This week, it hardly seemed appropriate to begin sharing our stories of NextGen Homeschool family Christmas traditions and how we homeschool during the Christmas season. Our hearts are heavy and grieved, and like most other moms, we’re grappling with the unthinkable news that we all started our days with this past Friday morning.

Although we can’t begin to imagine the deep grief and heartbreak of the families involved in the Connecticut school shooting tragedy, we at NextGen Homeschool wanted to share with you what God has been teaching us about parental anxiety, heart-wrenching life circumstances, and trusting God with the lives of our children. Although our journeys are very different, God has faithfully drawn each of us to Him and His Word when we have faced difficult trials in regards our family’s health and safety, enduring traumatic situations, and discerning God’s will for our lives. Below are some thoughts about what we’ve personally learned in our life journey as Christ-following moms as we reflect on this devastating tragedy.

RosannaWardHeadshotNextGen Author Rosanna Ward
Was homeschooled since 8th grade
Began homeschooling in 2005: Two homeschool graduate daughters & two sons (7, 2)

For a long time I had really bad constant anxiety about the safety of my spouse and children. I was always imagining things happening to them when they were away from me. I was constantly begging God to keep them safe — always second guessing my choices when it came to them.

Then one day a preacher prophesied over me at church, saying that God heard my anxiety about my family and that I needed to give their care to Him. That as much as I loved and cared for my family, the love He had for them was so much greater and that He had their lives under His wings. I needed to trust Him with their care.

Since then I have been learning to let go. I trust God to watch out for my eldest daughter when she skydives and goes on missions trips to third-world countries. I know that my children love God, and I know that He has a plan for them much greater than any plan I could have.

I also know that tragedies happen even to good, Godly families — families that trusted God to care for their children. No matter how hard you work to protect your children, you ultimately have to trust God. And if tragedy befalls them, we must try to take comfort knowing that they are in the arms of God. Thankfully, I haven’t had to deal with the kind of tragedy that makes the national news, but hopefully I can remember that our life in this world is just a blip on God’s timeline. Heaven is where we that love God will all spend eternity together — this is what comforts my heart everyday.

“He will not be afraid of evil tidings; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” — Psalms 112:7

“Therefore humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” — 1 Peter 5:6-7

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 4:6

ElizabethThomasHeadshotNextGen Author Elizabeth Thomas
Was homeschooled from K-12
Began homeschooling in 2009: Five daughters ages 13, 12, 10, 4 and newborn

After leaving an abusive relationship with three small children, spending time in a crisis center (aka women’s shelter), and seeing women with black eyes, children with that blank look in their eyes, and holding my three-year-old (now 13) at night when she cried because she wanted her dad (the very person who beat me daily), my perspective on God’s hand in our lives radically changed. I was so bitterly angry with God for this pain, not only in my heart but my children’s hearts. I was walking away from “family” to become a single mother, and I was leaving my abuser but I still loved him.

One night I had a “prayer fight” with God, asking Him the difficult yet honest questions like: Why me? Why was I always getting hurt? Why did I love someone who wanted to hurt me? Why did he keep hurting me? Why was leaving this relationship more painful than being in it?

That night I had the first of a new recurring dream. In the dream, Jesus was being spit on, called names, a thorn crown put on His head, and His heart was breaking. Tears rolled down His face — not for himself, but for these abusers! He cried out, “Father forgive them!” Then He looked at me — right in the eyes. The dream was so real to me! He touched my face and said, “I do understand, and I took your pain on the cross.”

It was as if He was saying I didn’t have to live with this pain anymore. When I woke up, I no longer felt afraid to leave my ex-husband, and I realized that all of those feelings — the pain, the heartbreak, love and hate, bitterness — were on the cross! Now I lay my children and my family, past and present, at my Savior’s feet every day. I lay my selfish heart in His nail-scarred hands, and I trust God to care for my loved ones — even my ex-husband who chose evil over God. And I praise God for every day that He gives us all!

Unfortunately many people think God isn’t real or His love isn’t real because of all the evil we see, however I have experienced firsthand that when you cry out to Him and ask Him yourself, He will answer you! I trusted God, and when I look back, the Footprints in the Sand story wouldn’t do it justice — my life has been sooo blessed!!! Take time to yell, scream, cry or whisper a prayer today, because God hears you! And He understands exactly how you feel!

