on the promises of growth and green fields.

You can find this post at it’s original home, and other favorite place to hang out on cyberspace, The Rising! 

big thanks to Phil Frigon for letting me use his stunning photos! 


Every spring in the Flint Hills of Kansas, when wind is unusually slow and the promise of summer introduces itself once again with each evening growing longer, the farmers burn their fields.

To someone traveling from either coast, it is both brilliant and mystifying. The smoke-filled sky at times would warrant for shelter. The smell would send you packing. Either it would look unsafe or it would be chalked up to Midwestern madness.

In all seriousness, though, it is an annual event and it is crucial to the health of our land.

The burnings are preventative and protective. Like a pruning. It helps to keep destructive growths from invading the invaluable prairies and reproductive fields.

I remember, just a few weeks ago, I was on my evening commute observing the fires around me on each side. I whispered with a smile, “It’s all going to be green soon.”

The fields were charred black, smoke filled the air, and I saw the promise of growth.

When I look at my own life, I usually see regression before I optimistically claim victory.

Consequently, every spring I usually fight a hard spiritual fight due to lack of focus, my increased desire to sleep for as many hours as I possibly can, and because of laziness in my quiet times. I mistake pruning for destruction, bad days for a bad life, and spiritual dry spells are wrongly defined in my heart as a withdrawal from the Father.

Job didn’t do this. In Job chapter 1, Satan has asked if he can try to divert Job’s faithfulness. He believes that Job only loves the Lord and lives righteously because he has had a good life. Therefore, he has in mind to make Job curse God’s name. Step one of the process has begun. Job’s whole family has been killed and his property had been stripped away. The evil one wanted and expected Job to curse God’s name, but instead he blesses it. After he had lost what some would call his entire life, this is how Job responds:

“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.”

— JOB 1:20-22

He fell on the ground and worshiped.

Job could have chosen to tear his robe, fallen to the ground, and given up entirely. But he chose worship. He did not ignore his grief, numb his grief, or live in denial. He saw the reality of his surroundings and still chose a godly rhythm of grief and trust.

Because of the fields in Kansas and Job’s riveting example, we know that living a God-glorifying life is not stitched together by good intentions. I don’t find the presence of God by ignoring His Word, by staying closer to my phone than my prayers, by covering up hurts with busyness. Living life with bare-minimum risks means that we reap bare-minimum harvests.

“If I want to produce wheat, the change must go deeper than the surface, I must be ploughed and re-sown.

Hand over your whole self. Your whole broken self. Given-ness. Because this is far easier than pretending to be whole and not broken. . . .The heart has to be broken and plowed and resown if it’s going to yield. The change must go deeper than the surface.”

— ANN VOSKAMP, THE BROKEN WAY

What you and I must do is be proactive. Ask God to test our hearts with fire for things that will hinder the growth of His kingdom. We open our Bibles when we don’t feel like it and ask Him to show up. Because when we ask for more of Him, He never says no. Instead of slapping clichés on our wounds, we tear our clothes and expose the wound, so that His wounds touch our own. We can look great darkness in the face, because we know the Light is always near. The call of the Christian is not to always be happy about our life – but to keep walking daily with our God, trusting in His promise of joy and the fullness of life, in the midst of it all.  If our faith is a faith that only believes in the fruit we can see, it isn’t faith at all. Because what looks like destruction can be a resurrection of our hearts, our lives, our land. What may look like nothing on the surface, is new life being rooted in the ground. A pruning that is making all things better than before.

I’m praying that God would give us that same rhythm of grief and trust. I am praying and I am taking action steps. So that when winter seems like it is never leaving, we can look at the horizon and say, “My help is coming. It’s all going to be green soon.” On days when we don’t see the victory, instead of running away in fear we can bless the name of God with quiet trust. When we look at near-destruction we say, “He is making all things new.” And when we feel the aches ravaging on our own heart we have the hope to say, “He is here, even now.”

Because the storms will come – Oh God, let us fall on the ground and worship. We don’t want to ignore You, deny You, or curse You. We are here. We are not submitting to mediocrity in our Christianity – we want more of Christ. We are waiting expectantly on Your Presence to do something remarkable with these ruins. We acknowledge that we are not the point, we never have been. Ours is the victory, not all the answers. When we see charred black seasons in our lives, help us remember you are preparing a life worth waiting for in the tension. Let our lives be a set of praise hands toward heaven – You give. You take. Keep our palms wide open in worship.

