiast since I was a child.

While other kids dreamed of becoming the POTUS or the first person to set foot on Mars, I gazed starry-eyed at the prospect of gathering my children onto my lap for heartwarming songs and beautiful stories.

When I gave birth to our first child – a tiny little girl, born 5 weeks early – the doctors put her under a heat lamp and hooked her up to monitors. I pulled a rocking chair up to her warming crib in the NICU, leaned my chin over the plastic sides of her bed and read the Bible to her. (That sweet baby was Vivienne, my thoughtful, creative, sincere daughter who will be turning 13 years old any day now.) She was just starting out in the world, wearing a stylish purple band across her eyes to protect them from the heat lamp and a gold heart sticker covering the heart monitor on her chest. That was Day 1 of our sweet homeschool. That NICU was our first classroom.

(Almost) every day ever since then, my heart and mind have been full of enthusiasm for homeschooling. I’ve researched curriculum, planned field trips, dug elbow-deep into art projects, read countless books, designed tot trays, created file folder games, orchestrated schedules, and have felt so thrilled by my calling as a homeschool mother.

But all of a sudden, I have no inspiration whatsoever.

There is no brainstorming.

There are no field trips.

Art projects seem like mountains to climb.

Field trips seem like punishments.

To top it all off, I’ve become very cynical about all of the exhausting Pinterest ideas out there and am like, “You’ve got to be kidding me….” regarding all of those enthusiastic homeschool bloggers out there (oh, the irony).

It’s all understandable: I’ve been going through a season in which I’m just tired, not to mention that I’m working at my full capacity. We can’t always feel like a million bucks. So I get it, but I just don’t like it.

One thing is for sure: I now respect anyone who home schools without a natural interest in homeschooling! Wow, is it tough to slug through without all of the feelings.

Having to continue homeschooling without my typical drive or enthusiasm is extremely difficult.

(I received Sonlight 100 in exchange for a series of blog posts that contain my honest opinion.)

Here’s what’s keeping me on track until the last day of school:

Our Sonlight curriculum.

I appreciate our Sonlight curriculum more than ever because it tells me what to do.

The quality of my children’s education isn’t dependent on my ups and downs; it’s not limited by my oscillating feelings, my unpredictable bursts of creativity, or my fragile energy level.

In the past, I’ve chosen Sonlight because it’s a springboard for all of my ideas. When I’m feeling inspired, Sonlight provides a firm foundation on which I can build, accessorize, and enrich our homeschool education.

Now that I’m feeling uninspired, Sonlight provides a firm foundation that is specific, high quality, and complete with or without my enthusiasm. On my worst days, the younger children and I just keep following the well-planned curriculum (this year, Sonlight D), completing what we are able. My oldest daughter – who is totally enjoying Sonlight 100 – keeps a copy of the curriculum in her binder and keeps herself on track. 

I am so so glad that we are following such a lovely curriculum, otherwise, honestly, I’d still be in bed.

And all of the little ones? Well, they’d be raiding the pantry and watching Daniel Tiger. Or Spy Kids. Or Animal Mechanicals. Which, of course, they’d love, but just think how much richer they are because we are reading aloud The Lewis and Clark Expedition and watercoloring scenes of the rugged heroes crossing the Rocky Mountains? (It’s true that I feel like I’m the one crossing the Rockies as I gather everyone around the table to read one more chapter. Sonlight is my Sacajawea in the midst of the Shoshones, my Old Toby on the Lolo Trail.  Each day, despite the struggle, my children and I arrive at a satisfying vista. I am deeply thankful for the guidance and encouragement.)

(Did you know that Sonlight is a full-service curriculum provider, so you can get the best options in a single, customized program? From Preschool to High School, you can get every subject and every grade to teach your children. Each curriculum comes with a thorough Instructor’s Guide that walks you through the assignments, the concepts, and the conversations that you can have with your child. It is so user friendly and created with an honest-to-goodness human parent in mind.)

Most importantly, God Himself is keeping us in the palm of His hand.

Every day, I rely deeply upon the grace of God, which He extends to me and my children regardless of our feelings or accomplishments. What would I do without His guarantee that He holds all things together? Our Heavenly Father is the one who has gathered us here and He is singing songs of love and telling a grand story about never-ending, never-changing faithfulness and love.

 

Enrich Your Middle Schooler’s Socialization Through Literature: A Tom Sawyer Book Club

LauraAll Posts, Books, English Literature, Homeschooling, Sonlight

(I received Sonlight 100 in exchange for a series of blog posts that contain my honest opinion.)

Build homeschooling socialization while reading a good book together!

When an author tells you straight-up what he wants you to do with his book, you pay attention. Especially when that author is the renown Mark Twain.

This year,  Vivienne’s 7th grade Sonlight literature curriculum includes The Adventures of Tom Sawyer In the preface, Twain writes,

“Although my book is intended mainly for the entertainment of boys and girls, I hope it will not be shunned by men and women on that account,  for part of my plan has been to try pleasantly to remind adults of what they once were themselves, and of how they felt and thought and talked, and what queer enterprises they sometimes engaged in.”

Viv and I figured that if, way back in 1876, Mark Twain wanted her to get a kick out of Tom Sawyer’s adventures, we would read the book just like that. We intended to have some fun with this one.

It’s even more fun with friends!

We wanted to invite some friends along for the ride and we didn’t have to look very far.

It just so happens that I teach a middle school literature class for Viv and her peers once a week. We agreed that this would be the perfect fit: we’d devote the third quarter to a Mark Twain book club.

Fifteen enthused peers read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer together. It was my job to guide them toward, well, entertainment the whole time.

We read the book over the span of 8 weeks, covering 4 – 5 chapters each week. In the end, I can confidently say that the students thoroughly enjoyed the book together and I was honored to sit in on their laughter and discussions.

Ideas for a Tom Sawyer book club:

Whether your student is reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer as part of Sonlight 100 or another curriculum or you are simply wanting to connect with your child in a meaningful way, creating a book club around such a fun masterpiece will be worthwhile.

Have fun, have fun, have fun.

“There comes a time in every rightly constructed boy’s life when he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure.” – The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

I kept my eye on Tom’s antics and looked for any way we could simulate his adventurous spirit in the narrow basement classroom where we meet each week. Our options were very limited, but that didn’t stop us! One chilly day in the middle of February, the students worked together to escape through the windows. They helped each other up and out of the narrow openings, tromped through the snow back into the classroom. When they returned, their cheeks were rosy and their spirits were high. That simple little escapade primed the for a thoughtful discussion about adventure.

What’s so great about adventure? 

They could answer this question because they could still feel their blood pumping.

When Tom whistles, take a whistling break.

When he does gymnastics, see if anyone will imitate his antics

When he eats an apple, eat an apple.

Hold a memory-verse competition, dig for treasure, take a field trip to a cave.

Talk about the countless superstitions. How are they similar to our own superstitions?

Appreciate Twain’s powerful use of satire. Then, take a look at some modern-day satire (try The Babylon Bee) and try your hand at writing some satire of your own.

