Identity. Who are you, anyways?

 

photo copy 4

(Who am I?  Rhonda.  Slightly blurry girl who curls her hair even when camping.  Saved by grace.)

I asked my boy the other day what it means to be a christian.  Sadly, he rattled off everything that I didn’t want him to say.  He said things like, someone who goes to church and someone who reads the bible and does all the things that God tells us to do.  He said that it’s someone who is loving and kind and who learns memory verses.

Nope.

How do you explain that while those are things that we may do as a result of being a christian, these are not the things that make us a christian.

For a long time I wouldn’t call myself a photographer but rather just someone who likes to take pictures.  People would stare at me in confusion, tilt their head slightly to one side as they tried to figure out the riddle.  But there was no coy answer or smart comeback on my part.  I just didn’t identify with being a photographer, which in my head was someone who has taken classes and honed the art and knew what every f-stop would do precisely.  And that wasn’t me.  I just liked to take pictures.

My boy has simply taken his cues from me.  It’s not his fault.  He’s heard me say that I’m not a photographer because I don’t know all the things and I didn’t study under the greats and I’ve never been in National Geographic and ….and….and….

So clearly it only makes sense in his mind that in order to be a christian there must be a list of things that we need to check off, to accomplish, to achieve before we can hail ourselves with the title.  Church?  check.  Bible study?  check.  Memory verses filed somewhere back there in our mind?  check.  Kind to someone today?  check.

Except that’s not it at all.

Those things no more make me a christian than one has to be published to call yourself a photographer.  Those aren’t the things that make you one.  They’re the things that may come as a result of you being one.  Do you see the difference?

In this season of my life, this theme of identity has been swirling around like the autumn leaves caught up in the wind.  Caught in the cyclic rhythm of do this, don’t do this, no – he is enough.  do this, don’t do this, no – he is enough.

At first it was all the things I should be doing and the guilt and shame that come with not having them in my life.  I’m not part of an organized bible study.  I should do that.  check!  I need to adopt babies because that’s what the scripture says.  Go!  Social justice, that’s what I’m lacking.  Find an organization helping the underprivileged and do that.  Big fat gold star!

Slowly and painfully, for our hearts don’t change easily and our hearts don’t mend quickly and our grasp on our ways is much too tight, these things started being pulled from my grasping fingers.  The bible study had to go with changing schedules.  The adoption didn’t pan out and the foster parent papers didn’t even get the dignity of a return phone call.

One by one God has plucked all these ‘need to’s’ from my hands.  He’s left me standing before Him empty.  No social justice notch on my belt.  No rescued baby in my arms.  He’s left me in this place of crying out, “What then?  If not these what?  What should I do?  What am I to be?  Aren’t I suppose to…?”

Time and time again He’s beckoned my heart, weary from all the trying, back to simply Him and said, “Just me.  Only me.  I am enough.

It makes the tears come even to think that I get so wrapped up, so busy, so do-goodery, that I forget that He is enough.  It cracks open the crevices of my heart that want to make it about me and look at this and see what I’m doing and brings me to my knees in repentance knowing that it’s not our works that He desires but our hearts.  It’s not all the things we can do or give, for truly what can we give the one who made it all?  How can we repay a debt that can never be repaid?  So easily the heart slips into the law and penance and even some weird version of karma when these aren’t the things He says we ought to be.

So it’s not the going to church or the bible study or eating organic or purchasing from socially responsible organizations that He wants.  It’s not the hybrid car or the feeding the poor or the youth group perfect attendance award that will earn us a spot in heaven.

It is always and only by grace.  Not earned.  Never earned.  It is free and unmerited.  It is a gift, and not the weird kind where you’ve been given something great so you must panic and pace the mall and search the online stores in order to return the favour.

It’s the kind of gift that is so far above anything you could give or anything you could earn that the only response to it is to humbly utter thank-you’s.  We can never, on our own, be what is required or do all that we ought to earn favour and the beauty is that’s not what he wants.  In fact, he calls those works filthy rags in comparison to what he’s done.

He wants our hearts not our chores.  He wants our worship not our work.  He wants us to know that He is all we need and everything else pales in comparison.

So, I’m not a regular bible study attender or a mama to many or an advocate to the poor just now, maybe I never will be.

