A New Chapter

Diary of a Work in Progress • René


Life Lessons

A-ha moments I don’t want to forget

Grounded for the Summer: Why I’m Forever Grateful

Summers-That-Changed-UsOften the process of being molded by God starts with a pile of crushed pieces, remnants of our self destruction, that He lovingly repurposes for HIS greater glory. And then we break, and He rebuilds, and our faith becomes more resilient with each step in our transformation.

I remember my first “crush” — and by crush, I mean having my dreams and desires utterly demolished. It was the summer of 1988, and like any typical 15-year-old high school girl, I couldn’t wait to spend it hanging out with my BFFs on the cheerleading squad. This would be my summer to finally have fun with the “in” crowd, or so I thought.

God had a different plan.

Find out what happened when I was grounded for the summer — and why I’m forever grateful for this discipline — at Managing Your Blessings, where the writing team is sharing about summers that changed us. We relive our life lessons with you, sharing how God shaped us through these unforgettable summer experiences. Read my complete post here


Have you experienced a life-changing summer? Can you identify pivotal moments that radically changed your course? What did you learn that you can share with others now?


Seeking God’s Direction: What I Learned From Jennie Allen’s Book “Restless”

When you are faced with major decisions regarding your homeschooling, your family, your own personal role and relationships, seeking God’s direction can be challenging. Even daily decisions can get bogged down with the opinions and advice of others, self doubt, and conflicting messages from our culture.

As I shared in Part One and Part Two of this series, I discovered that my desire for “confirmation” was really just about me wanting to feel secure that it was OK to make the choices that felt right to me, forgetting that what feels right to an imperfect believer isn’t likely to be right in God’s eyes. Since then, I’ve been working intentionally on renewing my mind with God’s Word (Romans 12:2) so that my thoughts and responses to life situations are more aligned with His Word and wisdom. I have also found that starting with five Biblical directives brings God’s will for most situations into clearer focus.


Today I’m sharing a third post in this series at Managing Your Blessings, a community of Christian women building encouraging one another and loving one another as we seek to honor God in all of our ways. In Part Three, I’m sharing what I’ve been learning through a book study of Jennie Allen’s “Restless: Because You Were Made For More” about how the people in our lives and the places we live play a major role in seeking God’s direction for us. Find out how people and places point us toward God’s purposes for us: Join me at Managing Your Blessings.

Have you ever found yourself “stuck” in search of God’s direction, wishing God would drop you a personal note or clearly defined road map so you could stop wondering what to do next? What role does the Bible play in your search for direction? What about prayer and seeking the wisdom of others?

Why God Wants You and I to Be Morning People


I am not a morning person: Waking up early has never come naturally to me. But I’m convinced that God must be a morning “person” — and that He wants us to become morning people, too. I’ve fought the concept of morning devotions for many years and convinced myself that no matter when I made the time was fine. Did I mention I am not a morning person?

MYB-NEW-August-2013-Blog-Button-180x180Last year, I went through one of the most spiritually challenging times in my life, and I found myself in need of spiritual strength like never before just to make it through the day. During this time, I learned a few things about why God might want to meet me in the morning — why first-thing-in-the-morning quiet time with God was so precious to the wise women who had learned this lesson before me and recommended it. By developing a new daily routine of spending time with God first thing — no matter what was awaiting me in my day — I began to see God renew me, strengthen me and equip me for anything the day might bring.

What to know Why God Wants You to Be a Morning Person? Read my full post on Managing Your Blessings, where I am a contributing writer, to find out why I think He does.

Have you ever struggled with the idea of waking up earlier to spend your first moments with the Lord? If you’re not a morning person, what do you do? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments section below.

Fear and faith on a snowy mountaintop

This week was my eldest daughter’s twelfth birthday, and to celebrate, we drove up to my sister’s house near Vail Mountain for a day on the ski slopes. My husband was out of town, but with good weather in the forecast and a birthday girl to please, I decided to take the trek up to the mountains with my three girls all on my own.