Keep a Tom Sawyer Trading Bag

Viv suggested that the students keep a trading bag with “Tom Sawyer-esque treasures” to trade with one another and it ended up being a fun addition to the class. Students kept stashes of marbles, corks, toothpicks, and licorice. I kept a stash, too – including a disinfected chicken bone – and let the students riffle through it now and then.

This all came about early in the book when we read an irresistible and poetic description of the treasures that Tom Sawyer has traded with his friends.

And when the middle of the afternoon came, from being a poor poverty-stricken boy in the morning Tom was literally rolling in wealth. He had, besides the things I have mentioned, twelve marbles, part of a jew’s harp, a piece of blue bottle-glass to look through, a spool-cannon, a key that wouldn’t unlock anything, a fragment of chalk, a glass stopper of a decanter, a tin soldier, a couple of tadpoles, six fire-crackers, a kitten with only one eye, a brass door-knob, a dog-collar – but no dog – the handle of a knife, four pieces of orange-peel, and a dilapidated old window sash.”

The book is full of intriguing knick-knacks that fill the boys’ pockets and that come in handy in almost any circumstances. So, with explicit rules about one-eye kittens and fire-crackers, we joined Tom Sawyer in his collecting of treasure.

Read aloud.

Twain wrote in the vernacular, which means he gives his characters authentic expressions and accents that may be difficult for your students to read at first. We listened to the first chapter on a top-class audio recording so we could jump right into the story without being turned off by the difficulty of unfamiliar language.

Throughout our meetings, we would often listen to scenes from the audiobook.

One week, we wanted to practice using the vernacular ourselves so we listened to the scene first, then divided into groups and read the scene aloud. After practice, we shared the scene with one another, appreciating the difficulty of really sounding like a character from that place and time.

Keep a commonplace book.

Encourage each student to jot down favorite quotations each week. Some students will copy the humorous tidbits, others will copy the descriptive writing, still others will copy the life lessons. These commonplace excerpts are a great way to spark conversation.

Simply ask, “What did you write in your commonplace book?” and let the conversation evolve from there.

Be sure to keep a commonplace book, too! Your students will want to know what catches your eye.

Enjoy conversations about the book.

Sit back and guide the students with a few good conversation starters.

What did your students like?

What made them laugh?

What made them shiver? (Believe me, there is plenty of shivering in Tom Sawyer.)

I am a Read-Aloud Revival fan, so I use Sarah Mackenzie’s helpful questions to prompt conversation. In her newly released Read-Aloud Family, Sarah provides 10 poignant questions that you can ask about any book and expect to connect with your student. I stick with these and am never disappointed. (Amusingly, the one question that you can apply to every chapter of Tom Sawyer is “Should he have done that?”)

Try Reader’s Theatre.

To introduce my students to reader’s theatre, I distributed the script from Chapter 2 – the famous whitewashing scene. I divided them into groups and let them practice. They loved sharing their scenes with the class. Then, in small groups, they  took responsibility for transforming a scene from Tom Sawyer into their own reader’s theatre script. They included sound affects and shared their performances with an audience of peers and parents. For the performance, we just lined 5 stools across the front and they read the scripts as if they were on radio.

Several of them have been asking to do it again and again! I think reader’s theatre helped them to step into the story, without the pressure of memorizing lines or blocking.

 

What about the racial issues?

The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter – it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” – Mark Twain

It’s no secret that Twain’s portrayal of racism in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn presents difficulty to educators.  Some educators opt out of the novels. Others look for revised editions that modify some of the racial words. You will have to choose how to address this topic with your students.

Here’s how I approached it: I asked the students to copy Twain’s quote (above). I told them that Twain carefully chose his words in an effort to speak out against racism.  He lived in the South in the 1800’s when there was more racial tension – and infinitely more inequality – than there is today in America.

Mark Twain was undoubtedly anti-racist.

In both Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, Twain intentionally wrote about the racist outlook of the 1800’s because he strongly opposed it. (Did you know that Twain was friends with African American educator Booker T Washington, he co-chaired the 1906 Silver Jubilee fundraiser at Carnegie Hall for the Tuskegee Institute – a school run by Washington in Alabama to further “the intellectual and moral and religious life of the [African American] people”. He also personally helped fund one of Yale Law School’s first African American students, explaining: “We have ground the manhood out of them [African Americans], and the shame is ours, not theirs, and we should pay for it.”)

In his writing, Twain chose to use the vernacular – including words like “nigger”, “injun”, and “half-breed” – so that we could hear the characters exactly as they were. He wants us to examine a community of people and be able to to identify the racism, the ignorance, and the hatred. He wants us to be smart, discerning, and gracious.

Here’s how I chose to approach it:

I chose to lead the students through the classic The Adventures of Tom Sawyer as Mark Twain wrote it. Before we read the inflammatory words and descriptions, I prepare the students. I tell them that these are serious and powerful words and attitudes that were present in the  in our society.  I tell my students that Mark Twain is trusting us with these words – that I, their parents, and God are trusting them with these words.

I ask, Will you see these words for what they are: a window to the soul of a society that dehumanized people who were made by God and in God’s image?

Will you handle them wisely?

Or, will you use these words – and others like them – to put people down?

I hope that each one of us handles these words wisely and lovingly.

I hope that this sparked your imagination for ways you can invite some students to join you in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer! You’ll have a wonderful time together.

The Heartbeat of My Social Media Addiction

LauraFaith, Healthy Living

I sat down for my morning devotions with the Lord, opened my Bible, and immediately heard a “ding” on my phone alerting me that I had received an email. My mind began the well-rehearsed inner dialogue that goes on whenever my prayers or Bible reading is interrupted by social media.

It can wait. You’re here to worship God.

But what if it’s important? What if it’s something I need to pray about? What if it’s someone who needs me to help? Ministering to people online counts as devotional time, too.

Nice try, but you know that’s not entirely why you want to check. Distraction feels good. Escape is easy. All you really want to do is see if anyone loves you.

Sometimes I don’t check social media when it interrupts my devotions. I continue with my Bible reading and prayer, waiting to engage in the online world until afterward. Praise God for the grace to make that hard choice! Other times, I do check and am glad I did. I learn about something that requires prayer, I am able to encourage someone, and I am able to return quickly to my Bible reading and prayer. Then, of course, sometimes I check, get totally absorbed online, squander my devotional time, and live to regret it.

I am continually amazed by the way social media can distract me! I’ve been asking the Lord to help me see what’s at the heart of the matter. What fuels my personal draw toward email, texts, Instagram, and Facebook?

The Valley of Vision

One morning I was despairing over my struggle, wondering if I should throw my computer out the window, bury my phone in my sock drawer, fast from social media, or ask a friend to hold me accountable. Then I opened a well-worn copy of The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions and read a few prayers of the Christians who lived in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

The prayers were so relevant to my struggle! I tilted my head and thought, These prayers feel like the Puritans had social media. It sounds like they struggled with a desire for social significance, longing to be YouTube stars, Facebook phenoms, and Instagram idols.

