• collecting stories,  the mothering arts

    Reset the clock…

    Wendell Berry’s poem “The Peace of Wild Things” from GMO OMG from Compeller Pictures on Vimeo.

    It is telling that something so simple- lay down your weapons, lay down your tools, lay down your books, lay down, lay down- is so very hard.

    When I am resting well- sleeping well- I am at peace. When I do not, a fog stealthily descends, and before I know it, I am lost. Depression nips at my heels, I stumble over decisions that should be so very simple, and most telling, I rarely know where I am, for the fog has grown so thick that I can barely see my hand in front of my face. I am given up to tears for the addled frustration I feel. When the simplest thing I could possibly do is to find a quiet spot and rest, I instead continue to run, becoming more bruised and battered with each passing moment.

    Somewhere, the lines got so very crossed. There are always seasons. Seasons when one has a newborn baby, for example. Seasons where a spouse is very ill. Seasons where a new idea, a new venture is taking off and needs a late night infusion or three as it gets ready to soar. Seasons where life gets intense, a confluence of things coming together. But they are seasons. We are not supposed to go for long, extended periods of time when we aren’t getting proper sleep. Our bodies aren’t made that way. And yet so many of us do.

    Committing to sleep means we have to commit to letting go. To let go is to admit we don’t have control over the outcomes, and that is a very difficult place to be for many of us. Sleep has always been and always will be a surrender.

    It is an incredibly hard thing to stop to rest when everything feels like it is spinning out of control, and yet is exactly the thing we most need to do. I’ve confused this many times over the years and now in order to live most fully and truthfully within my life, I know I have to keep a careful eye on not only how I am sleeping but how I am thinking about resting and sleeping.

    It is so difficult to leave things undone, but that is exactly what sleep beckons us to do. So many times when I’ve been long past exhausted and should have been asleep hours ago, I see the piles of clean laundry strewn across my couch, the staggering tower of dirty dishes in the sink, the clearly visible bits of crunch and dirt on my floors, the relative state of undone-ness of my home, and the voices in my head are so very loud that I must finish this- I am not a good mother, a good wife- if this lies unfinished. So many times have I crawled into bed and my mind begins to circle and accuse- did you do this, why did you say that, did you, could you, you should, you failed, you can’t, you left this undone and I am going to remind you of it endlessly- spin and spin and spin and suddenly it is three in the morning. Sleep is elusive.

    In order to truly rest I have to let go of it all. My need for control. My desire to be good. My fear of being called lazy or a failure. The misguided illusion that if I could manage to stay awake, I could somehow wrench things into some semblance of order.

    Perhaps worse, sometimes our fear of being vulnerable means that we keep running so that we don’t have to face it. “I’ve always been a night owl,” we say, as the minutes and hours creep far into the night and we do anything to stay awake- another tv show, another click, another swipe, anything to distract us from the gnawing aching fear that will greet us as soon as we crawl into bed. Meanwhile our sleep becomes more and more disordered.

    We’re not meant to live like that. When we are wandering sleepless, that is when we most need the perspective that Wendell Berry describes- a vision of the world beyond, above, outside of us. It is easy to convince yourself that the go is wildly important and worth your sacrifice when you are wrapped up in a world that marches sleepless right next to you. It’s a lot harder to believe the go should be so endless when you step outside of the hamster wheel and realize that there is solid ground.

    Above all, it requires trust.

    “Cheered by the presence of God, I will do at each moment, without anxiety, according to the strength which He shall give me, the work that His Providence assigns me. I will leave the rest without concern; it is not my affair. I ought to consider the duty to which I am called each day, as work that God has given me to do, and to apply myself to it in a manner worthy of his glory, that is to say, with exactness and peace.”

    – Francois de La Mothe Fenelon

    This is seventh in the series. Begin the journey here.

