Five Tips and Ten Recommendations if More Reading is a New Year’s Resolution For You

Are you where I am in the midst of the eerie fog that seems to exist between December 26th and December 31st? This odd sort of holiday-esque space where some people have to go back to work and others are still on a break and people are traveling and some are still doing the Christmas stuff — and maybe you’re somewhere in between, and thinking “Hmm…. almost 365 days have passed and another whole year is almost over… What did I do?”

And if you are like me and you sit still a minute and ponder that question, you probably arrive at a place where you think “Well, that happened, which I had planned, but this didn’t. And I didn’t really do that, but at least I can say I made progress.” And perhaps on and on you go, evaluating and thinking and wondering what you might need to do differently so that 365 days from now you don’t feel like you’re still exactly where you are right now.

I didn’t write half as much as I wanted to, perhaps should have, in 2017. And I have some thoughts to think about how to change that in the year ahead — where I hear the Lord whispering the word “Choice” (as in “everything is a choice”) and I sense myself being challenged to make some life-giving choices in the year to come.

However, I excelled at another area I was aiming for: I read an awful lot this year compared to previous years, which I’m pretty delighted about. So while I might not be able to tell you how to crush all your goals (I do think this Michael Hyatt book I mentioned a while back could help with that) I do have some suggestions about reading that, if you’re in the market to make it happen, can make turn those pages more of a reality for you than any year before.

First I want to give half a second to encouraging you to think about why — why reading more *real books* should be one of your goals for 2018. I don’t think a dozen blog posts could fully speak to this question, but let’s start with a few simple thoughts. As a society, we are doing a heckuvalotta consuming and not a whole lot of producing. Most people agree that we are moving in a direction, as one generation passes the baton to the next, and that the direction we’re headed in is not a good one. But do you realize that a lot of the problems we’re facing are as old as the hills? Ideas that have been discussed by philosophers and average joes for generations past? We are really born into a world that was having a conversation for millennia — yes, millennia — before we arrived, and the best way to join that conversation? Is to read what the great thinkers of the past said, and what other great thinkers said in response, thereby joining the conversation.

Did you know Teddy Roosevelt typically read a book before breakfast every day? And then some? Don’t you love his oft-quoted thoughts — that it’s not the critic who counts? Not the one who points out how the strong man stumbles or the doer of deeds could’ve done them better? The credit belongs to the man in the arena, right? But when we spend 99% of our time reading whatever whoever he said she said on the internet, guess what we’re getting? The noise of the critics, right?

Did you know children in Shakespeare’s day had a better vocabulary than the average American adult? Suffice it to say: Reading is good for you. Very good. A man who reads lives a thousand lives, a man who does not lives one, as they say.

Truly — I ought to give another blog post to the why so let’s move on to the how.

Five Tips for Reading More This Year

  1. Always have the next book on the docket, waiting in the wings. Whenever you’re reading something, go ahead and figure out what’s going to be next. Start searching for book lists online — like the “100 Books To Read Before You Die” lists. Or think about books you’ve read in the past that you enjoyed, and ask for recommendations of similar ones. Ask friends who have similar tastes in books… and if you can…
  2. Find a friend to join you on the journey. They don’t have to read every book you read. You don’t have to read at the same pace. Being able to text a friend (like I did this year) and say “I finished Emily of New Moon. Couldn’t put it down. I love her so much. My favorite part was when the preacher sat on the cat and was too deaf to hear it and Cousin Jimmy walked in and said, ‘Lord, man, if you’re a Christian, get off that poor animal.’ Or something like that. I could not stop laughing.” A like-minded friend who’ll make and take recommendations can be a gift. Even if you decide to read different things!
  3. Consider a Kindle (or similar device). When I knew I needed to start reading more a few years ago, the Hubs quickly and kindly invested in a Kindle for me. Not one that had apps and games and tra la la — just a plain black and white (Paperwhite so that I can read at night without disturbing him) Kindle that would not tempt me to check email or Facebook or anything else — just read. Now here’s why the Kindle was a game changer:
  4. Get a Library Card and Use It. Often. I do visit the local library on a regular basis, but here’s some great news for you. Once you’ve got the card, you don’t actually have to visit ever again. (Although I loooooove the library and I think you should.) There are tons of free books to read on Amazon, AND, there are tons of books that you can check out from the library – online – and have delivered — you guessed it — to that shiny Kindle of yours. This was a GAME CHANGER for me. I don’t have tons of cash to buy every book I want to read. And my library does not own many of the books I want to read. But between a Kindle Unlimited Subscription and the Library Card (and please look for the Libby app — I’ll explain in a moment) you truly have SO many options at your fingertips.
  5. You Can Take it With You. (And You Should.) Here’s the number one tip — even though it’s listed fifth. You cannot read a book that you do not have with you. But you can take it with you in more ways than you think. Those thirty minutes in the pickup line can fly by with a good book in your lap. And those twenty minutes waiting for the kid at guitar practice will put another chapter under your belt. And GUESS WHAT? Audiobooks totally count. And are wonderful. So do what I told you in step four, and download the Libby App for iPhone, and be amazed at how many great Audiobooks there are, read by great readers. I read To Kill a Mockingbird earlier this year, and then enjoyed listening to the Audiobook on a long trip with the Hero Hubs — narrated by Sissy Spacek. Such a treat! That thirty minute drive to work. The earbuds in your ears while you’re working out. Fifteen minutes folding laundry. Moments made for an audiobook. Audiobooks totally count y’all!!

