Tag Archives: personal devotions

NGHS Journal: Unexpected gifts on an atypical schooling day

10 Oct

Gotcher Family Homeschool — Day 28 — October 9, 2012

Today was a great homeschooling day. Not because it was “ideal” in terms of schedule, flow, and checking off a lot of boxes on the “to do” list. But God was in charge, and I believe a lot was accomplished today for His greater glory!

We didn’t get off to a great start. The girls decided to have a “slumber party” last night and sleep together in the full-size bottom bunk. Despite many “go to bed” calls from our bedroom, I heard their giggles and voices well past 1:30am. I found out tonight that they were actually up past 3am… Needless to say, everyone was sleepy and we didn’t get going with our day until about 10am.

Because my two youngest girls had Worship Dance class at noon, that didn’t give us much time to accomplish anything before we had to be out the door for the 20-minute drive to class. With this in mind, I told my eldest two that they could independently work on their presentations for tomorrow’s Elementary Presentation Day with our local homeschool group. Breakfast was eaten at the school table today, and somehow I also managed to squeeze in a shower before we were out the door.

But not before I spent at least 15 minutes doing my personal devotion time and bible reading. This has become a non-negotiable for me. No matter how off schedule I am going to be due to sleep issues, missed alarms, or simply not being disciplined enough to wake up early, I spend the first 15-20 minutes of my day filling my mind with God’s truth and talking to Him. I read from a daily devotional downloaded to my iPhone, highlight key scriptures, tap in some personal notes, recite some key verses several times to get memorization started, pray and wait on the Lord.

It might not seem like a very big deal for those who are disciplined in a daily morning devotional hour, but for someone like me who used to jump (literally) out of bed after hitting snooze several times and immediately hit the ground running — and not stop until I hit the sheets exhausted at night — this shift in gears was a huge change that took a lot of retraining.

No longer am I hitting the to-do list with a pit in my stomach that is further exacerbated by the two-plus cups of coffee that I would call “breakfast” and send my day into hyperdrive. Instead, I receive my energy for the day from God’s presence and words of truth, and I rise with a sense of peace and purpose received from time spent in prayer and praise.

I’ve also substituted those two cups of breakfast coffee for an energy-boosting smoothie: Greek yogurt, a banana, and a few ounces of “Blue Goodness” juice quickly whipped together with an immersion hand blender. There’s still some coffee involved after that, but it’s no longer all that sustains me until noon.

Back to today: We made it to the first of two back-t0-back dance classes, but we were about 10 minutes late. I had sacrificed my post-breakfast coffee to get there on time, so after dropping my 5-year-old Elise off in her class, I swung right back out of the parking lot to the nearest drive-through Starbucks. When I returned to the church where the worship dance classes are held, I settled down in the lobby couches with the other homeschooling moms passing time during the first session of classes while my two eldest got some school reading done.

This week, I was also suited up to participate in a fitness walk that one of the moms offered to lead during the second session of dance classes starting at 1pm. Last week, I had waved off the opportunity so I could get some lesson planning done on my laptop, but when the moms returned sweaty and panting, I realized this wasn’t just a leisurely walk — those mamas got a workout! Today, I couldn’t wait to join in and get some much-needed exercise.

The fitness walk was fabulous! The mother who led it has some experience with leading this style of interval training, so our walk was infused with interval stops of sit-ups, push-ups, squats, lunges, and more — even the infamous fat-burning “burpee” move! Sharing this invigorating workout with other time-crunched homeschooling moms added another layer of support and fun to the experience. I found myself wishing we had dance class twice a week just so I could get another workout in with these inspiring ladies!

Those squeezed-in conversations with other moms in my shoes are such a blessing and a gift. This time, it was sharing ideas on how to get out more with our kids and encourage some family fitness along with all the extracurricular “PE” the kids do through all the wonderful programs out there like CMA’s Worship Dance. It was discussing how we deal with the Halloween “dilemma” in our families and what God has revealed to us personally on this topic. It was laughing about who was sweating more, panting louder and cheating on her push-ups. It was nourishing in all the ways we need to be fed as a community of homeschooling mamas.

After both Elise and my 10-year-old Claire were done with their dance classes, we headed back home for lunch, after-lunch chores, and one more hour of schoolwork before the girls would be “excused” to play outside with the neighbor friends who would be home from school by about that time. Once the girls were outside, I turned to getting all of my “computer” work done: Checking email, updating Facebook for the NextGen Homeschool blog, handling updates for the local homeschool group Web site (which is my board member responsibility), updating our family’s online homeschooling planner/tracker, etc. My awesome chef of a hubby was making chili tonight, so I had extra time to get all my to-do’s accomplished before dinner.

