* * * * *
I was a newcomer to the group of homeschool moms who met monthly for fellowship and encouragement. This particular meeting, the group coordinator had planned a question-and-answer session where women new to homeschooling could glean wisdom from older, more-experienced women. With six kids between the ages of two and nine (three of them "school age"), I was feeling overwhelmed by the whole homeschool thing and was desperate for helpful advice. "How do you ever find time during the day to actually do the amount of schoolwork that you feel like you should? All day long, I am washing and folding laundry, preparing meals and snacks, cleaning up messes, bandaging booboos, getting little kids down for their naps, bathing babies....it just never seems to stop. And somehow, in the middle of all this, I'm supposed to find four hours of quiet, productive time to sit down with my older kids and teach them math and grammar and science and history. I just can't seem to fit it all in!" Honestly, I was exhausted, crushed by the weight of unrealistic expectations and on the verge of an emotional breakdown.
Susie-Q jumped right on my question. This woman had all the answers. "Well, let me tell you how I handle my day. First off, once a month, I prepare all my meals for the month and put them in the freezer. That way, I don't have to cook every day. On a typical school day, I get up in the morning, have my quiet time, pull dinner out of the deepfreeze to thaw, start a load of laundry, and then go upstairs to wake the children. I have my older children (Susie-Q had two teenagers at home at the time, in addition to her three littles) help the younger children dress, make their beds, and straighten their rooms. By 9:00, I have a second load of laundry in the washer, dinner thawing on the counter, breakfast served and cleaned up, the house in order, and everyone seated at the table to do their lessons..." At this point, Susie-Q's words faded into meaningless blather as I struggled to not break down in sobs. All her solutions seemed like more weight on my already breaking back. I probably looked like a deer in headlights as I sat owl-eyed, blinking back tears that threatened to overflow any second.
"Oh, Camille!" I looked from Susie-Q to the tiny brunette who groaned from across the room. Her voice sounded full of the sob that choked my throat. I had met MaryAnn during dinner earlier that evening. Like me, she had six children, including a set of twins. But MaryAnn's kids were a bit older than mine, and she was well beyond the baby stage of motherhood. MaryAnn must have seen the panic and despair rising behind my composed facade. "Camille!" Suddenly, this ceased being an open forum, a group discussion, and became instead a very personal, sister-to-sister communication. MaryAnn seemed to be blinking back tears herself as she addressed me. "I remember, when my children were little, sitting on my bed in the middle of a pile of unfolded laundry, and crying because I thought that I would never do anything ever again in life but struggle fruitlessly to catch up with just the laundry." MaryAnn paused. "Laundry, meals, housework...it was all just too much. Never mind schoolwork." She inhaled deeply and continued in a low voice. "Camille, it really is too much...the demands on your time and energy are more than you can handle. You can't do it all. But trust me, Camille - it will get better. Just hang in there." This woman had obviously seen into my heart, and by now I was snuffling and wiping my eyes with the back of my hand. "Just do what you can, let go of what you can't. Hang in there...it will get better."
Shortly after that meeting, MaryAnn and her family moved to another state, so I never had the opportunity to know her very intimately. And within months of their relocation, MaryAnn, her husband, and four of her six children were killed in a horrible automobile accident. But even now, more than eleven years after that meeting, not a week goes by that I don't think of MaryAnn, and of the incredible gift she gave me that night. So just what DID MaryAnn give me? Well, Susie-Q gave me the law, and with it despair - the demands were too great, and I would never measure up. MaryAnn, on the other hand, gave me the gospel - she told me to let go of the illusion that I could ever measure up, that I could be a totally-together, radically-righteous homeschool mom. She encouraged me to let go of my unrealistic expectations, to persevere, and to wait and see the good work that God would do in spite of my inadequacies.
Years later, I can testify to the truthfulness of MaryAnn's words. Homeschooling - and life - has gotten easier in some respects. Two of my "pupils" have completed their home-education and study now at college. The five still at home help tremendously with the work of running the house, so that I am definitely not physically exhausted like I was 11 years ago. But still, I find that even my best teacher/mom efforts are often inadequate, and that I must continue to trust Christ to be my sufficiency in this aspect of life as well as all others. Jerry Bridges writes in his book "Transforming Grace: Living Confidently in God's Unfailing Love" - ...to those who genuinely acknowledge they are weak, unworthy, and inadequate, God does promise to give grace. God's grace is sufficient for our weakness. Christ's worth does cover our unworthiness, and the Holy Spirit does make us effective in spite of our inadequacy. This is the glorious paradox of living by grace. When we discover we are weak in ourselves, we find we are strong in Christ. When we regard ourselves as less than the least of God's people, we are given some immense privilege of serving in the Kingdom. When we almost despair over our inadequacy, we find the Holy Spirit giving us unusual ability. We shake our heads in amazement and say with Isaiah, "Lord, ...all that we have accomplished you have done for us." (Isaiah 26:12)
What inadequacy are you despairing over today? Run to Jesus, and own your weakness before Him. Remember MaryAnn's gospel - do not pretend to be competent! Instead, prepare to be amazed at what God Himself will do for you, through you.