Hold Fast to your Ideals

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Intentional parenting is exhausting.
Parenting
I am not a mommy blogger, nor am I a homeschool blogger. Being a homeschooling mommy, however, is a very large piece of my life right now, and every once in a while I need to speak of these things.
Homeschooling
We are at the end of a school year, and I am worn out.
I have been weary and have thus become lax in my parenting.
parenting is hard
I have let behaviors slide that should have been corrected. I have allowed books and shows into our home that sabatoge the lessons of character I want to teach my children. I have not been as intentional about filling our home with Jesus.
parenting is exhausting
This past weekend, my husband and I went to a homeschool conference. Along with the practical helps and the curriculum browsing, I found my vision again.
We all have ideals for our homes. Whether you homeschool or not, whether you have children or not, whether you are married or not, you have a vision for what you want your home to be.
ideals
I have become lazy in reaching for my ideals. There’s not really a way to soften it, although I would love to make excuses for myself.
I was negligent, and especially when it is children’s lives and souls that are at stake, negligence should never be an option.
If negligence is not an option, I must instead find my resolve. I must find the resolve to hold fast to my vision for homeschooling, for parenting, for shaping my home into a small piece of God’s kingdom here on earth.
A lofty goal? Yes, but one toward which I believe God calls all of us to reach.
vision
I am painfully aware that I will never attain this ideal.
I am joyfully aware that God has promised Himself, His Spirit’s help in bringing His kingdom into my home.
God has already won, His kingdom is steadily coming, even while I am still waiting for change to occur.
He has promised that if I will continue to be faithful, He will continue to help me. Even when my children have forgotten everything I’ve ever taught them, even when I yell at them once again, He is with me. He has never failed me.
I must simply take a deep breath
whisper a prayer for forgiveness
a prayer for help
and try again.
Try again to reach for perfection
to reach for Jesus.
I find that He is already here.

Who Am I?

To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

 

I recently stopped nursing our last little one, and it was harder on my emotions than I expected.
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I expected that I would be grateful to have a little extra freedom. I expected that I would be glad to hand over some of the nighttime routine to my husband. I expected that I would be happy to have my body belong only to me again.
I did feel all of those, but only a little.
Overwhelmingly, rather, was a sense of loss. A loss of part of myself, of who I am.
It took me by surprise until I realized that for over nine years I have been either pregnant or nursing. No breaks at all.
Of course that would become a major part of my identity! Nine years is a long time. Almost a decade of being identified as a pregnant or nursing mommy is certainly enough to cement that into who I am as a person.
All of those big emotions (and I am normally not an overly emotional sort of person) made me pause and think hard about who I think I am compared to who I want to be.
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As a mom of four children, eight years and younger, it is so easy for that one piece of me to become my entire identity. I’m a mom. It’s what I do twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Even when I am away from my babies, my thoughts are still full of them.
Yet I recognize that I must be careful. Of course being a mom is and always will be a large part of who I am, but I need to guard carefully against it becoming all that I am.
Someday, after all, these babies will not be babies anymore, and being a mom will not fill up quite so much of my time. Or my house.
I must be careful to keep my heart close to God, to make sure that my primary identity is as His child. He is, ultimately, the most important piece of me, the One who is with me always.
I must take care to remain close to my husband. He will, Lord willing, be my dearest companion still when the children have homes of their own.
I must be mindful of my own self. I need to continue reading, continue learning, continue making my art, continue cultivating deep friendships.
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I believe wholeheartedly that if I lose myself in my children, I and they will be the poorer for it.
Yet that piece of who I am is so consuming that I cannot just drift along and expect to hold on to the rest of my self.
I must be deliberate about caring for the other pieces of me. The more I cultivate all of the fragments of me, the richer and deeper the whole of them will become.
Those of you with children, what do you do, or for those whose children are older, what have you done to keep yourself from getting lost in your identity as a parent? I am still a mother of little ones, and I need your ideas.
I don’t often write about parenting issues, but I supposed that this particular struggle was one that was common to many. I pray that my written thoughts will spark your own heart-searching.
Peace.

