Monday, August 6, 2012

Losing Heart or Pressing On?

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.......But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 2 Corinthians 4:1, 7-10

OK. So, can I be one of the few who admit that homeschooling has been very challenging if not difficult?  When I was ready to throw in the towel, my friend, Angie, encouraged me a few months ago.  I felt defeated, but through her sympathy, I realized many mothers experience the same troubles in educating their own children.  Angie handed me a book to read that has been very unlike most parenting books I read which make me feel worse in the end.  "Gaining Confidence to Teach" by Debbie Strayer is basic, easy to read, and has many good things to consider in your homeschooling.  I realized through this book that perhaps what I need to do to improve things is simply make a few changes, such a curriculum changes that are not really working for my kids.

Like a breath of fresh air, another book came across my path through the recommendation of a new friend, Julie, whose husband is on the board of TLI. She taught her children using the Charlotte Mason method of education after being inspired by the book, "For the Children's Sake" by Susan Schaeffer Macauley.  My oldest child is eleven years old, so I cannot really "start over" in my parenting or anything like that, so this book has been an encouragement that many of the educational principles we have lived by are "tried and true" and not to be regretted.  We have tried to "feed" our children's hunger for knowledge with good books, good music, good art, good experiences outdoors, good creative handwork, and good daily Bible readings.  

Through both these books, I was also challenged to keep on the path of God's mercy and pursue what He shows us, not constantly comparing or worrying if we fit in with what the world is telling us or what we think we need to do in order to measure up or compare with other families.  These are admittedly struggles for me personally.  I must turn to Christ and fix my eyes on Him and His mercy, and not to faint or lose heart as the Bible verse above states.  In this world we WILL have tribulation, but be of good cheer, Jesus has overcome the world (see John 16:33).

Jesus Loves Me This I Know

This may be an elementary theological concept, but it should never be far from our thoughts nor our lips:
Jesus loves me, this I know.
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong,
They are weak but He is strong.

Kathy Chapell, wife of Dr. Bryan Chapell, reminded mothers in her talk at The Gospel Coalition conference for women of this basic theological truth, that Jesus loves us. I just finished listening to this talk called "Parenting With Christ In Mind" while working in my kitchen. She spoke so much about the unconditional love of our Father God and how that is reflected in our Christian parenting.  I know that this is such an important truth to know about God but we are often tempted and lied to by the Enemy of our souls to continually question if God's love is not based on our performance or works. The truth, of course, is "no."  God's love for us is based on His character and grace alone.

Dr. Chapell wrote in his book, "Holiness by Grace: Delighting in the Joy that is our Strength" these true words:
For if he loves us because of what is in our hands, then the days will come when we will believe that his affection has diminished because our works are small, or that his care has vanished because our deeds are wrong.
Ethan ordered us this book to read, and I began reading it last week while he was out of town.  The book is written to explain the relationship of God and believers based on a relationship of God's grace which results in a heart of love for God which desires to obey Him and to be holy.  It explains sanctification in such lovely terms that remind me once again why I love God so much: He loved me first that He GAVE His Son to save me from my sins and offer eternal life.  Grace alone.  No more guilt. No more shame. No more bondage. Free to love, not out of compulsion or obligation, but out of joy, gratitude, and newness.

To explain God's unconditional love in simpler terms, Dr. Chapell has written a beautiful story that we have read to our children called, "I'll Love You Anyway And Always."  In this story, a little girl disobeys her father's instructions to not overwater the orchid plant in the garden, and the plant wilts. The girl fears that her father will not love her anymore because of what she has done. Her father lovingly tells her the Gospel story found throughout the pages of the Bible to her daughter. Later when the girl's brother sins against her, she is able to forgive him and show him she still loves him.  So precious!  Let us never get away from this simple truth about God and His loving attitude towards us, his wayward sons and daughters.