How to Make Rain

She was angry with no intention to change. Her sister was mean and wrong. She wants to be right and others to be as well. But there would be, “no enemies at our table.” I pulled this out when they were smaller and forgot about it. The fighting had been escalating for months. I’ve read all kinds of advice. My mind and heart spin and don’t settle on any piece of it for long. I know no author is perfectly wise, but this reader is far less. Books in the hands of a foolish woman; I am unfit for this role.

I declare the study to be the new peace-making room, “There you will go to make peace before you may eat at this table.” At breakfast it was simple, laughter came quickly.

Later, before lunch, a bigger dispute broke out and the peace-making room was thick with hatred with no plans of departure. I intervened with questions, mining for the heart of words and actions. Both sides were hurt, both sides were stubborn, both had a point.

I was tempted to take the easy road. I could just take the iPad away from everyone. That would cover things up for a while. . . I closed my eyes and begged. “God, what do I do? What do I say?” I stayed there with eyes shut.

The girls were quiet, wondering if I had fallen asleep as I waited for something to bring out of this fight.

It was time pull out a book I had ordered two weeks before, but tucked away. I began reading as the one who refused to forgive sat in the farthest corner. Two pages in and she was closest to the book. Drawn in to the story of a man drawing circles in the sand, praying boldly for God to send rain.

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The story ended and I was out of things to say again. We were back where we started; one willing to reconcile, the other still couldn’t forgive, and me with my eyes shut and no clue.

So like the man in the story, I circled. I took her in my lap, imagined a circle of sand around us, and I told God I would sit there all day, all week and longer, until He rescued her heart. I declared that she was made to display the love and beauty of God and begged Him to restore her to that purpose. I demanded that evil would have no power over this house, that this child would choose to obey what was right and be free from its clinches. I prayed like I didn’t know who I was.

Then I felt them. Big drops on my arm as I held her tight, sitting on the outside, standing boldly on the inside before the throne of God. She broke like clouds over a dry and weary land; desperate for refreshing, hungry for release.

This led me to note a few things:

Written advice lead me to create a peace-making space and insist peace be reached, but it was God who met us in that place when we couldn’t figure out how.

Discipline and faith made me expect good things from my children, but it was God who broke rain inside our roof.

My daughter, who wrestles with anger, spoke the rest of the day of wanting to obey God and not be angry. Do I think she’s cured? No. Anger will likely be a default struggle for her, but her heart experienced a power than goes beyond mommy’s shadow. She saw God with us, reaching down to her heart. She heard a prayer for rain and felt it fall deeper than her skin.

Since that day, there has been more anger, but you know what else? I have heard through cracked doors, a little girl crying out on her own, begging God to help her in her anger.

This is what I’ve learned about prayer . . . it’s clinging, begging, drawing a line in the sand. Not to demand that God does what you want, but preaching to your own soul there’s no where else to go; that this is where you wait if you want to see great things. No one else is really listening. No one else can do a thing about your frailty or your child’s. It’s not wishful thinking, throwing pennies in a fountain hoping there’s “something” out there. It is life with God.

And this is what prayer does . . . opens your eyes to see Him move, rain sometimes falling on your head, affecting your soul with greatness, causing you to sing.

Worshipping Tired

We’ve succeeded at an earlier-than-usual bedtime, but I’m ready to collapse. I lean into the top bunk and she whispers, “Can you scratch my back?” I try not to let my face fall and my voice fails to hold in the sigh, . . . “Just a little . . .” I start in scratching and 5 seconds seems long.

For a moment I catch myself. If I knew this would be the last time I would hold onto it, scratching every cell and wouldn’t feel the tired, maybe.

The next moment I hear a whisper; a name so pure and untouchable, needing no vowels, a vapor on the tongue. We had just learned this Name at breakfast. “YHWH,” The Self-Existent One, needing no one and nothing, not even a nap or early bedtime. As we crunched toast, what surprised them reminded me. I am not the Self-Existent One. I need sleep; hours of it every setting sun. I explained there is only One with this name, and why it’s not me. Their faces softened as they saw some sense to the shortness I’m left with post 8:00 pm.

