January has always been the trickiest month for me. Each year I race through the summer months to have school ready to go in September, and then as soon as we seem to hit a groove, Thanksgiving and Christmas and a half-dozen fall birthdays are thrown into the mix. It’s exciting to see little ones experience our festivities, it’s crazy to throw ourselves into traditions and gifts and gatherings, and it’s absolutely super fun to keep at a holiday pace each year.

And then comes January. For one thing, it’s just cold, and for this California 100-degree-plus/get-into-the-pool-when-it’s-hot girl that I am, cold weather stinks. I think I was in high school the first time I realized that January’s plunging temperatures and pea soup fog simply sap the life and motivation out of me. If ever there is a period of time to convince myself that I do not want to be homeschooling and should have signed up to be a tour guide in the tropics instead, January is it.

I need to find fresh motivation every January. What is it that keeps me doing what I am doing, even (and especially) when my heart and mind and chilly bones want to be anywhere but here? Really, what is it that keeps me doing this very difficult and committed act of homeschooling?

To be perfectly honest, there were years when I didn’t throw in the towel mainly because homeschooling had become who I was. It had come to define me: Kendra Fletcher, classical homeschooling mom of many. I don’t think I would have said that to anyone, that part about it defining me, but the truth is that I found myself defending my vocation in my head to the people who thought I was either nuts or weird or doing my children a disservice or just plain wasting my life. I would argue with them about how many hours I put in, how far ahead my kids were academically, or how much better of an education I had garnered for myself because I was homeschooling my kids. When we have these sorts of defensive confrontations with people solely in our own heads, we can be certain we’re making an idol out of something God never intended us to.

God is gracious to reveal our idols to us, isn’t He? We can be absolutely sure that those things that define us outside of Christ are our misplaced attempts at identity, apart from Him.

This past year, God has whispered the Gospel over and over into my ear. No, that’s not exactly true. He’s shouted it, loud and clear! Every day, and yes, every hour, I see things in light of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross on my behalf. Because of what He did, I am identified by Him. Nothing else. In fact, anything else that creeps in to define me, anything that is giving me a sense of worth, anything that makes me feel like I have value, significance, and purpose apart from Christ is an idol. And, ultimately, it is bondage.

I’m a little slow, I admit. I have loved and wanted to serve God my whole life, but I was constantly defining myself by my works. In childhood it was school or talents or interests or friends, and then it became boyfriends and college and career. Then husband, children, and alas—homeschooling. All these idols lined up to identify me in place of Christ. Oh, yes! I was a Christian, no doubt. But on a day-to-day basis, I was clearly searching for my identity by other ways and means.

I’ve gotta tell you, it just isn’t worth it. Even the “good” stuff like church and theology and serving my neighbor—can be less than good when they stand in place of Christ to define us.

So, why all this Gospel and identity talk in a column about homeschooling preschoolers? Because simply put, there just isn’t any other place to begin. This is it. The Gospel is where we begin, dwell, and end. The Gospel isn’t just for the non-believer; it’s how we see everything else. It’s the center from which the Old and New Testaments radiate, it’s the crux, the pinnacle, the end-all, be-all. And the good news of our creation, fall, redemption, and restoration by Christ should be what we remind ourselves of each and every day.