Tag Archives: homeschooling

God’s Involved

Do you ever reflect on the ways God’s shown up in your life? Stuff that is beyond coincidence. Stuff that isn’t the big story, like being healed from a life-threatening disease, but is still only explained by His interaction with your life?

Today I reflect on the year 2002. A homeschooling mamma, I taught part time at a Christian Enrichment school for homeschoolers. My class, Mindboggling Missionaries, was primarily wiggly boys. I wanted to capture their imagination, touch their spirit, and give them heroes to immaculate. Missionaries. It was an easy topic to sustain with endless opportunities for creative learning. The Trailblazer series by Dave and Neta Jackson provided the base and the boys, my assistant teacher, and I soon traveled to exotic and distant lands. We played games, made crafts, and ate foods from these cultures. (Rule one when dealing with squirrely boys before lunch is food!) Together we learned about ordinary people who did extraordinary things when lives where surrendered to God. (I found out later those elementary boys took bets on have far Miss Paula would get into glass before the story of these heroes brought her to tears. lol) Oh the people we studied!  Prince Kaboo. Martin Luther. Gladys Aylward. Adoniram Judson!

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Adoniram Judson Picture taken from this site, where you can also read his story

Adoniram Judson.

 

One of the first American missionaries and the first to bring the gospel to Burma.

He’s the one who broke my heart.

As I taught about Adoniram’s life, which was wrought with suffering, I secretly cried out to God. My spirit understood that even one life changed for eternity was “mindbogglingly” more important than I could understand. But as I read of his loss of three children and his wife, of the cruelty he endured while in prison, I wondered. Those first six years in Burma were especially hard, and at the end of them he had only one Burmese convert.

“Was it worth it?” I cried silently. His story haunted me.

About this time, through a strange string of circumstances, I learned a Burmese refugee, Dah Doh, lived only five minutes from me. I decided to visit her in hopes she might talk to our class about Burma. As I walked down the dark hallway to her apartment, I wondered if I would find a Buddha outside her door.

The Burmese woman graciously invited me inside. She fed me traditional food, and within minutes I discovered she had a rich and vibrant faith in Jesus, a faith that helped her survive years in a horrible refugee camp in Thailand after she escaped the cruel government of Myanmar, which is what the conquering army renamed Burma.

“I’m teaching about Adoniram Judson,” I said. “Have you heard of him?”

Dah Doh’s eyes lit with joy, and she grabbed an old cassette tape. When she pushed play on the worn tape player, the voices of children singing in Burmese filled the air. She translated the words of a hymn into English. I don’t remember her exact translation, but I googled what I remembered and found this Burmese hymn that seems close:

Eternal God, we offer thanks for the ministry of Adoniram Judson, who out of love for thee and thy people translated the Scriptures into Burmese. Move us, inspired by his example, to support the presentation of thy Good News in every language, for the glory of Jesus Christ; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Brushing tears from my eyes, I understood.

Before me, almost 200 years later, stood the fruit of Adoniram’s sacrifice. Dah Doh explained that most of her people, the Karen, were Christians because of the missionary work of Adoniram Judson in the early-mid 1800s.

What a glorious answer God gave to my broken-hearted cry! He could have simply led me to statistics about the wonderful success of Adoniram’s ministry toward the end of his life, but instead the Lord showed me how Adoniram’s willingness to continue to serve, despite intense suffering, left a legacy that still survives, nearly two centuries later.

Inge Sargent and Shan prince Sao Ky Seng

Prince Sao Ky Seng and Princess Inge Sargent. Photo from this site.

Dah Doh came to my class, and the children loved her. She captured their attention as she talked of her beloved homeland.

 

Dah Doh (and God!) had another surprise for us. Dah Doh knew Princess Inge, who was once married to the Prince of Burma. Inge met Prince Sao Kya Seng when they both attended Colorado University in Boulder. When they married and she returned with him to his native land, she didn’t know he was the Shan Prince until brightly colored ships greeted them in the harbor. The prince and princess served the people with an eye to their good. The prince gave his rice fields to the farmers who cared for them and sought ways to strengthen the economy. Inge taught nutrition, established a birthing clinic, and built a trilingual school. They had two daughters and were happy in their work on behalf of their people and country. But Prince Sao Kya Seng’s leaning toward democracy upset the army, and he was killed during a coo. Princess Inge eventually escaped with her two daughters. She hid her identity, taught high school German, and eventually remarried. But she couldn’t stop thinking of the plight of her people. She began to tell her story and to raise awareness for the plight of the Burmese people. (You can read more about them here and here.)

