30 Years: A Homeschool Journey ~ The Beginning

It’s hard to believe it’s been 30 years this year since I first heard about homeschooling. It was an odd concept at first for a family who had been quite content with public schools. The summer after my ninth grade year, however, we met a homeschooling family, and my parents were intrigued. They were stunned when my brother started kindergarten that fall and they realized how much public schools had changed since I started 10 years before.

By spring, they had decided to homeschool my brother the following year. As plans were made, curriculum was ordered, and excitement mounted, I approached my parents with a question: Why couldn’t I be homeschooled, too?

It was the mid-1980s. The modern homeschooling movement was just picking up steam. Homeschooling a first grader was one thing; homeschooling a high schooler was quite another. College was looming; scholarships were at stake. We had no idea how one graduated from a home school or how homeschoolers got into college. It was a radical choice in those days.  But my parents and I were sure of one thing: God was calling us to home school.

I am thankful for the gift of Godly parents: parents who weren’t perfect, but who sought to model a genuine walk with Christ in our home and who demonstrated to me the meaning of unconditional love; parents who sacrificed much for their children in every area; parents who were anything but risk-takers, but who in spite of many uncertainties stepped out in faith to homeschool their children in a time when those were very uncharted (and unpopular!) waters.

A step of faith it was, but one for which I’m forever grateful. Despite our early concerns, I received numerous full scholarship offers. By then I knew that I wanted to homeschool my children.  Homeschooling became my college research emphasis and one of my life passions.

Billy had never heard of homeschooling when we met, but it didn’t take long for him to get on board with the idea. We began planning to homeschool before we were married.  I had lofty expectations — after all, I had been immersed in homeschooling books, magazines, and curriculum for years. This was going to be a piece of cake!

Then life happened.  It’s one thing to lay out the perfect homeschooling plan while you are still childless; it’s quite another to carry out those plans when life is going crazy all around you. A six-week NICU stay for our youngest (a 30-week preemie), my dad’s seriously declining health and death, violent crime that rocked our family, unexpected health issues of our own — these were just a few of the bumps in our road as a homeschooling family.

Not only did “life” happen, but in the midst of it all, I discovered that the much-loved curriculum  I’d always planned to use simply didn’t work for us. It seemed that homeschooling multiple children close in age (four in six years) was a completely different proposition than one-on-one teaching with an “almost-only” child. Imagine that!

Our homeschooling journey has been nothing like what we expected, but we’ve been blessed abundantly. Homeschooling is no longer seen as “radical”; it’s almost a mainstream choice these days. We are thankful for those who’ve worked to improve our homeschool laws over the years, and  we’ve been blessed with a wonderful homeschool group.

The greatest blessings, however, have come through the work God has done in our family through this adventure of homeschooling. We are not where I had planned to be in our schooling at this point, and yet I know that we are exactly where we are supposed to be.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 tell us that we are to teach His words diligently to our children. I will be the first to say that I fail daily in this. But God continues to teach and work in Billy and I as we strive to train and nurture our children in His ways. And He has continually shown us that home is exactly where our children needed to be during the unexpected trials we’ve faced. Academics and extra-curricular activities may not have happened at all as we had planned, but God knew that there were things He needed to teach all of us that we couldn’t have learned in any other way.

Several years ago I posted these thoughts on my blog. God continues to convict me of these things daily:

My primary goal is not for my children to excel academically…although I do want them to excel academically. My primary goal is not for my children to be well-behaved in public…although I certainly want them to be well-behaved in public!  My primary goal is not even first-time obedience with a respectful attitude…although that is a crucial foundation stone and a vital goal.  

My primary goal is for my children to love the Lord with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength. Only if they truly love Him and have a personal walk with Him as not only Savior, but also Lord of their lives, will they truly be the successes that He…and I…want them to be. No matter what they look like on the outside, no matter how intelligent, polite, and “successful” they appear to be, if they haven’t given their hearts to Him completely, it is all for naught.

Are you struggling with things not going “as planned” in your homeschool? Anxious about being “behind”? Worried that you aren’t measuring up to the standards of others (or even your own)?

Remember that God has planned every one of your days, and the days of your children, from before the foundation of the world. (Psalm 139) Realize that He is teaching you and them in ways that the perfect curriculum never can. Our journey may seem full of unexpected turns and bumps in the road, but He has promised that if we commit our way to Him, He will make our paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

This is the first post in a multi-part series on our homeschooling journey.  Don't want to miss an installment?  Sign up to follow Ponderings of an Elect Exile via the links below!