It was a perfect ski day: Sunny bluebird skies, decent snow on the runs, everybody in a celebratory mood. Everyone was all smiles for some commemorative photos on the top of the mountain, and the views were spectacular and inspiring. I had no idea what God would teach me about my faith later that day.


First, let me start at the end of our day, when my sister got us free tickets to go snow tubing after skiing. We have never been tubing on the new, more dramatic “adventure zone” snow tubing runs on top of Vail Mountain, so my girls were very excited. I was a little more hesitant, can you imagine why? Here’s a hint…


As I rode up the long, steep magic carpet tube with my five-year-old clutching my legs tightly, watching other tubing participants fly down the slopes at a lightning speed, I was seriously not sure I could do this — especially with her!


We got to the top and my older two girls (12 and 10) had no visible qualms. So my little Elise and I watched anxiously as first my brother-in-law braved the dive down, followed by my sister, my big girl Audrey, and my slightly worried but brave girl Claire. Everyone got to the end of their tubing chutes safely. It was go time for Elise and me.

As we sat in our tubes, my hands clutching tightly to my handles and one of Elise’s tube handles, I felt my stomach turn. I looked up at the tubing hill operator for consolation. “Are you sure we can do this together and it’s really safe?”

He grinned at the endearing sweetness of my motherly concern. “See those rubber pads out there? They totally slow you down. By the time you get even close to the end you’ll be completely slowed down. See how everyone else is barely coasting in?”

I was silent for a minute. I looked at Elise again and said, “Really, this is safe?”

“Yes, totally safe,” he assured me. “It’s really, really fun — you will love it!”

Something inside me believed him. I looked at his confident smile once again, and for whatever reason, I trusted him. I had faith in his words, in his knowledge, in his experience. And so I nodded OK, and he shoved us down the hill.

The ride down was so fast… seriously so fast!

Elise was visibly petrified and we both screamed the entire ride down. And just like he said, our tube caught the grips of the rubber mats and we slowed, and slowed, and came to a quiet stop well before we would hit the pillow pads lining the netted walls of the tubing area.

My first thought: He was right! It’s crazy scary, but it is actually safe. And maybe, just maybe, I would do it a few more times and it might actually be fun.

However Elise would have none of it. “I am not doing that again, no way! No way, Mom!”

Why I talked her into trying again I still don’t understand. I am not one to push my children to do anything they don’t want to do, but some part of me felt that if I could convince her it was OK, then it was really OK. I pleaded with her and she rode up the tubing ramp with me once again. But this time, as we sat at the top in our tubes ready to be pushed, she screamed.

“Stop! No, I don’t want to do it again — I really don’t want to!”

So we pulled her out and another helper came over to walk her down the ramp safely while I took off down the hill on my own, determined not to be afraid this time.

And it was fun, fun enough to take a few more runs while we took turns watching Elise at the bottom. Eventually I decided to call it quits and take photos of my family members zooming down the hill. They were having a blast by now.


Here comes the kicker: While I was snapping photos, my brother-in-law zipped past us and I continued to watch the hill for my girls to take more photos. Behind me, I heard Elise scream: “Mom, uncle Chris just flipped his tube!”

By the time I turned around, my brother-in-law was already getting up from his fall, pulling his tube out of the way. How in the world he had flipped I couldn’t tell from what I saw. He later explained to us that he was going so fast, that when his tube hit the rubber mats, it literally stopped him so abruptly that momentum carried his tube right up and over his head backward. He shook it off, but later was in a lot of pain. I am still praying that it doesn’t turn out to be worse than he thought at the time.

As we walked back to the car, Elise said flat out, “Mom, that guy told us we would be safe but I saw uncle Chris flip right over in his tube. I will never do that again — never!”

Her words caused me to question myself. Why had I trusted that tubing hill operator so completely? Why did his words seem to immediately calm me, to the point that I was willing to push my daughter to put aside her own fears and trust needlessly in a situation she really didn’t need to be in?

