Teaching From Rest

Today I began reading a book by homeschool mom Sarah Mackenzie called Teaching From Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace (2015). Already I know why God led me to this particular book. Because He is speaking through it to me! I am going to do a mini-series on this blog about my thoughts as I read this book.

Here is the part of the introduction (pg. xv) where she talks about the story of Mary and Martha:

We can picture Martha in her frustration with her sister, right? ‘Don’t just sit there! Do something!’ And yet the Lord gently admonishes Martha’s busyness. Mary, after all, has chosen the needful thing. The contemplative way. The being and becoming over the doing and the checking off. I can almost hear him inverting the message to me–turning my obsession with productivity on its head: ‘Don’t just do something; sit here.’

I almost cried in relief at reading this. I needed to hear that “the contemplative way” was the needful thing. I needed this assurance that thinking and listening to God is not lazy or less important than working, which is what my husband does all day.

I don’t know how this book is going to teach me about marriage. It sounds as if Mrs. Mackenzie’s marriage is good, and her own husband doesn’t work all day (she slipped off to coffee shops to write this book though she has six children, three under the age of two). But I do know that this book is going to teach me about trusting God. And I need that teaching very much.

Ways We Say Goodbye to Summer Vacation

My 8 year-old daughter informed me that we should definitely not have a celebration for the beginning of our school year next Monday. She thinks school is not something to be celebrated. We are beginning early because my 9 year-old son already started on his own. (Hint, hint, Mom.) So this is the last official week of summer vacation. My daughter would approve of celebrating that!

Here’s some of the things we have done or plan to do to bid the summer break goodbye:

Play in the new splash pad in Ripon, WI (even though the water is freezing cold and the day was not real warm).

Sunday School picnic and swim-time at the pool.

Watch a Peanuts movie.

Read The BFG out loud (by Roald Dahl). Watch out for those whizzpoppers!

Go to Ledge View Nature Center in Chilton, WI, where I never got around to going last summer. We walked the Fun Trail, climbed the observatory tower, visited the Red-Tailed Hawk in his cage, fixed a large-scale nature puzzle, stuck our fingers in the mouth of the black bear (stuffed and hanging on the wall), tried to make me look at the tarantula (not stuffed), admired the Chelsea Barbie doll who is snowshoeing in the winter display box, and scared each other in the dark and spooky bat room.

Drink another root beer float (beverage of the season).

Soak two fully-clothed sisters with the garden hose.

And maybe we’ll have another picnic at Brandon Park (the closest and best park) for supper, roll down the grassy hill, pretend the play structure is a spaceship, sit on top of the hill to watch the train go by, decide to leave then, and sit on Main Street for twenty minutes in the car because the train is blocking the way.

Because we have all the flexibility of homeschooling, we can do most of these things even during school, but still… it’s nice to see the kids and I have not spent the entire vacation doing nothing.

Full-Time Parenting

I’ve been staring at the cover of Israel Wayne’s book, Full-Time Parenting: A Guide to Family-Based Discipleship. It’s a good book. I read it awhile ago, and then got frustrated because it’s yet another book that my husband, the father, needs to read with me in order for it to be effective. My husband actually cared enough to listen to me about it for one night a couple weeks ago. I read him some parts of the book. I left the book in a prominent place. I had hopes things might be different now. But the television started working better again, and he’s back to Hogan’s Heroes at nights, and I’m back to my whiny little posts. Okay, they aren’t whiny. I just get the impression sometimes that I shouldn’t be writing here. I should be having a real conversation with someone who cares. But there’s no one. So this is best, after all.

As for full-time parenting, that phrase sums up my reason for existing. If I wasn’t parenting and homeschooling and homemaking, then I’d be a sorry excuse for a person because I’m horrible at the other options… milking cows, doing chores with a skid loader, mowing lawn, removing the old trailer in our front lawn, cleaning up the mess of several generations of Krohns on the entire farm. If I didn’t know that children are a gift given to me by God, I’d be pretty sure they are an excuse to not do the real work that needs to be done.

I’m close to crying. I should stop before I do.

I am thankful for a new school year starting soon. New things to be passionate about. New things to fill our minds.

The Bradshaw Variations

I’ve been reading books by Rachel Cusk this summer. I’ve read four of them now, and The Bradshaw Variations (2009) has been the one I can actually say I liked. I enjoyed the other ones (Transit, Outline, and In the Country) and found them interesting, but I really like The Bradshaw Variations. So many characters to get to know! It’s about an extended family, and this family has its dysfunctionalities like all families do (if we’re honest about them). As I read this book, I found myself recognizing certain aspects of human nature… the things you don’t put into words or even thoughts until you see it spelled out in front of you. I love it when that happens!