Welcome to Ponderings of an Elect Exile!  Whether you are new here or a faithful friend and regular reader, I'm glad you're here!  If you aren't already following, I'd love to have you join us for the 2014 Ponderings.  It's easy to do, in a variety of ways!  You can follow via  Facebook, Twitter, and/or Pinterest, or  find me on Instagram as Jenbh68. You can also sign up in the sidebar to receive new posts by email.  (And if you really want to make my day, leave me a comment below, or drop me a note via the email box in the sidebar. :))


The Blessings of Foot Washing Friends

In 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, we are told that God comforts us in our afflictions so that we may in turn comfort others in their afflictions with the comfort with which we are comforted by God.  I remember reading those verses in the late fall of 2006 and praying, "Someday, Father, let me comfort others because of this."
Our world had completely imploded, and life as we knew it was effectively over.  We had been horribly betrayed by someone we loved and trusted.  Our family would never be the same again, and the large gaping spiritual and emotional wounds were very slow to heal.

But God is faithful, and He is truly Jehovah Rapha, "the Lord our Healer".  He has done much work in all of us in the intervening years, and more and more I am overwhelmed with thankfulness for the growth that He has brought through the suffering that began almost 8 years ago.

In the last several years, He has also begun to answer that long-ago prayer.  He has provided opportunities to comfort and help others because of His comfort to us through these years.  This morning was one of those times.  I received a message from a faraway friend asking for help in comforting and helping another family whose world has been turned upside down by the shockwaves of sin.

As I typed a message in response, I prayerfully reflected on the things God used to help and comfort us during those early days, weeks, and even years (and to be honest, still today).  I have always been thankful for those people God used in our lives during that time, but today I was blown away all over again by the sacrificial love shown to us by the handful of friends who were aware of the situation.

"Handful" is actually a literal descriptor...in the beginning, due to safety issues, there were five people who knew: two of my dearest local friends and their husbands, and a long-time friend who lived far away, but who listened often by phone and online.

We knew no one else who had walked this path.  We searched frantically for resources on dealing Biblically with this type of trauma and came up sadly lacking. We were desperate for help, and we weren't even able to turn to our pastors until several months into the process.

My local friends Jodie and Kathy had no background or experience with what we were dealing with.  They were as shocked and overwhelmed as we were, and yet as I said in a previous post,
"They held me up. God used them to literally keep me going when I felt like I couldn't take another step. They carried our burdens. They prayed for and with me when I couldn't pray, and they read and quoted and typed God's Word to me when I literally wasn't able to open my Bible."
Not only that, they fed us when I wasn't capable of making a peanut butter sandwich, they cried with me, and they made me laugh when I really wasn't sure I'd ever be able to laugh again.  They helped with childcare when I needed it, and helped bring a bit of normalcy to our lives when normal seemed a million miles away.  

(Note: This post was started yesterday. I didn't finish/publish it, and this morning prompted more thoughts on the subject. Most of the post to this point is Saturday's thoughts. Much of what comes after this point is Sunday's thoughts.  My apologies for any confusion that may cause.)

I said in my response to my friend yesterday, "...they slogged through the sewage with us...and they never once gave any indication that it was an imposition on them...they just loved us and hurt with us."

They truly, truly bore our burdens (Galatians 6:2).  It can be very hard to listen...and listen, and listen, and listen, to a hurting friend, no matter the source of that hurt.  However, this wasn't your garden variety hurt.  Listening to this pain involved being dragged through the gutter of things that most of us don't want to think about at all, much less get up close and personal with--horrid, vile, evil stuff.

And yet they never faltered in being there for us at every step along the way. They got their hands dirty, at times going far beyond listening and helping with food and childcare, but actually becoming involved in the situation itself in ways that took them far, far out of their comfort zones.  

This morning, Bro. Gary preached on John 13:1-4, where Jesus is preparing to wash the disciples' feet.  He talked about Jesus demonstrating love and serving one another, and how we are to follow that example. He talked about the filth there on the disciples feet, and Jesus's willingness to get dirty and humble Himself to wash them. He asked some hard questions about serving. 

As he did, I was reminded of this post I started yesterday, and I was overcome again with thankfulness for these friends who followed Jesus's example so beautifully in this area.  We are rarely called to wash physical feet these days, but there are times when we'd much rather wash stinky, filthy physical feet than answer the call to meet the needs of those around us in true servant humility.  

