Tuesday, October 9, 2018

New Skin I’m Almost In

It feels like pinching to me either way* and how true that is. I am so uncomfortable.  Either way I turn. I am outgrowing something that I love and know. I am experiencing growing pains and I am shedding old layers.  It is not pleasant. I squirm and writhe. Tears come easy and breathing takes effort. And I find myself in conflict, in contest, striving and struggling…to put on new skin. To find myself heading towards a new place and being okay with leaving the old one.  Can you relate?  Wondering in that “wilderness” of limbo, suspended in a place of “not yet?”  Somewhere near that road-side stop between here and there? Waiting for promises to be fulfilled? Having growing pains?

Babies know what I mean when that first tooth makes its appearance.  Cutting the skin, breaking forth. Effort and tears. Soothing and rocking seem to be only things that help because the pain of new growth is so uncomfortable. 

Children know it when their legs ache and they ask for rubbing because growing is tough work and soon they need new pants because ankles are showing or new shirts because the buttons won’t stay shut. 
Teenagers know growth in height and weight but more so internally where rulers and scales can’t measure the painful growth.  They change so dramatically and quickly that we hope “it will be okay.”  They are putting on new skin right before our eyes. And it is awkward and tight.  We all wince.

College kids learning to adult for the first time know it, too. Leaving the nests and the homes they know and flying far. Now new routines, new friends, new frameworks of thinking are becoming the norm. Facing choices away from family and forging their own stated-values. Putting on new skin. And they are wondering what they will be when the grow up and why don’t old ways fit anymore? They realize their hometown friend-group is shifting. And they not sure that the new friends they have found will be faithful or there forever. And it is incredibly painful.

And just when we parents think we have outgrown teething and teenage trials, we have new growing pains of our own.  I was just invited to be a Spiritual Mom and mentor younger moms and although it seemed like such a great idea to say yes - I sat and bawled in my car on the first night.  Why? Because I am not the younger mom with the babies in car seats anymore; I am the mom with babies in plane seats doing a study-abroad in Italy, and coach bus seats traveling with their teams for another hockey game at Penn State, and the driver’s seat heading out to row a boat with friends on a mountain lake. I want my babies back with me.  I want to be the younger mom again. I am not ready for the “moving on.” And I cry because I so desperately want to turn back the hands of the big clock in my cozy living room with the worn leather spot in my favorite chair and lullaby one more time and say “yes” when my children ask “read one more chapter.” 

And my husband asks whose tiny shoes are these? And I answer – they were our baby girl’s. And we can’t believe she can’t fit in them anymore or can hardly remember when she wore them at all.  Her feet were that tiny?  She has new skin.  

Although I have listened and appreciated the message in the song by Sara Groves “Painting Pictures of Egypt” many times in past seasons of my life, it is taking on a whole new meaning now as I realize when baby birds leave the nest and venture out, both baby and mother bird are mourning and experiencing growing pains.  

Longing for the old ways and leery of new days.

Through contest and conflicts the caterpillar emerges from the chrysalis.  Snakes struggle and strive and finally shed old skin. Baby birds outgrow the little nest and work hard to take on new wings that can fly strong and far. All find new skin eventually. Eventually. 

And with all knowledge of life’s inevitable metamorphic changes and despite all the warnings, all my college-age child and I can do is sit in the driveway and cry together because the past is closed off to us and the future looks so hard. And she said “I wish I were back in 6thgrade again” and I said “so do I” – and it was then I realized we were “painting pictures of Egypt.”  And I watch my college-age child looking tearfully on days gone by and fearfully on days to come.  And I can relate in my own mom-heart.

Yes, pinching either way. 

So, we hand each other Kleenex and hold hands. And sing a song that comforts us and helps us understand the position we are both in as we both try to put on new skin we are almost in.

