It is the Christmas season here on our mountain, and as I look back at the posts of the past year, I clearly see that I have not posted nearly as often as I had planned or wished. Life is just so chaotic right now that it is a miracle when I find a few moments alone with coherent thoughts to share. The truth is that it has been a difficult year–not as bad as 2010, to be sure, but still a year of difficult challenges. In the midst of all those challenges, though, come huge blessings. As we approach Christmas, I wanted to share just a few of those challenges and blessings with you. Come along and rejoice with me, would you?
Unemployment. Whew, that is a huge one. I have written about it before. All I can say is that it is hard for a wife to know how to encourage her husband when he feels like he cannot provide for his family. Sometimes there is a sense of hopelessness that just overtakes the soul, and that is when we MUST point each other to Christ and remind ourselves that all our needs have been provided. Perhaps not the way we planned–who really likes being dependent on an unemployment check and state medical aid for your children? Still, though, the undeniable truth is that we have been blessed with our own home, vehicles to drive, appliances that work (yes, that washer is still hanging on!), the means by which to feed our family (thank you, Lord, for our huge garden!), and countless other mercies along the way: Money from family members to help defray the cost of Christmas for six children, expensive curriculum given by a friend to provide the upper level math we needed, bartering opportunities for classes my children take, hand-me-down clothes for my teens, and even food–flats of eggs and donations from friends cleaning out their cabinets. The generosity of people around us is astounding. With such loving friends and family, we are so blessed.
Education. This was a rough year in that we homeschooled all summer. Usually we take a nice, long summer break, but due to the unexpected disruptions of the last few years (most of which I have not been able to share–some things are just too personal and volatile to share publicly) we managed to get behind in math and history. The upper level math was particularly difficult because Dee needed good ACT or SAT scores to get into college, and she had not finished all the math she really needed to do so. She managed to get through the semester, and in the process of visiting colleges and narrowing down her choices and retaking the ACT, she applied to four colleges. She has been accepted to three so far, with the fourth one a public university from whom we will not hear until after February.
I have often doubted our journey as home educators. Did we make the right choice? Did we hear God correctly? Were we messing up our children? Were we ruining their chances of higher education and success in life? It was hard when the first two didn’t go the expected path. Our oldest son is still floundering, but as we look at his situation, we realize that a large part of his lack of success at this point is due to his choices. He has made some choices that will affect our family for many years to come. Our oldest daughter, Lindy, went the GED route. It about killed me. And yet, she finished her photography certificate, and is now assistant manager of a pizza place. She is doing well–still with financial uncertainty at times–but definitely on her own two feet, making good decisions over all, and most importantly, loving the Lord and waiting on Him to bring her a godly husband. Still, though, we wondered if we were to blame somehow that she did not pursue four year degree. The truth is that Lindy is wired differently than almost anyone I know: incredibly smart, but not in ways that are measured on a written test; compassionate to a fault; forgiving; full of grace for people in her life; chaste; generous in ways that are so unexpected and yet delightful; massively creative. Still, though, with two children (children of my heart, not my womb) not going to a traditional college, we wondered if it could happen.
And then Dee. Make no mistake. This has been a difficult semester for Dee. She has been dual enrolling at a local college while finishing three upper level math courses at one time. I am so thankful for friends who are praying for her. One asked me the other day how Dee was coping. I said it was tough with final exams approaching. My friend looked at me and said, “You have at least one friend who prays for her every day.” It was good to know that others share this burden for my sweet Dee. The end result: acceptance into three colleges, one of them the college of her dreams, and a very hefty scholarship offer from the one she attends now as a dual-enrolled student. After considering all aid, this college is making it so that it would cost less to live on campus there than to attend the nearest public university an hour away and to live on campus there. And, that offer is without music scholarship money. I don’t know if Dee will end up there or not, but it was an affirming thing for this Mama to know that Dee is equipped for college and that they are so eager to have her that they are offering her over half the cost in scholarships. It was once again proof to me that where God guides, God provides. He called us to home educate our children 13 years ago. We had no idea what we were doing, how to go about it, or where to get curriculum. I felt completely unequipped. And yet, here we are. Our obedience and the subsequent success are all to God’s glory.
Healing. Another hard one. I have been participating in a group using the book Wounded Heart: Hope for the Adult Victim of Childhood Sexual Abuse. It has been an intense study. Our group has explored the ways that we have coped with our hurting hearts, and the personal picture was not pretty. I have had to face the lies that I have believed, the distortion of truth in my heart and how I have behaved because of it. Feelings that I felt were so shameful and unique to me, I have discovered to be common and overcome-able. I realized that part of my over-eating all these years was not just because it made me feel better (because no matter how good it felt in the moment, in the immediate after-math, I always felt shame) or to provide a layer of fat as protection (if I am ugly enough, I am safe) but because I felt the need to punish myself (I need to be as ugly on the outside as I feel on the inside.) The day that realization broke free, I realized the terrible distortion it was. I shed many tears as the well of sorrow and repentance burst forth. Jesus bore my sins–I do not need to be punished for what I do wrong. It is a constant re-training of my mind. I have had to face the fact that my real enemy is denial. Denial of how I have been hurt. Denial of how I have sinfully tried to heal that hurt. Denial of how my coping mechanisms affect others with whom I am in relationship. Denial of how I am passing my sinful coping mechanisms on to my children. The confrontation of my denial has been hard–emotionally, spiritually and even physically. It has been exhausting. And yet, as I look back over the past three months, knowing that I have at least five months before me, I see clearly that the Lord is doing a healing work in me that I could not have ever done on my own. I am getting freer and freer. There have been some sessions that all I did was weep the entire morning. I have had to come home and face dysfunction in my marriage–ways that I have coped with things in harmful ways. I have had to face how my sin has shut down areas of our marriage–like communication–and I have also learned how to help the Handy Man see areas of our marriage where he has contributed to the issues. Unemployment and emotional healing have served as a spot light to magnify our issues and force us to deal with them. It has been good. Hard work, but good.
(A note here about marriage: every marriage has issues. When two sinful human beings come together and become one, their individual patterns of relating do not magically disappear or become better. No, marriage, as wonderful and holy as it is, is like rock tumbler where our sharp edges get exposed and rough areas are smoothed. Everyone has issues. )
Overall, it has been a year of incredible provision and perseverance. As we come into the wonder of Christmas–the incarnation of God coming to us as helpless babe–rejoice with us that God uses our trials to fit us for His use. As Paul said, “for I reckon that sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us….And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called, according to His purpose. For whom He did foreknow, He did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”(Romans 8: 18. 28-29) Rejoice with me…Jesus came and accomplished the work on the cross. He will come again and take his ransomed people home! And in the meantime, He is working in families. He is using the circumstances that feel like they will break us to mold us, to conform us, to fit us for heaven. Thank you, Father! Come, Lord Jesus, Come!