Tuesday, May 21, 2013

40 Day Challenge- The Prelude

I'm so excited to report that Friday, May 17th marked the 40th day of our family's 40 day challenge!  Before I get into the "nitty-gritty" of this challenge, let me tell you how it all came to be.  Today's focus will be on the prelude.  The leading up.

April 4th-6th I attended a Homeschooling Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio.  For the week leading up to this convention I did not really feeling like going.  My husband and I were discouraged about our circumstances. We had been looking for new job opportunities for him, but any leads we explored just led to dead ends.  We had hit another "dead end" that week.  Even though I didn't really feel like attending this homeschooling conference, I knew I needed the motivation and encouragement I would find there.  So, I packed up and went.

Not even an hour after arriving at this convention center packed with thousands upon thousands of people and vendors, (in overwhelming numbers, making a "newbie" homeschooling mom even a tad bit more intimidated), God showed up and surprised me.  Over the course of the weekend His voice broke loud and clear.  And there was silence no more.

See, months prior I met an old friend of one of my friends, who was visiting her from out of state.  I had no idea this friend of a friend was a seasoned homeschooling mom.  But as we struck up a conversation that evening, it was brought to light.  I remember standing in my friend's kitchen completely engaged in conversation with her, oblivious to anything going on around me.  Her words of encouragement were timely, and I soaked them in like the noonday sun.  Before the night was over, this friend of a friend pulled me aside and asked if she could pray for me.  Her words were spot on, and she spoke certain things (about and over myself, my husband, and our family) that only the Spirit could have revealed to her.  Our chance encounter that evening seemed nothing less than God-ordained.  It moved me and brought great encouragement.

So, back to Cincinnati.  Would you believe that in a sea of thousands of people on registration day, I would be standing in one of many lines waiting to purchase a ticket to one of the offered speaking events, when I would hear a strangely familiar voice coming from somewhere behind?  I turned around in line, and directly behind me was this friend of a friend!  Who happens to live in Ohio, and happened to be attending the same convention, and happened to be in the same line looking to sell back just one ticket to the exact event I was looking to purchase just one ticket.  It was a God thing.  My heart was grinning from ear to ear as I felt His presence near.  I knew that He was giving me a personal and tangible dose of encouragement to keep focused on the work He had called me to with this homeschooling journey.  It was as if He was speaking and confirming in my heart that I was right where He wanted me to be, doing the very work He had first called me to a year prior.  He got my attention.

These homeschooling conventions are jam-packed with workshops to attend.  They offer a myriad of classes/sessions on the hour, around the clock, all weekend long.  There are so many good workshops to choose from, and really not enough time for one person to soak in all the information she desires.

Here is a flavor of just a fraction of workshops offered:
-Meeting the Needs of Mathematically Gifted Children 
-How Latin is the Key to Making Language Learning Easy
-How Memory Works: Essential Learning Systems
-Study Like a Genius: Unlocking Your Brain
-Classical Teaching of History
-Learn the Greek Alphabet in an Hour
-Teaching Your Students to Read for Comprehension
-Teaching Literature with Socratic Discussion
-Fermentation Science with the Perfect Pickler (yes, that was really offered)
-Russia in the Dark Age of Communism
-12 Genius Qualities to Encourage in Your Children

And then here are a few of the workshops I found myself drawn to:
-When it Hurts to Homeschool
-21 Days to a More Disciplined Life
-10 Ways to Stop Defiance, Disrespect, and Meltdowns
-10 Ways to Make Your Kids Crazy About You
-How to Make Your Home a Piece of Heaven on Earth
-I Quit!
-Stop the Yelling, Lecturing, and Power Struggles
-Exploding the Supermom Myth
-Homeschooling with Little Ones in the Mix
-Help! It's 5:00 and We're Still Doing School!
-Don't Just Read God's Word, Devour it as a Family
-Discipline that Works when Consequences Don't
-How to Overcome being Overwhelmed

A stark contrast, don't you think?  I began to realize that at this point in my homeschooling journey, I couldn't even fathom or comprehend attending some of those "academic" workshops until I had a handle on some of the topics covered in this last set of workshops.  Latin?  I'm not there yet. I'm still aiming to abolish the complaining that occurs when I ask my 9 year old to dictate a 12 word sentence in English...(which happens to be his native tongue by the way, and should come quite naturally.)  Or squelch the tear-stained-face meltdowns and pencil breaking fits that have occurred in the past when asked to do such a ridiculous thing.  Genius Qualities?  In this house, we are just hoping to land on "average" most days.  As in..."Daughter, you misspelled your own name, can you rewrite that please? There is an E at the end," or learning to follow the infamous grammar rules that every sentence begins with a capital letter and ends with a punctuation mark.  Let's start there before we get all "genius" under this roof.  We are an extraordinarily ordinary family, and I'm ok with that.