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  • collecting stories,  the mothering arts

    Pace yourself…

    IMG_20150806_133603663

    {{sometimes there is an advantage to being one’s own editor. I had written this entire series in rough draft form before beginning to post; I paused with the vacation so that I would not have to worry about technical aspects while I was gone. While on vacation, I realized I wanted to change this post entirely. Thank you for your patience!}}

    Tired is a word that we bandy about with abandon, second only to the other four letter word, busy.

    I am so exhausted. Things are just so busy. I’m so sick and tired of being sick and tired. 

    And then we laugh. Weakly. Or that sort of half smile topped by eyes quietly edging with tears. We accept that it is a given. We all joke about it. We respond: I know, right? Sleep when we’re dead. More laughter.

    Thing is, though- we’re dead tired. Bone be-numbed weary.

    I’m here to tell you- stop laughing. This isn’t just some joke. Don’t make light of this. We are running scared, we are running crazy, we are running on fumes.

    Our American culture is formed on an economy that never sleeps. Go, go, go, go. It has slipped into every aspect of American life to a point that we don’t recognize it for it’s un-naturalness. Everyone is on the wheel, everyone is spinning, this is the way life is….isn’t it?

    Go the ant, thou sluggard. Consider her ways and be wise.

    Go the garden, you perennially exhausted.

    Find time.

    Real time.

    Plant a tomato. Observe all the work that goes into that plant. Observe the time it takes, observe the yield. Pick the worm, worry over the blight. Know that you are absolutely not in control and whatever comes of it is God’s good grace. And when it’s all done, for all your work, you only get four medium sized tomatoes, which are only this side of ugly. No food magazine props here.

    Know how long it takes.

    Know how long it takes.

    As you slip into the grocery store, pick up that organic heirloom tomato in the bin, note the price, and have a revelation. You know now why it is so expensive. The resources. The time. The investment. You are paying for time. Real time. Not machinized, stream-lined, industrial, pesticide full, still-green, have to be sprayed with ethylene gas, ready in three weeks from seed to harvest tomatoes time.

    We have become so disconnected from our real life that we forget real time.

    I thought of this on the first morning of our camping vacation. This article edges into crazy-town, but I agree with what she had to say here:

    It’s a life that keeps us far more in touch with the natural seasons, too. Much of modern technology has become a collection of magic black boxes: Push a button and light happens, push another button and heat happens, and so on. The systems that dominate people’s lives have become so opaque that few Americans have even the foggiest notion what makes most of the items they touch every day work — and trying to repair them would nullify the warranty.  The resources that went into making those items are treated as nothing more than a price tag to grumble about when the bills come due. Very few people actually watch those resources decreasing as they use them. It’s impossible to watch fuel disappearing when it’s burned in a power plant hundreds of miles away, and convenient to forget there’s a connection.

    Sarah A. Chrisman, I Love the Victorian Era. So I Decided to Live It.

    Peel back even one layer of our modern technology and you suddenly start to see glimpses of real time. Attach the propane gas to the stove, find the match, light the stove, set the percolator atop. Wait for ten to fifteen minutes for the coffee to perk. Same with your food. Collect all the dishes, walk them to the bath-house, clean each by hand with soap and water. There went an hour, maybe an hour and a half. The fire never starts at the click of a button. It requires a bit of midwifery and coaxing and patience- ten minutes, sometimes twenty. It takes time.

    I think about this in mothering. The demands on our time are so diverse and vast that we often forget what each costs us. We do one thing barely well, toss it in the air to spin a plate, do another thing hardly well at all, toss it in the air to spin, do the next thing a bit better than the last two, toss it in the air, pull a baby climbing a bookshelf off, catch a plate that has stopped spinning, toss it again, and on and on. Sometimes those plates come down with a dreadful, heart-breaking crash. Sometimes we manage to keep them all spinning but we’re running exhausted from one plate to the other and we’re not really living- we’re just running. And in all that tossing and running, we forget what it is like to do something well, to completion.

    Please don’t confuse me here- there are certain things we have to do all the time- the dishes, the laundry, the floors, wiping noses….I’m not saying that we only do the dishes and stand there and wait for the washer to stop spinning before moving on to the next. What I am asking is what happens when we start to slow down and do things with intention.