I came up with one obvious reason: You can hurt yourself skiing and snowboarding too, but that doesn’t stop us. You can hurt yourself cycling, yet we all do it. We camp, we hike, we swim, we fish near fast-moving rivers. The girls roller blade and zip around the neighborhood on their scooters. We do a lot of things as a family that some might consider too risky or dangerous to participate in. But we do our best to minimize risk (helmets, other types of protection, lessons, safety rules, etc.) and the rest is a matter of trust: Trusting the Lord to keep us in His care wherever we go and whatever we do everyday.

And that is where I started to realize that trusting the Lord should actually be the more important reason — the one you can completely count on. Yet in that moment when that guy told us it was safe, I know I let go of my fear because I trusted him and those rubber mats at the bottom — I wasn’t thinking about God at all.

How do I know this? Because earlier in the day, God had given me an opportunity to fully trust Him with the safety of my girls, and I had totally failed. I had gotten separated from my eldest daughter on the slopes, and I totally lost it.

My big girl Audrey is a superior skier, and she has a habit of zooming by us and stopping somewhere downhill to wait for the rest of us to catch up with her. This doesn’t usually bother me because I trust her skiing skills and she always waits. And we’ve never been separated before.


(In this photo, Audrey is the one in the shadows waiting for us to catch up to her. That’s Claire in the pink jacket.)

However, today there came a point that I didn’t see her downhill waiting for us, and I began to worry. Should I wait, or should I go down? She must be downhill farther, I thought. If I don’t see her here, she must have gotten really far ahead of us because she is so fast.

As Claire and I kept going farther and farther down the slopes toward the chairlift, stopping at every breaking point, we still didn’t see her. I really began to worry. I finally called out to Claire that I was going to speed down to the chairlift we’d been riding just to make sure she was there and to follow me as best she could, because Audrey probably was there — just waiting for us slowpokes to catch up.

But she wasn’t. She was no where to be seen. How could this be? So I panicked.

In tears I pulled over a resort employee to ask for help. He began radio calling other chairlifts to see if she might be waiting at the wrong chair. No one had seen her yet. I called my sister, and she sent her husband down the same ski run we’d just taken to slowly look for her along the way. We waited for what seemed like forever but was only about 20 minutes, the employee calling different people to see if she’d checked in with anyone, us watching as skier by skier approached — and none of them were her.

Then suddenly she appeared — flying down the hill toward us. She was a little shaken, and she said she had been waiting for us like always and never saw us. Finally, she had decided to go down to the chairlift so that if she didn’t see us, she would ask the employees to call my mobile phone, because she knows my number. She did the right thing and it worked. We were reunited.

Here’s where I believe I failed in this faith test. Any mother would worry in this situation, right? It’s a natural motherly response. However, instead of stopping to pray and ask the Holy Spirit for some wisdom on what to do next, not freaking out in front of sensitive Claire to make her panic, and trusting that God had not only helped us raise a smart responsible girl who would probably find us at that chairlift, but that He loves her more than I do and would keep her in His care, I proceeded to let fear drive my thoughts and actions completely in the opposite direction.

I cried, I panicked, I practically shook the employee until he called more chairlifts to find her. I imagined her injured somewhere, maybe in the trees knocked out (because she likes riding through the trees), or at the bottom of Vail Mountain with hundreds of people walking around and no phone. When my sister tried to calm me down, reminding me that she was not only a good skier but a bright girl who would ask for help and for sure be found, I didn’t listen. She knows this mountain, my sister assured me, she knows where we are and she knows where to go. But I would not be comforted.

At the time, I didn’t see this little crisis on the slopes as a faith test. But later, after snow tubing and realizing I had completely trusted in its safety simply because some young guy who worked there told me so — and he was wrong — I began to recognize my faith failure. I had trusted what I could physically see (such as people flying down the tubing hill safely before me) and what I could audibly hear (such as a guy saying it’s all good, and he would know, right?). Yet what I believed in my heart about God and the truth of His word — how much He cares for us and wants us to literally hand over our anxieties to Him so He can do what only He can do — was not enough to help me react in faith to being separated from Audrey on the slopes.