Choosing Our Activities

Our world is a busy place.
There is a lot of pressure on young families (very likely on those in other seasons of life as well – I can only speak to what I know) to keep our children as busy as possible. We are presented with a myriad of activities for our kids and are given the impression that we deprive our children if we choose to opt out.
Sports
Your kids won’t be well-rounded! They will fall behind their friends! They won’t learn as much, be as good, become as successful!
Whether the reference is to sports, the arts, languages or STEM, the implication is that if we love our children, we will give them as much chance for success in their later life as we possibly can.
If God is in all things and in Him all things hold together, if we are to view all pieces of our lives through a Christian lens, if there is no separation between sacred and secular, then even the activities we choose for our children should be considered carefully in light of our faith.
Keep them home?
Send them out?
I have heard much lamenting from Christians recently about the busyness of our families, about how we should spend time together in our homes building character into our children rather than ferrying them around from activity to activity.
The argument is that it is much more important for our kids to know and love Jesus than to become successful in the eyes of our culture.
I don’t disagree at all with the impetus behind the lament. I fully believe that to know and love Jesus is the most important thing we can teach our children.
I also believe that it is important to teach our children to show Jesus to the people in their circle of influence.
And there is my dilemma. If the people who see us view us as failures, can they be receptive to what we have to say about Christ?
Science
Art
If God created arts, if philosophy and math are ways of looking at the world He created, shouldn’t we be helping our children to become well versed in such things?
For people who do not know God to respect what we have to say about God, they must also respect us. Yes, much of that will occur when they see how well we love them and each other. But some of that also comes with how successful we are in whatever tasks we set ourselves to accomplish.
So what do we do? What is most important?
Do we keep our families at home, focusing completely on helping them to love God and each other?
Do we sign our kids up for multiple activities, helping them to become successful and thus securing a foundation for their future witness to those around them?
Learn at home
Learn while away
Perhaps the answer lies in a balance between the two. This is often the case in our lives in Christ. We are not often asked to do solely one to the exclusion of the other; maybe that is true here as well.
If we are deliberate about carving out time to spend together as a family, being sure to be intentional in how we teach our children in that time, and also are intentionally wise in choosing a few activities for our children, being sure to consider the God-given passions of each child, then we should be able to fulfill both tasks set before us.
We should be able to help our children both to love God and those around them, and to gain the respect of their future friends and colleagues, laying the foundation of their ability to show Jesus to those around them.
Will you take a turn and share with me? What ideas do you have for not staying too busy as a family and yet at the same time helping your children to succeed?

Using My Mistakes

I am very good at parent guilt.
Parenting
How to parent?
I can second-guess with the best of them.
I have no idea what I'm doing
I enjoy planning out our days (okay, okay, our years), and no matter what decisions I make, I’m usually half convinced they were the wrong ones.
Often I reassure myself with the notion that God can make up for my mistakes, that He can help my precious ones survive in spite of all the poor choices I make.
Yet recently I was struck in the heart with a very different perspective.
God loves them
God can use my mistakes to make my girls into the women He wants them to be.
The idea that God already knows the mistakes I will make with my children and already has plans to use those mistakes to mold my girls into beautiful women who love Him and love others??
Using me
Well.
Using my mistakes
That is beyond beautiful.
It is grace. Pure grace.
It is a breath of freedom, a release from the lie that I have to parent perfectly in order for my children to grow up loving God. Ensuring the end for my children is not my job. My job is to be as faithful as I can and then to relax, being confident in God’s love for my girls.
A love that works for the best for them. A love that not only wants the best for them but is powerful enough to achieve that best.
Loving them
It allows me to be present and just enjoy my girls without having to worry about their future.
Ah.
Let’s go play.
Let's play
I am not sovereign over my children – God is. And God will use every aspect of my human parenting, even my sins and failures, to shape my children into who He desires them to be, for the sake of His kingdom. (Parenting is Your Highest Calling and Eight Other Myths… by Leslie Fields)

