Tuesday, March 5, 2019

In the Waiting - Part 2


Remember when as children, in school, we were given little cups and a tiny seed to plant in moist soil? Then our teachers gave some important instructions: "Don't touch the seed. Just wait. Don't forget to water and tend to your seed. Watch your own seed grow in its own way." 

Planting little seeds in dark soil takes faith.  And it takes time.

And in the waiting we can be tempted to do three things and ignore the warnings of the wise.

First, we mess with the seed.  We lose faith that anything is happening at all.  We poke around in the soil.  We stick our fingers in the dirt to check.  To circumvent the process. To speed things up. And by doing that the little seeds never form roots. Or it grows crooked. Or it just dies there with all the unnecessary poking and prodding. 

Second, we lose focus and we forget about the seed.  It just gets too long while tending and seeing nothing happening. So we get bored and distracted.  We get our eyes off the prize. And then we don't water the seed. We don't make sure it in the right sunlight.  Without tending, the seeds die.

Third, we start looking in everybody else's cups.  We start comparing. We take our eyes off our own cup and think everyone is better off than we are. We ask why so-and-so's seed has leaves already and why such-and-such is so big and grows so fast. And the comparison kills the joy and the seed.

Now grown up, we plant different kinds of seeds and we wait.   

We wonder - will that seed ever sprout? And when it doesn't the doubt settles in far too quickly and we question if we really heard from God at all. We ask - how long do we have to wait for the signs of life? Did God forget about us? Did the seed die in the tiny cup?

And in the waiting we mess with the seed.  We poke and prod.  We circumvent the process and try to speed it up.  We want a microwaveable  seed.  Plant it. Push a button and voila - it sprouts.  So we mess.  

Abraham messed with his seed.  Literally.  God told him he would be the father of many nations.  Abraham had a promise from God.  But then the waiting started and the delay came.  And after a long time, Abraham doubted that he had really heard from God at all and decided to take matters into his own hand.  He messed with the seed. And instead of waiting for God's promised son, he went and found a way to make his own son and circumvented the original plan.

Or we lose focus while we are waiting.  We get bored waiting day after day and looking at dirt with no signs of life.  So we start doing other things. We don't like waiting for our smart phones to load and we want Uber-fast results. We lose focus quickly.  

David lost focus.  He took his eyes off his seed.  He was suppose to be in battle and instead ended up on a balcony when he made some bad choices. David had a promise from God to be a King and Warrior.  But David got bored.  He took his eyes off the prize and got distracted.  

And we start looking in everybody else's cup.  We start comparing and wondering why someone else's is growing so fast, so tall, so well.  We start asking "why me?" We grumble. We complain. We compare.  

Esau took his eyes off his own cup and right on his twin brother's cup, Isaac.  Literally, he was holding an eternal birthright to the entire inheritance of his father's legacy and put his eyes on a cup of soup.  Something that went in him and out of him in less than a few hours.  Traded in something eternal for something temporal. All because of comparison.

Dear Heavenly Father - While we are waiting, please protect our little seeds as they are buried deep. When they are silent and sleeping and we are tempted to mess with the seed, lose focus and compare.  Please help us wait on You. And wait for our little seeds to sprout. We trust your timing.  We know you are good. And we know you are faithful. We commit our little seeds of promise to you for your glory and our good. Amen.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

In the Waiting - Part 1


 What do we do when we are waiting?

I shared some of these thoughts about “waiting” in the latest edition of our #NEXT newsletter marking our journey at Hand In Hand into the next 20 years…

Stuck in Nehemiah Chapter 2….

Ever feel like you are just waiting?  Wasting time? It may have felt like that these past few days while the Polar Vortex in Minnesota and throughout the upper Midwest shut down many schools, including Hand In Hand Christian Montessori, businesses and even the Post Office for a few days.  We humans like to be busier than that.  We pine for a day-off and when it comes (or two or three) we find ourselves itching to get back at the busyness and go-go of our lives. Sometimes it seems like that with God’s timing, too.  We get a glimpse of what is to come, the good that lies ahead, the action and the progress – yet find ourselves in a time of waiting. Seemingly endless “snow days” with no relief in sight. That is where we are now with our #NEXT campaign and the new campus. Waiting….

