Was I going to ruin them forever if I followed through with this?... was I *able* to do it?... would they miss out on life? Would I fail them? How could I be everything they need in every area of life....?
We walked past the elementary school around the corner and she asked questions about it. She could see the kids on the playground and in her mind, that was what going to school meant. My mothers heart felt so torn. *I* know that school isn't all the playground... and I know that the playground at school isn't all fun. But she didn't.
We walked around the corner and the kids stopped to pick these little flowers that were shaped like tiny wheat growing by the sidewalk. I remember watching them and thinking "This is what it's all about... watching my kids pick flowers..." I'm not good at slowing down like that, I usually blow right by and just 'get where we're going' - so this was one of those days I felt like a 'good' mom. I'm my own worst enemy most of the time and am harder on myself than I would ever be on anyone else. To feel like I am measuring up in my own mind takes a special day - and this was one of them. I have very few. I knew that day that I was going to homeschool and somehow I knew they would be ok....
I had always loved the word picture of a green reed that bends in the wind being stronger than a mighty oak that breaks in the storm. And that day as we walked back to our new home that we loved dearly - and I became a little more comfortable in my role as a stay-at-home mom of more than just one child, I heard a message from God loud and clear... you need to be able to slow down and bend with the winds....be humble and lean on Me.... Trust Me to keep you from breaking....
I went home and gathered all they had picked and stuck them in this little bottle I had. And they have been on my bathroom counter since. Almost 6 years now. They have lost their color and are dried out, but they still stand. And every. single. time I look at them, I remember my 'good mom' day and the message to bend with the winds and give God control....or else I would break.
I did decide later that year to send Desirae to school and she went for most of that year to a Christian school nearby. We LOVED that school and she did well there, but before the year was over, I knew she wouldn't be going back. My heart never felt peace without her here, no matter how many awesome things happened there. I know deep down, I've been called to homeschool. I'm not going to lie, a lot of days, I wish I wasn't. And I stay very open and humble about the fact that I may at some point in the future be called to do something different, or have to because of circumstances, so I never take a 'homeschool is the only way' stance, because I don't believe it is.
That summer, I got Rachel's diagnosis... and the 'reeds' in my bathroom took on a whole new meaning... a constant reminder to bend. Bend with the biggest trial that ever had me wanting to take control. Bend with the hardest loss I've ever wanted to avoid. Bend with the deepest pain that ever stole my heart. Bend.
I wanted to break. I wanted to throw in the towel and run. But somehow God gave me the power... the peace... the surrender to keep bending. And it wasn't just through losing Rachel, but through a lot of trials that came WHILE I was planning to lose her and after she was gone. Things that would have been more than I could take before her (like constant criticism from people on how I was handling something they could never come close to understanding, marriage struggles, financial issues, physical pain, betrayal, utter loneliness, the death of my uncle) and I somehow managed to handle it all through the trial with her. Looking back, it's really amazing to see how clearly God carried me and how amazingly He used me in my weakness and frailty. Nothing I could have done in my own strength. I was far from a mighty oak, but I was bending with the wind.... and that sustained me. He sustained me. And I only pray that it glorified Him in all my imperfection.
Over the next few years, I became confident in our choice to homeschool. I remained humble about the fact that I never know what is coming down the road, but knew that we were doing the right thing for where we were at. And I could see my kids really blossoming in the midst of all my failures. I finally felt like I had come into my own as a homeschool mom. I had this figured out.
A few weeks back, I sat in my living room feeling again overwhelmed for the first time in a couple of years - questioning again if I am going to ruin their lives and regret this life decision. It's so heavy having everything they need resting on my shoulders and to some extent, I envy the people who put their kids on the big yellow bus in the morning and don't think twice and then get to welcome them home in the afternoon all refreshed for them and everyone glad to be together again. (and maybe even make some money while they are gone!)
Being with my kids all the time takes away the excitement of seeing each other... I'm just the one who is always there. Wait... did I say that like that's a bad thing? Yes, I did. I'm the one who is always there and I don't feel good enough. And honestly, I'm not. I'm impatient and I yell - and for the record, I can yell loud. I should have been a cheerleader, but I hated cheerleaders in school - I think because they had the confidence that I only dreamed of having. But I'm also a complete neat FREAK. I am like a drill Sargent with my kids and a mess and clutter makes me crazy. I also get overstimulated with too much noise - and I'm in a house with 5 little kids. It's messy. It's noisy. And it's too small for us now, which makes it easily cluttered. Days are long and yet go by too fast to accomplish all I need to do with this crazy busy house load.
But as I sat there feeling defeated again, I thought back to that perfect September-good-mom day.... and I heard the message again about bending.
Suddenly, I heard a crash from the bathroom. I ran in and I kid you not, Asa was on the counter naked, had torn out all my reeds and was pouring water on them in the sink. I screamed like a horror movie.... like I dropped my wedding ring down the drain.... like something serious had gone wrong...
Because I'm attached to this memory and what those reeds symbolize to me. To know that every other person that sees them in my bathroom remains unaware - including Matt - of what they mean to me - they are just little weeds of some sort dried out on my counter. But to me... messages from God and a memory close to my heart. The message that I'm not a failure. One that it takes a lot for me to believe.
I picked them up in tears.... put them back in the jar.... and I noticed one was broken....
I was tempted to throw it out because it takes away from the whole "bend don't break" idea... but as I looked at it, I realized that sometimes we break... and that's okay... just as long as we don't let go.
And I'm still hanging on.
In February, I was having a rough patch emotionally and my mom stopped by one night with a Willow Tree for me. It's called "Simple Joys". When I was reorganizing my counter to get the house ready to put on the market, I put it on the shelf with the reeds and this little sign I have that has the verse from Nehemiah 8:10 - The joy of the Lord is your strength. I didn't pair them together on purpose, but one day I looked at it and noticed that there are 6 flowers on this "Simple Joys" figurine...one for each of my children... and the verse is worded different on this plaque and reads "The joy that the Lord gives will make you strong".
It's not a joy I have to muster up in order to be strong... it's a joy that HE gives. And He gives it in ways that aren't always easy. Actually, I have found the most joy in the valleys that I have gone through.... I have found the most joy in the days when I bend. I have found the most joy in even the times I break, but just hold on. Because without the complete belief that I am nothing without him, all I have is my total inadequacy and constant falling short. But with Him, and through Him, I can bend - as a small reed in the winds, who relies on my Mighty Oak in the storm.
I bend. I even break. But I won't let go. And neither will He.
You *have to* listen to this song with these thoughts on your mind.... I guarantee you will want to dance..... (if you're reading this through email, you will have to go to my blog to see this)