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A Mother’s Feast: April 2015

A Mother’s Feast: April 2015

Mother's Feast Option 3

Hello again, my friends.  It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Though absent from the blogging world, I have been quite active in the “everyday life” world.  Indeed, thanks to an unexpectedly restful month spent at my parents home, I have found myself finally managing to blend my grandiose ideas into the nitty-gritty of everyday life. Truly, the past two months have been a time of feasting for this (once weary) mother.

You see, in spite of all my contemplating on the need for something other than practical pursuits, I was used up.  Wrung out mentally, emotionally and physically, with only my own needs and broken dreams overwhelming every moment of my days, I lacked any strength with which to enact change.  I had lost all perspective, wandering in some lost land and terrified that I would drag my children into it with me.

But thanks to my many gracious and wonderful online friends, and their wise pursuit of better things, I was able to realize that I had lost all perspective. So one day my sister called, and I spoke honestly about the things I was struggling with. Quick decisions were made, and I found myself at my parent’s home, resting.  Suddenly I had help in the middle of the night.  Suddenly I could rest and my children were still tended to.  Suddenly my family was surrounded with love and care, and all I had to do was recover.  Suddenly I realized that I had never been created to face such things alone, that others stood ready to pick up the burden I could carry no longer.  Suddenly I understood why God tells us we need each other.

The biggest change began with a book I purchased on a whim a while ago: The Book of Not So Common Prayer.  Written by Linda McCullough Moore, I had never heard of either the book or the author. I can not remember the last time I purchased a book without having some inkling of what the pages would contain. But purchase it I did, and in those early days at my mother’s house I began to read it.

Somehow this book seemed to address the issues at the very heart of a mother’s need to feed her mind and soul. How can we expect to really know God, to benefit from His guidance, if we are unwilling to take disciplined steps to ensure we spend time with Him?  She wrote as a busy author and mother, one who had learned to allow the transformation of self that came when one purposefully determined to spend time with God.   Not because it makes us holier, or because it earns us “good points. As Mrs. Moore says, “Prayer changes our lives, but prayer is not a self-improvement project.”

“We will find that just the effort to pray is very instructive in itself. When we try to be good, we see exactly how bad we are.  When we narrow the channels in our lives, in the sense that we impose certain boundaries on time and activity, this heightened focus means we bump more often into the sides, the constraints, and these often serve as wonderful correctives. It truly is a holding environment, a space in which to ‘live, and move, and have our being.’ (Acts 17:28)”

“In the end, instead of being confined, we feel only more expansive and free.  This freedom comes from living with restraints conforming to our nature. A little boy is given goldfish in a bowl but wants his fish to be free, and so he scoops them up and puts them on the floor, where they can play unimpeded by the glass container.  We are no wiser than he, confusing freedom with a lack of limits. The discipline of regular praying times frees us to fit with our design and know the harmony of living as we have been created to live.”

As I read these pages and wrestled with the ideas contained within them, I found myself pointed back to where I needed to be: at the feet of Jesus.  One passage that I found particularly convicting was this: “Do we pray in order to know God better? Or do we pray in order to tell God what he and we already know in great detail about ourselves, our lives, our needs, our wants and wishes, our miseries and dissatisfactions, and the ultimate direction we would like to see things go, failing in the end to know the Lord to whom we pray?”  This was exactly what I had been doing.

My first weak struggles back towards the land of the sane and capable were accomplished on my knees, a book open before me and my pen at my side.  I began to copy out the book of Hebrews by hand.  I finished The Book of Not So Common Prayer and I began another.  I emerged from my daze and found that I had thoughts again, thoughts worth speaking of. I smiled at my children again, and gradually they relaxed in my presence as my constant tears subsided.  I learned to first place my troubles at the feet of Jesus before I discussed them with others.

Now I’m back home, and those first few days I almost slid back.  I cleaned and unpacked, and didn’t even step outside.  At the end of two days I felt my temper fraying and my sadness increasing.  But I heard something else, too.  I heard my soul saying “What about me? You have been given a way to nourish your mind and feed your soul.  Are these things truly worth starving?” As the eloquent Linda Moore says, “Prayer is not something we do in a vacumn. Prayer is affected by the hours in the day when we aren’t praying.”

So the next day I left my messy living room a mess. We went outside and spent all morning in His creation while we learned.  Instead of panicking and scolding myself for oversleeping, I would waken and thank God for the rest He had allowed me to enjoy.  I planted flowers outside my door, and I picked up a book, and I read for 10 minutes.  Two days later a kind friend called and asked is there was any way she could help. So I swallowed my pride, invited her over, and she helped me clean that awful living room.

As I scribble these thoughts into an old, water-damaged notebook, I am reminded again of my need for balance.  The blending of idealism and reality is not impossible, but it is difficult and requires discipline.  Meals, tidying up, clean laundry: none of these things are less important than they were before.  Rather I must  continue to do That Thing I Hate: walk away from a task and move on to the next thing that must be tended to.  Maintain rather than complete. Every time I choose to do something I am choosing not to do a hundred other things.  Therefore the things I choose must matter.

