Why I Believe In Homegrown Kids {Part 2 in the Homegrown Kids Series}.

I actually don’t really know where to start with this post. Sometimes a belief goes so deep it is very difficult to articulate into words. I think this is especially so when there are a myriad of reasons, which is the case for us. Also, this journey for us seems to have layers and levels – the reasons we’re heading down this path and our belief in it just keep transforming, and cementing, and growing.

If you haven’t read how raising homegrown kids kicked off for us, read Part 1 here. Otherwise, I just want to enter this post with these words:¬†

This is our journey. Though I believe deeply that it is ideal, I know that it is not always possible. The reality of families the world over is very different. And God is the God of all families, and will lead us all differently. I write our conviction to encourage, challenge, and inspire – not to judge or condemn. I really pray and hope I can bring you along with love, humility, and friendship.

So, why do we believe in homegrown kids? Get comfortable, and possibly grab a sustaining meal ūüėČ

My early life story is one of a settled childhood, both in the city and the countryside, and of chaotic and uncertain teenage years, when I lived in a suitcase and had no place to call home for long. So, when I started married life and we eventually had children, I came at both roles with a determined passion to bring security and devotion, and to do all that I could to give my family a place to call home.

Despite painful years, I am thankful to God for the story He has written for me as I believe our children would be having a different upbringing than the one they are having. I certainly wouldn’t be as counter-cultural or have the perspective to look beyond the here and now like I do.

I’m also thankful to have had both parents in different aspects of the education system {in NZ} for the last 30-40 years so that, through them, I am able to see how – in the end – government’s can never make up their mind as to how children, in a school environment, learn best. Through the experience and working history of my parents, I can see how educational philosophies are like fashion – they come and go within the ministry of education like flare pants and big hair.

So, with this background and our own experience of early education, questions were raised about how our kids were going to be educated pretty quickly into our parenting journey. Neither of us had ever considered homeschooling; pre-kids, we have always been adamantly pro-public schooling. Post-kids, we sing a different tune ūüôā

As we began wrestling and reading and talking, a train of thought settled in our minds and hearts that became the fundamental driving force behind our decision to keep our kids home. Essentially we believe that today’s fractured family – parents working here and there, kids at school and a thousand different activities – is not how it is meant to be. Especially as Christians, we believe that sending children away to be under the strong influence of people not of their family is not how God intended children to be raised.

An initial objection to this thought would be to say, “Well, the Bible never addressed education as we know it. How can you make such an assumption?” I used to think this way too, that is, that education of the family is not spoken of in God’s Word. But now, along the track, I actually think it does – when you’re looking for it and have a heart open for what it says.

I could quite easily go into a maze of tangents in regards to what the Bible says about education, but I will stick to the one basic point that is quite clear when one reads into what God says about the upbringing of children:

It is the parents that are to raise their children.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4

In his tome of a book, Man and Woman in Christ, Stephen B. Clark says,

“The term ‘discipline’ (paideia) in this passage is particularly significant. The word could also be translated ‘training’, ‘instruction’, ‘punishment’, or even ‘formation’. The Hebrew equivalent (musar) appears often in the wisdom literature of the Old Testament… ‘Training’ in the scriptural sense is an educational activity which changes the way a person lives. It does not mean only knowledge or mental understanding. It means training to act in a certain way.

…Training in the scriptural sense is an educational activity which changes the way a person lives.

This means that true education is when the entire person of the child Рhis body, mind, heart, and soul Рare to be disciplined, trained, taught, instructed, and changed to the man he is to be.

In the ancient world that Jesus grew up in, sending children to an environment that was run by Caesar-endorsed teachers for most of their formative years did just not happen. In those days, children were in the primary care of their mother until five- or seven-years-old. At this point, boys would spend the rest of their childhood with their father learning the trade and how to be a man. Daughters continued on at home with their mother until marriage, learning how to run a home and how to be a woman.

“The boy was not really raised until his father had equipped him to function as man.” Stephen B. Clark

A five-year-old Рor even an eleven-year-old Рis not fully trained. They are not men or women. But they are learning how to be every single day of their lives. By implication, if they are spending the majority of their time at school, it is obvious who they will be learning this from: from their teachers, the government-endorsed curriculum, and their peers. 

It’s not that I think public schooling is wrong or that homeschooling is the only option for Christian parents. I have been public schooled and Christian schooled, and I am alive ūüôā But, I firmly believe that Christian parents need to be sure that the place they are sending their children to be educated at is a place that will further, rather than hinder, their work they are doing at home in their children to equip them into manhood/womanhood as a godly person.¬†

“Whoever walks with the wise will become wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Proverbs 13:20

What is the Bible’s definition of a fool? Someone who says there is no God {Psalm 14:1}. And if there is any other time in history since Scripture was written that these commands be more pertinent, wouldn’t it be now?¬†

Because of all the above, this is the main reason why we will be homeschooling our children. If you have been thinking of as well, or have been wondering what true education is as a Christian parent, I hope this encourages you on your journey. It’s posts like these that started me on ours, like this one from Abiding Woman, or this one from The Unplugged Family.

**Tune in soon for how to children without going crazy.**

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Pressing Deeper Into Motherhood {How Having No Internet Revealed Closed Places of My Heart}.

In my eight weeks without the internet, I really did some big changes. I had no idea that our time away from home while it was repaired would cause such a work in my heart. I certainly didn’t go to the temporary house thinking, “Yes! No internet! I’m going to love it!” I went with an itchy feeling, like I was going to miss out on a whole lot of stuff {though what stuff, I don’t know}. But now, on the other side, I am so thankful for the challenge it was.

