Real Life, Real Ministry

Its that time of year when the glossy homeschool curriculum catalogs pile up on my desk.  Until I get this school year behind me, I can’t crack open one of those catalogs and peer into the faces of those pseudo-perfect homeschool families where all identically dressed ten or plus children sit attentively at the kitchen table absorbing every cheerful word the smiling mom imparts.

Can I just say that some mornings my kids are lucky to find a clean towel, so forget the prospect of finding matching clothes for everyone. That’s not going to happen at my house; unless, I can find them between the dairy aisle and the produce aisle at the local grocery store. Why not depict a real family on those catalogs: a motley crew eating breakfast with dishes in the sink where mom wears a harried expression on her face and it’s just 9 in the morning.  (and, yes, I did do my devotions and I did take my St. John’s Wort but that harried expression remains).

The catalogs often offer testimonies from homeschool parents who have successfully implemented the curriculum and they gush about how wonderful every science experiment turned out.  And the experiment actually worked….EVERY TIME.  Flip a page or two and read the testimonial of a family raving about the 101 easy to do crafts (photos of the crafts included).  Funny, my crafts NEVER resemble the ones in the catalog.  We are lucky to keep the craft together long enough to show dad when he gets home.

For me, a special folder keeps the catalogs safe until a sunnier day; otherwise, the temptation to recycle them might overcome my normal, rational self…a sort of out of body experience brought on by weariness and selfishness.  Burn-out has set in.  I know it’s a temporary feeling; nonetheless, it’s presence remains.  Isn’t it that way with any calling or ministry?

What refrains a follower of Christ from just throwing in the towel and chalking the frustration and the discouragement up to a wrong choice in ministry or mumbling, “this just isn’t my calling.”

Just about the time I become heavily laden with my calling to homeschool or my ministry of motherhood, I look in the Hall of Fame of scriptural narratives that testify and illustrate God’s wisdom.   That keeps me going.

I recall the comfort brought from the words of J.I Packer regarding trials and tough times,

          These things are written for our learning, for the same wisdom that ordered 
          the paths which God’s saints trod in Bible times orders the Christian’s life today.
          We should not, therefore, be too taken aback when unexpected and upsetting and
          discouraging things happen to us now.  What do they mean?  Simply that God
          in his wisdom means to make something of us which we have not attained yet,
          and he is dealing with us accordingly.”

          Perhaps he means to strengthen us in patience, good humor, compassion,
          humility or meekness, by giving us some extra practice in exercising these
          graces under especially difficult conditions.  Perhaps he has new lessons in 
          self-denial and self-distrust to teach us.  Perhaps he wishes to break us of 
         complacency, or unreality, or undetected forms of pride and conceit.  Perhaps
         his purpose is simply to draw us closer to himself in conscious communion with
         him; for it is often the case, as all the saints know, that fellowship with the Father
         and the Son is most vivid and sweet, and Christian joy is greatest, when the cross
         is heaviest.

As I scan the life of Joseph, Abraham, David, Ruth, and Paul, I begin to unravel God’s purpose in the storms.  Then, my calling or ministry takes on a new hue, not so dark and bleak.  A glimmer of eternal purpose sheds light on my path because I know that God determines my steps.

The sound of well meaning friends resonates on those tough, pull out my hair days, “just do something else with your life.”

No thanks, that’s too easy.  I like hanging out with Paul who saw that trials enable him to glorify Christ.

In a few more weeks I will pack up the books from this school year, I will sit on my back porch with a cup of tea and read those glossy homeschool catalogs and be happy right where I am.

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