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Why We Homeschool {One Year at a Time}

We are gearing up for another year at the Young house–and the school room is ready to have it filled with our daily musings. If you haven’t before–meet the Young schoolroom here on the farm:

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What I can’t believe is that this is going to be my FOURTH year homeschooling.

I taught public school 6th and 7th grade English/Language Arts for FOUR short years before becoming a mom. I had FOUR short years of just enjoying preschool before my first entered Pre-K. I’ve had TWO very sweet years of two of my children experiencing the sweetest little Christian school in town. Now, I prepare to begin YEAR FOUR of homeschooling. This year I will be teaching FOUR of my loves–while the 3 year old goes to preschool in the mornings and runs circles around us for the rest of the day.

I feel like I’ve experienced public, private and now homeschooling for a handful of years getting to experience them all. And if you happened upon my blog because a google search of the title–hoping to read why homeschooling is the “better” choice–well…you’re not going to find it here–so keep searching.

While our homeschooling journey DID begin for reasons I probably wouldn’t share in details on my blog, it did begin because the private school we were in couldn’t fully meet the educational needs of one of my children. (That, however, has changed–and we could not go back any time we wanted.)

I’m not what you call a “natural homeschooler”. I’m not what you call a “homeschool advocate”. I am an advocate, however, in moms loving their children BIG–and doing whatever they feel called to–whatever is best for the as a family, what is healthy for mom and what is best for their children. I didn’t start homeschooling because I was turned off by the public school; because being a former educator in the public school, I experienced the opportunity and challenges that many teachers providing various levels of instruction can provide. In a way, I was thrown into homeschooling–after much prayer, processing and wise counsel from other experts who evaluated, tested and even loved my child I was considering homeschooling for.

Stepping in–I did meet some crazy homeschoolers. Some who believed homeschooling really was the BEST way. The only way. It was as if they thought kids in public were being corrupted–by the government curriculum and other kids, and they certainly were not going to have their children tainted by such an environment. I call that–hog wash. And in the South–we say, “Bless their heart.”

After having children in school for just 5 years (entering into 6!), I see that the greatest influence on children is the investment of their parents no matter what school they are in. Every schooling situation provides challenges to the child in a different way. Sure–little Tom may get bullied in the public school system. But I’ve scolded my oldest more times than I can count for being the very ones bullying their own siblings who they should care for, love and be examples to. It happens there–and here…just in a different environment. In some ways, I think there is more opportunities for children to learn to stand up for themselves in the private or public school setting because hard circumstances will occur with different personalities (and sizes!)–but I doubt they occur more often. (Maybe your kids are nicer than mine–but I break up sibling arguments daily over here!)

Recently I was at a friend’s house who sends her kids to public school–and low and behold I think we shocked her when Laney mentioned Lady Gaga. OH MY. The homeschool child was corrupting the public school kid! (I have to explain–we had a teenager live with us last summer who had a love for Gaga and Spears!) I felt no need to explain to her, and instead just giggled as she said, “We don’t let our daughter listen to that. How does Laney know who she is?” I just shrugged my shoulders and laughed. I laughed because I thought of how when I started homeschooling 4 years ago the “pros of homeschooling” list I made…

Thinking back to the educational psychologist looking at the 50 forms of family information and educational history for our child–he looked at me and said, “You used to teach? My recommendation would be for a small learning environment–would you consider homeschooling?” I wanted to RUN the heck out of that office and say NO WAY. I had just gotten our 2 kids both in elementary, with another around the corner. But we prayed. We saw how based on the performance through testing a smaller class would help our child thrive. I was a bit shocked with the other children begged to try it too. Before I knew it–I was setting up a classroom scared to death! I knew I could teach public school having new kids come in every hour on the hour with ONE subject of expertise. BUT. Elementary? And my kids? Oh my…so I made a list of the “pros” (in my head really).

We are believers (as in believe in Jesus:)–so I thought–well, homeschooling will be a time to build them up in their faith. Then by middle school or high school they will have a strong foundation to stand up for what is right and not be influenced by others in a negative way.

They will not have to face bullies or be scolded by teachers or talked down to by classmates.

We can go at our own pace–so I’ll have them so ahead of what the classroom is doing in the private and public schools because we don’t have to wait on everyone to catch up.

We can take breaks when we want to. Have no school day when we need to. And Hilton Head in the Spring…oh–yes…that sounds lovely.

Now–if you are a “natural homeschooler” or homeschool teacher who hasn’t taught public or had good experience in private too–you are like screaming at your computer screen and calling me an idiot right now…only you are probably really smarter than me so you aren’t using the word idiot. (I still need a thesaurus to come up with big words.) That is perfectly okay for you to believe all these things with your heart and soul–but we all get our opinions…and my blog is where I share mine:)

Some SWEET things I have learned about my pros…

Yes–I’m building my kids up in their faith. But so can you. Where ever you are. Public. Private. Homeschooling. Preschool. Where ever your children are–it is our role as parents to be the ones to build them up and grow them in their faith. Homeschooling can be a more sheltered environment–so really what this means is I need to step up my game to make sure my kids are exposed to the world in ways they have opportunities to be challenged and tested to do the right thing whether they are in 1st grade or 12th grade. (For the record, I was just in Moe’s a couple of weeks ago and saw a homeschool kids making out with his girlfriend. Parker was like, “We know him mom! What in the world was he doing?” Kids will be kids no matter the education you provide them. Unless they have Jesus and the conviction of the Holy Spirit–then they are going to act on their flesh every time. It’s as simple–and complicated–as that.)

