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I caught my daughter’s eye during church and winked at her. She smiled and kept singing and clapping. A moment later I caught her eye once again and smiled at her. She smiled back once again. Then, after a few moments, I looked her way and gave her the “I love you” sign with my fingers. She waved back to me. It was a simple exchange, a few moments unnoticed by others, but moments I will remember.

Yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking. I should have been paying attention to the songs, to worship, to praise. But trust me when I tell you – I praised with greater fervency and vigor after that brief exchange with my seven year old girl. Let me tell you why.

It wasn’t just her smiling back at me, it wasn’t the fact that she kept looking at me to see if I was looking at her. The moment was precious and lasting because we were both there – a dad and a daughter singing praise to our Savior and enjoying it together. She probably doesn’t realize why I was smiling at her to begin with. I smiled as I saw her reading the words on the screen and joining with the saints in singing. I smiled as she began to clap (a little offbeat) and as her eyes scanned the worship leader, the band, then over to me.  My heart soared because there she was – my little girl – singing about the glories of God. My girl was learning to praise her Maker, to sing to Him and about Him in concert with the saints. There is no greater joy for a Christian father than the joy of seeing his children serve their Savior.

Does my little girl understand everything she sings about? Certainly not. But she understands a lot and she is learning more daily. She learns as she watches worshipping adults, as she watches her mother and I, and as she imitates us. By the way, imitation is a powerful tool in the education process. If my daughter wasn’t in the proximity of adults worshipping together, listening to the preached Word together, encouraging and praying for one another, then her education would be stunted.

I smiled at her that morning in church just because she was there. She was there and she was learning, she was learning to worship, learning to praise, learning by watching, learning by doing. Watching her sing praises made my heart soar. I winked at her and she smiled back at me; this tuned my heart to the work of God in the life of my children. He is at work all the time.

I winked; He worked. He is worthy to be praised.

 

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From the back seat my 7 year old said, “Dad let’s have a conversation.” I’m not often with one child alone, so this was a unique experience for Naomi – just her and her daddy out on a date. The occasion was her seventh birthday date with dad. I’ve been doing these birthday dates for many years and always try to keep them simple and inexpensive. The main purpose is time alone with one child and the opportunity to engage them in conversation.

Naomi didn’t wait for me to start the conversation, she was ready. “What do you want to talk about,” I said. We talked about the trees we were passing and then about what she was learning in her school work. Nothing profound.

At the frozen yogurt shop she chose chocolate yogurt, with chocolate chips, chocolate sprinkles, and chocolate sauce. Yep, I took a picture. I didn’t have anything planned after yogurt so we ran an errand. We were enjoying the time together – just being together. These are the best of times, the times with no agenda. The mundane moments of life are the soil which grows the best memories.

I didn’t want our time to end even after the errands, so we found a place to sit together and enjoy a soda (a rare treat for her). Finally, the conversation turned interesting. My 7 year old started asking about God, she said she believed in God even though she couldn’t see Him. She said, “I know why some people don’t believe in God. Because they can’t see Him. But I believe in Him.”

With that as a starting point I was able to share with Naomi. I told her that people have enough knowledge to believe God exists but they suppress that truth (see Romans 1). I told her how God opens the eyes of our hearts to enable us to see what we don’t want to see. I told her that my earnest desire and prayer is for her to know God, not just about God, but to know and be known by God.

Sometimes we need to slow down, to take enough time to let our children start talking, to close our mouths and listen. Once they start talking, God will open up avenues for us to share His truth to the next generation. “Dad, can we have a conversation.” What a blessing to hear those words.

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I’m an ordinary dad with no special qualifications for the job. At times I wonder why God entrusted kids to me. The Maker of the Universe, the Sovereign Lord of All, entrusted an ordinary, normal, everyday, sinful human with the care and instruction of souls. What was He thinking?

Well, it turns out that God hasn’t left the job entirely in my hands, so He knew what He was doing. He’s given me His Word and His Spirit; what else could I need? It also turns out that what God commands from me, He empowers within me. That doesn’t mean there is no need to work diligently to become a better father and to strive earnestly as I teach and train my children. But it does mean that God will help me in my striving; He will give me the tools, resources, and strengh I need to accomplish this most humble duty of being a parent.

