Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Confessions of an Abiding Mom Wannabe

A couple months ago, I came across a blog that posted 10 days of Homeschool Enrichment.  I printed it out and thought it would be a good exercise; after all, why not start out enriched?

As I expected, it was helpful in figuring out my "plan" in regards to homeschooling.  I love a good plan, a good checklist, a good map to lay out the journey.  Marc and I worked together to set up a written discipline plan to take the stress out of discipline (this has worked so well!).  I visioned the whys and whats, I prayerfully wrote a vision statement and attempted to lay out a general plan for each day.

What I did not expect was to be stopped dead in my tracks on day two, to find myself at a loss for words as I examined my own heart and fell in repentance before the Lord.  What I did not expect was this:
(*note for better viewing, please click on image and it will take you to the original blog post)

Guys, seriously, I sat in my easy chair in the corner of my bedroom in silence as I looked at this chart.  I long ago learned I am not a super mom and if asked, I would definitely say/have said that I was using the term tongue-in-cheek and had no such aspirations; but, as I read through her comparison of Super Mom vs. Abiding Mom, my heart sort of broke.  I had much to repent that day and daily every since.  How often my disposition is affected by the storms of life.  I want my kids to be godly, truly I do...and yet so often I am most concerned with them being "good".  My perspective is so often based on what is seen.  I  am discouraged by failure.  I expect perfection of myself.
I have to tell you, this was most convicting not because of my blog title (though let's be honest it was poetic justice), but because one of my favorite books ever is Abiding in Christ by Andrew Murray.  I read it 17 years ago and knew I wanted my life to be marked by abiding.  Yet, when I saw this comparison laid out in this way I realized how self-sufficiency creeps into so many areas of my life and my motherhood.
I know the homeschool aspect of this journey is such a small piece, just a tool He is using at the moment.  God is graciously directing me to a new place with Him. In some ways perhaps I strayed a bit, but in most ways, I think He is always growing us, leading us, taking us into deeper intimacy with him.  That is what I ask Him for, and I believe He is answering in new ways, bringing me to a deeper level of dependence and surrender.  He is opening my eyes in new ways...Oh! that they would stay open to what He has to show me!
It is often said that in scripture and life, when something is repeated, it is important.  At the moment, I feel like God has been repeating or reinforcing the same message.  I better be getting it!  I just finished a short, little, recently published, former ebook, titled Teaching From Rest . It's a great quick read, that packs a powerful punch.  It's final section deals out homeschool suggestions, but I swear she should take it out and just publish it under "Parenting from Rest".  It is so good and reinforced what God has continued to whisper to my heart about simplicity, getting my agenda from Him, being present in the now....ABIDING.
"Before we attempt to live a day well, teach our children, or tackle our to-dos, first we put the whole thing at His feet.  We beg God to use us to fulfill His purpose, and then we see that every frustration in the day ahead is an answer to that very prayer."
Every frustration an answer to prayer?  How desperately I want to go through my days with that proper perspective:  to realize that everything that crosses my path is fulfilling HIS purposes, not mine.  That He is refining me and simultaneously using me to show His love and grace to my kids, to neighbors, to slow cashiers at Target, to the McDonalds attendant who gives me ice tea instead of coke....everything.
"Most of my own frustration comes from forgetting what my real task is in the first place.  He's called me to be faithful, yet I am determined to be successful."  Faithful looks so different that what the world tells us defines success.  He has asked me to be a good steward of my time, of my children, of my talents.  He hasn't asked ME to perform miracles, He's got that job sealed up lock, stock, and barrel.  He wants to be God and wants me to be...well, me;)  I just need to bring Him what I have, my proverbial  "Five loaves of bread and two fish", and HE will stretch it, expand it, and work miracles.
Marc and I have so clearly felt led to pull back, simplify, focus on relationships, to exchange busyness for rest and chaos for peace; yet almost every day I have to catch myself from adding more into our lives.  It is so hard to keep my eyes focused on what He has laid out for us; it's so easy to look around and fall trap to the comparison that kills contentment, peace, and joy.   I see so many things others are doing, so many GOOD things.  I know my kids could be speaking other languages, taking more classes, and obtaining more skills and sometimes when I hear others giving these things to their kids, I feel like maybe I am failing.  I feel like my kids are missing out.  I see people thriving in ministry and I start to question whether I am contributing enough; if I am honest, one of my BIGGEST struggles is wondering if OTHER people think I am doing enough.  I buy into the worlds deceitful definition of success.   I worry what man women think of me and my contributions to church, bible study, our neighborhood, friendships, our homeschool community.   I am prone to worry and yet all God has asked of me is to be faithful to what HE has called me to- not to what He called someone else to;)  When I look to the left or right, I find anxiety and discontent.  Yet, when I keep my eyes on Him, when I am abiding in Him?  That is where I find that indeed His yoke IS easy and His burden IS light.
"Jesus did not do it all.  Jesus didn't meet every need.  He left people waiting in line to be healed.  He left one town to preach to another.  He hid away to pray.  He got tired.  He never interacted with the vast majority of people on the planet.  He spent thirty years in training and only three years in ministry.  He did not try to do it all.  And yet, He did everything God asked Him to do." (Quote in this book from another one- Kevin DeYoung in Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem.)

