Greetings from the other side of nine months! I can't believe it's been so long since my last post. At the same time, I can believe it--life has been busy and full of good things. One of the good things has been investing in our kids' school and my workplace, Founders Christian School. I thought I'd write about my great passion for classical Christian education in general and for our school in particular--and see if I can do some good. Depending on your learning style, feel free to read the text or listen to the audio.
Glory Sharing Time: Why You Should Attend the Last Tour of the Year at FCS
You praise what you love. When you discover something glorious, you do whatever you can to get others to see the glory too. If someone gives you money for doing this, you’ll be exceedingly grateful, and you’ll keep on doing it anyway if they don’t. This principle motivates relationships everywhere.
Glory-sharing and not sales is my goal when I talk about Founders Christian School. Our success as an institution and reputation in the community are secondary motivators; primarily, I want joy for us both. May I share with you a bit?
I hope some of you won’t stop reading if I tell you that I have always loved school. You can imagine me as a Hermione Granger type, a girl obsessed with knowledge, always ready to tell you this knowledge, and whom you might grow to like if you could overlook her know-it-all tendencies. I appreciated every subject, excelled in every subject, was more than a little competitive, and was only sorry that going to school for the rest of my life was not a viable career option. Years later, after college and a few years into marriage, with a toddler and another baby on the way, I read a book that took me right back to school, with the option never to leave.
Part treatise and part manual, The Well-Trained Mind paints the picture of a kind of school unlike anything I’d experienced—a school where everything is connected. There, history is a real story--God’s story--and every other discipline is woven in, around, and through it. The important people and events, the art, music, language, literature, philosophy, none could be properly understood in isolation from one another. Science and mathematics, too, having been discovered by real people living in real times, could be most fully understood in context, and original, momentous books would be the fodder for students to experience the disciplines.
The study of the Bible would not be relegated to one subject or two (in my Christian school experience, we had a Bible class and emphasized creation in science class). Flying in the face of compartmentalized religion or the idea that Christians are not curious about the world, God’s Word would fuel vigorous inquiry into, and form full-bodied understanding of everything in this tapestry of knowledge. This model of education is called classical and Christian.
The design of the instruction was simply right for a child’s development, too. It would fill young children with scads and scads of facts using chants, rhymes, songs, and dances tailored just to their mimicking, memorizing, and musical nature. It would delight them with truly good literature, poetry, art, and music. It would steep them in phonics, grammar, and Latin. They would begin to write very young, by narrating back the books read to them, then later by imitating children’s fables, nursery rhymes, or a favorite picture book. They would draw, sing, and read like mad. They would delight in the natural world. They would understand that God had sovereignly created them to worship Him because of it.
Preteens and early teens would learn sound logic and strong argumentation in a time of life where arguing comes naturally. Using original sources, teachers would develop students’ ability to analyze others’ viewpoints and understand trends. It would teach genuine scientific inquiry and help students see form literally everywhere. The study of the Scriptures would include surveying both the Old and New Testaments to form a systematic theology. Students would learn to recognize and value the transcendent good, true, and beautiful in the world.
The oldest students would turn their understanding of the disciplines’ grammar and logic to synthesis and creation, or rhetoric. Art, music, writing, and orations would be crafted and presented humbly and beautifully, with confidence in the truth. These students would not only know many things and possess many skills, but would have formed the character of young men and women who would and could learn nearly anything else well after graduation.
Determined to give myself and my children this glorious education, with a one-year-old and a baby on the way, I began to formulate what would soon become our home school, Gloria Deo Classical School. I had discovered a much better nomer than know-it-all, and a much better goal. My children and I would be lifelong learners.
The Mind of Man Plans His Way
Over the next two years I filled my spare hours with research in educational philosophy and curricula, and hunted down used or bargain copies of nearly every book my children would ever need. I began formally to home school our eldest, Savannah, in 2010, just as our church founded a new school at which my sister Anna would be one of the faculty. Though I knew everyone on the board, the curriculum committee, and the staff, and I knew most of the curriculum they would eventually use, that was as far as my interest went. I was determined both to give and receive a classical Christian education myself alongside the most important little people in my life. When I read Douglas Wilson’s thoughts that home schooling parents would struggle to replicate a full-bodied classical education over the years, I furrowed my brow and plowed ahead.