There are so many things that God showed me as the weeks went on about my relationship with the internet, particularly blogging and Instagram. I’m certainly not a prolific blogger or photo-taker, but that doesn’t mean things were right on the inside of me. The time being internet-free showed me some pride issues and assumptions about my opinions and how the world really needed to hear what I had to say {because I’m, like, so right on everything}. It was – and is – still humbling.

But the biggest change in me through that time was my perception on motherhood and my work ethic around the home. I don’t think that I would be exaggerating when I say that God has made some life-changing surgery on my heart.

As the days and weeks went on with no distraction or pull of the internet, I found myself being fully present in my days. Seemingly little changes – like sitting with the kids at breakfast instead of on the couch checking emails – became big habit changes, and heart changes. With none of our kid-friendly things around the house that they would normally play with on their own, I was forced to do lots of things with the kids.

That sounds rather horrible, doesn’t it? Being forced to play with my children. But that’s the point God was making with me, I think. He showed me how easily it was for me to be pulled¬†into the internet/blogging world and see my children as a distraction. He showed me how hungry my heart got for me and my needs the more I spent doing those things.

By playing loads of puzzles over and over again, and reading lots of books, and painting, and doing big walks together and – quite simply – spending all our time together God showed me how much more I could be pressing into motherhood than I had been.

It’s not that I haven’t been an {imperfect} intentional mother. I am fiercely devoted to motherhood and giving my children the best of me. And I’m not saying that God’s telling me I can’t have down time or creative outlets or anything like that. It’s more like God showed me that there is a deeper level of motherhood that He’s asking me to grow into.

Earlier this year I re-read Sally Clarkson’s The Mission of Motherhood. Reading that again as well as Susan Schaeffer Macauley’s For the Children’s Sake brought me to a place where I had to ask myself, “Am I willing to give even more? Am I able to offer up what God is asking of me?”

Two of my favourite books on motherhood.

In Clarkson’s book, in a section about discipling and teaching our children, she gave the example of Jesus. He is our ultimate example in all things, especially motherhood. And how did He spend His time with His disciples? He was with them all the time. How did they learn from Him? By living and being with Him all the time.

Jesus did not allow any distraction to take Him away from all that God had asked Him to do. Despite the temptation, Jesus actively chose whole-hearted life of ministry with His disciples so they might serve the people He had come to save. Is this not the same for me and the little people God has asked me to raise up in the way they should go? I can see how, since becoming a mother, little by little, the Lord has slowly being prying open my closed fists and bringing down the walls of my heart that I’ve used to prevent myself from giving up all of me.

God also showed me how much more capable I am of caring for our home than I have allowed myself to be before. Not only am I capable but, in a study of Proverbs 31, I saw how in the original language God has called wives to be strong and warrior-like in their task of managing their homes.

Not only did I not have the internet but I didn’t have a dishwasher. I was reminded again of how simply we have been called to live. All the gadgets that are supposed to free our time up have actually made our lives more complicated {by raising the standard of cleanliness and by allowing that time to be always filled up with activities and stuff}. I was amazed at how much more efficient I was without those two “hindrances” in my life. I set up better routines and found that I gained so much satisfaction at the end of the day when I had worked hard with a full and honest heart. I didn’t have the guilt pressing down on me about how I had spent my time that day.

These challenges may not be challenges to you. You may already be fully pressed in towards your children and working hard around the home. But if you aren’t, I want to come alongside you and encourage you – as God has so gently and firmly encouraged me – to evaluate how you are spending your days as a wife, mother, and homemaker.

  • Is the internet {or, something else, fill in the gap} causing you to see your family as a distraction?
  • Are you easily annoyed or resentful when your children require a hug, or a correction, or a time of play when you’re involved in that particular activity?
  • Is there a place in your heart that you have closed off to the Lord? Are you, in keeping it closed, saying to the Lord, “Yes, Lord, I give you my life – but please let me keep this part all to myself?”¬†Oh yes, I have.

If you are then, just like me, go to your Father in Heaven. Seek His wisdom and His care. Repent if need be and start working on pruning those things out of your life.

As you can see, I have the internet now {and a dishwasher again!}, so they are still part of my life now that we are back in our own home. I have been weak and allowed myself to get sucked back in. But, oh, I so want something different for my life – and God has knocked on that closed door so strongly that I cannot shut myself to Him. So I pick myself up when I’ve failed, cry out to the Lord for strength, and keep going.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us throw off every encumbrance, and sin which so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance the race set before us.” Hebrews 12:1

Can you see that? It is not just sin that weighs us down and prevents us from living this life for Christ – there are also encumbrances. If you love the Lord deeply, you will look at your own heart and life and know what sins and encumbrances are weighing you down from loving your God and your family well.

As George MacDonald said in his novel A Quiet Neighbourhood,

“I was planning to preach about the cloud of witnesses and explain this did not mean persons looking at our behaviour – as if any addition could be made to the awfulness of the fact that they eye of God was upon us – but witnesses to the truth, people who did what God wanted them to do, come of it what might, whether a crown or a rack, scoffs or applause.”

What truth is God calling you to press in deeper to? What does it require of you? And are you willing to obey, no matter the cost or “come of it what might”?¬†Seek Him and He will show you the way. Not only that, I can guarantee from my own life, He will go with you and give you His strength.

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Homegrown Kids or, Why We Keep Our Kids Home {A Series}

We’ll soon be coming up to a year since we began wrestling with bringing our son home from preschool. Though we didn’t pull him out of preschool until May, the first quarter of 2016 was a time when I did a lot of wrestling in my soul over our son, our daughter coming up behind him, and our vision for the growth and direction of our family.

