Category Archives: Character Development

Go ahead: Bite off more than you can chew.

Note the slab-slices of summer squash I'm using as bun here.  I'm enormously pleased with this burger-hack.  Most people with whom I share the idea?  Not so much.  But, seriously, you should try it!!  Raw summer squash is super-mild, lightly crunchy, and holds up WAY better than a lettuce wrap.

Note the slab-slices of summer squash I’m using as bun here. I’m enormously pleased with this burger-hack. Most people with whom I share the idea? Not so much. But, seriously, you should try it!! Raw summer squash is super-mild, lightly crunchy, and holds up WAY better than a lettuce wrap.

I am still — STILL!! — working on converting an area approximately 21′ x 45′ from invasive, hard-to-kill Bermuda grass lawn into a vegetable garden.  It has occurred to me, time and again, why raised beds are so popular.  They’re a heckuva lot easier!  However, I’m looking for long-term sustainability as well as decreasing water use, and to those ends, a sunken bed is the way to go in the desert.  I already know that water drains off our property toward the to-be-garden corner.  It takes less water to hydrate sunken beds, water doesn’t evaporate as quickly, and the soil temp stays cooler when the top of the garden bed is at or below ground-level.

But, Lordy! is it ever hard work.

A couple of weeks ago, on my blog Facebook page, I posted:

Crap. I have just discovered that a giant section of our yard (about 15′ x 40′) is actually a stinkin’ CONCRETE SLAB, which was covered by about 4″ layer of dirt mixed with -1/4″ (“quarter minus”) granite gravel, which was topped with another 4″ or so of sod. A section of this takes up about a THIRD of my planned garden, right in the middle. This is going to take a jack hammer or a backhoe to remedy. Can you feel my disappointment? Ugh. Such a setback.

My friend Erin commented:

I love that you say “jackhammer or backhoe” instead of “smaller garden.” That’s the Karen I know and love!

This gave me much pause for thought.

She is totally right:  Downsizing due to difficulty was not an option.  This is mostly because, if I’m going to do this, it’s probably my ONE chance!  At least, it’s my one chance right now.  And, I want to do it right, if I’m going to do it at all — a maxim that was repeated ad nauseum during my childhood.  Secondly, if there is a giant chunk of concrete just below the surface of our yard, it probably shouldn’t just stay there;  it would only cause further difficulty down the line, and eventually need to be removed, anyway.  So, why not remove it now?

Note:  The bad news is, it’s still not removed.  The good news is that it is only a footer — about 18″ wide, a good, solid two feet deep, and about eight feet long.  More good news:  My husband has taken on removal of the concrete footer as his own personal mission.  More bad news:  this mission is subject to myriad other missions, currently being tackled by my husband.

But, back to my “pause for thought”:

It occurs to me that I typically bite off more than I can chew.  As a matter of course, I take on projects that are too big for myself.  I dream and plan into existence opportunities that end up being WAY more complex and time-consuming than I had envisioned.

At first, I started to chastise myself for this.

But, upon further reflection, I’ve decided that I like this God-given part of my personality, and here’s why:

I get loads more accomplished by biting off more than I can chew, than I would if I took life in reasonable mouthfuls.

I find that, as I’m in the throes of panic, feeling overwhelmed at all that’s on my plate, any number of things happen:

  1. I am compelled to study, research, and learn, to fill in the gaps of my knowledge.
  2. I am compelled to the feet of Jesus for His comfort, wisdom, and guidance.
  3. I am compelled to lean on my husband (and in increasing measure, my sons who are young men).
  4. I am compelled to ask the Body of Christ —  my local church — for help.

I don’t think that anyone would see a problem with the first item on my list.  For items #2-4, I must note that this is a good thing for me, as I tend to too much independence.  I believe that God created us to function interdependently, within our families, our communities, our churches…  We need each other.  I contribute my strength and abilities, you contribute yours, and we both end up further down the road, than had we been alone.

I could add a number of other benefits to the list above:

  • Hard work is good for you — body and soul.
  • Being productive is good for everyone around you.
  • Being able to genuinely and completely rest after a job well-done is a glorious feeling.

I’m sure there are more.  Feel free to share your own ideas in the comments, if you’d like!!

So, go ahead:  Bite off more than you can chew.  Sure, you’ll have moments of feeling overwhelmed, moments of panic.  But you’ll do more, go further, and just plain ol’ bear more fruit than if you live a more reasonable life.

An odd testament to love

My stepdad, Joe, passed away last Thursday.

It was a shock.

I visited him with Audrey and Fiala the night previous, as we’d gotten word that he had taken a turn for the worse.  He was mostly out of it, on pain meds, but we had some now-memorable exchanges… One was me asking him if he wanted music in his room — he LOVED music — and he did.  I made a mental plan to follow up on that the next day.  A sick man should have music.  He taught my children all sorts of silly songs over the years — he and my mom started dating when my 16 year-old was an infant;  they were married days after he turned one — and I asked him if he might have a silly song for my girls.  He replied, “Not at the moment.”  When the girls and I were about to leave, I told him I needed to go back home to nurse baby Jean.  “Do you remember baby Jean?” I asked, not sure how connected he was with what I was saying.  “Oh, yes!” he said, and his face lit up.  The girls and I prayed for him, I told him that I loved him, and he said he loved me, too, and we left.

We got back home, and I told my husband, “He looks bad, but he doesn’t look like he’s on death’s door.”

I was wrong.

He died early the next morning.

Perhaps this seems odd, but I think his passing might be a testament to how much he loved my mother, and that makes me feel a little bit better.

It had been a hard, hard year with Joe.  Well, hard ten months.  My mother passed on October 18, 2012, and for the month or so following, things were good with Joe, although he was terribly — understandably — heartbroken.

And then things deteriorated.

Much of the deterioration revolved around my mom’s will and the way estate law works in Arizona.

The short version is that he didn’t think that myself or my three siblings should inherit anything from my mother.  He genuinely felt entitled to everything she owned and saved, and felt that we weren’t taking care of him by signing our inheritances over to him.

My sibs and I couldn’t agree to his desires.  My mom appropriated some things to her children…  The bulk of the estate went to Joe.  There was much that estate law would allow us to keep, or claim — property which wasn’t exactly specified in the will — which we didn’t.  We siblings were trying our best to err on the side of generosity, to keep all fighting to an absolute minimum, to find common ground…  We simply were not successful, and Joe remained upset at us.  Angry, really.  He was angry with us.

So.

It had been a very, very hard time, a difficult year.

—————–

I had long said that Joe was the most involved grandparent that my children had.

And, it was true for 15 years.

And then, not true for 10 months.

There were a few, encouraging steps forward… and those would invariably be followed by some giant sliding backward.