Yes–my kids might avoid really big bullies. But they will also be surrounded by those who know and love them best. Family. If you haven’t already learned as a big girl that family can also be what hurts you the most. My words. Their words. And I will mess up. And so will they. Our wounds may even be deeper. I need Jesus. They need Jesus. But where ever our kids are there will be wounds, hurt and hopefully lots of healing.

Yes–we can go at our own pace. (I do love choosing our own curriculum because the teacher in me gets to be a teacher again–and I didn’t get to choose my own curriculum before!) This truly has been a sweet advantage. I have also learned a few things that will make me a better parent and teacher when my kids do go to a public or private school. BEFORE–when my kids were at a private school–I REALLY thought it was the TEACHER’S job to teach my child and to make sure my child loved learning. I. WILL. NOT. MAKE. THAT. MISTAKE. AGAIN. It is always the parent’s role to challenge a child to the next level. It is always the parent’s role to ask questions and recognize when their child is losing interest. It is the parent’s role to find ways to reengage the child that they know better and love more than almost anyone else. THIS is a sweet gift of homeschool. I helped my child with homework–and made sure I had all the forms to turn in–but I really did nothing to make learning fun. I will do many things differently when they go back. (That list is long!) I’ve heard too many blame their child’s school or teacher for a disengaged, bored, under challenged child. If you are considering homeschool because of this–do everything YOU can right where they already are to make learning fun for your child. Research the hands on learning experiments that would add to the lesson–and offer that to the teacher. If she declines for the benefit for all the kids–let it benefit your child at home! If your child didn’t get in TAG–instead of being sad–praise Jesus and see it as an opportunity for YOU to provide the extra literature for your child rather than a bunch of twaddle. Be as present as you would be with homeschooling before making changes–and see if that doesn’t change the pace of learning or engagement without having to change more.

Yes–we can take breaks when we want to. BUT. Technically and legally we are supposed to the same number of days. For the homeschooling moms who are diligent and organized this is totally easy to do. BUT for a procrastinating mom who loves to have FUN and take lots of trips–this can actually be quite a challenge to homeschool the number of days every day we are supposed to!! I do it–but some days I’m struggling!! I need accountability so I find other moms to hold me accountable and stay on the same page with!

So–now you’re scratching your head.

“Why do you homeschool?“, you ask.

My kids are all up to speed where they should be. They could go right in to public or private—and we are so involved with social/sport/fun activities that they could hold their own no matter where you put them. So why do we homeschool?

This answer has changed over the years–and this year–I’ll leave many scratching their heads.

We homeschool because–we want to (Momma is no longer wide eyed mixed with kicking and screaming–insert clapping hands emoticon!)The kids love it. They are learning. And I wouldn’t trade these formative years of just getting to be their teacher and getting to watch them learn for anything. Were they to come to me and say they wanted to go to school with some of their friends where they go–we’d pray about it together and I’d be in line in a split second. But they are happy. I am happy. We take ONE year at a time. It wears me SLAP OUT–just as teaching 25 middle schoolers in a classroom once did–but I’ll rest later when they are all grown and gone. I very much look forward to the days when they are again all in school–but I’m not so far removed from those days that I know days can be just as busy when you have many in school too.

Every now and then I see new moms with a child entering kindergarden stating her reasons for the educational choice for her child…private, public or homeschool–and I have to keep the giggle to myself when there is a sliver of opinion that it’s the “better” of choices. What you decide now, may change in a couple–as you quickly learn as a mom that every child and their needs are so different. My advice to this mom is to never be too confident or sure about a choice, but rather keep your hands, heart and eyes open watching your child closely so you are ready to make a change whether it’s what you would choose or not.

TRUST the changes that do come your way are for a purpose. To encourage you moms who may be head on with changes you didn’t quite ask for–I rise my hands DAILY and thank God for giving me a child with a special educational need that could be better met during the learning to read days through homeschooling. What I didn’t know then was the Lord would call our family to adopt that year–and again 3 years later. We would bring home boys who didn’t know what family was like–and to have all the children home to bond for the missed years–it was the greatest blessing. It was something I honestly wouldn’t have chosen at the time–but oh my…God knew!

Trust Him to guide you as a mom and teacher for your children no matter where they are educated–and keep your hands, heart and eyes open knowing that every year is the year to pray, “God, where is the best place for this child next year?” Realize that nothing is forever. Kids are resilient. His plan for them is better than one you could write yourself and whatever He calls you to, He will equip you for!

