I is for…Individuality

The next letter in our alphabet is fundamental, not just to biblical principles or to home education, but to all of life.

Individuality is where it’s at. It’s our relationship with God. It’s the biblical principle from which at the others spring. It is what gives us liberty in home education and in life. Independently dependent upon God. As we understand individuality as God intends it our relationships flourish, our liberty grows and our faith deepens.

Once we are able to truly be what God designed all the masks come off. Once we shake off conformity to the world and embrace independence in Christ we can enjoy life as God intended. It is not easy but it is immensely rewarding.

This doesn’t mean we don’t lean on others or seek relationships or guidance. Far from it! God’s Principle of Individuality helps us form tight bonds. Embracing others in their uniqueness and pulling on their strengths only serves to benefit a relationship. We add to one another and we celebrate the differences.

My word for 2013

This is one of my favorite exercises each year. I determine a word to encapsulate the new year. Sometimes I spend a lot of time and sometimes one just pops out at me. It helps me live with more intention and purpose. Without further ado my word for the year is…

FRUITFUL–1. Very productive; producing fruit in abundance; as fruitful soil; a fruitful tree; a fruitful season. 3. Plenteous; abounding in any thing. 4. Productive of any thing; fertile; as fruitful in expedients. 5. Producing in abundance; generating.  (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary)

2012 was a big year for me physically. I was pretty sick and had major surgery. I was VERY anemic and could not do much of anything. There were so many things I wanted to do but simply didn’t have the capacity to do anything more than the most basic tasks. Thankfully now my body has recovered and I feel better than I have in years!

I also completed my bachelor’s degree in nursing in December. It was a miracle to be sure! It was satisfying to walk across that stage after all that hard work. I’ve been an RN for twenty years (I can’t be that old mature!) and started on my BSN in 2011. One night a week was doable but it sure wasn’t easy.

My husband started a new contract business and I went to work as a school nurse. All said it was quite a busy year with four children and a menagerie along for the ride.

This year I don’t simply want to be busy. I want to be fruitful. I want to produce something someone else needs, starting with my family. I will post a lot about this as the year goes on. I believe God will provide opportunities for my fruit to abound, which will likely include some pruning!

What is your word for this year?

5 ways to a better homeschool year

The school year is fast approaching (if it isn’t already upon you). While you are excited about the fresh year and new possibilities, some of those old fears and frustrations from last school year can creep up on you before you know it. Here are but a few simple ways that you can make this a better year.

Pray. This is the most important key. Fresh vision and a renewed outlook are critical to change what you want to change and make this a better year.

Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. Mark 11:24 NKJV

Schedule. After you have prayed you can move to scheduling. Make a plan to avoid disaster and to plan for fun and spontaneity. It’s not easy but you’ll be glad you did.A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Prov. 3:5,6 NKJV

Connect. Find a kindred soul to walk through your year with. If you don’t already have one, seek out a friend to pray with and to share the good, the bad and the ugly with.

Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. 1 Thes. 5:14 NKJV

Let go. Release unrealistic expectations. Release your death grip on life. Release those fears and frustrations from last year and wipe the slate clean. Release things into God’s hands and marvel at how He beautifully orchestrates your family’s lives.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, And whose hope is the Lord. Jer. 17:7 NKJV

Encourage. Encourage yourself in the Lord. And find another mom to encourage. Make it a long term project to bless another mom you know. It’s hard to obsess about your own problems when you are meeting someone else’s needs.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. Col. 3:16 NKJV

Decisions, decisions…

Two days until we start our new school year! I am peacefully happy about how this is working out for us. In our homeschool we follow the calendar of the private school my daughters attend. They start on Thursday, so guess what. So do we.

My 7yo son has bugged me since Christmas break to homeschool him again. Once we decided to do just that he has never looked back. He hasn’t wavered or questioned his choice once, even when we registered the girls for school and went shopping for school supplies. I am so impressed with his quiet confidence in his choice.

Unlike him, I spend too much time rehashing and questioning and second guessing most every important choice I make. I don’t just let the decision hang out there, small and vulnerable. After I toss it out I quickly reel it back in, clutching it,  frantically searching for any perceived flaw. Upon closer inspection I deem it unworthy and toss it onto the heap with the rest of the changed decisions. Then I make another decision and start the process over again.

Those little decisions never reach maturity. They never see the light of day. I hang onto the familiar, even when it’s not in my (or my family’s) best interest. I pray Jack’s unknowing example will help me be braver as the months go on and that some of my wee decisions will have the chance to turn into great things.

