Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Bus Stopped Here

I shared earlier that we decided to school Luke (2nd grade) and Ben (PreK) at home this year, so when I was getting breakfast on the table and the bus stopped and honked at the end of our driveway at 8:20 this morning my heart sunk and tears began to flow. The kids were getting dressed and making beds so they never saw it, but it literally brought me to my knees.

I have shared my intense fondness for our local elementary school and at first I thought these feelings were just my grief over not being a part of such a great school this year. Then, it hit me for the first time. If Isaac were still here...HE would be getting on that bus. He would be starting Kindergarten this year. Sometimes these milestones cause grief for days of anticipation leading up to the event and sometimes they seem to sneak in out of nowhere and suck the wind right from my lungs.

Today I felt as though I had been sucker punched. Yesterday was our first day of homeschooling (which isn't real homeschooling so I have been so kindly informed because it is cyber school that we are doing, and it isn't REAL public school as I have also been reminded because it is by and large ruining the public education system) I digress. The day was a whirlwind of activity. I felt like a pin ball being whacked from one side of the board to the other. Three different voices begging for my attention all at the same time. By the end of the day I was spent. I was fairly certain I had ruined my children and must have been out of my mind when I agreed to keep them all at home.

This was when Howard got home. Always the voice of reason and wisdom, Howard gently reminded me that this was in fact what we were called to do in this season and that I needed to remain firmly planted in His word. Always my reminder that attitude is everything he held his half full glass of water up and gave me the look. :) (sometimes it is superbly annoying how right he is and how great his perspective generally is. I may have wanted to knock the glass out of his hand.)

I woke up this morning and Howard had left each child a surprise and love note on the table reminding them of their weekly Bible verse and for me. He left my Bible OPEN on the counter. When I sent him a text this morning about Isaac he replied, "Good thing the Lord had better things in store for our boy.". At first I threw the phone down. SERIOUSLY? I had sent him the message knowing that he too would feel the pang of grief and yet he gave glory to the Lord...I'll be honest...sometimes it annoys the daylights out of me that he never seems to allow himself to succumb to the human side of this grief thing, but I am also awfully thankful he doesn't always indulge me in it.

I then came across this nugget of wisdom from Ann Voskamp this morning:

"Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn't rescue the suffering. The brave who focus on all things good,all things beautiful,all things true even in the small,who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now,they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world. When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places,let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows."

Lord, Please help me to focus on the good. Please help me to always see that glass in Howard's hand as half full. Help me to be thankful in all things and continue to send reminders to gently pull me back to gratitude when my heart begins to shift to self pity. Please help me to allow the joy to soak in to all of my brokenness.

Today we got through school and it was picturesque. We sat on a blanket under the tree and read, we finished all of our work before lunch and had a great day. Perhaps perspective and prayer really are the key to it all. When am I gonna learn?

(pictures of our "first day of school" to come as soon as I can figure out why my camera blinks red and refuses to upload to the computer when I plug it in.)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Luke Love

On August 19th, 2003 I was about 35 weeks pregnant with my first baby. I was furiously cleaning an prepping a special dinner for Howard's family to celebrate his Mom's birthday that we were celebrating that night (though it was her true birthday the next day). Howard had gone into the bedroom to lie down for a bit before everyone got to our home and I went in to the bathroom to get dressed. That was when my water broke. I stood there stunned and unsure of what to do. I couldn't tell if I had lost bladder control or if the time had come. I was certain it couldn't be baby time as I was still supposed to have five weeks to prepare for Luke's arrival.

I went to the bedroom to tell Howard what was going on and he popped up like a jack in the box and began running around like a mad man throwing my things in a bag. I called the doctor who asked me to come in to the hospital to be checked. We ran out the door as our dinner guests were arriving. We told them to help themselves, apologized, and off we went! I remember being terrified, not really knowing just HOW early five weeks was, I kept asking if he would be okay. The nurses assured me that from what they saw he'd be fine and hat he may need the NICU or a little oxygen but that we'd be just fine.