It’s hard to describe how physically different I felt in both situations. While Audrey was lost, I was physically shaking and tense all over. My chest hurt and my head was spinning with fearful thoughts. However, as scared as I was flying down that tubing chute the first time, I felt my body completely relax and “go with it” — because in the few seconds it took to reach the bottom, I kept telling myself, “Just trust it, let go, it’s totally safe and nothing can go wrong.”

That’s the difference. That’s how I know I had complete faith at the wrong time, and total fear at the wrong time.

I so want to be there, to have the kind of faith that Jesus said could move mountains. I am working on it everyday! But that day, I felt like one of those disciples questioning Jesus about feeding the multitude. And that he would have said to me, “Oh Renée, ye of little faith… trust in me!

The Lord was so gracious to us that day. Audrey was OK, Elise and I didn’t flip in our snow tube, and He reminded me how much He wants me to trust Him.

“Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour our your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” — Psalm 62:8

Renée Gotcher is an entrepreneur, writer, wife & home-educating mother of three daughters: Audrey, Claire and Elise. She is currently editor and lead author of NextGen Homeschool: Formerly Homeschooled Moms Homeschooling Our Next Generation and lives in Castle Rock, Colorado with her family.

Saying Goodbye to Superwoman

When I began homeschooling in 2010, I was surprised how many of my non-homeschooling mom friends commended me for my decision.

“You homeschool? Oh, that’s so great — you are so amazing to be doing that.” Or… “Wow, you must be really patient — I know I could never get my kid(s) to let me teach them.” And… “I don’t know how you do it: I need that break when the kids are in school. That’s quite a sacrifice — that’s really super!”

I found myself thinking, “You’re right: I am sacrificing a lot! I am a great mom for doing this for my kids! Go ahead, pat me on the back. I am doing a really amazing thing here — I am a Superwoman!”

But I was kidding myself.

For starters, I am not a patient mother — my husband is the patient one. Although I was the eldest of eight children and a “mini-mom” most of my life, I have very little patience for children now — both others and even my own at times. It is very challenging for me to work with my girls all day. They love freedom and flexibility, and I love order and structure. We are not a perfect match. So no, I’m not homeschooling because I’m so super patient — no kudos for me there!

And I’ll be the first to admit that I miss my free time when the girls were in school. Back then I was in great shape, working out at least three days a week. I was fairly on top of the housework and had time to grab coffee with my friends. I was even dabbling in my hobbies again.

When we started homeschooling, most of that went out the window. My house is perpetually cluttered, last year’s jeans don’t fit, all of my hobbies are on hold, my new business is off to a slow start, and “time with friends” is limited to mom conversation at homeschool or church activities. I find myself saying “I wish I had more time to…” all the time! So no, I’m not the master multi-tasking phenom I used to be.

Then I got acquainted with the veteran homeschoolers at my very first local homeschooling convention. Talk about feeling like I was far from a Superwoman! I sat in awe listening to mothers with much larger families than mine talk about how they keep everything running smoothly. I heard about tips and tools that made my head spin. I felt like I was staring at a steep uphill battle if I was going to become anything close to a Homeschooling Superwoman.

But the bigger question was this: Why was I still trying to be?

superwomanThere was a time when I really — honestly — believed in the modern day Superwoman. She works hard, but she plays hard. She loves deeply and she lives fully. She’s sharp, witty, and well-respected. She’s organized and enterprising. She’s a fulfilled wife, and she’s also Mother of the Year. Oh, and most importantly, she knows how to take care of herself. She’s got it all going on!

At one point, I also believed I could be that Superwoman. In my early married years, I was at the top of my game as a journalist, becoming an executive editor of a national technology magazine. My husband and I were best friends, and we traveled across the country together backpacking, hiking and snowboarding. I didn’t worry about balancing my checkbook, because there was always money in the bank. And in time, I was also balancing my career with motherhood.

