Dear Moms of “Bad Kids”…

Crazy kid in bounce houseI feel inclined to encourage some mamas today. Yours is not the child who is referred to as a “good kid”. Your child is “that kid”…the one who is wiggling, talking, distracting, interrupting, seems to have no filter, has occasional passionate outbursts and forgets the social graces. Don’t forget that “that kid” is also the one who loves profusely and fiercely, hugs with gusto, feels with great compassion, sees with a perspective beyond their years, and teaches you to love life with abandon.
There are two sides to every coin. Remember that when you are frustrated with a lack of immediate compliance or feel embarrassed in public. Stay the course. You keep on plugging. Make your goal so much bigger than gaining the approval of others. This is your child, not theirs. He or she is “fearfully and wonderfully made”. There is a reason yet to be realized for the depth of their ardor. This child will not be one to take the path of least resistance. A strong will can manifest as smug defiance–or valiant courage. It’s a matter of the heart. That child who appears to be obediently sitting down on the outside might be rebelliously standing up on the inside.
Goodness knows in the near future we will need people who are willing to speak seemingly recklessly for the sake of the gospel. Who knows how God will choose to use your “wild child”? Eagerly anticipate that while you try to teach manners and comportment and guidelines of communication. Don’t sacrifice their uniqueness. It can be exhausting and conflicting to find the balance when there is pressure to conform and you feel your parenting comes under scrutiny. Scrutinizers and their varied opinions are a dime a dozen. The time you patiently and lovingly invest is precious and of eternal worth. In the midst of the din, woo that child’s heart to the Lord.
“My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.” Prov. 23:26

Night Vigil Mama, You Need to Know.

higherthani“Don’t tell people I’m tired. It just sounds like a cop-out.”

I heard myself saying this today. I’ve thought those words scores of times, but never uttered them.  Life as a MOD (Mom of a Diabetic) can be exhausting. Lost hours of sleep (and the domino effect from that), the emotional drain of mentally trying to make sense out of something which defies logic, the pressures we place upon ourselves to try and manage this unrelenting beast 24/7…it all adds up. Add to that all of life’s regular responsibilities (homeschooling, housekeeping, a job) while trying to keep another beast at bay, and you can feel on the verge of collapse.

I went to our Dexcom Clarity reports online to see if I could discern some patterns that would help me manage this more effectively. First–she’s 13, so I probably shouldn’t even try, honestly. Second–I know this is a manna life (relying upon God, continually looking to Him for the sustenance I need and for His provisions for Katie’s care). I know it in my head; but sometimes what we know becomes elusive because we can’t see through the mist of weariness to grab hold of truth.

I know I’m not the only mother who has been here, and Type 1 Diabetes is certainly not the only nemesis stalking worn out mothers worldwide. But when you are in the thick of things, it’s easy to feel profound battle fatigue and for your focus to turn inward. So I remind myself of truth.

My husband stated plainly, “Our job is to keep Katie alive, and so far I think we’re doing a pretty good job.”  It’s a blessing to me to have his support and his no-nonsense perspective. He works so hard all week that I try to do my best to cover the night watches so he can get the rest he needs to keep on faithfully doing all he does for our family. Of course our “keeping your child alive” goes far beyond reminding her to look both ways before crossing the street. This involves walking a very precarious tight line, trying to calculate, every day, all day (and many nights), as best as we can, how much insulin to dose. Too much, or too little, can have dire–sometimes life-threatening–consequences. Trying to perform this task in the wee hours of dark-thirty in the morning can be daunting…trusting reason that can be clouded by sleep (or the lack thereof).  I look at this graph (which layers all the days of this past week), and I see why I’m MOD Tired:

lowsmay

The red outline indicates four nights where a vigil was being kept because of highs needing to be corrected or lows requiring carbs. In each case you then wait to see if your treatment has the desired effect. It may, or it may not. What worked perfectly before may not work at all on this occasion, and somehow you need to reconcile yourself to it.

