Time for a little update

Wow, I really didn’t mean to take an almost 2-week long blogging break! Life around here has been a bit busier than normal, and I have had a lot going on in my head, too. I just could not seem to get my thoughts in order enough to even consider writing anything until tonight. It’s been a while since I just sat down and wrote a chatty post about what our family has been up to lately. So I thought I’d do that now. I hope you don’t mind!

House Updates:

In answer to many, many months of prayers, we finally have a buyer for our Illinois house! We will be closing that sale in 2 weeks or less, hallelujah! We are so ready to have that burden off our minds. We pray the house will be a blessing to the new family as it was for us as long as we lived there!

The really crazy house news, however, is that just a couple of week after we close on our Illinois house, we will be finalizing the purchase of a new home here in Tennessee! We were not originally planning on buying a house here quite this fast, but the right house in the right location for the right price came across our path. We will be downsizing a bit, so we plan to unload a few more boxes and pieces of furniture we haven’t used since moving to Tennessee. And we will be painting the whole house and replacing all the carpet before we move in, so…um…there may be more unintentional long blogging breaks coming up in the next few months!

Job Updates:

I am not sure if I’ve mentioned it before here or not, but I started working childcare one morning a week. We’ve been attending a large church in the area for several months, and I found out they needed more workers for their weekday morning Bible studies. It has been nice to have a little paycheck, and the kids are able to come with me and play with friends while I work.

Again, the bigger news is that my husband will be starting a part-time music pastor position in the next few weeks. We visited and led worship at the church this past Sunday and enjoyed meeting the congregation. It is a small church that was started just 7 years ago as a church plant, and the people seem to genuinely care for one another and to be seeking to grow together in Christ. I look forward to growing along with them for however long God has us there to serve!

Homeschool Updates:

Homeschooling is going along well, in spite of our usual morning schedule being interrupted at least once a week. I don’t enjoy doing school in the afternoon, but it does work on those days when we have to be out of the house in the morning. My son is reading so voraciously in our free time that I am having to be very resourceful in coming up with age-appropriate, quality books to check out from the library. Thank goodness for the AmblesideOnline Advisory lists of family favorites that are not part of the AO curriculum. I simply do not have time to read everything before my son does, so I have to find people I trust to give me good book recommendations!

Random Updates:

It’s spring consignment sale season here already. The timing is actually pretty good since I need to get rid of some more stuff before we move! This week I have been pulling boxes out of the basement and washing, ironing, and tagging the kids’ clothes from last spring. I also am going through old toys and books and DVDs to see what else we might be able to sell. Next I need to work on my kids’ spring capsule wardrobe list so I know what to look for when I do my own shopping!

And the best thing about having all this time sitting tagging items for sale? I get to sit and watch the Winter Olympics and not feel at all guilty that I’m wasting time!

Now that I’ve shared all my news, I would love to hear what’s new with you! Leave me a comment and let me know how 2018 has been treating you!

Growth: Slow and Steady Progress

Here we are at the bright, shiny (and very cold!) beginning of the new year–2018. I cannot begin to describe the ups and downs that our family experienced in 2017, but I can say with certainty that we are happy we came through it all. We are stronger, closer, and I pray, more faithful now than we were when the year began. It was a year of hardship and testing, of waiting, of uncertainty, and of more waiting. We received many blessings and many of our prayers were answered in amazing ways. Other prayers still wait for answers, but that gives us something to look forward to in the year to come, does it not?!

I have been away from the blog for a couple of weeks, not intentionally, but because I have been spending a lot of my free time thinking and planning and writing in my journal. My thoughts have needed time to sit and soak before I could put them into words. Even now as I sit down to write this post, I am hesitant to put my thoughts into print because I am still in the process of sorting things out in my mind. Still, I wanted to begin writing some things here, partly for accountability, partly just so you all would know I am still alive over here!

If you happen to have come to Tuning Hearts from my old blog, then you may remember that a couple of years ago I jumped on the “Word of the Year” bandwagon. I don’t actually remember if I chose a word for 2017, though. And if I did, it probably should have just been “Survive” because that pretty well sums up what I felt like I did all year! But this year is going to be different. This year we are going to thrive!

Recently, through various social media channels, I found out about Lara Casey’s Goal Setting blog series. Even though I had already started planning and sketching out some goals for 2018, I decided to try her steps as outlined in the series. Can I just tell you how glad I am that I did this? Lara’s posts have inspired and challenged me to think even more deeply about the changes I hope to see in my life and in the life of our family in the future. And the best part of all her steps (for me, at least) has been the forward-thinking nature of goal setting. She challenges her readers not just to think about what they want to accomplish in 2018, but who they want to be when they are 80 years old. When you frame your plans and goals in light of who you want to be when you come to the end of your life, it really changes your perspective! Now instead of thinking just about how my goals and desires can help me “do better” in certain areas of my life,  I am thinking about what I should pursue to become the person that God wants me to be and how that will affect my family, friends, church and community as well!

