Last week we explored what it can look like to homeschool through the holidays. This week I'm pondering some rhyming words and how they can help us seek God's heart for our homeschool when life feels too busy or just plain hard. I pray these thoughts can be an encouragement to you if you are feeling overwhelmed or discouraged...whether during the holiday season or any time of year.
Mama, when life is difficult, do you lean on God's grace? Are you rooted in the truth of who he is and who you are in Christ? In case you need a gentle reminder, we don't have to do it all. We don't have to BE all. God IS our all in all, and his grace covers us and brings us into an eternal relationship with him. If you're feeling stretched thin, take some deep breaths with your eyes closed and ask the Lord to show you the many ways he showers grace on you and your family. Then allow yourself to wallow in that wonderful, amazing grace! If our almighty, holy God can lavish us with grace...shouldn't we at least sprinkle a little on ourselves?! Yet we are often so hard on ourselves, berating our weaknesses and failures. And sadly, this mindset spills over onto our children, whether or not we intend for it to happen.
Certainly, we must model for our children what to do when we sin. We should teach them to confess sin to God and the people we've hurt and ask for forgiveness. But we also need to model for them what to do when we simply bump up against our human limitations. Being weary or leaving a to-do list unfinished is not a sin! We must differentiate between fleshly failures that require forgiveness and healthy human limitations that simply require...rest. Grace. The ability to laugh at ourselves and start over.
In the guidebook I wrote for mamas expecting a baby with a life-limiting diagnosis, I encouraged them during the difficult journey to give themselves "lots of grace and lots of space." I actually think that's an appropriate bit of advice for ALL mothers! We all need margin in our lives for the many times we need to rearrange plans and schedules because of unexpected events. Do you leave space in your day or week for this? Or are you so booked up that any change in circumstances will throw everything off?
How about mental space? Does your brain have time to rest and be bored (important aspects for cultivating creativity!), or are you scrolling social media or navigating the internet, jumping from one distraction to another so much that your brain is constantly buzzing from all the input?
Sometimes we need emotional space. Perhaps we recognize the need for space to grieve. To process a transition. To evaluate a complex relationship.
And finally, spiritual space is crucial to everything else discussed here. If you don't yet have a habit of DAILY being in the Word and praying often (on your own and with your husband and children), I encourage you to do whatever it takes to carve out the space in your daily routine to make this a priority. That leads to our next word...
Colossians 1:17-18 tell us that Christ "is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy." When Jesus has first place in your life and you are seeking to follow and glorify him, life truly does go so much better! That's not to say we can escape difficulties, but Jesus helps us order our lives in such a way that we can navigate busy and hard times with grace and ease, being confident that "he who began a good work in [us] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:6).
When we follow Jesus first, our marriage takes the next place of priority, and then our children. Every family has different dynamics, of course, but these relationships are divinely ordered for our benefit and for God's glory. If we change up the order, we cause ourselves and our loved ones grief and difficulty. It's worth a quick assessment from time to time to ask ourselves: am I placing Christ first in my life? Do I put my children before my husband? Do I place activities (even good ones, such as ministry) as a higher priority than the primary relationships God has given me?
I'll close this post with the thought that we all have our own race to run. We cannot compare ourselves to anyone else. And...as I've been learning...I cannot even compare myself to myself! I often lament that I can't do [insert activity] the way I used to 10 years ago. (Multitasking, for example, is something I used to be much better at than I am now!) I can't compare our homeschool life in 2022 to what our homeschooling looked like in 2012 or 2005. The race I'm running now looks much different from the race I ran as a young bride, a new mother, a mom of 3, or a mom of 6 holding down the fort while her husband was deployed.
And let's not allow the word "race" to make us anxious...because our individual race might involve at any given time walking, sprinting, crawling, or even heaving on the side of the path for awhile. "Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith" (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Which one of these resonates with you today? Share a word of encouragement you've received so others can be blessed on their journey as well!
P.S. Mama, if you're feeling overwhelmed, let's make some space on our calendars for a clarity call. I have a limited number of spots, but I'd be honored to walk alongside you and encourage you on your own race.