We are waiting for a few things…final approvals from the City of Roseville for our construction plans and drawings.  Final approval for our construction loan from Tradition Bank. First pledges to come through for our cash for the closing on the property, now scheduled for April 2019. While one is waiting – one has some distinct choices. To be anxious, frustrated, angry, impatient, and fearful OR trust God, relax in His timing, and do the next best thing that is in front of you. I am choosing the later.  If I learned anything last year during our “Trust and Obey” season, it was to physically, emotionally, and spiritually surrender to God’s ability to carry me across the great ravines in life – safely to the other side.  To relax, and lean on him, just as we learned from the tightrope walker across Niagara Falls. And waiting doesn’t mean doing nothing – it means doing the #next best thing that is in front of you…while we wait.

I also shared during the last chapel with the children of Hand In Hand, that when I find myself waiting, when I am tempted to despair and doubt,  

I read – I read the Bible.  I have many of different versions and find myself asking the Author, God, to reveal to me what He has for me.  Manna for today that can fill my soul.  I also read books, both fiction and non-fiction.  I am not afraid to read the same books over again. Mostly because I am not a good reader and miss most of the content the first time through.  I need to read things again to really understand it. C.S. Lewis says we read to know we are not alone.  It is true. While I am waiting, I really enjoy reading a good book.  It gets my mind on other things and helps me understand another perspective.

I write – I have journaled since I was a little girl, aged nine.  I had a yellow diary. I wrote one page “Dear Diary…” but the next entry I questioned – who is “Diary?”  So I decided that instead of "Dear Diary" I  should write "Dear Jesus" because He is real and can answer my prayers and ideas.  So, my journaling began.  Now I have a big bin full of journals, chronicaling my journey through life with Jesus.  Marking my plans, my dreams, my disappointments.  It is so important to write things down, there is research that supports this practice.   While waiting, it is good to write and pray.

 I remember – I have enjoyed scrapbooking 
since my first baby was born and I have filled my living room with all sorts of scrapbooks.  Looking back on pictures and moments in life, helps me in the waiting.  I remember how much God has blessed my life.  How good I have it.  How friends and family have supported my soul. Remembering is a biblical concept.  

I sing – it may seem silly, but I sing little love songs to Jesus in my own living room.  All by myself.  I pluck at the piano or strum my ukulele.  I know many simple worship songs and they bring me great comfort. Here's the song I like to sing all by myself: In moments like these I sing out a song, I sing out a love song to Jesus. In moments like these I lift up my hands, I lift up my hands to the Lord. 

Singing "I love you Lord." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpGRpl6p3gY - 

Waiting is not just something we do until we get what we want. Waiting is someone we become while God is working on our behalf.

“One reason many people never see God working in their lives is because they never hang in long enough for God to show his power.”

Wayne Stiles, Waiting on God: What to Do When God Does Nothing



If God is making you wait then be prepared for more than what you asked for initially!

Saturday, February 9, 2019

The Difference

I visited the campus of my alma mater university a few days ago to give a lecture on Christian Leadership. Hmmm…I pondered the topic when my friend, a highly favored professor, asked me to guest lecture for his J-Term college class. As I pondered the topic I thought - what is

Christian Leadership?    

I have so much respect for strong leaders, attended conferences, read books, taken notes, and listened to podcasts (well not really, but it sounds cool if I say “podcast”).  Regardless of venue, I am of the persuasion that “all truth is God’s truth” therefore, whoever is speaking truth is worth listening to – especially when it comes to leadership.  So, what is the difference?  What makes a Christian Leader different from just a good leader?

At Hand In Hand Christian Montessori, I have had the privilege of building an educational ministry, being the Executive Director of a 501c3 non-profit, and serving as Head of School. Through this 20-year experience, I concluded there are at least three distinct points that set Christian Leaders apart from others. And they all start with the word HOLY….

