A new school year is here. The summer days are tired and ending faster, the trees are just taking on a tint of color, and the evenings are mercifully cool. The cricket's song is winding down and the geese are beginning their migration. The idealist within me loves the marking of new seasons. It means a fresh start.
At the beginning of every new school year I have high hopes for us to break over these rough rapids of the novice years and into smooth waters. I daydream that maybe this will be the year my kids become more independent learners. Or better artists since I invested in expensive art supplies. Just not cry over math or reading? Just once? Over the summer I methodically piece together the school books, plan a co-op class, and pencil in my daily planner. The Tuesday after Labor Day, I rise early to cook a hearty breakfast. Classical music plays softly, I stack shiny new books and fill jars of sharpened pencils. It feels a little magical, like Christmas morning. And then the baby wakes up screaming. The three others roll out of bed, groggy, puffy eyed, and cranky. The day is already unraveling and school hasn't even begun.
By the time we made it to math, the baby was perched on my hip, hollering his little head off, while I hollered louder, attempting to explain 10 cubed/ squared to my eldest, who couldn't seem to grasp the concept.
By the end of the day I felt like a leaky ship on her maiden voyage. It was the first day out of the summer harbor and we have taken on water. I began to seriously consider that I had made a big mistake. A vision of the school year yawned before me and I felt my knees grow weak. I couldn't do it. I couldn't face the weeks and months ahead. I squinted into the future again, and only foresaw doom and storms. Yet in the thick of this mental battle, I heard a quiet but firm voice echo in my heart, " I'm not asking you to obey for a year, I'm asking you to obey today." I felt a bit like Lucy Pevensie in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis. She and the crew find themselves trapped on "Dark Island" or "The Island Where Dreams Come True". Panic ensues as everyone on the ship realizes that not daydreams but dreams that make one not want to go back to sleep come true. Lucy cries out for help from Aslan, and suddenly a beam of light cuts through the thick fog, and a dove calls to her, "Courage, dear heart." The light increases and they are able to navigate their ship away from Dark Island.
Now, I'm not comparing my children and the home school journey we are on with Dark Island. However, because of how easily I lose sight of the present moment and day I am in, and borrow trouble from the future, it seems that we land there quite often. I trade in my peace so quickly when things go awry. I swallow so readily the smooth lies of the enemy: I am unqualified, and under prepared. My children will woefully suffer and need therapy. Every day will be exactly like this day. The lies come at me with rapid fire and I can feel my hope and faith slowly erode beneath me as I sink into despair. In Susan Wise Bauer's words, I've taken what may start out as a small problem, and "gone global."
Bob Goff, in his book Everybody Always writes of how he struggles with the concept of following and obeying Jesus for the rest of his life.
"What I've been doing with faith is this: instead of saying I'm going to believe Jesus for my whole life, I've been trying to actually obey Jesus for thirty seconds at a time." I found such relief in this simple shift of mindset. Not only in my relationship with the Lord, but in so many other areas of life. The prospect of years upon years of homeschooling, laundry, making dinner, and carrying out the daily routine of what makes our family us, seems daunting. But breaking up time into smaller chunks, and intentionally choosing to act out faithfulness, kindness , gentleness, love, or self control, for thirty seconds at a time, rather than just making a lofty, long term goal, is changing my perspective and slowly building up my endurance.
This art of keeping my racing thoughts and worries captive will take long to master. I have a feeling a life time may not suffice. But in the process and slow growth, I hope to begin to resemble the woman in Proverbs 31, "Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue." (ESV)
And as the clumsy beginning of our new school year wears off, and the good days begin to come, along with a sprinkling of the bad, I will breath in and out like air, the prayer of Julian of Norwich, "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well."