We felt no real struggle teaching Savannah and her sister Evelyn for three wonderful years while curriculum was quite flexible and our third child, Sullivan, was napping half the day. In the fourth, I began to feel some discomfort. We weren’t getting to the fun stuff together, the projects and the music and the art and the family discussions. Sullivan had different needs than the girls, and I struggled to cater to him while teaching two grades. Nevertheless, we enjoyed one another and the process. I sighed and plowed ahead.
Meanwhile, Founders Christian School, the school our church had started, had begun hosting monthly tours to involve and excite the surrounding community. It was now the last tour of 2013-2014, and my sister Anna texted me something to the effect of, “hey Sees, we’re supposed to invite two people to this thing and I’m really crunched for time. Could you make it out on Friday as my guest?” Sure, I’d go and support my sister. Fridays were slow days at Gloria Deo anyway.
I was planning to home school forever. I didn’t expect to be surprised or moved by what I saw at the tour, but I was. Administrators and parents gave testimonies and we watched a variety of student demonstrations. Many of these demonstrations represented the extension activities my kids were starting to miss. What stood out to me the most was that here, a whole village of classical and Christian educators had banded together to do what I was trying to do alone, and they were doing it well.
After much thought and prayer on our part, Founders Christian School came in earnest onto our family’s horizon. Adam had already been commissioned onto the school council. I would teach grammar school music two afternoons a week and home school Sullivan the rest of the time. We would entrust the bulk of Savannah and Evvie’s schooling to Mr. Johnson and Mrs. Longaker, excellent and godly teachers. I was so grateful for my years at home with the girls, and now I could stay at least somewhat involved in their education while also having focused time with Sullivan. Relief and excitement filled that summer.
But God Directs His Steps
The following years have been transitional but so joyful. I finished Sully’s pre-k and kindergarten education at home (with help from teachers like Mrs. Monds, Ms. Thurlow, and Mrs. Powell while I was teaching music classes). I was again researching curricula and thinking strategically about a whole, 13-year classical and Christian education, now specifically in music. Sullivan entered first grade with Mrs. Longaker full time in the fall of 2016, and my responsibilities have steadily grown. As a teacher I have experienced Mr. Jones, the administrative staff, and fellow teachers as supportive, hard workers.
Additionally to the work environment at our school, I bet you’d like to know whether my heady vision for a classical and Christian education has been satisfied by what I’ve seen at Founders Christian School over the years. This has been a long read, and you deserve an answer. It’s yes.
It’s yes because the teachers at Founders are, to the last woman and man, lifelong learners too. They show a humility and a joy and a confidence in the Lord that is palpable to my children. Their humility inspires continued growth. Their joy inspires passion. Their confidence in the Lord inspires faithfulness and hard, good work.
It’s yes because our faculty and staff see my children, among other things, as spiritual beings created in the image of God, but fallen and needing a Savior. They recognize themselves in the faces of lost or immature children, and are gracious while also being firm. They believe growth includes struggle sometimes, and they allow students to struggle safely under their eye. They are good teachers and mentors.
It’s yes because classical education works. It doesn’t only work for my children—I knew it worked for them—but it works for children very different from mine, and I have seen that firsthand at Founders. Where teachers grow to understand their material well enough to turn it into songs and dances and stories and hands-on activities for young children, synthesize the disciplines, lead meaningful discussions with older students and create projects that demonstrate higher-level thinking in beautiful ways, learning becomes delightful—visually, auditorily, kinesthetically, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually--delightful.
It’s yes because I regularly witness students bouncing up and down with excitement over everyday learning, both as I snoop on other classes and as I teach my own. “Mrs. Larson, this isn’t dictation, this is fun-tation!” “Are we playing games today?” “Can we skip ahead and learn about the circle of fifths now?!?” Yes.