HOLY Inspiration– I believe that Christian Leadership can start with inspirations that come from God. Little ideas, crazy callings, inaudible whispers, and never-been-done-before-things that God puts in your heart.  After all, “professionals built the Titanic. Amateurs built the ark. God knows how many other people are going to get blessed out of the obedience and sacrifice.  It is the one shot in dark that no one might understand – but we understand – because we do the will of the Father. We are about our Father’s Business. There’s another distinction as well.  Who gets the glory. The credit goes all to God. He inspired the idea and He gets all the glory. Scripture says – For me, Hand In Hand was inspired by God and given to me as a gift for my son in 1996.  Soon after starting in 1999, it became obvious that God had many more children in mind than just my own.  What started as a summer camp for a few dozen children, has grown into a few hundred children and over fifty staff members. What I thought was for my family – has now become one of the nation’s largest Christian Montessori schools and most recently internationally known.  It was a Holy Inspiration and God’s idea for His Glory and our good. Scripture says – 

"Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.
And when they did not agree with one another, they began leaving after Paul had spoken one parting word, "The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your fathers,
Surely the Lord GOD does nothing Unless He reveals His secret counsel To His servants the prophets.
For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.
On the other hand I am filled with power-- With the Spirit of the LORD-- And with justice and courage To make known to Jacob his rebellious act, Even to Israel his sin.
but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."


HOLY Living– I believe that the way we live as a Christian Leader is supposed “set apart.” Distinctive in what we say. And what we drink. How we talk. How we treat our bodies. What we watch and what we listen to. What we do with our free time.  Why do these things matter? Well, look behind you. If you are in Christian Leadership people are following you.  The stakes are just way too high.  How many Christian Leaders have toppled because of small thoughts, turned to habits, morphing into character, and developing into full-blown downfalls.  What does God’s Word say?

Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
By living according to your word.

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.

So, if the edge is over there – I am staying far away from it.  No guilt trip intended – you must do what you must and live according to God’s convictions in your heart.  But as for me - I am committing to God-honoring music and literature, letting my mind be filled things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely and of good report. I am choosing to be alcohol-free because I need clarity of mind at all times and I don’t need alcohol to have fun or wind down. I am choosing to I control my tongue and not to use words like gosh, geez, or because taking God’s name in vain and breaking the second commandment matters to me.  I am choosing to honor my covenant in marriage by investing time with my husband and choosing carefully my thoughts and actions when I am not with him. At Hand In Hand, I am aware that hundreds of children, youth and families are watching me.  Holy Living is a high-calling of a Christian Leader.

HOLY Spirit– this is the most treasured aspect of Christian Leadership.  We are not alone. We have The Advocate.  The Comforter.  The Holy Spirit.  God’s Word says – 

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;
"I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
"But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.
"He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'" But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
"Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.

He is with us 24/7 and accessible at anytime.  Better than a right-hand man who doesn’t take vacation time, the Holy Spirit guides and teaches, brings things to light, provides wisdom. He is accessible. I remember a time when my fear was high and all I felt I had worked for was about to be lost.  I was scheduled to be a meeting where two opposing groups were going to determine my future and the future of Hand In Hand.  That morning, as my eyes opened, I had a realization that the Holy Spirit was with me.  Dressing, I felt his presence.  As I prepared a statement for the meeting, I had what I considered to be a download. I wrote an articulate legalize-document that ended up being the catalyst for change.  The Holy Spirit was truly my divine paraclete or in other word, my attorney. I will never forget the experience and I am convinced that access to the Holy Spirit makes Christian Leadership distinctly unique.

These three HOLY experiences are what Christian Leadership means to me.

And that my friend, makes all the difference.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Enough

My grace is enough; it's all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9 - The Message.


At the end of each school year or annual year, we often find ourselves posting "a year in a review" contemplating all that has been done and realizing all that could or should be. Asking the deep questions "is everything okay? is all well? was it enough? or even deeper...

Am I enough?