I don’t know about you–but I’m excited to start another year of school!! (Will someone please send me a message to encourage me in a few months though;)? Because I’m sure by then I’ll need it!)

Blessings!

Andrea

P.S. Please excuse any spelling or grammar errors in the post:) I’m sure there is an unkind person out there that will find them and tell me I shouldn’t be homeschooling. I have disabled comments altogether from my blog as 95% of my readers are friends who are DEAR to me–and so encouraging. HOWEVER–there are 5% who are absolutely crazy–and some times unkind–so I’ve chosen to let them keep their words to themselves. If you must say something unkind–just go to the mirror and get it OUT. THIS Momma doesn’t have time to edit her posts let alone hardly write–so thank you for overlooking any errors or anything you don’t love about my writing! Peace out;).

P.S.S. For your entertainment–the boys produced this little diddy in slow-mo. Interpretation of Isaac at the end, “YODA WINS!” My kids will not weird because they were homeschooled. If they are weird, it will be because they had me for a mother. Now–may I introduce to you…the FINAL FIGHT…(presented in Instagram in real time–but truly how it should be in SLOW-MO here:THE FINAL COUNTDOWN

P.S.S.S. I did get a comment that Laney shouldn’t listen to Lady Gaga. For the record–she doesn’t:) But I totally appreciate the feedback.

Peacemakers {Surrounding Yourself with Persons of Peace}

He says it–he reminds me over and over. A truth my husband over and over reminds me…

“Andrea–surround yourself and your ministry with persons of peace.”

He listens to me working through something–a story at the park…or a request for me to do something…or a frustration related to ministry. And quietly he says five short words–and I know…

Not. A. Person. Of. Peace.

I’m learning.

Slowly. But learning.

And the growing–so much faster and more free as I learn. Weight lifted. Truth seen. A spade a spade. And when I begin to call things for they are–I can much more easily move on without having to have the answers, explanations, mending or even befriending.

And it’s not only okay.

But good.

Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

Here is what I have learned about being a person of peace–or rather, determining a person of peace in my life.

1. Peacemakers / Persons of peace are not always “peaceful”, quiet people.

Oh no. Being shy. Tip-toeing around a problem. Exiting the room when conflict comes up–does not make one a peacemaker. In fact, often it’s the contrary. Personality type has NOTHING–absolutely NOTHING–to do with it.

Peacemakers–MAKE PEACE. They are some times loud. They are some times silly.

They are truth seekers and truth speakers.

Some do this quietly. Some loudly. But they do this humbly–and they honor all parties while they seek to share truth and bring peace.

I’ve watching countless “quiet” personalities stir up more chaos and cause more hurt in their “quietness”.

Often I’ve made the wrong assumption a quieter person is more trustworthy because she is quiet. NEVER assume a quieter person is a peacemaker simply by the quietness around her. This has nothing to do with being a peacemaker. NOTHING. If anything, those who tip-toe, avoid conflict, carefully–politically–correctly deliver passive aggressive responses are often the very ones stirring up the most chaos in hearts all around them with very little honesty and truth–or depth every spoken. When you sense this in a friend or acquaintance–be friendly, love them–but never unload to someone just because they are the quieter type. I’ve seen the quieter type also run and share everything just unloaded to them to a principal, director or boss–simply to make them look like they are “helping matters” when really–they are stirring up t-r-o-u-b-l-e.

These types might even put you in uncomfortable positions after you unload your heart, “Do you mind if I ask the headmaster about this? I just want to get to the bottom of it.”

You will be tempted to say, “Oh. Sure. I just did–but that’s fine with me if you try also…”–trying to avoid any conflict yourself. But realize QUICKLY you just identified a person that is NOT a person of peace as you were seeking wisdom or advice. Be BOLD. You know in your heart what and how things should happen. Handle conflict Biblically. Pray with a peacemaker on positions to take when there is confusion–but where there is conflict go directly to the person yourself and tell Mrs. Chatty Cathy Imitation Peacemaker the truth. “I should have never come to you with this. Please forgive me. I should have gone directly to ________ about this myself. Thank you for that reminder. I was simply looking for advice or a different perspective” before I did…after I did…or whatever it may be.

AND–it is OKAY to share your heart with a peacemaker to get advice or a different perspective. But when you share with someone you think is a peacemaker and they quickly give away they want to handle things regardless if it’s their place–speak truth and move on.

Surround yourself with peacemakers–and do not confuse this with peaceful, quiet people.

2. Peacemakers will encourage the right people to make peace. They do not overstep, invade or put their nose where it doesn’t belong.

Conflict surrounds us daily. In every situation. Whether you have preschoolers or you are in the assisted living. (Trust me–we’ve spent enough time making friends at the local assisted living to observe this–and daily conflict exists there just as well!) Because conflict isn’t going any where, make friends with PEACEMAKERS–people who resolve conflicts instead of feeding it.

Peacemakers listen. But they do not take care of the problem for others. They listen. They ponder. They help you think about what to do–in a good way through the processing. They challenge those involved to do the right thing. And they celebrate peace when it unfolds.

