Monday, July 15, 2013

a beautiful, sweet release


Our family is approaching a season of transition.  With that comes a move out of our current home within the next month and a half, as we commit to crunching down the debt accumulated over the past three years.  It's also brought about a new season which has caused us to re-evaluate and address the changing needs of our family.  

I had been in turmoil over whether or not I would continue to homeschool my flock or send them back to their old public school.  The greater part of me (and my kids) desired the latter of the two options.  But more than anything I was desiring to be in God's will and was filled with fear that I would make the wrong choice and be outside of it.  The thought of homeschooling while in this new season filled me to the brim with anxiety.  It also set the scene for a mild depression that was knocking on my door, waiting and taunting to come in and consume.  But, I knew if God was calling me to this "hard," then He would equip me for it. Secretly, I was hoping and praying He would not.  In this process, I often felt like I was tangling my own will in with His will, and I worried that confusion wouldn't allow me to extract one from the other.  

I just wanted to be obedient.  In my recent past experiences, obedience has called me to "hard." And dread was washing up over me at the thought of being called to a deeper kind of "hard" than I had yet experienced.  In anguish I spent many moments on my knees in tearful prayer begging God for direction and pleading to hear His voice above the noise of the world, others opinions, and my own consuming thoughts.  I asked friends to cover me in prayer and sought counsel from loved ones who could speak truth to me.  I really thought God may be calling me to this deeper "hard" and it nearly paralyzed me with fear and anxiety.  I was desperate to hear His voice.

Sometimes in life, God calls us to the "hard."  So was the past season for our family.  It really was "hard" on all four corners of our home life: physically (with Brayden's health/illness), financially (with Darcy's past career), emotionally (with all of the circumstantial challenges that lied within and before us), and spiritually (as we were stretched and stripped and lean in so many areas of our life and had to learn to depend on God in desperation like never before).

2012, by far, was the most exhausting, and in many ways, the most excruciatingly painful, and challenging year of my life.  It was a season of leanness and lacking.  Of pruning, stripping, humbling, stretching, and refining.  It was a "dig deep" year on all levels.  I can't say it was the "worst" year of my life...because I shared it with the most important and loved people I know, and because it took me on a faith journey that rocked my world and proved to be worth every pain, hardship, sacrifice, and tear poured out.  But, it was riddled with challenge and all colors of "hard." And it was a season I hope to never have to re-live.

I've more fully realized that the LORD is my strength and that I am nothing without Him.  He is light and life.  He always delivers, always leads, and He always come through.  When we seek Him, we most certainly will find Him.  When we earnestly come to Him in prayer, He answers and provides for us.  He is always faithful and never fails us.  He has proven His faithfulness to me time and time again, and thus, was no different this time around.

I've looked back on this homeschooling journey, and there have been many blessings and benefits we have reaped from it.  There's so many things about homeschooling that I "get" and agree with.  I loved spending time with my kids, I loved the influence I was able to have on them,  I loved the flexibility of our schedule, and I loved the support system around us (which was a lifeline to me)...but in all honesty, I never liked the teaching aspect of it all.  In fact, I always dreaded that part of our day and couldn't wait until it was over.  It was always a struggle that stretched and tapped me bone dry.  One in which I lacked joy and often felt like I was running a lifelong marathon on an uphill treadmill.  That, mixed with all of our other strenuous circumstances, took everything in me.  And everything out of me.  I often felt like a failure at it, that I was ill-equipped and inadequate.  I worried my kids were falling behind.  I had poor time-management skills and longed for more time to myself. (All things common to most homeschooling moms from time to time). But in addition to these things, I lacked the passion and joy for it.  This just loaded more guilt onto my existing heap, and made the challenge all that more difficult.