Tonight I was really motivated to clear my plate because it was time for our local homeschool group’s twice-a-month mom’s prayer meeting. This is something new to our group’s calendar, and it has quickly become one of the things I look forward to most every month. It’s informal, open to all, and it’s been awesome to see how God has drawn certain moms consistently to participate in a couple of hours of honest sharing and focused prayer for our families, our group, our community, and more. In just two months, we’ve already seen a lot of answered prayers and God working in miraculous ways through our prayer time.

Although there were just four of us there tonight, I believe God knew exactly who needed to be there and why. We discovered that there were more than a few common themes challenging all four of our families — and that by bringing us together, God revealed His wisdom and solutions throughout our prayer time. God also spoke to me directly through a scriptural truth He had placed on another mom’s heart to share with me. It was so undeniably for me in this very moment in time that I am still in awe of how clearly God chose to speak to me, and it was a message I desperately needed to hear.

Today was a great homeschooling day. Not because of what we did, but because of what HE did. Tonight I am thankful for God’s many, many gracious gifts today. Thankful that He was ever-present with me and my family today. For providing fellowship. Even time for fitness. Lots of fun! Friends. Fruitfulness. Family. Forgiveness. Faith-building. Fear-banishing. Filled hearts. Freedom! Freshness.

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” — 2 Cor. 3:18

Renée Gotcher is an entrepreneur, writer, wife & home-educating mother of three daughters: Audrey, Claire and Elise. Renée was homeschooled during her last two years of high school and started homeschooling in 2010. She and her family currently reside in Castle Rock, Colorado.

NGHS Journal: Lessons from the meeting my schedule forgot

19 Sep

Gotcher Family Homeschool — Day 13 — September 18, 2012

We’ve been “back to school” for several weeks now — we did schoolwork three days a week those last two weeks in August as a warm-up and review for the girls (and to test out my new school organization systems), and then we went on a 10-day family road trip that is becoming a tradition for our family. Needless to say, getting back into the swing of things after that vacation was like starting school all over again, and I’ve been hesitant to “journal” any of our days because I’ve felt like I’m flying by the seat of my pants still… even after all that planning and organizing!

For the past four years, my husband has been running a world-famous race over Imogene Pass, from the town of Ouray to Telluride, on the weekend after Labor Day. When he first attempted this race with his best friend, we lived in Durango (not too far from Telluride) and many of our Durangoan friends also ran the race. Since moving to Castle Rock two years ago, it’s a bit more of an effort for our family to drive to Telluride from the Denver metropolitan area for this race.

Last year we decided to make a family road trip out of it: Spending Labor Day weekend in Beaver Creek with my sister (who now lives in Eagle), camping near Crested Butte during the week after Labor Day (still warm enough to camp, but the summer crowds are gone!), and ending up in Telluride by Friday for the Saturday race. It’s a whirlwind 10 days of traveling through some of the most beautiful parts of Colorado, seeing close friends and family, and spending plenty of time “unplugged” from our normal life, enjoying God’s creation.

However, I have to admit it’s a little tough to “hit the street running” when we get home on Sunday night and the week that follows includes not just getting back into our own homeschool routine, but starting all of our supplemental programs and homeschool co-ops at the same time. This year, that includes ballet lessons for Audrey (11 1/2) on Monday nights, Worship Dance for Claire (10) and Elise (5) on Tuesday afternoons, our new Girls Book Club Co-op (which I’m hosting & coordinating) on Wednesday afternoons, PE Plus on Thursday afternoons, and AWANA on Sunday afternoons.

This past week, we also had a slumber party for my new 10-year-old Claire, the annual homeschooling family BBQ with our local support group, a visit from my in-laws (who leave tomorrow) and an upcoming visit from my dad this Friday (who’s staying for a week)!

So you’ll understand how a Type A personality like me, with all my appointments in my iPhone (reminder alarms set) as well as on a color-coded calendar on my refrigerator, could still manage to have a day like yesterday.

It started out with promise: I had printed out all the girls’ sheet work the night before and placed it in their “to do” folders in the school area. I had the necessary DVDs out and books checked out from the library. The girls woke up, ate breakfast, and started on their independent work. We did our family devotions around the table before my five-year-old Elise woke up to distract us. My in-laws (who live in a remote part of Kansas), wanted to get their Costco shopping done while in town, so because things were going so smoothly and Audrey’s ballet lesson wasn’t until 5:30pm, I offered to take them so my husband (who works from home) could stay home and work.

About 10 minutes into our trip to Costco, an iPhone alarm went off in my back pocket. I quickly discovered that I had a homeschool support group board meeting this afternoon — not part of the normal weekly routine — and it was starting in 15 minutes! (I was at least 20 minutes away from the meeting at this point in time). After searching for my in-laws to find out if they wanted to stay or rush out (they opted to stay and continue leisurely shopping), I left my cart in the middle of Costco and took off to the forgotten board meeting.

