I’m in the midst of a rather busy season. We still have three weeks left in our homeschool year, but summer, with its mowing, gardening, and adventuring, is already in full swing.
As the work picks up outside, mess and clutter build up inside, too. New projects create new piles, and sometimes it’s hard to walk through the house without tripping over something.
I might like to have my plans accomplished and tied up with a bow, but that doesn’t happen very often. I might like to have my whole house cleaned and organized at one time–even just the first floor all at one time!–but that feels like a distant dream and not a soon-to-be-had reality.
So when I sat at my desk to pray this morning after sleepily popping a couple pans of baked oatmeal into the oven, I gave thanks for all I could. And then I pulled out the Valley of Vision and read a prayer, one that happened to speak to me ever so sweetly even as it prompted me to speak to God. I would reproduce it here for you, but I want to respect copyrights, so I’ll link to it instead. The prayer is titled Resting on God. I hope you’ll find it an encouragement like I did.
As I roll up my sleeves and get busy with the day’s work, I’m going to try to keep these truths at the forefront of my mind. Join me?
The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.
The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart from generation to generation.
My soul, wait in silence for God only, For my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be shaken. On God my salvation and my glory rest; The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God. Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
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This spring has been full of life: with garden work, schooling, spring cleaning, taxes, and adventures. I just wanted to hop on here today to share some of the wonderful things that I’ve been enjoying (mostly in my earbuds) lately. I’m on a bit of biblical womanhood kick, and whatever the world may bemoan about that subject, I’m incredibly refreshed by reminders of what God has both called me to and given me grace for in this life as a woman made in His image.
The Simplified Organization Podcast by Mystie Winckler (also available as YouTube videos). Mystie interviews Christian moms to get their best tips for parenting and home management to the glory of God. There’s a great variety of topics and tips. The practical and the spiritual don’t have to be kept in separate categories. 🙂 That’s what I love so much about this podcast (and other resources from Mystie)–not just life hacks, but real help toward godly faithfulness in both our homes and our hearts.
Fruitful Homemaker Podcast This is hosted by Emily Drew, a young mom (and fellow Arkansan!) who interviews older women in the faith. I love that she’s seeking to bring the Titus 2 wisdom of truly older women forward for today’s younger women to hear! Some notable guests include Martha Peace, Nancy Wilson, and Abigail Dodds.
Women Encouraged Podcast, Good Theology: As Mothers – with Nana Dolce This particular episode came recommended by a sweet new mom at my church. It’s a great encouragement to think carefully about what we believe and how that affects the relationships in our home–especially our lives lived out before our kids.
Let Me Be a Woman by Elisabeth Elliot. This is an old classic–one I read in my early twenties and then lent to a friend…never to be seen again. I finally repurchased the book last year, and reading it the last month or so has been such a breath of fresh air in the midst the smoggy mess made by our culture’s current state of confusion.
Speaking of the current state of things, since finishing Let Me Be a Woman, I’ve begun listening to That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis. This third book of Lewis’ Space Trilogy confronts totalitarian scientism and many of the themes addressed in The Abolition of Man. It may seem like a strange addition to a list of “encouragement for moms,” but I’ve found it to be great food for thought. Elisabeth Elliot tells about being a woman. Lewis shows it. His character Jane wrestles through it, and Lewis, as the author, lets her be a woman. I’m not done with the book, but I’m finding it quite instructive and freeing, as I tend to have some of the same modern-woman hang-ups as Jane.
What encouragement have you found lately, mama? Not just to get through the long days of noise and messes, but what has been encouraging you to thrive in you role as a wife and mother? What resources help you lift up your eyes (Psalm 121)?
I’ve been on a bit of a minimalist kick lately, decluttering my house, my closet, my recipes, my priorities, you name it. While I don’t necessarily hold to minimalism as a whole-life philosophy, I find that it does offer some necessary push-back to our modern tendencies to be “ever expanding,” whether that be in our possessions, resources, opportunities, or social connections.
On that last item, social connections, I recently read an article explaining the theory of what’s called the Dunbar Number. A British anthropologist named Robin Dunbar posited (after some research on primates and combing through human records) that the greatest number of meaningful connections any one person can hold at a given time is about 150.
I have to admit I had quite the confirmation bias response to this article, because not too long ago I was explaining to my husband that I have social limits, and I simply cannot keep up with all-the-people, and I certainly don’t have energy for continually adding to the number of all-the-people to whom I feel some measure of social obligation.
