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When You’re Struggling With Bitterness

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; Hebrews 12:15

Bitterness has a habit of sneaking into the door of our hearts when we’re looking at personal injustice rather than the cross of Jesus. 

forgiveness

We have all been there: a rejection, an injustice, or an offense that left us angry or hurting. No matter how level we are, or how thick our skin is, we sometimes deal with unfair situations that wound us. Such is life.

What matters more, however, is how we respond. Bitterness can silently move in and put down roots without us realizing it.

How do we know bitterness has become an issue for us? Here are some things I’ve noticed from personal experience:

  • We dwell on the injustice, nurturing the offense, playing it over and over in our minds. Ever catch yourself talking out loud about it, telling the person why they were wrong?
  • We allow it undue influence in our life, dominating our thoughts more often than it should, sending us into an internal tailspin, or impacting our relationships.
  • It brings destruction and sin. We begin gossiping, harboring ill thoughts toward others, etc. I believe it opens us up to be more susceptible to temptation with other sins as well.
  • We become self-focused instead of Christ focused. Ultimately, we put our focus and attention on ourselves or our circumstances instead of on Christ, which is always a recipe for disaster.

I am thinking now of two instances where people have hurt me directly or indirectly and I realized weeks, months, and even years later that a root of bitterness had grown in me. It can be easy to miss at first, but it needs to be dealt with.

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:31-32

forgiveness

So what can we do to uproot bitterness? 

  • Acknowledge it. Realizing we’re struggling with bitterness and how damaging it can be is a big step in the right direction!
  • Confess and repent of anything in the situation that is our part, including any time we have spent nurturing that bitterness to feed our sense of justice. Pray to God and ask forgiveness, and talk about it with someone you trust!
  • Overlook an offense. Sometimes the offense is something we can overlook. The scripture teaches us to do this, and it certainly brings peace for us! This may take practice, but it’s a worthy thing to build into our character. Remember that everyone has baggage and struggles, and ultimately it’s between them and God.
  • Be willing and available to forgive and/or reconcile – scripture seems to clearly link forgiveness to confession and repentance. But what if that’s not happening? Our part is to have a humble heart open to giving forgiveness if/when sincere repentance comes. It is open to reconciling and, with discretion and wisdom, possibly restoring the relationship. But our part is to have a heart that is willing to take part in whatever redeeming work God has in store for the relationship.
  • Pray for them. It’s not easy sometimes, but praying for those who have hurt us is a healing work, a service to them, and honors our Lord. A friend once told me she prays three things for those people in her life: blessing, peace, and protection. It’s a valuable habit, these three prayers. They teach us much about what control we might trying to hold onto and what we really believe about how God answers the prayers of His people. You cannot hold onto bitterness against someone when you are sincerely praying for them.
  • Continually choosing to trust God. This is what all that is about, right? Trusting God with our hearts, with fairness and justice, with the relationship and what might happen, with the person who hurt us, and with how our prayers will be answered. In uncertainty and disappointment, God is our Rock and Redeemer! He is the One in whom we can entrust the whole tangle of relationships and emotions mixed up with sin and selfishness. Continue to lay it all at His feet and soon you will find it has been released from your burdens!
  • Fixing our eyes on Christ and dwelling on His goodness, capturing every thought. Oh that we might do this in all things and in all circumstances! When we feel bitterness and resentment creeping up and sneaking in, capture it and hold it up to the light of Christ! Focus your heart on the truth of scripture and on His everlasting (and right here right now) goodness! Shove bitterness away and draw near to God.

Lord, thank You for Your goodness and Your love! Please show us any wicked way in us, including bitterness and strife. Help us to confess and repent of any time we have spent harboring bitterness. Give us pliable and humble hearts toward You, and help us to have a willingness to let go and trust completely in Your plans and Your timing. Be with us and remind us to pray for those who have hurt us, releasing in our hearts all of it to You in your perfect love and holiness. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

Where Forgiveness Happens Healing Begins

Where does forgiveness happen?

We were riding in the car as tears were streaming down my face. Our marriage was in sticky spot. We’ve been in sticky spots before, but it seems like the challenge to work through it doesn’t necessarily get easier.

forgiveness

We had both been busy and were starting to feel like two ships passing in the night. Our conversations seemed to consist only of what needed to get done, how tired we were and wondering when we might get relief from some of our burdens. There was really no romance and each other’s presence seemed to only represent more stress added to our days.

We had planned an overnight get away hoping to reconnect, but sometimes when we are in those sticky spots, reconnecting feels so far out of reach that you feel pretty sure it will be impossible. There was just too much “stuff” to wade through.

A few days before we left, I began to pray that God would go ahead and prepare the way for us…that the trip would truly be refreshing and somehow, by some miracle, my husband and I could actually reconnect in a very real and powerful way.

I prayed over my own heart because I KNEW I had a critical spirit toward my husband. It was wrong, but I didn’t know how to change my attitude toward him. My only hope was for God to step in and work.  

Over our 28 years of marriage, we have had many, many uncomfortable discussions. The worst ones were the ones I didn’t pray over first and then unloaded a ton of emotional baggage on my husband. Eventually, we came to a resolve, but the process was sometimes unnecessarily hurtful. I’ve learned it’s better to bathe those conversations in prayer and work through some of my emotions with God first.

So as we rode in the car, I chose my words carefully and used as few words as possible. I wan’t afraid of long pauses in the conversation and I didn’t feel the need to make sure my point was heard.  You know what? God did exactly what I asked Him to do. My husband verbalized the very things I would have brought up and his plan to deal with them. The tears flowed as I absorbed my husband’s loving words toward me AND the fact that God had worked on my behalf and I didn’t need to fret over it…not for one minute.

As I had prayed over this sticky spot, God had cultivated in me a heart of forgiveness toward my husband BEFORE our conversation even began. Because I had waited on the Lord and was unhurried in my journey toward resolve, there was  time and space for the Holy Spirit to do the work he needed to do in my husband. The walls between us toppled and we spent that time away truly enjoying each other.

forgiveness

Marriage is probably the relationship that most requires a spirit of forgiveness. The Enemy wants to destroy godly marriages and we must be courageous enough to stand firm, wrestling with our own desire to do things our way.

I haven’t always done the right thing in our marriage, but forgiveness made a way. That kind of forgiveness only comes from the One it originates with. Jesus was our greatest example.  Because of Him we have the power to truly forgive…and where forgiveness happens, healing begins.

“That” Child: their raging, our exhaustion and Oreo cookies!

Rage. It’s very intense, and it’s embarrassing when it’s happening to you, you can’t believe it. I know as a young mother, I was like “I didn’t sign up for this, this isn’t what I wanted”. I couldn’t believe that it was happening, and I always wanted to go “Shh! Shh shh!” when it was happening. And I’ll be honest, it happened a lot.  My oldest son was my original “that” child, I had that one first, and I learned so much for which I am retrospectively grateful, but at the time I was just mortified at the way he’d rage.

that child rage

If you have a ‘that’ child that’s doing this raging, I want you to know this: you’re not alone.  Say it with me: NOT ALONE. There are others of us that have these kids that just rage, and we don’t understand it, and it’s kinda terrifying. But I want to tell you this: they’re not broken…

What I know now, and I didn’t know then, is that often they’ve just got so much bottled up inside of them. So many ideas, so much they want to say, so much they want to do, so much frustration, so much creativity. It can all just bottle up in their little body and they don’t know how to navigate all that.

My volcano

I would actually describe Charles, when he was younger, as the proverbial volcano. And he would blow all the time, it was completely unpredictable. And yes, it had seismic consequences for the rest of us when he’d do it. But it was not unusual for him to rage not just once a day, but multiple times a day.