    Two things begin to happen. One, you realize how long it actually takes to do something. When you slow down and fold clothing with intention, you realize that in order to do it well, you need a bit more time. Two, you begin to see things you did not see before. You notice where a knee is beginning to fray on a child’s jeans and make a mental note to fix it. You pick up your littlest’s dress and marvel at how fast she is growing, and you make a mental note to spend more time snuggling and reading together. Maybe you notice that your family just has too many clothes, and to make better use of their time and yours, you need to cut back and donate some clothes. The fact is, you are paying attention to something you’ve only previously rushed and ran through because isn’t that what everyone does?

    If you’re like me, this intentional experience will teach you that you are just doing too much in too many areas. That your time is finite each day, and that the endless to-do list you carry around in your head is beyond unreasonable.

    A quiet, intentional life is going to look different for each person, but I like how my husband says it: we live a considered life now. Our day is slower than many other persons in similar situations right now- it has to be at the moment because of our unique medical needs. At the same time, it is faster than others because of the unique choices we’ve made (like using paper plates). We have looked at every aspect of our day with intention and made choices that most closely reflect our needs. The paper plates go against my crunchy, earth-conserving, creation-honoring self, but for right now, I need the time that I would normally spend dealing with those dishes to spend intentional time with my children. Our evenings get pretty complicated with Josiah’s medical needs, and everyone needs to be all-hands-on-deck. There is a pretty constant evaluation of our choices against the needs of our family, and they shift as needed. The bottom line here is that we know what the needs are.

    I used to think that the only way I could mother well was to learn to spin plates really well so that they wouldn’t crash. Now I have begun to realize that I can mother from a place that doesn’t toss plates in the first place. It isn’t easy, but it is necessary. I need to live in real time.

    This post is the sixth in the series. Start the journey here.

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  • the home arts,  the kitchen arts,  the mothering arts

    Over the river and through the woods…

    sunflowermountainsaudiobooksbookbasketwholefoods ellyandlorelei tosieanddavid packitup

    “Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go…”

    It seems strange to realize that we have truly entered a season of traveling with children, not traveling with babies and toddlers. There is a pretty vast difference. I did not realize how much of a difference until this trip!

    We’ve been making roughly the same eight hour drive from one state to another for going on fourteen years now- we have the main route memorized plus three or four scenic byways. Most of the time we’re making an end run, driving straight through; this trip is the first time we are wandering our way up and wandering our way back. Honestly, it’s the first real vacation we’ve had in years- the last one was before we moved almost three years ago. It certainly hasn’t been feasible since with the all the hospitalizations for both Ellianna and Josiah. It was only a month ago that Josiah was given the okay to travel (with precautions).

    (Can you believe that sunflower? It was bigger than my head! It was at a rest stop and I loved the silhouette of the mountains behind it.)

    I feel like I’ve gotten packing down to a fine art, even with the additional twist of taking our camping gear. If you look at the back of the van (which is a fifteen passenger), all of our stuff is stored in a space which is about four feet wide and three feet deep. To the left is the camping supplies (tent, camp stove, chairs, first aid kit, camp supplies). In the middle, the clothing tubs. To the right, our food storage, including our cooler, plus most of the pillows and sleeping bags. If we weren’t camping on this trip, we’d need less than half of what you see.

    I’ve gotten pretty rigid about clothing for trips (while we haven’t been on vacation in a while, we do make the holiday runs between grandparents). In this transitional season, they took one short sleeve and one long sleeve shirt, one pair of shorts and one pair of pants, one Sunday shirt (for boys) or dress (for girls), one pair of shoes, one sweatshirt, a pair of pajamas and socks and underwear. James and I take very similar clothes. Our clothing usually fits into just one tub- with this camping trip, we took two, the second of which has mostly kitchen items (pans, cutting boards, knives, etc) and our adult clothing was tucked around it to keep it from knocking about.