The hopes that I have for 2018, the changes I want to make, all point to this one theme: growing what I have already been given. The Lord has been good to me. He has set me on a path, and I am moving forward. He has given me a strong foundation. Now I need to keep on track and grow in the things that He has set before me to do. I need personal growth, relational growth, growth in my work and in my habits and in my recreation. I never want to stop learning and growing and becoming more of who God wants me to be. I do not want to stagnate.

I know there is hard work ahead.  A lot of my goals are going to require a good deal of self-control and discipline to accomplish. But I also know that it will be well worth it if I keep moving steadily forward. I am not expecting or chasing after perfection here. I am just looking for progress. I am aiming for small improvements over the course of each day, each week and each month, until at the end of year I can look back and see a track record of steady growth.

In another post, I will talk more in depth about some or all of my goals. At this point, I am still fleshing some of them out, so I am not ready to write about them yet. So be looking for that post later this week! Until then, I would love to hear if you have a word or phrase that you are going to focus on in 2018. What do you want to see God do in your life this year? Tell me about it in the comments below! Let’s cheer each other on and keep each other accountable to keep moving forward and doing the next right thing!

Weary Wanderer: An Introvert’s Reflections on Finding Friendship

I knew this would be challenging, moving to a new place and having to start all over again finding friends. But maybe I was not prepared for just how difficult it would be this time. You see, in past moves, I have always had some form of built-in community. When my husband and I first married and moved to Texas, I got a job right away and made acquaintances at work. When we moved to Illinois, it was for a church job, so right away I was in the middle of the busy life of the church and made new acquaintances there. I could have worked harder at finding friendship and being more outgoing elsewhere, and eventually, I did start branching out after having children. But I didn’t have to, at least not at the beginning.

This time, that is all different. I don’t work outside the home. And I don’t have a church I can call home yet. There is no predetermined community for me to settle into. Finding friends for me and my kids…it is all on me this time. I have made contacts here and there, gone out of my comfort zone and met new people and taken the kids to homeschool outings and such. We have visited more churches than I care to count, and I think we have decided to stick with one for the time being until my husband is called to lead the worship ministry someplace. But, here’s the thing. All this going here and there and putting myself out there to meet new people every week—it is EXHAUSTING! My little introvert self is completely worn out at the end of every Sunday morning, drained by the constant need to introduce myself and make some form of small talk. It takes all the energy I can muster just to get the kids out the door to go to yet another homeschool park meet-up, knowing that I may or may not actually have meaningful conversation with another mom in between pushing my toddler on the swings.

And there’s the heart of the matter. I crave meaningful connection, true community, not just surface conversations about where I’m from or what grade my kid is in. I long to be known and to be accepted and loved. As an introvert, I am wearied by all that superficial stuff, not to mention large group gathering. But when I have a heart to heart talk with someone and feel like we understood each other and really connected? That gives me life and makes me feel energized. It makes me feel that all the work and energy it takes to get out of the house and be around people is really worth the effort. So, here I am, lonely and longing for real, deep friendship. I know that it will take time, energy, and sacrifice on my part. I also know that if I keep trying, it will be worth it. So, here’s to another day of getting out of my comfort zone and meeting new people, because maybe one of them is a weary wanderer, just like me. And maybe we need each other to put out that effort one more time.

 

The Life-giving Habit of Mother Culture

Mother culture

There is no sadder sight in life than a mother, who has so used herself up in her children’s childhood, that she has nothing to give them in their youth.

from “Mother Culture” by “A.” in The Parents’ Review, vol. 3, no. 2, pgs. 92-95

I had never heard the term “mother culture” until about two years ago when I was listening to Leah Boden talk about it in one of her Periscope broadcasts. At the time, I was knee deep in the duties of caring for a young infant—diapering, nursing, feeding, bathing, soothing, and all the rest. I was also in the infant stages of homeschooling our son, and that in itself felt like a full time job. The rest of life did not stop, either, just because I had many demands at home. There were outside commitments snd situations that also depleted my physical and emotional energy. I was definitely feeling “used up” in those days!