I remember one day in particular, he was two and a half and his next sibling, younger brother Anderson, was just a baby. I had just changed Anderson on the floor in our bedroom where I had this little changing station. Charles went into a rage and actually ran into the bedroom where that baby was on the floor and locked the door. I was terrified, because I didn’t know what he might to do the baby on the floor. I was shaking trying to get the latch to unlock the door to get in there. I’m so grateful he didn’t even try to do anything to the baby but he was running around the room just screaming…

Mom, you have to know that you’re not alone if that’s happening to you. Not even close to being alone.  At the time when he would go into these rages, he would yell and scream these things that didn’t make any sense. Like something had gone off inside him and he couldn’t stop. I felt very compassionate towards him, I felt like I needed to do something in that moment to help him, I didn’t think it would be healthy for him to just continue to run around in circles. So what I did, and what seemed to be very effective with him at the time, is I’d take him into my arms to restrain him even in the midst of his yelling and screaming. I would sit on the floor with him, and put my hands between one of his legs, and I’d put my arm down to hold my leg, and I’d just rock him back and forward and he would just yell and scream and yell and scream and all I knew to do was to sing to him.  

Just sing

There we would sit, Charles in a rage, and I would sing “Peace perfect peace”, I would sing “holy holy holy”, I would sing “Jesus loves me” and just rock him. Sometimes it took every verse of every hymn I could think of in that moment… it did work though and he would finally let go. I’m guessing you know what that’s like mom, if you have one of these kids. You know that’s what they do.  

He just had to let it run its course and completely wear himself out. And on the other side of it he was just physically… done and just completely drained. We would both be crying by the time it was done because it’s just so intense for both of us. I know that if this is happening at your house its intense for you too. I wish I could just give you a hug, mama, I wish I could just somehow assure you with more than just my words through a screen. But I want to tell you this: you’re not alone and its not your imagination.  

What you need to make sure  that you’re communicating in those moments with ‘that’ kid is that you love them, and that you’re on their team. You want to be as much of a calming effect as you can possibly be.  Yelling?  Screaming at them?  Thats only going to make it worse. That’s not blessing them, that’s not helping them, that’s not meeting them where they are.  

One of the wonderful things I love about scripture and Jesus in the New Testament throughout the gospels is He always met the people where they were.  I mean that’s glorious! Obviously, there were occasions like the sermon on the mount where the people came to Him, but there were so many other examples where He actually met the another person right where they were.

I think when our kids are raging, we should step back and imagine what its like to be them. Haven’t you ever wanted to throw a fit?  Haven’t you ever wanted to throw yourself in the middle of the floor and just yell and scream because things aren’t going your way?  Of course you have, just like I have! What we need to give to them in that moment is a whole lot of compassion, and a whole lot of grace.  Just like our Father gives us in our ugly moments. Just be there with your precious child,  in that moment.  

Hold them, calm them.  Don’t contribute to it!  Because you know what?  They can’t, they just cant…

Accept it

I don’t know if this will terrify you or encourage you, but I want to tell you that, generally with “that” child, it doesn’t necessarily go away with age.  It might morph become a more sophisticated rage.  As they age it’s probably not so much the yelling and screaming and running around in circles. Often it becomes this emotional pit that you just can’t believe you’re in the middle of. I mean surely I’m speaking to somebody out there when I say that nobody prepared me for a twelve year old boy. They can be so incredibly challenging. They’ve still got all those ideas, They’ve still got all those frustrations. They’ve still got all of this energy, and now they’ve got all the hormones too. God has wired them this way, and one of the primary things they need from us is our acceptance. They need to know that we get them. If we’re continually fighting with them about the way God made them, what does that say about God? What does that say about them? What does that say about us?

I think the most powerful thing we can do for them is to really be for them and with them in that moment.

My current “that” child and I had a moment earlier this summer where he just took a left turn and started spinning out of control. Everyone was against him and everyone was mad at him, and nobody understood him. (Side note: I think that language is a cue to us moms, the “Everybody”, “always”, ”never”, “nobody”, “all the time”, “every time”, and it just keeps going on and on. You and I know it’s not true, but they can’t think it through.)  So in this moment, he couldn’t think clearly and he couldn’t stay on topic. He kept coming back to something that didn’t matter over and over and over.

It was well past my bedtime when it started, I was literally in my pajamas. He had had a conflict with his brother in another room, and he comes into my room angry.  At this point I’m halfway to sleep, eight o’clock is my bed time so I was out. But Davis and I got up so we could engage. You can’t really engage when you’re horizontal. So we’re up, and we’re just keep cycling and going through the same thing over and over.  And Davis was speaking at a conference first thing in the morning so I said, “Look, you need to go to bed. I’m here”  

I literally sat on the floor with my child for two and a half hours. I was telling him how much I love him, going through that same conversation over, and over, and over and over. I sat there, in my pajamas, into the night because that’s what we get to do.  Did you catch that? Thats what we get to do. We get to be with them in that moment of total and utter frustration. We get to be with them and show them love and compassion.

We get to experience the holy sovereign God’s mighty patience with us, that we know we don’t have in that moment.  

Trust me, when this starts happening, I want to yell and scream myself. I really do.  I want to get all frustrated, and say things that should never be said. But when I don’t do those things, I get to experience the holy spirit coming, and giving me strength I don’t have in and of myself. You know what I’m doing the whole time? I’m praying “God give me discernment, God give me grace, give me eyes to see what I cant see, open my ears to what I can’t hear.”

When we do that with that kid, we’re communicating a level of love to them that is just immeasurable and invaluable.  So I want to invite you to reframe this. I get that it’s frustrating. Lets just all admit it and give that one a big hug. But the God of the universe has a plan to shape you through this, and to shape that child through this.  

I have been so shaped through this, I am sooo grateful.  I am so grateful, if I had never had “that” child, I would’ve thought I was a fabulous mom. If I had only ever had my other kids that are compliant, and obedient, I would’ve thought I was amazing! I would’ve had more judgement than anybody should ever have for anybody else because I would’ve thought it was all about me and my skills as the world’s greatest mom. It has been through having “that” child, that God has taught me and He’s broken me.

I now know all I have is Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Heavenly Father to help me do what I knew I couldn’t do.  

 

It’s Chemistry

Look, along the way I learned some things I didn’t know so I want to go over a few of the potential reasons behind the rage.

  • It’s chemistry
    They’re a chemical project. They have chemicals in their body that are simply not balanced. We found out that with Charles by keeping a journal. Red food coloring and cinnamon would actually trigger Charles rages.
    One morning we were having cinnamon rolls for breakfast on a Sunday, and he actually threw a plate at me!  It was pretty evident that there was something chemically inside of him, that didn’t know how to process red food coloring and cinnamon.
    I don’t know what that is for your “that” child but it’s worth keeping a journal to see if you find any trend or pattern..
  • Stress
    Another thing is that affects “that child” is stress. They have stress that they can’t always process. What complicates this is they don’t have the communication skills that you and I have, to say “I’m stressed” and “I can’t handle anymore”  So the combination of the stress, and the lack of communication skills, makes for a messy cocktail when they’ve got both of those going on at the same time.  And so again our compassion, and our ability to be the mature one and not reduce ourselves, and not give into our stress like they are.  We just need to keep breathing in the midst of it.
  • Hormones
    The hormone thing is not something to be underestimated. When all those hormones coursing through their veins, and all those changes are going on and they’ve got all this going on in their head, it’s just a very intense time for them.

The first book I read in high school was “to kill a mockingbird”, and it just became my favorite book of all time. In it, Atticus Finch talks about the value of walking around in someone else’s shoes. Mom, I want to invite you to consider what it’s like to be “that” kid. I promise you, it’s not easy. They feel all the stress, they feel this need to communicate something. They know they can’t, and they don’t like it. But, they don’t know what else to do.

