Spoken To Tenderly in the Wilderness

A kind friend lent me the book Cheer Up! Motivating Messages for Each Day of the Year by Nancy Campbell and Michelle Kauenhofen (2012). Quite honestly, I was so uncheerful that I stuck it away for a few weeks. But today I needed some reading material to take with me to my daughter’s gymnastics practice, and so I grabbed the cheery purple book with a pretty tea cup on every page. I read about a month’s worth of cheer and motivation.

I can’t say that a month’s worth of cheer and motivation has cured my depression or fixed my marital problems. It kind of made me roll my eyes because it was so obvious these ladies had husbands who probably taught them most of this stuff to begin with. Well, that’s my gripe, but I did pull out something that spoke to me…

From the April 10 entry, “Are you going through a wilderness? Take heart. God has promised that in the wilderness experience, He will speak tenderly to you. Hosea 2:14 MLB says, ‘I will take her to the wilderness, and I will speak tenderly to her heart.’ The word is emotive and means ‘from the very heart.’

That’s nice to hear. I have heard some things lately that I believe is God speaking tenderly to me. I belong to a church that loves me. And God put me in my marriage for a reason. So often I believe I’ve messed up. And it’s not that at all, because if it happened, then it’s a part of God’s plan for the good of those who love Him. So this way I am right now, this tension in my house, this miserableness, and the shift of responsibility from myself to my husband, this waiting for him to either forget or react… it’s all controlled by God. He’s speaking tenderly to me as I live each day, and He’s trying to get through to me that He is all I really need.


Reading Jane Kenyon

Every adult novel I pick up these days gets put down again. Too dark. Too much tragedy. I already know this story. Too much drinking. I don’t care.

But I can pick up my volume of Jane Kenyon’s Collected Poems (2005), and I am instantly in a world I understand and want to be in. I’ve liked Jane Kenyon since I first learned about her, but right now I feel like she is a true kindred spirit.

Here’s a poem by her to make us think about summer again.

Peonies at Dusk

White peonies blooming along the porch
send out light
while the rest of the yard grows dim.

Outrageous flowers as big as human
heads! They’re staggered
by their own luxuriance: I had
to prop them up with stakes and twine.

The moist air intensifies their scent,
and the moon moves around the barn
to find out what it’s coming from.

In the darkening June evening
I draw a blossom near, and bending close
search it as a woman searches
a loved one’s face.

— pg. 254

Oriental Poppies (again)

Oriental Poppies by Georgia O’Keefe, 1927

I’m showing this strikingly beautiful painting again because I think Ms. O’Keefe did the opposite of what I tried to do in my last post. She didn’t try to escape anything or remove herself from her problem. She examined her subject until what she saw was its essentials. Not the prettiness, not the traditional view, but the heart.

And the heart of my problem is that I’m confused and just skirting around my confusion instead of facing it. Just when I think I’m looking at my marriage in a healthier way, noting the toxicity of it, finding problem areas, I realize that I am still reacting badly. I’m not strong, and I’m not living from my CORE. The problems are slow problems, very slow, years slow, and I don’t like admitting that getting over these problems is going to take just as long. After dinner my husband read loudly and with passion from Revelation, and then he prayed that people be patient with each other. I just don’t know. How patient can I be? What I do know is that my silent patience has often ended up in vain because he forgets the thing I wanted him to do. What I do know is that the farm eats him up, more and more, and it’s like quicksand: if he tries to work harder to free himself some time, the farm doubles back with extra work. Am I called to feel sorry for him, or to be patient with him? I don’t want him to think that it’s all okay with me. He would start singing my praises again, and telling people what a great wife he has. Whatever. I’m not great, and I don’t want flattery. I want reform.

So, Oriental Poppies. There’s good in my life somewhere, but right now that good is sitting out in the elements somewhere, covered up, like my van, which I got stuck in the snowy driveway. Maybe I’ll find the beauty years later, looking back, realizing the places God took me, and the blessings those places eventually brought me. I doubt it though. The only beautiful thing about right now is the fact that I’ll maybe forget it someday. But right now… I don’t know. I’m confused.

