Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Give Me an Inch...or a Mile.

With all my thinking about self-discipline, time management, and extra hours in a day of late, it was bound to lead me to some fruitful conclusions. The other day a lovely acquaintance of mine with whom I had actually lost touch contacted me through my blog and said that she and her husband have finally agreed that it's time to start homeschooling their five children, and wanted to know if we could get together and chat.  I prayed before she came.  I wanted to have the right words to encourage her in her decision.  In that prayer it seemed that all of those meditations I've been having and writing about came together.  It came together something like this:

 With the best of intentions, I try to get what I think should be done by XX date, and suffer the consequences of trying to make the zero sum equation add up to something.  There is that temptation to do things in my own strength. I deceive myself by comparing myself to everyone else who appears to be doing better than I, and holding myself to standards that belong to others.  Then I am left to dodge the accusations that the enemy throws at me telling me that it's not enough, I'm not enough, that I will never quite measure up.  They don't have to be big lies...just the little ones that slither through my brain like the little back yard snakes my kids like to catch. 
But here's what I told my friend, and ultimately myself.  I have an overarching goal for homeschooling my children.  It is the big picture goal of how I want this to turn out.  I have no idea what tomorrow holds, but this I know--I have set my hand to the task of raising and educating my children.  Every day we move a bit further toward that goal.  One day we may move an inch in the right direction, and other days we may move a mile, and some days we may even find ourselves at a standstill.  Even so, we never, ever move backward.  Never.  When I compare myself to others who seem to be great homeschoolers, I forget that they are moving targets and are probably doing the same thing!  What chaos that creates!  Imagine a whole mass of people all attempting to get a look at each other and no one is standing still for a second!  There is only one point of comparison that I have to make--am I becoming more like Jesus?  Am I raising my children to be more like him?  He is the only fixed point on a map entirely made of desert lands, where everything is constantly shifting.  When I am focused on the task at hand, and the one who enables me to accomplish that task, then I have not failed.  If every day ordained for me was known before the foundation of the world (Psalm 139), and I didn't get something on my list done, then it wasn't in his plan, and his is the one that matters.

Thank God for the peace of knowing that each day was ordained by him with just the right number of hours, the freedom not to compare, and the joy of being enough for my children, completely equipped by the Holy Spirit to fulfill the mission of building their home and guiding their hearts.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

About Those Extra Hours...

Barbara Kingsolver, in her lovely book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle wrote about figuring out a way home from college that saved her 37 minutes on the drive.  Upon arriving home and telling her family about this incredible navigational feat, her grandfather mused, "Thirty-seven...and here you just used up fifteen of them telling all about it.  What's your plan for the other twenty-two?"

She goes on to say something that rocked my day...maybe my life:
Good question.  I'm still stumped for an answer, whenever the religion of time-saving pushes me to zip through a meal or a chore, rushing everytbody out the door to the next point on the schedule.  All that hurry can blur the truth that life is a zero-sum equation.  Every minute I save will get used on something else, possibly no more sublime than staring at the newel post trying to remember what I just ran upstairs for.  On the other hand, attending to the task in front of me--even a quotidian chore--might make it into part of a good day, rather than just a rock in the road to someplace else.
Wasn't I just complaining about not having enough time in a day?  It was just what I needed to hear today.  

The Well-Trained Body

After a lovely spring break, it's back to lessons.  I was reflecting on all I have on my agenda this week, and what we really need to focus on in our school work and came to the conclusion that there simply are not enough hours in the day to get it all done.  I've taken on the task of completing Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred on top of it all, which is huge, because I hate to exercise.  I love being active and outside, walking and working, but I hate exercising for the sake of it.  I've been fighting this battle for so long, and the other day, I came to a conclusion--I can't do it.  I simply cannot do this.  If for the last 10 years of my life I've been thinking about how much I need to train my body for the sake of health and never succeeding, then it's a pretty safe bet that it's not going to get easier or feel better or change anytime soon.  Something has to give and it has to be radical.  The "just do it" mentality just ain't doin' it.