But my identity is found in Him and not in those things.  My position is redeemed by His blood, not by the work of my hands.  My title is not adoptive parent or volunteer or teacher or anything but saved by grace.  It’s in this position I find all that I need and my struggling heart finds rest.

The things that books can’t teach

I like to be early.  Arriving late makes my heart pound and my blood pressure rise and I feel all kinds of anxiousness.  So I’m a clock watcher and a minute counter and I know when we need to walk out, not to be on time, but to be early.  So when I bellow, “Let’s go or we’ll be late!”  Not one member of my family kicks into high gear because they know we won’t actually be late.  We may just be less early.  Or even right on time.

This morning I checked the clock and stated to a certain munchkin who likes to push all boundaries that he better start eating his breakfast.  His retort, “Who made you the mom around here?”

There was a time I would have lectured on this.  Talked about using our words to encourage and about kindness and respect.  But the first born got all of that and with the third I simply shake my head and laugh and muss up his hair because he’s not being disrespectful or rude.  He said it with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye and he was only looking for a reaction so I might playfully swat his bum or tickle him until he takes it back.

Books don’t teach you this stuff, the difference between your first born and third.  They don’t lay out for you how your heart will change and your ways will mellow with subsequent kids.  They don’t tell you that all that was so important the first time around can shift.

I know this because when I first found out I was pregnant I bought all of the books.  All of them.  Of course there were the standards.  The What to Expects and all that but also biology books.  I had one entire book that was just beautiful pictures of what was going on inside my body from week to week.  Pictures showing little additions to my growing baby but started with simple cell splitting.  I loved every page of it.

I do this with everything.  Some people learn by asking questions, others through trial and error and I learn by reading.

So, when I want to cook better meals I read all of the reviews on every cook book on Amazon and then I order a whole bunch and I read them cover to cover.  And when I want to reduce the amount of chemicals that are in my home I spend hours (days?!) online bookmarking every website that has good information on toxins and how we can reduce these by making our own more natural products.  I google organics and herbs and read about green juices and how grapefruit can clean your shower and how to mix just the right essential oils to heal everything.  And when I want to be inspired I pick up a biography about people who lived through the hard and persevered and came through it all with great strength of character.  And when I want to know the in’s and out’s of culture I pick of Jean Twenge or Douglas Coupland and I read and read and read the words that they have to say because they study this stuff and, whether in pie chart or novel form, they offer insight.

Problem is, after spending a bajillion hours reading, after investing so much time, I still haven’t placed a better dinner before my family or mixed up a vinegar concoction to clean the toilet.

I picked up Shauna Niequist’s book Bread and Wine the other day and I just kept nodding my head through the reading of it.  There are very few books that I’ve found where I somehow feel like the author got into my brain and put into words what I was already thinking.  This is this book.  Only she says it more eloquently than my brain likely would.

“But then you find yourself standing at a bar or kneeling in the dirt of holding a very sharp chef’s knife and you realize all at once that it doesn’t matter what you’ve read or seen or think you know.  You learn it, really learn it, with your hands.  With your fingers and your knife, your nose and your ears, your tongue and your muscle memory, learning as you go.”

I do the same with my faith.  When I want to learn about prayer I buy a book and when I want to know more about fasting I read hundreds of pages on it and when I want to dig in to angels or divorce or healing or justice or love or the gift of grace I read and I read and I read.

I’ve found however, that though this is good, it can’t stop there.  Because if I only read about prayer but never actually get down on my knees and cry out to the Lord then I will never actually understand it.  And if I read all that there is to say about fasting but never feel the rumbling of my stomach or the longing of my soul then all the words on the page are just that, words on a page.  And if I read all that has ever been written about the poor or the oppressed or the orphans or the trafficked or the slaves or the weak but I never actually open my heart and my hands to see, to hear, to get a taste then all I have is knowledge.

God is stirring something in me that is pushing me to go beyond the books.  He’s kneading my heart with his hands, pushing out the air bubbles of knowledge, deflating the work the yeast of books has done and forming it into what he wants.  I don’t know if his plan is for bread or for buns or for croissants but I do know that He’s asking me to go beyond the books and put knowledge into action and head into hands and what I know from the pages into what I know in my heart.

