As I looked forward to this upcoming school year I was a bit nervous. I am only going to have two children at home while everyone else goes off to school all day. At first I thought, I’m going to be bored! I started looking around for ways to entertain myself and my two little boys. We signed up for our church’s homeschooling co-op that meets once a week. I agreed to teach piano lessons at the co-op which also meant my 3 yr old could be in a preschool class and be around other kids once a week and the baby could be in a nursery. Then I got myself a double jogging stroller, thinking that I would kill 2 birds with one stone. I would start getting daily exercise and the boys could get out of the house and enjoy all the nearby parks. Then I started thinking about how much our eating habits have slipped, and how this is showing up in health problems in the family, and eventually I decided that I needed to go back to baking our own bread with organic wheat and making our own cereal again. So, I went out and bought 50 pounds of organic wheat berries and 50 pounds of organic oatmeal. I also thought about the fact that when all my kids returned to school the housecleaning was going to land squarely on my shoulders again. No more minions to help with the daily chores. If you can’t tell yet…there is no chance at all that I’m going to be bored. In fact, I’m starting to get a bit overwhelmed and panicky, wondering if I can tackle all the projects I’ve put in front of myself. Now, when I get overwhelmed and panicky, I tend to get rather short and impatient with my family and generally just turn into an unpleasant person to be around. More about that in a minute.
So, one last project I decided to tackle. Since I am no longer homeschooling my children, I don’t have the luxury of having all the hours in the day with them. I have to start prioritizing what we’re going to do in the time we have. This summer I realized that I had really slacked off in the Teaching my Children About Jesus department. While I went through my depression I stopped doing family devotions and bible memory with my kids because honestly, I had a lot of questions about how to go about doing this thing called Christianity. I didn’t feel like I could, with a clear conscience, sit down and drum bible facts into my children, when I myself felt the need to take a step back and really process what I believe. So, we got out of the habit of family devotions. Now, having gone through the process of reevaluating, I am more than ever convinced that the sole purpose of our life here is to know Jesus and walk in his path, and I feel the pressure to somehow show this to my children while they are still under my roof. I decided that we are going to memorize a chapter of the bible this fall. My motto is always, KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID, and so we are just working on one verse a week. I have been writing down the verse on a giant piece of paper and putting it on display in the living room and then every morning on our way to school I repeat the verse and the kids who are awake enough and not too grumpy, repeat it after me. By the end of the week, everyone has it memorized. My kids aren’t saints. I will freely admit that I am using some bribery. Chocolate every Friday for saying your verse, and if we can all memorize the whole chapter by Christmas, we’ll take a field trip to the aquarium.
The chapter we are memorizing is 1 Corinthians 13. The love chapter. I felt like we really needed to focus on this. My kids are in school now. They are surrounded by kids who look different from them, come from completely different backgrounds from them, and often have a very different code of behavior. It is bewildering and my kids need a lot of grace as they learn to navigate this new world of relationships. The one thing I keep trying to make them understand is that each of these kids they interact with has a backstory. There are things going on in their lives that affect the way they respond to the world. My 9 year old was telling me how one boy on the playground was bothering him. I asked him if he had tried talking to him. My 9 yr old said, Well, he doesn’t really speak much English. Oh.. Where is he from? The 9 yr old said, Maybe somewhere in Africa? Ah. Yes. Knoxville actually has a pretty big refugee population. Just thinking about what this child’s life has probably been like so far made me gulp. Grace, these school kids need grace and love. My kids are just kids. Life is simple for them, they don’t understand all the differences between “love” and “like” and all the varying kinds of love, and so I keep it simple. Be kind. Just be kind. All these kids around you, they need kindness. And so, every morning we’ve been reciting verses from the love chapter and after we recite the verse, we talk about what love is and I pray for them to have the grace to be kind to everyone around them.
It’s been really good for me too. I’m sitting there, snapping at my kids because I’m just trying to get the house clean for goodness sakes and they keep interrupting the process, and the verse, (edited) comes to mind…If I get my house completely clean but don’t love my children in the process, I’ve gained nothing. I’m tackling the laundry project and go ballistic because my kids don’t put away their clean clothes properly after I just spent hours washing/drying/folding and delivering their clothes to them. And the verse comes to mind. If I complete all my projects, but don’t have love, I am nothing. And as Overwhelmed, Panicky Mom keeps listening to the verses, keeps repeating them for her kids so her kids can remember them, Overwhelmed and Panicky Mom slowly becomes Calm and Patient Mom again. God is good. I find now that I am really looking forward to this school year.