HOPE (& calm) for homeschooling through the holiday season.

A Prayer for Calm 2

Is it safe for me to tell you that I’m a little bit freaked out? That I’ve almost already had a few minor break-downs? Because it’s November. The first week is almost over, and since the weather has been so wonderful in Michigan I don’t have my usual handles on the season. Before I know it our calendar will be packed full of really great activities, family and church events, and let’s not forget Black Friday and Cyber Monday. (One must be prepared.)

All the clamor and commotion of the holiday season can leave me feeling a lot less than thankful. My nature is slow paced and thoughtful. I process in days not minutes. I plan this way, teach this way, and I am tempted to resent any one or thing that pushes me to speed up, hustle about, and be in more places at once. I don’t normally worry about being too busy because of the effort that was put into creating our schedule – until the holiday season, and all that seems to fly out the window. And this year I don’t want to fall prey to the pace of the culture.

The culture in our world today is fast, seeking instant gratification. If I’m not careful I won’t notice that the culture outside my home is playing a heavy, invisible role in my mind. It comes in through social media, homeschool program drop offs, texts from friends and family, and even on Sunday morning. There is always a message of what the “norm” is for every environment, activity, and community. And in most seasons I can live counter-culturally without much negative feedback.

While I want to do all the things and be in all the places, I’ve learned that the greatest test of this season is not pass/fail graded on whether I can or can’t do it all. But rather, it is a test of whether I can be in a state of calm no matter the amount of clamor, hustle, or other’s expectations hovering around me. Can I live with the dissonance of the culture of the world around me and the culture I want to cultivate in my heart and in my home? Can I remain calm when the inside and the outside are at odds?

A Prayer for Calm 1

And what about home schooling during this season? Am I supposed to steamroll on and check all the boxes, or let it all go and catch back up later? Where October felt full, November arrives and threatens to burst at the seams. Do I want to neglect the first things in order to affirm my extended family? Can I compromise with our schedule and get back on track before the slump of February?

I’m really wrestling with these questions this year. I want to be intentional about guarding our family’s culture. If I don’t, then I will put on the culture from the outside and start to push out my priorities for the sake of doing more, being more, and attending everything. But that doesn’t nurture calm, it creates a crazy feeling in my soul. Over the past few years I’ve found myself still recovering in January from all the crazy feelings that busyness created.

For me, the craziness inside doesn’t just come from holidays. Last night I spent an hour detailing to my husband all the ways I have been feeling stressed and overwhelmed. (This was a confession-session. If you aren’t able to do this with your spouse or someone close to you and you’re going through a stressful situation, then I highly recommend this book: When Life is Hard. I read this book in 2010 during an especially hard time in my life when I had no physical person to go through the trials with me.)

I shared all my burdens and came to the point of surrender that was necessary in order to know how to stand back up and move forward. Without examining what’s making me feel crazy, how will I know which burdens to continue to carry and which ones to forsake? Only clear predetermined priorities can help me answer this.

I want my family culture for this busy season to be calm. I want the nature of peace to pervade everything we do. I want there to be relief when we are together in the privacy of our home that we can take with us outside the home running to whatever various commitments we may choose.

Calm isn’t the same as easy. It will require diligence to carry our daily burdens and to continue in prayer when schedules are full and we feel too busy. And cancelling plans for fear of busyness isn’t true calm either. Remember: as your days, so shall your strength be.

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I want my family culture to be so rich and meaningful that it impacts those around us. I don’t want the culture of the world in which we live to be so strong that it comes into our home and robs us of the opportunity to enjoy to the fullest this unique season of the year. Being fully present, fully calm, and fully thankful is a gift both to me and to others and this is the gift for which I am praying.

So maybe you’re feeling like me and you don’t know how you’re going to keep up with this busy season, or maybe you’re not like me and you love the hustle and bustle – either way, I’ve written a prayer to help protect what’s most important: living in unity with the Lord and enjoying a calm spirit because of His presence.

Click here for A Prayer for Calm During a Busy Season.

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More encouraging thoughts on culture and calm:

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Intentional Summer: December is coming.

What a dooms day, Debbie-downer title. Right?

I don’t mean to rain snow on anyone’s summer parade, but being helpful is what I do – encouraging change and growth. So, as I write the winter portion of the seasonal planner I’m working on (mentioned here, your continued patience in the publishing of said resource is appreciated) I want to share some of the thoughts with you now – while you can still use them.

As a parent, sometimes December takes me off guard.

Usually, I have established a big “Back to School” ideal. We prioritize, plan, prepare, and purchase everything we need to set up a learning environment that suites our needs.

Kids thrive with a balance of healthy change and routinesLife feels like it could go on like this forever. We have had our fill of summer and September has brought a fresh change.

Fall arrives, the plan goes into motion and I coast. It feels right for a few weeks, but then the texts, emails, church bulletins, and family engagements start filling up the calendar.

October has slowed our pace and by November my kids are sick of the routine, they are in great need of physical exercise, and I am in need of tasting some good fruit from all my effort.

