Friday, September 27, 2013

9 Things I Learned in September

It's that time again. The post where I share what I've learned this month. It's not an exhaustive list, nor will it change your life. But it's a fun post to write and I'm thankful that Emily over at Chatting at the Sky offers this link-up opportunity at the end of each month. Want to know more of what I'm talking about? Go here.

In no particular order, here are 9 things I've learned in September. 


1. Hack-job furniture "refinishing" will come back to bite you. Or, in this case, wreck up all your magazines, paper napkins, and homework assignments.  

We've had a lovely oak pedestal table for 8 years, compliments of some friends who had too much furniture. 

It has served our family well. But a couple of years ago I noticed that the finish was rubbing off. Thinking I could solve the problem by brushing a couple of coats of Polycrylic across the top, I popped open a can of leftover glaze, brushed it on, and patted myself on the back. 

Somewhere along the way, however, my table's protective "sheen" turned downright sticky. At this point, it feels like my five year old lacquered the entire surface with a drippy Blow-Pop. Paper napkins stick to it. Math homework has been scraped off with a putty knife. Magazines at the table? Forget about it. 

My DIY-savvy friend looked at my kitchen table inspiration photos and then examined the table itself. So next week we're going to attempt this:

We're going to sand the finish clean off and apply Briwax. My hope is that we'll end up with a rustic, barn-wood sort of finish. The link above shows the process. {Have any of you tried this?}

I'm so excited! Until then, we're using cloth napkins and doing homework on the coffee table.

2. Oreos Double Stuff are amazing. 

I've always enjoyed the occasional Oreo but this week they became my love language. I know, my refined taste in sweets astounds even me. I bought a bag at the store Saturday. You know, as a special treat "for the kids." But they have instead found a hiding place in a non-descript bag at the top of the pantry and I've only shared 12 of them. Not that I'm counting or rationing in any way.

3. Two months since I went to She Speaks and I'm staying true to my two goals. Small victories, right? 

1. Write every day. 2. Post 3-ish times a week. Sometimes I get a bit impractical with goal-setting but I told myself that I needed to take baby steps as a writer and simply focus on content and consistency for now. I've learned that I really can do this.

4. Twelve is a very emotional age.

And that's all I'm going to say about that.

5. I'm really enjoying Bible Study Fellowship {BSF}. 

Two friends half-way across the country simultaneously convinced me to try BSF this year, despite my reservations that it might be too structured, too time-consuming, and too impractical. {The closest group is 45 minutes away.} These two friends don't even know each other so it was kind of a crazy "coincidence." I've gone three weeks now and it is such a rich part of my week. A friend and I ride together so it's fun girl time and my sister gets to meet us there. Double win. We're studying the book of Matthew this year and already I've learned so much and been strengthened in a way that only the Word strengthens. It's been a gift.

6. I'm hooked on Parenthood. 

I'm late to the party as usual. I picked Parenthood as my "laundry show" last month. Do you need incentives to fold laundry? TV is totally the only way I get laundry done. I'm mid-way through Season 2 and trying to get caught up. The season premiere was last night and I wouldn't let myself watch. I think I love it for the characters and the fact that the situations don't feel as ridiculous and contrived as much as TV dramas usually feel. Any other Parenthood fans out there?

7. September is a bit too much. 

Cute and soccer-loving but too much. {Yes, this is our youngest's very first sport. The baby is officially not a baby.} I confess that I am a margin junkie. But right now? We don't have as much margin as we'd like during the week. There's not really any way around it at the moment but things should slow down mid-October and I cannot wait. I am a complete and total slacker when it comes to being the run-around mom. I just can't do it. I really and truly cannot. It makes me mean. And hungry for sugar. {See above point about the Double Stuff.}

8. Wide headbands cover up a multitude of sins. 

This scarf / bandana thingy is my new accessory BFF. I haven't touched my hair with scissors or color since May. My roots are a mile long and the grays are threatening a coup. But the wide headband serves as both a cover-up and a distraction. One dollar at a local thrift store. Go get you one. 

