August 2017


This week is something special.  On Sunday, August 3rd, I got an email re-instating my daughter’s open enrollment status to homeschool.

 

See, we had decided, between the diagnosis and the meds, to send our four youngest to school this year.  I cried during that meeting with the principal, a lovely, warm woman who showed much compassion.

I was broken and willing to make the best of a bad situation, to throw myself into the fray and try to cheerfully accept that my little girls, 6 and 7, would be going to school all day long this year.

I know there are many of you right now contemplating this same thing.  You’re burned out.  You’re frazzled.  You do SO much for your family and there is no short supply of crazy at your house.  I understand.

There have been days, in the past three years, where I have met my husband at the door, asking him to consider school.  I have been homeschooling seventeen years.  I don’t ever remember a time that I was “burned out” and no longer wanted to homeschool until shortly after William’s birth.  It was my first head-long run in with a spat of depression that sunk me like a stone.  This was followed by two rough miscarriages and my hormones were incredibly out of wack.  And I was no longer grateful.  Gratefulness is not a cure for mental health.  Some people think it is.  Mental health is a medical condition and should be treated as such.  Thankfully, what I now suspect was my first and last battle with postpartum depression, is in the past.  But I have to tell you, I still very much had the attitude that I was very ready to move past this stage of pouring myself into my kids and get onto what I wanted to do.

I enrolled in college (online) and decided I could homeschool and go to school.  And I did and I did so successfully.  I finished my Associates degree last year with a 3.9 adult GPA.  (I am not telling you what I had to drag in from age 18, lol.)  But, emotionally, I was withdrawing, eyes on “greener” pastures.

And then this.

This.

I got slapped in the head with Motor Neuron Disease as a diagnosis and it became very clear I was losing all of this.

As I type this I am kissing the tousled little blonde head of a sticky little boy in Cars underwear.  Potty training is NOT going well.  A nine year old is making her first attempt at crepes and the kitchen is going to be a disaster.  For the first time in 21 years of parenting I have Sharpie on my walls.  (The newly turned 3 year old is a creative little firecracker.) My house is a disaster.  My washing machine doesn’t know how to stop – it just rolls through spin and back to wash so you must constantly watch it.  This morning my coffee machine had to be rinsed with vinegar 5-6 times before it wanted to make my coffee.

Sometimes blogs give the illusion that life at THEIR house is so lovely, so serene.  And you sit down and look at your kids and your house and you feel like either you or them or BOTH are a failure at this homeschool and mom thing.

Life can be ugly.

It can hurt.  A lot.  It can be sad.  It can be illness, fatigue, chronic disease, terminal disease.

I cannot begin to say that homeschooling is right for every family.  But I can tell you that families are worth fighting for, worth pouring yourself out, worth living and dying for.

This morning I praise and thank my Lord for this gift…. The gift of one more day, one more week, one more school year to enjoy my precious (and precocious) little girls and teach them of Him and His glory.  And I will fail and I will  do it imperfectly, even ME with all my experience, and I will stumble.   But I will try and I will laugh and I will cover it a lot of it with love and all of it with prayer.  It is enough.

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Have you ever heard a tale of an old miser who died in his little hovel and no one ever knew he was rich? I’ve heard this tale and a few years ago, a neighbor of my parents died in a rundown home (later demolished) and it was discovered he had a good chunk of land and money.  He had no family, no friends, and spent nothing.  He died and he couldn’t take it with him.

Right now you’re wondering why in the world I am writing this?  Let’s face it, for most of us in the midst of raising babies, the problem of too much money to spend is not ours.

I have parented through cultural swings.  Once strollers were popular, now carriers.  Homeschooling was on the outs, now it is gaining in popularity.  Fads, even in families and parenting,  swing.  Once it was popular to enroll children in every possible activity.  It is becoming increasingly more popular to stay home, do less, have unstructured time.  I love this trend.  I think families need to focus on families and grow strong, making the unit a priority.  However, I would strongly encourage balance.  And, moreover, some folks just use it as an excuse to just not do things.

My point?  Don’t hoard your energy and time.  Unlike money, if you store it up, you won’t have more.  Pour out your energy, your hard work, your time.  Don’t resent spending it on those you love.  No!  Lavish these things on your children, your husband, your neighbor.  Spend as much as you can afford.

Mindfully, there is balance.  We are called to care for our homes so that our family can enjoy their home time as well.  This is not a blessing to spend time gallivanting about while dishes sit in your sink.  No, this is not that.  It is a simple reminder to get out and do good things unto others.

On a personal note, this is quite the turnabout for me.  We were homebodies for much of the first half of our homeschooling career.  Perhaps that was best – right where I needed to be with oh so many littles!  But, as our oldest got older, I regretted that she did not have a circle of beloved friends to spend time with.  Those friendships are worth investing in – a Lego club, or a Trail Life group, a chess club, or an outdoor day.  My oldest son has a few close friends that make his life richer.  He prays for them, they pray for him, they play, they laugh, they talk.

This year, as I am facing my own unique set of hurdles, we allowed our fifteen year old to plan more things than ever… Mock trial, the play, science class, assistant teaching Spanish, choir.  I have been encouraged to save my energy, guard my time.  I do think there is value in this advice.  But as I think past more than this month, this year, I know these friendships nurtured, will sustain her and nourish her as a young adult.  They have great value.

I think, like money, we should spend our time and energy WISELY, but it is completely acceptable and worthwhile to spend it liberally on good things.  To more define “good” – to spend our time, energy, ministry, on those things that bring glory and honor to the Lord.  These friendships, these kids, they honor the Lord.  The choir sings praise to our King.  I have seen these kids earnestly pray together before Mock, and develop the ability to stand fast and speak boldly.

Personally, I am being encouraged by others to do less this year.  Chided, “Save your energy.”  For what?  If I save it will I have more later?  If I hoard my hours will they turn into days? Will the saved days turn into weeks?  Can I tack those onto the end of my life?

This morning as I struggled with the question of balance, choosing to do more when I could certainly do less, one of the children brought me bits of an eggshell.  Each year swallows visit our home, build a nest in our entry above our door, and raise a family.  This year the little couple are raising a second set of babies.  Today was hatching day for one of them.  As I looked at that shell, I wondered if Mama Swallow was mindful of how short her time would be with her nestlings?  Did she know in a mere three weeks her tiny babies would fly out of the nest on their own?

As humans, we get far longer than three weeks with our own children.  But spend that time mindfully.  It will not be long before they teeter at the edge of the nest, uncertain of their own wings, but stretching them in preparation of flying.

I am incredibly blessed in this disease.  It does serve well to force mindfulness.

I wake up in the morning and the very minute I get out of bed, I reach for the door by my bed to steady myself.  Good balance is something sorely missed early in the AM.  It’s a bit like being a landlubber on a rocking ship.   Straight away the leg is stiff and I am reminded that those first steps forward are going to be quite the chore.

In that moment, I am very much reminded of my own weaknesses.
2 Corinthians 12:8-9
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.
  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”   It is not, wholly, that I would not wish this to be lifted from me.  I would.  However, His grace is made apparent in my weakness.

Lamentations 3:18-24
So I say, “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord.”
I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind and therefore have hope:
Because of the LORD’S great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”

It amazes me, truly amazes, how affliction inspires adoration.

 

Save time?  No.  Save energy? No.  I’ll save nothing.   I will pour out every ounce of my love, energy, and time into this family.