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 😉

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 🙂

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 – his body, mind, heart, and soul – are 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 – or even an eleven-year-old – is 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 🙂 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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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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What Happened When We Brought Our Son Home From Preschool.

Preschool. Our son was at it about nine months. And then we brought him home. What happened?
Let me just summarise it in one word:
Transformed.
That is the most succinct word I can think of to describe what has happened to our little boy since we brought him home from preschool. It’s been two months and they have flown by. Why? Life is just easier with him at home.
Now, I’m not saying my days are breezy. Ha! Two children under three? No day is going to be breezy! I’m teaching, correcting, encouraging, disciplining, playing, chasing, imagining, cleaning, cooking, and living with them both all day, everyday. I don’t get the few hours of space like I did when he went three mornings a week. And I don’t get time alone with Rosalie now, either.
But – and it is such a big but! – we just have a totally different boy in the house. The boy who was always there, underneath, but who got confused and influenced and tired and overstimulated and put in the world before he was ready. Therefore, the boy who was more aggressive, rebellious, hurtful, less kind to his family, bored all the time, unable to play with himself or others has gone.
Instead, we have a boy who is kinder, more loving, more open, willing to be corrected, less rebellious, more imaginative, more able to play by himself, enjoying more self-directed learning. So, like I said, transformed. We have our little boy back.
Do I regret sending him to preschool? Yes and no.
What Happened When We Brought Our Son Home From Preschool

What I’ve Learned

In some ways I regret it because I have changed my stance on early education and a large reason  for this is because because of the negative effect it has had on our son.
But, at the same time, I don’t regret it because I believe God has had His hand on it all. As parents we always make our best decision with the information/situation we have in front of us. We can only step out in faith and readjust our footing as God guides us.
The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in God’s way.” Psalm 37:23
Some of the ways God has established our steps as parents is by:
  • helping us know our son more {he’s an INTROVERT, people!}
  • helping us know our convictions more.
  • helping us trust God’s guidance more.
  • helping us be more confident as a mother and father.
  • helping me be more confident in my husband’ judgement {why don’t I learn this quicker??}.
  • helping us see that homeschooling is probably going to be the best thing for our family.
God always knows what He’s doing and, when we make mistakes, if we bring them back to Him, He redeems them and glorifies Himself. I love it because mistakes then, are not ever mistakes at all. Just experiences that push us more into God’s will, and nothing can go wrong with Him.

What Young Children Really Need More Than Preschools

Today, as I was contemplating it all and looking at planning some activities at home, I spent some time in my number one favourite book on motherhood: The Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson {affiliate}. Whenever I’m feeling in need of some motherly advice for a mother, I turn to her. These words just lifted me up today:

“Simply throwing children into a cultural tornado and hoping for the best gives them little chance of living up to their potential or coming out unharmed. Someone needs to take responsibility for their nurture, protection, nourishment, intellectual development, manners, recreation, personal needs, and spiritual development. Someone needs to commit time and energy into staying close to them as they grow, encouragung and correcting and teaching…

Best of all, when a mother chooses to stay home, she has the time and opportunity to craft the kind of relationship with her young children that only extended time together can foster. And from such a relationship she has a much better chance of building a strong moral and spiritual foundation in the heart of her young children, teaching a system of truth and values without the constant challenge of authorities and peers whose lives are totally different.” p.43,48

Over the last year or two God has just been placing these thoughts so heavily on my heart. I’m at a place where the idea of leaving either my children at a centre regularly on their own just doesn’t sit well with my conscious. For other people, there will be no issue with this. But, for our family, at this season in time, our children belong home with me.

So I would just love to encourage you, dear mother, that if you have a little one in preschool or school, and you just have something in your spirit telling you pulling them out might be a good idea – don’t ignore it. Seek the Lord, talk with your husband, pray and read His Word. There is great wisdom in keeping children home for as long as possible to prepare them to be with the “authorities and peers whose lives are totally different”.

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. Psalm 13:20  << A confirmation Scripture from the Lord when we were praying about bring our son home >>

Have you experienced something similar with your own children? What do you think about Sally’s words?

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The Importance of Wild and Free Outdoor Play for Boys.

