NEVER and NEW

 

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We start our fifth year of homeschooling on Labor Day. It’s hard to believe I’ve been homeschooling for this many years (half the number of years of my public school teaching experience.) It’s amazing to see how quickly my children are changing, growing in beautiful ways, and learning to embrace the unique person God made them to be.

It feels like yesterday when each hour, each season of babyhood and toddlerhood seemed to have no end. I walked around in a constant state of exhaustion. I was barely able to think beyond the diapers and bottles. Some dreams were put on hold, some dreams exchanged with dreams of a good night’s sleep. Survival mode seemed to be the most common mode of my life but this was also a time of great thriving. There was joy, growth, excitement, and a lot of love in between the surviving and thriving. Love so powerful it was the fuel that kept me going. As time kept going, things got “easier.” I still hoped for more sleep but my foggy mind started to clear just enough to think in complete sentences again (not in paragraphs, just sentences…) In this time, new opportunities presented themselves to be explored, embraced and be experienced. New dreams were born.

Right around the time my daughter turned three, I started to think more seriously about what education would be like for my children and what my future place in education would be. I remember walking through our church with two homeschool moms and declaring something to the point of “I will never homeschool my kids.” One of the ladies laughed and looked to the other and said, “She will. Just wait and see.” At the time, I was irritated that someone would dare think they knew me better than I knew myself but I also knew there was truth (and love) in her statement. The next few years proved her right! After much prayer, MANY discussions, and more prayer, we decided to homeschool and I found not only what education would mean for my children but also what it would mean for me. A new teaching position in a new setting. My kids, my home. A position I feel I was being prepared for long before the thought of homeschooling ever crossed my mind.

Fast forward five years, homeschooling is without a doubt one of the best decisions we’ve made for our family.  It is also one of the more challenging things I’ve taken on. It is a full-time commitment, often requiring much sacrifice and patience. LOTS of patience. Patience and grace with my children and patience and grace with myself as we all are challenged to learn, grow, and try new things. Education is a whole person, whole family, all-areas-of-life experience in our home.

At the beginning of each school year, I pray about a verse to focus on, memorize, and pray God will use in mighty ways in our lives. This year, our homeschooling theme verse is:

Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.

ISAIAH 43:19 (ESV)

It’s a new season, a new school year, new ideas are flooding my head, new dreams are being placed on my heart. In school, we have a newly organized school room, a new “schedule,” new books, new crayons (LOVE the those new crayons,) new skills to master, new challenges to accept, new ways to learn. I feel like this is a start of all things new and I’m praying we would be able to perceive the new things God is doing in our lives in very new, tangible ways. Here’s to a great new year and all it holds!!

 

(PS. And just so I do not mislead people, I still wish I got more sleep and there are still days of survival mode living. BUT when those days come around, we are learning to close the books and eat some ice cream. Ice cream is the magical cure for many things. 🙂 )

2016: Year in Review

There have been times in my life when I’ve had an overwhelming sense to do everything I can to remember the moment. Sometimes the moments have been big, life altering events like my children’s births or the death of a loved one. Other times the moments are found among mundane everyday tasks. Moments that stand out as special, holy gifts. In good and bad moments, I have commanded myself to stop, take a good look around, listen, and pay attention to the people who are with me. Then I pray. I pray my careful observations will become a memory or a lasting impression on my heart in which I can always feel.

Over Christmas break, we traveled to my brother’s house where we gathered with my family. Our family lives in several different states making times when we are all together very rare and special. It was loud and crazy. There was food, a lot of food. There was dancing, singing, praying, and playing with the kids. And food, more food. There was a whole lot of talking and a whole lot of love.

While we were together, I couldn’t help but think about what it was like for my Grandma, Mom and Dad, to be surrounded by a family they started. A bittersweet mix of the golden memories of the past and forging new ones in the present to be remembered for a future time. Missing loved ones and celebrating life in their children and grandchildren. A job well done, children reared, overcoming hard times and celebrating the good times. All this wrapped up in this thing called life.

One night my brother-in-law called us into the living room to watch a video he put together of clips he had taken of his family throughout the year. He captured the big moments and the small ones and masterly put them together complete with touching music. With my family, I watched a year fly by in about three minutes. I was struck with how much of our daily worries and what we think is big stuff, really isn’t and how the small touches, details, and love in life are really what mean the most. All those little moments collected together to mean something very big. It is not the things or even the places, it’s the people that make life worthwhile and meaningful.

My brother-in-law’s video inspired me to reflect back on my year. I went through hundreds and hundreds of pictures and picked out the most meaningful captures. When I look at these pictures, I see a common theme. My word for 2016 was community. These pictures represent so many of the special communities I am part of. God has richly blessed me through this word and my heart is so full thinking of His kindness and His gift to me in people. I was going to add captions but then changed my mind. For those of you who were with me, I hope these pictures spark a special memory or a special moment for you. Thank you, thank you all for being a part of my life, praying for me, and inspiring me to be the best woman, mother, and leader I can be. I love you dearly!  Happy New Year! ❤

January- Subways and Skiing

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February- School, Snow, Sunsets

 

March- Family

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Road trip to my brother’s house where we met up with my sister, my parents, and Gammy. We do not get to see each other often so these trips are important and special time.

