I am standing on a train platform. It feels good to be here in this familiar place. People are chatting excitedly around me. The arrival and departure board glows above me. I’ve done this seven other times, and I feel pretty confident if I’m being honest. I’ve prepared for this trip, I’ve arranged for this trip, and I’m ready. My little suitcase is loyally sitting next to my leg, meticulously packed and gone over. My purse is filled with my ticket, my book, gum, chapstick. I have everything I need.
Waiting for the usual rumble of my arriving train, I casually glance at my watch to check the time, then grab my phone from my back pocket to check my unread texts. Admittedly, I’ve had to pump myself up a bit this time around because, being the seventh time I’ve made this trip, I need a little motivation to feel excited. I’m a little tired, a little overwhelmed. I had some hesitation a few weeks ago–should I even still be doing this? A twinge of doubt had crept in, but I shoved it out of my mind in favor of the familiar tracks I’ve been on over again and again.
Sure it might be hard–but it’s the hard I know.
The train chugs in, right on time. I step on, lugging my suitcase behind me. I take a deep breath and find my seat. As I settle in, the ticketing agent comes by. I shuffle in my purse for my prepaid ticket. I hand it over as the train pulls out of the station. Here we go!
He hands me back my ticket, and bluntly says, “You’re on the wrong train.”
I’m sorry, what?
The wrong train? After all this preparation? No, that can’t be right. You’re on the wrong train, buddy. I barely stifle an eye roll as I look at my ticket to figure out what’s going on. My eyes widen as I make the shocking leap of understanding: I am, indeed, on the wrong train.
Get me out of here and onto the right train! Quick! There’s no time to lose! Where is this train headed? How much work will it take to make it right? I don’t have time for this. How did I get on the wrong train? I know how to do this, I’ve done it so many times before! How in the world did I get on the wrong train?
I stand and yell at the ticketing agent without even thinking. “STOP!”
“Ma’am, please. The conductor knows exactly where we are headed, and I’m sure he’ll get us there safe and sound. If I were you, I’d sit down and enjoy the scenery.”
Sit down? Enjoy the scenery? He seems so nonchalant about this. I need to get on the right train NOW. Confusion and fear have quickly replaced the calm and confidence I had experienced mere moments before when I stood on the platform.
I consider all options–pounding on the door, screaming to anyone who would listen, scrambling to find, and yell at the conductor. But in the end, feeling helpless and powerless, I decide to follow the advice given. Slowly, I sit back down. I guess there’s not a whole lot to be done now that the train is chugging along. It may be headed toward an unknown location, but wherever we’re going is my new destination. I look out of the window at the blur of scenery whizzing by, the grip on my ticket is shaky, and my breaths come shallow and fast. I weep at the realization: I won’t be on a known journey anymore. I don’t know where I am going, and all the bravado I previously had in my ability to navigate familiar terrain is gone. The course has changed, and at this point, I’m not in any position to resist it. My only option is to trust the conductor will help me get where I need to be. It feels like a death, and I don’t like it.
I had seven years of homeschooling under my belt. Some years I taught my children with a tiny infant on my lap or with a toddler asking for snacks every few seconds. Some years I taught with nausea as my companion, another baby growing in my belly. Some years included field trips and playdates. Some years involved tears and throwing books across the schoolroom. Some years were marked by scintillating world travel and learning on the go. All of it was ours. All of it had been my master class in allowing God to lead and guide, and for me to get out of the way. I had become confident I could teach my kids at home, regardless of all the extenuating circumstances of any particular year.
We started this year like normal, new books on the shelves, new routines penciled into my planner. Except it wasn’t going normally. This year was different.
I was breaking down. My confidence was failing. The demands of the last seven years of homeschooling and twelve years of mothering had brought me to a low place. My body was physically weak and unhealthy. My mind was hyper-focused on managing our home, meal plans, school plans, laundry plans, cleaning plans. My doctor told me I had to lower my stress and focus on my health because my blood work had come back with heightened levels of cortisol and inflammatory markers.
Our days were a mess of five kids going in five different directions. My husband, usually supportive and helpful, seemed resigned that he would “lose his wife” to homeschooling yet another year. I had so much underlying anger and frustration. Maybe it was the three years of interrupted sleep? Too much coffee? Too much sugar? No, it was deeper. I couldn’t handle loud noises or bright lights or even too much touch. I was at burnout level, and I felt like there was no recourse.