Outdoor play. The term is bustled about in education circles, but how many people are listening? How many young children, especially boys, are being let down by being cooped up in classrooms all day long? What happened to hours and hours of wild, free, and outdoor play?
 As a mother living in a suburban city, I see how much lack there is for children to just roam nature and climb trees and explore bushy areas. Plus, with a very active, rumbunctious and high-energy three-year-old boy, I see the vital importance of outdoor play for him. Of course, spending time outdoors is of vital importance for both girls and boys. But recently, in the study of my own little boy, I see a direct correlation between outdoor play and the whole-being of a boy.
 

Here are some of my current thoughts.

importancewildfreeoutdoorplayboys

Boyhood Today


I really believe that we are in an era where boys – and much of what makes them boys – is squelched out of them. Their desire for rough and tumble; their need for deep male friendships; the way they learn as opposed to the way they are taught; their need to be heroes and warriors and rescuers; their desires to be leaders; their innate instinct to protect {gasp! yes, protect women}.

Boyhood today is not the boyhood of yesterday. Today, we have domesticated our little boys. And one massive area of boyhood that has been domesticated is the greatly needed realm of wild and free, unstructured outdoor play.

And this lack and decline isn’t just because we live in cities. There are many factors that have contributed:

  • Our children are in educational institutes from a very young age, corralled into areas with tens of other children, confined to playing with man-made play equipment.
  • When the school day is over, boys are being put into constructive and defined extracurricular activities.
  • We’re also terrified of them braking arms or hurting others and lawsuits from occurring.
  • There are school games – like bull-rush in New Zealand – that are deemed too dangerous so are banned.
  • From a young age, we rely more and more on technology to entertain children {especially boys}.
  • We ply them with ready-made toys {and lots of them}.

In the last fifty years, but more from the late eighties, a boy’s childhood has become more and more confined, controlled, timed and planned out. Our culture’s view of boyhood has become more feminine. We have allowed fear to rule our parenting. So altogether, our boys are domesticated.

{v} domesticate: to tame

We have tamed our boys. But so much research is showing the need for children to be free, wild and outdoors. Having plenty of time to play, build, explore, imagine, role-play and just run around crazy outdoors has social, health, educational, and behavioural benefits.

 

Why Outdoors Is Needed

This study from England delves into the need children have to be outside, and a study by the American Medical Association quoted in a Guardian article showed that:
“Children will be smarter, better able to get along with others, healthier and happier when they have regular opportunities for free and unstructured play in the outdoors.”
If parents are worried that such unstructured play isn’t learning {because our culture is so obsessed with education and being succesful before children even reach puberty}, it is both obvious and proven scientifically that play is learning for the child.

“It is difficult to differentiate play from work in the child, as according to nature play simply is a child’s work – the work or exercise of body and mind required to prepare for coming life.” {source}

And that makes sense, doesn’t it? From birth, babies are continually learning. We don’t put them into classes to learn how to crawl, or walk, or feed themselves. They learn organically by playing, by experimenting, by trial and error. And as older children, that hasn’t changed.

As a boy climbs a tree, or runs as fast as he can down a slope, or finds as many crab shells as he can to fill a bucket – this is all learning. And many boys learn through activity, building and breaking with their hands, digging trenches, dropping sticks from a tree hut, seeking out rabbit holes. Boys in that kind of environment learn quite differently to a boy in more domestic environments.

 “…it is obvious that outdoor play experiences contribute to children’s physical development, in particular to motor development. Less obvious is the learning that happens as children test their strength, externally and internally: how high can I climb? Why does my heart pound when I run? Am I brave enough to jump from this platform?” {source}

In the homeschooling sphere, the education philosophy of Charlotte Mason encourage nature study and outdoor pursuits, especially in the early years. Charlotte Mason said that children should be outside for many hours each day, in unstructured play, but with a parent observing for necessary help and habit training.

 

My Own Little Boy

As a mother, I have found all of the above to be true. I think though, more significantly, I have found changes in my son’s behaviour depending on how much time he has to be free outside.
Since bringing him home from kindergarten, Josiah has just blossomed. The attitude and behaviourial issues we were having with him have decreased greatly, and he is more gentle, more loving, more adventurous, more imaginative, and more helpful and kinder to his sister {and everyone!}. Aside from being home with his family more, I do believe this improvement has been because I have taken him out at least three times a week for walks in the buggy to spaces where he can just play.

