Homeschooling through Marriage Struggles
- Tuesday, February 02, 2010
Another day dawns. Like a splash of icy water on my face, I awake to face the stark thought that all this has to be a nightmare and couldn't be happening to me, to us, to our family. I couldn't be expecting our sixth baby, finishing the daunting task of unpacking after a recent move, and newly separated from my husband. I roll over and close my eyes, wanting to go back to sleep and pretend it's only a nightmare.
How am I going to manage this emotional roller coaster, unpack the house, have a baby, and start our homeschool? This was a real question I recently had to face.
Are you finding yourself in a similar situation and wondering how to make it through the next day, week, or year—much less continue to homeschool your children?
While I may not know your specific marriage struggles or what you are going through, I hope to speak to your hurting heart and offer some encouragement and advice based on my own experience and what the Lord has been teaching me.
Death of a Vision
Allow yourself time to grieve. I haven't experienced the death of my husband, but the death of a vision I had for my family. This is a devastating experience that requires a lot of time in prayer, seeking the Lord for wisdom and direction.
I am reminded that often something has to die before it can become what God ultimately wants it to be. This is seen in the physical task of planting seeds in the earth, but also in the spiritual world. This truth helped me remember that pain serves a very useful purpose. Instead of trying to run from my pain, I chose to work through it by spending time with the Lord and in His Word.
Seeking the Lord and His Word
If the Lord doesn't build the house, the builders labor in vain. When the winds and waves of life come, you will not stand if your foundation is anything less than the Word of God. If you have not grounded yourself and your children in the Word, when the storms of life come, you are at great risk of losing your faith in God.
During this painful time, the Lord has been my Strength, my Security, my Refuge, my Husband, my Provider, my Counselor, my Everything. He has been more than sufficient to meet every need, and let me assure you, He is Enough!
I spent many sleepless nights in my Savior's arms weeping while He ministered His Word (especially the Psalms) to my hurting heart. The Lord spoke to me so clearly and specifically during the worst of this that it has become a priceless experience to me. He has turned my Valley of Baca into a place of springs (Psalm 84:5-7) by walking through it with me every step of the way. He can and will do that for you if you turn solely to Him.
Seek Godly Counsel
I have greatly benefited from receiving godly counsel from seasoned Christians in the area of marriage. Let me encourage you to be a "Berean" and check the advice you receive against the Word of God. Ask the Lord to direct you before, during, and after you receive counsel from others. Doesn't He know your situation better than anyone? He will give you the best counsel and answer your pleas for wisdom.
I have found that there are many varying opinions and ideas as to how to deal with difficult marital issues. The process of seeking counsel can become confusing and difficult, to say the least. Sometimes you will want someone to just tell you what to do!
Prayer is key. God alone has the bigger picture, the master plan. I find great comfort in that, and He always gets the final word before any decisions are made. Ultimately, He is the One who should direct you. That doesn't mean you shouldn't seek counsel from others. In fact, the Bible tells us in Proverbs 11:14, "Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety." The important thing is to get counsel, while at the same time seeking wisdom from God in prayer and time in the Word.
Homeschooling? You Have to Be Kidding!
Let me boldly suggest that this may not be the time to send your children to the local school—or make any major changes, for that matter! For the children's sake especially, I tried to keep things as stable and unchanged as possible. I felt that it was important to give my children all the love and stability I could after my husband left our home.
I love Skeet Savage's book, Homeschooling for Eternity. If you are wavering in your decision to homeschool your children, I highly recommend her book, which will encourage you and strengthen your convictions. Skeet has had a very rough go of things herself, and has homeschooled her six children through times of intense marital strife, divorce, and homelessness! As a single-parent homeschooler, her book definitely spoke to my need. You can find this book at www.WisdomsGate.com.
Consider Your Teaching Method and Philosophy
In my opinion, the self-teaching or self-learning method is an ideal way to free up your time as a mother and create an environment that promotes student-led motivation and accountability. If you have not thought about this and are knee-deep in curriculum that you have to individually spoon-feed to your children, you may benefit from switching to this method.
