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Dude! Bummer!

It has been building up since last December when Isaac, our sixteen year old homeschooler, was told of an oratory contest sponsored by the American Legion. The subject of the contest? - the United States Constitution. Now, for those of you who haven't read this document, let me tell you, it is not exactly a "Dick and Jane" reader! The high school students entering are required to write an original speech of eight to ten minute duration about some aspect of the constitution, memorize it, and deliver it in a highly competitive situation. As if that were not enough, the students were also given four articles or amendments to the Constitution to study. They were to prepare comments for an extemporaneous speech of three to five minutes on each of the four. Someone in the audience at the contest would blindly select one of these four topics, the contestants would each receive five minutes to prepare, and then they would "stand and deliver."

Well, this is the stuff of life to Isaac! Some kids get up and make breakfast; Isaac gets up and makes speeches. He absolutely delights in speech contests, and found this one to be particularly enthralling, because he is fascinated by the Constitution. As the weeks slipped by, Isaac devoted hour upon hour to preparing for the first of five possible competition levels. Actually, as the weeks slipped by, we devoted hours to telling him, "Isaac, you need to get prepared!" He is, however, his mother's son, and so it should not have come as a shock to me that he did not finish WRITING his speech until the day before the local competition.

The Americanism chairman of the local American Legion phoned us on the last day. It turned out that Isaac would be the only one competing in our town, so there was no question of "losing", only a chance to give his speech and be judged. Can you imagine? - Isaac was disappointed to not have any competition! I was simply relieved that he was already a winner! After his presentation, he received some very helpful suggestions from the two judges, along with the comment, "Isaac, if you polish this up, you could probably get to the National level with it!" Oooo! Wow! Excitement, pride in our son's accomplishment, and a wouldn't-it-be-wonderful-if-? attitude permeated our home. Isaac began polishing his speech, and we began seeking out places where he could practice it in front of local groups. The Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club, and other community groups welcomed Isaac to come and deliver his speech. Though Isaac had a great time, I was a nervous wreck as he walked through his nine minute speech, point by point. I kept wondering, "What do I do if he forgets what to say?" Both my husband and my son laughed when I told them that my heart was in my throat through the entire presentation! Having read James Herriot's description of watching his son play the piano during a recital - which so amused me that I have cackled through it many times - I now came face to face with the realities of seeing my children perform on their own, without help from Mom or Dad. It's not easy, trust me!

On to the district competition! Isaac was really looking forward to having a chance to compete with other high school students in this contest. After all, when you've always been homeschooled, it's nice to have a chance to see how you compare with your peers (at least, that's what he thinks!). So, on a sunny afternoon, we drove Isaac to a high school auditorium seventy miles from home. When we arrived, there was only one other car in the parking lot, and it was waiting for us.

"We're so sorry that you had to make this trip. We just learned that Isaac is the ONLY competitor on this level. He wins by default, and so, you're free to go home."

Groans from the back seat... Relief from the front seat. Isaac was so disappointed to not have a chance to compete, to not be able to discover whether his speech was really good, or if he had just been lucky that no one else was interested in trying out. I, on the other hand, was just thankful that he had not been bumped, and that he could advance to the next level! You see, in the back of my mind was that judge's comment about "the national level." I kept seeing our local paper with the headlines, "Local HOMESCHOOL student goes to National!" What a plug for homeschoolers this was going to be!!

Isaac continued delivering his nerve-wracking speeches (my nerves, his speech) to community groups. These groups responded so marvelously to Isaac, even requesting copies of his speech to send to others, that I began to relax a little. He continued working day after day on polishing his speech, and preparing the extemporaneous portion. Our excitement was mounting because we were told that at the Area level, Isaac would definitely have some competition - and the competition would be stiff!

That fateful day arrived. We drove to the site, and looked around to make sure that there was more than one car in the parking lot! Sure enough, there were several cars - Isaac would not be disappointed this time. As Bill and I, our two other children, Isaac's grandmother, our pastor's wife, and a few of Isaac's friends sat in the audience waiting, my heart began to thud.

Oh my goodness! This is the real thing this time!! Will Isaac be able to do his best? And is his best good enough for the judges??