I seriously pondered this question the spring of 2009, on the final day of what marked my last day of being a Montessori Lead Teacher in Delta Elementary 1, along with my other responsibilities of being the Dean of Hand In Hand, leading the non-profit through it's toughest year financially and otherwise as the Executive Director, enrolling in and enduring a Master's Degree program, homeschooling my 9 and 12 year old, carpooling my 14 year old to nearby private school, and volunteering in a small home church called Life Is God.

Filling out the progress reports on my 21 students in lower elementary also brought up similar questions. What is enough in education?

Finishing all the landform books?
Completing the red addition level?
Memorizing the geometry cabinet and all its parts?
Using a classroom voice of six-inches?
Remembering the quiet hand of interruption?

Homeschooling parents struggle with these same sufficiency questions as they ponder - what's enough homeschooling? I asked myself the same questions as I homeschooled that year - what's a good enough standardized test score? have I done enough to ensure my child's success?

Multi-tasking was at an all-time high. Some say that multi-tasking is messing up a lot of things at one time.  I certainly felt that way often.  I received many challenging and critical comments, many times rightfully so:

Are you arriving early enough?
Are you prepared enough?
Are your student quiet enough in the halls?
Are you in the office enough?
Are you giving enough?

The voices of others paled in comparison to the voice in my own head of self-doubt, discouragement and defeat.  I was in one of the lowest and most difficult seasons of my life. I cried everyday for almost two years.

Ten years ago, I faced sufficiency deficits as I was multi-tasking. Those same feelings of inadequacy are finding their way back as we now have three children in college, embark on a capital campaign to raise money for and build our own Christian Montessori flagship school, launch a new intergenerational Christian Montessori program for infants and elders, and receive accreditation for our worldwide Christian Montessori Training Program.

My soul is restless.  When measured - I come up lacking.  Tears come easy. Fear is lurking around each corner. I find myself struggling hourly with the question - Will there be enough? Am I enough?

God's answer to all these questions is "my grace is enough; it's all you need." Life is a giant classroom of learning with lots of time to practice life; to offer and receive forgiveness; to take all the time you need. God is the teacher. We are his students. We are free to love, free to live, and free to make choices in Christ. Whether we find ourselves in calm or stormy times, making it or lacking, full or empty, can we say "it is well with our souls?" Writer and speaker Ann Voskamp reminds us often, "all is grace."Why can we say "yes, all is well"? Because of Jesus. Period.

Together we celebrate our completeness in Him and the final and finished work on the cross. We give our best - but leave the rest to Him. That's enough, friends.  As we clink glasses together tonight and celebrate another year gone by on this December 31, 2018, New Year's Eve - may we be mindful of God's sufficient grace that sustains.  His strength is being made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).  Singer and songwriter, Wintley Phipps said, "it is in the quiet crucible of your personal, private sufferings that your noblest dreams are born and are God's greatest gifts given in compensation for you've been through."

Jesus is enough. 
Because of that truth - 
we simply don't have to be everything to everyone. 



I close with one of my favorite quotes that I read to my children from Granny Torelli Makes Soup by Sharon Creech, during that hard year of multi-tasking teaching, leading, mothering, homeschooling, volunteering...

Framed Artwork from Altar'D State
A gift from my children

"I wave back, even though he can't see my wave. And I am thinking that I cannot control who is going to come and who is going to go, and who will stay by buddy, my pal, and who will find me enchanting, and oddly I feel relieved."


All is well,
Michelle

PS Sit back, breath in, and savor....
youtube/it is well with my soul

Thursday, December 27, 2018

All Sons and Daughters

A while ago in chapel, I spoke to your beautiful children, your sons, your daughters.  We talked about being sensitive boys and strong girls. We highlighted biblical characters who are great examples.  We dressed up and role played. We laid out scenarios.  We celebrated the differences between us and the unique roles we have been called to as guys and as girls.  In today's blurred line of sexuality, we must hold to the truth that God created us - male and female.  We hold to the holy, divine mysteries of creation, salvation and restoration as well as the glorious design of marriage, family and sexual identity. Here's a synopis of that powerful chapel service...


                                   To our sons:

Word Follower: how can a man keep his way pure?  By living according to your word, O Lord. Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against God. Be a Hezekiah.

