When are You Really Living?

I try not to write about writing, because that feels dumb. Not everyone writes or cares about writing – but we all have something. There is something you do when you know you are living to the fullest. For me, it’s writing.

open skies

My daughter asked me if I have specific days I post, and I laughed because I thought her genuine question was a joke about my sporadic writing.

If you’re a reader who likes to know what days certain writers post, so you can keep up and not miss out, I disappoint. I haven’t been writing much lately. I’ve written numerous half-posts that come from half-thoughts that never really get the chance to come to life, to steep long enough to make sense, but I mostly prefer to leave half-thoughts unpublished.

I’ve struggled against this inconsistency and wished it were different, because that’s not how you’re supposed to write. Inconsistent is not how you’re supposed to do anything, and if you create (as all of us should) you ought to do it regularly.

I turn it over to the Lord and then turn it back into a problem and then turn it over, back, over.

I fret about not writing or not having enough time, which is a ridiculous cliche. Did God not know what He was doing when He set the sun and the earth in motion? If Jesus was never rushed while His feet were on earth and if all things the Father had planned for Him were accomplished, who am I to think that there are more things for me to do, than time to do them?

Worrying about time never created more.

But I know that the real issue isn’t time or that I’m not writing many complete sentences these days. The true problem is that I stopped listening. My friend Ashley wrote something that reminded me of that.

rest in the middle

I’ve been focused on completing the worst things first, like paying the bills or exercising. I try to do the housework as fast as I can, cook as easily as I can, delegate as much as I can, and I could really spend twice as much time in the school room as I do.

I want to hurry through the work, and hurry is the death of listening.

When you speed through the days, you lose perspective. You lose the balance of another person’s opinions or feelings or needs, and you only see what occupies your own mind. You miss God speaking. 

I enjoy my days. I enjoy this homeschooling and homemaking life and there is no place I’d rather be. Somehow though, in the middle of all the things I love, I’ve stopped listening to the quietness inside and stopped observing the noise around, and vice versa.

It’s the struggle to produce and the desire to have something to show for your end-of-the-day exhaustion that keeps you, keeps me,  from listening.  Listening doesn’t manifest itself in meals made or bills paid, in piles of laundry, in lessons learned. Listening is slow.

But it happens in the midst of a full life.

Listening happens right smack in the middle of your full and busy life and if you squeeze the day for all it’s worth, you really wring yourself out dry. We wait for a quiet time or a 3-mile run or bedtime and think then I can slow down and listen to this life, to Jesus, to my own thoughts. But it has to happen in the middle. Listening has to interrupt our day, our busy, our fervor to produce, or it’s not really listening at all. 

I want to listen to the still, small voice.

To the loud ones.

To the tension rising and flashing warnings at me.

I want to listen to the season as it changes, inside and out, and know that something is passing but something is coming, too. I want to listen to Life and plug my ears to Duty, plug my ears to all the have-tos and must-dos, and listen for the needs.

I want to listen so I can observe so I can write so I can live.

What are you doing when you are really living and listening? Leave something undone if you have to, in order to slow and listen and let the days swell with the fullness of all the time we need.




Give Them Swords

No matter how many babies we watch mature into adulthood, people will always remark on how your kids are growing. I don’t know why it still amazes us – children grow up, get taller, change into young adults – but we still feel the need to comment on it.

There they are under your roof, day by day, eating your food and marking up your walls, loving you with their morning breath and wearing you down with their nightly breakdowns. You look back at a picture from last year, or six years ago, and realize what has passed – his straight little baby teeth, her unkempt, playing-wild hair, her make-up-less face and his baby-faced smile.

Did you forget that life was moving forward in all the swirl and whoosh of dishes and books and games and questions?

Of course not.


The real problem I see with this growing-up thing is that the problems grow larger, not just the children. The things they need protecting from outnumber my abilities to shelter these life-loving and living children.

Even the youngest one asks for things I’m not prepared to say yes to, things his siblings never thought of asking for at his age, because those first three-in-three-years have hit milestones so closely together. They are three teenagers doing what’s natural and one littlest brother looking on, asking why can’t I?

So these large problems, they’re not my children, and they don’t belong to my children. They belong to me I think. I’m the one worried and playing out the scenarios and trying to know the unknown.

They want cell phones and driving privileges and extended borders and for crying out loud my son wants to hunt bear, and all I can think of is how can we give them freedom and still keep them safe? How do I manage all the circumstances of their lives so that no heartache comes, no sin besets, and no failure prevails?

There’s not a good answer for that.

This world is full of so many portals-of-sin, so many gateways to a distraction from Jesus and the narrow way. They are in my own life and I hold them in my own hands. I fight them in my mind, and I only wrestle down strongholds of word and deed by His word and I need, I need, a protecting of my own. I need a Jesus-covering like a mother’s love and father’s affection.