Painting Pictures of Egypt

I don't want to leave here
I don't want to stay
It feels like pinching to me
Either way
And the places I long for the most
Are the places where I've been
They are calling out to me
Like a long-lost friend

It's not about losing faith
It's not about trust
It's all about comfortable
When you move so much
And the place I was wasn't perfect
But I had found a way to live
And it wasn't milk or honey
But then neither is this

I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt
Leaving out what it lacks
And the future feels so hard
And I want to go back
But the places they used to fit me
Cannot hold the things I've learned
Those roads were closed off to me
While my back was turned

The past is so tangible
I know it by heart
Familiar things are never easy
To discard
I was dying for some freedom
But now I hesitate to go
I am caught between the Promise
And the things I know 

I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt
Leaving out what it lacks
And the future feels so hard
And I want to go back
But the places they used to fit me
Cannot hold the things I've learned
Those roads were closed off to me
While my back was turned

If it comes to quick
I may not appreciate it
Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?
And if it comes to quick
I may not recognize i

Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?

Songwriter: Sara Groves
Painting Pictures of Egypt lyrics © Music Services, Inc

*Special Thanks to you, Sara Groves.  Soon I will have internalized every one of your songs at some deep moment of my life and blogged about it.  And sung harmony in the car with my girls to all your hit singles and hymn remakes.  And clapped and cried. And enjoyed your meaningful music when I am happy and listened to the wise words when I am sad. Thank you, song-writing, poetry-perfect friend I have never met. You sing the song-track of my life. 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Avocado Toast - Ode to the Youngest

I waited nine months. And then the day came…
There were birthing cries. Both of us. You came into the world on your due date.  Our nine-pound, perfect, Angel Baby with curls though a ring of fire and wails. Leaving the warm, perfect temperature of the womb, emerging into the cold, hard world with nothing but loving arms to catch you should you fall. 
We kept calling you “the baby” because, birth order does matter. Born into a family of all first-borns, you were the unique one in our line-up.  All arms around you.  Always looking out for you. Our forever baby-in-the-family.
Baby Bird
And just like that, 18 years went by in a cascade of minutes accumulating into moments that turned into memories, which created milestones. 
And then there was the nine-month waiting period again, counting days on a calendar, calling it your “senior year” when it was the last time for this. And the last time for that. 
And I savored so many minutes, moments, memories and milestones with you. Especially breakfast with just the two of us. Candles lit. Prayers of gratitude spoken. Good coffee sipped. And Avocado Toast. 
And then finally, today came…
We sat in your new dorm and realized college life was here and you were all grown up.
And there are birthing cries again. Both of us. You are leaving the warm nest, with its perfect temperature and all its “just the way you like it” and trading it in for a cold, hard world. And again, there is nothing you have but Loving Arms to catch you if you fall.
Because, little one, I might not be there this time.
Because it is the way that He intends. 
Because if you were to stay with me it would mean some disfunction, disease, debilitation, or even worse, death, has kept you from leaving me and growing up.  And God forbid that I keep you in the nest one day longer than He intended.
Because the big wide world awaits. And you must go it alone.
That I realize, as your mother, that you were a gift through me, not just a gift to me. You have a calling and a purpose on the planet and you must now go and find out what that purpose is.  You are a gift to the world. To your new friends. To your hallmates and your classmates. To your chosen college community. 
And I cry about it, desperately trying to embrace this new season and knowing that a good, good Father would not withhold anything from His children.  I trust in The Plan bigger than my plans. I ask for new dreams because I haven’t dreamed much beyond this point. And I have to find a reason to get up and do something...
And I am waking to my new reality just as you are waking to yours. 
And so, I eat my Avocado Toast alone. 
Avocado Toast
I try to manage the tears. I listen for the echoes of your voice in the hallways at home. I see your bed, neat and tidy, and empty. I notice pictures reminding me of the minutes, moments, memories and milestones we shared. And I realize I am holding my breath.

And I tell myself to breathe. Just breathe. 
And once again I wait for nine months.
Until you come back to our open nest.