Now, here’s a bonus for you to encourage you to get started. I truly feel like a richer and fuller human being this year because I spent less time staring at a TV screen and more time joining the great conversations our world has been having for millennia. And I’d love to share some of my favorite reads from this year with you, in hopes that you’ll get bitten by the bug and decide to push that lovely “OFF” button on the remote, or close the tab that’s open to Facebook, and read something that will inspire you to breathe, to be, and to live more fully.

Here are my favorites in several different categories:

For Putting First Things First

Did you know if you read about 4 chapters a day, you can read the entire Old Testament once, and the New Testament and Psalms and Proverbs TWICE… in one year? Think ten minutes a morning and ten minutes before bed could get you there? Ten minutes less Facebook, maybe? I hope you’ll include the Good Word in your word count this year!

Robert Murray M’Cheyne (incredible 19th Century Scottish pastor) created the Bible Reading plan that will get you through the Bible in one year as described above.

This link will take you to a website that has it organized by months and then days, and you can click over to the day’s reading on Bible Gateway.

This link will take you to a website that has printable versions in several different formats based on your preferences and eyesight (very thoughtful, hey?) and paper sizes.

For Parents

Ben Sasse’s The Vanishing American Adult. This isn’t specifically a parenting book, but it truly had a huge impact on some of the ideas and strategies the Hubs and I have for helping the little people in our care become full-fledged adults ready to contribute to society when they leave our home. This book is definitely not just for parents. Anyone who is in any capacity concerned about the state of the United States, and wonders what they can do to help forge a brave new way forward will be inspired by this book. Inspiring non-spoiler alert: Sasse does not believe political decisions, parties and directions are the solutions to the problems we are facing. Thus, while it is written by an (impressively intelligent) Senator from Nebraska, it is not a “political book.”

Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp was by far the most help and informative book especially for parents that I read this year. It has this illustration about “The Circle of Safety” that we have used since we first read this book years ago, (this was a re-read this year!) and that one practical illustration speaks volumes to our kids and makes reading this book so worth it. I will probably continue to read this one every year or two — not because it’s entertaining and a fun read, but truly because it has so much practical wisdom that I want to continue to remind myself as a parent!

For Inspiration

Mother Teresa, Come Be My Light. I mentioned this one when I first read it in January, and it still echoes in my head 12 months later. I do not think you can read this story and not marvel at this amazing human being, and feel inspired to also “Accept whatever He gives and give whatever He takes with a big smile.” If you live in my town I know for sure this is at the Brown Library!

Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place. Wowzers, I could not put this book down. While her story is in itself incredibly gripping, it is impossible not to be challenged and encouraged by the faith Corrie and her family exhibited in the midst of unspeakable conditions. You can’t put a price tag on perspective — but purchase and read this book, and I think you’ve made an investment on gaining that invaluable perspective that helps you see your circumstances with less discontentment and more gratitude.

Classics

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë was my favorite classic this year. I am often amazed by how much faith can be portrayed in a book that isn’t necessarily written for the purpose of “faith inspiration.” This year I’ve also been more amazed than ever before at how much truth you can learn in the pages of a fiction book. There are several paperback and hardcover options available on Amazon… and it is free for Kindle! If anybody forgot to get me a Christmas present and wants to send this gorgeous hardcover Brontë Sisters Box Set to my house, y’all just feel free. But seriously that would make an amazing gift for a reader in your life!

To Read-Aloud with the Kids

The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry. If you’d like to listen to the Audiobook, oh my goodness, Arte Johnson read this one — we found it as an audiobook through the Libby App! — and OHMIGOODNESS it was pricelessly funny. Please enjoy and thank me later.

Our kids also fell in love with the Mercy Watson Series this year and the cousins received this box set for Christmas because if you have not met this delightful pig with an insatiable love for hot buttered toast? Well ya really need to. (She is also at the Brown Library if you live here in Washington!) Mercy truly is a porcine wonder.

Grown-Up Fiction

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr might be the book I had the hardest time putting down this year. This might be the best “Book for the Beach Trip” recommendation here. Doerr’s prose is so engaging it’s almost poetry. The chapters are short and the pace is quick, it seems like so much is happening and you feel quite literally transported to see the story unfold before your eyes in Europe decades and decades ago. His writing style is incredibly unique and I found it absolutely delightful.