I’m not angry at Joe.  The issue of inheritance was a very difficult thing that was only resolved about a month ago.  But, even when estate matters were resolved, things were still not good, relationship-wise, with Joe.  While he was in the hospital, my brother-in-law suggested to Joe, “Can we call a truce?  And then, when you’re feeling better, you can be angry again.”  Joe thought that was hilarious — my brother-in-law is quite witty, and I think it was the perfect thing to say.  And, Joe agreed, at least in spirit…

While my family was on vacation earlier this month, Joe — who had for months been complaining of an ‘upset stomach’ — was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  And, less than two weeks after his diagnosis, he was gone.

I wrote to some friends:

Everyone handles grief so differently. As I’m typing this, I’m thinking, “He just could NOT move on,” and that fits with something else I was going to say: he has always tended towards bitterness and suspicion and hoarding… and we didn’t realize how much my mom kept that in check. In so many ways, she must have compelled him to move on, to get past “it”, whatever “it” was. And with her gone, there was no one who could speak that into him, and he just spiraled out of control. I hope this doesn’t sound weird, but it seems like a testament to how much he loved my mom, how much influence she had in his life, what a difference she made in his outlook and approach to life… it makes me feel better. And even with his cancer diagnosis. I think he just might have given up. I think if she had been alive, he would have fought.

When my mom was hospitalized, my siblings and I frequently discussed how much my mom loved Joe, but how foreign to us were his ways of expressing love to her.  I found myself rather desperately hoping that my mom was loved as deeply as she…  well, I hate the word “deserve”…  Needed?  Should have had?  I’m not sure of the right word there.  I just wanted her to be loved by her husband.  That was really, really, really important to me.  And there were times when I found myself wondering.

Yet, this last week, I have been, indeed, struck with just how much he much have loved her… She made his life worth living.  She compelled him to go on.  She called out in him the things that were noble, and helped the ignoble to be manageable, far less noticeable.

I’m a mishmash of thoughts and emotions.

Such regret that relationship wasn’t restored by the time of Joe’s passing.

So sad…  Sad for my children.  Sad for Joe.  Sad for myself.

But, strangely comforted about my mother, whose absence is a deepening hole in my life.

I’m comforted that he loved her.

Mom and Joe

Hyper-nesting, time well-spent (or not), and hearing from God…

I have a one-ish track mind.  I tend to bunch my thoughts, my efforts together in one spot…  Right now, even though I’m 26 weeks pregnant, and one might think I have, “BABY BABY BABY,” going through my mind, it’s not.

Actually, that’s somewhat of a good thing.

Historically, I start nesting somewhere around five weeks pregnant and it’s all I can do to remain focused and engaged with the rest of my life, responsibilities included, for the whole pregnancy.  I tend to spend eight solid months with a nearly compulsive bent toward thinking, dreaming, planning, preparing, for my new baby.  I put a huge amount of emotional investment and TIME into it.  On one hand, that doesn’t seem like a bad thing.  But, when I have other children who need mothering and schooling; when I have a home that needs cleaning and maintenance; when I have a husband who shouldn’t have to fight for my attention; when I have responsibilities at church that need me to NOT be thinking, “I sssooooo don’t want to be doing this;” when I have friends who merit attention, my hyper-nesting isn’t that great of a thing.

So, for me, the fact that this is on the back burner of my mind:  I’m going to be adding an 8th member to our family in three months or so…  is rather a blessing.  I’m not struggling like I usually do with wanting to drop everything and become a hermit in my home and feeling VERY CRABBY that there are other parts of my life that are calling.

I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone.

I, for one, though, am very happy to feel ENGAGED with the world at 26 weeks pregnant*.

No, this is not me. It’s Emily Robinson from the Dixie Chicks, playing a dobro.

  • We’re still doing school (though I am REALLY looking forward to our Easter Break next week).
  • My home is quite tidy (most of it).
  • I’m still leading worship in a weekly small group (though I joked that I might need to obtain a dobro sometime in the near future to accommodate my expanding belly).
  • I’m still leading worship twice a month for SuperChurch (the 6-12 year-olds’ Sunday morning service).
  • I’m still singing with the “big church” worship team two or three Sundays a month (I keep telling myself that I probably look ridiculous dancing…  Oh, well.).
  • I’m still hosting the weekly CSA at my home, and even just decided that I’m going to do at least another 12 weeks, shortly after the current season ends on May 1 (even though I’ll have to find an alternate location for while I’m in labor…).
  • If anything, I feel MORE connected to both my husband and our five children during this pregnancy.  I also feel more peaceful.  This is probably my happiest pregnancy ever.

Knowing my history, I wasn’t sure, three months ago or so, that I should do the CSA.  I often start well, but don’t finish strong.  I get all fired up for one project or another, then start to lose steam…  I was more than a bit concerned that this would be a similar endeavor, and then, when I lost focus and dropped the project, not only would I pay for it, but so would the 25 or so other people who were counting on me, and their families…

Also… and this is hard to communicate;  I can’t grasp the right descriptive words…  But, I was uncertain if the CSA was where God wanted me to invest my time.  I long to be fruitful.  I want the things I do to have lasting impact.  I want my time to be well-spent.  I want my involvement with others to have more than just a tinge of “ministry”.  I mean… not that I’m trying to make this The Christian CSA with a prayer corner, worship music in the background, and Bible verses plastered all over my fridge — not that at all.  But, I wanted this to be worthwhile in every sphere, and I wasn’t certain if hosting the CSA was a good choice in how to spend my time — time which often feels spread too thinly as it is.

So, I prayed about it.  “Is this where you want me, God?  Is this OK?”

I got no discernible response.  I’m not saying God didn’t speak, but if He did, I missed it.  I didn’t even feel vaguely “led” one way or another.

I asked my husband — who is well-acquainted with my tendency to rush into projects hard and fast and then feel overwhelmed — what he thought.  Honestly, I was a little surprised that he seemed to think favorably about the whole thing.

It didn’t seem like God was telling me, “No,” although a nice, clear, resounding, “YES!” would have made me feel much more confident.

So, I went with my husband’s approval.

Well.

I guess I had previously felt that I was hosting the CSA for my own personal benefit.  I mean, from the bottom of my heart, I truly want to equip others to eat better.  But, I was kind of compelled more by the fact that I would get roughly $40 worth of local, fresh, organic produce for FREE each week, plus earn $1 per person, per week for what seemed like very little time.

I was wrong on nearly all accounts.

In the six weeks the CSA has been operational:

  • A couple of weeks, I’ve gotten much less than $40 worth.  The remaining time I’ve received FAR more.  We’re rolling in veggies, which pleases me to no end.
  • I anticipated making around $40/week, thinking we’d have that many participants.  However, we started with only 16, and are now up to 24.  So, I am not making even enough money to pay the midwife each month, which was my thought going into it.
  • It takes much more time than I realized it would.  Not only do I devote time “on the ground” from 2:00 – 5:30 every Wednesday, but there is a lot of communication and planning involved, too.  I probably spend an additional 3-3½ hours weekly, often more.  Seven hours total every week may not seem like a lot to you, but in my world, subtracting seven hours from other things that I could be doing??  That’s huge.  That’s a big commitment.

