A Mother’s Prayer

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Every night at about 8:05PM the sound of familiar voices resounds off the eternal corridors of heaven. Like clockwork, the tiny voices of the “Dunlap Three” utter some variation of these words, “Dear Jesus, thank you for today. It was fun. Please help me to have a fun day tomorrow. Amen”. 

These hopeful petitions of our children have become customary in our household. It’s almost to the point that my husband and I can only chuckle at their unashamedly self-centered entreaties. I mean, in today’s world who could blame these poor souls for wanting some semblance of fun in the midst of the all consuming requirements of phonics work, addition problems, reading, writing, and immense loads of play that fill up their days?

Funny enough, I found myself mimicking the prayers of my eight, five, and three-year-olds yesterday afternoon. The only difference being they weren’t as cute neither were they as unwittingly innocent in their selfish implications.

Can I be honest?

Yesterday was just one of those days y’all!! For the greater portion of the day, I tallied all the compacted stressors I experienced.

For starters, we’re a ministry family, so Mondays are very important in our home. It’s our Family Day. The one day out of the week we can actually push pause and focus on one another. I look forward to this one day out of our busy week in which my husband and I are able to rest.

It seems that rest is a luxury we are not always afforded. In actuality, the past six Mondays have had to be reconstructed into a shortened version of our Family Day. We’ve had to make room for our middle daughter to participate in ballet lessons. 

This is something I’m thrilled she can participate in since Misty Copeland is one of her sheroes. I love that Layla can do something that helps her identify with such a graceful and talented role model.

The down side however, is a bit obvious, given my initial statements about the strains of ministry life. Yesterday began no differently. An unusually frazzled weekend and failure to plan well on my part led to my typically mild temperament being short lived.  I could see the spoils of this much needed rest day slowly slipping from my grasp.

After leaving later than necessary for the final session of my daughter’s ballet class, I was annoyed. Once home, I gave my girls their marching orders of what assignments remained. I was met with inconvenient push back from the oldest. If you’ve ever wondered how fast a highly intelligent, above proficiency level second grader can cry over math work she already knows, trust me it’s quicker than you can slap your mama! Her sniffles and complaints and “I don’t know hows” were grating on my last nerve.

Since it’s that time in our grocery cycle in which the cupboards are a bit low, lunch still needed to be made, not microwaved. Not to mention the ground turkey for dinner was a frozen chunk of raw meat in our fridge. My hubs was nowhere in sight (he was most likely upstairs nursing the beginnings of a migraine). And the younger two were wandering the living room doing who knows what.

By 2:00PM, I HAD HAD IT! I was too through with this day as I angrily prepared tuna fish melts! Slamming pans, mayo, and other things was now up for grabs in my mind. Unlike the cutesy bedtime prayers of my children, before I knew it, my tirade against God was in full effect. 

“Why does HE get to check-out while I have to do ALL the work?!” “I HATE this!” “It’s not fair that I have to do everything!” “If this little girl doesn’t get herself together I’m going to scream!” “I’m about to just walk out this door, get in the car and keep driving!” My internal hissy fit went on and on and on and on and…you get the picture.

I stopped short of throwing the spatula against the wall although I envisioned myself doing it.

Needless to say, my rant proved that I could care LESS about having a “fun” day today, tomorrow, or any day for that matter. The pressures of life, the frustrations with my calling, the loneliness of my situation, the fatigue of my weekend, my anger toward my daughter, the disappointment of my day, my annoyance with my husband, and my disillusionment with God…were all too much to bare in that moment.

So, why am I telling you this?

Simply because many times we as moms feel we must wear the mask of having it all together. We’re the doctor, the seamstress, the laundress, the chef, the comforter, the referee and SO many other things! Days feel long and life seems short. With much toil and little fanfare, we keep the ship of our family’s life afloat and it can seem inconsequential to everyone but us.

But dear woman, be comforted in knowing that the God of heaven hears our silent cries, our adamant pleas, and our loud groans! Jesus was well acquainted with a mother’s pain. He gazed lovingly upon his weeping mother as he laid splayed upon that old rugged cross for the whole world to see. How do I know this?

