(Our need of Faith, Fortitude and Focus!)
by Tamara Eaton
Planning to accomplish a lot today? Don't forget to watch out for the trials and tests that are bound to come your way! Last Monday marked the formal beginning of our new homeschool year. I woke up unusually early and thought I'd get a head start on the busy day --by the time the children woke up, I was ready to go back to bed for a nap. Instead, I drank another cup of strong coffee and prayed for strength.
By noon I was crashing fast and burning our science experiment. (I'd forgotten to switch the oven from preheat to bake!) Smoke was pouring out of the oven, the dog was dancing around us in circles, barking loudly, and my youngest daughter was saying, "Oh neat! Are we making rocks?!" She later told Dad what she'd learned from science --rocks were made from volcanos. (I guess the oven did resemble one with the smoke pouring forth!) I couldn't help but think of all the new homeschooling parents just beginning and hope their day was smoother than mine!
The rest of the week flew by with marathon math sessions with several children, lots of reading, helping with writing, trips to the library, juggling housework with encouraging and meeting needs, praying for the dog who stole and swallowed a chess piece from the children's game still in progress, and so forth. Clean laundry sat around in baskets (279 socks yet to be sorted), the answering machine took all the phone calls, emails piled up with messages unread while I concentrated on the more important task at hand --teaching my children!
We first made the commitment to homeschool our children in the late 70's. Our preparation began then and our love and zeal for homeschooling has increased each year. By this point, we've been involved long enough to see even more benefits and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that homeschooling has been the very best decision for our family!
Even after all of these years, we still have to overcome obstacles and distractions as we begin each new school year. Adjustments are always needed as we work out our new routine so last week's "adventures" didn't discourage me --instead, I reminded myself of three necessary ingredients to begin the new season: Faith, Fortitude and Focus!
First and foremost, we need faith in the Lord. Faith that He will provide us with wisdom and strength for the homeschooling journey. Faith that He will bless our teaching and help our children to learn what they need to learn to accomplish His will. We don't bear the burden alone to nurture and teach our children, He promises to help us if we will trust Him.
Secondly, we need fortitude --a firm courage, even an obstinate sort of courage that refuses to succumb under any circumstances to defeat. If we know God has called us to homeschool our children, then we can experience this steadfast fortitude regardless of the trials and distractions that come our way.
Thirdly, we need to examine our focus each day and make sure it's centered on the Lord and His ways. Keeping my focus on the Lord in the midst of busy days, busy weeks, makes all the difference in the world, but I sometimes experience temptations to be distracted. Susan Alexander Yates, author and mother of five, shared some helpful thoughts on staying focused :
"Often in our lives as busy mothers, we may find ourselves so focused on our roles that we forget to rejoice in the Lord. As we walk through our daily activities, we will discover that our eyes are usually on one of three places: on ourselves, on our circumstances, or on other people."
Too Focused on Ourselves?
If we have our attention focused too much on ourselves then we're disheartened because our inadequacies may overwhelm us. Perhaps we're tempted to view ourselves as unorganized or poor teachers. If we dwell on our weaknesses, we may entertain self-pity or feel like total failures with no hope for improvement!
Too much introspection is unhealthy. Our good qualities suddenly disappear (in our eyes) and we only see flaws. On the other hand, some have the reverse problem and think they're "supermom" without flaws and if there are any problems, then it must be someone else's fault. Neither extreme is in line with God's view.
Too Focused on Our Circumstances?
Dwelling on our circumstances may also cause us to feel overwhelmed or worse --cause us to complain and not be content with whatever the Lord has currently provided for us! Especially if we compare our situation with others' situations.
Perhaps another homeschooling family appears to "have it all together", or be prospering in all the areas that you're lacking. Maybe their children ADORE homeschooling and are five grade levels ahead while your child struggles in academics. Instead of making comparisons, focus on your blessings and trust God to provide anything you lack and BE THANKFUL in the meantime!
Too Focused on Others?
If we allow ourselves to focus too much on other people, we can become frustrated, envying their talents and wishing we were more like them...instead of looking to JESUS and allowing Him to complete that work within us so that we will be like HIM. We should ask Him to reveal our areas of giftedness and to enable us to use those gifts to bring Him glory.
Mrs. Yates encourages us to Look first to Him [Jesus!], then we will be able to view ourselves, our circumstances, and other people with eyes of appreciation. Whenever we feel discouraged, it is helpful to run an "eye check" and ask on whom are we focusing. Usually, we will find that we are concentrating on one of these three areas, and we must cast our eyes back on the Lord in order to rejoice.
The Lord has unique homeschool plans for each of us. Let's take time to seek Him each day and recognize what He is doing in our lives. Whether we're experiencing trials or triumphs (or something in-between!) remember our need of...
"Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love." --1 Corinthians 16:13-14
"...we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." --Romans 5:3-5
"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith." --Hebrews 12:1-2
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