A Mothering + Home Education Winter Rhythm For When You Lose Your Way

 

If you are a mother and/or home educator, you know that February seems to be the worst. I wake up in the mornings and think, “I don’t wanna…” We are winter-weary, sickness-saturated, and vision has vanished. We have lost our way.

 

Often we throw up our hands and want to quit, hire a full-time nanny (yeah, right) or we double-down and plod through the prescribed curriculum or schedule with ruthless determination. It’s a big jumble of fight or flight, frustration, and low-level despair. Our rhythms are broken.

 

When my mothering or education plan is stale, fruitless or uninspiring, I try to step back to simple.

 

For me, stepping back to simple means stepping back to tending the basics. 

 

What are the basics?

 

Our whole selves: bodies, souls, and spirits.

 

It’s time to tend the February rhythms so that they honor the whole person in simple, gentle, nourishing and life-giving ways.

 

 

BODIES:

 

Warm drink + tasty food.

 

With a warm drink, in a rocking chair and family and friends around, I am working on finding peace and joy in the moments we have been given. It doesn’t have to all make sense. I don’t have all the answers. ~ Taya Kyle

 

By now, we are sick of the usual fare and find ourselves repeating the same rote food menus. This is the perfect time of year to reboot your hot drink and comfort food arsenal and offer a new round of delicious, warming meals. Only a few minutes perusing your cookbooks or Pinterest for a new stew or beverage can break up the mundane.

 

Consider purchasing a new herbal tea this week and a fresh pastry from the local grocery bakery. Or bake some muffins for an afternoon treat. Read your children some poetry or a short read-aloud.

 

Make some of that good old 80’s Russian Tea and use it as an afternoon pick-me-up. Or something healthier.

 

Try a child-friendly soup or stew, some roasted chicken thighs with veggies, or comfort foods like macaroni and cheese.

 

The hearts of my children warm towards connection and learning when their bodies are soothed with warm drinks and nourishing simple foods. Break up your normal routine but adding some new food + drink this month.

 

 

SOULS:

 

Good books + Captivating Curriculum.

 

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”  ~ Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

 

My boys who are 10 and 13 are thoroughly enjoying reading and listening to The Chronicles of Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander. We found the books plus the audio versions through our local library. The Magnus Chase series by Rick Riordan is another current favorite.

 

Having a new, enthralling series to read makes the long winter days bearable and stirs up the imagination, challenges their thinking, and expands their vocabulary.

 

For the little guys, keep the picture books fresh according to the current holiday and season of the year. Now that Valentine’s is over, it’s time to start pulling early Spring books on planting seeds and baby animals! I look on Pinterest for children’s book ideas and immediately go to my library website and reserve them. They text me when my books on hold are ready!

 

What do I mean by captivating curriculum?

 

Collect a body of books and materials that captivate the children’s interests. This is a great time of year to lay aside your plans for 1-4 weeks to do an interest-led unit study. If learning is dull and is causing friction in your relationships, stop and listen. Listen to your child. What are they interested in? What would they like to learn about? At the minimum, spend a week together pursuing their ideas. This will breathe fresh air into your relationships and into their motivation.

 

 

SPIRITS:

 

Outside + Lenten Practices.

 

“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach of us more than we can ever learn from books.” ~ John Lubbock

 

No matter the season, we cannot underestimate the power of getting our children and ourselves outside for our mental and emotional health. Buy a local park or State Park pass, keep quilts and ENO hammocks in the trunk, and as we get closer to Spring, explore anything involving water. When I get boys near lakes, oceans, rivers, and creeks, their spirits come alive. My boys are required to spend at least as much time outside as they do on screens. Their behavior improves and sibling fighting lessens.

 

In 2013 I wrote a post on my first blog about our journey towards Lent and some ideas of how to lean into that season with your children. Honoring the liturgical calendar is a wonderful way to breathe new life into a stale daily rhythm and to kindle our spirits with gratitude for the Lord’s journey to the cross. A bowl of flour and a candle can be the means to a meaningful Lent.

 

 

When schooling or a schedule becomes a taskmaster, slow beauty is the first to go. When we feel the pressure to academically perform or keep our schedules full, there is little time for lingering over books, eating a warm, delicious lunch or time for following the ants down the sidewalk.

 

February time is lingering time. It’s the calm before the busy Spring storms. Let us take advantage of this month to nourish the bodies, souls, and spirits of our children and ourselves in simple + nourishing + meaningful ways. Warming foods, good books, and fresh air are some of our greatest Winter resources.

 

Share with me your current favorite hot drink, soup, book series or hometown place you are visiting! How are you holistically nurturing your family this month?

 

 

 

 

On Finding God in the Pots and Pans

 

“God walks among the pots and pans.” ~ St. Teresa of Avila

 

I stumble into my kitchen, moving slow, still in my gray-checked pajamas and striped fuzzy socks. The quiet house feels like a gentle hug as five of my kids have left to go to classes. The other child still sleeps, no doubt enjoying the calm, solitary space. The washer hums, the dog snores, and the heat subtlely cycles on and off. I melt a pat of butter in a pan.

 

I whisk two golden eggs, mix with some browned sausage and shredded cheddar, making myself a warm scramble of sorts. Green onions dot the top when I am done. I sit alone on the couch, reveling in my repast, whispering thanks for this moment.

 

This morning looks like countless others that each of us wakes up to. Food and drink, humming appliances, with random thoughts floating across our minds about the upcoming day. Nothing new, just the repetitions of life beginning as the sun rises.

 

I read that in an average person’s lifetime, he or she will spend 2000 hours brushing his or her teeth, 14,600 hours driving, 43,800 hours eating, and 58,400 hours doing chores. In other words, most of our lives are spent doing the small and quiet, the ordinary and mundane.