With interest and perhaps some of that confirmation bias running through my veins, I decided I’d see where my current number of connections stood. I pulled out my brain dump notebook and began to write down all of the people with whom I have some meaningful or working connection. I started with family. That easily reached over 30 people. Then it was long-standing friends. You know, the people you may or may not see each year but whom you are committed in some way to maintaining for the long haul: again, over 30. Neighbors came to about 20. Homeschool connections almost 30. Church connections (which is small right now because we’re still new at our local church): about 15. And then I listed those who are a bit more distant but still qualify under this idea of meaningful connection: 60 or more. If you just add up the rounded numbers I’ve listed, that makes 185, more than the Dunbar Number (150). No wonder I feel a bit overwhelmed and like I can’t add any more.
But guess what kinds of people I didn’t add to any of those lists of contacts? For the most part, I didn’t include online-only relationships. There are seven ladies who make the cut because they are part of an online stand-up/accountability group. Other than those ladies, every other person on the list has some real-life, meaningful or workable connection (or has had in the past and therefore they are on the list).
What this little exercise demonstrated for me was twofold: One, there isn’t really any room for me to build or even maintain relationships on social media or other online platforms. No wonder I feel a little overwhelmed trying to keep up. Two, even these connections that I wrote down are pushing the limit, and I need to prioritize.
Now, Dunbar’s theory itself has prioritization built in. He suggests that any one person can have only about 5 people in their inner circle—these are loved ones, your most trusted and closest kind of friends (large families can adjust this number accordingly, IMO). Next up are “good friends,” of which you can maintain about 15 (or just ten more than the 5 closest friends we already mentioned). There are about 50 that can be called “friends” in a meaningful way before our own capacity is stretched enough to make the term “friend” less meaningful (I’m looking at you, Facebook). And then the next jump is up to that limit of 150 meaningful contacts. Beyond that, the study claims we could have face-recognition of up to 1500 people–but not meaningful relationships. I can’t say I’ve taken the time to test the limits on that last one.
Now, all of this should be taken with a grain of salt. The Dunbar Number is a theory, not gospel nor scientific law. But it is interesting, isn’t it?
I’ve titled this article “Titus 2 and the Dunbar Number,” so it’s about time I brought this back around. As Christians, we know that the greatest commandments are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. And while Jesus insisted that anyone who we find in need of our help can be considered our neighbor (see the parable of the good Samaritan), in today’s times, we tend to be over-exposed to people and needs via the internet and social media, skewing our sense of responsibility away from our nearest neighbors and toward those far from us.
The impact here is both quantitative in that we’re compelled to give emotional energy toward more people than we have capacity for and qualitative in that we’re tempted to prioritize (at least in the moment) people far away from us, for whom we are not most responsible. The issue here isn’t that caring for people far away is bad (it’s good to be concerned for people in different places than we are), it’s just unnatural to have a constant reminder of them and to be pulled away from the people literally right in front of us or across the street. The combination of those quantitative and qualitative elements makes for a rather big challenge, especially if we take seriously the call to “love our neighbor.” We’re left asking Jesus for clarification, “Who is my neighbor?”
This is where Titus 2 comes in. Some people hate this passage because they see it as limiting women to the home, keeping them barefoot and pregnant, etc. But I think we can see it in a different light. Here it is for your consideration:
Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.
If we are to love God and love people, the first place that we ought to practice that God-honoring people-love is within our own households. What Titus 2 (and a few other passages) implies to me is that this temptation to concern and even distract ourselves with people “out there” isn’t something only modern social media mavens have experienced. Even women in the first century needed the reminder that a love that isn’t fulfilling its duty at home first is a hypocritical love that can lead to the gospel being blasphemed, the good news being spoken of as if it’s bad.
Now before anyone throws stones because they think I’m promoting “the patriarchy,” let me be the first to say that this principle holds true for men as well. It’s why elders are supposed to be good managers of their own households before they are recognized as leaders in the church (1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9). It’s why a man that doesn’t provide for his own is called “worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). The call to prioritize the people right in front of us is universal. This responsibility to one’s own household is why singleness is, for some, an effective state to be in for the sake of ministry to others: because the man or woman who isn’t tied down has more time and energy to devote to the Lord, which may include serving others beyond the home in a way that the married person simply can’t (1 Corinthians 7:32-35). But that’s more the exception than the norm for believers. Most of us are called to marry and build families to the glory of God.
So the reminder in Titus 2 to love your husband and love your children and focus on the work that must be done to keep the home running well isn’t slavish or limiting. It’s a sane call to put first things first. The calling toward home and family doesn’t necessarily preclude other callings, but it does take precedence over them.