After rereading this, I start to wonder if the point is that I’m powerless. What’s going on might be between my husband and God. I have my own strengthening to do with God, but the problems… I don’t know. That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, either.

Oriental Poppies

Oriental Poppies by Georgia O’Keefe, 1927

I’m making an effort to think clearly tonight, being honest with myself. Certain things that bother me are bothering me again, and normally this causes a type of confused panic to begin. Lots of points and counterpoints going on in my thought processes, and I get lost and start wondering which point is “the most true.”

Well, here’s my attempt at removing myself emotionally from my own situation.

God loves His children. God can be trusted. God is in control. God’s plan is beautiful.

What do I like about this poppy painting? The heart of small things are monumentally important. Something traditionally beautiful (like flowers, or say, a marriage) can show unusual beauty and interest when examined closely. But see, I can’t even talk about a painting without trying to talk about my own problems. How about this: the painting is startlingly beautiful, kind of like seeing a flower in real truth after only seeing fake flowers.

I just realized how great school was for getting your mind off your own problems. You can bury yourself in the world of academia. Homeschooling doesn’t work so well because it’s studying in the environment of home. Home is vital and must not be buried.

And God’s plan is always the best plan, no matter what I think.

[Afterthought: I suppose choosing a Georgia O’Keefe painting to help me remove myself emotionally from something wasn’t very smart. I probably should’ve gone with something still clinging to the Middle Ages, like Giotto.]

Crazy Things in Our Brains

I just wrote an article about postpartum psychosis, which is thankfully rare among new mothers. It’s a crazy thing when you feel like you are being controlled by something else, you’re hearing voices that aren’t there, you are paranoid of people you used to trust, and you can’t tell anyone about it because no one is going to understand. And that’s just some of the nasty tricks our brains are capable of.

I remember the mood swings and the mama-bear mentality. I remember hating people who said things that I didn’t want my baby to ever hear. I remember really wanting to do things correctly and biblically; I wanted to sing my babies the right songs, teach them the right values… all these major issues that I was squaring away right there and then. I wasn’t psychotic (thank goodness), but I was different after giving birth. It’s a changing time, for certain. I think there should be more awareness about this, especially for the husbands, because the moms just believe in what they believe. The moms are super aware.

Homeschool Update

Another homeschool year is winding down, and though I’m not ready to report on the entire year (because there’s more than a month left yet), I do want to inform myself of where I’m at right now.

Math: This may be the first year my kids don’t finish their Math-U-See lessons. No big deal. It just means we start with the old books next year. I attribute this to a slower, more deliberate pace and not doing math on Fridays. As far as progress goes, they’ve made huge strides!

Reading: Going well! Keep doing what I’m doing, and try not to get upset when the second child refuses to read while one of the others is on the couch with her. (She will eventually get over that!)

Phonics: The oldest is a few pages from finishing the entire Explode the Code series! He deserves a treat. The other two are plugging away at it. No complaints here.

Spelling: SpellWell is wonderful. Anyone who studies Charlotte Mason, listen up: my kids don’t learn how to spell through reading good literature. They really needed a workbook. It’s okay to admit that CM was wrong.

Bible: I like the devotional we’re doing by Max Lucado called Grace for the Moment. It explains biblical thought in an appropriate way for my kids’ ages. I think my kids (especially the girls) could benefit from more lessons that are similar to Sunday School lessons. We played Bible trivia tonight and one of them didn’t realize Solomon was David’s son. Hmm. I wonder what I can do about that?

Science: The Sassafras Twins Zoology book is a big hit! We love it, probably more for the exciting adventure story than for the science learned. I think it is pounding into their brains which animals are herbivores, omnivores, and carnivores. Plus, it teaches a lot of geography on the side.