  • What was God thinking? He desired for me to share His story, the story of fall and redemption, to the next generation. (Psalm 78:1-8)
  • What was God thinking? He desired to use an ordinary man to do His extraordinary work. (I Corinthians 1:26-28)
  • What was God thinking? He desired that every family in heaven and earth glorify Him – since they find their being in Him. (Ephesians 3:14-15)

God the Father desired to use me in order to showcase His power through me. I came to this job with nothing: no qualifications, certifications, and nothing on my resume to fit the job description.

Well, actually, there was that one thing on my resume. Right there at the top of the document it says, “Saved by the grace of Christ.” That’s all it took for God to find me competent for the greatest job on earth (other than being a husband) – the job of being a dad.

I bet you know exactly how I feel, don’t you? There are times when nothing seems to be going right, times when siblings nag each other, when angry words escape your own lips, when going to church seems like a chore, when homeschooling seems more like a duty than a delight. There are times; they are real, and they are difficult.

Even though the job of parenting is difficutl, my guess is that you put on a pretty good show in front of others. You act like homeschooling and discipling your children is no big deal – especially in front of the people who are questioning your educational choices. My guess is that you tell the in-laws how wonderful your children are doing in Physics, Computer Programming, and Literature. My bet is that you make certain to tell the in-laws about all the social events your children attend; “They are in choir, baseball, lego engineering class, and youth group. It’s a wonder they call it homeschooling since we are hardly ever home.”

Back at home, in the quiet hours of the night, you’re not so confident. The nagging questions remain in the dark corners of your mind, “Is this working? Will my children end up living normal, well-adjusted lives? Will they get into college? Will they get good jobs? Am I cut out for this?”

Yep, I know the feeling. But here’s the reality – long, long ago God thought about all of this. Long before you decided to homeshcool, God decided to use parents as the primary vehicle to train the next generation. He decided to use me, an ordinary man. And he decided to use you. God knew before the sun ever cast it’s first rays upon the earth that you and I would make this educational choice, but He gave us children anyway. My decisions regarding the education of my children don’t catch God unaware. God doesn’t say, “Homeschooling is a good option, but not for you.” Not at all. He knew my wife and I would find homeschooling attractive and He has plans to work through this decision for His glory and the good of our family.

God doesn’t gaurantee any one of my children will be the next great inventor or artist, politician or author, but He does gaurantee to help me in my time of need if I turn to Him (Hebrews 4:14-16). Do you need Him as you parent? I do. As I wonder what He was thinking, I pray and ask for His help to accomplish the job He has given to me. He is faithful and always helps me in my time of need.

What was God thinking? He was thinkging about me and my children, you and your children, long before the world began. His plans will not fail – even when I do. For that I praise Him.

 

 

 

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My second child is learning how to drive. She’s doing well, but there are those moments. You know what I mean if you’ve ever had a teen driver. Those times when my foot almost goes through the passenger floorboard as I slam a brake pedal which doesn’t exist. Those times when I gently say, “Next time you approach a blind intersection, ease off the gas and slow down long beforehand. You never know what, or who, might be around the corner.” While my mouth utters those words softly, my mind screams, “Stop the car! Let me take the wheel. I want out of here!”

Driving a long stretch of freeway the other night, my daughter kept letting the vehicle drift onto the white line. The little reflective bumps sounded, thump, thump under the wheels. After a few of these drifting incidents she said, “I’m trying to let the car go straight, but it keeps moving over to the right.”

Ah, I thought to myself. Here’s a teachable moment. “Honey, you can’t expect the car to just go straight by itself. Your in charge of the car; you tell it where to go. That’s why you have a steering wheel. You must constantly make small adjustments to keep it between the white lines. Every car is different and you can’t expect the car to do the work. You must do the work of driving and directing the car.”

Isn’t that they way it is with our parenting also? It would be nice if our children, once pointed in a direction, continued straight toward that destination. Train up a child in the way he should go and all that.

But the training part takes times and energy. Training isn’t a one-time pointing toward an object; training is constantly making course corrections, some tiny ones, some large one, but all important to keep things between the lines.

When our parenting job is complete, our children’s trajectory will still need adjustments. We can continue to pray for them and give advice. But it’s at this point, the point when they are grown and not departing from the way they have been trained, that we will realize they still aren’t driving straight on their own accord. No one does. Our children, and we ourselves, only drive straight because Jesus has taken control of the steering wheel of our lives.

