Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A review of 2014

We are home and quiet today after a busy few weeks. We celebrated Christmas early at home, then spent a few days with my family, and then we traveled to Kansas City, Missouri for a quick and fun trip with Jim's family. I love this time of year and all that goes with it. I love the activity and gathering and noise, I love packing and planning and to be on the road. And I love to come home. It was especially nice this year to come home to our own cozy house.

My mind is spinning with ideas and plans for the new year. I love all of the seasons, but I have learned to especially love this slow, grey month that opens like a fresh notebook. It is time to hibernate. It is time to make art.

A few things I learned and some highlights of 2014: 

1. Looking back on this year and the past years, I think I am finding a little clarity of what is my ministry for now, in this season, small as these things are . ..

-the ministry of countenance
-a disciplined and sanctified imagination
-to live a welcoming life

2. Words I lived by in 2014
I kept these particular phrases taped to the refrigerator, and thought on them daily:

"The key to Classical Education {parenting, life} is modeling."

"We are what we think."

"Favorable conditions never come." -C.S.Lewis

3. I learned that I am a Nine on the Enneagram.

4. Conflict makes things better
As a Peacemaker Nine (above), I hate conflict. I am learning, slowly, how to have healthy conflict and that conflict can be positive, peacemaking, and can build relationships.

5. Best Books of 2015
It seems every year I read a couple of books which qualify as The Best Book I've Ever Read. This year:

Best Fiction: Middlemarch- reminded me Why I Read Fiction

Best Non-Fiction: The Call by Os Guiness, another I will refer back to again and again 
"Follow the call of Christ despite the chaos and uncertainty of modern life, and you have the storyline of your life."
Best Parenting Book: Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes... In You and Your Kids, by Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller. The heart of obedience and of becoming the person God made you to be, is for honor. Honoring God and others became the theme of our home this year, and will continue to be.

6. We enjoyed good visits with dear friends, these were the highlight of 2014. I am hoping 2015 will hold more of the same

7. Jim and I got iphones, we took a million field trips, had playdates, Jim began a new job working for Cleveland RTA, I continued writing for The Budget. I attended the Midwest homeschool convention (loved it). We began our third year of homeschool and second year of Classical Conversations. The kids played and grew and became fresh, new little people, right before our eyes. 

Three well visits- just because I love the photo 

(all of their intensity came from him)
8. My entire family went to Disney World.

Jim and my mom are missing from this photo- a fun time with all 14 of us.
I love my family!
9. I learned to teach (and live) from a state of rest. (Best podcast of 2014- I can't find the podcast, but this video by Andrew Kern is the same topic.)

10. We went camping and I decided I want to live in an RV. We came home and bought a little house.

11. I decluttered our entire house. Every last bit- from the furniture down to Polly Pocket's itty-bitty pink shoes, everything found a home or was purged. I probably wouldn't have done this if I hadn't needed to, but it feels good. I will write a post about this soon.

12. Best Christmas Gift (Ever): my sister-in-law built me the only thing I wanted for Christmas- a Little Free Library! She is amazing! I love it! 

Linking up with Emily at Chatting at the Sky with What I learned in 2014!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

more ideas than time

I give a lot of thought to finding meaning in life, understanding my purpose, what I could be doing better. On any given day I am thinking about ten possible major life plans. I love my life and the choices we have made, but I am always dreaming about other possibilities.

One day after asking the Lord- again- what is my calling and why do I still not know this? I felt Him say- why not be thankful for how I made you? Why not be glad for all of your ideas and excited by the possibilities? Why would your calling be confined to only one path?

This has given me so much freedom and joy to embrace possibilities. And the contentment again to be where I am, doing what I do . .. to live in the season as it passes.

I'm learning that Calling isn't 100% clear for most of us. And that it changes, sometimes one calling will end and another begin. That a calling may have very little to do with career and everything to do with following Christ in the fullness of life.