“I sought the LORD, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” — Psalms 34:4

“But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’” — Matthew 19:14

“In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear, what can flesh do to me?”—  Psalms 56:4

ReneeGotcherNovHeadshotNextGen Editor Renée Gotcher
Was homeschooled in 11-12th grade
Began homeschooling in 2010: Three daughters ages 11 1/2, 10 and 5

This year has been more than difficult for me: It’s been life-changing. It started with a desire, a desire to surrender my will to God and let Him direct me, direct our homeschool, our family and my future. Less than two weeks after I prayed that prayer, I experienced a situation that brought all my deepest fears and anxieties about life and my family to the surface.

Without dwelling on the details, here’s what happened: I was stung by a wasp (in January, in my bedroom, when it makes no sense for a wasp to be alive AND in our house), and I ended up in the ER because of a suspected allergic reaction. My husband was out of town for work, and I was home alone with my three girls. During the hour that passed between the sting, the ambulance ride, and coming down off the epinephrine in the ER, I experienced a fear like never before — Satan did his best to taunt me with every horrible scenario imaginable to take my eyes off of my Heavenly Father and fear the here and now. Unfortunately, it worked.

Two days later, I experienced what was later diagnosed as a physical panic attack and I was back in the ER — this time, my husband flew home in time to take me home. He looked at me with the most honestly concerned and confused eyes I have ever seen, and he asked: “What is going on?” I didn’t have an answer.

In the weeks and months that followed, the deeply buried anxiety and fear I harbored about death, life and God’s intervention in our family came to the surface. Where it began, I am still not sure. I did suffer some physical and emotional trauma as a child that I don’t want to share at this moment in time. Whatever the cause, I do know that the strong-willed, independent, driven and self-reliant me I had grown to trust my entire life began crumbling to pieces. I became so physically anxious about my husband’s routine work travel, my children playing with neighbor kids across the street, everyday driving and shopping, that in the end, I was prescribed anti-anxiety/depression medication to turn the chemical tide that had started in my body.

By then, I had lost 20+ pounds, couldn’t eat or sleep, and suffered from so many unexplainable physical pains and symptoms, there was no other logical explanation. I didn’t want to accept anxiety as the cause because my whole life had been about being in control, but as I prayed for God’s miraculous intervention, He began speaking to me clearly. Through doctors, friends, and even stumbling across blog posts that felt like they were written just for me, God showed me that anxiety and fear was at the root of it all, and it was time to truly and COMPLETELY trust in Him.

Praise God for His infinite mercy and grace! After many fervent prayers with loved ones in my life, the medication I was prescribed began to ease the physical symptoms and the daily emotional anguish, and I was able to begin the work of renewing my mind through His Word of truth and biblical counseling to stop this devastating downward spiral.

Today, I can honestly say that I have never depended on God more, and in this painful process, I have learned to release more of myself and my desires as a mother to protect my family and do “my best” for them — to put it all in His capable hands and let go. I’m no psychologist or counselor, but I know that the day I was being rushed to the ER for fear of an allergic reaction, I was deathly afraid and didn’t trust God to either see me through or carry me on to His glorious eternity. And I know that the journey to healing from that day has been all about realizing that if I don’t just believe “in God” but BELIEVE GOD, everything that His word says plainly to me, that there is no room for fear of any kind. That fear for my own life, or my children as they navigate the everyday situations of life, would not and could not change anything about what would actually happen — and what God would want to do with those situations.

I learned that there’s no need to fear the worst case scenario: Because if I die, I begin my eternal journey with the Almighty God in the heavenly realms. Same for my Christ-following husband and three girls — daughters who know God, love God and are His children even before they are mine.

When I woke up to the news on Friday, I was crushed and grieved. My own beautiful kindergartener, five-year-old Elise, was sleeping next to me because my husband was out of town for work. In a sleepy haze, she rolled over, grabbed me by the neck, and said “I love you mom” before I realized she was just sleep talking. Tears rolled down my face, and I slipped out of bed to take my Bible downstairs and pray.

I realized that my daily prayers of surrender of my day — my plans, my expectations, my hopes and fears — to the Almighty God weren’t just for me, but for my children as well. I need to put their precious lives in God’s hands, like Abraham did, trusting that God will answer with a miracle or with His divine provision, and it is He that chooses to gift us all with another day. Another day to serve Him, love Him, love others, and shine with His glorious light. That is my prayer for my family, and every day before I step out of bed, that prayer gives me the peace and joy that I need to navigate the day ahead.

It’s my prayer that you also reach out to our Heavenly Father for that peace that surpasses all understanding, that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” — Isaiah 26:3

“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.” — Ephesians 6:13-18

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” — 2 Corinthians 4:16-17

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” — Hebrews 12:1-2

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