Our reason for homeschooling was primarily based on the physical needs of my son at the time.  Since then, we have a better knowledge and manage of his illness and the threat and scare for his physical well-being are no longer the focal point of our lives.  Now, it seems we are entering into a season in which the emotional/mental needs of our family are taking precedent.  As I was contemplating whether or not we should continue to homeschool, there were many factors we needed to consider.  There was no "cut and dry" answer.  Through much prayer, thought, writing, and pouring out,  God began sorting things within my heart.  In time, His will was revealed and His voice was made known.  But, it took a lot of untangling before this all happened.

In the thick of this process, I contacted a friend of mine who has been on both sides of the coin with homeschooling/public school.  I knew she would understand the pulls of my heart and the turmoil this decision was causing me.  My desire to do what's best for my family, yet still keep my sanity.  She also understood my struggle in finding joy and passion in it.  When I learned this, I realized I was not alone, and this brought much comfort and validation to me.  Over the phone, she mentioned something to me that really hit home and caused me to deeply consider my choices.  Although these weren't her words verbatim,  the truth in them hit me to the core.  She said, "Amanda, when I was in your position and needed to decide what was best for our family, I thought to myself, one day I will come to the end of my life.  I will have to stand before God and answer to Him.  He may ask me, 'Why did you spend all of your time and energy trying to duplicate someone else's life calling?  I gave you unique gifts, abilities, talents, and purpose and you wasted those things trying to fulfill someone else's.'"  This was an "a-ha" moment for me.

I know what it feels like to be called by God into something.  I felt that way when He led me into the Stephen Ministry.  I am passionate about it.  I've loved every minute of it.  It's felt "right" and like a "perfect fit."  It takes a lot of my time, but doesn't drain me, yet rather fills me with much joy and purpose.  All of which I've lacked while homeschooling.  In fact, during our homeschooling days, I often caught myself fantasizing about what I would rather be doing with my time.  Things that fill me with joy and purpose.  Things that refuel and recharge me.  Things that allow me to use my gifts and abilities for Him.  Things that breathe life into me.  Homeschooling seemed to do quite the opposite.

Many of my needs and desires were put on the backburner during this season.  There have been ministry and writing opportunities I have wanted to sink my teeth into but haven't had a chance to.  There have been friends I've wanted to connect with but haven't had the time.  I've missed exercising regularly.  It may seem petty, but it's something that affects my joy level, my energy level, and my stress level.  All of which, affects the kind of wife, mother, and friend I am able to be.  I often felt guilty for desiring these things.  And guilty for being "tapped out" dry with not much left in me to pour out into the people and things that mean the most to me.  I've missed spending one-on-one time with my littlest.  She's at such a tender age, and has often been lost in the shuffle of life as my energies have been focused on schooling her older brother and sister.   More super-sized guilt thrown onto the heap.

It took a couple of wise, treasured ladies to remind me that when there's not enough in life filling me up, it leaves me empty...and then everyone around me loses.  That it's important and ok to take care of me. And that just perhaps, I am holding onto a lot of false guilt.  This has been something difficult for me to let go of.  I had a hard time wrapping my brain around the fact that God cares for my individual needs and desires and that I shouldn't feel guilty because I have them.  I told a friend that when you walk such a long season of "hard," in which your personal needs and desires often go unmet, it almost feels sinful to wish or consider life to be anything different than it is.  You feel selfish and guilty any time you do something for yourself.  So, you just keep doing the "hard," believing that this is just how life will be, and you try to make the best of it.  And this is honestly right where I thought God would keep me.  In that kind of "hard."

But over the course of this past week, God began speaking to my spirit and revealing truth and His tender heart toward me.  I do believe when He calls us to something, He places a passion in our hearts for it.  I homeschooled out of obedience and because we believed it was the best thing for our family as a whole during that season in life.  Obedience to me equated to the "hard."  Sometimes it will be.  But not always.  Weathering through this past season with joy and passion was my greatest challenge.  I look back on it all now and wonder how I was able to get through it.  Surely, it was the grace of God that carried me.

