Tuesday, March 25, 2014

First Year Down, A Whole Lot More To Go

Today is a day for celebration! No, it's not a holiday or anyone's birthday around here. But it marks one year since something quite significant happened with our family.

One year ago today, I wrote this post. It was our first day to begin our homeschool journey, one which I was terrified I or the kids wouldn't survive, to be honest! So today, I'm celebrating several things. Mainly that we have survived, that we have succeeded in so many areas. We've done something I worried was impossible and are still standing, still planning to come back for more. Last year on this day, I truly wondered how long we'd last. I sure hoped it'd be for the long haul, but a sea of insecurities and uncertainties threatened to drown me. I remember standing in front of our homeschool book shelf where we kept all things learning, shaking inside and out. My trembling hands grasped workbooks I feared I'd never learn to adequately use. How could I teach my own children? What did I have to offer them? Well, not much really, but what I did have was a gentle calling from the Lord and a desire in my deepest depths to raise them differently than the path we were currently headed down, full speed.

I've been reflecting back on the year today. As I sat with Kate comparing the long e sound with the short e sound, I realized that I had witnessed something beautiful right before my eyes and I could have missed it. I have had the blessing of watching each step of her budding mind unfurl, unleash itself into brand new proficiency. Last year at this very time, she could not write her name correctly. Now not only is she writing her name nicely, she's also writing sentences, and reading them too.

We still have to work on her "s"s, but she'll get there--I'm certain. It has been truly incredible to stand on the sideline of such transformation and development. And I can look at her and know--yes, we made the right choice.

Keagan has learned mountains as well, particularly in history and math. He has found a deep love for aviation that I'm biting my nails to see come into fruition. And of course, who knows--he may fall in love with optometry instead one day. But it's an absolute blast to help him find what makes him tick, what causes him to want to learn. Today he wrote his name in Morse Code, and he thought that was pretty neat.

The fears I had one year ago were certainly quite valid, but today I smile because of what I didn't know that God certainly did know, and why He was urging me to follow Him on this. He knew that He would provide all the support I would need. He knew that He'd give our children even more friends than they had before! He knew how our children would change and grow. He knew what road we were about to walk last year, and He knew how to keep us together through it. He knew that I'd have bad days, and He knew just what I would need on those days to keep forging ahead.

I'm so thankful for this first year under our belts, so to speak. I know it will get much harder, but I also know that it can get as beautiful and as rich as I allow it to become. I love this journey far more than I ever dreamed I would. My heart is literally overflowing with gratefulness to the Lord for this experience, for this first year, that He didn't fail me, that He is proving Himself faithful and true, that our family has adjusted fantastically to our new lifestyle. That He even used this calling to shield my children from an immense amount of trauma that I just don't know how they (or I) would have handled. I pray that I've pleased Him over this past year of teaching them. I've failed miserably some days, but not all of them! ;)

Here they are last year on this day during art. I'm so proud of how we have all grown together. And "together" is a big part of that. We are a tighter family than we were before. We depend on each other more, we learn from each other more, and we love each other more richly, more deeply than before.

And some other adventures along the way:

 Thank you, Lord, for such an immense blessing that I certainly have not earned.

Peace of Christ to you,

Monday, March 3, 2014

Sabbatical and "Leading On Empty"

This past weekend our family took a sabbatical and learned a valuable lesson in restoring our souls and resting our spirits. I knew it was bound to happen--the breaking point. After two weeks of a feeling of hopelessness, disinterest in things that normally energize and motivate me, unexplained irritability, and a lack of physical activity, it was obvious that a break from our normal routine was nothing short of necessary for our emotional, relational, and spiritual health.

We spent the cold, snowy weekend cooking together and enjoying slower meals at the table, snuggling on the couch with books, movies, and my crochet projects. Heaven! We built a fort in the living room and the boys found out that the cabinet in the hallway makes a fantastic club house! It was so nice to just sit beside Matt and enjoy being with him. Our schedules don't usually allow us to wake slowly together in the morning, so we welcomed this sweet luxury for two days in a row. I had missed the kids piling onto our bed in the morning, poking, jabbing us, giggling, and begging for "chokit miwk!" It was so sweet to breathe this family time in, and both Matt and I feel refreshed and refueled for the coming week.

We aren't responsible for a significant amount of things, but we recognize that if we want to be great at what we are responsible for, then we have to steward well our time and energies so that we can be the best leaders we can be, no matter what the area of leadership looks like. For me, it's leading our children in life, in their spirituality, and in their education. Then it's leading a small group of other believers alongside Matt. For Matt, it's carrying an important load at work in which many other employees rely on his skill and efficiency. Then, together leading the small group with me as well as leading our family in life decisions, finances, spiritual health, etc. We also have mentoring relationships that we enjoy pouring into.

And one beautifully effective way of ensuring this is to take scheduled, periodic breaks from the responsibilities. Skip church for a weekend or visit a church where you won't feel obligated to serve or even be recognized. Don't take phone calls from others who need something. It isn't that you don't care or don't want to help; in fact, it's the opposite. If you get the restoration you need, you will be far better equipped to help others when you return to your normal schedule.
Sometimes we think: "I don't want to be that person who just doesn't show up to serve or help" or "They're counting on me" or "I don't think they can do it without me" or "If I want it done right, then I have to do it myself." All of these statements sound valiant, but if you live by them continually, you will find yourself down a path of burnout much faster than you wanted or expected. And by then, the culmination of your responsibilities or ministry could be such a mess that you aren't sure it can be repaired or restored.

I have been reading a fantastic book that has helped me recognize the signs of burnout in my own life: "Leading on Empty" by Wayne Cordeiro. This is a power-packed book that will cause you to continually stop to write down one of the author's thoughts because it is so worth remembering. If you find yourself leading absolutely anything, I suggest this book highly. It is written by a pastor, and while we are not pastors ourselves, the principles and techniques he gives in keeping at the top of our game are more than relevant to us in our own leadership avenues. And I'm almost certain they will be for you, too.

It's easy to not think of yourself as a leader, but I would argue that you are. And if you are, then you, too, must protect and nurture your own energies and time so that you can be the best leader possible.

Peace of Christ to you,