Saturday, October 31, 2015

All Things Work Together for Good

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. ~Romans 8:28

We went to apple country last Friday and then hiked in the woods at Fort Mountain State Park, as the Princess wanted since we had not been there for six years. Sore from the hiking, Saturday I painted the last windows frames as it was a warm, dry day. The outside of all the windows are finally done.  So, by Sunday my legs were quite sore, but I helped my husband with painting the porch railing and all the visible spots are done, but I like to paint the undersides and the back of the posts at the steps on the ground too, so I still have that to do before cold weather sets in.

Understandably, I was so tired Sunday night that I was ready for bed early, but I saw on Google Hangouts, where my daughter "talks" with a classmate, that he invited her to read one of his Google docs. Out of curiosity, I looked at what she had in her own Google docs. There were a few, one written by the Princess was from the perspective of our late cat, Jamie, who typed everything in CAPS. He was worried about her for various reasons and about things she was doing and had not been doing. He was asking the intended recipient to help her, but no help would have come as the letter to her classmate was not sent nor was it accessible to him...and later I would find that she never intended to really sent it.

Now I have a rather imaginative child and writing is her main outlet of her often wildest of ideas. I try not to take most of them seriously, because at times she is just writing out things she is churning over in her brain, including some of her darkest thoughts—teens tend to have quite a few—and that is all it is. However, this one hit me rather hard. The Princess has been uncharacteristically withdrawn ever since school started and somehow it just felt that I should investigate further about the things she had written. So, then I was wide awake, unable to sleep, and not wanting to wake my daughter, who has enough difficulty falling to sleep, all this with having to prepare for her classes in the morning.

Although I was still concerned, most of the urgency from the preceding night had left me in the morning with focusing on just getting everything packed for the day of errands. We were in the van completely ready to go with the keys in the ignition and she was settling in her seat when it all came to a halt.

I saw something that made everything my sweet, little Princess had written an absolute alarming truth, rather than abstract ravings from a creative teenage mind. Realizing that I had seen something she only halfheartedly had hidden, she immediately was in tears.

At first I was angry, but it was only out of shock. I told her we were going back into the house and there I was rather calm when I asked her why she would do such a thing and she yelled out in fear and frustration that she was failing at school, that she had not been handing in her work since school began!

I just could not believe it! How many times had I asked her if she needed help? The same number of times she would say, "No, I'm fine." How many times did I ask her if she had gotten all her assignments done? The same number of times she had said, "Yes." How many times had I trusted her and not looked everything over? The same number of times she had lied to me over a two month period. How many times do I tell her that I love her, give her hugs (well, try to), and tell her how special she is to me, to her father, and to God? Probably as many times as she had been rejecting it all. I was hoping it was just one of those teenage phases that would be passing...eventually.

I called the school telling them she would not be in classes and that I needed her teachers to call when they could, because part of me felt she was still exaggerating it to be worse than it was and I needed to verify her claims with the teachers. However if it was true, I was not going to be too happy they had not brought this to my attention weeks ago. I also left a message for her piano teacher saying we would not be there. And I called my husband, but apparently he was at an account where his cell phone has no bars, so I had to wait for him to call back. By then I was past my initial shock, ready to deal with everything alone from where we were in that moment, and seriously wanting to seek out what had been troubling my child, because that was far more important to me than school work and grades.

I also realized that she had been producing these little tells as her way of crying out for help, even as she had been rejecting it; hoping to be discovered, even though she feared it, and wanting it out of her, even though she tried to keep it a secret. She had stopped crying after the truth erupted from her earlier and there was no yelling left in her. Apparently, she had blurted out this terrible secret that she had been trying to hide for weeks and now that it was out (and I did not kill her, as she put it) she was actually talking with me openly about her fears and what she had been doing. She said she was also afraid that we would kick her out, even though we have NEVER made that threat.

It is kind of ironic, in a way, I had just written the encouragement letter to her that they will give her on high school science retreat that she is leaving for early tomorrow morning and I wrote it based on the Christian song "More Than You Think I Am" because I felt she had all these ideas about who I was as her mother and how I would respond to things, but she did not really understand the love I have for her and the grace I am ready to show her. I am telling you that God has been guiding this child very heavily from all angles, even while she was making very poor choices.

The algebra teacher called. This is the only teacher that she had last year, so she knows how different my daughter has been this year and we talked once before about our concerns. She told me that the Princess was behind in handing in some work, but she was not worried about the math, as she is rather bright in class, but she was far more concerned about her emotional state. I asked for a list of what was not turned in. I got it the next day and she was being very forgiving, because she only listed the last three weeks and was forgiving the rest. When I compared my daughter's list yesterday showing she handed in a little less than half and saw how she was not recalling how to do the work, I made the decision that she would do all of it with me so that she would actually learn it—that what homeschooling is really about after all, really learning not just testing well.

My husband called back finally and came home immediately, which was about an hour later as he was in town. Thank you, Lord. He had that time to drive to think out his initial anger response and was quite calm as he talked with her, but she was in a completely different frame of mind by then. She was initially worried that he was going to be angry, but after she realized that he was not going to "kill" her either, as she put it, nor kick her out of the house, she was actually smiling! I have not seen but a handful of genuine smiles since school started! My husband had to go back to work.

Afterward, I received a call from to her first science teacher, who only had her for September and then will have her for most of the second semester, and asked for a list of her incomplete work. Her current science teacher was too busy with the upcoming retreat, but I know she will get back to me when she can.

At dinner on Monday, my daughter was the child I had always known before all of this. She was talking! She laughed! She joked around! She was holding her head up instead of trying to hide and look down all the time! Her eyes twinkled! I turned toward my husband with an incredulous happy look and he said it was as if a great weight had been lifted.

We had taken all day Monday and Tuesday off for mental health days so that our emotions could stabilize: I can be the pillar of calm reasoning in a crisis but I have been known crash to an emotional puddle when it is mostly over and, for the Princess, we are hoping she settles in that happier state we are still seeing. We talked a lot about her fear of failing was actually resulting in her making choices that would cause her to fail. We talked about how everything she did and did not do so far is fixable and all can heal, and that we have flexibility because she is in a homeschool school taught by caring Christian homeschooling parents.

Wednesday we began tackling the overdue math assignments. All of my homeschooling lessons will be put on hold until we have everything with her outside classes caught up and I think it will take at least three weeks, but I also think that the Princess will feel much better once it is done.

I am hoping she has learned that avoiding things can allow them to grow into overwhelming problems so it is better to take them head on when they are smaller and more manageable; that asking for help is not showing weakness but showing faith in God that He will provide the knowledge needed; that accepting help when offered is honoring God because He had provided the help she needs; that God's grace overflows from the people He has placed in her life, including her parents (who did not "kill" her); and that we really do love her more than she can possibly understand almost as much a God does. So, in the end, maybe it was just one of those teenage phases, a temporary lapse of good judgment that just overwhelmed her quickly. I have that hope.

My Lord, thank you for always guiding my daughter back to You when she has made poor choices. May this lesson stay strong with her and may she be accepting of help. Please, my Lord, lavish Your blessings on all the people who have been praying for her.

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Thank you fellow travelers for walking and talking with me along this journey.