In both pictures above, he is wearing his favourite costume: a hooded towel {his Batman cape}, his rocket socks and rocket boots. He loves zooming around the house as a superhero and he loves running here, there, and everywhere on our walks. He expends so much energy. He uses so much imagination. His mood elevates. His cheeks are flushed and his eyes are full of joy.

He is wild and free and living.
Though the kindergarten we had him at was great with an amazing outdoor space, there is just something very different about acres of land, park space, pathways in forest walks, creek beds and bushy hideaways. Though our city was devastated by earthquakes a number of years ago, where we live is now blossoming into green space because all the houses are gone. This is where I take the kids to roam free and it has just been the best of blessings.
If your son is struggling, is moody, emotionally up and down, more troublesome with you and siblings – try sending him outdoors. Take him several times a week to a place that is big and wide and green for him to run around in. If he’s absorbed in dropping stones down a drain, just let him. Don’t hurry him a long. Forget about the time, things that need to be done – just let him have space and live.

Your little boy needs to be a boy and it is your job as his mother to understand this and to provide opportunities for him to have that avenue of free exploration in God’s green earth.

 

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How to Trust Your Instincts As A Mother

When we become mothers, we’re given a lot of advice. Momentous amounts of it. Some of it blessedly helpful, and some not so much. From family members, well-meaning grandmas at church to fellow mothers further along the parenting track. Everyone has something to say.

Oh, and the professionals. Did I forget to mention the doctors and teachers and psychologists who know exactly how to solve your parenting dilema?

I remember one of the contributing factors to the postnatal-anxiety I suffered through with my son was from listening to every single person and getting completely overwhelmed. One person said one thing, another said the opposite, and then the books – the books! So much information, but only one baby to implement it on.

In my less than three years experience as a mother, I can offer you the best piece of advice I have been given and which has steered me well:

Dear mother, you can trust your instincts and make good decisions for your family on your own.

Did I mention that you can do this without following the status quo or despite what professionals say?

As I stumble along this parenting path, I am learning to believe firmly that a mother and father know what is best for their family. I believe this because only you, the person God chose to nurture and raise His children,  know the characteristics, habits, weaknesses, strengths, idiosynchrasies of the people in your family.
The times in my mothering so far when I have felt most overwhelmed, stressed and emotional have been when I haven’t been trusting and doing what I know is good for my kids. I listen to everyone and get ridiculously lost. I go along paths of books and blogs and parents and — well, you get the picture. It isn’t helpful.
And many times, during this whole time of “searching” there is a feeling settled in my gut. I tentatively think I know where to go or what decision to make, but I don’t feel confident enough to do it. This is especially so when it is a different path to others and you struggle with being a people pleaser {just so me}.
If you’ve been following my blog recently, you’ll know that Tim and I have pulled our little boy out of kindergarten. It was a really difficult decision and I really needed some courage to make it. But boy, I am so grateful we did. Hopefully I’ll post an update soon, but let’s just say, being home has transformed our boy. It is a blessed relief.
So how can we trust our instincts and be confident making decisions?
1. Pray and seek the Word.
2. Discuss the in’s and out’s with your husband and seek his thoughts on the matter.
3. If more information/advice is needed, seek out one or two close mother-friends, preferably older and more experienced.
4. Pray more and seek the Word more.
And then, just do it. If everything is pointing one way, step out in faith and do it.

If you’re offered more advice or thoughts from others {or in books etc.}, you take what you hear with humility and a grain of salt; then you look at your children and you think, “What is best for them?”

Another instance in our parenting where we followed our gut was putting our babies on formula. We did it at different times with them both and for different reasons. But both times, it was pretty immediately clear that it was the right choice. Rosalie, for example, had a slight dairy intolerance and I wouldn’t have had a clue if we hadn’t followed our judgement.

This isn’t to say that we can’t be wrong. Oh my, we totally can be. But thankfully, our God is a God of grace and redemption, and, our children are very forgiving!

I do believe, however, that we have all we need for this parenting gig with prayer, our Bibles, wisdom from elders and conversations within marriage. 