Consider this excerpt from the prayer, “Man’s Great End.” Maybe you’ll see what I mean.

Most men seem to live for themselves,
Without much or any regard for thy glory,
Or for the good of others;
They earnestly desire and eagerly pursue
The riches, honours, pleasures of this life,
As if they supposed that wealth, greatness, merriment,
Could make their immortal souls happy;
But, alas, what false delusive dreams are these!
And how miserable ere long will those be that sleep in them,
For all our happiness consists in loving thee,
And being holy as thou art holy.
O may I never fall into the tempers and vanities,
The sensuality and folly of the present world!
It is a place of inexpressible sorrow, a vast empty nothingness;
Time is a moment, a vapour,
And all its enjoyments are empty bubbles,
Fleeting blasts of wind,
From which nothing satisfactory can be derived;
Give me grace always to keep in covenant with thee.

What a poignant description of my own struggle with social media! And yet the Puritans didn’t have computers to throw out the window or phones to hide from themselves. They didn’t have social media, but they did have the same desires for wealth, greatness, and merriment warring against their devotion to Christ.

This helped me to see that my problem isn’t social media; my problem is my sin. I prayed:

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!

The Heart of the Matter

I asked the Lord to help me see what is at the heart of the matter. Why do I turn to social media instead of to You, Lord?

From what I can tell, I struggle with a longing for significance. I want evidence that I matter and that I’m making an impact on the world. I want to see that people like me, value my thoughts, and need me.

I’d rather find my significance on Facebook than in Scripture. I’d rather look for contentment on Instagram than in Christ.

Click here to read the rest of this post at Revive Our Hearts’ True Woman blog…

The Awesome Perks of Reading Aloud to Your Middle Schooler

LauraAll Posts, Books, Homeschooling, Middle School, Motherhood

(I received Sonlight 100 in exchange for a series of blog posts that contain my honest opinion.)

Our leather couch is sagging in the middle.

It came into our lives when we were poor newlyweds with a 2-year old toddler and a baby-on-the-way.

One Saturday, we strolled the aisles of Sam’s Club and spotted a sturdy 4-piece leather living room set: a couch, 2 chairs, and an oversized ottoman. It was exactly what we were looking for: attractive, easy-to-clean, and durable! It just so happens that we were currently taking Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace University” course and we wanted to bargain for a big-ticket item. With our cash-filled envelopes on hand, my otherwise non-bargaining husband offered the store manager a deal: “I’ll pay cash if you’ll drop the price.”

The manager said, “ok.”

At Sam’s Club! (Who bargains at Sam’s Club?? Well, we did and scored!)

We brought that beautiful set home on the back of a friend’s pick-up truck and arranged it in our living room. I sat down in the middle of that firm leather couch. Our 2-year old daughter climbed up onto my lap with her favorite picture book. I read aloud Goodnight, Moon as her head bobbed in rhythm and her curls tickled my cheek.

That was 10 years ago.

Since then, we have logged hours, days, maybe even years reading on that couch. I’ve sat smack-dab in the middle (hence the sagging), and I’ve watched in amazement as that couch has filled up with children. A baby on my lap, one hanging on my leg, a few at my sides, one balancing on the back of the couch like a belly-surfer. Oh, they’ve squabbled plenty over who gets to sit where and whose book gets read first, and so on, but those hours – those many, many hours – have been some of our dearest family treasures.

Our love for reading aloud is what drew us to Sonlight curriculum in the first place. With an emphasis on historical literature, Sonlight has provided books for us to read through ancient civilizations to the civil war and beyond. Some of our favorite history read-alouds have been Across Five AprilsLittle Britchesand Justin Morgan Had a Horse.

We’ve read light-hearted books like Gooney Bird Greene and heart-wrenching books like Adoniram Judson: Bound for Burma. Each grade-level curriculum is packed with top-quality selections that appeal to all of us, that’s the beauty of a good story. We’ve been learning side-by-side on that lovely, squishy couch.

Why read aloud to older kids?

Reading aloud to middle schoolers can seem kinda odd. By 6th, 7th, and 8th grade, kids are encouraged to read independently. We want our middle schoolers to be investing in their own books and school assignments.

Not to mention, it’s *almost impossible* to find the time to read aloud to our pre-teens, and – to be honest – sometimes we wonder if they wonder if it’s “too babyish”.

Before you and your middle schooler move away from reading aloud forever, consider 3 perks that may be reason enough to invite your 12 year old to the couch when you read aloud.

Your child is still learning to read, and may learn best by listening to you read.

When I asked my 7th grade daughter, “Is it still helpful for me to read aloud to you?”

She said, “Definitely! I learn how to read! Of course I know how to read, but when I listen to you read rich, interesting books every day, I learn how to pronounce tricky vocabulary words and handle complex sentences. And I learn how to read aloud, which is actually pretty important in my world. Whenever I have to read a script at Theatre Camp, or read Scripture in Youth Group, or contribute to our co-op, I feel confident that I can do it because I see you doing it every day.”

Experts would say that she’s onto something. In fact, Andrew Pudewa instructs parents to read aloud a level or two beyond their student’s reading level to model the vocabulary and decoding skills that are necessary as the student grows.

Your child still needs to connect with you, and may thrive within the safety of a shared book.

Maybe your 11 year-old is suddenly picky, distant, and moody, but he or she still needs to connect with you every day.

Reading aloud together provides a nonthreatening way to sit side-by-side.

You can wrap your arm around your cool kid. He can hear your voice. She can feel your skin.

You can laugh at the same character. You can cry at the same tear-jerking ending.

You can consider the same universal themes, spiritual questions, and wisdom.

Stories provide a table for fellowship – like a feast that you are sharing together.

Guards are down. Hearts are open.

Your child still needs to fall in love with goodness, truth, and beauty. 

“Good books, like good friends are few and chosen; the more select, the more enjoyable.”

– Louisa May Alcott

Middle school students are learning how to navigate friendships and other social pressures. We know that these tender years will shape their relationships for years to come. That’s why we pray, offer to drive the car pool, stay up late at night chatting, and help our pre-teens establish a healthy appetite for true friends.

Similarly, our pre-teens are just beginning to establish their relationships with books, art, and thought. By reading aloud to our child, we are developing their appetite and affection for the good, true, and beautiful. In fact, we may be laying the foundation for a life-long love of good books.

For read-aloud encouragement of any age-or-stage, you’ve got to connect with Sarah MacKenzie and The Read-Aloud Revival. (In fact, be one of the first to devour her new book, The Read-Aloud Family.) Like us, you will feel so encouraged to read to your children! Sarah never makes you feel like you should be reading aloud, but she always helps you to see that you could be reading aloud and that it could be awesome.

What we’ve been reading aloud…

Lately, I’ve been gathering the 7th, 4th, and 1st grader around books from Sonlight D – we’re reading through Johnny Tremain, Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, and others. (I’m all about streamlining: these early-American read-alouds compliment my 7th grader’s Sonlight 100 studies perfectly.)