It’s simple. The Son’s words reveal his mindfulness towards his mother.

“Woman, behold your son.”

Yes, Jesus is God…in the flesh. He is omniscient. So of course he knew all that Mary experienced as an earthly mother. But what’s even more amazing about our Lord is the fact that in his Incarnation, or in his humanity, he was able to see up close and personal the pressures and pulls, strains and drains, and needs and efforts of a mother. Let’s face it, for his time here on earth, he actually did have a mommy.

The words of Jesus that the Scriptures record in John 19:25-27 pulls back more of the curtain on his soft spot for his mother. The term momma’s boy has taken on a humorously negative tone in this day and age. But the fact that Jesus was willing to take a few moments out of his already “busy” day up on that cross shows us that he encompassed what a mother truly needs…HIM!

When it came time for Jesus to face the cross, he was also in tune with the cultural and societal implications of Mary’s looming fate. With the death of Mary’s oldest son and her presumed status as a widow, in that ancient society, she would have been left destitute. 

Had Jesus not intervened in Mary’s personal crisis, she would have been “dead broke and naked”. This is my dramatic phrase of choice I use all too loosely when describing the outcome of my money fears. Except in Mary’s case this would be no joking phrase but life itself.

This would have been the ultimate pain of a faithful life lived in servitude to her God. I wonder if Mary’s “Yes” on a commonly uncommon Nazareth day almost thirty-four years earlier was spoken in full comprehension of what it would one day lead to. For this question, I do not have the answer.

On the contrary, I can say with certainty that when I entered into the realm of motherhood, I had NO clue what I was signing up for! 

Nevertheless, I am comforted by the fact that Jesus, who knows everything, was concerned for his mother. For Jesus to ensure Mary was cared for by his beloved disciple, John, after his death was the ultimate act of care and love. Likewise, Jesus IS concerned with Noelle, Layla and Curtis Jr.’s mom as well!

So, when I angrily pray, resentfully serve (is that even a thing??) and begrudgingly give in to my heavenly Father’s plan, Jesus is on the throne looking upon me with the same concern he felt towards his own grieving mother. 

He does not only care for my spiritual needs. You see, something like that would be too limited for him. But he is big enough to ensure my earthly needs are met as well! I pray this comforting truth will encourage your hearts to pray one more prayer today, no matter how selfish. He hears, he understands and he WILL act!

Blessings dear friends. Keep pressing!

In love,

Courtney

 

 

 

 

 

Mother, May I?

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The sounds of children squealing and the blur of colorful fall jackets whisking over the pavement of the weathered but love worn school yard can be deafening. Its recess and its as if Christmas has come early for this group of eight and nine-year-old school children. Their day has been mostly filled with addition facts and state capital memorization so this timely break has brought a joy over them they can’t contain. In the middle of the yard, you see a line of children forming with the tallest girl in the fourth grade standing on the opposite side. She’s the designated facilitator since her towering height over anyone else has secured her election as the matriarch of this school yard. And then, without warning, you hear these barely audible words bellowing from the frame of a lanky girl in a yellow sweater in the midst of giggles and shrieks from her classmates :

“Mother, may I take two huge steps?”

“No, you may not take two huge steps.” Is the response of the taller girl. “But you can take two teeny, weeny steps.”

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If you were born in the 80’s, like I was, the stakes in the game of “Mother, May I” from recesses of old were astronomically high! Many a “BFF” relationship was severed over the very crucial decision making skills of the person assuming the role of the mother when eight and nine-year-olds were involved.

Its funny how now as a thirty *cough* something year old mother myself, I can still feel the beads of sweat rolling down my neck as I have to decide the number of proverbial steps, huge leaps, twirls and any other forward motion movements my children must make in this life. What’s even more scary is that in my case, getting to the other side of the yard to win the game is no longer the goal, real life has upped the ante!

As a homeschooling mother, I also feel the residue of this recess past-time as I go about making daily, weekly, monthly and even yearly decisions on what curriculum to use, what unit studies we’ll cover and how I can avoid going for broke in paying for it all.