Because the book couldn’t tell me that my third child would be cheeky and feisty and that I’d love him for it.  In the same way the books can’t tell me what it feels like to get down on my knees or to dig in with my hands or to smell the air of a foreign country.  They can’t tell me what the smiles of orphans will do to a heart or what the hunger will do in my soul or what the cries to the Almighty will do for the people I love.

I’m not giving up the books, I assure you.  But I’m also not stopping there.

My kids changed my ideals.

Someone once said to me, “But,”  and  he had to start with a but because Lord knows I was arguing with the ferocity of a 20 something, “the more people you meet, the more people you see, the more you realize that all you can do is love.”

I thought he was a heretic.

Because I had 20 year old passion and ideals.  Oh, the ideals.

(Now, 20 year olds – keep having all of the ideals because we need them.  We need your passion and fervour and drive!)

Here’s the thing I didn’t think I’d ever find myself saying.  He’s right.

I remember, before we had kids, knowing exactly how I would parent.   I would watch people parent around me and I would start a tally of all the things I was never going to do.  Of course, there were some things I would do, but mostly all the things I wasn’t.  I sat and judged every parent within my view and saw all of the ways that they were failing their children.  Thing is, I didn’t know yet about sleep deprivation and living breathing babies that hold your heart.

So MY babies were going to sleep through the night and colic was only something that bad mothers made up and sugar was off limits and never, ever, ever would my kids be allowed to wear those light up shoes.  I was going to say no constantly because they needed to learn this.  I was going to be in control because I was the parent.  I was going to skip merrily along through this parenting thing doing it just the right way.

What I didn’t realize was that where hearts and souls and living, breathing beings were at stake, there is no just the right way.

Of course, God himself knew just the way to break me from my judgemental self.   He, humorously, gave me 3 boys.  This, my friends, was one of the greatest gifts ever given because God saw fit to snap me out of my idealogies and show me that these pooping, burping, farting creatures were His.  He showed me that the noise and the messy and the stink, they didn’t always fit my perfect way of doing it.

He showed me that their hearts were more important than my ideals.

It started with a bang when the littlest was born.  We had a grand total of 6 hours peace in the hospital and then my memory goes sort of fuzzy.  Because boy would not stop crying.  Ever.

I won’t lie, I thought this boy would be easy.  I’d had 2 already and I was in my groove and quite simply, I was rocking this mothering gig.  I’d just do exactly what I did with the others.

Ideals.

But nothing worked with this one.  He cried when he was put down and he cried when he was held.  He cried on breast milk and formula and soothers. (Yes, we tried that one with that certain nipple.  Get over yourself, it didn’t work!)  He cried when we were home and he cried in the car and he cried when we were outside walking about.  He cried in the grocery store and some lady had the nerve to ask if I was pinching him.  Yes, I told her harshly, I am PINCHING my baby!  He cried and I cried and my heart was hurting because it wasn’t working.  I’d lost my skills.  I didn’t know how to mother this one.

He changed the game and made up his own rules and hid the manual on how to play.

Oh the things God was teaching me early on.  It didn’t take skills to be a mother, it took love.  Because no mother who loves well is going to harm her child or feed her child less than the best or do everything she knows how to do to nurture that child.  Anyone can skillfully heat a bottle but only love let that baby curl up on my chest and, through the tears, cry out for more love.  More grace.  More patience.

He stopped eventually and we navigated the toddler years.  I’m an expert toddler mom, in case you were wondering.  You can control them with Cheerios, for crying out loud!  So, I found my groove through control.  Controlling naptimes and meal schedules, play dates and what they would wear.  Controlling the words they spoke (“say thank-you!”  “Ask nicely” “Tell him you’re sorry!”), the sugar they ingested, the hours of sleep they got and just how much screen time was permitted.  (One 20 minute episode of Elmo per day, thank you very much!)

Here’s what I learned about my human heart though, it only  took a matter of months to forget the thing that I was taught so clearly.  So that crying baby who showed me that my mothering ideals weren’t THE way and I clearly didn’t have all THE answers and that I couldn’t do this on my own strength – yeah, I forgot those.  Instead I prided myself on polite boys who ate their veggies and prayed each night for, “Gumma and Bumpa”.

