Thursday, May 28, 2009

Woman Come Home - Chapter 2

Six years ago when John and I started Covered Bridge Family Ministries, I presented an article at our first family seminar called, “Woman Come Home: My Personal Journey from Career Woman to Contented Homemaker”. You can read the article as my first entry on this blog. As the name of the article implies, I am on a journey to achieving contentment in the home; I have not arrived. I’m still a sinner. So this is sequel to that article.
I want to start off by honoring my mother today (Mother's Day). My husband and children would concur with me that Grandma Voyla is a very loving, nurturing, caring person. She has the instinct of a mother. She would love to gather the whole world under her wings like a mother hen gathers her chicks if she could. Somewhere along the line, however, this nurturing instinct was not passed on to me. I am much more task-oriented than people-oriented. My mother has said that I tended to keep my business to myself and didn’t talk much when I was younger. I believe part of the reason I didn’t turn out like her is that I didn’t have much time with her. I attended 13 years of public school, four years of college to get my teaching degree, and another year in graduate school for my masters. That’s a lot of seat-hours spent away from Mom. In addition, my mother returned to the work force when I was only four years old and my sister was two. I understand why she went back to work; she has explained to me that my father was so sparse with the praise and heavy on the criticism that, in her words, “I would have become a nothing if I’d stayed home”. So, she sought personal affirmation from the working world.
Kevin Swanson, in his article, “The Re-integrated Family and the Return of Love,” pointed out that forty years ago, when I was about ten, only about 2% of children under six were without their moms during the daytime hours. That figure is now at 64%. I was one of those 2%; my sister and I were latch-key children before such a term existed. I’m here to tell you, it was a lonely existence. When Mom came home late from work, I could tell she was too tired or distracted to go deep with me. I somehow thought that my experiences at school were my own burden to bear.
When my husband and I married, we determined that we would do things differently; I would stay home with the children. There was one big problem; I had spent my life preparing myself for the working world outside the home; my mother had modeled that paradigm for me; and I didn’t know how to be content in the home.
In my article I describe how I ended up working part-time anyway while our two eldest children were born, and how I was faced with the stark reality that I was repeating history; I had lost my daughter’s heart; and she was only two or three. Due to financial choices we had made, it took me another year or two to finally come home for good. But you see, there was still the issue of my own heart. I had also thrown myself into volunteer work. When I was home, I had found myself on the phone, cooking up more commitments. I gave prolife speeches in the high schools; I debated Planned Parenthood on the college campuses, on radio and television; I led a Concerned Women for America chapter, and was in the church choir. You see, I was still seeking strokes from the adult world, just as my mother had. Whenever I got on the phone, I noticed my children would suddenly create a crisis, interrupting me and trying to get my attention. As soon as I got off, they would settle down and be fine. They were competing with the telephone for my attentions. They knew they didn’t have my heart.
Oh, and did I mention I was in Bible Study Fellowship too? Well, that was probably my best decision. We were studying the Life of David one week, and we got to the chapter where King David shares his desire to build a temple for the Lord with the prophet Nathan. The Lord gave Nathan a message, and these words were like a sword into my heart: “(I Chronicles 17:4) Thus says the Lord: It is not you who will build me a house to dwell in…Moreover, I declare to you that I, the Lord will build you a house. When your days are fulfilled to walk with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom.” When I read that, I knew beyond any doubt that these words were for me. God was saying, “All this work you are doing for me is good—the babies you’re trying to save, the church work, the political changes you’re working for—but it’s not what I have called you to do.”
Well, I argued with God. “But Lord, I’ve made all these commitments, I’ve started a new prolife council, etc. etc. I can’t afford to be flakey!” So I didn’t hear directly from the Lord anymore. But what did happen was that my health went south—fast.
In ‘92, six months after I had quit teaching and come home, I became very ill with hypothyroidism and fibromyalgia. The chronic pain and fatigue are still progressing today, seventeen years later, in spite of my visiting at least sixteen different doctors and trying dozens of treatments.
