Homeschool 2016: Thinking With Forever Glasses On

It’s the first week back.  That means we’re still eating breakfast — the good kind, with fruit and waffles and mmmm, bacon.  We can still locate sharpened pencils (though we did somehow misplace a book on Monday.  Monday, people.  The first day.  Not to worry, it turned up, obviously, in the closed, dusty, cabinet under the computer desk — you know, the one where all of the old hard drive equipment used to go.  Of course.)  But it’s still fresh.  There’s laughing.  Interest.  We aren’t impossibly far behind… yet.

What if it could stay this way?  What if we were still laughing and curious and well-fed in February?  What would it take?

I think it would take anticipation — cultivating an expectant attitude every day.  And I don’t suppose I’m very expectant if I’m in the throes of self-pity; pity-party Kate is not thankful, but grumpy, disappointed in what’s gone wrong instead of grateful for what’s gone smashingly.  I tell my kids I don’t speak Whinese — but maybe, too often, I do.

It follows, then, that it would take gratitude, wonder, recognition of little victories and amazement at the grand stage.  Living like I have an illness in remission.  (What?  I feel good?  I get another day with these people?)

Living with a forever mentality means remembering that life is so, so short.  The stresses will pass; the kids will grow up and move on.  (Theoretically) we’ll miss them someday.  My husband likes to say that every complaint betrays a blessing — the dirty socks on the kitchen counter (what, you don’t find dirty socks on the counter?) mean I have a delightfully absent-minded kiddo.  The dog-chewed wallet means I have a wallet (and a dog.)  Living in light of eternity means seizing the joys life affords, knowing they are fleeting.  It means remembering the big picture, the prize at the end of the race, the purpose behind the cost.

I’m not just filling minds with facts, I’m filling hearts — with what?  A contagious attitude (thankful, I hope, and curious, full of awe at the incredible intricacies of the world and fascination with its people), hope, determination, purpose, love.  I’m not plodding back through 5th grade lessons for the educational thrills; I’m investing in world-changing people that will explode like dominoes from our home and set off chain reactions in a thousand unpredictable directions.

This life?  This is my one life.  This is their one childhood.  Help me, Lord, to make the most of these wildflower days.%22To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour.%22

Live free.

I am profoundly, deeply, absolutely and only human.  No surprise there, right?  But I think there are a lot of people who are confused on this point.  You see them all around — outraged, entitled, critical, and despondent.  People who expect other people to part around them like they’re Moses crossing the Red Sea.  (Although, truth be told, Moses was an incredibly humble guy, so maybe that’s not the best analogy.)  There are folks who feel inspired to crow about their triumphs and bullishly blast their opinions (thanks, Facebook.)  People who delight in grinding other people to dust under the spike of their ultra-high heel.  People… and here’s the sad part… who despair when they look in the mirror one day and realize they aren’t actually divine.antique-tiled-floor-mirror-o

But this old school Reformation doctrine is actually incredibly liberating:  I am totally depraved.  I’m a sinner, a screw-up, a miscreant, a nobody.  I can’t do anything to earn grace, nor un-earn it, neither (which I’m pretty sure sounds best in a purely redneck accent.)  In spite of my obvious, repeated, shameful failures, I am loved, celebrated, and empowered by the only one who’s Somebody.  Which is altogether great.

What baffles me is that there are a lot of other nobodies out there who gleefully understand this, who revel in this thing called grace, but still sorta think maybe they’re just a little more somebody than anybody else.  I mean, y’all, I do it, too — it’s kind of Total Depravity 101.  But it’s an ugly thing, a ruin-your-day stench that sits heavy over everything like a green fog.  Out of that prideful swamp comes a lot of hurt:  little smirking remarks turn into bruised egos and mean spirits and spite.  Roam around on the internet for five minutes and you’ll start to see it everywhere — people, Christians, just completely scornful of other people, supposedly in pursuit of truth but fully devoid of beauty or love.

HCH4KWE_mxThis is the world where we send our babies off to kindergarten, the world where we launch our books onto Amazon, the world where we brace ourselves to take a stand about anything sweet under the sun.  We have got to do better.

Next time I want to say something sarcastic, what if I just… don’t?  Next time I post a review, why not season it with kindness and not drown it in salt?  What if I held my tongue more often than I thoughtlessly spouted off, read that email a second time before I hit send?  Back in the day, people named their daughters Prudence and Mercy — time for a counter-culture comeback, y’all.

But here’s the other thing, the thing I actually do have some measure of control over (because I’m thinking no one is going to jump on the Prudence and Mercy bandwagon.)  Tim Keller calls it “The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness.”  Wow.  To get to a point where it really doesn’t matter what other people say.  To make like Elsa and let it go.  Not to define myself however I want or to pat myself on the back, but to really lose myself altogether, to be completely astonished and delighted and transfixed by Somebody — Somebody brighter, better, bigger than me.  Keller points out that in Christianity we get the verdict before the performance, so that now we can joyfully live out the verdict — live free.

“That He might become greater, and I might become less…”  That’s my prayer today.Untitled design-3

Guest Post: Their Parting Gift

My sweet friend Heidi Treibel joins us today.  I asked her for permission to share this beautiful story, knowing that many of you can relate.  These are her words.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter 1:3-5

I cannot be who I once was.

Fingerprints from hands not formed leave their impressions on my heart. Silent voices whisper deep inside me, sounds only a mother can hear. Avery Rose and Everett James lived only weeks in my womb, but now live forever with my King.They are the heaven-born babies swept up into my heavenly inheritance.

And I cannot be who I once was.