Much more significant, though, is how I have been absolutely surprised by the positive feedback I’ve received from so many of the participants.

I was thinking recently about how, when I started blogging more than seven years ago, I was just compelled to write.  It was 100% for my own benefit.  I saw blogging as an online version of journaling:  simply documenting the time and thoughts as they passed.  I wasn’t trying to gather an admiring crowd.  I wasn’t trying to change the world.  I wasn’t trying to impress anyone or even benefit them.  I just wanted to write.

Similarly, with the CSA:  I just wanted some veggies.  Some free, organic veggies.

But with both endeavors, I have been very taken aback by the genuine thanks, the more-than-occasional encouraging note, the thoughtful gestures that have come my way…  I never thought — not once — that hosting a produce-pickup was going to make a difference in anyone’s life;  I entered into it as rather an indulgence in something of significant interest to me.  But, similar to how I am now compelled to continue blogging by the random e-mails that will start off, “Thank you for your post on ______________ .  I was in tears because of my situation of __________.  I stumbled upon your post, and it was just what I needed, and here’s how it affected me:  ______________.  It was just what I needed and I can’t tell you how thankful I am.” — I am now compelled to continue the CSA due to letters like this (shared with permission):

You’re a good friend Karen – even if “long distance”. I don’t think I would have stepped into organic thinking without your help and encouragement. The rest of my extended family think I’m nuts…a super picky eater or whatever. But I have strong convictions to take care of the body God blessed me with and it brings joy to my heart hearing my kids happily talk about healthy vegetables during mealtimes! It’s sad. I never knew any fresh vegetables except iceberg lettuce when I was a kid…nothing but canned and always over cooked. Surprisingly I took after my grandma it seems in how I feel about my health and she lived to be 70 even after smoking for 20 years of her life! She found Jesus, quit smoking & drinking cold turkey and lived a life of joy I still remember this day. I guess I’m sharing just to show my appreciation for you Karen. You have made a difference in my life too. I Love you friend.

That made me cry.  It also made me think that maybe why God was so silent was because He knew that I was just looking for Him to say, “Yes, it’s OK with me that you have this interest, and yes, it’s OK with me that you invest your time here.”  I was just looking for permission.  But He was setting me up.

I sent an e-mail of thanks back to my friend and asked her if I could put her story on my blog.  She didn’t immediately respond and I got nervous.  But, when her reply came, the tears flowed anew.

I would be honored to be a story in your blog – Please feel free to write whatever you wish! Amazing…Our Lord God never fails to love and “push” us into His most blessed plan if just choose to submit! Love you,  your thoughts & prayers are never wasted.

“Never wasted.”

I’m an ISTJ on the Myers-Briggs scale…  If you click on that link, at least 95% of it is me, to a T.

  • They have a strongly-felt internal sense of duty, which lends them a serious air and the motivation to follow through on tasks.
  • They place great importance on honesty and integrity. They are “good citizens” who can be depended on to do the right thing for their families and communities. While they generally take things very seriously, they also usually have an offbeat sense of humor and can be a lot of fun – especially at family or work-related gatherings.
  • The ISTJ will work for long periods of time and put tremendous amounts of energy into doing any task which they see as important to fulfilling a goal. However, they will resist putting energy into things which don’t make sense to them, or for which they can’t see a practical application.
  • Once the ISTJ supports a cause or idea, he or she will stop at no lengths to ensure that they are doing their duty of giving support where support is needed.
  • Traditional and family-minded, they will put forth great amounts of effort at making their homes and families running smoothly. They are responsible parents, taking their parenting roles seriously. They are usually good and generous providers to their families.
  • They are very hard workers, who do not allow obstacles to get in the way of performing their duties. They do not usually give themselves enough credit for their achievements, seeing their accomplishments simply as the natural fulfillment of their obligations.

It has actually been quite a while since I reviewed what I’m “supposed” to be like as an Introverted Sensing Thinking Judger.  But, re-reading that descriptive page makes me appreciate God more:  He who made me knows who I am.  He knows what I need.  He knows what brings me joy.  He knows what will surprise me.  He knows how to stretch me without breaking me.  And He knows just the right time to bring encouragement to me…

—————–

*It recently came to my attention that I never stated what this child will be:  SHE IS A GIRL.  My husband was 100% right.  Not only was I pregnant, but the baby is a girl.

 

 

What if your husband is wrong???

So…  My husband and I have always been budget-minded.  We came away from our respective childhoods after watching at least some of the adults in our lives be fairly irresponsible with money with a wounded awareness of how that affected us, as children.  Both of us, independently, had said, “That won’t be me when I’m an adult.”

As a result, as young adults, each of us were already very mindful of responsible fiscal living, and that only increased after we got married.

However, it took Martin and me what I thought was a REEEEEALLLLLLYYYYYYY long time to get on the same page with how to approach exactly HOW to approach being “fiscally responsible.”  His tactic, for a number of years, was, “Don’t buy anything, ever, and save all your money.”  That sounds all right, but what about when there are real needs?

I was reminded of that time in our lives this morning, and one major way I got through his tight-fistedness.

Six children later, it’s STILL one of my favorite books on pregnancy. And there’s an updated edition now available. And reading scribbles from previous years has reminded me that, while there is also a Kindle version now available, the good old printed page still triumphs.

Most mornings, I sit down with my six-year-old, Audrey, with my now-ancient copy of The Pregnancy Journal.  There are daily entries in this spiral-bound book of what is happening in the mother’s body, how the baby is developing, plus other tidbits about childbirth in other cultures, hints on nutrition, pithy — or touching — quotes about parenting, et al.  There are also lines on which the mother can record how her particular pregnancy is progressing:  her weight, mood, and other thoughts.

My current pregnancy is only a week different than my first, as far as due-dates go.  My oldest, who will turn 16 on June 23, was due on July 4th.  This pregnancy, my sixth, is tentatively slated to end on June 27.  So, I have found it especially interesting, comparing my thoughts now, as an experienced mother, with my thoughts from sixteen years ago.

This morning I read something particularly poignant:  It detailed how I really needed maternity clothes, and Martin wouldn’t release the funds.  I now find that almost laughable:  He’s a lot more reasonable now;  I almost can’t believe that I could have made it to 20-ish weeks in my first pregnancy with ZERO maternity clothes, and him still saying, “No.”  Additionally, I’m now a lot better at finding good deals;  most of my current maternity wardrobe came, second-hand, from Craigslist.  Some items came at no cost via Freecycle.  And just a few things, I purchased new.  I’m certain that, back then, I had no intention of buying secondhand maternity clothes.

In my journal entry, though, I noted that even if my husband was wrong, I didn’t want to develop any bitterness.  I didn’t want to harbor any anger for him.  He wasn’t in sin.  He wasn’t breaking the law.  He was simply unreasonable.  I felt it then, and now, looking back, I still think he was unreasonable.  Reading that journal entry caused all my old feelings to come flooding back:  I remember struggling mightily with feeling hurt and unprovided-for.