Our son was two when we enrolled him two mornings a week {for three hour sessions} at a local preschool. It was a lovely centre with caring teachers and a great outdoor area. It took some time for Josiah to settle in. He would cry when I left, and I would talk to myself as I walked away with another person holding him as he cried {often screamed} for me, “It’s okay. He’ll get used to me not being there. This is good for him. He’s getting more independent.” I hardened my heart against his feelings because I genuinely thought it was the right thing to do. Everyone does it. It’s normal.

But, despite him getting used to being without me over time, something in me would not rest easy. He had fun and did learn to “socialise” better with kids. BUT. We noticed him changing. He became less and less like the little boy of before. He was naughtier, meaner to his baby sister. He was more dissatisfied with home life, with his toys and playthings. He has always been an energetic boy, but I would find him even more worked up when he came home at lunchtime.

When term holidays would come round, especially the long summer January holidays of 2016, our little boy would return. Life would become easier. Our day-to-day wasn’t such a battle anymore. He was more obedient and kinder and a joy. But as soon as preschool started again, his behaviour would regress. I found that it would take two or three days to de-preschool.

The uneasy feeling I had about letting my little boy spend time apart from me, despite it being what everyone did, continued to grow. Both my husband and I could see so clearly what an effect preschool had on him. We asked the Lord for wisdom and help, and He did. We made the choice to pull him out.

It wasn’t an easy decision to make. I had to have a lot of courage in the Lord to approach the teachers, sign the forms, explain to other mothers why we were bringing him home. I grappled with doubt and feeling faint of heart. It’s hard when people don’t understand. No-one ever disparaged our decision, everyone was very supportive and helpful. But I know they didn’t understand, and if they disagreed, they were really kind to not share their thoughts with me. I probably wouldn’t have gone through with it, despite my beliefs. I’ve always struggled with trying to please everyone. But, as I’m learning, you can’t!

I do remember, after officially unenrolling him, on the second to last session til he finished, walking with Rosie in the buggy to pick him up and getting a call saying that Josiah seemed to be unwell. I hurried my steps, thankful I was only five minutes away. When I got there, he was lying asleep on a little kids couch that he was too big for, pale, shivering. He looked so fragile and small. I gathered him up and took him home. He said to me, “I cried and wanted mummy. I want to go home.” My heart broke.

What seemed so normal at the beginning, now seemed really unnatural.

Within a week, our life with our three-year-old was transformed. His beautiful nature returned and he was our happy boy again. I remember the first week of having him home again, I felt incredible amount of relief. I knew he belonged at home with me.

Since then, despite how hard it can be and how much I have to give of myself, that belief has only grown and grown. As we have sought God for wisdom, guidance, and help, He has so graciously provided everything we have needed – including times of rest from burnout.

My passion for raising children at home – or what I call Homegrown Kids – has grown and deepened, and I really want to share these thoughts with you.

This isn’t to condemn, at all. I know how varied our world is and the pressures there are on modern families. But, I really do believe this is best for most children, so I share this in the hopes that it will encourage other mothers. I especially hope it will encourage mothers who may be thinking of doing something similar, but are scared to make that first step, or just want to hear of someone else’s experience. I know I scoured blogs, particularly homeschooling blogs, looking for encouragement and inspiration and guidance. ¬†This is for you, dear mother, and the heart you have for your children and for their future.

I plan to write three more posts in this series. When they are finished, this will be the landing page where you can find the rest of them. They will be:

1. Homegrown Kids: Keeping Our Kids at Home Series {You are here}

2. Why I Believe in Homegrown Kids.

3. How to Be a Full-Time Mother of Young Children {Without Going Mental}.

4. Resources for Raising Homegrown Kids.

I’m really excited to write this series, and humbled, as well. None of this is my husband or I. We had to make the practical, earthly decisions for our family, but it’s been completely God above it all. I’m really grateful that this is the story He is writing for us. Please share and comment below with any thoughts.

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For the Overwhelmed, Exhausted Wife & Mother

I wrote this on Instagram the other day:

I am so tired. This full-time motherhood, investing in future generations, character building, loving, feeding, nurturing thing is just exhausting. I never knew my dream job would take so much of me. It is relentless. I desperately need encouragement every single day.”

It’s not just that I’m physically tired – and I am that, definitely. There’s the lack of sleep, post-Christmas deflation, a week single-parenting while my husband was away, the cares and sorrows of others on my heart… All on top of the endless, relentless job that is full-time, intentional motherhood.

It is shattering in every sense of the word.

When I first became a mother and was absolutely dumbstruck by the responsibility and work it required of me, my beautiful mother-in-law told me, “I remember – after my second child sixteen-months after the first, my husband away in the navy, hanging out another line of clean nappies – ¬†thinking that I would likely have another twenty years of this – and I wept.”

When I tentatively lift my eyes to the unseen future, exhausted to the bone, and know there are many years to come of what has already taken place – broken sleep, sickness, tantrums, endless character training, no time to breathe, a house to be tidied and cleaned continuously, loudness, messes, broken furniture and toys, scrapes, arguing back, impatience rising, inadequacy – it is enough to make a grown woman weep. And many women have.

This motherhood thing is not for the faint-hearted.

And, actually, it isn’t just motherhood.

It’s cultivating a loving and devoted marriage, making sure my husband gets my firsts {under God}.

It’s maintaining a house, accepting that it’ll never be perfect, and making it a home.

It’s making sure I have adequate rest, disciplining myself to have time in the Word and with the Lord, getting out to exercise, nurturing what makes me me {that is, hobbies}.

