We have a unique situation in our family. Perhaps all families are unique who are truly dedicated to following God's calling in their life (as opposed to keeping up with the Joneses!). My husband is a very introverted, intelligent, witty, naturalist. He has a gift for understanding nature, making things grow, and working with his hands. He enjoys long spells alone, outside, with a clear mind. All animals and babies love him for his quiet nature, and teenagers love him because he has a dry, quick sense of humor and he is humble. He is rare and full of integrity, non-assuming, yet attractive and a people-magnet. When I first met him I was smitten because he is unlike anyone I have ever known. I was determined to draw him out and get to know him and felt so amazed that he choose to share his heart with me!
So anyway, you have that personality in our home. Then there's me. I am an extrovert who grows more like an introvert every day. I love being with people, but I love being here on this quiet farm. I love to shop on Black Friday and make friends in the long lines, but I crave being under a blanket alone with a book. If I have had several busy days away, then I will huff under my breath when the phone rings because I need to disengage. I enjoy speaking in front of crowds about things that give me passion. I love having ladies over to my house, planning big events, decorating, being in the mix, having my children around me-literally in my lap, by my side, and having lots of friends and a small handful of soul mate friends. I love big hugs and lots of kisses, and I believe in telling people that I love them and see great qualities in them. But sometimes I am also a wallflower and just need to listen and be still. Sometimes I dream of spending a whole week in a hotel room with flowers, music, good books, and HGTV.
These two very different personalities have converged into three very different children. One is a very deep, passionate, vocal, servant-leader. He is a gifted writer, in fact, a genius with words. The other is just like his Dad in personality (quiet, full of integrity, gifted in so many ways that people overlook, trustworthy, honest) but with different gifts of building, working with numbers, and problem-solving- more like my brother, the engineer. Then there is the little one who is the carbon copy of me. She plays well alone, but gets lonely after a few days and craves her friends. Then after a few days surrounded by people she gets grumpy. She needs balance. She loves being on the stage and creating things with her hands. She is never at a loss for words. She is highly motivated and driven and passionate. She cries when she is sad, but more often when she is moved by something. She gives freely of her affection, and people notice her most often. She cries big crocodile tears when she misses or hurts for someone.
My biggest challenge as a Mom, has been to discern how to combine these five personalities, under one roof, into one big family, and provide for our gifts/talents, hopes, and needs. It has been a bigger challenge than labor and toddler hood combined! And I take it very seriously. Over the past month as I have prayed for our future, God has revealed some hidden fears that I have carried for years, possibly since I became a parent 11 years ago. I have been this crazy combination of reluctantly excited these last years that I have been homeschooling. I have been trying to be open to follow God, but I have been terrified to be different. I have been nurturing my children, but scared that I was making the wrong choice. I have been moving forward, but in so many ways frozen and half-hearted. I guess making such a big move from suburbia to a rural farm also magnified those fears.
This past month Andy and I have visited the two classical Christian schools that are both an hour away. We have made lists of all the great things that are offered there. We have deeply considered the cost to send them there, both of our time, energy, and money. We have read good books and reevaluated why we chose to home school, and whether this decision will be a good one on down the road. I was fairly certain that we needed to think long and hard because Jack will be in 6th grade next year, and I don't want his world to be changing too much in these tough, middle school years. I have prayed long and hard, during day time and night time and early morning hours. I have sat back and listened and watched and been quiet. I have also voiced everything I can think of to my sweetheart as we have waited on the Lord. When we saw a positive thing about being at home or at a school, we noted it but were not quick to act on it. We just waited and prayed. But last night we looked each other in the eye and finally made a decision.
We will continue to home school until the children graduate. That is our plan. Of course, no one is guaranteed tomorrow and there are terminal illnesses and all the things that could happen to me or us. But we feel a deep, quiet but certain voice, leading us to continue the course. We plan to return to our hybrid school next year. It has been a beautiful gift, so certainly wrapped and packaged by our heavenly Father, to have two days in town for me and for the kids, and three to learn together at home. It's more than I could have asked for. It's perfect, really. We are having one of the best school years ever, with only maybe the exception of our first year. That means I am committed to discipling, educating, befriending, being with my one or more of my children for the next 12 or 13 years day in and day out. It feels like a huge weight has been lifted because I think the "we will re-evaluate each year and see" attitude has left open a door that disabled me from embracing all that I could at home. Now when I get tired or discouraged I know I need to take good care of myself because I am in it for the long haul.
God has been so, so gracious to let me see that the grass really is not any greener on the other side. I know many women who are stay at home Moms with children at both public and private schools and their lives are no more fulfilling, organized, or meaningful than mine. In fact, one of them looked at me recently and confessed she often wonders, "Is this all there is for me?". My life is deeply fulfilling and I am so uniquely created for this task, it is a sweet calling, not because it is better but because it is mine-of God. And even as I fail and mess up, Jesus is waiting to pick me up and set me aright again.
I have no idea how to educate a middle schooler, much less a high schooler. But I know God will provide all we need and He will sustain us. He has set us on this course, and He will see us through. I am thankful that he shook out my fears and replaced them with confidence- in Christ and not myself. Gospel confidence. And now on to continue the wonderful adventure! I feel more excited and sure-footed than I have in years!
"The distance between despair and hope can be but a hair's breadth, a slight turning of the heart away from one and toward the other. If I turn away from God to despair, I create a chasm that can swallow up everything good God has for me. But if I turn toward God by faith, he'll begin to fill the empty places in my heart with his hope and goodness."
~Seasons of a Mother's Heart by Sally Clarkson