Unreasonable

However, in the midst of that dilemma, I decided to pray.  Really, it was my only option.

I’m 39 and have been a Christian since I was five years old.  However, I still tussle with the basic premise of prayer at times.  “Why would God listen to me?  Why would He move on my behalf?  What if I’m praying the wrong way?  Or for the wrong thing?  I don’t even fully understand why He wants His people to pray.  He knows everything, right?  He already knows my needs.  I don’t know why He works like that.  Hmph.”  Prayer often seems like a non-action.

Even though I’m not really fond of aging, one thing that I am appreciating is having a history and a longer perspective.  I can look back on a current difficulty and say, “Well, I don’t know why God would answer my prayer.  But He has, so many times before.  I’m just going to pray.  I’m just going to exercise some faith that He will listen and that He will move on my behalf.”

And, whaddya know???  Sixteen years ago, God provided.  He showed up, and in a BIG way.

My pen from 16 years ago records the names of seven people who had, in a period of three weeks, given me money for maternity clothes, gift cards, gifts of clothing, and loans of maternity clothes, all of them unasked-for.  I don’t know what prompted them;  but whatever the method of prompting, God was behind it.

There were seven of them*.  In three weeks.  Immediately after I started praying.

I wrote, “The Father has seriously overwhelmed me.”

Shortly after my firstborn entered my life, I started going to a ladies’ Bible study.  It was held at a church so near to my house, I could walk.  It was attended by about 200 women weekly, most of whom were in the midst of marriage difficulty.**  The lady who led it — a wise and grandmotherly sort — was fond of telling us women that the line we draw is sin:  If our husbands are so wrong that they are requiring us to SIN, we don’t comply.  However, if it’s just that our husbands are wrong, if it’s just that we don’t agree, if it’s just that they’re unreasonable… The best course of action is to turn it over to God in prayer, and let God be God in our husband’s life, and trust HIM, Almighty God, as the true source of our provision.

Easier said than done.

Well, maybe.  It’s not even easy to say!  But, I’m glad for the reminder, this morning, of God’s provision.  And, I’m glad for the reminder of how far my husband and I have come as a couple.

——————

*Five of those ladies are still in my life, incidentally.  🙂

**I wouldn’t say that my marriage was in difficulty, however, I was — two years into it — still having a tough time adjusting to being married, being other-oriented, thinking in terms of “two become one”, etc.  I learned a lot in the 3-4 years I attended.

Domestic bliss didn’t last… but that is (almost) OK.

I keep waiting for life to return to normal.

I used to think that “a rut” was the worst thing that could happen to one’s life.

I now have turned 180° — or at least 160° or so — and have discovered that there is a reason it is called “Domestic Bliss.”  That is because when home life is wonderful, it REALLY IS wonderful.  Philosophers can devise witty sayings about how boring healthy families are, but when it comes down to it, if you have one, it really is lovely.

This past spring and summer was perhaps my most wonderful ever in my 39 years.  Well, I was 38, back then.  Everything was just right.  Parenting was going great.  I thought my husband was fabulous.  I had the garden of my dreams.  I had enough “spare” time to sneak in novel about once every 2-3 weeks, which, in my experience and for my personality is just right;  more reading than that means I’m not getting enough done in my home and family;  less reading than that means I’m stretched too thinly and stressed out.  We had just sold our house for more than we thought possible and had found the exact right place — right size house, right size lot, right location — for an amazing price.  I had lost about 20 pounds and was feeling great, and down to the same size I was before I had my first child, 15 years prior.  Other family relationships and friendships were sailing along at a beautiful clip.  Friends even purchased tickets for our family’s first-ever Disneyland trip.  Can you get much better than that?

I don’t think I’m a pessimist — truly — but I am enough of a realist to realize, even in the midst of all this amazingness, that it would probably not last forever.  It was one of those seasons where my prayer was, “God, please don’t let me forget this lovely season, especially if You’re gearing me up for hard times.”

And hard times have, indeed, come.  But, not exactly in the way that I had envisioned.

The good news is that I still think my husband is fabulous.  I have, in fact, grown in love and appreciation for him in the last couple of months.

By early October, my mother was sick, in the hospital, and appeared near death.

We were also in the throes of a remodel — a MAJOR remodel of about 40% of our “new” home — which I envisioned would take us about five weeks.

We also had a serious issue surface with one of our children…  Really serious, the sort of thing where it is just a deep, hard ache in a mother’s heart.

Then our dog got sick, a resurgence of Valley Fever.

Then my computer broke (I’m typing on my husband’s laptop), on which my children do about 1/3 of their schooling.

And… other things compounded my various challenges — like a dear friend (whose two sons are the best friends of two of my sons) moving out of state.  And a few other dear, long-time friends feeling led by God to become involved in various other ministries — leading them OUT of “my” church.  This put a hole in my heart, as well as made things logistically difficult, as I am now the lone worship leader for the 6-12 year-olds at church;  no one with whom to share that responsibility…

AND THEN, I found out I was pregnant with our sixth child.  And while that has been a huge joy — theoretically — I feel like crap, 24/7, and that just makes everything… extra-challenging.

And my mother did die, on October 18th.  That was hard.  It still is, especially when my four-year-old, Fiala, pipes up at lunch, scowl ensconced firmly on her face, “I don’t want Grandma to live with Jesus any more.  I want her to be here.”

We are still remodeling, nearing our 11th week of that massive project.  The good news is that I have a working kitchen.  I still don’t have a back splash, there is still some touch-up to do, I still don’t have a working sink in our powder room, and the legs of our built-in breakfast table (envision a bar, only larger and more rectangular) still need to be trimmed and stained.  AND, as I was dreaming — again — of the massive yard sale I’d have to enable the purchase of new furniture, it hit me like a ton of bricks that my Furniture Money would probably have to become Pay the Midwife Money.  Maybe that’s stupid, but it was one of those reality checks that made me groan, “Aw, man…”

Crappy picture taken with my phone, that shows evidence of my girls watching TV as I blog, and my home rather untidy, but about 97% remodeled.

My child with the “issue” is now in counseling, and though we’ve just begun, I think that will be really helpful.  Sometimes, it helps a child to hear truth from a different, non-parent source.  My husband and I are fighting — and winning, I think — not to feel like Giant Failures in Parenting.  Still, it’s been a blow to my confidence as a mother to have to call in the experts…

Our dog is still ill, but at least she hasn’t died.  The vet said that he rarely sees dogs with her blood titer level, because, “Usually a dog doesn’t get to that level;  they die before then.”  But, she’s on antifungals.  Sweet pup.  We’re not out of the woods, and it was hard to admit to my husband that I didn’t ask the vet to call in a three months’ supply of meds, which we could have done, and which is less expensive than buying it month-to-month, because I’m still not sure she’ll make it three months…  We’ll see.