And, if you think about it, all of this makes sense in light of Dunbar’s thoughts on human social capacity. We each may vary in terms of our social capacity, and some of us may need to cut back while others may need to stretch themselves. But at the end of the day, we all have limits. And we all have to choose how we will use the limited resources we’ve been given.
How about you? Do you feel our modern connected world pulls your attention away from the folks that matter most to you?
We may not need to dump online community and resources altogether, but might it be helpful to imagine what our priorities would look like if those things didn’t exist. Join me for a thought experiment?
If the internet didn’t exist, what would you want your family life to look like? How might you prioritize your husband? Your children? If you are in a different stage of life: your roommate, parents or siblings, or extended family?
If the internet didn’t exist, what would you do to get to know your neighbors? To be a blessing to them?
If the internet didn’t exist, what would you do to get to know the people at your church better? How might you reach out to discover needs and meet them? In your church and your local community?
If the internet didn’t exist to make long distance relationships many-and-easy, who would you 100% want to keep in touch with–even if it meant more effort?
“How’s 2020 been treating you?” It’s a fairly normal question in a normal year. But this year it gets thrown around accompanied by a sinking feeling or an incredulous laugh or the quoting of a meme or two.
Some of us have faced down the loss of a loved one. Some, the loss of a job. Some have found themselves with lots of free time on their hands. Some have found themselves with a call to long hours and high stakes. And some (especially those of us whose work is at home already) have found themselves worried about all these things while simultaneously experiencing “life as usual”—only a little too usual since outside-of-the-home, in-person social interaction has been sadly lacking.
As a homeschooling homemaker married to a man who works from home most days anyway, I have found myself in that “life as usual” category, wondering at times if it’s even right for me to go about my normal routine around here while there is so much wrong in the world out there.
There’s a kind of anxiety that comes from knowing about tragedy and feeling like you can do nothing about it.
So what’s a homemaker to do?
We may be tempted to think that our ordinary work at home matters less because there is so much apparent work to be done in the world beyond our door. But our role as a homemaker is no less important in times of crisis. In fact, unless we are obviously given a public-facing assignment, I contend that our work at home matters even more.
Just because the needs out there become more apparent doesn’t mean that the needs right here have gone away. We all feel the upheaval and uncertainty of our times. And while children may appear to be carefree most of the time, they feel it, too—especially as it effects their parents.
Before I spend too many words on the subject, take a look at this cover art for Blink, an album about motherhood by the Christian musician known as Plumb (Tiffany Arbuckle-Lee).
I love the imagery and what it speaks about the role of mothers. Amid the storm, there’s a shelter, there’s light, there’s a smile, there’s wonder, and there’s both space and provision for beautiful things to grow.
Whatever age our children, or whether we have children at home at all, I think this image can be inspiring in our homemaking as well.
We do well to fight the darkness by turning on the light. Not by brooding. Not by worrying. Not by endlessly researching the latest hot-button issue on the internet.
“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to [her] life span?” our Lord asks. We might also ask if our worry adds to anyone else’s life either.
This isn’t to dismiss or ignore the real challenges facing our world today, nor is it a call to ignore the needs in our communities that we are capable of meeting, but it is to say there is an appropriate way to deal with all these things–and especially the ones that are beyond our reach.
The home that our loved ones experience is made up of both our internal attitudes and our practical service. We would do well to look after both—and to see that they often rise and fall together.
Ladies, if we aren’t taking things before the Lord then we’re choosing to bear them ourselves, choosing to be weighed down with cares that He doesn’t intend for us to carry, cares that keep us from joyful service in our homes. And how will we teach children to cast their cares on Jesus if we don’t practice it ourselves? Will we even see that they have cares that need our guidance and prayers?
And this is where I admit that I know these things because I fall prey to them myself. Even personality types that are supposedly led on by facts and logic and reasoning rather than emotions can find themselves in the endless scroll, the incessant trying-to-fix-it—both of which amount to a worrisome attempt to control circumstances that are beyond our control while ignoring our God-given responsibilities and the people we’re most explicitly called to love.
So if we repent of our worry, if we leave it behind and resolve to trust the Lord, what then are the needs in our home?
And here’s where our attitudes and service really rise and fall together. When we’re worried about so many things, we can’t see what’s right in front of us. So the first step in moving forward is to begin to really see our homes and really see the people in them.
That Proverbs 31 woman “looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”
The answer is simple, even if not easy: What we really need is to pay attention and do what we know we ought to do with diligence.