 

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saying yes to being eternally set free

[post originally published at my favorite home-away-from-home, The Rising.]

What does freedom in Christ mean? If I am free, then why is it not okay to do whatever I feel like doing? If freedom doesn’t mean that I can do whatever I want, then what is it for?

Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

This passage answers our questions by saying: Freedom doesn’t mean living according to the flesh and the countless paths it might take you down. It means submitting to a good God and throwing all empty promises behind. Freedom doesn’t leave us defenseless and wandering for our own sense of purpose. Freedom gives us a place where we can throw our worries behind and plant our feet safely. Freedom is not carelessness. Freedom changes our place of submission. Freedom does not mean that your life is summed up by a dictator, but given by a Savior. Christ died so that we could live under a life-giving law made to protect us and give Him all the glory.

If I am free, why do I feel weighed down?

In Galatians 5 verses 2- 6, Paul explains why the church of Galatia needed to give up their hang ups. “…if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision not uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”

The Galatians were convinced that you couldn’t inherit eternal life unless you were circumcised, and Jesus suddenly shows up on the scene and changes everything. Jesus changes the requirements from laws and sacrifice to accepting a gift? Yes. The Old Covenant had taught that their life was all on them. God has always been the same good God, and He graciously provided a way that didn’t leave those under the law hopeless, but He knew that they couldn’t keep the entire law on their own. He made another way. The Old Covenant said, “Follow these rules and when you mess up take care of it very carefully.” The New Covenant says, “You are mine. Accept my grace. Take it as a gift. Come follow me, and if you truly know me, you can’t help but be changed.”

I think we all have a bit of Old Covenant thinking in our midst. We stuff lists and lists of ways of life and things to accomplish in our heart and say, “When you finish, He’ll love you.” On the alternative, He loved you therefore He came to free you from all kinds of bondage. If we think that others have the foundation of their relationship with Christ on a petty requirement, we have fallen away from grace. He died so that we could live unafraid and unashamed. Accepting anything less is man-made religion that means nothing to Him, and ultimately means nothing to us. If you feel weighed down instead of taking heart in the gospel of Christ, perhaps you’ve carried an Old Covenant truth as your New Covenant way of life. Clinging to those ideas and promises leave us confused, because that carries the weight on us and not on Christ. If we make our lives about us and not about life from and because of Christ, if we accept empty religion, if we carry everything over from the Old Covenant, we accept a perversion of perfect, present grace.

If I’m not under the law, what does it look like to work under a standard of grace instead

Galatians 5:16-25 points to walking according to and with the Spirit, opposing the way of your flesh and defying the odds in the way you live your life. Paul instructs to stay pure in your heart and with your body, to fight back feelings of bitterness with forgiveness, to be united amongst one another, and to not rely on the things of this world to satisfy what only God can. At first glance, it seems surprising that after Paul rants about their obsession with the law, he gives more rules. But there’s something different here. It’s not just a list of do-nots. With the command, comes a promise: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is now law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Jesus isn’t about boring, petty requirements – He is about faith worked out in love, called fruit.

Work in Christ might be hard temporarily, but it’s not heavy permanently. It is not oppressive. John Piper says, “He offers his fellowship and help, and even makes the life of obedience a life of joy. The Christian life is a life of freedom because it is lived in the power of the Spirit.” Following the world leads to temporary pleasure and eternal destruction. Obedience in Christ may involve temptations and hard decisions that say no to the things that entangle us to the world. Saying no to the things of this world may not feel joyful, but produce long-lasting joy. When we obey Christ, we don’t become His by our own doing, but literally love Him back. To obey Christ might mean momentary confusion, hurt, or seclusion → but a life dedicated to obedience guarantees a life of love, community, adventure, and joy.

Life with Christ doesn’t exclude trouble, but it promises victory. If you are wrestling with God, or feel far from Him, I ask you the same question Paul asked the church of Galatia in chapter 5 verse 7. You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?

If you are hindered from running on the mission of Christ, that didn’t come from Him. Anything that destructs and oppresses is not from the Father. Because…

For every hard no required of us, there lies a better, sweeter yes in Christ.