Princess Inge came to our class. We were all so excited! She talked of Burma and the needs of the Burmese people. We were so moved, the children took up a collection.

I started this post thinking about God-moments. I’ve often pondered this one. My heart is tender when I think of how thoroughly He answered the aching (even accusing) questions of this young mamma’s heart. Passion floods as I think about how He turned that teaching moment for ME into an incredible experience for those I taught.

There is no success without sacrifice. If you succeed without sacrifice it is because someone has suffered before you. If you sacrifice without success it is because someone will succeed after.                                                                                   ~ Adoniram Judson

Releasing the Mom Dream Discovering the Me Dream

That thing in my throat.

I think I’m winning the battle with it, but it sneaks up too often.

Tears stuck in there.

Or maybe sobs.

Because there is water in my eyes.

I’m not really that sad, am I?

But it’s this perpetual lodging of emotion

A wall of it across my throat

Right at my Adams apple.

At least it is no longer all day, every day.

It’s mostly when I kiss the last goodbye.

For twenty-three years I’ve been home.

Rarely alone.

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Alone time a great gift.

But now.

Now.

Each moment with is the gift.

(And wasn’t it then, too?)

The long hours are empty of them.

Some far away. A phone call or pictures on Facebook the connection.

Others still here.

But not home.

Work. College classes. Friends.

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As it should be, this.

I celebrate with and for them.

I celebrate for me, too.

Finding my rhythm.

Following my dreams now.

But I can’t avoid the grief journey.

Even when I try.

So I walk it honestly.

Letting go of that first, most treasured dream.

Staying home with them.

Teaching them to read.

Singing songs.

Hiking and field trips

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Building forts in the backyard and tents in the living room.

Snow days with shoveling and sledding and spaghetti for lunch.

snow day 4

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Cuddling together like puppies with our favorite read-a-loud.

Praying too long at devotions.

They started timing me.

I guess I didn’t have enough alone time to satisfy all I needed to say to Him in those days.

Then driver’s licences and first jobs and sports and speech competitions

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sarah spring tournament 2008

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And friends

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Baby steps from home.

Medium ones, too Sarah smiles

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Preparing us all for the giant leave.

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Another car loaded for college

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One-by-one. Sometimes two or three at a time.

Moving on.

Strong. Ready. Joyful.

But not here.

Not here with me.

The emotion ledge in my throat doesn’t last as long today.

The house is quiet.

Excited to meet my goals.

As soon as the lump lodged in my throat allows.

Tension Tummy

I’ve had this in my drafts folder for a while. Wondering if I am ready to speak out so directly on this topic. As one who has been wounded by a judgmental circle, I do not want to come off as judgmental in my post. I am also concerned about hurting those who are fighting their way out, as well as realizing that some of my comments will likely intersect with venues who have published my work in the past. I don’t know if my words will be acceptable, if my thoughts here will close doors or open them. In the past I have been very careful to write FOR grace, FOR freedom rather than speak out AGAINST the legalism. I hoped my caution would allow me a voice, even in the places where legalism seemed to be a stronghold. So it is with concern I share this post, though I have worked hard to offer it in grace.

As a child I often had tension stomachaches. I rarely get them as an adult, but the last few weeks I’ve had several. Every time the ache grew out of brushing up against legalism once again.

Legalism:

Legalism happens in religion, but it also happens in society in general. We label based on our own box and our preconceived notions (correct or not) of how another person fits into our structure of “right.”

A couple of quick examples: One of my sons wore a thick, cross necklace and chain (he made it himself of chainmail) and a red, white, and blue T-shirt that said something like, “One nation under God,” to the first day at a public high school. He found out later that one of his (now) best friends thought he was “scary!”

Huh? Because of a cross and a patriotic T-shirt? Really? My gentle giant?

I start with this example because most of the following examples are religious–Christians who judge others based on personal boxes of religion, and rather than focus only on that sect of belief, I want to show that all of us, religious or not, tend to have our boxes.

I suspect even those of us who don’t want to have a box have one, maybe a little bigger or differently shaped than the next, but a box that could use some expansion. (I keep stepping out of mine only to discover that while the box has expanded or changed shape, there’s yet another one I’m in!) Often the boxes are built because we are afraid.

I’ve seen great destruction from religious legalism, not only in community and personal relationships, but in my own heart. My own efforts to live up to the religious box I bought into as a young women grew into intense feelings of failure when I couldn’t be perfect. Inadequacy grew into self-hatred. The grace of a Loving God rescued me from a self-devised path to devastation.

