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Archives - January 2015

The Blessedness of Ordinary

January 22, 2015
By Edie Wadsworth

"In His incarnation, Christ has knit creation back together and sanctified our flesh, our mundane.  He has redeemed for us all the 'actual textures of physical life' and granted us the 'full extent of the  mysteries of the incarnation and all that flows from it, and all that make our mortal life fruitful once more."

"The incarnation took all that properly belongs to our humanity and delivered it back to us, redeemed.  All of our inclinations and appetites and capacities and yearnings are purified and gathered up and glorified by Christ.  He did not come to thin out human life;  He came to set it free.   All the dancing and feasting and processing and singing and building and sculpting and baking and merrymaking that belong to us, and that were stolen away into the service of false gods, are returned to us in the gospel.”~Thomas Howard

You know the list.   Laundry, cooking, dishes, cleaning, some crafting, and  even the noble task of rearing young children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.   It's quite noble work but it's so easy to despise it.   To wish it away while daydreaming about grandiose plans and schemes of some lofty new year’s goals & a big important job where your work is highly valued.

But my life doesn't look like that most days.

Most days, I'm here doing ordinary work  in a never ending cycle.

Washing the same dishes, cooking the same food, folding the same load of laundry, over and over again.

But today, I choose to relish it.

I hold the laundry tight and inhale extra long and think about the love that is modeled when a woman washes the same clothes over and over, day in, day out----almost touching something sacred----this washing and consecrating of materials things for a noble and good purpose.   Lingering in the renewal that comes from being clean.   My heart aches for that washing too.   Perhaps it's a blessed thing, this daily rhythm of life.

We love the grand scale, the best days, the shiny things.  

But what about all those ordinary days?  Where is God then?

He always chooses the ordinary things to do his greatest work.

He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.

He chose ordinary fishermen.

He comes to us in the most humble of ways.

He gives bread to feed us, water to wash us, a baby in manger to be the salvation of the world.

He is no despiser of the small days.

It is in them that we see the key to life.

Not in falling in love but in loving everyday,  with clean socks and warm soup.

Not in that one blissful day of childbirth but in the birth of each day, one a time, where the daily routine teaches us to depend on our Father,  who has made no provision for tomorrow---but only today, in this daily bread.

Perhaps this thing I've come to dread----this daily drudgery----is in fact my greatest teacher, in disguise.

Teaching me to live in this moment.  With these children.  And this sacred work.    It's really all there is.

Today is the day of salvation.

So, I hold on tightly to little hands.   And I stir the soup.   And I fold the towels.

And I say thank you for this work, this calling.

And for this blessed ordinary day---where grace and mercy rain down and turn water into wine, drudgery into vocation, and curse into blessing.

Public School, Homeschool, or Private School: What Not to Do

January 16, 2015
By Tracy Carrin

When our first child was four years old my husband and I found ourselves in a sea of choices about his education.  Adrift on uncharted waters, we researched and prayed.  Public school? Homeschool? Private school?  Questions did not always lead to answers, but more questions.  Eventually, we did discern the will of God in order to begin educating our firstborn, but after three children and many years of educating, we still frequently re-evaluate the educational needs of each child.

Are you trying to discern the best educational path for your child?  Consider the following:

We must not let our child decide.

Children do not have the wisdom to discern which educational choice is best for them.  Their opinion should be heard and valued but not solely relied upon.

We must not let our friends decide.

Making choices because of peer pressure rarely yields a wise decision.  We may have to swim upstream to do what we think is best for our child.

We must not let our extended family decide.

Family members often have strong feelings about choices in education.  If Aunt Sue was a public school teacher, there may be pressure to go that route.  If your sister homeschools, there may be an expectation to choose that route.  While we should consider their opinions, the privilege and the burden of the decision rests on us.

We must not let our anxieties decide.

Remember God’s instruction in Philippians 4: 6-7.  “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

We must not let our finances decide.

Homeschooling and private education sometimes come with hefty price tags.

Consider God’s promise of help and provision.  Finances factor significantly in our plans, but let’s not forget that God can provide a way for us to follow our convictions.

We must not let our own educational experience decide.

Just because we were educated one way does not necessarily mean that way is a good fit for our child.  Each person has a unique personality, unique gifts, varying levels of intelligence, and a special path God has ordained.

We must not let our fatigue or discouragement decide.

