Adoption, Homeschool, Lifestyle, Parenting

Why we stopped homeschooling

I am sat drinking coffee alone in my favourite coffee shop reflecting on the last 12 months. Today is the first day back at school for our boys after we spent a year home educating them. The irony is not lost on me that it was in this coffee shop that we spent our first morning of homeschool last Easter.

There were many reasons for choosing to bring our children home, but the main reason was that we wanted Jesus to be at the centre of everything; our home life and the children’s education. They were in a faith school, and one that they loved, but we felt that we needed to give them something more. I was more concerned with their character than with their class performance, and decided to spend a year working together as a family at home.

I was more concerned with their character than with their class performance

The homeschool lifestyle is incredible. We thrived outside of timetables and schedules, we loved the freedom and spontaneity that homeschooling afforded our family, and we found such incredible friends within the homeschool community. We read books on books, we spent endless hours outdoors and learned a great deal about ourselves and each other. It was such a privilege to watch my boys grow in confidence, learn new social skills and make new discoveries.

So why end it all? That is a very good question.

We always said that we would homeschool for a year and then review our decision. On reviewing, we realised that our eldest was missing school terribly, and the truth was, I was floundering under the demands of educating two very different children while running two very different businesses. Home education is most definitely a ministry in and of itself, and is a huge sacrifice for parents.

I felt that God called me to homeschool, however it wasn’t my ‘calling’ and at times, I struggled to find my identity over the last year. I loved being with my children all the time, but as God continued to speak into my heart I felt a tension between teaching them and spending quality time with them, alongside doing things that I wanted to do or felt called to. It is fair to say that the children have missed corporate learning, and although their social lives have been off the charts, the majority of their education has been in the home, one on one with me.

So what was the purpose of these last twelve months? Well, I believe that this year has not been about heart education not head education.

Our homeschool journey has been about heart education not head education

Prior to homeschooling, we were struggling at home. We were still blending as a family of five following our daughter’s adoption and still recovering from my maternal mental health challenges. Last Easter we needed to press the reset button. So we did.

As we took school out of the equation, and put God and family first in our home, we have gotten to know each other again. I believe that we have grown tremendously, in faith and in relationship. As we leaned in, God bound us together and we have now laid the foundations for a stronger family unit going forward.

Since December, God has been challenging me, guiding me and equipping me in so many areas; business, serving, faith and family. I believe that He called me to homeschool to lay down the foundations for our family future. God never said for how long we would homeschool, He just asked us to step out in obedience. We now believe that this season has come to an end and we need to build on what we have started. I am pressing in and listening hard. It feels like I am listening to a new song on the radio and God is tuning the dial so I can hear it clearly. I can hear the melody but now I need to let him refocus me so I can hear the words too.

Can you homeschool? Of course you can. Should you homeschool? Yes, if you feel led to.

I absolutely advocate home education and have seen firsthand how my children have thrived in the home environment. But I have also seen the delight on my children’s faces as they walked into their classroom, watched their eyes widen with excitement about the things they will get to see and do and the friends they get to meet.

So although my heart was a little sad as we waved them off this morning, I also felt incredibly excited for this new chapter of our story – both for them and for me. Here’s to the first entry on the page.

R x

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Faith

Set your sights in 2020

Sight is a gift. (Ask anyone who doesn’t have theirs and they will tell you so). To be able to see is something that we take for granted every single day. But there is a difference between having sight and seeing.

You have no doubt heard the term 20/20 vision a few times already this year, but do you know what it actually means? It is the term used to describe the clarity or sharpness of vision at 20 feet. If you have 20/20 vision, you can see clearly at 20 feet what should normally be seen at 20 feet. If you have 20/40 vision then you must be at a distance of 20 feet to see what someone with normal sight can see at 40 feet.

20/20 vision doesn’t equal perfect vision

It doesn’t take into consideration your peripheral sight, depth, ability to focus etc. You can still see without 20/20 vision, but your clarity isn’t as good.

I don’t have 20/20 vision, and I wear glasses every day to improve my sight. But physics sight isn’t the only thing I need improvement on.

