Why am I doing this?!?

Have you ever done something that seemed like a really good idea at the time, but when it was all said and done, it left you asking yourself, “Why am I putting myself through this?”

Like going to the gym.

Or getting up in the morning.

Haha…I’m joking, I’m joking…sort of.

Actually what I’m really talking about are decisions that you thought through, planned for and felt really excited about…until the day came and nothing went at all as planned.

For instance the time I thought, “Man, I’ve been stuck inside all summer, pregnant, with three kids under five…I should really do something special!” And then the idea pops into my head, “Hey, I know what sounds like a good idea! I’m going to take my children on a fun family camping trip!” Then I spend days planning for the weekend, packing favourite foods, special toys and blankets – everything to make sure that the weekend is going to be fun for everyone.

Yet when we arrive at the site, it’s raining, all three kids are crazy wild, the mosquitos are terrible and to make everything worse, no one sleeps, ALL night!

And you wonder, “What in the world were you thinking?!?” 

I honestly don’t even know!!

Which leads me to this past week when I found myself questioning my decision to home school. Now, I often get asked why I decided to home school. It’s my fifth year of doing this, so I have my response pretty down pat already. But the other day, when I had a million other things to do, when my whole house was a crazy mess, when I sat beside my child writing at one word per ten minutes, suddenly, all my responses I had ever given to the question came crashing down. And I couldn’t get past the question: “Why?!? Why did I choose to do this?”

Suddenly, my good, well thought through reasons seemed as inadequate as my plans for camping while being pregnant and having three young kids.

And here, in my crazy, chaotic household, I had to face a very scary, intimating question: Why on EARTH am I doing this? When I’m having a good school year, like I had last year, the question is actually exciting for me to answer and I feel like I have so many positive things to say! But on years where everyday feels like a long, dragged out struggle, the question haunts me.

So today I sat down and began to read through my list of “Reasons Why I Home School” (yes, I do have a list…I would have quit LONG ago if I didn’t have it) and…are you ready for total honesty? In my discouragement, I really felt like all my reasons for homeschooling were falling short. There were NO good answers for my “why”.

To have more time with my children. Do I really? I mean, I guess if you look at hours spent with them in my presence, then yes…but is home school giving me less quality time with them?

To have strong family ties. And I wondered…are we really any closer than the families that chose to send their children to public school?

I felt God leading me to this. Did I really? Maybe I don’t hear his voice so well after all.

To be forced to work through character issues and personality clashes. But if I’m ACTUALLY at wit’s end, there’s always the option of throwing on a very long episode of “Bill Nye The Science Guy”, or a having a really extended recess…am I right?!? 😀

To teach my children that God can be a part of everything we do. Ok, I do this…but my kids see me ALL THE TIME and what they see is a very imperfect person, trying so hard to keep it all together, but often failing. Maybe they would see less of the frazzled mom and more of the calm, put-together mom, if I wasn’t always with them!

To have TIME to teach serving through volunteer work. OK, really? LOL!! Did I REALLY think we’d have MORE time for volunteering with all my children at home???

To gain patience in my own life. OK, Einstein…More like MAGNIFY MY IMPATIENCE!!!

To not be negatively influence by peers. Ummm… right now their friends are probably a better influence than their own siblings!!! Like, I’m pretty sure none of their school friends decide to pee out in the open on the play ground! Or completely lose their temper over a hard work assignment. AND the fighting, the arguing and screaming… it NEVER ENDS!!!

As I read down my list, every single reason of mine fell short. And the tears fell freely as I wondered just who am I trying to be?

But then, I read the paragraph at the bottom of my list. It was written five long years ago, when I had first felt led to home school. Obviously, the words had been long forgotten, but they came pouring into my heart like a flood:

Parenting was never meant to have the “get it over with” attitude. Parenting is actually a lifelong calling, a calling with a short season where we have the opportunity to shape, mold and teach our children to live up to their full potential. Homeschooling, if done right and intentionally, allows more time for this and is a much greater sacrifice then a “just let the school deal with it” attitude…If one feels called to send their child to public school, this can be a great decision, BUT the “get my kids out of my hair” attitude must not be a part of the decision or it will greatly damage the relationship between child and parent. The same is with home school, if one doesn’t deal with this attitude correctly, they are setting themselves up for a very disastrous and discouraging experience and WILL NOT make it in the long run. The problems we experience in homeschooling lie within our own hearts.