My feet too long have been firmly planted on this foreign land; and my heart has been sinking into it. I’ve fallen for the lie that what I see is all there is, while mouthing the words to songs of an unseen reality. Though I have not seen Jesus with my physical eyes, I have imagined him waiting for me in heaven. But my mind has gotten sidetracked with mortgages and grocery lists and one more cup of coffee…

But I cannot be who I once was!

For if my two babies cannot be used to change me, who can? I have seen their tiny frames. I have held their lifeless forms in my hand. I have grieved all the plans I had in mind: their births, nursing them from my body, snuggling them as their sleepy infant eyes closed. They are real to me. They really lived inside me, gaining their very lives from my life. And then, like dreams that fade upon waking, they were gone.

I have not seen my Savior in heaven, but I have seen the children who await me in heaven. And in the devastation of my loss, they have given me a very sweet gift.

I am not who I once was.

Now, my mind is not pretending to dwell on heaven; my daydreams take me there. My heart is not forced to long for eternity; it aches to be swallowed up by immortality. I am not just mouthing the words to the songs longing for Christ’s return; I sing “Come, Lord Jesus,” with the saints of the ages.

Now my mind is not pretending to dwell on heaven; my daydreams take me there. My heart is not forced to long for eternity; it aches to be swallowed up by immortality.I do not love my babies more than I love Jesus. But they were tangible rays of light sent to me, light that I could see and touch and grieve and miss. They came to me on this dusty earth, then went ahead of me to wait until the Lamb returns for His bride. They are my tethers to heaven, pulling my heart in the direction it needs to go.

I am not who I once was.

Christ is risen from the dead. My living hope in him is to be raised to life, along with my babies and all who long for his appearing. This inheritance is imperishable, undefiled, and unfailing. The brief earthly lives of Avery and Everett have bridged a gap within me: the gap between my head and my heart. My head always knew what the Bible said. But now my heart knows. I am a stranger and foreigner on this earth. I long for a city with foundations, whose builder and designer is God. There my hope is kept. There my babies are safe. There my Savior reigns.

I will never be free of the grief of losing the children of my womb. I cannot be thankful they died. But I can be thankful that in their deaths, they have awakened my heart to my true life.

I will not be who I once was.

I don’t know the answers…

Lately I’ve been wondering:  How does God speak?

How does God speak to you?  Does He speak the same way to everyone?  Did He speak the same way to everyone in days of old?  Is Scripture the only way God speaks?

How can God speak through Scripture when it’s not in front of us?  If we have committed Scripture to memory just a little bit wrong, can that create a problem?  If He speaks to us in other ways, how can we hear Him?  How can we discern what is God what is Not God?  How can Satan distort what we hear?  What’s the danger of saying, “God told me…”?

If God’s Word is living and active, can it have both a primary meaning for the original audience and many layers of meaning for new situations and generations?  How does the Bible intend itself to be used?

How do you approach the study of Scripture?  Systematically?  Scatter shot?  Have you ever been surprised by the relevance of a passage you came upon in a regularly scheduled reading plan?  Does God have sovereignty over the calendar?

If you hear no direct answer when you seek God’s will, guidance, or counsel, what does this mean?  Is He not listening?  Does He withhold an answer sometimes?  What should we do in that circumstance?  Is it disappointing when He is quiet?  Can we find an answer in His Word?

Is it better to keep asking under the theory that it is good to persevere, or to remain silent under the theory that He already heard and is firmly in control?  How does His silence present an opportunity for relationship?

What does it mean that Jesus is the Word?  The Word is a person?  What’s the role of the Holy Spirit in prayer?  How does He assist in decision-making?  How do you know?  Jesus said His sheep know His voice — what does it sound like?  Is it easily duplicated?  Is ear-tickling the tactic only of bad preachers, or also of devils?  Does God speak through our emotions, our minds, our circumstances, or in our ears?  Does He still use visions and dreams?  Is there anything that constrains God to use particular means in speaking to us?

If you felt like God did indeed impress something on you, would you take action immediately?  What if you don’t?  What if you do?  Does God ever say one thing at one time and then contradict Himself?  If God never contradicts Himself, why do we, over time, stray from what we believe He first said?  If God never contradicts Himself, how can Scripture be useful in approving what we feel we have heard?

Do you listen to the Lord?  Do you expect to hear Him?  Do you diligently keep a pen handy to write down what you hear?  Do you expect to hear Him on a range of topics, or only certain things?  How detailed is God?

Does He care what cereal I eat for breakfast?

Does He care what music I listen to, which route I take to arrive somewhere, or whether I speak to strangers at the grocery store, or are certain things outside His purview?  If He does care about these things, do I ask His opinion about them?  How do I tune my heart to hear Him?

If you knew that God would speak to you 100 times today but you would hear him only once or twice, how would you feel?  Is this the state of things?  If you believed that the Bible had specific things to say to your situation moment by moment, would you treat it differently? If God spoke to you every day for thirty thousand days, would there be paper enough to write it all down?

If He spoke to me just once, would I be all astonishment?

Have I paid attention to the ways the created world speaks, giving God glory?  How does the Bible unpack the redemptive analogies present in nature?  Does God continue to speak in metaphor through advancing knowledge of creation?  That is to say, is there more to hear?

How do different faith communities approach these questions?  What is there to learn from different camps?  How did heroes of the faith, theologians, and sages, understand these things from different angles?  Am I dogmatic about this?  Should I be?  How earnestly do I seek wisdom in hearing God?  Is there perhaps uncharted territory for me in listening to Him?

What might God have to say to me today?

From Annie Dillard, The Writing Life:  “Rebbe Shmelke of Nickolsburg, it was told, never really heard his teacher, the Maggid of Mezritch, finish a thought because as soon as the latter would say ‘and the Lord spoke,’ Shmelke would begin shouting in wonderment, ‘The Lord spoke, the Lord spoke,’ and continue shouting until he had to be carried from the room.”

Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.