Hi my name is Kim and yes, I am a recovering successoholic and a former supermom wannabe; but He knows my name, my make up and my heart.  He calls me beloved daughter.  He leads me beside the still waters.  He restores my soul.  In Him, I will abide.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Two Years of being complete

Two years ago today we completed our family.  Our precious son Christian came home FOREVER.

It's amazing to look back and see how he's grown.  It's hard to remember what our life was like before he was in it.  It's no secret, the kid is about as cute as they come.  I don't know if I've ever met a more photogenic child.  What you can't necessarily see in pictures are his sweet heart.  his silly spirit, or his generosity.  He has had to learn that adults are to be respected and obeyed.  He's put in lots of work learning to respect boundaries and though he has so much yet to learn, it's really amazing to stop and celebrate how much he has grown internally as well as externally.  The kid is WHIP smart.  He has always stunned us with his ability to communicate.  Even before he could speak English we were astounded at how well he could use motions to communicate his needs.  Now he speaks English so well, sometimes he stuns me with how well he can articulate his needs, feelings, or the description of a situation.  Sometimes I wonder if God hasn't gifted him specifically in this area to communicate God's love with others some day.  Christian struggles to respect boundaries, but he also rarely draws his own.  His is welcoming, affectionate, and seriously more generous than any kid I've ever known.  He is loving.  Anyone who knows him has been a recipient of his hugs.  Few people leave our house without receiving one.  Sure, sometimes he has trouble restraining himself when it isn't appropriate to express certain things and we are teaching him to reign in some of his emotions, but we pray we never stifle him;  the way he lives life with fullness is inspiring.  Every person in this family knows we are loved.  He runs into my room every single morning before doing anything else and gives me a giant hug and tells me "I love you, Mama."  He loves pizza so much that every time we have it delivered he hugs the unsuspecting delivery guy (sometimes I order pizza just to witness the hilarity of a 16 year old boy ringing our doorbell only to be immediately accosted by our little guy hugging him saying, "Pizza!  Thank you!"  It's a riot!)

Parenting him has stressed us beyond what I thought was possible.  God has taught me much about surrender.  Has taught me what it means to love even when it hurts.  Has taught me to push through moments of Christian's rejection and keep loving until he learned I was safe.  In the process I have learned more about the depth of God's unending, pursing, faithful love for me.

I am better for being Christian's mama.  Our family is better because he is in it.  Two years in, we are able to start seeing some of his healing.  We have settled into normality.  I feel like I am not just treading water, but on some days actually SWIMMING;)  We are seeing more and more beauty arrive from the ashes of loss for him.  He has some sensory issues and still has some anxiety that presents much like ADD in certain situations.  He'll have much more growth in his little life and I feel so privileged to be called his mother and be able to hold his hand through the difficulties and witness success.  He is just amazing.

Today we celebrated.  We call this "Family Day" because it is the day our family was completed.

We had Haitian food.  Rice and Beans, which are seriously amazing (that's what sautéing beans in bacon fat does to a recipe), Grilled Chicken, Plantains, and for dessert banana fritters (which aren't the prettiest, but they are AMAZING).

Yes, we are aware that the chicken is extra charred...we had a little fire in the grill and the sauce was fuel to the flame;)

Little man got to use a Haitian Map placemat and our "special day" plate.
Banana Fritters

Our sugar monster loved the Fritters best of all;P
What a difference two years makes!

2013 or 2015...the boy loves to look sharp;)



Saturday, September 19, 2015

Yet again, I realize my Cup Overflows

This week we had our first homeschool community day.  We'll go once a week to kick off the work for the week ahead.  We have a short devotional time and then the kids split into smaller groups to get their memory work, do a science experiment, and an art project; we all gather back together to have lunch and recess.  In the afternoon, Ava and I attend a pretty intensive writing program.  Those are the facts in a brief overview.  I am having a more difficult time finding words to express the feels.
 Morning Meeting

 (just so you can see what they are staring at- I know you were a wonderin' ;)
 Phin putting his timeline cards in order
Little miss lovin' her class;)

I wrote in a previous post about the angst I had in making the decision to homeschool.  I shed tears; I lost a good deal of sleep.  It felt like God was asking too much.  I argued with God that I already give and give and give- why was he asking me for more?  Once the decision became clear, I did have a peace that this was what God had planned for us this year, but I also was daily having to give him my fears of the unknowns, my insecurities, my selfishness, and fears.  Now that we are in it- I feel like I am overwhelmed with a joy that is hard to articulate.  I am overwhelmed with God's provision in meeting needs that I didn't even know to express- needs I didn't necessarily know were needs at all.