Hezekiah was one of the few kings of Judah who was constantly aware of God’s acts in the past and His involvement in the events of every day. The Bible describes Hezekiah as a king who had a close relationship with God, one who did “what was good and right and faithful before the LORD his God” (2 Chronicles 31:20 - got questions.org) 
Worshippers: God wants those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth.  Worship with abandonment. Cheer on God like you are in stadium watching your favorite team. Arms in air. Pure surrender to a cause greater than yourself. Be a David.
David sang in Psalm 145:1-3:
I will extol You, my God, O King;
And I will bless Your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless You,
And I will praise Your name forever and ever.
Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised;
And His greatness us unsearchable.
King David did not compartmentalize his life into the secular and the sacred. He brought the spiritual aspect of his life into his everyday living experience. In the first two verses of this psalm, he instructs every believer to extol (to lift up), bless, and praise the name of the Lord everyday, for the rest of our life, and then on into eternity (145:1, 2). The Apostle John gives us a glimpse of how our daily practice of worship, and our weekly dress rehearsal of corporate worship, here on earth will pay off in eternity when he describes the scene around the throne of God and we will say with the myriads of angels: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” (Rev. 5:12 - Gordan Franz, LifeandLand.org).


Workers: Guys usually get this one right.  They are built for work.  Working with your hands, your head and your heart. Finding work that is meaningful and brings in good money. Be a Nehemiah.

When it comes to the work of the Lord, there is no place for spectators or self-appointed advisors and critics; but there is always room for workers. Nehemiah faced a great challenge and had great faith in a great God, but he would have accomplished very little had there not been great dedication on the part of the people who helped him to rebuild (Nehemiah - StephenCaswell, Sermons.FaithLife.com).
World-Changers: Be apart of something bigger.  What greater good in the world could be achieved if you were involved? Be a Moses.

Moses was the first great Israelite prophet. He is also one of the greatest leaders in human history. Yet, had God read Moses’ resume before hiring him, God would not have likely been impressed. Moses was born a slave. He has a stutter and a temper. And the only work he did before God called him was caring for his father-in-law’s sheep. Yet, Moses goes on to challenge the world’s most powerful ruler, and lead a people from oppression to freedom. He brings down the Torah and teaches the people the Ten Commandments. He is the protagonist of a story told around the world to this very day (Exodus - by Rabbi Evan Moffic; IFC.org).
Women Respecter:  Be a guy who respects women and protects them in word, reputation, and actions. Honor them. Never put your hand on a woman except in a helpful, respectful way. Be a man with one wife. Whether wife, mother, sisters, aunts – respect and honor. Be a Joseph.
Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!”
But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” 10 And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.
11 One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servantswas inside. 12 She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house (Biblegateway.com - Genesis 39).




                              To our daughters:

Listen Up. Obey your father’s voice.  When he tells you your skirt is too short – obey him – and change.  He has your best interest in mind. If you weren’t blessed with a good, godly earthly father, then the Heavenly Father has your back. God will provide for you.  Be a Rebekah.
That night Abraham’s servant told Be·thuʹel and Re·bekʹah’s brother Laʹban why he had come. They both agreed that Re·bekʹah could go with him and marry Isaac. What did Re·bekʹah say when she was asked? She said, ‘Yes,’ she wanted to go. So the very next day they got on the camels and began the long trip back to Caʹnaan. Genesis 24:1-67 (JW.org)
Speak Up. If there is an injustice happening to you or someone you love – speak up.  Run. Get help. Say something.  Learn to recognize danger and avoid it. But defend yourself if necessary. Be an Esther.
Esther lived in ancient Persia about 100 years after the Babylonian captivity. When Esther's parents died, the orphaned child was adopted and raised by her older cousin Mordecai.To find his new queen, Xerxes hosted a royal beauty pageant and Esther was chosen for the throne. Her cousin Mordecai became a minor official in the Persian government of Susa. He said,
"Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:13-14, NIV)
Esther urged all of the Jews to fast and pray for deliverance. Then risking her own life, brave young Esther approached the king with a plan. (Thoughtco.com)
Stand Up. There may be a battle you need to fight.  You might think you aren’t strong enough, smart enough. But God is with you and will help you. You might be called to be something unique and non-stereotypical.  Be a Deborah.
Deborah was a judge and a prophetess. The only other person who was a combination prophet/judge was Samuel. And Deborah was a singer and songwriter—she had an impressive resume. So when Deborah warned Barak that his conditional obedience would mean that the glory for defeating Sisera would go to a woman (4:9), we might assume she’s referring to herself getting the glory for going with Barak. But Deborah was not speaking of herself at all. She was actually prophesying Sisera’s death at the hands of tent-peg-wielding Jael, another heroine in the story. At the time, pitching tents was “women’s work,” and Jael used what she had to serve God. She didn’t act in a traditionally feminine way by nailing the skull of God’s enemy to the floor, but God is more concerned with our conforming to His will and being zealous for His purposes than in our conformity to some socially constructed gender norm. (Bible.org)
Buddy Up. Gals need pals. God made us to be in meaningful, communicative relationship.  Find some gals you trust and you can talk to. Commit to being good friends and seeking God together. It is wonderful, good and right to have deep meaningful and lasting relationships with your besties. Be a Ruth.