That’s been my journey these last few months.  How have you been?  I’d very much love to hear about what you’re studying, learning, feasting upon.

Question: would you all enjoy it if I began to post a collection of links on this and related topics midway through each month?

Guidelines:

Any posts on this topic are welcome.  From practical to philosophical, from grand plans to nitty-gritty implementation, there is much need for this issue to be discussed.

This link-up will be open for a month: please feel free to add more than one link during that time.

Remember to link to a specific post and not your whole site.

 

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4

Bullet Journal Attempt

I have about 20 blog post drafts, 3 gifts to make and a Thanksgiving celebration to plan.  So I thought I’d take a moment to do what I do best: procrastinate.  It’s sort of Amy Jo’s fault.  Okay, it’s all her fault.  She mentioned Bullet Journals, and I just HAD to look it up one morning, which led me to discover that it would solve ALL of my problems and I would magically become superwoman!

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Okay, not quite.  I’m jumping in mostly because (A) I’ve had this grid journal for years and now have an excuse to use it and (B) as much as I love Paperless Organization, there are aspects of it that really didn’t work for me. It requires periodic access to an electronic device, and I’m wasting too much time on those.  Also, I don’t think it’s good for the children to see me constantly checking my tablet, which they mentally associate with gaming.  But I absolutely need something which I can access repeatedly.

I don’t know if Bullet Journaling will solve any of these issues, but I managed to set my system up in tiny bits throughout the day: it was the least time-consuming to figure out of all the systems I’ve tried.  Admittedly, the principles and methodology laid out in Paperless Home Organization have gone a long way towards helping me discover what does and does not work.  All that to say… I couldn’t find anything about homeschool mothers utilizing such a system.  So I figured I’d talk a little about what I’m doing, and later I’ll decide if it works.

I have a set of “beginning pages” immediately after the index which contain information I need to reference to plan my days.

Daily Rhythm this page reminds me not to get bogged down into one particular aspect of our day.

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Recurring Tasks These pages remind me of tasks that will roll around regularly.  I have one page for monthly tasks, one page for each day of the week, and I *might* add a daily page, I haven’t decided.

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School Notes  One page for each topic, in which I can write down a book to buy, a memory selection to add to the rotation or a resource I am considering utilizing.  Many of these ideas come to me during school time, and I don’t like trying to enter them into the Evernote.

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Important Contacts  There’s not very many addresses and phone numbers that need to be kept on paper: but for those that do, they go on this page.

Planning Ahead If there’s an important event that’s far enough ahead I don’t have the pages prepared for it, I will mark it on this page and then transfer it to the appropriate month when ready.

Chore Lists  We have 1/2 hour chore times after every meal, but I have trouble focusing on my work and coming up with tasks that the children can tend to. They each have a few standard chores, but those only take them 10 minutes or less. I’m hoping that by having a standard list of appropriate chore ideas, I can look at the beginning of each day, decide what is the most pressing need and add it to their list of assignments.

I gave each month it’s own shopping list.

The Daily Calendar is where I really changed things up.  I tried going with just one page, but not far into the first day I realized that  I’m going to need a two-page spread for each day.

Each daily page will be given 5 sections

Household is anything related to indoor maintenance.

School is anything related to the children’s education.

Personal is where I jot down tasks for my personal education, notes on the children’s health or behavior, a prayer request, an inspiring thought or a tender moment, a book I want to add to my list, a letter I want to write…..

Farm is for anything related to outdoor maintenance: the garden and animals both come under this heading.

Writing is where I will add blog tasks, thoughts I want to share on the AO Forum or note one of the 100 random (but catchy!) sentences that occur to me throughout any given day.

 

 

1

A Vision for a Home

I’m not sure when this thought, that I needed to have a vision for my home, first started to blossom in my mind.  Perhaps in a way I always knew it.  But several months ago I was feeling crushed under the weight of it all.  Never very industrious, I found myself working from dawn until dusk and collapsing into bed exhausted each night.  Yet nothing was changing.  Not only that, the state of things in and around my home seemed to be steadily deteriorating in spite of my best efforts. I needed a vision.

It has taken a bit of time to find my sense of direction.  After all, I was trying to change the way I thought.  It wasn’t enough to build new habits, I had to build a new attitude and I wasn’t sure where to start.  Some women told me to remember that loving my children was more important than cleaning.  Yet I had to admit that our home was getting in the way of loving my children, not the other way around.  If I wanted to care for them adequately I had to do better, not let things slide.  Reading organizational blogs did no good.  Any time I tried to organize the house would be in chaos for weeks before I got us back on track.  I am terrified of having visitors, yet reluctant to leave the house because I have so much that needs done.  I hated my home and yet I could not leave it.

My study of Charlotte Mason and her educational philosophy was the first place I began to realize I could keep house without crushing my soul.  Caring for my home should not define me, but  it needed done before I would be free to pursue other interests.