I worry that they might make mistakes too big for me to fix, and therein lies so many problems of my own.

If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it. [Gen 4:7 NKJV]

Sin crouches by the door of all who have the choice to do good or not, all of us tempted daily. The ugly part of the beautiful gospel is we all sin. No perfect mother ever raised a perfect child, and who am I, if not far less than perfect?

My children are growing. I’m learning to loosen the grip (really, I am) and focus on equipping them, more than on keeping them safe. It’s tough, like all things parenting and living and following my servant-king, Jesus. But it’s a good-tough, just like He is a good and fearful God.

Jesus came for us sick people. He pounced the sin that crouched and gave us dominion over it, to rule over it as we should. So all those sins I fear on behalf of my children? For the love of God, I must give them swords for the battle – not hiding places to retreat in fear.

That’s it.

Swords for the battle because not even a sinless life is safe, as Jesus proved.




Rest for the Homeschool Mom

Dear Homeschool Mom (talking to myself again):

It’s time. Be it kindergarten or middle school or the last year of high school (are you CRAZY?), it’s time to begin.

I just need to warn you about a few things.

I know you’re nervous/scared/intimidated/overwhelmed. I know your dreams are sometimes fogged with books and schedules. I know your stack of reading material has been mostly school-related this summer, that you’re tired but excited, that your husband/friends/neighbors are a little worried about you.

I need to warn you about the things that will creep in this year.

homeschool dahlias

1. There will be gaps in their education, and you just need to come to terms with it.

You worry that they won’t get everything they’re “supposed” to get. They won’t know all the things their not-homeschooled-peers know. You fear those gaps in their knowledge as if they were actual holes you all could fall into – swallowed up in another failed experiment where you thought you could actually teach your children yourself.

Do you realize how much there is to know? Do you realize how infinite God is and how many areas of His creation are inexhaustibly discoverable?

If there were no gaps in our education, what would be left for us to discover? What would we find difficult and challenging, and what would grow us?

If we all came out of 12th grade with no gaps in our learning, we would have nothing to share with one another, nothing to pursue, nothing to motivate us to continue our education – college or not.

What are the most important things for your children to know? Give them skills this year, tools that they can reach for when they come across some unknown thing. Give them a foundation for success by focusing on quality, not quantity.

Teach them a few things, well.

Don’t worry about gaps. Worry about being afraid of not having answers. Worry about losing the desire to ask questions. Worry about being the know-it-alls who are so puffed up with their own knowledge that they have no room for wonder.

Scratch that. Don’t worry at all. Prepare and pray. Keep learning, yourself. Model learning for your family and they will follow suit.

2. Your schedule will not cooperate. Your tidy schedule that you made this summer is full of obstinance and pushy-nonessentials that poke at the edges of your spreadsheet. Push, stretch, and soon your well-ordered day has grown to epic proportions.

Trim it down, cut it into size and master those margins because busy-ness and martyr-mom are not medals to wear or crosses to bear. They are leaches to suck the life out of your efforts.

This applies to all of us – homeschoolers or not. On paper we are superheroes who can fill every 1/2 hour slot with notable achievements. We forget about all the milk splashing on the floor and the dog going crazy at the UPS man (bringing more books!) and the phone calls from desperate friends or husbands needing favors.

We forget to leave room for God to readjust our day. Or we forget and leave too much room for others to readjust our day.

Remember: people will think that “we homeschool” means “of course we’re available because we’re not doing anything anyway”. Guard your schedule and open your door to only the highest priorities.

3. It won’t look like the fairy tale you imagine in your head  – everyone happily and eagerly gathered for a great day of learning.

Your children are scattered, literally, across all four corners of your house/property/neighborhood and you’re that mom hollering for them to come home. You’re the only mom hollering this time of day, actually, because the neighbors are sensible and sent their kids to school this morning…

Don’t spend long on that thought.

It won’t be textbook or fairytale or Little Homeschool on the Prairie, at least not everyday.

You ought to stop reading those homeschool blogs if you find yourself wondering, what would so-and-so do in this situation, or, I’ll bet so-and-so’s children would be doing x right now. I’ll bet her house is clean, she knows what’s for dinner, her laundry is neatly folded and put away, and she’s enjoying The Iliad with her scad of sponge-like children…

You can stop that kind of thinking, too.

You live in a beautiful reality and have been given a beautiful grace that is better than any fairytale.

May His grace sustain you on those daysMay you more fully appreciate the ups and downs of your life. May you and your children know God better this year because of His infinite goodness that is beyond finding out – but you keep searching it anyway. 

Press on, mom.