So, even though the words come from a song about something else, it’s okay to pray, “Jesus take the wheel. Take the wheel of my children’s life. Steer them toward you; steer them away from temptation and danger. Lord Jesus, make the course corrections necessary for my children to drive straight into your arms every day.”

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Bearing with one another, being kind to one another, forgiving one another, and doing so with humility, gentleness, and patience – these are commanded in Scripture.

Christ prayed for unity among believers, and every one of Paul’s letters speak about peace, love, and unity among those who claim the name of Christ.

Unity is easy to agree with but hard to put into practice. It’s difficult to love others when we want our own way, when we feel maligned, misunderstood, and taken advantage of. But difficult as it is, this is what God demands of us.

As a father of six, my household has it’s share of disagreements. Lack of love and peace often find their way in. Or, is it, that a lack of love and peace already exist inside the walls of my house and find expression from time to time? This is more likely.

My family (and I include myself) are sinners saved by grace. We are being transformed into the image of Christ, we are being sanctified, but we are far from perfect.

Fathers, you might find it helpful to study what the Scriptures say about unity among believers and teach and apply it in your home.

Here are a few points to ponder as you study the topic:

First – our Christian witness depends on Christian unity. Jesus said in John chapter 13, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Do you see the connection between loving others and your Christian witness? People will know you belong to Christ when you show love for others. This love is to be expressed to more than your biological family, but not less.

Even more important than people knowing you belong to Christ, is that people see a model and example of Christ sacrificial love when they observe your love for others. There is no greater love than laying down your own life for another (John 15:13). Husbands are commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25).

When we give up our own demands and desires, and sacrifice the things we hold dear in order to serve others, we are modeling the work of Christ on our behalf. As dad and mom learn to love each other this way, children will see the love of Christ being modeled in the home.

We can display an image of Christ truly or falsely by how we love one another. You may claim to be a Christian, but if you hold onto bitterness and anger toward another Christian, you proclaim a false view of God and your actions preach a false gospel.

Second, we must beware of the enemy of unity. Satan prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (I Peter 5:8).

Satan is on the prowl around your home. He’s watching and waiting for the best moment to pounce. The enemy of your soul desires to create strife, jealousy, and bitterness within one family member toward the others.

Slick as a Wall Street marketer, Satan works by appealing to your baser instincts. He knows your hot buttons and he knows your weak spots. He not only knows your kids; he know you and your wife. And he’s ready to take advantages wherever he can.

Fathers need to be watchful of their own hearts first, then they can help guard their children’s hearts. The way to do this is to put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6).

Don’t blame all strife on Satan; our hearts are wicked enough on their own. But neither should we be caught unaware and think Satan is no longer active and striving to find a way to break apart the love and unity we should exhibit toward one another.

Striving brings me to my third point.

Third, peace, love, and unity demand diligent effort. After three chapters of doctrinal truth regarding our salvation by grace through faith, Paul delivers practical admonitions to the church at Ephesus. He speaks to them about master and slave relationships, parent and child relationships, husband and wife relationships, and many other practical matters. But he begins chapter four with a call to bear with one another in love. This is of primary importance for believers. It is important in a local church and no less important in our homes.

Read Ephesians 4:3 in several translations and you will see the thrust of the Greek word. The idea is: striving eagerly, earnestly, and diligently – like a gladiator in training.

A half-hearted effort won’t cut it; God demands more from us. He commands us to work diligently to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

As fathers seek to create homes where peace, love, and unity are prominent they must remember where the motivation to love one another comes from. Love for each other can’t be generated ex nihilo; love flows like water from a source. The source of our love for one another is found at Calvary. Jesus said to love one another “just as I have love you.” How did Jesus love you? By the sacrifice of Himself in your place. This is the Gospel, the Good News, it’s the well from which we draw our own supply of love for each other.

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As I arrived home from work, my wife said to me, “Calvin has a writing project he needs help with.”

To write is to die a slow painful death. At least, my son thinks so. He would rather do almost anything else. To read the text and fill in the answer blanks is no problem; that isn’t writing. Writing paragraphs, or even sentences, requires a different kind of work for him. It requires creativity and answers that aren’t in the Score Key. I don’t blame my son, many people don’t like to write. It’s an important skill, but it doesn’t come naturally. It must be taught.

The other night I was given the opportunity to help my son learn to write. He had been learning about various careers  in his Social Studies text and needed to write about how a person in one of those careers influenced him. He was stumped.

“I don’t know what to write.”

