The Life-Giving Home: January

Sally and Sarah Clarkson’s book The Life-Giving Home has been on my radar for a couple years now. I decided it was time for a deep-dive read and blog series about it. I hope to read and journal (here on my blog) about each chapter as I go. The book is divided up by months in its chapter structure, which lends itself to a blog series rather nicely. I hope that regardless of your life stage and situation, you can glean something from the wisdom on the importance of home to a human heart.

“The Incarnation was, in its deepest sense, a restoration of what God originally intended for humankind. And that includes a physical place of belonging.” – Sarah, Ch. 2

January: Creating a Framework for Home

“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” – Lucy Maud Montgomery

This month’s chapter is largely and about rhythms and routines. Routines shield us from chaos. They help us make our intended priorities our actual priorities. But routines take planning and careful execution. Once established, routines can become a welcome friend — little rituals that ingrain order, peace, and joy in our hearts.

This chapter helped me ask good questions as I looked down the corridor of 2017. I was able to steal away for a few hours to a coffee shop and do some hard work in this area. (A special word of thanks to my husband for making time for this amidst his busy work schedule!) I began with what Sally calls “decluttering your heart” — a careful evaluation of the need for confession, spiritual weakness, or guilt.

Then, after a time of prayer, I moved on to working through goals for the year, in different areas: physical, emotional, and spiritual. This portion included answering questions like:

  • What exercise/health goals do I have for this year? What measurable steps can I take to achieve them?
  • Are there improvements I can make to any relationships? Family? Friends?
  • What spiritual disciplines do I want to work on this year? How will I go about it? What books do I want to read for spiritual improvement and accountability this year? What Bible verses would be helpful for me to memorize and meditate on in this season of my life?

Now, real talk for a second — my number one weakness in this exercise is that I want to do ALL THE THINGS! AS SOON AS POSSIBLE! The key to these questions is understanding the season you’re in, being patient with yourself, and setting realistic goals.

For me, this looked like the following (not a complete list):

  • I have some lofty running goals this year. I need to put my running schedule on my google calendar, because when that’s done, I plan better around it and actually do it.
  • I would like to schedule a one-on-one with each of my kids each month. These dates also need to go on the calendar.
  • I made a list of the books I’d like to read this year. I am never at a shortage for things I’d like to read, but I tried to be intentional about which ones would serve my season of parenting, my discipling relationships and my current struggles.
  • I ordered a Bible study book to use in my current morning quiet time, since I did Bible-in-a-Year last year and I try to alternate overview with in-depth study.

Then I moved on to working on goals for fun. We are a family that likes to go places! Here are some of the ideas I came up with for cultivating fun and rhythms of rest and enjoyment in our family:

  • My two youngest have begged for a return to teatime once a week. I put it on the calendar. (You should notice by now that my google calendar runs my life!)
  • I tweaked our approach to evening reading time with Dad so that it’s more restful and less squeezed.
  • I put a date on the calendar each month for us to do “city schooling.” The kids love to do school in other places, and I do too. A change in atmosphere is so refreshing! Plus I find that we get more done out of the house.
  • I wrote down all the trips we want to/need to take this year, when they were scheduled, and any approximate costs we would incur for them. (there were a lot of them this year!)

I also took some time considering and praying through where each of my kids is. Are there bad habits we need to address? Lessons they’d like to take this year? Milestones approaching? I made a little list for each child with a few action items on each.

Since I’m trying to blog more regularly, I also made a list of topics I’ve been mulling over but haven’t gotten to yet.

All of this sounds dreadfully boring and not very “homey” at all, doesn’t it? But it nails down some structure for human flourishing. It sets goals for soul-feeding. Our kitchen chalkboard currently bears one of my favorite quotes for this time of year, from Annie Dillard:

20170114_161146

That’s what we want — to catch these days and bend them to our wills. We want to redeem the time and use it well (Eph. 5:16).

I want to emphasize that your structure will look different from mine. Life stages, employment, ages of children, and priorities dictate how we spend our time and honor the Lord with it. Sally even says at one point that there were many times that the schedule flew out the window due to sickness, adding a baby, moving, job changes, etc. But an underlying structure gave their family a rhythm to return to.

Next month’s chapter, February is on “A Culture of Love: Growing Lifelong Relationships.”

 

Eustace Scrubb

I’m reading Jonathan Rogers’ The World According to Narnia right now, and this section on Eustace Scrubb from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader rang true:

Eustace lacks the one critical skill that makes it possible for a critic to be of some actual use. He lacks the ability to see anybody’s perspective but his own. He stands aside from the goings-on around him, and so he believes he enjoys an objective view of things. In fact, his refusal to engage leaves him with no outside point of reference. It leads to the grossest sort of subjectivity. Because he is seasick, he is convinced that the ship must be sailing through a storm. Nothing can convince him of the truth that the weather is perfect for sailing. Nothing, in fact, can induce him to be interested in the truth, regardless of what he might say about facts and the dangers of wishful thinking. He clings to an almost psychotic version of events that corresponds only to his inner states and has nothing to do with the facts of the outer world.