9. We really do need honesty and freedom in our discourse about various school options. And we especially need to know that it's all grace

When I began the Being Cool About School series earlier this month, I had no idea what to expect. But you received it. You really did. Apparently a lot of us are looking for grace and freedom for ourselves and for others in our educational choices. My hope is that the series will continue to promote grace-filled dialogue and serve as a resource for others who need some ponderings and perspective on the issue of school. All 10 posts are over there in the right sidebar. Just click on the Being Cool About School button.


There you have it. Nine things I learned in September. What did you learn this month? Feel free to share in the comments or link up with Emily

Have a great fall weekend, friends!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Where Do You Dwell?

Friends, I did not want to sit down and write this morning. I am trudging through a bit of sickness, a wave of discouragement, and the inevitable challenges that come when we live in relationship with others. 

Life together brings on the best of times and the worst of times, doesn't it?

I've weathered these things before. We all have. Each time a new unpleasantness arrives, I'm tempted to settle down into the yuck, pull the covers over my head, and eat Oreos. Double-stuff. Like, the whole package. {Not that Oreos are the absolute worst way to cope.}

But this morning I pondered what it means to settle down into something, to really "dwell" somewhere. Where we live and abide has so much to do with our identity and perspective. It determines what the world looks like through our windows. 

I know what it's like to dwell in a pit

I know what it's like to dwell in the mire of crazy circumstances and to see the world through a window smeared with slime and sorrow. 

But because of Grace, I also know what it's like to be in the midst of those same circumstances and instead see the world through a window gleaming with God's faithfulness, protection, and good promises. The pain is still there but the perspective is altogether changed. 

What's the difference?  The place we choose to dwell.

In Psalm 91, God invites us to live in the only good and true dwelling place:

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

Throughout my life, I have chosen many lesser shelters as walls and roofs and windows. I've attempted poorly-constructed shelters of marriage and family, financial security, approval, self-protection, religion, right living and escapism, just to name a few. 

Though these shelters may provide temporary bliss and hold up for a time, they cannot withstand true danger or prolonged storms or real trouble. When these lesser shelters collapse, we can feel devastated and left with nothing. Though we may dwell in relative safety for a season, these flimsy abodes don't offer ultimate protection or lasting peace.

If you're feeling a bit exposed and shaken this morning, if you're insecure and uncertain and convinced you don't have the inner strength and proper shelter it takes to weather this particular storm, let me be the bearer of both good and bad news.

First the bad: You're right. You don't have what it takes, not for the long haul anyway.

Now the good: God has what it takes and He has a place for you to dwell. He is everything you need. 

I studied Psalm 91 for a while this morning and spent some time in much-needed prayer. {And by prayer I mean venting and railing and pleading.} As I sat down to write, I flipped to September 24th in Jesus Calling. "On a whim," you know. I shouldn't have been surprised by the message:

Live first and foremost in My Presence. Gradually you will become more aware of Me than of people and places around you. This awareness will not detract from your relationships with others. Instead, it will increase your ability to give love and encouragement to them. My Peace will permeate your words and demeanor. You will be active in the world, yet one step removed from it. You will not be easily shaken, because My enveloping Presence buffers the blow of problems... 

I don't know about you but I'd like to be less easily shaken. I long to truly dwell in his presence, to abide securely in the shadow of the Almighty. 

This is a place of protection and privilege and perspective we only begin to imagine. 

Though we're tempted to set up makeshift tents with the supposed salvations of the this world, He offers something infinitely better. He offers to serve as our dwelling place. Storms and sludge will continue to blow our way but they won't prevail against the One who cannot be shaken.

How about we break up this camp of shoddy shelters and makeshift homes? 

How about we move, today, away from our false securities and into a secure Savior, a dwelling that is somehow a place and also a Person.

May we dwell in Him and through Him. And may we be strengthened by the peace and protection his shelter offers.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Entire "Being Cool About School" Series, All in One Place

To pin the image above {and the series}, just hover over the picture and you'll see the Pinterest logo. You can also use the social media share buttons at the bottom of the post.


I'm taking a little break from writing over the next few days in order to rest and to allow readers to get caught up on the series. 

There are ten posts in all and I have them listed below. I'm going to try and put the series logo image in the right sidebar at some point over the next few days. I'd love for these posts to serve as a resource for those who stress and struggle and overthink the way I did {and still do} over this whole thing of doing school. 

I'd also love to know your personal thoughts about school decisions. 