How many times has our exhaustion caused us to lose heart?  During those times of parental fatigue and discouragement we may look for an “easy way.”  Beware.  We may need to stay the course through the tough time rather than altering our path due to difficulties.

Each of these may be a factor in decision-making, but beware of allowing one of them to steer the ship.  We can trust the Master of the sea to guide us. Remember that He says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go.  I will counsel you and watch over you” (Psalm 32:8). Let’s pray and listen for His instruction.  After all, He loves our children even more than we do.

 

Three Reasons to Still Read as a Family

January 09, 2015
By Chelsea Carrier

A few weeks ago I was in the library with my 6th graders. As they lay on the rug reading Nancy Drew and perusing the shelves for books both desired and required, my eyes caught sight of a book I hadn’t heard in years.

It was The Good Sam Harrington, and I vividly remembered watching my best friend’s mom recite it. Mrs. Stockton is one of the best story-tellers I know, and I remembered how even in high school she had held me spellbound as she performed a dramatic retelling of the simple book she had memorized. I slipped the book from the shelf, thinking I’d try it out on my eighth graders during study hall. I asked them to simply be respectful as I read and even told them they could work as they listened.

At first, I was too busy trying to read the story well (and honestly getting caught up in it myself) that I didn’t pay much attention to my students’ responses. But at one point I managed to see some of them in my peripheral. They were sitting there, looking at me, eyes filled with anticipation. The same pairs of eyes that give me blank stares. The same pairs of eyes that have rolled in my presence. The same pairs of eyes that have narrowed in deep thought at times and widened with laughter at others. Once again, I was reminded of the importance of reading to children, regardless of their age.

Below are three reasons why you should still read as a family.

1.      Reading as a family allows your child to learn from your example.

 

I remember sitting in my dad’s lap while he read this little book called The Little Taxi that Hurried. No one can read that book like my dad. One of these differences has to do with sound effects. Only Dad can make that taxi honk properly. Thankfully, I have five younger brothers and a sister, so dad hasn’t stopped reading The Little Taxi that Hurried. In fact, everyone crowds in the living room when he reads to the younger kids.

 

As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that more than the sound effects, different voices, and expression, one of the beautiful things about my dad’s reading is that it isn’t perfect. He stumbles over sentences and mispronounces words, just like the rest of us, but he doesn’t care because he loves his kids and wants to share a story with them. For some reason, I’ve noticed that people tend to approach reading aloud like praying: if you can’t do it perfectly, then don’t do it all. While we want our students to improve their reading skills and learn to become engaging storytellers, it’s important to remember that we are all human, which means we are full of quirks and imperfections and therefore in desperate need of a holy and loving God. When you read with your children, you are providing them with not only a model of good reading but a parable of living in grace.

 

2.      Reading as a family allows older children to encourage and challenge younger children.

 

About a year ago, I read a few passages from The Hobbit in my living room during  a discussion I was having with my mom and fifteen-year-old brother. I didn’t anticipate my other younger brother and sister listening. They asked me if I could read the book to them. They were six and seven, but I thought I’d humor them. and then let it go when they got bored. But they wanted to hear the story. After about twenty minutes or so, my voice would start cracking, my throat would grow dry, and they would still be asking me to keep on reading. It was during those months that we read that I realized how important it is for younger children to listen to challenging books. Not only does it make them feel special because someone is paying attention to them, but reading challenging books familiarizes them with advanced vocabulary, grammar, and style. In addition to exposing them to language, many times reading challenging classics introduces children to the great ideas and themes explored in literature, generating vital conversations at home.

 

3.      Reading as a family allows younger children to encourage older children.

 

I tried an experiment a year or two ago. I told my seventh graders they were going to read to kindergarten. We practiced reading children’s books. No one complained. Little kids don’t know when you mess up, or at least they don’t care. Students who struggled with reading Dickens and Shakespeare had five and six-year-olds in their laps hanging on their every word. One young man in particular caught my attention. I already knew he was a good kid and that he thought deeply, but reading took him a while. He had those kids entranced, and he came alive, reading them this story, and all I could think was, “He’s going to make an amazing dad.”

 

Not only did my seventh graders find a “safe zone” for reading, but they were able to minister to children in a practical way. They also experienced success with reading, something that some of them rarely experience or believe possible.

True learning is a lifestyle involving a community of people at various ages leading, serving, encouraging, and challenging one another. So create some free minutes this evening, have everyone pick out a book, and read together.


 

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