It’s yes because, as Mr. Jones’s coffee mug says, “Good work is hard. Hard work is good.” Founders Christian School hasn’t arrived. We teachers and administrators haven’t arrived. Our students haven’t arrived. Our students’ families haven’t arrived. Though they are mostly infrequent, there are days when we “struggle safely” and it feels positively undelightful. The truth is, everything about what our school represents—achieving the ideals of classical and Christian education for students and teachers, in flourishing partnership with families and the community—is massively hard to accomplish. The glory of it, however, is so worth working for, and we are working hard for it here together. Each step forward along the path is a moment to stop and be grateful, and then to push forward even harder. Each hurdle is a moment to stop and be grateful, and then to push forward even wiser.
I could go on to talk about how we accurately represent the ethnic and socioeconomic diversity of our surrounding community, how our students do extremely well on standardized tests as well as in athletic, artistic, and academic competitions, and how adorable each student is in his or her own way. If you’ve seen my Facebook wall, these themes will not be new to you. But these facets, though important, are simple side effects of our more primary goals at Founders Christian School, which are to cultivate the right affections and desires, to equip with the tools of lifelong learning, and to nurture future Christian leaders who “think, reason, and communicate well from a biblical worldview,” (excerpt from our school mission).
What Can You Do?
When something is glorious, don’t you want to be a part of it? My family and I joined with Founders Christian School in the roles of school council member, teacher, students and parents, but these are not the only ways to get involved. I don’t know what gifts you have or where your passions lie, but if I have learned one thing from my own history and from developing a classical Christian worldview, God has plans for your gifts and passions that you don’t know about yet. So make plans to come to our school tour, or, if schedule doesn’t permit, call the school and find out about a walk-through or about joining us at one of our community events. Prayer, giving, spreading the word, volunteering, enrolling your children, or applying to teach are only a few of myriad ways to participate; I believe that if you prayerfully come see us, God will lay on your heart how you are uniquely equipped to join our work.
There is glory here. Come and get it.
The Bible verse above is one of my favorites, and that's saying something. It just answers so many questions: Who made everything? Was this creation well-planned? Aesthetic? Orderly? How is man unique in creation? Why is man unique in creation? Where do our longings come from, for great things? For transcendent things? Why are these things often out of reach? Seriously, just read the verse.
That's not to say, of course, that these words do not beg other questions, like why are so many things NOT beautiful, why are some men (or women) so much more interested in great and transcendent things than others, and why oh why would God give mankind desires they could not figure out how to satisfy? These are big questions and worthy ones, for which the Bible has answers, but today I'm focusing on the Desire, the eternity in our hearts, and I double dare you to think deeply about it: I bet you have felt it.
I have most certainly felt it, but I felt it through another's eyes this last week, namely, Walt Disney's, as my family has just returned from The Happiest Place on Earth. We piled into our boat-of-a-car at 4 am CST, we sang, we counted license plates, we ate processed junk, we read, we watched movies, we rolled into our condo at 9:30 pm EST, we unpacked and planned and slept and rose and readied ourselves and drove and rode some more, and we were there. The Magic Kingdom.
I was born in Florida, and though my family moved away when I was young, we had grandparents, aunts and uncles to visit there each year (often with season passes), and so Disney was a part of my upbringing. It always seemed like a rite of passage, bringing our children there (although a super-expensive one and therefore rather low on the priority list). When Adam's summer work conference was scheduled for Miami Beach, however, and we realized we'd be driving right through Orlando to get there, and the kids were all now old enough to remember and appreciate and actually survive the experience, well, it happened.
What we found was amazing, an experience for all five senses and a few more besides. First you see the vastness and the beauty of the parks, the orderliness, the friendliness, and the colors. You hear people singing to you songs of welcome and cheer, and watch them dance (in the heat and humidity, this is some welcome!). You hear the bells and the rumbles of the rides and the chatter of the crowds, and so much music, everywhere. You smell food, and the clean smell of water in the air, and you smell your own sweaty self, but you ignore this. You feel the heat, the humidity, and then the blasts of air conditioning coming out of every building, and sprinkles of water coming from misters and water features, and you feel yourself flying, coasting, climbing, falling, and through it all being held by safe vehicles carefully tested by engineers. You taste delight--for my husband, one of those giant roasted turkey legs, and for me a double ice cream cone, so drippy and yet so glorious in the heat.
