Like the brightly colored leaves that indicate the arrival of fall (in places where leaves change colors, that is), the stacks of papers and book on every flat surface in my house are harbingers that school is in full swing at our house.
This will be my second year to teach the kids at home. Last year was a learning experience for all of us. I don’t think anyone became dumber as a result of my teaching, but let’s just say I probably won’t be invited to deliver the key note address at any homeschooling conventions in the near or even distant future. But that’s okay. Believe me, I have no desire to be a mascot for homeschooling. But I’ve learned from myself and I’m trying to do some things a little differently this year.
I love the beginning of the school year. I love organizing the school supplies and filling the notebooks with clean, blank paper. The first day of school feels a lot like January 1. It’s a fresh start. A blank slate with no mistakes. A new beginning.
Every January, many of my friends choose a word to be their “theme word” for the year. I’ve never had a “theme word,” but over the summer, as I was thinking and preparing for this new school year, I kept running into the word “rest.” I don’t mean “rest” in the sense of lounging in a hammock in the backyard with a tall glass of iced tea and a good book, although I could fully support that habit. I am talking about a rest that comes from releasing all of my anxiety and angst by fully trusting and relying on God’s strength instead of my own.
I’ve never considered myself a worrier, but parenting can bring out the Nervous Nelly in anyone. Each stage of my children’s lives I’ve exchanged old worries for new ones. I don’t sit by my babies’ beds to make sure they’re still breathing like I did those first anxious nights, but I have a long list of other worries I didn’t even know to think about when I was a brand new mom.
Often my anxiety comes when I compare myself to all the other mothers out there. I see the way they parent and wonder if I’m shortchanging my kids somehow. I can always find someone who seems to have her act much more together than I do. I wonder if I’m doing everything I need to do to prepare my kids for the world. I second guess parenting decisions I’ve made. I berate myself for losing my cool and not being patient. I say things I wish I could take back and wonder if those are the words my children are going to remember for their rest of their lives.
Another stressor can be the lack of white space on the calendar that seems to come with every new school year, whether we’re homeschooling or not. We earnestly try to limit our extracurricular activities, but even so, by this time of year the lazy, hazy days of summer feel like a far away memory.
Without intervention, I can easily find myself stressed out and wrapped all the way around the axle. I feel like a jack-in-the-box who is one crank of “Pop Goes the Weasel” away from exploding. God knows me so well. I believe that’s why he kept leading me to lessons about resting in Him this summer. And He knew the challenges I would face this fall that weren’t even a blip on my radar in June.He gave me the material I needed in order to study for the pop quiz I had coming.
One of the lessons the taught me about resting came an interview I heard with Andrew Kern, a Christian educator. He was talking about Martha and Mary and how Martha was “anxious and worried about many things.” I can relate. He encouraged us at those times to always go back to our center, which should be Jesus. I can rest in the knowledge that He loves my children even more than I do. When I focus on the most important thing, which is my relationship and utter dependence on Him, I can rest even in the middle of chaos.
I’ve had more pop quizzes than I’d anticipated this fall. I’ve had plenty of opportunity to test the “word for the year” I’ve been given. Many times, a simple test of perspective is all I need to get back on track. If I just stop and ask myself, “In light of eternity, is this worth the angst I’m feeling at this moment?” Usually it isn’t.
Other times, a little gratitude will make a world of difference in my attitude. Especially if I’m pitching a little hissy fit because life isn’t going my way. When I stop to remember all my blessings, I remember how much God loves me. He does not withhold His best from His children. Often what I think I want is far less than what would be His best for me.
I can be a very stubborn girl. I think I can go a long way in my own strength. And God lets me try. But time and time again, I find myself at the very end of myself with nothing to say but, “I can not.” I am utterly and helplessly dependent on God to do the next thing, especially when I don’t even know what the next thing should be.
I recently heard the missionary Hudson Taylor’s favorite hymn, “Jesus, I Am Resting, Resting,” Although this wasn’t a hymn I remember singing when I was growing up, I’ve learned to love its message.
As we start another week full of unforeseen challenges, I hope you will find your rest in Him, too.
Happy First Fall Monday!