Juvenile Fiction

Sarah Mackenzie over at Read-Aloud Revival recommended in a podcast episode not too long ago that you can feel so very fully engaged and satisfied as a reader by reading juvenile fiction. If you’re hoping to get more reading in, you really aren’t selling yourself short on storyline, plot, complexity or overall entertainment value just because you choose books that may also be considered appropriate for middle to high school aged students. The more manageable lengths of the books is part of what makes it so satisfying, and helps you want to keep reading more. Think of the richness of the Chronicles of Narnia or Bridge to Terabithia before you disagree!

With Sarah’s advice in mind, I definitely jumped into more Juvenile Fiction this year, pre-reading some things that will be on a list for my kids later on and reading other books that I just thought I’d enjoy.

Emily of New Moon might’ve been the character I most fell in love with this year. She has so much spunk and personality. L.M. Montgomery (a la Anne of Green Gables fame) wrote Emily of New Moon as well as Emily Climbs and Emily’s Quest. I found all three for Kindle by checking them out from the library. The first was definitely my favorite.

I also enjoyed The Witch of Blackbird Pond (E.G. Speare) and The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963 (Christopher Paul Curtis, grab some tissues) immensely.

And last but not least….

For Homeschoolers

If you’re a homeschooling parent and you haven’t read Teaching From Rest by Sarah Mackenzie yet, I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is not a long or arduous read (as some homeschooling guides can be) but full of practical, easily “actionable” ideas and plans to help you find your own personal style and rhythm (and hopefully arrive at the end of this year with more hair still attached to your head.) Easily worth the $13 price tag — I plan to read this one again and again, too!

So friends, Happy New Year! I hope your year gets off to a great start, that you remember to put first things first, and you find yourself learning, growing and thriving more and more in 2018!

More to come from this little corner of the web soon. But in the meantime, if you were a reader this year I’d love to know how many books you read, and what your favorite was!

xCC

I almost forgot::

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What Should Christians Do On October 31st?

“What was your teacher’s favorite color?” he asked. Sitting on a bar stool at the counter, he was about to select a color for the leaf printed on the page in front of him from a tray of oil pastels.

“What was your teacher’s favorite color?”

I tried to refocus my distracted mind, tilted my head to one side and urged myself to listen.

“I’ve had lots of teachers, Blake. I’m not sure. What do you mean?”

“Your teacher….” he emphasized the word, “at the nursing home.”

I barely remembered. The hubs didn’t remember at all. But somehow, after visiting a nursing home as a family about 350 days ago, my six year old son remembers that one of the people we visited was one of my teachers in grade school.

And this leaf is for our next visit. So he’s asking for a suggestion about the color.

Duh.


_________

A little over a year ago, the Hubs and I sat down for a long series of heart-to-heart conversations about our plans for October 31st.

It’s a day that many Christians have probably spent a lot of time arguing about. I’m thankful to say we didn’t argue. We just talked, and we talked and we talked. Lots.

For the first few years of parenthood we were outside of the US and Halloween wasn’t really a question we had to encounter. When we returned and the kids were still young, at first we avoided, but when it eventually came time to figure out what we would do, we were blessed to have invitations from neighbors for get-togethers, and decided to participate.

But somehow, it just didn’t ever exactly “sit right” in our souls. As a resident alien hailing from far corners of the Earth, the Hero Hubs was perplexed by the holiday, its origin and purpose, and even more perplexed about participating in it.

After a couple of years of costumes and trick-or-treating, we started asking questions like…

Are we just going with the grain because this is what ‘everybody’s doing?’ 

Does celebrating this holiday really line up with what we believe and want to pass on to our kids? Does it matter?

Should we be trying to swim upstream like we’ve always said we wanted to?

Is it possible to somehow redeem this day, the way historians think the day chosen to celebrate the birth of Christ was redeemed? There was a spark.

____

Fast forward dozens of deep conversations.

A week or so before the 31st of October last year, I was on the phone with someone at a local nursing home wondering if we could bring artwork the children had created to the residents and wish them a Happy Fall.

With the baby in the little push bike she’d just received for her birthday, and dozens and dozens of leaves we’d printed and colored and decorated for the residents, we strolled into the nursing home on the afternoon of the 31st.

At first our kids were a little reticent — we joked about a nursing home being a really scary place to bring your kids at Halloween — and then something shifted.

They caught on to the fact that every. single. person whose room they walked into was happier and more cheerful when we left. They discovered a wealth of people who were overjoyed, over-the-moon delighted to see them, simply because they are children.

They brought the gift of a smile, a kind word, a piece of art, and left with so much more — a feeling that they’d given some really great gift, that they mattered, that they had something to give.

Our eldest, who at first was perhaps the most reticent of all, eventually became the one who wanted to walk in first and present the art work, who didn’t want to skip a single door.

Funny enough, some residents, very aware of the day, hurried to a cupboard and pulled out a bag of stowed-away candy, delighted to have children to give it to.

