Parents, Your Family Does Not Exist For Its Own Pleasure.

A few weeks ago my friend, Crystal, who introduced me to Charlotte Mason a little over a year ago, commented about how she wished she would have read Mason’s Volume 2: Parents and Children before she had her first child. We had been discussing parenting in the trenches during full out war-like seasons of life. She just had her fifth and is preparing for another season of her husband being deployed and I’m pregnant with our third, as well as finishing up another season of leading a women’s study, supporting my husband in his role as a lead pastor, being a mamas to two busy adventurers, and everything else that entails in life. All that being said, I made it a goal to read through volume two before this new little member exits the womb. 🙂

As I’ve made it through the first few chapters, I have to say, it’s quite a bit more convicting than I thought it would be. 🙂 Ms. Mason is always like that, though. Gentle discipline. While reading I hope to share a few of the treasures about parenting and family life that I feel like this generation needs to hear. Today’s first thought is this:

Our family does not exist only for it’s own pleasure, hopes, goals, dreams, glory, and desires. Mason writes:

“It by no means follows from this communistic view of the family that the domestic policy should be a policy of isolation; the contrary, it is not too much to say a nation is civilized in proportion as it is able to establish close relations with other nations; and that, not with one or two, but with many and, conversely, that a nation is barbarous in proportion to its isolation; and does not a family decline in intelligence and virtue when from generation to generation it ‘keeps itself to itself’? (pg. 12-13)

My first thoughts from this passage turned to Proverbs 18:1 which says, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.”

Simply put, for an individual, as for a family, it is foolishness to isolate ourselves.

This is bad news for the introvert, of which I am. Even science tells us our hearts are stronger and healthier when we spend more face to face time with people. (I wish I could find this article I posted a long time ago. If anyone has it, please share the link!)

Family’s become obese when all they do is consume head knowledge, but never exercise it through service and love towards others. Paul often correlated our actual belief in things to the amount we are willing to speak them and do them towards others. Peter even says that when we aren’t walking in godliness it’s because we have forgotten the knowledge of our sin, God, and the great lengths He went to in the gospel (2 Peter 1:3-9). The family that thinks lofty thoughts and imagines plans on how to end hunger in their neighborhood, but never actual opens the front door to talk to their neighbor, doesn’t really love their neighbor after all. The family that images themselves as evangelists but isn’t willing to open their mouths with the  never-gonna-tone-down-the-defense of the gospel aren’t really evangelizing, are they?

Friends, I’m preaching to the choir. Reading this volume hurts. And now I’m examining and realizing how much of our family life exists simply for our own benefit. Hear my out: there is a time and place for staying in on Friday nights to eat steaks together and make milkshakes. But, there is also a time and a place for loving and serving your fellow man. If all our diligent planning, scheduling, teaching, and organizing does is end in self-protection, practicality, and life-preservation, Jesus would have said you are insane (Matt. 16:25). Our true lives as family’s are only found when we lay them down for those around us. Our children must see and hear that life which cannot be lost is only found in being spent on others.

Do your actions teach your kids this? Or do your actions tell your kids that mama is more important than they are because we refuse to get off our throne (er…bed) and comforting a fearful heart in the middle of the night?

Again, I know this hurts. I’d much rather hoard my two sacred hours of alone time during naps with a book in bed these days than spending it chatting an encouraging a struggling believer from our church.

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But if Proverbs is true, then we are breaking out against all sound judgment when we isolate and gorge ourselves as families without ever working for the benefit and glory of God.

Remember, God doesn’t need our good works, but out neighbor does. (Thanks for this gem, Mr. Luther.)

In Christ

 

 

Making Heroes of Our Boys and Girls.

We filled out bellies with sourdough biscuits, apricot preserves, and hard boiled eggs at breakfast this morning. Then I thought too long about braving the cold with the boys.

