I’m Vicki and I’m a perfectionist. I can’t do anything by half, I’m an all in kind of girl. I gain no pleasure from a job done quickly but which is rough around the edges.

Motherhood has given me many opportunities to express my perfectionism, be it washing Terry nappies instead of using disposables, cooking everything from scratch, making dressing up costumes, making cards or Christmas presents. I love to grow, pick, prepare and eat our homemade produce all the while passing on these skills to our children. For years it seemed I was doing quite well, holding it all together.

And then we moved to the country, we built a much bigger house, fitted a new energy system, had another baby, got livestock and we’re still not finished. Everyday is different, perfectionism has become impossible.

My perfectionism is dying by a thousand tiny cuts, a thousand letting goes, a thousand moments of grief. Each time I see a drawer full of unfolded clothes I wince, or books on the floor, or shoes left out, or a vegetable garden hiding beneath the weeds.

Caring for my family brings me so much joy but I’ve realised that my desire for perfection is stealing that joy.

Thankfully, but painfully, God won’t leave me wallowing in my pride, taking pleasure in my achievements. He’s calling me to something deeper.

He wants the deepest parts of me, the parts that lie beneath the achievements everyone sees, to let go and to let God do all that I can’t do. I’ve spent years believing that through sheer effort of will I can make everything beautiful. Who was I fooling? Certainly not God. He’s bided his time, allowing me to enjoy the temporary satisfaction of my labours and then he’s swooped in, pulled the rug from under me and I’m still falling.

I know I’ll keep falling until I stop looking at the unfinished jobs around me and start looking up, up to the One who has given me all these tasks.

I know in my head that God doesn’t expect me to do everything perfectly this side of Heaven, so why do I expect it of myself? I think it’s a heart issue, it’s asking myself the question, is my joy found in my achievements or is it found in God? I’m learning that I need to let him into the mess, let him see what he already sees, and admit I can’t do it.

Admit my failings.

That’s hard to say and the difficulty I have saying that, shows my pride. I often think that I’ve done that, told God how hard this is, but I’m not sure the deepest part of me has fully relinquished everything to Him. I need to only do that which I can do, all the while praying to the One who will multiply my efforts and create more beauty than I could ever dream or imagine.

‘God is the God who makes all things beautiful in his time’ Ecclesiastes 3:11, He is the ultimate artist, the perfect creator.

I love to create beauty in everything, from my words to the children’s clothes, hairstyles, soft furnishings, homemade gifts, home cooked meals or cakes. I know that the desire for all of this beauty comes from God, but I suspect I am looking for beauty in all the wrong places.

I was out taking pictures for this blog post when I happened upon the raspberry canes. I thought they were finished for the season and now it was just weeds and thistles taking over but on closer inspection there were multiple sweet raspberries just waiting to be picked. I’d been so busy looking at the weeds that I almost missed them.

I think that’s the lesson God wants me learn today. He doesn’t want me to look at the mess, to focus on the big picture, he wants me to see the beauty that I’m missing whilst I’m stressing about the mess. I suspect that beauty will be found in the faces of the people living in this home. If I can pause long enough, I might just see what God sees and I know that will bring me real joy.

Sending blessings to you all, Vicki

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Our home education ethos can be summed up with the phrase, ‘Raising children to embrace their place in the Body of Christ’. In fact this is the topic we will be sharing about at the ‘Chess’ home education conference, at the end of the month.

So how does this play out in our day to day life? Education begins the moment our children are born. In many ways I wouldn’t call it education, more facilitation, for my job is not merely to impart knowledge upon these new creations, it is to reveal their hidden characters and then foster the skills God has graciously imparted upon them. For none of us really ‘teach’ our children to feed, walk or talk, but we live alongside our children, demonstrating how to eat, encouraging their efforts to step forward and embedding them in a world of conversation, including them before they can reply. Is that education? I think so, but not in the traditional sense. And so begins the journey of raising and educating our children, without sudden interruption at 4 years old, the age of formal schooling, but an organic process where they lead the way into the next stage they are ready for.

So how do I help them uncover their God-given gifts? It is in the silence of those moments, the ones when they don’t know you’re watching them, that you can see the early formation of their personality. The activity that draws and holds them, consumes their unplanned time, that is the beginning of seeing the unwrapped present hidden within each child.

Here’s a real life example. When our eldest was about 7 months old he started crawling and from that moment on I couldn’t keep him away from the tech equipment. Once, when he was 9 months old, we had a 5 hour car journey and I knew I needed to keep our wriggly boy still and quiet for a long time. The week before we left I popped into the jumble sale and bought an old Walkman, with headphones to push in and pull out, a tape to put in and out, a travel plug and adapter to put together and separate, an old calculator and a remote control with no batteries in it. It was so obvious at this stage what he was ‘into’ and baby toys were just not going to cut it. Moving forwards ten years and he was setting up the hifi amps and rigging torches to the ceiling lights for the sound and lighting for our family ‘shows’, which the children used to put on daily.

Moving forward to present day and he has recently spent a week organising the sound and lighting for our Christian home education holiday for 400 plus people.

Our other adult son is Jonathan, who is now 18. When he was 3 he was junk modelling buildings, colouring immaculately and doing huge puzzles upside down. I remember saying to Phil that he might have the skills to be an architect. He spent much of his childhood building go carts, treehouses and models. This term he has started his Degree apprenticeship in Architecture.

Not every child has such easily discernible gifts, but every child is gifted at something. I see it as my job to help our children unwrap their gift and then help them to develop it.

Each child we home educate will have a basic grounding in the 3 Rs, but they will also have many free hours to pursue their individual interests.

Coming forward to look at our current home educated children and again I can see particular interests on display. Matthew, Hannah and Stephen have been making costumes for their battle re-enactments. They were inspired by a reenactment we recently attended at a nearby castle and since then all things historical and battle-worthy have consumed their free hours. They learn so much more when they lead than they could ever learn when I ‘feed’ them information. Home education is often described as lighting a fire rather than filling a bucket.

One of the most fun parts of parenthood is when I get to see the creativity of God in each unique person he’s created. What a privilege it is to have a part in watching him ‘sculpt’ one of his masterpieces.

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Sending blessings to you all, Vicki