Things I Learned in August

I learned lots of stuff in August that probably won’t interest most of you, unless you care about Latin pronunciation rules and math laws and the geography of Canada. I’ve been in Deep Planning Mode for homeschool and my brain runneth over with interesting things, but not necessarily topics I care to write about here, and so my writing has taken a bit of a back seat on this school bus.

One over-arching theme of my life lately has been that God just has His hands in everything, and I hope to get back to writing about that as soon as we get this school year under control.

In the meantime, here are a few random things I learned in August:

1. My brain engages when I run.

I have come to terms with the fact that I am a slow-processing, crock-pot kind of person. If you introduce a topic to me and ask me for my immediate opinion, you may be disappointed. I often draw blanks because I just need more time to think about a thing.

If you ask me Sunday at 2 p.m. what I learned from the sermon that day, I’ll try to come up with something but really, give me more time to process, please. Ask me on Sunday at 2 p.m. – because it’s good for me to think about the message and not just move on with my week – but ask me to answer you tomorrow.

Or, I’ve discovered, tell me to go for a run after church and then let’s talk about the sermon. Because when I run I have All The Thoughts.

Endorphins are a gift. I wish somehow I could write while running, because I inevitably forget 90% of my endorphin-fueled genius the moment I walk in the door.

2. I am most drawn to Facebook when I have work to do.

This has been a busy month of preparing for school, which means I’ve been on Facebook a lot and read copious amounts of useless material. For some reason, when my mind is overwhelmed my default mode is mindless entertainment. I hate that about myself. It leads to this cycle of busy mind – useless information – wasted time – yucky feelings.

I know Facebook can be used for good, but I also know that so much of the conversation on there just raises my blood pressure or distracts me from what I need to be doing.

I’ve done two things this month that have helped: I un-followed some peeps and I installed an app called Self-Control.

Yep, there’s an app for that.

Self-Control is free for Mac (there must be something like it for PCs?) and it allows you to put websites on a blacklist, set a timer, and get to work. If I put www.facebook.com on the blacklist and set the timer for one hour, I am forced to do what I’m supposed to be doing for that hour and no amount of finagling will let me on Facebook. None. No restarting the computer and no administrator overrides.

3. I always pack too much food for camping.

We made it to Wallowa Lake this summer and spent a week. It was awesome.


After spending lots of money and time prepping food, keeping it cold in coolers, draining the water out of it and refilling it with expensive bags of ice, repeatedly, we stopped at the little market in Joseph. We had avoided it because we assumed, like most touristy towns, that it would cost an arm and a leg for anything.

But we bought a gallon of milk for the same price we would pay at home. Fresh fruit and veggies were comparable, too. Snacks weren’t much more expensive, bread was the same, and they had ICE CREAM.

Next year, I will do most of my shopping when we get there. Since we never eat all the food I pack anyways, I think we’ll save time and money. Nice.

4. Thinking about doing a hard thing is usually worse than actually doing it.

True of most exercise. True of public speaking. True of so many stressful things that we think about for way too long before we actually just jump in and do them.

I am ready for school to start so we can work the kinks out, instead of playing out all the scenarios in my mind.

I am ready to tackle some projects that God has opened the door for long ago, and I have just stared at the threshold.

I am ready for the busy fall schedule and all the activities that I fear we don’t have time for. We’ll just do the next thing, the next thing, the next thing, and I’m ready to quit worrying about fitting it all in.



{Thanks to Emily for giving us a place to share What We Learned in August.}

How a Mother Thinks


The List

My thoughts join hands and swing in giant, dancing circles, tangled up and with their backs to me. They move together but not in any ordered way, all just jumbled up and touching but not connecting. I try to tap one on the shoulder, to coax it out of its swirl. Like those girls in junior high, it snubs me and I stand outside the circle, getting bumped and brushed aside and sometimes stepped on but no one notices.

I leave them.

On the fringes of those thoughts are chairs arranged all orderly. I sit and observe the dancing thoughts and try to make sense of one of them, try to tell it apart from the others, all of them a blur to my introspection.

It appears I’m doing nothing, so a child asks me a simple question. I try earnestly to leave those thoughts and believe they’ll still be there when I return, still be gaily thrashing and mob-dancing around. I ask for a repeat from the inquisitor and find that he wants simply to know what’s for dinner.

It’s 7 a.m.

I don’t know yet, but how about breakfast?  I reply and point to the toaster. He opens the cupboard and the bread bag holds one crusty crust, so I look in the freezer for more. By this time my thoughts have danced off to pick up dinner ideas, which easily swing into the circle and choreograph their own menace.

I think tacos or barbecue chicken. I wonder what’s ready in the garden. I try to remember what’s happening this evening that could interfere with  our dinner time, who will be where and when should we eat what.