It’s Saturday, a work day for daddy around here, and usually one of the only days I don’t have much on my schedule house wise. It’s been a disaster around here for the last few weeks, or at least I feel that way. So I’ve spent the last several days catching up on projects, hunting down dust bunnies, and tackling the dishes, thanks to another broken dishwasher. Because of this, I new we were overdue for a good adventure outdoors.

But, there’s snow on the ground. Not much, but it’s cold enough in these parts that it’s staying, not melting, and intimidating this mama. I had listened to this podcast with Dawn Duran and knew that I had to brew a mug of coffee and get out the door and under some trees. For my sake. For the children’s sake.

In her conversation, Duran quotes Charlotte Mason’s vision for physical education and play:

“We want to turn out ‘a fine animal,’ a man or woman with a fine physique and in good condition, and we get what we lay ourselves out for. . . . it is questionable whether we are making heroes; and this was the object of physical culture among the early Greeks, anyway. Men must be heroes, or how could they fulfil the heavy tasks laid upon them by the gods? Heroes are not made in a day; therefore, the boy was trained from his infancy in heroic exercises, and the girl brought up to be the mother of heroes. . . . Englishmen, too, can die, but it is not so certain that they can live, like heroes. . . . The object of athletics and gymnastics should be kept steadily to the front; enjoyment is good by the way, but is not the end; the end is the preparation of a body, available from crown to toe, for whatever behest ‘the gods’ may lay upon us. . . . But if children are brought up from the first with this magnet––’Ye are not your own’; the divine Author of your being has given you life, and a body finely adapted for His service; He gives you the work of preserving this body in health, nourishing it in strength, and training it in fitness for whatever special work He may give you to do in His world,––why, young people themselves would readily embrace a more Spartan regimen; they would desire to be available, and physical transgressions and excesses, however innocent they seem, would be self-condemned by the person who felt that he was trifling with a trust.” pg. 101-103, Vol. 3

The big takeaway for me here was that the end goal of our physical education is to be made into heroes who can handle the heavy cross of following after Jesus on the road to Calvary, be fit for whatever plan the Lord has for us. “We are not our own” and falling in to the practice of physical exercise reminds us we are in the rankings of someone else. We are dong their bidding. Trust me! If physical training was only for my personal fulfillment, I would have sat on the couch with a sugar cookie and a book this morning instead of following through with some pilates.

But, take note: this will look different for different people. People with physical disabilities can serve the Lord with their health just as much as those without a disability, it will simply look different.

With all this in mind, I felt enough conviction about these thoughts that I did get the boys out to a small, local pond. We hadn’t been there since early summer, and it was fun to explore newer places to us again.

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As we all practiced balancing on fallen trees, got quite a bit of dirt under our fingernails, and shivered from time to time, I thought and began praying again about the purposes of physical education. God popped a thought into my head that brought rest and joy as I watched my boys in utter bliss:

All we can do as parents is put our kids in front of the flow of God’s common graces and the tools He chooses to use in order to save and sanctify our kids. When phrased this way we can see that physical education is a means that can be used to cultivate courageous, adventurous, strong children. But, again, we must realize these activities only make real change when there is a divine interaction with the Holy Spirit that takes place in the hearts of our children. Apart from a miraculous conversation taking place in the hearts and minds of our children, these activities may serve as nothing more than personal edification.

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So, our prayer becomes: “Lord, use these times of running and exploring in Your creation as a means to turn out boys into men, our girls into strong women. Make our children into heroes willing to risk self-protection and preference for the sake of following you and loving others.”

By virtue of being in creation, you are putting your children in touch with the glory of God (Psalm 19:1) and it’s sight of this glory of God that changes us into that same image of godliness (2 Cor. 3:18). Pray to the Lord of creation to make our kids into image bearers than shine His glory throughout the whole of the earth!

Happy playing, friends!

On Being Well Read vs. Reading Well & Slowness of Character Formation.