So there I hang over the top bunk, wondering if I should hold on and scratch forever. I scratch a little longer, run my nails a little softer the way she likes. But I know it’s not my place to pretend to be all she needs. I kiss her and remind her she is loved. I wonder why it’s so easy to rush through the moments . . . if it’s because eternity has been placed in my heart so I expect another day to always come . . .

And I know it’s ok when I just can’t hold on . . . because I’m not the keeper of forever, nor the keeper of her heart. That’s the job of a Name that whispers, in no need of sleep, freeing me from filling impossible shoes, to lie down and sleep in peace.

Tired

A Short Prayer from a Sore Heart

This was my prayer this morning, raw and unedited, coming from an aching heart over the battles I see in my country over the idea of freedom . . .

My heart longs for the new world; a “country” based on You, the source, not just our own ideas of You, and enjoying freedom; true freedom.

The current world, at least my part of it, is based on freedom and enjoys the idea that each is his own god. Freedom can’t be defined here, as what makes one man free seems to enslave the other. It can only get uglier. We’ve never been on a path of progress.

In You we do not, as a people, truly trust. But in You is true love, compassion, humility, kindness, beauty, justice, joy, and therefore, freedom.

I yearn for You to come and set us straight. Set us free from our own doings, our own short sight. Unlock the graves. Amaze us all with the life and beauty and peace we think we’re aiming for, but our imaginations are not able to touch.

The Science I Thought I Couldn’t Teach

It’s a Friday and my assignment is a class of 9 five-year-olds.  Our mission:  Memorize Newton’s First Law of Motion,

“An object at rest tends to remain at rest,
and
an object in motion tends to continue moving in a straight line at constant speed,

unless an outside force acts upon it.”

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It’s a lot for them.  They won’t truly memorize it this year, but at 5 years old it’s about exposure.  As they grow, we will return to this law and watch it get bigger in depth and meaning.  But really, any child who knows the song, “On Top of Spaghetti,” unconsciously knows this Law of Motion.  That meatball sits pretty atop its pile of pasta until a sneeze makes it roll.  It then continues to roll until something stops it.

Coaching these wiggly worms in memorizing this “dry fact” of Science while singing a song, I suddenly see something they don’t.  I pause the song and say,

“Kids, this is about our hearts!  My heart, and yours need God to change it!”

To myself I realize, “We think we’re learning about meatballs sneezed off center, soccer balls kicked into flight, and satellites floating endlessly in space, but all of these things point to more.  This law is not only about physical matter.  It’s the law that my heart will not move, or be still, without an outside force, sometimes gentle, sometimes not so, stirring me to do or not do, think or not think, love or not love.”

Stuck in Leaves

My little ones are unaware of, and unimpressed by, the explosion of light that’s just entered my eyes.  It’s no joke that the teacher often learns more than the students.  Is that a law too?  I’m standing in a divine moment, worshipping overjoyed to be teaching this deep science I never thought I was interested in.

And I love the law for simply stating what is.  It tells me what I am and what I do and points me to that outside force that I see, over decades of progressive understanding, is a loving and unfailing force.  I pray silent for my little ones anxious for snack time,

“May the “Force” be with you, and may He move strong in your hearts.”

It’s ok that they don’t get it.  This law we give the man Newton credit for does not need to be understood to be true.  I am confident in this:  that in kindness and love, He moves lifeless hearts stuck in an unseen state of inertia.  And I hope as these children grow, the highlight of education in any subject is the sheer joy of seeing the law and love that works on our behalf.