It was a sweet reward that warmed my heart.

On the way to a restaurant for a special dinner out, we talked for a bit in the car afterwards about the experience, and the kids were delighted and hoped we would go back again soon.

I resolved to do so in my mind, and knowing that so often the Christmas season is a busy time for the nursing home with visitors coming to sing, I thought perhaps we’d wait until January, when the winter blues set in and try to bring some light again.

The new school semester started, life scurried on, and here we are nearly a year later having not visited once since then.

But these big doughy eyes look across the kitchen counter at me, willing me to remember a favorite color for a teacher.

Maybe it meant more than we realized for the kids.

Maybe we’re on to something. And maybe we aren’t.

But here are some things I feel sure about, after pondering it long and hard for ages.

Often in life there are a dozen different paths to take. And the path that might be right for one person might not be right for another.

While I am fully confident that Jesus is the path — the Way, the Truth and the Life — I am also confident that He has plans and purposes for His children, and they are not all carbon copies of each other.

Your race is in your lane, and my race is in mine. 

I don’t expect anyone to try to swim my race, and I don’t want to try to swim anyone else’s, so I have to go to Jesus and ask — what does faithfulness look like, here, for me, to follow You?

And when I hear His still small voice saying This is the way, walk in it, well then, that is what I must do.

If your puzzler has been puzzling for a different path for October 31st, I wholeheartedly welcome you to join us in our hope to make it a day for us to give and love and be Light.

But first, be still — listen and wait. 

As Paul wrote to the Romans, “One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.” {Rom. 14:5}

Your race is in your lane, dear friends. Whatever that looks like for you.

So what should Christians do on October 31st? There’s not one right answer.

Just keep swimming toward Jesus.
xCC

Why the Cross is For Always

I comment to the Hero Hubs on the couch next to me — maybe that little one playing by the coffee table who’s acting up so much really just wants to be noticed? Just needs to know she’s loved? Her toes are always on the line, just barely on the right side of everything she’s told to do or not to do.

He invites her to come closer and she stretches her four-year-old frame out, she looks so tall, her head in his lap, blonde ponytail stretched to one side, the willing recipient of a little back rub. After a moment or two, he asks her to sit up in his lap. He looks her in the eyes and tells her how much we both love her. How special we think she is. How precious she is to us.

I watch all this unfold, watch as he holds her close, and the whisper in my mind is: “Mother and Daughter. I’m going to fail at this thing. So many times.”

Years ago, I sat at a tiny table cupping a coffee between my palms, across from a friend who was a mentor, a gift to my soul, in my earliest years of seeking to truly walk with Jesus. I asked her to please keep mentoring me, to look at my life and be honest about what she saw, to keep pointing me to Jesus.

It was less about being hungry for God, and more about being eager never to make mistakes.

She knew, somehow, (probably because I talk so much I said it aloud) and as gently and genuinely as she could, she looked across the table and told me the truth:

You are going to make mistakes.

I wanted to ask her to hush… like Bugs Bunny in an old cartoon, long ears laid back flat against his head, backing up, and shaking in a soft pleading voice facing the barrel of Elmer Fudd’s shotgun he says: Not that… anything but that…

I don’t want to make mistakes.

This week, I pondered when to put the cross out on the front door. This big burlap and blue and white fabric cross my Mom gave me usually makes an appearance in the Spring. At the beginning of Lent? At the beginning of the Holy Week? On Maundy Thursday or Good Friday? I didn’t mean to have a theological conversation inside my own head about something as simple as this, but these things just happen sometimes.

Eventually it struck me: the cross is always. And the cross is for always.

And this is the thing I don’t like about parenthood, the thing I don’t like about Christianity as a whole: it’s that I’m going to fail. I am going to make mistakes. I am going to close doors when I should open them. I’m going to raise my voice when I should lower it. My mouth will be wide open when it out to be tightly shut until it is certain what words will come out.

But this is what makes it all so glorious.

Before the kiss of betrayal, before the Last Supper and the Greatest Commandment, before Palm Sunday and the hosannas and cheers, even before Jesus was tried and tempted in the wilderness those 40 days, there was the Cross. Before the Incarnation, there was the Cross. Even before Creation, yes, before the whole world was spoken into existence, there was the Cross.

When the blood of those lambs was spread on the doorposts at the first Passover — the plan had already been set into motion.

An all-knowing God knew it all along — this is where this whole thing was headed all along. 

It’s in our nature, our human nature, to make mistakes, to fail and to fall short.

God wasn’t surprise when He first walked in the Garden and asked Adam and Eve, “Where are you?”

He knows it all. He knew where they were. But He wanted them to know where they were.

The plan of Reconciliation was already set in motion.

And our relationships, these failures? They are opportunities for Reconciliation, both with the God who wants to connect with our souls for always, and with the loved ones we care about and fail.

Jesus went to the first Cross, the Cross that would save us all, the Cross that would make a way for all of us to be reconciled to God.

“Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” {Luke 9:23}

His Cross made our salvation possible, our forgiveness possible, our Reconciliation possible.

Our crosses?

They make us a little more like Jesus, who for the joy set before Him, endured the Cross. {Heb. 12:2} Sometimes our crosses are the pain of admitting we were wrong. Admitting we failed, and saying we are sorry. Sometimes they mean closing tight our lips when we want to say all the wrong things. We deny what we want, and we try to live for what God wants. The world is better for this. And so are we.

As we sit between a Hard-But-Good Friday and the Sunday of life and Resurrection — let the symbolism leave an impression on your soul. If you take up a cross, and die a little to yourself, God has new life for you on the other side.

Every Cross can create a Resurrection.

This is the new life we’re invited to live and it’s in the living of it, that we somehow become the recipients of it.

I die to myself and say I’m sorry to the child I’ve wronged. New life is breathed into our relationship. Broken things are mending.

We forego the thing we want to give to someone who needs. New life is breathed into our soul, and fresh gratitude helps us give thanks for what we have already.

If there are 365 days in the calendar year, there are 365 days that the Cross can hang on the door — and more importantly, teach my soul how to find life that is the realest real.

We need not look afraid at the mistakes we’re going to make, the ways we’re going to mess up as we walk through life as mothers, fathers, employees, friends. Our failures are the reason for the Cross. And on the other side of the Cross, every willing soul can find a Resurrection.

xCC

Bad News About the Good Stuff {The Stuff You Need to Do}

For the following download of information to make any sense, you’re going to need a little backstory. So here ya go. I’m a Mom of four. People like to say “You’ve got your hands full” which I do not enjoy hearing, but that’s a conversation for another day. Most days I don’t feel like my hands are ridiculously full, except for Tuesdays.

If this post were animated, a scary duh, duh, duhhhhhh sound would happen right now.

On Tuesdays, {duh, duh, duhhhhh} we have our community day with our friends in Classical Conversations. I’m the director of this tiny community, and, even though it’s tiny, that still means I do a lot of stuff, think on my feet a good bit, and go up and down the stairs inside our church’s meeting spaces dozens of times for that one other thing I forgot upstairs. Or downstairs.

Wherever it is it is never where I am.

Okay. So after our community time together on Tuesdays, the kids play on the playground and I chase the toddler who is picking up speed very quickly and never wants to be where I am. Go figure.

Sometimes I shove almonds and a clementine in my mouth while chasing the toddler and feel good that I had something to eat.

And then I scurry home and put that toddler baby down for her afternoon nap, and if I’m lucky I sit on the couch for five minutes, and then I round up the other three kids, because homeschool P.E. is also on Tuesdays. The rest of the week does not feel rushed. But ohmygoodness, Tuesdays.

So we scoot off to homeschool P.E., which is great for the boys who are old enough to participate, but is hard for the four-year-old girl who is not old enough to participate. She is not six years old. So she is supposed to sit on the bench with her Mama and play nicely with the toys I bring for her. She could also eat the snacks I bring. She wants to play with the big kids instead.

Sometimes I keep her on a tight leash and say no.

Sometimes, when it doesn’t seem to matter too much, I don’t go and fetch her when she sneaks off into the midst of the crowd and participates with the bigger kids. Because. Y’all. It’s Tuesday. Is she really hurting anybody? Plus, it’s Tuesday. duh duh duhhhhh

Now the last part of this backstory is this part where I admit something I wish I didn’t have to admit.

Close your ears and forget I said this.

Remember that scene in the movie Gladiator where the Caesar, Marcus Aurelius tells his wicked mess-of-a-son “Your faults as a son, is my failure as a father.”? Well, I could totally turn to my mischievous four-year-old princess right now and say, “Your faults as a daughter are my failings as a Mom.” Am I being hard on myself? Maybe a little. But the truth is, if we are inconsistent in the way we manage our kids’ discipline, if we sometimes let it slide and other times deal with it, we raise children who simply tend to gamble with bad behavior, because experience has taught them that less than half the time, there probably won’t be the consequence there should be.

For example. I didn’t introduce consequences quickly enough, and one kid decided it would be appropriate for the greeting “You’re stupid, [insert sibling name here]” to come out of that kid‘s mouth each time a particular sibling walked into the room. The behavior went on uncorrected until it became a habit. And goodness gracious habits are hard to break.

So, before I digress any further, let’s get back to last Tuesday. Where, in additional to the normal director responsibilities I filled in for our tutor who wasn’t able to be there. Basically just picture a frazzled, exhausted run-ragged Mama. Got it? That’s me. And action.

Enter the four-year-old who joined me at P.E. and briefly watched from the sidelines while the older siblings played. She starts out doing her usual “running along the sidelines” (which I allow), but quickly jumps into the action and forces me to go and fetch her. I fetch her, sit her down with the toys we brought and continue my conversation with a friend. She takes off again.