So the chart is validation in an odd sort of way…documented proof to substantiate my frame of mind.

I also know that both of our endocrinologists have congratulated us for doing so well with Katie’s management. Katie’s A1C is currently 7.9. Not stellar; but evidently (judging from the doctors’ reactions) it is remarkable, considering she’s navigating puberty and the accompanying and ever-changing recipe of hormonal soup (insulin is also a hormone).

Most importantly, I know that my High Priest, who ever lives to make intercession for me, knew what it was to be fatigued beyond anything I’ll ever experience. He understands what it means to try and press through inexplicable circumstances.  I’m reminded again that I need to take this all to Him. It’s too much for me. There is wisdom in making time to “come apart”. 

So I spill my heart out on this blog to perhaps encourage another Night Vigil Mama who needs to hear that someone else is on that same journey…and that Someone Else wants to keep her company, lighten the burden, share the road. This road is short. We’ll make it.

 

Homeschool Reflections-Running the Gauntlet and Finding Resolve

booksEvery once in awhile I have to revisit my mission statement as a homeschooling parent. Reminding myself of the “why” helps my resolve to find its feet again. Something I’ve found that all homeschoolers have in common is self doubt. The end of the school year provides a great opportunity to objectively evaluate your “why” in light of your fall semester goals as compared to spring semester outcomes. 🙂 
We are winding down our school year. It always makes me reflective. Katie has counted out how many lessons she has left in science and social studies, and decided this week she will put her nose to the grindstone so she can finish all her online school.  Now I can get her schedule lined up for next school year, and we’ll enjoy a more leisurely pace completing spelling, grammar, writing, and literature through the end of June. July is our month off. Grateful to see a *little* bit of discipline taking shape in how she manages school. She’s maturing and starting to take things a little more seriously. She’s got her sites set on our alma mater for college. Slow-but-steady progress on this on ramp for high school. 😉 This is gratifying for both of us!
Katie Grades Spring Semester 2019 END
 
I was proud of Katie last week, as a woman (who was a retired school teacher) plied her with all sorts of questions about her schooling. If you homeschool, you know what I’m talking about already. The gauntlet. 
 
What was she reading? Katie told the lady about the series she’s currently enjoying, and I told her how we are doing Peter Pan as a read-aloud and doing a literature study through that book. 
 
What was she doing for science class? Katie told her all about the solar system and space investigation–she’s doing Earth & Space Science.
 
Does she have any friends? (aka “Are you socialized?”)  Anyone who knows our daughter knows the answer to that question.  lol  I assured her that she goes to youth group, church, and art club and has interaction with her peers. But I don’t believe “socialization” is accomplished by spending the entire day with only those in your peer group.
 
What is her favorite subject? She shared what she is learning in history…which interestingly is about Ancient Rome and Christianity.
 
Did she cover Wyoming state history? I elected to save that until later…not in 4th grade which is typical in the school system…so she’d have more of an appreciation for it…we’ll cover it next year in conjunction with American History and Geography.
 
