I’m just responding to these chapters in a format that’s as close to a diary/reading journal as I’ll ever come on my blog. This is an intensely personal book to me because it deals with so many of the issues I come up against daily as a homeschooling mother: namely, myself and my own selfish tendencies. Maybe some of what I share here will resonate with you, too.
I love that Sally (I can call her that, can’t I?) reduces an abundant life to two fundamental issues in this chapter: joy and contentment. I must confess that often I have neither. Sally, of course, doesn’t leave me hopeless in this situation, though–she says that joy is a choice and contentment can be learned. We just have to prepare ourselves to choose and learn. (Ah, there’s the tough part!) What she says about joy really resonates with me:
The joy-filled life is not found by diminishing my God-given responsibilities as a woman, wife, and mother, nor can I find joy merely by refusing to face the hard realities of life in a fallen world. There is a tension that God is asking me to acknowledge and accept–the tension between ideals and realities. True joy is found by living somewhere between the ideal life and daily realities. That is where Jesus meets me, where his Holy Spirit empowers, and where I learn to live the Christian life with supernatural joy. (34, emphasis mine)
So. . . JOY=living with the tension between ideals and realities. A lightbulb went off the first time I read that. Yes! This is where my joy gets sapped so often. Life with the little people in our home rarely ever turns out just how I envision it; like Sally, I am very much an idealist. What she follows with, then, is the real key to choosing joy:
When I pout instead of being joyful, grumble instead of praying, or complain instead of giving thanks, I am in effect telling God that he is mishandling my life and I don’t care for the way he’s doing his job. At this point, I have ceased to put my faith in my sovereign Lord, choosing instead to put my faith in my circumstances. In other words, I am telling God–and myself–that if and when my circumstances change, then and only then can I be happy. Until then, I have nothing to be thankful for. And that, according to Paul, is when I step out of God’s will. (35, emphasis mine)
The idea that I’m putting my faith in circumstances more than in God when I choose to look at my circumstances (or even my own projection of what might happen) as a foregone conclusion or the expected end is one that has occurred to me before. Unfortunately, I am something of a pessimist at heart, and unlike Puddleglum, I can’t always manage to put a good face on things, either. This is something fundamental that I need to do differently, and the way Sally puts it in this chapter makes this crystal clear to me.
Sally’s thoughts on contentment are even more spot-on for me, if that’s possible. More on that tension between the ideal and the real:
As rugged individualists, Americans don’t want to hear that living in a fallen world will never be as perfect as we want it to be. Yet that is part of living between the ideals and realities. I have come to understand, after much struggle, that I will spend the better part of my life adjusting my expectations to life’s limitations rather than having my expectations fulfilled. (36)
[Contentment] isn’t some kind of supernatural salve that I can ask God to apply to my heart but, rather, a learned condition of depending on God. As Paul goes on to say, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). (37)
My problem is remembering all this in the middle of the stressful, REAL times of my life. I suspect that this is because of my lack of time in the Word at this point in my life, among other things. I know that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17); the hard part is finding the quiet in my life I so desperately need to HEAR God speak to me through his Word.
There is lots of good, encouraging, convicting TRUTH in this chapter. I think the crux of my problem is that I have such a hard time living in the tension between the ideal and the real. I love what Sally says here:
If it is God’s will for me to homeschool, then he is not asking me to do more than I am able (see 1 Corinthians 10:13), and he is not withholding from me anything that I truly need (see Philippians 4:19). If I choose to, I can learn to be content with the life that God has given me, whether I have alittle or a lot to live with. What keeps me from being content is not what God is or isn’t supplying; the real problem is that I, Sally [er, Amy], refuse to adjust my expectations–I want more than I can have, ask for more than I need, strive for more than I can do, and expect more than God has promised. (37, emphasis mine)
I cannot express how true this is for me in my life. I must adjust my expectations as we enter this new school year.
What did you glean from this first chapter?
I am blogging through Seasons of a Mother’s Heart by Sally Clarkson this summer for my second annual Homeschooling Mothers’ Bookclub. You can read more about it here. Won’t you consider joining us? Here’s the link-up schedule:
- Monday, July 8–Spring, chapters 1-3
- Monday, July 22–Summer, chapter 4-6
- Monday, August 5–Fall, chapters 7-9
- Monday, August 19–Winter, chapters 10-12
- Monday, August 26–final thoughts (Notice this is one week after the last post, not two.)