My computer is still broken, which is making me feel like a bad homeschooling mom, because my kids haven’t done math nor typed anything in about a month.  Grant and Wesley also read from the encyclopedia on my computer…

The Sunday before I had the spate of friends become displaced from my life, in early August, the presence of God fell on me very powerfully during worship, and I felt God calling me to serve Him, and Him alone, for His sake — not for what I get out of my relationship with Him or out of my Christianity;  not simply because I was following my pastor (though I have a wonderful pastor — two of them, actually — absolutely amazing men of God who are excellent teachers and amazing leaders…)  I just felt Him calling me to Himself, no matter who does what, and when, nor what goes on around me.

I have really been clinging to that, and thankful to Him for preparing me.

I’m 11 weeks pregnant, and I still need to actually TALK WITH and MEET WITH my midwife, rather than exchanging phone messages.  I don’t know why, but I think I’m kind of dragging my feet about that.  It’s just one more thing that will go on the plate…  Know what I mean?

I hope this doesn’t sound like a bunch of complaining.

And I keep reminding myself how LOADS of people — billions of them — have it worse than I do.  In many ways, things really aren’t bad at all!  They’re just challenging, and I don’t enjoy being challenged.  I really don’t.

So!  That’s where I’m at.

Thanks for reading.  I wish I had something clever with which to tidily wrap up this post, but my stomach hurts too much to think of what that might be.  I think I’ll go make myself a piece of toast.

 

In which I plea too earnestly

Note: If you do a Google image search for a mom talking with a teen, there are LOADS of fabulous mother and daughter pics chatting effortlessly away, but the ones of mothers and teen sons?? Weird. Or scary.

When your children are toddlers, you can write pretty much anything about them in a blog, and they just won’t care.

Not so much when they’re teens.

I had a conversation with my oldest son today — he’s 15 — and I will freely admit that I did about 98% of the talking, so it was more like a talking-to than a conversation.  I don’t want to call it a lecture, because as I told him a number of times, “I’m not mad.  You’re not in trouble.”  Maybe it was more like an admonishment.  I want to call him up.  I long to help bring out in him the potential that exists in him.  I do want him to “man up.”  I do want him to “put away childish things.”  Not that he must be serious all the time, but as he grows into an adult, it’s so important to me that he recognizes potential pitfalls in his own life and has the Godly strength of character to avoid them… not because of the threat of some discipline I might impose, but because he can discern right from wrong and make some of the hard choices for himself.

It all sounds so cliché, I’m sure.

I was thinking though — and told him about — my own teen years.  I really had so little guidance.  My mom, a single mother, worked full-time.  By the time I was a senior in high school, I was working (usually) 30 hours a week, and that was during the school year.  I hardly saw her.  I was the oldest of three children at home at the time.  I actually went to two different churches (my mother’s, and my church of choice), for a total of four times a week, and I was very involved… but I wasn’t really discipled.  It was more like — I received teaching which did my best to apply, but it wasn’t… personal.  It wasn’t one-on-one.  My mom uses the guiding paradigm of, “You’ll learn from your mistakes.”  While that often works, she gave very little guidance, very little input, little correction, virtually no advice, no direction, no admonishment.  I felt like I was just tossed out into the deep end and she didn’t even watch to see if I made it to the side or not.  I’m sure she cared, but I didn’t feel it, and I know that she felt a vast measure of relief when I reached adulthood, like, “Whew!  Glad that’s over!” and that she could step back from directly mothering me, except that perhaps she started three-ish years too early.  Part of that was us just not seeing each other that much.  Plus, I’m sure she was just plain tired.  Our personalities are extremely different.  We almost never fought outright, but we just didn’t share much.  Virtually never.

I was very much my own boss from about age 16 or 17 onward, very much aware that if I stood or if I fell, the results were entirely on my own shoulders.

This wasn’t really a good thing, for a variety of reasons.

The odd thing was, I was probably more mature about my freedom than most 16-year-olds;  I didn’t get into trouble;  it was important for me, even from a very young age, to do the right thing, as best as I understood it.

But, I truly had no one who spoke into my life who said, “You need to trim those weeds in your heart.”

Part of this, too, was due to (unknown at the time) flaws in my character, where I rarely saw fault in myself.  I didn’t know any weeds existed!  I was an excellent student, very responsible…  I was often receiving various awards, commendations, and compliments.  It never really occurred to me that I might have areas — VAST AREAS — in my heart that needed tending, some molding, some shaping, some pruning…

The first person who really did that for me was a friend’s mother, starting about my senior year of high school.  She was probably the first person who truly counseled me, probably because she was worried about my influence on her daughter!!  Honestly, though, that woman cared for me the way no one else had before, and I believe her input radically altered the course of my life, and greatly for the better.

She’s the wife of my pastor.  I’m 39.  I’ve known her since I was 15, and have had good relationship with her since I was 17 or so…

Lordy.

Time flies.

Back to my son…

It seems like the blessing and the curse of motherhood is the “gift” of extrapolation.  I have insight to see, “If this attitude/behavior/viewpoint/sin/whatever continues on a similar path, OH! the damage it could cause!”

I’m never sure how much to step in and bring direction:  “Is it too little?  Too much?  The wrong time?  The wrong way?  Will he understand?  Am I over-reacting?”

I don’t want to bring condemnation on my children, ever.

Yet, I will not just toss him into the deep end and walk away.

I do the best I can, praying for wisdom, praying for the Spirit to impact our conversation, to give me the right words, for the good seed to sink down into the soil of his heart, and the overwrought chaff to drift harmlessly away.

I tend to… earnestly plea.

I wish I was a better encourager, to more potential good and know how, exactly, to bring that out, like Your Mother, the Motivational Speaker, communicating with aplomb, humor, wisdom, and interesting anecdotes.

Instead, I end up talking too long, and pleading too earnestly.

Ugh.

I continue, though, because truly, truly, truly, from the bottom of my heart, I wish that I had known in my teens the million-and-a-half difficult lessons that I had to learn the hard way in my 20s and 30s.  I wish I had had some direction in my teens — especially my mid-teenage years — from someone — my mother, especially — to help identify problematic areas in my character and help me nip them in the bud…

The good news is that, in the end, I checked in, and he did not feel condemned, and didn’t feel like I was angry with him.  But, he did feel discouraged.

I think we both need an injection of encouragement.

(NOT THAT I’M SOLICITING YOURS.  What I mean is that it’s hard to give what one doesn’t own.  On one hand, I’m happy that in my personal life and in my mothering, I have steered clear of feeling and communicating condemnation, and that is GROWTH right there, let me tell you.  But, taking it one step further, to learn how to tend blossoms until the branches are dripping with fruit, filled with hope and expectation and excitement for the future….  I’m not so great at that, neither in my personal life and relationship with God, nor in my mothering.  Not yet.)

 

Words of “wisdom” on homeschooling an autistic child

Grant and me on a recent, early-morning hike. He’s my best hiker, always willing to go further, faster, higher.