I was asked if I was a teacher.
I’ve always been a teacher by nature, and have been a lifelong learner. Both my husband and I are a little nerdy, enjoying documentaries and playing Trivial Pursuit. 🙂 I had to research reading disabilities and information processing disorder to help our oldest two. I made it my quest to understand their learning styles, and also my teaching style. I studied measurements and standardization and decided that I have a front row seat to best decide what each child in our family should have set as their benchmarks…and came to believe that there is no such thing as a standardized child. I taught on the University level for nearly a decade, and in many other venues through the years…speaking to all ages, all group sizes. I put our two oldest through nearly all their K-12 years, using nearly every homeschooling methodology available. I’d now describe our method as “eclectic”. However–and this is IMPORTANT– without having to list accomplishments, proficiencies or validations, any parent can be an educator.
Should everyone homeschool their kids? I’m not saying that. It’s not an ideal fit for everyone. In such cases, it is wonderful to have trustworthy, truth-anchored teachers available to come alongside…but this still does not negate the responsibility of parents to be engaged in the education process. Scripture reinforces the mandate that parents are expected to teach their kids. Deuteronomy 6 and the entirety of Proverbs are key passages which support this command.
“When it comes to my children, my ultimate goal for them is Heaven, not Harvard. If they go to the latter on their way to Heaven, that’s great. But if I reverse that equation, I’ve failed them.” ~Barbara Frank
The lady was kind enough, but it was a typical set of questions from someone questioning the viability of home education. Katie was very matter-of-fact, open, and confident. Bringing a defensive attitude to the table when subjected to this kind of questioning never helps anything. This kind of interview does not make me question or intimidate me. It strengthens my resolve, even more than a good report card. 😉 
Currently, in the US, a degree is not required in order to homeschool. Prior to the inception of the public school system, the responsibility of education was that of the parents and sometimes the church. The public school system as an institution has an interesting history, with which most people are not familiar.  Here’s a discussion on that background. Some who have never had formal education are brilliant teachers. Not all those who do have degrees teach effectively. Here’s a helpful article to provide a bigger picture. 
Right now we have the freedom to homeschool in this country. Largely, we still have the freedom to decide what our homeschool will look like. Some states have more requirements in place as far as record keeping, testing, attendance, and submitting work samples. Here is where you can go to find out what is required where you live. I highly recommend joining HSLDA, as there is a continual movement in government to acquire more and more control over the rearing and education of our young people. Know your rights. “Wise as serpents, harmless as doves.” 
Are there people who claim to homeschool who give the whole movement a bad name? No doubt. And they are usually the ones who end up in the news. Do I teach everything, every tiny scrap? Nope. Public school teachers don’t either. Do I teach perfectly? Nope. No one does. But I do my best, and I know this is best for our family.
If you are on the fence, considering homeschooling, I’d love to encourage you. Send me a pm!

But I didn’t plan it this way…

nestI’m an organizer. My administrative skill set is a big part of who I am. So, spontaneity is not my strong suit.  My husband has joked that I need to plan to be spontaneous.  When you’re married and have kids, doing things “on the fly” elbows its way into your life, whether you want it or not. So, when our single daughter came to us with the news that she was expecting a child, I had a decision to make. With my mind reeling in that moment, would I trust the grounding truth that God could work it out for good?

Well, the “could He” question is a bit ridiculous. In my head I know the doctrine of God’s omnipotence. He can do anything.  But my heart often feels conflicted. My feelings tend to lean upon their own understanding.  So in situations like these, that act as a match and light the bonfire of my emotions ablaze, I have to step back and gain perspective. I needed to ask God, as David so often did, to instruct my heart.

This life requires so much more prayer and walking in the Spirit than we ever imagine we need…until we round a bend and meet a challenge face to face. Initial response is so important. It was clear to me that our daughter felt the weight of shame and isolation that bearing this heavy news was pressing upon her. To “lose it” helps no one. And honestly, to “lose it” is more about me anyway. It’s about hurt, disappointment, the consciousness of the opinion of others, the dashing of our Perfect Parent hopes. I’m grateful that God calmed and kept my heart so that what issued out was grace. That’s not something you can scrape together in 30 seconds…it comes from trying to weave His truth into the fabric of who you are. I’ve always admired women whose words were full of God’s Word. I have asked God to help me do that for years. Long years. Hard years full of hard things I’d never have chosen, but served to make me lean hard on Him and recognize His voice.  I’ve still got a far piece to go on that journey. Erin needed a safe place for her heart, and I’m so grateful I could provide that.

For Erin, this has been a sort of epiphany … an “intuitive grasp of reality through something (such as an event) usually simple and striking.”  It brought into focus for her the struggles of her heart through the past several years, and turned it back toward her Savior. You can read her “announcement” here.