Beautiful Law

I think a lot about rules and law these days.
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Why? I have a preschooler and a toddler in the house.
To them, law is restrictive, constraining, unpleasant.
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As I consider how to teach them to obey, I am, once again, brought up short and shamed by the deep places inside of me.
The deep places that agree with my preschooler and my toddler.
I, too, see rules as unpleasant. I sometimes feel constrained by the laws of God.
angry at the law
I have thought about this before, the idea that living under God’s authority gives me the freedom to be truly myself, to be who God created me to be.
Yet I still disobey. I still think of myself as better than others. I still yell in anger at those I love. I still struggle with wanting to spend all day reading rather than taking care of my responsibilities.
frustrated
Why is this so difficult? Why do I view God’s laws as restrictive?
I search God’s Words as I am searching my own heart, and I read David’s words in the Psalms:
My soul is consumed with longing for Your laws at all times.
The law from Your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.
Oh, how I love Your law! I meditate on it all day long.
When I am honest with myself, my difficulty is that I don’t truly believe God. I don’t believe that His way is better, that obeying Him will bring me happiness.
I continually choose my own way and am always disappointed.
mars_hill
While I contemplate this striving, I hear an interview with Gerald McDermott on my Mars Hill Audio Journal, discussing these very ideas, discussing the beauty of law.
McDermott is discussing Jonathan Edwards’ views on God’s laws when he speaks about the beauty of the Triune God who loves His human creation with deep father love, Who wants us to be able to participate in His Being (which is, in itself, astounding and worthy of much more searching and study and writing!). The way that we do this, the way that we are able to participate in the Being of this Triune God is to live the way that God lives.
The way that we do that? We live the way that God lives when we live by His laws, by His teachings, in His ways.
Samantha
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This turns everything upside down and over around on its head. Are you as astonished as I am?
I can live the way that God lives.
If God has given us His law so that we can live like Him, so that we can participate in His Being, then I can no longer view that law as unpleasant or constraining. God is simply giving us the ways that will bring us the deepest, most lasting sort of happiness. God’s law is beautiful!
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God gave them other rules…The rules showed God’s people how to live, and how to be close to Him, and how to be happy. They showed how life worked best. ~ The Jesus Storybook Bible
Teach me, Abba, how to obey. Teach me to believe that Your law is beautiful, that living in Your ways will bring me happiness and will help me to be more fully myself.
Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your law.

Searching for My Next Act of Worship

Worship is central to who we are as disciples of Christ.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritualact of worship. ~ Romans 12.1

Our entire lives are to be acts of worship. In church and during the week, inside our homes and outside in God’s creation, serving the homeless and cleaning my toilet, I am to be offering myself to God in worship. No matter what the task.

I have written about worship here before. Worship is part of our job as priests. We are to echo the praise and adoration of all creation back to the Creator. People are the only part of creation who are able to love God back, who are able to give voice to the wordless praise of all creation.

Worship. 

My heart has been aching over this for several months now. 

A large part of who I am is a musician. Music has been a part of my identity as long as I can remember, and a huge part of that musical identity has, from as early as grade school, been to participate in leading my Family in worship to our Father.
Then I heard God ask me to give that up.

I wasn’t sure I had heard Him correctly. Isn’t this the worship He has always asked of me? To use the gift of music that He gave me to serve His people?

Though I balked, I truly did understand what God was asking of me. He was asking me to stop using my music in our church worship service in order to spend more time with my little ones.

He was asking me to give up using my music as my current act of worship.

This made my heart ache to its very core. How would I worship now? In what aspect could my life still be an act of worship?

Then I listened to a video of Sally Clarkson, from I Take Joy, talk about laying the foundation for your children, for your home. She spoke a truth that I should have understood, one that instantly shot peace through my core.

Raising my children is an act of worship. 

My whole life is to be an act of worship. If God is calling me to give up one particular way of worshiping Him, then what is to take its place? 

Being with my little ones.

I breathe and think through this a little more deeply.

God gave me these babies. He gaveme these babies and asked me to raise them into people who bear His image.

Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. ~ Psalms 127.3

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates… ~ Deuteronomy 11.18-20

Aha.

My children are a gift to me and my husband, primarily to me and my husband. Our most precious task right now is fixing God’s Words in their hearts, setting them on the doorframes and gates of our home.

Raising my little ones is my current act of worship.

Suddenly, my heart is filled with peace and joy. 

No more aching, only a sense of gratitude that God has given me such a beautiful way to worship Him. 

I am filled with a sense of the immensity and importance of this act of worship, filled with the urgency that nothing should stand in the way of this worship during this season of my life.

Suddenly, I am not filled with loss for the act of worship I am giving up (for the present) but am filled with contentment for the fullness of the years of worship ahead of me.

May I be intentional about building our home on His Words. May I be purposeful about fixing God’s Words in the hearts and minds of my little ones. May I throw all my being into building our home on Christ Himself. May I let no other good thing distract me from this beautiful worship, from this making our lives sacred.

This. This is my living sacrifice, my sacrifice of praise. In this breathtaking and wondrous season of my life, this is my spiritual act of worship.