Days earlier I had suggested a tweak. “Instead of writing about how you have been influenced by someone, you can write about how you would influence others if you were in one of those careers.” He decided to write about being a chef. Here is his essay in full and the reason my wife said he needed help:

A chef can cook meals for sick people.

That was it; a one sentence essay. I had to admire his ability to get to the point, to cut out unnecessary words, to be clear and concise. I also recognized an opportunity to teach him a few things. We talked for a minute about the assignment and I made suggestions. He asked if five sentences would be sufficient.

“Calvin, when you have a project to do, don’t try to get away with doing as little as possible. That’s not the kind of person you want to be. You should be the kind of person who works hard to do your best when you have an assignment.”

He just stared at me, maybe listening, but probably wondering how painful this lecture was going to be.

“Don’t ask how little you can do and still complete the project. Take time and put in the effort to do the job well.”

Former experience with him told me I would need to do more than lecture. He really didn’t know what to write, or how to write it. The dilemma for me was to decide how much I could help. This was his project, not mine. It didn’t take long to decide. The project wasn’t as important as the process. I would use this opportunity to model for him. I would develop an outline, then write a rough draft, and have him copy my work. Observation is a learning tool; my son would learn by watching me.

I turned in his PACE to the section about chefs and started reading aloud. From the text I developed a list of bullet points that formed a loose outline. I wanted to keep it simple, so I didn’t develop the outline into proper form. I took a blank sheet of binder paper and handed one to my son.

“Now, I’m going to write from this outline and I want you to copy me. First, we need an introduction.”

Calvin asked, “What’s an introduction?”

I explained introductions and how they function, then we started writing.

“Write this sentence,” I said. “Chefs do their work in a variety of places. They work in restaurants, cafeterias, and homes.”

We continued on. The process from beginning to end was almost two hours. After he wrote the final draft neatly, I gave him a hug.

“Calvin, if I didn’t care about you, I would let that one sentence essay fly. But I care too much about you to do that. I want you to be a person who knows how to write and communicate effectively. It’s an important skill for life. This one session isn’t enough to teach you everything about writing. It’s only one lesson of many. You will be stuck again and again with writing and you will struggle. When you do, I will help. Eventually you will know how to write an essay from start to finish on your own.”

I tried to keep an encouraging tone throughout. He was frustrated enough; he didn’t need me frustrated as well.  I could have been upset that my evening was spent writing an essay about chefs. It would have been easy to be grumpy and complain that I had better things to do. The truth, of course, is that I didn’t have better things to do. What could be better than two hours teaching my son important lessons for life?

I teased him today, “Maybe you’ll grow up to be a writer.”

“No, I’m going to be a farmer.”

“Well,” I said, “Maybe you’ll write about farming.”

He gave me a look I could write about.

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Academics have never been my strong suit. When I was 11 years old we found out that I was severely far sighted and could not see anything up close. The day I got my glasses is a day I will never forget. It was the first day I knew there were letters on a keyboard and wicks on a candle. Not being able to see held me back with learning how to read, write, and almost every other subject. As you might guess it was a little embarrassing, and at sometimes made me feel like the stupidest kid in the room.

Once I got glasses and could see, I had to relearn everything to catch up. Basic school work was still taking me ten times longer to complete than the average student, but we still could not tell why. We tried everything, and thankfully, after much prayer, God lead us to an Optometrist who told me that my eyes never developed the basic skills they needed to work together. After 28 weeks of vision therapy, I noticed a significant difference in basic school work, but I was still behind.

About a year and a half ago, we went to Sacramento State University and took a test for dyslexia, and the results came back positive. Finally, something made since as to why, even in my Junior year of High School, I was still struggling so much with my reading.

Homeschooling was such a blessing because my mom was able to be a part of my schooling. She hand-picked the curriculum that would be the easiest for me, and always found ways to accommodate my struggles – letting me take my time with reading, and doing lots of hands on learning. I was able to study in a way that helped me the most, and I started to feel smart for the first time in my life. I started to tackle math, and reading. Although it will never be easy, it became do able and understandable.

Not only was homeschooling a blessing academically, it was a blessing spiritually too. Most school days were good, and productive days. But there were the difficult days too. We either cried, had a meltdown, argued with a sibling, or raised our voices at our mom. Yet, those were the days we learned the most important lessons. My mom called them character building days. Where instead of traditional academics, we learned how to share, how to forgive, and to keep doing our best to conquer our struggles. We had to learn how to get along as a family, and how to appreciate both the strengths and weaknesses of each other. Homeschooling for me, wasn’t just about learning a subject in school, it was about building my character and learning self-control. Without having those hard days, I wouldn’t be who I am today.