It’s being a present and supportive friend. It’s remembering I have parents and a brother to pray for and be there for. It’s being an active, serving, participating member of the local Body.

So let me re-phrase the one-liner from above:

This Christian life thing is not for the faint-hearted.

And to cure the pressure, burdens, and exhaustion that comes from throwing everything into the genuine things that the Lord gives us {because, let’s be honest, not everything we commit ourselves to is from God but, rather, us over-doing ourselves}, we tend to come up with band-aid-type solutions.

Simplifying our lives {ie. minimilism}.

Planning each day to a minute {ie. planner perfectionism}.

Creating more breathing space {ie. putting kids in preschool}.

Seeking balance {ie. saying ‘no’ to more things}.

Cutting back the noise {ie. coming off Facebook}.

None of these things are wrong. I have done them all {and retracted on some}. Each and every one of them has a certain appeal and value and usefulness. Simplifying our homes does make life easier. Having kids in preschool does give you more time to relax. Coming off Facebook certainly cuts out a lot of rubbish and noise that wastes time.

But even doing all these things, are we less exhausted? As each day of our life for Christ begins, is doing any of these things creating the peace within we so desperately need?

I desperately need peace. I need an anchored joy tethering me in the midst of noise, errands, squabbles, endless dust and lawns to be mowed. But I seek solutions and I don’t find peace. Only self-guilt. Or regret. Or a sense that, no matter how hard I try, I’m never going to do enough to be at peace with all the chaos.

As I was processing this post in the midst of processing my worn-out feelings {“I just want five minutes to myself, please, with no whining, thank you!”}, a thought entered my mind that brought genuine relief to my weary soul.

Rest.

It was like His Spirit whispering, “You’re not resting in Me.”¬†

And it’s true. I’m a complete Martha. I’m doing all the doings and not resting, where Mary is,¬†at Jesus’ feet. Do you remember what Jesus said about Mary to her sister?

“Few things are needed — or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:42

Jesus wasn’t rebuking Martha for working hard at her responsibilities. And when I say that we need to be resting in the midst of motherhood or marriage or homemaking orhomeschooling etc. I’m not advocating taking up being lazy. Jesus wasn’t asking Martha to give up her work to be lazy. He was asking her to rest in Him in the midst of it all.¬†Jesus was asking Martha to let Him be her anchor. He was asking her to give up her soul-striving so that she might find soul-rest in Him.¬†

It is possible to be a crazy busy wife and mother and be peaceful.

I can have emotional kids at my feet, dishes undone, a husband shattered, a dog needing walking, weeds to be pulled, walls to be wiped – and be at rest. These things don’t need to stress me out. My kids don’t need to emotionally drain me if I’m resting at Christ’s feet. But if I’m striving to be perfect and complete it all like a champion, every single thing is going to overwhelm me and I will be a miserable woman.

And I have been, really.

I’m needing to learn a big lesson. And it’s a lesson I’m always learning: grace. I am completely awash with grace through the Cross, but I need to accept it. I need to see that embracing that grace upon grace is not a weakness, but a glory.¬†

I know that I’m going to start striving again. It’s a compulsion. Most of the time I don’t even know that I’m doing it. But, when I feel the pressure rising and I am finding motherhood a drag, it’s a clear indicator that I have let go of free grace again and taken up trying to earn it.

But Jesus has said that our striving is not needed. Only one thing is needed: resting at His feet.

Have you been at rest in the midst of it all? Or have you been striving, pushing away grace like it’s a sign of weakness?

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If the Husband is the Head, What is the Wife?

Headship. Submission. That’s what I’m wanting to talk about today. But not to you, to me.

Huh?

What I mean is that, if I were talking to myself, I would know that I have read, understood, accepted, and am trying to live out the Biblical design for men and women in marriage: of the husband being the leader of the family, and of the wife¬†being his helper and submitting to his leadership. This way I can get straight into what has been on my heart and mind, and I don’t have to do all the preamble of theology etc.

So, you’re me, got it? ūüôā

Right. Let’s do this!

Headship and Submission

If I’m being honest, in this year of 2016 I have found it really hard to submit to my dear husband. There is so much behind that struggle which I won’t go into, and it’s been a long time coming, but I really feel like this year God has been asking me this question:

“You tell me that you agree in My design for marriage, but do you really¬†believe it is good and My best for you?”¬†

Over and over this year, as I have been faced with opportunities to submit and come under my husband’s leadership and have struggled – sometimes with an ugly, selfish fierceness – God has been gently, but persistently, knocking on the door of my heart. I feel like He’s been asking me again and again,

Where is your joy?

Don’t you trust Me?

Don’t you know, from my Word and your history, that I am trustworthy and I always do what is best and good?”

When I see it put that way, my heart cries, “Yes! I know You are good! I know that all Your ways are THE BEST. I don’t doubt it! I want and need Your Truth in my life!” So I look at myself and I know that it isn’t God’s Word and His laws that are doing me harm or making submission hard —

It’s me.

I am the problem. Always. As Dave Harvey says in When Sinners Say I Do {best marriage book ever, by the way},

There are no marriage issues. There are only sin issues.

Sin. The obvious, but always elusive, culprit. We are apparently good friends. Especially when it comes to me trying to truly love God, and truly love my husband, a friend who gets this spirit-and-flesh-battle we’re always in.

A big thing my flesh and spirit have been fighting over this year is the feeling of What About Me? {I know, it’s always about me.} If it’s true – which it really is, Sarah, so deal with it – that God lovingly crafted men to be the leaders of their family units, what position did He lovingly craft women to have?