That was the same year I had started homeschooling my children. Naomi was four, Nathan was two, and I had a newborn, Aaron. (He’s graduating from high school next week.) I had thought, if I can teach other people’s children, I can certainly teach my own. But here I was, getting sick and sicker. I wanted desperately to do right by my children—to give them my best, my all—and now I didn’t know if I’d have the strength.
It has been and still is a struggle. When I am in pain, I tend to be more stressed and irritable. I will push myself through the pain, and deal too harshly with the children. They often don’t know what In the world is wrong with Mom. Sometimes I don’t know myself. Then when the pain lifts temporarily, I feel so much better that I tend to be aggressive, trying to catch up for lost time. My husband has often said, “You must be feeling better. You’re getting feisty again.” There were some years when I was so debilitated by the pain that John stepped in and put four of our children in public school. (Caleb was still preschool-age, so I kept him and taught him at home, by hook and by crook.) Those were the darkest four years of my life. The constant pain, along with my sense of failure and uselessness, caused a lot of deep depression. We soon realized we were losing all our children’s hearts in a hurry, and John finally came to the conclusion that if necessary, he would homeschool them himself while working fulltime, and he brought them back home. I was so relieved.
I have found various ways to keep going, managing the household and homeschooling my five children. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. I haven’t time share the details of our curricular methods.
Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” I have learned that my greatest gift from God—my greatest treasure—is my life, and my life is measured in time. The greatest treasure I have to give my children is my time. And though it’s a struggle even now to give them my heart, because of my past choices, I know God will honor His promises and raise up my children to build a house on a sure foundation that will last forever.
Two words of advice I have for mothers and young ladies aspiring to be mothers.
1. Guard your heart.
2. Give up your rights.
We women must guard our own hearts from being seduced by the world’s voices that say it’s more satisfying out there, away from home, than it is being at home with our children. We must guard the way we spend our time, choosing activities that will help us be content with the limitless possibilities that await us in our own homes. Then we can more effectively guard our children’s hearts from the influences of the world that continually call out to them.
And we must give up our right, to have control of our time, and our right to adult companionship. Jesus said, “He who seeks to save his life shall lose it; but he who seeks to lose his life for my sake shall find it.” There is indeed great joy awaiting us if we seek his kingdom first, and all these things shall be added to us.
Now the leaders and founders of Household of Faith Community Church say that we are not a homeschool church. We are a parental discipleship church. I take that to mean whatever model works best for parents to maximize the time they spend with their children in order to make them their primary disciples, that’s the schooling model they should choose. I admit I am not without bias; I think the superior model for discipling children is through homeschooling them. I can’t think of a better way to have the most and best of your time with your children than to homeschool them. Our primary reason is relational. Elizabeth Smith wrote an article called “10 Reasons to Homeschool Teens”. Her #1 reason is: “Cement family relationships. Relationships are the most important thing in family life. When teens are away from home for six to eight hours a day, subtle changes begin to erode relationships at home. Divided allegiance or “serving two masters” can shake their foundation. THE RESULT IS DIMINISHED FAMILY TIES AND PARENTAL INFLUENCE.” She also says, “Age/grade isolation or segregation inhibits socialization.” This was certainly our experience.
Are you making your children your primary disciples? Do you have their heart? Do they have yours?
I often ask myself that question and wonder. I have indeed come a long way, through God’s severe mercy upon me, in re-prioritizing my time, but I often have a hunch that if I weren’t still sick, I would be saying yes to too many “good” options to fill my time, which would divert my attention and energies away from my children, and now my grandchildren. I would love to be taking on tutoring students, or teaching this class or leading that women’s bible study or discussion group. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t picture myself doing such things. And then reality sets in and I must tell myself “no”. I can say, however, that I am very content in my own home now. I do wish I could practice more hospitality there. The hardest part is saying no to John, who I’m sure is disappointed that I don’t have guests over very often. I only know God must have his reasons. I also God will heal me, someday. The only question is, when?