Right away, I realized my error: Although I had entered the meeting into my iPhone calendar, I had forgotten to put it on the refrigerator calendar – my visual cue that I see constantly, every day — so when asked if I could run the errand, I thought I was obligation free for the afternoon. But that wasn’t the case, and today I was especially thankful for the calendar alarm on my iPhone! I could tell it was going to be one of those days after all.

I arrived about 15 minutes late to the meeting. It figures that the new home of the board member hosting this meeting wasn’t recognized by Google maps, so I had to wing it and find her home by driving around the general vicinity — praise the Lord I found it! This was to be a “short” board meeting, but about 2 hours later, my iPhone was buzzing again because my in-laws were done shopping at Costco, waiting for me. And then there was Audrey’s ballet lesson, which was going to start in 45 minutes. I left the meeting at 4:45pm — Castle Rock rush hour — so traffic to and from Costco was unusually heavy, of course. Because it was one of those days.

My husband had to intervene and drive all three girls to drop off Audrey at ballet. And I had to rush back to Costco, rush back home to unload all the food from Costco, and rush back out to pick up Audrey from ballet. On the way there, I’d planned to make a quick return to Kohl’s. Turns out that would not be easy, either. If I made the return, I would lose the value of the “Kohl’s cash” I used on the original purchase. Unless I could find an item of exact retail value, which I could then evenly exchange for my returned item. Of course, a quick scan of the aisles and nothing I actually needed right now was exactly $34.99. And now I was 10 minutes late to pick up Audrey. So I left without accomplishing anything. Because it was one of those days.

What does any of this have to do with homeschooling? Maybe, nothing. Or maybe, everything — at least for me. Don’t they say that school is never out for the pro? I have a better version of that saying: Growth is never out for the child of God.

Because hours earlier, before the “planned” school day began — and the afternoon’s chaos ensued — I read this:

“It is easy to make an idol of routine, finding security within the boundaries you build around your life. Although each day contains twenty-four hours, every single one presents a unique set of circumstances. Don’t try to force-fit today into yesterday’s mold. Instead, ask Me to open your eyes, so you can find all I have prepared for you in this precious day of life.”Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young

It was one of those days that could have ended in tears, anger, frustration, self-defeat. The thoughts that used to haunt me on days like this included things like, “How can you be the teacher when you can’t even get organized?” Or even better, “You aren’t the parent who’s working, so why can’t you manage to stay on top of things?” Lies that took my focus away from God and back to myself.

But as the day unfolded, the words from the morning’s devotional reading came back to me again and again. Yes, it was my calendar mishap that set off a chain reaction of chaos. But God knew what would happen before I woke up that morning. In fact, He knew what my day would look like before I was born.

Have you ever stopped and really thought long and hard about what that means? “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.Psalm 139:13-16

My loving Heavenly Father knew that I would blunder up this day — with so many people depending on me — and He planned to be there for me through all of it. He wanted me to grow, to draw ever closer into His presence, and He knows what He is doing! “When you cling to old ways and sameness, you resist My work within you,” writes Sarah Young, as she captures the words the Lord has placed on her heart. “I want you to embrace all that I am doing in your life, finding your security in Me alone.

My homeschooling journey has been as much about my growth and my education — with my Heavenly Father as my teacher — as it has been about what I can teach my girls. Maybe even more. Sometime soon, I hope to share more about my personal struggles and journey with the Lord this past school year that have transformed my perspective on what homeschooling means to me. Another story for another day.

Today, I am very thankful that my Heavenly Father not only knew I would have this crazy day, but walked with me through it every step of the way. He prepared me with a very specific devotional entry and accompanying scriptures. He prepared me with a peaceful morning of (almost) everything I had planned being accomplished around the school table with minimal fuss from the girls. And then when things started to fall apart, He reminded me of the fact that nothing I could have done or should have done mattered now — it was time to walk through it, knowing that He was by my side and it was part of His plan.

I was able to be completely focused at that board meeting, and completely present for my family that evening when we shared a late dinner with my in-laws. And I was able to go to sleep in peace — thankful for another homeschooling day!

— Renée Gotcher is an entrepreneur, writer, wife & home-educating mother of three daughters: Audrey, Claire and Elise. Renée was homeschooled during her last two years of high school and started homeschooling in 2010. She and her family currently reside in Castle Rock, Colorado.

Friday Flashback: A Slow Start to a New Year

6 Jan

By Renée Gotcher

This week I’m participating with a homeschool blog link-up called “The Homeschool Mother’s Journal” hosted by The Homeschool Chick. I love that this week The Homeschool Chick Sue’s post is called “My Year of New” because it’s not about your typical “New Year, New You” gonna-fix-everything-that’s-wrong-with-my-life reflection. In fact, Sue’s year will actually be marked by a lot of  “new” — new experiences and changes on the horizon which she alludes will be revealed soon — and because of that, the word “new” seemed an appropriate theme.

