Great Things

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the LORD has helped us.”
(1 Samuel 7:12)

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While my small group was studying the book of Nehemiah a few weeks ago, a question was asked in the course of study: “What acts or events in your life would you point to as powerful testimonies of God’s greatness?”

Wow. What a great question.

To be honest, this is a question I am finding it necessary to continually revisit and review, especially now. This last year has been particularly trying for reasons I can only guess at.

For starters, we there have been many significant changes to our lifestyle, particularly since the oldest two children are now attending private school for the first time and I am only homeschooling our 7th grader. Other changes are merely the usual ones associated with changing seasons of life and of parenting, while still other potential changes loom on the horizon and can only be imagined for now.

Then, too, there are some pretty wacky physiological changes going in my body on that seem to be linked to chronic migraine and very likely to pre-menopausal hormonal shifts as well. And of course, let us not forget the various stages of adolescence my husband and I are navigating, calling on the Captain of this ship for emergency course corrections as we venture through stormy, unpredictable seas.

Suffice to say that it has been a difficult year. But last night, I had a time where I was able to tearfully confess my own sinful responses to these changes to a dear friend and prayer partner who was faithful to lift me up in the midst of my struggle. Then this morning, for the first time in far too long, I was able to take a walk with my God and talk things over with Him.

And He reminded me of the question, and more importantly, of the answers to it.

Where have I seen evidence of His greatness in my life? So many places…

  • The fact that my husband and I are still married despite a less-than-ideal beginning.
  • God’s provision that has allowed me to stay home with the kids for almost 16 years  – so far.
  • Homeschool. Anything that was done correctly there was all God. I have never been trained as a teacher, did not even finish college, and never even had an inclination or aptitude to teach. But somehow, my kids have learned and learned well. No, not ‘somehow’- by the grace of God.
  • My 8th and 10th graders made an effortless transition to private school, even calling it easier than homeschool and maintaining straight A’s (so far).
  • Having a handful of articles published here and there – again, with no training or degree.
  • Did I mention financial provision? Not only homeschooling on a single income, but His provision for private school and recently for a third vehicle. To God be the glory!
  • That I have managed to complete a novel – the idea and the time to put it in print is all straight from the hand of God. If anything comes of it, that will be Him, too.
  • The ability to praise Him in the midst of pain (OK, I confess – not always, but overall).
  • A small group consisting of people with great diversity in backgrounds, ages, and careers. To hear of God’s work in many different seasons of life and perspectives is an incredible gift!
  • My own unlikely salvation from a highly immoral and highly destructive lifestyle and from the depression which undergirded all.

Those are just a few of my “Ebenezers” – my touchstones to remember that thus far, God has helped me. Of course, there are so many more daily blessings like being able to see, walk, talk, and hear; having fresh water and plentiful food; the table I sit at and the computer on which I type; daffodils; birds; the air I breathe…

I could literally go on forever. And to be honest, I really should.

In the interest of not writing another novel today, I will end by saying that today I am particularly thankful for my the prayers of my friend and for my God who reminded me to look not at what He is not doing now, but at the many wonderful things He has already done. Truly, He has done great things for us!

The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad. Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negeb! Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!
(Psalms 126:3-5)

 

 

Mostly About Homeschooling

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 12:9

One of my favorite comments from moms who do not homeschool is, “Oh, I could never homeschool my kids. I just don’t have the patience.”

Invariably, I answer, “Me either!”

The bare fact is that God never called me to homeschool because I was especially patient. Nor was I especially qualified. In fact, I never had a desire to teach before having children of my own, and thanks to some truly horrendous choices, never even finished college. At the time, I was not even a mature Christian!

In my wildest speculations, the only reason I can conceive of that my God would call me to homeschool my little brood is that my very weakness and ineptitude made a stunning backdrop for a display of His power. It certainly wasn’t my

Also, in my years of homeschooling, He has changed me. I am no longer as impatient as I once was. I’m less of a yeller. Truth be told, I am absolutely positive that I have learned far more than my kiddos through this experience.