You see animatronic Everything, lifelike and wondrous; all around are marvels of human ingenuity. You watch light shows and electrical parades and then a magnificent fireworks display perfectly timed to music that makes your heart do things. (I kid you not, when the show was over we walked by a group of bawling teens in matching t-shirts, and I nudged my family...choir kids, I said.) You leave the park with teeming masses, but somehow in groups perfectly timed between the monorail and the parking shuttle and the parking lots so that no one crowds, bumps, or gets grumpy. How many plans have to work just so for all of this to happen? Above all the sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and tactile experiences, the sense one gets, if one has any sense at all, is wonder.
We spent two days in this Magic Kingdom and one at Animal Kingdom, also mind-boggling and inspiring in its way. Living in this context, things started to come together: all the movies, the songs, the rides, the talks, the displays, all of it. Disney isn't just a big franchise--this isn't all JUST about merchandising and sales. This is about a perfect world and how to make it. The eternity in Walt Disney's heart told him that a perfect world was possible, and he could taste the glory. You can see it all around his parks.
"It's a Small World after All:" come together. Fantasyland; dream. Tomorrowland: create and innovate. Adventureland: take risks. Animal Kingdom: educate, protect, conserve. Cinderella: No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dream that you wish will come true. Walt Disney: All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them. I don't believe Walt Disney would like the term Utopia, because Utopia translates to "Noplace," and refers to an impossible dream, while in his mind, all these good things are possible, someday, with hard work, community, innovation, creativity, and a die-hard faith in those dreams.
Despite the glaring worldview differences between Walt and me, I got choked up on that old ride with that super-catchy song. Well, it IS a small world after all; don't judge. See, you float through room after room that represent the countries of the world, and in each room there are children--dolls--dressed in their national garb and singing in their own languages, "It's a world of laughter, a world of tears, it's a world of hopes, and a world of fears. There's so much that we share that it's time we're aware it's a small world after all." And you hear this tune until it has quite possibly bored a new synapse pathway in your brain, and then you float into the final room, quite large, filled with doll-children all in white. You look and listen more closely and see that they are still wearing distinctive clothing representing their countries, still singing in their own languages, but all are together and all are in white. It made me think of heaven, with saints from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation worshiping God in perfect unity, and even though I knew that wasn't the perfect world Disney had in mind, I worshiped, because I know that it IS the perfect world God has in mind.
Yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. This is the sad (read tragic) thing about secular humanism. It grasps for greatness but rejects the Ultimate Cause of all things Great. For those who love Christ, we know what that longing in our hearts is and who put it there, and we keep it before our eyes, in our minds, on our lips: eternity. It changes how we live. Come together, yes! For the sake of Christ, who gives genuine community forever and for eternally glorious purposes. Dream, yes! With a holy view of what is worth dreaming about. Create and innovate, yes! Recognizing that we bear the image of the infinitely Creative One, do this with gratitude and worship, and with a focus on His kingdom. Take risks, yes! Be willing to lose temporal comforts for eternal ones, but never the other way around. Educate because we want to use our minds to His glory, protect and conserve because He has made us stewards of His good creation, and keep on believing HIM, above all else, because He is the only one who can always bring about His desired outcome (and He has told us all about the outcome in His Word). Faith in anything, through anyone but Jesus Christ, He tells us, is a foundation of sand.
A few days in Disney World made me laugh, squeal, sigh, wonder, and generally enjoy myself with my family; it made me worship and (as you see) philosophize. But places like Disney must be taken in small doses, I think, to keep a healthy perspective as a believer. How easy it is to wish for the perfect world now and take this offering on its own humanistic and fleeting terms, trading in the delights of eternity for The Happiest Place on Earth.
"They seek him here, they seek him there.
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere!
Is he in heaven, or is he in hell?
That demned elusive Pimpernel!"
It's been an amazing last week--a whirlwind of travels, studies, family fun, and preparations for more travels, and so my prophecy has come true and writing has taken a back burner. But Adam and I have been reading this book together in our quiet moments and finished it this week, so at least I can toss a review on here before we depart early tomorrow for Larson Family Road Trip 2016!!!
3 out of 5 stars. I liked it.