I was glad to hear that, because for the first time that I can remember, when the clock struck midnight and ushered in 2012, I had nothing “new” on my resolutions list. In fact, I hadn’t even started a resolutions list. I have avoided every “New Year, New You” how-to article that’s dropped into my inbox or passed through my Facebook or Twitter news feeds. It’s been an intentional avoidance — which is completely contrary to my personality. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a plan for this New Year. Let me explain…

In my life this week…  I resolved not to make a New Year’s resolutions list! What?!? For as long as I can remember, I always been a big “New Year, New You” girl. From my former magazine publishing days and business as an independent beauty consultant to my family and personal life, I’ve always been goal-oriented and strategic about planning my work and working my plans. I’m a list-making, live-by-the-planner, problem-solving kind of girl. That’s just how God made me.

So what’s changed? I still have plenty of homeschool/work/life to-do’s on my list and areas of weakness that need to be addressed — many of which are recurring issues like exercise more/eat better/declutter the house/don’t watch the Bachelor/etc. Then there are personal goals that I’m passionate about (and I believe God has placed on my heart) which never saw the light of day in 2011. If I’m being honest, there’s actually quite a lot I should tackle in the New Year!

But here’s the thing: Try as I might to find a bible verse to support me in “resolving to be the best I can be” in 2012, I simply couldn’t. I’m not saying that God doesn’t ask us to be good stewards of what He’s given us (food, family, health, talents, etc.) or that He doesn’t call us to live a purposeful life (though I do believe it’s His purpose, not ours). What I did find was a call to seek Him first (Matt. 6:33), to be obedient to His Word (Deut. 11:13-15), to make knowing Christ the goal (Phil 3:8), and to be transformed — not conformed — in order to live out His will (Romans 12:2).

So that’s where I’m going to start. I’m going to examine the items that would normally be on my resolutions list and dig into the Bible to discover what God already has to say about them — I will seek Him first. I’m going to take the list to prayer, and ask God to show me what belongs there, what doesn’t, and what He wants me to add — I have a feeling that list will grow short. Then I’m going to ask Him to show Himself strong in my weaknesses, so that as those things that remain on the list are (hopefully) accomplished, He alone is glorified. Because the truth is this: It’s not about me, it’s about HIM!

I did make one resolution: To go back and restart/finish Beth Moore’s “Jesus, 90 Days With the One and Only” personal bible study my fellow homeschooling sister Cristina gave me a few years ago for Christmas. It’s been attempted, it’s been put aside, it’s been lost, it’s been found, it’s been packed for moving and it’s been discovered 18 months later in a box one of the girls randomly opened in the basement recently. JUST IN TIME. I have a feeling that a lot will be revealed if I just start there!

In our homeschool this week… we are still on a break from a typical school schedule. Truth be told, I didn’t want to get started until the house was restored to some kind of order, and the girls weren’t ready to let go of the Christmas decorations. Finally, Tuesday was the appointed day to take down the tree, pack up the decorations from around the house, and vacuum up all the pine needles and bits of wrapping paper and ribbon still lingering here and there.

While the experience of Christmas was still fresh in their minds, I did have the girls do a couple of writing assignments. First they wrote an essay on their personal highlights from this Christmas. It was fun to see who liked what and what stood out from our “homeschooling Christmas” activities from their individual points of view. The second was a letter to Jesus expressing what celebrating His birth meant to them. My middle daughter Claire — my sentimental girl — asked me if she could keep that one private, so I let her write it in her journal. It was hard not to try to sneak a peek at that one!

In the meantime, we’ve been putting back into order our school area — which is also our dining/front room and got a lot of Christmas use — and other areas of the house that are in full use for school time. Library books have been dug out to be returned, cubbies have been purged of unnecessary contents, supplies boxes have been restocked with working pens and glue that’s not dried up, and games that have been out and in use during the vacation are back in their boxes and on the shelves.

It’s Friday, and things are looking good! The school area is ready to go. The family room and kitchen have also been restored to working order and are even cookie-crumb free again (thanks to me and an hour with the shop vac). The girls are excited about getting back to work on upcoming unit studies and projects. And I’m finally back to a homeschooling frame of mind. Bring it on!

Quote of the week… Does anyone know where my well-planned day went?”

— Me, calling downstairs to the girls as I am frantically trying to locate my homeschooling planner at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. My husband’s laughs could be heard from across the hall. “Did you hear what you just said? Now that was funny!”

And so begins our 2012 story.

— Renée Gotcher is an entrepreneur, writer, wife & home-educating mother of three daughters: Audrey, Claire and Elise. Renée was homeschooled during her last two years of high school and started homeschooling in 2010. She currently resides in Castle Rock, Colorado.

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