pressing on through weariness

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:9-10). 

These past couple weeks have been wearying. There are the early mornings, the doctor appointments (and PT appointments and dentist appointments and on and on), and other physical demands of caring for 4 small children – and on top of that, seasonal allergies have arrived here in mid-Missouri. Beyond that, there is the emotional and spiritual exhaustion of parenting. I so often feel so inadequate to be the mother my children need.

And yet…I am the mother God has given them, and they are the children with which He has blessed me. I have no doubt that He is growing each of us through our interactions with each other.

A couple weeks ago, we watched the movie Inside Out again, and we’ve since had some good conversations about when Riley made the best choices, whether it was when anger was in control, or when she was feeling her other emotions, too. Most of the conversations have involved my teaching my kiddos, but one day, Miranda said to me, “Mom, you are letting anger control your choices right now.” And I was. And the intensity of my emotions dissipated immediately, and I apologized, and we moved on.

That’s a lot of what we do these days – moving on, putting one foot in front of the other, and pressing on. It’s all we can do really. In the harder moments, I’ve been thinking about the Bible verses, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5). So much of parenting is true joy, but there is also the pain of seeing your children make bad choices, of leading them toward righteousness and seeing them turn away. Some days, I just feel done by 2:00. But done or not, we’ve got hours left before Matt arrives home, and I need to press on, and I hope that I am growing in my ability to endure well and growing in character. I hope that my children are, too, though it’s sometimes hard to see that in the small, day-to-day interactions. Yesterday afternoon one of my precious children told me angrily that she didn’t see why she had to clear her plate from the table after lunch – it was a waste of her time, and she didn’t used to have to do it herself. We talked about growth and building character. I’m not sure she believes it to be worth it at this point, but we’ll keep calling her to that standard.

There are many days on which I feel like my level of spiritual endurance is approximately equivalent to that of a six-year-old who resists at every turn the policy that she clear her things from the table after a meal. I want to grow, though. I want to have endurance, character, and hope. I want not to grow weary of doing good. I want to have hope that my children will grow to be kind, loving, and thoughtful human beings who follow the Lord. I want to trust that He is working in both them and me for good through these hard parenting times, and I want to do what He’s calling me to do as their mom.

And as God brings us to your mind in the coming days and weeks, please pray for us to that end.

the winter of our discontent?

Okay, so it’s not even winter yet. But it feels like it – at least in that we have already been hit with all sorts of winter-type illnesses. Over the last few weeks, pink eye, a double ear infection, colds, and two different stomach bugs have taken up residence in our home.

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Also, just as I was finishing the laundry created by the first stomach bug, our washer breathed its last, so we are currently without in-house laundry capability.

In the midst of those circumstances, it’s easy for me to settle into a season of discontent, winter or not. Elisabeth Elliot defines suffering here as, “having what you don’t want or wanting what you don’t have.” Under that definition, this is certainly a time of suffering in our family. I certainly don’t want to be holding my daughter’s hair back as she dry heaves over a bowl, nothing left in her little body to throw up. I’m not particularly interested in being awake for 3 hours in the middle of the night with a baby whose stuffy nose prevents him from sleeping, nursing, or experiencing the comfort his pacifier would bring.

As I settled into bed last night, I was reading Romans 5:3-5:

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

My thoughts have continued to return there throughout the day today. It seems obvious that suffering produces endurance. As a mom, I have no real options. Whether I want to be awake at 3:00 a.m. or not, that’s the path set out for me, and there’s no choice but to walk in it – put one foot in front of the other, sing one more song, add one more load of laundry to the pile awaiting the delivery of our new washer later this week.

And endurance does seem likely to produce – or, at the very least, reveal – character. Forced to persevere in difficult circumstances, we can become bitter, or we can grow in our ability to endure, to press on, and to work through adversity.

I pondered throughout the day, though, how it would be that endurance would produce character and character produce hope. On the surface, hardship and suffering seem more likely to lead to discouragement than to hope. Bitterness is a distinct possibility. Verse 5 in this passage seems to be key – we can grow in hope, “because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” We can live in light of God’s love, in dependence on the Spirit in us.

