This past week, I played softball for the first time this season. On paper, it was my best game ever. I hit the ball every time I was at bat and made it to first base every time. I had an RBI and I scored a run. For a few of the innings, I played the position of catcher and threw an out at first base.
In reality, my game was not that great. I was only at bat twice and one of those hits went about three feet in front of home plate. Making it to first base was pure luck! My RBI was the result of an outfield error. The run I scored was entirely due to the fact that I play with an amazing group of women. My “throw” to first was actually a desperate attempt and instead of a throw, I rolled the ball. Although it resulted in an out, it was pretty pathetic. After five years of playing softball every summer, I still can’t throw the ball under pressure.
As I reflected on the game, I wondered why I keep playing. Each year, I am the most improved player, but that’s simply because I can’t get any worse. Although I have moved past my phobia of playing softball and I am much better than I was my first season, I’m not sure I will ever be good at softball.
So why do I put myself through the humiliation?
As I pondered this question, I realized that there are several reasons why I keep playing. One of the reasons that I started playing in the first place was to be an example to my children. I want them to try things that they aren’t necessarily good at (how will they know unless they try?). When they are scared of something, I want them to face those fears (getting knocked over by a softball when I was seven was traumatic, but never playing softball again was not the legacy I wanted to leave for my kids!). I also wanted my kids to see that there was more to me than just the “mom” things I do (although I love it when I hear them yelling, “Go, Mom!”). I want them to actively pursue passions and interests for the rest of their lives.
While that was one of the reasons why I started playing, the main reason why I want to keep playing is because the team is made up of fantastic women. Many are from the church where my husband is the pastor, but several other churches are represented on our team and it is beautiful. It’s a sweet thing to show up to a game and to have a camaraderie based solely on being sisters in Christ who happen to play softball together. Even when I play horribly, I genuinely enjoy the team I have the privilege of playing with and I leave every game smiling.
Sometimes people only see the pictures we share or what our lives look like on paper and they make assumptions about us. But when our reality doesn’t match those assumptions, it can feel isolating. Would others still like me if they knew about *insert your deepest, darkest secret*?
Softball is teaching me the importance of showing up no matter what. I don’t have to be perfect in order to play. In fact, my team still loves me even though I’m pretty awful. I can still enjoy playing with the team and I get to share in the victory even if I will never hit a home run!
If you are one of those people who sees my pictures of playing softball or the adventures my family has or you read about the fact that I’m a pastor’s wife and a homeschooling mom of four kids and I work for an online ministry, you might be tempted to think that I’m amazing, but that’s just what I look like on paper. In reality, I am in desperate need of grace. I mess up a lot. I’m not always kind to others and I have a tendency to hold grudges. I love my kids deeply, but I am not always as intentional as I would like to be and I check out way more often than I should. I forget things all of the time and let others down way more often than I would like.
But the love my softball team shows to me is a reminder of the unconditional love God has faithfully shown to me throughout my life. He KNOWS it all- my successes, my failures, my strengths, my weaknesses, those deep, dark secrets- ALL of it, yet He loves me. The security I have in this love makes me want to keep showing up to all of the things that have been asked of me. Even when it’s hard. Or I’m awful. Or it’s humiliating.
I hope that you will keep showing up too. You are lavishly loved. No matter what!
Is it possible to be in a funk for over two years?
I’m not sure exactly what I have been experiencing, but my life has changed in so many ways over the past several years that I am still struggling to find my new rhythm.
It all started with the opportunity to buy our own home. We had been living in our church parsonage and were quite happy there. But during the process of hiring a new associate pastor, we discovered that it made sense for us to look for a home so that the new pastor’s family could move into the parsonage.
In my forty-three years of life, only five of those have been lived in a home that my family owned. This move was quite significant for me. Having a place to truly move in to and make my own, a place that doesn’t feel temporary has affected me in deep ways. A few months after moving in, we made the decision to buy a puppy. Sadie has impacted our lives in wonderful and difficult ways. She loves completely and is a wonderful snuggler, but she has also reminded me of how selfish I can be (as I write this, she is sleeping in her crate, but when she wakes up, I will need to take her outside- and we are experiencing a snowstorm in April! Not the way I want to start the day!).
We were adjusting to life with a new puppy when it became clear to us that we needed to consider homeschooling our four children. The decision felt sudden and abrupt, but in retrospect, we can see how God was preparing our family for this decision. It doesn’t mean it was easy.
When we told our kids what God was leading us to do, their responses surprised me. The ones I thought would struggle with being homeschooled were excited and the one I expected to go with the flow was not happy with the decision. What surprised me the most was the responses of friends to our decision.