Some days, I almost forget — ALMOST — that I have an autistic child.  My son Grant will be 13 in August, and was diagnosed more than nine years ago with Nonverbal Learning Disorder, which many consider to be on the autistic spectrum.  It is very akin to Asperger Syndrome, but with fewer of Aspies’ fixations, and with added fine and gross motor skill problems.  (An EXCELLENT article, differentiating between NLD, ADHD, and Bipolar Disorder, concentrating on NLD can be found here — it’s a PDF.)

From the bottom of my heart, even though we have ongoing difficulties with Grant (see below), I believe he is so, so, so, so, so, so, so much better than he could be, as a 13-year-old*, and the biggest reasons for that are:

  1. The presence of God in Grant’s life, and
  2. We homeschool.

A reader just asked me a question on an old post.  I don’t know if anyone really tracks comments via the sidebar on the right, so I thought I’d turn it into a full-on post.  I’ll quote her first, then quote my response.  What I replied is kind of sloppy;  not as carefully-written as if it were a “real” post… But I thought it merited its own blog entry.

From reader Canadian Mom:

I am in Canada and stopped hs’ling my son after 3 months of grade 1, before that Kindergarten. I found a sweet country school to place him in with just over 100 students and he is just finishing grade 2. He has NLD, ADHD and DCD (developmental coordination disorder). I love him dearly but he is a handful, he’s not diagnosed with but I think he is ODD. He fights me and resists me on nearly everything. It’s very challenging, I’ve had to do a lot of personal growth just to handle him.

I did put him on med’s and his teacher thinks he is doing great at school in reading and related subjects, however math is his great weakness. In grade 4 they do the PsychEd tests so I am thinking of keeping him in until that test is done and we have a really clear picture of what we are dealing with. Ideally I would hs and if I have the guts to eventually I will take him out to hs again but I’m kind of waiting for him to “hit the wall”. He gets a lot of support at school and seems to enjoy it. However, because of his DCD he stays away from sports so is alienated from other boys at recess and lunch and plays with another girl who has some learning disabilities. I would love to know more about your methods for hs’ling your NLD boy. I want to hs my boy but am afraid of all the resistance I get and it effecting our learning outcomes.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Thx

My really long response:

CM ~ I’m not sure I have any amazing words of wisdom. I will confess that with my five children, aged 3 – 15 (my NLD boy is almost 13), he is my most challenging on just about every issue. Things are so much more peaceful, and everything — I mean EVERYTHING — goes so much more smoothly when he is not here. So, I’m not saying, “It’s SO EASY to homeschool your NLD child!!” I do maintain, though, that it is most often better for the child. This past school year, I came VERY close to putting my son in a special, advanced program, like a school-within-a-school, very hands-on, very science-oriented, low teacher-to-student ratio. I gathered all the info, talked with admin at the school, and they were VERY supportive of me sending in our app. In fact, when we didn’t, they called often to ask why we hadn’t. But, my husband said, “We’re not going to throw him to the wolves.” Meaning, for all his brilliance, and for all the difficulty he causes at home, and all the literal heartbreak and distress I go through…. he’s still so vulnerable. I finally had to agree with my husband’s statement. It would be throwing him to the wolves. Socially, he’s just not adapted to a school atmosphere. I could see the huge likelihood of us sifting through issues with children, teachers, admin, just the “system” of school, and coming up bloodied in every way. Know what I mean? For all that it would be a huge relief for me NOT to have to homeschool him (and I’m being really honest here), I just couldn’t, for his emotional and physical health, do it.

Grant isn’t diagnosed with ODD, but I’m sure I could obtain such a dx. His operational outlook is, “I’m right, you’re wrong,” and it doesn’t matter who the other person is — parent, pastor, friend’s parent, policeman, whomever. He — deep in his heart — thinks that he is the most brilliant, best person in the whole world, and that his outlook is the only one right, and the only one valid. He’s certain that his ideas trump mine, and has no value, respect, or even acknowledgement of authority.

He’s not dx’ed with DCD, but he was in OT for YEARS due to fine and gross motor skill problems, and he is very uncoordinated. We’re more likely to call it PDD, here in the States, although I think that name was changed recently… But, same thing: He can’t do team anything. He’s eager and willing, but a liability to teams.

So. With that bleak picture, why do I homeschool? I still think it is his best chance to learn from someone who truly loves him and is FOR him. I can let him study ahead in some areas, and supplement him in areas where he lags. I can provide the structure and discipline he needs. I can help bring out his BEST and weed the garden of his heart to help his character develop, something that schools don’t really do; they just want kids to be functional within a classroom setting. I want him to be much better than “functional”. I want him to flourish. AND, while I will say that we still very often struggle with his lack of respect and his preschool-like behavior, we have had LOADS of break-throughs this past year, and he’s doing better in many areas in which I had previously nearly despaired. He is *healthy*, emotionally. He has lots of friends. Most of them are younger than him, but still, lots of friends. He truly loves God. He is eager and willing in so many areas, and is so often an encouragement to me. He TRIES in many areas. For instance, he’ll often ask me, “How are you doing Mom?” with a rub on my shoulder, and a soft face, and cocked head. Now, he’s asking that because I’ve taught him that people like others to care for them, and he needs to take time to be attentive to others. I can see him mentally go down the check list: Ask Mom how she’s doing; give her a soft smile; rub her shoulder; look into her eyes. Check, check, check. IOW, it doesn’t come naturally to him. But, in many ways, that makes it MORE valuable, because the things we’ve taught him — often repeating it THOUSANDS of times, to no effect — are finally bearing fruit. I can actually look at his future, and see some hope and if we can keep his shoulders pointed in the right direction, he’s not going to self-destruct; he’s going to be a tremendous asset to his future family, to his community, to the Body of Christ, and to the world in general.

Please don’t wait for your child to “hit the wall”. It’s so much easier (not that it’s easy) to practice “preventative medicine” than to rehab hearts and behaviors.

—————

*Nonverbal Learning Disorder has the highest rate of suicide of all learning disorders, and it spikes radically higher in the teen and young adult years.  I can’t find numbers on it right now, but I’ve read that the rate is as high as 60%.  By the grace of God, and with the wisdom He has given to my husband and me, and through love and understanding, that WILL NOT be my child.

Jack the Bulldog

If this came in little-girl sizes, I’d likely get this for Audrey.

My six-year-old daughter Audrey just may end up a vegetarian.

I read Charlotte’s Web earlier this year to Audrey and three-year-old Fiala, and the story impacted Audrey so greatly that she can no longer eat pork.  She deeply empathizes with Wilbur.  At first, my husband Martin thought this ridiculous — actually, he still does — but I could see in her tears that she was abundantly sincere, and we’ve decided to let her eat according to her conscience.  Anyway, many people don’t eat pork for a wide variety of reasons.

Fiala, little stinker that she is, uses this as ammunition.  “Aaaaaauu-dreeey,” she sing-songs across the table with a chunk of meat on her fork, “I’m eating piiii-iiig!”

