What I Have Learned Directing Challenge A

I sit on our front porch, my favorite coffee cup in hand, reading the remaining few chapters of The Bronze Bow, the last book my students are to read this year. It’s raining and almost 3:00 PM and still my boys have not come in for lunch. The grating sound of the drill rings out over the pasture and I see them by the zip line, immersed in their work, unaware of the time. Their food is laying out in the kitchen, welcoming the flies, just as their school books wait on the table for them. A read aloud I have yet to do with Thadd, Latin to go over with JP. A meeting with Addie. They are working on a new fort they are building all on their own, with their cousin Justin’s help. They’ve already set the posts and built the platform and are starting on the frame. It’s good work. Impressive craftsmanship. And they are only fourteen and twelve!

I sigh as I finish a chapter. This book is so good and I have just three chapters left to read. I don’t want it to end. It hasn’t been this way with every book I’ve taught this year, but Elizabeth George Spear is a master of her craft. How she can write! She makes me want to take up my pen again from the long neglect and writer’s block. How I will relish the conversation my students and I will have on Tuesday about this piece of historical fiction.

This year is our third year with Classical Conversations, a Christian homeschool community that meets once a week to learn and interact with other like-minded individuals. It has been my first year directing a Challenge class, which is the upper level of the community, corresponding to Junior High and High School. My class consists of six students: four boys (one of which is my own son) and two girls, aged twelve through fourteen. They have six classes, or strands as they are called, consisting of Latin, Mathematics, Exposition, Science, Reasoning, and Cartography. We meet fifteen weeks in the fall semester and fifteen weeks in the spring. The kids come to class having already completed their work for the week and we meet for an entire day on Tuesday going over each strand and having rich conversations about them. I am a facilitator, among other things, with my main objective as a director being to engage them in the art of the dialectic. I help them to sort out all they are learning and to synthesize the information so that they can be equipped to learn how to think. The content that they learn is varied and difficult: translating Latin, drawing the entire world from memory, learning the art of persuasive writing, thoroughly engaging in the scientific method through a science fair. But the things that we are learning go so much further than mere academics. These children are learning how to listen to one another, how to have respectful conversations, and how to see the work of God in every area of life.

As I come to the end of a very rewarding and challenging year, here are a few take-aways:

  1. It is possible to learn Latin as a forty year-old.
  2. Some days are better than other days. Some days the conversations seem forced and trite, while other days, I am blown away by the Spirit-led moments and integrations.
  3. Prayer is of supreme importance. In prayer we wait in expectation of what God will do in the lives of those He has entrusted us with. I can do nothing on my own, but I am completely dependent upon the Lord.
  4. Junior-highers are absolutely hilarious and in need of constant correction. Whew! What a class!
  5. Asking good questions prepares the way for fruitful conversation. I am still learning this art.
  6. Rest is absolutely necessary. If I do not take the time to stop and to just be and to fill myself up with what is life-giving, I will have nothing of value to offer anyone.
  7. At the end of the day, what matters most is knowing God. The character of our students is far more valuable than whether or not they can decline a noun or draw the continent of Africa. The spiritual formation of these kids comes as they encounter the Living God for themselves. It is to this end that I strive. And it is a worthy goal.

It has been a good year and I am a bit sad to see the end, just as I am with the book I am reading. But, of course, I must finish both for there are more conversations to share, more topics to discover, more adventures to unfold.

Like Arrows in the Hands of a Warrior

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I looked up at the night sky as I listened to my dear friend, Laura speak about what God has been doing in her family. I had wandered onto the far side of our back pasture as I spoke to her on my cell phone, engaged in her story, not really paying attention to where I was walking. God was moving, working within her and doing mighty things in her family’s life. Tears came to my eyes as I rejoiced with her about the breakthroughs she was experiencing. And along with the celebration came another familiar emotion. The kind that robs a friend of completely sharing in the joy of another. Envy.  Oh how I longed for God to move within my own life like that! Within my children’s lives. Life had become dry and I was seeing things within my children’s hearts, my heart, my husband’s heart that needed revival. A fresh work of the Spirit.

My eyes were drawn to two bright stars that, if you were to draw a straight line through them, pointed to the constellation, Scorpio (the scorpion), which is always prominent in the August sky. I had to find out what those stars were. I opened up my star app and pointed it at the stars and found they were not stars, but Saturn and Jupiter, which just so happened to be within the constellation, Sagittarius, the archer. Not only were they in the constellation, but they lined up perfectly with the bow. They were like an arrow directed at the scorpion. Interesting. There was something there.

I love the night sky and the constellations because they tell the wonders of God. I don’t live my life by the stars or the signs of the zodiac. I live my life according to the Word of God. But sometimes I believe God uses His creation to declare truth to His people. And there was something about those stars that He wanted me to see and understand. But I didn’t have a clue that night what it was.