The Book of Ruth relates that Ruth and Orpah, two women of Moab, had married two sons of Elimelech and Naomi, Judeans who had settled in Moab to escape a famine in Judah. The husbands of all three women die; Naomi plans to return to her native Bethlehem and urges her daughters-in-law to return to their families. Orpah does so, but Ruth refuses to leave Naomi, declaring (Ruth 1:16–17), “Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die—there will I be buried.” Ruth accompanies Naomi to Bethlehem and later marries Boaz, a distant relative of her late father-in-law. She is a symbol of abiding loyalty and devotion. (Ruth - Brittanica.com) 


My son and daughters

In conclusion, that day in chapel, we had the children stand up and commit to living God-honoring lives that celebrated being fearfully and wonderfully made, knitted together in their mother's womb, designed with a hope and future for their good and His Glory -




(5 W's for Guys inspired by devotional heard on Focus on the Family Minute, spring of 2018)

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Montessori Take-Aways

"Take- Aways" are now central to our everyday lives.  Seems you can't have a meeting, seminar, or sometimes just a simple conversation without having a meaningful "take-away."  For good or bad, we think about take-aways in an educational sense as well. If one considers the "Cornell University Effective Habits of Top Students" on the Cornell University website - the following trends are found. (These trends are not only useful for learning - but for life.  And not only for children but for us adults as well).


1) Self-Advocating

2) Self-Rewarding
3) Calendaring
4) Organizing 
5) Note-taking (Narrating)


For adults, for us, these five things may come very easy or sometimes take more effort. The result of practicing them each day is success!  Let's break them down one by one and compare what these habits look like for an adult and how they are practiced in the Montessori environment every day.  
To self-advocate, we really need to know our own selves and what we actually need.  We also need to be able to express these needs effectively to others.  It may come out in ways that means taking a walk a lunch, getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, avoiding the sweets in the staff lounge, or receiving a genuine compliment from a co-worker.  For our children, think of snack time in a Montessori classroom.  We set it out - but children must willingly engage and say "I want snack.  I am hungry now."  We don't serve them.  We don't make them eat. It is up to them to self-advocate.  Such an important feature in the daily success of life. 

To self-reward means delaying gratification for a higher outcome.  Getting the hard e-mails answered first, before checking a FaceBook update.  It may also mean having that conversation with the staff member that is tricky and then heading in for the coffee break.  You see where I am going with this...tackle the hard thing and then self-reward with the pleasure.  This is different for everyone which is where the "Self" part comes in.  Someone else cannot dictate this you.  You must set up this self-discipline as a result will come self-reward.   The Montessori method helps children schedule their day in a way that allows both the difficult and the easier work to be done.  Often we encourage learners to finish "three works" - then have a brain break with friend (reading in the book corner, finger knitting or food work).  It is teaching them the art of self-rewarding.