So, mother, you can do this. You can make choices for your family even if they’re different, controversial or different between each child. Just trust God to show you the way as you seek Him. He really is listening and He really will direct your steps and give you wisdom.

“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.” Proverbs 16:9 

“I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16:7-8 

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Birthing Babies: Grace In A Fallen World

“Children are a heritage from the LORD.” Psalm 127:3

I am a mother by the grace of God. As part of His plan for my life, and my husband’s, He has given us two children. And as I have said in my page about me, it looks like our two little ones are it {at least, biologically}.
My youngest turns two in a few weeks and I was thinking yesterday that it’s been so long since I have been pregnant. It still feels as strong a relief as it did the moment she came out. But, I long for another one. I would like to have another baby.
Yet, I shouldn’t have another baby.
As Christians, we love rules. We love adhering to a standard and making our stand on it: “Yes. This is God’s way. We all must be this way.” No, I am not saying there is no absolute truth, of course there is. Morally. But on many life issues, the Bible offers principles. And on child-rearing? Children are a blessing, plain and simple. That is why those who love the Lord ought to pro-life. God loves children and His hand is on the origins of every human being. They are not tissue or just a fetus.
But, I digress.
Children are a blessing. It is good to have children. It is part of our mandate as we rule over creation {Genesis 1:28} and it is a beautiful part of married life, and being one flesh {Genesis 2:13-25. And yet – it is not always as simple as we would like it to be.
Before Josiah, we had two miscarriages. I wondered if I could ever carry. Then, blessedly, Josiah was born. My body did okay with pregnancy, though I developed one blood clot in the later stages, and birth left some stitches. Then, I had a really rough bout of anxiety/postpartum depression that was really, really hard on this first time mother. But, once I got some help and pushed on through, life looked brighter.
Rosalie was born sixteen months after Josiah. Her pregnancy was hard. My blood turned to sludge and I developed nine blood clots during my third trimester, with strong prelabour from thirty-two weeks which involved two hospital admissions. I was on daily blood thinners and her birth worsened what was damaged from my first. When she came out, I cried, “It’s over!” And I wasn’t meaning birth. 
Pregnancy for me has the real possibility of being dangerous. It would be a significant risk for me to get pregnant again. I find that really hard, and I have wrestled over the chasm between my will for another child and the reality of what it means to have another child.
Birthing babies has taught me more and more that everything on this earth is tainted and destroyed by sin. Nothing is like it was before the Fall. It reminded me that we have it easy today with hospitals and medicine and life-saving operations. A close friend, if she had been around one hundred years ago, would have died with her first baby. She literally has no room to push a baby out so she must have c-sections. 
We are blessed and we are cursed.
Some Christians forget this dichotomy. I know why they do for, a part from loving rules we also love God’s ways and it is God’s way to have children {as opposed to our children are a burden/are despensible culture}. The only trouble is when well-meaning Christians make mandates about how many babies we ought to be having they forget that we are made for perfect, but perfect isn’t here yet. It is coming. But until then, we’re just waiting in a world that is groaning like in the pains of childbirth {Romans 8:18-23}.
Some women can have many children and, though it is hard, can do it by God’s grace. Some women can’t, or have a few, and do it by God’s grace. God, above and overall, is in control and all births and deaths are in His hands {Psalm 139}. And really, we ought to mind our own business and live a quiet life {1 Thessalonians 4:10-12}.
If I were to discover tomorrow that I were pregnant, I would be over the moon. Children are a blessing. I haven’t always felt that way, but I have always thought that way. My struggle would be entrusting my body to the Lord, knowing the great risks, but accepting His hand on my life. Life or death, I am His. But, we are not looking to get pregnant, in grace.
So if babies or pregnancies are a difficult issue for you; if you are frightened to have another one; if you want to but can’t; if birthing babies breaks your already broken body more – – drink in grace. God doesn’t condemn you for a broken body. He broke His own so that one day you will be perfect. But right now, we’re having to do this all in bodies, in minds, in places, in a world that is decaying.

As Charles Spurgeon said,

“It is grace, and nothing but grace, from first to last.”

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When Something Good Is Not The Best.