Now that the number of pupils in my little academy has dwindled to one (at least for now), I have a little breathing room and can look back over the last decade and see some of the lessons I have learned. Here are a few of them:

  1. If God calls you to homeschool, you can do it. You don’t have to be a certified teacher, nor patient, nor gifted in the arts of education, nor anything, really. If you are called, you are called. The only question is whether or not to obey. Remember that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you, so be on your knees frequently and ask for the wisdom and strength you need. Then trust Him to bring it to pass.
  2. If you are called, this does not mean it will be easy. Being both parent and teacher is never easy, no matter how much or how little training you have. I think sometimes we tend towards a crazy notion that when God calls us to do something, He is obligated to line everything up so that we can float through our days without so much as a breeze to ruffle our hair. The reality is that when He calls us to do something, our ruffles are more often buffets from gale-force winds, but this is only so we will learn to rely more on Him and less on our silly selves. Just because it is hard does not mean it isn’t worth it.
  3. Have fun when the kids are small. Now naturally, school cannot be all fun and games and I am definitely not an advocate of unschooling, but there’s no good in stressing over-much when they are little. The early elementary years are the times to get hands on and develop a desire to learn about this wonderful world God made. It can be a time to really enjoy these sweet little people God has planted in your life. While co-ops and tutorials can be very good things, I tend to think they are best from middle school on.  My one major regret is that I farmed out the fun stuff and compromised my vision for our school during the kids’ elementary years with a tutorial. While this was great fun for them and was still a good experience, they also did all the fun experiments and projects with their friends while I was left with the drier and duller subjects such as math and grammar. Needless to say, I was not the favorite teacher in those years. 😉
  4. Hold the older kids accountable. Scheduling is not always a popular topic among homeschoolers. Many let their kids sleep in and enjoy other freedoms that homeschooling offers, sometimes to a fault if we are honest. As our kids approach adolescence, it is crucial that we do not skip such critical life lessons as punctuality and meeting deadlines. If the goal is to train responsible, functional, Godly adults. That means they need to learn  responsibility, how to function under authority, and sacrifice. At this age, it’s time to focus on a work ethic and doing our work heartily as to the Lord.
  5. Hold yourself accountable.  Homeschooling may not pay a salary, but it is a real, full-time job. For me, sometimes this meant resisting the temptation to check email or fool around on faceboook during school hours, even if I was not needed at that moment. When the kids were older, it sometimes meant saying “no” to meeting friends or to babysitting because my kids needed the time to focus on their school work without distraction. Imagine if your child went to school and the teacher frequently cut corners and left early to play or even to do things for others but at the class’s expense. Once I thought of myself that way, it gave me a new perspective. Guess who gets to set the example of doing our work heartily as to the Lord? 😉

Of course, that’s just the nickel version. I have learned so much more, most of it not even related to homeschooling. However, that is quite enough words for tonight, I’d say!

Mom to Mom Encouragment

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,
Ephesians 1:11

Hello.

It’s been awhile; I know. To be honest, except for some few matters that weighed heavily on my heart, I have basically taken this summer off.  After 15 years of the intense parenting  and educating process that is so innocuously referred to as”homeschool,”  I took a few weeks and did some serious resting at the Lord’s feet… with an strong emphasis on rest.

As part of this,  I slept… and slept. As far back as memory stretches, I remember being tired, and so this summer I did not stick to my normal early-morning routine as in years past. I slept as long as I could as often as I could. That is not to say that I went to bed late – in fact, I was often in bed by 9:30 – but for the first time in memory, I did not set an alarm every day.

It was a luxury, and one that I was only able to afford in part because of a tremendous change that is happening at the Davis household. You see, I have less to prepare for this school year.

For the first time in our family history, I will only be homeschooling one of my children; the older two will attend a private Christian school. This is our family’s very first venture into an institutional-style education.

It’s pretty big change.

For years, we have prayed about how long we would homeschool, and this year the surprising answer was to provide the older two with an opportunity to attend a private school in a neighboring town.  I have always known that if my Lord wanted my children to attend private school then He would provide for it.

And He has. And here we are, just days away.

But some things never change. The same questions that have risen at the beginning of each school year still surfaced this time, some with even greater savagery.

Have I done enough with them?

Have I been too lenient, too strict, too careless, too rigid?

Have I gotten so caught up in teaching Bible that I have forgotten to share my love of the Bible? 

Have I impeded their growth spiritually, socially, academically, emotionally, intellectually?

What if I have made a tremendous, hopeless mess out of everything?

These questions and others like them are the particular haunt of homeschool moms, although I am certain they affect all concerned parents in some degree. However, the homeschool community is such that, if you spend even thirty-five seconds on some form of social media, you will be bombarded by other homeschoolers who have just plain done it better. 