I began to realize I had been going about it all wrong.  Charlotte Mason tells us “Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.”  I was trying so frantically to create a home life that was worth living that I was ignoring the atmosphere and the discipline.  I needed to back down and start over.

Atmosphere.  This would be my starting point.

So I struggled on, trying to cope with pregnancy and summer and homeschooling.  But now I had hope.  I quit fooling myself that things would change in a few weeks, and I came to grips with the idea of achieving goals in a few years.  Because the only thing that happens quickly around small children is chaos, not order.

I began to consciously think about what I really, really wished was different and what didn’t bother me, and I made a few surprising discoveries.

Andrea Dekker reminded me that everyone’s priorities were going to be different, and I needed to discover what mattered to my family.  I have envied her home from time to time, but reading through her list made me realize that all the things that mattered to me did not matter to her.  Therefore, my home would never, ever be like hers.  I realized I was completely okay with that.

I discovered I wanted books and words everywhere.  I wanted time, space and inspiration so I could take a bit of my soul and mix it with the work of my hands and produce something both beautiful and practical.  I wanted animals, both pets and livestock.  I wanted to tend to them well, to reap the fruit of my labors in milk and eggs and companionship.  I wanted to garden, to have flowers around the yard and herbs in pots and giant tomato plants in the vegetable garden. I wanted to serve real food at organized meal times, to harvest the herbs from my woods and use them to treat my family.   These things MATTER to me.  Time to explore the woods, to watch the birds, to pick wildflowers and harvest berries and gather acorns.  Time to read, to soak, to think.  Clean surfaces: tables, floors, countertops, beds.  No piles of laundry.

In the evenings I would look at the pile of laundry on the couch, the children playing rowdily on the kitchen floor and occasionally jumping off their beds, and My Man on the computer as I cooked a late dinner. The children would be herded and scolded through their showers as I cleaned up from dinner, and those children who weren’t showering would be aimlessly wondering about the house pestering each other.  Far too late, with tempers frayed and everyone worked up, the children would be laid down and I would either try to finish cleaning up from dinner or I would collapse hopelessly on the pile of toys and blankets and dirt that was my living room floor and watch TV and pretend I didn’t care.  I hated every minute of our evening routine: why should I assume it was any better for anyone else?  I wanted dinner ready when My Man came home, I wanted places to sit in the evenings, I wanted everyone to pitch in and clean up from dinner, and then I wanted to read aloud, to talk, to sing and build and sew quietly, all together as a family.  We needed a time of peace before bed, and I had no idea how to achieve it.

What doesn’t matter?  A well-decorated home. Lots of clothing choices.  Eating out.  Landscaping.  (Big difference in gardening and landscaping.)  Keeping up with my favorite TV shows.  Coordinated furniture.  Crayon-free walls.  Sheets that match.

The ceiling in our LR that is nothing more than drywall 3 years after it was put in?  Nope, doesn’t bother me at all.  The crayon marks all over the wall of the kid’s room?  Not worth painting over.   What did bother me was books out of place, projects on my sewing table that I never sat down and sewed on, or the clutter that spread from so many surfaces in our tiny home, constantly shifted from place to place.

One day I ran across Auntie Leila’s great question:  Do you know what’s for dinner?  Is your laundry under control?

Um, No.

Finally, I had my place to start.

I have a long ways to go before I achieve my goal of clean surfaces.  But it feels good to realize what it is I’m attempting to accomplish, and to have a definite plan of attack.  Story time is happening daily.  The majority of evenings are peaceful.  The big yard sale we’re having next week should help with the surface clutter.  Time marches on.

3

Homeschool Library Organization: Part 1

Within the innocuous shed that borders our patio, a storm awaits.  This shed houses my beloved book collection and our craft supplies, and it is sadly out of order.  This is what I’m up against.  Yes, I know it’s gotten awful.  I cry when I see books treated like this as well.

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West side, facing the patio

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East side, Facing the garden

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East side, facing the patio

It needs painted.  It needs more light.  Most of all, it needs organized in a way that I remember and use.  *gulp*  All of this needs done without neglecting school.  Or chores.  Or sick children, or healthy meals.  Therefore, it must be done in tiny increments of time.

It’s not all awful.  Some shelves look neat and organized.  (Mostly the shelves the children can’t reach)
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But by and large, this place needs work!  A few plans:

Rather than alphabetizing, books will now be divided up by Reading level and Ambleside Online years.   I’m sure there will also be a million miscellaneous shelves, but I haven’t gotten that far yet.  🙂

The dresser needs moved out and a reading nook created in it’s place so my older children have a quiet place to read without the little ones trying to steal their books and turn pages for them.  Thank goodness for Pinterest!

Some of these books need to go.  Since I began reading  Charlotte Mason’s works my taste in suitable books has altered drastically, and I’m finding that some of these are no longer the type of book I want to fill my shelves with.  SO some of these dear friends will be moving on to make way for better books.  *sniff*  I’ll probably cry a lot with that part, and every now and then I’ll even post about this painful decision making progress.

Wish me luck: I’m going to need it!