As the school year is ending, I find myself contemplating so many things about the past year, about my kids and myself. Is it OK that my kids still spell 3 letter words wrong sometimes? Is it OK that my son uses his fingers to add sometimes? Is it OK that my 4 year old can’t remember all of her letters yet? Am I worthy of teaching my children, or would they be better off in school? Will I ever feel like I am equipped to homeschool? Will I ever be organized enough to give my children what they deserve?
Maybe? Hopefully… I think so?
I keep a journal with all of my grand plans and amazing ideas (outside of math, reading and writing) that will make our schooling experience rich and fun and memorable. It’s filled with art projects, science experiments, sensory projects, recipes, games, and all sorts of other lovely ideas. Basically it is Pinterest on paper. As I went through my journal last week, I realized that in four years, I have done a handful of activities from my “Grand Plans” journal. Really. One handful in 4 years, and I accomplished them in my first year. Not one, not a single one of my this-is-why-I-homeschool journal ideas came to be since that first year.
I couldn’t believe it. There must be some mistake.
As I flipped through the pages, all of my thoughts screamed you are such a failure! How did you ever think you were supposed to do this? Your kids are going to be stupid and despise being homeschooled. You… are such a failure.
I found myself agreeing with this voice. How did I think I was supposed to do this? What happened in the last four years that got me so far from where I started? Where did my ideals and passion for this go? And at that moment all 5 of my kids came running into the living room chasing each other and falling on top of each other laughing hysterically. You know that laugh that only children have? The laugh of innocence and safety. That laugh that says everything in life is wonderful. That laugh.
As I stared at them thinking about how I was such a failure, a verse kept coming to my mind. “The Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel `16:7).
The heart. The Lord sees the heart. I repeated this in my mind over and over while listening to my children play a game they call “Follow the Crazy Chicken Babies.” I glanced down at my journal again and I still felt like a failure. Instead of playing chicken baby, my kids should be painting masterpieces, or whittling something out of fine wood. They should be reciting a poem by Tennyson, not singing, “The chicken baby is smelling his stinky foot and now the chickens smell like farts.” What kind of mom am I? If the Lord is looking at the heart, He must see that I am lazy. He must see that I make all of these plans to make my children’s life full of goodness, and then don’t do any of it. He must see that I am failing.
And then I heard a voice. Not the voice of failure and guilt, but the voice of reason and love. “The heart is what I see. My plans are what I see. Close your eyes so that you may see.”
So, I closed my eyes, expecting a vision or picture or word from God. But there was only the darkness from closing my eyes. There was only the sound of crazy chicken babies running around. “Whoever has ears, let them hear” (Matthew 11:15). Ok, Lord, what do my ears hear? What do You see and hear? And then I heard it. “Chase the Crazy Chicken Babies” didn’t look like much on the surface, but as I was able to see what was really going on, a peace came over me. My older kids had invented this game as a way to prefer their younger siblings. They were taking delight in their siblings who destroy all of their Legos, pull apart their special things and have stolen the laps that used to be theirs to sit in. This game was about sharing leadership, teamwork and all staying together. Yes, I will admit, there are way too many references to bodily functions, and deep conversation isn’t happening between them, but the heart… the heart of my children is love and relationship.
The Lord sees not as man sees.
The Lord sees not as man sees.
The Lord sees not as man sees.
I kept hearing this over and over. I looked back at my journal and understood. When I looked at this journal, I saw ideas and plans that hadn’t happened. A book of ideals that I was too lazy and unorganized to bring to life. I felt guilt and shame for not living up to the standards I had set. But the Lord sees not as I see. When He looked at this journal, he saw a mother who loves her children and wants the best for her children. He saw a mother who has big dreams and plans for a life of fullness and richness for her family. He saw that although I had made plans, His plans were better.
His plans are eternal.
While my flesh was focused on the outward, He was focused on the inward. The heart. The heart is His greatest concern; and He had been at work diligently over the last 4 years cultivating and molding my family’s heart in unity and rest. He took all of my plans, and honored me in a way that, from the outward, looked like failure to me. He honored my heart, by giving me rest in the way we needed. And He gave me rest by taking all of my plans and throwing them away for a season so that my family could thrive in the busy season we were in. In the chaotic season of job transitions, third baby being born, not sleeping, pregnant again, bedrest, fourth and fifth babies being born, not sleeping… again. We needed rest. We needed time to enjoy each other at a slow pace during all of this. And we did.
As I looked at my family and myself with the eyes that God sees us with, I saw love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I saw character that was being built upon a rock, instead of sand. I saw that although words will get misspelled, days will become undone, and potty talk will be a daily battle, the Lord’s plans will prevail. That even when I fail the standards that I have set, I am not a failure. I will keep making plans, but I will find Him in the midst. I will have rest in my soul and see the heart, instead of the chaos that fills our days.
He is giving me freedom in the midst of my seasons.
He is teaching me to surrender my projects, so that I may gain peace.
“The heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)