December isn’t a time for tasting fresh fruit (at least not in Michigan and not in the symbolic way either), but winter’s atmosphere can still be sweet.

I have to intentionally create an anchor atmosphere for every season, or my mindset will be carried with the wind.

Two things I need for my intentionality to continue to thrive (and for my sanity):

  1. Planning ahead
  2. Preserving
Photo credit: words added

Photo credit: words added

Planning ahead: the rebel in me doesn’t like to see “Back to School” displays in July, but that is when stores start to promote it. Sure, they are motivated by profit, but the reminder is free.

Procrastination hurts intention every-single-time. Don’t be a fool for the lie again – that you can do the work later. This is the lie that says that July is too soon for planning to change the routine. Planning ahead does require work, but a little bit of it today will go a long way when it comes time for the routine to change.

Taking time to consider the winter months today will smooth the transition. You will have already done some of the work which builds momentum.

Planning ahead allows for a different perspective. Sometimes it feels impossible to change a season’s atmosphere. So it’s important to learn from the past seasons and begin to apply the changes you’d like to see.

To do this: look at a calendar for the whole year – and next to each of the winter months, jot a single word that usually summarizes your feelings in that month. Then write one word that summarizes the deeper purpose you commit to prioritize.

For example, my December would look like this:

Feeling: Overwhelmed
Purpose: Family Time

Now, when those months start to approach begin to plan your weeks holding the second word close.

If it’s “family time” then start crossing out blocks of time that will be reserved for family – making those urgent requests for more of your time an easy “no, I already have plans.”

Or if it is, “rest” then you can start listing activities that help you relax and start penciling them into your weeks. Also, begin to take note of things that make you feel overwhelmed – try to eliminate those activities during this month by taking the time to plan to accomplish some of the important tasks now. (Like ordering Christmas cards.)

Trust me, even if you’re thinking – I have small kids, so they would be written on my list of things that are overwhelming and I can’t cross them off my list. I know it’s hard to manage self-care and child-care. But habit training is possible, and you can teach your children to be calm. It is possible for them to honor your need for rest.

Photo credit: words added

Photo credit: words added

Preservation: just as canning fruits means I can enjoy them year round, so living well in every season preserves my spirit.

A misconception of planning ahead is that one is always looking forward and not fully enjoying the present. Not if you can balance it with preservation.

The amount of time it takes to be intentional pails in comparison to the amount of time I’ve wasted on living week-to-week. What I’ve gained from discipline and follow through is a full well of memories that I can draw from when I’m feeling drained.

Preservation is another means of self-control.

If I want to have blueberry smoothies in December, then I can’t gorge on the berries that I pick in July. I have to weigh the joy these berries will give me in December as heavier than the fleeting pleasure of eating one more handful now.

Preservation is also a way of respect. I honor the choices I make today and live fully within them. Not looking back in regret, nor forward in fantasy. I measure my days, make the most of them, and save them as proof of fruit from a life lived with much sowing.

Respect has a way of balancing by setting limits.

Write a letter to your winter-self from your summer-self. No, I’m not into predicting the future – that isn’t the purpose for this. Set aside a list of things you accomplished with the time you were given in the summer. Be honest about the trials you endured – great and small. Give credit to the lessons you faced that are unique to this time of year. Preserve a little bit of the feeling of the summer months to compare and contrast the atmospheres.

Then when winter comes, make a second list of things that anchor you to this season.

No season is “perfect,” but every season has purpose. With these suggestions, I hope you can see what atmosphere you are able to create within each month and enjoy the benefits of living with satisfaction in every season.

Some resources for further reading:

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A Season Apart

Beautiful Seasons

I sincerely believe in embracing life’s seasons. I guess that’s why I wanted this blog to be named in honor of all the many seasons life has to offer. I haven’t always appreciated the change of seasons mostly because I wasn’t willing to be hopeful. Didn’t make goals. Wouldn’t look ahead.

But then a season came that I couldn’t control, and I was forced to accept the unknown. To embrace the winter. Cold. It was then that I was told that seeds planted in the fall give a constant hope to the cold and frozen winter. Spring always comes. New blooms will color my world again.

My life season has just changed again, and I’ve been in a long winter from media. Last year, I wasn’t ready for all sources of connection to freeze, but I knew it was necessary. I couldn’t keep living life out of balance. Media had to go. Life had to center on the present. In what I could touch and see.

I am still learning to love the life I live, to accept the skin I’m in, to give myself fully to my family, and to worship my Creator and no other. But I’m ready to write about it all.

My desire is that this space would become a conversation. I’m no teacher, I haven’t figured anything out, but I am inspired when I read, think, and write. I would love for you to grab a warm drink and find these conversations to be an encouraging place. Support for the moment.

Although I don’t have plans currently to detail where I’ve been or what I’ve been through in the past few years, I’m sure bits and pieces will come out. If you have any questions, ask. I’m an open book. I just don’t want to be a bore.

So. I’m back. It’s a new season. Again, I’m not sure if I’m ready for change, but I embrace it.