Welcome to my musings...

After a 3 year hiatus from blogging (too busy parenting teens to have time to write about it!), I have decided to revive my blog. I look forward to sharing my perspective on mothering as I am at the tail end of my child-raising journey. Nothing could be more beautiful, more full of joy and pain and anguish, than the divine calling of motherhood. I pray my musings will bless you on your own journey, and that you will feel encouraged and equipped!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Whatever You Do, Don't Ask Me About...

Ever since we started homeschooling, I’ve been bombarded with questions everywhere we go. Checkers in the grocery store, other parents, curious neighbors all seem to feel led to ask me many questions about our choice to educate our children at home. I used to feel like an oddity whenever I’d take my children out in public with me in the middle of the day. I almost felt guilty, like we were doing something wrong and people were looking at us thinking, “Those children should be in school!” I found that there were many preconceived notions about what homeschooling families were like, and that while some were admiring of our choice, others were quite judgmental and disdainful of us.

Most of the time, people were genuinely curious about what our life looked like. I have to say, we received more positive comments than negative, (such as “Wow…that’s great. I wish I could do that.”), and people were usually supportive (“good for you”). Occasionally, however, someone would feel it necessary to give me their very biased opinion on why homeschoolers were ruining the public education system (excuse me?) and berate me soundly for pulling my children out of the government-run schools. I usually tried to move on as quickly as possible, before my temper overcame my Christian charity. Fortunately, those instances were few and far between, and I soon became comfortable going about our business, no matter what time of day it was that we were out in public.

I have found that I genuinely love it when people ask me legitimate questions about homeschooling. There is nothing that gives me more pleasure than mentoring a new homeschooling mother, sharing tips I have learned and helping with curriculum choices. I don’t mind people’s curiosity, either. I know we look different than the average family and that people want to know what we do every day. I love what we do, and am thrilled to share what we’ve learned and how it has dramatically changed our lives. I do have to confess, though, that there are questions that set my teeth on edge.

First, my very least favorite question about homeschooling…”But when do you have time for yourself?” I’d love to just answer with the truth, “Well, I seldom do”, but I wouldn’t want to scare off prospective homeschoolers with the unvarnished truth! The truth is, yes, I’m very busy. If I’m not teaching my kids, I’m grading their work or planning for the next day’s or week’s lessons. If, by chance, I’m caught up on all of that, then there is always laundry to do or bathrooms to clean. But, honestly, so what? We have chosen to home educate our kids because we feel it is what God has called us to do. We think it is best for them and best for our family. How could that possibly compare with time for myself, to scrapbook or go shopping or get my nails done? I love my kids, and I love spending time with them. Sure, there are days when I’d love to just go to the bathroom without hearing, “Mo-o-o-o-m!” outside the door. But God has given me an understanding that the day will come, all too soon, when my job as a mother will be complete. Maybe then, there will be time for things I enjoy doing. But for now, my job is to teach and disciple my children, and I will happily devote myself to that task. Does that make me a saint? Of course not. I confess there are times when I hide in my closet (it’s a BIG closet) to have private phone conversations with my friends, or times when I beg my husband for a few hours off by myself, which he graciously provides. But I refuse to buy into Satan’s lie that I deserve “my time” when God has bountifully provided three beautiful children who need me, and are so much more important than anything else I could choose to do with my time. Because I asked Him for it, He has also given me a true love for homeschooling. It is definitely the hardest task I have ever undertaken, but I truly enjoy both the process and the results I see in our family.

Another question I cringe upon hearing is this: “How can you do that? I could never do that.” My answer to that one is: Yes, you can. God has never asked us to do anything that He is not willing to provide the ability or character to fulfill. If God calls you to homeschool your children, it doesn’t matter if you are a gifted teacher, or extraordinarily patient…He is all of those things and He is able to do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Eph. 3:20). Don’t miss out on a huge blessing that God could have for your family because of fear or feeling incapable. If God can slay a giant through a little boy named David, surely He can render you capable of teaching your children! After all, public schools have only been around for a couple of hundred years…for centuries before that, parents taught their children at home. I’m sure that all those parents weren’t “natural” homeschoolers!