Weeee

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, . . . 
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ 

Ephesians 2:1, 4-5a

For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.  But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,

Titus 3:3-4

Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?
Romans 2:4

Things I’ve Learned about Teaching

I often get the question, “How do you do it?” referring to the fact that my children are homeschooled.  I tend to shrug it off with something like, “Oh, if I can do it, anyone can do it,” or “Oh, I don’t know if I’m really doing that great of a job.” While these are true statements, they’ve come to be more telling of where I was in the beginning and don’t hold much weight now.  I might have a bit more to say, about learning at home or elsewhere, after what I’ve learned so far along the way.  

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The first thing I did not know in the beginning was that teaching is not always the same as telling.  I told my first student in the ranks what she was supposed to know.  She rarely caught on quickly and I worried about a learning disability.  Through trial and error and trying to understand how to teach, I’ve learned everyone truly does learn differently.  Much of my teaching has become showing, not just telling.  

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I learned that repetition is normal and necessary.  I am not alone in feeling the frustration of repeating yet another time, for example, that “The number on the bottom of the fraction is the DENOMINATOR for crying out loud!”  Somehow, through this journey of becoming a teacher, I realized this wasn’t much different than the sometimes frustrating, but mostly enjoyable, process of learning to get pizza dough to turn out right.  It’s about repetition.  Seeing it, feeling it, and then knowing when it’s right.  

I began homeschooling with the notion that the goal was results.  I now believe that without relationship, you rarely get results.  The eyes will tell how the relationship is going, with you and with learning.  Are their eyes glazed over?  Am I rolling mine?  The relationship is not healthy when I do; I’m looking for results.  The eyes are the lamp of the body, a window to the soul.  Watch them.  

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Together

It’s about the process and learning together. Since when was it not? From the first day in the hospital, she knew physically how to eat. I, on the other hand, had to learn the best way to get that to happen without too much pain. With each successive child, the experience has been different and I have always been a co-learner. It’s the same with teaching them reading or multiplication. I’ve had to go on a hunt for ways to impart the wonders of the created order.

Vision is essential.  What do you want for your child when they are 20, 40 or even 70?  What do you want her to know about relationships and living?  What do you want to instill in his character?  Will she know how to talk to someone who has hurt her feelings?  Look to others’ interests and not only talk about herself?  Will he know God and His joy?  Thinking far down the line can help you decide what to focus on now when they are 6, 8, or 10.  You need some idea of where you are going, but don’t get lost way down there.  Yes, vision is essential, but so is right now. . .

Together (2)

Remember when they kept waking in the night?  Wouldn’t potty train fast enough?  You wondered if they would wear diapers in 6th grade.  Would they want to sleep in your bed through college? (Which I probably wouldn’t mind!)  You know it was ridiculous.  It still is now, if they’re struggling with their times tables, to think they always will.  Relax.  Keep at it.  They’re 8 only once and real success in anything never happens overnight. 

So how do I do it?   

My goals now are opposite of what they used to be.  Telling my kids what to know has become a desire to growas a teacher that is able to show them wonders.  

The results I was looking for will probably still come, but the relationship my kids have with me, with the world they’re observing, and with the God who made it all is at the forefront of my mind.  

wonders

My vision is reigned in as I remember my children are still children.  They are not at an age to be masters of much, but wonderers.  They are being exposed to how the world was and is and is to come.  

I don’t believe educating my little ones has anything to do with checking boxes, clocking in hours, or determining their skills based on their birthday.  Nor that learning only happens between certain hours of the day and when one sits with pages of text and worksheets.  That mindset only brought me anxiety and answers that kept my eyes looking down when asked how things were going.   

Letters

Do I think I’ve got it all figured out?  By no means!  But by now I no longer feel the pressure of thinking I should.  I have no intentions of them leaving the nest fully “educated,” all “i’s” dotted and “t’s” crossed, like a brand new computer fresh off a conveyor belt, nicely packaged and ready for use in the “real” world.  Rather, I envision them leaving equipped to never stop learning.  No matter where your kids are schooled, I believe you can have the same goal.  

My Unprofessional Mother

In light of Teacher Appreciation Week and Mother’s Day, I’m kicking off a 4-part series with thoughts I’ve gathered on teaching with some reflections about my first teacher. . .