I loved the entire process of moving to a new house. All of it- sorting, purging, organizing a garage sale and selling things on Craigslist . .. the packing and planning and juggling the kids . .. working at the new house, stripping wallpaper and painting . .. and then the unpacking, the challenge of making a smaller space work, organizing it all . .  It was very invigorating. I felt like my gifts were put to use, and that I was good at it and could thrive in the chaos.

And maybe these are the gifts which will never fit into a specific career, but are important and useful.

I was made to be a mother, it is my deepest calling. Writing and making art, homeschooling my kids, creating a home- what a gift it is to be able to do these things. I still wish some days for the kind of energy and reward and purpose that a career outside the home would give, but I love what I am doing now. And I love the possibilities.
Can you state your identity in a single sentence? No more should you necessarily be able to state your calling in a single sentence. At best you can only specify part of it. And even that clarity may have to be qualified. In many cases a clear sense of calling comes only through a time of searching, including trial and error . . . What may be clear to us in our twenties may be far more mysterious in our fifties because God's complete designs for us are never fully understood, let alone fulfilled, in this life. . . . zigzagging, paintstaking, upside-down, and lifelong process. And that's why it's ultimately so fruitful and rewarding. . . unsure of ourselves, we are sure of God. -Os Guiness, The Call
The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life is the best nonfiction book I read this year. Worth reading again every year.

Whoever I am, thou knowest, 
O God, I am thine

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

one habit

I am not good at sticking with routines and I fail at most habits. But there is a habit I couldn't live without.

I spent some time this morning skimming my journal from the year and thinking about what I have learned, how the Lord has led and mostly about His goodness and faithfulness . . .answered prayer, grace, forgiveness, His daily presence and peace.

It is enlightening to look back and remember prayers I had prayed, and to realize how God answered. 

I can see the ways in which I am a broken record (oh let me count the ways!) . . . and how good and gracious God is with my weaknesses when I bring them to Him . . . again and again and again.

The places I feared, uncertain whether we were making the right decisions, begging God for direction . . . Jim started a new job this year, we made the decision to stick with homeschool longterm, we bought a house . . . it is a great comfort to remember that I had laid these all at God's feet; to remember that the prayers I prayed then continue now, under His care.

The very earliest spiritual discipline I learned was to have a morning quiet time. Pray, read my Bible and a book or devotional, journal or write-out scripture.

Yes, it is a cliche, and yes, we can turn it into legalism. For a short time I gave it up altogether; I can pray all day long, I reasoned.

When I was younger I think I idolized my morning quiet time like a good luck charm; if I missed I was sure to have a bad day. Or like a genie in a bottle, a way for all my wishes to come true.

For a year or so I decided mornings weren't the best time because it was my only time to write. But most days I didn't find time later to quiet myself and pray and read my Bible. I found myself spiritually dry.

I returned to mornings. It is when my mind is clear and my spirit is fresh, when I am least likely to be interrupted. Sometimes it is an hour, sometimes it is ten minutes. There are days I miss. But it is my favorite habit, the best way to begin the day.

I have always kept a journal. There are so many reasons why I need to journal. I begin each year with a fresh one- my favorite is moleskin- large, soft cover, plain pages.

I write out scripture. I don't usually try to memorize, but something about the act of writing out God's Word sinks the words deeper into my spirit.

I copy quotations from books I am reading. I've tried keeping a separate notebook for this, but what I read ties so directly to what I am learning about the Lord that I hate to separate them.

I write out my prayers. This is my favorite thing to go back and read later- when I am feeling anxious, or doubtful, I can read and remember, Oh yes, I have committed this to Him. What am I worried about?

I record the days. Not always, not even every week. But as often as I can I will record what is happening in our family, what I love or hate about right now. Similar to The Examen, this is also a good way to reflect on God's presence in the events of daily life.

Looking back over the year I am so thankful for what the Lord has done. I think I will blog about some of the successes and failures of 2014, what I learned, and God's faithfulness and care through the year.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

to know

As I've read my Bible lately the thing that keeps standing out is how often we are directed toward knowing, or knowledge.