I didn’t expect to lose friendships that were important to me. I should have expected changes in relationships, but I didn’t expect to enter into arguments over differences of opinion and I certainly did not foresee friends walking away. Over the past couple of years, I have realized how important friendships are to me. In wanting to know why I have struggled so deeply in this area, I started exploring personality types in depth, being careful to maintain a Biblical perspective. I am an ENFP in the Myers Briggs scale and a 2 in the Enneagram system. There were two things that stood out in my research that made complete sense to me: first, I love people deeply, but when I sense that someone has a strong opinion, but is unwilling to consider any other possibilities, I will fight back, not necessarily because I disagree, but because I believe so deeply that being willing to hear where someone else is coming from is more important than being right (to be clear, there ARE absolutes, truths in Scripture that we cannot back down from, but there can still be humility in discussion and love for the other person). And second, when I am unhealthy emotionally, my deep love for people is tainted by pride and I feel a need to make people love me and need me. Obviously, that doesn’t work.
As I have faced some deep hurts in my life, it has felt like the peeling of an onion, layers upon layers of heart work, sin being revealed and confession needing to take place. As the Holy Spirit has gently pulled back those layers, I can see the patterns in my life of trusting in my own gifts and abilities, instead of admitting that I am in desperate need of a Savior and the work that only He can do. This has been both painful and freeing. Hebrews 12:1 talks about the sin that so easily entangles, and I have experienced the veracity of this statement as I slip into selfishness and pride so easily. Seeing the ugliness in my own heart has broken me and what I have found in my brokenness is freedom. Freedom to mess up and still be loved by my Creator and by the grace-filled people in my life. Freedom to not be perfect, yet to be forgiven.
As this painful heart work was going on, we started homeschooling our kids and quickly discovered that we ALL loved it! My husband and I took great care with picking curriculum and discovered that knowing what our kids were learning brought a closeness to our family and a deeper connection than we could have anticipated. We started reading through the Bible as a family and continue to begin every day this way. We sing together, we read books together, we do art projects together, we go on wonderful field trip adventures, and we have the opportunity to work through personality conflicts. My child that was struggling the most was won over to homeschooling when we figured out that schoolwork could be done before the public schools were finished AND there was no “homework”- when you finish your work, you are done for the day. This might be the biggest blessing of homeschool- discovering that there is time to pursue passions and that learning is FUN.
Soon after our first year of homeschool began, my Mom’s health started failing dramatically. Her decline was sudden and there were several occasions when we thought that we would lose her. Because our kids were home with us, we were able to take a quick trip from New York to Kansas to help clear out her apartment and move her to a nursing home. While I am so grateful for the ability to do that, it felt surreal and wrong. We had said the final goodbye to my Dad only three years before and it felt too soon to even have to consider saying goodbye to my Mom. But God has blessed us beyond what we could have imagined. While her health is still not great, He has allowed us extra time with her and we are counting our blessings. We do not take this for granted!
New house, new puppy, homeschooling, relationship issues, heart issues, and facing the possibility of losing my Mom- they are all contributing factors to the funk I have found myself in for the past few years. I have felt stuck, unable to develop any type of rhythm.
How does one remain faithful in the midst of so many changes and difficulties?
This is the question that I have been asking lately. Life is not ours to manipulate and control. Rather it is learning to trust in a loving and faithful God as we walk through the trials and the joys He brings our way. Perhaps having all of my ducks in a row is an illusion. If that is my goal, to have my life look nice and tidy, the way I want it to be, then I am not trusting in God’s plan for me. He never promised that life would be easy. He never said, “Be faithful when everything is going well and when it all makes sense.” He did say, “Follow me!”
That is what I am choosing to do- follow Him. And as Charles Spurgeon once said,
I have learned to kiss the waves that throw me up against the Rock of Ages.
Day by day, one step at a time faithfulness. This is what I am seeking. When I mess up or when I feel stuck, it’s simply a reminder to lean more fully on the One who is my refuge and strength.
A few weeks ago, I started reading the book “Rethinking School” by Susan Wise Bauer. Around the same time, I was meeting new friends, parents of children who attend a local Christian school. In that time, there were plenty of opportunities to share why my husband and I made the decision to bring our children home and establish “Daye Academy” and “Legacy High”. Since I am revisiting all of these ideas and reasons for homeschooling, I thought that I would write a post about our decision to homeschool and why we are continuing to make this decision.
One of the statements I hear often when I tell others that I homeschool my four children is “Oh, I could never do that!” I understand this sentiment. I used to think it myself. My oldest is strong-willed and my attempts to teach her anything when she was preschool aged were met with fights and frustration on both sides (I might be a little strong-willed too!). As my husband and I prayed about education options for her, the only real option for us at the time was public school. Besides struggles with a teacher in 2nd grade (she had 2 to 3 hours of homework every night!!) and personality conflicts with a teacher in 4th grade, her elementary years were pretty great. She developed a deep love for reading and writing and she generally enjoyed her time at school. We sent the boys to public school as well, because it had been a good fit for their older sister, so we prayed that it would be the same for them. Each year, we prayed and sought God’s leading in their education and each year we felt that they should be in the schools they were in.