The recent stomachaches come because I know this pain of the boxes, the unnecessary burdens box-dwellers carry in themselves and put on others. Often those hardest on others are also hard on themselves, so caught up in their need to perform perfectly that they can’t see their own faults or can’t accept it when they do. Sometimes legalists become so convinced they are right that their rightness somehow justifies acting outside of Jesus’s greatest commandment to love.

There is a lot of negative press lately about the extreme circles of patriarchy in homeschooling. Some of the leaders of this movement have recently been accused of everything from molestation of underage women to affairs. What makes this especially crazy is these are the same men who wrote and spoke (and made their income) from teaching on the “godly” family. (Ugh. Stomachache happening again.)

As I homeschooled my daughter we brushed against a lot of judgement in the extended homeschool community from people who bought into this ideology at differing levels.The fact we believed in higher education for our daughter was enough to bring judgement from some. Others wrote her off because she wore makeup and talked to boys. Based on factors such as theses people assumed they knew her, and put her on their bad list without taking the time to see her heart.

At one point I was asked to do a consistent column for a homeschooling magazine. As I was considering the offer, my daughter, then grown and out of the homeschool environment, told some specific stories of how the adults in that culture treated her. I had known she was hurt. I had not heard the specifics, which were outrageous. Furious, I went outside to do yard work, hoping the physical effort would calm me. I fumed at God as I work, “You want me to write for THOSE people?”

His response? “Who do you think needs grace more?”

I remembered how legalism nearly destroyed me. I told them I would write.

In reflection of that time I’m sad my girl had to endure this extreme culture, but I like how it shaped her into a stronger woman who goes to battle for the hearts of others, begging the world to stop judging from the outside. She champions the misunderstood, the held down, the ostracized, whether pierced and tattooed or wearing jumper dress, skirt to the ankles.

To be fair, the public school world also put her in a box she didn’t belong in. There was a lot of hurt from that side, too, but it didn’t dig as deeply, damage as hard. Maybe because we expect to be loved by those who claim to be in God’s family more than by those who don’t think much about it.

One of the influencers in the patriarchy world who recently came under fire was popular in conservative Christian circles when I was a teen. It was his ministry I had to forgive in my 30s when I realized how much of my personal pain and dysfunction was related to his teaching and to the idea that following his prescribed religion had been equated in my mind with following God.  Thankfully, our Loving Father called me away from all that. Showed me that the very things/people I sought to honor in order to please Him were idols. That the ideals I strove to live up to weren’t even HIS. That this stuff actually held me BACK from a full and beautiful experience of His heart, of walking in relationship with Him, and serving in the ways He called.

Stomachaches over legalism boxes come in the macro and micro places of my life. I recently posted a tribute on facebook to some friends I admire. Right on my page, an old friend from another state posted a negative comment based on the particular rules this person adheres to. I was sickened. This person didn’t know the people or the situation but felt so “right” it justified in plopping an unkind, negative opinion right onto that page to educate the rest of us. I doubt there was an ounce of thought given to the pain that comment had the power to inflict.

I deleted the comment, but did not “unfriend” my friend. I still believe in my friend and seek to stay in relationship because I believe my friend to be trapped in a religious box, not to be an innately bad person.

And you know what? Once I was trapped.

And that box almost destroyed me.

So shouldn’t I have compassion and not only anger?

We humans like to tout our lists of appropriate behaviors. In the conservative homeschooling world the purity movement and its prescribed behaviors, ranging from ridiculous to wise, topped the list to set a standard of judgement. Different movements whether political or religious, have their own favorite standards of behavior.

Which is one reason this old world is so in need of a Savior who levels the playing field and says gossip and judgement are just as bad as adultery and fornication, which is just as bad as whatever “no-no” tops your list or mine.

We all blow it somewhere.

And when we do, there is grace, not only in forgiveness, but also in empowerment to change to become more wise and loving the next time.

The problems start when we think our form of blowing it isn’t as bad as someone else’s.

I’ve had ample opportunity to process legalism and judgment lately. Long hours of writing in my journal has tempered reactions that would only cause more hurt. My human self comes up with all kinds of wonderful ways to fight.

And while those scenarios roll around in my head, conviction hits. Some of those tit-for-tat responses I fantasize about are legalism at its best.

So I pray for guidance, and until He directs, stay off the public forums centering around the homeschooling movement crap and resist the temptation to send ugly emails or make “well-placed” phone calls.

Instead I ask God to shed Truth and Grace where it is needed.

Including in the ugly remnants of legalism and religiosity in me.