Everyone WANTS to be called a peacemaker–but very few are. So watch carefully and closely where ever you are in life–at preschool and at the assisted living. I’m not saying to not LOVE those who aren’t peacemakers. Love those who overstep, invade and put their nose where it doesn’t belong–but LOVE THEM FROM AFAR. Like from–really far. Yes–shine Jesus on them, but do not fill your life and ministries with them–because just 1 person that isn’t a peacemaker can change everything–sucking up all the peace that really needs to be there in order to truly thrive and move forward. Many of these people (who aren’t peacemakers) will know Jesus but not fully be walking or experiencing Jesus. You will know them by their fruit the Word says. You will be able to tell when someone is overstepping, invading or putting their nose where it doesn’t belong–and when I see this…just like Rich quietly says to me, I quietly take note…

Not. A. Peace. Maker.

And it’s okay. It’s not bad. In fact, it’s good to recognize this and create the appropriate space necessary. It’s just seeing a spade for a spade and knowing how to surround myself, ministry and life with peace makers. It helps me choose my friends wisely, and to know who to love from afar…like really far;).

When I hear the “too much information”…

When I confided, and I hear it shared for the entertainment or well-being of the one I confided…

When I feel taken advantage of…

I remember those 5 words, and when I do–I’m no longer easily offended–because people who are not peacemakers will ALWAYS offend.
“Not a peacemaker. Now it makes sense! This is why I always feel this way when in his/her presence.”
The sooner you realize who or what in your life is a peace maker and who is not–the sooner you will be able to gravitate to the place you need to be and truly move forward with less road blocks, discouragement and distraction.

3. Peacemakers are respectful to those in their life and put others before themselves.

Peacemakers are constantly thinking of others–putting themselves in the shoes of another before they even approach them for a word.

They think about what the babysitter is missing by serving them–and they are grateful…rather than complaining how much the babysitter costs and how she probably didn’t do THIS or THAT.

They think about the mess the waitress will have to pick up after them instead of fussing the order was all wrong–and they wonder why she is waitressing at all–and the way they leave a situation leaves the aroma of peace all around them.

They make others loads lighter simply by thinking of others first–and they find joy in this peacemaking. They ask how they can help–rather than how you can help them.

They create LESS work rather than more. They are problem solvers–and when they see something that needs to be done–they just do it instead of telling you what needs to be done and how they think it should be done. (By the time all of that happened–especially in ministry–it could be done!)

They do more asking than telling how things will be. Because when you put others first–you have to find out their hearts and what works for them first. These are persons of peace. Surround yourself with them.

Or just find one. And make her your best friend. Learn from her. Die to yourself some more. And realize if everything doesn’t happen your way, in your time–the world won’t stop. BUT–if you learn to slow down and serve others…for a moment–their world’s will…they will stop–as they experience more peace in their lives and you realize more actually gravitate to this new fragrance you carry.

4. Life is short. Fill it with peacemakers and create appropriate distance in your life from those who are not peacemakers so you can continue to grow and move forward in a healthy way.

Learn to let the quiet, passive-aggressive, gossip, pot-stirrers, naggers, braggers, drama creators, narcissistic, selfish people in your life–be loved on from AFAR–really far away.

While that may sound terrible. It’s not terrible at all. But rather–WISE.

When they text, text them back–short and sweet. (Some of you are SO sweet–you feel you should be friends with everyone regardless of the drama they bring into your life. It’s okay to realize where and who this lack of peace is coming from and create distance in a healthy way.) Yes–always be kind and courteous. Always. But don’t make plans for play or try to be nice and schedule a coffee. If they aren’t a peacemaker–there will certainly not even be peace over coffee–and who needs coffee without peace?!

If they call–don’t answer during a peaceful, sacred, sweet time with your family or friends. Let it go to voicemail–and call them back when you have a few minutes to chat.

When they tell you what they are going to do–what works for them–and you didn’t invite that opportunity to even happen–kindly decline. Instead of bending over backwards to make things work for them–take a breath–realize “Not. A. Peacemaker.” and you will quickly realize you have probably been living your life far too much making things work for everyone else except those entrusted to you first. It’s freeing to realize this and to begin to use your voice! Just say no! (It makes me think of a poster I made in 3rd grade for an anti-drug campaign contest!)

In some circumstances, you will have to avoid. (And maybe even hide–okay not really–but you get what I mean.) Okay–as terrible as that may sound–there’s a member of my extended family that will stir up trouble to no end–and the best thing for me to do is to love her from really afar. Trust me on that one. (She didn’t agree with our adoptions–and that was the final crazy–enough for this momma to say I’d love you forever from afar.) Peacemakers understand that everyone has different ways to live, grow and raise their family–and they encourage even if at the time they don’t quite agree:).