Recently I shared 3 reasons I'm grateful for homeschooling. This post gives 3 more reasons I love our home educating lifestyle!
The idea of the weird homeschool kid who "isn't socialized" is so far from the truth, it doesn't even warrant being called a "stereotype." Our kids socialize GREAT, thankyouverymuch! We cherish the bonds we form with others in the homeschool community...and that includes the friends we parents find as well! Sometimes we meet with others in a field trip setting (such as depicted in this photo, from a group event to the ProRodeo Hall of Fame & Museum of the American Cowboy). Other times it's developing deeper relationships with those we see in our homeschool enrichment classes on a weekly basis. Regardless of how or when we find those "kindred spirits," it's a blessing to find fellowship, community, and encouragement as we interact with like-minded families.
Fostering a love for learning -
My school experience was so different from my kids' education. I was an A student, but I mostly studied to pass the test, not because I had some deep hunger for knowledge. My children's perspective on learning is much different because of the way we are able to engage in the learning process. I'm so thankful for their curiosity and the ability to dig more deeply into the things that interest them.
Forming lasting bonds -
I know my children and teens and young adults much better because of our homeschool journey. Homeschooling requires intentionality with our personal relationships, because schooling is so much more than checking a box. I cherish the time I spend with my kids, knowing our family bonds are so much closer for being forced to figure out how to use our time and space to accommodate everyone's needs. And in addition to the relationships our kids have with their dad and myself, they are forming bonds with their siblings that are much deeper than they would have if they were separated into different grades at a local school. Yes...there are many times they drive each other (and me!) absolutely crazy. But the truth is, they love each other fiercely, and as they grow and mature, they naturally seek each other's advice and input. These relationships are so important! As we tell them, they will likely have each other much longer than they'll have us here on earth!
This photo is from Good Friday 2022. My oldest son was home from college on spring break, and my married daughter came over with her baby girl so we could have a special, symbolic lunch, with time to read from the gospels about Christ's death and resurrection. It's not always possible to have all 9 of my children (plus my grandbaby!!) together, so it's extra special when we can make it happen!
How are your relationships thriving because of homeschooling? Or perhaps they aren't at the moment...if that's true for you, I'd love to pray with you and walk alongside you as you seek God's wisdom for where you're at in your journey. Let's hop on a call together and see where God leads us!
I love homeschooling for so many reasons! I've put 3 of them together in this post and will share a few more later.
I am very grateful for the freedom and opportunity to teach and talk to our kids about the things that matter most to us. As parents, we take Deuteronomy 6:4-9 seriously, and for us, homeschooling is the best way to carry our our God-given responsibilities for raising the next generation. In a world that is increasingly hostile to truth, we cherish the freedom we have to use the Word of God as our primary teaching tool. Parents, we must freely speak of the foundational truths God has laid out in Scripture AND in the universe He created.
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse." Romans 1:18-20
Especially on a week like this one has been, with sickness running through the house, I'm grateful for the flexibility homeschooling brings. Not only can we set our own schedule, but also we can pick up and GO! Nothing like doing school by a lake, in a park, at the library, in the car, or on a mountain! And certainly in many, MANY times of transition over the years, the flexibility of homeschooling has served us well. Whether it was uprooting our family for yet another military move...or adding yet another baby to the household...the flexibility of our home educating lifestyle allowed us to make important adjustments at an appropriate pace.
If you're not already homeschooling, you may not believe this, but honestly, homeschooling is FUN. Perhaps not all day every day, but I truly have fun with my kids as we learn and discuss life together. It's a joy to watch them learn and grow. And we get to go on some stinkin' cool field trips! We've gone to the zoo on the first day of public school, taken school books to the lake, and even skipped "school" so we could take advantage of an opportunity taking place during typical school hours. We've made some incredible memories together, with a whole lot of laughter and silliness along the way.
If you're a homeschooler, what are some reasons you're thankful for homeschooling?
If you're not a homeschooler, what is something you're thankful for this year?