Thankfully, since I had so much time to sit while nursing a baby, I started to read during those many hours each day. I don’t remember how intentional I was about it at first, but I knew I needed to give my mind something more nourishing to chew on than Facebook, Instagram and random blogs. I am not sure I had read Brandy Vencel’s wonderful post on Mother Culture then, but if not then, I know I read it sometime not too much later. She does a great job of pulling the meat from that article in the PR magazine from which I quoted earlier and distilling it down to give us a good working definition of this thing called “mother culture.”

Basically, mother culture is another way of saying that we as home educators, and arguably, even parents who do not keep their children home for their schooling, must continue to education ourselves even as we teach our children. If we do not, our minds will certainly stagnate, and lapse into unhealthy patterns of thinking. I do wonder if I had developed this habit of mother culture when my first child was born, perhaps I would have lessened the degree of my postpartum depression. We will never know, I guess, but I certainly believe it helped keep me out of the doldrums with my second baby! And now that my children are older and learning and growing in their education, wide reading and other habits of self-education are important for me to continue feeding my mind and growing as I pour out to teach and train them. Perhaps this will become even more crucial as they enter the high school years and are encountering books and ideas that I never had the chance to explore in my own formal education (Latin, for example).

There is no education but self-education.

Self-education is the only possible education; the rest is mere veneer laid on the surface of a child’s nature.

Charlotte Mason

If the above statement about self-education are true for our children, how much more so are they true for us as adults, when we are no longer under a formal course of study? It seems that as mothers we must form habits of tending our own minds and hearts as much as we help tend to those of our children. Also, even though the original article on Mother Culture only mentions wide reading, I do think that these habits of self-education extend to other areas of study. I have found for myself that it is equally life-giving to practice handwriting, drawing, nature study, and watercolor as to read a book. It is refreshing to my soul when I listen with attention to an opera or symphony, when I knit or crochet or do needlework, and when I commonplace quotes from my own reading. The important thing is to do something which is expanding my mind and my skills, not mention my own habit of attention, so that I do not stagnate or drain myself dry.

So now I want to encourage you, whether you are in the toddler years, or the teen years, do something that gives life to your mind and soul. Read a stretching book to challenge you to think deeply. Learn a new skill to do with your hands. Take in a piece of art or music, paying close attention to the beauty in its details. Walk out in nature and take notes on what you find. Whatever small habits you can begin to cultivate your own education, I do believe that developing your own mother culture will be well worth the effort! What will you do to fill yourself up today?

Loosening My Grip, #Write31Days Day 7

  1. I never knew I had control issues until I became a parent. Up until that point, I had a pretty tight hold on my schedule and daily routines…when I slept and for how long, when I ate and what I did on the weekends. I was in control of the little details on my life, or so I thought. I planned out my days for smooth sailing, and other than little speed bumps in marriage or finances, things were pretty peaceful.

Enter those predictably unpredictable, dependent and demanding creatures better known as children…and not just any children, but infants! Infants who cried and begged to be fed or changed at the most inconvenient times… Infants who never slept at night but could fall asleep in the car five minutes from home, thereby rendering any attempts at getting them to nap again completely useless… Infants who could cry inconsolably about seemingly nothing, leaving me feeling completely helpless and, yes, out of control. No more nice, neat little weekend plans, no more quiet adult conversation over dinner, and certainly, no more sleeping 8 solid hours in a given night!

My 5 minutes are up, but I have so much more to say on this topic of control and parenting. So let’s just run with it….

You see, these little upsets in my daily routine were just the beginning. Now I have bigger kids who have more independence and responsibility, more room to make their own choices and their own mistakes. I can’t control their choices or their behavior any more than I could control whether or not they had a good night of sleep. Yes, I can guide them and teach them and give them consequences when they disobey or disrespect me. But I don’t control the outcome of these efforts. As much as I would like a neat little plan that says, “Do this and this and that, and your children will turn out to be model Christian citizens,” there is no such formula.

In fact, I am learning that the tighter I try to hold onto my expectations for the perfect day and try to control my children’s behavior, the more chaos and conflict ensue. Instead of trying to wrestle peace and joy into my days by tightening my grasp, I am finding that I must hold all things loosely and let God be the guide. I must release hold of my expectation and selfish desires so that He can fill my hands with His plans for me. And I must let go of the tight hold I want to keep on my children, handing them over to His care because He knows far better than I do how to mold and shape their hearts for His glory. It is a slow, difficult lesson for me, but I am beginning to learn to loosen my hold on control and let God give me what I really need—more of His grace.

This post is part of the annual 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes Challenge, part of the Write 31 Days challenge with prompts from Five Minute Fridays. Find all my other challenge posts under the tag #Write31Days