The problem here was with my own heart. 

Ahhh, there it was. The painful, hard to accept, truth. When I get too busy, when I volunteer for too many things, when I try to do too much – I end up yelling more, being overstressed and pushing my children away more. And when I do this, homeschooling isn’t beneficial to ANY of us. And the opposite is true as well: If I get selfish or bored with serving my family, I begin to form habits where I’m wasting much of my valuable time on social media or playing games on my phone, and also push children away while I sit in my own little world.

So…Why am I still doing this? Why am I pressing forward?

Partially because I’m crazy.

Partially because I’m weird.

But mostly because early on in parenting, I realized that this parenting thing matters. And I only have one shot at this.

I never, EVER want to look back and say that I could’ve done better. I never want to regret that I was too lazy, too tired, to unmotivated, too selfish, too annoyed, too impatient. I never want to send my child to public school just to “get them out of my hair” or to “let the teacher deal with them.” When I send them back to public school, I want it to be purely for THEIR benefit, not mine.

Who knows! Maybe this will be my last year of homeschooling. Maybe not. But whatever season I’m in, I WILL NOT, under any circumstances, quit because of a few bad days or weeks.

Parenting is a lifelong commitment with a small window where we have the opportunity to train our children. 

If you’re reading this, and your like me…feeling like you’re in an exhausting time-loop of wake, work, sleep, repeat…I urge you today to take the time to rest and reflect. Ask yourself the hard questions, the scary questions. Reflect on why you’re doing what you’re doing and if you find that you are doing too much – cut out the extras. Because once I found my “why”, I discovered meaning to the mundane daily tasks such as endless laundry, preparing lessons, marking, teaching, solving fights and wiping tables. Finding out the “why” is essential to doing our best.

But first, make sure you rest.

Not the “rest” of zoning out on Facebook or Netflix, but the pure, gentle rest of a soul at ease.

Sit down, enjoy the autumn air around you.

Watch the kids playing.

Take a walk and hear the leaves crunching under your feet.

Soak in the warmth of God’s unending patience and love.

Rest. Then reflect…and you’ll find your “why”.

 

Advertisements

A Mother’s Greatest Lie

I’ve always wanted to write a book. Not just any book either: a classic. One of those books that touches the reader so deeply they can’t help but ponder it for the next few days or even weeks. I want to use my words to transform people’s lives and their way of thinking. I don’t just want to write another book, I want to write THE book.

Today I sat down once again with visions of writing a bestselling Novel. As soon as my pen hit the page (yes I’m sometimes old school like that…I still love writing with pen and paper) the words took off! They flowed onto the page as fast as my pen could keep up with my mind! And then it happened, the same thing that happens every single time:

Children.

Their fighting began and as soon as I heard their cries and angry shouts, my heart sank. At first, I tried to block out the noise, but I could tell my story was getting weaker as my divided mind could no longer fully engage with what I was writing. I stopped. And once again I knew in my heart that I’d lost it. Never again will I write that story. The moment was gone.

I clambered down the stairs and took my frustration out on the younger two boys, who were the culprits of the trouble. In my anger, I tried to deal with their pain, which ended up causing more tears and wounds to our souls because I was already impatient. I had already in my mind found them guilty of wronging me and so I had no room in my heart to hear them out or to listen to “sides”. They were guilty of the repeated offence of “Disrupting MY life” and in my mind it was the only offence worth convicting them over.

“I’m so tired of you fighting all the time! I don’t really care WHAT your problem is, I just want you to stop! I can never have any peace and quiet in this house!” The words flew out of my mouth, along with others, expressing how badly they were acting at the time. I wish I could say that I had the decency to come to my senses, take my boys into my arms and listen to them, but I didn’t. I just sent them to their rooms, storming off to my own to cool off, to try to get back that which I already knew was lost. To try to write my story. But it was too late. The only words that now came were:

“I will NEVER write a book, because I am a Mom.”

I can’t write, because I am a Mom. These words, this thought, is one of the most painful, binding lies I have ever struggled with since becoming a Mom. It takes on many forms and is at the very centre of the struggle of motherhood. It can be rephrased into the following thoughts:

“My kids are holding me back from living up to my fullest potential!”