    The reason we can get away with this is mostly because we are a large family. We don’t stay in hotels, as they would be uncomfortably expensive; instead we often stay with family or search out house rental options via AirBnB, which almost always have laundry facilities. I can run a load or five. If you were traveling from place to place in hotels our rather stoic packing might not work.

    This vacation was truly a gift from many people involved in the planning and preparation- the cabin we are staying in for most of it was a joint gift both from a family friend and my husband’s parents. So many people were adamant that it was time for us to rest and recuperate, which we are deeply grateful for. This trip wouldn’t have happened without them!

    We’ve also leaned a few tricks for the road. We can’t eat fast food anymore due to the Celiacs, but we know to find certain grocery stores: our favorite mid-way stop is a Whole Foods, which has an amazing salad bar, hot bar, sushi, and the like. We often eat for much cheaper that way than we would eating on the road, with the added advantage that we don’t have to carry the food with us but still eat mighty healthy, which I used to think was impossible.

    Our newest trick, besides the ever present book basket (yes, we are that family- happily guilty!) is to reserve a stack of audio-books from the library especially for the trip. We used to have portable dvd players and the like (our car does not come equipped with such) but over the years we’ve felt that unlimited tech on road trips causes more problems than it solves. This was our first tech-free road trip and it went far better than the similar trip we took at Christmas, and I earnestly believe it was due to the audio-book we choose: The Penderwicks at Port MouetteAs you can see from the stack, we have plenty more: lots of Lemony Snicket and some Harry Potter. We’ve become connoisseurs enough to tell you that the narrator is important. We love The Mysterious Benedict Society but the audio-book for it was not especially good because the narrator had a deep, gruff voice, making the dubbing difficult- it is often hard to hear and understand. The Penderwicks narrator is fantastic- such an incredible voice actor- she really sucks you into the story. The whole series, whether in book or audio-book form, is wonderful for the whole family. We’ve all laughed and cried our way together through the first three books and we will eagerly look for the next one when we get home.

    What I particularly like about our packing now is that our children are not stuffed into the car with lots of things about them; all of our traveling requirements fit in the back space, leaving lots of room between kids. Everyone can spread out. I know that if we were still in a minivan, for example, we would easily fit our stuff in the back cargo area. (If we weren’t camping. I imagine in a smaller car + camping we’d have to use a roof rack carrier.) We don’t have to carry a stroller anymore, which I think is a huge part of it too. I’m not saying that traveling in tubs or laundry baskets is always feasible, but for us, we’ve found it far preferable to lots of bags and luggage pieces.

    So there you have it- road tripping with children edition!

  • collecting stories,  the mothering arts

    Cadence…

    cadence

    Cadence: Also known as stride turnover, a runner’s cadence is the number of steps taken per minute while running.

    I am not a runner. I am, or at least I was, a competitive swimmer. I’ve been exploring running terms while writing this series- totally fascinating. Cadence compares most closely to a swimmer’s idea of split- the timed distance a swimmer swims in a larger race. It helps them to know where they are strongest- and weakest, so that they can develop better skills in practice.

    As a former athlete, I can tell you that this idea is the hardest thing for any long-distance athlete to master. Go too fast too soon, and you’ll hit the wall before the race is over. Go too slow and you’ll be so far behind that no amount of peaking will get you to the line fast enough. Ideally, you maintain a pace that is fast enough to keep you in the competitive heat, but slow enough that you don’t fatigue too soon, and at the right time, you pour on everything you’ve got to finish well.

    I think the scariest part of American culture right now is that we feel like we have to run all out. All the time. As I said before, the problem is not the go itself- going is good. Training, exploring, stretching- these are good things. The problem comes when the go turns to a flat out frantic run. Elite runners (and swimmers) run (or swim) every day. But they do not run all day every day. They run incredibly difficult races and then they enter recovery periods, where they still run, but they run much slower and easier. They still don’t run all day everyday. Not even Olympic level athletes that devote most of their days to their sport run all day. So why in the world are we running all the time?

