Wednesday, August 25, 2010
As all of the "back-to-school" hoopla started amping up the past few weeks, I had a growing sense of discouragement and lack of direction. I would sit and think about homeschooling and almost immediately my energy would begin to plummet and a sense of dread would creep in. Then I would feel so horribly guilty for feeling that way and would wonder, "What is wrong with me?"
After all that terrible guilt, fear raised its ugly head and I began the online hunt to find someone to just "tell me what to do". My clamoring mind said "Quick, just buy something! Quick, do what she does! Quick, get your act together!"
After a few weeks of this rollercoaster, I figured out that somewhere along the way I have simply lost my heart for educating my children. I have kept a "safe distance" from really enjoying homeschooling again because I fear that this lovely lifestyle will come to a screeching halt (as it did 3 years ago), and I will need to put them back in school. I realized that deep down that I thought this: Why invest so deeply and richly in an ideal if it is all going to end?
I told a dear friend about this awful heart dilemma...that I knew God had called me to trust Him to homeschool again this past year, but that I was holding it all at arm's length and not giving my children my whole heart. And in the way that only a true and good and godly friend can, she said, "So you aren't really trusting God then." And I realized, that no, I am not. But I want to.
So I have spent the past week talking to Him about my heart and my fears and leaning into Him and asking and seeking and begging for His will and His ways to be done in me. And He is answering! He isn't leading me to some magic bullet curriculum, but back to my heart's original vision in homeschooling. A Charlotte-Mason inspired, relaxed homeschool with lots of great books, time outdoors, long discussions, real life math, art and music appreciation, imaginative play, and interest-led projects.
I didn't need a new curriculum, I just needed my heart back.
I felt my joy and energy return and know that He is working all things for good in our lives and that I really can trust Him no matter what the educational future holds for any of us. We walk these lifestyle paths by faith...one trusting step at a time.
I got sucked in to buying these Dole packaged peaches at Publix this past week. It's hard to pass up a "BOGO" deal and these little things make life easy for feeding a toddler a quick snack. I bought them with a little wince because I don't like the non-environmentally-friendly packaging but sometimes I let some ideals go in order to relieve snack-stress.
So here I am thinking I am feeding my baby peaches from here in America... I don't like that I know that they are probably not locally grown, but it's okay for this week.
Then I flip over the package only to see that these little peaches CAME FROM CHINA!?!? What?! I just bought a product that came from halfway across the globe to California and then traveled across the country to SC?!? No telling the crazy chemicals in those things and think of all the fuel and energy it took to transport it across the world?! Why are American companies perpetually the slave-to-cheap and will sacrifice using a locally grown, sustainable, and quality product for just saving some cash?
I have peaches growing just 10 minutes away. I will again take the effort to go buy those juicy, fresh beauties. No amount of packaged "ease" is worth spending my money on...especially for a fruit being grown who-knows-how halfway across the planet.
Sometimes BOGO isn't a great deal after all.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Friday, August 13, 2010
I decided yesterday that my attitude in my home needed changing. Every time I walked into a room in my home and found a "mess" I felt irritated and frustrated. Stress would build. I would get snappy at my family and impatient and unhappy.
I realized that I wasn't choosing to find beauty and thankfulness in the messes.
To change my perspective and renew my mind, I decided to carry my camera around in my pocket to capture the messes. To really *see* beauty in the undone...and as an act of faith, choose thankfulness. To be grateful for my children, for authentic living, for a comfortable home, for daily bread, for grace in my imperfections, for mercy in weakness.
It actually became funny. I started hoping that I would stumble upon a mess so that I could snap a photo and rejoice. It's amazing that when we re-frame a situation--looking at it as good instead of bad--our whole attitude can change. My circumstances don't look any different: messes abound.
The difference is me.
Monday, August 9, 2010
I never get tired of that promise. It's easy to believe it when you can see God's faithfulness with hindsight, but what if you are in the midst of a trying situation?
You cling to this promise for dear life.
If you have relationship problems, believe that He will work out the heart-pain for good in your life.
If you have financial problems, believe that He will work for good in those dark, anxiety-filled days.
If you have fears of the future or even of the present, He is right there working for good in your situation.
As His child, you can know that He will accomplish good things...and most of the good things aren't seen things. Many times the good things are the unseen fruit that is born in our character, in our attitudes, in making us a little bit more like Jesus.