I have no doubt that given a choice, my friends Jodie and Kathy (and their husbands) would have much preferred a one time foot washing experience (even given a strong foot aversion involved :)) than the months and years of anguish they slogged through with us. 

I am so convicted that in order to follow Jesus in servant humility, we have to be prepared to face things that are filthy and unpleasant.  We have to be willing to lay aside our own comfort to meet the needs of those around us.  Bearing one another's burdens is a command.  

I am so thankful for the example of these friends (and many others through the years) in this area.  I am so thankful for Jesus's example, which didn't stop at washing the filthy feet of those fishermen, but which went all the way to the Cross.

I want to be a foot-washing friend.  What about you?

 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
~Philippians 2:5-11


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Welcome to Ponderings of an Elect Exile!  Whether you are new here or a faithful friend and regular reader, I'm glad you're here!  If you aren't already following, I'd love to have you join us for the 2015 Ponderings.  It's easy to do, in a variety of ways!  You can follow via  Facebook, Twitter, and/or Pinterest, or  find me on Instagram as Jenbh68. You can also sign up in the sidebar to receive new posts by email. Thank you!  


Ring the Bells of Heaven!

This old hymn has been running through my mind since last night, when Ammah Grace came to us and said, "I want to know that I know God."  At the end of our time of going through Scripture, talking, and praying, she knew.  She had repented of her sin and trusted Christ as her Savior.  I shared with her Luke 15:10, which says that there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels when a sinner repents.

There was a lot of rejoicing in our house, too. :) 

Ring the bells of Heaven! There is joy today,
For a soul, returning from the wild!
See, the Father meets him out upon the way,
Welcoming His weary, wandering child.

Glory! Glory! How the angels sing:
Glory! Glory! How the loud harps ring!
’Tis the ransomed army, like a mighty sea,
Pealing forth the anthem of the free.

Ring the bells of Heaven! There is joy today,
For the wanderer now is reconciled;
Yes, a soul is rescued from his sinful way,
And is born anew a ransomed child.

Ring the bells of Heaven! Spread the feast today!
Angels, swell the glad triumphant strain!
Tell the joyful tidings, bear it far away!
For a precious soul is born again.
~William O. Cushing

God is working mightily through the Behold Your God Bible study we're doing on Sunday nights right now.  We're just starting week 3, and I have about 5 blog posts in varying stages of completion just from the study we've done so far. :)  He's working in all of our hearts in different ways, and it's been neat to see how He prepared Ammah Grace for this study before we ever started it, and then has used it (among other things) to convict her of sin and bring her to salvation.

Bro. Gary cleared his schedule this morning to meet with us, and her baptism is scheduled for March 16.  (Friends and family, we'd love for you to be there...message me for more info!)  She will be the first person to be baptized at Grace Baptist Lavaca, and as I told Bro. Gary last night, "We are praying that she will be the first of many more!"  (Ammah Grace's message to Bro. Gary was that he needed to clean the spiders out of the baptistry, which he has promised to do! :))

Bro. Gary said it seemed appropriate that Grace would be the first to be baptized at Grace. :)  As I thought more about that, I realized that the first part of her name has taken on new significance as well.  I shared a bit here about the process of naming her and the goosebumps I got when we discovered after the fact that her name means "God's people". 

Because of the unbelievable outpouring of prayers, practical help, financial blessing, and other support from "God's people", without which we would never have made it through those days, we knew that her name was God-given and perfect for her.  How much more appropriate now that she is truly one of God's people  herself! 

We realized this morning that now Ammah Grace has two birthdays in February...her physical birthday (she just celebrated her 10th 10 days ago), and her spiritual birthday. 

God is so good, and we are so thankful.  

Do you know God?  Not just know about Him, but know Him?  If you have any doubts, please feel free to message me using the box at the right.  I'd love to chat with you about knowing Him.  Or for more information, see this post and this website


Better Done Than Perfect!


"Better done than perfect!"

It's one of our new mottoes around here, and it was heard numerous times yesterday.

I always thought I'd be one of those moms who did up every little holiday in a big way.

Then our life went crazy, and I did well for many years to make sure the Christmas tree was up and decorated by Christmas (which is actually a bit misleading, because for the last I'm-not-sure-how-many-years, Billy and the kids have taken the lead on that particular project) and that everyone had birthday presents and their favorite meal on their special day.  I've managed to make sure that the kids' have Easter treats every year (even the year that that involved my long-suffering friend Jodie taking me to Wal-Mart to buy cheesy pre-made Easter baskets on Saturday night as I rode in a motorized cart rather than hopping through the store on crutches to avoid putting weight on the ankle I'd broken earlier in the week...), and we almost-always get in a DIY Christmas photo shoot (even if I never manage to get cards made). 