The Scarlet Pimpernel was a fun, non-demanding read that, while engaging and artful in some ways, left me cold in others. Admittedly, after being introduced to the Anthony Andrews, Jane Seymour, Ian McKellan film in a high school World History class, I immediately became a devotee of the screen version, which is based on two of Orczy's books (with many changes).
To the baroness's credit, her word choices are evocative. When Chauvelin whispers menacingly into the exhausted and defeated Marguerite's face, you can feel the intimacy and revulsion of the moment. Likewise, as the book comes to its climax you can sense Marguerite's obsessive need to reach her husband. This skill in engaging readers helps to balance the extreme repetitiveness of the last third of the book, with the result that I was less impatient for it to be over than I could have been.
Where the book is high on adventure and romance, it is low on substance. While I felt I understood Chauvelin and Marguerite a bit, these characters were still not particularly developed, or rather they were developed in a way that seemed artificial. Percy's character was just completely wrong somehow, and, given the state of the marriage at the start of the book, some clue as to Percy's and Marguerite's beginnings together would have been nice. The depiction of the French Revolution and its ideals was decidedly simplistic, even amusingly so.
That said, you can't fault the baroness for writing books for diversion. I just value the movie more, as it is at the same time adventurous, historically revealing, relationally insightful, romantic, funny, and just so well done. It's not often that movies can blow books out of the water, but I feel this is one of those times. If you haven't seen the film, you should!
(By the way, I do voices and accents when reading aloud. This book was quite challenging in that arena! How do you speak as a French woman who has lived among British aristocracy long enough to lose all but the faintest traces of her accent? Well, we did our best.)
If you like to read and are interested in seeing more of my reviews, find the rest here!
Jarrod Richey, you've made me one happy blogger. I began this blaby project fully intending to populate it with thousands of insightful book reviews, but, alas, my current reads are ever so Long and my life is ever so Schizophrenic that I cannot seem to finish books, and therefore cannot seem insightfully to review them here or anywhere.
Then, earlier this week, as I was trying not to pine for the ACCS conference I was not able to attend (a veritable treasure for teachers of my ilk), my Facebook feed tells me that a music teaching compatriot and kind of a mentor has published a book, Bach to the Future: Fostering Music Literacy Today. Fast forward 2 days for free shipping through Everyone's Favorite Online Store, and in my hand I held this, well, handbook, a simple but powerful starting point for training up the next generation musically. Its 63 pages said comfortingly, you probably won't utterly fail at finishing me. To which I tearfully whispered, thank you.
This book is for believers who have a leadership role over children--parents, teachers, school administrators, and the church. It makes the case and points the way for a return to music literacy as a part of our everyday lives, much as was the case in Bach's day, for the sake of seeing a generation capable of producing glorious music for God and for His people. In a time when music literacy is uncommon in the Church as much as anywhere, this is a needed message.
Even though I have been a music teacher for two years professionally and for numerous years in ministry, I found many helpful hooks on which to hang goals for the year to come. I'm thankful to be able to recommend this well-written and timely handbook to everyone who falls into the categories above. Click on the picture and snag yourself a copy!
Bloggers must be timely with their posts. That's another rule I break. I wish I had a response ready a week ago for the multiple tragedies in the news lately (I do grieve and want to respond well). A couple of weeks back I read an article about books vs. ebooks that I desperately want to answer, and, by the time I do, the lag time will be laughable. And ideally, these thoughts about fatherhood would have led up to Father's Day and not followed it, but here we are on Monday and, thankfully, fathers are still a big deal.
The Ideal Father
When you were a child, what was your idea of a perfect father? Have those ideas changed since, and, if so, what has changed them?
As I sat down to craft a Father's Day message for Adam on Saturday, and as I listened to more great preaching on Hebrews 12 Sunday morning, I realized that fatherhood is one of those subjects that keeps unfolding, layer after layer, the more one contemplates it. How little I have appreciated this role for many years of my life!
We may craft our idea of a perfect father from any number of sources. My ethic of fatherhood during my pre-teen and early teen years was informed by my own dad, a limited amount of theology, what my mom said (she knew everything), movies, TV, and, of course, my own wisdom. My perfect dad would: love God, love us, be awesome at his work, be "emotionally present," protect us, be hilarious, be proud of me, think I'm always right, and discipline my little sister. Most of these, my wonderful dad did on a daily basis. I admit that many of my frustrations growing up arose out of our differing expectations about the last two.
