This chapter hits me where I’m living. I’ve struggled sometimes to figure out exactly what it means to build one’s house versus tearing down one’s house with one’s own hands (Proverbs 14:1). I’m afraid I’ve done both, sometimes probably even in the same day. It comforts me to read Sally’s words: “I wrestle daily, it seems, with what it means to be a wise woman” (85). If she, a woman of such wisdom, also has to struggle to figure it out, then maybe there’s hope for me! There are so many voices, many of them contradictory, that speak into the lives of parents. As a Christian mother, I am warned to raise my children well, and yet I’m also cautioned against being too strict, having too high expectations, sheltering too much, etc. Sometimes it really does feel like walking a tight rope. I appreciate this chapter because Sally breaks it down into three steps, and the discusses each step with clarity and insight. I especially like this part from the “build on a strong foundation” section:
As much as I want my children to grow in the Lord, every day is a fresh reminder to me that I cannot force them to become mature. However, even though I cannot always make them behave the way I would like them to, I can always do what Jesus did–speak to their hearts. It is hard to envision Jesus laying down the law and demanding obedience of my children. I imagine Jesus would look beyond the unacceptable and immature behavior and gently and lovingly address the thoughts and motivations of their hearts. Were they loving God? Were they loving people? In the end, all of my parental laws and prophetic exhortations hand on these two commands! (88)
Oh, for the wisdom to apply this knowledge to my own parenting–to stop the nagging, the lecturing, and yes, the yelling–to simply look for the heart issue. I try to do this, but it’s never easy, and I’m rarely right on target with it. (Plus, there’s the little issue of my own heart problems that I also have to address daily.) I need wisdom to parent in this way. I also need to shrug off any expectations I have placed upon myself and my children and learn to believe that when I ask God for wisdom, He will grant it--even when that wisdom doesn’t look like what I expect.
My favorite part of this chapter is the “count the cost to build” section. I think when I started out on this mothering journey, the cost was very low, almost negligible. In fact, it was almost all joy–I would’ve done it for free! I mean, who doesn’t love a sweet little baby? As my children have gotten older (and I’ve gotten more of them!), I’ve realized that it’s not all rainbows and roses. Especially as they’ve developed minds of their own and have begun to exert their own wills (some at younger ages than others 😉 ), I understand what Sally means by counting the cost. I think this is especially important as a homeschooling mother. Homeschooling is not something I do because I have no other choice. Because I do have other choices, I must be extra careful about really “counting the cost.” The price seems high at times. Sally spells it out here:
There is the physical cost of weariness from teaching and caring for children with constant needs, from doing housework and laundry, from making countless meals, from picking up the same toys over and over again. There is the emotional cost of always being expected to give affection and attention to ever-present children, of directing their education, of training their spirits and disciplining them, of being available to them for what seems like 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. There is the personal cost of giving up personal expectations, of sacrificing personal “rights” for the benefit of the children, of accepting the limitations of time, of often choosing to live and make do with less as a one-income home.
Over the years, these costs have occasionally accelerated and come due all at the same time in my life. [. . .]
She continues, though, with something I am going to try very, very hard to remember this school year:
Sometimes, though, I have made the building process more costly than God ever intended it to be. Like other homeschooling mothers who live under the fear of not doing enough, I expected more of myself than God did. Consequently, I set unrealistic goals and higher standards for my children than God required. It shouldn’t be surprising then that I burned out trying to pay a cost God never required. I burned out, not because God was asking more of me than I could do, but because I was asking more of me than I could do. As a wiser woman now, I know that God’s goals for me is that I build a good house, not the best one. After all, if I become spiritually exhausted because I try to build more than God expects of me, then I soon won’t be building at all. (89, emphasis mine)
Those are some wise, wise words. I can so relate to what Sally says in that last paragraph! I tend to be a perfectionist about some things, and our schooling is one of them. I used to feel like I was doing a good, even great, job most of the time. However, now that I have little ones and big ones, I don’t feel this way nearly as often. With God’s help this year I am going to look at our year and what we do here holistically. I’m not going to examine each minute part of it; instead, I’m going to try to see the big picture and realize my kids are happy, healthy, and growing. What more could I want?
I love Sally’s ideas about setting specific goals for her children and talking with them about those goals. Steady Eddie and I had this great plan way back when the DLM was born to try to take each girl out for some one-on-one time regularly. We did it once–ONCE!–and never did it again. A few weeks ago Lulu went along with me to buy groceries on a Monday night, and it was such a sweet time for us. Taking one child away from the others gives me an opportunity to really talk to that child and get to know her (or him) without a brother or sister changing how we relate to each other. I’ve intended to give Louise the same opportunity, but alas, we’ve had no time to do it in three weeks. That’s sad, isn’t it? I’ve realized more and more that these dates will just have to be put on the calendar and taken, regardless of how inconvenient they are. It’s that important.
Sally has given me a lot to think about, mull over, and pray about in this chapter. How about you?
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.)
- chapter 1 scripture art journal entry
- chapter 1: “Celebrating Life”
- chapter 2: “Changing My Will”
- chapter 3: “Beside Still Waters”