I love my reading friends. They keep my mind going, my heart turning back to Jesus over and over, and they continue to add to the stack of books beside my bed. One such friend added another suggestion this morning and I was a tad bit slower to accept the invitation to this book than I usually am. Why? Because I stumbled on an article about reading in the 2016 Circe Magazine. The particular piece was an interview between David Kern and Wes Callahan. I want to give you a quick overview of the quotes that made it into my commonplace and where Wes’ thoughts led my own.

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First thought: “Remember, we’re trying to form habits and ultimately, character.” 

Mystie does a great job of explaining the purpose of classical education, or any true education at all, in a series of blogposts on the top at Simply Convivial. In summary, the pursue of classical education is virtue in the student. For the more modernly versed Christian, the purpose of education should lead to Christ-likeness, holiness. 

In context, Wes was saying that accomplishing the task of reading the book itself is never the point. Since Christ-likeness is the goal of our reading we can and should read slowly.  Today this meant me putting a new book on hold so I can get through my current read a little slower, making better use of the book and the common grace God is and can show me through it.

When I think of being well read I often think about the vast quantity of books one has read to attain that description. But I realize that being well read means you must have read well, and you kind of can’t do that without reading slowly.

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Second thought: “Finally, begin and end your reading time with prayer, asking the Lord for light and wisdom in application. Pray that you will be a doer and not a hearer only. ..Set your reading apart (‘sanctify’ it) from the rest of your day by prayer and silence.” 

All I can say is, this was deeply convicting. Because I truly enjoy reading so much it’s almost never a drudgery for me. I love it so much that sometimes I selfishly steal away too much time for it when I really should be on my hands and knees playing cars with the boys or preparing dinner for my family.

All that being said, I love it so much that I am quick to do it and slow to remember what a holy act anything in life is when offered up to the Lord as worship and thanksgiving to Him. Worship and thanksgiving go together so much. We worship through our thanksgiving. I am deeply thankful that God gave me, Lexy, a mind that delights in the written Word of Christ, the Bible, which then flows out and informs all other reading and learning I do in my life. This delight in knowledge isn’t bad. No way! Instead, it’s the Holy Spirit’s prompting in my heart challenging me to grow in humility as I grow in knowledge, and, prayerfully and hopefully, Christ-likeness. But what has to happen for this to be accomplished?

A moment of prayer to cast myself of the mercies of God, the only one able to bring my life, thoughts, heart, and actions into line with anything knowledge I received from a book, be it a psalm by King David,  Anne of Green Gables, a Dickinson poem, or an essay by Dillard written at her creekside.

At the very beginning of the article Wes was answering a question about how to make time for growing your mind when there are so many more pressing things calling for our attention. He said we must begin our days with the practice of prayer. Prayer is of utmost importance in the life of a believer because it helps us orient our days. He said if we can practice this orientation properly, it will help us prioritize everything else in our lives and days, including the call to steward our mind and thoughts as believers.

Fascinating, right?

All this got me to thinking and asking one question in regards to schooling: am I really ok that we may at one time or another only make it through a quarter of the day’s lesson plan, or the years schedule, if more Christ-likeness is formed in the hearts of my children? Will Christ-likeness be enough? Or will I seek satisfaction in crossing things off my to-do list?

Even more mundane, am I ok if the kitchen table is slathered in sticky peanut butter, but big brother has finally learned to make sandwiches for family members and can serve others in this way? Can I rest content if my toddler runs away with pants on backwards, and a shirt inside out if he’s now growing in responsibility and dressing himself so my hands are free to help other’s smaller than him? Are we able to thank our children for their acts of service, even if they aren’t executed in the practical ways we would execute them? Growing and learning and giving grace in these seasons is definitely not black and white, neat and tidy, easy and quick. Are we ok with the slowness required of the process of educating the heart in a way that, by the work of the Spirit alone, will produce a godly character? Or are we rushing things for the fear of man? I’m reminded of Charlotte Mason’s thoughts on the topic of habit training out of fear of man versus a true desire for character:

“…’What will people say? what will people think? how will it look?’ and the children grow up with habits of seeming, and not to of being; they are content to appear well-dressed, well-mannered, and well-intentioned to outsiders, with very little effort after beauty, order, and goodness at home, and in each other’s eyes.” Volume 1, pg. 56

Are we allowing the time to develop the goodness, order, and beauty that comes in to the heart after the knowledge of God is recognized in some connection and assimilation of information learned? Do we seek to see this in each others eyes and hearts? Or are we content with orderly homes, outwardly obedient children, but disordered hearts and thoughts?

