Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Pitcher

I love pitchers.

I love their shape. I love their symbolism of pouring out. I love their uniqueness--how each one is so different and beautiful and purposeful.

When I see a pitcher, I am drawn to it. To me, it is a symbol of refreshment. It represents home, hospitality, and warmth.

I once served as a women's ministry leader and gave one hand-picked pitcher away each month to honor a woman in the group. I chose the woman based upon her selfless giving. I also chose women who I felt needed encouragement and to be honored.

A pitcher can't pour out what it doesn't have inside, and a pitcher doesn't quench thirst in and of itself, it carries the true refreshment. It is available to serve.

To me, the pitcher became a picture of these women who quietly served behind the scenes--vessels of honor, poured out by God. These women added beauty to everything around them and each one of them served with her own unique personality and talents in very different areas of need.

Within your group, you can encourage your special givers by looking for the ways they give behind the scenes. You can bring this to light by honoring them publicly or by just sending them a personal note. But everyone needs to be appreciated and seen.

A good leader serves. Recognizing your givers who "lead" behind the scenes is a way to serve them and lift them above yourself. It also shows that you are not a great leader by yourself--it takes everybody. And that was really my heart as I handed out those pitchers over the years--the group couldn't have been what it was without them.

Your friend,

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Amazing Grace

I have been inspired.

My family watches a lot of movies together. Our weekly family night is often spent tucked under wooden tv trays laden with a favorite meal and everybody crowded on the couches to watch a great flick. We love great movies.

I saw Amazing Grace this weekend and it took my breath away. It is a film chronicling William Wilberforce's long-running fight to abolish slavery across the British Empire. At the end, the famous hymn is played on a bagpipe, and I could not help but worship and weep.

But what touched me even more than the incredible sacrifice and dedication of this great man on behalf of other human beings is that God put passion inside each of us. You wouldn't be leading if He hadn't.

You are a person of passion!

What did He specifically call you to? Have you forgotten? Bring it out. Dust it off and USE it. Use it to encourage. Use it to inspire. Use it to fight for freedom.

We live in an incredible day of opportunity. Let us use our servant positions for good and for God's glory. Homeschooling is a powerful platform from which we can work to do God's work in this world and make it a better place.

As the movie so eloquently portrayed-- do NOT give up doing good. You will get tired. You may even feel hopeless at times. You may feel you are doing no good to anyone. But Homeschool Group Leader is here to lift up your hands and God will lift up your head. Do not give up.

Two days before William Wilberforce died, Parliament signed into law that no one across the British empire could own slaves. The English economy greatly suffered and many colonies died out as a result of the law, but Wilberforce had been obedient to God's call on his life and this world was made better because of it.

Now, let us go out and do likewise.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Workbooks are My Friends

Let's talk.

Leading a homeschool group can be time-consuming and tough. For two years, I spent countless hours answering e-mails, putting out fires, and giving advice over the phone to people I'd never met. By the time I had accomplished my daily leadership duties, I was tired--physically and emotionally. There honestly wasn't a lot of me left over for teaching my children in the creative way I wanted to.

We homeschool group leaders can often be trail-blazing and innovative overachievers. What we do is so visible and we often receive great praise for our work or great condemnation for our mistakes. In an effort to please people, I found that I devoted much time and energy trying to keep people happy--happy with each other, happy with the group and happy with me.

And our homeschool suffered accordingly. I found I didn't have the time or energy to keep every plate spinning. Part of the problem was that I believed that a superior home education meant the ever-present presence of a hands-on mom. I had always had high expectations for myself and our homeschool. In the early years, I wrote our own curriculum with a friend and sat faithfully with my kids as they completed their reading, writing and 'rithmetic. The truth of the matter is that we all usually ended up in tears by the end of the day and I hadn't gotten a stitch of laundry, dishes or cooking done.

So, I kicked against the goads and swung the opposite direction--hands-off, borderline unschooling. We still did our morning devotionals together and bits and pieces of read-alouds. Nothing consistent, definitely noncommittal, totally sporadic. We were at the whim of our daily desires . . . and I admit, that was fun. . . for awhile. Then they began to cry that they were bored and began to bicker and fuss. School wasn't fun for us anymore.

As I daily answered all those e-mails and phone calls, I secretly hoped my public school administration family members wouldn't drop by and fervently prayed over a solution for our family. Seeing my distress, my husband suggested we have more structure and that I <> keep grades. They need accountability, he said. He could see what I could not.

So, in time, I baby-stepped into some workbooks and began to administer timed tests every Friday on important things like math facts and spelling words. But that carefree part of me clung to the things we loved like living books and notebooking and devotionals in the morning and oral exams and lots of field trips. I noticed I wasn't hearing so many cries of "I don't like school" or "I'm bored." It was delightful.

I'm being very real with you here. We are just people doing our best by our children, trying to make a difference for eternity. What did it matter if all the world thought I was an awesome homeschool group leader, if I lost the heart of my kids and squelched their natural desire for learning in the process?

So, I learned that workbooks are my friends and serve as useful tools during this season of my life. And just like an uncluttered house sets your mind free to be creative and productive, I felt the daily work in the workbooks set us free to learn to our fullest. I was happy because we weren't hopping around anymore at my whim and they were happy because they knew what to expect every day.

From this whole experience, I have learned to let go of trying to keep everyone happy (it is impossible, by the way). I have learned how freeing it is to adapt our homeschool to fit our lifestyle, not the other way around. And I have learned that simple is just as excellent an educational approach as complex. Now, if you'll excuse me--the phone's ringing.

Your friend,