When I first started with my “that child”,  it was all about me and I was so embarrassed and I felt ashamed and I was sure I was a failure. But I’ve learned so much since then. Please, please put yourself in your child’s shoes. What are they going through? How did we get here? What have they eaten? What stressors are going on with them? Because what I’ve found “that” child needs consistency like nobody’s business. And that’s hard. It’s hard with one, it’s hard with two, three, four, five, six or seven.

Oreo cookies.  

I know you’re wondering, “What does an Oreo cookie have to do with  ‘that’ child?”  Well, let me tell you.  And before any of you email me or comment saying I should not eat these, I want to assure you that I cannot possibly keep these at my home because I would become an Oreo cookie.  I do love them but I don’t eat them often at all, probably biannually.

that child

I want you to think about an Oreo cookie: you’ve got two chocolates, and the creamy stuff in the middle. It’s actually the original sandwich cookie right? So that’s what you’ve got here, and now I want to give you some tools to deal with the raging, whether it’s young or old, and to deal with your exhaustion.

First of all, I want to challenge you to surrender to the Lord. That’s right. It may sound trite, you may say “Rachael, I’ve already done that”. Well, I’m saying do it again. Surrender to God, and start every day praying and saying “This is your day, have it your way.  This is your kid, teach me who they are for your kingdom.  Equip me to be the mom, that that kid needs me to be.”

Surrender to God every day.

Next, if this raging thing is pretty basic and on going in your home, I want to challenge you to plan a conversation. Yes, there’s no point in going through this cycle over and over again. I want you to plan to have a conversation with “that” kid about the raging. Now, it’s very important that you make sure they know this isn’t about punishment. This is not you intimidating, this is not about “hey, you’re in trouble”. This is you saying “Hey, I want to have a conversation with you. Do you have some time this afternoon?” Or, if they’re younger than than go “Hey, let’s make some cookies” or “Lets cut up an apple” or “Lets sit on the porch. I’d like to talk to you about something.” And frame it as positively as you possibly can. Build anticipation! If it’s an older child say something like “Lets go for a drive” and they’ll say “Oh cool what are we gonna talk about?” And you can reply “That’ll be a surprise! I’ve been really wanting to spend some time with you and I’m really looking forward to it!” 

So you’re planning this conversation; they’re excited and looking forward to it. I want you to plan to discuss four things:

  • Bless your child 
    I want you to tell them you’re so grateful that God sent them to live at your house and in your family. Tell them you’re so excited about the young man or young woman they’re turning out to be.
  • Praise your child 
    “So what do you think are a few things that are going really well right now?” and then give an idea or two that you can see. Find some positives and really talk about how your child is doing well! I promise, you can find them. And if and you can’t, ask God and He’ll show you something. Find SOMETHING that they’re doing real well.
  • Ask your child
    “Can you think of some things you need to work on? Some areas that need some improvement?” Look, that kid knows they’re raging. They’re not going to be surprised, and they’re probably going to be the one to bring it up; you probably won’t even have to! 
  • Ask your child
    “How do you think I can help?” Don’t jump in immediately with a solution. Be quiet and listen. That’s right, just listen to what they have to say. They might say “I have no idea what you could do to help” or you know what, they might say “When I’m doing that, I’d really appreciate it if you’d stop asking me questions. Or if I could just go to my room for a few minutes. Or maybe I could just walk around the house for a few minutes” They probably have some ideas on what you could do to help them! And some of the things they might suggest, might hurt a little bit. But I want to dare you, listen. And listen. And see what you can learn about that kid. Ask how it makes them feel, or maybe even ask how you think you’re contributing to the problem (if you dare).  And I promise you they’re gonna tell you, and it’s going to be an amazing time.

I found that with my oldest son, when I dared to have this conversation when he was fairly young, he totally got it! He knew that he was raging, he knew that he was out of control, but he didn’t know what to do to stop it. Giving him a setting in which he could have that conversation, was powerful for him. 

Affirm for them how difficult it is to deal with stress, how difficult it is to deal with frustrations. How difficult it is to deal with change or when things don’t go as planned. Affirm that you too get frustrated, and exhausted. That you too get frustrated when things don’t work out. Remind them that you’re in this together, that’s the number one thing you wanna communicate. You’re on their team against this problem of rage. It’s not you, against them, against the rage. It’s you and them against the rage, shoulder to shoulder. I told my that child, and they one I’ve got going now, “You’re stuck with me, you can’t lose me in a crowd.  I’m determined, we’re gonna fight this out together.”  Make sure you communicate, that you are on their team.  

Next, strategize how you can work this out. When “that” kid is starting to feel those feelings coming up inside and let me tell you, they can feel it coming on. Strategize some terminology so they can come to you and say “I’m feeling off, it’s coming on” just pick a phrase or a word they can say to you or you can say to them when you see it beginning. The phrase I used with my oldest son was “You’re getting close to the edge” And often time when I would say that to him, not always but often times, it was like a wakeup call for him. And sometimes he would just come to me and say “I’m off”

Your “that” kid needs to have permission to come to you and have a timeout of their own. A self-initiated timeout. They don’t want to rage so give them permission to come to you, or to go to their room, or go for a walk, or even just take a rest. Something positive or constructive they can do to avoid going into that rage. 

Pray

And the last thing, you need to pray together. Make sure the first time you’re praying, that you’re surrendering to God. This isn’t just you and God in this last step, this is you praying WITH that child. If they need anything from you, aside from their compassion, they need you to pray with them.  

So back to our Oreo cookie.  You’re going to pray, you’re going to do the conversation in between, and you’re going to pray on the other side too, just like this Oreo. I cannot guarantee this will be a one-time conversation. In fact, I can promise you’re going to have this conversation over and over and over and it’s worth it. So just resolve to dig in, resolve to have compassion, and resolve to persevere as you raise your world changer.  

Gearing Up: Meeting With The Principal

 

Assuming you have done some prayerful preparation and planning for the upcoming school year, now you are ready to discuss your plan with your husband. As you seek to go forward, united in training up your children, make this a high priority.

meeting with the principal

I realize that some husbands merely tolerate their wife’s desire to homeschool. These fathers choose against being genuinely engaged and settle for the sideline. If this describes your home, I want to encourage you to invite him to be a part. Inviting is different from guilting or badgering or manipulating or belittling. Don’t assume he doesn’t want to be a part of the homeschool adventure this year. Invite him to join you and the kids.

Ask your husband to set aside a specific time and date to discuss the coming school year with you. Tell him you want to let him know what you are planning and you want his support and insight. He will probably see some things in your planning that you missed. It is also important to review the objectives of your homeschool and remember that you are working together to bring the children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Suggested course of action:

  • Pray. Whether your husband is supportive or merely tolerant, pray that God would bless your meeting. Here are several things to bring before the throne:
    • Thank God for having a plan for your homeschool, for going before, walking with you and coming behind you.
    • Pray that He would grant you and your husband wisdom and understanding.
    • Pray that God would glorify Himself through your homeschool.
    • Ask the Lord that you and your husband would be united, that He would grant your husband a vision for his family and that you would joyfully support him as his wife.
    • Ask that God would grant you the time to meet with your husband and that he would engage in the discipleship of the children.
    • Praise His name for all He is going to do!
  • Set the date. Look at your calendars and choose a day you can sit down together to focus and discuss the coming home school year. Be considerate of his time and schedule. Many husbands are used to attending meetings with a clear agenda. Let him know what you want to discuss so he does not feel like he is put on the spot or unprepared for the discussion.
    A few items you might discuss:

    • Guiding Bible verse for the school year
    • Review of roles
    • Responsibilities for the individual children
    • Proposed routine
    • Expectations
    • The subjects to be studied
    • Budget
    • Concerns
    • Prayer requests
    • Etc.
  • Set the stage. Plan the meeting to be just the two of you without the kids, if possible. You might trade off watching the kids with another homeschool mom. Try and make sure you won’t have any interruptions so that you can have a productive meeting. If you go somewhere, make sure it’s somewhere you can talk. If you stay in, make the setting as peaceful as possible. Most men enjoy a good dinner, consider making one of his favorite meals. Take a cue from Esther!
  • Go Forward with Confidence. Now, make it happen. Talk with your husband, plan the evening, gather your visual aids such as your planner and various books from the curriculum you want to show him and have a great meeting.

