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Whether you are a parent of a child in a public, private, or homeschool, I would like to share with you today what will be a short series on some tips on how to overcome doubt and adversity despite the worst year of your life.  This is not a guide to see life wearing rose-colored glasses.  Though my life is scattered with several hardships, today I am going to share how my worst teaching (and probably worst parenting) year ever has made me into the wiser and smarter parent I am today.  First, I will take you into my story.  The year? 2014.  I will share with you what happened as a whole and how it affected me.  Then, tomorrow, I will share with you how, following the dreadful school year of 2013-2014, that summer I read a book I had no idea would change my understanding of who I am, where I came from, and where I wanted to go.  The book was about Helen Keller (the blind and deaf girl) as told by her TEACHER.  In it, there were had so many epiphanies on how not just to help my kids….but me.  I am reading it for the second time now and am still blown away by how her teacher struggle is so relevant to all parents today.

Here’s the setup.  It was my second year homeschooling.  I was teaching 2nd grade to my seven-year-old daughter while also learning to manage a one-year-old toddler.  I think I recall our homeschool year began happily with our usual scavenger hunt to ring in the school year. But soon math was a nightmare.  My daughter fought with me or whined about some part of it nearly every day while my son would scream at the top of his lungs begging for someone to pay attention to him.   I quickly learned that my daughter considered subtraction as her enemy – and therefore, since I was making her do it anyway… I also became her enemy. I was losing my joy – fast.  One day I even videotaped our lessons to show my daughter her behavior… except… yikes!  I was so depressed to see the look of numbness on my face – I never showed her.  No excitement was in my eyes.  Worse yet… I had lost how to discuss math with love.  My tone was business only… yet I also felt bad for the reflection of me on the screen.  That lady looking back at me was SO TIRED.  She was out of options for getting such a smart little girl, completely capable of learning to stop being so stubborn!  She could not see that she was against herself.  I could see that inside her she could do it!  I had to turn the video off; it was too dreadful to watch us both suffering.  I then thought to myself… I was a straight-A student in math in school.  In my background, I had tutored math to the most troubled student to the smartest student.  Why was my daughter, who I loved more than life itself, so unbelievably HARD?

My house was a nightmare.  I could never get things clean after feeling so defeated in my lessons.  The mess negatively affected my husband, who was experiencing a new level of stress at work.  It was a snowball effect of disaster.  By Christmas, we decided we needed a vacation!  Actually, I wasn’t sure a vacation would help.  I was ready to throw in the towel and put my daughter in school.  I thought surely she could learn from someone – just not me.  But as I prayed, God kept showing me the word “faith.”  Everywhere I went I saw the word.  When my husband brought me home a new car, the Hyundai “Santa Fe,” which is “Holy Faith” in Spanish… I knew God was telling me not to give up.  His word to me that kept popping up over and over was “faith.”  It seemed clear that it was not just about school, but also to focus on having “faith” for the incoming 2014 New Year.  So casually, I thought…”Thanks God!”  I mean, who couldn’t use more faith?  And yet I also wondered why I needed more faith… because I am a person who tends to already look for the best of things.

But the funny thing is, I know that God both prepared me and must have had a sense of humor.   People!  2014 was like the year of Job for me!!!  God was SERIOUS. He didn’t cause what was to come.  I think He was telling me to have faith because that year would be like a series of hailstorms, hurricanes, and tornadoes all together!!!

We went to Disney World!  Yippee, right?  No.  Head on over to my blog post for how I survived and thrived after that trip.  When we came back, I was shaken, but not overcome.  But by March, things both for me at home and for hubby at work, became closer to hell, or so I thought.  I became scared about how tired I was.  My doctor increased my thyroid medication.  Didn’t work.  I then saw a new doctor who put me on Naturethroid.  I seemed to stabilize.

Well, turns out Naturethroid wasn’t weapon enough to combat my daughter’s attitude, nor my son not sleeping, nor the stress of my husband dealing with a nightmare employee.  By the end of March, my adrenals were shot.  I was scared.  By July, my doctor agreed that my adrenals needed help.  I detoxed my liver.  Seemed to be stabilized.

Seeing a pattern here?  Crash. Stable.  Crash.  Stable.  On some days I was able to cope with all the adversity.  On other days, I just wanted out.  To go somewhere on a mountain and scream.  But because I felt God had signaled me before the year started to have faith, I was able to hang on spiritually, though I was physically weakening fast.  I knew God heard me.  I also felt His presence despite arrow after arrow coming at us month after month.

But then it got WORSE.

