One Word

We had our first day of school yesterday! The two oldest had to start college classes, Olivia started her online classes, although Zoom was having a lot of trouble because of all the online classes starting yesterday, and Elliot started Challenge B for Classical Conversations.

So, I decided that the rest of the kids should start too. We didn’t do much, and really the day didn’t really go as I envisioned!

After the boys got out the door, I left with Elliot to drop him off. Then I met a friend for coffee. We both have 10 kids and just get this life we’re in! It’s so good to talk with someone who really knows what it’s like to manage a really large family everyday and try to coordinate and follow their schedules.

I glanced at the time and it was 11:40!! I guess we had a lot to catch up on! I had to race home to get Olivia on her first class.

When I got home my kids had had lunch, cleaned it up and put the little one down for nap! They had also read and done math on their own! The big kids had even helped the little ones read their practice books!  I could get used to that kind of first day.

We did a little project in the afternoon and then swam in our pool with some friends.

It was a good first day. Not at all the way I planned or thought it would go, but it was good.

I’m not really one for big events or even having a tradition of doing the same thing every first day. Some years we just crack down and get started.

But I might just have to continue the tradition of mom going out for coffee on the first day. Getting that boost and reminder of how good it all is, was so helpful!

This summer as I’ve been praying and thinking about our school year, the Lord keeps giving me one word: Consistency.

The big events and traditions can be fun and there’s nothing wrong with them, but what happens in between those is way more important.

Are we being consistent? Are we diligently working on our school work? Are we puffing away and making progress weekly?

We almost always have other things in our week that take away our time for school. We rarely get 5 days in and thats ok. The other things we do are important too. We need time with friends, time for appointments, time to decompress. But if we can be careful with our time and choose wisely what we say yes to, then we still have enough time for school work too.

This year, the theme is consistency. Just keep at it, keep working, pick up where we left off. And part of being consistent, is being very careful with our time and what we say yes to. The reality is that it’s difficult to maintain everyone’s schedules in a big family and having a big family takes a lot of time. Everyone needs something and everyone is at different levels.

Taking some time for me is also important. If I’m not recharged daily,I have nothing to give my kids. So, my part in being consistent is getting up early and spending time reading Scripture and praying. It changes and alters my heart, mind, and soul, and aligns me with what God wants me to focus on for that day. It’s amazing how if I spend time in God’s Word, whatever comes my way is manageable but if I don’t I feel harried and worried. So, my consistency is being with Jesus everyday.

For my kids it means working on what God has given them. That math that’s difficult? Let’s do it, work hard and push through. That paper that needs to be written? Let’s find a way to enjoy it and get it done.

And, as a family, it means making sure we spend time together and unplugged from technology. After having gone to our cabin where technology wasn’t possible, we saw such a deep deep need to unplug regularly. So, somehow in the crazy busy life, we need to unplug weekly and actually look in the eye the people God has given us right here.

Also, as a family we want to consistently spend time with good friends. People who speak wisdom, people who love Jesus, people who build us up and encourage us, and those who we can do the same for.

Your consistency may look really different from ours. You may have different focuses, but the important thing is to discover what God does want you to focus on and be consistent in them. I encourage you to take some time to pray over all the activities, curriculum, and outside forces vying for your time and really choose wisely. You cannot be consistent if you are over booked. It just won’t work.

This morning I read in 1 Corinthians 15, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.” And verse 58: “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you.”

By His grace we are changed. We can be consistent and diligent because of the effects of His grace. And because of His grace we can stand firm. We can say no to those things that just take away time and don’t add value to our lives.

May He guide, direct, and bless your day and your school year and help you be consistent!

I choose…

We have been in one of the busiest seasons of our lives this fall. As Andrew and I were talking about it the other night, we related it to when Maddie and Evie were born. We brought tiny twin girls into our family with a 20 month old, a 3 1/2 year old, and two 6 year olds. Let that sink in. We had six kids under the age of 7 with two sets of twins. That was, needless to say, an insanely busy time of life.