Then there’s this magical time in the afternoons around 3 p.m., when you’ll find me sitting in the middle of our sagging leather couch with my 12-year old daughter – just the two of us. For 15 minutes, I read aloud from one of her Sonlight 100 books. She sits next to me, all gangly and lovely, both of us treasuring our age-old tradition of reading aloud together.

And I, of course, remember that day when she sat on my lap and her curls brushed my cheek.

10 Tips for a Happy Toddler

LauraAll Posts, Motherhood, Preschool, Toddlers

Hey there, Mama!

Are you wondering how to raise a happy kid?

Are looking for practical strategies to resolve conflict, build character, and create peace in your home?

Here are 10 random-but-helpful tips and tricks that make my day-to-day life with a little one happier. I use these on a regular basis because each one brings a bit more peace to my child, to me, and to our home.

Try them on for size, take what is helpful, and share with a friend!

  1. Don’t grab.

2. Blankies stay in bed.

When I was a new mom, I loved the way my daughter’s silky blankie would comfort her in bed, but I didn’t love how that blankie affected her during the day. She’d drape her blankie over their head, roll around on the ground with it, whap her little sister… Blankie seemed to lull my otherwise spunky kiddo into a slow, mushy, moody, whiner.

Also? Every evening at about 5-minutes-before-bedtime, blankie suddenly disappeared. Just when we were ready to dial down for the evening, we’d have to embark on an epic blankie hunt and find it in some obscure place like under the neighbor’s couch or in Grandmom’s cookie jar. (Not really, but close.)

That’s why 10 years ago, I made one of my most significant motherhood decisions ever: blankies stay in bed. We always know where they are (in bed!) and they don’t slow my kiddos down or cause pesky problems during the day.

3. Change your mind.

4. Don’t ask if you really don’t want to know.

When you want your child to play outside because you know it is good for your child, don’t ask, “Do you want to play outside?” Your child will say, “No”. Then you have a battle to fight. Simply say, “Let’s go outside!”

Don’t ask, “Do you want to clean up your toys?” Say, “I’ll help you clean up your toys!”

Don’t ask, “Are you ready for bed?” Say, “It’s time to say “good night!”

Don’t ask for your child’s opinion or preference if you cannot honor their answer. Of course, we should offer our children options and help them to make choices throughout the day, but we mamas need to discern the difference. Show your child that you can make wise decisions on her behalf and that you love things to go her way when possible and beneficial.

5. Give your child 2 options.

6. Make funny sounds when clipping fingernails.

Sometimes my child’s fingernails grow so quickly that I wonder if we should pursue a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.  But I just can’t bring myself to go for it, so fingernails must be clipped eventually. But it can be such a dramatic hassle, right? My sister gave me this tip: Tell your child that each fingernail is going to make a funny sound when it is clipped. Then, when you clip a nail, moo like a cow, beep like a truck, boing like a bouncy ball. Your kiddo may love it and you may get through it with less drama than ever before!

7. Ask, “Will you obey?”

My life was forever changed when I read an article by Ann Voskamp about the power of giving a child the choice to obey. Instead of demanding immediate obedience without grace, verbally offer your child the choice that he or she must make. This is how our Heavenly Father pursues us, offering us the dignity of a choice and appealing to our affection, always asking, “Will you obey?”. I have discovered that when asked in a loving way, children often – and gladly – respond, “yes, I will obey”.

8. Help your child to stop whining by asking “What’s the solution to your problem?”

9. “Yes, please or no, thank-you?”

A friend of mine was serving lunch to her kiddos, asking them if they’d like some apple slices. In one breath, she said, “Would you like apple slices, yes, please or no, thank you?” Her children politely said, “Yes, please!”

I was impressed by their manners, but I was more impressed by their mama’s wisdom in equipping them for success. She was giving them the words to say, equipping them with the correct response. This is marvelous for little children who are still learning the social norms of manners and are quite forgetful when it comes to adding “please” and “thank you”.

10. Pray Luke 2:52.

The Bible says that Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. It describes Samuel the same way (1 Samuel 2:26). I want my children to walk with God, to be like Jesus, and to love others well, so I ask God for these specific blessings often.

May each of our children grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and people. Then, they will be happy in the best sense of the word.

(BTW, I still have little ones at home and would LOVE to know your tips for a happier tot. Would you share them in the comments? Thanks!)

The Proactive Pursuit of Humility

LauraBible Study, Marriage

“…Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…” Colossians 3:12

My husband thought that I was sitting down to write “the first chapter in a book about humility.”

“No way!” I said. “I’d have to be crazy to write a book about humility.”

I was joking-not-joking, because everyone knows that when you write a book about a godly virtue, God makes sure you know what you’re talking about first. He sifts and sanctifies you, wrestles and wrangles you, until your message is purified. Writing an entire book about humility is asking for trouble . . . if you know what I mean.

Even sitting down to write 1,000 words on the topic is problematic. I’m sure that while I’m writing this blog post, God will sift my pride. He’ll convict me and surprise me. I’ll wonder why I ever embarked on this project in the first place. But I must admit that I’m heartened to keep plowing ahead with this post anyway because I know that His purpose is to make me more like Jesus. Who could ask for more?

I’m hoping that as you read this, He’ll captivate, convict, and surprise you, too.

Let’s trust Him to teach us with absolute love and affection.

Longing to Be Humble

I’m not writing this post as a humility expert. I’m writing as a regular person who can be embarrassingly proud and self-focused. My interest in humility comes from poignant Scriptures like Proverbs 3:341 Peter 5:5, and James 4:6 that all say, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

I shudder to think about God Almighty opposing me, yet I must admit that my pride sets me up as God’s enemy. As the Creator and Ruler of the universe, God must resist me when I foolishly live according to my own will and worship myself.

Proverbs 16:18 warns that “pride goes before destruction.” When God resists the proud, He is saving them from danger; even His opposition is kind, alerting us of our grave sin.

I long to be included in the body of believers who are “humble,” the ones who receive unmerited grace from God—the grace that is able to help us to love Him and other people, overcome our struggles with sin, and to live for His glory. I want to be among the humble saints who bow before the Throne of Grace, hands open to God’s provision, protection, and smile.

Whenever humility is mentioned in Scripture, the Holy Spirit uses it to shake us out of our everyday selfishness and to remind us that there is a God in heaven, abounding in grace, who deserves our worship.

Be Intentional

A bird’s eye view of humility throughout Scripture reveals that we are to choose humility, put humility on like clothing, and intentionally humble ourselves. Consider this sampling of verses that command us to be humble:

  • “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11).
  • “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Col. 3:12).
  • “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Eph. 4:2 NIV).
  • “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:10).

Over and over again throughout Scripture, we are told to intentionally, proactively humble ourselves. Of course, we rely on God for the faith to humble ourselves, but these Scriptures seem to imply that we can take ourselves by the collar and pull ourselves to our knees or look at our prideful selves in the mirror and intentionally cover over our shameful haughtiness with humility.

continue reading at Revive Our Hearts!

The Pros and Cons of Homeschooling for You and Your Child

LauraHomeschooling, Motherhood, Preschool, Sonlight

Is homeschooling the best fit for you and your child?