The one question that is probably the most commonly heard by homeschoolers is this: “But what about socialization?” The definition of socialization is “the adoption of the behavior patterns of the surrounding culture”. Our answer to this question is simply this: We choose to have our children socialized by us, and by well-chosen companions, not by their peers. Proverbs 13:20 says, “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” We have no desire for our children to look like the surrounding culture. Our children have plenty of friends, and are very comfortable spending time with not only their peers, but adults as well.

On the lighter side, here are some questions I have actually been asked:
--“Do you really only have 3 children? I thought all you homeschoolers had 12 children!” (Many homeschoolers do have large families since we view children as a blessing, not a curse—God chose to bless us with three.)
--“Don’t you homeschoolers all grind your own wheat and bake your own bread?” (Nope…whatever wheat bread is on sale is what graces our table.)
--“What went wrong at your house? Your kids are so polite.” (This one left me speechless.)
--“How did your kids get so smart?” (Yes, that one insulted me.)
--“Aren’t you worried that you can’t teach them high school?” (Well, I graduated high school and college with honors, so I must know something! Surely I haven’t forgotten everything I learned, or how to look up what I don’t know.)

So, if you’re curious about homeschooling, please feel free to talk to me. Just, please, keep in mind that we are just like you…trying to do the best we can for the children we love. And, please…don’t ask me when I have time for myself.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

"Just" a Stay-At-Home Mom

There seems to be a lot of confusion these days about the role of motherhood. Some view motherhood as something you settle for, giving up career possibilities and fulfillment of dreams. Others view motherhood as something they were perhaps thrust into by circumstances such as an unplanned pregnancy. A few view it as something they have chosen and desired. I recently read another “modern” view of motherhood: that of “lifestyle option”. In other words, it’s okay for some women, but not for others; it is something that you choose out of a plethora of other choices. This past summer, I conducted a study on the role of motherhood—not only the world’s view, but also how God views mothers. My heart was burdened when I saw how few women really understand the awesome task that has been set before us as mothers and how the false images imposed on us by the world have made our task even harder.

In the past, motherhood was something that was revered. In art and literature, the picture of motherhood was something beautiful, something desirable. Children were perceived as a blessing to the family, and as contributors to the family well-being. In paintings, mothers were depicted as almost saintly, often with haloes above their heads. In our modern day society, how do we see mothers portrayed? Think of the last TV show you watched or movie that you saw. Mothers today are often portrayed as worn-out, frazzled and resentful, screaming at their children and complaining about their husbands. They are perceived as “just a mother” instead of a successful career woman. How many times have you heard the term “just a stay-at-home mom”? When I first left my job (as a successful medical sales rep) to stay at home with our first baby, I remember being somewhat embarrassed at my husband’s office parties when asked, “And what do you do?” Somehow, it felt as if I were less worthy if I didn’t have a “real” job. When I replied that I was a mom, the questioner would usually respond with a patronizing, “Ohhh”, and turn quickly to talk to someone else. In spite of the fact that I knew I was where I wanted to be (home with my children), I still felt belittled and looked down on. I came to love the people who would respond, “Oh, good for you.” While I never questioned my decision to stay at home with my children, there were days when I battled the world’s whispers in my mind, telling me I was settling for something less than the best. I could hear the voice of my high-school guidance counselor in my head, telling me I was “stupid” for giving up my dream of medical school because I wanted to someday be a mother (yes, this really happened). Fortunately, I had a strong support network of other mothers who felt God’s call on their hearts to full-time motherhood, as well as the example of my own mother, and quickly learned how to be content at home. Now, after almost 15 years of full-time mothering (and now homeschooling as well), I can honestly say I never feel ashamed when asked what I “do”. I proudly tell them that I am raising and educating my children, and that they are a blessing to me and my husband. What made the difference in my heart and attitude? Easy…it was coming to understand that God’s call to mothers is a divine and noble thing, and that I am not settling, but embracing God’s best for me and my children.

