RETHINKING WHO I AM

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Identity. Whoever we think we are shapes our view of the world. It is a point of view. Point of viewing everything else. It is a controlling factor in how we make choices, what we grasp for, what we hold tightly to. It directs us. Blinds us. Makes us… or defeats us. So I need to think carefully about who I am.

I am not a homeschool mom.

Feels strange to write that.

I have homeschooled my kids for 18 years.

And I have loved homeschooling. When people asked how it was going, I would light up and say, “I’m learning so much! Oh, and my kids are doing great too….”

I used to read curriculum magazines for fun. And I made the most wonderful, lasting friendships in that community.

But lately, homeschooling wasn’t working as well for my family, and it was beginning to threaten my way of life.

It happened gradually. I just didn’t think my children were thriving. They were passing…but not becoming.

And so the “S” word became a topic of conversation. And prayer.

For several years in a row I prayed about School. My husband prayed. My mother prayed. My mother-in-law prayed. It just became a part of the fabric of my prayer life. “Lord, if school is the best thing for my kids….”

But it always stopped there. Once we visited a local Christian school. But that was it.

And so I began my school year last fall with this prayer: “Lord, I’m homeschooling again this year. (Surprise.) But Lord, if you know that school is really the right change for my children, please give me overwhelming wisdom.” That was my prayer. Overwhelming wisdom. I reasoned with God that a little wisdom wouldn’t get me there. My inner gravitational pull was toward homeschooling. I loved it. And I knew it. Only overwhelming wisdom could compel me to take a different direction.

That school year was a testimony to Overwhelming Wisdom.

It came in many ways, but this one was key.

It was One of Those Days. Kids were bickering. Lessons were limping. Even a belligerent No came from my children on that morning.

This isn’t working, fear gripped my heart.

I looked directly into the angry face of one of my children and thought, You are ruining my vision for my life.

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THE CURE FOR ENVY

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There are just so many things I want. They are not bad things. In fact it’s all pretty normal stuff. But I look around and it seems like everyone else has them.

And that hurts.

I look around, and I think…

I want your house. It’s in the perfect location. Always clean. No chipped paint. So up to date and well-decorated.

I want your job. Your significance. My life of mundane tasks feels so infinitely unimportant.

I want your family. It seems so put together and cohesive. Mine is complicated and a lot of work.

And -I want your community. I have many life-long friends, but they are spread out on different continents and in different cities and in different circles. I’m feeling alone. For once, I want a crowd.

So here I am, filled with all these empty thoughts, and it’s beginning to feel a bit like Envy. Like, you don’t deserve all those things. And you think you’ve earned them. And, I’m not going to help you get even more.

“Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.” (James 3:16)

I’ll say.

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REVISITING BETHEL

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I am thinking of the story of Jacob, fleeing from the wrath of Esau, and his restless night of visions in the place he would later rename Bethel. God met him there in a dream of angels traveling up and down a stairway and made great promises to Jacob in his time of need.

Many years later God called him back to Bethel, and Jacob said to his family, “Let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.”

Both times he set up a kind of pillar and poured a drink offering (whatever that is) over it. An ancient way of marking a significant moment. Maybe like journaling or blogging today….

And now here I am at my own little Bethel. A Christian retreat center not far from my home, but far enough to be a place and time set apart for God. I have a comfortable bed, and a pillow instead of a rock. I make no altar or pillar, but write in my spiral notebook, read my Bible, and sing worship songs with the help of my iTunes account on my phone.

I’m here because it’s almost the New Year (the beginning of a new school year!) and I realize how much I need God to do this. I’m going to pray over every detail and ever person in my family. I’m going to refuel my tank, reconnect with God, plan my way to success, make lists, and get my year on track. I’m here to work.

Which just goes to show how little I really know about my life and why things happen.

I’m actually here to Revisit Bethel.

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SUNDAY WORSHIP ON VACATION

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I woke up blissfully late this morning with the cool northern Michigan air blowing softly across my bed. I love vacation. No wakeup alarms. No schedule. No plans. Just a strong cup of coffee and some spiritual reading.

Of course, I remember that it’s Sunday. But it’s so hard to go to church on vacation. It’s bound to be awkward and uninspiring. We could just stay here and listen to a sermon on line. Plus, how many mornings can we take it slow like this?

I pick up my Daily Devotions by Tim and Kathy Keller to break the silence of a good night’s sleep. I figure, God understands.

But maybe not.

The devotion is based on Psalm 81 where the worship of God is commanded in a vigorous manner. “Sing for joy to God our strength; shout aloud to the God of Jacob!” The Kellers expound on the text, explaining that skillful music can turn our hearts to God and reminding us that we are commanded to meet regularly for public worship, throwing in the Hebrews exhortation from chapter 10.

Hmm. I think God might be talking to me. But not really what I wanted to hear today.

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MY LITTLE CAR RIDE FROM HELL

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My husband and I took separate cars to our beautiful vacation spot in northern Michigan. He took our son and a friend, while I took two of our daughters.

Bad decision on my part. It was a car ride from hell.

My oldest daughter Grace has autism and really hates any change. The older she gets, the worse it is. She used to go on vacations with us, more or less happily. But in recent years she has become increasingly resistant to even the most perfect getaways. Sometimes we just let her stay home with a college student who is loosely supervising.