I am jokingly calling July 11 - 15 Nurse Appreciation Week, because our wonderful nurse is out of town for a much-deserved break with her family. While we intentionally give praise and thanks to the Lord for His kindness in blessing us with such a faithful home health care provider, I have been ever so much more aware of all of the things Ms. Yvette does on a daily basis to help Verity live her best life! Of course, as Verity's mommy, I love caring for her myself, but I will say...I don't know HOW I'd also homeschool our other kids plus do general household management if we didn't have in-home help regularly!
Here's just a quick overview of what a day with Verity might entail nowadays...
6am Water flush (we have to give her water through her g-tube to keep her hydrated)
7:00 Water flush, check diaper
7:30 Give glycerin suppository, rub belly, wait for poop; if not already prepped, make a new batch of formula and prep a new feeding bag (she gets a new one every day). On Mon, Tues, Wed, and Fri, this is the time our nurse clocks in.
7:45 Change poopy diaper; dress for the day, including putting on her AFOs (orthotics/braces for her ankles)
7:55 Put Verity in the stander so she bears weight on her legs/ankles, also making use of gravity to help get even more poo out
8:00 Administer coconut oil (helps with poo...see a theme here?!) and begin morning bolus feed. Make sure she has some toys to play with in her stander.
8:05 Brush her hair and put it up to keep it out of her face when she head bangs. Use barrettes to secure her glasses and BAHA (bone-assisted hearing aid, which is on a headband).
8:10 Apply an eye patch over her left eye. She will wear this for 2 hours to help her right eye work harder. It's tracking much better than it used to!
8:25 Stop the feeding pump--she's having issues--grab a cloth and wait for it...........yes, she's grunting...here it comes...sigh. Much of her formula is now spewed into the burp cloth and dripping onto her toys. Make sure she's finished and suction out her nose, then clean the mess.
8:40 Mess is cleaned and she seems ok, so we resume feeding. 14 more ml to go.
9:00 Breakfast is finished, food is settled. Administer probiotics along with a small water flush, then take her out of the stander and change her shirt since this one has emesis on it. Change her diaper as well...success on the poop front!
9:30 Water flush with Lactulose (helps keep her poo soft).
10:00 Water flush, remove the eye patch
10:30 Water flush, remove AFOs and check skin, give her a break before putting them back on.
11:00 Water flush. AFOs back on.
(We do therapy activities as well during those time blocks after breakfast. Depending on the day, Verity will have anywhere from 1-2.5 hours of therapy. Today, however, we had no one come for therapy, so we did our own thing!)
11:30 Lunch bolus feed! Verity has worked hard; we let her sit in her feeding chair and play with toys during lunch. (I should have given coconut oil, but I forgot...)
12:30 Water flush
1:00 Water flush
Water flushes continue every half hour...we also put AFOs on and off depending on her activities.
Various therapeutic activities...may include playing outside on the swing or trampoline; practicing moving the wheelchair; sit-to-stands and then into the gait trainer or walker; using the crawler; reading stories; etc.
3:00 Afternoon bolus feed
4:00 Water flush. Put her in bed with her hip brace on for "nap time."
4:30 Water flush.
5:00 Administer Prevacid (helps with acid reflux) and Flonase (helps her breathe through her nose better).
5:30 Water flush (On Mon, Tues, Wed, and Fri, this is the time our nurse signs out.) If Verity is napping, we leave her alone! If she's awake, we remove the hip brace.
6:00 Water flush
6:30 Dinner bolus feed--at the table with the whole family (or whoever is home).
7:15 Bath and clean up if it's a bath night (usually Tues, Thurs, Sat)
7:30ish Sit on Daddy's lap during read-aloud time (or movie if it's Friday night)
8:15ish, or whenever she is getting fussy: Change for the night, water flush to catch up on water, brush hair, brush teeth, put in bed, sing our songs
8:30 Administer prophylactic antiobiotics (helps prevent UTIs because she has renal reflux), start overnight feeding. Mix up overnight formula with vitamins.
9:00 Currently, on Sunday through Wednesday nights, we have a night nurse. HOORAY! She arrives at this time. Otherwise, we put her CPAP mask on around this time.