There are a few practical ways this has worked itself out in our family. It’s still a battle to choose joy and to actively resist the temptation to despair, to refuse to bring anxiety about the world into our home environment rather than casting that anxiety on Jesus. But here’s where we have chosen to draw some lines and plant some seeds in our family.
Of course there are the usual chores: keeping the home running and clean, keeping a watch on the budget and food, keeping up with other home projects.
We’ve also committed to sticking to our schedule more than we have in the past. The routine is good for all of us.
We’ve kept up our family bible time. We all need God’s word, all the time.
We’ve focused on our garden. We’ve made space, planted things, and watched them grow. Vegetables, yes. But also flowers. Lots of flowers. Those proverbial roses don’t have to stay proverbial. It’s good to literally stop to smell them, too.
Making space for fun and creativity and good conversation.
Getting outside to enjoy God’s creation and take in visible, tangible signs of beauty and hope. Creation is full of parables.
I took a two-week break from social media to clear my head and my focus. I thoroughly enjoyed it (and I think my family did, too).
We’ve painted as a family. Gone on walks. Read aloud. Caught caterpillars and watched them turn to beautiful butterflies.
We’ve tried to make special days and holidays all-the-more special, not allowing quarantine to keep us from celebrating as a family, from marking times and seasons with thankfulness to God.
Not all of these things are always easy, but they have been good. And this isn’t some checklist or quarantine bucket list. It’s just an encouragement that the ordinary things you do for your home and with your people matter.
And they matter even more in times that are anything but ordinary.
Fight the good fight to do this work rather than neglect it. And most of all, seek the Lord and see your people. Ask God to help you look into the faces of your family members with love and joy and interest. And ask Him to give you wisdom to know what each one needs.
When the darkness out there seems to close in all around us, when our hearts are troubled, when we’re cut off from regular fellowship, the tone we choose to set for our homes matters immensely.
I’ll sign off with a few words I shared in an email exchange with another mommy-friend:
Yes, the world is a pretty crazy place. … I’ve wanted to do more to help people during this time, but something to remember is that providing a fun, godly, and secure home for children is foundational to civilization. Your and my role in that cannot be overstated. Sometimes I feel like I’m not really doing anything if I’m not somehow being active or being heard ‘out there.’ But what I’m really called to is to be gladly at work and speaking truth and kindness right here. At home. Making a home. A haven in all the crazy. That is kingdom-building and soul-liberating work.
Lately I’ve wrestled with my assumptions about how homeschooling ought to be experienced–both by me and my children. There’s this tension between the “freedom” that we have as homeschoolers along with the “delight” that we want to nurture … and the painfully hard job of holding the line while a child has to do the work of growing into maturity. You can’t do it for them. You can’t soften the blow. You can’t lift the weight.
Well, you can try. But might not be good for them. Despite not measuring up to the Instagram ideal, the daily grind–with all of its bumps, boredom, and blunders–is good for kids.
We’re beginning to wrestle with these things now that our oldest is ten and carrying more responsibilities. And it’s hard. It’s really hard. Not because he’s rebellious or anything. Just because it means he has to grow up a bit, this child who’s still bummed that he aged-out of child care at our homeschool support meetings two years ago. He’d rather be in there with the 7-and-under crowd just like he’d rather continue doing all of his math and language lessons with me.
But he has to grow up.
And I have to let him.
I think of all the ways I could have prepared us better for this transition to greater responsibility and greater independence. There’s much room for improvement and repentance, and I just get to mourn the gap because my baby, my youngest, just turned eight–it’s not like I have kindergartners that I can “do better” with.
But then my husband tells me that I’ve done great. That this transition is hard. Period. (He would know. He was homeschooled.) You could have done some things better, but here we are–and he’s going to get stronger from this trial precisely because it’s hard, precisely because it’ll teach him to pray–as long as we hold the line.
My husband is right, of course. For all the failings, we’ve done well. And are doing well. I don’t measure up to my ideals and neither do my children. No surprise there, really, if I’m honest with myself.
This reminds me of that ideal that is not idealistic. That we’re raising children to become adults. Adults who have to work hard. Adults that will make mistakes and have to correct them–whether in math or driving or work or relationships.
Turns out in bringing up my boys I’m being brought up, too. The higher ideal–for all of us–is growth in maturity, ultimately in Christ.