 

We don’t give these regular spaces much value but view them as the mindless path to the more important and productive times in our day. But more and more I see that these routines, chores and daily times of transition are the liminal spaces where we can meet God.

 

We need not separate the sacred from the ordinary, the “quiet times” and church attendance from our vacuuming and showering. Jesus showed up with a body that ate, slept, walked, built, taught. He told life-changing stories in fields and by mountains, shared truth around tables and while he washed feet. He listened and obeyed the Spirit at every small turn, trusting in the Father to accomplish His will through Him, step by step, person by person, meal by meal.

 

Adam S. McHugh, the author of The Listening Life, says that he spends his days praying the “Samuel prayer”. The words fall from his lips when he wakes up or lies down, when paying bills, cooking and even when scooping the cat litter because he needs “the reminder that the winds of the Spirit blow through every place and activity”.

 

“Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” 

 

This is the prayer of Samuel. The point of this prayer is simply to make space for God’s presence in our lives, a slow-down, an openness of our hearts to His movement, as we prepare our food, shower our bodies, shake out rugs, and run our errands. We acknowledge that Spirit lives within us, prompting, guiding, speaking and listening to us, an invitation to a holy conversation in the midst of life.

 

I often make connecting with the Lord too hard, too prescribed, too idealistic, with “shoulds” dominating my relational landscape. What would it be like today to open our hearts and breathe out a simple prayer? Open our ears, lean in, as we walk and talk and move? 

 

Father, whisper to us in our ordinary tasks, our daily movements, and when we brush our teeth. Open our ears. Speak Lord, your well-loved servants are listening.

 

Why Facebook Feels Like My Childhood

 

Tonight I listened to Ray LaMontagne singing about winter over my wireless speaker as I sauteed chicken in sizzling butter with some white wine and lemon waiting patiently nearby. Feelings of melancholy swept over me like they seem to do for many of us in the stark cold evenings of winter. Even as the rice steamed and the salad was prepared, my mind could not shake the negativity that snaked its way from the screen of my phone into the corners of my soul.

 

I thought about divisions. Deep lines are drawn in our country, in our families and even in our own conflicted souls. Across social media, friends and strangers are angry and scared, frustrated and crying out. Opinions are stated, rebuttals are added, and the noise of outrage reverberates in our minds and souls for hours on end

 

 

This is nothing new for me, I realize. My heart and mind remember these dividing lines for they are etched deep from the relational divisions of my childhood. Politics and religion were offered a place at our table along with the rib-eye steak and the baked potatoes. Most family gatherings were times of debate, of proving points, of getting louder to be heard, all in the name of “truth”. No one ended up switching sides or coming to mutual conclusions, and the inner spaces of our hearts distanced, while distrust and fear lodged deep.

 

My stomach still feels the effects from it.

 

Somehow meekness and humility weren’t guests at our family feasts. I am not sure that they were ever invited. None of us seemed to know how to listen well with curiosity + respect, that a gentle answer turns away wrath, and how to keep love and relationship at the center.

 

We still don’t know. My family didn’t, and America doesn’t seem to know either.

 

Somehow Love got lost in those cavernous divides. The fruit of self-righteous discussion ended with broken relationships, years without speaking, and no tools to build bridges over chasms torn wide by our own tongues.

 

 

I once asked, “Can we agree to disagree? For the sake of our relationship?” The quick reply was “but let me just say this…” Being heard, no matter the cost, trumped connection.

 

Who actually won though? What was accomplished?  I don’t think anybody did and the accomplishment was wider separation, isolation, hurt.

 

I mourn tonight. I mourn as the baby of a family who watched all of the older, wiser and respected ones tear each other apart. I see all the arguing and keep wondering what the answers are for holding to our beliefs but with hearts of a servant. Can we speak our views with genuine care and kindness? My Facebook feed is filled with people on both sides of the political fence and that wall is growing higher as we outrage, give in to fear, and either openly or privately disdain the other. Both stamp Jesus’ name on their worldviews, beliefs and heartfelt stances, and I am standing back thoroughly perplexed.

 

I wonder how we can protest or support with a gentler kind of tone? I wonder if we can use Jesus’ name with greater humility? I wonder how people of difference can come around a table and start a healing way of eating, of conversing, of listening? I wonder if laughter has a place in the seriousness of it all? I wonder how mutual respect as shared Image-bearers can be the placemats that undergird these meals?

 

 

All that I know is that my brother died in October, and we hadn’t spoken in a long, long time. The divide in religion, politics and the critical tone of our home drove wedges that were never overcome. To say that there is regret and loss is an understatement. Our hearts grew walls of judgment, hurt, misunderstanding and quiet separation.

 

We should grieve together that we are losing each other.

 

Brothers and sisters, arms-crossed, haughty and righteous, losing what we all really desire: the embodiment of grace and love, of washing each other’s feet, of abiding connection despite the deep differences.

 

My family is mending again. Since that loss, conversations are happening. Texting circles have begun. There is more lightness, more acceptance, more peace. Misunderstandings have gently been made clear. Visits, vacations, and monthly dinners have begun. There is always, always hope for healing and change.

 

Today, even as I mourn all this country-wide brokenness, I celebrate that every person regardless of political conviction and religious faith are made in His image. All were knit by God in their mother’s womb, and all were died for on the cross. Even the President, even the protestors, even me and you. 

 

May we pray for the peace of our homes, our nation, our world and seek to heal the divides around tables of openness, humility, care, and respect. We don’t have to believe and think the same, but we can always love.

 

 

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