Guys, it went further.  I also wasn’t going to be one of THOSE parents whose boys played with guns and footballs and were so stereotypical you could smell the locker room on them.  So I bought them an anatomically correct boy doll.  I know, I know.  Someone give me a medal.  And we painted and picked flowers and learned about dinosaurs and bugs.  We listened to real music and not the kind sang creepily to children by adults dressed in strange clothes and face paint.  We didn’t own weaponry of any sort until Grandpa (always the rule breaker) came over with water guns one day and I insisted that they call them ‘water squirters’ and not guns.  Like that changed anything.

It’s amazing to me how many times I have to be taught the same thing.  How many time I wander away from the truth that I know and take the glory for myself.  How many times my heart wells up with pride and know-it-allness and I wonder how on earth many more times do I have to be taught the same thing for me to actually understand.  I imagine it will be a lifetime of the same lessons.  A lifetime of the same learning.  A lifetime of Christ showing me that He is the way, not I.  That He has the answers, not I.  That He gets the glory, not I.

So it turns out the only reason that I was an expert toddler parent is because I have control issues and my toddlers generally thrived on a controlled environment.  Routine and order and organization were hailed as king and this worked for us.  But it turns out that this tactic doesn’t translate into being an expert parent to teens.  Because teens are opposite of toddlers and like chaos and mess and disorganization.  And teens are opposite of toddlers because they have their own vocabulary to draw upon and their own personalities shining full force and their own ideals.  Ah, there’s the ideals again.  It seems that teenage ideals are someone different than parent ideals and again we find ourselves in this place of learning that love is the way.

Because I want my teenager to wake up and read his bible each morning and pray to God for strength for the day.  Instead he wakes up still half dead and strolls to the cupboard in a stupor inhaling anything and everything he sees.

And I want my teenager to volunteer at the local animal shelter or food bank and for it to be his own idea because he just loves people so much and wants to serve his community with all of his spare time.  Instead when I ask if he would like to consider volunteering he looks up at me with the most confused face and says, “Why?”

And when I ask my boys what they want to do and I’m thinking something along the lines of hiking through the woods and picking wildflowers and marveling at the beautiful place God has given us to live, the first thing they ask his, “Can we bring our BB guns?”

And I see it now.  I see what I was told when I was 20.

But at 20 I hadn’t met by teenage boys yet and I didn’t know that they would really like target shooting and camping in the woods and seeing for how many days exactly they can navigate camping without wearing anything on their feet whatsoever.  (the answer would be 4)  I didn’t know that showers wouldn’t be an important part of their day.  I didn’t know that they would be drawn to Anime.  And bows and arrows.  And slingshots.  And I didn’t know the waters we’d have to be navigating together, their very teenage struggles, and I held an ideal that lust and masturbation and internet pornography and lying and deceit and arrogance and anger and pride wouldn’t be so near because we bought them that doll and we limited their sugar intake as toddlers.  I didn’t know that they wouldn’t really feel like reading their bibles and harsh words come out altogether too quickly sometimes and laziness shows up daily and they just want to pummel each other much of the day (though they know better!) because having brothers can be downright annoying at times!  I didn’t know these things would occur because we PRAYED FOR THEM!  How dare they have struggles, Lord, we’ve raised them to be different!  We’ve taught them from toddlerhood who you are and how they ought to live.  We’ve lifted them up to you every single day!  Shouldn’t they get a ‘get off sin free’ card?

Of course the answer  is no.  Of course it is.

Am I glad we had ideals for our children?  Absolutely.

Do I realize that just because we do all we do does not ensure they will turn out a certain way?  I do now.

Am I thankful that God keeps teaching me the lesson that I am not in control and He is?  Sort of.  But yes.

Do I see now that the more people I meet, and the more people I see, especially when these people are living extensions of yourself, that I realize that all I can do is love.

Through sin and struggle, through teaching and training, through our day to day expectations, through our day to day failure, I see that my boys are their own people for good and for bad and what they need from me is not an ideal to which they can not adhere or my idea of how exactly their life should look but they need my unending love.

Warning: teenager in mirror is closer than he appears

photo copy

From the vantage point of having two teenagers and one pre-teen I have to say that, at this juncture, life seems a little  unfair to them.  But first, let me tell you a story.