Being a mom wasn’t a selection at the career fairs, but as long as I can remember, that was the one I chose. It may seem puzzling why I would have wanted such a “career”,  but to me it was obvious.  The most vivid, happy memories I have as a child were before the age of 5, before going off to school.

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I was often on the counter, directly next to the mixer which spinned some kind of dough or batter.   My mother was doing what she loved and we were together in it.  With 3 children underfoot, she managed to have a small business making cakes for any occasion: birthdays, graduations, even weddings.  Occasionally I went along to watch her carefully deliver and assemble wedding cakes.  The ones with fountains inside were my favorites.  There were flops and fizzles and along the way and I was there through it all, watching my mother make the world delicious.  

She taught what she knew with gentleness and generosity.  She was an excellent rocker, swaying us to a place of comfort and singing the songs we loved to hear over and over, how she would “buy the blazing sun,” and we believed her.  She bought that sun everyday as she sacrificed her time and talents to invest in our little hearts.  By the time the 4th baby joined us, the cakes had to wait.  

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Soon my time with her shrunk, off at school 30+ hours a week.  I missed her dearly.  Being the oldest to hobble out of the nest, I tried a couple of times to run back and stay forever, but our old, orange truck delivered me to my required place.  

Though I was older and no longer rocked or sat on the counter tasting cookies, I woke in the mornings to the glow of the light over the stove and her pouring over her Bible, educating herself in supernatural words.  She may not have felt at ease, as now a mother I know how feeling at ease can slip away, but she seemed at ease to me.  She had her moments of explosion, but they didn’t define her character.  She was kindness and love to me.  

You may have seen the poster that says, “All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”  In a sense, all I ever needed to know, I learned before that.  I learned, at the side of my mother, to teach what I know and seek out what I don’t.  Until I found myself 30 years later reading a brilliant book about education, I didn’t realize.  

Cooking

I’ve noticed I no longer cower in my heart when asked where my children go to school.  Not because I think homeschool is the answer for everyone, but because I realize my deepest education was given me before the age of 5, by my unprofessional mother.  

When I watch my favorite little hands measure vanilla or chocolate chips, I feel alive and thankful.  I’m thankful for what my mother may or may not have known when those were my hands pouring and spilling.  She was teaching generations beyond her small kitchen; a legacy, I pray, will live beyond her time and mine.  

Happy Mother’s Day Mommy!

Bringing Easter Close

Easter hasn’t always been a favorite holiday of mine.  It’s usually chilly and us girls try to wear something special, perhaps new, and not fitting for the chill.  The colors surrounding it are pastel which aren’t my favorite and it’s just not as cozy as Christmas. On past Easter Sundays I’ve walked into church greeted by someone proclaiming, “He is Risen!” I felt I should be excited about it, but it seemed superficial. My heart wanted to respond with, “Ok, now what? We just wait here then? What does that really mean for me right now??” Over time that has changed. And as I’ve grown in heart, I desire to make Easter more in my home than it has been.

Not intentionally for the holiday, I happen to be reading Surprised by Hope:  Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, by N.T. Wright.  I feel giddy when I read it.  It’s a  somewhat scholarly work, but not difficult to read.  Overall it doesn’t twist my brain up too tight and even if it did, it’s worth it. I enjoy his use of language, his love of Scripture and the clarity with which he explains how the resurrection means everything to Christians.  I read from it 5-10 minutes a day and it gives me a nice little bit to chew on for hours.  This work has been confirming every day what I’ve been thinking must be true of the resurrection and new creation of our bodies and earth itself. I recommend reading it!

Surprised by Hope

Here is one of many favorite quotes from the book,

“We cannot relegate (the Resurrection) to the margins of our thinking, our living, and our praying; if we do, we shall pull everything else out of shape.”

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s kind of a theme running through my blog–I’m looking forward to the resurrection.  It’s the end of “The Tale” and the only one that leaves us with real hope.  This book fills me with confidence over what the Scriptures have told us.

