On The Outside

We spent a part of this last week at a homeschool event, which means we had to travel.  I don’t know how many of you travel with small children, but I can say that travelling with my particular small children is always an adventure.
Our week started with working really hard to get some projects finished. 
Then our 8 year old German Shepherd had a stroke.  This is our 8 year old Sweetie’s best friend.  He seems to be recovering okay, so far.
Then we hit the road.  The journey to our destination actually went by really fast.  We made our habitual stop an hour into our trip, stocked up on snacks, and went on our way.  We stopped again for lunch and some more books at Value Village.  And we made it to our hotel in record time.
Then the event was wonderful.  The kids were in a day camp, and got to do so many cool things.  And my friend and I got to shop for our supplies for next year, and just relax.  It was a much needed chance to recharge.
I love homeschooling.  Most days.  And I wouldn’t want it any other way.  I love being there with my kids when they discover how to read.  Or follow a rabbit trail to a new passion.  It is an amazing thing to be able to teach my children how to love to learn rather than how to worry about tests.  At this age, we don’t have to do tests.  
And I know that homeschooling doesn’t work for every family.  Just like private schools don’t fit all families, and neither to public schools.  I am only talking about what it working for my family right now, so please know I mean no offense.
We stayed another day so that we could have the chance to catch up with a few friends.  And enjoy big city shopping.  And then we started on our way home.

We stopped about halfway home to stay the night as a special treat.  For our dinner out, we chose a restaurant we hadn’t been to before.  Talk about adventure.  Our waitress seemed to be having an awful night.  At least judging by our experience.  She got our drink order wrong.  Then we waited for what seemed like forever (it was actually only 45 minutes) and still didn’t have our food.  When it came, it was wrong too.  And my salad was filled with gross, slimy brown lettuce.
And all I could do was try to smile.  Because my kids are learning at every opportunity.  Even the ones where I’d rather they not be watching.  You see, I wanted to give this establishment my entire opinion.  Of how, after a long day of travel, with 3 small children, 2 of whom have hidden disabilities, the last thing I needed was to have the hassle of trying to explain this to my kids.  Or to have to keep them contained in a restaurant for an extended period of time.  
You see, on the outside, I have 3 cute, healthy, energetic kids.  And on the inside, those kids have disabilities that aren’t easily recognized.  Ones that make waiting and understanding things like this very difficult.  Ones that are draining.  Especially when they aren’t expected.
And as I sat there, trying to paste a smile on my face to show my children that you can be nice, even in continuously trying circumstances, I wondered what I wasn’t seeing on the outside for them too.  Maybe they had had a trying week too.  Maybe someone they loved was struggling with health.  Or maybe finances were a huge concern.  Maybe their kids were going through something particularly difficult.  I don’t know, because on the outside, all of us adults were smiling.
I know that this was just one small blip on my radar, and that in a month I won’t even remember our awful dinner experience.  But after homeschooling my kids and knowing how closely they are watching me, I do know that every day gives you new chances to make the choice to give grace, even when its hard.  I know that my kids watch my interaction with everyone from the lady ringing through our groceries, to the librarian (who is fabulous), to the man at the drive-thru at McDonalds.  And they are watching how I treat every single one of them.  
I understand that these little things may be nothing compared to what you are going through today.  Trust me, I have faced challenges so much harder than this.  I believe that we are given choices every day that will shape our tomorrow, and I feel that trying our best to be nice in both the big and the small can never hurt.  We have all been put on this planet by a loving Father, for a purpose we may not yet understand, but we have all been put here to help spread the love.
So today, I challenge you to offer a smile.  It doesn’t cost any money at all, and only the slightest bit of time.  Give them grace.  Because even though they may be holding it together on the outside, you never really know what’s going on inside.
Heavenly Father, I thank you for the grace that you show us, even in our darkest moments.  That you allow us to grow knowing that we are still loved, no matter what we mess up.  God, I ask that you open our hearts to those struggling around us, to just extend your love and grace to them, even when we don’t want to.  Help us to remember all of the times that you have forgiven us when we are wronged by someone else.  And let us pass along your love to someone in need of it today.  In faith I pray.  Amen.

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