A few days later I woke up and went for a run. It was a crazy day and I had so much to do, but running motivates me to get things done. Our missionary friends from Mexico have been staying with us all month and that day was their daughter, Kiersta’s birthday. She had a special request to be baptized in our pond on her birthday. As I ran that morning, I asked the Lord if He would also grant Thaddaeus the desire to be baptized that day. It is a prayer I have prayed for him for several years. That he would have the courage to show the world that he wants to follow Jesus.

I returned to a house full of people and work to do in preparing to teach the next day. As I hurried around, fretting over the demise of our computer and stressing over the preparations I still had to make, Thaddaeus informed us that he did, in fact, wish to be baptized as well. Everything in my frantic world stopped suddenly as the truth of what he said soaked in. Nothing else mattered. He crawled up on his Daddy’s lap as Jason explained, in a few moments’ time, what baptism meant.

“It’s a picture of what God did in your heart when you trusted Jesus. The old man is dead, buried in the grave, the new man is alive, raised to walk in newness of life.”

We hadn’t expected this that day, even though it was my prayer, so we all threw our bathing suits on and our small group headed over to the pond: our family, our missionary friends, and Jason’s parents. I was able to FaceTime my mom so she could be a part of it as well. I brought my guitar and we sang the song, “No Longer Slaves” and then we witnessed Kiersta’s baptism first in our slimy pond. Her father, Ben baptized her and after she emerged triumphantly out of the water her mother, Angela prayed over her. It was our turn and Jason and I stepped into the squishy mud with our son. Thaddaeus stood tall and expectant as Jason asked him if he had put all his trust in the finished work of Christ on the cross on his behalf. “Yes!” he declared so the small party could hear. Jason baptized his youngest and we celebrated “Antioch-style” as he was raised up from the water. I prayed over him then and found myself asking God to make him an arrow that God uses to shoot into the darkness of our world.


I realize now what God was trying to tell me.

Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies at the gate. Psalm 127:3-5

It was such an unexpected gift. To see my son declare that he desires to follow Jesus all of his days by being obedient in baptism.

I know. I know that parenting is hard. My job is not done. There are many more years of tears and praying and discipling and training to do. And some days I will feel like an absolute failure. I still have so much to learn. But God is so gracious. He gives the strength for each new day. He gives the wisdom and the perseverance to keep on doing the hard work and to renew my conviction that parenting is a holy calling. It is a good and noble work. And it is a work of a warrior.


A Letter to Mothers During These Strange Days


“Be very careful , then, how you live, not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil.” Ephesians 3:15-16

Dear Mother,

Most of us are under some kind of shelter in place regulation due to the Coronavirus Epidemic and have found ourselves in a situation where our children are at home with us. It is a forced family time, such as I have never experienced before in my life and I know most everyone else has not either. Working moms are either working from home, or, if they have “essential jobs”, are having to navigate the strange waters of having their children at home and not in school, while something is creatively worked out for their safe care. Stay at home moms may have it easier, but this new-found homeschooling has created challenges as it has catapulted most everyone into spending more time together. And then having nowhere to go.

I can’t even begin to understand how difficult this must be for you. It’s hard for me and I’ve been homeschooling for a while now!

I am not writing to give you resources that I’ve found helpful or to give you tips on how to homeschool your children. The online help is abundant in that arena. I am writing because I would like to tell you the main reason that I chose to homeschool my children over seven years ago.

My grandmother was a missionary in Honduras in the sixties. She loved Jesus in a way that made me want to know him more. Her life motto was a simple phrase and she said it often: “Only one life ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” This concept that our lives are short, that our time here on this earth is temporary is the number one message that must be comprehended when faced with the great responsibility of caring for small human beings. We are mothers. We have been entrusted with a precious gift of a life. Or more! The people in our homes are made in the image of God with the capacity of doing great good or horrendous evil. Our time with them is short and absolutely crucial for shaping the next generation. I do not homeschool my children because I think I am the greatest teacher. Nor do I keep them home because I’m trying to isolate them from the world. My main reason isn’t even that I want them to have the very best life with the best education they can have, though those are reasons.

I homeschool because I see the discipleship of my children as my number one responsibility as a mother. By discipleship I mean the training of their hearts to know and to love God. There is no higher calling than that. I see homeschooling as a means to disciple them throughout the day as we read good literature and have deep conversations, as we discover the laws of science and marvel at God’s creation, even as I have opportunities to address their disrespectful hearts or their math mistakes. It’s all discipleship! It’s all training. The pointless grammar or the tedious writing, the repetitious memory work or mundane handwriting all delivers opportunities to grow in grace and patience and kindness. It is a gift.

These days at home are a gift. Use them well, remembering that in just a little while those children will fly away.


Kristin Joy

“Only one life ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” C.T. Studd