I knew to continue in this way was not healthy, but I couldn’t stop it. I got on the train anyway, following what I knew. I began year eight, homeschooling my kids in 7th, 4th, and 2nd grades with our 3 and 1-year-old little tagalongs following behind. Here we go.
I started year eight, day six of home school with every intention of keeping everyone on task and learning. Instead, by noon, all my kids were completely discouraged, hadn’t learned a thing, and were running to the backyard to escape from me. Meanwhile, I was crying, yelling, and panicking because somewhere in my soul, I knew I could not muscle together 166 more days of school like this. I felt like I had made the completely wrong decision to begin homeschooling this year. I didn’t know what to do except cry and yell and fight and resist.
I am a homeschool mom. That is who I am. Stop changing everything.
Then, I sensed a gentle urging from God:
Do you trust me? Do you really trust me? Are you just giving me lip service when you say ‘I am thine, O Lord,’ or will you actually let go of it all and know that I will never leave you or forsake you? When I tell you that my plans are for your good, do you just nod along, but secretly know you will try to rely on your own strength and cleverness to keep going? You cannot any longer. Trust ME. Rely on ME. I will bring you into a place that you can’t even imagine right now. This territory I am about to conquer for you will blow your mind.
My resistance to this gentle urging was epic. I was very strong and very clever, after all.
I knew God was more than capable of caring for me. Fully. I recognized His call to pursue greater wholeness and health. Going back to the familiar and comfortable path I’d been on wasn’t possible anymore, because I was on empty. We had to find a new way forward.
Logistically, this looked like sending our three older kids to school. Like, a real school full-time. My husband and I researched schools on the afternoon of year eight, day six of homeschooling, and settled on one quickly. In the next few weeks, we did a family interview, paid the fees, and bought the kids new clothes (the homeschool pajama uniform wouldn’t fly in this new setting). The kids started their classes at the end of September.
With the older kids at school, I spent the first month recovering from the breakdown. I held my little ones, read to them, and took them for walks. When the older three came home each day, I held them and made them snacks and listened to them. Many mornings, after the older kids were gone, I caught up with my husband, who works from home. I listened to him as he processed deep things, and he listened to me while I did the same. The little ones played with toys together, knowing mama and daddy were close by. I cried a lot, dug into my Bible whenever I had the chance, and napped almost every day.
The second month, I began to feel a little better. I began a 100-day workout plan right in my living room. It felt good to move and strengthen my wearied body. My little ones did the workouts too (my three-year-old does burpees better than me!). I had my blood work re-done during that second month, and all my levels were back to normal—my doctor said it was the best she’s seen my levels in three years. Besides that, I realized my three-year-old daughter needed more discipline, so I created boundaries for her and stuck to them because I had the time, space, and ability to follow through. My one-year-old son’s language blossomed, and we found success with meaningful communication rather than barely enduring his wordless screaming as we had for the previous 18 months. I cried a little less often. I still napped many days and went to bed early. My early morning Bible reading became an absolute necessity. I began to feel less like I was about to break, and more like I was being built up gently, from the inside out.
Month three revealed moments of actual joy for our family. There were successes for my kids at school, as they grew to understand their classroom systems, formed new friendships, discovered new passions. I started laughing again, actual belly laughing-with the kids, with my husband, and with my friends. The breakdown of year eight, day six, was a faded memory now, and I relished the new normal we were all experiencing.
We just finished month four. I begin each day in the Bible. I literally open my hands when I begin reading to signal that I’m ready for whatever God has for me. My husband and I are more emotionally connected and prioritize each other more than we’ve been able to manage in years. The life of our family is ever moving and changing, of course. We still have to deal with sibling squabbles, kids sneaking snacks, and our near teenager viewing too much YouTube. But despite the ups and downs, I know I’m on the right train. In this season, I have complete assurance that the new journey we find ourselves on is exactly where we need to be. I am confident, not in my own strength or ability, but in God and His care for my family, and perhaps even more profoundly, His care for me. He is trustworthy.
Our family is all aboard.
Lynne lives just northeast of Los Angeles in a little suburb called Canyon Country, CA. Her five children challenge her sock-matching skills, her culinary prowess (especially when it comes to boxed mac and cheese), and her ability to conjure the best bedtime stories possible. She and her composer husband of 15 years enjoy date nights about twice a month where they get to finish a thought and eat the food when it’s still hot.