Two kids will be at practices, which means they’ll need the car. But I’m leaving at 3, with the car and another child. I don’t know when my husband will be home from work, so I’ll make phone calls for rides to and from practice right after I get some meat out to thaw for the dinner that I won’t be here to prepare and they won’t be here to eat, and then I’ll check the garden. And cut some flowers. And fill the bird feeders and clean up the shoes in the garage. And then I realize that the only one home at dinner time will be my 9 year old…

And bread. The inquisitor wants toast.

I show him how to toast frozen bread and he gathers his toppings like an artist’s tools. Butter first, spread thin and perfectly even – an event which takes 10,000 passes of the knife. Jam, flowing chunkily over the edges and dripping off the plate, shmeared on the knife handle, wiped across the cheek. I follow him up with a rag and shoo him to the table with a fork to eat his dripping breakfast. Who eats toast with a fork?

Chicken and jam and volleyball and groceries and phone calls and tacos and laundry and

paper. I must find my planner and dump those dancing thoughts.

Like a bar room bouncer I grab those thoughts and slam them onto paper. They squirm but ink pins them there, frozen and no longer dancing. Now that they are still, I realize some of them just need to go. I eject them with a swipe of the pen and move on to examine the rest of the motley crew. Every one is suspect. Any one could be axed at a moment’s notice.

Havoc-wreakers. Peace-stealers. To-dos and not-to-dos. They all trade their party dresses for black and white and my simple mind orders them into place. Stay put. Make room for the others. No shoving. I’ll decide who’s first.

Another cup of coffee, a list-and-a-plan later, my thoughts are all untangled and wrangled onto paper and one by one, I dash their little selves through with a stroke of the Pilot v5. Extra fine.

That’s how a mother thinks. Slightly exaggerated.




“God wills that we should push on into His presence and live our whole life there.” 

~ A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

I know.

Stuff doesn’t always have to have some deeper meaning. Sometimes strawberries are just strawberries, clouds are just clouds. Sometimes a flower is just a flower and we don’t have to delve some deep meaning from it.

I know.

But that’s not always how I think, so that’s not always how I write. And, well, it’s my blog and I’ll pontificate if I want to And use big words.

IMG_1665 IMG_1686 IMG_1876

Yesterday morning I hunted out strawberries in the garden and I thought about pursuit. My strawberry bed needs some attention, some weeding out and thinning down, some replanting of those stringers that drop new plants wherever they choose to land. I had to dig around for the ripest berries and each one found was a treasure, because I love strawberries and because I beat my kids to it.

In a larger sense, the pursuit of ripe strawberries makes the berries themselves more precious. The strawberries don’t stand and call for attention. They hide under the shade of ginormous leaves, and every now and then you spot a glimpse of red and you know to look there.

Pursuing something can be frustrating. It can be discouraging if we don’t find that thing we’re after in the time frame that we hoped. It can make us doubt when the short trip we thought we were taking leads to months of ambiguity and fruitlessness. Maybe years of it.

There are good things in my life that have been easily won. I have many blessings that have fallen into my lap simply by the grace of God, without struggle and strife and endless searching after them. Other blessings have come by way of the complicated grace of God.

Needing to fight for something does not mean God doesn’t want us to have it, and those proverbial “closed doors” can sometimes be simply God’s redirecting.

Well, I suppose a closed door always redirects you. Unless you beat it down. Or unlock it. Or turn the handle because it’s not really locked in the first place…

I digress.

My thoughts are just this: something that is hard or doubtful or uncertain, something that makes you wonder if you’re “on the right path”, is worth pursuing because it teaches you more about that object desired, and about your own desires.

The knowledge of God is eternal life. Forever. Endless. Pursuing that can be frustrating and you can feel misled or off track or discouraged, or dizzy from the circles, but

This is eternal life, that they may know You, the one true God,  and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. ~ John 17:3

We have forever to pursue God.

We need to start now.

It’s a forever-urgency and we don’t have to stress over this struggle we often have of trying to follow God. We have forever and today and all the unanswered questions keep us keepin’ on, don’t they?

That thing you dream about doing, the person you long to be, the plans you want to make but are afraid of because what if they’re not God’s plans for your life – all those are part of this pursuit. Every question we encounter is part of our pursuit of a God who has  a perfect will for us, but has given us the freedom to choose and agonize. 

So He made life mysterious.

I hope you sleuth out some mysteries today and know God more because of the pursuit.

(Here’s a mystery: last  night I dreamt that a hoard of children raided my garden and ate every.ripe.thing. Seriously. What’s that about?)


Pontificate: v. to speak or write and give your opinion about something as if you knew everything about it and only your opinion was correct.

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