Our first house was newly renovated and pristine — a page right out of a Pottery Barn catalog!  My first daughter was stylishly dressed in coordinating, always spotless, outfits. We walked to the park, we strolled the mall, we hiked in the mountains, we traveled as a family — all while I maintained my full-time job as an editor. I worked out, I went out to dinner with my husband, and I kept up with personal hobbies like photography and scrapbooking. Life was pretty sweet, and yes, I thought I was pretty “super” too.

But God didn’t think I was super. And now I know why. I was not the person God wanted me to be.

Back then, you couldn’t have convinced me otherwise. I had been a Christian since I was seven years old, had been active in church all my life, and had even graduated from a private Christian university. And I was pretty sure being a Superwoman was part of God’s will for my life — after all, He was the one blessing me… right?

But I was wrong. Instead of allowing God to use me to accomplish His purposes, I’d been using the gifts He’d given me to accomplish my purposes — and expecting Him to bless my “good” intentions. God had mercy on me for a while: He gave me plenty of opportunities to hand over the reins of my life to Him and give Him glory for the blessings I’d received. Instead of recognizing His grace, I was basking in the false glory of my Superwoman praise.

So God allowed me to stumble across my Kryptonite — bringing this Superwoman to her knees.

In the next decade, God chipped away at the super life I’d created, one layer at a time. On the surface, the story goes something like this: Even though I was doing the job of three people for a downsized magazine, I was suddenly laid off — and as a result, we had to sell our house. We moved four times in seven years, during which I freelanced, had two more daughters, and started a successful business. And just when I thought God had brought me to a place He and I could both agree upon, He made it clear to me that I should pull the plug on that business.

So we started over again. We moved a fifth time — blessed to be able to buy our second house — and embarked on an even more “road less traveled” journey: homeschooling.

On the inside, the journey was even more tumultuous. God was taking apart my organized life one piece at a time, stripping me of every one of my superpowers, and filling my plate with situations and roles that I was far from great at. Just when I thought I was getting back on top of it all, He would change my course once again.

And just when I thought I had sight of what I needed to do to regain control of my life on this new course, God once again let me fall down to my knees… no, this time it was to the floor, face down, in the mud. Not because He is an unjust, merciless God, but because He is a just, loving, merciful God — and I asked Him to. In tears and turmoil in early 2012, I prayed for God to help me do whatever was necessary to break down the walls I had built around my super self and draw me closer to Him, in a real, true daily relationship with Him.

In late January, about the time I had originally intended to publish this post, the Superwoman that was still trying to resurrect herself in some form took the beating of a lifetime.

I don’t want to dwell on the details of the painful downfall that followed because I recently shared them in our NextGen Homeschool “Moms Grappling with Grief” post, but I will say that the Superwoman in me was finally, utterly defeated. The words “walking through the valley of the shadow of death” never rang so true, and the deeply buried fears, anxieties and lies of the enemy that Super Me had worked so hard to suppress waged serious battle on me.

The destruction of Superwoman left me in a broken-down heap of dust. From rock bottom, I reached up to my Heavenly Father like never before, and faithfully, God began to drench me with His love, His truth, His Word, His presence — and eventually, His peace and His joy. “You make beautiful things out of the dust,” my favorite Gungor song reminds me. It was time to become HIS beautiful thing, a new creation out of dust who wasn’t self made, but divinely made — and divinely empowered.

“But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you our Potter; and we all are the work of your hand.” — Isaiah 64:8

Slowly, lovingly, purposefully, He rolled me back into a malleable ball of clay and began to recreate me, reform me, repurpose me. Not into any form of Superwoman, but a mirror — a reflection of Him — and a vessel — freshly filled and then poured out daily by Him.

“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Today, on December 30, 2012, I turn 40. No biggie: It’s just a number, right? That might be true in my mind. But in our society, the age of 40 signifies the moment in your life when you’ve already arrived at the top of “the hill” — and it’s all downhill from there. Over the hill you go. Not a great place to be when you feel like you’re already back where you started.