For calendaring - the lists, or groupings, an on-line or on-desk calendar of scheduling meetings, conversations, work time, thinking times. open office hours, tours, etc - must be on your calendar - or they won't get done.  The difference between dreaming and doing, frankly, is your calendar. Children in Montessori classrooms are allowed to practice calendaring from an early age.  In primary, they can order their day. Choose what to do, first, second, third.  In elementary, they use work plans that allow them to make a do list for that day. In secondary, they use a planner, where they keep track of multiple specialists and assignments.  They project plan and lay out time frames. 

For organizing - this is your own things in your own space.  I am a firm believer (and doer) of making your bed in the morning.  Raised to do so, at least I feel that I can accomplish one thing by making my bed.  I take great pleasure in smoothing the sheets and covers, tucking the corners, fluffing the pillow, placing the three decorative ones in the middle and smiling at the accomplishment.  Then, on to the day...from my kitchen, to my desk, to my car, to my gym bag - I like the right things in the right places.  I actually switched purses a few years ago to a style that was light weight and very compartmentalized.  I had for a goal to find everything in my purse without looking for it - only by feeling.  This way I sincerely know, "everything is in it's place - and a place for everything." Dr. Montessori actually wrote this and one doesn't have to look far to find this habit practiced in our beautifully prepared Montessori environments.  From the loop on their coats, to their shoes placed with toes pointed together, to replacing the work on the shelves in order - the children in Montessori understand organization. 

When it comes to narration (speaking) and note-taking (writing) - the way we communicate effectively with others is at stake.  It is vital that we use the economy of words.  It is also important we are good listeners so we can actually understand what is being asked of us - and answer promptly as much as possible.  Good communication is vital for our relationships.  Through emails, texts, posts, letters, and speaking - we must become better at the skill of communication.  With children in Montessori, we start by teaching speaking, then writing and finally reading.  The art of narration (saying back to someone what was just said) is such a key part in training children.  At Hand In Hand Christian Montessori, we practice this in our History Program.  Parents are reading or children are reading to themselves sophisticated aspects of history from a book called "Story of The World".  Finishing the chapter, children are asked to say what they just heard (or read) in a short paragraph or write it down. It is brief and to the point.

All in all - whether if it is for us, our colleagues, or the children we teach - let us practice these trends so that we all can live more
satisfied and productive lives.

(Some excerpts taken from my discussion post at Sarasota University, a Strength-Based University, where I am privilege to serve as an adjunct faculty member on the Montessori Masters Track.)

Sunday, December 9, 2018

The 3Rs

People who know me know I love alliteration! I was thinking about all the “3 R words” I am using currently… the big goals for children in Montessori are Respect, Responsibility and Resourcefulness. The big goals for our new development program at 211 North McCarrons Blvd are Relocate (our school), Re-Imagine (education), and Rivitalize (the community). When it comes to schooling – one might think about the three Rs of reading, writing, and arithmetic. (By the way, although I am not the world’s greatest speller, I am not sure where we got the 3-Rs from those three words). But for today, as I am working through what I would consider a challenging time of parenting (see my last blog of New-Skin-I-Am-In and Avocado Toast), I would propose that the most important 3Rs in raising children and taking heart as a parent in in Rhythms, Rituals, and Routines. 

Routines
These are the small, simple acts of daily life.  Instead of seeing these as ruts, we must see these as guardrails on the very sharp turns of a fast-paced culture.  These are the little stabilities of life.  A place to hang our hat.  The comforts of home with all of its predictability and consistency. There is an old gospel song that reminds us – Day by day, day by day, O Dear Lord, three things I pray: to see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly, day by day.  

Routines of waking up, dressing, eating, leaving the home, working and playing, returning to home, eating, reading, relaxing, and then bedtime. Routines of Sunday morning surrounding church. Routines of Friday Family Night. with movies and pizza. Routines of schooling and intellectual conversation.  Routines in the car.  Routines in the kitchen.  