After about 21 hours of labor, the doctor came in and gave me the lowdown. I was exhausted and so my choices were to accept something for the pain and get an epidural so I could rest or risk exhaustion and ending up with a c section. They didn't want the baby to be in there for more than 24 hours with my water broken.

Two hours after the administration of the epidural (for which I could have kissed the doctor)the doctor came in and checked me. He said "Okay we are ready to push. This could take a while so slow and steady wins the race." I pushed, and the doctor put the nurse in charge while he ran across the hall to deliver another baby. With the next push the nurse asked me to STOP! She called for help and literally held the baby in until the doctor came running back into the room. He literally caught the baby as he ran in and he came out and handed him to the nurse. It was like something from a movie.

Then they handed me our boy. The boy I was certain would be named Noah or Benjamin. We looked at him and knew this was Luke. He came ON his Grandma Bolte's birthday! He was just over five pounds and the most miraculous thing I had ever seen. And to this day I look at that boy in awe.

Honestly, I can't imagine life without that awesome kid. He has grown to be the most amazing eight year old boy. He is responsible and respectful, loving and light hearted, he has a heart of gold and is as smart as a whip! I am so proud to be his mama. He's come a long way from that 5 pound baby boy we were terrified to even hold, but he captured my heart in a way I never knew possible. He changed me. He made me a mom. He has taught me so much and I am so excited to continue to grow with him.

He adores his little sister and has his nose in a book more often than not and if his nose isn't in a book he is likely climbing the maple tree in the front yard or riding his bike.  He loves to help out and be given jobs.  He is compassionate on  level I never knew possible for an eight year old.  He has a tender heart and cries easily.  He has the ONLY Bolte sibling to have met each of his siblings on earth.  He has learned about love, life and letting go.  He is an old soul and makes me want to be a better person.  He loves anything Lego, Mario or Star Wars and is pumped to have some of his best buds, two sets of twins, over tonight for a sleepover. For his birthday dinner tonight he has requested homemade stromboli and chocolate chip cookie dough brownies. I am so thankful that we get to celebrate eight years with him and I pray God gives us many more. Being a mom is the GREATEST gift I have ever known and it all started with our Luke! Thank you LORD for Lucas Robert!

Seriously.  My heart is just overjoyed knowing that I get to be their mom.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Be Thou My Vision

Last week our family piled in the car for our annual trip to the eye doctor. As I sat in the chair chatting with the doctor, I mentioned that all my life I have seen double and that recently, I have found that it hinders the amount of time I can spend reading. I had it checked as a teen and the doctor then told me that nothing could be done to correct it aside from "vision therapy and eye exercises" which my dad scoffed at. I figured it was just something I would have to live with so I have.

As I explained this to the doctor he looked at me with pity. He said, "You mean for as long as you remember you have seen two of everything and you have not done anything about it?" To which I replied, "I guess so...I didn't think anything could be done." He gasped and went on about how I should have brought this up in the past five years since I have been seeing him. I have prescription glasses but it is a VERY minor prescription as my sight is actually near 20/20, just needed a little fine tuning.

He assured me that he could give me glasses with prisms in them that would help me to see only one of everything. I was skeptical, and I don't much care for glasses on my chubby face, but I was also excited at the idea that the headaches might subside, and that I might be able to read for more than ten minutes at a time.

My glasses came yesterday and it was my first day wearing them. I put them on so the glasses fitter lady could adjust them and she asked if everything looked clear. I said that they did, she adjusted my glasses and I got up to leave with them on...which is when I nearly fell flat on my face. I sat back down and told her I didn't think they were working because my distance perception was awful. She assured me that they would take some getting used to and told me to just try wearing them for short periods and gradually increasing each day.