As Christian parents, Tim and I are continually having our minds graciously and lovingly renewed by God to His way of thinking. I’m not saying we have the number one, most biblical way of parenting thinking {insert *snort* here}…
 
…Rather, as we submit ourselves to our loving Father as our own children’s parents, we find Him offering new ways of thinking about our family, our children’s upbringing, and His way for us of “training our children in the way they should go” {Proverbs 22:6}.
The more we keep going on this parenting path, the more I know each family’s submission to God’s guidance will be different. And that is good! God loves variety! It is my responsibility to work in our family quietly, minding our own business and keeping our hearts from comparison.
“Jesus said, ‘If I want him to remain until I return, what is that to you? You follow me.'” John 21:22 {emphasis my own}
With that preamble set, let me share with you a big decision we have made recently for our family which has been challenging; offering an opportunity to follow God’s direction in faith as it follows a different path that most families make in this day and age.
Last year, we enrolled Josiah into kindy. In NZ, kindergarten is a free-play environment that usually takes children from 3 until they go to school at 5 {though requirement of schooling age is 6}. The kindy we chose is truly amazing with incredibly supportive, skilled teachers and a wonderfully large outdoor area. This was a big for me as Josiah is an outdoor boy.

Aside from a few bumps, Josiah has thrived at kindy. He has grown out of his shell around people who aren’t his immediate family and he has learned to play alongside others really well. Yet, we noticed after the start of this year that, though he was doing really well while he was at kindy, that his behaviour at home had really changed.

We went through all the normal reasons that can cause struggling behaviour and felt that none of those really seemed to apply to him. We talked to his teachers and we talked to each other and we prayed a lot. Last week we decided that we were going to pull Josiah out of kindy.

It was such a hard decision and even now, with only a few lessons left for him, I still feel emotionally torn about it {though, when I calm my feelings and think deeply about the guidance we believe God has been giving us, my gut tells me it is the right choice}.

It’s been a lesson of learning that sometimes even really good things aren’t necessary the best things for us {at the time, in a season, or, forever}.

Kindy, in and of itself, is a great place for little children. It is nurturing, with smaller numbers and a million opportunities for growth and play, play, play. Playing is the key for a child learning is their philosophy {and I totally agree}. It has done Josiah a world of good. It has been good.

But, we have come to the conclusion that – right now – it is not the best for him. The best, that we can see, is for him to be with his family more. With times that he has had off of kindy this year {holidays etc.}, his behaviour/demeanour/attitude has been undeniably better, more stable and more loving. For some reason – and we really have no idea why – something that is good {kindy} just isn’t bringing out the best in him {at home}.

To some, this may be no big deal. But for us, home behaviour is everything. The saying that goes, “You really are who you are at home” is so deeply true. We can put on our “best” behaviour in public and then be just awful to those who love us most at home. Are we strict? Perhaps. We just believe that loving, disciplined yet authentic behaviour at home is the standard we are striving for.

There are seasons in life where, no matter the situation, we will have to make decisions based on how our priorities in life are lining up with where we are involved in. If our priorities align with our involvement in some commitment, church activity or other organisation, then that is really great. But if an involvement is causing issues that might allow us to compromise a priority or standard, some hard decisions may need to be made.

Even when, in many ways, you don’t want to make that decision. Or that, sometimes, there may be no clear right or wrong. Sometimes all you can do is pray, seek God’s guidance, analyse all the information you have before you, and make a choice. And then, step out in faith.

A child not going to some form of preschool or kindergarten is rare these days. We, again, are going to look different. {Sigh. Really, God? Again?} But we have to obey.

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
 
Trust and obey, for there is no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
And it’s not just us, as parents, who want to be happy in Jesus. We want our children to have the ultimate joy of knowing and being happy in Jesus. And, because they are in our care, we have to trust and obey God, even when it bucks against the norm and requires hard, emotional choices for what is best, even if the second choice is still good.
 

In the comments: Have you ever made a decision that was hard because you had the choice of good and best?

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Callings and Self-Doubt: Choosing Faith that You Are on the Right Path.