God actually has quite a bit to say in His word about mothering. In Genesis 1:26-28, He tells us that we are made in God’s image, to reflect who He is. He gave us the task of making the earth productive; that also involves raising children who will carry on this task. In the Garden of Eden, God’s design was for men and women to partner and bear children and within the context of that family, learn to bring Him glory on this earth. God views children far differently than our world does today. In Psalm 127, God says that children are a blessing and a reward from Him. He also gives us a comforting picture in Isaiah 40:11 of how He leads us as we nurture our children: “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” I love this image of God as our shepherd, gently guiding us as we lead our little lambs.
Scripture clearly shows that God views motherhood as a divine calling, not just something we settle for or are forced into. HE chose YOU to raise your children; it didn’t happen by default, no matter the circumstances of your children’s conceptions or births. Isn’t that humbling? The Creator of the Universe chose YOU and gave you these little hearts to shape and mold to bring Him glory. It didn’t happen by accident. God lovingly created each of your children (Psalm 139) and placed them specifically in your family. Understanding this concept will transform how you view your role as their mother. When you are changing that 20th dirty diaper of the day, or cleaning up spilled Cheerios (again!), or reading “The Cat in the Hat” for the third time in a row, remember this: You haven’t “settled” for a lesser job, you’ve chosen to be obedient to the God of the universe and honor Him with your decision to give your heart and time to your children. Maybe the way you spend your days isn’t glamorous, but it will have eternal ramifications. You are raising the next generation to love the Lord and live for Him…and who knows? Maybe they will be the ones to change the world.
Please understand that I am writing this specifically for stay-at-home moms. I know there are many of you who have chosen (or been forced by circumstances) to work outside the home (and that this can be a sensitive subject). I am not condemning you for that choice. I would not presume to judge you for what God has placed on your heart or to say that He cannot use you in a mighty way in the working world. I am simply trying to encourage those who have chosen to stay at home with their children, and who feel condemned or less worthy because of that choice. No matter what your circumstances, if you are a mother, then your role is a noble one. We are all responsible for raising our children to know and love the Lord, and yet our culture has placed so much false guilt and so many impossible expectations on us that we have lost sight of our primary calling. Next time you are struggling with your role as a mom (whether you are full-time at home or not), remember this: God chose you and He will equip you with what you need to accomplish this daunting task. Will you throw off the world’s teachings and embrace the role that God has given you? Then our tasks will be a joy and not a burden, and our reward will be beyond all imagining, both here and for eternity. After all, God doesn’t see you as “just” a stay-at-home mom, but as someone created in His own image with a noble calling and purpose.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Where Have All the Grownups Gone?

One of my favorite pastimes, when out in public, is people-watching. I confess to being a quite curious onlooker, always noticing the people around me and constantly aware of others’ conversations, emotions and actions. When my husband and I are out together, he can be completely oblivious of the people around us, while I rarely miss a thing that happens in our general vicinity. I am just wired that way…with a people radar that just won’t turn off. Sometimes, this is a good thing, enabling me to be sensitive to others’ needs and emotions. Other times, I wish I could turn it off, as I get discouraged watching the way people relate to each other. Lately, there seems to be a common thread in my observations about parents and their children…the grownups appear to be missing. No, I don’t mean that they’ve been abducted by aliens and the children are running around unsupervised. Instead, it appears that we parents have forgotten that we’re supposed to be in charge and have abdicated that role of authority.