We are helpers. We accept and respect our husband’s leadership {ie. submit}. Yes, Truth.

But what does that all really mean?

As the head of the family, all responsibility is laid on the shoulders of our husbands. On Judgement Day, the state of our family will be laid at his feet before the Lord in all His glory {Ephesians 5:25-27}. Will he have led well? Imperfectly, yes, but still, will he have led well?

And when I face the Lord, thankfully, that weighty responsibility will not be at my feet. But my responses will be. How joyful was I as his helper? How caring was I in showing my respect of him? How honouring was I in sharing my opinions and, subsequently, how gracious was I in submission when our opinions differed?

This is big stuff that I have been grappling with. And, as I have mulled over it more and more, and faced with it practically again and again, I realise it all comes down to this:

How is my heart?… Because I am the heart.

If my husband is the head of our family, then I am the heart. We all come under his care, we are all cared for by me.

This is what Sally Clarkson says in The Mission of Motherhood:

I realized again that the ultimate key to providing a nurturing environment in my home is me…In the end, though, what my children and husband need most from me is not a perfect home or perfect training or a perfectly spiritual role model or a wife without faults – but a mother and wife who is committed to doing what it takes to love them and make a home for them.

They need to know that they are cherished by someone who is a champion for their cause, a cheerleader for their lives – someone they can always count on in the light and dark times of life.

Accepting the responsibility of being the overseer of my domain with all of the heart and energy and faith I can muster is what nurtures my family best and provides my children with the sense of security and stability they need. My attitude is ultimately what makes our house a peaceful haven.

What Sally is saying is that if mama ain’t happy, then no-one is happy in the family. We are the emotional thermometer of our homes. Our attitude sets the tone. That’s a big responsibility. It may not be the burden our husbands bear, but it is a hard one. Basically it means that we have to work hard to keep our joy, keep our peace, keep our hearts aright before the Lord all the time.

This doesn’t mean we can’t have bad days. Of course we can! But, for the most part, if we want our family to be happy, healthy, joyful, and content then it is our work in our own hearts that matters, and we need to be disciplined and persistent in cultivating a relationship with the Lord. We can only be the heart of our homes by the grace of God.

I don’t know about you, but I would rather have this job than my husband’s. That doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with wanting to be in control and having things my own way. I’m a daughter of Eve, after all. But, when I consider it, I would rather be the beating heart of our lives than the working head. This suits me perfectly because I am a woman. I am a nurturer.

I am so grateful the Lord has worked this all out in His original design, and I am grateful for all the struggles I have had this year to help grow me and make me more into the woman – and the wife and mother – the Lord would have me be.

What do you think about being the heart of your home? How do you keep your heart joyful, at peace, and content so that your family thrives? What evidences of God’s grace can you see in your struggles and will to follow Him?

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To the Mother Dreading Advent {Rest in the Cross this Christmas}.

Are you dreading Advent and Christmas this year?

Are you a mother with young children? Are you depressed? Having marriage issues? Are you deep in grief? Are you overwhelmed? Are you just struggling to find joy?

Advent can be a really hard time.

This is the season when Pinterest is really in it’s element. Almost every single link on my page has suggestions {sometimes requirements?} on how I can make this Christmas the craftiest, the tastiest, the most joyful, the thriftiest, the grandest, the least stressful, the most Christ-like…

And I wanted to encourage you {because I’m encouraging me}¬†that you don’t have to be Super Christmas Mum. You don’t have to do the calendars and reading plans. You don’t have to craft every day with unwilling children. You don’t have to bake all the Christmas things. You don’t have sew your own stockings. You don’t have to craft together a wreath for the front door made out of past Christmas cards.

If you want to do these things, then do them merrily and with cheer! But if you don’t want to or can’t,¬†be free not to.

motherdreadadvent

 

Just like so many areas in life, social media and the internet has just made life harder for us. With the beautiful photos and happy moments captured then shared, our natural inclinations to be discontent, jealous, and to compare with judgement {on others and ourselves} are aroused more easily and more frequently.

This is one of the reasons I went off Facebook almost two years ago. I knew what it was doing in me. I would get envious. I would get proud and want to show off {under the guise of “sharing”}. And I was becoming the mother I didn’t want to be: glued to a screen and missing out on real life with my family.

{Because who is anyone kidding – the internet is not real life. It is a medium, sure, of sharing life and learning and connecting. But it is not real, in front of my eyes, moving, breathing, soul-living life. And I want that more than I want fresh feeds or the latest gossip.}

The internet can be a friend or a foe. And during the festive season, I find the internet can be more of a foe.

So, sweet friend who feels like a failure for not creating an Advent calendar from scratch that comes with scriptures and hand-drawn decorations to add to the tree…

So, sweet friend who feels like making a big feast worthy of going viral would swamp her under to a place she thinks she couldn’t surface from…

So, sweet friend who is dealing with pain and confusion and a sense that life will never be the same, yet knows her kids want and perhaps need this Christmas to be more special than ever, but she just doesn’t has it in her…

So, sweet friend who feels pressured by family to be a big part of the celebrations but who hasn’t had a full night’s sleep for a long time…

Just rest. Please.

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All these expectations and pressures were not present on the day Jesus was born. He wasn’t born into this world to add burdens to you. He took your burdens on his own shoulders and died with them on a tree.¬†

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. :: Galations 5:1 ::

He wants you to celebrate His birthday, but He doesn’t want you to idolise the experience of it.¬†Just as He came into the world simply and humbly, so you can celebrate and worship Him with the same manner of heart.