What is freedom? Freedom is running unhindered and being kept close to the heart of God. Living out commandments that were made for our care in mind with His glory at the center. We accept the grace that allows us to not be justified by what we do and show the world we love Him back when we say yes to His will. We loudly proclaim Galatians 6:17:

“From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.”

Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

This passage answers our questions by saying: Freedom doesn’t mean living according to the flesh and the countless paths it might take you down. It means submitting to a good God and throwing all empty promises behind. Freedom doesn’t leave us defenseless and wandering for our own sense of purpose. Freedom gives us a place where we can throw our worries behind and plant our feet safely. Freedom is not carelessness. Freedom changes our place of submission. Freedom does not mean that your life is summed up by a dictator, but given by a Savior. Christ died so that we could live under a life-giving law made to protect us and give Him all the glory.

If I am free, why do I feel weighed down?

In Galatians 5 verses 2- 6, Paul explains why the church of Galatia needed to give up their hang ups. “…if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision not uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”

The Galatians were convinced that you couldn’t inherit eternal life unless you were circumcised, and Jesus suddenly shows up on the scene and changes everything. Jesus changes the requirements from laws and sacrifice to accepting a gift? Yes. The Old Covenant had taught that their life was all on them. God has always been the same good God, and He graciously provided a way that didn’t leave those under the law hopeless, but He knew that they couldn’t keep the entire law on their own. He made another way. The Old Covenant said, “Follow these rules and when you mess up take care of it very carefully.” The New Covenant says, “You are mine. Accept my grace. Take it as a gift. Come follow me, and if you truly know me, you can’t help but be changed.”

I think we all have a bit of Old Covenant thinking in our midst. We stuff lists and lists of ways of life and things to accomplish in our heart and say, “When you finish, He’ll love you.” On the alternative, He loved you therefore He came to free you from all kinds of bondage. If we think that others have the foundation of their relationship with Christ on a petty requirement, we have fallen away from grace. He died so that we could live unafraid and unashamed. Accepting anything less is man-made religion that means nothing to Him, and ultimately means nothing to us. If you feel weighed down instead of taking heart in the gospel of Christ, perhaps you’ve carried an Old Covenant truth as your New Covenant way of life. Clinging to those ideas and promises leave us confused, because that carries the weight on us and not on Christ. If we make our lives about us and not about life from and because of Christ, if we accept empty religion, if we carry everything over from the Old Covenant, we accept a perversion of perfect, present grace.

If I’m not under the law, what does it look like to work under a standard of grace instead

Galatians 5:16-25 points to walking according to and with the Spirit, opposing the way of your flesh and defying the odds in the way you live your life. Paul instructs to stay pure in your heart and with your body, to fight back feelings of bitterness with forgiveness, to be united amongst one another, and to not rely on the things of this world to satisfy what only God can. At first glance, it seems surprising that after Paul rants about their obsession with the law, he gives more rules. But there’s something different here. It’s not just a list of do-nots. With the command, comes a promise: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is now law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Jesus isn’t about boring, petty requirements – He is about faith worked out in love, called fruit.

Work in Christ might be hard temporarily, but it’s not heavy permanently. It is not oppressive. John Piper says, “He offers his fellowship and help, and even makes the life of obedience a life of joy. The Christian life is a life of freedom because it is lived in the power of the Spirit.” Following the world leads to temporary pleasure and eternal destruction. Obedience in Christ may involve temptations and hard decisions that say no to the things that entangle us to the world. Saying no to the things of this world may not feel joyful, but produce long-lasting joy. When we obey Christ, we don’t become His by our own doing, but literally love Him back. To obey Christ might mean momentary confusion, hurt, or seclusion → but a life dedicated to obedience guarantees a life of love, community, adventure, and joy.

Life with Christ doesn’t exclude trouble, but it promises victory. If you are wrestling with God, or feel far from Him, I ask you the same question Paul asked the church of Galatia in chapter 5 verse 7. You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?

If you are hindered from running on the mission of Christ, that didn’t come from Him. Anything that destructs and oppresses is not from the Father. Because…

For every hard no required of us, there lies a better, sweeter yes in Christ.