We all struggle with comparing ourselves to others {remember?}. And, as I am growing to see in myself, we all struggle with doubting ourselves next to others. Self-doubt is a massive continuing blip in the radar of my Christian growth.
Before we had children, I wasn’t like any of the wives I knew. I didn’t have a full-time job. I wasn’t helping us save money for when children came. There was great logic in those choices, but they weren’t our choice. I worked part-time {generally ten hours a week} and, for the most part, I considered being a homemaker {ie. Tim’s wife} my full-time job.
Oh, it was such a different path to take. Granted, I never, ever got negative comments or remarks – but I did get lots of people questioning me.
 
Why don’t you work more?
Don’t you want more money?
What does Tim think?
Aren’t you bored?
What do you do all day?
The questions always got me. I knew, deep down that this was God’s calling on my life, and I knew people would disagree with me. But all the questions – and often what the questions didn’t say but silently did – were like little arrows of doubt. In those times, I really did have two people on my shoulder; one speaking positively to my calling, the other asking more and more questions, leading to deepening doubt. Even though I knew my own story and Tim’s, even though I knew why dedicating my life to my family was my dream job, I still doubted. I doubted simply because I feared man.
 
Each day we have a million battles we face. We battle the choice to have faith or reject the Gospel. We battle to believe the truth of God’s Word {and not listen to the hissing whisper, “Did God really say…?”}. We battle to choose obedience to God and not sin. We battle our culture. And sometimes, sadly, we battle our own family, friends and church.
Living a life of faith and conviction is ridiculously hard. Mere questions can be the marsh mellows of it all! Ridicule, persecution, misunderstanding, judgement and rejection are almost expected. And I am not just talking about God’s moral laws here {as opposed to the world’s standards}: I am talking about an individual’s call, their choice of occupation, a family’s way of life, their vision for the upbringing of their children…
 
I am talking about the personal, quiet, submissive belief one has before God that this way – this choice, this path, this conviction – is uniquely given by the Lord, to them, for their life. Everyone has callings that submit under the law of the Gospel.
We have authors, painters, teachers, leaders, servers, mothers, fathers, missionaries, single individuals, bridge builders, carpenters, evangelists, singers, bloggers. Under the grace of the Gospel, we have individual callings. And they will be different. You, and I, will be different. And amongst the many battles that we face each day will be the battle to believe, to hold on to, to grasp the hem of God that this calling is ours. No matter what questions are asked. No matter who asks those questions.
Self-doubt is one of the ways in which the enemy gets God’s people off track. Indulging, believing and participating in self-doubt causes us to be like the person James speaks of, the one who, when asking for wisdom,

 

“must ask in faith, without doubting, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” {1:6}
When we are being tossed about in the waves of self-doubt {which is not faith}, we are ineffective disciples of Christ. We are crippled by our own selves and will not thrive in the calling God has given us.
Paul, throughout the Epistles, repeatedly began his letters stating his calling, or appointment to service {1 Timothy 1:12}, or apostle by command {1 Timothy 1:1}. He claimed his calling and, despite believing he was the worst of sinners {vs.15}, he knew his calling to be true and that it was a mercy of Christ.
Though we are not Paul, we too are disciples of Christ and have our own callings. I am called to be a wife, mother, homemaker and church member. I have talent-callings I must use for God’s service. And, as a married couple and as parents, Tim and I have decisions we must make in regards to the atmosphere of our family, the upbringing of our children and the way in which we use the blessings God has given us. We will look different. But being different to others doesn’t mean being wrong.
So, dear friends, choose to have faith in your calling. You will be different, but don’t let questions cause you doubt. Hold fast to your appointment, use questions to show God’s mercy in your own life, and be thankful for God’s unique care and concern over the way your life is lived, in practice and purpose. 

 

Please share your calling and any struggles you have had of self-doubt in it.

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The Foundation Years: Letting My Kids Just Be.