::If you want a very encouraging devotional that will meet you right where you are this Advent, please head to Sarah Geringer’s site where you can purchase her new devotional, Christmas Peace for Busy Moms, and follow along with all her posts in the lead up to Christmas. ::

If you’re taking Advent easy this year but still plan to do a few easy things to make it special for the family, please share below.

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Early Education: Why Play Really Is Best.

I never thought that I would be so interested in my child’s education, especially their early education.

When our son was around twenty-months-old, I suddenly woke up one morning and thought, “Huh. I think we need to homeschool.”¬†It all seemed out of the blue and totally not what either Tim nor I had ever been thinking about for our family. I mean, we didn’t know any homeschoolers. And, weren’t homeschoolers all a bit, well, weird?

Yet, this idea completely bugged me. Almost like a plague. All of a sudden, despite having a four-month-old and a twenty-month-old, researching their future education was all I could think about. When I had time to go on the internet, it was all I could read about. I even read most of a PHD thesis on home education in New Zealand!

All this, and we had years to go until we needed to get an exemption from school for Josiah.

:: If you want to read more about our journey so far, check out these posts here and here. Also see my sidebar for more posts on our journey. ::

Once we had decided for then, I had so many questions for now.¬†People do preschool-at-home with complete curriculum’s and everything. Children seem to know how to read and write before they’re five these days, which is totally the opposite when I started school. Should I do the same? Should we be on a strict schedule? If we buy a preschool curriculum, what should we get? Should I still send my kids to preschool? What was the right answer?

Though I’m learning there really is no “right” answer, I believe God has been kind to me and has slowly been helping me get to different levels of understanding as we have gone along. Here’s where I am right now.

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I’m A Slow Learner

Once we made the decision that – Yes, we’re going to do this thing!I was itching to get started. All the homeschooling blogs with their printables and pictures and stories and wisdom just made me want to start–right–now. So I tried. On and off for the past year, we have started to do things that were more formal learning.

It didn’t go terribly. I knew my son’s limitations and his strengths. And I was surprised by what he learned about the alphabet and his numbers and colours. But I could never be consistent like a “proper” homeschooler. It made me – it still makes me – doubt that I can do this. I would beat myself up for not being able to stick to a daily schedule or just do things right.

At the same time, as I had been reading and researching, the theme of “Let young kids be” kept cropping up. I totally agreed. I knew that, from times past, kids just did life with their families and, at a certain point in time, they were ready for “proper” learning. I was already a massive firm believer in getting kids outdoors and letting them run around in nature – that’s what I had as a kid. It’s what research the world over says benefits children the most with their learning.

And then, once we brought our son home from preschool, the pressure to let them play and live life with me kept getting heavier and heavier. It was the same settled feeling I had when the whole notion of bucking the status quo and teaching our kids at home began: it was truth, for us, and I shouldn’t fight it.

But, of course, I¬†did fight it.¬†And I still have been up to a week or so ago {so, you see, I am a slow learner and do not have it altogether in the slightest}.¬†But, still the pull to do it all right and properly is often there. I’ve read it’s a common struggle with new homeschooling mother’s with preschoolers. We’re just all eager beavers, really.

My Kids Make A Point {Just By Being Kids}

For awhile, Josiah loved playing Turtle Recall. It’s a numbers game. And he learned how to count from 1 through 9, by reading the numbers because we played the game 97 times a day, for three months straight.

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And it has hit me, again and again:

Children learn best when they are engaged in interesting, fun, hands on play.

Whenever Josiah or Rosie have learned a big milestone we have been doing average, day-to-day play. We talk about animals and countries when the kids look at their wall-atlas. We’ve learned more about time when we’ve been reading our Winnie-the-Pooh clock book. We’ve learned about space and habitats and solids turning into liquids. We’ve learned about boys and girls by being a family together. We’ve been learning just from organic, natural learning.¬†

It’s brilliant. And for the stressed-out mama, I can promise you it’s brilliant because it works and it is easy for you.

Just do life together.

We go to church {where the play and make friendships with people of all ages}, we go to the grocery shop, we go to playcentre {a parent-led and run preschool} one morning a week, we go walking in nature and collect treasure, we make forts, we play in the sandpit, we clean, we garden, we do almost everything together. And they are learning brilliantly.

The only things I do intentionally is our morning time where we do our calendar {day/date/month/weather/season}, read a bible story, and pray. As Christian mothers, that’s the best education we can ever give our children because God is the source of all knowledge and wisdom and understanding.

What else do our young ones really need?

I certainly don’t need the stress of getting it all “right” now when I have years of that later down the track. I only have these young years once with them. And, you know what? They only have their childhood once and I want to extend that for as long as possible. I also don’t want them to associate “education” with stress and tears and negative feelings before we even start. A big part of homeschooling is to encourage a life of loving learning, and the most obvious place to start that is by letting them be kids and just play.

Are you, or have you, homeschooled early education? What are your experiences?

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Christmas Peace for Busy Moms :: Interview @ SarahGeringer.com

Do you need some peace this Christmas? Would you like some help that loving leads you to the feet of Jesus as you prepare for all the Christmas crazy?

When blogger and now author, Sarah Geringer, contacted me to ask if I would be interviewed for her blog and her new Christmas devotional, Christmas Peace for Busy Moms, I jumped at the chance! Christmas is a big part of my journey to Christ, but not why you might immediately think of.

Peace at Christmas for Busy Moms

Here is a snippet of my interview:

Q: How have you found peace in your faith journey? Share part of your story with us.

