For the past couple of years, our school days have started with Morning Time at 9:00am. This year, we began instituting an 8:00am nature walk! Spending an hour in nature prior to beginning our school day has been a wonderful way to ensure the most important things aren’t forgotten.
Making time for wonder and wander opens our hearts to God’s grace and provision. The boys take time to catch frogs, marvel at Osage orange trees, drop sticks in the stream, and count how many red-winged blackbirds alight in the trees.
An hour outdoors at the start of our day sets a beautiful tone for everything that comes after. It’s a flawless transition to practice handwriting in our nature journals, leads to an organic drawing lesson, and unites our hearts for the coming day.
The boys discovered a hidden trail, neighborhood bat boxes, and the perfect place to bring our paints for a Monet-style art lesson. Creating a habit of starting each school day with a nature walk will no doubt enhance every aspect of our educational endeavors!
Lazy days at Hudson Acres fill my heart with peace and wonder. My boys roam freely, visit the cows in the pasture and the chickens in the coop, splash cousins with a water hose, and catch frogs until the sun goes down. We gaze up into the dark prairie sky to spy the Big Dipper and far away planets.
I worship the God of all Creation while swaying in a hammock tied between two ancient Catalpa trees. The birds offer up praise songs, build cathedrals of nests, and the cicadas sing of His glory. This is the Sabbath rest my soul craves.
Summers have become my long-awaited season to hit the pause button on so many things. Homeschool co-op, Awanas, and weekly field trips are on hold until early fall. I also like to cut ties with social media during this summer Sabbath margin. We tend to spend these sweltering Texas days in air conditioned abodes, or on the front porch at Hudson Acres — where there are plenty of tall trees and prairie breezes to make the heat bearable.
As an introverted mama, I’ve come to appreciate these special times when we’re able to unplug and disengage a bit. I love my people fiercely, yet constant engagement without time for introspection leaves me exhausted. Traditionally, people take a break from education during summer months, but I’ve found this is when we hit out sweet spot. The outside world doesn’t impede on our family time. We’re not rushing out the door or focused on a never-ending to-do list. We get more uninterrupted cuddle time and less stress. Morning time, poetry teatime, picture study, nature study, and an overhaul of literature faithfully accompany us through June, July, and August.
I’m able to read life-giving books, sit more presently at the feet of Yeshua, and inhale the gardenia-scented breeze in my garden. It’s pure bliss that prepares me for the schedule that autumn brings.
My Charlotte Mason reading group is even pausing halfway through Miss Mason’s principles to read Northanger Abbey and David Copperfield — does it get any better?! Iced tea and homemade cold brew coffee will lace these delicious days of grace, and I will drink deeply from the wellsprings of life (both caffeinated and decaffeinated). May you avoid those pesky sunburns, and take hold of the beauty this season affords!
We’re three years into our homeschooling journey, and my boys are currently ages six and four. I taught high school English for six years as a young adult; that experience solidified my desire to home educate my future children. Every day is an adventure, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world! As the seasons come and go, time has taught me that I’m not one to stick to rigorous time-stamped schedules. Routines and rhythms ebb and flow with our family’s needs, so following the Holy Spirit’s guidance it paramount to thriving where we’re planted. (Enter Sally Clarkson as my discipleship guru and mentor.)
At this age and stage of life, I’ve come to realize we (my two boys and myself) successfully operate in twenty-minute increments before we all need mental breaks. I follow a basic routine about three days each week. The other days are reserved for our homeschool community day, forest school (we take hikes in a local nature preserve), and field trips thrown in here and there. On Friday afternoons, we have a standing art playdate with our sweet friends in the neighborhood. We enjoy doing projects from Masterpiece Society!
Below is a general overview of our at-home days. Please understand we don’t follow this to a T! (Times are all approximations clearly denoted by the highly technical term “ish!”) I follow my boys’ needs as they arise, so it’s rather easy to switch, change, and rearrange our routine.
Play breaks are built in throughout the day; I don’t ever expect them to sit still for longer than five or seven minutes at a time, we’re not big on workbooks, and nature walks are my secret weapon! Sometimes those “play breaks” involve them helping clean the house! (These fun sweeper socks leave them practically begging to clean the floor.)