Since becoming a Christian, I have wrestled so often with not knowing what’s ahead. As a believer I have given my heart to Jesus but my giving my head is not so easy. I want to trust Him while having complete control over the curveballs heading my way so that I can intercept them and manage them. I want to know where I am headed, so I can find the quickest, most direct route to get there.

But God isn’t in the habit of letting us see the full picture all in one go.

2 Corinthians 5:7 says that we should walk by faith and not by sight.

This has always been real hard for me. I like to be in control, but that is not my job it is God’s. It is therefore unsurprising to me that in my experience, that God has used the unexpected, the unknowns and the uncertainties to draw me closer to Him. More often than I care to admit, I have had to rely on the Holy Spirit showing me what is right and wrong. I have had to talk to Jesus and delve deeper into God’s word than ever before to find insight for the situation ahead.

Do you know that God doesn’t want you to have control?

Yep. That’s right. He doesn’t want you in control of your life anymore than you want your toddler in control of your car. In the wrong hands, a vehicle meant for driving can lead to our death.

God knows the plans He has for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future ~ Jeremiah 29:11

So does all this mean are we supposed to walk blindly? No. We are meant to walk with Jesus. He knows the Father’s heart, and He also knows the trials we face on this earth. Jesus wants to walk with us, to strengthen us and to equip us. He is not just a character in a book; He is the living breathing Son of God, who died for you and me and rose again from the dead.

We are not meant to walk blindly, we are meant to walk with Jesus

I am a recovering control freak. I like to know what’s ahead. I want to see what’s around the corner, but without spiritual insight I may as well be walking around with a blindfold on. Jesus is teaching me to trust Him, to take His hand and let His word illuminate the path. He didn’t say He would give me the road map, but He did promise to shine enough light for me to take the next step.

New Year is the perfect opportunity to change. But in order to see change you need to see things differently. It’s time to set our sights.

Can I encourage you today to get a spiritual sight test. Take off the tinted glasses that the world would give you. See things through the lens of the Holy Spirit and let Jesus be your guide.

R x

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Faith, Lifestyle

When the waves rise

The skies are clear but my eyes are clouded. A storm rages in my soul. I feel torn in a million different directions, my heart beats I am staring at the waves rising around me and I want to run for high ground.

They say knowledge is power but the more I learn the more I wish I didn’t know. My head is filled with questions and my heart reels.

We are en route to the coast and these few days away with my tribe couldn’t be more timely. I feel like we need time to ponder and pray; to recharge and refocus. At home I am so busy looking at the waves that I forget to look at the One who walks upon them.

When the waves rise, look at the One who walks upon them

Family is everything to me. They are truth, consistency and unconditional love. They are ‘home’. I have craved unity and togetherness my entire life, searched for a place to belong. But the generation that was supposed to nurture and build up chose to tear down and destroy. Those we were supposed to follow didn’t speak love or truth and our hearts were left wanting with unanswered questions.

When it feels like your life is flooded with doubts and disappointment, where does that leave you? With empty hands and a broken heart.

Jesus loves making something out of nothing.

When we have nothing to give Jesus pours in love and peace. When we are hurting He brings healing. He gave the blind sight and He raised the dead to life.

In the beginning the Spirit hovered above the waters waiting to make his move, ready to command the waves to surge and recede.

If, like me, you have unanswered questions, if you feel the storm surrounding you and the waves surging, simply whisper “Spirit lead me”.

Just as the Holy Spirit waited with anticipation when God spoke the world into motion, he is ready and waiting to move today. Let Him still the storm and hold your hand, as you walk on the waters together.

R x

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Faith, Lifestyle

He who holds the stars

Are you a perennial planner? A self confessed striver? Busily plotting your life to the nth degree then panicking when things take a detour? Yup me too.

I like to know where I am headed, what I need to do to get there and how long it will take. But so often this doesn’t take into account God’s opinion on the matter.

Our future is something we obsess over, yet we so easily forget that the One who flung the stars into space has our life in His hands. We hope, but He HOLDS. We try but He TRIUMPHS.

We hope, but He holds. We try but He triumphs.

Funnily enough God has been whispering this into my soul over the last few weeks and months but today at church I felt like He sealed it in for good.