I confess, in those early days after the news was brought to light, I struggled. Mostly in mourning for the life I’d imagined for our daughter. The good life that I now imagined to have been derailed. I couldn’t stop the tears as we sat in the waiting room of the crisis pregnancy center, and she filled out the paperwork.  I’d become forgetful of how God works and short-sighted regarding His purposes. But not long after, God began to do a work in my heart.

Who of us would live the good life God has for us, the abundant, growing, leaning, trusting, victorious life He wants for us…without trials?  We think we know what Job meant, when he stated in confidence that he would “come forth as gold” after his life was rocked to the core and he lost pretty much everything on this horizontal plain but the air in his lungs. We don’t know, until we know.  Hindsight is 20/20, they say.  The “good” in Romans 8:28,29 linked to above is to be conformed, molded, and changed into the image of the Lord Jesus. To become more like Him. That “good” is definitely not out of Erin’s reach. Not at all. He is a God of hope and healing. As a matter of fact, realizing how empty we are without Him makes us desire it more.

In our first discussion, I told Erin I was so thankful that she’d made the first right choice: to keep the child. Life is precious. I assured her that, no matter how life comes to be, it is God who allows a heartbeat–and therefore I was sure He had a purpose. At that point, it was hard to really read what else was going on in her heart and mind. She told me days later that she wanted to make a public announcement so that everyone (because especially in these situations, everyone will hear eventually) would know the whole story. I told her she needed to take it slow, pray over her words and choose them carefully…because she’d get one opportunity to put it “out there” and we wanted God to use it for good. I’ve done much the same thing for the post you are now reading. Erin crafted a draft and sent it to me. I was so proud of her courage and how well she articulated her feelings and wove them together with relevant scriptural truth.  We received so many responses, assuring us of love and prayers and support. I also received numerous private messages from friends who said they were so grateful we allowed them into this story.  If the past several years have taught me anything, it’s that trials come into our lives for the sake of others who are looking on, as well as for what God wants to accomplish in us personally. We need to ask Him for the strength and bravery to embrace that and not hide away in a corner. Satan wishes to paralyze us. God wishes to empower us. So many are hoping for someone to show them how to live victoriously and grace-fully.

So now, I try to offer hope on this new road while I’m simultaneously trying to figure out what it’s supposed to look like from day to day. This kind of multitasking is on a whole new level for me; but I know that, with her heart leaning upon the Lord, and with His help, Erin will be a wonderful mommy. She’s always had lots of love in her heart for children. This innocent little life is to be cherished.

I sent Erin an early “nesting” Mother’s Day gift that I had custom-made for her …something to remind her that she’s not alone, and although it may be a challenging road,  it can still be a very sweet one.

You can know this too. If you are feeling paralyzed in a hard place, please message me so I can pray for you.

Redemptive Parenting (aka Sinners Teaching Sinners)–Guest Post by Stephen Dechert

mombiblekids

I think this is the perfect read for Christian parents at the dawn of a new school year. It will bring everything into alignment in answering the question, “Why am I doing this??”  If you’re questioning yourself (yet again) about homeschooling…or if you are a Christian non-homeschooler needing to renew your focus for those teachable moments at home, read on.

At the recent Homeschoolers of Wyoming Road Show in Lander, I had the privilege to hear Stephen Dechert deliver this encouraging message to the parents. It resonated with me deeply. I asked him if I could have the written transcript and he’s given me permission to post it here on the blog. I could call this my mission statement (the long version 😉 ). It helped to distill again for me why I’m doing what I’m doing as a Christian parent, and as a homeschooler (let’s face it, we are all home educators if we are doing this parenting thing biblically).

Here is the text in its entirety…I promise you won’t be sorry for the few minutes it takes to read it, and I guarantee the truths will echo in your heart.

Why do you homeschool?  What is it that you want your children to learn?  If our children graduate into this world and are asked by a reporter what is the single most important thing that they learned at home, what do you want their answer to be?  Have you thought about it?  As a parental team, are you in agreement about it? 