I seem to focus more on feeling and behavior- the fruit of the spirit, right living- but I don't quite appreciated the emphasis the Bible places on correct knowledge and understanding. Reading again it seems that knowledge comes first- how we live and feel would flow out of what we know and understand.

I was working on an art project for our co-op, and I had to draw a still life, something I haven't done in a while. Realism is not my strength- my drawings are usually somehow distorted and I must continually re-see what I am trying to draw.

The problem is that the mind is not good at knowing. We think we know- and that is what throws off our perspective. Often drawing lessons will recommend turning an object upside down to draw it- when our own logic is suspended we can actually see what is there.

Maybe this is an exercise in faith. What we think we see is not always what is there. Our circumstances are only a shadow- so concentrate on what we know to be true about God. It is a constant, deliberate effort to study and remember truth.

There is a circumstance currently which I need to turn upside down in my mind- in order to see what is actually there

(and it all is love).
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down . . . 
-from Lorica of St. Patrick

. . . to know this love that surpasses knowledge- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Eph.3:19

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Small as these things are,

The little one is sick and I've spent the past thirty-six hours with her clinging to me. She's a cuddler always, and when she's sick she only wants to be curled against me. Last night was fitful, and the night before.

"As the world counts things, there is not much in my care . . . I keep paring things back, zeroing in on my purpose. The time is too short for ugliness and foolishness. . .."
steward at study in brown.

I keep Tonia's beautiful post taped inside a cupboard door so I can go back and read it regularly. Especially days like this, which feel small and ordinary.

"Small as these things are, I guard them fiercely . . ."

I remember that this is my cup, my canvas, my work-

"When I go, I pray I have left a profligate, worn-out world the testimony of astonishing Goodness and Beauty . . ."

Go read my favorite post of 2014 . . .

In all of the noise of this internet world, I am most thankful for a few of these quiet, purposeful voices whispering of the good, the true, and the beautiful.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

that night we shopped and she shone

I'd wanted to go alone, but I took her along Christmas shopping last night. I am a poor decision maker and wanted to be alone so I could think. But I hadn't spent time with her alone in a while, and she loves to go, and so I let her come along, warning her as we went; Sam, I need to be able to think ok? You can't chatter the whole time.

So she came along and chattered the whole time.

And we shopped. This girl of mine, she shone. I got to see all of her best qualities last night. I already know her best qualities, but still, I marvel at her.

We left after dinner, around 6. I had a fairly lengthy list, some general ideas but nothing specific to give each person. For three hours we circled the store- discussing, debating, comparing. We dropped things in the cart and then took them back out again. We discussed budget and prices. We talked about each person very specifically. She reminded me of things I hadn't thought of, and discouraged me from the gifts that weren't exactly right. She never grew tired, never asked for anything for herself. She never complained once.

At nine we left the store but we weren't quite finished and so we went to Target. Again we shopped and compared and carefully selected until finally we had finished; each gift thoughtfully chosen. I feel like it was my best year of gifts, and all because of this child of mine.

Sami is a doer. She loves to have a goal and accomplish it. And she is really logical and careful and precise, like her dad. And she is sharp, her understanding of people and values and the world is beyond her years.

Forgive me for bragging on my kid. Sometimes I get to see all over again how awesome they are.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

I don't feel like decorating for Christmas this year. Christmas, yes. I'm just not up for dragging out one more box and unpacking it knowing I will have to pack it all up again. 

We are in a state of unfinished. Everywhere I look there is something needing done- hang curtains. clean out the gutters. put the garage in order. paint. remove. fix. change. It won't all get done anytime soon. We moved at a time that coincided with an intense time of work for Jim, and the holidays and a trip to visit family over Christmas, and there is just so much to do.

I like things to be meaningful and thoughtful and intentional, and this year feels like Christmas happening to us in a blur.

But this morning we will do lessons. And then I will head to the basement and drag out the Christmas decorations. And the kids will dive into them with abandon, and Christmas will be upturned all over the house, and all that is unfinished will be strung over with childish anticipation and joy. When I am tired of preparing, I will prepare anyway. And I will choose to see the metaphor rather than the mess. Because I do love a good metaphor.