Monday, November 21, 2011

Coming Up For Air

Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; 
wisdom and power are his. 
He changes times and seasons.
Daniel 2: 20-21

Well. A few months ago, I wrote about how BB and I sensed that God was ready to move us out the chaotic survival mode we've lived for so long. But then, it didn't happen. School started and now, three months later, I found myself in a place of saying I can't do this anymore! I would wonder when the school day went way, way long if we were really doing the right thing. Or had academics become a god of sorts in our family priorities - something we (I!) were willing to spend massive amounts of time completing each week?

The blessing here is that BB and I kind of had the Aha! Moment at the same time. Providence, that! I could ramble about the particulars of our daily messes and imbalance, all the stuff that got me to the frazzled, kind of confused place of I can't do this anymore, but I won't.

What I will say is that God is faithfully taking care of me and my family. When BB and I had our combined Aha! Moment, it opened up some of the clearest and most fruitful communication we've had in a long time about schooling and our family ways and priorities and the reality of the way things are right now. We were able to get away to The Starbucks That Stays Open Until 11PM (my favorite one) and really hash things out, looking for new and better strategies (thanks to N, who offered impromptu and free babysitting that night!). I told him exactly how things are each homeschool day. He pondered what I said and then offered many practical suggestions. The main result of that discussion was a plan to trim the fat, so to speak, from our morning routines so that we could start school far earlier. Many days we were not starting until after 10am. Not good, with four to educate and two to chase!

Also, he suggested I re-implement our former routine of a fixed breakfast schedule, so that the kitchen and the people in it are not a giant mad house of half-a-dozen short-order chefs zipping around, each preparing a separate breakfast. So, for the past couple of weeks, it's been honey-cinnamon oatmeal on homeschool days, and then I plan to make our two at-school days have a set menu as well: granola and yogurt for one day and all-kinds-of toast for the other day (you know, cheese toast, buttered toast, peanut butter toast, jelly toast, or all of the above...whatever will fill you up...gotta buy another toaster, for real, before I set that plan in motion!).

So, that was a big relief. And I was praying, asking God to show us how to make changes, and what changes to make. The next thing I did was contact the girls' school administrator to let her know we were officially drowning. Wow, what a mercy that conversation turned out to be! We met very soon after I'd emailed her, and we talked for over two hours, while CJ destroyed the preschool room there at the school and CA got to join in the preschool class. She was over the moon about that and still refers to it as her class and her teacher. Sweet. But what a blessing it was, again, to open up my day to someone else and in doing so, I no longer felt alone regarding school. I needed that other set of eyes examining my ways. Oh, that has always been a hard thing for me. But it was just time. The administrator offered a lot of suggestions and was able to confirm that the average amount of time we were spending on the different subjects per child and in our group work was very average and good. She was so kind and helpful.

The lessons learned from that discussion? We were in desperate need of boundaries. Y'all, I did not have an ending time for school. We just did it until it was done, and sometimes that was late! She encouraged me to definitely strive to start earlier and to set an ending time, at which point all books are closed, no more work to be done. Mama's brain gets a break and the kids get to let their hair down. Wow, what a difference this one change is making in my state of mind! Can you hear my sigh of relief from out there, wherever you are?!

Setting start and stop times helped me almost right away to put academics back in their proper place in my heart and in my day. We need to rest and play as a family, and I need a stop, a breather for my brain, after a day of hitting the books with the kids. And no, academics are not a god and I can say no when it's time for us to stop. This way I can start supper at a reasonable hour and not feel quite so rushed from this thing to the next, which, of course, makes me a better wife and mom.

All this has made me see that I've not been very open to advice or wisdom regarding many things. Realizing this is pretty humbling. But I am glad. It's a relief to lay it all out, and there have been even more conversations with more people in recent days, and I am learning to listen better, tuck away those good ideas, and then try them. I'm also recognizing a damaging tendency in myself to insist on doing everything myself. Ah, the ever-present process of understanding oneself, then looking to Jesus for transformation....

I also see that I, that we as a family, need to become more disciplined in many areas in order that we might enjoy more downtime and hopefully more serving Jesus time, as well.

I'm realizing that I've been hand-holding too much with my oldest three kids, so we've done a little experimentation, with me not reminding them constantly to stay focused, keep following their assignments sheets, use their time wisely, and so on. Yikes, that was a hard one for all. A bit of reality discipline, you could say. It's me learning not to do so much for them and them stepping out in responsibility and hard work.

And as I mentioned before, I am praying, talking to God each day, asking Him to show me how to do this differently. As we stumble up out of an old and (I think) outdated way of facing life, I am seeing some light. For example, just setting the start-and-stop times, putting more personal responsibility on my big kids, and running a tighter ship on homeschool days has already helped me to see that I was walking in a deep fog - the fog of long-term survival mode living, where most choices made are reactionary instead of intentional.

God ordains seasons of chaos and disorder. I am fully convinced of this. Times of rapid change come with craziness most of the time (giving birth, adopting, homeschooling, adjusting to being a family of 6 kids...whew!). But as we seek to glorify God in our personal and family living, I believe He has a new way for us.

To be honest, I vacillate many days (sometimes even hour to hour) between discouragement and hope. This really is and will be an uphill battle in a lot of ways. Even when I feel sad, I truly do see His faithfulness and I am trying to give wholehearted thanks for the stumbly, often setback-riddled days of late, as well as for the surges of improvement. Really, so much needs a total overhaul - all the way from small personal habit changes to family culture changes, to deep heart and character work. But He is able to do above and beyond all I ask or imagine, isn't He?!

It's a soul-sigh blessing that the girls are on their long Thanksgiving break right now - 10 whole days with almost no homework. This is giving us a much-needed break. Right now we're all fighting pretty draining colds, but when we have a burst of energy, we are working child by child on getting summer clothes out of their rooms (well, most of was 81 degrees yesterday - gotta keep some shorts in there year 'round). I also hope to make a stab at some general purging of junk from the house whilst we weed out clothing, but we'll see.

So, please pardon me these days while my thinking is a bit muddled and we are prayerfully striving to rearrange priorities, create new habits, design wiser boundaries, and hopefully bring glory to the Savior in it all, by His grace. One thing I'd love, as time goes by, is to post more frequently and more thoughtfully, God willing.

1131. Filling up the bird feeder with CA yesterday, and anticipating the happy, energetic creatures who will come to it soon

1132. Saying Yes to AH yesterday, when she wanted to take a walk

1133. Pansies in the front flower bed - how long has it been since we planted flowers there?

1134. That BB planted the leftover pansies for me in my kitchen window flower box

1135. Friends and family who are offering such good, wise, and helpful advice - thank you.

1136. A new Bible study: Esther

1137. Those low, dramatic gray clouds even though they dropped no rain

1138. A little nap today for BB and me (we tag team sleeps, then the other, when we're both tired enough to need a nap, which is almost always, haha!)

1139. Him home safely again from a business trip

1140. The places God has allowed me to visit; beauties He's allowed me to see; flavors He's allowed me to taste

1141. Advent season coming

1142. Our first Advent season with AH here
photos: November roses at our favorite cafe, and CA in her appropriately worded thrifted t-shirt

And if you've read this far...well, thanks! You're a superstar. That's a lot of words up there, all that thinking out loud. I am thankful for you, that you've stopped in here. God bless you today. I've prayed for you...

1 comment:

  1. So glad you reached your ahah moment! I will continue to pray for you and your girls as you transition!!! Love you all very much!