Not everyone has a father like mine: God-fearing, hard-working, loyal, loving, and undeniably FOR his family. Perhaps not many at all have/had that kind of father (or perhaps had him and lost him). But I'm willing to bet there is a common thread between most of us even so: as a child, I am willing to bet I'm not the only one who did not know or appreciate what God expected of my father, or of me.
Cue Heart-Warming Music
Notice that, while most of the items on my Ideal Father list were good, positive things, I was not particularly interested in being instructed, trained, or disciplined. It turns out that any cursory survey of Scripture reveals those pesky authoritative qualities as a really big part of a father's job. Authority with love, yes, and with compassion, definitely, but not without the pain of being confronted with my foolishness by another sinner.
Sadly for Little Meggie, there are even more verses commanding children to honor their fathers, receive their instruction, and not to reject their discipline than there are to fathers to give the instruction and discipline in the first place. But like that red-headed mermaid whose voice I apparently have, I dreamed of a land where daddies did not reprimand their [elder] daughters.
Or imagine a popular 90s sitcom where teachable moments (cue heart-warming music and Bob Saget on my bed) came after the daughter had already played out the scenario in her own way, often rejecting her father's instruction, then received some unpleasant external consequence, and was now feeling miserable. The consequence came from outside and not from dad, and that's how the warm fuzzies happened and how the daughters managed to apologize. Bob Saget had been right and they had been wrong, but his daughters had to learn this the hard way.
Fatherly Discipline Is a First Thing
It's telling, isn't it, that the first person of the Godhead is called Father? It's like we're supposed to make a connection or something. I linked above to Hebrews 12:7-11. This is one of several places where a Scripture writer assumes his readers understand something basic about fatherhood, and uses this to teach them something about God. Take another look:
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:7-11
To the writer of Hebrews, it is assumed his readers know that fathers discipline their (legitimate) children, and, at the moment, it hurts. It is assumed they know that, despite the pain of discipline, true sons (and daughters) respect their fathers in this role. So what happens to our ability to understand God the Father if we demand our fathers be benign and supportive, there to comfort us when we are hurting but not there to hurt our bottoms (proverbial or actual) when we are rushing headlong into foolishness?
Real Live Consequences
He has no right to talk to me about this when HE is SO.... I could have written that song and it would have been the soundtrack for several years of my adolescence. We chafe at being corrected by our earthly fathers (and other authorities too) because they are sinners. I'll just take my direction from God, thank you very much.
The giant problem with just taking direction from God I've outlined already. God commanded me, while in my dad's household, to take direction from my dad. Obeying God meant obeying Dad. And it doesn't stop with dads and childhood; all kinds of sinners get to direct, correct, and reprove me now. My husband, church elders, my boss, my government...all exercise authority over me because God put them in a position to do so, and they do it imperfectly. If my god is okay with me rejecting authority, he is a god of my own imagining. He thinks like I do. He is me. The convenience of this plan is that it avoids uncomfortable situations like admitting my sin to some other sinner, and it also fairly does away with the need to confess anything to god. He agrees with me, after all.
This is the crux of the problem with expecting fathers, earthly and heavenly, to be benign: humanity is infected with something malignant, and salvation involves a painful death, that of self and pride. Our fathers are, or ought to be, on the front lines for their children. I didn't want to confess my sins to my earthly father because I'd deceived myself into believing my sins were minor, misunderstood, or appropriate responses to injustice on his part. When it came time to confess my sins to my heavenly Father, I really had to strain to come up with more than one or two. I had no way of interacting with how treasonous every sin is in the eyes of a holy God, what a gracious gift each day was that I did not get sent to eternal damnation, and the fact God calls us to safety through the instrumentation of sinful men and women who are clinging to His Word.