I started this blog with the intentions of chronicling my writing journey as I pursue becoming a published author. This is still my plan. However, as of late, I have sensed it is starting to morph into a little more. And I’m okay with that. My passion for homeschooling is impossible to ignore. Not too long ago, I created a Facebook page dedicated to showcasing how we as moms are able to teach our own children. In fact, the name of the page is a dead ringer, its called Able to Teach. Check it out when you get a chance, you won’t be disappointed! It’s my hope that any woman or mom desiring to teach their kids, no matter the capacity, will leave my page feeling uplifted and encouraged to do just that. In fact, this is why I come to you today with this post.

Mother, may I make a suggestion about what you can start doing now in order to be able to teach your children? What you’ll find refreshingly different in my list from any typical game of “Mother, May I”, is that today, you will hear what you can do!

So, without further ado…

  1. Mother, can you click?

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I’m not talking about a clique but I’m talking about a click, an actual click of your mouse. You can click to join a homeschooling Facebook group, scour Pinterest, view YouTube, search Google, or almost anything else you can think of. The beauty is it’s all from the keys of your device. There is a TON of information out there. A simple search will yield countless Facebook groups you can join dedicated to homeschooling. What’s even better is these fine ladies have gone so far as to create specialty groups highlighting almost any homeschool interest that tickles your fancy. And if you can’t find it, then YOU can be the mother who creates it. These four years of homeschooling have been so enriched by all the resources, tips, tricks and ideas I’ve stumbled upon just by simply clicking a few tiny black keys.

2. Mother, can you thrift?

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I used to HATE going to the dank, dark, dreary, and some times odiferous establishment of  a thrift store in my pre-kid days. Shoot, even in my post-kid days I’ve hated it at times! But now, oooh but now that I am a full-fledged homeschooling mama on a mission to not bankrupt my family, I’ve found a sort of hidden treasure when I go to these thrift stores. I cannot begin to tell you about all the gems I’ve discovered when I’ve found my way into a used item paradise. Seriously, if you overlook the book and DVD aisle you’ll be kicking yourself. And please don’t think for one moment that the balls of yarn crammed into the back of that shelf cannot become an amazing art, science, knitting, or whatever you can imagine project. Thrifting has saved me so much money and I know you thrifty mommas will be able to say the same.

3. Mother, can you swap?

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Ahhhh, swapping! It’s like music to my ears. Swapping has become one of my best used secrets in my arsenal of tricks to keep the costs of home education down. This doesn’t have to be a big production either. And I’m not just talking about books! I usually shoot out a text or an email or hit up one of those Facebook groups I mentioned earlier (the local ones) to see if anybody is interested. Who knows if your Bob Jones K-5 Math text can be valuable to a mom looking to unload her Writing Without Tears books. You’ll never know until you ask.

4. Mother, can you join?

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Joining a local play group, co-op or field trip group might be just what the doctor ordered when it comes to boosting your efforts to socialize your kiddos as you homeschool. How does one find said group you may ask. Well, start with enlisting the suggestions from #1 but this time try to narrow your search for local groups in your area. Can you believe I found a pop-up archery group in my city just by reading the thread from one of my local homeschool Facebook groups? We are also apart of a homeschoolers field trip group. Believe or not, but we found ours through attending a “How to Homeschool” workshop at our local library. Trust me, there’s so much out there right under our noses. We may just need to adjust our antennas.

And lastly,

5. Mother can you form?

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The whole joining a group thing sounds great and all; but you may ask, “What if I live in an area in which the homeschooling sea has all but dried up?” Well, I would look to form my own. For instance, I’m apart of several homeschooling moms groups on Facebook. Last school year, one mom suggested starting a book club for our daughters, which was such a good idea! We would achieve this through momma-chaperoned video correspondence between our girls. For some reason or another, this never quite materialized in the way I had hoped and I was kind of bummed. But its cool, I kept it moving by not letting the lack of what was available stop us from getting what we wanted. My daughter and I decided to start a book club of our own. This way, she could enjoy the books she loves but with the added benefit of doing it with friends she already has. So, on Saturday mornings, once a month, she connects with about two to three of her friends. These girls are actually in a traditional school setting but it doesn’t matter one bit when it comes to my daughter getting to read with her friends! Through all this, I’ve learned one valuable lesson dear momma…

If you already don’t have it, you can form it!