Besides this book, we’ve done a couple projects at home to bring the season and celebration to our senses. First we made these lovely string eggs.  There are many ways to make the starch for these, you can find several through Pinterest.  My recommendation is not to use a recipe with sugar water.  It’s a STICKY mess!  I used a mixture of 1 cup liquid starch and 1/2 c flour.  The recipe here using Mod Podge might be even better.

String eggs

The other project was this tomb scene.  I found it also through Pinterest and since I have wheat berries in my pantry we used those to grow grass.  I’m hoping there will be some grass shooting up by Sunday.  We might have been a little late with it this year, only 5 days ahead . . . But grass or no grass, it’s nice to have this visual of what we’re celebrating and reminder of our still-future hope.  Yes, the cross is empty, but so is the grave.  Without it, our faith is dead and we are too.

Empty Tomb

Taken from an old post, here are some things to ponder as you celebrate Easter this year . . .

When you trust in Christ’s resurrection, you hope . . .
. . . for all pain and oppression to be gone, all tears dried.
. . . for your sins; your deepest darkest secrets, forgiven.
. . . for no more toil and tiredness, and fruit from your labor to flourish. No more weeds.
. . . for your own resurrection and a new heaven and earth.
. . . for laughter and light at every turn.
. . . to see children play with lions.
. . . to be beautiful, never spoiled or ripped away by the covetousness of a beholder.
. . . for all nations, a multi-faceted diamond, reflecting the glory of their Maker.

If we’re wrong about this hope and there is no resurrection, we are most to be pitied. It’s the greatest hope and the greatest risk, but to whom else can we go for a better promise?

Will you let your heart be giddy this season?  Dream with me? He is Risen! And that means everything, . . .everything . . . to me.

Christmas at the Planetarium

I never thought I was interested much in Science, but there I sat among children, craning my neck to the artifical canvas of stars.  We heard about the Sun and other planets, all fascinating.  We found perspective when told 1,000 Earths could fit inside Jupiter, and 1,000,000 could fit inside the Sun.  Hoping they would catch this wonder the first time around, I repeated these facts to my girls.

When regular ol’ earth showed up, my heart felt something like a song or a sigh.  There was something beautiful about the blue and green in vibrant hues and the swirl of clouds over them.

Back home from the planetarium, I read more about the planets and their atmospheres, or lack thereof; about what lies beyond our giant solar system.  The more I read and pondered the seemingly endless universe, my wonder turned gloomy.  We are like dust.  Our solar system is like dust.  We are in a sea of which boundaries aren’t found.  We refer to heaven like it’s just beyond the clouds.  We’ve been beyond the clouds and all we see are more planets and stars and black.

I don’t know God like I thought I did.  He’s untouchable, I’m insignificant.  I scream inside, not unlike the time I was small and thought I was lost in an elevator.  “Where are you? Why isn’t this canvas smaller so we can see you behind it?  And do you really see me?”

Feeling disoriented and bothered as my understanding of what can be seen expanded, my need for hope did the same.  

Christmas was coming, and good thing it was.  I was needing a good story.  But such a silly one, that a baby is our God.  We sing and remember angels heralded his arrival and are far removed by now.

Yet of all the stories, there is not one like this.  The world went on as always in its searching and striving for greatness and meaning . . . for the best story. Meanwhile, down to the stuff of earth, huge hands entered helpless and small, first covered in skin, next in what was available.  Smaller than dust from the moon’s perspective, it was a quiet entrance marked by a faraway star.

Whole Earth

Photo by NASA on the Commons

I remember how He meets me every day; a presence too big to see with the kind of eyes I have. I remember it’s not time yet, all will be revealed in the end.  It’s the way great stories go and I stop asking, “Why can’t I see you in the cosmos?”