“My children are the reason for my failures.”

“If it weren’t for my children I’d be doing important things with my life!!”

“My life is less productive because of my kids.”

“My kids are a distraction and they are the reason I have let go of my dreams.”

“My children have ruined MY life!”

In the end, these thoughts, these LIES express the lonely cry of a wounded mother and the resentment she feels towards her kids for the changes their lives have brought to hers.

Oh, we rarely, if ever, give voice to these thoughts and feelings. But we bury them deep, deep within our souls only to hear them whenever we face disappointments and failures. And in our pain we hear these lies whispered within our hearts: it’s all their faults.

Being a Mother has taught me this much: Every trial and difficult situation is magnified when having kids. Insecurity. Depression. Financial struggles. Loneliness. It doesn’t go away when having kids. Children can sometimes be a wanted distraction, but more often than not, they just actually bring more stress into a hard situation. But let’s get something straight here: IT’S NOT THEIR FAULT.

Your pain, the pain deep within your heart, is not because of them.

My struggles are not MY kids fault anymore than my parents’ struggles and failures are mine. And if I let myself believe that lie, I’m not only setting myself up for a life of bitterness and resentment against my children, I may also unknowingly be planting seeds of shame and rejection into their little hearts.

Now let’s be honest, children DO make things difficult. But the reality is that no child can ruin God’s plans for your life.

The only person who can prevent you from fulfilling God’s calling on your life, is you.

And maybe, just maybe, I’m not supposed to write a book right now, during this season of my life. Maybe God wants me to wait.

During this one post I have left this computer approximately ten times. I’m solving fights, helping with bathroom breaks, getting towels for the kids coming out of the hot tub, prepping supper, telling children to move their noisy play to a different room so that I can concentrate. And I have to ask myself sometimes: Why do I bother? Why not give up? Why not give in and just call it quits on the rest of my life until the kids have moved out?

Because I know better.

Being a Mother and raising my children is hands down one of the most important callings of my life, and at the end of my life I want to look back and say that I did my best. But I know better than to say it’s the only call on my life.

Being a Mother changed me and shaped me into a new person, but it doesn’t define me. If anything it’s trained and strengthened me for my real calling.

My first and most important role in this life is to follow Jesus with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind and all my strength.

This means many things: It means to look different than the rest of the world, it means to do my best in all things, even the small things. It’s doing things I really would rather not like loving the unlovable, showing kindness to the mean spirited, putting others needs ahead of my own wants and desires. It’s repenting when I’ve done something wrong. It’s giving to the poor. It’s blessing those who mistreat me. It’s turning my back on the lusts of this world. It means shutting out the lies that my head wants to believe, silencing the excuses that try to push blame onto others. It also means using the different talents and abilities God’s given me, for his glory.

So I continue to write, recognizing that right now, maybe God only wants me to have the time for short blog posts, but so what! I’m using my gifts, my passions, as best I can for the time being. With joy in my heart I can lay my “big dreams” his hands. So maybe I will never write THE book…or maybe I will, neither is all that important.

What matters is that I was faithful in the small things and, to the very core of my being, did my best in it all.

I Only Planted the Seeds

I only planted the seeds.

You tilled the ground and made it fine.

It was you who broke the hardened soil, and worked through each new line.

You added nutrition to the dust and fertilized the dirt,

Scraping every inch of earth, though your hands, they bled and hurt.

You sifted through rocks and plowed the weeds, under the beating sun.

Never once giving up or shutting your eyes, till the work was done.

I only planted the seeds.

How great I must’ve thought I was, far bigger than I am;

To think that I should be the one with the master plan.

For you caused the sun to shine its warmth, and the cool, wet rain to fall;

You kept the creatures and the bugs from devouring it all.

And yet I cried out: How unfair! I wanted to see it through!

After all my work in what I did, I never witnessed the fruit!

But really, I only planted the seed, it was never my job to watch it grow.

How hard to admit it’s up to you, harder still to let them go!

For that little seed was planted with care, with tears and with my heart!

How then could I step back and let it wither, couldn’t I play a bigger part?

“These things take time, my dear,” you spoke to me,

“Your job is done! Now let it be.”

Oh that I could see what came from my tiny, dead, old seeds! I may never really know.

