Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Balance

I am reading the book Help for Harried Homeschooler by Christine M. Field. In her chapter on finding balance in your life, a few pages were so thought provoking to me that I had to write it down for future reference. Or perhaps I should say as a stern reminder to myself.


"Being There"


On an average day, Jesus balanced many roles. He taught, he healed, he encouraged. In the midst of His Father's business, he took time to get away to a solitary place to pray. He showed kindness and compassion to all he encountered, even when he was weary and tired from his burdens.

Homeschooling is a process that has great impact on our children and changes us in ways we never imagined. It requires commitment far beyond pledging to serve on committees or bake cookies for fund-raisers, as you may have done before you brought your children home to school. It calls us to be present in our children's lives in the most signifigant way possible. One of the joys of our calling is that we're not limited to asking our children when they get home from school, "

Author Iris Krasnow left a glamorous career to raise her family. In her book Surrendering to Motherhood she addresses this concept of being present in our children's lives. "Being there" isn't about money or about staying home full time, she writes. Rather, "It's about an emotional and spiritual shift, a succumbing to being where you are when you are, and being there as much as possible. It's about crouching on the floor and getting delirious over the praying mantis your son has just caught instead of perusing a fax while hes yelling for your attention and you distractedly say over your shoulder: 'Oh, honey, isn't that a pretty bug.' It's about being attuned enough to notice when your kid's eyes shine so you can make your eyes shine back.

"This 'Now' with the children isn't a cage," Krasnow observes. "It's the marrow. Finally I have drilled and drilled to the right Essence."

I love that -- the idea of drilling to the marrow, to the very essence of life. Of being connected to life profoundly. I have moments when I experience that. I know the joy of seeing my own children's eyes light up with wonder. Yet still I struggle mightly to stay focused on the now that Krasnow writes about.

Maybe it's because too often now feels like sheer drugery. Where is the joy in this? I ask myself as I move from task to task, grumbling as I go. On a really bad day, I lash out at the children:"Why can't you take care of your stuff?" I shout. Then I look at my own disheveled room. Where do I think they learned their habits?

Reading brother Lawrence's book The Practice of the Presence of God revolutionized my spiritual life. A humble monk who cooked and cleaned for the other monks in his monastery, Brother Lawrence did everything from peeling potatoes to scrubbing pots, with a heart full of the love of God. "During your meals or during your daily duty,"he wrote,"lift up you heart to Him, because even the little remembrance will please Him. You don't have to pray out loud; He's nearer than you can imagine."

God is near to us when we are changing diapers, scrubbing floors, or washing laundry. Like Brother Lawrence, we can do these things prayfully and from our hearts. How much better an example to our children to do those tasks in love instead of with grumbling and grousing!
When we view the dailiness of life -- the diapers that need to be changed, the questions that beg answers -- as interruptions and distractions, we miss the greatest benefit of mothering and of homeschooling; the gift of being there to share it all. "When you stop to be where you are," Krasnow says,"then your life can really begin."

In the scope of things, the relationships we build with our God and our families here on earth are what matter most. If we can keep that perspective in the midst of managing the little details of life, we will take care of those less important things swiftly and efficiently so we can concentrate on the things that matter most.

For me, this was one of those wow moments! She was totally describing me!! You mean I am not the only one who forgets what the important things are and gets totally caught up in the busyness of life? I so need to remind myself to live in the here and now. I brought my kids home so that I could spend more time with them, but am I really spending time with them? So many other things pull at my thoughts that I do find myself grunting an answer or nodding politely in the hope that they will get out of my hair just so I can get the job done.

After reading this, I realize I need to make a consious effort to make my "eyes shine back" at my children, for before I know it they will be leaving the nest. So, here are Christine Field's pointers for gaining the balance that I need.

Practical Pointers for Gaining Balance in Your Life.

Make a list of all the tasks you perform in your home, and answer the following questions for each one: (a) Which can be done only by you? (b) Which can be done only now? (c) Which will still be there to do in ten to fifteen years? Use your answers to help you decide how you should spend today. Will you regret not having spent more time with your children? There are many things that I want to do yet with my life, but my children are only children once. I will miss many great opportunities, sometimes disguised as small things, if I do not seize them now.
Find ways to "blur the lines" between your many roles. (These are found in the proceeding chapters of Field's book, so if you're really interested, you're going to have to borrow or buy your own copy). :-)
Avoid putting up artificial distinctions between schooling and home life. Your home is your children's laboratory for learning.
Stay home more often. Leave blank spots on your family social/ activities calendar. Pursue leisure activities at home as a family.
Encourage your children in productive at-home pursuits such as crafts or hobbies.
If your personal reading time is limited, go first to the Bible. You'll find more expert advice you need for life, child rearing, and education than in any best sellers.
Practice being there in every aspect of your life, no matter what role you are playing.
Focus on your mission. Remember: The world has many needs, but so does your immediate family. You are not called to meet everyone's needs.
Whatever else you do, build loving relationships with your children. Letting your children know they are loved is of far greater signifigance than any academic subject you might teach.
Homeschooling is more than a choice. It's a lifestyle. Recognizing that fact helps put the many demands on our time and our personal resources in perspective -- and may be our key to success as we manage the myriad roles of Mom Multiplied.

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