It’s important to note that some husbands want to engage but they don’t know how. You might want to have some activities that your husband can take full ownership of – here’s a few ideas:

  • Choose the year’s Bible verse
  • Read aloud to the children each day
  • Go over a particular subject with a child
  • Plan and carry out specific outings or field trips
  • Give you some time each week to plan by doing an activity with the kids
  • Direct family worship
  • Pray for specific challenges/opportunities
  • Etc.

Again, it is important that we do not nag our husbands into helping, but rather invite them to be involved as they are able. We need to make sure that we don’t exclude them or make them feel that there is no place for them because we dominate and reject their help and input. As you’re planning, search diligently for a way to engage your husband’s talents and interests and encourage him to play an active role in your homeschool.

 

Gearing Up – Planning the Year One Day at a Time!

This is one of my favorite times of the year, the time everything is fresh and new and possible! This is the time when I get to look back and forward, dream and consider, pray and trust as I look to a new year of home schooling.

Gearing Up - Meeting With the Principal

Over the course of 18 years of teaching my children at home I have learned that this journey is not about figuring it out, but it is about prayerfully persevering. It is about continuing on through the challenges and celebrating God’s goodness and faithfulness.

We must remember not to allow our plans to become our idol. God’s word says that “man plans his ways, but the Lord directs his steps.” God has a plan for each of our lives, for our family’s homeschool. We should plan prayerfully and hold our plans with open hands, offering our plans up to God to work through and use as He will for His glory.

Planning gives us a target to aim for. We do not always hit the bull’s eye, but having one means we are shooting in the right direction. It is vital we have a target to aim at while allowing, or rather inviting God to come and direct our steps.

Here are some steps I go through as I plan the year:

  • Pray. Before you even begin the day, ask the Father to guide you and grant you wisdom as you plan. His Spirit will help you and give you insights as you go forward.
  • Review Objectives. Our over-arching goal each year is to glorify God and to raise children who glorify God. From there I look at each student, where they are and what they need for the year and set goals for them individually.
  • Plan out weeks. This simply means looking at the calendar and your family’s activities/travel and planning which days/weeks you will be home schooling. Additionally, consider planning in some down time for you and your kids. We adopted a 6-weeks-on-1-week-off schedule several years ago that works great for our family. The week off gives us a break, a chance to adjust and catch-up if necessary. Once you know when you can homeschool, now you can better plan ‘what’ and ‘how’.
  • Decide on the year’s subjects. I have developed a rotation for our study of history so that we can go through world and American history several times over the course of their education. Subsequently I add in math, science, writing and foreign language. After these are in place I look to see what I can add in that is unique to each child. For instance I might add in some LEGO material for my LEGO enthusiast or an art class for my emerging artist. Though these may seem to be merely extracurricular, I maintain that as their particular talents and interest begin to develop, they should become more prominent, not just add-on’s.
  • Develop a Routine. Over the years I have come to believe that a routine is much better than a schedule. A routine sets a pattern for our day, a course of action, and ultimately, habits. In contrast a schedule ties us, makes us slaves to the clock. A schedule demands we pay attention to the minutes instead of the moments. It robs us of joy and distracts us from our purpose. I desire to create a context wherein my children love learning. I want to engage them in such a way that they don’t even notice the time. I don’t want to rush to the next ‘thing’ but lean into the now, what we are reading or discovering or solving now.

As you consider the pattern you want to adopt for your day, I would encourage you to put God first (Matthew 6:33). Read God’s word together first; pray together first. This example of putting God first is an excellent example for your children as they grow up and begin to adopt their own daily routines. As they get older, show them how to have their own quite time first and then ask them to share what they learned that day.

After time with God, then put the other subjects in an order that best serves your children, their needs, and your day. We have a routine that is basically the same each day. This way the kids know the drill. They can proceed on their own if I am busy with a character issue or the laundry.

  • Plan a meeting with the Principal. This is key. Make sure that you take the time to go over your plan with the principal of your homeschool, your husband. (In North Carolina, the husband/father is considered the principal of the homeschool. Though homeschool law varies from state to state, this is a good way to look at the division of roles.) Get a date on the calendar to meet with him and discuss your plan. More on this next week!

 

…and on the 7th week, she rested

pro·vi·sion

I woke up this morning and realized July is almost over. GASP! And my blog is due – double whammy! The topic for this month, “provision,” which is: the action of providing or supplying something. I could easily write about another “pro” word, you know, as in procrastination but such is not the topic this month.

provision

As I prayed and sought the Scriptures, the first verse that came to mind was Philippians 4:19. I’m going to be real honest with you, I usually tend to think about this verse when I’m trying to figure out “how am I going to pay for ‘X’?” I know my God is not a “genie in a bottle,” so I immediately felt convicted that provision must mean more than God making sure I have food, shelter and enough money to pay the bills. As a former pastor used to say, read the Scriptures s-l-o-w-l-y. So, I did. I looked up that verse and read it slowly and this is what I saw.

“And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

If you recall last month’s blog I was in the midst of a full kitchen remodel that began the 1st week of June and construction / final installation didn’t end until July 11th. We still have items that need to be completed, but the kitchen is fully functional. Praise the Lord!

Being the planner that I am, I had a built-in cushion; all boxes were checked, but the surprises just kept coming…along with the tears. My prayers sounded like this, “Hello God! Do you not see that I have been a good steward with this project? I need you to make this go as smoothly as I planned it.” Me and my list explains why I fell through the ceiling and why things went a bit out of whack during our kitchen remodel.

God needed me to see my need for Him and let Him take care of things because I really have no control. Not having a clue on how things were going to get fixed kept me my attention on the One who is in control. I kept focusing on the “how are we going to pay for it” aspect instead of remembering God’s provision for our needs.

I’ll be honest, I cried a lot and then it was time to balance the budget, where the credits and the debits left us $156 ahead and left me saying, “Wow God, Wow!”

A friend who was going through a kitchen remodel at the same time we were, summarized my feelings so eloquently and she gave me a hearty laugh in the process —

“I feel like I am on a mission trip. I’m in a construction zone; paint all over myself, no plumbing, etc….*except*… no one is getting saved and there’s no plane waiting for me at the end of the week.”

While “nobody got saved,” I was able to have some fruitful discussions with the contractors. As a worldview teacher and pro-life activist, I pray faithfully that God provides me the words needed to speak should I encounter such situations. Interesting to note how I trust Him to faithfully provide for those situations and yet, I “panicked” about what I was seeing as the growing expense of our money pit, (ahem!) kitchen.

Why the panic? Why do so many of us panic over certain situations and not others. It’s different for each of us, but the issue remains. For those areas where we choose not to panic and when we focus our energy on seeking God’s peace and trusting His provision, things always work out better than we could have anticipated. Remember, I don’t have answers, but I do have a lot of questions and those questions keep me close to the Vine. I know all too well that God will be teaching me this lesson yet again. Hopefully next time I won’t fall through a ceiling.

provision

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. ~ Matthew 11:28

This whole process reminded me that I have zero control, and that is a good thing. It also left me weary because I kept trying to control what I couldn’t. I teased that what I now needed was a very long nap, and what do you know God makes provision for my need to rest too! That part about “all my needs” means all my needs. While there wasn’t a plane waiting for me at the end of the remodel, there was a Sleep Number™ bed with my number programmed and ready to receive me.