At the beginning of Junior year, it was time to finally start thinking about college. The thought of college was exciting and terrifying all at the same time. Excited to move into the next adventure of life, but terrified of the struggle that would come from not being able to do things at my own pace and not having my mom there to help me with the struggle. Then came another fear. A fear and worry a lot of kids have when they think about graduating and starting on the next path God has for them. What am I going get my degree in? What am I going to do with my life? Where does God want me to go? As this question hit me at the start of Junior year, I started to wonder, what was I going to do?

Growing up we did a wide variety of activities. My parent’s goal was to help us find our God given gifts and talents. I loved it most when we did the art projects – drawing, painting, building a Roman Coliseum, and even Art Class. No matter what kind of day it was, art was always my outlet. It relaxed me on stressful days and kept me entertained on boring ones. Freshman year I asked to study art history, and found that I had an eye for art. When we moved the summer before my sophomore year, I helped my mom decorate and place the furniture. I fell in love with art in the form of placement and beauty. The way someone can take the simplest of rooms and use their creativity to create a beautiful space. It was then God really placed on my heart that I needed to do something with art. I dug into the many different art degrees, and I stumbled across Interior Design – a career that integrates everything I love about art, and creativity.

Home schooling allowed me to find my passion. With all of my learning challenges I would have been so discouraged in the public school system, I don’t think I would’ve even wanted to apply for college. I am thankful that God used homeschooling to help me understand how I work best, and gave me the time to really focus on my relationship with Christ and my family. That was the biggest blessing of all.

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I have been a Christian my whole life, and have grown up in a Christian home. Sunday mornings were church, and as I got older, Sundays also were AWANA days. Jesus came into my heart when I was four years old, and I was baptized when I was a baby. My whole life I have known that there was a God, and believed in him whole heartedly. As I grew up I learned more and more about Him, and was always in awe of His unfailing love, grace, and forgiveness.

When I was 16, I began to doubt if He was really there. When I prayed I didn’t feel like I heard Him, I felt as if he wasn’t there at all. The summer of 2015, I attended West Coast Honor Camp, a Christian camp for honor students in AWANA. That year I had been struggling with self-worth, and doubting God. I didn’t have many friends at the time and was feeling very depressed about life. I was mad all the time, yelling at family for no reasons, and not being a very loving or forgiving Christian. But I was too afraid to tell my parents because I thought they would be disappointed in me. That year, on the first night at camp, they told us that, that the theme for the week was self-worth, and Jesus’s love. It scared me, because I didn’t want to address my weaknesses. I shoved everything I was feeling down deep inside me so I wouldn’t think about it. In doing so I was really pushing God away, when He was opening His arms for me to come running back. That night I stayed quiet during devotions when our counselor asked anyone to share something they were feeling about the topic of the week. I was afraid of being judged, and worried about what others would think about me, say about me, or feel about me. Again, I pushed God away.

As the week went on, each message at chapel hit me. Each devotion in my cabin digging deeper. It became harder and harder to suppress those feelings of worry and doubt, and finally I had to talk about it. I went to my friend, and shared everything that I had been so afraid to share including how I saw myself and that I doubted that there was even a God. I explained that I knew He was there, but I didn’t understand why I couldn’t hear Him. Everything I once saw as His amazing creation, became just another thing in this world. As we talked. She listened and never judged. When I had finished talking, she asked me if she could be honest with me. She said, “Every Christian goes through a doubting phase. It’s not a bad thing. It means you aren’t having blind faith. But when you do doubt, you need to go find things out about it. Read the Bible, research, study, talk to a friend or pastor. Never be afraid of asking questions.” At the very end, she put it very simple, and what she said changed my view on a lot of things and made me really think. She said; “Joanna, I think you are pushing God away.” Woah. That wasn’t the easiest thing to hear, but man was she right. I needed to make a change and this week I was going to make it.