    Somewhere we got in our head that we had to.

    When I look back on that time in my life, I can point to specific things that goaded and confused me into running all the time, totally messing up the cadence that I should have been maintaining. The first of course, is not realizing or confronting “good” definitions in my head, which I’ve talked about and parsed out in the last two posts.  The rest of the reasons have a more practical bent. How do you find home if you’re always running — or you’re always trapped — by your home?

    [What follows is our story. I share this in the hopes that it helps someone else, but I fully understand that no one has the exact same situation. Glean what helps, leave the rest.]

    Without a doubt, finances drove many of the running decisions I made in those years.

    I’m not talking about a small financial setback. I try not to flinch when people say that things have gotten tight, or that they are so broke in a laughing sort of way. I want to start asking questions like- things are tight but you still have cable? Things are tight but you still have a landline and x numbers of cell phones? Things are tight but you can still pay for children’s activities like swimming or dance or Boy Scouts? Things are tight but you can still do a Starbucks run every day? Things are tight but you still have gas in your tank and food in your pantry? My eye gets so twitchy and I want to blurt out so many un-nameable things, because that is not what being flat-out broke is. When you are flat-out broke, none of these things are true for you, and chances are, you don’t even have a car because the car broke down and you couldn’t repair it.

    We lived through the crash of 2008. My husband lost his job and would not have another one for two and a half years. Everything crashed in on us. It was only the generosity of people from our church and our parents that meant we even survived that crash. Had it not been for them, we would have been homeless, and we would have lost our car. In some ways, we did lose our car and our house, but we were able to make decisions that would change the circumstance before the bank came calling. We were able to sell our house before we couldn’t make another payment on it. We were able to trade in our car and buy the Beast, greatly reducing the car payments to a more comfortable level. We were extremely blessed to be able to do so. Many others weren’t so lucky.

    It was still profoundly scary after that. Our parents helped pay our rent and car payments. We could not feed our children. We couldn’t purchase gas. We couldn’t get to church because we didn’t have the gas. We went absolutely nowhere. Every time James had another fruitless interview, we would all pile into the car just to be able to leave the confines of our house for a while. We would find the closest park and stay there while he went. Even so, every time he had an interview, it would dig deep into what little grocery money that we had. I distinctly remember at one point wondering if it was even worth it to try to go to interviews anymore, because the financial cost of being told no one more time was so utterly demoralizing that it almost hurt too much to try. We were bereft.

    For all of that, we had so much more than others we know during that time. We were so blessed. We are still.

    It is in light of all this that my next decisions were made, and what led to Running on Empty. Because we had been so hopeless and uncertain for so long, when jobs finally came calling for us both, of course we felt like we needed to say yes. I don’t think we even thought it through. Looking back now, I should never have taken the job. I’m not saying that I shouldn’t have taken a job at all, period; I just shouldn’t have taken that job. There were red flags and warning signs all over the place, but we didn’t heed them because we were running so scared.

    It was so loaded. Having that job meant in my head that I had to be a good mom, a good wife, and a good employee, and all three were defined by a hopeless perfectionism that nearly killed me. It is what led to me quite literally burning the candle at both ends and only getting two or three hours of sleep a night- which led to profound sickness- which led to my family not having the wife and mother that they needed. (Thankfully by that time, I had finally wised up and resigned from the job.)

    If I could go back and do it over again, I wouldn’t have taken the job. I would have made my job instead to work hard at keeping our budget in check- making more from scratch, repairing more, finding the pennies in the couch. And then, when I had done the best I could and knew that the budget couldn’t be fine tuned anymore, I would have looked to my gifts and talents and figured out ways to give rise to income from those giftings. We also had resources that we couldn’t ‘see’ because we were running so hard and so fast. James had other skill sets that he could have made use of in his down time, as did I, that would have served both the dual purpose of filling our creative tanks and putting money in the purse.