Coming to Terms
When we celebrated Adam's first Father's Day 10 years ago, I still hadn't begun to realize the magnitude of fatherhood. I, the Mom, knew everything about what the kids needed. I read all the books and made all the charts and worked all the routines. Everything our children would experience day-to-day would be under my purview, and these day-to-day things seemed all-important. I wanted Adam's help executing my plans, as if he were a clone of myself (and also a pack mule, because all that baby gear was really heavy). I wanted the kids to have Daddy time, but this was at least half just so I could have a break. Yes, I realize how much negative exposure I am getting today.
Over the years watching Adam be Daddy to our three kids, seeing him grow progressively into that role with persistence and strength, I both admired many things about him and chafed when his parenting priorities rubbed against mine. But my heavenly Father never stopped parenting and disciplining me through Scripture, the Church, and, absolutely, through my husband, and something mysterious happened: I began to learn honor for Adam as the head of our family. I learned, not only mentally (because my mind had grasped these things long ago) but experientially, how embracing his distinct role as husband and father for Christ's sake frees us both to be who God calls us to be, and equips us to tell an amazing Gospel story with our everyday lives.
Moms have so much influence over how children view their dads. When I chafe and believe my husband should function as an extension of myself, my kids think so too. When I rejoice in Adam's distinctness and leadership as father, my children do too, and, thank God, more and more, this is our story. They love him, and by God's grace my goal is that they would honor him and learn from their relationship with him how to be children of God, who offers them Life, but only through death to pride and self.
I am a planner and always will be, but now, rather than expecting my husband to come alongside and work toward my goals for the family, I consider him when I make these plans, and then I bring them to him for feedback. I also want to know whether he has any goals for our family I can help plan and execute. I find myself watching Adam to see what he prioritizes, things that are often uncomfortable for me, and trying to grow in those areas. I also forget to do these things sometimes, just to be honest. But less.
I look back on my childhood and wonder how many things could have been different if I had been different--more submissive, more sanctified. My dad loved God, loved us, was/is awesome at his work, was "emotionally present," protected us, was hilarious, and he was proud of me. Most of the time, we were happy, but when I knew he was displeased with me, I pitted my will against his. I didn't allow him to be for me in fatherly training, because that meant he was against my cherished, prideful view of myself. I wish I could change it all. If I'd started earlier with this humility stuff, I'd be, like, super-holy now.
God doesn't let us go backwards and change things like that, though, and I believe this is partly so that we can tell stories of His grace--big stinkers turned less stinky, little by little, as we, in faith, get scrubbed fresh in God's big bathtub. Happy belated Father's Day to all of you important guys out there.
If you're scratching your head over the title of this entry, you may be scratching harder in a minute. "Nitpicking: a carping, petty criticism," is not the definition I have in mind today. "Lousy: wretchedly bad; miserable," is not the definition I have in mind today. When one can experience etymology in action, that is a true educational experience. The origin of these two words is the same. Have you guessed it? This week our family discovered we had [pause for emphasis, if you please] lice. Now that everyone we know is scratching in earnest, let me assure you of two things: we are clean now, but you may not be, and also, the lice are only walk-ons in this production. I'd like to focus on the Star.
"God works in mysterious ways" is often used tritely and carelessly, though it's as true and as important and, to me, as piquant as ever. If you've read my "Author" blurb and chuckled over the words "struggling cleaner," for example, you can imagine how those struggles simply melted away in the face of creepy crawlies in our hair, our clothes, our brushes and combs, our linens, on our furniture, in our car. I became a force to be reckoned with. See what God did there? Pretty suave.
However unappreciative we fallen humans tend to be of discipline (either the correction or the training kind) there truly can be joy in it. When I wrote that phrase, "struggling cleaner," I was thinking of the Dread Pile of Everything. It has been growing in our bedroom through our home renovation and contains so many varieties of things requiring so many varieties of action on my part, and I felt so terrified of it, that I had decided to hold this blog hostage and not post again until I'd tackled it. Now observe that, through the lice, I saw myself (and even Adam and the kids) mobilized like Merry Maids, not only confronting louse-related projects but also, while we were at it, spiriting away chunk after chunk of that Dread Pile. Besides that, I got the subject of my next blog post out of the experience. Through this gentle discipline I saw my Father's kindness, care, and pithy sense of irony, and it made me love Him and praise Him more.