I went for a run yesterday evening and soaked in the  glory of the sunset and marvelled at how all the farm fields that had crops taller than I only last week were now all shaved down to just a few inches.  I had a favourite podcast blaring in my ears and challenging me in all sorts of ways.  As I looped around and back I passed a small grocery store and decided to pop in for a few treats for the boys.  It was only a ten minute walk to home from here so I carried the small bag of groceries and briskly walked along the sidewalk feeling the ache of muscles well worked.

As I was walking along the SIDEWALK I got that sense that someone was behind me so I turned around to see someone RIGHT behind me.  On a bike.  Going fast.  I let out a scream and we did the dance of I’m going this way, no you’re going this way, I’ll go that and then it happened.  The teenager on a bmx took me out with his bike.  I stumbled and caught myself and grabbed my arm where his handle scraped along it and I sputtered out an, “Oof, I’m sorry.”  Because I’m Canadian and this is what we do.  We apologize for things not worthy of apologies and have been known to say we’re sorry to a lamp post should we bump into it.  (guilty.)

Then, in a matter of one second flat I surveyed the situation.  The situation being that I was walking along the sidewalk and got smashed into by a teenager on a BMX when there was a bike lane RIGHT BESIDE ME!  The situation being that I, who was walking along the sidewalk and had no idea who was coming up behind me, apologized to the teenager on a BMX who was riding on the sidewalk and came up so close behind me that he smashed right into me.  The situation being that the teenager said nothing and just drove on his merry way.

As I took stock of all of that, I realized I had no reason to apologize and so I yelled out, “NO, ACTUALLY I’M NOT SORRY!  RIDE IN THE BIKE LANE!!”

I’m sure to him I’m a geriatric lady who is getting all in a fuss about nothing.  I remember being a teenager.

So when I look at my teenagers I fear that the world has already unfairly judged them by the standards of the lowest form of teenager.  I fear that the world will look at them with eyes that see them as the ones who leave garbage all over the skate park and graffiti the walls of the local schools.  I fear that the world will see their size and assume their age and know that they’re the ones who talk filthy and make rude jokes and are probably selling drugs at school.  I fear that the world won’t know how to engage them simply because they’re teens.  Because they sometimes seem like they’re on another planet when they talk of movies they’ve watched or video games they play.

We talk often in our family about changing the stereotypes.  About being different than people will assume you to be.  About being a teenager who can smile a friendly smile and say hi when you pass someone on the street instead of making people wish they would have crossed to the other side before they neared you.

We talk of the things they love.  How skateboarding and snowboarding have long been viewed as rebellious sports and having a lifestyle immersed in both often looks like lots of drugs and alcohol and girls.  But that doesn’t mean that it has to.  It does mean that people may see them with a skateboard and assume they’re like that though, a thought that is frustrating and sad to me.

Teenagers get a bad rep with good reason.  There are a lot of confused and curious teenagers out there who are pushing every boundary that could be pushed and trying new things and ending up in bad places.  But for every one of those there are a lot of fun loving and kind teenagers who care about others and start new charities and respect their teachers and work hard at getting good grades.

Of course, we’re only a few years into the teenage years and maybe one day my boys will deserve to be painted with the ‘horrible teenager’ brush but until they’re there I wish the world could look through eyes that see human and not simply teenager.  That the world could see that this is a person who is living life the best way they know how given the resources they have and even if they have a ring in their eyebrow and a bit too much make up on their face it’s only because they haven’t learned that less is more yet and instead of judging their character based on that we would give them a chance to prove themselves before we make up our minds.

I hope we don’t lump all teens into a category that is far from fair.  I hope we seek rather to engage them, listen to them and guide them…..right on into the BIKE LANE!!!

 

Teaching Scripture Memory

photo 4 copy

In our fam we’re currently memorizing an entire chapter of Ephesians.  Chapter 4, if you’re one who likes specifics.

Why?  I hear you ask, as I might have at one point in my life, complete with a look of bewilderment and nose all scrunchled up.  I have two reasons.

The first one is that scripture is important.  Not only is it important for us to read it but also to have it tucked away in our hearts and minds.  To have it sealed in our brains.  To be able to call on it at any time that we may need it for encouragement or rebuke.  To speak it to our children when they may be in situations that are hard or scary.  To tell a friend what we’ve learned.  To remind yourself of promises and truths.  The reasons we need it are endless.

