Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Don't Forget Joy

The year my youngest child was born was my most challenging time of homeschooling ever. When she was born, three months prematurely, I had one in high school, one in middle school, and a first grader. Additionally, I worked a part time job (homebased). My kids' ages were far enough apart that it was challenging to combine them in much, so I was teaching three levels, all while dealing with a baby spending three months in a hospital.

Many days all I could do was to simply put one foot in front of the other.

When we're in the midst of a full season in our lives, it is very easy to get lost in all the busy-ness, and lose joy. And lose our focus. We get so focused on just "getting the next thing done" and just getting this done and over with, that we forget to stop, pause, look around, and see the beauty that is our lives...right now.

Earlier this week I was speaking with a family friend whose family is dealing with a longterm crisis that has illuminated the fragility of life. He said to me something like, "I've come to realize that each day is like a long goodbye". As his family works together through the challenge that is their Now, not knowing how long they will all be together, he said he has been learning to find the small joys in today and live each day as though you're saying goodbye.

The crisis my family endured several years ago was similar, in how it affected our perspective on the Now. As we came out on the other side, and our premature baby grew, and thrived, normalcy began to set in. But then, as typical issues would arise and I found myself thinking, "I can't wait to get past this stage..." I caught myself. With the age difference between my oldest and my youngest, I could see just how fleeting this time was. And I began then to willfully choose Joy. To find joy in both the fun and in the challenging times. Because all too soon they will be gone.

I've now homeschooled for over 20 years...parented for 25. One child is out of the home now, one more is finished with high school, and another is now attending public high school. And this year that tiny premature baby is going to be a 3rd grader. How quickly the time passes! It seems only yesterday I was holding my firstborn, and now my baby years are behind me. Those admonitions from other moms years ago of, "This time goes by SO fast!" feel so much more real to me now. I'm thankful I still have a young one at home so I am able to live out this lesson learned.

With the waning of summer, I'm hearing the sighs of numerous longtime homeschool friends and other parents as they prepare to send their first...or in some cases their last child off to college. Several others have had weddings this year. And they wistfully recall the days curled up on the couch reading books together and even the times wrestling through long division and fractions.

I'm thankful I still have one more left to teach after all these years, while I can still daily choose Joy. And remember that whether it be facing our immortality as my one friend is, or facing a young adult child leaving home, that "Long Goodbye" begins from the very first day that child leaves the womb.

For young moms looking ahead this month to a new school year, I encourage you to find the Joy in each day. I have found that by keeping the "big picture" in mind, recognizing how short these days really are with our children, I'm less likely to complain about the frustrating elements of today and I'm able to remember that I'm building up to eventually saying goodbye to this time, to this child, whether it be until the other side of heaven or simply sending my child off to their own, independent life. When you catch yourself beginning to complain in your mind or say, "I can't wait until this stage is over", remember that this stage, when past, will not occur again...it's gone forever. And you'll miss it.

Start out this school year by deliberately, consciously CHOOSING JOY.

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