Praise God I haven’t gotten it all right! I’d be an arrogant sourpuss if He’d allowed me to get it all right! No. There is no perfect ideal in parenting or education. The only Perfect Ideal is Jesus Christ Himself. So the best we can do is look to Christ and hold on. Hold the line of faith as we hold the practical standards for our kids, standing firm as they learn to stand firm themselves, dependent more and more upon the Lord–and less and less upon us.
This. Is. Good.
Hard but good.
True growth, and thus the ability to experience greater “freedom” and “delight,” comes when we submit to the work set before us, choosing to bear up under the weight God has assigned rather than to shirk it or complain. Our children grow the same way we do–if we let them.
How about you? What hurdles or struggles are you and your children facing this year? Can you recognize the “hard but good” in it? How has it forced you to rely more upon the Lord? I’d love to hear from you.
I don’t know about you, but I’m sure there are moms out there that struggle with the seemingly never-ending task of cleaning up after the members of their household. Let’s at least imagine that you and I are like that. Hypothetically, of course.
It’s a Monday morning, a fresh start, or so it would seem. When you walk into the kitchen you’re actually kind of impressed that the kids managed to clean up as much as they did after making your dinner last night (a lovely assortment of leftovers). They were, after all, blessing your socks off when you were flat-out exhausted.
But then you notice the grease all over the stove, so you grab the washcloth and wipe things down without flinching. You usually do at least one thing to straighten up your kitchen while waiting on your coffee.
But then there are the dirty dishes that didn’t make it into the dishwasher, and the clean ones on the other counter that never got put away. And then you look over at the microwave. That wondrous instrument of quick cooking, the one the kids use the most–and with all the greasy fingers they can muster.
Just touching the buttons sends shivers up your spine.
You grab the washrag yet again, feeling the grumbles heat up inside you as the tap water heats to a similarly scalding level. Somehow you think this is what it takes to get the job done, especially when you see the inside of the microwave.
You begin to murmur to yourself, “This is cutting into my Bible time.”
And then the grace of conviction haults your thoghts. That was mighty self-righteous of you when you could just spend this time with the Lord anyway instead of grumbling.
Once disarmed, your flustered thoughts begin to retreat, making room for a scripture to charge into the battle: Love covers a multitude of sins.
Suddenly you realize that love is patient, and kind, and all that, not because you really have 1 Corinthians 13 running through your head right now, but because you are meditating on love covers a multitude of sins while doling out the elbow grease. I love those little monsters, so I don’t mind cleaning up after them. These messes are evidence that they are loving and growing, too.
And the Lord is with me whether I’m kneeling in front of my microwave or sitting on the couch with my Bible.
The motto ora et labora–pray and work–comes to mind now, too, and you begin to pray for the members of your household, exchanging drudgery for intercession.
The coffee may be a bit cold, and your Bible might still be waiting for you, but you have indeed had quiet time with the Lord, by His gentle, refining grace.
And the microwave is clean now, so go heat up that coffee and sit down to the Feast. And maybe let the kids join you since they’ll be coming down the stairs any minute now.
Many of the public schools in our area started back yesterday, and so did we.
If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you might be a little confused since I posted about our “First Day” back in July.
That would be the first of my confessions.
I thought that in the middle of all of our remodeling craziness it would be a good idea to re-institute some order by starting back to school. We made it a whopping four days before a trip and life in general took over again.
So yesterday was technically something like day five (or six if we’re counting the immersive day of water color painting last week–hey, I’m counting it!).
I’m just thankful that my husband encouraged me not to worry about it. Now that the living room is, well, livable again, we can start to throw some school into the mix.
His support has been invaluable since we would, in theory, like to have our kids keep going with at least math and reading through the summer months. I planned to just take June off, and keep a bit of review going even on break, but it stretched into an extra month-and-a-half and our review became non-existent.
And it’s ok. Really, Lauren, it’s ok.
But those scheduled intentions are just surface-level. I’ve got some deeper issues to confess, as well.
This is our fourth year of officially homeschooling and yet I have felt less prepared than ever. I gave up on a traditional homeschool planner this year, opting to build my own system for planning and record keeping (a combination of Plan Your Year, a bullet journal, and clipboards for the kids). I hope to share some reviews, articles, and videos about it sometime soon once the dust clears and the wires are all rigged up in our remodeled office/studio. But the process has been like stepping out on an invisible floor, hoping there is something to stand on when you land.
Unlike Indiana Jones, however, on our first day of school yesterday, instead of finding a firm footing, I literally slipped on the slick, wet front steps, finding that gravity still works and that landing your rear on the corner of the step an entire foot lower than your feet began makes for a very purple derriere and quite a stiff and sore neck.
