I want to share a recent experience I had with you. Most recently this issue collided with my homeschooling, but it has happened in so many aspects of my motherhood before. Please forgive the long intro if you aren’t a homeschooling mama, but it helps to serve the point I’m getting at. :)
It was time to prepare for the next homeschool year. I was full of goals, hopes, and dreams. Before I got carried away by publishers’ promises and colorful curriculum covers, I felt the Lord putting the pause button on my heart. He seemed to whisper, “Stop. Just pray first. Don’t buy anything.”
And so I began weeks of prayer. Instead of looking at curriculum websites and listening to all the benefits of using their program, I thought about my young family. What do we have time for? What do I want homeschooling to look like in our home? Who are my children? How do they learn?
Oh wait--an email for a curriculum sale! Can I buy something?! No. Okay. I get it, I’ll just pray.
I have evaluated questions like these many times before. I believe vision casting is key--especially when you are setting out on the sometimes-isolating journey of home education, feeling the subtle skepticism of some around you. But medical challenges in our family caused me to re-evaluate my methods, priorities, and limitations. I’m thankful they did. I decided to look for someone farther along in the journey than I was to glean from. The non-negotiable part of my homeschooling day is cuddling up with my kiddos on the couch for a devotion and reading time. We read. And read. And read. I learn so much about the way their minds work as we experience stories together. Anyway, I sought out someone with the same values. Of course Sarah Mackenzie is the leading cheerleader for Christian parents to read to their kids. It turns out that she has a very similar Meyers-Briggs personality to me, so it makes sense that I am so inspired by her. I prayed through a lot of Sarah’s resources. This helped me narrow down my focus and my curriculum choices.
Then I made a schedule of what our ideal day would look like. Would we have time for the curriculum I was looking at? Were these programs really accomplishing the goals I had set? Did the books provide opportunities to disciple and shepherd my kids? When I was confident I was committing to the appropriate amount of materials, I felt peace to purchase the items. I very clearly felt I was supposed to do less and do it well before I could consider adding any more to our day. Sarah says, “What our kids need most is a calm, happy mother to homeschool them”. I so agree, and I felt certain that I was on the right track.
The books arrived. They fit so nicely on their shelf without being overcrowded by expensive books that would barely be opened. The school year began. I felt such peace about the Lord’s direction.
A few weeks later, we had an orientation and picnic for our homeschool co-op, and I was introduced to another mom. She was lovely. She had four boys, so this mama of three boys and a girl immediately felt connected to her. She was sweet and humble with the softest hint of a southern accent. She was calm even as she nursed her newborn in a park while keeping tabs on her older sons and having conversations with strangers. And she was wearing an adorable trendy jumpsuit. I immediately knew we’d be friends. After a few more quick conversations at homeschool pick-up, I told her. “I’d just love to pick your brain about homeschool and what it looks like for you.”
She agreed it would be great to talk more, and we got together a few weeks later. Awhile into the conversation I found out that Lily has a blog. She loves to pour into moms and encourage them where they are at. So I went home so excited to have a friend with so much in common. And then I started reading her posts.
My stomach sank as I looked at her homeschool schedule.
She was doing more than me.
She had different curriculum than I did.
She even had time to blog about it.
I wasn’t doing enough.
I must have bought the wrong books.
I didn’t even know some of these existed.
I must not have researched enough.
Basically--I was doing it wrong.
Have you had those moments? Those days? Those weeks?
There are times God puts people in our path to give us wisdom. And there are other times He has already given us the wisdom and we need to stick with it. We all have different personalities and different life situations, and we need to be faithful to who we were made to be.
I’m sure you’re laughing at how quickly I had forgotten my prayerful process.
God had so calmly and patiently guided me through the steps to create peace and joy in my home. And it was working. I was loving my days. I had learned so much about my kinesthetic-learning second-grader, and he was having a much better year. My kindergartener and preschooler were thriving with the curriculum I bought. My baby was faithfully napping according to the schedule I had set. I was spending more one-on-one time with each child, aiming to foster security in their hearts. We were off to a great start. Until I let the lies creep in.
As I began to doubt myself, the Lord put two verses on my heart…
You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. (Gal 5:7-8 NIV)
He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (Genesis 3:11)
Who snuck in on me? Who told me I was naked/not enough? I did. No one else. I said I wasn’t good enough. I said I needed to do more. I let comparison rob me of joy.
Did Lily do anything wrong? Absolutely not! She was just being a woman after God’s heart. I was disappointed with myself, and the fact that I couldn’t do everything I had once planned on doing. Seeing someone else able to meet those goals was difficult for me. But obeying the Lord and surrendering our plans is what we are called to do. I hope to be a cheerleader for her as she follows after God’s direction for her family. I don’t want my sensitivity for comparison to stifle relationships.
To be honest, I was over this episode of comparisonitis pretty quickly, but I share it because I was amazed that after all of that prayer I was so easily able to doubt God’s leading in my life.
So how do we protect ourselves from comparison? Do we vow to never read a blog post, look on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest? Avoid all parks, play dates, and mom groups so we don’t have to hear about all the things we aren’t doing with our kids?
Do I even need to answer that one?
Of course not. It’s not where we go that’s the problem. It’s how we go. (Although sometimes a social media fast is in order to protect our hearts.) God gave you your kids. He chose the genders, the order, the birthdays, their personalities, their coloring, etc…, etc…, etc…. And He gave them YOU. With your experiences, your idiosyncrasies, your cooking abilities, your laundry folding preferences, your love languages. He gave them YOU. No one else on this earth is going to crank out a kiddo just like yours. (And that’s a good thing!) And no one else should have exactly the same parenting game plan. God knows you and knows your kids, so He should be leading. As we seek Him each day for wisdom, embracing His plan with confidence, we can shrug off the urge to compare and encourage our sisters. I think it’s also key that we write down or journal the guidance He gives us so that we can look back and be reminded we are where we are supposed to be. Sharing these revelations with a friend is also very helpful!
Let’s press on in His wisdom!