As things recently began to unknot and unfold, my realization that homeschooling is not my calling in life became clearly evident.  For so long I scolded myself for not feeling the joy and passion in it.  But, can I tell you something?  I truly believe that when God calls us to something, He WILL fill us with a joy and passion for it.   It's true that He may call us to the "hard."  And He most certainly will equip us to get through it.  But, if the joy and passion for it leaves, or in my case, never comes, perhaps it's time to re-evaluate what you are doing.  This is ok.  This life is full of seasons.  They come and go and change over time.  It is us who sometimes get "stuck" in them, even at times when God is leading us out.

The needs of our family are now changing with this approaching season.  My passion for homeschooling never surfaced, as much as I prayed and tried to will it to appear.  And my anxiety toward it only increased.  As mentioned before, the thought of continuing to homeschool consumed me with anxiety and dread, and a bit of hopelessness.  However, when I allowed my mind to consider public school, a peace and hope would wash over me.  I kept mistaking this as my own selfishness.  That my will for this couldn't possibly also be God's will.  And I felt guilty for these thoughts. It took a while for me to consider that the peace I was feeling when considering sending them back, may actually be an indicator from God.  And although I paid attention to it, I wasn't fully convinced.  When a friend mentioned the exact same thing to me, that this peace may indeed be an indicator from God, I grew more and more convinced that it was.  Still, I was so afraid of being disobedient and making a choice outside of His will, that I prayed and pleaded for direct confirmation from God alone.   I'm grateful for the friends who reserved or used discretion with their opinions in order to allow me to work through this on my own, yet still covered me in prayer, offered love, acceptance, and encouragement, and were able to speak truth to me in the midst.

As I worked through all of these thoughts and feelings, my husband and I began leaning toward sending the kids back to public school.  There are still challenges to Brayden's health and these things need to be considered.  But God is already lining up the details to make this transition take place with ease and at a comfort level we are yearning for.  We discussed this possibility with the kids and wanted to get their input, and they have been overly enthusiastic to say the least.  Brooke is beaming with joy over this.  It's written all over her face and her demeanor.  Not to mention she can't stop talking about it with excitement.  She has secretly been journaling and writing songs about her feelings in regards to this. And she's been googling backpacks on the computer, dreaming about the "perfect" one for her soon-to-be third grade self.  She also, unbeknownst to me, took my phone and called her old teacher informing her that she might be coming back.  She can hardly contain her excitement.  All things that seem to confirm that we are making the right decision for our family.

But even with all of these things in mind, the joy and excitement of the kids, the sense of peace within me, the confirmation around us, I still desperately needed to hear from the LORD before making a final decision.  And how like Him, in all His faithfulness, to deliver.  

It happened in the car as I was driving with my kids the other day.  The radio was on, I was half-listening to the music, but recognized the voice of the one singing through our speakers.  It was a JJ Heller song I hadn't heard before ("Loved").  I turned up the volume right around the time of the chorus, and her voice sang out slowly, "you are loved."  And in that moment I was overcome with emotion and tears came spilling down my face.  The melody and voice of God dancing, reaching through, and whispering directly to my spirit.  It's as if I could distinctly hear Him say to me, "Amanda, I am giving you permission and I am providing a way for you to enter into a new season of ease and relief.  Accept it with joy and gratitude, and not with guilt and condemnation.  I AM. And I am giving you permission.  I see and know your deepest needs and desires.  They have not been overlooked or forgotten.  You are loved."

And immediately, I felt a beautiful, sweet release.  An enormous burden lifted from my shoulders.  An overwhelming peace that covered.  A joy, excitement, hope, and startling burst of energy that enveloped, stirred, and grew.  There was a skip in my step.  I felt like a trapped bird that had just been uncaged and released.  I was suddenly looking forward to the future, no longer filled with dread.  And most importantly, I was given a very intimate revelation of God's tender heart toward me.  An understanding of His goodness that chases.  And catches. And I gladly and most humbly accepted.