That night after chapel I sat down with my counselor and expressed my fears and the conversation with my friend. We sat there together, as I told her I no longer wanted to run away from God. I wanted to feel Him with me, and to feel the love He gives every one of His children. As she prayed with me, I began to cry. I had opened up, and the fear and anxiety that once controlled me was gone. That was the night I let Jesus back into my heart, the day that changed my life for the better. He has been closer to me than ever before since that day. After we finished praying, I got up to head back to my cabin, and as I was walking, I felt this big weight and dark cloud that had been on my shoulders and over my life for so long fade away. No longer was there fear of what people thought of me, nor the thought of trying to cover up my mistakes anymore.

When I got home, I was telling my mom and dad everything about camp, and what happened. The fear that I once had about telling my parents about my doubt and fear was gone. When I told them that I was no longer going to run from God, but towards Him, and that I took the faith they had given me and taken it for my own, they we’re beyond happy. There was no need for me to be fearful, because they were so proud of me.

Looking back now, I realize that everyone is going to have doubts. No one is perfect and everyone sins. And no matter how far we stray from God, He will always be there with open arms waiting for us to run back to him. We all His children, and He has more love for us than anyone can fathom. As I move into life after graduation, I want to make sure everyone knows just how special they are. That no matter what has happened in their life they are always loved by God and that He is always waiting for them to come back to Him.

“Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

 

 

 

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Homeschooling has impacted my life in a way no other educational choice could. I learned many skills and have been able to develop in values and characteristics that I probably wouldn’t have if I were in traditional school. Being homeschooled was clearly the right educational path for me from first grade to senior year. I have been given countless opportunities to grow in relationships with family and friends and learn about God’s world in a thought-provoking environment.

My homeschool journey began in 2006, when I was in first grade. I was in public school for kindergarten  when my mom heard God’s call to start homeschooling me. I was simultaneously excited and confused when my parents told me about “home school.” Why did I have to leave my friends? Would I still be able to go on field trips? How can I do school at home, when home is home and school is school? But I was overall excited to begin “home school”. The first day we sat down at the new child’s size school desk and began to trace letters and learn basic mathematics.  The first few days of homeschooling went by fairly uneventfully; I enjoyed “playing school” with my mom and staying home all day was fun! Then came my first major mathematical challenge and I realized that having your mom as the teacher could be annoying. For one thing, my public school kindergarten teacher couldn’t send me to my room or take away any privileges. This is when I began to see homeschooling was no walk in the park.

Despite our rocky start we pushed through the first year of homeschooling and began to get into a good routine. I made many new friends and had plenty of opportunities to go on field trips. Soon enough homeschooling was my new normal. Elementary school was a wonderful time for me, I got involved in some sports and co-ops and all the while learned in a flexible and curiosity-encouraging environment. One of the major benefits of my younger brother and I being homeschooled was that we spent so much time together. While this provided us with more opportunities for small quarrels it also gave us more practice working through them and learning how to actually be friends with our sibling! I think my relationships with my family members would be less developed if I were at school for eight hours in addition to extracurricular activities and homework.

As middle school arrived so did a whole new era of my education. I was excited to enter into 6th grade and hopeful about the many opportunities that I would have as a “junior higher.”  But as I did so I began to, possibly for the first time in my life, realize that homeschooling was not “normal.”  In fact, the highly opinionated population of middle schoolers that I met at church, sports and other events seemed to think homeschool was “weird.” I began to worry: if homeschooling is weird, and I am homeschooled, then I must be weird. All I wanted, as a young junior higher, was the approval of my peers. This is extremely unfortunate because middle schoolers are some of the world’s toughest critics.

Soon I realized what it would take to be considered “normal.” I would have to stop being homeschooled. I knew this news would be difficult for my mom to take but it had to be said. So one day I chose an opportune moment when she was in a good mood and would be most receptive to this harsh reality. “Mom, I can’t be homeschooled anymore. I’m sorry. It’s just not right for me.” Her response was plain and simple, “No, right now it’s God’s plan for you be homeschooled.” This surprised me: how could God’s plan be for me to be homeschooled? Why did God want to keep me from the coveted standard of “normal” I so desperately craved? I tried again and again to change my mom’s mind but she couldn’t be swayed. Each time I asked the reply was the same: “God’s plan is for us to homeschool you.”

It wasn’t until the end of middle school and start of high school that I actually began to see how God’s plan for me was being homeschooled. As I entered freshman year I realized how many opportunities I had in homeschooling and how thankful I was for the flexibility in my schedule. In addition to this, I began to make some strong friendships at my church and through our homeschool group, and my desire to be like “everyone else” and go to “normal” school began to slowly dissipate. Throughout the coming years of high school I saw time and time again the benefits of being homeschooled. I got a quality education through a biblical lens, and I developed a genuine love of learning and curiosity about life that I hope will last my whole life.

