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?
There 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.