The simple every day, in-and-out, walking through life just as it happens.  Embracing the everyday ordinary sacredness of routines.  We cannot despise these small beginning.  They shape our habitual life. They create comfort in a chaotic and ever-changing world. 

Meredith reminded me of favorite breakfast times we shared for three years, while she was in high school and the other siblings were in college.  We shared daily "breaking of bread" together with our favorite avo toast, overnight oats, pb&banana toast, yogurt parfait, classic egg breakfast, and cinnamon paleo pancakes.  Best part? Meredith made the breakfast along with a cup of organic coffee and had it waiting for me each and every day.  We lit a candle and said grace.  It was the most sweetest of routines and most satisfying to my soul. So ordinary and extraordinary all at the same time.

Rituals
These are the big and not-so-big, annual events.  The places on the planet that we go to each year as the seasons roll around. They are the yearly camping trip, the summer vacation, the winter spot. The clinking of glasses, the cutting of paper hearts, the dying of eggs, the flying of flags, the toasting of marshmellows, the lighting of sparklers, the raking of leaves, the carving of pumpkins, the giving of thanks and the trimming of trees – and the repeating, and repeating. 

My girls gave me a beautiful handwritten book entitled "Encouragements & Reminders" and in it they listed their favorite rituals. Madeline wrote a in a section named "Bring on the Joy".


On a day when you feel like it's hard to smile, 
remember back to the days of homeschooling on Europa Trail, 
Fort Myers Beach each January, 
our travels to Italy and the other adventures 
we have had throughout life  - to bring back the joy.

Rhythms
These are actually the cadences of our relationship, the unspoken words, and silent gestures that permeate our homes.  They are the “inside jokes” and the ways we say “he always does that.” Or “She does that.”  It is the loving touch and smile we offer freely.  The hand outstretched looking for ours. If routines speak to what we do – Rhythms speak to how we do them. 

I so appreciate the playing of my heart-strings and the beating of the rhythms that come freely from my son Brock.  He's the one quickest to Instagram a picture of the breakfast I serve him - rhythm of gratitude. He is the one ready to cozy on the coach and watch a favorite family movie or binge watch reruns - rhythm of togetherness. He's good at calling when he finishes a hockey game to debrief with his dad and go over the game play by play - rhythm of respect. 

I am not the only one thinking about the ordinary life.  When googling it one can find hundreds of articles and posts and thoughts on the benefits of ordinary life, the beauty of ordinary life, etc, etc.  Ordinary life is clearly not original to me.  In fact, I found one woman who echos so much of what I am sensing...



“It’s when I get lost in the days’s details, or so caught up in worries about what might be, that I miss the beauty of what is.” Taken  from the Gift of an Ordinary Day, A Mother’s Memoir,” Karina Kenison. 
This is the true story of a woman, wife and mother who discovers that what is most important in her life is an ordinary day. Now, her kids are almost grown and, having lost her job and career as a successful editor, she comes to realize what is really important in life. It is not the scrambling to make a lot of money, to be famous, to be the very best, but to enjoy watching her kids grow up and cherish each moment because those moments are gone for good.
For example, she laments the fact, that when the kids were young, it seemed like those years would last forever as she went about the daily routine of raising them and doing her job. At the same time, she realizes that there is not point in lamenting of what was because even this moment will pass and, therefore, it should be enjoyed. As one person who reviewed this book said, “Enjoy the simple things. Time goes fast. Take the time to enjoy your kids before they grow up and leave to college. The best moments are those that are not over-scheduled activities, but the things you do on those “ordinary days”. (Taken from Embracing An Ordinary Life from Dr.Allan Schwartz Weblog)
So reader, as you find yourself establishing the 3Rs as a young parent or enjoying the effects of them as an older parent - may together we embrace the beauty of the ordinary and the sacredness of the simple.  Wise Solomon, when writing Ecclesiastes 8:15, says it this way....


So then I recommended enjoyment of life, because it is better on earth for a man to eat, drink, and be happy, since this will stay with him throughout his struggle all the days of his life, which God grants him on earth (ISV).


As gifts from God - ordinary routines, rituals, and rhythms truly sustain us and satisfy our souls.