I wrote awhile back how we are considering homeschooling our two children. This is still very much on the cards, and my husband is about 70% convinced it’s a good schooling option {compared to the 5% when I first brought it up!}.
Just with every major life decision, I have spent much time in reading and praying over the reasons/positives/negatives about it all. And I can honestly say that, as I have done so, the Lord has really surprised me. 
My original reason why I wanted to educate our children at home {ie. there are no good schools in our area and I think God might want us to} is now a periphery reason. Even my conviction that it provides a really solid education is not where God has surprised me. My happy surprise has been this:
Home is where my children should be for as long as possible.
In all my reading, the conclusion I have come to is this: research shows that the influence of parents and family during a child’s foundational years is fundamental to their health and well-being. Not only that, but, educationally, children learn best when they can take their time and grow/learn at their own pace. Self-directed and guided learning in childhood sparks a life long joy and delight in learning.
I have never been a person who takes the status quo without thinking it through. That has always made me a bit different. My parents taught me from an early age to try and see past the surface to the why’s and how’s of situations and ideologies. My history degree taught me an array of new ideas and concepts, but most enduringly, the simple fact that our culture today is the odd one out.

And it frustrates me when others do not see this. They take the status quo and accept that either,

  • this is the way it has always been, or,
  • our society is more advanced now so this way must be better/more evolved/more fulfilling {and so it goes}.

Sometimes I feel my insides spiking a fever of “Use your brains! Think outside of now! The way things are doesn’t mean it’s better!”

And for Christians who, genuinely without realising I believe, I want to say,
“Just because our culture sends kids off to school at five-years-old doesn’t mean that it is right.”
 
Chocolate.
 
Childhood in western society today is a pendulum of experiences unlike any other in the past. They have health, they have freedom from work/pain/suffering/fear, they have education, they have gadgets, they have individuality. Children today have gained so much and yet, have lost so much as well. And the most significant loss I believe they suffer through is the loss of their family as the primary source of worth, friendship, learning and wisdom.
Time goes so quickly. My son is just over three – wasn’t he born not long ago? And my daughter, she is two in July. We no longer have babies in the house – but I have only been a mother three years. Time is just sucked up into the vacuum of fading memories. In less time that he has been alive, according to the status quo, I ought to be sending him to a place where he spends the majority of his days for the next thirteen years. 
Five years. That is all I’m “supposed” to get.
Historically, educationally, relationally, theologically that just doesn’t make sense. It really doesn’t.
Now, I’m not ganging up on school. I wasn’t homeschooled – I’ve been to big schools, country schools, public schools and christian schools. I see great benefit in being in such an environment. But, I firmly believe now, only when children are ready
Schools in my area of New Zealand are changing dramatically. Modern Learning Environments are the new “thing” for education {even though they tried it in the sixties and it didn’t work, but hey, we have technology now and we are more advanced so that time/failure doesn’t count} and at the school my children are zoned for, they would be new entrants in a single building {with no walls} holding three hundred children. Three hundred. At five years old.
Why that makes sense when research {over and over again} shows children learn better the smaller the class room. Who knows what politicians are thinking?
Sensory bin.
Anyway, that is just not an option. And not just because it’s nuts. Primarily that is not an option because our children are our children. Our community and society can have them one day, but not yet. They are just not ready. They need time to mature, know their place in the world, grow in beliefs that are rejected in most institutions.
So until they areready {ten? eleven?}, I’m letting them be with us. Yes, we’ll do “proper” learning, but even then, it will look different. We’re going to read ridiculous amounts of books. We’re going on lots of walks. We’re going to kill lots of dragons with homemade bow and arrows. We’re going to listen to a lot of Batman by Danny Elfman {at least three times a day, currently}.
These foundation years, we never get them back. So I am grabbing hold of them and living them to the fullest. Childhood that is family {and not schooling and peers and fads} is back in. There is no status quo around here.
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Being An Undivided, Whole-Hearted Mother.

Last year I read The Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson. It is, by far, one of the best books on motherhood I have ever read. And, when I read it, my soul felt a thrill of joy. Finally, finally, a woman spoke the language of my heart for motherhood. I didn’t feel so alone anymore. Here was a woman who embraced, fully and completely, the task and call of being a mother and didn’t let anything pull her from this eternal task.

In fact, I put up a picture on Instagram the moment I dived into this kindred-spirit-of-a-book:

Now, when I say that I didn’t feel so alone anymore, I mean this: It is not that I think other mothers are less, or that their choices for their families mean they are not wholehearted. I would be lying if I said that I don’t compare, struggle with pride or insecurity. It’s just that, despite all the amazing mothers I know, who love love love their kids and do their very best, I just feel…different. Odd.