Whatever your personal or family goals, the reality is that in undertaking to homeschool our children we are taking upon ourselves the burden of imparting knowledge from a variety of fields in a way that is understandable and, hopefully, useable in one form or another.  Additionally, when we think about it, we want to pass on wisdom as well – that is, the ability to use the knowledge they have in ways that will benefit them and those around them in some fashion.

But what should undergird these things?  It should be said here that I am assuming the people reading this are Christians, those who have heard and believed the gospel of God through his Son Jesus Christ and have fled to him for repentance and reconciliation and found in him peace and eternal comfort.  Working from that assumption, then, we can freely admit as Christian homeschoolers, we often have another layer of knowledge and wisdom that we desire our children to apprehend, and that is a working understanding of the Scriptures and what they teach.  

From that basis, then, that we as Christians who homeschool have the desire to impart knowledge and wisdom to our children, of both secular and sacred things, using the Scriptures as a foundation, I would posit that there are two things we must understand and accept before we can move forward with homeschooling in a biblical and gospel-oriented manner.  For that is the point of this discussion – to promote a deeper understanding of what it means to orient ourselves according to the gospel as we seek to instruct our children in the way they should go.  In this there are two fundamental truths that we must accept before we can move forward.

The first thing that we as homeschooling parents need to recognize, and accept, is that we are teaching sinners.  Our children, wonderful as we may think them to be, are sinners.  We might write the glowing Christmas newsletters extolling their virtues, but we know, most of that is just fluff.  We may hold them up as paragons of virtue as we laud their diligent labors to master the lessons set before them when speaking with our neighbors, but we know, deep down, that they can be frustrating and difficult and sometimes they drive us crazy.

When we talk amongst ourselves, away from the watching world, we can admit that our children are often lazy and hard to motivate.  They struggle with disobedience.  Let’s be bluntly honest for a moment:  though we love our children and desire the best for them, we, of all people, see their sin most clearly.  They lie, they cheat, and they grumble, and they cut corners, and they complain, and they get angry, and they . . . fill in the blank.  After all, as Jeremiah points out, the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?  We could go on and on, but there’s no need to, for the crux of the matter is this:  the reality we need to face in homeschooling is that we are trying to instruct sinful human beings with an inherent sin nature and a flesh that wars with the spirit, as the apostle Paul says in Romans.

But as we consider that reality, we must also come to grips with the second fundamental, and that is we as homeschooling parents need to recognize, and accept, that we are sinners ourselves.  The indictment of Scripture against our children is the indictment against us as well.  ALL have sinned.  ALL have fallen short.  ALL have earned death as the wages for their sin.  We may be a bit wiser, one would hope, but we are still sinners.  We may have more knowledge and experience, but we still transgress the commands of God.  We may be able to impart wisdom and understanding, but there is still, and always will be, this side of glory, that taint of sin that Paul speaks of in Romans 7, that continual struggle between spirit and flesh. 

And so we need to accept that, just that our children will not always pay attention, neither will we always instruct perfectly; where our children will not always obey, we will not always discipline correctly; they will fail and we will fail; they will be angry and we will be angry; and everyone will, at times, say and do things we wish we didn’t.  But this is life as a sinner.  This is the struggle of the apostle in Romans 7.  And while the answer to that struggle is given in chapter 8, that is, the gospel of Jesus Christ that can save us from this wretched body, the truth is that even as those who have been saved, this side of glory we will still and always struggle with sin.

Now I point these two things out this morning, not to bring everyone down or to spend our time focused on our sin – not at all.  I point these two things out so that we can admit the truth of who we are, and then move on to embrace the greater truth that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the key.  It is the key to our sin, it is the key to the sin of our children, and the key to our homeschooling, it is, truly, the key to all of life.  So many believers look to the gospel as a one-time thing – believe and you’re in.  Then they spend the rest of their lives trying to please God and live according to his precepts thinking the gospel opened the door and now it’s up to them.