I’ll be honest, I get frustrated at myself when I use words like, “It says in the bible…”  and then I give a sort of summary of what I sort of remember it saying.  I know that speaking this way lacks power and depth.  I want to be able to use words like, “It says in Ephesians 4….” and be able to recite, from memory, the words that I know to be true even when I may not have a bible right next to me.  Not so I can look super awesome and smart, it’s not that at all, it’s for reason number one.  (Refresher?  Scripture is important.)

Secondly, we’re memorizing a whole chapter because we can.  We are able.  Capable.  We been given minds that can grasp and retain and not using that just seems like a waste.  Besides that, my kids (from a super young age) could recite entire story books that we would read to them, from memory.  Now they know every League of Legend character by name and description of abilities.  At one point it was Pokemon characters.  At another all the words to Dynamite.  Or Canucks stats.  Or any number of useless things.  We decided early on, as parents, that if they could learn stuff, they may as well learn the good stuff!

The norm in our house is to memorize a verse a week.  Sometimes every two weeks if its longer.  But with the boys not being in school just now and nothing but time on our hands I decided that we’d aim for a chapter of Ephesians because it’s the book we’re reading and studying together just now.  We’ve done this before.  The boys have memorized  1 Corinthians 13 (otherwise known as the famous passage on love) and they’ve memorized “The Christmas Story” from Luke 2 (up to verse 21).  One day we’re going to go for the entire book of James!

photo 2 copyPardon the dirty mirror.  All I can say is, 3 boys!!

I’ve been asked a few times how we do it.  Truth is, we don’t just have one method but I will tell you the various things we do!

First of all, we read the entire chapter (in our current case all of Ephesians 4) at least twice a day.  Just by sheer repetition we learn the order of the words and commit the verses to memory.  As I’m reading it over each day I’ll start to drop words and the boys easily fill them in, simply because they’ve heard it.  It’s sort of like learning the words to a song by listening to it on repeat all day.

The other thing  we do is start at verse one and just read it independently until we know it, can cover it up and say it.  Then we go on.  This time around we’ve been adding a verse a day to learn, skipping weekends of course!  When we move on to the next verse we don’t just focus on the one but we repeat all we’ve learned and add the new one in.  So today we all recited up to verse 4 to each other and then moved on to memorize verse 5 reading from one to 5 over and over individually until we could all say all of it!  Then, when we read the whole chapter again before bed, we can all say the first 5 verses together and I’ll carry on reading to the end of the chapter.

photo 3 copy

Lastly, we have it everywhere!  It doesn’t matter what room you are in there will be words to the scripture around you.  Brushing your teeth?  There’s a chalkboard with verses 1 and 2 on it in there.  Sitting by the fire?  I’ve taped up the words to verse 3 and 4 there.  Eating breakfast, lounging on the couch or walking past the desk?  Open bibles to Ephesians are there so you can peek really quick if you forget a word.  Having scripture all around reminds us to review what we know as well.  When we read verse 1 and 2 in the bathroom you know we don’t stop there.  We carry on as far as we know!

There are multiple times in a day that a boy will come up to me and proclaim, “Mom, I’ve got it!”  recognizing that they could plug all the way through without any hitches or stalls.

photo 5

Our minds are capable of so much.  It’s simply because we don’t try that we don’t know.  In the past number of years we’ve committed, in our family, to trying with the most important book we know.  We pray that locking these words into our children’s hearts will mean they know them forever, can bring them to mind often, and can share them with others!

I still know many verses in the King James Version from when I was a kid and I’m hoping the same for our boys!  (only with the ESV)

It’s not rocket science!  It just takes consistency and a bit of effort!!

What about you?  Do you do memorization with your family?  Do you have different ways of doing it?  I’d love to know!

**Side note:  Scripture memory doesn’t have to be about being fancy.  I know many of you are artists and chalk board aficionado’s and that’s great.  If you’re not, don’t let that stop you.  As you can see our verses and chalkboards are plain and simple.  No design scheme.  No artistic flare.  Just words on paper.  That’s how we roll.  Getting it in our minds is what’s important, not impressing our guests with our chalk skills.