Life Is Like a Box of Puzzle Pieces

Are you someone who enjoys assembling jigsaw puzzles? If so, do you top out at 500 pieces, or are you a glutton for punishment preferring 1000+? I’m not a jigsaw fanatic, but I enjoy working on a good puzzle every now and then. My favorite moment in the puzzling process occurs when I finally locate a piece that has been eluding me, setting off a string of easy matches.

provision

My mother-in-law loves puzzling, and has framed a couple of the beautiful puzzles she’s completed over the years. When we were at the Grand Canyon a few years ago, we purchased a stunning 500+ piece jigsaw puzzle for her as a souvenir. The image was an artist’s rendering of a view from the South Rim overlooking the Canyon at sunset. It was gorgeous! If you close your eyes, you can probably imagine what it looked like; however, I seriously doubt that you would attempt that puzzle without the box right in front of you. Most puzzlers refer to the picture on the box repeatedly to make sure they are headed in the right direction.

So, what if I were to tell you that life is more like a box of puzzle pieces than a box of chocolates? It is. Not only do you “never know what you’re gonna get,” but neither will one bite help you figure it out! You just have to live it. One funky-cut piece at a time.

According to the “Jigsaw Puzzles for Adults” website,  the time it takes to complete a puzzle rises exponentially in proportion to the number of puzzle cuts:

It usually takes four-times longer to complete a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle as it does to complete a 500-piece puzzle. This is because each and every time you double the total number of pieces, you quadruple the challenge and difficulty. Before you begin a 4,000-piece puzzle, you need to take into consideration the fact that it’s going to take you 64 times longer to complete it than it would to successfully finish a 500 piece one! 1

provision

When you consider the fact that each life is comprised of a gazillion one-of-a-kind pieces, it’s pretty clear that the only One who has the time to complete it is the Lord! In fact, He’s the only One who knows what the finished puzzle will look like. After all, He is the One who designed it in the first place:

“For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalm 139:13-16, ESV)

In other words, what feels like a pile of random craziness to us humans—who barely have an inkling what the final picture might look like—is, in reality, a strikingly complex and completely unique masterpiece cut with such precision that each piece locks perfectly into place with ease. Over time, we see more clearly how certain oddly-shaped pieces fit together to create an intricate pattern we almost missed! And when it’s all said and done, the final image should* closely resemble the picture on the box!

Sometimes, when we’re in the middle of a challenging circumstance, we wonder if there is any rhyme or reason to it. God’s timing rarely matches our desired timing, and delays last decades. (Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt.) We often struggle to uncover the method behind the madness or simmer internally with frustration until it finally, if ever, makes sense.

What we must always remember—and never forget—is that our Creator is also our Provider. And though we typically experience God’s provision as something tangible (e.g., food, shelter, clothes, money, etc.) or spiritual (e.g., peace, love, joy, discernment, etc.), His provision extends much further than that!

The Lord also provides opportunities for us to acquire knowledge, learn new skills, and explore our world so that we are equipped to make a positive impact in it. He takes our everyday experiences—the good, the bad, and the ugly; the pleasant and the painful; the understandable and the mysterious—and uses them to equip and empower us to fulfill a specific-to-us purpose. Did you get that? He uses EVERYTHING, and in so doing, provides us with exactly what we need to do what we were created to do.

“For His divine power has bestowed on us [absolutely] everything necessary for [a dynamic spiritual] life and godliness, through true and personal knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1:3, AMP)

What seems to be a thankless task at the age of 19 could end up being a necessary skill when turning 50. (Yes, I can testify to that of which I write.) We have to TRUST that our experiences—as mundane, ordinary, and/or frustrating as they may feel—are part of His sovereign plan for our lives. And what we perceive to be delays and detours often turn out to be key pieces of the puzzle which were strategically positioned to add depth, texture, and interest to our picture. In other words, our daily experience is a key aspect of God’s provision for us.

provision

“But what about the ugly and damaged pieces? Or the ones we can’t find?” you ask. “What about them?”

In case you didn’t know, God’s philosophy is: No piece left behind!

Sure, there are tattered and faded pieces we would prefer to keep hidden deep inside; however, God says, “Those pieces are an important part of you. Without them, you would not be who you are. Give them to me, we’ll place them in the puzzle together. We’ll use those pieces to help others find hope and healing.”

And then, there are the missing pieces—except they’re not really missing. They were stashed away in moments of sheer frustration when we could not see where they fit! Out of sight = Out of mind. But when the time is right, the Holy Spirit reminds us where we stored the “missing” pieces, and we can find and place them immediately…completing a part of the puzzle we hadn’t seen before.

Every. Single. Piece. Matters. (Even the ones we haven’t received yet!)

Yes, that’s right: There are puzzle pieces we haven’t received yet. Did I forget to mention that? Okay, so apparently, God keeps some pieces to Himself until it’s time for them to be placed. I think it’s for our benefit so that we don’t become overwhelmed by the unrecognizable patterns or discouraged by the enormous number of pieces still waiting to be placed. But in HIS perfect timing, these shiny new pieces arrive and fit perfectly—filling in a section upon we might have all but given up hope!

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6, ESV)

Shiny and new, tattered and faded, formerly missing, and those not yet received—each puzzle piece contributes to the whole picture. It’s who we are, and eventually, with the Lord’s help, who we were always meant to be.

 

* I say “should” because there are those who will inevitably reject the Puzzle Maker and His design, choosing instead to forge their own ways by tossing out pieces they don’t like; smashing together mismatched pieces; using glue to stick pieces together; and refusing to give the original plan a chance. Corrupt religious leaders have done this for centuries. 

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1 Nazarewicz, Judith. “Interesting Information about Jigsaw Puzzles.” (Rewritten for clarity and succinctness.) http://jigsawpuzzlesforadults.com/interesting-information-jigsaw-puzzles/

When We Can’t See God’s Provision

I was so excited. A new school year was starting, and I had all our curriculum in order. With several weeks already planned out, things were going smoothly.

Then it happened.

provision

Now, I shouldn’t have been surprised. Late summer hurricanes are always a possibility when you live in Florida. However, this one caused a few huge trees on our street to fall, bringing down power lines with them. Of course, I can’t complain. No one was hurt. In fact, no one’s home was damaged.

But we had no electricity.

Now, if you haven’t been in Florida during August, you may not realize the intense heat. I know there is a difference between dry heat and humid heat, but let’s just say that the humidity in Florida’s August is so high that you are almost able to swim in the air. We were without air conditioning and were expecting up to two weeks before power would be restored! How could we do school? There was no way we could be in the house during the day, because it was unbearably hot.

I was so frustrated. We had such a great beginning to our school year.

Part of my frustration was with God. I really felt He had called us to homeschool, but it seemed that I never was able to meet MY GOALS for the year. And this year was starting out the same way. WHY did God allow for a hurricane to mess things up? Wouldn’t He want ME to successfully teach MY children according to the lesson plans *I* had carefully planned?!?

Well, you can probably guess what happened. God knew what was better for us than I did.

Really. He did.

In order to endure the heat each day, we would pack up our books, papers, and lunchboxes and go to the local library. On that first day, the librarian noticed how we were camping out, so she came over to ask if we needed anything. I explained our situation and that we were doing our homeschool work there. “What are you all studying?” she asked us.

And that began one of the best two weeks of our homeschooling journey.

You see, once she learned what we were covering, she told my children all about what the library had in the way of books that would go along with our subjects.

The next day, she asked if they would like to go downstairs into the resource rooms and learn about microfiche (for those of you too young to know what that is…it’s an old-school type of projected viewer showing printed materials like newspapers and magazines, many from years and years ago). Each day, she excitedly came up to us to ask if she could help us. Some days we were fine and other days we asked her what she could show us. She set us up with historical videos, educational games, interesting magazines, and even a few crafts they had left over from some summer programs.