The basic premise of this educational philosophy is that your children can do a better job of learning what they need to learn without you having to personally teach them everything. Let each child (fourth-grade and older) set their own goals using the curriculum you already have as their guide for each nine-week period. Have them keep a record of work done, thereby eliminating much busywork for you. When students set their own goals, ownership provides a built-in motivator for achievement. This is huge!
Whether it is a death in the family, job transfer for your husband, illness or marriage issues, many trials cause stress and necessitate that your time and attention be directed to other things. My heartfelt advice to anyone is to refrain from buying curriculum that you have to spoon-feed your children! Home School Enrichment published a series by Joanne Calderwood about the self-teaching method, and you can learn more on her Web site at URthemom.com. You can download Joanne's series on self-teaching as a free PDF report at www.HomeSchoolEnrichment.com/freedom.
Take Every Thought Captive
Fears and emotions have a way of running your thought life if you are not careful. I found it necessary to express my feelings and cry or pray with a friend often. Once I got those feelings out and processed, it helped me not to dwell on them as much during the day. This was an absolutely necessary thing. If I allowed myself to dwell on thoughts that had not been made obedient to Christ, I would soon find myself slipping into the pit of despair and hopelessness, exactly where the enemy wanted me.
2 Corinthians 10:5 says, "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." Notice that we need to take our thoughts captive. This is not something that came naturally, and it needed to happen through concerted effort on my part as I sought to continually examine my thinking.
In her book The Excellent Wife, Martha Peace has a wonderful section on negative thoughts and how to re-frame them biblically so as to not be a "pit dweller." The idea is to think about what you are thinking, examine your thoughts from a biblical standpoint, and re-frame them to bring them into agreement with the truth of God's Word.
Allowing your thoughts, fears, and emotions to sit on the throne of your heart and mind is to give them a place reserved only for Christ. Make them obedient to Him who alone deserves that place. Easier said than done, I know, but it can be done! Recognizing the lies in your thought life is an essential step to winning the battlefield in your mind and will help you respond in a godly way to your pain and hurt instead of repaying evil for evil. I cannot emphasize this point enough. Godly sorrow is one thing; ungodly sorrow can lead to sin and much unnecessary misery.
Remember Who Your Enemy Is (Hint: It Isn't Your Husband)
Always keep in mind who is ultimately seeking the destruction of your home, family, and testimony. Sure, you and your husband play a supportive role, but I am convinced that one of Satan's best tactics is to deceive us into believing our spouse is the enemy. This is a spiritual battle, so you must recognize that, put your armor on, and fight!
I love Nehemiah 4 and how it can relate to our spiritual battle in the area of marriage. Nehemiah 4:9 says that Israel posted a guard day and night. They prayed, were wise, and watched, knowing that the enemy would attack. But verse 10 says, "There is much rubbish . . . we are not able to build the wall."
Two thoughts come to mind here. One is that sometimes the Lord has to destroy a house in order to build it on the right foundation. The second is that it is very easy to be overwhelmed at the sight of the rubble. It can be so disheartening and debilitating to look at the destruction of a marriage. It is easy to become totally overwhelmed with the rebuilding task and its enormity, so much so that you want to give up.
But Nehemiah 4:14 says, "Remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses." In fact, the people of Israel did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other. Don't ever drop your weapon, which is the Word of God, the Sword of the Spirit! And keep watch; don't fall asleep on the job—you will be attacked at the exposed and vulnerable places.
Humbly Seek the Lord
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and He cares deeply for the husbandless and fatherless (Psalm 68:5). There is no doubt in my mind. He is also close to those who are humble and teachable. In fact, I believe a humble person is irresistible to God. I tried to often ask the Lord, "What are the things you want me to know and change about myself?" Like any human being, I found it very easy to see where my spouse had gone wrong, but I tried as best I could to look at this as a time for personal refining. The Lord asked me to do some radical things and love more unconditionally than ever before.
