Some weeks we have to dig a little deeper to find the blessings.
But they are ALWAYS there.
Last week, we had an ambiguous “extra week” of Spring Break, we “played” school to stay busy, and learned new words like “pandemic” and “social distancing.”
This week, Virtual Learning was officially launched by our school. Effective immediately. Duration, indefinitely. At my house, that means I now teach Kindergarten, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th grade, and 9th grade, ALL subjects ranging from phonics to Algebra, Spanish, Latin, world geography, literature, Bible, and history. By the end of the week, the mayor issued the “Shelter in Place” order, and we are now pretty much on lockdown. Carson Grace received word from ETBU that on campus classes will not reconvene this school year.
Life feels like it is on perpetual pause. Groundhog Day over and over again. What day is it? Who knows? Does it even matter?
People have asked how I am managing with 8 kids, homeschooling, not leaving the house, and my anxiety. The most honest response I can give is, I’m glad there are no witnesses. It’s been ok. We’ve had rough moments. And sweet ones. I’ve had kids snuggled in my lap while I read to them, we have played together, we have danced together, and we have worshipped. On the other hand, I have lost my cool. I’ve yelled. I’ve cried. I’ve laid awake for hours at night. I’ve eaten more sweets than I will ever admit to.
But more than ever, I GENUINELY BELIEVE this season is about putting our faith into practice. Of course it SHOULD always be that way. But let’s get real. We are finding out if we really believe the things we used to say so casually…. “God is good all the time and all the time, God is good!”
We have a choice.
I am thankful:
~ for new mercies every morning. I need to go back over my Sunday Gratitudes (how can it be that I have been writing every Sunday for almost 6 years now???) and see how many times I have been thankful for new morning mercies. That is nothing new. But boy, I am so grateful as I collapse into bed every night that the day is OVER and I get to start fresh the next day. Every day is a do-over.
~ for the hard work our teachers and administration has done to transfer all of their curriculum into an online format for us. I HAVE NEVER APPRECIATED OUR WONDERFUL TEACHERS SO MUCH! Wow! The things we realize we have under-appreciated or taken for granted! They have done a TREMENDOUS JOB of making this switch happen basically overnight. I am completely in awe of their giftings: their knowledge, their patience, and their love for all our kids that kept them coming back to their jobs day after day. Oh how I miss my kids’ teachers! (I bet not HALF as much as my KIDS miss their teachers! Their new teacher is SO MEAN! And never goes away!)
~ for generous help from loved ones to supplement the groceries we can’t stock up on for our jumbo-sized clan.
~ for my kids OUTSTANDING attitudes. They’ve had a few bumps (mostly in response to my own volatile moods), but so far they are still eager to get to their school work, and enjoying the material, and very forgiving of their grumpy teacher. I’m truly the most blessed mama in all the world.
~ for another successful out-of-my-comfort-zone first. The physical Laurel & Cotton Spring Sale was obviously cancelled, but the feisty shop owner, Melissa, undeterred, launched a virtual sale via Facebook LIVE. That meant a crash course in camera-work and social media for each vendor. It was nerve-wracking and felt completely awkward to talk to my phone (check out my CLASSY, PRO-FESSIONAL tripod!) and imagine an invisible audience in my living room (while my Littles were banished into hiding upstairs). Amazingly enough, it went well, I had several kind viewers and comments, and I actually sold a bunch of Giddyup & Whoa signs, including more after the LIVE sale ended! I was thrilled! Not only that, but Melissa sold raffle tickets and designed an exclusive Go GOLD t-shirt, and raised $665 for Gold Network of East Texas! What an awesome blessing!
~ for Josh’s job. There seem to be new developments every day, and we know we cannot take anything for granted anymore. The actual store is closed, so his interaction with the public is pretty minimal. He had to lay off some employees this week, which was really hard on him. He never EVER complains, although I know the gravity of the times and all that he is responsible for weighs heavily on his heart. And he never fails to check on how I am doing, and to encourage me. I’m grateful we can be raw and real and honest with one another. No filter.
~ for technology. To accomplish virtual learning, we use a desktop computer, wireless printer, 2 laptops, 2 iPads, and a phone. Thus far our router has held up to the massive usage, and I’ve been shocked and thoroughly impressed at how minimal the technical issues have been. And we also had the opportunity to FaceTime with friends we hardly ever get to see. This forced slower pace and social distancing is causing us to be more intentional.
~ for coffee. 3 to 4 pots a day.
~ for our safe and comfortable home, and having everything we need. We have kind, loving neighbors, a beautiful, quiet street. Cooper has been organizing baseball tournaments and lizard hunts with the Littles. We are not suffering in our quarantine.
~ for laughs. We’ve had some good late nights with our bigger kids, watching tv and funny videos together. Carson Grace even badgered mom and dad and the whole Tribe into filming a TikTok video with her for a contest for school. She choreographed a routine with us, and we provided live entertainment for our neighborhood from our front yard. It was pretty hysterical how we all got into it.
~ for virtual church service from our living room. It brought such comfort to see our pastors’ faces and to worship together with THE CHURCH. We all even put on REAL CLOTHES for the occasion, and took the Lord’s Supper together. It was simple, intimate, and very special. I love that my kids are learning firsthand that the CHURCH has nothing to do with a building.
~ for thoughtful care packages filled with love.
~ for glorious sunshine. Perfect for walks, PE, picnic lunches, and art class.
~ for “Live Meets” for each kiddo with their teacher and classmates. It was so good for their hearts to get to see and hear from their friends. And we got calls from several of our teachers, just checking in on us. I’m so blessed and thankful for our GCS community.
~ for the people “out in the world” that continue to go to work to keep the world running. First responders, healthcare workers, supermarket personnel, banks, truck drivers, sanitation workers…we will be grateful forever.
One of the things I’m going to treasure the most from this season is my time with the kids right after breakfast each morning before we start school. We snuggle up on the couch and each read verse by verse the Psalm and Proverb of the day, and then I’m reading to them from Hind’s Feet on High Places. What a perfect book for the season. The conversations with the children have been priceless. We have walked with Much Afraid as she faced Pride, Resentment, and Self-Pity, along the Sea of Loneliness and now into the Forests of Danger and Tribulation. How I want to respond as Acceptance With Joy, “He (the Shepherd) has brought me here when I did not want to come, for His own purpose. I, too, will look up into His face and say, ‘Behold me! I am your little handmaiden, Acceptance-with-Joy.’”
I’m not going to lie and say that’s where I’m at. But it is my prayer. I know that this is an opportunity for us to be refined and sifted by our LOVING FATHER. I know that my hope is IN HIM, and that this world is not my home. And I don’t want to miss the hidden blessings. God WILL REDEEM FOR GOOD what the enemy intends for evil. The immediate blessing of having extra quality time with my kids is just the beginning. I pray for a deep and lasting heart change and genuine appreciation to be birthed around the world.
So friends, let’s love one another well this week. We may not be able to gather together physically, but we can call and check in one one another. Write a letter. Send a text. Film a video. Get creative. I’m not sure how much energy I’ll have left to be creative after my packed days of homeschooling, but I’m going to do my best. It’s ok to be honest about how we feel. Everything is different, and oftentimes “different” = hard and scary. But we can’t be RULED by how we FEEL. Let’s give each other lots of grace and remember that kindness is contagious. It’s also ok to stay in stretchy pants. (But I personally AM making a commitment to shower more regularly this week.)
This song has really ministered to me this week, and the lyrics are especially appropriate for the season we are in. I hope it encourages you.
Thanks for giving thanks with me.
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)
“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:9-10)
“God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.” (Psalms 46:1-7)