Our current sermon series is all about Peter, and today we looked at the last time he met Jesus after the resurrection. Jesus had told Peter that he would be the rock on which Jesus would build the church, yet Peter had denied Jesus three times. We pick up the story where Jesus is risen, but hasn’t visited the disciples in a while. Peter is sat in his fishing boat, heart heavy and head in hands after a long and unsuccessful night of fishing. He must have been thinking to himself, “What now? I thought I would be a great fisher of men, yet I can’t even catch a fish. I let Jesus down and everyone know it.”

It can be so easy to beat ourselves up when things don’t turn out as we planned. So often we get despondent and downhearted, but this isn’t what Gods wants for us.

There is no point trying to know every turn and plan every step. That is not faith.

There is nothing to gain when we do things in our strength. But God’s gets all the glory when we let Him take over.

We are called to follow Jesus, to watch where he walked and place our feet in those footprints. Why follow Jesus? Because we can trust Him. Our happiness is His priority and He will take excellent care of us.

He who holds the stars will hold our hand. He always has and always will.

So wherever this finds you today, won’t you stop and be still. Stop striving and start living, because Jesus didn’t die so you could find your future. He died so you could find freedom. And that my friend, is a gift that you can enjoy right here, right now.

R x

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Lifestyle, Parenting

Dear Harry and Meghan

Two days in to being parents, congratulations! The adrenalin is still running, hormones flowing, body aching and heart bursting. You are besotted with your beautiful boy and cannot bear to take your eyes of him for fear of missing something. Netflix has nothing on watching a newborn sleep.

Any parent will tell you that raising children is the most exhilarating and exhausting, beautiful yet bewildering role they have ever had. Being a mother was, and still is, my greatest ambition and my greatest achievement. But it has not been without its challenges, namely around maternal mental health, which was overcome with a lot of love, faith, prayer and communication.

I want to encourage you both that you have a winning formula to start your new role as parents. When we watch you in public, we see warmth, love and respect, a genuine affection for one another that overrides the world around you. This love, this bond is your greatest source of strength as you navigate your new normal.

To any new parents I say this; keep checking in on each other. Sleepless nights can strain solid marriages, teething tests a mother’s bond to breaking point and tantrums can make the most patient parent tear their hair out. These seasons of motherhood are messy and miraculous.

It’s normal to find the days long and the nights longer. It’s natural to go into survival mode as the days blur from one to another in the early weeks and months. My advice to all new parents is to keep looking at one another. Keep locking your gaze and speaking words of love, encouragement and understanding through your eyes in the way that only couples can. Talk often and openly about everything and anything.

Be patient with each other, hold hands, hold your tongue and hold on for the ride. And above all, trust God as you embark on the best role there is.

Enjoy every minute.

R x

Photo Credit: Chris Allerton ©️SussexRoyal
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Faith

Sitting in the Son

Sitting in the Son. Yes the spelling is intentional. Because God knows I need His presence today. I didn’t make it through ten minutes of church because my two year old had other ideas. My ten year olds behaviour has been disgraceful on and off all week. Our belongings are scattered between about sixteen different bags that are rammed into every available space in our car. Tempers are rising as fast as the temperature. It’s safe to say we are ready to go home.

I hate leaving Wales because the mountains and the ocean soothe my soul like nothing else on earth. But I also hate the temporality of holidays, and by the end of the week away I find myself craving the comfort and familiarity of home.

But where is home? It doesn’t feel like Birmingham. With its rising crime and pollution filled air. It doesn’t feel like the hustle and bustle, the traffic, the sirens. But it is where God called us all those years ago. He asked us to serve and serve we have. Through redundancies, depression, anxiety and adoption, we have served. After a much needed year of selah, where we have leaned on God like never before, we are finally steady on our feet. As I start to feel my strength returning and as we get ready to start a new adventure, it should come as no surprise that the devil starts knocking.

You can’t do this. You won’t do this. You are going to fall again. You are going to mess up.

His whispers mix with my thoughts and mess with my mind. But Jesus. Oh Jesus.

When He was nailed to the cross, my fears and failures were nailed with Him. When He rose from the grave victorious, I too rose with Him. He won the battle for my life so I could win the battles in life.

Jesus said I am with you today and always. You are not alone. I’ve got you and we’ve got this. You are loved, you are precious, you are a child of God.