Over 15 years ago, I pulled on a soft lavender sweater, spritzed perfume on my neck and headed out for a first date with a young man I had met at church. We sat across from one another at The Texas Roadhouse where the steaks are big and the tables so high that my chin barely cleared the top. We leaned forward to ask first date questions about career, education, and family. We had just covered all of the “nice to meet you” topics when I decided to share that I planned to homeschool my children some day.

He tilted his head and held his green-beaned fork in midair.

Homeschooling was clearly a new concept to the gentleman, but he nodded kindly and – good for him! – said nothing about socialization or denim jumpers.

He married me a year and half later. I homeschool our five kiddos. And he’s one happy man.

(Guess what’s at the top of my “Tips to Win a Mate on Your First Date”?)

Homeschooling is for me.

Is it for you?

When I was a kid, I begged my mother to homeschool me. But it wasn’t for her. And it wasn’t for me, as a kid. She could see that I needed certain things from traditional school. She was right.

Nonetheless, the dream grew in my heart and became my own calling: I longed to homeschool my own children. People talk about being called to be missionaries, artists, or actors. Well, I think I was called to homeschool my children. I can see now that God has provided for me every step along the way – including that supportive husband of mine.

Homeschooling is for me as a mother. And, thus far, it works well for our children, too.

I have homeschooled my children for 9 years and I truly love it. It comes with its costs, investments, and priorities. But it is quite satisfying work for me.

Although I certainly don’t believe that everyone should homeschool, I do love to encourage people who are interested in it. 

If you are considering homeschooling your child, I’d love to cheer you on and contribute my two cents to the complex decision before you.

The pros and cons for mothers are entirely different than the pros and cons for our children. You’ve gotta weigh both… because homeschooling involves the whole family.

(BTW: these pros and cons may also apply to traditional schools. All I’m saying is that they do exist in homeschooling.)

The Pros and Cons of Homeschooling for Moms

PRO: The joy of nurturing my children. 

Walking hand-in-hand with my children through worship, art, academics, leisure, character development, and relationships is a pleasure unlike anything else. When I’m mindful of it, there is nothing sweeter than providing the encouragement, direction, or cheer that each child needs to thrive.

PRO: My personal growth.

Over the years, I’ve had to mature and to sacrifice my own pursuits and pleasures in order to homeschool my children.  For example, it took several years to learn that my self-worth was not tied to a paycheck, a pat on the back, or public esteem. I still struggle with self-worth from time to time, but I appreciate that homeschooling has brought me closer to being content to follow the path that God is placing before me.

Homeschooling has taught me how to serve, laugh, play and, teach. It has forced me to stop comparing myself to others and to develop a sense of agency in the well-being of my family.

PRO: The limitless growth of my own education.

Though I have my B.S. in Biology, and my B.A. and M.A. in English Literature, I’ve gained my richest education through homeschooling my children. I am more well-read in every topic than I ever would be if I hadn’t homeschooled my children. I finally grasp the Constitution. I finally get the Periodic Table, phonics, and sentence diagramming. I’ve learned the fundamentals of sketching, pastels, and water color. I truly appreciate – and understand – Shakespeare, Dickens, and Bronte. The books I’ve read with the children have sparked my imagination, deepened my thought-life, and challenged my presuppositions.

I’ve also grown as an educator. I’ve learned about teaching children according to their learning styles. I’ve learned how to teach children to read. To write. To draw.

I’ve planned preschool story times, created kindergarten reading challenges, facilitated award-winning writing projects, and designed coursework for my children.

I’ve learned how to manage 5 children of various ages in a wholesome, productive, learning environment.

I’ve learned how to manage sleep, food, and my home.

And – of course – I’ve learned how to re-evaluate, give up, and start over when things just don’t go as planned.

CON: The limitless demands for my time and attention.

Being around 5 vivacious, chatty kiddos all day long can be exhausting for this introvert. If I’m not maintaining healthy boundaries for myself, I crash. Or scream. Or sit on the couch and stare into space.

Protecting my time to pray, exercise, read, and work on other projects takes effort while homeschooling.  I need to be vigilant about planning and protecting time each day when I can tend to myself and other work. That’s why I schedule an hour for myself each afternoon while the babies are napping and the big kids are reading.

My husband is in tune with the demands of homeschooling and does whatever he can to alleviate the demands, stress, and overstimulation. I don’t know what I’d do without his support.

CON: The limitless demands for my time and attention.

Oh wait, did I already say that?

It’s a real thing.

When you homeschool, you accept a full-time+ job. That means, you can’t necessarily do all of the ministries, projects, side jobs, or hobbies. Something’s gotta give.

Homeschooling literally demands that I be present, engaged, and compassionate most of the day… from crunching math facts to tossing the ball in the yard.

I’ve embraced this homeschooling lifestyle and I’m totally on board with the necessary sacrifices, but I still lose my focus from time to time and feel the ache of the sacrifices all over again.

So, if you’re interested in homeschooling, I suggest that you take a good hard look at yourself in the mirror and say, “No whining, Self. This is gonna be great.”

The Pros and Cons of Homeschooling for Children

PRO: The encouragement of their faith.

I love that we worship God freely in our home.

My children have time for personal devotions in the morning and that they work in the context of worshiping God. We talk about how our school work is a way to steward the gifts that God has given us.

We read Scripture together, sing hymns, and pray together several times throughout the day.

The curriculum that we use – Sonlight – thoughtfully points them back to Scripture, glorifies God in all aspects, and inspires them to live for God’s magnificent purposes.

PRO: The sweetness of family relationship.

Our children think, play, create, and work with one another all day.

They are one another’s best friends, creating countless happy memories with one another, and learning how to work through arguments. Because we’re home together all day, every day, we need to work through relational rifts; we’re consistently – constantly – working toward peace.

I love that my 12 year-old daughter can stop her work and help her 6 year-old brother sound out a word. I love that my 10 year-old daughter can cuddle her baby brother in between math and Language Arts. Then, she invests a half-hour each morning to play with her 3-year old sister, helping her dress her dollies and take them to the stuffed animal zoo.

My kids know one another’s daily ups and downs, books and music, artwork and interests.

And, I think, they have an extra-special empathy and care for one another.

PRO: The physical affection.

I hug, wrestle, tickle, squeeze, and physically connect with the kids all day long.

Our 3 year-old daughter thrives with physical affection. She likes me to cuddle her up in my arms, hold her like a baby, and tell her how special she is to me. She likes to be the bread in a “sandwich” with pillows piled high on her tummy and then – ever so carefully – squashed by yours truly, the other piece of bread. She is a happier kid when I hug, cuddle, and tickle her throughout the day.

Even our 6 year-old son needs lots of physical affection. I tussle his hair, tickle him, hug him, and wrestle him. He does flips in my arms, plays ball, and nuzzles in for a cuddle from time to time.

I’m sure to hug my 12- and 10- year old daughters throughout the day, too. I kiss them on the forehead or simply rub their back for a moment if I’m walking past their desk.

I truly believe that this physical affection grounds my kiddos, giving them a sense of peace and security.