What is freedom? Freedom is running unhindered and being kept close to the heart of God. Living out commandments that were made for our care in mind with His glory at the center. We accept the grace that allows us to not be justified by what we do and show the world we love Him back when we say yes to His will. We loudly proclaim Galatians 6:17:

“From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.”

five choices to turn this Christmas week upside down

See this post at it’s original home The Rising.

This week a lot of hurt is highlighted and identities are shaken. We say, “My love won’t be enough, I need to buy them a little something more. The house doesn’t look good enough, I need to get busy. This year wasn’t productive enough, I need to squeeze in tighter jeans and wake up earlier before January 1.” Or, “How do I look into the face of the people I’ve disappointed with love and how do I look in the mirror and not see failure? Loss took my sleep and my heart this year, how do I sing Joy To The World here when it is hardest to even breathe?”

This week has the potential to add to your weariness or it can make you clap in celebration. You can come to the stable humble or you can stay cold. You can beat yourself up or you can dare in hope. You are invited to make His love your home, but you can choose to remain in lies.

I ask you this – how do you want to remember this December? When you look back at this in the years to come, what do you want to see more than anything else?

As I think over that question for myself, these are the choices that I am carefully crafting and praying over these holy days.

choosing the better thing

When Jesus came to the house of Martha and Mary in the village he was visiting, Martha was whining that Mary was at the feet of Jesus listening to his teaching and not helping her clean. Scripture says in Luke 10:40 that “Martha was distracted with much serving.” My heart understands Martha’s. I so often choose to clean up my act before I allow myself to sit with the Lord, but Jesus said this to Martha in her hustle and impatience:

“You are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

— Luke 10:41-42

Our culture belittles soul-rest, let alone sitting at the feet of Jesus to simply listen. To admit our need and to come to sit at His feet. So what better way to make a stand for the kingdom of God then to choose time with Him over things that can be taken from us in an instant? It sounds crazy to our busy world that is distracted with productivity and independent, but our strength that comes from Christ alone is unmistakable and our time in the presence of God can never be stolen.

choosing forgiveness & gratefulness

God has awakened much in me lately, but I know for certain that He has moved me towards less anger, more forgiveness, and true gratefulness. It’s not easy, and the process is only beginning, but one step toward freedom is not a small thing. If in these next few days, we would acknowledge our hurt against others instead of lashing out in anger, what would happen? When it’s easier to choose judgment and bitterness, let’s choose pain and compassion. Let’s ask for the grace and the other-worldly strength. Let’s choose being hurt over being angry. It doesn’t sound normal, but God coming as a baby was not normal. It is upside down from everything we had expected. That is why it means everything to us.

choosing to come humbly to the stable

It’s the truth of our identity that we can’t live forever unless we are born again. The sweet thing, the overwhelming thing, about Jesus’ birth is that now it is made possible. When we come to the stinky stable in all our own grime and accept the wild truth of who this God-child is, we are adopted as beloved children. It all sounded crazy and impossible to a bunch of Jews who just knew that Mary must have committed a crime, but we know the truth that it was only the beginning of Christ baffling man’s expectations as He created the gospel story. Kristen Strong said it this way: “Wrapped in the swaddled bundle of a wee babe is a startling truth: sometimes God allows change in our lives so we can have his presence like never before.”

choosing to give generously

We have been given the best gift, and the only Gift that matters and eternally lasts. How much more should that encourage us to wrap joyfully, to deliver packages and joy? We have the chance to give generously year-round. What better way to open conversations about God’s grace and faithfulness than when we are giving gifts than during the curiosity of the world when it is Christmas? The chances are, you are going to give something in the days ahead: will you give Good News or stress? Will you give from necessity or out of love? It’s no trivial thing, shedding beauty wherever we tread. Will you be a little crazy with me? Do a touch of the unthinkable? Let’s not grumble in our to-dos… let’s make it simple (we have nothing to prove!), keep our thoughts grateful when plans get destroyed and homes get messy, and lavish love wrapped in bows and hugs with generous hearts! We have been given a Savior! How much more should the church be moved to give happily as a symbol of true love and forgiveness?

choosing to make the truth of God-with-us into a God-with-us party!