Geography: Other than the geography that gets taught through other subjects, this subject in itself has become a non-subject. The oldest is almost finished with his big geography workbook, but he’s struggling with accuracy when it comes to latitude and longitude lines and time zones.

Literature: Well, this is off and on (other than the Five in a Row curriculum we do). But I’m not stressed out because we do literature year round, and sometimes we read intensely!

Writing: I’ve been doing weekly writing projects (things like free writes, writing a poem, making some dialogue, etc.). This is a good idea. They struggle with it somewhat, but that’s good. As long as I can keep myself from getting down about their attitudes, we can get through it. I’d like to do more fun writing projects, maybe a week or two that are writing intensive.

Grammar: They hate grammar. But I see a need for knowing the basics. So we do it together once a week, like it or not.

Five in a Row: Still awesome! We are now two-thirds finished with Volume 1 (we didn’t do them in order, and that has been fine). These books are more familiar to us, but we have found a few new ones to love. (Night of the Moonjellies by Mark Shasha!) I love how low-key this is, and yet we are learning new things.

History: Almost finished with our very long Revolutionary War unit study. My kids know tons about the Revolutionary War. Way more than I did as a student. The key was not in the unit study material itself. I bought them a series of Liberty’s Kids DVDs, and the animated shows made history alive for them. We have learned so much about history, and this is the last of the unit studies I bought at the beginning of the school year. I think I might poke around in Ambleside Online and find a couple good history read alouds to finish up the year.

Art: Well, nothing specific to say. Complete cooperation between all three children is almost non-existent these days, so usually the girls do art projects on a whim, and the boy just mopes around and acts bored. But he can draw! I’d like to do something more consistent with art… maybe during the summer, when we have lots of time!

Music: Nothing. They are so opinionated about music, and how am I supposed to get them to listen to music when putting in a CD causes loud arguments? The oldest has been motivated to learn from my old piano lesson books, so I try to be available to teach him sometimes. The youngest could benefit from real lessons by a real teacher, but they are so expensive! The free online lessons have been too intimidating for her. The other girl doesn’t like music much, and that’s fine.

Phy Ed: I don’t care about Phy Ed. They learn stuff at homeschool co-op, and that’s good enough for me. The middle girl takes gymnastics classes because she is obsessed with gymnastics. Good for her. I guess I don’t mind sitting in the bleachers for an hour and a half and reading a book.

I think that’s all. Sometimes I wish for more structure, but I know I wouldn’t like a boxed curriculum. I’ll be researching some language arts and history curriculum over summer break. I’m looking forward to the break, but also remembering how awful the beginning of last summer was… the girls can keep themselves occupied, but the oldest has to go through a whole system of teasing people, bugging me to play computer games, and acting really bored before he gets down to being creative and self-sufficient. I honestly wished last summer that I was brave enough to school year round. I doubt that I ever will be. Seems like it would be hard to stop schooling year round if we ever started it.

A Time for Everything

Reading Ecclesiastes 3 when you’re having a rough time leads to unusual thoughts. If there’s a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, does that mean I’m in that time to refrain? If there’s a time to seek and a time to lose, does that mean it’s God’s will that I lose (and what exactly am I losing?). I kind of get it, though. Solomon is looking wisely at life and seeing that many stages happen, just in one life. We change, we go with the times, we act differently in different situations.

In a way, that’s a comfort. It’s normal to change. It’s normal to have stages of pleasure and pain. God is a constant, but this life is not.

I returned my very helpful marriage book to the library, and already, only two days later, I’m missing it. I’m backsliding into blaming myself for things. You’d think I wouldn’t be so attached to the physical words printed on physical paper, but apparently I am. It’s as if a wise, supportive friend just left me. What would Solomon say? There is a time for reading, and a time for thinking alone. Or maybe like this: There is a time for books, and a time for (hmm… emptiness, thoughts, independent thinking, blogs?) Okay, I’ve got it: There’s a time for leaning on others, and a time for standing alone.

Except my standing alone is more like falling down. Oh well. I’ll get there, I hope.