In Christ

 

 

 

Short Steps & Thought-Full Reads.

“Most of the people who will walk after me will be children, so make the beat keep time with short steps.” Hans Christian Anderson

We were supposed to wake up this morning, eat our plate full of scrambled eggs and breakfast cookies, throw in a load on hungry with small helping hands, enjoy some quiet time, and head out the door to meet friends for the morning. Thankfully, God knew better. He knew we needed the whole morning at home. So, my hubby walked back in the house moments after breakfast to announce another fun car issue (yay) and he needed my car for the morning.

My first response was a sigh of relief.

I love my friends. I really do. And I love it when my boys get out of the house early to run around and get out wiggles and energy. It always makes for a more pleasant time at home afterwards. I love hearing how everyone’s newborns are sleeping (or not sleeping), what everyone is making for dinners, what God is showing all these young moms in such tender seasons of life. But for after a few weeks in the row of back to back herd situations, constant busyness, and physical work, what I needed was a quiet morning in the walls of my home looking into the faces of my littles.

My husband often has to remind me that I am not the one that holds the Universe together by a thread. The Lord does that. I often think my respond to hard situations is, “Go! Go! Go!” because I think my actions set in motion the perpetual existence of all thing. Boy, do I have it wrong!

It reminds me of something Andrew Kern said: “When we try to take on too much when we try to rule too much, we harm it. We do damage to it. But He can do it. He is big enough, as an idea and a person, that He can make all things sing together in perfect harmony.”

This may sound absolutely ridiculous to some, but as I tickled my boys in the living room, read “Green Eggs and Ham” over and over again, cooked up a batch of soup, did a few loads of laundry, and planned for mess and art work I realized something.

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The joy meter in our home can sometimes literally be measured by the number of new pieces of finer painted art work I hang up around the house. Our attitudes are lighter when there is margin for changing bed clothes for the coming winter season, playing gymnastics in piles of warm sheets, and having enough time set aside to do as the wise Mr. Anderson warned about above: keep time with short steps. 

A friend said in conversation yesterday that she read about another mom who suggested planning time to play. Setting a timer for a full 60 minutes of nothing on your to-do list but lego building, fort constructing, craft making, book reading goodness.

The same needs to be said of our calendars. Plan for slowness. Learn to trust that productivity and checking things off your to-do list isn’t the measure of your righteousness. God gently leads those who are with young. He doesn’t hurtle us from bed making, to dinner preparing, to hostessing, to bathroom scrubbing. Do you feel a gentle leading in your day? If not, is it possible your schedule is too full to sense those little nudges?

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Occasionally I’d love to share a few reads from around the web that I feel are full of living thoughts. I’m calling these the “Thought-Full Reads.” 🙂 Some part of these reads have most likely made their way into my commonplace journal. Happy reading!

–My husband and I were so excited to sit down and have a challenging and thought changing discuss with Jen Wilkin at the Deeply Rooted retreat last week. This blogpost of her’s sums up most of the encouragement she gave us moving forward in ministry.

–As a mom I never knew how fearful I am of sleeplessness. God used this to remind me that the true good day is a day where you can look back on God’s faithfulness, and not necessarily energy overflowing from a full night of sleep.

–I love the idea that “food is God’s love made edible.” I found this originally through the most recent podcast over at At Home. Those ladies are doing a great work to challenge Christian parents in so many areas of life. Please check them out!

