Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Days of Grace

“No longer are there good days and bad days. There are only days of grace. Some days you are given the grace to enjoy what is going on around you and other days you are given the grace to endure.”* The words came out of the speaker’s mouth on the CD I was listening to. How long had I been walking with God, 25 years? I’d even grown up in the church. Never had I heard anyone say anything like that before. Could this be true? No longer good or bad days, only days of grace. Don’t these words give you a totally different picture on the days of your life, including those difficult home school moments?

As a home school parent in my 16th year. I have seen them all. Whether it was finding out my son had skipped his English for a week, lying about it to cover his tracks, or the attitudes, home school has had it’s challenges.  Frustrated and angry, ready to give up at times, I wasn’t looking for grace.  All I could see was the mess.  I’ve heard it said,  “what you focus on is what you will see.”  If I focus on the chaos, all I will see is chaos.  If I focus on the grace, all I will see is grace.

Home schooling is full of it’s demands and difficulties from time to time.  Lately, I have had more difficulty in dealing with attitudes than accomplishing the assignments.  From time to time you find yourself on the edge thinking, “now why was it I decided to school my kids?”  On those enduring days it’s easy to find yourself daydreaming about putting them on the bus.  You could spend your “free” time playing or reading a good book, all by yourself with no attitudes to challenge your day.   If you haven’t had those thoughts, most likely at some point, you will.  

The moments when the kids do their assignments with cheerful attitudes, school is done on time, supper is in the crock pot by noon, I enjoy what is going on around me.  Life is good.  But what about the days when it all falls apart?  It is a paradox.  When the days are going well, you love it, when they aren’t, well, you wonder, struggle, daydream and question.

Jesus told us in John 16: that in this world we would have troubles, but to take heart, He has overcome the world.  There will be days of troubles, whether in life or in school.  The good news is Jesus overcame them. He shows up with grace in the midst of the struggles.  He’s there offering the overcoming power of God on those enduring days of school and life.

I think the hardest person for us to have grace with is ourselves. Especially in those places we are responsible for, like our school.  After all, it’s up to us to make sure these children grow up into educated adults.   We could mess up their lives, couldn’t we?  If we take a day off, will life just slip through the cracks?  If we live in grace, will our school somehow go off the deep end?  What do we do when we reach a day where it takes all we have to endure, much less perform our duties as teacher?  Can we let ourselves off the hook?  Can we let ourselves experience grace?

One of my favorite home school memories was a day when I had nothing left in me to give.  My husband was working 72 hours a week in his own business. Pregnant with my 5th child, 3 school age children, and 1 preschooler, I was exhausted and in desperate need of a break.  I had nothing in me to give and there sat three children waiting for something from me to start their morning of education.  The thought of doing school brought me to tears. It wasn’t that I  wanted to walk away from my responsibility.  I  just didn’t have it in me.  God had something He wanted to do through me, I just didn’t know what.

I called my older sister to cry on her shoulder.  She suggested that I let the kids write and perform their own Thanksgiving play.  After all my oldest, a creative 9 year old, loved a challenge.  I would not have ever considered it.  It wasn’t the typical day of books and learning I was used to doing.  She encouraged me that school would be OK, the kids would love it, and I needed the rest.  I listened to her.  I gave myself grace.

It was as if my whole being sighed in relief.  That’s what grace does.  It brings a sigh of relief, giving you permission to just be, knowing He is God.  He will cover my home school. The truth is God gives us all that we need, to do all that He has called us to do.  If we don’t have what we need from Him to do  what’s on the schedule, then maybe we’re not supposed to do it.   In Proverbs it says “a man makes his plans, but God alters his steps.  Maybe God wants to alter our steps in our school.  Maybe He has other things in mind, that if we will just listen and follow, we will discover.  He did for us that day.

I approached the kids with the idea, they could not have been more delighted.  Not only were they going to get to do something different.  I was trusting them to come up with their own play, props, costumes, and lines.   It boosted their confidence when I trusted them to follow their hearts using their creativity.  All day they worked, planning the costumes, practicing.   They couldn’t wait to perform their masterpiece.   I will never forget it.  The laughter, the costumes, their rendition of the first Thanksgiving warmed my heart.  To this day, 11 years later, my kids still talk about it.  No it was not the typical school day that I felt was required, but it is one we remember the most.  

Days of grace are all around us.   God promises His grace to be sufficient for each one.  Sometimes we are given the ability to get through, enduring life around us.  Other times everything goes just right, allowing us to enjoy our worlds.  Either way, every day is a day of grace.  

Go easy on yourself, let God’s grace guide you and your school.  Let it lead you to do the things He desires you to do.  Enjoy the days of rest, knowing that they prepare you for the days to endure.  

In the grand scheme of things, this time with our kids is but a fleeting moment.  Make the moments last.  You might just find in the process you are creating memories that will be last a lifetime.   

Just a few weeks ago the family sat around that table talking one evening before my oldest daughter left for a 5 months missions trip overseas. The memory of when they wrote and performed the Thanksgiving play came up again.  We laughed as we remembered, after all she played the turkey.  Eleven years have passed, yet it’s remembered like it was yesterday.   Precious memories that last a lifetime were made that day.  Isn’t that what it’s all about?  

©copyrighted 2008 by Julie L. Todd