Now as I prepare to leave for college I see that homeschooling was God’s plan for me and my mom was right once again. I am so excited for the world of possibilities that awaits me as I leave for college and what my life will be like further down the road. It is intimidating and exciting all at once, but with the education I received that was distinctly tailored for me and my strengths and weaknesses, I feel more than prepared for my future and whatever God has in store and I know my parents will always be there for me.

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While preparing to write my story of how I came to faith, I looked over some guides and outlines on how to begin. Most of them split it into two different sections: “Before I accepted Jesus I lived like this” and “After I accepted Jesus I lived like this.” That was a challenging approach for me considering that I asked Jesus to come into my heart at age 3. I think this is both a blessing and a struggle. On the upside of things, I was raised in a Christian home, going to church every Sunday, doing Bible studies as a family and have my parents to set great examples for me of how to imitate Christ. I definitely learned from watching them live out their faith just like it says in Philippians 3:17 to follow those who set examples in Christ.

I accepted Christ on a walk with my mom one fall afternoon. I understood the basic concept of sin and that I hadn’t lived a perfect life, even in those short three years. I asked my mom about heaven and about why Jesus had to die. She explained to me that he died for my sin and everyone else’s. I thought about this for a little and then stopped on the sidewalk and said, “I want to accept Jesus.” So we stopped right then and prayed that Jesus would come and live in my heart and forgive me of my sin. My mom had made sure that I understood what I was doing and why. I think my story of coming to faith details perfectly what Jesus said in Matthew 18:3 when he spoke of having faith like a child.

It’s been wonderful that I have been able to grow in my faith for so long, but sometimes I wish I had a more drastic and sudden conversion. Not that I wish I had a major trial or anything like that, it’s just that I often take my faith for granted. Although I have met plenty of people who do not share my faith, I sometimes feel that I don’t fully appreciate how different Christ has made my life. In addition to this, I have often wrestled with making my faith my own. Growing up with Christian parents I often felt that their faith was my faith. For a lot of my life I have simply gone through the motions of Christianity: going to church, reading my Bible and praying. It wasn’t until high school that I wanted more out of my relationship with Christ. I realized there is no way to have a personal relationship with him if I don’t at least make an effort to learn about faith on a personal level. With this realization I began to attempt to live out Jesus’s command in Matthew 22:37 about loving God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.

But this wasn’t an easy thing for me to do. I got busier and busier with each year and slowly I saw my quiet times with God get pushed to the back burner. I struggled with making my faith my own until I went to a summer leadership camp called Worldview Academy. Worldview was unlike any other camp I had been to: instead of feeding off an emotional high that lasted about a week after getting home, we studied theology and apologetics and learned to find the reason and hope in our faith.  I went 3 years in a row and each year I felt more and more encouraged in my faith and the reason for it. On the third year something clicked and I felt that my faith was finally my own. It wasn’t my parents’ or my friends’  or my church’s; it was mine and I had a reason for the hope that I had, just like it says in 1 Peter 3:15.

As I entered my junior year I was met with a busy schedule filled with academics, church and extracurriculars, but I knew that God was with me through it all. One of my favorite ways to stay strong in my personal relationship with God is by talking with others about God’s word. Something that has always been important to me is relationships with others. I think we can learn so much about the Bible and the world in general from talking with people of all ages. Since freshman year I have been involved in a Bible study group with some friends from church; over the years I have learned so much just from the weekly interactions between a small group of fellow believers and time centered around God’s word. A verse that really resonates with me is Hebrews 10:25 about the importance of being surrounded by other Christians: “Not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Over the years I have seen my faith change from simply being something I seemed to have inherited from my parents to something I have begun to take joy in learning more about and making my own. One verse that has shaped my life is Jeremiah 29:11, “‘I know the plans I have for you’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’” I haven’t always seen God’s purpose as being especially clear in my life, but recently I have strongly felt God’s call to further my education at a Christian college. I enjoy studying the world through a Biblical worldview and this is something I believe I can only get at a distinctly Christian school and I hope to be encouraged in my faith and studies by my professors and peers. I am excited to see what God is calling me to and what else he has in store for my faith journey.