    It is with this in mind that we are facing our newest challenge, now, with all the costs associated with both Ellianna’s and Josiah’s illnesses, some of which will be ongoing. Hopefully the big, expensive parts of these illnesses are behind us now and we can work to pay down the debt. I have purposely withdrawn from all work obligations for myself to ensure that my focus is, exactly as I said- making sure I am doing my absolute best within the home to manage our resources well. We faced a huge adjustment when we realized that we would all have to become a gluten-free household. Everything you ever knew about cooking and food budgets flies out the window when that comes into play, and while I made do from September to May using my best learned skills from the 2008 crash, we couldn’t continue that way forever. It has been my very careful pursuit within the last two months to learn the new skills required and tweak and minimize cost as much as possible- to be both good stewards of the money James earns and the money our many kind friends have sacrificed for us. To do less would seem disrespectful of the gifts of time and money so many people have given for us, both in the the crash and running on empty years, and now.

    I can see that perhaps in six months or so, maybe more, I can begin to pursue avenues of generating income again. When I do that, I won’t be running scared. I will be, hopefully, operating from a place of peace. I will know exactly what it takes to run the home, and what budget is truly reasonable given the new medical debt, the ongoing medical needs, and the food- I will be able to make choices that bring life to my family, not death. The number one problem of those running on empty years is that while we survived, the price was exponentially too high. James and I both have long lasting medical issues related to our lack of caring for ourselves during those years. It didn’t pay.

    I do fundamentally believe that not being in debt is the safest place to be- it sure would have made 2008 a lot less fretful and scary for us and we would have had a lot more resources to draw from- but at the same time, if at all possible, you have to be able to feed yourself and your family, and sleep, and care for yourself in a healthy way. You shouldn’t be running all out all the time. Financial burden is certainly a marathon, but you still need to keep a safe pace to ensure that you get to the finish line. If you don’t know how to do that, ASK! Look for someone who is running well and use their guidance to help set a healthier pace. It wasn’t till we had a long, deep discussion with my grandparents (who came out of the Great Depression) that we could start to see a different path to take and feel some hope.

    I hope no one reading this thinks I am condemning or judging them for any financial choices they have made: I specifically want to state that I am in no way criticizing moms who work inside and outside the home. I most likely will need to rejoin either of those forces in the coming year. I am just sharing what it has been like for our family and what we have learned. I pray you only hear grace and mercy here. 

    This post is fifth in a series. Begin the journey here.

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  • collecting stories,  the mothering arts

    One foot in front of the other…

    onefootIt’s hard to parse the difference between giving one’s best and trying to be good, but it’s a conversation I have with my kids often. With two children that face significant learning challenges, giving their best is going to look significantly like failure to the outside world. As one lamented to me, “I’ll never be a good student according to ____’s definition!” It doesn’t surprise me that after having deep discussions with these two, I’ve learned some deep lessons myself.

    Perfectionism seems to me an adult affliction. Few young children I meet seem to have a concept of such- if they do, it’s usually abundantly clear to me after spending a few moments with their parents that it is parentally driven. Most of the time. I’m not saying it never happens, but I do believe it is rare. Children do have a concept of measuring up, but it isn’t the unhealthy, paralyzing version that so many adults are addicted to.

    I very much mixed up giving my best with trying to be good. A good mama. A good wife. A good friend. A good daughter. A good employee. A good artist. A good writer. A good homeschooling mother. Some of these definitions were inside of my head. Some of these definitions were societal pressure bearing down on me which I did not realize I had the ability and strength to set aside. These definitions formed links in the shackles that nearly drowned me, and very nearly shattered my family beyond recognition.

    Let the little children come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

    My Z has some tremendous delays due to his Sensory Processing Disorder, which is on the autism spectrum. While he does not have the significant challenges or clearly identified behaviors of high functioning autism or Aspergers, he struggles mightily every day to integrate an overload of sensory information. The older he gets, the easier this integrating becomes for him, to the point that, were you to meet him on a given day, you probably wouldn’t recognize any signs of the disorder.