This didn’t exactly quell my fear of more figurative slips. Again I’m reminded of the only truly firm footing I have in the first place–and that gives me strength to press on.
I know that the end result will be a good one–having a completely customized system that meets our needs better than any pre-fab planner ever could. But with a new arrangement on paper comes a new arrangement of habits–both mental and physical–and building those habits takes time. I need to have patience with the process, trust that it will be worth it, and simply recognize the little adjustments that have to be made along the way as a part of what makes it better.
All of that said, our first day went wonderfully well! My well-laid plans did pay off!
At least, before lunch.
Our first day of school started well but ended woefully.
In my planning I took into consideration the longer-than-ever-time-off from which we would be recovering, and I tweaked our curriculum accordingly–especially math. My big boy would do only half of the worksheet. My youngest would copy numbers, do some basic math facts, and then we’d play a math game. The almost-six-year old finished his work in no time, blazing through math, reading, and copy work so he could go to town with his beloved watercolors the rest of the morning.
I was thrilled. This was easy.
The just-turned-eight-year-old, however, struggled to focus. His work certainly should have taken longer than his little brother’s, but it drug on and on and on needlessly. I told him time didn’t matter, that he didn’t need to set a timer, just work diligently. But he set the timer anyway and then stressed himself out with it. Long story short, he was anything but diligent, even when I gave him breaks to go outside or read and then come back to it with a fresh mind. His score in the end was near perfect, but it was well into the afternoon before he finished and then there was language arts to do.
I was patient for the morning. But eventually my patience ran out.
I had planned fun activities for our afternoon. A game, read-alouds over Afternoon Tea. Things my children LOVE.
But a dawdler was messing up my plans to do him good.
I escaped into my own projects and spent some time online to boot.
“I’ve tried to help you. You won’t be helped. I’m done.”
Signing off. Checking out. On day one.
Over dinner my husband asked us each how our day had gone and how we felt about it. There was good, there was bad, and there was ugly. But it was good to get it out in front of us as a family.
He sweetly encouraged me not to base the success of my day on other people’s performance–especially little people. Control what I can control–my own responses.
That’s hard, isn’t it? But it’s exactly what I needed.
After further consideration and prayer last night, I realized that I had judged my childrenworthy of my time and patience during the morning hours–I had even decided this long in advance. It’s my job, after all, as their mom and teacher. But with one child dragging his half-sheet of math work beyond any reasonable time frame, and with the other testing my patience at lunch time, I came to judge my children as unworthy of my time and patience for the rest of the day.
Forget my God-given role as their mother and teacher, I measured them against my plans and expectations, found them wanting even after patient instruction and care, and since I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted, I decided they didn’t deserve my effort–I decided I needed a break.
There is wisdom, at times, in walking away from a situation so that both parties can get fresh air, deal with what’s in their hearts, and come back in much better spirits. But I can’t say that was what was going on this time. I was resentful. And it took ME “beyond a reasonable time frame” to get my heart right.
Math work or heart work, my son and I were both taking too long to learn our lessons.
I suppose I could steal a quote from my reflections on planning above since it seems to fit this character-growing, relationship-building process, as well:
“…building those habits takes time. I need to have patience with the process, trust that it will be worth it, and simply recognize the little adjustments that have to be made along the way as a part of what makes it better.”
The goal of education isn’t ultimately results or getting things done anyway.
As I wrestled with my own bad response–with my sin–the Lord kindly reminded me of His love and patience toward me as His child. I cowered at the thought of His great love and my great lack.
Father, You chose to love me while I was yet a sinner when You sent Jesus to die for me. And You choose to love me still even when it takes me years to learn a lesson, even when my attitude and actions are quite like a distracted and unruly child.
Because You have chosen to love me, because You have made me Your child, Your patience and Your love never wane…like mine so often do for my own children.
Forgive me, Father. I repent.
Thank You for being a GOOD Father. My need for Your love and patient correction is ongoing. And the work You’ve called me to do for my children is ongoing. Oh, please produce in me the same patient, diligent love with which You parent me.
I saw yesterday morning that I could choose to be patient with my children. But O how I need Your Spirit, Lord, to choose to be patient even beyond my good intentions! When my planned patience wears out, show me Your patient love, and please help me to then pass it on to them.
For those of you who also started school recently, I hope your first day fared better than mine (and you should read that as “I hope that your patience lasted more than four hours”).