But I don’t feel that way anymore. I no longer see the valley below. I see the heavens above and nothing in between. I’m open, I’m undefined — and I’m available for God’s use.

On the outside, I’m no better off today than I was when I left home to embark on the journey of life 23 years ago.

Back then I had barely a penny to my name, but I also didn’t owe anyone anything. I was truly free. Now, every penny I earn will first pay back that which I owe — because that’s the mess I created. As much as I now want to give back to God and give toward His work, I am still responsible for that. I ignored God’s advice, and I’m going to pay the consequences.

Back then, I didn’t have a title, a job or a position of respect. Guess what? I still don’t. I don’t see anyone handing out awards for the “Non-income-producing Homeschooling Mother of the Year.” And I’m still asked on an almost weekly basis what I’m planning to “do next” to advance my career. It seems that God is the only one who isn’t too concerned about that one.

Back then, the only one who had anything to gain or lose was me. Now, I’m the mother of three daughters and the wife to one hard-working, loving and trusting husband. Their lives are forever intertwined with mine. The weight of my every move affects them as much as it does me. I am responsible for how my actions affect them.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” — Prov. 22:6

Back then, the sky was the limit. Today, the Word is my limit. Nothing is impossible… for God Himself — not me! “For with God, nothing will be impossible” Luke 1:37 reminds me. I think I’ll be physically sick if another person tries to shove down my throat yet another quote about how infinitely capable we humans are — rubbish! God is the ONLY one who is capable of anything and everything — and much more than we humans can imagine!

“Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;” — Philippians 3:8-9

If there are any miracles to be manifest in my life, it’s because GOD is great and can do whatever He wills — for His greater glory. If we are willing to count all worldly things a loss for the treasure of knowing Him, we may experience a glimpse of His supreme power on this earth. He is the “super” and all-powerful one — we are just broken, ugly sinners with the undeserved opportunity to receive His grace. Then, and only then, can we experience His power in action in our lives.

I can’t believe I spent almost 40 years getting in His way.

The word that sums up my goal for my 40th year is to REFLECT. Not to reflect on the roller coaster ride of my life — with God in the passenger’s seat most of the time — but to finally stop trying to shine on my own, to reflect HIS light instead.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” — Matthew 5:16

I have tried to shine on my own — and for a while, I managed to muster an impressive glow. But it was fleeting, and unfortunately, it didn’t bring glory to God. It wasn’t a reflection of Him. And my actions produced nothing of eternal value: only temporal, material gain. Here today, gone tomorrow. What a shame.

I can only be eternally grateful that God didn’t leave me there. I sought Him, and He found me — in all my mess. Sure, it took almost 40 years to get here. But at least I’m finally here. Finally saying goodbye to Superwoman.

When all signs point to uncertainty, I feel peace. Peace that surpasses all human understanding. Peace that comes from that total surrender that Paul is talking about in his letter to the Corinthians: To know Christ is all the gain I can be proud of in this life. Everything else is… well, rubbish.

So here’s what’s on my 2013 resolutions list, courtesy of Paul: Get to know my Lord and Savior like never before. Not simply know about Him: I’ve known about Him most of my life. But to KNOW HIM — know Him like I know my husband, like I’ve known my best friends. Know Him and TRUST Him, more that I have trusted myself. And since I’ve spent the past 20-plus years or more getting acquainted with all of the above but Him, I think I probably have a long way to go.

At least now I know that’s all that matters. I still have time to really get to know Him — as much time as He’s willing to give me. It’s the most important gift I’ve received in a very long time.

And I plan to make the most of it.

Renée Gotcher is an entrepreneur, writer, wife & home-educating mother of three daughters: Audrey, Claire and Elise. Renée was homeschooled during her last two years of high school and started homeschooling in 2010. She is currently editor and lead author of NextGen Homeschool: Formerly Homeschooled Moms Homeschooling Our Next Generation. The Gotcher Family lives in Castle Rock, Colorado.

NextGen Homeschool: Moms grappling with grief

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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