During a recent trip to the grocery store, I had the misfortune of following a mother and her young daughter. The girl was about four years old, and had long figured out who was in charge…and it wasn’t her mother. She whined and manipulated her way down each aisle, begging for desired items and threatening to break into a tantrum if she was refused. As soon as the storm clouds crossed her face, her mother would begin to backpedal. “Oh, okay, honey, you can have that cereal/cookies/chips/etc.” I watched in disbelief as the girl controlled the majority of the purchases her mother was making. She spoke very disrespectfully to her mother, never receiving a reprimand. I seriously thought about changing my route in the store to avoid listening to this, as it made my heart ache. Here was a child, only four years old, who already knew how to get everything she wanted. She firmly believed that she deserved these things, and that it was her right to have them. My mind fast-forwarded to the future, picturing this girl at sixteen, demanding iPods, new cars, expensive clothes, and the freedom to do whatever she dared, with no thought for the consequences. I felt such sorrow at the likely future that awaits this little girl that I wanted desperately to stop her mother and say, “Have you ever thought about saying “No”? Who’s the grownup here?”

Later, I ended up behind this pair in the checkout line. The mother left the girl alone in line, while she went to find a forgotten item. It only took a few seconds for this girl to start working on me. “I want that magazine…it has Halloween pictures. I LOVE Halloween…I want that magazine!” I ignored her for awhile, until she began pointedly telling me, “Get me that magazine!” I looked her straight in the eyes and told her firmly that she would have to wait and ask her mother. Her lip stuck out and her brow furrowed, but I was saved the embarrassment of a tantrum by the return of her mother. The girl started in on her mother, who told her, “I already got you gum.” The girl retorted, “I didn’t choose that…you did. I want the magazine!” The mother sighed and reached for the magazine. Upon receiving it, the girl flipped through it and decided it didn’t have any pumpkin pictures in it, so she didn’t want it. I watched as she waved the magazine under her mother’s nose, telling her to put it back. Mom was busy writing a check and studiously ignoring her, so I finally offered to replace it for her. She shoved it at me rudely, turned to the candy rack and started demanding a lollipop. Her mother sighed again and replied, “I’ve already paid…I’ll find you a lollipop at home.” Again, I watched in disbelief as the mother caved in to each demand. They finally began to walk out of the store, when the girl noticed a rack of DVD’s and began demanding a certain one be purchased. The mother kept on walking and got halfway to the door before she realized the girl was not following her. She came back and took the DVD away, telling her, “We’ve already paid. We’ll buy it next time.” As they walked off, the grocery checker exchanged a look with me and just shook her head.

I wish that this were an isolated incident, but I’m afraid it is more the norm these days. Everywhere I go, I see adults catering to their child’s every whim, afraid to say the simple word, “No.” I see children with no respect for authority, believing they are entitled to whatever they want. I see parents arguing with their children, cajoling them instead of showing some authority. I’ve started to wonder, “Where have all the grownups gone?” We have become a generation of parents who are afraid to say no, afraid to discipline our children, being controlled by their every whim. I shudder to think what these children will grow up to be—adults who don’t want to work, don’t have respect for anyone, and who think they are entitled to whatever they want.

If you are a parent, please remember that God has given you the authority to raise and discipline your children. One of my favorite verses in the Bible regarding discipline says this: “Don’t fail to discipline your children. They won’t die if you spank them.” (Proverbs 23:13) Another nugget of wisdom from Proverbs says: “Discipline your children while there is hope. Otherwise you will ruin their lives.” (Proverbs 19:18) God takes our role as parents very seriously…He commands us multiple times to discipline our children carefully. He expects us to act like grownups…not abdicate that role to be controlled and manipulated by our children. We are certainly not doing our children a favor when we give up disciplining them. Instead, we are failing them and condemning them to a life as a perpetual child, without the wisdom and self-control that should come with adulthood. On the contrary, when we love them enough to raise them with love and discipline, God says they will bring us peace and be a delight to our souls. (Proverbs 29:17)

It’s time to step up to the plate…our children and our world are certainly in need of some grownups.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Little Righteous Anger

Note to Readers: In writing this blog, it occurs to me that some of you reading this may have experienced some of the things talked about here. Please understand that my anger is NOT directed at you…only at the culture that leads us to think that premarital sex is okay and not harmful. I know that we are all human, and we all fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). I know that even Christians fall into sexual sin and suffer the heartbreaking consequences of their decisions. I am not judging you, only declaiming the culture that saturates us with immorality and makes it look “normal” and then proceeds to mock anything that is pure and holy. Please know that, whatever you’ve experienced, God offers forgiveness and restoration and can bring good out of any bad situation. If you need someone to talk to about these things, please contact me. I would love to help you find peace and mercy at the cross of Jesus.

