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When our children were in their infancy and toddler years, I held the strong conviction of keeping the children at home much of the time. This was, in part, because they were sixteen-months apart and I did all I could to get through each day (and night) as a happy, thriving mother. At the same time, I also believed deeply in the early, quiet growing years where children – like little seedlings – could put down their roots and start life safe in their nest.
Life has changed since then. We are starting our fourth year of homeschooling and we live in a different city with no family nearby. Our son is passionate about rugby and we spent every Wednesday afternoon and Saturday morning last winter out in the cold helping him follow his heart. Our daughter is a lover of people – and I mean that in it’s truest sense, she loves people. She needs to have people in her life.
So, with an almost 8-year-old and a 6.5-year-old we spend more time outside the home than we did in those first few years. However, my conviction about the importance of staying home in childhood has not decreased, it has in fact, deepend even more. The challenge for me now, as their mother, is to deliberately and carefully safeguard our home life.
I am the gatekeeper of our life. I need to discern well what comes into our home life as well as why we leave it’s safety.
At times through their childhood thus far, I have often felt that I was holding back the dam of the world and it’s values. Busyness, parenting styles, media, twaddle, pressures, surface relationships, status quo… Cracks have appeared when I haven’t been strong enough or when I haven’t been paying attention. Thankfully, the Lord helped me see when too much of the dam was starting to get through. And He always helped me repair the cracks through prayer, new habits, and changing directions (like our new season of homeschooling).
It’s a constant responsibility and the nature of defending the dam/gate changes as the children grow and change. Now that both children can read, I’m guarding what they do or do not read. Now they have more opportunities for outside activities, I am helping guide their choices about what will best suit our whole family life. Are they mature enough for this movie? Can I trust them with this responsibility? What children will be in that activity?
There are no blanket rules on these issues (in general). Each family will accept different activities and different books and different friends. Discernment, wisdom, and prayer guide us as we gate-keep our family life.
And this doesn’t just hold true for our children, either. We need to be the gate-keepers of our own lives also. We must hold on to the true priorities God has called us to in this season – our husbands, our children, our homes, and our churches. If we say yes to this opportunity, am I saying no to my children? Will my husband suffer in some way if I say yes?
Elisabeth Elliot is a mentor of mine. God brought her across my path in the early years of our marriage and her thoughts on Biblical Womanhood have shaped me deeply, especially her book Let Me Be a Woman. In her book The Glad Surrender (which is about personal discipline), this quote about our time – and therefore, our priorities – has always stayed with me:
If we really have too much to do, there are some items on the agenda which God did not put there. Let us submit the list to Him and ask Him to indicate which items we must delete. There is always time to do the will of God. If we are too busy to do that, we are too busy.”Elisabeth Elliot, The Glad Surrender
As we search the Scriptures, we can see clearly the will of God for a woman who is married and with children: our family and our home. It is His will that we be immersed and busy with this. Anything else that we hope to do ought to be carefully checked over at the gate. We are home-keepers.
This is not a popular thought today. And sadly, even within church communities women are pressured or are tempted to let in too much. For me personally, the only thing I am committed to outside of our family is helping with our local homeschooling community. That is enough for this season of my life. I have done more, and less, since becoming a wife and mother.
We must keep that idea of seasons in our hearts, too, as that is a God-given truth. This season of marriage and motherhood demands a certain amount, ordained by the Lord. This is good. Let us submit to this season and wholeheartedly stand watch, discern, check, and keep over the precious lives God has given us. There is no more important role than this.