Some times you will be able to identify a peacemaker simply by the peace that enters your life when they show up. I have a sweet friend who wants to just come and sit a spell with me on my front porch. She just brings peace with her when she comes–far from quiet–and I know she’s a person of peace. The more I get to know her on a more personal level–I see she very much possesses the qualities of a true peacemaker–so I’m being very intentional with the time I get with her. You will always look forward to the next visit with peacemakers!

Filling your life and ministry with persons of peace will keep one foot in front other the other no matter the mountains in life you face! Being able to recognize those you really need to surround yourself with in daily life and boldly classifying this in your mind will help you to realize when things are said or done and for some reason it just hurts. It’s freeing to realize–it has really nothing to do with YOU–but rather with this person in your life who is not being a peace maker. If you continue to allow those people in your circle–be ready to struggle with confidence, deal with hurt and question every decision you make.

This momma is so thankful for her handful friends of peacemakers and how they run this amazing race of life with me. And I know now who to love from afar–and I’m perfectly okay with that–and I think they are too (busy bodies quickly move on–so don’t worry about loving them from afar!)

Be blessed, love BIG and BLOOM!

Andrea

Character {when no one else is looking}

Some of my favorite quotes on character were spoken by one of the most revered coaches in the history of sports John Wooden who coached UCLA basketball from the 40’s to the 70’s. He was a devout Christian and family man–and quotes like his are the reason I will probably never write a book. It’s already been said better than I ever could. Love these quotes of his on character–something I want to teach my children is more important than anything they will learn in books…

“The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have the time to do it over?”

“Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.”

After a week of watching…people watching is my little quiet hobby I do in between changing diapers and homeschool…I’ve been reflecting on character. I’ve invited my kids in these past few weeks to step back with me and just watch. We live in a culture where teachable moments are around every corner if we just slow down and watch together–and then process them with our children.

What did you think about what you heard him say? How do you think it made the other person feel? Do you think they would have said that to someone they loved? Do you think they would have done that if they knew we were watching?

Then we have talked and reflected on other choices–and challenged ourselves to think about…our own lives. Are there things I might not say or do if I knew someone else was watching? THIS. This is character.

So Wednesday…

We arrived to a local nature center type place where they were having a camp for kids. Precious little ones ran in the museum area with their counselors just as we were looking at a few treasures behind the glass. I stood back…wondering. I wonder if all these counselors love–I mean really love the kids and their job.

That thought had hardly passed when I saw a little guy the same age as one of my little kindergarden loves. He had eyed this pretty cool stone rock with citrine quartz crystals forming on the outside. I’ll give it to the kid. It was luring. My kids had touched it earlier–and then I saw the “do not touch” sign beside so I whispered to them to just look and they moseyed on. I mean–what kids just wants to LOOK;)?

So this little love has been entrusted into the camp care–with possibly money carefully budgeted by his mom to cover a day camp to build character, confidence–and to have fun. He is enticed by the beauty of this rock. WHO wouldn’t be–I mean…my kids certainly were. So what does he do? You got it. He touches it. And then…my heart–BROKE.

“DO. NOT. Touch. KID. Can you READ???”

Maybe I’m sensitive because I have a child who was a struggling reader at his age. Maybe I’m sensitive because I’m a mom. Maybe I’m sensitive because I saw the little boy’s face when she said those words. And I stood there. Watching. Listening. When she thought…no one else was. Character.

I really am the type of person who just listens and minds my own business. Really–I am. But if you say something loud enough where I can hear–directed to a little person who can’t defend themselves–well, then Biblically…we have to defend those who can’t defend themselves especially when it means at the cost of hurt hearts (big or small).

My Laney stood there beside me–watching too. And I first made it an opportunity for my littles to learn. Leading them through thought provoking questions about what they observed. Could the counselor hear me? Well–of course. But my first ministry is to always mold my children–to encourage that little boy who was motherless at the moment–and then to her. I’m sure she would have worded things differently had she known I was listening. But she didn’t. Character.

And then. I think deeper.

About. ME. At home. As a mom.

One of my prayers has always been for the Lord to shape me and help me to be a woman of true, noble character when others are looking–and when they are not.

I remember that my God is always with me…He is always there…always watching–not like a judge with a buzzer (although in fact He is the most High Judge)–but rather He is there because He loves ME and He always loves whoever might be in the room with me.

Help me Lord to always do the right thing–even when no one else is looking.

We should be the same player on and off the field. And my hope for that counselor is that she really is the same player on and off the field because I would be really worried if she wasn’t. How might she really treat someone when there was really no one around? Who knows. And that–that is what really isn’t my business. I have to look into my own heart and life and ask the Lord to help make me consistent as if a great cloud of witnesses was right there surrounding me cheering me on to Christlikeness in every circumstance–at home, in my van, in the aisle at Target…everywhere. Because character matters. My kids matter. Whoever I say things to–they matter. They matter so much more regardless of who is there listening. The same on and off the field. Character.