PRO: The sleep.

Our little ones – 6 and younger – go to bed by 8 p.m.

Our older ones go to bed by 9 p.m.

They all sleep until 7:30 a.m.

’nuff said.

PRO: Focused, intentional, personal education.

Most of the time, each of our children is working precisely at the right level in every subject. Who could ask for more? I’m able to pace them for their own personal success, finding the books and learning style that suits them best. They have lots of time to pursue their own specific interests.

There is no such thing as busy work.

I sit down with each one of the children every day and we work on the subjects that need my care and attention.

However, I do need to point out that their education is also imperfect. Even though they receive a one-on-one education, they don’t get my undivided attention all day. They need to wait their turn and patiently trust me to grow with them when they need a different approach.

And because I am only 1 person and there are 5 of them, they don’t learn every subject that other school children may learn. I’m okay with these imperfections, as I believe they, too, educate children to be patient, creative, and humble.

PRO: Shared stories.

Over the years, we have read countless books together. Our imaginations, senses of humor, and relationships share characters, plots, themes, and scenery. We’ve cried, laughed, and cared about the same things over and over again.

The big kids still gather around when I read picture books to the little ones. And the little ones listen in when I read chapter books to the big kids. Right now, our 3 year old is thoroughly invested in the lives of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Laddie, and Stella.

We have a common language, a common lore, and a common love.

PRO: The lunch table.

The funny guy at the lunch table is their very own brother. And the one throwing the food? Yep, that’s the other brother. The baby one.

We eat together, laugh together, watch YouTube clips, educational videos, and pass the ketchup.

I love that my kids sit at the same lunch table.

PRO: Character development.

Because we’re home all day, every day, I have the opportunity to address attitude problems, poor choices, and unkindness when they are teeny tiny issues. This means that when I do correct my kiddos, the corrections are (usually) not very dramatic. They’re just little adjustments here and there.

I’m so thankful that homeschooling provides this opportunity to us because I prioritize character development over academics. I’m convinced that if my children know how to work faithfully, love generously, and honor others, they’ll do well in their other pursuits. Homeschooling allows me to live out these priorities.

PRO: The low stress level.

There’s something to be said about the way homeschoolers can minimize the amount of stress on children. From schedules to social pressure, homeschoolers can help their child navigate an appropriate amount of academic and social expectations.

CON: Missing out on excellent teachers and staff.

This is a significant drawback for me. Our school district is full of caring, intelligent, gifted teachers who would bless and encourage my kiddos.

When I was in school, I loved my teachers. Each one impacted me in a unique way and added to my development. Homeschooling keeps us from that gift, and I do feel the loss of that.

To minimize the loss, we do participate in a weekly science class that is taught by a lovely world-class science teacher. Our children also take theatre, music, ballet, and Sunday School lessons from awesome teachers who inspire and love them well. I’m so thankful for each one of them.

CON: Fear of missing out.

Homeschoolers are able to do things that larger schools cannot. The other side of the coin is that larger schools can do things that homeschoolers cannot.

Our kiddos haven’t been able to enjoy as many P.E., foreign language, and technology experiences. We don’t have same extracurricular activities, field trips, pizza parties, and bus rides.

We simply miss out on some of the good stuff that happens in traditional school. Sure, we can recreate certain aspects, but other things are just larger school things. It’s okay, but it’s a loss nonetheless.

CON: The difficulty connecting with school district families.

It’s easy for homeschoolers to connect with other homeschooling families, but it’s quite difficult to connect with families who don’t homeschool. Our schedules are different and we just don’t run into each other as much as I wish we would.

We have lots of friends who don’t homeschool, I wish it’d be easier to hang out.

PRO: A love of learning.

I didn’t want to end on a “con”, so I saved this “pro” until last.

Homeschooled kids can pursue their interests without limitation.

They learn for the sake of learning.

They read for the sake of reading.

They play for the sake of playing.

They experiment, craft, converse, tinker, and problem solve because they’re interested and full of wonder.

“Truly parents are happy people – to have God’s children lent to them” – Charlotte Mason

I hope this helps you to make a great decision about your child’s education this year.

God gives each of us a unique call and asks us to nurture our children in unique ways.

Obviously, I’m one mom who loves homeschooling because it has worked very well for us despite the costs. I can’t guarantee that it will always be this way, but I do know that, for today, homeschooling is a beautiful choice for our family.

Do you know someone who would benefit from this information? Send it along today!

Preparing, Enriching, and Equipping a Middle Schooler to Thrive

LauraAll Posts, Homeschooling, Sonlight

Worried about a bored tween? Perhaps it’s time for a new challenge!

(I received Sonlight 100 in exchange for a series of blog posts that contain my honest opinion.)

I could tell by looking at her: our 12-year old daughter was languishing.

Maybe it was the 2-week humdinger of a flu that seemed to shut her down.

Maybe it was her new braces that made smiling painful and slowed her down to sloth-like motions.

Whatever it was, I did a double-take.

She wasn’t interested in anything. She seemed discouraged. When I wrapped my arms around her, I could feel that she was tightly wound and closing in. It seemed like – in every way – she was taking up as little space as possible.

I thought of Peter Pan’s lost boys who were “fitted” to their own personal hollowed-out trees in order to enter to their underground home. “Once you fit, great care must be taken to go on fitting…” That’s all fine and good in Neverland, but the miracle of growing from childhood into adulthood includes the freedom to grow out of those little childhood trees.

A pre-teen needs a big space in which to grow…

What was happening?

On the cusp of her teenage years, she should be broadening! unfolding! developing!

Her lungs should be filling with the air of inspiration, creativity, and excitement!

Yet, it felt like my girl was shrinking, striving to squeeze inside the sapling she had known as a child.  

I prayed fervently to God and laid my concerns at His feet.

As we talked, I could see that over the past few months, He had been working in a new and suprising way: He had been opening doors and inviting her to take some giant steps forward into a new, fascinating season.

He had been beckoning her out of her childhood tree… There’s so much more, daughter! It’s time to grow!

But I had been like the sapling holding her in. Stay here where it’s safe, daughter! Let’s keep things as they’ve always been.

A pre-teen’s mother needs a big space in which to grow, too…

For 12 years, I’ve been a mother of babies – called to protect, hold, and nurture, to create a safe and loving home.

For 12 years, I’ve looked to God as my divine example of Protector and as the source of grace to nurture my babies. He has been the roof on our home, the batten to our door, and the love in our midst.

But now, He’s burst the door open for Vivienne and I need to venture out with her, to encourage her along, step by step.

Motherhood suddenly requires more from me: a bigger sense of adventure, a love for challenge, and a faith-filled following after God.

I need to do my own expanding: to open my hands in surrender, to lay a richer feast, to dream bigger dreams. This will be an adventure.

What we want for our daughter…

My husband and I agree: we’d do anything to help Vivienne to be strong, smart, and loving.

We want her to know that she is able – invited – encouraged to:

speak up,

do hard things,

and tackle big problems.