But this year our rental had four bedrooms, so we thought she should come. She could have her own personal space and a little sunshine in the afternoons.

But she was not pleased.

Weeks before our holiday she began announcing that she would NOT be joining us. We tried all our usual strategies, but they all ended somewhere like, “You’re coming, and that’s final.”

And as if it’s not hard enough to just get out the door for vacation with clothes, food, sunscreen, and beach chairs, Grace had disappeared the morning of our departure. She was hiding. It was her Last Stand.

She had already refused to pack (I packed for her when she wasn’t looking,) refused to bring her favorite things, and threatened to go on a hunger strike. Which is no vain threat from Grace. She’s done it before.

I found her in the unfinished part of our basement among storage boxes with the lights out. “How did you find me?” she asked.

We pulled out of the driveway an hour and a half behind my husband, and the tirade began. She literally complained, grumbled, moaned, and argued for the next six hours.

This always sets off a chain of events that goes something like this. Grace whines. I comfort her. She says no one cares about her. I assure her. She moans. I ignore. She moans loudly. I turn the music on. My youngest daughter tries to comfort her. She shouts “Shut up!” Then my youngest daughter tells her she’s mean. Then I tell everyone to “Be quiet!” more sternly than I like to admit.

Six hours.

So I’m in a car driving to a most lovely destination, with some sweet Christian music wafting through the speakers, and there’s not a moment of peace. It feels like such a disconnect.

And this just seems like the perfect metaphor of my Christian life.

Outside, somewhere sort of far away, a beautiful Christian life exists. But here in the car, there is a kind of turmoil and despair that is drowning out the promise of that sweet communion. I wonder, what’s wrong with me? Why isn’t this Christian life working? Where is God in this?

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SEEING GLORY

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My daughter hates modern apologetics.

Mother fail. I taught her a course in apologetics in high school.

But she says none of those proofs or arguments would have ever convinced her to be a Christian. And, truthfully, I would have to concur. They would have never convinced me either.

I heard John Piper speak to this recently at the Gospel Coalition’s Women’s Conference, and I wish my daughter had been there. He said that although he has always loved that kind of historical reasoning, when it comes down to it, he has a hard time remembering how to explain it. And that bothers him, because he’s basing his whole life on the truthfulness of Scripture, so it seems like he should really have the certainty of it down.

So, how can we know? I mean, KNOW?

Well, that’s what Piper talked about, and I loved it.

His answer, in a nutshell, is that we KNOW by seeing the glory of God. Really seeing it. With the eyes of our heart.

What a soft argument. Flimsy even. But so dang true.

Back to my daughter. I remember one significant moment in her life when the eyes of her heart saw Glory.

Of course, all her life we had been taking her to church and teaching her the Word and telling her our stories. But one night my husband reads a favorite sermon by Martyn Lloyd Jones aloud at family devotions. Great words by The Doctor, as he was affectionately called. We all sit there quietly taking in the glory of that gospel message.

And a couple days later we wake up to a letter my sweet daughter has penned. In it she pours out her heart and confesses every secret she has kept from us and begs for our forgiveness. And I am stunned. Not because of any revelation in that letter…but at the strangeness and suddenness of it. I didn’t see that coming.

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ON EXHAUSTION

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I let my kids watch an extra hour of television yesterday. Hate that. I’m just so tired.

It’s the end of the semester, and it’s been another busy one. Weddings, special events, and my daughter graduating from college. I knew I was burning the candle at both ends…and here I am again with a terrible head cold and I’ve lost my voice.

My husband came into the kitchen last night, just as I was wiping the counter clean with my last bit of energy. The dishwasher was started and the coffeemaker ready to go for the morning. He was all cheerful after a successful business call and was opening the freezer to reach for the ice cream.

“Oh no you don’t. The kitchen is closed for the night,” I whisper hoarsely. (I’m so grumpy when I’m sick and tired.)

My husband looks shocked. “Come on, Priscilla. I was looking forward to it.”

“Nope. Look at the time. I just finished cleaning.” I actually don’t think I can face one more, dirty spoon.

“Oh, please!” he pleads in disbelief, with one hand on the freezer handle hoping for a change of heart to cross my countenance.

“Nope,” I stand fast.

Big sigh.

My youngest daughter who is drawing at the island looks up at her dad and advises quietly, “You have to just keep begging and begging and begging, and eventually she’ll give in,” she smiles.

Hence the extra television that day.

Things you learn when your mom is worn out.

There are just so many things I don’t do well when I’m really tired. Like parenting. Or friending. Or basic housework. Or prayer.

That last one got me thinking. Why is it that I feel so little spiritually when I am like this? I don’t feel drawn to God’s Word. I don’t send any faith with my prayers. I don’t sense God’s presence with me. I don’t even feel upset about world poverty. Just nothing.

Then of course I feel guilty. Just a little. I mean, maybe I’m just a fair weather friend to God. And then I start wondering (oh, no!) maybe He is just a fair weather friend to me. When I’m in my spiritual “A” game, he’s my champion. But when the worst of me comes out, what then?

I guess it’s an age-old question. Is God only for us when we are really for Him?

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