Perhaps, it is perspective. Perspective is definitely what got me here today, pursuing undivided, whole-hearted motherhood. You see, the reason I believe in this so deeply and passionately is this: I had a mother who loved us deeply, but also had a divided heart. There are so many reasons for that – her own upbringing, her own life experiences, insecurities – and I feel sad for her. But, because of choices she made, her children suffered.

This is not going to be a blog post bagging my mother. I love her. There are many qualities I so deeply admire in her. And she is an amazing Nanna! But part of my story is the living and working through the failures she made as a mother. Without going into details, though a loving mother with great strengths {she is better at nursing her sick children than I ever will be}, she had a divided heart. She wanted motherhood, but she wanted more too.

Is it wrong to want things outside of motherhood? No. But the plain truth of the matter is that we cannot have it all without sacrifice. Either our families get our best, or something else does. It is impossible for us to be 100% for everyone and everything.

“In that moment the two conflicted drives of my heart stood out in stark contrast – my commitment to motherhood versus my lurking desire to have life my own way. And from that moment on, I became a little clearer about which path I needed to follow if I really wanted to reflect God’s design. I began to see my children’s care and nurture as God’s best will for my life during my season as a mother… If I didn’t commit myself wholeheartedly to the demands of motherhood, I would never be able to do my best, because my heart would always be somewhere else.” ~ Sally Clarkson {emphasis mine}.

Growing up, my little child-heart sensed – then grew to know – my mother’s heart was always somewhere else. I knew my mother loved me and I relished her love. But there were parts of my life where I felt her absence. Distinctly I remember feeling forgotten, shunted aside for more important pursuits, and, verbally, that we {my brother and I} were burdens.

It is still painful now, especially since I have become a mother. The pain is raw, the vulnerability I felt as a child still lingers. But, and a great but it is, God is a God of redemption and he has redeemed my life, so deeply. 

“[What is] sown in weakness, is raised in power.” ~ 1 Corinthians 15:43

Only recently did God press this verse on my heart. Because of Christ, because of his blood purchased on the cross for me, all that is sown in weakness in my life can be raised in power. If we commit our pains, hurts, wounds to God, he lovingly and carefully restores goodness, truth, healing and freedom into our lives.

For me, he has raised in me a passion for wives and mothers to embrace living their lives fully for their families. I do believe this is biblical and the way it has always meant to be. But we’re broken, fallen and wayward, and we’ve lost the truth that our families need us – all of us. And I know that that can produce in us a feeling of panic, of drowning – “What about me?” we ask, “What about my needs? My dreams? My life?”

I get it. In many ways, it is natural. But in a lot of other ways, it is cultural. Our culture demands that we give ourselves up for no-one. Our lives should be determined by ourselves and if anything requires sacrifice, don’t let it swallow you.

By encouraging undivided, wholehearted motherhood, I am not saying lose your identity, or what makes you you. God made you unique and essentially you. You and your personality were written in the Book of Life from long ago, and God delights in you. But he also delights when we love others so much that we put them and their needs first. As crazy and as mental as that sounds, in the biblically-mathematically-rule-of-nature-and-life, when we lose ourselves to others, we gain life. True, abundant life.

But if you are a Christian, you know this. You know that to follow Jesus, we emulate him, and we lose our lives by giving them up for others, and we gain eternity. We know this. Yet, we’re still dipping our toes in the pools of selves along with everyone else, and we’re wondering why we’re still lost. But isn’t obvious that if we look to what is broken to fix us we’re just going to end up as messed up as everyone else? And, not just us, but our children.

As Sally realised in her early years of parenting, she couldn’t have it both ways. For the season when her children needed her, she knew that she had to put aside the pursuits that would draw her heart, her mind and her body away from her family. And that is what we need to remember, it is just for a season. It isn’t for always.

Again, I am not saying you can’t have hobbies, or outside accomplishments, or a job. But we need to make sure that get it all in the right order. Some people say we need to find balance, but I personally don’t think it’s possible. It is more that we get things in the right order. Family first, then other stuff. Our family get our best. By God’s strength and grace, they get our best. And whatever we struggle or fail in {because we will}, we pray that whatever we sow – ignorantly or deliberately – in weakness, that he would lovingly raise in power in the lives of our children.

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