After two weeks of that, my children became true library professionals. They could navigate their way around the computer card catalogs as well as the “ancient” hard catalogs, too. They boldly went up to our librarian “friend” to ask questions and also came to realize that librarians REALLY are a wealth of information and (for the most part) LOVE to help.

No amount of Mom-planned field trips would have given them this lesson. They truly learned a skill I wanted to teach them but never could find the time to add it to our “busy” days: how to learn how to learn. Not just memorize things, but how to research and discover information they do not know.

Indeed, the Lord provided.

provision

He set up the circumstances to require us to camp out at the library for 10 days. He knew this was an important skill for my children to learn that would help prepare them for the future.

Now, I know that this provision seems small. I could share “bigger” times of provision with you: a time when my son was horribly injured and had to endure several surgeries, a time when we had to care for my sick father by having him move in with us, and many more. God indeed provides for us in the big things. But this provision came during a time I least expected it. It showed me that my Lord provides even the little things in ways I cannot orchestrate myself.

He cares so much for us that He knows our needs before we know them. Rest on that. Know that the things that “get in the way” of our plans do not take our loving Lord by surprise. It may be our Plan B, but it is ALWAYS His Plan A!

That Child: They See Things Differently

Today, I want to talk about how “that child” sees so many things differently than you and I do.

I have some books I want to recommend and talk through. These are works that have completely changed the way I approach mothering and homeschooling.

that child see things differently

 

First, The Way They Learn by Cynthia Tobias. I would highly recommend that you seize any chance to listen to Cynthia Tobias; she is  a scream to hear in person. She is a very funny speaker but has tremendous insight. I actually got this book I think all the way back when we were beginning our homeschool journey. It has really helped me see some things I was blinded to. 

Second, if you get a chance to hear Dr. Kathy Koch, I would highly recommend her. She is based out of Texas (my beloved state), and frequently speaks at the Hearts at Home conference and on Focus on the Family radio.  Her book, How Smart Am I? is another must-read. 

And thirdly is an work entitled Awakening Your Child’s Genius by Thomas Armstrong. He maintains, “We want to assist [children] in finding their inner genius and support them in guiding it into pathways that can lead to personal fulfillment and to the benefit of those around them.” He has said his writing is motivated by the desire to ensure that every child gets a chance to fulfill their potential. Obviously, this is an incredibly helpful perspective when you are learning to educate your “that child.”

That Child & The Way They Learn

I was really a struggling learner until about the eighth grade when I was diagnosed with dyslexia. Although I had incredible auditory skills, it wasn’t until we identified my dyslexia that I was able to process  the different ways I learned.

So, when I stepped into home education I assumed that my kids would learn the same way that I did. I kind of slammed into the reality that this is not true. Cynthia Tobias’ premise in this book is that there are four quadrants: concrete, sequential, random, and abstract; and then combinations of those quadrants.

I tend to be a concrete and sequential learner. I want concrete examples that you can show me and I want them to go in order. Those are two very, very important things to me. I really believe that by and large, when I’m learning, those things are important to me. That’s how I assumed my children would also learn and need information. I believe this is generally how the education system functions.

Yet what I learned from this book was that that’s not how everybody learns. Our reality is our own normal, not necessarily that of everyone else, and so I was shocked to find out that my son was my complete opposite. I am concrete-sequential and he is random-abstract. I certainly couldn’t get my head around it.

 I couldn’t appreciate his many questions, the things that he wanted to chase, the ideas that he had, the way that he saw things because I didn’t understand. I didn’t think the way that he saw things was legitimate. I’m here to advocate for the fact that, no matter where you are on this, how your child sees, and thinks, and takes in information, is indeed legitimate. 

Not sure which type of learner you are? Tobias has included a brief survey so you can actually figure out which style(s) describe you and your children. 

Awakening Genius

I wish that I had read the work of Dr. Armstrong when Charles (my first “that child”) was little. I literally had tears dripping off my chin when I read one of his articles on genius and I realized that my current “that child” (who is now taller than me, and in the 9th grade, eating me out of house and home) is so much like his older brother yet truly his own person. 

Reading “Awakening Your Child’s Genius” brought me to tears! This was describing my two boys! Moms, if you’ve got a “that child” and you are just continually feeling like you are banging your head against the wall because you do not get where a particular question came from, or why they are interested in that random topic, or why did they do that thing with all of your straws… Anybody with me on this? Anybody?  

You had plans for those straws and it wasn’t for that spontaneous craft project that they just completed. Right? Armstrong’s  work gives you insight into all of that. Actually, I think it gives a lot of insight.

If this resonates, you can read even more from Dr. Thomas.

How We Are Smart

In her book, Dr. Koch talks about the eight intelligences: word smart, logic smart, picture smart, music smart, body smart, nature smart, people smart, self smart. She validates each one of those, which is so important. So often we try to put everybody in the same box, but that is not the objective of raising the next generation of kids to change the world.

It certainly will fail every time, and twice on Sunday, if we try to put “that child” in a box of everyone else’s construction. We need to validate and affirm “that child” as a very unique blessing from the hand of the Almighty God. Again, as we use these tools to help them understand how God has wired them then we can help, and encourage, and foster, and nurture these intelligences, and maybe even some of the other ones they are not as strong for them.

So, I found this really, really helpful. But I want to get to my really favorite part and give you three do’s and three don’ts.

I’m here to tell you that “that child” is wired to be a world changer. We must not destroy the joy that they have!  I get so excited about this. So, let’s go on and look at these qualities of genius. Again, I’m just going to briefly over each of them, give you a little bit of insight, and then you can read more for yourself. 

The ways we learn

1. Curiosity

Oh, my goodness! If you have a “that child” you know that this is true. They have a curiosity way beyond our curiosity. In fact, often, their curiosity seems like they are not paying attention.

You may have heard me tell this story before but one time, and I do mean one time, because the outplay, the effect on my son, was so painful for him I determined that I was not going to subject him to that again. Certainly not at the young age that he was at the time. I took him and his brother to Reading Time at the library. I was literally that mom in the back of the room nursing the baby. Yeah. That doesn’t happen a lot in public anymore but that’s what I did all those years ago. So, I was sitting in the back and Charles, in Charles’ form, was on the front row. Right?

Anderson was dutifully sitting beside him and this woman, oh! I wish that I had the foresight at that time to mark down the book that she was reading. Anyway, he was up on his knees and he was so excited to be there to listen to the story. You know, we had a pattern of reading books at home. Right at the very end of the book, you know the woman, the librarian (I don’t have to say anything more about that), but at the very end of her reading she says, “Are there any questions?”

I literally went, gasp! Because I knew… She, she did that. Right? I knew that this was Charles’ moment and he was going to have a question. Why? Because we fostered that at our house. We were always talking, always having those discussions. His hand shot up. She said, “Yes?” And he proceeded to ask the question. Again, I really wish that I had known to write it down because it was just be so much more full, the story. He proceeded to ask the question that she did not think was on topic.

She, in that moment, said, “I would really appreciate it if the questions pertained to the story we just read. Is there anybody else that has a question?” And I saw Charles slump. Maybe you’ve seen that in your “that child”. Because this is what I knew as the mom in the back of the room, he was on topic! He was curious about something that was related. She just couldn’t see where he was where she was standing. 

Often, our “that child” has questions that don’t seem related. It’s their curiosity. I really think that we want to foster that, and encourage that, as we have discussions with them.