When my oldest started middle school, she found a group of friends that she loved and with whom she connected. But as time went on, I began to see some difficulties arising. I could tell that she was trying to fit in with the other kids and this wasn’t always a good thing. Over the course of two years, my concerns grew. She had conflicts that were completely contradictory to her behavior elsewhere and when she started coming home every day in tears, we knew something needed to change. Her stress levels had reached an all time high and our family felt the strain of it. She would leave for school before her brothers woke up. The boys would get off the bus around 4 PM and then it was a scramble to get homework done AND make dinner AND deal with grumpy children. During the school week, we felt like we were on a treadmill, racing from one thing to the next, but not really getting anywhere.
When we discovered that an authority figure in our daughter’s life had labelled her a “mean girl”, we knew that something needed to change. We were not okay with this label, but as we met with our daughter’s teachers, we heard the opposite- her teachers spoke of her in glowing terms and even told us that if all of their students were like our daughter, they would have the best classes. They talked about her compassion and her thoughtfulness, her kindness and her generosity. Honestly, both opinions did not sit well with us. We didn’t want our daughter to drown under a weight of condemnation (she’s a sinner, but oh, she is saved by grace!!) OR to drown under the expectation of perfection (she may be a great kid, but please don’t miss that she’s a KID). And she was drowning!
My husband and I were both praying during this time and God was leading both of us separately to the decision we would ultimately make together. Interestingly, it was not our daughter’s struggles that pushed us to make the decision to homeschool; it was our fifth grade son. Our son has always been a sensitive and compassionate soul. He cares deeply for his friends and one night while I was kissing him goodnight, he asked, “Mom, why is life worth living?” I knew where the question was coming from. He had several friends who were struggling with some deep issues, yet his question broke my heart. He was too young to be asking that kind of question.
When I shared the conversation with my husband, his immediate response was, “I think we need to consider homeschooling.” I nodded in agreement, because I knew in my spirit that this was the direction God had been gently nudging us towards.
As I read Bauer’s book, I find myself nodding frequently in agreement. It is not a book about homeschooling kids (although she did write that one too!). Rather it is a book that encourages parents to step outside of the k-12 mindset and consider different possibilities. I love this, because the more time we spend homeschooling our kids, the more convinced I am that there is not a one-size-fits-all way to educate our children, yet educational systems keep trying to fit them all into the same mold.
I have no doubt that the majority of parents want the best education possible for their children. I don’t know any parents that want their kids to fail, yet there often seems to be an unwillingness to explore different possibilities. I am so grateful God rocked the boat of our lives and didn’t allow us to be comfortable where we were. A year and a half into homeschooling and our kids are thriving. They are able to pursue their unique interests, because there is time for it. If we have a particularly busy season, we can postpone a test and take it at a time when our kids are ready. If they grasp a concept easily, they don’t have to wait to move on to the next. Likewise, if they don’t understand something, we have the opportunity to take the time they need or figure out the best way to learn it.
I don’t believe that homeschooling is the best way for everyone to educate their children. I still believe wholeheartedly that parents need to be seeking God’s will for their families and then they need to be willing to follow where He leads. I believe God’s timing is always perfect and I am so grateful for the way He continues to lead our family, but many of the parents I speak with have had the opposite leading in their lives; they started homeschooling and now are sending their kids to private or public schools.
What I do think is crucial to a good education is a willingness to question how it’s always been done. As Susan Wise Bauer states at the beginning of “Rethinking School”,
Realize that the way we do school is entirely unnatural. And when your child struggles, think about how to flex the system, before you start trying to adjust the child. (pg. 4)
The system, even when excellent teachers are laboring within it, defies adaptation. (pg. 10)
I am so grateful that we were forced to rethink school. The benefits to our kids are beyond what I ever imagined. When something doesn’t work, we are able to adapt and we are not confined to fitting our “round” kids into a “square” hole.
Have you ever had to rethink school? Are you rethinking it now? What answers did you find or what questions do you have?
It happened while my youngest daughter was in surgery. Another school shooting. As a result, I couldn’t cry and mourn the loss of 17 lives until today. I needed to stay strong for my baby girl.
But I was able to bring her home from the hospital. I was able to laugh at her sweet and funny comments, to squeeze her, to have bedtime prayers. The privilege of this is not lost on me.