April- Wonder and Discoveries

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May- New Friends and Callings

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June- Overcoming Fears and Heights

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July- Gammy on the Go

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August- ADVENTURE

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September- New Beginnings

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October- Incredible Opportunities with Incredible Women

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November-SHINE…Together

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December- Home is Where the Heart Is

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Here’s to 2017….

2017

The Long Road Home

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Our journey began at 3:00 am. The house was still and quiet in all rooms except one. In our room, the silence was interrupted by my husband who was gathering the last of our belongings and bringing them down the stairs. Sleepy-eyed and weary, I looked over to my children. They were sleeping peacefully. Their innocent faces looked as though they were dreaming of carefree, happy things. It had been a long time since I had stopped to watch them sleep.  A flood of memories washed over me, bringing me back to when they were helpless infants. Nostalgia brought a bittersweet bite. Time was going by too quickly, the kids were getting older and growing into beautiful young people who no longer fit in my rocking arms or depended on me for their every need. This quiet moment was a gift. I breathed it in and captured it in my heart.

“Alright, let’s go,” my husband said when he reentered the room. I dragged myself out of bed and forced myself to get dressed. My shirt and sneakers felt cold and intrusive. We had a 12+ hour drive to conquer. My husband was anxious to get on the road. He was hopeful that our early departure would help us miss the traffic as we traveled back home.

I woke and dressed the kids as quietly as I could. We tiptoed down the stairs, gently closed the door behind us, and settled ourselves in the van. As we pulled out of my brother’s long, rocky driveway, the shadows of the dark VA woods whispered and waved goodbye. My heart was heavy.

We were leaving my family again. It had been two years since we all had been together. In those two years, there had been babies born, traveling done, and personal growth of all kinds. The several days together were filled with cooking, laughter, silliness, heart-felt conversations, admissions of regrets, and shared hope for the future. My heart swelled when I had held my baby nephew and watched my children laugh and play with their cousins. The happy chaos and noise of 15 people under one roof, was familiar and comforting. It was home.

On the road, I drifted in and out of sleep, thinking of the time with my family and how things have changed.  I woke up just in time to see the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial as sped through DC. Two hours later, I was awoken again by a beautiful sunrise. The light blue sky were decorated by rosy-pink, fluffy clouds and a blazing red, round sun. The day was filled with new hope.

Somewhere around CT, it started. I knew it was more than just exhaustion. My stomach rumbled and cramped. This was not a good time to get sick.  My husband took over the driving but I knew that I would have to drive another leg of the trip. He looked exhausted. I did all I could to push past the sickness.  We had two more hours to go. I prayed and dug into supernatural strength and fierce mom determination.  All I wanted to do was get home.

The highway rolled along and I started to see signs of towns and cities familiar to me. We were getting closer. One last toll booth to go. I slowed the car down and rolled down the window. The toll booth worker was a pleasant looking man with a bristly, white beard, a New England Patriots hat, and a florescent yellow safety vest.

He greeted me with a thick New England accent and said, “Those glasses look great on you!”  For a second, I had a hard time registering his words. Was this man talking to me? I looked like death. My skin was pale as a ghost. Dark circles defined my eyes. My hair was disheveled and shaped similar to a messy bird’s nest. And if he only could see what my insides felt like…

I glanced up at him in a confused state. His easy smile eased my sickness. “Where’ya heading?”

“Home,” I said. “We have been driving since 3:00 this morning.” I hoped that my words would serve as some sort of excuse for my ghastly-appearance that he seemed to care nothing about.

“Where’s home?” he pleasantly asked. There were cars lined up behind us but this toll booth worker seemed to pay no attention to that fact. His smile and focus was on me. I told him where home was.

“Well, you’re almost there then. WELCOME HOME!” The words gave my spirit a surprising lift. I thanked him and he sent me off with another smile and twinkle in his eye.

Two little words,”Welcome Home,” hit me with so much power. Those two little words  gave me what I needed to complete the drive home. Maybe he was an angel. Maybe I was delirious. But that one pleasant person, who chose to spend a few extra moments with a stranger and offered kind words, changed my day.

When we got home, I collapsed in bed and have been here since. The terrible sickness is working its way through our family. Not the fun way to end a vacation.  But the upside to being in bed is the time that I have had to think. Those words of the toll booth worker have been haunting me in a good way. “Where’s home?” “WELCOME HOME.”

Is “home” in the heart of memories brought back by the faces of your sleeping children? Is “home” among the laughter, tears and time spent with family members who you long to see more often? Or is “home” a geographical location? Is is possible that “home” is in all these things?

I think so. I think that home is where love resides. Where memories take hold in your heart. Where people are kind and love you no matter what you look like or what the depths of you hold. I think home is the land you love and the fresh air that you breath. The comfort of a sunset and the hope of a sunrise.

Until, I am among the glory of the LORD and enter my final, heavenly home, I will have many homes here on Earth. Each one bringing a unique sense of comfort of its own. I still miss my family and the days that have passed. But I will rest and enjoy being where I am now. Hopefully, back to the routine of every day life soon. Surrounded by a wonderful husband, children, friends, and a church family who love me and make this “home” a place that I love to be.

“Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.