Hebrews 12, the subject of many wonderful sermons lately and also of personal study for me, repeats this mantra: Endure. Endure. Keep the faith. The chapter is rich with truth and with arguments for the believer's holding fast to faith no matter what. Jesus endured--look to him; God disciplines you because you are sons whom he loves; This will make you peaceful and righteous. But the end of the chapter sums up what the business of faith, endurance, and submission to God's discipline are all about: hope. God is building an unshakeable kingdom.
What a perspective for all trials great and small. Are you lint-rolling a houseful of furniture in search of lice? Endure; God is building an unshakeable kingdom. Are you combing through your family's hair with the Nit-Free Terminator comb and flicking little corpses into a tub of water? Endure; God is building an unshakeable kingdom. Are you announcing to your friends and family that your family has been unwittingly exposing them for several weeks to contagious blood-sucking parasites? Endure; God is building an unshakeable kingdom.
There was a time in my life when I had no concept of submissively receiving something unpleasant from God's hand as grace. Little by little, I am learning to accept these gifts. As horrifying as lice may seem to some, this experience is definitely on the Nerfy side of the trial scale. The believers I've been reading about in Hebrews were called to endure difficult discipline and severe trials through long pain and struggle, as many believers are still. And though sometimes, as in the Nerfy nit-picking, God allows there to be a feeling of safety and closeness during a time of training, righteous people do not always feel close to God. I myself have other stories, and I know others with stories lived in the trenches of long, unremitting struggle, like this Son of Korah whose anguished cries I read today. I am so thankful that there is no reproof, no discipline, no training so minor nor so excruciating that Christ's example and God's command do not apply: Look to Jesus; Endure; God is building an unshakeable kingdom.
Nit-picking is lousy in a lot of ways, but this week I learned it's also a way to grow closer to God and to experience His love for me. I call that grace. My family and I do have a question for God, though. In this unshakeable kingdom, will there be perfect lice? And what will they eat, and where will they live, and what will they look like, and...we can wait...just curious.
Welcome to Meggie's Distillery, a blog. I remind myself of this word because I began by being extremely skeptical of blogging, just as I was extremely skeptical of reality television, smart phones, texting, social media, and K-12 students on the computer all day at school. Do I sound older than my 33 years yet?
Before you write me off as anti-progress, I have had a smart phone now for ages. It makes me Appy. (Get it?) Texting took a small but useful place in my life, and, after a respectable period of five years or so after Everyone Else, I joined Facebook. I post on it and stuff. I have been known to create a Pinterest board when planning a kid's birthday party. Last month, when I realized I could follow only the people who said things worth saying, I joined Twitter. In the classroom I use technology in amounts I believe are helpful and healthy. Several blogs add tremendously to my thought life. Reality TV still stinks.
In truth, many of the above developments are potential stumbling blocks to a healthy mental, emotional, physical, and relational life, for me as well as for others. How easily things can master us! But, then, there is the baby in the bath water, and lately I have come to feel that I might be ready to have a blog baby: a blaby.
Behold the marvel of this, for the printed word, edited with a discerning eye, approved for publishing by another discerning eye, printed on real, wonderful, crinkly pages, bound and shelved amongst other real printed words, held and critically reviewed and enjoyed and scribbled in and reshelved, has long been my idea of what the goal of writing ought to be. So, when blogs were first invented, and everyone became published with so seemingly little discernment applied, my sensibilities couldn't help being offended. Truth is, if I had been aware in my youth of how many worthless words end up in real books, I may not have had such a shock about blogs. But alas, my parents, teachers, and librarians gave me good books, so I didn't know any better.
I have little idea how to be a Blogger Proper. There are rules about these things I am positively sure to break. To keep readers, you must post frequently and regularly. Whoops. You must respond to comments. Oh noooo... You need to think about branding. Huh? This isn't my only gig, you know, by a super long shot. But I do see myself continuing. I've always written for growth, and tried to do it with excellence. Now I'm joining a conversation (with comments turned off--let's not go crazy).
Welcome to Meggie's Distillery, a blog: my attempt at a blaby.
Megan Larson, disciple of Christ, wife, mom, teacher, reader, writer, musician, cook, organizer, philosopher. Struggling cleaner.
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