This life is a journey filled with lessons.  I'm still learning.  I've realized that the God who sometimes calls us into a season of "hard" can just as easily and quickly call us out of it.  He had provided a job for my husband which was placing our family into a season of financial ease and relief.  I hadn't even imagined that He would do the immeasurably more, but He did.  He's ushering us into a season of ease and relief in other areas too...especially with the load I carry.  This makes me feel known and treasured.  While I know the journey ahead of us will have challenges of its own, I feel a renewed sense of hope, strength, and joy to persevere through.  I have an excitement and an energy that had been missing for so long.  I am looking forward to this new season.  It feels as if life is finding its balance again and is returning back to a place of normalcy.  The season of leanness and lacking is fading in the distance of our yesterday.  All glory to God, our ever-present help in time of need.

If you find yourself in the "hard," hold fast.  Your season of relief may be just around the corner.  I am currently reading "The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears.” by Mark Batterson.  I'm freshly into it and already have post-it notes galore on most of the pages.  I think I’ve prayed more over these past three years alone than I have prayed in all my living years combined.  So this book speaks to me greatly, as it is focused on prayer.

Batterson writes about the importance of being specific, bold, and perseverant with your prayers.  He mentions that, “Prayer helps you get outside the problem.  It helps you circle the miracle.  It helps you see all around the situation.”  I’ve found this to be true.  Even with my latest challenge in whether or not to continue to homeschool, it was prayer that helped me untangle the knots and see all around the situation.

Sometimes, however, we don’t get the results we desire right away.  I felt like for three years I was offering up the same unanswered prayers to God.  Before even reading or having any knowledge of this book, “The Circle Maker,” I see now that over the course of these past three years,  I have indeed been praying circles around our circumstances.  Or as Batterson terms, I was “praying through.”

In regards to the Jericho miracle in the Bible, Batterson poses the question, “What if the Israelites had stopped circling on the sixth day?”  And goes on to respond,  “The answer is obvious.  They would have forfeited the miracle right before it happened.  If they had stopped circling after 12 round trips, they would have done a lot of walking for nothing.  Like the generation before them, they would have defaulted on the promise.  And the same is true for us...We give up too easily.  We give up too soon.  We quit praying right before the miracle happens.

Perhaps you are feeling disappointed because your dreams and prayers have not been answered or have not yet come to fruition as hoped.  Batterson offers a unique and challenging perspective on handling life’s disappointments.  He mentions, “We should praise God for disappointment because it drives us to our knees.  Disappointment is like dream defibrillation.  If we respond to it the right way, disappointment can actually restore our prayer rhythm and resurrect our dreams.”  I’ll be the first to admit, this is not how I initially handled the disappointment of our hardship in this past season.  I did a whole lot of pit-dwelling.  But, eventually, I knew the choice came down to me, and I willed to lean into the LORD for my strength and pray myself out of it.    And as long as I stayed connected to that source of power and grace, I was provided enough to endure.  Prayer keeps you connected and keeps you from running on fumes.  His power and grace is limitless and always available to us.

There's another advantage to prayer...If it doesn’t change your circumstances, it most certainly can change YOU in them.  It wasn’t until the beginning of this year that my resolve kicked in for good and I started believing the promises God had put in my heart for our family were actually going to happen, regardless of how contradictory life around us looked.  I continued to pray circles around these things...(praying through and praising through) and I’m so thankful that we are finally beginning to see answers.  I will continue to pray circles and patiently wait upon Him for the fulfillment of these promises.  My Jericho miracle may be right around the corner.  I may just be one prayer away from it.  And you may be too.  

Do not lose hope.  You have no idea when God may call you out of a season of difficulty and place you into a new season with a bit more ease and relief.  You have no idea when your answer will come.  Pray circles around your dreams and struggles.  Pray and praise through them.  A beautiful, sweet release may be waiting on the doorstep of your tomorrow.  You, too, are known and loved.

7 comments:

  1. I love this Amanda..... for so many reasons. Mostly because it gave me encouragement to keep praying for something I often give up on.
    I hope you continue to have peace about your decision. It is obviously not something you take lightly. I fully understand where you are coming from, as I would feel completely inept at homeschooling! It sounds like your kids are equally excited, and Berlin will love that one on one time with you :) Hope you have a smooth transition to your new home.