I think I’m just going to have to stop reading the news…or else write a whole lot more blogs. Although my usual blogs tend to be feelings-based, and perhaps even warm and fuzzy, this time I’m sitting down to write with the fire of righteous anger burning in my veins. I just read a news story that was on the front page of MSN.com and I have progressed from disbelief to fury in the course of reading this article. To read this article for yourself, click here.

The article is titled “In Defense of Losing Your Virginity” and is written by Martha Brockenbrough. This is an opinion piece regarding an incident which occurred at the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday. Apparently, a comedian named Russell Brand decided it would be funny to ridicule the purity rings worn by the band the Jonas Brothers. Another singer, Jordin Sparks, responded by showing off her own ring and by giving a sharp retort to his tasteless comment. Much controversy has been stirred up and now the “experts” are debating the worth of the new “purity ring” movement.

Ms. Brockenbrough, in her editorial, derides the new custom, saying that the only thing purity rings do is make people (especially parents) feel better about “one of the scariest parts of life”. She believes that many celebrities wear them only to make themselves palatable to the parents of the children who are watching their sexy acts. She goes on to claim that the rings are a “sham” and do nothing to actually prevent teens from having sex (would she prefer a chastity belt?). She further claims that they do “more harm than good” by making something public that should be private. (If it should be private, why is our culture so saturated with the subject?) She also contends that abstinence-based education fails and that kids who choose abstinence are more likely to fail later and to not use contraception. Her exact quote regarding sexual activity in teens is this: “Having sex in a committed relationship does not make a person a slut. It makes a person human.”

Ms. Brockenbrough, I have news for you. Abstinence does work. If we teach our children to not have sex until they are in a marriage relationship and they choose to remain abstinent, as God intended, there will be no unplanned pregnancies, sexual diseases, or the emotional damage that comes with multiple sexual relationships. Just because you (and our culture) are teaching our children that they can’t possibly wait, so we must give them contraception, doesn’t make it true. I know many, many couples who have practiced abstinence and now enjoy beautiful married relationships. Are you telling me that what we did was impossible? Was it hard? Yes…but we believed that it was something so beautiful and special it was worth waiting for…and it was.

Now, about the ring. Is it a magical tool to keep our children pure? Of course not. But it is a very visible reminder when they get into tempting situations. Looking down and seeing that ring and remembering the commitment they made (not in the heat of the moment) can definitely have an effect on the choices they make. It’s about more than virginity. It’s about a decision to honor God and their future spouse with their purity. It’s about deciding to do what is best for their body and for their future marriage relationship. It’s about taking a stand and refusing to listen to a morally depraved culture that says “if it feels good, do it.” If you are married, do you wear a wedding ring? Is it a magical tool to keep you faithful to your husband? Of course not. But it is also a reminder of a vow you took on your wedding day to honor your spouse and give him the gift of your faithfulness. Why is it okay to choose to wear a ring to remind you of that fact, and as a message to others that you are taken, and yet you are making a purity ring an object of ridicule, calling it a “tacky public proclamation of something that could not be more private”? Is that how you feel about wedding rings, too?

Now, I am not na├»ve. I know that giving our children a purity ring will not remove them from the possibility of premarital sex. They are human, and humans make mistakes. But we don’t just give our children a piece of jewelry. We also give them the strength of character to make God-pleasing choices with their bodies, the understanding of why this is important and the parental oversight to protect them from situations they are not ready for. I vehemently disagree with your contention that teens are going to have sex, whether we like it or not. Maybe you think they are little more than animals, but I give my children more credit than that. You claim we need to teach our children self-respect and self-control and that those are more important than virginity. In my book, if you have self-respect and self-control, you are capable of choosing abstinence until marriage as well.