I notice a Mom on the other bleachers giving me a kinda harsh look. I ponder the situation for a moment. And y’all, it is Tuesday and the last thing I want to do is correct that cheeky four-year-old’s behavior.

I look at the friend I am chatting with, with a sort of imploring What would you do in this situation? look. Or maybe I even asked. Yes. I did.

She says, “I wouldn’t let her do it, because the other kids had to sit on the sidelines until they were six and it doesn’t seem fair for her to go out there now.”

It was Tuesday and that was not what I wanted to hear. My heart even grumbled a little I think. Et tu, Brute?

Now. You ever come across this Proverb?

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” {Prov. 27:6}

Such good truth. My friend told me the honest truth. When her daughter, who’s now six, was a four year old, and a five year old, she sat on the sidelines because that was what she was supposed to do. And that other Mom that gave me that harsh look? Same thing. Her daughter is now out there playing with the other kids at P.E. thanks to crossing that six-year-old threshold, but she probably had a good handful of years of sitting on the sidelines, watching her older siblings, too.

It’s not fair for my little doll baby princess mischief incarnate to run around and join the big kids in P.E., when everyone else did the hard thing that was the right thing: they kept the younger kids on the sideline because those are the rules.

Letting my kid break the rules now makes her think the rules don’t apply to her. And if they don’t apply at P.E., where else might they not apply? Well, she might as well test and see where else she can get away with whatever she feels like getting away with… because… maybe the rules don’t apply at church or Chick-Fil-A or the library!

What This Means For All Of Us In Plain English {The Bad News}

Whether or not you’re parenting small people right now, or teaching a classroom full of them, or doing something else kid-related, I’m here to tell you this is not a lesson about child-rearing techniques. {Turn to H. Clay Trumbull for those child-rearing thoughts. Way more insight than me. $.99 on Kindle.} This post isn’t about the kids — it is about doing hard things.

Managing my mischief maker on Tuesday afternoons was hard and I didn’t want to do it. But guess what? It was the right thing to do.

And this is the bad news I’m sorry I have to deliver today: {But don’t close your ears this time} All the stuff in life that is really worth doing… Yes seriously, all of it? Requires hard work. And requires you to do the hard things.

Proficiency at a musical instrument? Practice. Consistent effort over time. Hard.

Gaining the position of CEO of that corporation … and staying there? Tons of dogged effort.

A PhD in Theological Ethics? More hard work than I was willing to put in. Honest.

Eating real food that is good for your body? Man! It takes planning and preparing and work.

Raising kids that will actually listen and obey you? There are no words. Hard. Really really hard.

But get this — the opposite is also impressively true. The stuff that’s not worth it? Easy.

Sitting on the couch and watching TV every night? Easy.

Eating rubbish and putting on some pounds? Easy peasy.

Choosing not to make that phone call, write those words, say that truthful thing you ought to say because it’s too scary? Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Waste an hour on Facebook instead of cleaning the house or cooking decent food? I can do that with my eyes closed.

You picking up what I’m putting down here?

You have good and important stuff to do with this one rare precious life of yours. You were created to do great things. Big things. Awesome things. But? Achieving what you were made to do is not going to come easily.

If all of life feels super easy right now, you might want to check your compass.

You know how the good food isn’t cheap, and the cheap food isn’t good?

Well, doing the good things isn’t easy… and doing the easy things isn’t good.

Look for (and cherish) the friends that are willing to tell you the truth when you’re taking the easy road. And remember to look further down the road because the short term choices make or break the long term goals.

When P.E. starts up again in the fall? I have my heart set on doing the hard things. Because those are the good things.

Take a deep breath and repeat after me: I can do the hard things. Because they are the good things.

Even on Tuesdays.

xCC

 

How Your Short Term Decisions Make {or Break} Your Long Term Goals

While texting a friend, I had a crazy flashback this week that threw me back a decade or two… maybe I’d not like to admit how long ago it was… but it threw me back a good many years to when I was learning to drive. I remember being at a friend’s house one evening in our neighborhood and admitting to a kid a year or two younger than me (named Thomas, who, oddly enough, should not have known how to drive yet at this point) that I was struggling with keeping the car going straight down the road in Driver’s Ed. I felt like I was constantly making these tiny corrections, constantly turning the wheel, and it just didn’t feel right.

With all the wisdom of (I guess) a fourteen year old or so, Thomas said:

“If you want to drive straight, you can’t look at the road right in front of you. You have to look further down the road.”

The next time I got behind the wheel, I put wise young Thomas’s words into practice. I found that when I looked further down the road, I stopped making all those tiny jerking adjustments and corrections to try to make sure my tires were right between the lines, and found that as I kept my focus further down the road, I naturally steered the car exactly where I wanted it to go.

You might already know: I’m one of those crazy people who homeschool their kids. And I’m constantly inundated with ideas, methods and curriculum choices. When you’re just getting started, it can be so overwhelming you almost don’t want to homeschool at all. You can homeschool online, in a co-op, with the Classical method or the Charlotte Mason method, with Classical Conversations (my favorite), with methods that are student driven and based on the child’s interests… there’s even un-schooling. Yep, that’s totally a thing.