Oh Jesus.

Don’t listen to the lies of the enemy of your soul. He will do everything He possibly can to derail your destiny. Listen to the one who defeated hell and holds the keys to hades in His hands. Listen to the one who loves you so completely and unconditionally, just as you are. His words in the Bible and His actions on the cross shout louder than any of the devils whispers.

Today I am sitting in the Son. Because His presence calms the storm in my heart, soothes the troubles in my mind and restores my soul.

R x

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Faith

Finding me

All I have ever wanted is to belong. Isn’t that what we all want?

I grew up surrounded by abusive relationships, marriage breakdowns and bitter individuals. I have seen families torn apart by anger that was incited decades ago. I was fought over in the courts. I have never known, nor perhaps ever will know the full story behind the turbulent childhood I had. But what I do know, is that I have always sought to belong, to be accepted, to be approved of.

Thinking I could rectify the past with good works, I have always strived to be good – good at school, good at horse riding, good at art. I was always in the top sets and always pushing myself but this was never enough to gain the love and acceptance that I craved.

I went to university to study, one of the first in my family to do so, and I thought would impress, but it didn’t and I left without graduating.

I felt like a failure. But God.

He didn’t need me to do anything to impress Him or make Him take notice of me. God had watched me all along, He never took His eyes off me. He knew me inside and out, and He was insanely jealous for my affection. When I turned to Him, aged 21, He became the Cornerstone in my life, the anchor for my soul.

But I still strived. It’s all I knew to do.

I thought I could make up for the past by creating the perfect family. I pinned my hopes and dreams on creating the perfect home, the perfect family. I married an incredible man and we begin to build our family, but even so things began to unravel.

Sometimes it’s only when we are on our knees that we remember to look up

I found myself spiralling in anxiety and depression wondering where it had all gone so horribly wrong. I found myself floundering, utterly lost and asking Who am I? What am I here for? Do I need to be a Wife? Mother? Speaker? Writer?

I cried out to God and His reply was simple; You are my daughter.

Ever impatient, I asked, so what am I supposed to do?

His reply; Do what you love.

I sat back reeling, because I didn’t know the answer. What did I love? Jesus, family, friends? No the answer to finding me wasn’t in who I loved but what. And slowly over the last five years God has been peeling me back later by later, to rediscover my loves.

Do what you love ~ Father God

When we bought our first house, God whispered into my heart to get a piano. I found a beautiful vintage one on FreeCycle and arranged to collect it. My husband thought I had gone insane and that it was a fad that I would get bored with, but three years on I still play my piano almost every single day.

Our house is in a busy area and it wasn’t until we lived somewhere so urban that I realised how much I craved the great outdoors. We make an effort to get the children outside the city and into the woods, fields and mountains as often as possible. Both Dave and I grew up in the countryside and we continue to feel such a pull towards a simpler, rural way of life.

And then there is my writing. I have written as long as I can remember. Poetry, stories, songs and later blogs. But only in recent years have I realised the power in sharing my musings. I have always searched for a niche, not feeling that I fit into the usual parent blogger or lifestyle blogger categories. God gave me incredible tools in essential oils to support my emotional and physical health, and lately I have used this platform to share more about my wellness journey with others.

So what have I learned in all this? That God has given me gifts and talents. He has given me hopes and dreams. And He doesn’t need me to ‘be’ anyone or ‘do’ anything. In the same way that I take delight in seeing my children come alive in their giftings, so too does God delight in me. I don’t need a label, or a category. I just need to rest in the knowledge that I am a child of God and do what I love.

I am still finding ‘me’. But there are less layers to peel back and she is starting to peek through.

R x

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Faith

Raised to life

Have you ever felt that your dreams have died? That your ideals have become nothing more than ideas? Have you ever felt so utterly forgotten and forsaken, and wondering what happened and where on earth you went wrong?

Mary and Martha must have felt the very same way when their brother Lazarus died. The three were dear friends to Jesus, and when Lazarus became sick, his faithful sisters Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus, knowing that He could heal him. But rather than come immediately, Jesus chose to stay where he was for a further two days and Lazarus died.

Mary and Martha must have been devastated and dumbfounded. Where was Jesus? Why had He left them? Why had He failed them?