I know it sounds impossible. You are burnt out, and it is impossible to get it all done. You don’t have time to sit and pray, because the guest bed needs changing and the gifts need wrapping and your heart is bleeding. Do you want to know the gospel’s all-encompassing truth? The baby was born so that the veil could be torn. He is God-with-us. You can take Him with you. Take Him to the store, see the world under redemption’s light. Give Him a seat around your Christmas tree, and watch the glow on your family’s faces like never before. God-with-us sometimes means prayer rooms and silent corners, but God-with-us gives us the freedom to tap into His presence in the driving and eating and dancing. While half of the world feeds on greed, give Him your heart and your home. Ask Him to come and flourish in His birthday party. Ask Him to be in the unspoken disappointments and needs, the comfortable silences, and the loud noise of family.

Rejoice, oh church! We have a stable to celebrate in and a cross to confess beneath. Rejoice, because we have both places to crawl. You see, everything broken and restless and insecure in us comes alive and whole in a baby in Bethlehem. Everything that aches and is helpless – finds healing and hope. On that not-so-silent-night, all our lives shifted and had a chance. I am captivated by a God who carefully thought through how to come to this earth so that He could sympathize with us, save us, be with us.

Merry Christmas, friends. See you next year. 

lessons in living Advent

“And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

— Luke 2:36-38

I cannot shake Anna out of my mind. This story takes place just one month after Jesus is born. While at the temple when Anna the prophetess heard that the baby had finally come, she was glad and began to declare the good news. Can you imagine? “Messiah has arrived! God is in our midst! Redemption is on the way, Jerusalem!”

Luke 2 tells us that Anna was the the temple night and day, worshiping.

Fasting.

Praying.

The girl knew how to live Advent. You don’t stay in the temple day and night if you don’t know that the waiting is worth it; if a Savior coming in the darkest night isn’t what you need most.

When I first sunk into this passage, I began to ask the Lord to give me a desire for His Word. I want to be a woman that pulls back those sacred pages every single day. I want to know my Shepherd’s voice. When I read that Anna never departed from the temple, I felt like I had been punched in the gut. When was the last time I gave Him more than ten minutes to truly minister to my heart? Am I willing to be vulnerable? Am I willing to wait to hear from the Lord, or do I give up when He doesn’t show up in the way I would like?

“Waiting is an art that our impatient age has forgotten. It wants to break open the ripe fruit when it had hardly finished planting the shoot.”

— Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I want a faith that looks into the face of emotions and circumstances and says, “My God is bigger than you. And His Kingdom is coming.” I want to be faithful, sorting out the lies about myself and the God I serve in exchange for the truth of His Word. I don’t want to slap His name on a bunch of empty good deeds and call that a legacy. Prayer is the means by which theological truths seep into my bones and become actions. Therefore, I want to be immersed in prayer. I want to live from and pour out of the love He is always manifesting within me. I want to stay in the fight, and I don’t want to fill up on a thousand things that don’t love me back.

Anna didn’t know the timeline of when her Lord would finally come, and yet she was continually seeking the heart of God. She didn’t give up during the first week of hunger or silence. She looked outside herself and she lived in humility.

You can find part two of this post over at my home away from home! Click here to visit The Rising.

Is America Blessed?

Is America blessed? In this post I do not plan on bashing the state of our country and I will clarify by saying that I do not take for granted the unexplainable gift of being born and raised in the country that I was. But when I look beyond the surface of materialism, I am anxious not only for the status of our country, but for the status of the church within our country.

I see comfortable Christians with high gates up around their hearts and around their homes. Is our community filled with more products than people? Are our routines built more around making money and staying busy rather than investing in relationships? Are we building our whole lives out of clumsy and temporary things? Or are the temporary places showing people our eternal hope?

Look at who Jesus says is blessed in the kingdom of God from “the Sermon on the Plain”: the poor, the hated, the sad, and the hungry. I am asking God to strip away my preconceived cultural context as I read this Scripture. Most things in the kingdom of God are upside down from our perspective. So in this moment I am asking God to allow us to see His upside down way as supreme and holy, as worth following.

“And he lifted his eyes on his disciples, and said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.’”
— Luke 6:20-26

This time in our world calls for people who are living hungry for righteousness, those who weep with those around the world who are weeping, for those who stand up and out for the sake of the gospel. I see people who are satisfied and comfortable and superficially rich. Until we begin being blessed – embracing our DNA given by the Holy Spirit – and until we remember that this earth is temporal, our world will not be the changed for the better. It’s a paradox of kinds: the more we focus on the kingdom of God regardless of our cultural circumstances, the more our worlds improve as a fringe benefit of knowing Christ. Unless we become hungry, we won’t be filled. Unless we weep, we won’t experience laughter. Unless we make ourselves poor to the world and rich to Christ, we will have gained nothing.