9:30 On Thurs and Fri nights, we welcome our friend and respite provider, Edie, at this time. HOORAY!
And of course, not on any time schedule, there are the many wet diapers to change, often along with pants because she has a super power of peeing through and/or around her diapers! We are grateful to have disposable underpads provided through our DME (durable medical equipment) company!
I'm sure I've forgotten some things...and this doesn't even touch on all the FUN things we get to do with and for our girl! These are just the "to-dos" that I try to keep track of on the days we don't have nurses. :-)
I hope you've enjoyed this little glimpse into life with our special girl!
ETA: We got some great comments on this post on social media, so we turned this idea into a "Day in the Life with Verity" video! Check it out! And please subscribe to the Verity's Village channel while you're at it!
Three years ago our family had the opportunity to do one of the Advent readings in church. To be honest, I have no idea what we read or even which week of Advent it was. What I DO remember is what happened before church. We arrived in time to send our children to Sunday school and youth group, but I didn't feel like being with other people. Ted and I sat in a fog next to Verity's stroller in the gymnasium where the church service would be held the next hour. It had been another rough night, like just about every night was in 2017. Just as our interim pastor and his wife came to where we were seated to greet us, Verity began retching. Her vomiting spells happened about 6-8 times a day. Trisomy 18 kiddos tend to have GI issues, but this was getting out of hand; Verity was losing weight, and at 12 pounds and almost 10 months of age, she didn't have much to lose.
The unexpected scene took the pastor's wife by surprise: copious amounts of liquid were coming out of Verity's mouth and nose as Ted frantically whipped out the suction machine while I mopped up the mess. (Yes, we traveled with a suction machine in those days. We lived in terror of Verity aspirating because of how frequently she vomited.)
When things were calm again, Gretchen asked if things like that happened often. I burst into tears. I couldn't help it. I was so tired, so weary, and somehow just so angry that people didn't know what our life was really like. I knew it wasn't Gretchen's fault that she didn't know, so I tried to describe life with Verity. She hardly ever slept, which meant we hardly ever slept. I couldn't leave her side for fear she would vomit and choke. The terror we lived with around the clock was ever present. I still remember the compassionate look on the faces of this couple, whose ministry we had sat under for several months by this point but who truly had no idea what our family was going through.
Half an hour later we stood in front of the church lighting a candle and reading words I can't remember. I felt like such a hypocrite, creating a picture of what surely looked from the outside like a perfectly lovely family. Two parents, nine children, the tiniest of whom was living a very precarious life. Little did people know what was happening on the inside: the deadness of my heart, the difficulties of my marriage, the near-destruction of my mental and emotional health. I didn't intend to put on a show; I would have gladly shared our struggles with others. And I think I tried. It's not that people didn't care or didn't ask, but somehow there just wasn't time or energy to sit down and lay it all out.
Fast forward three years...our church now has a new full-time pastor, and our family was asked to do the reading for the second Sunday of Advent 2020. We relit the first candle, Hope, reminding the congregation (and ourselves) of the hope we have in Christ. Next, we lit the second candle, Peace, testifying to the fact that Christ came to bring God's peace to us.
As I stood holding Verity on my hip while my sons and husband read their passages, I suddenly remembered that exhausting Sunday morning 3 years ago. We have come so far. Not only is Verity doing so much better health-wise, but our family is so much stronger for having gone through some really dark times and seeing the light of Hope and Peace shine in the midst of it all. When Verity squealed during the prayer, I couldn't help but feel the joy surge in my heart.
Hope. Peace. Joy. And LOVE--so much love. They were there all along, even when we couldn't feel their presence.
If you are experiencing a season of darkness, I pray you find the light of true Hope and Peace.
Father, we thank you for revealing yourself through Jesus, and we praise you for the greatness of your love. Help us to know your peace in our lives. When life does not go as planned, may we know and understand that you are with us and we can have peace and rest in your ways. May we also share your peace with others and live our lives more like Christ every day. In His name we pray, amen.
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