They have successfully shepherded all of their children’s hearts to the effect that each one has an obvious love for the Lord that overflows in a passion for some area of ministry. These families have raised prodigies in violin or dance. Their children are mini-geniuses who are fluent in 4 languages, have mastered Algebra by fifth grade, can map their own DNA, have written a successful novel, have formulated a very promising cure for cancer,  whip up five-star restaurant quality meals from scratch for dinner each week, rescue babies from runaway cars as a hobby, made a 36 on the ACT exam in eighth grade, and have once or twice saved the world from imminent disaster with a combination of pure ingenuity under fire and infallible communication skills. They are done by noon. Every. Single. Day.

When I consider all this, it’s not difficult to see why I no longer look around at other people’s Facebook posts  nor why I have studiously ignored Pinterest.

However, all my sleeping and resting at the Lord’s feet did bring about a positive change. For the first time, even though the same old crazy, fear-induced questions did rise up on cue, they were quickly put to rest by one single encouraging thought: It really doesn’t matter.

You see, even if I have made mistakes, there is no such thing as a hopeless mess. Of course I have erred; I am human. However, I have also prayerfully, diligently, even tearfully tried my utmost to obey what I believe my King has told me to do. In years past, that meant fighting battles I did not want to fight. This year, it means letting go a little.

Naturally, I have asked myself, “What if you are wrong? What if you only think you’re doing what God wants you to do?”

And that’s where this gets good. Because, the thing is, my Father does know if I am truly and with my whole heart trying to obey. And He isn’t expecting perfection; perfection is squarely His territory.

But the best part of all of this is that even if I do misunderstand Him, even if I do make huge and heinous mistakes, as Ephesians 1:11 says, He “works all things according to the counsel of His will.”

Oh, there are other verses I have collected along the same lines, but my fellow Christ-loving moms, as we start this school year (whether homeschool, private school, or public school), I pray that you are as encouraged by the Word of Life as I was this week.

So instead of worrying, let’s rejoice! Our God is truly the Almighty, and He works all things according to the counsel of His will. Even our sincere mistakes.

“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
Job 42:2

Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens. Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast. By your appointment they stand this day, for all things are your servants.
Psalms 119:89-91

 

Growing Weary

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9

My tenth year of homeschooling is well underway, and I can safely say that the novelty of the thing has worn off. We are past the age of frequent, fun field trips. Gone, too, are the days of using a park day for PE or nature study.

Instead,  workloads are more intense and the focus of schooling has shifted.  We are now training for future college and job success, centering on such skills as meeting deadlines, developing good study skills and a good work ethic, and so on.

Top off this mixture with a dash of unavoidable adolescent upheaval and presto! A recipe for occasional student mutiny or parental discouragement. It isn’t that the children are rebellious, it’s just that they are all at an age where they are trying to find out who they are.

In her excellent book, For Parents Only, Shaunti Feldhahn likens this process to the building of a castle. Since all the growing young person has to build with are the “blocks” my husband and I have tried to instill within them (our beliefs, principles, etc.), the only way they can construct their own identity is to dismantle the parts we have provided and examine each one, trying to decide whether or not it fits into their life.

Ms. Feldhahn writes, “We know in theory that kids need to find their own identity. What we often don’t realize is that the process they go through may feel an awful lot like rejection to us.”

Yes, the Davis Academy is firmly entrenched in this process right now.  Again and again, I feel deflated. Again and again, I feel like a parental failure. Again and again, I am in anguish to realize that most of my children only pick up their Bibles when they are told to; that they do not have a driving inner desire to seek out the face of our God.

Again and again, I am reminded that I am still on the front lines of a spiritual battle. Right now, it is raging most fiercely for the hearts and minds of my young man and women. The part that makes me feel most helpless is that I am at a point in this battle where I have done everything else (albeit imperfectly) and all I can do is to stand firm.

And pray. I am praying for them passionately.

I am faced with hard questions now: Does the 24/7 parenting model offered by homeschooling guarantee God-fearing children? Do morning Bible studies and Bible-based curriculum choices guarantee that each child will truly believe and choose to give their lives for Him? Does giving up my best wage-earning years in order to stay home and teach my children guarantee that I will, in fact, make disciples?

Unfortunately, no.

All I can do is be faithful to my own calling, be obedient to what God tells me to do, and remember not to grow weary in my work but to rely on Him for the strength to see me through. I can live in His grace and act in His love.

Seeking His face diligently, I can let Him transform me more and more into the perfect image of Christ, both allowing the process of sanctification and willingly participating in it.  I can share the ever-growing love I have for my God with my children and let them see the changes He has wrought for themselves. I can pray intensely for them, pleading with God to keep them walking in His light.

But I cannot make them love Him. In the few short years when they begin to leave our little nest, I cannot make them choose wisely. With my efforts, this is not possible. However, all things are possible with God.