My parents separated on Christmas Day when I was 15-years-old. It absolutely devastated my life and changed the direction of my young heart. Because of the circumstances, I felt deeply betrayed by my father yet also, because of her own pain, deeply hurt by my mother.

For the next four years, I struggled to cope with the revelations, experiences, and the pain I felt. I thought I had been a Christian since a child as my faith had always been so strong, but now God felt so far away. The emotions and hurt were much more real and ruling over me that I willingly followed what I thought I needed to make it all go away.

I had boyfriends, gave myself away, used boys ‚Äď all in the hope of feeling good about myself, but also protecting myself from being hurt by another man by being ‚Äúin control‚ÄĚ of my body and the relationships. I went from disaster to disaster.

Please head over to Sarah’s blog to not only read my interview, but also check out her amazing new devotional for all mothers this Christmas. I have read it and it is amazing. It resonated so much with me.

Christmas Peace for Busy Moms

While you’re over there, make sure you say ‘hi’ to Sarah. Writing a book like she has is a massive undertaking and, as a busy mom herself, it’s such a big accomplishment. As her sisters in Christ, let’s encourage her love for Christ and her ministry of sharing peace this Christmas.

Head to Sarah’s devotional series and book launch here.

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Why We Still Want to Be Wives And Mothers {And Keep House}

Each week when I link my posts up around the web, the majority of writing authored by Christian women is about three things:

  • marriage and being wives
  • motherhood
  • home

Within these three popular topics, women are writing about:

  • the purpose of marriage,
  • how to get through struggles in marriage,
  • how to love our husbands well,
  • how to love our children well,
  • how to raise them up in a godly way,
  • how to educate them,
  • how to make our homes beautiful for our families,
  • how to keep them organised,
  • how to make yummy meals.

As a Christian, I find this both heartening and astonishing. For a society drenched in post third-wave feminism {see description here}, who knew that women still want to be home, raising littles, cooking delicious meals from scratch, and greeting their husband at the door every night? It almost feels a little scandalous writing such a sentence {since, from childhood, I have been encouraged to see the image of a wife above as a derision to the empowered, free modern woman}.

Why We Still Want to Be Wives & Mothers {and Keep House}

The Changing Landscape

With everything that has happened to the traditional role of womanhood in the last sixty/seventy years and all the “glass ceilings” that have been smashed for women in the workforce, it truly is amazing that so many women are still choosing that which is “less”. It seems to me {and I am not saying this with research up my sleeve, just observation} that more and more women are marrying younger, having children younger {and more of them}, and are staying home longer to raise them.

Many of the daughters of feminist mothers are turning their backs on the teaching they have received. See articles here, here, and here.

It seems that the desire and yearning to love, to be loved, and to pour ourselves out for our family is still within us as women. It seems it cannot be stamped out of us.

Germaine Greer, the “head” of the feminism movement {yes, the irony is not lost on me there}, wrote in her 1970’s book The Female Eunuch, that women should see family life and anything to do with childbearing as a handicap and an illness. For someone who completely abhorred her natural feminine nature, and who spent her entire life degrading marriage and housewives and raising children, in the end, she realised her mistake. She wrote,

Ruby lit up my life in a way that nobody, no lover, has ever done. I was not prepared for the incandescent sensuousness of this small child, the generosity of her innocent love. {source}

From the little I know of Germaine Greer, the overwhelming sense I get from her life is one of sadness and a great life’s effort to deny what makes her a woman. We can have as many lovers as Greer thinks is good for us, we can be a president of a corporation, we have the social mobility, and the time to spend as we like – but if we are not nurturing in some form or another, we are lacking as women. Ms.Greer discovered {or admitted} that the only thing that can meet the internal drive for love and intimacy and joy is in the pouring out of self in the nurturing of another.

What They Don’t Get

And for those who truly seek a life of loving God and His ways, we get this. Living a selfless life doesn’t come naturally because of our sinful selves, but when we’re given new lives in Christ, we begin to see that true fulfillment in life comes not from taking and taking, but from giving and giving. We find, by losing; we live, by dying.

We understand this because our Saviour demonstrated it so fully for us. Jesus, who deserves every single heart’s full devotion and obedience, came “not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” {Matt. 20:28}. The man who poured out everything of Himself commands that you and I “deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” {16:24}.

Why We Still Want to Be Wives & Mothers {and Keep House}

This is where people lose their way. This is where the Ms.Greer’s of this world and movements like feminism break down and fail to deliver what they promise. A life of me, me, me, me will give you nothing but regret. It is actually the denial of our lives and living for others – for Christ – that true life – abundant, fulfilling, freeing – can be had.

Women like Germaine Greer are frightened of limitations. They preach freedom of choice … yet, they don’t seem to realise {until it’s too late} that their choices of freedom come with limitations. If you want a childless life, you will get one. If you want many lovers, you won’t get that one, true, committed companion. It’s simple mathematics, really.

Elisabeth Elliot once said,

The special gift and ability of each creature defines it’s special limitations. And as the bird easily comes to terms with the necessity of bearing wings when it finds that it is, in fact, the wings that bear the bird – up, away from the world, into the sky, into freedom – so the woman who accepts her gifts, her special calling – wings, in fact, which bear her up into perfect freedom, into the will of God. {p.31-32, Let Me Be a Woman}

As a woman, I am limited. I must accept this. {And really, the world over accepts this – why the separate races for men and women in the Olympics?} Men and women are made differently for different blessings, different challenges, different limitations, different freedoms.

If I try and run away from this biological fact and attempt to manipulate my biology into something it isn’t {and can never have}, then I am condemning myself, not to so-called freedom, but imprisonment. I would be stuck in a body I hated, ¬†with functions I believed redundant {yet still working as if they were not}, always trying to be what I am not. Exhausting.

