The Trial Zone: Homeschooling Abridged to Nowhere
By Sarah Sims
I looked forward to the cleaning lady. Our family of seven had overscheduled, teaching and attending co-op classes, still unpacking from our recent move, and with my in-laws arriving for a week, my thoughtful husband had booked an amazing gift: A maid service to clean while I prepared a week’s menu serving thirteen people.
The day before the cleaning lady, I taught a full day at co-op and took my oldest to a homeschool college night. My casseroles frosted in the freezer; my week’s menu and last-minute shopping list awaited the morning. Walking in the door at 10 PM, I breathed a sigh of relief that my to-do list the next day did not include whole house cleaning. Everyone was asleep, my mom reported, but the baby had vomited just after dinner.
“Into Each Life, Some Rain Must Fall”
Hmmm, probably nothing. Babies spit up sometimes. No one acted sick today, I told myself. I decided it was something, though, when the 4-year-old vomited in my bed, um, about 2 AM.
Then I knew. I heard kooky music and Rod Serling: next stop, The Trial Zone.
Bleary-eyed, I nursed two small children with stomach flu while in a whirl of laundry, bodily fluids, and the cleaning lady cleaning most of the house. Indeed I cleaned the sick room, several times. I felt sure it would be over in 24 hours, before the in-laws arrived.
The next day dawned bright, beautiful, and very windy. Synchronizing calendars to the half hour, we underestimated those 60 MPH winds—and serious flight delays. As Trusty Homeschool Supermom, I donned the airport shuttle hat and zoomed to the rescue, with kids in tow (those sick kids), right until we stopped at the peak of an interstate overpass.
The traffic report announced the freeway had been shut down. Completely shut down. As we sat high above the interstate, I heard that kooky music. Trial Zone. More than four hours later we stumbled home with our houseguests, well-perfumed with a nauseating smell.
My children definitely were not over the stomach flu.
Five days and seven victims later, our dryer had quit working, and the laundry billowed down the hallway like a constantly erupting volcano.
Please, God, it’s me. How can I be a Christian witness with non-stop vomiting all around me?
Romans 8:18 reminds us that our present trials “are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” But I was stuck in the Trial Zone doing some very unpleasant laundry. Satan delights when the Trial Zone pulls us down and out of the game, rendered ineffective for the Lord.
But It’s Raining Cats and Dogs
Exhausted, we said good-bye, surrounded by six 35-gallon trash bags full of dirty laundry. Within hours, my youngest ran a fever, and like dominoes we fell prey to the flu. The evening before our first day back to co-op two weeks later, with the floors vacuumed, the beds made, and the hallway laundry-free, my oldest received a phone call. Her camping buddies just called to say, “I lice you.” You have lice? We have lice?
Yep, still there: the Trial Zone. The dark days of lice treatment began that sunny April afternoon. Think spiral perm, happy lice. Think sad Mama, crying 13-year-old. Think Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals larking as distraction for hours of nit-picking torture. We had gone astray again in the Trial Zone.
Trapped in our own home, we treated heads and recreated the mountains of laundry lava—only hours after making the beds. Adults were not immune, but my treatment could only be scheduled at midnight. (Lousy louse service.)
The Trial Zone did not set us free easily. The lice came back. Again. And again.
Please God, I really need help now. I am losing my mind from disgusting little bugs.
A month passed. Amid the lice treatments, a child came down with strep throat. Then another, and then three more. When I had strep throat, the Trial Zone became a black hole.
Counting It All Joy?
That black hole took two months out of our lives. Yet the morning arrived for our planned departure for a vacation, booked months before. I found lice again. “Why aren’t we leaving, Mama?”
Grimly, I began the combing process when the phone rang. My dad painfully stated that my lovely grandmother had just passed away. Our family vacation would now be traded for mourning. Our best-laid plans abridged to nowhere.
Who am I? Why am I here, Lord? Knee-deep in laundry and weeks behind in school. Doctor bills mounting, sick children multiplying, now this—please Lord, show me the way.
Suffering—that knife in the back that can steal our joy, our hope, our faith. No matter what the Trial Zone brings, we all must choose—give up or rely on Christ. Do I count it all up and cry, or count it all joy? Honestly, I did the former, mostly.
Looking back three years later, though painful, I can laugh a bit. No doubt my grandmother, a godly wife and mother, found herself in the Trial Zone exponentially more times than I—she raised eleven children through the Great Depression and Dust Bowl years—yet she remained rooted in her faith, diligent in farm work, and loved her family to the tiniest great-great grandchild. She found joy in what she had—can I do the same, yet having so much more?
We know the trials will come. Like Job, we must trust the Lord is in control (Romans 8:28). I followed his lead out of my Trial Zone like a lamb, yet, in hindsight, I see how the Lord used my suffering for His goals (1 Peter 4:12, 13). Though we may not see and understand in the middle of our trials, we can cling to that comfort as we trust and obey. Perhaps even count it joy.
“Tune in for another episode of the Trial Zone. . . .” That’s a promise, but I know the Director, and He has revealed the ending.
Sarah Sims and husband Mike have homeschooled since 2000 in a manner classically eclectic, with frequent rambles in forests and used bookstores. Sarah writes for nanocivics.com, teaches co-op classes, and served as president of her local homeschool co-op for several years. Sarah and Mike have limited power over six sparkling children, ages 16 to 2, training them daily for self-government.