I've had great intentions, but for all kinds of reasons, they too often remain exactly that...intentions.

(Please note that I'm not talking about missing the true meaning of the seasons...that's one thing we've put a priority on over the years, and for that I'm thankful!  We even usually manage to get in some good stuff about the historical significance of "lesser" holidays.  We just struggle with some of the extras I always wanted and planned to include. :))

I know we've made a lot of good memories along the way, and we have our own, sometimes rather odd, traditions.  But the older my kids get the more determined I am to make more of those intentions into reality.

Which was why I got up in a bit of a funk yesterday morning realizing that Valentine's Day had dawned and I simply wasn't ready.

While other moms were up creating super-special pink and red Valentine breakfasts, I was struggling to get up and moving due to pain issues, looking at the small pile of not-yet-put-together Valentine goodie bag ingredients in the corner of my bedroom, and despairing that not one of the Valentine craft/decorating projects we'd planned in anticipation of the day had actually come to be. 

Although this year I had actually made progress toward getting things done ahead of time, the weather, calendar, and health issues had tripped me up again.  As I put my slippers on and limped into the dining room to start the day, I contemplated how easy it would be to give up, go back to bed, and concede defeat.

Instead, I breathed a prayer that God would make of our day what He wanted it to be, that He would give me wisdom, energy and strength to do what I needed to do to make the day special for our family, and that He would help me to focus on Him as the true source of love, rather than my feelings of failure.

I sat at my desk and began to plan.  No, I wouldn't have a cute pink-and-red Valentine breakfast ready when the kids got out of bed, and no, their Valentine treats wouldn't be waiting on the table first thing in the morning, and no, the house hadn't been decorated with hearts all week...but we would celebrate regardless!

We would work on a couple of crafty/decorating projects together, and enjoy them for the next few weeks instead of the previous few. We would make Valentine's cookies, and we would have a special Valentine's dinner/party, by which time I would have everyone's goodie bags ready to go.

It still didn't all go as planned, and we had to flex a bit in several places, but by dinner time, we'd finished a couple of crafty/decor projects, the goodie bags were ready, and we had yummy White Cheese Chicken Enchiladas for our special Valentine meal. (In the interest of transparency, I should probably point out that we didn't get the cookies made, but those will be a fun treat for another day.)

None of it was perfect...but it was done!  And...we'd made some fun and special memories.

Life is just not perfect, and around here it's usually just plain crazy.  I'm one of those who struggles sometimes with feeling that if it can't be perfect, why do it at all?  God has spent the last ten years working on me in that.  We aren't perfect, the world around us is not perfect, and sometimes we just need to let go of our expectations and be content with  the place in which God has put us.

The key, as He keeps reminding me, is to focus on Him and not my feelings of failure, to give it to Him and let His strength work in my weakness...even in "trivial" things like Valentine's Day plans. He can redeem our weaknesses and failures and turn them into something beautiful!

(Even the pictures that I tried to get to document our day weren't perfect. The lighting in our living room wouldn't allow me to get a decent photo of our Valentine garland, and the glare on the glass in the front door made getting a photo of our wreath next to impossible.  Finally I took it all out in the backyard to try to get some shots...but the wind was blowing like crazy, so that was a challenge, too.  I finally had to say, "Better done than perfect!" about those as well, and head in to finish supper. :) )

Are you a perfectionist?  Do you struggle with unfinished (or unstarted?) projects?  Be encouraged, and remember with me that "Done is Better Than Perfect"!  Join with me in jumping in to finish some of those unfinished/intended-but-not-started projects this year. Do you have a "Better Done Than Perfect" story of your own?  Please share with us in the comments! 