We started math and reading three weeks before our community started.  We've had a great deal of fun and I have had so many moments of wondering what I was so afraid of?!!  Indeed, as I felt God telling my heart in the decision process, he has been restoring a joy to my motherhood that I have struggled to reclaim since adding a fourth kid and a autoimmune disorder;P  It's been lovely.  I have pondered many a thing in my heart over those three weeks:  I am more capable that I gave myself credit for.  I have really amazing friends, who know me and my kids well, that have given me really good advice in structuring our day and our curriculum in ways that flow with who we are as a family, with who I am as a mom.  I know I avoided many a pitfall because of their experience and loving advice.  God really does give us strength in our weakness, and help us embrace the way he's uniquely crafted us!  I have gotten the best of my kids each day instead of exhaustion.  I've been able to rejoice in seeing my kids learn new things! 

I was terrified of teaching Chloe to read.  What a cool thing to see her going from frustration to mastery with each phonetic sound.  We've done really fun art with our letters and we shook the heck out of a pint of cream while saying, "b-b-b-b-butter" til we were giddy with laughter and had sore arm muscles.

Phineas is sharp as a tack and loves to show off.  I've been able to get him excited about math using Skylander guys instead of counting bears.  We've added, subtracted, and sorted Skylanders and I love that he looks so forward to our one on one time.

Ava has performed just as I expected.  She is driven and self motivated and loves to learn.  She really wanted to study Revelation.  I thought it was crazy, but then I found a Kay Arthur precept study for kids and I LOVE that she is really learning to study the bible and we get to look up questions together.  I love reading aloud with her and finding out how much she already knows about so many things from her insatiable desire for books. 

Christian in going to preschool three days a week, but the other two days, we get to work on his sorely lacking fine motor skills and incorporate him into our learning time.  Instead of being a distraction, he is (on MOST days anyway) a delight to have along on the journey.

I am so pleased with our homeschooling decision;  the joy of the first three weeks felt like gift enough.  Truly the way I am wired, lends to stressful moments trying to get kids to school and keep up with each teachers requirements.   The reprieve really has released me of much of that stress and is therefore beneficial to my littles!  All of that would have been MORE than enough, but God loves to show off.  We had community day and I left in tears- joyful tears.  It was so much fun.  A few moms are paid tutors to kick of the weeks memory work and I was so humbled by how much work they put into it.  Phin is in a class of ALL boys and his tutor had them learn while doing obstacle courses.  They were engaged and had a great time. Chloe was glowing.  What really set my heart aflame, however, was the afternoon of writing class with Ava.  First, it's really special to have a room of mamas and daughters working together.   Second, I have NEVER seen Ava so comfortable with a group of people in a school setting since preschool and it was DAY ONE.  She just fits.  They girls all get along so well.  There is kindness and laughter and joy.  I could see clearly see God putting her in a place that takes away the anxiety she is naturally prone to.  She is an overachiever and she already over achieves.  This is a one room school philosophy and they went over that with the girls, so it's just about working together and embracing strengths and that they are each at different level and it is OKAY.  There is no competition.  She had a hard time shaking the "new girl" label when we moved here- NOT because of other children (at all!) but because she labeled herself as "new" and "outside".  It took a year and other new kids coming to work through it;)  It was lovely to see her growth and rejection of that label.  Instead she labeled herself "friend" and made plenty. 

Ava's new compadres

And you guys!  Can I tell you about the other mamas?  I LIKE them..a lot.  I totally have a gazillion friendship crushes.  I think they are some lifelong friends in this group.  I cannot wait to get to know them better!

I am not obtuse to hard days ahead.  Yet,I am challenged by unconscious ways I define God when he asks me to step out of my comfort zone.  Why do I automatically assume it is going to be horrible?  There are times he calls us to hard things, but he also grows us for our GOOD.  He is my father who wants GOOD things for me...and yet in moments of change, I realize I have some room to grow in the area of TRUST.  He is always faithful.  He carries me when it's hard.  Why is it so hard to trust?!  Once again, he has blown my mind.  His ways are so much higher than mine.  Yes, on the surface, I have almost zero "me" time (I do have some- don't worry;), but he's restored a part of my spirit that means infinitely more than a couple extra hours of reading or rest.  I feel like I opened a gift of more time with my children in these really fleeting years.  Ava daily asks me to please not just homeschool for a year but forever (I always tell her we will do each year what God leads us to do:).  Phin says he loves homeschool but can we have more boys (the answer is "no").  Chloe doesn't know much different but is just blossoming.

*I just want to reiterate again in this blog post, that this is more about being where God wants us than homeschool itself.  I do not believe homeschooling is the only way.  I know mamas in public school, private school, and homeschool whose families are just where God wants them!