Doing Nothing

We’ve recently been reunited with our friend Pooh.

 

z3397.indd

We had these CDs (you can find them here:Winnie-the-Pooh: A.A. Milne’s Pooh Classics, Volume 1*
) from the time the boys were little, but they were so loved that they were scratched out of use a few years back. Now we have the audio again. It’s been so much fun to see Cameron, Ben, and Andrew recognize the old friends, and see the younger ones enjoy it for the first time.

This morning we heard the ending of The House at Pooh Corner:

Then, suddenly again, Christopher Robin, who was still looking at the world, with his chin in his hand, called out “Pooh!”

“Yes?” said Pooh.

“When I’m–when–Pooh!”

“Yes, Christopher Robin?”

“I’m not going to do Nothing any more.”

“Never again?”

“Well, not so much. They don’t let you.”

I was overcome again with how counter-cultural it can be to make space for kids and not hyper-schedule them. I want my children to, among other things, have time to do Nothing. What is Nothing? Allow Christopher Robin to enlighten you:

 

 “How do you do Nothing?” asked Pooh, after he had wondered for a long time.

“Well, it’s when people call out at you just as you’re going off to do it, What are you going to do Christopher Robin, and you say, Oh, nothing, and you go and do it.”

“Oh, I see,” said Pooh.

“This is a nothing sort of thing that we’re doing right now.”

“Oh, I see,” said Pooh again.

“It means just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear and not bothering.”

“Oh!” said Pooh.”

*contains affiliate link

Behold the King of Glory

beholdkingBack in December I reminded you of the devotional book I read throughout Advent, entitled Behold the Lamb of God. The author, Russ Ramsey, has just released a book for Lent along the same lines. Russ’ writing is rooted in Scripture, helped by historical insights, and meditative. I look forward to making my way through it this spring.

In the interview with Barnabas Piper at The Blazing Center, Russ says, “With Behold the King of Glory, I tried to take the narratives of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and put them into a single story in such a way that the reader would come away with a clearer sense of the arc of Jesus’s earthly ministry.”

(And for those of you still fuzzy on the church calendar, Lent begins February 18.)

Get Behold the King of Glory: A Narrative of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ at Amazon, or the Rabbit Room store.
(contains affiliate link)

Linkage

Lazy Cultural Engagement: “…we tend to treat actual cultural artifacts in the way we sometimes treat the Bible: as “proof texts” from which we can draw principles or truths for application. Though we love the Bible, we evangelicals in particular have often treated verses as if they stand alone, forgetting that the story in which they appear speaks just as much as the verses themselves. Form speaks, as well as content.”

I guess it’s a movie day today in linkage. Here’s Thomas MacKenzie’s review of the new Left Behind movie, which starts off being hilarious and ends up being really encouraging.

I posted this a while back on facebook, but I wanted to keep it here, too. Maybe you need this encouragement for moms that It’s Their Day, Too.

Here’s a worthwhile kickstarter to support. Sam Smith is a good friend of ours and he’s putting out his first novel! My kids laughed and laughed over this video:

Some Mornings are Like That

Monday was one of those magical mornings in our homeschool. They seem to happen more often lately. There were years that I felt like I was constantly putting out fires; now the kids help keep our momentum going and the mornings go more smoothly.

 

Monday was…

the windows open to hear the rain and the birds

the oldest two boys reading more Robert Frost poetry

the middle one getting caught up in The Wind in the Willows and reading all morning

the youngest two beginning When We Were Very Young

connections to things we’ve talked about, places we’ve been

laughing over shared memories

Then there are the days when the pencils are all missing or broken, attitudes are terrible (including my own), papers are missing, the math software is malfunctioning, and the toilet gets clogged. When those mornings happen, I pull out from my heart a memory of peaceful rainy days with great books, and ponder it for a moment. It helps.

The Empty Shelf Challenge 2014

Back in December of last year, Jon Acuff issued a challenge to his readers to empty one bookshelf in their home for the purpose of tracking what they’ve read in 2014.tilt

Here we are in late September. What would your shelf look like? I listed what’s on mine in the sidebar. That list does not include those books I read with my literature classes, but I still wish the list were longer. Nevertheless, my goal was one book per month, and I’ve kept to it. I’m on the verge of finishing numbers ten and eleven.

I think I will continue to keep a shelf free for this purpose. It’s excellent accountability to keep on reading. You can see what everyone has read on the shared Pinterest board.