Wanna read more on bible memory?

Check out a post I did here about the resources we use for our verses.

More like rolling with it as opposed to nailing it!

It’s taken some years, I’ll admit.  I’m a pretty structured sort.  I like organized.  I like words like addendum and time log.  My moleskin is one of my most coveted possessions.  And seriously people, the containers with little paper clips and elastics at staples?  Well, they make me swoon.

Let’s just say rolling with it doesn’t come instinctively.

But I married who I did and so words like spontaneous and “Let’s have them over for dinner.  Like, right now! We’ll come up with something!”  Came with the territory.  I have to say, I fought it hard those first years but really, there was no point.  Spontaneous wins over organized like fun wins over algebra every day of the week.  And so it is.

Over the years I feel like God has stretched my character in this realm so much.  I’ve learned to live in decently sized housed and teeny tiny spaces.  I’ve learned (past tense) to adapt to life without an oven and now happily only embrace no microwave.  We’ve survived big hearty incomes as well as the how-are-we-going-to-buy-groceries type.  We’ve been a part of tiny churches, mega churches and almost everything in between.  I like hymns and choruses.  Coffee and tea.  Richer and poorer.  Better and worse.

God has taught me so much in all of these times.  He’s taught me where joy comes from.  (Him!)  He’s taught me where stability is found.  (Him!)  He’s taught me that there are many ways it might look as long as the focus is right.  (Him!)

So when it came to this new season of kids not going back to school (due to a teachers strike here in B.C.) I wasn’t overly phased.  With all we’ve survived, school or no school didn’t seem like that big of a deal.  (For the short term, that is.  If it was long term – bigger deal but we’d figure that out too!)

photo

 

Last night I sat in the middle of the floor with the only craft supplies I have.  Paper. Scissors.  Tape.  Oh, and twine – the hipster craft supply necessity.  As I sat I cut and wrote and came up with a bit of a plan.  A loose schedule of sorts so that this morning, there would be school.  Weird mom school that doesn’t get you any sort of credits, but school nonetheless.

We spent an hour and a half on bible.  This is the good stuff people.  When do we ever get that much time to spend in the word daily with our teens?  I’m taking it and I’m running with it!

Then we went on a field trip.  I proclaimed how amazing of a teacher I was for having a field trip planned on the first day of school.  “Ever had THAT before?” I yelled out in my best self-congratulatory way.  Of course a trip to the library was a necessity should we actually be trying to accomplish anything in this homeschool thing we’re doing.  I take that back.  Homeschooling is something professional moms who actually make their kids do math do.  I am not that.  This is more like Griswold’s School than Berenstain Bears.  I apologize homeschool Moms.  What I’m doing looks nothing like what you’re doing and I won’t pretend it does.  You’re my hero!

photo 4

I figured while we were out we might as well take a second field trip to the grocery store.  We looked at prices before we threw what we needed into the basket.  That has to count for something, right?  I made the mistake of going to the store that has you bag your own groceries and while I thought we could handle it, hello – three large children in tow – it turns out that bagging groceries is a life skill that’s been missed in their 10 years of public education.

Of course I did what any good mom would do.  I rearranged the curriculum to include bagging your groceries practice!

Yes.  I did.  My kids couldn’t believe it either.

(Note to their future wives:  You’re welcome.)

I placed a bunch of groceries on the kitchen counter in front of each kid along with one grocery bag and told them to pack it properly.  Points were given for speed, stability and unsmooshed produce.

photo 3

Bananas on the bottom?  No way, man.  Try again!  Oh I wish I had a gong….

We rounded out the day with some physical type activity they called Volleyball but I call painful and then went into more important things like baking cookies and brownies and practicing piano and wiping baseboards.

So I know my kids won’t earn a letter grade for what we did today.  I know they couldn’t ever move on to the next grade for being the best grocery packer.  I know that.  But I think they’ll be better humans for it.  Better boyfriends, husbands, sons.  Because they can make brownies!  And cookies!  And know what a crappy job cleaning baseboards is!

photo 2

We’re rolling with it, this no school thing.  I know we’re far from nailing it but that’s not important to me.  I may not be able to teach them tenth grade math or physics but I can teach them how to cook, bake, run a home, choose good books and fall more in love with their Jesus.  So I’d say it was a pretty fantastic day!

