Lift up your eyes

These have been days that have tried my patience and virtually exhausted my goodwill toward my children.  I have attempted to teach perseverance when I have been on the verge of giving up,  myself.  I have longed to model strong character and kindness while my head felt like it was going to explode.  My soul feels tapped out while I attempt to fill my boys with hard work and integrity.  Or maybe just math equations and a turkey sandwich.

I particularly feel the pressure of all this as I just returned from the 2014 Hearts at Home event, a Christian conference for mothers, with authors and speakers providing sessions on parenting, faith and family issues.   I shared this time with some amazing women from my church family, so it seems a significant blow to return to poor attitudes and complaining among my own children.  What did I expect?  My children would be miraculously perfected upon my return from Illinois?  I would be transformed into such a gracious parent that my children would want to obey my every request…even before I verbalize it?

My children still have the same weaknesses.  And so do I.

I am tired.  Physically sometimes.  Often emotionally.  Home schooling is difficult, and I am frequently perplexed why I am surprised by this.  Not every day is draining, but these lately have been.  Thank goodness He sees me and gives me grace, and the energy I never thought I could muster.

“To whom will you compare me?  Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.

Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these?  He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name…

Why do you complain…Why do you say, Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God”?

Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;

but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.  Isaiah 40:25-31


Admittedly, I have been complaining with the majority of my region about the harshness that has been this winter.  I do hate to complain, given the fact that I live in a home which protects me from the elements, and is more than adequate in size.  My family has not missed a meal, nor have we suffered from any illnesses.  However, it has been a trying winter, the winter of our discontent, if you will.  (Here, I give a nod first to Mr. Shakespeare, and now to Mr. Steinbeck.)  We have been outdoors far less than is typical for us, even in the winter season.  The constant battles with snow and ice, coupled with some ridiculously frigid temperatures have taken its toll on us.  The fact that the five of us have been living nearly 24-7 under one roof is another tale.  Remember, my husband works from home?  Enough complaining, right?  What do they say?  If you can’t beat them, join them.  So, out we go to find the trees.


All three of my guys love being outdoors, which was why it was surprising when A started balking at my proposal for a nature walk in nearby trails.  I was also more than a little annoyed, because I genuinely thought all three would jump at this idea after being cooped up, and frankly, I have already had to deal with too much whining and bickering this winter.


Of course, once we were all out the door and in the car, spirits rose.

Here is the profound lesson I Iearned while on this nature walk with my three guys.  Ready?  Here it is: boys do nature walks differently than I do.  Yes, that was it.  Astounding isn’t it?  Even though it does not seem like it to my adult sensibilities, they do appreciate nature.  There are differences in appreciation, however, just as there are different personalities and learning styles.  While I was sauntering through the wooded trails, gazing upward at sky and trees, they were…well, where were they?  They were here just a moment ago.


Making tracks in the tracks

Oh…there they are, tearing through the dead underbrush, up the side of a hill, now sliding backwards into ice and snow.  Sigh.  Yelling and whooping, and well, just creating noise pollution.


Later,  A finds a tiny trail which leads to a sizeable creek.  Sandy patches freckle the snow leading up to the water.  A young, slender hickory gracefully sways in a chilly current, its entire trunk caught in a wintry breeze.  S turns to me for a moment as I admire it.  Quietly, I share this encounter with him.

“Oh, it feels so calming,” he agrees.  Then, immediately, he has turned back towards the water and is hurling fistfuls of snow into the creek.  “I am helping out the eco system!” He yells back at me.

Honestly, I thought about being disappointed at our nature walk.  The world was still and gorgeous, and I felt they were missing it.  Then, I realized that thing about differences in appreciation.   Here are some ways children might appreciate nature:

  • Children are not passive in their love for nature.
  • They must directly engage in it.  It may be enough for me to sit quietly while a bird sings and breathe in spicy, earthy aromas of dirt, but my children need to touch it.
  • They love it by interacting with it, moving in it.  They dig in the dirt, chase after the birds, lift fallen branches, collect favorite pieces….whack things.
  • PLAY is a child’s way of being in and loving nature.

I know.  We already knew all of that.  And yet I learned it again.  Profoundly.  While watching them enjoy a day in early March, I remember more of those trails, because of the play.  Without them, I would have missed the creek.  I don’t think I would have chosen the trail that A did.  He showed us the Red-breasted woodpecker high up in the tree, putting on quite a show.  G located tree cavities I never would have noticed otherwise.


There was a child went forth everyday,

And the first object he look’d upon that object he became.

And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day,

Or for many years or stretching cycles of years.

~Walt Whitman from 103 in Leaves of Grass

The Village, The Family

Hillary Clinton has famously quoted a supposed African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  Some homeschool groups and others have jumped on this, adding their own twist, “I have seen the village.  We choose to homeschool.”  Both quotes irritate me.  The former because it seems to fly in the face of my understanding of how the Bible describes my personal responsibility to my family.  The latter because of its disrespectful, condemning tone and sentiment.  Our boys began their school-aged years in a public school setting, yet now we are in our second year of homeschooling, and it looks like we might be here awhile.  Do I look down on families opting for public education?  No.  We were there once.  By and large, it seemed a positive experience.  Currently, the homeschool option just seems the best fit for us.  While the Bible charges my husband and me to train our children in matters of faith,  (Deuteronomy 6) I seriously doubt it has any commandments regarding English grammar or multiplying fractions.  We have just decided to tackle these lessons around the kitchen table, as well.

And yet, this post is by no means intended to be about homeschooling vs. public education.  Instead, I want to reflect on who is raising our children, whether we homeschool, send them to public, private or charter schools.

Clinton wants us to look to the ” village,” except  we don’t have a village.  We have a family.  I am often amazed at God’s design for the church.  While our love for Christ is to be lived out in the mundaneness of daily routines, and in our compassion for others, we need a sense of community.  We need a comfortable and secure place to relax.  We need others looking out for our best interests.  We need a spiritual family full of love, care and positive examples.  And He has provided one for us.  One we very much depend on.

We do not necessarily need others teaching our children manners, morals, or even Bible stories.  Our responsibility as parents is clearly written in scripture.

Never forget these commands that I am giving you today.  Teach them to your children.  Repeat them when you are at home and when you are away, when you are resting and when you are working…Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates.”Deuteronomy 6:6-7,9

However, for my children there is great value in someone they know and respect reiterating the same values and ideals that mom and dad try to teach them.  There is value in pointing someone to Jesus.  They need encouragement.  They miss grandparents being closer.  They need to be prodded and goaded and challenged.  They need to feel unconditional love and support.  It is particularly poignant if that encouragement comes from an unexpected source.  Not a call from the Bible class teacher, but a hug from a church elder.  Not a hello from a peer, but a high-five from one of the teens.

Unfortunately, there is no photo with this post, but I have a thousand in my mind’s eye: showing up unexpectedly for a baseball game, getting down on one knee to listen to the rambling of a toddler, an invitation to come over and play, an offer for babysitting, remembering a personal accomplishment.  You know who you are.  These are things a mom appreciates.

Who is raising A, S and G?  By the grace of God, my husband and I are.  And by the grace and love of some amazing people in his church, we are thankful for their help.  I honestly don’t know if it takes a village, but we do have a family working on it.