For it was only my job to plant the seed, now it’s yours to make it grow.

Undeserved Grace

“I NEVER get the respect I deserve!”

“I just deserve a break once in a while!”

“I did nothing to deserve this hurtful treatment!”

These are all things we say to ourselves. And quite honestly, after the rough past few years, my mind thought about these things daily: “I don’t deserve this! I deserve better! I’ve done my best!”

Again and again, hurtful words said to me and actions done against me, replayed in my mind. And oh! The scenarios I made up in my thoughts about how I could change things, how I could defend myself, how I could make myself look better…even how I could make others look bad!

But you know what this type of thinking brought me? No peace at all. 

None.

I was tormented by my thoughts, by self pity, and as hard as I tried I could not, COULD NOT, see any chance of break through for the future. I felt hopeless. I felt like I needed justice and I needed to be set free by the person who had wronged me. And I knew that aside from a miracle, that would never happen.

Finally, I cried out to God one day saying: “God! You know I’ve been treated unfairly, you know I’ve been wronged…but it’s no longer that person who’s torturing me day after day…It’s my own THOUGHTS! How can I change?!? I’ve tried so hard! How can I be set free? I sat with my bible open and scanned the pages waiting, hoping for something to stand out, for something to give me peace…but the minutes ticked by and nothing happened. There I sat, alone in my room. The silence was deafening, the loneliness was painful. God seemed to be far away.

The next day again, I pleaded: “God! I’m just numbing my pain day after day! I sit on my phone and play games. I browse aimlessly on social media, waiting, hoping, YEARNING to fill the empty void that was once filled! Where did I go wrong? What did I do to deserve this?” And nothing. Just the sound of the clock on my wall counting the seconds away. Oh, once in a while I’d get a verse that spoke of God’s love for me or of his faithfulness to us, and I’d feel hope. Once in a while I’d read the book of Job or the story of Joseph and be comforted that God was working in my pain. But most of the time, I just felt like I was on a constant waiting list. Just holding on to hope that “joy would come in the morning”. When would morning come, God?

Then one night I had a dream, a sad dream. I dreamed that my sister, who loves me dearly, came over and was watching me. I’d do I bit of work, then sit back, drink wine, and play games on my phone. She looked at me, full of compassion, and said, “Heather, this isn’t you. I know that you’ve been beaten down, but this isn’t you.  Please, choose your next steps carefully because the road you’re on is a very dark path.” I woke up and felt deeply convicted. For this was the very thing I had been doing for the past while. Immediately, in the middle of the night, I deleted the games, social media and any distractions on my phone. That was the first thing.

This freed up much of my wasted time, but still, my thought’s drifted more then ever to what had happened to me. And I still felt discouraged reading God’s word. But I didn’t give up. Day after day, morning after morning I pushed through the pain and I opened the bible that had once given me so much joy.

Then one day there it was, a verse that I had read many many times, but never really seen:

“Therefore since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.” Romans 5:1-2 NLT

Undeserved privilege. Completely, utterly undeserved.

And I broke down weeping, because no, I didn’t “deserve” the pain of this last year.

What I really deserve is hell itself. That’s what I deserve. That’s what my sins deserve. But losing sight of this undeserved grace had led me to where I believed I actually deserved better.

I am completely undeserving, but able to stand confidently and joyfully before God, sharing in his glory!

My heart wasn’t able to find joy because I was focusing on all the things I deserved, but didn’t get. Now joy flooded my soul because I saw all the things God has given me that I HAVEN’T deserved. And the list is very long!

I have been saved from a meaningless life because of HIS sacrifice. I have a husband who loves me unconditionally and forgives me again and again and again, I have five beautiful HEALTHY children, I have many loving and caring friends and family who pray for me, I have an amazing church, I live in a free country that I never had to fight for, I have food on my table every single day. I have hope of one day going to heaven to meet God and you know what? I don’t deserve any of it. 

It’s SO hard to change this way of thinking. It really is. But, man, the joy is worth it. Living from a heart of thankfulness, instead of a heart full of pain is worth meditating on these things and taking every thought captive.

Friends, it’s worth seeking him through the hard times, because in the ups and downs of life there is only One that has never changed. He’s there every morning when I rise, and every night as I drift to sleep, even when I can not feel him. And I lived long enough to know from experience that while there are many things that can numb the pain, there is only one that can heal it: Jesus.