If things are going a little crazy, we pop on our shoes and go collect leaves or hunt for minnows in our neighborhood pond. If they’ve been big helpers around the house (or if I need a change of scenery), we’ll drop everything and head to the zoo, LegoLand, a museum, or the park. We listen to memory work, audiobooks, and fun learning songs as we drive.
The following “schedule” is an attempt to (hopefully) answer that persistent question all homeschoolers encounter: What do you do all day?!
6:30am — I wake up for quiet time and a cup of tea.
7:00ish — The kids wake up and eat breakfast.
8:00ish — Everyone brushes teeth and gets dressed.
8:30ish — The 3Rs: handwriting practice, read one book out loud to me (or Dad, if he’s home), and practice math facts.
9:00ish — The kids go play outside while I do a bit of dishes/laundry or finish getting myself ready for the day.
9:30ish — Morning Time, prayer, and devotional. Check out Pam Barnhill’s website for more info about Morning Time. We do a loop schedule for nature study, grammar, logic, and idioms at the end of Morning Time.
10:00ish — The kids go play in their bedroom or outside, depending on the unpredictable Texas weather.
10:30ish — Snack time!
11:00ish — Reading aloud and narration. I read while they “quietly” play with Legos/magnet blocks/playdough, and then the six-year-old narrates what he heard. Check out Know and Tell by Karen Glass for more info on narration, and Sarah Mackenzie’s website for info on reading aloud. Some days I read Story of the World for history, and other days I read a few pages of Theodore Gray’s books for science.
11:30ish — The boys continue playing with Legos/magnet blocks/playdough while I do more housework and make lunch.
12:00ish — Lunch time!
1:00ish — The boys watch some type of educational show while I do more housework. (Because it literally never ends!)
DVDs: Preschool Prep, WhistleFritz Spanish or French, Song School Latin, or Schoolhouse Rock
YouTube: Kids Learning Tube, Jack Hartmann, or NatGeo Kids
2:00ish — The TV is turned off, and the boys listen to educational songs, an audiobook, or memory work music while playing in their room.
2:30 (on the dot!) — TEA TIME! I read poems, a missionary biography, or a fairy tale while we have tea. The boys drink lemonade in the spring and summer, then cider in autumn and winter. I drink tea all day, every day! Check out Julie Bogart’s webpage for more info on Poetry Teatime.
3:00ish — The boys clean up all of their toys, and then I read aloud some more. This time they choose their own books; we snuggle up on the couch with soft Celtic music playing in the background. Sometimes they fall asleep…sometimes I do, too.
3:30ish — I start prepping for dinner while the boys color or do some other simple project. They can also play in their room, look at books together, or play outside. Basically anything that doesn’t require my help and doesn’t make a mess! Once I finish dinner prep and everything is in the oven, I attempt to kick back in my rocking chair and read for myself…this is a rare occurrence.
5:00ish — Dinner time!
6:00ish — While I clean up the kitchen, it’s Daddy playtime! Dad also gets them bathed and brushes their teeth. Then we put away more toys that have inevitably been hauled back into the living room.
7:00ish — Bible reading with Daddy — they cuddle up with pillows in the living room floor and listen while Dad reads Bible stories.
7:30ish — Bed time show. They’re really into Peter Rabbit since we’ve been reading lots of Beatrix Potter. So, one night they get to watch Peter Rabbit (Amazon), and the next night they’ll watch SuperBook (RightNow Media and Amazon).
8:00ish — Bedtime blessings and lights out! They fall asleep listening to Celtic lullabies and an audiobook. One night it will be James Herriot, the next it will be Beatrix Potter. We tried listening to The Action Bible for a while, but it just kept them awake!
Sabbath / Shabbat Passover / Pesach Unleavened Bread / Hag HaMatzot Firstfruits / Reishit Pentecost / Shavuot Trumpets / Rosh HaShanah Day of Atonement / Yom Kippur Tabernacles / Sukkot Feast of Dedication / Hanukkah Feast of Lots / Purim
One of my favorite parts of our family’s life rhythm includes keeping the biblical feasts. I’m often met with raised eyebrows when people hear that we celebrate weekly Shabbat dinners, but it’s the most beautiful part of our week! My sons get very excited when Friday rolls around; they know we’ll be enjoying pizza at the Shabbat table — complete with the weekly Torah portion, candles, and prayer sticks (prayer requests written on wood craft sticks). I love watching my husband place his hands on our boys and bless them, my heart melts into a giant puddle as he speaks encouraging words of blessing over their lives. I love hearing my boys recite the blessings, and I love the scriptures that are hidden in their hearts from repeating this weekly rhythm over the years.