Audrey bursts into tears (yet again), and I correct Fi, admonishing her on the graces of kindness.

Audrey’s tender heart toward all creatures great and small has changed the way I evaluate books.  “How many moments in this story,” I search my memory, “will bring Audrey to tears?”

A week ago or so, I decided to read Little House on the Prairie to the girls.  It’s not in the curriculum we use, and I think its omission is a travesty.  The book is a must-read, in my estimation, for any American girl.  I discovered the series when I was eight, and read it non-stop, much of it secretly by night-light, until I was finished with all nine books within a week, an experience that left me exhausted but completely satisfied.  Shortly afterward — weeks, in fact — it was determined that I needed glasses.  I’ve read that eyestrain cannot cause one to become near-sighted, but my experience makes me suspicious.

Anyway.

The Ingalls family, in the early pages of the story, sets off in the 1870s to parts West, possessions in a covered wagon, their dog Jack, described as a beloved brindle bulldog, trotting tirelessly under the wagon.

Completely as a side-note, in the last 18 months, our family has dog-sat both an English Bulldog and a French Bulldog.  I cannot see either of those lazies trotting tirelessly anywhere.  Jack must have been the longer-legged American Bulldog, or maybe even a Boxer.  That’s just my own theory, though.  🙂

As the wagon fords a creek, suddenly the water violently swells and rises, sweeping even the mustang ponies off of their feet, threatening to upset the wagon.  It’s quite a tense moment.  When the family arrives on the other side of the creek, it is discovered that Jack is missing.  Laura — and Audrey right along with her — is completely distraught.

I sat there as the chapter ended, a sobbing six-year-old on my left, an unmoved three-year-old on my right.  Fi had sat contentedly through the whole thing, brushing a dolly’s hair, and was now happy that the reading was over and that she could get up and play.  I put out my hand to hold her back, my mind racing.  It had been a long time since I’d read the book, but I thought I remembered that Jack was discovered later to be completely fine and wholly alive.  I surreptitiously flipped through the next chapter, and found, to my relief, that Jack’s “resurrection” happened in just a few more pages.

“Audrey,” I asked her, “would you like to keep reading?”

“NNNOOOOOO!!!” she emphatically wailed.  “I never want to read that book again, EVER!!”  She started to bolt.  I caught her back.

“Little daughter,” I told her as gently as I could, “I know you’re very, very sad for Jack right now.  I don’t want to leave you sad.  Will you let me keep reading?  I think what happens in the next chapter will make you happy again.”

“Nothing can make me happy!” she continued, very dramatically.  “JACK’S DEAD!!  HE DROWNED!!  PA CAN’T FIND HIM!  HE WASHED AWAY IN THE RIVER AND HE’S DEAD FOREVER!!!”  In her tone and in her eyes, she was dripping with accusation:  How could I read such horror to her?  How could I even consider that she’d want to read about the death of a dog??  What was wrong with me???

I looked over again at Fiala, and marveled that there can be such different personalities in one family.  Fi appeared to really not give a hoot what had happened to Jack.  Those two little girls are opposites in nearly every way, the same as my oldest two boys, Ethan and Grant are.  Grant is the anti-Ethan, and Fiala is the anti-Audrey.

In spite of both girls’ wishes, I convinced both of them that they’d be best off, listening to another chapter.  They settled in again, Fi back to her dolly-brushing, and Audrey with a grumph and a pout, tears still streaming down her cheeks.  I resumed reading.

It’s also funny, what a blank slate children are.  What is cliché and so very transparent to a long-time book reader like myself came as an absolute shock to Audrey:  The “wolf” who threatened the Ingalls’ camp that night was not a wolf at all, but an absolutely worn out, mud-crusted bulldog named Jack.

Audrey squealed with relief and joyous shock, literally jumping up and down at Jack’s resurrection.

Crisis cut short, tender feelings soothed, normal life and hope in good books and a mother’s heart restored.

I shared a slightly abbreviated version of this story with my friend Kathy on Monday, figuring that, as an intense co-animal-lover, she’d appreciate Audrey’s tender, powerful feelings toward Jack.

Instead, she cocked her head and looked at me.  “Is that what God does with us?” she mused.  “There might be something in that.”

Thrown for a bit of a loop, I think I stood there with my jaw slack.

We had just finished an epic conversation on what God does with us, when things are pending, unfinished, when the results are not easily seen, when the light at the end of the tunnel is a pinprick point, too far to fathom, and we are battling the fear that our heart’s desires might be low on God’s priority list…

“Is that what God does with us?” she posited again.  “Read the next chapter in our lives just a little sooner, out of mercy for our tears?”

I thought of my interaction with Audrey, and could clearly see the parallel.  I had felt it important to not just flat-out tell Audrey, “Jack lives.”  In those moments when Audrey was dissolving in a puddle of emotion, I made the decision that it was important for her character, and just for the appreciation of tension in literature, and to experience the coming joy, to not reveal the outcome in advance.  Yet, I didn’t want to abandon her to her heartsick, out-of-control self.

She was so sincerely broken for Jack’s death, yet I knew that Jack didn’t actually die!  I tried to soothe her, knowing things would truly be better — and very shortly! — and was almost unable to do so, because Audrey was almost violently upset at both the book, and at me.

I know that not every sad story has such a joyous outcome.

Still, though, is that what God does with us?

I’d never considered it before.

I’m learning to trust that He has my heart in His hands, my tender, short-sighted, and often mistakenly-distraught heart.

I have 100% iron-clad, unwavering confidence in the God of Philippians 4:19, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

My NEEDS.

I know He’ll supply my NEEDS.

I have a 100% iron-clad, unwavering confidence that He’ll supply all of my NEEDS.

But my wants?  The deep desires of my heart?  The things that I long for, that stir the deepest part of me?  The things that speak peace and beauty to my soul, and satisfy my emotions??

I’m much less confident of that.

I’m very aware that, very often, He’s much more concerned with building my character, molding me into the person of Jesus Christ, than He is with answering every whim of a prayer, every emotion-sotted plea.

Trusting my Father God with my heart is much more challenging than trusting Him with my needs.

Yet, does He sit with me on the little sofa in the quiet room, reading the story of my life to me, tenderly calming me by — on occasion — compelling me to sit still just a while longer and listen, because He knows that the outcome, which currently looks so bleak, will actually be filled with JOY, the kind of joy where I squeal and jump up and down with elation and relief and unabashed surprise???

Perhaps He does.

I think He does.

I think I may be experiencing a bit of that, right now.

My heart can scarcely believe it, but I’m picturing Him, right now, turning those pages, gentle voice and all-knowing mind drawing me back from the brink, longing to return to me the hope that I have almost abandoned.

Harder, indeed, to believe that, than believe that He’ll meet my needs.

