Entanglements

People matter because they last forever. That was one of the many truths that was shared this weekend. I needed that reminder. I was put in mind of my blog post below, _Entanglements_. “People don’t come in the easy-care, wrinkle-free, stain-resistant department. People are difficult.”

Stephanie Rodda

This morning I have been doing a lot of thinking and my thoughts have led to the entanglements of life. For the most part, those entanglements involve people. People don’t come in the easy-care, wrinkle-free, stain-resistant department. People are difficult. Whether young or old, they require maintenance and time and energy and effort. I’ll tell you what else they require, they require a lot of patience and forgiveness. If you want an easy, stress free, drama-less life you’d do best to avoid people altogether. Of course you’d also miss out on the best of life while trying to sidestep demanding entanglements. You’d never have a big family fight but, you’d never experience the joy of reconciliation. You’d never lose sleep worrying about problems that are not your own but, you’d never know the great delight that comes in sharing the victories that are not your own.

The truth is, people…

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What time is it?

Time marches forward and regardless of what some of our favorite science-fiction shows tell us, it only goes forward. This means, subsequently, that we are in a state of constant change even when it feels as if we are in a rut. 

Ages change, children grow from infants to toddlers to teens. Stages change, from single to married to single again to grandparents. Relationships change from intimate to distant and from acquaintance to dearest of friends. Seasons change from scorching heat of summer to cool breezes of fall. 

In Ecclesiastes we find a thought-provoking passage concerning time. I want to look at that with you today and consider the words carefully. I want us to contemplate that what has always worked in the past may not be the best choices for today. Times have changed and maybe we should follow suit. 

“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.”

‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:1-8‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Did you read it slowly and savor the truths that it offers?  Maybe once more? Which words tugged on your heart? Corrected your attitude? Encouraged your efforts?

If we really stop and ponder what is being spoken to us it might just lighten our load and lessen our anxious thoughts and give us courage to continue on. We will only frustrate ourselves if we try to insist that things must stay the same. They will not do so no matter how we protest. 

So how do we know when it is time to tear or time to mend? How do we know when it is time to speak up and time to be quiet? How do we know when it is time to build up or time to tear down?

That, my friend, is when we rely heavily upon the strong shoulders of our Lord and listen carefully for His voice. That is when we reach down deep and find the courage to accept that things aren’t going to be exactly like we always expected them to be. That is when we swallow our pride and hold our tongue and resist the urge to defend ourselves. That is when we speak up boldly for the sake of those who have no voice of their own. That is when we realize the time has come to tear down what we’ve tried so hard to rebuild and move on. That is when we decide to quit searching for yesteryear and throw away tainted memories and embrace today and look forward to tomorrow.

What time is it? It’s time to do things differently. It’s time to try a different route. It’s time to follow a different path. It’s time to accept change and move forward. 

Recently I’ve faced significant changes in my life and I don’t believe there is a better example of time flying by than when we observe our children growing. There was a time when I was like one of our little momma hens and kept my chicks close by and often under my wings. Time has changed that. Now, some of my children are venturing out, finding their own new paths and growing. If I insist on holding them back I will make us both miserable. If I celebrate their growth and accept the change our relationship can be strengthened. 

As a former foster parent, I had the difficult job of helping children face stark change in their lives. Some would resist it and their journey towards healing was delayed. Those who could let go and move forward were able to find their footing and make progress. 

Did you know that there is also great beauty in the passing of time? If you’re closing your eyes tight and refusing to see it, you’re missing out on lovely moments of discovery and new possibilities. What time is it? It’s time to open your eyes wide. 

  