But it’s just the first day. And it’s now behind us. Sins repented of, mercies new this morning …and every morning hereafter. We’re in this for the long haul, aren’t we? Let’s do it with patient love, remembering the One who continues to lavish us with it.
She was probably 15-20 years my senior, with bright eyes and her long brown hair, half pulled back and half resting gently on her standard navy blue shirt and coordinating vest.
She was still helping the customers in front of us when it happened–my antsy five-year-old, who had earlier decided to don gym shorts and cowboy boots, accidentally stepped backward–right on top of my seven-year-old’s sandal-clad foot.
The scream was ear-piercing.
We had already been in the store too long after spending far too long at our previous errand stop. The boys were tired and so was I. And when the wailing persisted for several minutes, I’m sure everyone else’s ears were tired, too. I tried to calm my big boy down without much luck, and the whole situation was so traumatic that the five-year-old started crying because he was so sorry that he had apparently hurt his brother so badly.
It was a meltdown. I looked up at the cashier and said something about missing nap time…not that my boys take naps anymore, but the downtime would have been good for them.
The boys were fairly well calmed down by the time the cashier started ringing up our order.
“I miss shopping with my boys,” she said with a warm smile. “They’re grown and moved away and both married now.”
I paused a moment to consider her words (trying to decide if she’s crazy) before asking, “How old are they now?”
“They’re 24 and 26.”
Two years apart. Just like mine.
“What I wouldn’t give to have them with me again–even on the rough days. I just miss having them with me. And tucking them in at night. You know, all those special times together that you don’t think about much until they’ve grown up and you don’t have them around all the time anymore.”
I don’t usually handle other people’s sentimentality that well, but hers, in this moment, was a gift from God–a redirection of my heart away from the frenetic and frustrated mode that I was in to see the blessing it is simply to have my children near–with the sobering reminder that that nearness won’t last forever.
But she didn’t just make me see. She made me feel.
I think that’s why other people’s emotional moments make me uncomfortable. It forces me to feel something that I’m not sure I’m ready to deal with (because, to be honest, my own emotional moments make me uncomfortable).
But sometimes that can be a very good thing. I may have been most comfortable feeling embarrassment or frustration in that check out line, but she made me feel affection for my kids, turning what could have been a nosedive in my attitude into a total rebound.
“Thank you for sharing that,” I expressed before pushing the cart way, “especially in the midst of a minor meltdown.”
She may not have realized it, but she changed the tone of the rest of our busy afternoon with her kind words and heart-felt nostalgia. This was a little bit of Titus 2 in action, friends. At Walmart.
“Love those boys, mama,” she had communicated in no uncertain terms. “Love them well–even when it’s tough. You will miss them someday.”
My boys recently participated in their first musical stage play, “No Strings Attached: The Musical Adventures of Pinocchio.” They had a fantastic time playing 19th-century school boys, donkeys, a marionette, and singing fish. They were the youngest in the production, so the five-hour-long dress rehearsal was pretty exhausting for them (and their parents), but they absolutely had a blast.
When the last performance was over, our five-year-old shed a few tears. I assured him that he would have the opportunity to be in another play sometime, but he was quite upset that it would likely not be Pinocchio again. “I like THIS play!”
He later had a dream that they did the play again, and he reported the following morning with a beaming smile, “It was the most wonderful dream!”
Pink eye isn’t exactly the kind of visitor that you usually want to celebrate as a “special event,” but it’s been a guest at our house for a couple weeks this spring so it’s at least worth a mention. We’ve had pretty good luck getting rid of it by mixing a 1/2 teaspoon boric acid in one cup boiled water. Once it has completely cooled, you can place a few drops into each eye. We had our kiddos lay down on a table and close their eyes while we dripped a bit of the water onto each eye near the tear duct. Then they could open their eyes so that the water could come in. This is way easier than holding a spoon over open and very frightened eyes.
I invited my local Scholé Sisters group over for a Nature Study Day at our place. We live on seven mostly-treed acres, have a creek running through our property, and last fall seeded a part of our land for wildflowers. We feel so blessed to have such a lovely slice of creation right outside our door, and it was so much fun to share it with friends! We identified trees and flowers, had a picnic lunch, and the kids spent the rest of the time playing in the creek. Having other curious moms around with their various field guides also meant that we now know a little bit more about what’s growing on our land than we did before.