I’ll keep it warm for you, baby.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Sharing My Lunch

Image result for images of boy sharing his lunchAlthough I would like to think of myself alongside those in the Bible, Old and New Covenant, who crossed seas on dry ground, faced giants with slingshots, walked on water in the middle of a stormy night, and commanded the lame to walk – I find myself more aligning with the quiet boy who was attending a large gathering one day on a hillside in his hometown to hear some good stories told by an up-and-coming Rabbi.  Seemingly, he was the only one prepared for such an event, coming with a lunch in hand.  (I have no doubt that he had a good Jewish mother who packed for him the necessities of the day as I have an Italian mother who would have done the same.)  Either way, the need for food to feed the multitude arises, and the disciples spy the little boy and his lunch. 

I wonder if he was reluctant to share?

I ask because I remember feeling a prompting to share in 1996.
Image result for images of boy sharing his lunch 
The sharing started as a simple summer camp for two weeks with parents and children exploring music, drama, art and Montessori materials. We wore t-shirts with a single handprint and the encircling words Hand-In-Hand.  Starting it for my three darlings, I wanted to follow the Lord’s leading to build something from scratch, innovative and effective.  Twenty years later, the sharing has resulted in more than just my children being blessed.  I am so grateful when I receive an unsolicited email or note expressing the life-changing impact of Hand In Hand.  I am still touched when a touring parent says “I was praying for something just like this.”  I am amazed at how God took a little snack and made it the full-meal-deal for so many.

I feel as if I am being asked to share my lunch again,  and I find myself in a new predicament.

Seeing the great need around me for the Good News of Jesus; the incredible opportunities of educational reform stateside and worldwide; the magical inspiration of the Montessori Method; the level playing field that is created in an individualized educational process instead of a one-size-fits-all; the open doors for intergenerational daycare; Montessori for Aging and Dementia Elders; professional development and training opportunities for teachers; the high demand and desire for international students to study in the USA; the need for new curricula to be used in a Christian Montessori context that clearly shares the story, with materials, of God’s unfolding plan for salvation….and the list goes on and on.

The need is great.  My lunch is small.

There are moments when I am not sure I want to share. Can you relate to me?  Are you content with what you have in your own hands, in your own pocket, in your own bank account, and ponder, “Why should I sacrifice?  Why share?”

Image result for images of boy sharing his lunchHere’s why – because sharing is the natural response of one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread, as my youth pastor used to say.  Because God’s Word says that he who blesses others will himself be refreshed.  Because the Christian life means to be a Christ-follower and that means laying down one’s life for another. Because Paul the Apostle tells us to “present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, which is our reasonable service.”  Reasonable?  Yes, reasonable.  We have a lunch. We have a solution.  We have experienced the Good News. 

So we must share.

The moving video shared at our Legacy Gala told the story of those who are right now asking God to send something to fill an “empty stomach.”  And God is looking around the crowd to find someone willing to share what they have in their hands. 

I don’t have much, but I will share what I have.

I read this poem, abridged, the night of our Legacy Gala just a few months ago.  Many gathered and were given the opportunity to share what they had in their hands.  And they did. 

Let’s continue to watch how God uses our “lunches” – placed in His Hands.

At night l lie beside my child and sing.
Last night I sang “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”
Her back was pressed against my chest,
and the smell of the wind was in her hair.
Before I’d finished singing she was sleeping,
but I sang on softly of your faithfulness,
faithfulness that made you pursue your people
even after the green of Eden faded.
At first you came in cloud, in fire,
feeding, leading, sealing
covenants with rainbows, oaths with flames
that passed at dusk between haves of heifer,
ram and goat.  Your raw presence was too much for men.

Then, when the time was right, you
who were cloud and flame came closer,
and the glory that before could not be looked upon settled on your son, asleep in a woman’s arms.
And in him men saw that the God who fathered them longed for them, loved them.
They were thirsty deserts, waffling followers.
Yet, faithful to your love for men,
he went your way, another son following father
to the stony place of sacrifice.
This time, though, no ram in thicket,
no staying of the father’s hand.

And now, as your strange ways would have it,
the Spirit that is you has come to me
and I, not ark, bear you though the world.
Bearer of your image, I? I do no miracles-
make no manna, sight no blind eyes.
I tie laces, make beds, bake breads.
But your equations, like your ways, are strange
adding oil, multiplying meal, making one lunch
food for thousand. Take my acts,
ordinary loaves and fishes.
Bless, break, multiply.

