Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Good Start

The real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back, in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.

We can only do it for moments at first. But from those moments the new sort of life will be spreading through our system: because now we are letting Him work at the right part of us.

- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

The next building block to put into place in your school day is a good start.

Believe it or not, this begins yesterday.

I found, over the years, that I needed to nourish body and soul if I would be at my best every day for my family. It was easy to neglect this. There were times when I tried to live without it. But I learned, the hard way, that a depleted mom is not able to meet the challenges of home and school.

Homeschooling is hard job, especially if I am trying to accomplish things that wouldn't just happen by themselves. Most of it I could arrange for and learn to implement. What always caught me up short was the event I had not anticipated. I needed an extra margin of energy, perspective, and emotional resilience to meet the surprise with patience and humor. This margin of extra energy for the unexpected was purchased by taking care of myself and by not trying to do so much that I worked feverishly from the moment my eyes opened until the moment my head hit the pillow at night.

The evenings were precious. Each moment was a penny that I could only spend once, and I learned -- slowly, over time -- to be careful with my purchases. What exactly was I buying with them? This is going to sound crazy to some of you, but I eventually figured out that I needed to spend it on my soul. If I hadn't had a quiet time yet, because the morning began with the unexpected, then I needed to use this time for it. If possible, I should ask my husband to watch over the household so I could get a shower or bath and spend time alone with the Lord and have a daily devotional reading. After that, usually by the time the boys were in bed, I should do something I enjoy and can look forward to, just for an hour, or a half hour. One winter, I read all of Jane Austen's books in chronological order. In the spring, I gazed at gardening books from the library and dreamed of ideas for summer. Sometimes, we rented videos through Netflix and watched them. The ones that were shorter -- an hour or less -- were best. We watched All Creatures Great and Small, and the Hercule Poirot mysteries this way. Some evenings I wrote in my journal. If it had been a really bad day, I left the house for a cup of coffee and took my journal with me. I learned that the best time frame was about an hour -- long enough to really take a break, but not long enough to deprive me of needed sleep.

Then I went to bed. When I didn't, I paid a heavy price. Late nights were like a drug. The first one seemed so good, so advantageous, but then I had trouble stopping, and found myself strung-out, addicted, and blinking in the too-bright sunshine the next morning. By the time my sons were in high school, I faithfully went to bed by 10:30, ready to sleep.

The next morning, I let my sons sleep in. The yellow school bus went by before they were out of bed. Generally, this meant they were awake around 7:30 and reading by 8:00. But some mornings, reading started at 8:30. For all of us, starting the day rested and refreshed equipped us to tackle our work with enthusiasm. I usually awoke between 6:30 and 7:30, naturally without an alarm, if I had gone to bed on time the night before. I lingered over a healthy breakfast and a second cup of coffee before going to my desk and getting started with a quiet time and some planning. Soon the busy day would descend upon me.

Like bookends, these quiet moments, morning and evening, framed my days in peace and certainty. In the early fall, when days were still warm, I sometimes took a walk for my morning quiet time, while my sons were reading. My steps on the pavement, and the steady movement of my body, lifted me up above the ever-present demands of a household. Here I breathed and dreamed and let my thoughts wind through the issues like a meandering brook along a busy road. This helped me to cope with the stress of starting a new school year.

I learned that my state of mind was the key. It determined the quality of everything we did. If I was strong, settled, purposeful, we could do it all and do it well. If I wasn't, nothing would make up for my weakness. Whatever else happened must be dealt with in the remaining hours of the week. This was sacred, slow time. I could learn how to be more efficient, how to cut back on my expectations, how to work within the time that was leftover. But I could not live well, if I could not sing that it was well with my soul.


  1. Cassandra,
    I am just drinking in these post in this series. And this one especially spoke to me. Today was one of those days that started off differently with my little one waking up about 5:30am and didn't go back to sleep. I didn't get my totally-by-myself quiet time this morning (when no one is awake yet). What's interesting is I ended up staying up a little later last night. I have found myself today feeling a little more easily irritable. I so need the Lord's strength each and every day to meet the demands of the day - especially with having a toddler who is in a fit-throwing stage. Today has been one of those days where her fit-throwing has worn me out. I've been working on trying to more consistently be up early before the children awake because I have found that it really is crucial for me to spend some time with the Lord before the day begins. Most mornings, my time with the Lord is simply a prayer time. Sometimes I may get in time to go over my Bible memory verses and sometimes I may get in a devotional. But I've come to realize that my days just don't go as well on a consistent basis when I don't have this morning time with God.

    You made a statement that finally put to words what I couldn't:

    "Homeschooling is hard job, especially if I am trying to accomplish things that wouldn't just happen by themselves. Most of it I could arrange for and learn to implement. What always caught me up short was the event I had not anticipated. I needed an extra margin of energy, perspective, and emotional resilience to meet the surprise with patience and humor. "

    There is something about school time that seems to wear me down by the end of the day. What I've come to realize is that setting aside school, I have lots of things keeping me busy throughout the day: a toddler, household chores, cooking, and so on. When school begins, I am multitasking much more and having to jump back and forth between mental tasks and all my other regular tasks. By the time evening rolls around I feel like my brain is tired and my body is not far behind. That's where your words came in to play. It's like during our school times, I need that - as you put it - "extra margin of energy, perspective, and emotional resilience" - to get it all done.

    I see so much wisdom in your words. I see the importance of the need for physical rest. Recently, I feel like the Lord has been impressing on me the importance of me getting enough sleep each night. And once again, here's that theme of rest found in your post. God is so amazing - how He speaks to us. I already have my memory verse for next week picked out: Psalm 127:1-2 in The Message translation:

    "If God doesn't build the house, the builders only build shacks. If God doesn't guard the city, the night watchman might as well nap. It's useless to rise early and go to bed late, and work your worried fingers to the bone. Don't you know he enjoys giving rest to those he loves?"

    I feel like God has been speaking to me about the need for rest. Anyway, if I keep writing, it might end up being a book. Maybe I should just do a post about it on my blog.

    Thanks for these posts!
    Take care,

  2. Just wanted to let you know that I truly enjoy reading your posts so I decided to 'follow' you, not in a stalker type way, of course! :)

  3. Thank you, Shawntele. Glad to have you with us every day.


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