But the challenge in midst of the tendency to constantly want to jerk the wheel back and forth in response to this trend or that New York Times article is to focus “on down the road” and think about what the real goals are, what the non-negotiables are, and to plan from there.

I’ve fallen in love the Read-Aloud Revival site, and was listening to a class this week where I was encouraged by this G.K. Chesterton quote:

Just now there is a tendency to forget that the school is only a preparation for the home, and not the home a mere jumping off place for the school.

What in all that is good and fluffy does that mean? Well, we sometimes tend to forget that education is just a part of the process for preparing children to grow up and contribute to society and be responsible adults and (if we’re Christians) hopefully do with their lives what God created them to do. But what do we really want for children when they grow up? It often goes without saying (and therefore doesn’t get said) we most of all want our children to be happy, well-adjusted adults with a good family life.

Yes, we want them to be able to pay their bills and earn a living, but we know deep down that if we have raised selfish or greedy kids who expect things handed to them, they are not going to have a peaceful life at home, and one way or another, that’s going to catch up with them.

But how about if the goal is what the Westminster Catechism says? “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

When I have the glory of God in mind for my kids, I don’t skip over our morning devotional time at the beginning of our homeschool day — because I remember that these kids knowing Jesus is, in the light of eternity, more important than anything else on the to-do list. Yes, we will do school, but first? Jesus.

So, question:

Where do you want to go? What do you want to have accomplished in five or ten years? Because whatever your long-term goal, your short-term decisions will make or break you getting there.

If you want that book published, can you make it a habit to write a few hundred words every day to help get you there?

If you want a happy marriage, can you start asking your spouse what you can do to help make their day better? And doing it?

The problem is, the methods and tips and tricks at our fingertips aren’t just for homeschooling. We are all constantly inundated with options and ideas and the next way to get there fast. Wherever there is. If we are constantly trying to keep our metaphorical wheels between the lines by making those adjustments and corrections, because they say you should… and we’re blowing with every breeze pop culture tells us is the way to get there, we will find ourselves swerving all over the road.

And possibly hitting mailboxes.

Or parked cars.

So ask yourself a question about your life you should probably ask yourself when you get behind the wheel of the car: Where am I going and how am I going to get there? Like…

I’m on a journey to lose weight so I’m going to make sure thirty minutes of exercise are a part of my daily routine.

I’m on a journey to be more generous to those in need, so I’ll make coffee at home, and each of those $3 lattes will add up to enough to sponsor a child with Compassion or World Vision.

I’m on a journey declutter my home, so I’m going to spend ten minutes a day, going through the house section by section until I get there. (If that is actually a goal the step-by-step in this book is a really helpful tool.)

I’m on a journey to find a deeper and more intimate relationship with Jesus, so I’m going to read two chapters of the Bible every evening, and spend ten minutes in prayer every morning…

Once you know where you want to go, you can focus your eyes down the road on that goal, and give some thought to the plan for getting yourself there.

This is the way the writer to the Hebrews put it:

Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! {Hebrews 12:1-3, The Message}

As we consider in the week to come, that Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, which led to the Holy Week that led to the cross, remember that Jesus knew where He was going. And He endured the trials necessary to cross the finish line, to achieve the thing no one else could achieve, but everyone else could benefit from. He fixed His eyes on the finish line. And we should fix our eyes on Him.

Don’t let the short term, day to day decisions blow in the breeze of what the world thinks you should do with your one precious life. Because the sum total of those short term decisions? That will be your whole life. Lived one day at a time.

Fix your eyes on the God who never took His eyes off you. With His glory at the center of the dreams and the goals, anything is possible.

xCC

Heads up! This post, like some posts on my site, contains affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases, I receive compensation at no extra cost to you. I love it when you do that! Thank you for supporting With Love! 


What I’ve Learned About Trust From Math Worksheets

“I am ready to accept whatever He gives and give whatever He takes with a big smile.”*

—Said by Not Me…

Hypothetical Question that I’m sure is not based in anybody’s actual reality for ya:

How does a person go from being totally worried that they won’t be able to make it through what happens tomorrow (if any of the things they fear were to happen tomorrow did) to a place where they feel like they can face anything?

I may have figured out the answer while looking at my kids’ Math worksheets.

Hi, my name is Caroline and I’m a homeschooling Mom. You probably knew that already.

Right now, I have a “Third Grader” and a “Kindergartener,” but if you are also inside the special world of homeschooling, you probably know that those are flexible terms.

My Kindergartener (almost always) totally loves Math. He gets excited about Math time, wants to breeze through two or three lessons in one sitting, and is overall just enjoying the subject at this point.