I gratefully acknowledge this simple yet powerful poem written by Sanna Anderson Bakers. It was shared with me by a faithful prayer partner Emily Schroeder. I dedicate this all who attended the Hand In Hand Legacy Gala this year and were willing to share what they had.  We met our goals and continue to watch God multiply what little we have. Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Why

Knowing  “the why” is important for many aspects of our lives to be effective – but none more important than “the why of homeschooling.”  Before you head off and enthusiastically change your dining room to a school room, or dutifully purchase piles of must-have curriculum or before you threaten to put your children on the yellow school bus as you grow weary, figure out your reasons for doing what you do. Rehearsing this on daily basis regarding educating your children really matters.
My W.H.Y. is centered on three things, which conveniently forms the acronym:

W – While They Are Very Young

H – Home

Y – You

“While They Are Very Young” - is a phrase taken from the beloved author of the Winnie The Pooh series – A.A. Milne.  He speaks of a great truth when referring to this important season of childhood. There is a small season, a window of opportunity if you will when your children are very young often referred to in Montessori terms called “the secret of childhood.”  This is the one and only time that is conducive to “homeschooling” years.  The very young child, as observed by Dr. Maria Montessori, has an absorbent mind.  They are formable and are emotionally impressionable.  They are eager to learn and be curious about their world.  They love the adult. They notice small objects. They desire to move in order to learn. They have a great capacity for language acquisition and mathematical interest.
These are called “sensitive periods.”  There is a season and a reason for homeschooling when children are truly receptive. That time is when they are very young.  Take advantage of the time.  Believe me when I say, the days might be long, but the years are short.  The time you capture now will never be within your reach again, so seize the moment. 

Home - is a sweet word that conjures up all the warmth and wonderfulness possible in the human experience.  The world is great but man’s heart is small, so God ordain one place we love most of all – home.  Homeschooling has a wonderful word tucked inside of it – home.  You are creating an essence, a feeling, and an impression.  You are writing your own story and setting the stage of the great narrative of your family story.  Home is the backdrop of your life. A sign hangs in my house - “home is where your story begins”  - and how true that is.  One beautiful reason to homeschool is the fact that your children will truly spend time at home.  Take care to create both indoor and outdoors environment that will be conducive to allowing your children both freedom and responsibility.  Children need plenty of time to tinker – or to “think the unthunk thought”  (Juila Funt).  They also need to have meaningful work that allows them to contribute to the family rhythm of life.  Helping with the meal preparation, cleaning, and organizing are all aspects with which children can and need to engage.  I desired to create a home atmosphere that had both beauty and order.  I took care to arrange my kitchen where my children could help themselves and help others in the process.

You - perhaps the best part of homeschooling is quality and quantity time you are offering your children without skimping. Generously devoting  yourself to their needs.  To this end, present the best version of you.  Your tone, your facial expression, your daily mood, your relationship with your spouse and your Lord, are all laid out before your children.  There are few places to hide. You, in your raw and organic state, is the best gift you can give your family.  The Lord uses this furnace of home to refine us and help us come out like gold.  Giving ourselves fully to our children – only we can do this – is one of the greatest gifts of life.

I was recently with a group of homeschooling heroines – woman who have heeded the call to homeschool their children.  This group, called Connect, served up weekly with warm coffee and even warmer conversation and encourage, has become a source of fuel for the journey.  We all need to know that we are not alone.  After sharing my “WHY” of homeschooling, I asked this group: why do you homeschool?  The answers were as varied and vibrant as the women seated around the table.

“Recovering my childhood” –expressed one mom who was actually homeschooled, or rather “unschooled.”  Left to her own devices, her mother had chosen a self-serve educational experience, leaving this now-grown woman lacking some educational building blocks.  She decided to homeschool to create a different type of homeschool foundation, with rigorous attention to quality literature, art exposure, science journals and studies, and writing accuracy. 