On not going back to school and what we’re going to do about it.

It’s the time of year where I start wanting to wear boots. The nights are cooler but the days are still hot and it would look entirely inappropriate (nevermind the sweating that would occur) but as August winds down I want boots and tights and plaids.

Oh, and school to start.

I only just now hung up the towel on that actually happening on time here in B.C. where we’ve had a strike going on for far too long now.
Don’t get me wrong, I love having my kids around. And I love vacation time for them. But after already having an extra 2 weeks this summer and watching all my friends around the globe post pictures of their kids first days of school, I’m feeling a bit glum. (and frustrated and pretty downright mad but I’m trying to let that go…)

I’ve done all the things I can. Mid-summer I looked into the costs for private school and nearly choked. I’ve googled online out-of-province classes for at least the grade 10 boy but even just one semester of classes would cost upwards of 2 grand and let’s all agree that considering I’m paying for his education with my tax dollars already, that just seems silly. Homeschooling seems like a lot to invest in should they go back in even a month and I’ll be honest, there’s a reason I didn’t choose that route to begin with. a) I’d suck at it and b) I want my kids in public school. It’s a choice we made long ago.

I sat and stared at my husband in bewilderment when I read the news that they would for sure not be going back. I was overcome with a weight and the words that came out were simply, “What do we do?”

Truth is, I don’t know what to do about their schooling. I don’t. But I’m not going to sit around and bemoan something I have no power over and I’m certainly not going to let my kids sit around and waste this time that they should be learning something in school.

I’m not impressed that they’re not going back to school, for sure, but I’ve decided to view the extra time, no matter how long it is, as a gift.
Maybe, in His providence, God knew I needed more time with my kids. Maybe, in His perfect plan, He saw that we needed 2 weeks, a month, 3 months to refocus. Maybe, in His goodness, He has blessed me with more time with my boys. I’m choosing to see it that way.

So what are we going to do with this gift of time we’ve been given? Well, we’re not going to sit around, that’s for sure. I have a few ideas…

1) We’re going to study, in depth, a book of the bible. We’re going to read it and reread it and listen to podcasts on it and read commentaries about it and maybe do some sort of personal art or writing or something on it. We’re going to know that thing inside out and upside down and be able to quote big chunks of it!

2) We’re going to go to the library and take out books on stuff that we want to learn about. Want to know more about sharks? Do it. Want to know who Van Gogh is? Okay! Want to learn to fish or knit or change the brakes on a car? Find a book and let’s do this thing.

3) I go back to normal work hours next week which means I’m going to teach the boys how to run a household. Meal planning? Grocery shopping? Chopping and Sauteeing? We’re going to do it. Laundry to do? Do it. Floors to be mopped? Put on some tunes and make it a party. Windowsills to be cleaned? Grab a rag.

We all know that summer vacation mode (read: laziness) can’t go on forever but what I’ve decided is that we won’t hinge our life around school or no school and let it affect us negatively when we’re unhappy with the outcome.

As a parent I want to teach my kids that even in lousy situations good can be found.

I want to teach them that when life doesn’t go as planned we can either sit and grumble or we can change the plan and be joyful in it.

I want to teach them that while the decisions of others do have a huge effect on us, they don’t need to own us.

I want to teach them that God is sovereign and he has placed the authorities over us and try as we might to control our own lives, He really is the one in control.

I want to teach them that all of life is a gift, even this. So we’re going to take that gift and make the very best of it, carrying on in joy and love and cherishing the time that He gives us.

p.s. I know that it’s not this easy for everyone. Some of you work full time and will be scrambling for child care and don’t have children old enough to help with cooking and cleaning while you’re at work and I’m sorry. I really am. But I encourage you to remember that our kids are watching how we’re dealing with this just as much as they’re watching the teachers and the government and in all things we have a choice to honour God and love people or to grumble and complain. It’s hard, I know. I get it. I do. But let’s choose the better way.

p.p.s. Want to read more back to school stuff?

Like how last year I had a hard time sending my kids back to school?  Read about it here.

Or there was this time I wrote a letter to my children’s gym shoes.