2. Playfulness 

This is another thing that we tend to discourage in our children. We tend to not want them to be silly. Dr. Armstrong, in this article, encourages them to be silly. They should be silly! We should have homes, and circumstances, and contexts in our immediate family where their silliness is welcome. learning styles

Now, we do need to teach them orderliness, it does have a place and a time. I know it’s challenging, but you know what I’m betting? That we need to die to our self and let them be more silly more often. These books talk about play being the highest level of development.

3. Imagination

This is when kids can escape and imagine things being different, imagine things being better, imagining fantasies or dreams. We need to encourage those.

I have a daughter right now that’s writing a paper on Chesterton. He would often just lay in bed, and just think, and just imagine. His whole idea about imagination was that it was never wasted, that daydreaming is never wasted. Look, we often see one of our kids, our “that kid”, and we’re trying to accomplish something and they’re daydreaming. Certainly in the school system, we don’t have any patience for that. But according to this article, it’s valuable for them to have those fantasies, and those dreams, and for us to give them life, and discuss them, and smile when we see them imagining. 

4. Creativity

This is when we give them permission to come to conclusions in new ways, in ways that we wouldn’t have. This is an  example of that. You may think that your “that kid” maybe isn’t very creative. Because see we often have a very narrow definition of what creativity is. We think it’s some artistic display. But it’s not always! 

Creative thinking often manifests in answers to questions that we immediately assume to be wrong, and they’re not. For example, if you ask one of these kids, “What is… one plus one plus one is?” If they say, “Four!”, we would say it was wrong. Or if they said it was one we would say it was wrong. Look, if you’re creative in the way that you think the immediate question is, “One plus one WHAT?” Are you talking about one half plus one half? 

Because one half plus one half is one. We would mark that answer wrong! But see they are being creative in the conclusions and the solutions that they’re coming to. These are kids that don’t test well because these are kids that argue and discuss through every answer that they are given in a multiple choice situation. We need to foster that creativity.

“How did you come to the conclusion that one plus one is one because that’s not true?” 

Or you might have a child that you have taught Biblically and you might have an equation that says, “One plus one plus one equals?” and they wrote “one” thinking the Trinity. This is an example of that creativity. Look, to these kids, it’s not just about connecting the dots for them. They see dots that the rest of us don’t see. We don’t need to make them feel bad about that. We need to encourage that.

5. Wonder

This is their natural astonishment at the world around them. This is something that, sadly, many of us grow out of. Again, you might have heard me tell this story but it fits here so I’m going to share it. One night there was a mother standing in the kitchen sink washing the dishes when her son comes running into the kitchen. He goes, “Mom! You’ve got to come right now. The sunset is so beautiful. There’s blue, and there’s orange, and there’s pink. Oh, mom! Come right now. See the sunset right now.”

Mom goes, “Just a minute. I’m going to finish these dishes.” You know what I know? That mom who got caught up in finishing the dishes, a few moments later her son comes moping in and says, “You missed it.” There will never be another sunset like that one that was right there. That child in the wonder, and the amazement, and the astonishment of Creation came in and wanted mom to share it with him. We were distracted, you and I, by the dishes. 

May we not do that. May we dare to enter in into the wonder, and the astonishment they have by a sunset, or a bug, or a spider web, or lightening bugs. Anything the wonder of Creation. May we as Christians, Mom, point them to the glory of God’s majesty and His detail in every creative thing. This is an opportunity. This aspect of intelligence is our opportunity to point them to a holy, mighty God. 

6. Wisdom

These are children who have wise insight beyond their years. It’s not based on any kind of experience. They’re very, very young. But they see things, they have this wisdom that they can make connections that sometimes we discount. Sometimes it’s in small pithy statements. I remember one of my kids, we went on a walk one night just around our neighborhood but it … trash and recycle day was the next day. 

One of my kids said, “Wow! You can learn a lot by looking in someone’s recycle bin.” Goodness! Yeah, well yeah, you can. But I didn’t expect you to notice that. That would be an example of wisdom. When our children dare to say something like that, again, we need to take the time to unpack that with them.

  •         What do you see?
  •         What do you mean?
  •         What do you think that that tells us?
  •         What’s in ours that we are telling to other people?
  •         Why does that matter?

There’s so much opportunity for communication there. 

7. Inventiveness

This is about their willingness or ability to use ordinary things around your house for extraordinary purposes. I remember many years ago now when I was doing astronomy with my “that kid”, my original one, and we came to the point in astronomy where we were supposed to build the solar system. 

Well me, remember concrete-sequential, I’m thinking, “Oh man! I didn’t get the styrofoam balls to make the solar system. Ugh! I didn’t get that so we can’t make the solar system.” Well something happened and I got called out of the room. I left him with his younger brother. When I came back they had made the solar system with pom-pom balls, and pipe cleaners, and construction paper for the ring around Saturn. 

They had constructed it kind of like a mobile. I think the one maybe they had seen over the baby brother or sister’s bed. That is not at all how I would have constructed a solar system. But they were being so inventive with what they did with it. Inventiveness is what we need in order to solve the problems around us in culture and society. We need new inventions. That means you and I probably won’t always know where our scissors are. We probably won’t be able to squirrel away a box of straws for a special occasion. 

But we need to be open to their inventiveness and again have those conversations.

  •         What did you see?
  •         How did you come to this conclusion?
  •         How did you solve this problem.

I remember in the movie “Apollo 13”, do you remember that movie with Tom Hanks, and here they had those astronauts up in this rocket ship and they had a major problem? 

He comes in and he dumps these supplies on the table. He goes, this is all they’ve got. You need to figure out how to use what’s on this table so that they can breathe and we can get them home. The reason they were able to solve that is because those people around that table had this quality of inventiveness. They were able to look at things that you and I think, “that straw is made to drink something”, but “that kid” doesn’t see it that way. They see the straw having tons of different tools and we need to encourage that. 

8. Vitality

You and I might tend to think of vitality as having a negative connotation because we think of it as a rashness or impulsiveness. This is the aspect of genius that needs to do it now. They don’t want to wait. They want to do it now. This is an aspect of them that can be exhausting. But it’s also very exciting and invigorating if we allow it to be.

Their vitality is something that really spurs them on. We need to be responsive to them in our environment, in our home, and  try our very best to respond to their vitality. This is one of the main reasons why I tried to keep a bunch of random stuff on hand all the time, straws, toilet paper tubes, empty containers of various kinds, I mean I literally had a tub of things. Glue, sequins, all of that kind of stuff, string, all sorts of different things for their vitality to bloom. 

9. Sensitivity

This, too, is a beautiful thing because these kids that have these qualities of genius tend to be far more sensitive than we give them credit for. I think this is often because we get caught up in how they make us feel. Like, maybe inadequate or unintelligent because sometimes they are just so far passed us. Sometimes they just make us want to pull our hair out. Sometimes they make us want to cry. They make us want to scream. 

So, we discount their sensitivity and we should not do that. These kids have a level of sensitivity that the world has not been able to harden and I am so grateful. They have not been desensitized. These kids see something on the street and they want to do something about it. See, that combination of things, their sensitivity, and their inventiveness like we just talked about, and their vitality? They want to do something! 

I took my “that kid” to New York City. I love that city. There are beggars on the streets of New York City and my “that kid” doesn’t want to just walk by. He wants to think of a way that we can help. What could we do? These kids are very sensitive to the problems of this world and that can ultimately be a motivation for them to change it and do something. So again, let’s not wish for them to be hardened. Let’s not want them to be a “big boy”. Let’s not insist that boys don’t cry. Let’s nurture that. Let’s fan the flames of that sensitivity.

Friends, remember that Jesus wept! He was sensitive; he wasn’t cold. And Peter wept bitterly after he denied Christ. Let’s not deny these kids that sensitivity that ultimately can motivate them to change the world.

10. Flexibility

Flexibility is this idea that they can move from reality to fantasy, to reality to fantasy. They can go from metaphors to facts. They are very fluid in their associations.