When Jesus finally arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had been in the grace for four days. He was already starting to decay. The sisters were speechless at Jesus apparent lack of concern and lack of action, yet they were about to witness His greatest miracle.

Jesus raised Lazarus to life.

He woke his friend from his sleep and returned him to his amazed and overjoyed family. Sure, healing Lazarus would have been a marvellous miracle in its own right, but raising him from the dead was a straight up supernatural event. Seeing the hopes and dreams of a life with Lazarus die before their eyes, only to watch Jesus breathe life back into their brother must have been the most life-changing, faith-affirming moment of their entire lives.

Last Sunday was my first day back on the worship team in 8 months. A lot can happen in 8 months. We sang a song called Raised to Life by Elevation Worship and as I reflected on the words, tears sprang to my eyes.

What does it mean to be raised to life? We might think of the literal translation of being raised from the dead like Lazarus, but as I pondered this phrase my spirit stirred. In order to be raised, something has to die. I am not talking about a physical death, but more the death of a dream, of an ideal.

You may have started 2018 too scared to dream at all. You may have arrived with dashed hopes, plans in tatters and a battered, bruised heart. I want to encourage you that if your dreams seemed to have died, if your ideals are seemingly impossible, just wait on the Lord. If they are the dreams and plans He has for you, He will give you a peace about your situation and lead you to something new. But maybe, just maybe, He is waiting in the wings, biding His time.

Because only when a dream is dead, can it be raised to life.

“Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” ~ Jesus
John 11:40 NLT

R x

 

 

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Faith

Finding my way

January 2018 is here and I for one couldn’t be happier to see the back of 2017.

As years go, we have had worse; previous years have seen us navigate redundancies and relocations, while witnessing health and marriage difficulties in our nearest and dearest. In fact, on paper, 2017 saw the realisation of many of my dreams, from preaching God’s word and leading worship to becoming a mama for the third time.

So why so negative about the last 12 months?

Because I lost my way.

As a self confessed control freak and obsessive planner, I like to have everything set out before me. I like to organise and plan every detail of my life, and submit my requests to God expecting Him to simply rubber stamp my suggestions.

My path was laid out before me, I thought I had it all figured out.

At the start of 2017 I was brimming with excitement. My head was full of ideas and plans, my heart was bursting with love for my new family, and my faith seemed stronger than ever. I relied upon God for every piece of the puzzle and rejoiced as I watched them slot into place. I was on my way.

Then it happened.

The Enemy crept in, so stealthily that I didn’t even see it coming. As my arms were filled with joy, my mind was filled with lies. Like a thief in the night, the Devil stole my joy and replaced it with doubt and fear. He made me doubt that I was on the right path, he made me doubt that I ever heard God, he made me doubt my purpose.

As the doubt grew, so too did the darkness that fell over my soul. As uncertainty tightened its grip on my heart, my hand loosened its grip from my Heavenly Father. I suddenly found myself drifting from His path, doubting my purpose and feeling totally afraid.

Oh the Devil loves fear. It’s the very life force for him; he preys on our panic with pure glee.

But God.

Even on my darkest days, my God never left me

Even when my doubt threatened to overwhelm me, my God upheld me.

Even when I lost my way, my God pursued me.

Then when I couldn’t take any more, He took it away.

Oh I have come to rely on God in a more personal way than ever before in the last year. I have literally fallen to my knees, shouting, screaming, sobbing. I have laid things down and I have lifted things up.

And He has given me beauty for ashes.

The Enemy thought he had won the battle, but my Jesus has won the war

I may have been blindsided, I may have been broken, but God works everything together for the good of those who love Him. I may have lost my way, but God never lost sight of me. Like a loving parent who stands back while their child wanders off, God was always watching, always waiting for me to turn and look at Him.

And when I did, He came running.

Jesus gave everything – literally – so that I could have a relationship with Father God. I am starting 2018 hand in hand with Jesus with renewed hope and a reliant heart. He has saved me and strengthened me.

Jesus replaced my doubt with destiny, my fear with faith

Together we are on a journey and He is showing me that He knows the way, I just need to follow Him.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.

Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29:11

If you don’t know Jesus, can I suggest that you start 2018 by following Him too.

R x

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Adoption, Faith, Lifestyle, Parenting

Finding the lovely in everyday life

Nothing like quite a blog rebrand is there? My blog has enjoyed several face lifts and name changes over the years, but this current one somehow seems more poignant than ever.

Have you ever wanted to find your place? Your purpose? Your calling?

I am a self-confessed people pleaser, searching for the one true reason that I was put on this earth, wanting to hone in on that talent, that gift, that passion that I have been blessed with and run with it to the best of my ability.

Of course, the truth is we all have many talents, many gifts, many passions. I love to sing, and worship music is something that is incredibly close to my heart. I have tried to pursue this calling and advance in my ministry but have been met with a wall limiting my growth and holding me back. I love to write, and dream of writing my own story, pouring my life into the pages in the hope that my experiences could help somebody else, yet it never seems to be the right time. I love being a mother, and this lifelong desire to raise a family is now realised, yet I have found myself struggling with depression and mom-guilt.

Trying to fixate on just one gift is like trying to a child that once he has learned to walk that is all he can ever do. He shouldn’t try to run, ride, hop, skip or jump – sounds ridiculous, right?

All through my life, I have tried to please others. To get others to notice me, to recognise my giftings, to use my talents. Not in an egotistical way, but because rightly or wrongly I find my self-worth in what other people think. This applies to my blog too, to a certain extent, as I have always wanted to find my ‘niche’.

My very first blog was a craft blog, Sing Sew Write, inspired by my heroine Kirsty Allsopp following her successful series Kirstie’s Homemade Home. I documented my attempts at patchwork cushions, decoupage and even managed a crochet blanket, however, I soon ran out of ideas within my skill set, not to mention time after my second son was born.

I then thought that a mommy blog was the way forward, and Boys and Babyccinos was born. I loved documenting my adventures with my sons, but soon felt torn between wanting to share their lives and wanting to protect their identities. My husband and I agreed that in this media hungry world we needed to limit our children’s exposure on the world wide web, and so Boys and Babyccinos was no more.

After that I decided to go for a more generic blog, using my name Rachel Rae Writes and began sharing my journey with Jesus. As I was taking to time to study the Bible or spend time in God’s presence, He would drop little nuggets of wisdom into my mind and pretty soon I was writing mini-sermons that spoke into my soul. This has continued for a while until we embarked on our adoption journey and our third child, a daughter arrived.

To say that adoption rocked our world is an understatement. The assessment process itself is at best like having your home life raided by social workers with a search warrant. The approval process and eventual matching are both extraordinary and excruciating, and the introductions and birth parent meetings leave you reeling in every which way. Then there is the integration of a brand new little life into an established and, in our case, exuberant family. We have been on the most incredible journey, one that has left us elated and exhausted, delighted and depressed, complete and cautious. Yet, to protect our family we have chosen not to share the details publicly.

So where does this leave my blog? What should I write?

As a professional writer and chronic oversharer, I am rarely left without something to say, however, I feel that the focus of my blog needs to not just shift, but be removed entirely. Why can’t my blog cover many topics? Why can’t I be interested in and passionate about many things? I believe that over the past 12 months or so, I have undergone a major change in my thinking, I have found my worth in God and not in my giftings. He doesn’t want to pigeon-hole me, He wants to pursue me. He wants to see my find my feet as a daughter of the King and not be defined by a role or responsibility. He wants me to live free from restriction and restraint, to run with my imagination, to realise my dreams.

I want to share my life with you, the journey that I am on personally, both with God and with my young family. We are about to embark on a new chapter in our story and are so tantalisingly close to an exciting future as a family of five. My impatient nature wants to run ten steps ahead but my heart tells me to be still and wait. There is beauty in the waiting. There is a miracle in the middle. There is lovely in life. While I wrestle with my new normal there is much to see, much to enjoy. There are moments of pure calm and sheer bliss amongst the many moments of muddied waters and stormy seas.

As I navigate unchartered territories, I cling to the One who calms the storm, the One who created the seas, and I will seek to share a window into my world with this new blog Little Rae Life. I hope you will join me on the journey, I thnk we are in for quite a ride!

Rae x

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