Those of you who read this column in the November/December 2012 issue may recall that, late that summer, my husband Frank and I started a bit of remodeling and general sprucing up of the interior of our home. We excitedly jumped into the world of color and began painting over our plain white walls. We started in the living room and kitchen and planned to complete painting those two rooms, the stairway, the hall, and bedrooms before Christmas of 2012.

The kitchen paint job grew into a bit of a remodeling job when we decided to finally replace our teeny-tiny, very decrepit, very undependable built-in oven with a regular-sized oven. We worked as fast and as diligently as two people can who are, shall we say, as “mature” and inexperienced in this type of work as we are. As usual, however, we ran into problems here and there, especially with the oven update, which required cutting into existing cabinets and countertops and working with new square lumber in an older, unsquare house. Things didn’t go nearly as rapidly or as easily as we thought they should, but it was satisfying work and we were thrilled with the results.

Then November came along.

Originally we had thought our house project would move more quickly than it did, so we had planned an early Thanksgiving get-together for our extended family to be held at our house on November 10. Unfortunately, because of the problems we ran into, November 7 found us still up to our ears in sawdust and mess, in the unfinished kitchen, of all places! We don’t have a dining room, so our eat-in kitchen is where we entertain. Needless to say, our project came to a screeching halt as we hurriedly tried to neaten things up and prepare a Thanksgiving feast. (I hope no one noticed sawdust in the stuffing!)

Late into the night on November 9, right before falling into bed, we stood in our cleaned-up kitchen amazed at how nice it looked. We were well aware that there were still many things to finish, but we had been trying to live and cook in the midst of the project for so long, and it looked so very nice now that we decided to lay off the big messy jobs for November and December and jump back into the hard stuff “after the holidays.”

January came. And went. And February and March did the same. (Exactly when does “after the holidays” begin?) We had colds and backaches. There were family birthdays, our wedding anniversary, visits with our kids and grandbabies, business deadlines, and, and, and . . .

And then it was April. April began our homeschool conference travels for the year, and of course, everyone knows you can’t dive into big messy projects at home when you’re traveling.

Almost before we knew it, June and July were just a memory too.

Sadly, as I write this column, the kitchen and living room still look pretty much the same, and the hall and bedrooms have not even been started. So now we must face the brutal fact that given the size of the task at hand, we’re perilously close to Thanksgiving. Again.

Granted, we have a lot on our plates and truly don’t have much time to funnel toward our house project. Add to that, we’re feeling our age a bit more these days. Joints and backs don’t work as well or as painlessly as they used to. But even so, sayings have been coming to mind lately, like, “If you’re looking for an excuse, any excuse will do” and “Failure to plan is a plan to fail” and “Plan your work and work your plan.”

Harrumph! I don’t like it when sayings like that are pointed directly at me! But though I don’t like it, I must come to grips with the fact that the year is winding down and we haven’t accomplished some of the things we planned, or hazily hoped, we would. So the question of the hour is, should we lighten up and cut ourselves some slack, or should we buckle down and get things done?

In looking at our situation, there are a few key areas of importance. I think that one of our problems was that the job just seemed too big, too hard, and too messy, especially when we looked at the whole job instead of bite-sized pieces. We were tired out and became somewhat comfortable with letting things drift while promising ourselves that we’d get to it . . . later (and we failed to clearly define when “later” would be). Part of the time, our problem was that we didn’t have a good plan that we could actually implement, while at other times we had a plan but neglected to follow through on it as we should have. And then there were times when other things were truly more important than the plans we had. So the answer to my earlier question is that there were times we should have buckled down, and times we should have lightened up on ourselves.

In the Bible, certain passages talk about doing everything as unto the Lord, being hard on ourselves like good soldiers, being diligent, being good stewards of all we’ve been given, and not becoming weary in doing good. But in that same Bible, we also read that we’re to rest, be content, and trust God. I remember that as a homeschooling mom, I frequently wondered if I should lighten up or buckle down. I wondered if I was doing enough or doing a good enough job. Was I being too hard or too soft on the kids?

Homeschooling is a big job. It’s far bigger, more important, and longer lasting than our house project (at least I hope our house doesn’t take us twelve years to finish!), but I think some of the same principles apply to both. As 2013 begins to wind down and 2014 is still on the horizon, this may be a good time for each of us to look carefully and prayerfully at our own situations. Where have we been, what have we done, any successes or failures. This exercise isn’t about beating ourselves up and living in defeat over failures, or about puffing ourselves up and sitting on past laurels—it’s about trying to learn from our past so we can, by God’s grace, work on a better future!

Think about some of these questions. As a homeschooling mom, are you immobilized by looking at the enormity of the job ahead of you? Are you tired out and getting comfortably lazy in the present, thinking you’ll do better later on? Do you have a plan that takes the big picture into account and breaks it into reasonable chunks? Do you make great plans but fail to follow through? Do you have a daily schedule to help you accomplish all the things you really need to do? Are you too bent on your plans to allow God to direct your days as He sees fit?

The fact is that some of us truly need to buckle down. We need to make a plan and schedule and stick diligently to them. We need to expect more of ourselves and expect more of our children. But some of us need to lighten up. We need to rest in the Lord more, extend grace to others around us, and be content with what God is doing in our lives!

So what will it be for you? Is 2014 a time to lighten up and stop doing, expecting, or being too much? Or is it a time to buckle down and redeem the time so you can be and do all the Lord has for you?

Till we meet again, God bless, and happy homeschooling! 

Kari Lewis is the mom here at Home School Enrichment. She and Frank have been married for thirty-six years and homeschooled their two sons, Matthew and Jonathan, from their early elementary years through their high school graduations. Together, the four of them started Home School Enrichment in late 2002. More recently, she’s been enjoying her new role of mother-in-law and grandma! You can reach her at kari@HomeSchoolEnrichment.com

This article was originally published in the Nov/Dec 2013 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine.

Kari Lewis is the "mom" here at Home School Enrichment. She and Frank have been married since 1977 and homeschooled their two sons, Matthew and Jonathan, from their early elementary years through their high school graduations. Together, the four of them started Home School Enrichment Magazine in late 2002. More recently, she's been enjoying her new role of mother-in-law and grandma! You can reach her at kari@HomeSchoolEnrichment.com.

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