So whatever life may be tossing your way, we can find rest and peace. Rest in knowing that no matter how bad it feels or how confusing it seems, He has a good plan for us.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
: strenuous, wearisome, and usually competitive activity or rush
: an activity, job, or situation in which there is a lot of competition and people are too busy to relax or enjoy themselves
I have never been drawn to the American Rat Race. Just the thought of it makes me tired. Long work hours, pursuing money/career at the cost of family relationships, carting kids around to day-care, schools, activities, eating on the run, and then falling into bed exhausted only to wake up and start all over again!
Last night as Mike and I were talking "life" and "goals" and "ideals", I realized that even if you bow out of the bigger American Rat Race, there are still smaller, sub-culture rat races that are easy to get sucked into.
Like Home Education. I love homeschooling, but isn't it easy within this movement to get caught up in the unspoken competition? Whether its grades or projects or activities or character? When you read the above definitions of "rat race", then you can see how something as wonderful as homeschooling can become a "strenuous, wearisome and competitive activity or rush" or a choice that makes your family "too busy to relax or enjoy themselves". A learning rat-race.
Like Parenting. Running children around to too many extracurricular activities, sleep-overs, "opportunities"...getting them up early and to bed too late. Eating on the go and cramming in life lessons as you fly down the highway. A mommy rat-race.
Like Christian ministry. Pushing and pushing to serve and witness and teach...and then comparing your ministry's fruit with someone else's (competition!) A "holy" rat-race.
Really any smaller lifestyle that looks like it should provide peace and simplicity can turn into its own kind of rat race if we allow it to.
Anytime we push and strive and rush and compare and compete within our own social and lifestyle circles, we are giving into a vicious cycle that leaves us just as weary and worn and neglectful of our families just like the big-money executives who work 80 hour weeks at the expense of their families.
We need to find our rest in Jesus. We need to not think that we can do it all or that we are super heroes. We need to let go of the perfectionistic pushing and allow our hearts to know the freedom of our limits. To find grace in falling short. To find humor in our messes. To be satisfied with weakness.
Because it is in that place, that He is Strong.
My real love for a simple life began after college when I spent two years living in Eastern Europe. The slower pace of living, the unhurried days, and the limited choices in housing, food, clothing, and entertainment gave me time to invest in the things I found important at that time: people, journaling, reading, studying, writing letters, and traveling. My life felt very balanced, productive, and full.
When I re-entered America, I quickly got engaged, joined a ministry full-time, got married, raised financial support, moved a dozen times, got pregnant and finally settled down in a state far away from family and friends. From the get-go, it was really hard to keep our "overseas mindset of living"...which for us meant a focus on close community/team and simple living . For the first time I could really recognize how our culture bombards us with crazy levels of advertising and seeks to keep us chronically discontent... let's face it: you aren't going to spend a lot of money on a bunch of stuff if you are happy and content!
I feel like I have to fight against a consumeristic mindset in myself, but now I have to fight it in my children! I am amazed at the level of advertising aimed at children to get them hooked on product branding. Shielding our young ones from this takes a tremendous amount of vigilance and swimming against the societal tide...which can get exhausting. Here is an eye-opening fact sheet of the influence of materialism and stress on families.
Why do we get sucked into all of this? Many times it can be plain old greed...but more often I think we all just crave a sense of worth and belonging. Having stuff that is just like our buddies makes us feel like we are connected and that we belong. We buy into trends...I feel more "acceptable" and good when I have what she has. Our kids struggle and deal with all of these same issues...how can we help them and ourselves?
I think it has to start with understanding the real heart of the Gospel and our significance and worth that is settled in Christ. Meditating on those core truths can transform us into more joyful, content, thankful, and peaceful people. We stop seeking to prove ourselves and find happiness with who God made us as unique individuals, and much of that drive-for-more is broken because we realize we already have everything that matters in Christ.
The freedom and peace of the Gospel makes us comfortable in our own Jesus-designed skin!
On a practical note, we can limit our children's media exposure. Turn off the Disney channel. Seriously. Cut out as much advertising as possible whether through TV commercials or Sunday paper advertising! Our "gimmes" were reduced drastically in myself and in my kids when we stopped getting the Sunday paper a few years ago.
Celebrate hand-made and creativity. Involve kids in making birthday gifts for friends and in Christmas gifts for family. Promote thoughtful/creative giving over Black Friday Deals. Focus on being producers rather than consumers.