But, thanks to Jack the bulldog, and an insightful friend, I’ll listen more carefully — both now and in the future — for my God to scan those pages ahead, and do more than console me, but reveal the truth that was hidden, a truth that holds satisfaction, and which does meet the desires of my heart, the heart He created.

What one writes about things unshareable

I can’t write about anything truly meaningful to me, of late.

No, I don’t have writer’s block.

There was a blog I used to regularly read, now defunct, but at one point, the writer said, “You know, I could be a lot funnier on here if no one I knew read this blog.”  I’m not often shooting for comic effect, but I have often remembered her words and completely understand her sentiment.

Given my druthers, I’d be completely an open book.  I’m probably much too transparent, and don’t often see the potential fallout from unwisely revealing the secrets of my heart.  However, so much of my life is tied into others’, and I need — for their sake — to be careful what I tell of their interaction with me.

That causes a mighty internal dilemma.

I had a wonderful 2.5 hour lunch with my dear friend Kathy yesterday.  Among many other topics of conversation, we spoke about writing.  She mentioned that she enjoys when I write about the struggle, the unfinished bits of life.  I enjoy that, too:  writing about the things that are pending, unresolved.  I can’t find it in myself to write about the (non-existent) shiny, perfect, tidily-wrapped events in my life.  I also don’t find any satisfaction in reading about The Pristine Life in others’ blogs, which means I don’t enjoy about 95% of the other “mom blogs” out there, because most women seem to post only the best pictures (in word and photo) of their lives.  I’m not like that.  I don’t envy the perfect lives of others;  if they truly exist, more power to them!  Or, more sparkles and smiles to them…

Does that sound bitter?

Truly, from the bottom of my heart, I’m not bitter.  I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone’s.

I do enjoy when something resolves wonderfully that was hard-won, and I’m likely to write about that, as well.

But most often, it’s the path to resolution that I find most intriguing.  I’m much more compelled to write about that.

I consider:  If a blog-reader saw me in real life, would she say, “Wow.  She’s so much prettier in her pictures.”  That’s why you’ll never see a Glamour Shot pic of me on here, make-up perfect, perfectly coiffed hair gently blowing in the breeze, some gorgeous and well-accessorized outfit on my frame…

I consider:  If a blog-reader sat down to dinner with our family, would they be aghast that we have trouble keeping Audrey head-up and feet-down, and keeping Grant from trying to treat everyone simply as ears for an apparent stand-up monologue?  That’s why I don’t blog about only The Good Parts of Mothering.

I like to keep it real.  Really, truly real.

But on the other hand, I do dearly want to be an encouragement, not a downer.  I want to impart true hope, and long for my words to be pulsing with true life.

It can be a tough balance, at times.

Still, it’s one for which I strive, and that makes it all the more difficult for me to write, when the things that are deep in my heart, about which I crave to write, are unshareable.  They’re just not mine to divulge, because they concern the lives of others, too, and blogging about it would dishonor them.

I semi-recently tried to write about a struggle involving another person, and thought I was vague enough to protect everyone involved.  I wasn’t.  It backfired, big time.  There was an explosion of hurt feelings, and oh! that was a difficult, bitter pill to swallow.

I am so often exhorting my six-year-old whirlwind, Audrey, “Be careful!  Be gentle!” but a huge part of me sympathizes with her exuberant bungling of pretty much everything, because I am that little girl, too.

Ah!  This post has not entirely gone in the direction in which I intended.  I was going to write about Jack the bulldog from Little House on the Prairie.

Next time, perhaps.

EDITED TO ADD:

Thought I’d post a non-Glamour Shot. Taken today. Barefoot, jeans, and a baseball tee. No make-up. Glasses. Coffee in hand. Current novel on the untidy counter behind me. The only thing not completely realistic is that I showered this morning, which doesn’t happen every day, so I might be a little cleaner than usual. 🙂

Integrity vs. Loyalty

Sometimes, I worry that my children won’t learn enough.  Or, rather, that, as homeschooled children, they won’t learn enough of the “right” things.

Of biggest concern is my high schooler, Ethan.  He’s 14, and a freshman.  He’s currently doing Sonlight’s Core 200, which is actually SL’s sophomore year program.*  Since the bulk of the history portion of this program centers on Christian church history and apologetics, I’m unsure if I can actually count it as a history credit.  In addition to church history, he’s also reading some serious lit:  Jane Eyre, Hamlet, Pride and Prejudice, Oliver Twist, and Robinson Crusoe are all books he’s read this year.  Still, I sometimes wonder if we’re on the right track for him.

Then, some days, like today, I’m certain that — no matter if it is the “right” thing or not — there is SUCH VALUE in homeschooling.  We discuss topics that, in all likelihood, never reach the ears of a typically-schooled child.

The curriculum assigns readings from an anthology of poetry.  I have long held that poets are at least as interesting as their writings, and we’d be remiss to not become acquainted with each poet from the book.  This extra discussion makes the “poetry” section of his day take extra-long.  I don’t feel badly about this, but we’re just now finishing out week 16 of the poetry assignments, while the rest of his work is in week 30.

Anyway.

James Henry Leigh Hunt 1784-1859

Today had us read one of James Henry Leigh Hunt’s poems, Abou Ben Adhem.  The poem is all right;  not fabulous in my opinion.  The basic premise of it is that even if you don’t excel at loving God, it’s all right;  as long as you love others splendidly, God will bless (and ostensibly love) you the more for it.  That warrants discussion in itself.  However, we didn’t much discuss that.  What we did discuss was the nature of balancing integrity with loyalty.  Too much loyalty without integrity reaps a harvest of brown-nosing and spin-doctoring, sweeping sin issues under the rug.  Leigh Hunt, though, seems to have erred too much on the other side:  integrity over loyalty, which is rather ironic, given the topic of Abou Ben Adhem.  In other words, he was fond of speaking the truth, but not in love, not out of necessity, and often biting the hand that had fed and befriended him, publishing scathing critiques of his contemporaries’ works, and writing exposés of famous people of his day (leading, at one point, to a two-year jail sentence, for criticizing the Prince Regent)…  Unsurprisingly, he (and his wife and his ten children) frequently found themselves friendless and penniless…

Ideally, one would have family, friends, employers, et al, to whom one could be loyal, yet still retain one’s integrity.

I presented to Ethan the best example of both loyalty perfectly balanced with integrity that I know:  his father.  In our itinerant society, my husband has remained with the same employer for more than 20 years.  An integral part of our church (and on staff at said church) for nearly 23 years.  Married for 17+ years.  Each of those take commitment and loyalty.  Yet, he is also integrous to the nth degree, sometimes exasperatingly so, as he seeks to follow both the letter and the spirit of a law.  I was particularly pleased to show Ethan that one can excel at both integrity and loyalty.

It was definitely one of those learning experiences that I know Ethan wouldn’t have had elsewhere, and it made the whole day feel worthwhile.

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*It’s not that Ethan is remarkably advanced;  it’s that we have already so extensively covered American History, which SL slates for freshmen, that I wanted him to learn something different.

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