While this blog is on CHARACTER–I’m going to take a quick parenting moment to say an application to this character challenge…

I’m going through a season of parenting right now with one of my younger children who melts A LOT. There are daily moments–where I am tempted to scream, say something unkind, say something that HAPPENS to be true at the moment (maybe like that counselor–maybe he couldn’t read)–but truth that doesn’t actually need to be spoken. I get it. Maybe my child having tantrums IS acting like a baby. BUT–speaking that truth will not change him or build him up, and it doesn’t always (or most of the time) need to be spoken. For us as parents–nothing will try the patience of a mom like a struggling child who is having a tantrum at 2 years old or 16. But this–this can be a true test of character–an opportunity to struggle myself or an opportunity to build it.

So what do you need to speak?? A wise mom once told me to treat my child who is struggling like the child I want him to become. And THAT changes everything. It builds my character processing who I want my child to become, processing together what probably should have happened and giving a challenge for what we will do next time.

Character is treating people the same no matter their outer appearance. It is looking at people the way the Lord looks at them. Choosing to look at the heart–EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

So another observance of character was on a mommy-and-me date last night.

We got to a really nice Mexican restaurant and sat down next to two couples with 1 year olds. I’ve been there. I get it. But I don’t get what I observed next.

The two babies had made an awful mess on the floor as well as all over the table and in their high chairs. I can’t imagine anyone allowing this to happen in their own home–and if you did–I’m sure you most certainly cleaned it up or maybe even let the dog help clean it up. We watched–observed. And they got up to leave. They even paused to take a picture with their iPhones laughing at the mess they had made…and LEFT.

Character.

Character is treating people the same no matter their appearance. Character is treating other people how you want to be treated. Character is leaving things better than you found them–every time.

So the waiters came over–and I watched their shoulders droop. Laney and I watched their discouragement as they cleaned. And we walked over to talk to them and encourage them–and before it was over their spirits were uplifted. And we also took a picture;)

IMG_3563

UM. Y’all.

I don’t think so.

Would you leave the table like this if you were visiting your sister’s restaurant and she was your server? (Treat people the same no matter their appearance). Would you leave this mess at your friend’s house? Or what about your house?

Now being the mommy of 5 children ages 9 and under–I get there are some times you HAVE to run. I get that!! But their is a cost to leaving a table like this (not the $10 tip this waiter got from a table of 4 adults and 2 messy babies)! If you are in a pickle and you must run leaving behind a mess–and you do treat the server as you would for say–your sister at your sister’s restaurant–you would most certainly honor her with an “I’m sorry and You ROCK” note–and a $50 bill. If you can’t leave leave a $50 bill–then just clean up the mess and leave the floor like you found it, just as you would at your own house. No one will ever see this–your cleaning up or your choice to leave it a mess. Most likely your servers all open the folder with the tip or return to clean the table after you leave. But this is character…even when no one is looking.

On the farm we have been so blessed by our older neighbor Mr. Burt. It took us WEEKS to figure out how in the world the grass over the fence on our property close to the road was getting cut. Finally–one day…I caught him. For two months Mr. Burt had been cutting this thin sliver of grass that mind you adds 15 minutes to his mowing. I ran out. Asked him what on earth he was doing…

“Well ma’am. I saw you use a riding mower–and I’d never seen a push mower–and I thought to myself, she’ll never be able to safely cut that grass without a push mower. So every time I cut mine–I cut yours. Folks have to look out for each other.”

Character.

And just like that. I saw character. He didn’t need a thank you. Or a note in the mailbox. He didn’t even need to know my name. He had treated me the way he would had I been his sister or mom–and done it when no one was looking. No recognition needed. A sacrifice for him. But left a place better than when he found it.

This too–I need to always point out to my children and reflect on as well. Because really–there are just as many examples of men and women with good character. And reflecting on these with my children as well challenges me to think of good things to do–and to do them…and thats where James 4:17 is tricky because what we each SHOULD do will look different for everyone. But how beautiful it is when we ask the Lord to make us men and women of good character—blessing not only our lives but the lives of everyone’s lives we so miraculously get to be a part of as well.

May you be men and women of strong, godly, admirable, true and good character. What a gift we can give our children as we run to this goal together!

Andrea:)

Here lately {experiencing the fruit of a slower life}

We have started to settle in with this old place really feeling like home. My only regret is that we didn’t move to the country sooner. Some wouldn’t consider this country at all with a small grocery just 3 miles away and a few more a hop, skip and jump of 5 miles farther.

Our new place…(my how the kids are growing up…aren’t they?!)

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We were in a neighborhood before. One that I thought was quite–before this.

A sweet neighborhood…but one full of far too many limitations for the childhood experience I dreamed giving to my children. We live in a different culture than my generation was raised in. Leaving the children to ride bikes in the coulda sac in front of our wasn’t even an option after a stranger made his appearance in an old car with his license plate covered with a paper bag…slowing down enough to ask one of my most precious gifts for “directions”. Scary. Okay–so that coulda sac freaked me out ever sense that crazy incident.

Neighbors and the relationships we had there were also quite different than the ones we had growing up…when neighbors earned the title of “Aunt Debbie” or “Mammaw”…because they might as well be family.