But, if instead, I accept the fact that I am a woman, and favour the natural limitations of my sex, then I am freeing myself to live the way I was designed to be. I will find joy in my marriage. I will find peace in childrearing. I will find contentment in the work I do at home {and there is plenty of it!}.

I may have wanted to be a Spice Girl when I was little with as much “girl power” as I could muster, but I feel completely empowered as a wife and mother. There are limitations on my life, but I am free – so free – to move around within them. I am my own boss. I run our days the way I want. I have a man I love and who loves me so well. We’re committed to doing life together, and the law constrains us and limits us to make us keep our promises. And our love is great and true and enduring. And I am rocking my cradle here at home because I know, down the track, that my children will be ruling the world. Even¬†Abraham Lincoln got all this, the man who enabled freedom for so many.

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If you have any thoughts, please share.

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Feeling All The Feelings: Life After Anti-Depressants

For more posts on mental health and motherhood, click here.

If you have followed my blog for any length of time, you will know that for the past three years I have been on anti-depressants. You will know that I haven’t suffered from depression but rather a cyclical anxiety disorder that was triggered off when our first child was born in 2013.

The first three months of his life were a giant hole of crazy. I drowned under all the noise in my mind and the hormonal imbalance that were causing me to cry a billion times a day. A great fear of foreboding gripped me from the moment I woke up and only left me when I had moments of sporadic sleep with a baby that would.not.sleep over night.

Going to my doctor one day, who has known me for years, he kindly told me that I needed some help to get out of this episode. Normally I could work my way out. But I was a new and overwhelmed mother, sleep deprived, and I just needed to have a little help pulling me out. Because I certainly, at the time, was barely able to function let alone pulling the bootstraps of my mind up.

So, Prozac became my friend. I called them my “happy pills”.

{Although, technically, they don’t make you happy. Happiness/joy is a choice. The pills just get us into a place where we can choose joy.}

I have always been open about being on medication. We need more women in Christian circles speaking out about the okayness of taking medication for mental health issues. I always say that, if we were diabetic or epileptic, we would need medication – so why would mental health be any different?

Well, today I am here to tell you: I am pill-free. Woo!

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The first question I’m asked when I share this with friends is: how are you feeling?

I feel great.

I have known that it was time to come off my pills and I think I have been ready this past year. I’ve known because originally, when I first took them, they made me feel like myself again. I remember one day, about two or three weeks since I had started on them, and my mind felt calm again. All of a sudden I could think freely! My emotions were stable! I was me!

In fact, I felt so good I remember thinking, “Wow. So this is what normal feels like.”

You see, I have had enormous hormonal/emotional struggles since my mid-teens when my parents separated. They got particularly bad when I was about nineteen/twenty after my DTS with YWAM. I came home such a mess my father thought I was bi-polar. But no, I was just in great need of healing: of having a stronger knowledge and life in the Word, of having a home, of having stability, of having someone who truly loved me.

After Josiah and those pills kicked in, I felt and was thinking the most normally I had since I was a child.

In the past year, I knew that I was me again and that the pills were no longer the buffer I needed. But I was scared. Scared of falling back into that horrible pit of anxiety. Scared of not being a strong wife and mother. Scared of becoming as self-absorbed as I used to be.

So I prayed and over this year, I just felt the desire to go it alone grow stronger and stronger. I knew that I would be okay. I knew that I was able now to work on my thinking and have the strength to say “no” to feelings that liked to direct my moods {and therefore, my days, my behaviour, my reactions to my family}.

Therefore, in October, I did it – I weaned myself off. And I’m feeling pretty good.

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The biggest thing that I am having to do is re-learn how to think, and therefore, how to act and feel.

Having the pills helped me be pretty stable emotionally. If I cried, it meant whatever it was was really important to me. I was also pretty clear-thinking. I could identify thoughts that were dumb and I was able to disregard them fairly easily. Since I no longer have that buffer, I am feeling all the feelings again.

Now, these feelings aren’t extreme like they were. Now, I’m just more easily irritated or more easily affected by a thought. And when I follow a thought {however brief or fleeting}, my mood is more easily swayed.

It’s been a learning curve. And not just for me, but for my lovely husband, too. We both haven’t had to deal with mood changes in me for three years. But we’re both giving each other a lot of grace {oh, he covers me with so much grace, that amazing man}. If I seem irritable or more stressed than usual, we talk about it. If I feel like something could trigger me off, I speak it out loud to him {which usually gets me back on track and out of my head}. If I am feeling a bit overwhelmed, I go to my room, get on my knees, and talk to God. He is my ultimate peace.

 

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I love this quote from Elisabeth Elliot:

“Fear arises when we imagine that everything depends on us.”

Motherhood and mental illness has taught me so much about my great need for God. He has given me such a vision and goal for our family, and it is my nature to set out on my own, striving to perfect myself and my character so that this vision can be accomplished. But how much the good Lord knew I needed this thorn in my side. I need this weakness of heart and mind to keep me close to Him.

One of my favourite hymns, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”, has a stanza that speaks so deeply to me. I sing quietly to the Lord and ask Him to answer the prayer of that song in me so that He, and He alone, is all I need to do this life He has given me, in my broken jar of clay.

“O to grace how great a debtor

Daily I’m constrained to be!

Let that grace now like a fetter,

Bind my wandering heart to Thee.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,

Prone to leave the God I love;

Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,

Seal it for Thy courts above.”

Are you a mother that struggles with illness? What scriptures, quotes, or songs encourage you on hard days?

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