“Watch me!” the words rang out through the bright sunshine as my red-headed fireball of energy sped past on his bike. I stood just inside the door and watched in wonder as his hands gripped the handlebars tightly and his legs pedaled furiously against the brisk wind that left a trail of dust running after the boy and the bike.
West Texas is known for the wind that seems to whistle across the plains on a regular basis. If you live in West Texas, you either love the wind or you spend most of your time indoors and miserable. I love both the beautiful sunsets that paint the big Texas sky with color and the dusty winds that fill the air with dirt particles and catch the light of the sinking sun to give the sky its glorious hues.
Bloom where you are planted. It is an old statement, but there is a lot of truth to the words. I think, though, in order to truly bloom where we are planted we must be thankful for more than just the location that we call home; we must also be grateful for the circumstances and the seasons in which we find ourselves and learn to praise God and see His loving hand in both the good and the difficult things in our lives.
Justin had learned to ride the bike late in the summer, not long after his fifth birthday, but winter’s cold had forced the boy and the bike to wait until warmer days to resume their journeys on the dusty farm roads near our home. On that bright day, summer was just around the corner and Justin was taking full advantage of the warm weather. Less than a week earlier, he had coded on the table during a cardiac catheterization: his heart had stopped as the small tube attempted to pass through the non-existent pulmonary valve, and the physicians had immediately withdrawn the catheter and worked to revive his small body. Justin would soon face a second open heart surgery to replace the defective valve, but none of us could have imagined what lay ahead for our family.
Justin went into the hospital for that second surgery on May 5, 1992. We had just finished our first year of homeschooling, and with two more little boys, then aged 2 and 3, and another baby on the way, we were looking forward to many more joyous years of storybooks, fun crafts, and nature walks scattered among our more formal curriculum. God indeed did have those joyous times in store for our future, but he had many other lessons in store for us as well. We would discover that in order to bloom where we were planted—to blossom into vessels that overflowed with joy and peace—we would have to discover beauty and gratitude in yielding to God’s sovereignty and learn to grow in His love, ever expanding our hearts as we acknowledged His amazing grace and recognized His love for us in the midst of difficult circumstances.
Justin never fully recovered from that surgery. Complications from lack of oxygen resulted in severe brain damage. Justin would never again ride his bike; in fact, he would never again walk, talk, or even perform such basic tasks as feeding himself.
In the months and even years that followed, I struggled to comprehend why a loving God would allow such a tragedy. In those early years with a new baby, a toddler, and a preschooler, I struggled with a preconceived idea of “fairness.” It was not fair that my son was no longer normal and as a result, our household was no longer “normal.” “Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! . . . Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou?” (Isaiah 45:9). Just as a pot cannot protest about how it’s formed, neither can a seed protest to the gardener about the condition of the soil in which it is planted. Complaint and discontent only bring heartache and woe.
When Justin’s therapists began to suggest we place him in the public school system to provide us with some respite, I suddenly realized the depth of my conviction to continue to homeschool. During the years that followed, God began to reveal to me the beliefs within my heart and the source of those beliefs, particularly my concept of fairness. He used homeschooling and the people and ideas within the homeschool movement and community to drastically alter my worldview.
I realized that many of my thoughts about fairness and equality stemmed from my own education, where I was instilled with the mindset that all people were entitled to equal opportunities. I was educated in a system in which every child went to school on the same days, at the same time, in a system designed to treat everyone fairly and equally. “Equal opportunity” was a common expression, but it was this socialist concept of fairness and equal treatment for everyone that hindered my ability to completely surrender to God’s sovereignty.
However, bit by bit, line upon line, precept upon precept, God slowly began to change my heart. As I began to grow, God began to reveal a joy that is found only in a heart that truly seeks Him, and as I began to surrender to God’s plan, I began to see Justin’s handicaps and his very presence as a blessing. The resentment I had once felt as a result of the interruptions that I thought robbed my other children of attention and made teaching difficult began to disappear. I began to express a deep gratitude for the child whose special needs enhanced our homeschool experience and enriched the lives of my other children. True, his needs daily interrupted their school days and limited the outside activities in which we could participate, but as I continually expressed gratitude for their brother and pointed out the blessings he brought to our family, I saw their young hearts mirror that gratitude.
Like a flower that begins to emerge after a long season of winter, my heart began to blossom with peace and deep, abiding joy. The questions of “why me and why us?!” that I once had shouted to the heavens in hurt and anger were now whispered in reverent and thankful awe: “Why me, and why us?”
I became all the more thankful for those lessons in gratitude and surrender when my husband died in 2001. In that season of grief, we found peace in trusting that the One who was faithful to give grace and peace before was faithful still. Single parenting is difficult, and homeschooling can be an additional challenge, but like all homeschool parents, I found that the rewards of obediently following the calling on my heart were bountiful. As the years passed, my children and I lived together, laughed together, worked together, cried together, and learned together. Through it all we sought to praise God for all things, both the good and the difficult.
Our family and our school may not have given my children the same opportunities as their peers—even their homeschooled peers, but we rejoiced in those differences and praise God for the unique experiences and challenges He provided. Justin left this world on March 3, 2004. Jacob, Jerrod, and Jennifer each completed their formal education and graduated from our homeschool. Today jobs and other responsibilities now demand much of our time and attention, but we still enjoy time spent together laughing, learning, and praising God. Though the lessons may still be difficult at times, we have learned to bloom where we are planted and to praise God for the time and season in which we live—it is ever changing, but God is never changing and always faithful and worthy of praise.
Sheila Campbell began homeschooling in 1991, and after the death of her husband in 2001, she homeschooled as a single parent. She also was the parent of a special needs child whom she cared for at home until his death in 2004. These difficulties have strengthened her walk with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and it is her prayer that her words will encourage and inspire others. Sheila invites you to visit her blog at pausingtopraise.wordpress.com.
Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the March 2012 issue ofThe Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free atwww.tosmagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.tosapps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.