“Sheltering my children’s innocence” – answered another homeschooling mom who felt that world has become too violent, too intense, too demoralizing – and all of us agreed.  Her decision to homeschool was a hope to postpone the assault of a fallen world on her sweet ones as long as possible.  Often the word “sheltering” has a negative connotation.  Interesting concept.  We have no problem with nurturing young plants, pets, or other living organism, giving them a chance to root well, learn good habits, or solidify.  Why would we not have the same approach with young children?  Sheltering them from the inevitable storms of life, for a short vulnerable season is wise and wonderful. 

“Fostering my child’s uniqueness” – knowing the individuality of each child instead of a one-size-fits-all approach was another mom’s “why.”  Her child was a clever one – early reader, eager to devour all information with a seemingly unquenchable appetite for lofty learning.  Her decision to homeschool was spurred by the desire to stay one step ahead of her child’s love for learning rather than sentencing her child to lack luster classroom with only one answer and hands raised one at a time. 

“Developing the spirituality and sibling love among my children” – was yet another mom’s reason for homeschooling.  She wanted to create a home environment that allowed her children to practice spiritual disciplines, habits of healthy giving and forgiving, and working out sibling sharing and sanity.  She was raised in a home where it was almost expected that “kids will fight” and as a result, there was constant tension among her sisters.  She wanted to educate differently, travel with her children, and offer a new perspective on a peaceful home setting.  Homeschooling offered her that opportunity.

So I ask you, reader, why?  Why do you homeschool?  What target have you set up for yourself and what arrows are notched in the bow and ready to be released?  Soul search and find the answer to this important question.  Set up a target and pursue it with all you have.  Know your why.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Babies Don't Keep

Babies Don’t Keep

Mother, oh mother, come shake out your cloth!
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She's up in the nursery, blissfully rocking!

Oh, I've grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby, loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping's not done and there's nothing for stew
And out in the yard there's a hullabaloo
But I'm playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren't her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo.)

Oh, cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
But children grow up, as I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust, go to sleep.
I'm rocking my baby. Babies don't keep.

Song for a Fifth Child by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton (born in 1921)

I took this lullaby to heart with my three wee-ones. I put down my clock and I flowed with milk-time. I cherished every moment of babyhood knowing all too well how quickly that season goes. This quest for infant-over-indulgence, led me to baby-loving habits that allowed my husband and I to thoroughly savor the memories of that brief time and enjoy the moments with our babies.  

I was in a pregnant-nursing-pregnant cycle from February of 1995 until August 2001. That was 78 months.  We waited five years to have children after we were married and once we started, every time I finished nursing, we found ourselves blessed once again.  However, during that six and a half year season, I often felt like a salmon swimming upstream.  Here in the USA, having babies, holding babies, and helping babies has developed quite a protocol, which skeptically favors the adult and often not the baby. 

As a new mother and a passionate Montessorian, I had developed appreciation for asking the question “what does the child need?”  Answering this question led me to look a bit further into other countries and cultures around the world; digging a bit deeper into a variety of research and opinions that seemed more understanding of basic human tendencies; and a bit farther into learning to parent from the heart, placing the child’s needs above my own.  One of my favorite authors were Dr. William Sears and his wife, Martha Sears, R.N.  They were the champions of “attachment parenting” and were strong advocates for the family bedroom, nursing on demand, and non-toxin world for little ones.  In short, only the best for the smallest.  Their books and beliefs resonated with me and became our trusted source in information and encouragement.  A few words about him…

The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two“Dr. Sears, or Dr. Bill as his "little patients" call him, is the father of eight children as well as the author of over 30 books on childcare. Dr. Bill is an Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine. Dr. Bill received his pediatric training at Harvard Medical School's Children's Hospital in Boston and The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto -- the largest children’s hospital in the world, where he served as associate ward chief of the newborn nursery and associate professor of pediatrics. Dr. Sears is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and a fellow of the Royal College of Pediatricians (RCP).Dr. Bill is also a medical and parenting consultant for BabyTalk and Parenting magazines and the pediatrician on the website Parenting.com (http://www.askdrsears.com)”.