At First Glance

Yesterday I visited the hospital my son was born in twelve years ago for the very first time. This is an example of the odd things an adoptive mother can say. 
Here’s another. This is my first child but not my oldest child. 
How about this one? This is my son and his friend, they have the same sister but they aren’t related.
Over the last several days of doctor’s offices and hospitals I’ve had to more than once explain to folks that I am indeed my daughter’s mother. Many times while out shopping my family is mistaken as a group home. It wasn’t uncommon when they were younger for store clerks to ask my children where their momma was as they stood right beside me quietly waiting.
There was a time when I would have been frustrated with some of this but, I suppose the years have mellowed me. People just make assumptions based on what we can see with our eyes. My children don’t resemble me on the surface and at first glance we don’t always look like we belong to each other. That first glance is wrong. 
First glances can get you in a heap of trouble. You can come to conclusions based on first impressions that are as inaccurate as can be. I think this is especially the case when you’re viewing a person or a situation with a critical eye. You know, like when you say things like, ‘Yep, that’s just what I expected.’ Or ‘That’s how those people are.’ Or ‘They look like this so they must be like this.’ 
The truth is we’d be better off holding our tongues and keeping our opinions to ourselves than spewing off a bit of criticism. I despise people being lumped together and then boxed up by those determined that they know how all women are or all homeschoolers or all Christians or all anything. 
I’m unique. So are you. So is that person that appears to be so typical at first glance. I live in the Deep South but I don’t fit the mold that folks would assume I do. I’m a passionate, uncompromising Christian that can stand up for what I believe but, I may be very different than another committed Christian. I don’t need to make light of those who don’t talk like me, look like me, live like me or worship like me to prove my spiritual superiority. Neither do you. 
You know what I love? Diversity. I enjoy knowing and loving people who are different from me. I want to spend time with those who are much my senior and much my junior in age. I want to have friends from other cultures. I want to listen to those who have differing opinions than my own. I want to refuse to stay in ‘the box’ and refuse to try to put others in a box. I want to resist those first glance assumptions that rarely work out and often lead to mistaken identity.  
What is it that you think you’ve got all figured out? What is it that you’ll openly criticize to get a laugh or crowd approval from those you want to impress? What is it that you will scoff at so that you feel superior?
If you are a Christian you best rethink those first glances and remind yourself that God works in mysterious ways. If you can’t tolerate those who don’t agree with you, you better examine your heart and better yet, ask the Lord to. And for goodness sake, stop holding other Christians in such disdain. Do you really, for one moment think you know it all? Do you really think you have the right to judge another person’s heart? 
I wonder what would happen if Christians refused to criticize each other and left the correction to the Holy Spirit? I wonder what would happen if Christians stopped speaking condescendingly of each other and instead applied a little of the grace they’ve so generously received? Wonder if non-believers would respect us more, view us in a kinder light, be more open to hearing about our faith? Isn’t that the goal after all? To share this beautiful love we have discovered?
Last night as I waited for my daughter to come out of surgery (appendectomy), the hospital cleaning lady was working in the waiting room where I sat and we chatted a bit. She first commented about the scarf I was crocheting and then it wasn’t long that she knew a little about me and I knew a little about her. Just a little. She is 23 years old, she has no children but she has a God-son, she’s an Auburn fan, she always wanted to learn to crochet. As she left the area she said, “I know I don’t really know you but, I can just tell, you’re a nice lady, a real nice lady.”
I was glad she thought so but, I knew she was deciding that at first glance and I could have actually been very different than I appeared. That made me think about my assumptions about her and about what I didn’t know. Was she lonely? Discouraged? In a broken relationship? Struggling? Disheartened? Depressed? Grieving? In love? Hopeful? I don’t know, I guess I never will. 
It would be so easy to put her in a box and make those first glance judgements but, I don’t know her heart. I don’t know yours either. But, I know who does. God knows your heart and He loves you just as you are but, He loves you too much to leave you there. So, if you have been being critical and too quick to make assumptions based on a first glance, consider how others see you at first glance, remember who you represent and repent. Yes, Christians still need to repent as the Holy Spirit convicts us. To repent means to stop and go a different direction. I pray that you’ll be courageous enough to do so and the next time you’re tempted to make a scathing remark you’ll see a big red flag that says CAUTION! DANGER! CRITICISM AHEAD! and you’ll choose another path and protect your heart. Who knows? Someone may be watching and decide, at first glance, to join you. 
  

And So It Begins, Again

Our new homeschool year is upon us. We started today and this is my fifteenth year to start a new school year. I can remember being so very anxious about teaching my older children to write their ABC’s. I so longed to do it right!

This year, two of my sons having already graduated, I have three high school students and two junior-high students. My methods have varied greatly over the years to accommodate the learning differences of each child. That’s the beauty of homeschool. The way we go about our studies can be adjusted to fit the child more easily than in a larger classroom setting. 

In my early years of homeschooling I tried to recreate school at home. That was ok in the early primary years. Then I discovered unit studies and oh the fun we had learning in a delight driven manner. When some began to approach highschool I found Switched-on-Schoolhouse and I was so thankful. Help with proper records, grading and subjects was provided. 

If you are contemplating homeschooling your children and wondering if you can do it, I want to assure you that you can. Will you do it just like me or a public school teacher? No, probably not. But, if you do your research and work hard, you will have a unique learning environment for your unique student. 

You don’t have to know it all to be a homeschool teacher. You have to be willing to learn along with your child. To me, this is one of the greatest rewards. 

Don’t expect perfection from your children nor yourself. That’s a sure way to have a miserable year. 

My goal is to teach my children to be learners, to think and reason, to know how to find the information they need. Then no matter if it is an Algebra problem or a life problem, they’ll be okay. 

Expose your children to poetry and art and music that they wouldn’t normally experience. It’s ok if it is beyond them at their present stage, let them listen to cadences and sway to rhythms. Go to museums, visit libraries and science centers. 

Ask for help when you need it. Attend conferences and classes. Find a group to participate in. Join teams or take karate or let them try ballet. Get connected with a local church body and participate!

Teach your kids that there’s a whole world that does not revolve around them. Volunteer together. Serve those less fortunate. Help those who are struggling. Develop character and integrity in their hearts and lead by example. 

Music is a huge part of our homeschool days. We have a large assortment of instruments, some of which we are still experimenting with. We play board games to encourage strategic thinking, like chess. We spend time outside. We paint and we craft and we cook and we explore. 

I want to increase their appetite for knowledge. I want them to be curious and inquisitive. I want them to consider and contemplate. I want them to think outside the box. I want them to try and fail and try again. 

Some of my children came to me as older-child adoptions and I missed the first years of their lives. I cherish my time with each of my children. It is my moment to make deposits into their lives, to influence them and help define who they are. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. 

Homeschool is not the best choice for every child or every family. But, it is the best for mine.