We’ve hit that level of busyness again. It looks a little different today than it did eleven years ago, but it feels the same. Thank the Lord for teens who are willing to help A LOT. Thank the Lord Andrew and I are a team, even if we are busy on our own playing fields.

Andrew has hit an unprecedented busy season at work. A new computer operating system, inventory, and more houses going up than ever before. We’re not complaining, don’t get me wrong! We know we are abundantly blessed that Andrew has a steady job where he’s needed and valued. It’s a great thing, a fruitful thing. It’s also very very taxing when you are that busy.

Elliot got a part in a local community theater play. A large part. It’s been so good, educational, and fun for him. It’s also been crazy busy. We live 20 minutes from the theater, practices are four nights a week for two to three hours, and we’re about to start the nine performances this Wednesday. Yes, NINE! I’m so proud of him and so ready for it to be over all at the same time!

The oldest two are always busy with work, school, friends, and though I can still count on them, they aren’t always around. We’ve often said, if only Elliot could drive! And we have four drivers already!!

The little ones still need attention daily and sometimes I feel guilty they aren’t getting what they need from me. Olivia, Evie and Maddie often read to the little ones, put Lukas down for naps, and help them with their school work. It’s a blessing to have such smart, capable girls in the house! But, again, mom guilt creeps in and tells me I should be the one doing all the things, not having my kids do them.

Last, but certainly not least, are all my creative outlets. I love to write, though I haven’t been on my blog in a while due to pure craziness. I love making my signs and have plenty of business with them, which again, is a true blessing. Finding time to do it all is the hard part! I’ve also been writing for the local newspaper for about 8 months now, which is enjoyable, yet another thing. I feel like I need these things in my life because I have a need to be creative and productive outside of homeschooling.

Oh, yeah, let’s not forget trying to homeschool each day, along with tutoring every Monday! I love having my kids at home with me, I love the challenges we get to work through each day and the things we get to learn together. It’s time consuming though. Very time consuming! There is nothing more eternal or impactful, though, than that time I spend with these kids and I wouldn’t trade it.

In the midst of it all I have a choice. I can choose to be crabby. I can choose to look at it all as a burden. I can get frustrated with everyone because I’m stressed (which I do sometimes).

Or I can make a different choice. I can choose to be thankful. You know, years ago, when I was battling depression, my therapist told me to write down three things everyday that I was thankful for. Do you know, that changed my whole perspective and outlook on life? I’m not exaggerating. I wasn’t necessarily a pessimist before that time, although I was during the depression. But forcing myself to think on things to be thankful for caused my whole mindset to shift.

Now I can much more easily see the silver lining in the clouds. I am thankful for Andrew’s job and that it’s busy and he’s needed there. I’m thankful Elliot has discovered a passion and gift. I’m thankful I can be creative. I’m thankful my kids are learning life skills helping me at home. I’m thankful my oldest are learning to stand on their own two feet and are becoming amazing men. I’m thankful we have the freedom to homeschool.

There’s always a choice. In the midst of this crazy busy season, I choose joy and thankfulness. It’s not always easy. There are days when I lose my cool. There are days when I don’t want to get out of bed and face everything life is about to throw at me. But, I still choose.

I choose to be thankful.

Failure

Ever feel like a failure as a home schooling mom? Yeah, I know you do. I know because I see it as the most common post in homeschooling FB sites I’m part of. I know because I feel it too. Almost everyday. Some days more than others. This week has been one of those weeks. Everyday there has been something to knock me down.

Something telling me, “you aren’t cut out for this. You are not smart enough. Your kids will never make it if you teach them at home.”

This week it’s been coming at me from every side. Bad grades being exposed. Kids not telling me they are struggling so I think everything is fine only to find out it’s utter disaster. One prayed for God to help them get caught up to the other kids in band. I thought said child was doing fine. I look at ACT tests, colleges, tech schools, and think we’ll never get there. They will never do well enough to get in. And if they do get in, they’ll struggle so much they’ll want to quit. And it’s all because of me and my shortcomings.

