Nature’s Rest

Nature’s Rest by Robert Duncan (1952-present)

O Jesus, ever with us stay,
Make all our moments calm and bright;
Chase the dark night of sin away,
Shed o’er the world Thy holy light,
Shed o’er the world Thy holy light.

— last verse of “O Jesus, Joy of Loving Hearts” by William B. Bradbury (1816-1868)

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Work and Trust

Work and trust are two major topics swimming around in my mind these days. Sometimes they tread the same waters. For instance, I’ve been timidly beginning a search for an online job to supplement our income–something like transcription or data entry. I want some new things that I don’t feel brave enough to charge to the credit card–like a whole new set of bath towels and a laptop computer. These reasons, when I really rise above the water and see them floating in the blueness of my thoughts, make me wonder if I ought to be more trusting. God will take care of my needs. I suppose I don’t need new bath towels and a laptop computer.

God takes care of my needs through my husband, who is what I like to call an “extreme farmer.” Really, he’s a dairy farmer who ought to have some reliable help so he can sleep in occasionally (sleeping in means 5 or 6 am), except he can’t afford reliable help unless he gets more cows to produce more milk, which perhaps would require even more reliable help. Then I get to the awful, self-hating thoughts like “if only he had a wife who could milk cows; he certainly married the wrong person.” He doesn’t think like that; I do. Again, I’m not trusting God. I’m thinking that I can ruin my husband’s life, when really, God has complete control over that, and I can do nothing to ruin anyone’s life.

So what do I do to trust God? Pray for guidance. That seems to be it. If suddenly homeschooling life swamps me, then I need to realize that an online job is not in God’s plans. However, until then, I’m slowly, ever-so-tentatively, educating myself on the world of online work, just in case my trust in God frees me to dive into new pools of life, or maybe just wade through a few interesting puddles.

The Martian

I don’t watch many movies these days, but I splurged my time on one a few nights ago. The Martian (2015) is about an astronaut who is left on Mars (his crew thought he was dead), and how he survives. He does get in contact with NASA, which is a neat subplot, and together they work against many odds to keep him alive and get him back home before his food supply runs out.

I love how so many people work very, very hard to keep one man alive. Life is precious. It’s worth more than all the money NASA has. It’s worth more than sleep. It’s worth more than the nightmarish sound of a Martian storm beating against the plastic taped over the entrance of your pressurized shelter.

Why do we spend so much time thinking about things like guns and drugs and ways to end lives when there are people out there needing to be rescued? And as I type that, I realize I could mean that on a physical level and a spiritual level. Probably, there’s no one on Mars right now, but isn’t the inside of a womb enough like another world to relate to the movie? We need to be pro-life at all stages of life. It’s so easy to be lazy and forget about lost people. Sometimes it’s more convenient to forget. But maybe, just maybe, God gives me life so I can keep more lives alive.

When God is obviously there

We know God is everywhere all the time. But He doesn’t have a face we see when we turn around. We don’t hear His voice greeting us in the morning. Sometimes it feels like He’s nowhere near.

And sometimes He reminds us He’s been listening and watching and holding our hand all the time. I had some serious spiritual doubts, and I countered them by writing and finding Bible verses that I thought supported my faith.  But I still felt pressured by other people. Last night I opened my devotional to the correct date (I don’t always go to the correct date) and was directly reassured. My doubts were immediately put to rest. The devotion spoke exactly and encouragingly about the very thing I was doubting.

This morning I went to the devotional book again (Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon, ed. by Alistair Begg), thinking it would be really weird if the devotional would be just as applicable as last nights’. But it was! It was about waiting in the Lord. I’m always thinking, “I don’t know what to do” when I’m up against my thoughts. The next thing to do is wait. Pray and wait. God might make me wait till I get to heaven. But that’s a good way to think–forward to heaven, where the One who cares most about me already has the perfect home for me. Wait for it, Amy. Wait for it.

Landscape with Stars

Henri-Edmond Cross, Landscape with Stars, ca. 1905–1908 http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/459189

A million different thoughts running through my head. A million things I’d love to write here. Some nights my thoughts form constellations, recognizable patterns, and I can pull out from them a story, an anecdote, a synthesis of my day. Other nights my brain beams bright, but each star is its own self, competing for the honor to be written down.

Tonight I’ll let the most praiseworthy star win: I’m thankful for peace, the lack of despair, the smoothed out edges of a jagged summer. God cares for me, and my mind, and He really wants me to tell Him about all those many things I think of. He made me to think, and I’m happy about that.

Taking the Long View

I have finished reading the book Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie (2015). My last three posts have been about it. There are many good, practical details in this book about simplifying curriculum and using a loop schedule and how to do Morning Time. I’m going to skip those and quote from the extremely encouraging end of the book (pages 69-70):

You do not need to have a ‘productive’ homeschool day to please the Savior. You do not need to have a clean house to please the Savior. You do not even need to have well-behaved kids to please Him. Ultimately it doesn’t matter if you hit every math problem, get through an entire spelling lesson, or whether your child loves learning the way you want him to. You are cultivating your child like a tree, and trees will bear fruit in time. We are taking the long view. Consistency over time goes a long way toward tending our orchard. Faithfully tending to your work each day is what success looks like for the homeschooling mother.

It is true that I am sometimes confused as to what “faithfully tending to your work each day” means in my life. I sometimes think I’m missing the mark, concentrating on the wrong things. But that’s when I get anxious (and thus not at rest). I think I would add, for my own sake, that I do not need to fill in all the blanks in the family that aren’t getting filled. God is more pleased with one content, faithful heart in a dysfunctional family than a perfectly functional family full of anxious hearts.

I end this mini-series by quoting St. Jerome, whom Mrs. Mackenzie also quoted on page 70, “It is our part to offer what we can, his to finish what we cannot.”

The virtue between negligence and anxiety

Rest is the virtue between negligence and anxiety, but many of the homeschooling moms I have met, myself included, find themselves more likely to fall prey to one camp or the other. When we are weak in virtue, we inch toward vice. A curriculum that leaves no room for the soul to breathe will suffocate, but so will the absence of purposeful and intentional teaching. If we are doing our children a great disservice by shuttling them through a set of books and plans without consideration for their souls, we are doing them an equal disservice by ignoring their formation and leaving our children to form themselves.

— from Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie (2015), pg 7

I like the image of a pendulum, moving from the vice of negligence to the vice of anxiety. The virtue we need to create balance in our lives, rest, is found right in the middle.

Rest, in this sense, is not relaxing on the couch. And anxiety, in this sense, is not collapsing on the couch because everything is too much for you. Negligence, however, might be one of those. Rest is looking to God for direction, and then knowing that you’re going to fail, and then also knowing that it’s okay because God has everything under control. (See the pendulum in that sentence?) I’m full of pendulum movements. It’s called mood swings! But God remains at the center, fully in control of my life, my kids’ lives, my family, my homeschool, my everything. He is there making sure I don’t go flying off the end into utter ruin.