We want her to walk with Jesus, to create art and music, to read deeply, to dance, and to laugh, cry, and pray with her friends.

So, we’ve given her some well-earned privileges and responsibilities at home.

We’ve joined her in saying “yes” to an upcoming grand adventure.

We’ve even uncharacteristically changed her curriculum mid-year. Right here – in the middle of February – I’ve stacked the shelves with fresh new books.

Now that the books are on the shelves and the spines are being cracked open, I can see it so clearly: she’s ready for this!

Food for the mind and heart: she needs this nourishment.

Academically, it’s time to increase the challenge, not the stress.

Most kids shut down when they are too stressed out, but our girl was shutting down because she wasn’t being challenged enough: she needed a bigger world with bigger ideas.

Around our homeschool table, we’ve been working on our second time through Sonlight B – E, including World History, Early American History, and Modern History. We’ve all enjoyed the history and read-alouds together, enjoying the reinforcement of a 2nd time around.

Although Vivienne has continued to progress in her Language Arts, Math, and Science, we haven’t purchased another Sonlight curriculum since she was in 4th grade. Because the books are so marvelous and the discussions so rich, I was oblivious to the possibility that she could benefit from a more challenging course.

Right around the time when I could see that she needed more, Sonlight contacted me and asked if I would exchange some blogging for a new curriculum.

I jumped at the opportunity and ordered Sonlight 100 American Historywhich will complement the Early American History that I’m already teaching to the younger children.

Time for a new season…

The boxes of books arrived while I was tediously unwrapping the Christmas lights from around the porch spindles. The white twinkle lights had beautifully decorated our farmhouse since November. Now, it was early February, and they were looking stale and garish. I was past due in transitioning from one season to another.

The husky UPS guy carried both boxes up at the same time and emphatically sat them down at the bottom of the steps.

I dropped the string of lights to appreciate the poignance: I was past due in transitioning from one homeschooling season to another. It was time for a change.

There are so many benefits!

I didn’t realize that by this level in the Sonlight curriculum, the student receives a very thorough Student Guide that includes the week’s assignments as well as explanations, notes, and questions. We are both thrilled about this because Vivienne is self-motivated, likes to stay on top of her assignments, and have autonomy over her work. It’s a big help to me, too, as I homeschool our 4 other children.

As of today, we have a few weeks under our belts.

To say that Vivienne is thriving is an understatement.

This was precisely what she needed!

Just this week, she has been savoring Joy Hakim’s clever and informative The History of Us, the riveting account of the gospel in Peace Child, an exciting Physical Science curriculum that enriches her weekly science co-op, the Current Events assignments, a book about prayer that the two of us  read together on the couch in the afternoons, music, art, and public speaking…

Her days are full of beauty, truth, and goodness.

A sacrifice worth making…

In exchange for this great treasure, I agreed to write monthly posts to share with you the benefits of using Sonlight. This will be a joy because we have loved Sonlight for many years and it has shaped who we are today.

However, to be honest, this commitment will require significant energy, thought, and time.

I agreed to it – first and foremost – for our daughter’s sake. I will work my tail off to enrich and encourage her. (In fact, when she saw me working diligently at writing this post, she smiled her beautiful braces smile and said, “Thank you so much for doing this for me, Mom! It’s AMAZING!”)

My husband and I see this as a wonderful way for us to invest in our precious pre-teen.

I also agreed to it because I love you – my readers – and I know that this commitment will help me to be more intentional about sharing ideas about raising children, nurturing middle school students, and building our homes for the glory of God.

I’m so grateful that our daughter is back to her bubbly, vibrant self, while growing stronger, smarter, and more loving every day.

Here’s to a bigger world! And to the God who leads us there.

 

Interested in Sonlight Curriculum? Use the Code LB20280892 to receive $5 off your first order of $50 or more. Connect with Sonlight:

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Half the Distance and Twice as Far

LauraAll Posts, Motherhood

The kids and I accompanied my husband to a tech conference. We love this conference for three big reasons:

  1. Ryan connects with the people and ideas that help him to grow professionally
  2. The older kids attend classes about robotics, 3D printing, electronics, and technology.
  3. And, well, it’s at an indoor water park.

Work + fun + family = yes, please.

The awesome part…

This year, Ryan offered a session for the kids’ track. Using a slinky to demonstrate sound waves, a needle-in-a-cone to demonstrate the physical imprint of sound on a vinyl record, and a deconstructed version of “Everything is Awesome,” he explained how physical sound waves are transformed into digital bits of 1’s and 0’s.

At the end of the class, he handed out instruments and led the kids in a Stomp Jr. experience that would’ve impressed John Bonham.

He was funny and super-smart. It was a great class.

I took photos and chased our 18-month baby around the back of the room. My heart was full of pride – in the best sense of the word – to see Ryan in his element. I thought, this guy could go far.

One of the highlights of the class happened afterward when we were cleaning up the egg shakers and sandpaper blocks. A 4-year old boy settled himself in the middle of the overturned buckets and aluminum paint-trays like a real professional drummer.  He just knew what to do.  We were mesmerized. His mom said that neither she nor her husband were musical, so they certainly hadn’t given this boy his natural sense of rhythm. In fact, they had adopted him as a baby and they often wondered what awesome heritage pulsed in his blood. We watched those dowel rods whip up and down, we felt the rhythm in our chests, we watched his soft blond curls bouncing – and said, “This guy could go far.”

The week before the conference, the kids and I helped Ryan to make those instruments –  we snipped and stretched balloons over PVC pipe, sanded dowel rods, and covered wood blocks in sand paper. Before we packed everything in the cargo box, we played a trial run of the song. I like to think that I “laid down the beat” on that 5 gallon bucket. Audrey shook a plastic egg filled with rice, Malachi kept a cool rickety rhythm on the aluminum paint tray, the other kids played their parts. We agreed unanimously: Dad would rock this class. And he certainly did.

Because Ryan offered that class, our whole family was able to stay at the indoor waterpark all week long. So, we moved into our hotel suite with bathing suits, 5 gallon buckets, egg shakers, and plenty of microwave popcorn.

The difficult part…

During the daytime, Ryan attended the conference while I, um, held down the chlorinated fort. Despite the amazing opportunity to live at an indoor waterpark for a week, I actually struggled with feeling angry about the whole arrangement. After all, it’s not easy to plan meals and snacks for 5 kiddos in a hotel room.

It’s not easy to keep everything under control in a small space,

organize the clothes,

dry the bathing suits,

help with showers,

oversee 5 kiddos at an enormous waterpark,

break up arguments,

get big kids to classes,

guide little kids from snacks to happiness to meltdowns to naps and back around again.

Not to mention that I was also wrestling with my self-doubt, which is the worst kill-joy.

It’s all because we were at a tech conference full of brilliant professionals.  There’s just something about careening a baby stroller through streams of professionals that makes me doubt my current decision to stay home with my children and not pursue a career.

I wonder, What would it be like to earn a salary? How fun would it be to network? Wouldn’t I love to teach at a conference of this caliber? Am I missing my potential?

And, of course: Shouldn’t I be farther along by now?