Today, I will remember to praise Him anyway. I will remember not to judge the fruit of the tree by its barely-formed buds, for my children are not mature but still saplings with much growing left to do.

The work I am called to do is not always easy, but it is always worth it.  I will fight the good fight on behalf of my children, not giving up until the work is done, praying diligently that each one will truly love the Savior and seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness in their lives.

I pray they will some day astonish me with the depth and breadth of their love and faith. If they require a time of falling prey to the enemy’s lies in order to see the stark contrast in the ways of the prince of this world and the Prince of peace, I will not give up praying for them. I will not stop fighting for them.

In the meantime,  I will keep my eyes on the Lord, allowing Him to be my strength and believing that in due season, I will reap if I do not give up.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
Ephesians 6:12-13

Back-to-School Meditations

But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread?
Matthew 16:8

And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”
Mark 8:21

 

Back to school. Those words invoke a pretty wide range of emotions, from excitement to dread and everything in between, sometimes all at once.  As a home school mom, I often suffer from a sense of insecurity at the start of each new year. Will I be able to help the children with their subject matter? Will we cover enough information? Will they be well-rounded and well-grounded? Most importantly, are they really getting it when it comes to their Bible studies and their relationships with God?

As usual, I was talking with God about my fears and insecurities before we began our school year and discussing with Him the fact that my teen and pre-teen children seemed to be further than ever from Him. I was bemoaning my failure, asking Him to show me where I had gone wrong. Have I been too legalistic? Too harsh? Too lenient?

As I poured out my heart to Him, God hushed me with the reminder that even the best Teacher the world has ever known did not always get His lesson across to His students.  If Jesus asked questions of His disciples such as, “Do you still not understand?” so frequently, do I honestly believe I can achieve better results?

No, I am not a perfect teacher. I would venture to say fairly boldly that I am not even a good one. Nor am I a perfect role model, especially to these three who have seen the irrational and bizarre moods caused by the prodromal phase of a migraine often enough to recognize and identify it with uncanny accuracy.  However, if God has truly called me to do this — and I am convinced that He has at least for now — then He is faithful and He will surely do it.

Despite my fondest, early imaginings, none of my children are super-geniuses nor are they super-spiritual. While they are all bright and have gifts in different areas, none of them are on track for college graduation before they can drive (which is a blessing since I would be on track for the funny farm if they were!). To my sorrow, not a single one of them shows the glimmerings of an astonishing faith, an especial zeal, nor of deep insight into the things of God.

However, as God  reminded me on that morning walk, the twelve disciples did not exactly show signs of being world-changers during the time of their tutelage, either.  So many times Jesus patiently and lovingly reprimanded them for their little faith or for failing to understand parables or events.  As a matter of fact, there were areas in which the group did not connect the dots until after He had been crucified and rose again:

His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.
John 12:16

It heartened me to begin the new year with a fresh perspective. This understanding does not eliminate the weight of my responsibility one whit, nor do I take my job less seriously. Indeed, it inspires me to prayerfully seek the Spirit’s help to be more patient when I repeat myself again and again and again and again…

It also makes me resolved to work at home schooling heartily,  as to the Lord and not to men. It reminds me to continue diligently to study His Word and show myself approved, to love the Lord my God with all that I am, and to encourage my children to do the same.

And perhaps most importantly, I will not judge the fruit of my little gardens before the seedlings have even produced proper buds. I will continue to plant, to water with both prayers and tears, and to ask God for the wisdom and strength to tend them well during the time I am given. Then, when I have done all that is within my ability to do, I will step back and watch to see what God will make of my little efforts.

I firmly believe that He who calls me is faithful; He will surely do it. And I pray the “it” I wait to see will be that God will bring all three of my children into a close relationship with Him, loving Him with all their hearts, souls, and with minds that are well-trained despite my inadequacies.

 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
1 Corinthians 3:6-7

 

My Call to Endurance

Have you ever had a moment when God put into place so many signs indicating His direction for you that you would have to be ultra-dense to miss them all?

That happened to me this past weekend. Months ago, I felt strongly drawn to attend the Teach Them Diligently conference in Nashville and registered early. There was a glitch in my registration which resulted in me being charged substantially less than I was expecting. I called to straighten it out and the gentleman I spoke with was able to see the problem, but he had no idea how it occurred nor how to fix it. He told me, “Well, consider this a gift from the Lord and I guess you are supposed to attend this year!”