    If you taught him, however, you’d see a different story. His handwriting resembles a young primary student’s. Every time he sits in a chair, in a desk, with a pencil or pen, he’s having to process vastly more amounts of information about where his body is in space, where his hand is in space, where his muscles are, how to move them, and the room is too bright, the kid two seats over is thumping his leg against the table making a swishing and thumping sound–information that we all process without thought day in and day out– and he has to process as fresh and new every time it happens. On top of this, he has to process in his brain what it is he wants the pencil to do, what he wants to say, how to spell it, what the sentence is, and on and on. It combines into what they call global processing delay which, in layman’s terms, is like a computer with too many tabs open and not enough active memory, which slows to a crawl while it performs a task. If you had to deal with all that, your handwriting would be pretty messy too, and writing would be pretty difficult for you.

    His best looks like: working diligently and as carefully as he can. Being aware of how he can mitigate some of the sensory input to make it easier for himself (like gun-muffs to blunt the sound, trifold posters around his working space to block visual imput, “sticky” pens and pencils that help him feel the utensil in space, and more.) Not worrying about spelling. To some extents, not even worrying about handwriting, as long as it’s readable, so that it can be transcribed. Often, he can only physically write about one to two paragraphs at a time, and that is pushing it, so it takes him much longer over a period of days to complete a large assignment.

    This shouldn’t be confused with actual writing skill, because he is an excellent story teller. He has all the concepts of grammar, punctuation, and substance in his head and fully understands them. When he can speak a story aloud and have it transcribed by someone else (i.e. not having to deal with all that extra processing that clutters up the ‘active memory’), the writing is far superior, and he can tell someone what to edit and also edits it himself. He also finds typing a lot easier than physically writing something.

    A “good” sixth grade student would: be able to write a five paragraph paper with ease. Have clearly defined arguments or main ideas, and good structure. Little to no spelling errors (and/or the ability to edit them). Be able to complete a short assignment in twenty minutes or less. Be able to read and synthesize a response in a short period of time. To quote the common core standards, “demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of three pages in a single sitting.”

    If he was assigned typical grades, he’d be flat out failing.

    But he’s not.

    He’s doing the best he can, with the skills he has, for the tasks set before him.

    He is succeeding on his own terms as long as he is committing to his best, and following the guidelines we’ve worked together to define.

    Is this starting to sound familiar?

    I remember having a discussion with him on a day he was being exceptionally hard on himself, and suddenly saw my own younger mama self sitting there, and I burst into tears. (A highly unusual act for me, particularly in front of my sensory sensitive son.) He, awkward pre-teen who really struggles with touching and being touched, reaches up and pats my face gently till I get control of myself. I scoop him into my arms and I said over and over to him and to myself- “you are so loved, you are so loved, you are so loved. Your best is always good enough.”

    God so loved the world that He gave His best. His one and only Son.

    You are so loved. 

    This is the vast ocean of difference between the shackles of lies of good enough and the light burden of Christ. He has taken that all on, so that we may give our best back to Him. All that was ever asked of us was to do the best we can, with the skills He breathed in us, for the task He set before us.

    A large percentage of the time, our best is going to look an awful lot like failure in the eyes of the world. It’s even going to look like failure in the communities we’d least expect it from- like the homeschooling co-op or the mom’s night out or our tight-knit group of friends.

    I’m not saying this is a carte blance check to be lazy or not do what’s right, but I am saying that because we are loved we no longer have to keep running in a mad dash towards an unattainable goal that God never gave us.

    Are we supposed to run? Yes. But where we are running to is clearly defined. We are to run towards God:

    Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:1-3

    One foot in front of the other, weak, wobbly, scared legs, straightening into each new step, in faith, at whatever speed we’re capable of. So what if the world is passing us by. We weren’t headed that direction in the first place.

    One foot in front of the other.

    This is the fourth in a series. Begin the journey here.

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