When we first began celebrating the appointed feasts, I used A Family Guide to the Biblical Holidays by Robin Sampson and Linda Pierce. I’ve never been one to make copies and do worksheets, so I read through the content and customized it for my family. It is packed with helpful information, steeped in scripture, and an excellent jumping-off point for anyone interested in keeping the feasts. I like Heidi Cooper’s My First Torahwhen it comes to reading aloud at the Shabbat table.
After we began consistently keeping a grace-filled Messianic Shabbat, we added the spring feasts beginning with Passover, then counted the Omer all the way from Firstfruits to Pentecost. After a summer sabbatical where we try not to sweat to death in Texas, we welcome the autumn season with the Feast of Trumpets — my little men blow those horns with all of their might and we eat apples with honey to rejoice in God’s sweet blessings for the new year. On the Day of Atonement we read the story of Jonah, pray for the day of Israel’s ultimate restoration, and are so grateful that Jesus tore the veil through his ultimate sacrifice.
We began keeping the Feast of Tabernacles/Booths last year, and the boys enjoyed eating dinner in our tent structure on the patio! This provides the perfect opportunity to talk about God’s faithfulness to the Hebrews when they wandered through the desert for forty years — it’s also a fun harvest celebration that reminds us of God’s provision. This feast was traditionally celebrated with ceremonies of water and light, to prophecy the coming of the Messiah. It was during this feast when Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” The next morning he went on to say, ” I am the light of the world,” (John 7-8) so his statements during this time were immensely profound! Our goal for this year is to set the tent up in the back yard and give it a go…we’ll see.
The Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah!) was actually our first feast to keep, and we’ve been doing that for the past several years. Learning more about this particular feast led me down the wonderful path of keeping Shabbat. If anyone wants a very gentle entry into the biblical feasts, I’d suggest starting with Hanukkah! This is a festival of lights in which we are so beautifully reminded that God is light, and that He is faithful to deliver his people from the oppression of sin and death — as evident through the story of the Macabees. The boys enjoy playing dreidel games and lighting the candles each night. This often overlaps with our Advent season, so our house absolutely glows with light after sundown!
The end of winter finds us in the Book of Esther with the Feast of Lots. Purim has been such a fun celebration that reminds us of God’s deliverance. While Esther delivered her people from Haman’s evil plot of certain death, Jesus delivers all who believe from that same irrevocable decree. We attend Gateway’s awesome Purim party, complete with noisy groggers and lots of booing when Haman’s name is read aloud. Tasty treats and dancing into the night make Purim something to look forward to each year!
Our family has been so blessed by keeping these feasts. It helps us have a greater understanding while reading through the Old Testament, and we’re able to see how Jesus came and fulfilled each feast that God appointed. The annual feast cycle constantly reminds us of God’s faithfulness in each season of life, and prepares our hearts to hear his voice.
Charles Stanley interrupted my Netflixing at 1:00am. I was halfway through one of my House Doctor episodes when the TV suddenly went black. The remote sat untouched on the arm of the chair, and I sat confused nestled down in the couch cushions. After a brief black screen, Charles Stanley – in all of his suit and tie glory – appeared behind a polished wooden pulpit out of nowhere. Now, I know too much about God to ignore something like that. As much as I wanted to see the chimney breast’s new wallpaper and updated master bedroom, I knew God was after my attention. I resisted the urge to grab the remote and troubleshoot the issue.
Earlier in the evening, while in a bit of a funk, I asked God for guidance in my spiritual life during a half-hearted journaling session. A few hours later, the power of the Holy Spirit broke through my complacent cookie-eating and chocolate-almond-milk-drinking pity-party to remind me of His power…and to show me point-blank how much I’ve been blatantly ignoring Him.
The past few weeks I’ve found myself dragging – up too late at night, in bed too late in the mornings, always trying to play catch-up. My lovely boys have seemed too loud, too much, and too needy. My husband has seemed too busy, too impatient, and too insensitive. I’ve been struggling to handle it all and instead of running to God and begging for his help, I’ve done my best to “just keep swimming” until I’m barely treading water. This whole time, I imagine God has been right beside me, just waiting for me to ask for His strength to continue. To cry out for his reserves of patience and energy. To diligently pray for guidance not just to make it through the day, but to thrive each day.