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  2. My wife and I wrestled with public, private or home school. We went with public. Sometimes it was good, sometimes it was not. Whatever option you choose parental involvement and oversight is critical. We have sent all three of our kids to Christian colleges. Our youngest is a senior now. All there kids have their faith, are married to, are getting married to, or are dating someone of faith. We are blessed and thankful.

    I liked here from Amanda Beth's blog where I read your very good guest post. I have the current post on Wisdom in Marriage.

    Warren

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  3. Aw! I will miss you at co-op! :( But I completely understand. I too dread the teaching part and honestly your post was describing how I feel when homeschooling. I have never enjoyed the teaching part, and I constantly feel like I lack the ability and time to keep up. But for me, God has showed me that I don't have to be a super teacher to teach my kids. I do what I can and I am to let Him handle the rest. I was worrying recently that I haven't taught my youngest anything yet and I need to show him how to write his letters. The other day, God surprised me and I saw my son writing words on a piece of paper! Not just letters, but words! I was shocked! Those little blessings God sends me give me confirmation that I am in His will and strength to continue on. He's so faithful!:)

    I'm glad He's showing You what His will is. I'll miss you, though! Stay in touch. I'll be praying for your family.

    I forgot to tell you that you have a couple comments on your post on my site if you want to reply to them. http://www.sharingtruths.com/?p=604

    Enjoy the rest of summer! :)
    Blessings to you and your family!
    Amanda

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  4. Corie-
    thank you! this is a decision i continue to feel at peace with, although it took quite a while to get there! i strongly recommend the book i referenced in this post, "The Circle Maker" by Mark Batterson. It is encouraging, uplifting, and invigorating to one's prayer life. Do not give up! Keep praying and praising through!

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  5. Warren-
    Thank you for taking the time to stop by my blog and offer encouragement..and thank you for sharing my post on your site (I will now have to go take a look at yours!)

    I would love to send my kids to Christian schools now, but we are not in a position to do so at this time. My dream for them is that they will end up at Christian colleges.

    I agree with what you said, "Whatever option you choose parental involvement and oversight is critical." I know public school will host it's own new set of challenges and concerns, and I am already praying over some of these things now! There are areas we are going to have to be more diligent in guarding, guiding, and praying through.

    It sounds like you have done a great job in parenting your kids and growing them up in the Lord. Indeed, you are blessed!

    Thanks again for your encouragement!
    Amanda

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  6. Amanda-
    Thanks for your encouragement...I am going to miss you too! I know the Lord led us to each other at just the right time for some great purposes and I thank Him for that.

    There's no way we can be ALL things to ALL of our kids ALL the time. We can't be supermom or superwife, or super anything! My prayer and belief while homeschooling was always that God would be faithful to pick up the slack and fill in the gaps where I was weak. I think anytime your heart is committed to Him and the work He is calling you to, He will do just that! It's evident He is doing that already through your little one! Way to go on his words/letters!

    Thanks for letting me know about the comments on your blog...I will go back and read them and respond (and hope those who commented return back to see my response).

    You have been a great source of encouragement and inspiration to me...and I see so many ways in which our lives and our faith stories have paralleled. This has helped me so much and I value your friendship and mentorship.

    Keep letting God use you and work through you. You are doing a good work! And you will always have my support and encouragement.

    I know we will keep in touch...and thank you for your prayers for my family. You know my door is always open for prayer, and a listening ear for you too.

    Love,
    Amanda

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  7. Amanda - Thanks. Open communication is so important. Ask them what classes are like, what the teachers say, etc. Make it conversational. I also gave my kids books and articles to read on subjects we talked about to supplement their class instruction. Unfortunately, my kids had some teachers, particularly history teachers, that didn't teach at all.

    I've enjoyed reading on your blog. It is very good. I'm following now. I added your address manually to my feed.

    Thanks again for the nice comments.

    Warren

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