What I Learned this Year (top ten from the Lunchroom Lady)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” –Galatians 6:22-23


Well, it’s official. This lunchroom lady has hung up her apron for the summer. That’s what my kids call me . . . the “lunchroom lady.” I remember the moment the label first surfaced on our first day of homeschooling two years ago. I was busy tidying up the kitchen after feeding my two students in our makeshift cafeteria (a.k.a. the dining room) when I heard my son playfully utter his request:

“Hey Lunchroom Lady, may I have another slice of pizza?”

I laughed back then. But after two years of making lunches, administering educational plans, keeping records, and keeping the peace between sibling-students, I don’t feel much like laughing anymore. Instead, I feel like crying. Why? Because I’m just not convinced it’s working for us—mostly for me.

Maybe because of the guilty feelings I carry about altering their social scene. Maybe because my personality isn’t well-suited for round-the-clock, child supervision. Maybe because, at forty-eight-years-old, I’d rather be pursuing other goals.

Am I hurting them? Am I hurting me? Probably – at least to some degree, and this is a difficult wrestling. These next several weeks will tell the rest of the story—whether or not my “want to” will resurface for another year of more of the same. I can’t imagine it will, but time has a way of adjusting emotions, reshaping feelings into something lesser than what was first felt and believed. What now seems so traumatic will (in coming days) seem less severe. Perhaps then will be the time to make decisions regarding my children’s educational needs, not now while stress threatens to muddy the waters of reasoned responses.

As a parent, I have a responsibility to educate my children, and as a citizen of the United States, I have a legal obligation as well. Accordingly, I can either allow the state this role or I can assume my position as the “lunchroom lady” as well as the many other roles that naturally surface alongside as requirement—teacher, principal, janitor, recess monitor, and the like. For a variety of reasons, my husband and I made the decision to homeschool our two youngest children a couple of years ago. And today, on the backside of our 180 days of compulsory attendance, I’m wondering about the depth and the strength of our learning.

What did we learn? Was it enough? Was it worth the investment?

I can’t speak for my kids, but I can offer a few thoughts about the depth and strength of my learning this year. Here are a few “take-aways” written on my final exam, a few tips from this lunchroom lady for those who choose to follow in my footsteps:

1) Selfishness doesn’t belong in the lunchroom; be prepared to take the test anyway.

2) Not every good idea is the right idea; choose rightly and be at peace.

3) Independent learning can foster laziness; when no one is watching, it’s easier to default to lethargy rather than industry.

4) A wise lunchroom lady understands that she must feed her soul before feeding others. Living it in reverse promotes crankiness.

5) Test days make poor study days; study daily, and you’ll walk more confidently and peacefully through the exam.

6) Manners are free; poor etiquette comes with a price tag.

7) The cafeteria is never really closed; after lunch comes supper—family life after the school day ends. Keep the apron handy as well as the Kleenex.

8) Strap on the Holy Spirit; pray for his fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). It’s going to be a long day (see #7).

9) Grades are good indicators but aren’t always accurate reflectors of the rest of the story.

10) Lean into the rest of the story. This is the curriculum that matters the most.

And there you have it—a few closing thoughts from the lunchroom at Peace Academy. As you can tell, my kids weren’t the only ones who learned something this year. I was a student as well; truth be told, I probably failed more exams than either of them combined. It’s a sobering thought and, perhaps, a driving force behind my tears in recent days. At the age of forty-eight, I never imagined this would be my classroom—the curriculum that God would use as the crucible to refine and purify my heart. It’s my strong impression that we still have some work to do.

What did I learn? Was it enough? Was it worth the investment?

Time will tell, but until then, I must lean into the rest of the story . . . my story; read some more of the text and add a few lines of my own. This is the curriculum that matters. This is the course of study that counts for the kingdom, and this is the life I have chosen. God has generously laced this journey with his marvelous grace so that, no matter the grades on my report card, there is more than enough mercy and love to pass me through to forever.

Grace is not an excuse for failure—for not showing up to the classroom, not listening up to the teacher, and not living up to my learning. But grace is what it has always been—available. Available to catch me, cradle me, renew me and reshape me when I fail. Grace keeps me in step with God’s Spirit and, every now and again, he uses me as his conduit therein. Because of this truth (this overriding understanding that I am duly enabled by God’s grace to be a dispatcher of his Spirit), I am able to move forward beyond the stressors of this academic year and to consider a next one.

Maybe right now, you’re in the midst of a difficult learning season. You didn’t plan on adding this curriculum to the heavy course load you’re already carrying. Instead, it added you, and you cannot imagine making it through to the exam, much less passing it.

Take a moment to breathe. Take a moment to read, again, the ten tips from this lunchroom lady. Take a moment to pray over each one, and then take more than a moment (take two or ten or twenty) to consider #10. Lean into the rest of the story, and see if God doesn’t have something further to say to you. What you hear in those moments might just lend you enough strength and depth to walk the curriculum through to the finish.

Keep in step with the Spirit and keep company with his available grace. Against such things, there is no law. Instead, because of such things, there is life and, every now and again, there is laughter.

“Hey Lunchroom Lady, may I have another slice of pizza?”

Maybe, Son. Just maybe.