We also had our last day of co-op classes a week ago. In the first hour, my youngest got a cookie in his Hands-on-Science class, and my oldest enjoyed a cupcake complete with his own personally-decorated edible stamp for his Stamping Through History class. As if that weren’t enough of an end-of-year celebration, the much-anticipated Book Club Party awaited them after recess. Each family was to choose a favorite book and bring a snack and an activity to share with the whole elementary group. We settled on Stuart Little the morning of, and I like to think our little table-top presentation turned out alright considering the high level of procrastination. After so much excitement the kids fell fast asleep in the van while I ran errands.
Unfortunately when we got to the library and I actually had to get out of the van and take the kids with me, my little guy didn’t wake up happy and said he didn’t feel that well. I knew we only needed to go inside for five minutes, so I carried him–the five-year-old on my right arm, purse and bag of books on my left. Well, that did it, apparently. Just as we stepped up to the front door of the public library the poor little man puked all over my left side. And my purse. And on the bag of books. And all over the steps.
Maybe eating all those cheese cubes after an equally large amount of sugary treats wasn’t such a good idea after all.
Again, I wouldn’t normally consider sharing a puke story as part of a “special event,” but how often do I get to be “that mom” with the sick kid who just made a horrid mess for everyone else to walk through? I’m at least hoping this was a “special” occasion–and not a new norm.
And, when I think about it, I am so incredibly thankful that the mess happened outside where a kind man washed it off with a few buckets of water. A few more steps and it would have been inside the library itself: on the carpet, smelling up the whole place for who-knows-how-long. Or it could have happened in the van. God was merciful. And I was thankful. With no fever and the sick feeling lasting only about six hours, I also thanked the Lord that this was apparently just a response to way too much junk food and not a virus.
Our last day of co-op sure was fun–a real blowout!
This isn’t a last-but-not-least kind of #5. No, this is a save-the-best-for-last #5. Ten years ago today it was Saturday. I was studying for the last finals week of my senior year of college. Later that afternoon, I played paintball with a few friends, including this guy named Nathaniel. After the game we all returned to campus and discussed dinner plans. My dad had told me to go to a local Italian restaurant to try a few dishes so he could plan for an after-graduation lunch for our family and close friends when they would all be up for the ceremony the following weekend, so I lamented that I wouldn’t be joining the group for dinner. Nathaniel said he had a project to work on. We all parted ways.
But an hour later Nathaniel asked if he could borrow my camera for this project of his. I obliged.
After cleaning up for the evening, I grabbed some books to study at a local coffee shop after dinner and headed to the restaurant. I asked for the manager, just as my dad had instructed, and she curiously led me to a table in the back. A table set for two. A table where a cleaned-up Nathaniel sat with his Bible open to the verse that says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing…”
After a few nervous words and a question from him, I said, “Yes.” And he said he loved me for the first time. He pulled out a ring and my camera.A “project”, huh?!?
If I had known what his “project” was, I would have probably worn some make-up. 😉
How about you? Any special happenings or celebrations lately? Any “special” visitors or messes?
“David Dancing before the Ark” by James Tissot. The ephod might have been a simple robe like this, or it might have been a loincloth.
Last night as I was making dinner I put on a Fernando Ortega CD.
My seven-year-old began moving to the music, something reminiscent of interpretive dance and ballet, though he has had no instruction and has seriously no chance at all of picking up such graceful moves from his parents.
My initial reaction was less than enthusiastic. I’m a rather reserved person. I’d be somewhat embarrassed for him if he did something like that, something so…so…contrary to our culture’s gender stereotypes. I wouldn’t want him to be labeled or made fun of.
And then it hit me: I was responding in my mind like Michal did to David.
And David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, and David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouting and the sound of the trumpet.
Then it happened as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David that Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.
My precious boy was dancing before the Lord, in jeans and no shirt, joyfully moving his feet and lifting his hands to heaven, rejoicing in a song of praise that he has long loved. Not unlike David danced before the Lord to celebrate the return of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.
And I was thinking about what other people would think of it if they saw it. Not unlike Michal, who despised David for his exuberant worship and criticized him with biting sarcasm.
My son wasn’t the one missing something–I was.
“I will celebrate before the Lord,” David responded. “I will be more lightly esteemed than this!”
Oh for the freedom to express our love for the Lord, giving Him the worship that He is due without allowing the fear of man to hinder us.
Am I willing to be undignified in the views of the world? Am I willing to come to God as a joyful child? Without reserve? Without concern?
Am I willing to give my children the freedom to do so?
My boy may not remember this idea by the time the talent show comes around next year, but I at least am taking his example to heart.
Has the Lord ever taught you a lesson through the simple, unreserved faith of your children? Please share in the comments below!