More than seven months ago, I gave my first update on my kids' schooling situation. School seemed to be a good fit for all three kiddos in those early days. For the most part, that is still true.
But wow, it's been a hard winter. For reasons I mostly can't talk about publicly, this has been the hardest winter I've had as a parent (and that's saying something, given how hard some of our early years were when Seth and Lizzie first joined our family), and one of the hardest seasons of my adult life. Each of the kids has had a major crisis (or more) to navigate, I've felt fairly alone in how to help them through their unique situations, and I have been challenged to the core in how I parent my beloved offspring.
But yeah, the transition from homeschooling to being schooled within the school system has gone ok or very well - especially for Seth and Lizzie, who have had essentially wonderful schooling experiences these last almost-ten months. Until about a month ago, at which point Lizzie began to tire a little of the homework and other expectations, she would gladly have given up her weekends if it meant that she could stay in school for those two extra days every week - that is how much she has loved being there this year. Seth is, of course, much quieter about his day-to-day life, but I do believe it has gone very well, and his teachers and the administration speak extremely positively of my boy; my boy, who has undergone so many challenges over the past almost-eleven years, is doing a bang-up job of his academics. He, too, was ready for this academic year. I'm so pleased for them both.
Matthew has had a different experience altogether. His year started out really well, but early on in October, something shifted for him, and his year got suddenly complicated and difficult. I won't go into details here, but I sure wish I could, because so often I process issues through the writing down of them. At any rate, he graduated from his high school in mid May - although he is still finishing up two homeschool courses.
I had anticipated that, for me, this academic year would be a very different one from the past decade of years, because there were three days every week that I had a number of hours to myself. Sadly, as mentioned above, it was a very complicated and difficult year, and to be frank, those hours never fully materialized, and I struggled heavily with the kids' various issues, and my own grief about so many things. In addition, Geoff and I disagreed on many things this winter, mostly related to decisions and crises about the kids, and that took a significant toll on me, and on our relationship. I ended up feeling very lonely, and also very alone, as I processed and dove head-first into the various issues I was confronted with.
Thank God for God. I know that sounds odd, but truly, thank God for being the Master of the Universe, and for belonging to me...or maybe, more rightfully, it's me that belongs to Him. That God of mine so often gave me words when I had none, ideas where my own failed to materialize, and grace beyond grace. There's a verse in the bible that has been super meaningful to me this winter, and it's a popular one from the book of James, in chapter 1, verse 5: "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." Now, I've read that verse probably hundreds of times over the course of my lifetime, and it is a verse commonly used. But what I've never really even noticed was the words in the middle: "...without finding fault." Often in my life I have felt that I have had no business asking God for wisdom because I have managed to mess things up and maybe even done damage to a situation with the wrong words, wrong attitude, and so on. I work really hard at being an intentional parent, but I'm definitely not a perfect parent, and I've felt guilty asking God for help when it's just me messing things up. But when I, this winter, 'discovered' the words "without finding fault," it was as if I'd never read it before, and I was suddenly free! 'Without finding fault' means that no matter what I've done to mess things up, God doesn't take stock of my errors and my lack of judgment. It means that when I ask Him for wisdom, He turns a blind eye to my lack, and simply heaps His wisdom into my head and into my soul. In the deepest depths of various crises this winter, I have taken those words to heart, and have asked God for wisdom and clarity despite my own shortcomings, despite the fault that should disqualify me from receiving perfect wisdom...and He delivered! There were seriously so many occasions when, in conversation with one of the kids, for example, during a crisis or otherwise very difficult moment, I would be at a complete stalemate in terms of the next words to come out of my mouth; I would simply, and silently, pray that God give me wisdom without an accounting of my fault. And every. single. time. He met my need. As noted above, words came out of me that I didn't know I had; ideas rolled into my head that I've never thought of before; empathy poured out of me in exactly the right moments; and I felt suddenly and inexplicably ok, even in the center of the crisis. It was stunning at times. Stunning. So stunning, in fact, that I needed to write this down here - to mark the many moments when He didn't account for my faults but, in fact, rained wisdom down onto my battered heart.
I have to believe that things will be ok in the end...I think they will be. But I don't know how long it will yet take until that end point, and the reality is that some things have shifted permanently. That's more to grieve and I need to do that. As I look forward to next year, Seth and Lizzie will continue on in full-time schooling, and Matthew will be in his gap year (hopefully away somewhere, for a different life experience...but that's yet to be finalized). I'm really hoping that this will provide me with that time I've been aching for - time to grieve what needs to be grieved, and time to figure out what the next chapter will look like for me. After a tough season, I'm looking forward to it.