Isaiah 48:10 ~ See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
This year started out with a list. Not the kind on paper that counts off the productive things you might accomplish, nor the kind that makes note of what you need… but the kind that resonates inside your head over and over like crashing ocean tides. Wave upon wave of negative, unseen emotions about perceived failures: ‘homeschool mom guilt’, so I have heard it labeled.
I’ve always been a list maker. I began listing things that were left unfinished – or never even started – last school year after the 2 year old was born: field trips un-taken, projects incomplete, math pages left in the workbook, plans that never materialized, “school undone”. Somewhere at the end of last ‘school year’ when my baby was young and I found out I was pregnant again, despair set in.
“We’ll never be able to get ahead,” Satan whispered and I listened. “I’m having a bad year, not a bad school day.” The negatives congealed in to a soup for my pity pot. I stewed.
In the process of trying to find a good ‘groove’ with my [VERY BUSY] budding toddler — that loves to WRITE (with Sharpie) on EVERYTHING, EAT school supplies, and throw his toys in the toilet – I finally realized that any control I had was an illusion. For a perfectionist, this is a big realization. Life changing, in fact. The challenge of a school day routine became monumental – right up there with ‘getting out of debt’. Slow and steady has never been my mantra. I’m a dive in and sink or swim kind of girl… and have never been used to the sinking part (until midlife motherhood and juggling multiple age children came along, it seems).
This time, I sank. Right down to the depths – eyes open in disbelief — staring up at the shining surface of what I “used to be able to accomplish”, suffocating on the thought that I was experiencing failure. [Failing at raising my kids would be failing at my life’s purpose as a Christian homeschooling parent. It just isn’t an option.] Where do you go from there? Was I supposed to admit defeat?
My school of thought shift demoted me from capable captain, easily navigating the sea of homeschool and homemaking … to browbeaten cabin boy, suddenly unsure of my abilities, having to learn the ropes all over again. Humble pie.
The storms continued to mount: Family illnesses like bronchitis and colds – passing through our entire family and taking us out of commission for two weeks or more, teenage rebellion and attitudes, hormones from pregnancy and mild depression following the baby being born – added to my daughter’s blossoming in to womanhood (enough estrogen to kill an elephant in my house between the both of us), laundry for SIX living people, the pressures of junior high and coming high-school academics, and the cherry on top of this monsoon: my daughter’s undiagnosed chronic back pain that plagued her for almost an entire year.
Not only did I begin to list the ‘unfavorable weather’ in my head (dwell on the difficulties and trails we have been facing), but I began to use them as excuses about why I ‘couldn’t’. It affected OUR (the whole family’s) morale to the point that I was unable to see ANY good that was happening between hardships. I had storm-vision which influenced the whole family. I was run aground.
Homeschooling is difficult enough with a toddler in the mix – but adding an infant, three visits per week of back therapy, and random doctor visits what seems like every other week – and you have the recipe for my shipwreck. A shipwreck that covered the whole sea bed – house unkempt (it’s hard keeping up with sick crew), children constantly in transit (from one long wait at the doctor to another), financial stress (mounting medical costs, gas and convenience foods in our ‘necessary’ haste), and fatigue (when we were still for a change, no one wanted to do anything but REST).
The devil can use a good tsunami to knock you out of the deep – even sink you if you let him. I’m quite sure I was docked in negative thinking, listening to his lies far longer than I should have been. I kept wondering “why me” until a couple of weeks ago… when I finally learned how to say ‘THANK YOU’ to a savior who can walk on water and calm the winds.
My struggle through all of this has been learning a dependence on God. My prayer journal has filled up this year faster than almost any other (with the exception of the three months my husband was in Iraq in 2003). Looking back over it all, I see the constant begging and pleading with Him for a ‘break’ – calm waters, serene shores, a good catch – blessings and success… since this raising of children ‘ought to be’ something that He WANTS me to do well, right? I didn’t see the answer to these year-long prayers for my daughter’s back and her resulting faith crisis right away. I felt like it was a year of NO from God. It seemed like the prayers were all falling on deaf ears as the weeks and months turned in to a year or longer.