That event slipped into obscurity as the mundane home school days ground on. A few bouts of sickness, winter weather, and unexpected life events introduced kinks into our routine. As March commenced with a parting shot from ol’ Jack Frost, I found myself pretty much sick of home schooling.  And if I was feeling depleted concerning my home school, I was utterly devoid of any creativity or energy for writing. I was seriously eyeballing a complete change of career (read: getting a career) and began to look toward the upcoming conference with a sense of hopelessness.

We missed the first day. A series of what I can only call “Murphy Events” made my oldest child wonder aloud if we were even supposed to go to the conference. The memory of my conversation upon registration came to mind, and I replied that I was certain we were.

Knowing this, I rose at 5:00 the morning of the conference and sat down with my Bible, asking God to prepare my heart for what He wanted me to hear. As I read, I conferred with Him and He began to bring passage after passage of Scripture to mind, all in some way or another related to perseverance and steadfastness.

The first seminar we attended was called “Passionate Pursuit of Excellence” by Mark Hamby of Lamplighter. I must say it was basically an extension of my private conversation with my King from that morning, incorporating many of the same Scripture passages and even an illustration using an account from Judges that I had read the day before. In many ways, though several people were listening, it was an intimate chat between me and my God.

A word Mr. Hamby mentioned as he spoke was the Greek word agon, meaning struggle or fight, from which we get words such as “agonize.” Here, God reminded me that agonizing effort will often be required of me both in writing and home schooling. In both I must be prepared not only to give my all, but to sacrifice many desires.  Indeed, I will need to heed the words of this blog’s key verse and “run with endurance the race that is set before” me.

While I received many other admonitions from God during the conference, there is one other speaker I would like to mention in part because her topic was so close to my heart. Stacy Farrell of Homeschool Adventure Co.  spoke on the dire need to prepare our children for the absolute inundation of lies they will face every single day in this world.   Of the many wonderful points she made, one in particular hearkened back to my discussion with the Lord: She encouraged us all to be stubborn in our callings and to expect our enemy to try to dissuade us.

I had grown weary and had allowed discouragement to creep in. In these and so many other ways — far too many to recount here — God used people at the Teach Them Diligently conference to remind me of what He had been telling me all along.

Through many of the speakers, God dealt me a much-needed slap in the face and many reminders that I am not in this race alone; that I cannot quit just because the course is long and I am at the point of exhaustion. That I can trust Him to be strong in my weakness.

God emphasized to me that now is not the time to give up, but as Jacob did on that riverbank so many years ago, now is the time to cling to the Him with all the strength I can muster, refusing to let Him go. After all, I cannot be said to have endured if I drop out in the third leg of the race, but only if I run over hill and rocky ground, through blood and pain and tears, laboring diligently, walking when I can no longer run, clawing my way when I can no longer stand, continuing all the way to the end.

Now, at this moment, when the contest seems grueling and interminable, now is the time not only to endure. Now is the time to rejoice.

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Romans 5:3-5

Joy Anyway

 Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”
Psalms 16:1-2

I am very weary today. It has been a challenging few weeks with bad news coming from many directions — friends and family afflicted with sickness both rare and mundane, tragic deaths, financial difficulties, and marital strife. There is a veritable sea of suffering all around.

On a milder level, the students in my little home academy are struggling under the weight of the general sense of blah that pervades the post-Christmas winters in our part of the country. The grey and gloomy days, the brief hours of daylight, and the contrast of the dreary days following so closely the former holiday cheer all congeal into a rather sluggish mass of disconsolate attitudes and sibling relations.

However, none of this gets to me for long. Oh, I admit, I have my moments. Believe me, I am far from perfect, nor have I yet attained the goal of the upward call in Christ!  But what I do have is another year of spiritual training under my belt; a deeper understanding of the goodness and sovereignty of my God and a more intimate communion with Him that lightens the burden of external circumstances.

The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
Psalms 16:5-6

In my fourth decade of life, I am finally beginning to put some meat on the bones of my faith.  For the first time, the burden of compassion for suffering loved ones is not overwhelming to me.

Why? Because the lines for me have fallen in pleasant places. My life is not free from conflict; my homeschool is not full of eager, willing students clambering over themselves to excel in a passion of educational ecstasy.  My heart is not unaffected by the pain of those around me.  My peace exists in spite of these things. I know that all of these trials are temporary.  My God, however, is eternal; and it is in Him alone that I find my comfort and strength to go on.

I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. . .

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.  Psalms 16:8-9, 11

I pray that you, too, will find your joy in the Lord today no matter what is going on around you.