In Christ

 

 

First Things First: Cleft for Me

Welcome, readers! I wanted to open with introducing a little more about our hearts here. There are many men and women out there who have influenced the thoughts I will pour forth here, but the ones who get the brunt of my questions, narrations, fears, and confusion are the patient women in our local group that I am so grateful for. I’ve seen God’s provision and wisdom so much through this last year of growing with these ladies. Why? Because, quite honestly, these are ladies I would have happened upon. These are ladies go brought to me to bring me out of a common issues I still struggle with: the idol of efficiency. They are the ladies God knew I needed way more than I ever knew.

All that being said, I wanted to share a bit about how our name for this blog came to be. Simply put, one of the ladies suggested it a few weeks ago and I’ve been praying about it and thinking through it ever since. I am a believer that the gospel is efficient and able to relate to the whole of life, and that includes educating our kids. Following are some of the why’s and how’s to the way I think our hiddenness in Christ and His righteous covering over us causes rest in our schooling and parenting of our children.

The gospel says Jesus takes our sin and we get His perfect righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). That righteousness is created to our account purely based on belief in this Savior’s mission, and not by any work of our own. This truth is literally an unending treasure trove to us practically. God hid Moses in the cleft of the rock in order to show Moses His glory. That was to be a sign to point to Christ who would be our perfect and ultimate covering, making us able to one day stand in front of God and see the whole of His glory without fear. Christ has become the better, perfect, protective cleft for me.

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Back to what this means practically as educators: when we are hidden in the righteousness of Christ we are free to educate, make mistakes, not know Latin, not remember algebra lessons from high school, have a bad day occasionally. Why? Because our righteousness rests on Christ and never our abilities to educate our kids into the Kingdom through a liberal arts tradition. Both we and our children needs more than contact with knowledge. We need a death and resurrection of the soul, and this comes from God alone.

We can rest in the grace that pursues after us every day because it does so without depending on our successes at schooling. It’s when we run to the cleft that we see grace really suspends us in this life. I read something in Psalm 68 yesterday which promoted this thought which I posted on Facebook:

“Even when I don’t study God’s word appropriately and with due honor, when I’m a tired creature, when I’m hit in the face with my small limitations in the wisdom department, when I don’t serve my neighbors, big and little, as I should, I will have confidence that because Christ’s righteousness covers me, God daily bears me up, carries me along, and will never leave me or forsake me. This is not my own doing, but a gift, so that I shall not boast in my own works, but in Christ alone. #gospel”

Now let’s apply this needed covering to the lives of our children. This one is more challenging for me to remember. It’s by the Word of God declaring “Justified!” over the sin of our children they are saved. Not the Words of Milne, Tolkien, or Shakespeare, however valuable and life-giving they may be. God’s Words are the True Living Words that informs all other life we happen upon, even in the greatest works of literature, that transform hearts from dead to living, and that renews the mind, begetting holy imagination and ideas.

Backtracking now: who was it that hid Moses in the rock? Did he in his own wisdom think to turn to the hardest pieces of earth for covering? No. God placed Moses in the mountain. God did the work of getting Moses where He needed to be. God is faithful to complete the work He began in you, and the work He chooses to begin in your children. When we stray, He calls us back. When we turn our eyes elsewhere, He brings them back into focus. He will be faithful to establish us on the Rock of Christ in the midst of chaotic, unorganized days of schooling our kids. He even uses these chaotic means to bring us to Himself, to humble us, and cause us to cast ourselves on His mercy for help.

As we move forward, it is my hope to always put Christ before your eyes as we explore various topics related to education: Charlotte Mason, nature study, theology and doxology, liberal arts, great authors, thinkers, artists, etc. May we explore all these areas with freedom knowing that God created our minds and hearts to delight in such rich ideas.

Now, go, pick up your favorite book and read it to the glory of God. 🙂

Until next time,

hidden in Christ,

Lexy