Let your “Yes,” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No…” James 5:12 NKJV

Balancing online ministry and home

This is another fantastic post from SisterLisa. This is a great topic that I am glad she has addressed. It’s easy to get your life out of balance but she gives you practical advice I really appreciate.

Many moms of faith have very busy schedules at home and it has limited their opportunities to reach out to minister in their own towns, but can reach out to minister to their online communities quite effectively. In this day of a growing awareness of the incredible need for powerful moms to be at home to raise and educate their children, we see an ever increasing need to minister to one another online.

We were once a part of a church that emphasized outreach in their ministry, but our lives were so busy that we couldn’t fit everything in to our schedule. It grieved us to hear the leadership was not in support of online ministry, but we continued nonetheless. However, even with online ministry we need to find a healthy way to balance our online ministries and our home. Sometimes we can be physically at home full time, but not mentally or spiritually.

There have been countless times in the past when I have been off balance. Those times when I am consumed with in- depth thought as I type out an article, I have been oblivious to the kids saying, “Mom? Mom! LISA!” and all of a sudden I am snapped into reality by my own children who wondered ‘where I was’ even though I was sitting right in front of them.

I am thankful that my husband and family have been supportive of my blogging and that they see the need for my online time to be a vehicle for me to express my faith and minister to others, but we have to re-evaluate my time and each week is adjusted as needed, because life has its way of throwing curve balls.

These are just a few things I take into consideration for balancing my home and online time for faith.

A blog post has lasting influence. The beauty of writing a powerful faith provoking article can have insurmountable opportunities to minister to millions of people all over the world, whereas ministering in town has limited reach. I’m not intending to minimize ministering in town, for the words you speak to a broken mama at the nursery counter can positively affect her faith for years to come. The love you show people in your town can lead them to healing. However, when you’re blogging your faith effectively, those words remain online for many to read and be fed through. Don’t underestimate your online time to minister to others.

Set aside a block of time to write uninterrupted. I have Sundays set aside for my uninterrupted time. My family knows that Sunday is my day to write several blog posts that will minister to my readers and online friends. Just as I would not interrupt my husband ministering in real time to a homeless man, they do not interrupt my writing.Family still comes first. Even though I want my family to respect my writing day, I will pause as necessary to minister to them as well. Thankfully, my husband is home on Sundays and takes care of things on that day for me, but I’m still a mom who has kids with needs. Moms can be a little lighthouse for our families and keeping a good schedule can be a lantern.

Prepare for your writing day in advance. If you don’t want to cook a large meal on your writing day, prepare something the day before. You can make a larger meal earlier in the week and save it for your writing day. We often have fajita leftovers or chicken in the slow cooker.

Take breaks. This isn’t always the easiest thing for me since I love writing, but we need to take breaks from the computer and re-enter the realm of the home. Not only do we need to be mentally home for the kids, but we need to make time for our husbands too.

Schedule your commenting on blogs and other forum conversations. The online community is filled with people from all different time zones and we can easily get sucked into the computer screen at any time day or night. They aren’t going to ‘fall’ if we aren’t online to answer their questions. We aren’t the Holy Spirit. Even if there was such a thing as a curfew where the internet can’t be accessed worldwide, people would still live life and be able to walk by faith without us.

Remain humble. A mom who has left the realm of humility and put herself on a pedestal of pride can destroy a family and her online ministry. Be willing to listen to your family asking you to step away from the computer for family time and don’t assume that you have all the answers for everyone online. It’s perfectly acceptable to downsize ministry to take care of the family first.

friendship by sisterlisa, on Pix-O-Sphere

{photo credit Sisterlisa blogs at The HomeSpun Life and is a Contributing Team Member at The Homeschool Post.
Other articles that might inspire your online ministry or home:
Where did the time go?
Divinely Called to be Unique
Finding God

Good things

(Doesn’t that phrase just make you happy?)

Good. Things. Good things.

What are good things and why should we care about them?

Good things, the best things, are things you can touch, like kisses and hugs.

They are things you can’t, like laughter—and tears.

They are things that cost money, like a safe home.

And things that are free, like a smile.

Good things are everywhere and nowhere.

We care about them because they somehow make our lives better. Good things always do.

What are your good things?

Embracing hope

Hope is sometimes not easily embraced. When in the throes of trouble sometimes it is easier to hold hope at arm’s length, to wallow in the negative feelings of the moment instead of holding hope close to the chest, allowing it to permeate the soul. Hope is all sunshine, warm and life-energizing. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain by embracing the hope that Christ offers.

It is not my nature to hold to hope, at least not on a regular basis. I tend to let my flesh run free and wallow in the muck of sadness, frustration and self pity. In the darkness it is painful to shine the hope that heals. My spiritual eyes have adjusted to the darkness and the shock  of light hurts. But once the eyes adjust to the warm rays I can see the Hand extended to raise me from the mire, that hand that was always there, waiting for my hopeful embrace.