God can use a good tsunami to build a faith that wasn’t there before – or strengthen one that was. Sometimes he wipes the beach clean and starts fresh. In Morgan’s case, that was true. “Mama, I feel like God doesn’t care about me. He never answers my prayers.” My heart was breaking over her candid statements. So many of them; all just as heartbreaking. How does a mama answer the inquest amidst the gale of discouragement in her own heart?
My sweet 12 year old thought she was dying of cancer. They ran blood and urine test, sonograms, scans, x-rays, and dozens of exams. Each thing ruled out left more questions. At my darkest hour – unable to afford her muscle treatment any more, denied by the insurance company for help, still without diagnosis, her pain becoming more worrisome… I reached out to friends for prayer.
A friend of mine came over and laid hands on Morgan and prayed for each mysterious ailment. Her kidney and back pain that plagued her for a year went away as suddenly as it had come on. My friend asked God specifically, while holding her legs, to GROW them so that they were the same length. It was documented by two physicians, a chiropractor, a physical therapist and a massage therapist that her legs were nearly an inch different in length — and her hips were not aligned right as a result. We all SAW that her legs were almost – if not – an inch different in length when we began that prayer.
Then we opened our eyes after the ‘Amen’ was said.
Her legs are now nearly the same length (most people have a slight difference that does not affect them one way or the other) – and she has not had back pain since. Her therapist told me that her hips are now aligned also (which we couldn’t tell after the prayer).
God was setting up this miracle for my little girl; for me, even. He wanted to amaze me with the answer to all my prayers that I’m not even sure I was expecting. Yes, I asked him over and over for her complete healing… and I wanted it, but the lingering whittled away at my hope that it would happen, I suppose. There was no way to explain this healing away on a certain doctor, medicine or therapy. It was instant. It was visible. It was REAL. There were witnesses. She has NO more back pain. This is huge — since a good portion of this past year she has been laid up flat on the bed or floor and unable to function enough to do school or chores.
I’m pretty sure that before a couple of weeks ago, I “knew” (head knowledge) that God could heal people… but I didn’t think He would see us as important enough to actually do it. I often think about all the trouble in the world and wonder how or why God has time for ME; but it was the trouble in my life that gave Him this opportunity to BUILD an unsinkable boat of faith for me to brave the sea on. I know my daughter is sailing on that same sea, too – and my goal I have had all along in life, the BIG overarching goal, has always been for my kids to grow up and love the Lord. She has been a different child in the past two weeks. It is like a dark looming cloud on the horizon has left us with clear skies and blue waters. I’m finally feeling wind in my sails.
James 1:2-8 ~ 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
Do you ever wonder why God is silent? Maybe it’s not about you – or maybe He just has something ‘else’ planned than you imagine (something out-of-the-box). Maybe there’s a blessing hiding in your ‘bad’.
Lessons I have taken away from this last two years lost in the homeschool and parenting Bermuda Triangle:
1. Wait on God (in faith – even if your faith sometimes seems weak/the answer sounds like ‘no’). He’s got a plan. <-- Hebrews 11 2. Count your blessings even when you are hurting (especially when you are hurting) and not sure how He’ll make it all come out right. <-- Romans 8:28 3. Check your attitude (sometimes troubles happen just so that God can work out a RIGHT reaction in your heart – try to remain teachable). <-- Psalm 66:10, Hebrews 12 4. PRIORITIZE PROPERLY: Imagine what life would be like today if it was the last day you had with your kids… and act likewise. Time is precious. The little stuff will all work itself out. <-- Ephesians 5:15-17 It’s amazing how the periscope of sickness allows us to see exactly what we need to be focusing our energy on. Everything else melts away in the distance. Our life and our health is a gift – and knowing how fleeting it is helps us to recognize the important things we don’t want to miss in this voyage.
I can honestly say today that I’m glad to have had a bad homeschool year… ok,– or two. I’m making a different kind of list for my future sailing now: a blessing list. I’m not listening to that old sea-serpent any longer.
I’m so glad God didn’t let me abandon ship when things got difficult.