We tried and tried…and sat out in that coulda sac for far too many years…with the only kids riding in circles–being ours. And we dreamed of more. If not here–then on a farm or land where they could at least run and just be kids. (DISCLAIMER: Many years ago–we had the SWEET experience of living in a neighborhood with SWEET community. Now if you have that–that is flat out AWESOME> Do not–repeat…DO NOT move;). BUT–for us–we might as well have been on a farm with the lack of community–which was another dream of ours–so here we find ourselves…quiet–but without the neighbors dog growling at me freaking me out. Okay–so y’all might actually get some hilarious stories from our old hood now that we are gone. Seriously–there are some good ones.)

I’m thankful.

And oh my the stories we have already created!

Hatching our own chicks with only Barbara the lone chicken making it. Buying more chicks and those suckers living in our basement for 6 weeks. Did you hear that. SIX weeks. Building them a coop from scratch–just me and Rico suave.

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Oh my–I did show you the hatching didn’t I?!

Crazy amazing to watch. And then–something awful happened. Another blog for another day–and only 1 lived…but I learned a lot about egg hatching…like next time I’ll buy the chicks already hatched–and momma hens are the ones that hatch best.

And then…getting a dog…which has proved to keep the ground hogs and possums away. Did I tell you we bought a trap for a creature living under our porch and caught the biggest opossum you have ever laid eyes on?

Oh bless. Let me see if I can find a picture for you.

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Oh yes. That is who was living under our porch for weeks. But after the trap–and after Oreo…we are critter free.

And you MUST meet Oreo. (Y’all. I am NOT a dog person. But this ole boy might be making me one!)

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Okay…so there was sadness to leave our old place knowing we were leaving our fruit trees. We planted them 4 years ago and this would have started to see fruit. But oh were we in for a treat!! GET THIS. Lots of pears, apples and even grapes started coming out as soon as our bags were unpacked! And one day this week we picked two baskets of pears! (I felt like…y’all don’t laugh at me…but I felt like it was just a little sweet kiss from heaven saying He knows even the littlest things we love…and He wants to show us how much He cares for us.)

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Now…it’s time to make pear preserves. (If you have a good recipe–please send it to me!!)

I said I never wanted a pool with kids. BUT.

There’s a pool in the back…and the kids think even better the big creek they like to swim in behind the house in the woods.

And I’m seeing the perks to a pool (minus needing a new pump and other things that hit us as soon as we unpacked our bags. BUT–overall–it’s SO worth it!)

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There’s little traffic. Which for kids–no neighborhood and no traffic or other kids–also means no ice cream truck. But as things would turn out–we met a young man who drives an ice cream truck (thank you Amy for this!!) and is paying for his college with the money he earns. We actually schedule his visits now…so come Wednesdays–they know to be in the front front pasture instead of the back as they play to wait for that sound every child loves.

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Sure there are snakes–but Oreo takes care if that for us with his barking. And some how he has gotten used to the chickens, wild turkey and deer. I foresee goats, a pig and maybe a donkey in our future. Rich laughs at my ideas for what will join us next.

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We may be farther out to some–but it’s so worth the experience for the children. And for us too.

Ever be afraid to follow the quiet dreams of your heart!!

They just might be the things that draw you closer to The Lord and to the hearts of those you love most.

Okay…soooo–I’m offically baaaaaaack to blogging:) Just a few pictures from our summer! If you follow me on Instagram (andreapyoung) you have already seen these! (I’m a little over the top at posting pics over there!!) BUT–here’s a few of my summer favorites taken from my phone:)!

So if you’ve missed us…here’s a little love from our family what we’ve been up to all summer. (Y’all know I love some crafts! Soooo…if you see something you’d like a tutorial on—just say so and I

And just to be REAL–because if you’ve read my blog for awhile–you know while pictures and updates may make things look perfect–every beautiful thing comes with it’s challenges too! This momma has faced a few this summer but thank goodness for the Lord’s strength–His grace is sufficient!! Things are wonderful, but many moms don’t always blog the hard stuff especially when it has to do with a child to protect their privacy–but trust me…we have had our set of challenges this summer:). So—as always if you ever have questions, a prayer request or just need to share with another momma–please feel free to contact me through my contact page!! Remember how fast this sweet time does go by–and to slow down each day and love those babies the best you can through His strength!!

Blessings!!

Andrea

The things I missed… {the heart of adoption}

Getting the email from my adoption agency to send them my son’s Certificate of Citizenship meant heading to “the sacred file”. The file, us adoption moms, store in safety boxes, in sacred places–jammed full with millions of papers it took to get our child home–and important papers with shiny stickers saying here is their new…forever.

Going through “the sacred file”–is never fast.

You start flipping…looking for that one document…and pictures fall out.

Tiny pieces of their stories.

With so many gaps in between.

I sit there reading the reports…”the” newspaper clipping that you want to hide–the last hope to find the one who brought this little miracle to the world–flipping through these papers that are just pieces of loss after loss. Their life changed forever…and yours too when you felt in your heart your family was to grow through adoption.