In summary:

Examine yourself.
Change starts with you. If we want to see revival, we have to first show people what revival is. Ask yourself: am I hungry for more of God and less of this world? Am I compassionate? Am I standing out in the midst of darkness? Do I consider all less rubbish compared to loving and knowing God?

Focus on the eternal.
This world? I don’t have to point out how overwhelming it is and how it changes every day we wake up and scroll through the news. Although we must remain awake to our surroundings, we will not touch this world when we are always succumbed to the distractions it holds. When you are working hard down here, point people upward. When you are running your race, remind people of what the finish line is worth to you. When you seem like you are catching all the woes of this earth, remind your soul of who your Jesus calls blessed. When you seem crazy fighting hard against mediocrity and injustice, remind those around you of the God who is worth it all.

Blessed are the ones who are hungry and mourning and betrayed, for they trust the One who is unseen.

You can find this original post at my home-away-from-home, The Rising!

beyond the myths: a real look at homeschooling

Read this whole post at The Rising! 


“Homeschooled children have greater potential to work outside the box because they are educated outside the box.” — Thomas Purifoy

I just went to my first official classroom only two weeks ago, and I have been schooling at home for the past twelve years. Homeschooling is widely misunderstood. I wanted to start shedding some light on what homeschooling is really like. This past week, I have heard from YOU – The Rising readers – and have loved your questions! I will be answering all of them today. I know that I cannot begin to speak for everyone. Keep in mind that I am speaking today only from my personal experience, or from the perspective of friends. I have full respect for all kinds of schooling. I am in no way implying that homeschooling is for everyone. However, I believe I should share from my experiences, because something so close to my heart is often ignorantly thrown under the bus – whereas, if more people knew the truth, they could discover something truly life-changing for their family.

First off, is it all awkwardness and illiterate children?

Most often, it is the exact opposite: kids and teenagers that are excelling, reading well, and are extraordinarily healthy socially. There are most definitely exceptions: some parents shelter their kids from the real world, normal social interaction, or they don’t stay disciplined. But most families that decide to educate at home are striving for a higher education, and don’t often settle for one that is below average.

What prompted your family to homeschool you?

There were definitely a few things that went into the decision. My parents were committed to upbringing a Christ-like child. By homeschooling me, they would have direct guidance over the kind of literature and worldviews my textbooks would be feeding me daily. My two older brothers graduated from public school, and my Momma had worked in the public school systems. Mom had witnessed poor treatment of children (either behind their backs or in their presence) that she saw hindered them in a place where they should have been actively flourishing. When I was ready for kindergarten, lots of our closest family friends were also homeschooling and they were huge influences. Because of our strong networking and support system to get us started, the decision was made easy.

What is your daily schedule like?

In my elementary years, my youngest brother was still in public school, so I would get up early in the morning and start with my schoolwork. Mom and I would do devotions together, and then we would dig in to my lesson plans for that day – which included unit studies like human anatomy and the rainforest, reading history texts and answering questions, dissecting sentences, art projects, flashcards for memorization, Mom reading a chapter of a classic book to me aloud, math problems, and science experiments.

In middle school, it became a balance of textbooks I could work through solo and still working side by side with my mom in some reading and all of my math studies. I slept in most days, and rearranged my schedule accordingly! Most often I would start school in the late morning, take a lunch break, and finish up in the afternoon depending on my work load for the day.

In my past three years of high school, Mom still made up my lesson plans, helped me whenever I had questions, and graded my papers. But, primarily I have taught myself through freshman to junior year. I’ve never stayed with a specific order in lesson plans – so as long as I crossed everything off in my lesson plans for the week, I rearranged the order however I wanted. I’ve worked a part-time job since turning 16, so more often than not I have worked half a day and then done school during the other half.

What are the differences in curriculum when compared to public school?

One of the many beauties of homeschooling, is that you choose your own curriculum! The biggest difference is that you can buy textbooks with Christian worldviews, no matter what the subject is. BUT, that definitely doesn’t mean all homeschoolers are Christians. You can choose whatever curriculum you would like, and most often I had a different curriculum for each subject based on my learning styles and preferences.