All in all, what I not saying is to follow Dr. Sear’s advice wholeheartedly. What I am saying is to follow the Holy Spirit’s prompting to parent from your heart.  There isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” parenting standard and each of us should respond to the individual needs of our own babies. Listen.

I know what my babies were saying…

Please hold me

Please sleep with me

Please rock me to sleep

Please talk to me face to face

Please don’t let me cry for long

Please nurse me

Please don’t rush me

I just knew deep down that babies don’t keep and I urge you to “lullaby” all you can.

Enjoy this link to one of my most used lullabies that we know by heart... 
Michael Card's "Sleep Sound In Jesus" Lullaby

Friday, December 29, 2017

Whatever Your Hand Finds To Do...

What will your January be like?
Traveling away from home this January?
Hand In Hand’s Community has a creative approach to educational options in January: either staying home or studying at Hand In Hand.

When we created our homeschool academy in 2002, we created J-Term that allowed families the options to stay at home and enjoy time for unit studies, reading and cocooning.

Will your family be away from home this January? Does your your family like to travel? Some of my sweetest memories are traveling in the month of January to Fort Myers Beach, Florida with my family. Being the first one to spot the sign “Island Towers” as we turned the corner on the narrow beach front road – was the coveted family prize. Eating seafood, picking seashells, and watching pink sunsets were daily delights. Playing “Rook” around the table at night was always memorable with my brother who loved to bid high and often couldn’t deliver!  Often the best parts of vacations, wherever they happen, are the adventure and adversity that a family shares together.
Staying home this January to cocoon?
Or instead of traveling is your family hibernating? I love this term and I think it adequately describes the blustering weather of Minnesota that beckons families to remain indoors, cuddle, relax – and yes, somewhat hibernate.  During this month, remember to focus on your science projects:  allow your children to follow their natural curiosity and research topics on the assigned science subject (either geology, astronomy or meteorology).  Create a project together allowing the children to use various media and creative ideas.  Remember a good science project always has three things: 1) a good question! (what is the science project answering?); 2) name, age, date of the young scientist asking the question; and 3) clear, neat, and creative answers to the question.
The eight years rendered awesome experiences at my home with my three children. Experiences of studying science and making messy projects; cold snow play followed by sipping hot chocolate; reading on the couch with children snuggled up against my shoulder; sleeping in like bears who are hibernating; and most of all character development. Working, playing and praying together with siblings is sometimes the greatest challenge and best reward of the home educating lifestyle. Simply time for “God-talk” and teachable moments make time at home the best.
On the other hand (pun intended), when we created the Private Academy, we created a J-Term at Hand In Hand that has proved to be one the greatest months for our young learners!
For the first time ever in 2011 we had 46 children come for fifteen, fast, fun days of a variety experiences. Miss Elisabeth, our own organic and culinary chef, outdid herself with ethnic snacks, and three course lunches with tasty surprises from Korea, Finland, and the Caribbean. Along with Chinese Bells and Gongs, Mrs. Lee brought the orchestral sounds from Finlandia and the spicy sounds of salsa dancing to life in the Great Hall. Mrs. Baker, our passionate science mentor, helped guide the creative and well-done science projects. The classrooms themselves guided by amazing Lead Teachers and Assistants were buzzing with reports, original art pieces, poster boards, money and measurement games, time and temperature, and engaging story problems. A highlight of that J-Term for me was witnessing 14 HIH (past or present) students, ages 12-15 years, at the Artic Blast Winter Retreat, with hands raised in worship, hugs all around, and a vigorous game of broomball! Beautiful!
Although some staff members have changed from this inaugural year, many remain the same along with the same creative and exciting educational offerings. We look forward to another amazing J-Term with sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touches of travels and field trips.
This January, whether you are at home, away, or at Hand In Hand, may the scripture: “whatever your hand finds to do – do it with all your might” be true for all of us.
Coming to Hand In Hand for J-Term Fun?