Welcome to Ponderings of an Elect Exile!  Whether you are new here or a faithful friend and regular reader, I'm glad you're here!  If you aren't already following, I'd love to have you join us for the 2014 Ponderings.  It's easy to do, in a variety of ways!  You can follow via  Facebook, Twitter, and/or Pinterest, or  find me on Instagram as Jenbh68. You can also sign up in the sidebar to receive new posts by email.  (And if you really want to make my day, leave me a comment below, or drop me a note via the email box in the sidebar. :))


"The Cure for the Troubled Soul"

It came rushing back to me during Bro. Gary's sermon one recent Sunday morning, this post, that is.  I sat remembering the most painful time in my life, in the lives of every member of our family, and our tiny little Gracie-girl toddling through the house singing over and over,

Bow the Knee
"Bow the knee;
Trust the heart of your Father when the answer goes beyond what you can see.
Bow the Knee;
Lift your eyes toward Heaven and believe the One who holds eternity.
And when you don't understand the purpose of His plan,
In the presence of the King,
Bow the knee."
~Chris Machen and Mike Harland

Bow the Knee. I remember the realization hitting like a lightning bolt.  "This is to be our response to trials, trouble, pain, and confusion: worship."

As I said in that previous post, 

I was so struck by the meaning of those words. When our world turns upside down, when nothing about life makes sense, when God's answers to our prayers are nowhere near what we expected...our immediate response should be to "bow the knee". That is the answer. Worship--focusing on Who He is and responding in awe and obedience--is the key. Plain and simple. But how hard do we often make it, and how rarely do we actually practice it!
Worship--focusing on Who He is and responding in awe and obedience--is the key. Plain and simple.  It sounds so simple, but when our hearts are hurting, when we are drowning in confusion, when God's path for us seems a million miles from what we'd expected...then it doesn't seem so simple.

And yet, as Bro. Gary's sermon Sunday morning reminded me...simple or not, the treatment for the troubled soul is indeed that: to cry out to the Father, to put our focus on Him, and to worship Him.

In John 12:27, Jesus says that His soul is troubled.  He KNEW what was about to come (his arrest, torture, and crucifixion), and He didn't want to go there. 

I realized several years ago that despite our human wish to "know what's coming", it's often a true blessing that we don't.  If I'd had any idea 10 years ago last week that in just a few days I'd be headed to Little Rock in the back of an ambulance in the middle of a snowstorm, I would have run screaming the other direction as fast as my 30-weeks-pregnant body could go (which wasn't very fast, but you get the idea.)  If God had told me ahead of time that our family would be betrayed and our children harmed by someone we dearly loved and trusted, well, I'm really not sure what would have happened, but it wouldn't have been good.  As much as I *think* I'd like to know exactly what God has planned for me and for my family in advance, He's teaching me that it's really better that I don't.

I'm reminded of that again here.  Jesus knew every horrible, graphically-awful detail of what was about to happen.  He knew that He would be betrayed by one of his closest companions, that He would be beaten and humiliated, and that He would die a miserably painful death by one of the worst methods known in human history.  Worst of all, He knew that He would bear the sin of all mankind on Himself, and that in that, He would endure separation from His Father...total, complete alienation...before gloriously rising again and being restored to His place at the Father's right hand.

"His soul was troubled" seems to me to be one of the greatest understatements ever. I don't know that there are even words in our language adequate to express His anguish at that point.

And yet in the very next verse, we see the "cure" for the troubled soul:

"Father, glorify your name.”
When our soul is troubled, when we are in agonizing pain, when God's plan seems too much to comprehend, we are to do what Jesus did: Go to the Father.  We are to cry out to Him, put our focus on Him, and glorify Him.  Worship Him!

That's not usually our first response in those times. We want the pain to go away.  We do whatever we think may get rid of it.  We may beg God to remove it.  We want it GONE.

"But," as Bro. Gary said Sunday morning, "Jesus was all about bringing glory to God. It brings God great joy when we glorify Him."

And turning to Him, crying out to Him, and glorifying Him is the cure for our troubled soul.

As with Jesus here, God doesn't always (or even, I would daresay, usually) take away the circumstances that are troubling our soul. Satan is going to buffet us, right up until the end.

But when we cry out to God, when we go to His Word, He speaks to us and eases our troubled souls with peace that passes understanding. He reminds us that there is coming a time when Satan will be driven out, and that for the Christian, that time of Judgement will be a time of victory.  For those who are born again, as Bro. Gary said, "Our victory is sealed because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ."

That's the triumph of the troubled soul.  Because even though we don't know the details of the path between here and there, we know the end of the story.

Cry out to Him. Worship Him. And rest in the sure and certain hope of the victory to come.


Is your soul troubled today? First, be sure you know Him. Not just know about Him, but truly know Him.  Then cry out to Him. Worship Him.  Rest in Him.  May I pray for you?  Please message me through the email box on the right.  Do you know someone whose soul is aching today?  Share this post with them, perhaps?