Isaac was selected to go first. What a performance he delivered! He stood, tall and composed, speaking with such power and authority about a subject he considers very important. His words flowed over the audience like a mountain stream in the sunshine, sparkling and refreshing. I don't think I breathed for nine minutes! And I know for sure that Bill's hand was crushed to pulp by mine during the entire speech... When it was over, we realized that Isaac had just given a flawless performance.

The next contestant entered and proceeded to deliver an incredibly well-researched, well-presented speech. Uh oh! Who was going to win?

Now for the extemporaneous portion of the contest... Isaac was, again, first. He gave a marvelous explanation of why the Constitution provides for Congress to be paid from the national treasury, why senators and representatives are protected from arrest on their way to and from the Congress, and why they were also guaranteed freedom to speak their minds while in session. Again, Isaac's presentation was flawless, powerful, and educational. Go, Team!

His very talented competitor gave a very good explanation of these same things as well, so we were reduced to waiting for the judges' decision. My heart was right back up in my throat again! Breathe, Diana, breathe...

Finally, the announcement was made: "It is the decision of our judges that Isaac Waring will represent us at the State competition."

Yahoo! He did it!! Against very stiff competition, Isaac won!!! What a relief.

For the next three weeks, Isaac honed his speech, memorized his extemporaneous speeches (sort of a misnomer, isn't it?), and prepared himself for the State competition. We made reservations, arrangements, and plans for this wonderful opportunity, and began looking ahead to Nationals. And then it began to snow.

We haven't had much winter weather this year. While El Nino has been impacting the southern part of the country, we have been enjoying "Jun-uary" and "Febr-uly". Temperatures in the fifties and sixties have been the norm this winter, which has really been great for our daily walks! And then it began to snow.

Last Tuesday night, snow began to fall. And then it began to blow. By Wednesday, we were having a bonafide blizzard. They actually shut down a long portion of the interstate in this area due to the blizzard conditions. Hmmm... Well, we're safe and snug at home, and this is supposed to blow itself out in two days, so... "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow..."

On Friday, my dear mother-in law told me that, though this blizzard was starting to peter out, another one was right behind it! Hmmm... Well, all of the weather reports are showing that this should be done by Saturday. So, no problem. We don't need to leave for the state competition until Sunday.

Sunday morning. Online, on the phone searching out the road conditions and weather forecast for South Dakota. To our amazement and chagrin, our area of the state still had "Blizzard Warning in Effect, No Travel Advised" warnings. No matter which route we considered for driving east to the state competition, we came up against a very hazardous driving condition. We called the competition organizers, and they told us that the eastern side of the state was in fine condition, and that the competition would take place as planned - "See you next year!"

Thud. Our hopes and dreams fell to the ground. Isaac's hard work and excellent chances of continuing on came to a screeching halt. Here we were, stuck in a blizzard, without a single option for doing anything about it.

What do you do in this situation? We were devastated. We were bummed. We were defeated. And it wasn't "fair."

This is where the rubber meets the road in Christian parenting. When faced with a defeat, with a disappointment, with a "we-can't-do-anything-to-change-this" situation, that is the time to remember and share with one another what the Bible says.

"The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way."Psalm 37:23

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths."Proverbs 3:5 and 6

"As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him... It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect."Psalm 18:30, 32

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

And so, we comforted one another with these words. We committed ourselves to Him, and trusted that He would indeed work all these things together for our good.

This is just another chapter in the real life adventures of being a homeschooling family. Some chapters are fun and delightful, some chapters are difficult and challenging, and some chapters are simple perseverance. And the Author of our faith and family, is not finished writing.

I don't have a tidy ending of the story, yet. I can't tell you how this worked out so much better for Isaac, yet. I am sitting here at the computer right now, rather than watching my son compete at the state contest which is taking place right now. It still hurts, but I do know, more than I've ever known anything in my life, that God is working out His plan in us right now. And His plans are good. In fact, His plans are absolutely perfect!!

Diana Waring has been married 25 years, has three of the best children in the world, has homeschooled forever, and has a passion for encouraging parents to enjoy their homeschooling/parenting adventure.

© Diana Waring -  Used by permission.

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