What difficult classroom are you experiencing in this season? Is there one particular tip from the list above that God is using as a prompt in your heart? Never underestimate the rest of the story. It just might be the best of your story in the end.

Click here to learn more about Beyond the Scars – a tool to help you or someone you love examine the rest of the story under the lens of grace. Peace and prayers, friend.

Photo credit – Copyright: chris_elwell / 123RF Stock Photo

20 Responses to What I Learned this Year (top ten from the Lunchroom Lady)

  1. I loved this post! It is filled with wisdom. I wish I could have a glimmer of the rest of my story here in Florida–still not sure why God brought us except for an income and maybe some peace of mind for awhile. Looking around me and hoping I get it and won’t hide back when He puts it in front of me. I bet these years with your children,homeschooling them,will be the biggest impact you ever make on their lives!

    • Just keep getting up every morning, Terri, and walk it out. This is faith on display! In the meantime, make those editing tweaks and dive into some fresh words. And find a friend who enjoys a lunch date! I wish you were closer; we’d have lots to discuss over lunch.

  2. Ahhhhh. The end of a a homeschool year. Will this be the last? A question I asked myself EVERY year for seventeen years as I home schooled our three children. Am I doing a good job? Are they learning what they need for later? Are they learning the social skills appropriate for their ages? etc. etc. Over and over I questioned MYSELF. I know that home schooling isn’t for everybody and I really didn’t think it was for us….except that God put the calling deep in the heart of my husband and then myself. When my last child graduated from our home school sixteen years ago this month, I was not sure what my “rest of the story” would be. But they all three are some of the most socially skilled, independent, intelligent, talented, hard-working grown adults that you would want to meet! Because of the way I taught them? No! I truly don’t think so. I had days when I felt so overwhelmed with the order of the day that I was over bearing, probably rude, and unfair to them. There were days when we were ALL in a grouchy mood and I wondered if we had done any good at all in school that day. No….I think that God just took my obedience and turned it into blessings. And for that I’m thankful. Would I do it again? Yes…..but only for the same reason as before….only if God put it in my heart.

    I greatly admire you Elaine for your spunk and grit in this endeavor of the past two years. I know in my heart that you have done an excellent job as teacher along with all the other hats you wear! But only you and Bro. Billy will be able to discern “the rest of the story” and whether you should continue down this path.

    Love you so much my always faithful friend!!!

  3. hahaha….try being 56 and homeschooling a seven year old! Really, I’m just kidding. God has blessed me with an amazing little girl to finish off my homeschooling careerIt never thought I’d still be at it at this time of my life. As difficult as it can be, and as much as there are many other things I could be doing in this season, I know that I am doing what God has called me to do…and that is all that matters. Enjoy your summer!

  4. My literal time as Lunchroom Lady was brief and long ago. I KNOW I grappled with many of the same emotions that you express here. I also know you will come to a fresh decision for next school year guided by the wisdom that God will supply you and Billy.

    Meanwhiie, we in the throes of our season of health challenges look desperately for the “rest of the story”! It’s reassuring to know the One who is writing it can be trusted, but it sure is hard to trust sometimes…

    • These are strange times we’re living in, friend. I wait with you and your husband in this time of change. Yes, our God can be trusted!

  5. You are braver than I, my friend. I’m just not cut out for homeschooling, even if I had children. I think #10 is the one that I am learning as we deal with the new normal for my Mother. I’m learning patience, and love that I never knew I had tucked into my heart. I’m learning gratefulness for the caregivers at the assisted living where she now resides.

    BTW, I am planning to feature Beyond the Scars at my blog either tomorrow or Friday. Stop by!

  6. My married daughters both home school. My oldest daughter, who is only 28, teaches an 11 year old, a 8 1/2 year old, a 6 year old and a 3 year old. She also has a 22 month old in the house! She goes through this every year, but I know that she is doing the right thing for her kids and for herself! It is much more important to teach them IN the Lord than for them to learn “more” and have to be subjected to the worldly ideas and the ugliness of what goes on in public schools! Hang in there my friend! God will enable and empower you to do what is the best thing!

  7. wifeforthejourney:

    “Grace is not an excuse for failure….” A profound lesson among many from this school year. How often have I considered the abundance of God’s mercy and cheapened it by the choices I, myself, have made? As for our children, I’d like to think Jadon and Amelia have learned more than academics with you this year – they are seeing servanthood in action. You have made our learning possible, with your countless gifts of time, talent and energy and there are some of these lessons that don’t come in a test or a textbook. You are the best, honey!


  8. Elaine, I loved your paragraph about grace. I am so thankful for God’s grace — and in need of it every single day. So very thankful his mercies are new every morning. Pray you will be refreshed and renewed this summer and that God will guide you as to the best plan for your family for next school year. And by the way, love how your lunch room lady name got coined 🙂

    • LOL, Melanie, these lessons have less to do with my children and more to do with me! Still and yet, we’ve all been taken to task on every one of them in the past year.

  9. Oh, do I agree with number 4!
    So glad my Father knows just what kind of filling I need to face each day. Because there are waaaaaaay too many people for me to feed on an empty soul.
    You are beautiful, Elaine. This was a delight to read.

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