Peace

I was snuggling with my almost 3 year old this morning. He had his ear to my chest when he suddenly exclaimed, “Oh! I hear your feelings!”

“What do they sound like?”

“Like a roar bear.”

He doesn’t know how right he is.

My emotions are like a whirlwind, a howling storm of misplaced desires with a flurry of unanswered questions. What is to be done when the storm that rages is on the inside?

…he told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, “Quiet! Settle down!” The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass.  Mark 4:39 The Message

I run to Jesus. When I can’t calm the storm I call on the One who can.

And He does.

Homeschool secret sauce

Ever had something so finger lickin’ good that you just had to have the recipe? So you work up the courage to ask and when you get it you realize you can’t duplicate it because there’s one ingredient you don’t have–secret sauce.

It’s a blend of spices and flavorings so potent, so tasty, so irresistible that you can’t help eating it until your tummy aches. Even then you want more. You liked it so much that just thinking about it makes your mouth water. When you get some you are already thinking about the next time you can get some. That’s some serious gastric goodness.

So have you ever met a homeschool family that left you feeling like that? They seem to really enjoy what they are doing. They are inspiring and you think they have something you want to duplicate. You leave wondering how on earth you can recreate what you are craving. Well, I’m about to give you the recipe to the secret sauce so you can create your own taste-tingling recipe at home and put your own twist on it. It’s not a mystery but it is important.

This secret sauce is the key to maintaining for the long haul, for keeping things hoppin’ and happenin’. Keep in mind this is generic secret sauce. Your own secret sauce may include devotions, prayer time or something else. That’s how you make it your own secret sauce. If you think things are stale, maybe a dash of special sauce is just what you need.

What’s in your secret sauce?

What to do when you can’t

In case no one has noticed, I’ve been MIA around here. There are several reasons I want to share, hopefully to encourage some of you home educators. I hope my story isn’t too common, only because I don’t want anyone to go through what I did.

It all started more then three years ago. It began slowly and grew to take over my life. It became a giant obstacle that I couldn’t see around or get past. It was choking the very life out of me. It was, in a word, anxiety.

In the beginning it was just annoying but easy enough to manage. But like a cancer it grew and grew. It moved in, and brought with it depression. My days became an inky string of endless weeks. I struggled from hour to hour at times, trying to stay focused, trying not to panic. Many nights I paced the floor, my heart pounding out of my chest, trying to hang on until the crisis passed. I lost weight and looked ill. Many days I really felt like I might die and that was terrifying to me.

There were visits to the ER, to the doctor, to the counselor and [sometimes] to church. Just getting out of bed was a chore, and  trying to homeschool was completely overwhelming. I cried sobbed often. All of life seemed like a dark hole from which there was no hope of escape. No hope. None.

I had to make one of the most difficult decisions of my life. I had to put my children in school. The decision wasn’t hard because I think school is evil. It was hard because I thought I was a failure. I thought I was supposed to homeschool, so I was letting my family down because I couldn’t get myself together. I truly believe I was called to homeschool, so this wasn’t making sense to me.

I also had to get a job to pay for school, so that was a shock to my world as well. But it has been a good shock. I have met new people, gotten out of the house, done hard things and gotten a new perspective. And the money I make as a ICU RN is a nice addition to our household budget. The children have enjoyed school and I have also enjoyed delegating the educational responsibility for a while and simply wearing the hat of “mom.” I got a haircut and some new clothes because I actually felt like dressing up again. Hope has dawned on the inside, shining warm rays of joy in my heart. Thanks to God, counseling and medication I have finally returned to my “normal” and it is terrific.

This wasn’t a result of homeschooling per se, but of my response to it. I became obsessed with perfection, doing just the right thing to make sure my children “turned out right” and it was suffocating all of us. I was trying to be God, trying to ensure that if enough things were done right then they would be okay.

Looking back now, in a balanced state of mind, I would take my old self up in my arms and just hold her for a long time. I would give her a long rest and a cup of tea and nurture her. I would make sure her expectations were not too high and that she remembered to laugh and to shake off that nagging self-criticism. I would see that she had a real hobby and real life friends and time to breathe without guilt.

Will I homeschool again? I don’t know. I really hope so. Right now I am saying that I am on sabattical for a year. I am praying about what God has for our family after that. But I am still sharing my thoughts here, encouraging home educators, offering my ideas on BPA and life and whatever else comes along. I hope you’ll continue on this life’s journey with me. I always enjoy another friend on this journey through life.