I am convinced this is not an all inclusive list of all the things you can do as you homeschool your children. The best thing about homeschooling is that you CAN do any and everything you want in order to best educate YOUR kids. Talk about empowerment! Its so exciting to be able to create, think up, borrow, use and re-use ideas of your own and of mothers you may meet along the way. This is probably one of the main reasons why I love homeschooling so much. The possibilities you have of presenting such crucial educational material to your children in the way that works best for your family are endless!

I hope you close this browser window today feeling inspired and empowered to be the mother you can and have always been!

Blessings,

Courtney

 

 

 

 

God in the Midst of Projects, Books and Crayons

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Hey my friends!

Its been a little over a month since my last post, I must admit, I fell off a bit from keeping my once-a-month blog entry commitment. I’m sorry about that. Life happens right? I’m just going to keep it moving.

Though, in all honesty, one main reason for my keystroke silence can be blamed on my priority shift in the last month and a half as it relates to kicking off this new homeschool year. When mid-August showed up I knew I would need to avert my eyes from my screen for just a short while in order to ensure my little lady rabbits would be taken care of when it came to planning out our 2016/2017 school year.

Can you believe that yesterday was the start of our fourth week of this new school year?! The fog is finally starting to clear and I’m feeling like I’m getting back into the groove of things. If I’m honest, I haven’t even given more than a two-second thought about my book or any writing for that matter in the last few weeks.

Gasp! I know right?!

But hey, what are ya gonna do? When life happens you have to roll with the punches.

But since you were so nice to ask how our school year has been thus far and because you’re just dying to know all our goings on and such I’ll oblige and fill you in on the methods to my madness when it comes to educating the next generation aka The Dunlap girls.

Believe it or not, this is the fourth September in a row I’ve sought to formally educate my children. And prior to that, I actually did a half year’s worth of preK for my then four-year-old. Man, that’s crazy to me! And I can truly say that each time a new September hits, it feels completely different.

This time last year, I was a hot mess!

Let me tell you why.

Apart from our phonics and math curricula, I had absolutely NO CLUE what other subjects we’d be covering. Not to mention, I had written a total of zero daily lesson plans. Rightly so, I spent the greater part of last September and October in a cold sweat. I was petrified and what was worse, I was suffering from acute guilt with the side effects of complete burn out.

Let’s backtrack a bit. Two years ago, our 2014/2015 Kindergarten year was a blast! By the time September kicked down August’s doors that year, I could proudly say that I had daily, weekly, monthly, and a whole school year’s worth of neatly written, well constructed and thoroughly thought out lesson plans saved to my hard drive with a hard copy to match. There were plenty of field trips, science experiments, art projects, music lessons, phonics work, math problems, hyperlinks for further exploration, worksheets even some of the hand made kind and loads of excitement to go around.

I had meticioulsly worked to plan out every day but was even more excited at my seemingly flawless grasp at providing my daughter with a homeschool experience to last the ages. And nobody could tell me anything different.

Then June 2015 happened.

When I tell you I was burnt out, I don’t think y’all are really hearing me. I’m talking overly crispy, charcoal, black as night hotdogs that only your uncle wants to eat at the family’s 4th of July cookout…burnt out! I could barely muster the wherewithal to read the DVR menu and scroll to my saved Covert Affairs episodes. It was BAD! I had never experienced such exhaustion and mental fatigue in my life.

I spent the rest of that summer doing any and everything but thinking about file folder games or how I could get the most use out of our empty egg cartons.

Trust me, in the world of homeschooling, when it comes to empty egg cartons, the possibilities are endless!

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Pinterest knows what’s up!