You just go ahead and laugh. This modern idea of sexual freedom and self-indulgence has only spawned heartbreak and broken families and millions of aborted babies. We’ll take the old-fashioned approach of purity and honor; and, if a little piece of jewelry is a tool to help our children on that path, then we’ll gladly subject ourselves to your ridicule.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Change of Season

Fall is definitely in the air. The temperature has cooled, the days are seeming shorter, and the routine of school has settled in. One of my children even told me this week that Christmas is only 3-1/2 months away. As always, the summer seemed too brief and while I dearly love the season of autumn, I don’t feel quite ready for the change of season.

This weekend we enjoyed a wonderful visit from some dear friends. They are a young married couple with two small children and have been part of our adopted family since their college days. Ashley even became a member of our household for a few months, when she lived with us during her final semester in college. We met Ashley at our church when we were seeking a regular babysitter for our three children. She came and spent some time with me, a very natural friendship blossomed, and she became our much loved and trusted babysitter. During a difficult semester for her, we invited her to move in with us and become part of our family. Now, some seven years later, Ashley is a young mom herself, with a wonderful husband and two precious toddlers of her own.

Seeing Ashley mother her sweet girls brought out a whole host of emotions in me. Seeing her all “grown up” and patiently attending to the needs of her daughters, I felt proud. Knowing that I played a small part in her training as a mom, it blessed me immensely to see the wonderful fruit taking place in her life. Her girls, though very young, are impressively polite and well-mannered. Upon meeting my husband, Alan, three-year old Emma stuck out her hand and said, “Pleased to meetcha!” Their obedience to their parents is a beautiful thing to see. Sixteen-month old Sophie, deciding whether or not to obey Mommy and not play in the dog food bowl, took a moment to consider if it was worth the consequences and chose wisely.

Watching my children help take care of Ashley’s children made me nostalgic at the passing of time. As Molly, my fourteen-year old, carried around the baby and helped feed and change her, I remembered Ashley loving on and caring for my small children. Somehow it seems like yesterday that I was the young mom with toddlers, and Ashley the young lady learning how to care for children. Now the roles have changed, and life goes on. Ashley and I laughed as I watched her buckle little ones into car seats in a minivan (“Ill never drive a minivan!” said she not that long ago) and I commented to her, “Wow…You’ve become me!”

Taking meals together brought back a host of memories. As Dan (Ashley’s husband) jumped up repeatedly to take Emma to the bathroom, and Ashley picked up dropped food and answered requests for more without breaking stride in our conversation, my husband and I smiled at each other across the table. It wasn’t that long ago that our meals were interrupted continually by potty breaks and cutting up toddlers’ food. Now we sit down, everyone feeds themselves and washes their own dishes at the end of the meal.

When Ashley lived with us, she would often come home late in the evening to find us slumped on the couch, exhausted, trying to stay awake until a respectable time arrived for us to go to bed (sometimes 9:30!). She would laugh and tease us about being old. Guess who could barely make it until 10 pm this time? We took great delight in teasing her about all the things she teased us about just a few years ago.

Spending time with this precious family also gave me hope for the future. Seeing a young couple who genuinely love each other and love their Lord and who are faithfully training up a new generation to serve Him warmed my heart. Sometimes we look around and see the state of families today (even in the church) and feel discouraged. Seeing Ashley and Dan with a godly vision for their children showed me that God is working in the next generation and that all is not lost.

While I admit to feeling a small bit of sadness this weekend that we are no longer that young couple just starting out in our family life, I feel mostly blessed. I feel blessed that we could have a small part in mentoring this young family, blessed to see God’s faithfulness across the generations, and blessed to see a vision for my children as they grow up and marry and raise children of their own. Yes, my season has changed (and it’s happened more quickly than I ever imagined), but I can see that there are even more beautiful seasons ahead. Thanks, Dan and Ashley, for blessing us so richly this weekend.