I rub my finger on that little first picture.

And I’m mad.

I’m mad that the FIRST picture (or rather–the first picture I have…they were able to document) was taken far longer than a momma ever would.

Yet I’m thankful. Thankful to have a handful of pictures from a few weeks to 2 years before he was in my arms. But just a few pictures–of two years…and so much I missed.

If I’d only known–I would’ve flown around the world to hold him–I would have moved us there…anything to have the gaps filled. And yet–there is still so much I still miss.

And what I miss–is what I know he will miss. And they are the things I can’t ever…”unmiss”…or fill.

I’m a mom to children both by birth and adoption. And there are things that DO feel differently–things I will always miss…that they will miss…and maybe always long for.

A dear friend asked me a deep, hard question about the difference a momma feels when children are brought through adoption, birth, foster…these are things our family has experienced. And the LOVE. The love for them–truly is no different. I’m a momma bear when it comes to all my babies. Even the ones that no longer live with us because it was temporary to begin with (hosting/foster). Each connection different and unique…just as my connection to each of my parents or grandparents are each so different. But my love for all my babies is fierce…as a momma’s love should be.

But the differences…they are still there.

And they break me and make me long over and over and over again.

I have sweet memories of every moment for my first children. Feeling their kicks inside me for 9 months. Imagining what they’d look like as we compared ultrasound pictures. Any mom who has experienced birth can’t deny the unbelievable, powerful connection she feels the moment that first cry is heard. All of the sudden–your heart is outside your body being held by this doctor…and so desperately you want the words to come out, “GIVE HIM TO ME!” as if you won’t be able to breath without this new one in your arms. And then the weight of 8 pounds rests…and you can breath again–and the world stands still.

This.

This I missed with my 4th and 5th.

These babies by birth–they learned to drop their head on my chest. They knew my voice. I was their safe place. From first boo-boos and falls–I could pick them up and the crying would stop…which some times made daddy absolutely crazy.

We’d nap together following the wise words “sleep when the baby sleeps”…and connections were made that first year through many a nap–and cheering behind the camera at every funny face and milestone.

I knew the funny faces.

And oh MY–some times…in pictures–we’d compare my baby pictures or Richard’s and squeal with delight at little expressions that were similar.

All the while–deeper connections were made. Reminders of us at their age. Not only in these moments for baby–as every baby loves to be cheered for. But in these moments connections were also being made for me–as mom.

I shake myself out of the wishing and wondering.

Yes–yes…yes, I know it’s late. I need to just run upstairs and scan this “Certificate of Citizenship” for this lady and go to bed.

But right now–I can’t. It’s not always that simple. Before life moves on, some times I just have to be still in this place instead.

I sit there.

And I grieve.

I grieve the not being there.

I grieve how much I want to be an instant safe place. Wishing it came more naturally–because I know and feel the difference…and how I’m still working on being that for them.

It’s not his fault that it isn’t always easy. Or mine…that we have to work harder and have more to work through.

I grieve that there are so many expressions and faces…and his toes–his quirky little, sweet toes–I’ll never know whose they resemble.

I catch my breath and the tears just fall. Because some times. It just doesn’t feel fair. Mostly for him. But can I say–for me too? I wish I knew. I wish I had been there. I wish I had the stories for all the gaps.

I wish the hard medical things that happen in the brain when a child enters flight or fight because they have been abandoned or removed from a biological mom didn’t happen…and here we spend hour upon hour in our daily working through sensory things–that are so important…and that also drive me crazy as a mom too…because I don’t know why or always understand why they are there. (Coming from a mom with a biological child with sensory stuff–I get this in a different way–because for these boys…the grief is present when the sensory is often present…making the dailies often just feel harder wanting to be so sensitive and hoping–just hoping I’m doing it right.)

The boo boos are different…and I have to teach them a momma can be the one to run to. A momma can help kiss them and rock and make things just a little bit better…if you let them. But the letting us–that’s the thing we know that can take weeks or even years (and some times never) to happen.

I know the things I miss–will one day be the things my boys will also miss and long for themselves…and right now it just doesn’t make sense as they learn to be deeply cared for. Having a little one who will fall in your arms and naturally trust you is a million times different than building the trust with one that doesn’t even know it’s okay at first to cry.

So yes…it is different. But my love for all my loves—is true.

I learn how to love my husband deeply who isn’t biologically related to me–but our hearts are deeply connected. And I’m deeply committed to him and all of my children no matter how the Lord let them become mine.

I just wish I had the moments.

I wish could fill the gaps.

I wish I could have been there to let that little head that didn’t have the strength to be held up on it’s own just fall on my chest…and learn trust from the beginning.

And I march upstairs with that certificate in my hand.

I scan it.

And I send it to her.

The hoops now–are just hoops.

And I’m just thankful he is home.

And he is mine.

I may have missed the beginning, but I’m here for the rest of forever. And If I could only have one–I’d choose forever every time.

O r p h a n   C a r e
A d o p t i o n   C a r e