I wore them again today and it was better. It is CRAZY to me that I can see so clearly and only ONE of everything. :) As I was thinking about how crazy it is that I have lived 32 years and never knew this kind of clarity was even possible, it dawned on me...our coming to Christ is so much the same.

We walk through the world blurry and often dark unaware of the crisp clarity that is available to us. Once we get gutsy enough to ask for help or have someone gracious enough to teach us the Way, we seem unsure...the idea takes some getting used to. We try our salvation on and are amazed at the precision with which we can see, yet it still seems so foreign. It takes some getting used to. We may stand up and sit back down. We may stumble and fall flat on our face. We may have to try it for periods and keep coming back to it until we are certain, but it is surely a better way.

Prior to allowing our vision to be through Him, we are unaware of the glory and beauty that awaits...sometimes it is like seeing again for the first time. Sometimes though, we put it on and we look in the mirror and believe lies and think we look stupid in our new glasses (ahem) but eventually the clarity outweighs all of it. The beauty in the gift that has been given is so great that it trumps it all. We put those glasses on and wear them with pride, knowing that looking stupid is FAR better than living without them. Life has been taken to a whole new level that we never knew possible.

Tonight I thank Him for my vision and for His Vision. Without which, it would be a mighty dark world. One of my favorite hymns is Be Thou My Vision.

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best thought by day or by night

Waking or sleeping Thy presence my light
Be thou my wisdom and Thou my true word
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord
Thou my great Father, I , Thy true son
Thou in me dwelling and I with Thee one
Riches I heed not nor man's emptly praise
Thou mine inheritance now and always
Thou and thou only first in my heart
High King of heaven my treasure Thou are
High King of heaven my victory won
May I reach heaven's joys, O bright heaven's Sun
Heart of my own heart whatever befall
Still be my vision O Ruler of all

That last verse I have repeated to myself over and over, hidden in my heart when life hurts and makes no sense.  I have often prayed to the Lord to be my vision despite the whole world crashing in around me.  I have begged for Him to make my heart His own and for my limited vision to be sighted with His mighty Vision.  Sometimes this world just makes no sense to us, but using His word as our glasses, we know we can trust His vision above all else.  Tonight as I type this I am overwhelmed with gratitude that He has led my blind self into a place of beauty and clarity.  I surely don't deserve the gift he so lavishly bestows upon me, yet He gives it anyway.  I pray that He will continue to be my vision.  I will (with the help of my new glasses) immerse myself in His word so that I may continue to see so clearly.  I pray that I can help to be an eye doctor to a blind and hurting world, bringing clarity and joy to those who don't even know what they are missing...Lord...Be Thou My Vision. May I always seek Your Vision above my own.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Two Cardboard Boxes

Yesterday, two cardboard boxes showed up at my doorstep. The appearance of those boxes in our home sent me deep into thought last night as I realized the magnitude of what is happening.

As a little background, I went to college to be an Elementary School Teacher, I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BS in Education. I attended public school, I taught in public school and I believe very much in public school. My senior year at college I had to write a paper on a highly debated educational topic. My thesis was that homeschooling is actually a form of child abuse. (I know, I know). Howard is a public school teacher. Some of our very closest friends are public school teachers.

We happen to live in a school district with one of the best elementary schools around. Howard and I both attended this very school and we have nothing but good things to say about the school, staff and familial feel of the wonderful place. We are so blessed to have such a wonderful public school option. Seriously.

This is why, when the Lord started nudging me a while ago to research other options for our kids I shut Him out. I was content. I knew Luke was SO loved and so well cared for and it made it so much easier to let him get on that big yellow monster each morning. :) I love my kids. I love when they are all home and it was hard for me to say goodbye for such a large chunk of his day, but I figured it was an issue that was for ME to work on...I needed to start letting go. So I did.