Consider spending money on vacations and travel experiences over buying more stuff.
Spend time out in nature exploring a new trail as "fun" instead of going to the latest movies.
Use the public library instead of buying more books.
Model giving money and time. Giving is the ultimate in breaking chains of consumption. And it brings a deep joy to adults and children alike. Sponsor a child. Volunteer with Meals on Wheels. Take a family a meal. Set up a lemonade stand and give the proceeds away. Serve in your church.
There are opportunities all around each one of us each and every day...what if we prayed every morning with our children, "Lord, show us where to give today!"?
photo by eb78
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
"I need to start the day (after the prayer and exercise start) with a shower, clothing and lip gloss, and then some quiet time with the Bible. I want my children to find me in that room, with a candle lit and the Bible on my lap when they first wake up. I don't want them to find me staring into my laptop." ~Elizabeth Foss
I kept the computer turned off this morning until around lunchtime...that had been a firm goal of mine in the past but somewhere along the way got neglected. Reading Elizabeth's words (and also these from Rachel) helped me to renew my mindset to stop the morning computer habit. It distracts me from really being present with my children...I am here in my body but not with my mind. It also distracts me from the work I know I need to do in the home and can water seeds of discontent. Not to mention the fact that it is wasting my most-productive, least-tired hours of the day!
So this morning I immediately got up after nursing the baby back to sleep. I quickly slipped on a fresh shirt and a cotton skirt and pulled my hair back into my standard ponytail. I made the bed and then my dear husband brought us our morning coffee. We chatted and read and journaled. When my first little sleepy one came in our room, I felt like I was so much better prepared in body and spirit to see him.
As I got moving around the home, I just felt so tired. I always feel this tired when I come to the end of year 1 with a new baby. Nursing a little one literally drains me. I realize that when I feel this tired, I just want to sit...and that is when the computer gets turned on! So I fought off the urge to go turn it on, and I just sat at the kitchen table with my older children talking. And then I laid on the floor and allowed the baby to crawl all over me. I just allowed myself to accept the fatigue, not run away or distract myself from it, and entered in to relationships with my kids.
If I could keep this goal going, it will change our lives.
I got some energy after that and got some laundry done and the kitchen nice and pretty. I felt inspired to pull out Clean House, Clean Planet and replenish my homemade cleaners that had all run low. The kids played Monopoly and Legos while the baby played in his room while listening to music. It was so peaceful and I was so happy to have my mind uncluttered and free to focus on the task at hand!
Morning internet and email clutters my mind and heart. Pure and simple. It is not easy to stop this habit...and that is what it is, a habit. But that means I can change this habit and begin better habits. It's not without a little pain, but I know the fruit is worth it.
photo by D L Ennis
Monday, August 2, 2010
"Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love." ~St. Therese
I have spent the past week deeply enjoying the reading of some of the writings of Saint Therese of Lisieux. She was born 100 years before I was and led a small and quiet life as a Carmelite nun in France. She only lived to be 24 years old.
She viewed herself as a "little flower"...one who has been given an ordinary life with ordinary talents with a deep desire to love God simply. She wrote and encouraged walking in a "little way"...this meant walking with Jesus with complete child-like trust. She viewed Him as the most loving, most gentle, most kind... full of infinite mercy and grace...she sweetly called him "adorable Jesus". Her written prayers ring with sincere passion and trust and love.
She came to the realization that her vocation was simple: LOVE. She knew that she was "weak and little" but that His love and mercy covers all of that and gave her the burning passion to love others..."a fire of love".
Her ultimate goal in life was to love Him and make Him loved.
Reading her words and her story lifted a spiritual heaviness that has been on my chest for about two months. It's amazing how coming face to face with the powerful, intoxicating love and grace of Jesus changes and transforms our hurting, restless hearts. The Lord really used her words to pierce through much spiritual woundedness that I have been struggling with and helped to soothe, comfort and encourage me.
Last night I spent much time pouring out my heart to the Lord through journalling ...thanking Him for removing my doubts, my confusions, my spiritual pain...for using a humble Catholic nun to bolster my simple faith and to re-focus me on what I know authentic faith is all about...LOVE. And I feel light and free!
Isn't that what we, the Body of Christ, should be doing? Stooping to lift up the weak. Encouraging the doubting. Lifting spiritual burdens. Cutting off yokes of bondage. Loving the struggling.
Being like Jesus to one another.