Throughout trials, I can remind myself of the truths God speaks to us in Scripture. I can remember what Moses tells the Israelites as he bids them farewell – “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). God is with me and with my suffering children always, just as He was with the Israelites thousands of years ago. I can trust that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble,” and I need “not fear though the earth gives way” (Psalm 46:1). I can pray for His grace as I comfort my oldest in her misery, as I seek to coax my baby back to sleep, and at the end of the evening as I want nothing more than to relax on the couch but really need to lean in toward my middle child, who is seeking reassurance of my love and care for her in the form of the attention she’s been missing all day long as I’ve cared for her sick siblings.

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It’s not a given that suffering will produce endurance, character, and ultimately hope. But I pray that I will live – and suffer – in a way that makes it a reality in my life.

Home-Schooling 2014-2015 – Year in Review

As of yesterday, we have finished our 2014-2015 school year! Miranda completed her pre-k year and Madeleine CaiQun her pre-school year.

"Why, yes, Mom, we'd love to pose for a 'last day of school' picture for you!"
“Why, yes, Mom, we’d love to pose for a ‘last day of school’ picture for you!”

The work they did was sometimes in line with those grade levels, sometimes not (for more on our curriculum choices for the year, see this post), but everyone worked where they were at and grew, which, I think, will always be our goal!

Hand-writing is an easy area in which to see progress, and this morning I was looking back at some of the girls’ early work and was encouraged to see how they have grown. It can be hard, in the day-to-day, to notice the ways in which they are learning and growing, but looking back over the course of the year, I can definitely see it!

Madeleine CaiQun really could not write recognizable letters on her own at the beginning of the school year, and now she can write her name (though she still needs help remembering what all the letters are toward the end)!

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Note also the addition of “Anna” to her name – we’re just slightly obsessed with Frozen these days!

And here is a sample of Miranda’s copywork from week 4, followed by some of her copywork from week 34!

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Miranda has been practicing reading, and CaiQun is ready to start reading out loud, which is definitely exciting for this book-loving mom! Both girls have grown in their understanding of math and numbers, as well. We’ve all been memorizing some Scripture together (we’re trying to finish up 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 right now). Another cool development has been the lengthening of their attention spans, such that we are able to read longer chapter books now. All in all, I’ve really enjoyed doing school work with them this year.

Of course, character is king, and our big growth areas continue to be kindness, gentleness, and self-control. We’re working on it!

I took the girls out for ice cream last night to celebrate the completion of our school year 🙂

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When asked what her favorite part of the year was, Miranda replied enthusiastically, “Math!” That’s also what she reports she is most looking forward to about our upcoming school year. This girl loves her math 🙂 She says her favorite book that we read this year is our final science book, Why Do Tigers Have Stripes, in particular the part about panthers. I asked CaiQun what her favorite part of this past year was, and she told me it was, “L, because I like doing the down and then the over.” Funny girl 🙂 She said she was too busy eating to talk to me about what she was most looking forward to about next year or about her favorite book from this year. Overall, though, some of the books both girls really enjoyed were all of our science books and The Milly-Molly-Mandy Storybook.

I’m also thoughtful about what I’ve learned about teaching my kiddos this year. It really isn’t a problem to do school with Atticus around (which I’d been worried about before he arrived!), but I need to be careful not to start something new with the girls when he’s getting fussy but instead to wait until I’ve gotten him to a good place. Both of the girls like having choices – choices about what work to do first, which books to read first, what writing implement to use. Miranda responds best to my setting out my expectations in some external way from the beginning – if I give her a list of all the work she’ll need to accomplish on any given day, it goes over better than just telling her verbally (CaiQun likes having a list, too, but I think that’s mostly just because Miranda has one). And sometimes, even if they have choices and have their lists, things don’t go well. My personality is to love checklists and love challenges, so I need to be thoughtful, in those moments, about whether I’m pushing too hard and setting us up for problems or whether they’re being rebellious and need to be shepherded through that.

We’re all learning together, and I’m looking forward to diving into our next school year with my girls! Kindergarten and pre-k, here we come!