I don’t really know the answer to this feeling. I know that part of it is a lie from the devil. He wants me to believe I’m not capable. He wants me to believe I should give up now before it’s too late. He wants me to believe that if we just had more money to put the kids into all sorts of activities then they’d be fine. He wants me to believe that a different curriculum or a different method will be better. He wants me to keep chasing the next best thing. I know that he’s trying to get me to believe his lies and, thankfully, I know how to fight him. But even still, it’s hard.

It’s so hard not to get caught up in it, thinking this is the end of the world and because there’s a bad grade or even a failed class my kids will never be successful. It’s hard to not compare to others around me.

But I wonder if part of it is conviction too. Not the lie that I’m not capable, but the feeling that maybe I’m not doing enough. Is there, somewhere in there, some conviction from the Lord? Is he trying to wake me up out of my apathy and remind me to keep on keeping on? Is there a still, small whisper in the midst of the screaming lies that’s telling me to push a little harder than I did before?

I don’t know, maybe. I know I waste time sitting on FB on the couch. I know I am uninterested sometimes in getting to school, again, for the umpteenth day. So maybe He is trying to nudge me just a little.

I also know that in the midst of the loud, consistent lie that I’m not enough and not doing enough, Jesus whispers truth. If I would just stop to listen, I’d hear it. And I have heard it this week. He has been reminding me that he loves me and He loves my children more than even I do.

I saw this quote on FB today:

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I felt like Jesus was speaking loud and clear in that moment. And because I read that quote, reminders of how great my kids are came rushing at me. I was reminded how much they love others and how hard they work. I was reminded of how one of them knows just when I need a hug. I thought about how they can make me laugh, how they love to learn new things and are willing to be daring. They are extraordinary people with gifts and talents that are just beginning to emerge.

We’ve been reading through Matthew as a family. The image of Jesus walking, talking, teaching, loving is so vivid as you read His words. I think about what He did while He was on earth and how He impacted people around Him. It wasn’t all about academics and good test grades. It was about love.

Does that make the feeling go away completely? No. It doesn’t. Let’s be real. I will probably still feel like a failure. I will probably still question what I’m doing and if it’s good enough. I will probably want to give up, sometimes daily. I’ll probably still get all worked up over bad grades and missed assignments.

Yesterday I had to wait a few hours to have a talk with one of our kids. I think the Lord gave me those few hours as a gift. I started out really upset and I know I wouldn’t have handled the situation in that moment well. As the time went on, thoughts came to me of how great said child is and how far they’ve come. There were times not too far in that past that were so much worse than this moment. In those few hours, being able to think and ponder on that changed my heart immensely. Suddenly the bad grade wasn’t the end-all, it was just a moment in a series of moments. I was able to see more clearly that getting angry really wasn’t even worth it.

By the time I had the chance to talk it out with this child, it was a calm conversation. A conversation filled with love and with me being able to tell this child all the amazing traits I see in him/her. I was able to tell said child how important he/she was to me and how the grades are so much less important than our relationship.

Did I just let it all slide? No, there was plan put in action with work to be done. There was a consequence of less friend time, but it was all done in love and calm discussion. I can’t say it always happens that way. I thank God for those few hours He gave me so I could calm down and see long term.

Maybe some of my kids won’t get into college. Maybe some will be C students all their school years. Maybe some will graduate top of their class. Who knows? The reminder this week, for me, is that it’s not everything. School, classes, grades, colleges, scholarships…they aren’t everything. Are they important? Sure, of course. But they aren’t everything.

Am I good enough? Is what I’m doing enough? I guess in that I just need to keep bringing it back to the Lord and asking Him what my kids need, instead of asking the world or trying to keep up or compare. Easier said than done, I know. But we’ve got to start somewhere. Maybe I need to do more, maybe not. I’m going to try to trust that the Lord will sort that one out for me. I’m going to say, right now, “Devil, not today. I’m not going to get sucked into your lies. I’m not going to be knocked down by you. I’m going to believe Jesus when He says He loves me and my kids.” He knows just what we need, each and every one of us.