Day by Day, Home ed ponderings, Preparing for times ahead

Discovering beauty and growing in strength during the tough times – May 2023

I don’t usually suffer from writer’s block, but have certainly struggled to tap away these last few months. I’m sure a part of this is simply that my own teacup is fairly empty; like so many of us, a prolonged period of challenges has left me needing a top up. The warmer weather and blue skies, time with my hands in the soil and a slight reprieve in one of the difficult situations around us have all begun that refilling process. Also, there’s nothing like an external incentive and as I prepare a talk for Learn Free home education conference I want to put some of my thoughts down here. If you’re a home educator and haven’t come across Learn Free before, it’s well worth signing up for. This year’s conference is hybrid, so for those of us unable to make it to Coventry, we can access the many excellent talks both live on zoom and as recordings over the next six months. Check it out here .

I’m hoping to be able to present my talk more as a seminar as there is so much wisdom and experience in each individual and I love to be able to learn from each other. But in the meantime, here are some of my thoughts on how we can find beauty in the midst of tough times and how these seasons can, in fact, help us grow in both spiritual and emotional strength.

Firstly, I think it’s helpful to divide these seasons into those which we can foresee and so have some control over, and those which completely blindside us. Those we can foresee and therefore plan can be positive eg having a baby, welcoming a new child by adoption or moving house. It’s those which thwack us unexpectedly which are often much harder to navigate, simply because we can’t prepare for them, do not know the outcome and may have to live with uncertainty for some time.

I’m sure we can all come up with a list of these vicissitudes, which may include ill health for parent or child, relationship tensions, financial hardship, challenges for adult children living away from home, and work difficulties. I also add to this the great uncertainties of the times we are living in and the consequent anxiety I think many are feeling over the future.

Possible site of King Arthur’s castle in Tintagel; when we visited it was buffeted by strong winds so strong that the bridge was closed. Yet the peninsula itself and the vegetation upon it continues to stand.

My first go to is prayer. I honestly don’t know how I’d have coped in some seasons without the power of prayer, of God’s Word and of the Spirit’s strength and comfort.

Secondly, I’ve found that simply acknowledging that times are tough is a huge step towards giving myself permission to let go of some things. Many years ago I read about the principle of the Plimsoll line. This was a way of ensuring better ship safety, and was introduced by a Bristol born politician, Samuel Plimsoll in the nineteenth century. A line was drawn along the hull of a ship to indicate its maximum load; if filled above this level, it was more likely to sink. I think this is an excellent analogy as to our own capacities. We can only carry a certain amount and when sudden and unwanted circumstances are landed on us, other things may have to be temporarily shelved. We need to work out what our priorities are for that particular time; I’ve found that these change with each season.

I’ve come to realise that as I’ve accepted I have to make changes, I’ve subsequently been able to find beauty and even joy in the tough times. For example, it’s only when I finally came to accept that our youngest daughter’s kaleidoscope of additional needs meant that I had to change my own expectations and our home ed rhythms that I began to be excited about a completely different way of mothering and educating her. It’s still difficult and I fail more often than I like to admit, but I most certainly find joy in a more home based life with her, in gardening and getting muddy, in cuddling together and reading picture books, in eating cake and in playing games together.

I’ve not touched on other topics we’ll be discussing at Learn Free, but I’d like to finish here, dear readers, by offering my ponderings over how God might be using /allowing us to go through these stretching times at the moment. I’m watching our adult sons and their cohort, now young men and women, walking through some incredible and totally out of the ordinary circumstances at the moment. I cry out for them often. It seems so unjust. And yet, they are standing strong in their faith. I think I would have thrown my toys out of the cot if it had been me at their age. It is both humbling and painful to watch. But…is God preparing them and strengthening them for trials ahead? Do we need to be grounding and equipping our children for some stormy times to come? Do we need to be talking about the concept of how to suffer well? These are not things I thought about much, growing up in the U.K, but I wonder if as parents now our thinking on suffering has to change. The following verse is one I often pray over our children and ourselves, that by God’s grace we will be able to stand strong.

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭16‬:‭13‬-‭14‬ ‭
Our eldest and youngest, walking on Bodmin Moor, Cornwall. A beautiful walk but with a fair number of overflowing rivers, blocked pathways, rain and wind. We ate lunch sheltering in the protection of an old stone wall and arrived back with a sense of having overcome some adversity as well as being well exercised!

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