So, when I saw one of the last pools closing for the season last August, I went into full on denial mode. I’ll never forget the chills I got at my first school bus sighting of the freshly minted school year. When I wasn’t biting my nails, I was venting to my husband and when I wasn’t venting to my husband, I was crying in a corner. When it came to planning the hastening school year, I was becoming a pro at avoidance coping strategies. This is why I said I was a hot mess last school year.

Now don’t get me wrong, we did start our school year when September came. We used the phonics program I had planned to continue as well as our math books. But everything else was a blur. This my friends is NOT the way to go about building up your mental sanity.

Now, I know there are fellow homeschoolers who adhere to a un-schooling educational approach. That’s the philosophy of allowing school to happen organically with little to no lesson plans, bulky curricula or tests. Overall its an unplugging from pre-ordained, traditional school techniques, formulas, and rules. Many of those dear sisters would applaud my lack of regimental flare. Trust me, I’m not knocking those fine ladies who believe in and adhere to this approach in anyway. Many of them do it well and I admire their ability to facilitate that type of learning environment for their children. It’s just that with the way my worry-wartism and Type-A personality are set-up, I wasn’t having it!

One thing was for sure, in the midst of all that chaos and emotional upheaval, I was calling on the name of the Lord like never before! I had to y’all. Real talk, as I mentioned earlier, during the 2014/2015 school year I felt like I had Kindergarten in the bag. It was an idealist’s dream. My daughter was flourishing. We both were learning ALOT and having tons of fun while doing it. Our days were neatly outlined and every time I crossed off a completed activity from our agenda, a school hamster got its wings.

But, what was missing from my fine-tuned and well mastered plan was one key if not central ingredient.

Dependency on God.

I don’t say this to overly-spiritualize what was, at best, a greatly executed plan and at worst, a sure fire way to end up in a padded room. Rather, I say it because that’s what was and still is true to this day. Despite my “mastery of homeschool” that Kindergarten year, I failed to realize I wasn’t too concerned with how much I still needed God in the midst of projects, books, and crayons.

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So when last year came to a crashing start (I know that sounds weird but that’s exactly what happened), I soon found out how much I did in fact need Him. Better yet, I needed to forego my former strategy of “homeschooling with pride”. And, I’m not talking about the “good” kind of pride either (if there is such a thing). Whatever my educational approach, that proved to be the least successful.

Out of the blur that was our homeschool year last fall, has emerged a more level-headed understanding of Proverbs 16:9, “The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” I get it. But I’m also pretty sure I don’t fully “get it” and most likely never will this side of eternity.

What I can say is I get the fact that in all areas of my life, I need God. I need Him when I’m up at 4am and can’t sleep and can only think about writing a blog post (yup, that happened today). I need Him on a random Friday morning on my way home from a routine grocery trip and I get in to an annoying car accident (yup, that happened last week too!). I need Him when my daughter is crying about the multiplication problems she’s been doing for the last three and a half weeks but for some strange reason beyond my understanding, has suddenly forgotten how to do any of it (Mmm hmm…that was yesterday!). Most of all, I need Him right now!!

I can see how just a few verses later in that same chapter in Proverbs, Solomon writes with a knowing confidence, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” What we can learn from Mac-Daddy Sol and all the mistakes he made in his life was that he knew all too well the pitfalls of trust in oneself apart from God. My prayer this fall and in the however many more falls going forward, is that I will heed Solomon’s warning to not only plan but to plan well while remaining keenly aware of my need for my Savior every day.

Anywho, these are my early morning musings. Let’s hope I remember this post when the kids start to stir in the next half hour and I realize that getting up at 4am is for the birds! One day I’ll learn. I’m sure of it.

Who knows, since Covert Affairs has been off the air for over two years, I hope that if I live by these principles this school year and beyond, I will still have the stamina to read my DVR to find my latest Once Upon a Time episode once June rolls around. Don’t judge me, that verse had nothing to do with guilty pleasure TV shows! 😉

Thanks for reading my friends. If you enjoyed this post, don’t forget to hit that lovely “follow writeaway31” button and make sure you share this post with others! Thanks and I’ll see you soon!

Blessings,

Courtney