I have a terrible history of thinking that being self-sufficient is somehow godly or beneficial. That people who muse about “letting go and letting God” aren’t really trying – that they’re guilty of some pie-in-the-sky mindset that little songbirds are going to flit through their windows and clean their kitchen. I’ve often harbored the idea that God is needed so much more in Somalia and Afghanistan and China that I should just handle my life to the best of my abilities. In doing so, I’ve put God in a box. I’ve denied the Holy Spirit access to my heart and mind, and I’ve set myself up to think that I’m capable of loving my husband and children in my own power. I’ve placed my own needs last by not making time to sit in His presence. When I don’t drink the living water, how can I provide a peaceful home for my family?
The Holy Spirit is there.
When I’m struggling, it’s because I’m living in the flesh. I’m trying to take care of my family through my own power – not relying on The Helper. He has given me the capacity and enabled me to do everything God wanted me to do at this particular age and this particular circumstance, throughout the rest of my life.
He who has indwelled me and is running over inside of me is my guardian; the source of my energy, power, and purpose. Jesus Christ forgave my sins when I asked him, and the Holy Spirit sealed me at that moment. I immediately received the Holy Spirit. That receiving was instantaneous, but living it out is a lifelong process. He convicts me, forgives me, guides me, and guards me.
He intends for me to live for Him by trusting in Him every single day. (Luke 24:47-49, Mark 16:15)
I need to claim the presence and power of the Holy Spirit of God. I need to stop relying on myself and lean on Jesus, who is living in and through me. He is prepared to equip me…but I must be prepared to let Him lead. The power of the Deity is living inside of me, but if I’m not acknowledging or claiming Him, I’m ignoring him. He did not ask me to do the best I can. I am designed to do what the Spirit of God will enable and allow me to do.
The Power of the Holy Spirit is God’s divine energy and authority released in the life of the believer for the purpose of godly living and fruitful service. (So says Charles Stanley. I know because I took sermon notes in the middle of the night. While not watching Netflix.)
I’m equipped with the presence of the Holy Spirit, but I’ve been attempting to live in my own power. I haven’t given myself the time and space to sit in His presence, to reflect on His power, and to genuinely ask for His guidance. Lately, I’ve been overwhelmed, exhausted, stressed, and spread too thin. In the midst of it all, I have not stopped once to seek His help. I haven’t made time to seek His presence or counsel. He’s my seal, my salvation, my life. He wants me to live in His strength, His power, His life, for His glory and honor. To be spirit-filled means confessing, repenting, yielding, surrendering, acknowledging His ownership, and allowing Him into every nook and cranny of my heart and mind.
So, in response to my cursory prayers of “What should I do, God?” he gave me a very clear and concise answer! I will be looking up verses about the Holy Spirit and researching the Greek and Hebrew words referring to the Holy Spirit. I will be daily asking for His guidance and wisdom. And with his guidance and wisdom, I will be reading through Proverbs to hide that wisdom in my heart.
Ask and ye shall receive…even in the doldrums of midnight Netflixing.
Since 2015, I’ve prayerfully considered and carefully chosen one single word to focus on each year. In lieu of New Year’s resolutions, My One Word allows me to cut through the ever-present pressures and white noise of life. At the end of 2014 I was juggling a new baby and a two year old; I was overwhelmed by parenting two little boys, preparing for the homeschooling adventure, and attempting to keep my head above water with household duties. The word nurture helped me rightly order my priorities. I needed to nurture my children, nurture my marriage, and — most importantly — nurture my relationship with God. That focus word became a lifeline while navigating the adventure that was 2015.
As 2016 loomed on the horizon, I longed for a purposeful vision that would sustain my hopeful family ideals. God placed the word intentional on my heart, and I began to focus on it with laser precision. By the summer of 2016, I had permanently deleted my Facebook account in an effort to be fully present for my husband and kids. I intentionally invested in specific books, authors, and podcasts that spoke into my life in a meaningful way. My broad and wide friendships were culled down to a small handful of deep and intentional relationships that can weather any storm. The ebb and flow of this intentional lifestyle anchored me to Christ and kept unnecessary distractions at bay.