So, yeah.  I found myself attending workshops that solely dealt with issues outside the world of academia.  God began revealing to me that my focus should be in the home and of the heart.  That the academics could (and should) all come later.  I was listening.

Over the course of the weekend, I felt God gently speaking to me and revealing areas of desired change within my heart and my home.  That He was after heart change...individual and familial heart transformation.  I was convicted and felt a strong sense that He was calling me to act with immediacy.  On a few occasions I caught myself praying, "God, please don't let me die anytime soon!  There is much good work still yet to be done."  I couldn't wait to get home.

When I came home from the convention, my husband was shocked to hear of all of the workshops I had attended.  He assumed they would all be geared toward academics and the like.  He could sense my passion and conviction to create change within our household and he eagerly jumped on board with me.  A true gift from God that we would be on the same page with this challenge we were about to embark upon.

When beginning this homeschooling journey, I purchased this etsy print and hung it on the wall right outside our classroom.

It served as a reminder for me to throw myself into this new role of "homeschooling mom."  That I was making a difference with my one precious life.  That what I was doing mattered and had purpose.  That between the peanut butter-and-jelly-making and monotonous housework routine, each day counted.  That I was not to take it for granted, sit in idleness, or grow desensitized to the task, but to work at it with all my heart, and not grow weary in doing this good work I had been called to.  To live this one wild and precious life with intention and passion.  Each and every moment.  For moments lead to hours, that lead to days, that lead to seasons and years, which add up to a lifetime.  They matter and we must make them count.

This convention stirred up something wild and fiery within me to do so.  To live out this life with purpose and passion, and to be intentional about it.  That I was the one who had control over it.  That the measure of joy and peace I was able to receive was all but a choice. That I had choices to make that could bring about the change I had been craving.  Not just change within our family of 5, but generational change as we laid the foundations for a life worth living.

At the convention, as I began to self-reflect and really pay attention to the stir of His Spirit within me...one thing became painfully clear.  It began with me and the things that I can control.

It seems most of the areas in life that steal my joy and peace, and overwhelm me the most, are not necessarily external circumstances that I have little or no control over.  Those things certainly bring stress, but they are more like the "icing on the cake" to life's disharmony.  I discovered that the things that stress me out the most and steal my joy are the very things that I alone can control.  It started with me.  In how I act and react, respond, prioritize, and manage my time.  These are all things that cause a ripple effect to the lives around me and the harmony within our home.  These are the things I needed to re-evaluate, take back, and begin to tweak and change.  I was ready.  And determined.

It seemed too often in our family, we let our emotions control us...and the emotions of those around us.  They dictated our stress and the climate of our household.  One bad mood or attitude could attempt to spoil a whole day or evening, and everyone in it.   This can too easily become a default or norm.  Where it seems to be a vicious cycle in which everyone's emotions are controlling the household.  And there are plenty of days where this is beautiful.  And there are plenty of days where this is toxic.  I wanted to stop the toxic and give my kids better tools to avoid "sweating the small stuff" and to rise above it all regardless of their circumstances.

It's not that we were living in a crazy house that yells at each other all the time.  But there were moments I was noticing that our words, our tone of voice, and our behaviors toward each other were lacking gentleness and grace more regularly than not.  There was a calmness that was lacking too.  And sometimes, for no good reason at all...but rather out of mere habit.  We all know this life is full of frustrations, disappointments, and plan B's (and C's).  That's not going to change.  We just have to learn to cope with these things and maintain our joy and peace in the face of adversity.  God was calling me to do a better job with this.