Often this is scolded in the system. This was scolded in my house when I was a young homeschool mom. I was so aggravated with his flexibility. We would be talking about, I don’t know, the constitution and he wants to talk about The Hobbit in the same sentence. And I’m confident that he’s not paying attention. But it’s not that he’s wasn’t paying attention. He was just very fluid in his associations. He really was thinking about both of them. He truly was thinking about the concreteness of the constitution and the fantasy of The Hobbit at the same time.

11. Humor

Humor is one of the things that I am passionate about, and I believe in, and that we need to make sure we have lots of in our parenting of “that child”. In fact, according Dr. Armstrong, it is one of the qualities of genius. 

Our ability to laugh at situations and things, and more than anything, ourselves, is so valuable. We need to be able to laugh. It’s like a pressure valve when things get tough. It’s not always a time to laugh; but we need to give our kids permission to laugh as they make associations. 

12. Joy

This is this core component. We need to chase their joyful things, that which brings them joy, and encourage their joyfulness because that is what is fanning the flames what they are chasing and what they are learning about. Let’s not kill their joy. 

enjoy and embrace

Observe

I want to challenge you to observe that child. Observe how they learn, how they take in information. Whether it’s random, abstract, concrete, sequential from Cynthia Tobias, or if it’s different kinds of intelligence by Dr. Koch, or if it’s these twelve qualities of genius. Even if you want to journal about different things that you see, observe them.

Discuss

Next, discuss it with them. When you see them make a quirky connection, or ask a seemingly unrelated question, or take all of your straws and make a spaceship, have a discussion with them. Dare to say, “What? Where did that even come from? I don’t even understand… Help me to understand what popped in your mind that you would ask about a necklace when we are discussing the Treaty of Versailles? How did you get there?”

Learn

Look, you and I do not have it all figured out. We have a lot of things that we can learn from our kids. As you start to see them do things differently I pray that it would expand our minds and we would start to consider things. That we would be reawakened in our astonishment of God’s Creation and our wonder, and the connections that we make, and the creative ways we think about different things. We will still face problems and need solutions every day, so let’s learn from them in the process.

Finally, three things don’t do.

Don’t assume that they are wrong. Don’t assume that they are off topic. Don’t assume they are not paying attention. We should not assume. These kids, remember what I talked about so many times when we are talking about “that kid”? 

It’s got to be hard for them to them. Because so often everybody assumes that they know that they are off topic, assumes that they are not thinking, assumes that they are not paying attention. Let’s not be one of the people that assumes.

Don’t shame them. Let us not shame them because they do it different from the way that we do it. That genius at your house, “that kid” that thinks outside the box, isn’t going to do it like everybody else. But that doesn’t mean that we need to shame them. We need to encourage them for how differently they do things.

Don’t discount their conclusions or their perspectives. They are valid. Remember, God needs unique perspectives, and descriptions, and conclusions as long as they are based on the truth. He needs those to solve the problems of this world. 

Tips for Maintaining Your Peace

As women of faith, we are directed to live peaceably whenever possible. It must be important if it can be found in various forms 429 times in the King James Version of the Bible! The scriptures talk about different types of peace, including false peace, inner peace, peace with God and peace with man.

maintaining peace

But have you ever taken a minute and really thought about what peace means to you? I know whenever I think of the word “peace” it is immediately followed by the word “quiet”, yet I have learned as I have aged that they don’t always go together.

According to the dictionary, it means:

  1. freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility
  2. freedom from or the cessation of war or violence

In the Old Testament, the primary Hebrew word for “peace” is shalom, and it refers to relationships between people, nations and with God.

In the New Testament, the primary Greek word for “peace” is eirene, and it refers to rest and tranquility. This is the peace we are seeking now.

As a woman of faith, we have an obligation to “let the peace of God rule” in in our hearts (men too but I am visiting with the ladies today) Colossians 3:15.  In my understanding, this means I have a to make a choice either to trust God’s promises by letting His peace rule my heart and life, or decide to rely on myself which is actually rejecting the peace He offers me. In John 14:27, Jesus gave His disciples peace based on the truth that He has overcome the world.

We also know that peace is a fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 reads that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. These fruits are things that we are instructed to add to our lives.

So how do we get this fruit called peace? This peacefulness in the chaos of our day to day life? We all know ladies that never seem to get flustered when things get crazy around them. I have wanted to know their secret for decades.

One day I asked the lady that I call my Titus 2 Mom. I call her that because she lives the example shown in Titus instructing the older women to train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

According to her, the secret to a peaceful life (at least at home) is as simple as how well prepared I am. Whoa – wait a minute. That is not what I wanted to hear. I wanted a profound moment or insight that I could just tell my family was being enacted and then TADA.. everyone would live in peace (and quiet) forever and ever.

She just smiled and said, no sweetie. The peace in your home is on your shoulders. She assured me it comes with practice.

Since then, I have been honored to counsel with younger moms feeling overwhelmed and searching for peace in their homes.

My tips for Tips for Maintaining Peace

Accept Our Role and Our Responsibility

Starting right now, remember that you are the parent. You are the adult in the house and you are their mom. You are not their buddy, friend, cleaning lady or doormat.

As the parent, it is your responsibility to set boundaries and expectations for your children. They need you to remain calm when they get all out of sorts. The best way for us to have peace is when we direct or respond to our children instead of the often panic reactions we have when things are wild and crazy.

Being peaceful and showing our children how to resolve issues in a calm manner goes a long way to the “peacefulness” of the home.

Offer Grace for Mistakes

Don’t give up on yourself or your children. It is okay to do a “do over” when a situation fails to meet your peaceful meter. Stopping your day and gathering your little ones around for a moment of calmness, prayer and discussion on what was happening that could have been handled better doesn’t take long, and it gives everyone a fresh start.

Be Prepared for Your Day

Only you can determine what this looks like in your home. For us, it was making sure the calendar for tomorrow was posted so everyone could pick out their clothes, pack lunches and gather anything needed for the day. We also spent a few minutes “clearing the deck” aka picking up the community areas before heading up to the bedrooms to prepare for bed times.

I love the saying, “Failure to plan on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency on mine”.  As much as I love saying that to my children, as a mom – it often does result in an emergency on our part if we do not plan ahead.

Being prepared for me also means getting up before everyone else in order to get some time in the Word and in prayer. It also gives me a few minutes to look over the schedule and make sure everything is ready to go.

I also offer a count down to things such as a 15 minute warning before departing the house, or a 5 minute warning that it is lights out upstairs. Just this little warning works wonders for those that don’t keep track of time themselves.

Expect and Look for Praise Opportunities

I strongly believe that our children behave the way we expect or at least the way we enforce our expectations. If your guidelines and expectations are clear, and the enforcement of the consequences is consistent; your little ones will fall in line.

That’s when you look for praise opportunities. Just watch how your approval and praise lights up their face! We like being praised for good work. Our children are no different.

Make Sure to Keep Your Heart Right

When my heart isn’t right; it isn’t long until nothing in our home is right. I heard that the mom is the thermostat of the family. Her heart setting is what the family feeds off of each day. When I have a grumbly heart…my children give it right back to me.

But when I am thankful and at peace, they also follow my lead.

example of peace

Be the example for your family. Spend time in the Word and in prayer. Seek God’s wisdom on ways to manage your home and heart so you are being the mom your children need in order to grow and learn the love of Christ.

We are all capable of becoming a peaceful mom. Start today by sitting down and clearing your mind and heart in prayer. Perhaps start a journal for you to use each morning to kick off your day by writing out scriptures on being at peace, or by listing three things you are thankful for and three things that you can praise your children for during the day. As you get ready for bed, look over the journal again and make a note or two for you to start off tomorrow.