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“Mommy, please don’t make me go.” My 5-year-old daughter wore the same sad expression she did every morning, her blue eyes brimming with unshed tears. I could tell she was trying so hard to be brave. And my heart broke for her, as it did every morning that we drove to school to drop her off for Kindergarten.
I tried to reassure her and told her how much I loved her and how, in a few short hours, we’d be together again. But as I pulled away from the curb after dropping her off, I shed tears of my own.
Why was I doing this? Both my daughter and I were so unhappy with this arrangement. So why had I done it? Why had I sent her away to be educated when I was already a stay at home mom? I didn’t have anywhere to go or to be besides home. Why? And that’s when I realized that I was deeply afraid.
I have been afraid of so many things in my life. An extremely abusive childhood had taught me all about fear: fear of hunger, fear of physical pain, fear of angering others, fear of failure, fear of never being enough, fear of never being loved.
I survived my childhood by the grace of God along with the innate stubbornness He had given me. He is always faithful and He never left my side through everything I endured. Yet, to be honest, I still sometimes doubted that my Father could really love me.
He had brought a wonderful man into my life who, for nearly 11 years now, has demonstrated what real love is, and so my education in love began. Then the Father blessed us with children and I learned about the fierce side of love, an overwhelming desire to protect these innocent little ones with all I have. I had another lesson in love when, at 20 weeks, we were told that one of our twin girls had no heartbeat.
Carrying and giving birth to a tiny saint, my daughter who never opened her eyes or took a single breath, taught me that love conquers distance, space and time and can be exquisitely painful. Burying a precious child also brought amazing, startling clarity. Suddenly, things that had seemed so important only a few months ago meant nothing. Petty complaints and old grudges started to dissolve as my entire view of my life was brought into painfully sharp focus.
If you had asked me, before my daughter died, if I ever took my children for granted, I would have said no. But looking back, I had. Losing her changed me so much that when I look back, the person I was then is almost unrecognizable.
So why, knowing so deeply how precious my children are, did I send my oldest away to be educated by strangers? The only answer I can find is that I was afraid. I was afraid to take on the enormous responsibility of teaching her. I was afraid I would fail. I was afraid that I wasn’t good enough.
Even though God had already called me forth and given me these precious souls to care for, I was consumed by fear. And all those fears condensed around me like a fog until I was too disoriented to see clearly what I wanted my family life to look like.
I had surrounded myself with people who constantly told me that I could never handle homeschooling so many children. The locals school were some of the best in the state. I’d be crazy not to use them. I should put them in school and go have a career.
If I homeschooled, my children would be awkward social misfits. How would they ever get into college? They need to be socialized. You can never do that at home! I chose to listen to the negativity whirling around me instead of my loving Father, and I ignored His gentle tugging at my heart to trust Him alone.
Fear does not come from God. In all my worries, I was forgetting something critical: if God gives you a task, He will give you the grace to accomplish that task. With God, all things are possible. I got so caught up in listening to the fear-mongering of the world and the fear in my own heart, that I couldn’t hear God’s gentle whispers of assurance. He was still there and after everything He had already brought me through, wouldn’t I just trust Him to get me through this as well?
Unfortunately, I began to listen to God’s leading too late. We sent our oldest to Kindergarten and what followed was one of the most difficult years of our life.
After only 2 months, I knew what I had to do; I had to accept, fully and completely, my vocation of motherhood, which included homeschooling my children. I still had doubts and fears, so we asked our daughter what she would like to do, go back to school next year or stay home so I could teach her.
The brilliant smile on her face and the hope shining from her eyes when she begged to stay home was just what I needed to soften my stubbornness and dim my fears. Finally, I turned to my Father in submission to His Will. What would come next, I didn’t know. But I answered the call, saying, “Jesus, I trust in you.” And, with His help, I started to leave my fears behind.
Elaine Harrah is a stay at home mom of five chilren who writes from the Florida panhandle. This article was originally published in Seton Magazine.