I often found that after too many of my "mom buttons" had been pushed, I ended up doing and saying the very things I reprimanded my kids for doing and saying?  I expected and trained them to react and respond to each other and situations with patience and self-control, and for the most part I was doing this myself.  But, sometimes, when those buttons were pushed, it's like all rational sense of reasoning went out the window.  What kind of example is that?  As parents, we are the example.  We are the "how to live" blueprint for our children.  This is where my conviction for change began to bloom.  I knew I could be doing better. Part of the beauty I found in homeschooling is that it gave me more time to influence and instill godliness in my children.  Yet, as time passed, I felt convicted that I was falling short here.

It was time to make some changes.  God has given us everything we need for life and godliness.  He desires we live and enjoy an abundant life here on earth.  He does not run out of grace, peace, and joy to offer us.  There is no shortage.  It's more like we clog the conduits in life to receive these things.  Or just plain don't ask or pursue them, but rather expect God to drop them into our laps each day.  It doesn't work this way though.  We all have an active role to play in gathering and becoming a grateful recipient of these things.  To be intentional about the way we live.  To pursue peace.

The manna that sustains and fills is available to us daily, hourly, and by the minute.  Too often I found myself coming up short.  Overwhelmed and overworked by the end of each day.  Easily growing tired and weary by the time my husband got home at night.  When I should have been looking forward to enjoying quality time with him and our family of five being together, I often found myself "spent" and wanting to sneak away by myself to exhale and retreat.  I didn't like not having my "best self" to offer him when he came home at night.  But rather a "worn out" self.  A self in which every button had already been pushed that day, and my kids and the household bore the scars to prove it.

I want myself and everyone in my family to live a passionate life of peace, joy, purpose and fruitfulness.  And to see that despite external circumstances, we can have these things in abundance.  That godly character and heavenly treasure are the things that give us fullness of life.  That we are in control of our own emotions and God can usher in calmness of heart and home if we pursue peace and live with intention.

After an extended season of silence, God spoke, and His voice rang loud and clear to my poised ear and hungry heart.  All in a weekend.  So was birthed our 40 day family challenge.   We eagerly accepted and took on this challenge with drive and determination.  With not a moment wasted.

God filled us with fresh revelation and insight to tackle our family challenge.  Over and over again He showed up with His "Wonder-working" and filled us with strength and encouragement to press on toward the goal.  If there were more hours in a day, I'd share now.  But the baby naps, and writing and grammar with the older two still sits on my plate for today.  I promise to share soon...until then, stay tuned for the "nitty-gritty."

3 comments:

  1. Girl - I cannot wait to hear more ... also, date for Mexican food so we can discuss. Por Favor!!

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  2. Thank you, Amanda, for so earnestly revealing so much of yourself in this blog. I come to it on occasion and often find you are writing to me, without you even knowing it. I scroll my eyes across sentences and think, "aha! Yes!" I come to many an evening feeling as if I've failed so completely at most things - discipline, housework, worship and like many moms, even taking care of myself. In a little way, it's so nice to know I'm not alone at this, and find great encouragement knowing there is a cheerful, graceful blond - who's lead by HIM - to shadow when I'm feeling low . I so look forward to reading about this 40 day challenge. Sarah West

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  3. @beckyjomama: Yes, Mexicano needs to happen. No more excuses, let's just set a date and do it!

    @sewest1: Sarah, thanks for following my blog. I love how the Spirit speaks to us through others. I am encouraged when I hear things such as what you wrote, because I know that God is working through me and giving me words to encourage and spur others on toward Him. To remind others that they are not alone. There is great joy in this...and it's the purpose for which I continue to write and share (even some of the things that are rather personal and leave me a bit vulnerable and exposed). If they can be used for good, then I will continue to share. God is in all the details. He is behind the scenes knitting and weaving together a perfect plan for our lives. Sometimes, it doesn't seem to make sense, sometimes we don't "feel" Him near, and some seasons seem like more of a struggle than a relief. But, always, He is there, He is working, and He is good. You are not alone in this. In one way or another, we all struggle. But it's in the sharing of these things that we can build each other up and be encouraged. I'm learning that baby steps are all that's needed to keep moving forward. Some days we weep forward, some days we stumble and fall forward, some days we crawl forward, other days we leap and run forward, as long as we keep putting one foot in front of the other, chasing and following hard after Him, walking by faith and not by sight, taking hold of those new mercies daily, then we will find ourselves walking in victory. One day and one moment at a time. Be encouraged. We aren't called to be perfect, just obedient and faithful. And He's given us everything we need for this.

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