As the sun set on 2016, the pace of life had quickened beyond our comfort level; the dawn of 2017 found my husband and I in need of rest. Simplify became the cry of my heart. We cut out activities that kept us on the go — to include bible studies and marriage-building classes at church — choosing instead to focus on our family at home. I purposefully stopped blogging for most of the year in an effort to simplify my mind and heart. It became a time of sheltering-in-place to build a biblical foundation that will (hopefully) sustain our family for generations to come. Instead of a weekly women’s bible study, I began to read the weekly Torah portion. As a family, we simplified life by celebrating biblical holidays rather than getting caught up in cultural, quasi-religious agendas that, in the past, just kept our wheels spinning. Friday nights have become a beautiful celebration of God’s commandment to rest; Shabbat dinners at the dining table on Granny’s fine China are now the highlight of each week. Far be it from me to alter our Shabbat routine — my children won’t allow it! Living a simplified life has blessed our family beyond anything I could have imagined in January of 2017.
Looking back, I can see how living a nurtured life led to an intentional vision of simplification. During the times I neglect nurturing my soul with God’s word, my stress levels rise and I become an impatient, graceless mess. If I allow myself to get caught up in the endless oblivion of my phone screen, I lose intentionality and am carried along by wisps and whims of nonsense. My family deserves better…and so do I. Were I to try and sign my kids up for every enrichment activity under the sun, we’d end up cranky and stressed from overextending ourselves. It’s my responsibility to carefully weigh our commitments and simplify family life. I am the gatekeeper and guardian of our home, may I not be caught sleeping or chasing after the wind during these precious, formative years.
As yet another year draws to a close, I am brimming with hope and possibility for 2018. The word flourish has been flitting and fluttering through my heart for the past couple of weeks; I long to see how God uses this new One Word to guide me through the next twelve months. I will continue to nurture my family and my soul. I will seek to be intentional in all of our dealings and decisions. I will carefully simplify anything that can possibly be simplified, and — with God’s help — I will flourish in the process!
This week we embarked on a much-needed family vacation to the prairies and mountains of Oklahoma. The beginning of June brought with it one week of vacation bible school, immediately followed by the annual Classical Conversations Parent Practicum. My brain was full as a tick by the time practicum ended. Mark had a particularly busy week at work — his birthday proved to be an especially busy day. We were all plumb tuckered out and ready for some fun! (Now that I’ve reached my southern colloquialism allotment for this particular post, I’ll move on to our actual adventure.)
Happily, this getaway mirrored many of the family vacations of my own childhood. Fort Sill, the Wichita Mountains, The Holy City of the Wichitas, museums, ice chests packed to the brim, and a lifetime of memories — what more could we want?! Part of the reason we chose this location was because of my own experiences…the other part is that we were limited by a three-year-old’s bladder and a five-year-old’s capacity to sit still in the car. Car-naps aside, those limits were both tested! Fortunately, we chose an extend stay hotel with free laundry amenities; I washed pee-pants and a urine-soaked (albeit waterproof!) car-seat cover soon after our arrival.
The Wichita Mountains are so unsuspectingly beautiful. From far off they don’t seem like much, but closer inspection reveals prairies bursting with color and gorgeous rock formations. It was exactly as I remembered…but better! The Holy City revealed a few forgotten surprises — the Ten Commandments section left me giggling with nostalgia. As a girl, I thought it was so neat to see and hear the story of Moses receiving the Torah up close and personal; it was so fun watching Asher experience it for the first time! Granted, it’s a roomful of dusty mannequins older than I am, but they’re tied to happy parts of my childhood.
The boys had fun following Daddy through the rocky paths and dirt trails snaking through biblical scenery. The chapel held an unexpected surprise when a little bird flitted and twitted about over our heads, then perched on the cross at the altar. Keane thought that was particularly hilarious! My heart swelled with joy watching our boys explore the lovely landscape. We’ll definitely plan a return trip when the weather is cooler. It was nearly ninety degrees by the time we reached the top of Mount Scott for a quick peek at the valleys below.
Before leaving the hotel room that morning, Asher said, “Mom, I really hope we get to see some buffalo in the Wichita Mountains.” I prayed aloud that God would allow us to see just one buffalo, and told Asher to wait and see if God would answer our prayer. We passed a few herds of longhorn as we drove…but no immediate buffalo sightings. It took a bit more exploring, but we came across one lonely buffalo, resting in the prairie grass! The boys were thrilled, and Asher immediately recognized that God answered our prayer. (For the record, they named him Buffy the Buffalo.)