So the other day I was driving and thinking hard about this, trying to figure out what is missing.  It's simple, really--like the keys you run around looking for but all the while you are holding in your hand.  I realized that God is missing from my exercise.  If in fact my flesh is bent on destruction, sin and death, (and it is!) then my spirit, which is being renewed by God, wants strength and health and long life for the sake of my family and my earthly service to the Lord.  But in all this time I have never invited Him into the experience, never asked Him to be in it with me, never admitted that something as "nonspiritual" as exercise could not be accomplished without Him.  I think the key word is "admitted."  There was that sense that I should hold this back, do this one thing on my own.  Certainly God is not  interested in being a personal trainer to me for something I really should be able to handle on my own.  Stop right there.  On the contrary, we cannot separate out the fact that we are flesh and spirit.  We are completely fleshly and completely spiritual beings.  Therefore, the exercise of our fleshly bodies is as spiritual as it is carnal.  As I drove, I found myself inviting the Lord into this experience, but I was so shy about it, so self-conscious, as though He perhaps might turn me down.  In short, He didn't.  He accepted the invitation with pleasure, and met me in my morning workout in a wonderful and personal way.  It was a joy, not a burden, and a meeting with my Father in a way that I want to experience more.

Are my struggles with exercise over?  Not by a long shot, I'm sure.  But I am encouraged in that I have taken one more stubborn part of my heart and surrendered it to the Lord.  I now cannot find a reason why I "can't" do it.  Philippians 4:13

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Christ Is Risen...

He is risen indeed!  Alleluia! 
That first Alleluia feels so good after 40 days of reflecting on how sinful I am.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Good Friday

Lent will soon be over, for which the children will be most pleased.  Matty gave up drinking juice in an attempt to train himself to drink more water.  Molly gave up candy.  I gave up the usual wine, and attempted to begin an exercise regimen, as I seek to develop more of the self control that I so dearly want.  This Lenten season has been enlightening for me.  It came in a way that I would not have expected, but in the daily devotions I do with the children, I learned something new / old, simple / profound.  We are currently going through Training Hearts, Teaching Minds and we came to the catechism question that says, "What is sinful about man's sinful condition?" The answer says:

The sinfulness of that fallen condition is twofold.  First in what is commonly called original sin, there is the guilt of Adam's first sin with its lack of original righteousness and the corruption of his whole nature.  Second are all the specific acts of disobedience that come from original sin.

I looked up from the book to see four brown eyes blinking at me with a quizzical "huh?" Thankfully, the text of the devotional explained it saying, "...not only do we do things that are sinful, we are sinful."  Right.  That was explained to us with the gospel, the thing that propelled us to the altar, to get ourselves right with God, the whole bit...except I never really got the part that I am sinful. I understood clearly that I am a sinner because I sin.  I just never fully grasped the understanding that everything in me is inclined to sin and without God's grace, I cannot please him.  This is not because I exited the womb slashing and burning and sinning all over the place.  It was that my heart, from the outset, was bent on turning away from God and setting myself and any number of idols in that place where He alone should be--Lord of All.  I get it!  (At least today I do.)  It's one of those "got it" moments when I understand on a molecular level--not just in my mind, but a "know in my knower" kind of feeling.  Of course on a logical level I could have explained this to any Joe on the street at any point, I mean after all, I've been a Christian since I could sit upright.  But today, I know.

So all through lent, I watched the children work very hard at finding substitutes for what they lacked.  Matty drank more milk, or lemon water--anything with a little flavor to help curb his craving for juice and flavored drinks.  Molly's constant question was, "Do cookies count as candy?  Does cake count as candy?  Do brownies count as candy?"  It was the onset of legalism in its purest form--I shall strive in my flesh not to sin against God by messing up, and in so doing will set up lots of little idols in the place of sacrifice.  I saw how the desire for something we ought not have grows so strong in us when we are denied that thing.  It is impossible for us to do otherwise, except by the transformation of grace in our lives--the renewing of our minds by the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 2:3 says, "All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath." I was an object of wrath, incapable of pleasing God without taking upon myself the nature of his Son, the only one who was born sinless and lived a sinless life, yet paid the price for the sin of mankind. But now when He sees me, he sees something completely different--an object of grace and mercy--so the rest of that passage makes sense:

Ephesians 2:4-9 "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."