On July 13, 2014, I found a lump in my breast.  I made another appointment back to the doctor the next day, who confirmed that she also felt a lump.  She seemed concerned and immediately scheduled me to have a Mammogram three days later to determine if the lump was malignant or benign.  Those were the longest three days of my life. I did not want to call my mom and worry her.  I felt like I couldn’t breathe.  I felt like the past year of fighting over math with my daughter was wasted time.  What if I died?  Who would teach her about the heart things of life?  What about the birds and the bees talk?  Who would be there for her?  Of course, I worried about my son too.  But I was more worried about the things a mother and daughter should do that we could be cut short on.  However, it seemed that every moment that I felt panicked, God would send someone to pray for me or something to encourage me.  I remember driving home from the doctor that day and just breaking down in sobs at a stop sign.  In between my sobs, I could hear a song on the radio come on in that instant with words as if from God to comfort me.  The next day, I took my daughter to a playdate at her friend’s house.  Her mom and I were also friends and was someone I could rely on to earnestly pray for me.  She heard my story and as we both got on our knees and prayed for our families, she also prayed for complete healing for me.

On the third day, July 16th, I finally went for my mammogram.  I was so terrified.  I left our kids home with my husband so my daughter would not worry about me and I would not have to explain to her why I was there.  All alone, I waited for my name to be called.  When it was my turn, an older nurse welcomed me with a caring voice.  She saw the fear in my eyes and got a warm blanket for me to put on my shoulders.  She asked me to locate the lump.  But when I looked for it, I could not even feel it.  I invited her to check.  She couldn’t feel it either!  I wasn’t phased that not feeling the lump meant anything at that moment.  I only thought it had moved or that I was too nervous to locate it correctly.  She left the room for a few minutes and consulted with doctors.  She sweetly smiled and told me that if I couldn’t find the lump and she couldn’t find the lump, then there was no use in putting me through the mammogram.  However, the doctors all agreed that an ultrasound would indeed locate any suspicious matter.  As I was on the ultrasound table, I slowly began to realize that the doctor wasn’t finding ANYTHING.  He said that there was NO lump whatsoever – anywhere.  But when he said everything looked NORMAL, I was in amazement!  Wow!  God had healed me! No lump!  Which meant no cancer!

Words cannot express my gratitude that the lump had disappeared.  I felt in that moment that this was the climax of my year that God had been preparing me to stay the course.  To keep the faith.  I could have easily fallen apart long before.  But He held me up even to the moment.  I also felt it was ironic that I had been spared such a potentially serious diagnosis.  In fact, that very day I found out my lump was gone, a friend I had known for several years, who was my exact same age and also had a child, was diagnosed with breast cancer and is still suffering as I write this.  So many people I know are struggling with cancer or have lost their battle.  I would wonder to God – Why Me?  Why was I spared?  I will never know but I am in some way thankful for those scary three days.  I got to wear the dreaded shoes to the oncologist area and to realize all the millions of terrifying thoughts that go through their minds.  Perhaps I live to be their voice?  But mostly, I think it is to testify that God still heals today and to share His power!  He’s powerful y’all! And He cares about YOU!

Some questions I still had.  After such a rollercoaster year of huge dips and short periods of normalcy… was my family in the position to remain a homeschooling family?  Honestly, I can tell you that I was NOT ready.  Yet all I continued to feel was God’s continual urge for me to continue to have faith.  (For real, God?)  My main focus for the rest of that summer was to rest in Him.  He was not releasing me from my calling to homeschool my daughter.  My health recovered, my lump was gone, and my husband’s job situation were all regenerated.  Whether I could reach my daughter in her math?  That was a matter I left for God.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content and in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. ~ Philippians 4:12

I also learned that year to that I will never assume that I know what God intends.  What I thought was going to be a happy go-lucky year of “Faith” really meant for me to be faithful in every situation. I feel God would say not just to me, but to all: “Seek Me, despite anything.  Follow Me and I will uphold you.”  He did just what He promised.

Are you experiencing a drought or storm in your life?  Here are five tips to help you along:

  1. Rest.
  2. Take it to Jesus.
  3. Have Faith!
  4. Be Thankful! Even in the darkest of times, a great idea is to find at least three things to be thankful for.  It only takes one good moment to change your circumstances.  Even if it is just a little thing… when we focus on being thankful, we align ourselves more with God’s goodness and are less likely to miss the times He carried us in the day.
  5. Surround yourself with scripture.  During this year, I couldn’t always get to my Bible.  But I would be reminded through friends or in the oddest of places verses to encourage me.

Can I pray for you?  Please post in the comments how I can pray for you.  Do you have a story you’d like to share about how you survived an awful year?  I’d like to hear it in the comments too!

That girl was me! Jesus literally carried me through!

(to be continued)… stay tuned for tips I learned that year to regain our household and homeschool joy.