Do you still have to take standardized tests, get grades, have a GPA, etc?

I have taken many standardized tests over the years. My mom has always graded everything with discernment and grace, and she has figured up my GPA. As far as HAVING to take tests and show my grades, though, that changes from state to state. I have lived in Iowa, Mississippi, and Kansas, and every state law has looked different. In the standardized tests, I usually tested two grades above average in most subjects so we started to take them less often as I got older and moved to a state that didn’t require them every year.

Was there anything about public school that you felt like you missed?

Yes, of course! I will never go to a prom. I will never have a class reunion. When I went to public school sporting events, I always felt out of place so I eventually stopped going to them altogether. There are things I felt like I missed out on, but they aren’t things that make me regret my family’s decision. With every decision you make in life, you are saying no to really great opportunities for something you believe is better. I believe that is why I wanted to continue homeschooling, even though my parents always kept the option open for me to go to public school. There are things I missed, but there are also things that my public school friends missed out on that I had the opportunity to be involved in. Homeschooling fit just right for me, and although it’s hard sometimes to feel left out, I wouldn’t trade the long term impact that homeschooling has made for any of the short term things I may have missed.

Do previously homeschooled students typically find they are either under-educated or over-educated when later attending public school/a university?

I haven’t ever heard of a student feeling incompetent or under-educated when entering the public school or college setting. In the case of someone feeling a little behind, homeschooling teaches you to be a critical thinker and you are already accustomed to teaching yourself tough new concepts. This means that you have the skill to work independently on the things you don’t understand (which is especially vital in college), and you are able to think outside of the box when it comes to subjects that you were already well-rounded in.

Is there much exposure to the community during the time of being homeschooled?

This is ultimately a family-by-family decision. I was heavily involved in family life, church groups, homeschool group classes or parties, and community events.

Tim Tebow was homeschooled, and he explains it well in his book Through My Eyes:

“Another thing that I think homeschooling helped me with was that we all learned how to talk to adults at a much earlier age than some of our friends… Regardless, the ability we acquired in being able to talk with and to be around adults has benefitted me greatly… We weren’t just surrounded by kids like ourselves all day who were just speaking at our own level of maturity and content. We were challenged to grow in being able to build and have relationships with others – of all ages.”

Name three keys to successfully homeschooling.

Community. It is possible to homeschool without a support system, but practically and relationally it is best to have a team of people alongside you. Discipline. With great flexibility, comes a heavier weight of responsibility. Creativity. Make it fun! And don’t take the privilege of being able to school at home for granted.

What was your least favorite part about homeschooling?

By far, dealing with homeschooling myths and ignorance was definitely my least favorite part. Although I love to answer questions and abolish as many myths as I can, sometimes I wished that I could mention school without having to answer a list of often skeptical questions and face sometimes hurtful comments. Another hardship was not being able to contribute to a lot of my peer’s conversations when they were specifically discussing their sports teams and daily classes. Most of my peers only talked about school – which makes sense, because it is the largest percentage of their life and most of them have the same experience in common. I don’t feel like homeschooling was a hindrance in me making meaningful relationships (it taught me to be outgoing and intentional in a way that public schoolers don’t learn as naturally), but small group discussions were often challenging when everyone was consistently comparing teachers and projects that I wasn’t involved in at all. But my true friends always drew me back in and never let me feel excluded for long.

What did you like about being homeschooled? What was your favorite thing?

Maya Angelou said, “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” I loved the safety and flexibility of homeschooling. I don’t know what it’s like to be a homeschooled extrovert, but as an introvert it only added to my success. I grew up in an environment where I could be myself and broaden my mind without worrying about how I measured up to the kids around me. As I have just started learning in a classroom with peers, I am seeing the value in having a strong sense of self before entering an environment where you naturally compare yourself to others. I love that homeschooling allowed me to travel constantly, go slower when I didn’t understand, sprint ahead when a concept came easily to me, to teach myself effectively, to live a simpler life that wasn’t constantly defined by hurry, and that it enabled me to build rich and unique relationships with people of all ages.


