|My lunch this day....|
With the start of our 15th year of home education on Monday, then staying down in the city all day Tuesday, today is the day that I'm counting the gifts.
With boys in grades 6, 9, and 11, home schooling is a challenge and a blessing. It is difficult to leave summer behind...the late sleeping, the quiet days, the lack of deadlines.
Yet this summer has been sleepless, with slumber arriving between three and four in the morning most nights. On nights when it arrives earlier and easier, I toss and doze rather than sleep. The flare of chronic pain and fatigue is what Ann Voskamp, in her excellent book One Thousand Gifts (about which I shall write a separate post) calls "the hard eucharisteo," the difficult giving of thanks. She writes truth.
But with the fading of the heat of summer comes autumn, my favorite season. Even as school work begin again, I adore the cooling days, the hours spent in quiet study, the fire blazing in the wood stove that heats our home.
After slowly reading and digesting Ann's book this summer, I resolve to slow down and breathe. My norm during school days is to rush from one task to the next, multi-tasking constantly as I watch over the doing of long division with one eye while teaching online students the finer points of the MLA essay with the remainder of my schizoid-ish mind.
But I want to slow down, as Ann reminds me, and see the beauty and thank God for it. When I purchased Ann's book from Day Spring, I also received a "daybrightener," a daily flip calendar with quotes for each day from Ann's book. And today's provided the needed reminder as we begin the first week of thirty-six for this school year:
"I can't leave crowds for mountain top, daily blur for Walden Pond...but there's always the possibility of the singular vision. I remember: contemplative simplicity isn't a matter of circumstances[;] it's a matter of focus."
Truer truth has rarely been spoken to my heart. As I crave the contemplative, I must remember that contemplation is dependent on the state of my mind, not the state of our house or of our school. As much as I like to think that contemplation comes in retreat, in silence, in solitude, those elements are not a regular part of my life now.
Now my life overflows with boybarians, quarreling often over XBox and chores, issuing complaints regarding each other. I drive more now, transporting daughter, whose eyes haven't been healthy enough for a license, to community college classes. While she is in class I teach middle boy in Starbucks as we bond over caramel fraps. At home, oldest boy teaches youngest, saving me much work for which I'm grateful. I superintend house cleaning which I cannot do myself with chronic pain flaring. I sort laundry, plan menus and grocery lists. I teach online courses, typing lessons to students in New Zealand, Egypt, Ireland, North Carolina, New York.
Once co-op Class Days begin in mid-September, essays shall demand grading, lessons will need to be taught in expository writing and medieval history while boys tackle classes chemistry, geography, chess, and science, plus drive balls deep in PE. And I start another writing project, helping my chiropractor organize and flesh out his vocation for good health calling on God's powerful healing.
So silence and solitude will need to be a place in my mind, soul, and heart rather than in my surroundings. Not that serenity is impossible. I shall have to be aware of the tiny, hidden pools of beauty and peace in my life, and drink them in, quenching my thirst for contemplation.
Soon enough, as kids grow and become adults--graduating our home school, attending college, perhaps moving out--I will be missing these busy days. I need to savor the madness while I can, before the years slip through my fingers, disappearing into vague memories.
So at mid-week I join the Gratitude Community at Ann Voskamp's serene oasis of A Holy Experience, journeying toward my own One Thousand Gifts, with deep thanks in my heart...
631. for sheen and blush on pears, sweet juice dripping down chins
632. for Psalm 119, my favorite
633. for the welcome cool and tranquility of dusk, sun setting long behind craggy peaks, yet highlighting dark tree branches reaching against apricot and midnight-blue skies
634. for tang of Bing cherries exploding in a sunburst on my tongue
635. for winning prize of Home Depot gift card for Keith last night at library summer reading drawing--an answer to prayer
636. for gardening friend who, although moving to opposite coast, leaves her mark indelible in our community garden and in our community spirit
637. for welcome icy goodness of caramel frappuccino on hottest and weariest of days, a sheer delight of scent and taste
638. for memories stirred of percolating coffee I awoke to each morning of my childhood
639. for comfort food of chicken and biscuits for dinner tonight despite baring pantry
640. for the completion of reading Ann's book, One Thousand Gifts, a book I cannot recommend highly enough--I only wish that I were rich and could purchase ten or more just for dear friends
In slowing down enough to notice the beauties of God right there in front of us every moment, Lord, help me to give thanks for all You that gift me, helping me to see Your goodness and glorify Your beloved Son, the One who first demonstrated the true spirit of contemplation in the Gospels as He withdrew often to pray in solitude.
Praying to see and to thank, to slow down and to contemplate,