There’s something different, something colorful brewing here.  I think that’s why my heart did something when technology allowed me to see earth from afar.  On the planet where life can live and skies are blue, there’s a different brush swirling over.  One of the dwarves in a line of 9 spheres, ours is indistinct, but kissed by the touch of God; come small, come flesh, come for crippled eyes to find.

The untouchable became touchable for a little while and gave us hope.  And this hope will not disappoint.

Is there any better story for a wandering speck of dust?  

Raising Fools in Love

Night after night, she wants the same story read.  I’m anxious to reach the end and kiss good night. I don’t always enter into what I’m reading, but she is entranced.

Bear
 
A recent favorite is about a group of friends:  bear, mouse, and mole; raven, rabbit, and wren.  They play together, hunt strawberries together, and cuddle up to sleep.
 
Another is a little girl day-dreaming.  In her own garden “there would be no weeds” and the flowers would “never die.”  Anything would grow.  The fruit of her labor would be abundant and large (except for carrots which she hates).

In my garden
Garden 2
 
My children listen, not batting an eye.  When I am present, I remember what these stories are really saying.  They are beckoning to their imaginations of an ideal life; whispering a reality we’ve lost and must, for now, imagine.  
 
So when I’m there in my heart and not 15 minutes into the future when the house is quiet, I tell them why they love these tales.  I tell them what once was, . . . 

“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” . . .

and I tell them what will be . . . 
 
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
    and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
    and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
    their young shall lie down together;
    and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
Isaiah 11:6-8
 
Creation will be renewed and weeds will be legend.  We will be friends with creatures, perhaps cuddling for naps or hunting for strawberries on their backs.  

Bear 3
 
Children are supposed to grow up, leaving childish ways behind.  I’m not sure what all those ways are, but being a fool in love with the hope of paradise lost again being found is not one of them.  

The Most Powerful Writing

A picture flashed in my mind one recent day.  It was my stack of journals.  Until late, I never thought of them as a discipline.  They were a tool to extract my thoughts, my frustrations, even my joys.  All the days I feared the future, felt I was a bother to God, should get it together already, are written and collected.  They are the journey of a heart poured out.

Journals

I scratched out prayers, my head down low to see the pages, but also from frustration in coming with the same struggle day after day.  Parenting was hard.  I worried about the future.  I saw hardness and rebellion in a tiny soul and desired to lead her well.  I begged with my pen,

“Let me, let us, do this well.  Guard her heart, keep it.  Help me greet her today with a smile and be patient to correct when she disobeys, fights, and argues.  Let me not drive her away, but lead her to You.”

It’s been over a decade now and suddenly I’m seeing gentleness where I didn’t before.  A desire to know God and love Him has grown.  She expresses thanks in place of entitlement, and I smile at how she is gifted where I am not.  My eyes are opening too see the change.  How she got so tall and stopped fitting in my lap without hurting my legs, is a marvel.  How beauty has sprung up in a place I was expecting dry ground is more so to be pondered.

Her cells multiplied daily, unnoticed before my eyes.  My prayers multiplied just as fast, growing both of our hearts in secret.

Morning Prayers

I thought it was just me; this need to document words, a necessity to keep my focus from the air.  It was that, but the day in and day out of crying through ink and pleading through secret pages was my part in His work.  I believed and clung to see what would come of it.   More life is ahead, and more prayers on which will hang.  Most of all, I’ve learned I can smile at the future.

A discipline born out of need, I’ve decided to continue scratching this messy heart into quiet words, eyes down as they practice looking at hope.  In hope we pray and plead, in hope we anticipate.  In hindsight we see and rejoice, we sigh relief.

Would He have done it anyway?  Perhaps and probably so; I am joining Him, not the other way around.  Would I have seen it?  I’m not quite sure.  I forget too soon what I have asked of Him.  For the remembrance and the joy of saying, with a smile in the future, “For this I prayed,” I keep scribbling.

Spines

For when my deepest parts occupy a small notebook, closed and dark by 7am, they transcend time and space and sits before the face of God, the Lover of my soul, the Master of shaping hearts.