“My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” Psalm 27:8 NLT

The Power of Praying Scripture

Most of us would agree that prayer is one of the most important things in our Christian walk. Our walk with God is a relationship, and relationships are only built through communication. You can not have a relationship without communication and prayer is communication with God! Therefore, one can not have a relationship with God if they don’t pray because it’s the very core of our connection to God!

Yet many people seem to hit a brick wall in their prayer life. They try to pray but after a while their prayers all end up sounding the same. And we begin to wonder, what’s the point? Are my prayers doing anything at all?? There are seasons in my life where my prayers seem alive and vibrant! They just seem to flow naturally. But it isn’t always that way.

A few weeks ago, I was at a loss on how to pray for certain people in my life. I had been told that praying for my “enemies” was the only way to actually love and forgive them. But there was a problem…I wasn’t sure on how to pray for my enemies. To just pray “God, help so and so to have a good day” didn’t seem beneficial at all! I mean really, do I expect God to give everyone in my life a good day just because I prayed that for them each morning? These prayers soon became so habitual that they seemed meaningless, like a ritual or a superstition. And I didn’t want this for my prayer life. I didn’t want to just babble some meaningless words out of habit! I wanted to PRAY! I wanted my prayers to make a difference in the lives around me! I wanted my prayers to transform and change my heart!!

One day, as I was stumbling over my prayers for someone who I was having a hard time forgiving…I was praying “God, please help them to see what they’ve done. Help them to see that I am also your child…” and suddenly I just stopped! What if I was wrong about them! What if they had done nothing wrong and I had done something wrong? What if…So I started praying the “other” side…”God if I’m in the wrong help me to see what I’ve done…help me to see that they’ve been obedient…” I stumbled over these prayers and something just didn’t seem to flow. This sounded so stupid! I was so unsure of anything I couldn’t even pray! Was I just praying from all angles just to “cover” my bases? Was there any power to these prayers?

Finally out of frustration, I just said out loud: “God! I don’t know how to pray for this situation! I don’t know what’s right and wrong! I don’t know what’s going on in their hearts! How can I pray for them? Teach me how to pray!!”

And you know where God led me? To Psalm 23. And I felt as if he was asking me to pray this Psalm over them:

 “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” 

There is nothing more healing than praying these over your enemies. The first time I prayed these words for them I broke down and wept because I realized how much God LOVES them and how he truly wants the best for each one of us. “God, be their shepherd… lead them beside quiet waters…restore their soul. Guide them along right paths for your name sake…be with them through the dark times and comfort them…”

I prayed these verses everyday and I began to see that God isn’t taking sides! He loves ALL people, and he wants the best for ALL of us. He’s not concerned about who’s right and who’s wrong. He doesn’t see things the way we do and he doesn’t work the way we expect him to.

Blessing your enemies day after day changes you. It wasn’t long before I realized that I actually meant what I was praying!  “God, let your goodness and love follow them ALL the days of their lives! May they dwell in your house FOREVER!!!” I meant these words with all my heart…for my enemies!! I was praying God’s will for their lives and the power of God’s words were transforming mine.

For my children my prayers were different because I had specific things I wanted to see in their lives…”God help Isaiah with his test today, help Bella to be kind to her brothers, help Jonas to control his anger, help Dallas to obey the first time, help Emerson to have a good attitude…” These were the types of prayers I’d pray, and I don’t think they were wrong! But after the transformation with my other prayers, I wanted more for my children! I don’t just want them to succeed and be “good” people, I want them to be godly men and women of faith! Once again I asked God to show me a scripture to pray over my children and I started praying Psalm 63:

“You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.”

Finally, I had the words to pray my actual desires for my children! And I KNEW these prayers were in his will for them, because they’re in God’s word!

For “my” three churches (Blumenort EMC, HOPE church, Southland) that I’ve attended and loved in the past 29 years of my life:

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus…God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousnessthat comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”

Do you feel unsure of what to pray? Are you in a situation where you don’t know how to pray? Do you feel like you’re just praying the same prayers over and over again? Ask God to show you a verse or passage of scripture to pray over the people in your life. I promise you that if you persist in it, you will see your prayer life transformed!