April 23, 2010

I was just wondering if you've ever read The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis? There are 7 books in the series. I've always loved the first 6 stories, but the 7th, "The Last Battle", was always a bit disturbing. Depressing. I didn't like it and if I could have, I would've erased the entire book.
Lately however, other than the bible, that 7th book has become my favorite book. Earlier this spring I read it out loud to my smallest son and as I read I grew more and more encouraged about life.

The story starts out on a bright sunny day in Narnia; it's a land full of sweet, carefree talking animals, dwarves, nymphs, and even a person or two.:-) Narnia is a country blessed by their Creator and His son Aslan. (Aslan is a lion in the story, but that's neither here nor there as far as this post goes.)

Anyway-all the creatures of Narnia live in peace with each other; they work and play in safety with hardly a care in the world. They know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Aslan is watching over them and loves them. As a result, they grow complacent and forget to watch out for enemies who might be near. They forget to protect themselves or their country.

And, sure enough, enemies do enter their land. They have a nasty little leader, an ape, who's completely selfish, stupid, and worst of all, a Narnian. He sets himself up as a dictator and tells them he alone has the ear of Aslan and that he has become the voice of Aslan. The simple creatures believe him and settle in to obey his every word. At first he gives simple orders that make sense to everyone, but little by little the ape begins to take more and more control of Narnia. He tells the people of Narnia they must work hard and turn over their earnings to him so he can use it to care for them. He takes more and more of their freedoms away and turns them into slaves. Those who disobey, or even argue with him are severely punished.

The little animals and other creatures of the country don't understand what's happening. They're confused and some begin to despair.

At about this point, when I was reading the story to my son, I started thinking about life. It just seems like it's getting harder and harder to live it with any sense of well being. People I know are hurting. They're losing loved ones; they're losing their health or their jobs. Families are decaying. Our country is changing and it's getting to be a very scary place to live-at least to me it is. Stress is on the rise. I think in many ways our faith is being tested in America like never before and, when I look around, it's very easy for me to give in to fear and despair.

OK-back to Narnia. She does have a king, but up to this point he's been oblivious to the plans and plots of the ape. He suddenly comes upon the ape and at first even he is deceived by the lies being told. But, little by little, as the story unfolds, the king remembers Aslan. He tells himself everything he knows about Aslan and the truth hits him. This ape is not the voice of Aslan. He's wicked and full of hate. His only goal is to destroy.

The king of Narnia, while still confused about what's going on in his country, knows what he must do. He must fight the ape. He knows it's a "hopeless" battle. The ape has too many on his side for the king and his little creatures to fight against. He knows he's going to die. But he also knows he cannot just surrender. He cannot despair. He has to fight for what's true and lovely and good until his life is over. He puts his trust in Aslan and chooses to fight for Him regardless of the consequences.

The story was just so encouraging to me. I look around and I see people whose lives are almost perfect, at least on the outside. Then I see others who are going through horrendous things-things no one should have to face. The Lord used The Last Battle to remind me that we are all in a battle. We are stuck here until our bodies die-we need to fight for what's true and lovely and good. We need to stand our ground and not give in to hopelessness or despair. We need to keep our eyes on the big picture; the eternal picture and remember that He loves us no matter what we're going through or may face. That there is a God and He wants us to keep on keeping on. He wants us to trust Him and depend on Him for the energy, hope, and peace we need to see it all through to the end. What we want, what we're really looking for in everything we do here, is Life with Him. We'll find a bit of that here and can find a bit of that now; but really, Life with Him won't begin until our life in these bodies is over. We're going to go through things that hurt; things that don't make sense or aren't fair. No matter what we need to keep on keeping on.

Some day I want to be able to say, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing." 2 Tim. 4:7

April 2, 2010

Testing 1 2 3

Wow. I can hardly believe in 6 short weeks we'll be graduating our 3rd son....not only that, but today is his 18th birthday!
In many ways I still feel like an 18 year old myself. Vulnerable. Nervous about the future. Not quite sure how to do what I'm doing; I'm still just bumbling along.
Another part of me feels like I'm older than kerosene... my husband and I have almost 99 years of living between us! (Now that's scary.)
Anyway-like I said, in 6 weeks we'll be completing our 19th year of homeschooling. For those of you who are just beginning, I'd like to say, if I can do it, anybody can! I'd also like to re-post something I wrote a couple years ago:

Testing 1 2 3

Right around the middle of March, every year, it hits me. It happens every spring. Weariness. Hope. Guilt. Fear. Joy. Pride. Doubt. Apprehension. A really mixed bag of emotions. As the school year runs down I find myself trotting along, fumes as my fuel. I look at the school year that is winding down and evaluate it. I look ahead to the next year and am excited about starting
all over. A whole, fresh, new school year!
For the first several years we home schooled it was very easy for me to spend the spring and summer months either beating myself up over the school year we'd just completed, or surrendering to the feelings of just knowing I was a failure. Those feelings of inadequacy really hit me as testing time drew near. I was convinced that I was the one being tested, not my kids.
I'd think about all the time I'd wasted. All the projects we'd never touched. All the strange interruptions to our school days. All the things the boys didn't learn......

Now I have 2 graduates under my belt. They both hold down full time jobs. One is also a missionary downtown and the other a full time college student. They both love the Lord. They can even make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and change the oil on their cars. Knowing that, no, they're not perfect, but they have some intelligence, they can fend for themselves, and they love others and the Lord makes it so much easier to relax and I have more confidence than I used to.
However, along the way the Lord used other things to encourage me and to let me know we were "O.K." and my kids wouldn't end up living in a cardboard box someday.

One thing that really helped me get past those negative feelings was to start each year with 4 goals for each boy. (Jessica Hulcey and Carole Thaxton of KONOS curriculum suggested doing this and it really helped!) During the summer Mike and I would sit down and look at each of our sons and evaluate where his character/relationship with the Lord was at, where he was at academically, then physically, and what work skills needed improvement. As an example, when our oldest son was 7 these were the goals we had for him:

Character: showing respect toward his parents and other adults

Academics: neat handwriting, spelling and better math skills

Physical: morning exercises

Work skills: begin doing his own laundry, clean the bathroom, dusting, and helping with dishes

Then, in the spring I'd look at the goals we'd laid out and see if we'd even come close to hitting the mark. There were some years where we'd see improvement in each area and other times the goals were repeated the following fall.

We'd also remind ourselves of the following:

1. We'd seen academic improvement.

2. The boys had matured over the course of the school year.

3. We knew the boys were safe both emotionally and spiritually.

Those three things happened every year.

If you were here, and weary, and just a tad nervous about how you're doing as a teacher, I'd tell you these things:
- Just because you feel like a failure doesn't mean you failed. Go back to those last 3 things and re-read them.

-Even if your kids come back with a low test score in one subject or more, relax. Chances are, next year they will improve by leaps and bounds in those areas. We saw this happen with the boys more than once.

-No matter what kind of teacher you are and no matter what kind of school year you've had, it's a given that there will be gaps. You need to surrender your concerns and weak spots to the Lord and ask Him to fill in the gaps. He is faithful. He will do it.

-Remember Colossians 3:23-24

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.