Sit down. Take a deep breath. Grab a cup of coffee, tea, or whatever other caffeinated beverage you enjoy drinking. You're going to feel better after reading this article--if not from the information you glean, certainly from the charge you'll get from the caffeine! You know, homeschooling and childrearing is hard work. Admit it! It's not a sign of weakness or discontentment to admit you're struggling today. A good indicator of a hard worker is someone who needs rest. It's a sign of being real--a sign of being human.

You may be feeling overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done, or you may be discouraged because of physical limitations and how little you seem to be accomplishing. Whatever your case may be, I'd like to share with you some lessons I learned as a result of a difficult time I went through recently that I hope will give you a new perspective on the challenges you're facing.

The last eighteen months have been hard. I'm tired. And I'm tired of feeling tired. Know what I mean? In September of 2005, we found out we were pregnant with baby number five. At the time, that didn't sound too difficult. We already had four active kids, so what was one more? And even though I knew when the baby arrived it would be a time of little sleep and more work, the baby was nine long months away. What I didn't anticipate was the nine months of difficult pregnancy--nine very, very long months. Sickness, tiredness, sinus infections, the flu, gestational diabetes, doctor appointments, swollen feet, sore back and all the other joys of pregnancy took me by storm. Homeschooling was a chore, church activities were exhausting, sporting events took an extra measure of effort, and the kids watched more videos than I would ever have preferred.

It was humbling for me. I pride myself on being organized and efficient. I work hard to maintain disciplined children and a clean home. I look forward to tutoring and grading and all the other work that comes with homeschooling. I love to cook and entertain people. At around month eight of this pregnancy I realized I wasn't doing a good job at anything other than sleeping (and even that was interrupted three times a night for bathroom breaks). In tears I moaned to my husband that I knew I was doing a lousy job of running the household. He gave me a kind answer and tried to encourage me, but we all know when we're not doing what we should be, and it doesn't feel good. I started to feel like this wouldn't get better--and I knew I couldn't cut it.

When our newest arrival was two months old, I started to realize something very important. I needed to cut myself some slack! That person I was when I was pregnant was not the real me. With great joy I can tell you that I'm feeling great and my home management skills are back in full swing. More important, however, is the fact that the Lord has worked on me through this last year and a half, and I'm not the same person I was before I was pregnant. My heart attitude was in great need of change, and I'm eager to share some important thoughts with you. I believe that if we look at our trials and difficulties from the right viewpoint, we will begin to see the many lessons God has for us. The lessons each of us may learn in our own individual times of difficulty will be as varied as the trials themselves. Here are a few of the things God taught me.

I learned compassion. When you're feeling good and moving along smoothly it is so easy to be critical of those who are struggling. Scripture tells us that we go through some trials simply so we can be an encouragement to anyone else who is having a hard time. I don't know about you, but I have never liked that teaching. I would like to think that I could soften toward other people without having to be reminded of my own frailties, but unfortunately, that pride thing sneaks back in so easily. Mothers who would say they just couldn't get out of bed because of morning sickness made me roll my eyes. I would shake my head in disapproval when someone would say they left videos on all day just so they wouldn't be bothered when they felt so lousy. You can be sure that I have learned the value of being able to throw up without four children standing in the bathroom trying to make me feel better! I understand the tremendous guilt when you wake up in the morning, sit up on the side of your bed, say good morning to your children, and slowly lay back down. I will pray for each and every mother who is pregnant, sick or hurting in a way I wouldn't have done a year ago. Yes, I learned compassion.