And so today, I mourn. The increase in school shootings just this year cannot be ignored. Our country is facing an internal terrorism that keeps growing. But it strikes me as odd that we are surprised by this. When will we wake up to the fact that something needs to change?
I usually don’t add my voice to the cacophony of voices that arise after a tragedy. But my focus this year is on being a light in dark places and being willing to shine the light of Christ when difficulties arise. And so, I am compelled to say something.
The issue of violence against another human being is as old as time. The story of Cain and Abel found in Genesis 4 shows the result of pride and jealousy in the heart of one brother and how that resulted in the murder of the other.
While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. ~Genesis 4:8
Just the verse before, the Lord had warned Cain that if he did not do what was right then sin was crouching at his door. If Cain did not rule over that sin, it would get the best of him. We know that it got the best of him, since he killed Abel because he was angry that his brother was rewarded and he wasn’t.
Tale as old as time.
The true issue behind school shootings starts in the heart of humanity. We all have sin crouching at our door, but our society glorifies sin instead of seeing it for the ugly thing that it is. We like to believe that everyone is basically good, until a tragedy occurs and we are confronted with the results of sin growing and ruling over a young kid, allowing him to commit murder of innocent lives. Since we are unable to admit that we are all desperate sinners in need of saving grace, we have to come up with excuses for why this tragedy happened. We blame gun control laws. We examine the shooters mental instability. We blame the authorities for not catching the signs. We blame the teachers, the parents, the school, social media, whoever and whatever we can to make sense of something that cannot be made sense of.
What it boils down to is this. We need Jesus. We are sinners who but for the grace of God will be ruled by our sin and do horrible things.
The message we keep feeding kids is that they are enough, they should do what makes them happy, that they should have it their way, and they should fight for their rights. Diet Coke’s newest advertisement, “Because I can” falls flat in light of a school shooting when the shooter could legitimately use that phrase to defend his rampage.
Do you see the insidious nature of sin? We are raising entitled kids who believe they can have it all and do whatever they want and then we are shocked when a tragedy like this occurs.
When I was in 6th grade, my class sang the song, “The Greatest Love of All” as part of an assembly. I remember my parents struggling with allowing me to perform with my class because they did not believe this song was proclaiming truth. In the end, they let me sing with my class, but they sat me down and we had a long conversation about how loving ourselves will never be enough. The message they shared was from Jeremiah 17:9…
The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
Learning to love ourselves and trust our own instincts can be a dangerous thing, because we don’t always want the right things. In fact, without the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we are incapable of any good. We might be kind to others because we believe that is the right thing to do, but what happens when someone isn’t kind to us? If we genuinely examine our hearts, we will see selfishness and pride crouching at our door.
If this message isn’t settling right with you, it’s because we have a warped view of ourselves. We believe that if we admit we aren’t enough, then everything will crumble. We desperately need to believe we are good enough because if we’re not, what are we? What do we have? But the grace and the freedom, the hope and the joy that is found in admitting that we cannot save ourselves, that we are sinners in need of a Savior is the best news! We don’t have to rule over our sin in our own strength. We can instead accept that in our inadequacies, Christ is sufficient. He paid the price for our sins, so that we could have his strength at work in us ruling over our sin and allowing us to love others in the way He intended.
If you’ve made it this far, it’s probably because you agree with me that Jesus is the only answer for the horrors and the tragedies of life. But I want to be clear that I do believe that we need to take a much harder look at gun control laws. Should a semi-automatic gun be sold to anyone just because they can pass a background check? WHY are guns being sold anyway? What are the penalties for adults who own the guns that are used in school shootings? How can a young adult whose brain isn’t fully formed be able to purchase a gun without checking school and mental health records? These questions need to be answered.
I have read many opinions of people who believe the family of offenders need to be held responsible and I agree with this- to a certain degree. The problem is that usually by the time a person gets to the point of murder, the parents have not had any control for some time. In the case of the recent Florida shooting, it sounds like the authorities were aware of issues with the offender as multiple issues had arisen in the previous decade. It sounds like the adoptive mom tried to help her son over and over and over again. Which brings us to a different issue. Parents of struggling kids generally feel helpless. Many have tried to help their kids in whatever way they can. But if a teenage boy who is stronger than his mother decides not to take his medicine that will keep him stable, what can a mom do? Rather than labeling children and writing them off when they become too difficult, we need to have a shift in our society. We need to stop fighting against kids who exhibit irrational behaviors and start fighting for them. We need to provide support to parents who feel completely incapable of helping their children and we need to pour love on kids especially when we don’t understand their behavior.
I know these are not simple questions and there is no easy answer. But I do know with absolute certainty that if we keep putting bandaids on this gushing wound, there will never be any resolution to this issue. We will continue to see these tragedies occur and we will continue to mourn the loss of life.
We need Jesus.