But that is not the way of the Scriptures.  The gospel is the well that never runs dry from which we must drink deeply and often; the gospel is that which proclaims forgiveness to us every time we sin; the gospel is that which gives strength to resist temptation; the gospel is that which brings comfort in the midst of intense struggle; the gospel is that which offers hope when all hope seems lost; the gospel is that which imparts to us the glorious truth that Christ himself has begun a good work in us and Christ himself will see it through to the very end, he is the author AND the finisher of our faith.

This truth should then inform, indeed, it should be the bedrock of all that we do, all that we say, all that we are, all that we teach.  For when we look to the power of God offered to us in and through the gospel, then we find the confidence and freedom necessary to homeschool our children in a way that shapes mind AND heart as we prepare them to live in this sinful world.

And it is a sinful world.  Part of why this is crucial is that we need to understand that we are not protecting our children from the evil or wicked influences of the world, but are training them to live in a sinful world biblically.  For evil and wickedness already lie within their hearts.  James 1:13–15 – Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.  The world cannot and will not corrupt our children any more than they already are.  And so we need to reframe our model of homeschool – not as a place that keeps them isolated from our perception of sin, but as a place that teaches them how to deal with their own sin, by fleeing to the cross of Christ and looking to him in faith; and as a place that teaches them to find their strength and hope in that same gospel message as they go out to live amongst an evil generation.

But it also allows us the freedom to teach them and train them imperfectly.  By that I mean that we will never get it exactly right, but that’s OK!  We need not worry about picking the exact right curriculum, because there isn’t one.  What’s right this year might not be next year.  And that’s OK.  We need not fret over college entrance tests, or agonize that they may not choose college, or despair that we didn’t teach this or that as fully as we should have, or worry that our children don’t have enough social interaction.  These things are, truly, peripheral to the heart of the matter.  We cannot do better on our own, or try harder, or pick the right curriculum, or even, at the end of the day, protect our children from the influence of the world in a way that will make an actual difference apart from the gospel.

But it is precisely here, as we understand the gospel, that we will find peace and comfort in this: that if our children understand the things that matter, if they have been given the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection for their sin, if they have seen the gospel modeled in their parents – in forgiveness and reconciliation – if they have been taught the things of the Lord, then they will be well equipped to face the world, for they will have been given all things, as Peter says, pertaining to life and godliness in the gospel of God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

For we must not let our success, and that of our children, be defined by the world, but by the Word of God.  And if they know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified, then they know everything.  The Apostle Paul said that very thing in 1 Corinthians 2:2–7 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  Then, as he goes on to say in vv. 6-7, among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.

In pursuit of this goal, to impart that hidden wisdom of God revealed in the gospel of his Son, to ensure that our children have heard the glorious news of God’s saving grace through Jesus Christ, many Christians have rediscovered the value of creeds, confessions, and catechisms.  As someone who has utilized the Three Forms of Unity, that is, the Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort, I would like to offer the first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism, written in 1563, as a possible way to codify our homeschool goals as Christians.

The question asked is this: What is your only comfort in life and in death? And the answer is this: That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that all things must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live unto Him.

I would posit that if we can answer this question in such a manner with the full assurance of faith, then no matter our choice of curricula, no matter our failings in instruction, no matter our struggles with discipline, we will, by the grace of God, succeed in our role as parents and teachers, for we will have imparted to them that which truly matters. 

I would posit that if our children can answer this question in such a manner with the full assurance of faith, then no matter their lot in life, no matter what path they may take, wherever they may live, and whatever they may choose to do, then they, by the grace of God, will succeed in life, for they will know that which truly matters.

May the Lord richly bless you as you seek to serve him as sinners teaching sinners in and through the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, strengthened by his Holy Spirit, to the eternal glory of God the Father.  Amen.

Stephen Dechert is the Pastor of Providence Reformed Community Church in Riverton. He is also serving as chaplain at the Wyoming Honor Farm.