If you didn’t have the opportunity to ask a question before this post, feel free to engage in conversation and drop your questions in the comments below. This post was meant to stand as a kick-off to opening up more informational and kind conversations on homeschooling! If you are interested, don’t let the conversation end here.

For more information on homeschooling, here are some links to articles and a video from homeschooler and recording artist Jamie Grace  – some include humor, some include plain statistics. They are golden resources and hopefully they can clear up anything I may have missed!

For Statistics & Research:

http://www.nheri.org/research/research-facts-on-homeschooling.html

https://www.time4learning.com/homeschool/homeschoolstatistics.shtml

Google search “homeschool statistics”

Well-known people who have homeschooled or were homeschooled themselves:

https://www.homeschoolacademy.com/a/famoushomeschoolers/

A MUST SEE video giving another personal account:

the big, glorious picture: a context study

These three verses that we’re going to look at are rich and valuable and not worth simply dismissing. But they are also used in many, many different ways and are often out of context. Let’s be clear: this is not a mandate to never use these passages in only one certain way. The last thing Christianity needs is more people trying to push living words into a small, man-made box. I do believe, however, that we should do our research – not only with these popular picks, but to always check and study the Scriptures on our own.

It is important to use our vast resources wisely, especially because so many people die for the sake of the Word of God. It is not a book that should remain untouched, but it should be treated with respect, reverence, and gratefulness. The Bible is inexhaustible and open to interpretation. This is often overwhelming and why some Christians choose to skim it or never open their Bibles at all. But we are still called to test everything, to search out truth, cling to His promises, and to come to at least a minimal understanding that equips us to share with others.

In trying to study and research the Bible (without getting hopelessly overwhelmed), I try to look at and think over these five components:

1. What are the cultural traditions and ramifications in this story?
2. How does it come back to the good news of the gospel?
3. What words could I be misinterpreting because I am leaning too heavily on the English
language?
4. Look at the big picture. Who and what situations came before this? What comes soon after?
How does the story end?
5. How does this story impact me today?
Let’s dig deeper into the context of Exodus 14:14, Jeremiah 29:11, and Philippians 4:13 together with these questions in mind.

Exodus 14:14

“The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

This story takes place right before God parted the Red Sea and protected the Israelites in battle. This verse is often quoted in trials of our own, to bring comfort and rest. Jesus tells us in the New Testament that there will be trouble in this world, and He tells us to come to Him when we are heavy-hearted. We are always invited to cast our anxiety on Him, grasp onto Him for new breath and new mercies. But sometimes, He calls us to rise up and take action.

The story continues.

“The LORD said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward.” Lift

up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may

go through the sea on dry ground. And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they

shall go in after them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots, and his

horsemen. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gotten glory over

Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.” –Exodus 14:15-18

There is a time for silence, prayer, and waiting. And there is a time to get moving and run on prepared, dry ground. The discernment in which way to go moment by moment must come from walking in the Holy Spirit, and listening to His call when He says, “This is my battle before yours. Rest, my child. This will bring me glory.” Or when He says, “Stop waiting. I will go before you, if you would only go. This will bring me glory that everyone would know that I am the LORD, and you are mine.”

Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to

give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29 is a letter from Jeremiah to the exiles of Babylon after a false prophet came to deceive them. The exiles had been fed many lies and were living in tension. Jeremiah comes in to set the record straight: don’t be mistaken. Our God will not deal unjustly. He will provide, He will deliver, and He sees you.

“For this says the LORD: when seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will

fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,

declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you

will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me,

when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will

restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven

you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.”

Jeremiah 29:11 is used most often on greeting cards in seasons of change and scribbled underneath well wishes. Does the LORD know His plans for all of us, plans of goodness and not darkness, and a sweet future? Does that include where you go to college and what job you take next? Absolutely. But it’s not just about the future of your bodily life. It’s about a distorted relationship being restored. It’s about the fulfillment of His promises, even if it takes seventy years. He longs to be sought and found by His children. It’s about knowing a God that sees us in our waiting, hears us in our whining and struggling, and desires to bring us back. God is most definitely involved in our grander life decisions, but keep in mind: He is with us every step of the way, and even if we don’t get a full glimpse of what He is doing in our mesh of routine and spontaneity today, He has the grander plan in His hands and He is our prize.

. . . Read the rest over with my friends at The Rising!