We’re just a few lessons away from finishing his curriculum for the school year, so I’m stretching it out a bit by tossing in a few extra “fun” practice worksheets in between. Usually these take the form of “Color by Number Addition.” Total fodder for developing the next Isaac Newton, right?

In case you decide to study that worksheet and discover some errors, be warned: the goal here isn’t perfection, it’s practice!

The third grader, on the other hand, isn’t super stoked about Math at present. The lessons are more involved, and they involve some analytical thinking, some brain-stretching, and generally a bit more focus than this kid is used to investing in schoolwork. (Because it mostly just comes easily for him.)

In the lesson above, I wrote down a thought to help this particular Math student remember not to try to solve a problem without first understanding what he was trying to figure out. Note to self, this is an extremely important life lesson worth writing about another day…

Okay. So you know the players: kindergartener and third grader. Now this, is the game.

Kindergartener totally wants to do third grader’s work. But? He’s not ready for third grader’s work. If you still need practice at addition, you’re probably not ready for division. Third grader doesn’t want to do third grader’s work. Because? It’s stretching him and that makes him uncomfortable.

Where do I fit in? I have a special privilege, as the parent, of making the judgment calls, and saying “Sorry kindergartener, but you’re a kindergartener, and we’re gonna keep working on what we’re working on. When we can, we’ll include you in the Math games third grader and I play, and we’ll eventually get to that third grade stuff. We just need to press on with the kindergarten stuff. For now.”

Now, sometimes, just so you know, even with the kindergartener, we arrive at a place where we don’t want to do what we need to do. Feel free to examine Exhibit C, below.

Kindergartener wasn’t really interested in working on this Math Lizard today. Math Iguana? Math reptile. He kind of just didn’t feel like it. But I was confident he had the skills (and he was allowed to use the abacus) and I wanted him to press through the I don’t feel like it’s and put some effort into it.

I didn’t give the kindergartener a third grade worksheet, but I did give him a challenge that I believed he could handle. When he tried to avoid said Math sheet in favor of playing legos, we sat down and had a little pep talk, where I told him I believed he was able to do it, if he tried, and I encouraged him with some strategies for getting it done.

I gave him the short term (pre-snack time) goal of getting all the questions on the lizard done, and with strategy and motivation, he achieved that goal before the banana was sliced and peeled.

Are you getting impatient for me to tie this together? Great, me too.

In my finite wisdom, I still recognize the importance of the process. In the Classical Conversations neck of the woods, we often talk about “Trusting the Process.” Another tangent for another day but grab this key thought: a lot of things, including our own hearts and souls, are in process. And in God’s infinite wisdom, I imagine He has a handle on what that process is supposed to look like.

Pause on this slice of Scripture with me:  “Now may the God of peace […] equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” {Hebrews 13:20a & 21}

The “Easy-to-Read” Version (yes, that’s a thing) actually says, “I pray that the God of peace will give you every good thing you need so that you can do what he wants.”

What an idea! God will give you what you need, so you can do what He wants.

Trust the process.

Maybe in some areas of your life you’re dying to jump into Advanced Calculus, but there’s a reason God’s holding you steady on Algebra right now.

Maybe in some areas of your life you feel like God has you doing Advanced Calculus and you wish you could go back to Algebra. Like, yesterday, please God, and thank you very much.

But if I, with my simple little finite mind am able to recognize in my own children how to foster the process of their growth, in our conversations, in our reading choices, and yes, in our Math studies, how much more can I trust our All-Knowing, All-Loving, great God who is our Father, to foster a process of growth in my life to help me become who He created me to be?

Can you see the possibilities truly believing that opens up in your soul?

You could trust that whatever happened — from that time you ran into a neighbor’s mailbox while dropping off a kid at a friend’s house (oh, wait, that was me!) to that time your boss called you into his office to tell you he just didn’t think you were doing a decent job (also me) — was part of God’s process.

And all that hard change we talked about yesterday: losing loved ones, moving towns, finishing school or watching kids leave the nest, you could trust that God’s hand was right there, you could trust that He could work all of it together for your good.

How much would that change our perspectives on change?

If we truly trusted God with our process, with all the days of our lives, then we might somehow come to a place where we could wholeheartedly say:

“I am ready to accept whatever He gives and give whatever He takes with a big smile.”*

— Originally said by Mother Teresa, but maybe someday also you and me…

Believing God is there, able to do great things with all the hard, the scary, the change? Could change everything.

The kindergartener made some great progress on that Math Reptile today. Tomorrow, I’ll gently hand it to him again, and if he’s willing to trust me enough to listen and give it his best, I think tomorrow it might be filled out, colored in, and we’ll continue with the process.

xCC

 

*Mother Teresa, as quoted in Come Be My Light {Read This Book!}

This post, like some posts on my site, contains affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases, I receive compensation at no extra cost to you. I love it when you do that! Thank you for supporting With Love! And a small disclaimer: we loved Mr. Stink but there’s a little bit of potty talk. Make it a read-aloud and skip that part! (wink)