It was hard for me to choose a quote because all the paragraphs seem so intertwined and connected to all the others, but here’s an example so you can get a taste of her writing style:

Often, on Sundays, Thomas and Tonie find themselves on their way to Laurier Drive, for in spite of the topiary and the Union Jacks drooping on their polished flagpoles, Howard and Claudia’s domain has the magnetism of cultural centrality. Usually, in the car, Tonie complains: she would like their own house to draw and pull the world to itself, or so she thinks. But she is often uneasy and out of sorts when they have visitors. It is this, Thomas supposes, that she is complaining about. She would like to be different, while not understanding precisely what the difference is.

I’m not the only one who wants but doesn’t want visitors in my house! And I also am vaguely aware of complaining about real things outside of myself, when really I know the problem is my own uncomfortable way of dealing with that thing. For example, because my husband is almost always working, people don’t invite us over for dinner. I never really figured out why it’s improper to invite the kids and I without my husband, but apparently it is. Even at potlucks, I sometimes get the suspicion that people wonder how I have the nerve to come without my husband. But anyway, I can feel mildly offended by this, and at the same time relieved. Because it means I don’t have to go to other people’s houses for dinner and try to uphold small talk around the table while attempting to eat the weird food that other people serve.

Thank you, Rachel Cusk, for giving me these moments of self-clarification.

Back and Forth

I read a strange novel called Transit by Rachel Cusk (2017). The woman the book is about is a writer and mother and recently bought a house that needs lots of work. But the story takes place in a series of long conversations the woman has with people she meets. In these conversations we find out about the lives of these other people. This narrative style is disconcerting because it turns the spotlight on these other people and away from the main character. However, the main character does have a problem, and the problem itself seems more menacing because of the backhanded way it is confronted in the book. The main character lives her life forward, but I get the impression she has been hurt too many times and is now only living, stubbornly sticking to her miserable, broken house, and allowing her own flat emotions to slide beneath the much more passionate stories of her friends and acquaintances.

I have heard it is wrong to give up and withdraw from your own life. I have heard we must keep doing the right thing, keep actively loving and drawing nearer to the people God has given us to love. And yet, I see the ease of living in a lower key and allowing other people’s dramas to upstage your own. To cease caring, at least for awhile. The other way, the righter way, is rough and choppy, bouncing back and forth between gaining trust and losing trust in people. That way has the disadvantage of wearing a person out. I can’t entirely assure you that it is better. Will God be glorified if I fall down under the radar, quit trying so hard to live the right way, just let life slide a little from under my feet? That sounds so shifty and criminal, but maybe it’s just… rest.

On Writing

Two things lead me to write on the topic of writing. First, I’ve been doing some reading about teaching writing in The Writer’s Jungle by Julie Bogart. Why teach writing if it isn’t important? It is extremely important to be able to communicate clearly and effectively in writing. I like Julie’s Brave Writer approach to writing because it is about coaching and joining the process, not just assigning a report and expecting your student to be able to do it well. The process of writing is sometimes lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. There are other writers all over. And there are readers! There are audiences when you read your own writing. Writing is a form of communication, and it is not something to learn or do only when you’re not busy doing more important things.

Second, I’ve experienced the ineffectiveness of talking. A conversation happens and I don’t have enough time to think clearly, so I say something that is relevant, but not exactly the truth. The other person takes what I said (which was only a part-truth) and uses it in the whole conversation, thinking it was the whole truth. It would have been so much better for me to write a letter to this person. The conversation did not go well. I could not clearly talk my way to the truth, and I was frustrated and wanted a break. I really wanted to just write what I knew.

Writing allows the mind to think and revise, to be more precise. Writing this post has allowed me to chew over two very different things running through my brain the past week and relate them to each other. Synthesis. I don’t find much synthesis in my verbal communications. I find jaggedness, weariness, confusion, words I wish I had a delete button for, clever things that struck a wrong note. Unless I’m free-writing in a stream-of-consciousness mode, I can avoid those awkward things in writing. So here’s a hip-hip-hooray for my blog! I love writing, and I enjoy knowing that someone is out there reading my writing, even if it’s not very many people. If I relied on verbal conversations alone, I’d be a weird, silent person. Someone who doesn’t have a great personality. I don’t feel that way at all in my writing. Writing adds dimension.