Luke liked first grade and loved his teacher. She is one of the best there is for sure. Howard and I both had her as our first grade teacher and we were thrilled that Luke would be blessed by her also...and he was. This is why part way through the year when Howard asked if I would consider homeschooling the kids, I thought he was nuts. I had been feeling the Lord work on me in this area and it was all too scary for me. I shrugged it off and we kept on.

One night, Howard and I had a serious talk on the matter. He shared with me all of his concerns, as a parent and as a teacher himself. He was concerned that Luke was becoming lazy, that because he is one of the oldest in the class and is several levels ahead in reading, he is learning to do the minimum just to get by. Even the most wonderful teacher in the world, when placed in a room with 24 seven year olds can only do so much. She had kids who barely knew their alphabet...they needed her attention. She tried hard and gave Luke extra projects and work, but again she was only human and already spends countless hours on creating lessons for the kids.

I kept praying on what we were to do...I knew how strongly Howard wanted the kids to be schooled at home, yet he knew that unless I felt it too, it would not work so he just let it go and kept praying on it as well. Through my prayer time and scripture reading, I was beginning to really hear God calling me to this job that honestly for me seems impossible...THREE small children all depending on me for their everything. Let me just tell you that I do not have the patience of a saint so it is only by the grace of God that this could possibly work.

Last week we decided. My convictions became stronger and my fear of disobeying what God was calling me to do became greater than my fear of homeschooling itself. In a few short weeks, that big yellow bus will drive down our road and bypass our house as we begin to create a learning environment within these walls.

If I am being honest, I am excited but also terrified. The magnitude of being SO responsible for my children's education overwhelms me...to which Howard gently says "so why trust it to someone else...if it is so important...God will equip us". Oh, that man...so wise and yet sometimes so irritating. (I say that with love, I know how blessed I am) It has become a matter of just saying "Yes, Lord" and praying our way through.

Now, all this said, I have found that as we share this decision with friends and family we are coming up against a LOT of opposition and eye rolls, so just for myself, I want to explain a few things.

We are not doing this out of fear. We believe that we are to fear nothing but the Lord, Himself. We are not trying to shield the kids from the world or protect them from anything. We are merely trying to do what is best for OUR kids. That said, we also believe that public schooling is good and is what some families are called to. Our reasons for homeschooling are not religious as much as just trying to do what is best for our own kids. Our choice to do this is in no way saying that we have a beef with school or the teachers there...that could not be farther from the truth. It is also not saying that we think this is what is best for every family. Much like all other parenting decisions, families need to choose what is best for their own kids and their own families. For some, that is private school, for some, homeschool, and for others public school.

Proverbs 9:10
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."

We have also been scolded for making a choice that will ultimately cause the demise of public schooling. Disappointment has been shown in our "not allowing our children to shine their Light into the public school system." To those I say...we are merely trying to be obedient and do what is best for our kids. Expecting my five year old to be a Light is a huge responsibility, and one that I must admit I don't think he is ready for...we have a lot of foundation yet to lay. I do hope and pray each day that our children will shine their lights for all to see...I just feel like I need a little more time to instill some of those things in them. We still think it is of the utmost importance to teach them to be a light and to love with the love they've been shown.

I want Luke to retain his love of learning. I want our kids to find learning fun and exciting and above all I want them to be kids. I want them to play and explore. For THIS year Luke will do second grade and Ben will do Pre-K at home...we will pray and make schooling decisions each year depending on what is best for each individual kid. I really think we will send Ben to Kindergarten next year, but we will see. I hope to remain open to whatever God has for us.

I welcome any advice on homeschooling (especially when you don't have a school room) and organization as I am new to this. I am excited and can't wait to spend all of my moments with these precious ones. I know that if the Lord is calling us to this and we continue to seek Him that we will all be blessed.

Those two cardboard boxes...are just a reminder to me...to never say never...and that God can change hearts in big ways. If you say so, Lord...I will.

Proverbs 3:5-6
"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."

Deuteronomy 6:5-8
"And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."