When I applied to college, I was “Pre-Med”. A lover of the sciences, I became a Biology major and thought I’d pursue a career in medicine and become a doctor. During the summers, I had an ongoing internship at Merck, testing their newest drugs. To balance out my science courses, I took literature classes as well. I edited the school literary magazine and thought I’d pursue a career in academia and become a professor. I went to the Natatorium as often as I could, planning to join a Master’s Swim Team some day. I sang in an a cappella group and thought I’d join a community choir or audition for the local theater. I travelled to Iceland to study arctic biology and thought for sure I’d return and work on one of their lush and ancient farms.

With the sun on my face and the wind at my back, I was like that little drummer boy: I could go far.

That was ages ago, when I only had to worry about my own potential: my own hopes, dreams, education, interests, and skills.

Since then, I’ve enfolded other people into my life: a husband, 5 children, family, friends…

Every time I love and commit to another person, I have to modify my life plan and recalculate my destination.

Every day, love demands that I lay down my own dreams, skills, and interests to help with another’s.

Love requires that I take side trips away from my own plans to accompany my loved-ones, edging them closer to their own dreams.

(I’m thinking of our recent trip to Manhattan where we snapped a photo in front of The Lincoln Center waterfall just moments before our daughter auditioned for a summer intensive at the School of American Ballet. Or when I put off some computer work to set up a LEGO table for our little builder to create wonders. I’m thinking of the hours I’ve spent at the piano, accompanying our 9 year-old’s violin practice. Or the afternoons I’ve invested in reading aloud to the babies.)

Of course, I’m not the only one sacrificing my own pursuits for the sake of loving others. Every day, my husband does the same for me. My children, friends, and family do it for me.  My parents have always done it.

I bet you’ve done it, too. You’ve laid your own dream down in order to carry a dream for someone else. You’ve rearranged your goals and modified your life plan in order to help a loved-one get closer to their own.

There’s no way around it: when we love people, we simply cannot go as far as we had hoped. 

When I’m pushing that stroller full of kids, snacks, and diaper wipes through a convention center, glancing sidelong at professionals, I resign myself

Face it,” I tell myself, “You are not going to accomplish the great trek that you had mapped out. You are not going to actualize your potential. Not with all of these people to love. Not with all of these side trips. You’ll just have to be content to go half the distance.

But then again…

There I was at my husband’s Kidz Mash session and saw those children laughing and clapping in rhythm and I thought, “If I hadn’t helped him to get here – if I weren’t standing here in the back of the room with a squirmy baby and a bag of quickly-disappearing snacks – I wouldn’t know. I wouldn’t know about the history of recorded music, vinyl records, or digital sound. I wouldn’t know the mystery and love behind that curly-haired drummer boy. I wouldn’t see our children delight in helping their daddy. What’s more, I wouldn’t know that man up there – that one, clapping his hands and whooping the LEGO theme song – that one, whom I love.”

Marriage hasn’t limited my potential: it has doubled it. 

Ryan has always taken me twice as far as I ever would have gone on my own. In fact, the things I experience with him are literally akin to foreign countries. (I mean, the goats! The chickens! The road trips! The kefir! The scoby! The sunsets! He invites me to wonders I never would have noticed on my own.)  And, too, he has sacrificed his own dreams to make mine come true. I mean, the piano! The children! The books! The teaching! The writing!

Considering the limitless ways my husband has promoted and nurtured me over the years… he has multiplied my life many-times-over.

Motherhood hasn’t limited my potential: it has doubled it.

Though I have denied many exciting opportunities for my children’s sakes, they have enriched me in ways that I never could have imagined with interests, humor, and creativity. Because of them, I know arabesques, Seitz concertos, nerf gun wars, minor league baseball, silly jokes, Happy Salmon, avocado-skin bracelets, Marvel superheroes, The Incorrigibles, herbal remedies, and countless delightful friends.

Simply being a mother changes me profoundly: motherhood’s every lesson, insight, and growing pain makes me more into the person I want to be.

Yes, my eyes brim with tears when dreams must fade and self must sacrifice.

Yes, I struggle against self-doubt when I push that stroller through the convention center.

But the cost of loving people is both universal and incalculable… we’re all in this together. Career or not, diaper bag or computer bag, anyone who is committed to loving another person is only ever going half the distance.

None of us will reach our potential.

Let the tears fall because the truth of the matter is that when we love people, we go half the distance… but twice as far.

 

What if You Were the One to Forgive First?

LauraAll Posts, Bible Study, Ministry

Sometimes, the greatest thing holding people together is a common enemy.

Amongst friends, it usually works like this: someone hurts us and we gather our friends for support. What starts as love and support can quickly get overtaken by our mutual hatred for the person who hurt us.

Sharing hatred gives us a sense of power over our enemy and it makes us feel like we belong.  We justify our grudge, bolstering it with our stories of “You’ll never believe what he did this time…” We use sarcasm and criticism to keep our enemy down in the dirt.

I’m guilty of this. 

Are you?

I wish this ended in middle school, but it doesn’t. Here we are, full-grown adults, nurturing our bitterness together as we mock and scorn our mutual outsider. Of course we know better. We know what happens to spiteful people – thanks to Disney movies and The Avengers – spiteful people are shortsighted and end up destroying themselves. And yet, we keep fueling our friendships with this bond of, well, hatred.

It reminds me of the crowd that gathered around the adulterous woman in the book of John, in the Bible.  She got caught in the act, and the community leaders dragged her to the temple, to ask Jesus if they should stone her, according to the law.

There she was, exposed.

Surrounded, yet quite alone.

And there they were – that group of friends – hurt, angry together.

(Sometimes I wonder if this crowd included her crushed husband? I wonder if it included his friends and family who came to his defense? I wonder if it included her own family?)

They belonged together.

They were right and they had every right.

They wanted to kill that woman together.

And they would’ve.

But God intervened.

Early in the morning, Jesus was teaching in the temple. When the community leaders presented their case to Him, He paused and drew in the sand.

He looked at that group of angry friends and said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

He didn’t say don’t.

He didn’t even say, “Love your enemies”.

So who would throw it?

Who would hurl that stone through the air and smash that woman in the head?

Who would knock her feet out from under her to make her an easy target for everyone else?

Who was the ring-leader? Who was the angriest?

Me?

You?

Miraculously, no one did.

No one threw the first stone.

Instead, one person heard and wondered, “Who am I to accuse this woman – I – who, even as the sun rose this morning, have received mercy?” 

Instead of throwing the first stone, he was the first to walk away.

One brave, honest person – the older, most respected man, in fact – walked awaygiving courage to another man who walked away.

Then another, and another, and another person walked away. Each one who had gathered thick around hatred, followed one another toward forgiveness and mercy.

They had to receive forgiveness themselves. They had to trust Jesus with their desire for vengeance and trust Him to deal wisely with this woman. They had to trust Him to be both just and loving.

Consider the significant influence of that one person: the one who walked away first.

Could it be me?

You?

“…when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.

Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

She said, “No one, Lord.”

And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” – John 8

 

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22