Fort Sill was a treasure trove for Asher, although Keane was less impressed because he was sleepy. I was glad to have the assistance of a helpful attendant with a handy map to fill in my memory gaps. I remembered bits and pieces, but time had marred the details. Of course, everything was smaller than I remembered! We enjoyed the air conditioned buildings, but braved the ninety-nine degree heat to find a 155mm howitzer — one of the guns that my grandfather shot during WWII. Asher thought it was so special to get to see it! He was a trooper, combing through countless pieces of military equipment until we found the right howitzer. (I had no idea there were so many makes and models from so many countries on display at Fort Sill!)
There were so many occasions where Asher looked up at Mark and I to tell us thank you for taking him to Oklahoma. Keane enjoyed exploring the hotel room and watching the prairie dogs run around with each other. I enjoyed spoiling them a little more than usual with souvenir shopping…Mark just rolled his eyes and went with it! Watching the boys have special moments with Daddy made my heart smile, too. We returned home exhausted, yet full of sweet memories that we’ll talk about for the rest of our lives!
Before my children were born — or even a glimmer in my eye — I prayed they would come to know and love God at an early age. As they grew in my womb, I asked God to place his hand on them and lead them according to his plans. With each passing day, I pray they see me following Yeshua…and see his covering grace every time I fail.
Soon after Asher turned four years old, he began telling us he wanted to ask Jesus into his heart. My husband and I would tell him what a wonderful idea it was, that it was such an important decision, and we would encourage him with prayer and scripture. But we didn’t sit him down and walk him through “the prayer” — we wanted him to have a full understanding and not ever look back and feel coerced. We wanted him to see it as a transformative life decision…not just a quaint, feel-good prayer.
Six months went by with him persistently asking about accepting Christ. I sought the wisdom of my father, who (coincidentally) dealt with a certain daughter asking those same questions at age four. We also asked our family pastor about his thoughts on Asher’s age and ardent interest in following Jesus. He provided us with a book that thoroughly explained the gospel in a way that children could understand…and Asher insisted we begin reading it.
In between chapters, I took to hiding the book under a stack of my books; I wanted him to have to hunt for it when he was in the mood to read and learn more. We took about nine weeks to slowly and methodically make our way through the four-chapter book, at his leading. One Friday evening after our family Shabbat dinner, he dug the book out from underneath my Bible. “Let’s read this, Mom.”
I told him that we were on the last chapter, and it was the chapter about choosing to follow Jesus. Without any hesitation, he told me that he wanted to finish the book and ask Jesus into his heart right then. No more waiting. He wasn’t going to let us put him off one more night. At three months shy of being five years old, my son knew what he wanted. Who was I to squelch the Spirit after almost nine months of prodding?
With Keane in my lap and Asher snuggled in Mark’s, we sat together as a family for this holy occasion. We spoke of belief, acceptance, repentance, and following Jesus. We prayed and hugged and called grandparents and celebrated with all of Heaven!
One week later, our family and friends gathered in our yard to celebrate Asher’s baptism. My father honored us by reading scripture, sharing wisdom, and praying. With the same hands that welcomed his little body into the world, my husband and I gently lowered him into the water, and raised him up to walk in the newness of life in Christ Jesus. His little buddies all had front row seats — everyone clapped and cheered as he emerged dripping wet and full of smiles! I pulled out my granny’s fine China and we shared a meal of fellowship.
Faith. Family. Friends. Food. It was reminiscent of the early church, meeting in homes and sharing the joys of life! It was a day I will forever cherish in my heart.
Late summer and early autumn swirled with Texas heat and ran high with emotion. We buried my grandmother in late August, started homeschooling in September, and tried to find a new life rhythm throughout many illnesses in October. The funeral brought with it hard questions from my four-year-old son. “Mommy, if you go to heaven before me, who will take care of me?” He would break down in tears for missing his great-grandma a few times a week. This little boy of mine has dealt with difficult things and shown wisdom beyond his years.
In this midst of trying to settle into a new normal, my two year old somehow managed to get salmonella poisoning; he’s an ardent thumb sucker, so he picks up germs like a magnet. We’ve gotten to the point of keeping him home from the church nursery – every couple of weeks he contracts some respiratory illness or stomach virus – my husband takes Asher to his class and volunteers at guest check-in, while I stay home with Keane and attempt to watch the sermon online. I’ve become a bible study dropout as well as a marriage class dropout…for the sake of keeping my little family unit sane and somewhat healthy.
