The Quilt of Life
By Cara Shelton, ACHEV board member
Isn’t it funny how life just keeps changing? As women, it seems like our lives are a series of quilt blocks that patch together into something beautiful. Each season brings something entirely different than the season before! Seen from God’s perspective, however, He is making a beautiful thing of our lives. From our perspective, from right in the midst of change and uncertainty, sometimes it isn’t so clear. And today, I have come to another of those places in life. This week, we retire. Soon, we will move to another area. And thus, I must leave the ACHEV board after literally decades of loving you all.
Back in 1985, Focus on the Family broadcast a series of radio shows on their daily broadcast that highlighted homeschooling. I had never heard of such a thing. I had done very well, thank you very much, over my lifetime of public schooling and had “succeeded” in all the outward ways. Steve had really been a student who was “left behind” in all the conventional academic ways, and had learned to read functionally only later – at Ventura College. He was an immediate proponent of homeschooling. I was appalled, but it was really a moot point anyway. We didn’t have any children. Cue entrance of first child in 1987.
I agreed to try this homeschooling thing because our nearly 4 year old was already reading, and I needed some way to entertain her, frankly. I ordered Calvert School curriculum (heavy on experience and DOING). She cried the first day of school, pleading for uniforms and workbooks. Thus, our homeschool was born. We joined ACHEV almost immediately, and it wasn’t but a year or two before we were actively involved, and soon we were Secretaries to the board. Then Treasurers. Then Newsletter Editors for a long stretch of years (when you typed, printed, and MAILED it!).
All these years later, I look back and laugh. I am a English major. All three of my now-grown kids, homeschooled through high school, are scientists. Two engineers and an agricultural researcher. Does God have a sense of humor or what? I didn’t think it was that funny when I was trying to figure out how to teach Pre-Calculus every night, for the next day’s lesson! My youngest son says his best memories of school, though, are the two of us bent over the Advanced Physics textbook, trying to figure out a solution together with the answer key. He says he learned HOW TO LEARN through that experience, and how to persevere. How God did bless me by giving me such a group as ACHEV to walk through it all alongside me. There was always someone just ahead of me, someone by my side, and someone behind me who needed my newly-won experience.
After all is said and done, I discovered that God used these years and decades to shape & mold me at least as much as He shaped & molded them. Steve & I knew that we valued homeschooling as primarily a discipleship opportunity. I just didn’t realize that I was going to be discipled by Him so intensely throughout it all! I started my homeschool journey too intensely focused on academics and getting “tasks” done. I ended my homeschool journey with an entirely different and grace-infused realization: God put me on this earth for relationship, not tasks. (Not that there aren’t tasks to do!) Ministry of any sort is about relationship, and parenting is at its heart a ministry. We do the tasks because we love the people. It is the gospel of our lives that will speak truth and love to our children, not any completed math workbook or perfectly presented English paper.
And my biggest encouragement to you all? You have a secret weapon on your side and THAT is THE GOOD NEWS, ladies. No…I mean LITERALLY IT IS THE GOOD NEWS. THE GOSPEL is our secret weapon. IT IS THE ONLY thing that has the POWER to make an eternal difference in people’s lives. In our CHILDREN’S LIVES!
Wikipedia defines parenting as “the process of raising and educating a child from birth to adulthood.” What’s wrong with that definition? Well, we know our children’s lives stretch from here through eternity. Our parenting must be different because our GOAL is different. For us as Christians, parenting is “the process of discipling our children in order to encourage them to form a relationship with Jesus and submit their lives to Him.”
The Gospel is the difference. What an incredible privilege we hold, to be called by God to communicate His love to a human soul. <3 <3 WOW! When we look at Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 20-23, we see the HUGE emphasis God puts on the value of parenting. So as I step away from the ACHEV board and into whatever “quilt block” God has for me to work on next, I encourage you all to give yourselves grace. My kids were the sharpest tools that God ever used to shape my clay. I encourage you to exhibit grace and love in your firmness and requirements of them, as our loving Heavenly Father deals with us in SO MUCH MERCY. And I encourage you to find the joy in every day. Make friends in ACHEV. Reach out and find the mamas who can be the person in front of you on this path. Find the sisters to walk alongside you in this journey. And then reach back to help the mama who needs your newly-won experience.
I promise, God has good things ahead!
Bless you each and every one!