How forty days of prayer changed my heart and the course of our family, as we head "back to school."
If I had to sum up our summer with one line of Scripture, it would be this: "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens." Ecclesiastes 3:1
When we finished up the school year last spring, I can honestly say that I was a worn out, overwhelmed, despairing woman. Homeschooling three kids, working full time, chasing after a one year old, and running to and from dance, gymnastics, basketball and track...well, it had certainly taken its toll on me. And since my husband traveled more last year than ever before in his career, I was by myself—A LOT. This is not to mention the fact that we moved. So I knew hardly anyone here. I had no babysitters, no one to carpool with, no knowledge of where things were, nothing. Oh, and did I mention my one year old didn't sleep through the night yet? Still waking up two, three, four times a night.
At the end of last school year, I had a perpetual sore throat from holding back tears, that on-going "lump in my throat." I didn't know what it felt like to eat a meal sitting down. I barely noticed the chest pains anymore, and I thought "sleeping in late" meant getting up at 6.
At the end of last school year I was as unhealthy as a person could be.
I remember sitting in the rectory office, talking to our parish priest, begging him for guidance. He pulled out a rubber band from his desk drawer, stretched it as far as it would go, looked at me sternly and said, "This is you."
He suggested sending the kids back to school.
I brushed it off, thinking, "He doesn't know all the confirmation we had when we started homeschooling." Clearly, back then, God had wanted us to do it. So I did not give his suggestion a second thought... That is, until my husband agreed with him.
"Maybe it's time," he said.
But even then, I did not want to consider it. In my heart, I knew homeschooling was good. I knew the kids had benefitted GREATLY from it. And truthfully, in my heart, sending the kids back to school made me feel like I had failed... as a teacher, as a mother, even in some ways, as a wife... because I couldn't manage things alone while he was gone.
But I had to at least consider it, if my husband and our priest were both in agreement.
So I opened myself completely to God's will, whatever that may be. I began 40 days of prayer for a definitive answer. I also fasted from certain foods, all social media and all technology that was non-work related. I prayed that God would give me an answer. I prayed He would make homeschooling easier, either through a new program or cyber-schooling (something that would convince my husband it was healthy for me to continue.) Or.....I prayed if God wanted them to go back to school, He would change my heart.
I admit: I prayed it with a scowl and a shrug and a fear it might be answered.
Those of you who know me know how picky I am about education these days. Also, our older kids had made so much progress homeschooling.... Working confidently and independently, far above grade level. Not to mention, while they were home, I got to know my kids in ways I never expected. I wasn't ready to give that up just yet.
But then we found Greensburg Central Catholic and Aquinas Academy. We got information, met with staff, and toured facilities. As it turned out, they were both fabulous schools. Just fabulous. I came to see that my older children would not have to go backwards, academically, if they if they went to Central Catholic. In fact, they could continue the same academic progress they had made at home. Also... it occurred to me: one of the things I loved most about these schools, was the thing I loved most about home schooling: solid, Catholic education.
Throughout my 40 days of prayer, I uncovered one positive thing after another. Not only did God change my heart about sending them back, I began to fall in love with these schools. But there was still one, discouraging, little aspect: tuition for three children. This was not something we had planned on.
But all things are possible with God. At the end of my 40 days of prayer, God made tuition possible too. He provided for every last cent. Truly He had answered my prayer in every single way. There was no more doubt. This was His will. My husband was right. (I suppose it's time to admit it. He should love that I'm admitting it publicly! LOL) So, we enrolled them back in school.
Last Monday evening, at Central's orientation, Sr. Christine said to a gymnasium full of parents and students, "Right now you are exactly where you are supposed to be.... Exactly where God has placed you. And He has a plan."
I sighed from a deep place inside myself. It was all I could do to hold back a flood of tears and not embarrass the heck out of my kids. When she said it, I knew it. And I knew it wasn't her that said it. It was God himself. He was confirming that His Almighty Hand had been upon us this summer. This summer I was invited to join our neighborhood Facebook page and so I posted a note about needing childcare. Neighbors reached out, stopped by, and offered a hand. I was even invited to participate in a carpool this week! I cannot tell you what it all has meant to me.
Truly God was opening doorways, clearing paths, moving mountains, and convicting hearts. Because He has a plan. He has a plan for my children, for my husband, for me and our family. For all of us who live to serve Him. It is a good plan. With that, the last little feeling of being a failure was swallowed up in His peace. Like a tiny shred of hay that meets a mighty furnace. Poof! It was gone.
So, here they are: our "first day of school pictures"... But, oh, they are so much more than that. If I had to caption them, I'd caption them with Ecclesiastes 3:1,"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens."
Last week our family entered that new time and that new season. We stepped out on a new and blessed path, after walking a very long and hard road last year. And these are the faces of the Resurrection. These are the smiles of new life.
All praise and thanks be to God, who makes all things possible.