The changing of seasons has brought a restful, hopeful anticipation (hopefully cooler temperatures will soon follow). To prepare my heart for the coming season, I’ve focused on finishing L.R. Knost’s Jesus, the Gentle Parent, as well as cultivating an atmosphere of thankfulness in our home. Amazingly enough, these two endeavors have gone hand in hand. One particular portion from the last chapter of her book birthed a purposeful question in my mind and heart.
She writes: “So often when we read God’s word we hear what we’ve heard from the pulpit instead of hearing the voice of a Father who loves unconditionally, sacrificially, and eternally. And so often what we’ve heard from the pulpit is accusation, damnation, and condemnation. It’s no wonder we have problems trusting in God’s unconditional love if all we hear are commands, demands, and reprimands echoed in those misguided voices…it can feel like…you’re digging and sifting and winnowing your way through years of hearing human interpretations from God’s Word spoken from the pulpit and from Sunday School teachers and Bible camp counselors and parents and friends and relatives, etc…”
Those impactful words led me to this question: Am I listening to echoes of misguided voices, or am I listening to the still, small voice of God?
Granted, I’ve been blessed with fabulous parents, pastors, teachers, and counselors along the way. However, I have also been exposed to more than my fair share of skewed, judgmental, unloving Christians. None of us are perfect. Especially me. I’ll be the first to admit unloving, harsh, judgmental things have lived in my mind and heart, and have been spoken from my lips. I pray that I am forever changed in that regard. I can easily think back to my childhood and recall several poignantly defining moments that are forever etched in my soul. They shaped my views of God, because a child’s first exposure to God is based on the people in his or her life. We are either the hands and feet of Jesus, or a stumbling block in someone else’s path.
I remember hearing about the scandal of a pastor’s daughter’s teenage pregnancy…and I don’t remember any kind words said about that situation as it was whispered between the adults at church. I would have been four or five at the time, and I still remember the lack of grace. When I was in the seventh grade, I witnessed firsthand women from our church, who we called friends, tease my mother behind her back. I guess most people assume children don’t pay attention or won’t remember – I definitely did both. As a young teenager, I witnessed an adult youth group leader remove various students’ True Love Waits cards from a bulletin board when there were rumors of premarital sex. Inadvertently, I was taught to be judgmental and harsh from this lack of grace played out by those I looked to for guidance.
For me, based on my history of experiences, I know how easy it is to slip into those old mannerisms, because those old voices still roll around my heart and head. For better or worse, they became part of my formative years. My goal as a parent is to never let my children experience those types of behaviors in our home. I can’t control the outside world, but I can control the people we welcome into our lives. I can control my own words and responses to situations. I can teach grace and love by modeling them in my speech and actions.
As a pastor’s daughter, I’ve heard more of my father’s sermons than I can count, but one of the lessons I most remember came not from the pulpit, but at a restaurant. My family was eating lunch at Chili’s on a Sunday afternoon in Mansfield, TX. It was very busy from the church lunch rush, and our waitress was remiss in refilling our drinks the entire meal. When the check came, I urged my father not to leave a tip, because she had given such poor service. As I watched him write in an amount for the tip, I objected once more. He spoke words that I will never forget as long as I live, and bring tears to my eyes even now: “Robin, it’s called grace.” I remember feeling speechless, a major feat for my talkative teenage self.
Four words, not a three-point sermon, are what I’ve held on to throughout my adult years. I have been the recipient of God’s unfathomable grace more times than I’ll ever know. It’s that type of grace and love that I long to impart to my children. It’s this particular season of the year that heralds such a message. Before the craziness of Christmas comes the quiet of Thanksgiving. I will work to create a loving, graceful, thankful environment in my home. I will teach by living instead of simply speaking. I will strive to cultivate a safe, nonjudgmental space that speaks truth in love. The past couple of days have found me working to implement tangible traces of grace in our home. I’ve created a list of family goals for November, and have made a Doxology printable (complete with a photo I took in our neighborhood’s nature preserve). We begin our mornings by lighting our Thankful Tree and singing the Doxology. While these may not be monumental for my young children, they work to bring a sense of peace, calm, and an attitude of gratitude to my mama-heart. I pray you will find the same in this season of life!