I also came to realize that if I wanted the Lord to work on my behalf, this was the time to step up my obedience to Him in all areas of my life. Psalm 81:13-14 says, "Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways! I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries." Did you hear that? Do you see the condition God lays out? If you listen to Him and follow His ways, He will fight for you and subdue your enemies!
I am convinced that obedience is one of the main keys to victory in any battle. The Lord Himself will do battle for you, go before you, and be your rearguard. Who can stand against the Holy One of Israel? No one! Is anything too difficult for Him? Nothing is too hard for Him!
Many times the Lord told me to "wait" or "be quiet." I can't tell you how hard that was for me. But He wanted to prepare the way and do the fighting for me, and He didn't need me messing with His plan!
Keep a Journal
I have been diligent in writing my own thoughts down as well as specific words and dreams God has directly given me. This has allowed me to better process all that has happened. Often He has woken me up in the middle of the night or at dawn with something and told me to write it down. Journaling has been a real benefit to me, as some of what He has told me has been prophetic. Going back and reading what God was saying to me in the past has been a real faith-builder!
God has been so loving and faithful to me. He has not abandoned me, and I am so thankful to Him. This past year has been an incredible season of hearing from the Lord. I wouldn't want to miss one word, one lesson that He has given me. Perhaps I have been more sensitive to the Lord's voice, as I have sought Him more than ever during this season out of intense need. He has almost been tangible to me.
Keeping a journal is a simple, faith-building exercise to help chronicle the way God is working in your life.
Let His Love Awaken You
God is in control even when you feel like your whole life is spinning out of control. He is faithful. I can waken each morning, not with dread or fear, but with a fresh reminder of His unfailing love for me. Even in the midst of the greatest pain and suffering, His love has sustained me, strengthened me, and begun to heal my wounded heart.
One of my favorite verses during this time has been Psalm 143:8-10: "Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee. Deliver me, O Lord, from mine enemies: I flee unto thee to hide me. Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness."
Ministering to Moms
Can I encourage those of you who know of someone going through a marriage crisis to reach out in love and practical service to her? Prayerfully consider how you can be used to minister to her and meet her needs. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Offer to pray with her personally and give her biblical counsel if she wants it.
- Send her a note of encouragement with a scripture or song you feel the Lord is giving you just for her.
- Ask if there is anything around her house that needs fixing. Consider asking your husband or a friend to do it. Keep your eyes open when you go to her house and notice those things that need doing. Most likely, she is so emotionally spent that she will often forget what needs to be done if you ask her on the spot.
- Offer to watch her children so she can get some much-needed alone time.
- Prepare meals, invite her family for dinner, or give her a restaurant gift card. It is very difficult to have the energy to cook when you are stressed to the maximum.
- Encourage her children and pray for them. Send them a note of encouragement and give them a hug when you see them.
- If she is financially struggling, prayerfully consider how you can help, or ask the leaders at your church.
Times of crisis in marriage are difficult, to be sure, but remaining focused on God, seeking Him in prayer, and being obedient to His leading will give you the strength to press on. Our children need the maximum love and stability we can give them during these times, and persevering in our homeschooling efforts can help supply that love and stability. Seek God's direction, and look to Him for the wisdom and strength only He can supply.
*This article published on February 2, 2010.
Gail Cherney is a busy mom to six wonderful kids ages 1, 4, 7, 10, 13, and 15. She has been married for 20 years and has homeschooled for 15 years. She feels a strong conviction from the Lord to continue homeschooling her children all the way through high school. Gail enjoys reading, Bible study, drawing, writing, gardening, knitting, and singing every chance she gets. She and her children make their home in the beautiful rolling hills of Amish country in central Ohio. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was originally published in the Jan/Feb '10 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. Now, get a FREE subscription to the HSE Digital Edition! Visit www.HSEmagazine.com/digital today to get immediate access to the latest edition!
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