Do you think that having more choices makes the decision more difficult?

Does our American consumer mentality influence our approach because we are looking for the "perfect" school product? 

Is this a decision that you have personally struggled with?

Have you employed a variety of school options for your own kids?

Do you have strong feelings, one way or another, about how to educate your children?


Whatever your thoughts, concerns, or questions, I'd love to hear them. Truly, I welcome all feedback.

Writing this series has taught me so much. Learning from others may provide some ideas and insight as I consider developing the "project" a bit more in the future and writing some additional posts here and there.

Thanks a million for all of the support, feedback, and community you all provide. 

Have a great weekend, friends!


Being Cool About School {a series}:
Finding Grace and Freedom for Ourselves & Others in Our Family's Educational Choices

Post 1: "So are you still glad you switched your kids from homeschool to public school?"
What is this series about? Who's it for? What on earth motivated you to write it? 

The backstory and early years of this educational journey.

Our transition from homeschooling to public school

This is not a post espousing all the virtues of homeschooling. Rather, it's a look at how we can appreciate and learn from the gifts and the challenges of our homeschooling experience.

What happens when our ideals become idols? How 
do fear, pride, and idealism infiltrate our decisions about how to educate our children, and how can we guard against it?

What inspires true community when we're doing school in a variety of ways? How can we approach others with grace and freedom? {And why should we?}

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Finale Post :: Being Cool About School: How Can We Come Together?

This last installment of the series poses the greatest challenge of all because it gets at the heart of...well, our hearts. I'm not writing about the pros and cons of one way or another, nor am I recounting the lessons I've personally learned. This is the "olive branch post," the post in which I remind each and every one of us that there is only one way we can approach others who have chosen to do school differently than we've chosen to do it. 

With love. 

But before I break that down, let's ponder two things: 

1. Do you need to hand over the gavel?

If you're educating your children in a way that reflects significant thought, research, and conviction, you're probably pretty attached to this way. That doesn't mean you love it every day or that you think it's perfect. But it does mean that right now it's difficult to imagine choosing a different path. 

Someone who has chosen that different path may very well reflect the same amount of thought, research, and conviction that you do. 

So if you harbor some less than loving opinions of that person and / or their schooling choice, you', how can I put this? You're being judge-y. 

For those who are Christians, we've been given some instruction on this. I'll be honest, it's not my favorite admonition, because I'm prone to being a bit judge-y too. We all are. And that's why we need the reminder:

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

Sometimes we toss this verse around in an effort to deflect rightly-earned rebuke. This isn't a verse that says, Anything goes. Live and let live. Don't judge me and I won't judge you.

My ESV commentary explains that Judge not forbids pronouncing another person guilty before God. It's interesting that in verse five, the one doing the judging {referred to as a "hypocrite"} is told to first take the speck out of his own eye.

Why? Because a posture of humility is the only true and good posture we can assume. When we judge, when we're doing a little bit {or a lot} of condemning in our thoughts or even in our talk, we might as well just hand Pride the microphone. 

And though the Pride may receive a lot of attention and make a lot of noise and even garner the respect of likeminded followers, Pride will not receive the favor of God. 

You see, God actually opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. 

Sometimes I feel as though we're all walking around calling out splinters and failing to notice that we've got actual oaks  rooted in our own eyeballs {weird and creepy as that metaphor is.} Pride and judgement have a way of blinding us like that. 

And though we judge other people and other groups every day on a thousand different issues, school just happens to be the one I'm talking about right now. 

To know if you're walking around with a log in your eye on this issue, ask yourself these questions:

  • How would I feel if someone judged me, my family, or my decisions / convictions with the same attitude with which I'm judging them?

  • When I think of those who are doing this school thing way differently than we are, do I feel grace, love, and respect for them or do I become a little judge-y?

  • If, for any reason, I had to give up the way we currently do education and resort to the path I am most likely to judge or balk at, how would I feel? Like a failure? Less godly? Like I had to hang out with people who I think are weird or misguided or both?

I'm not going to interpret your answers. That's for you to sort out. But your answers to those questions may reveal some attitudes that you need to confront. I don't say this to make you feel guilty. I say this because I'd love to see all of us set free. Only freedom can allow us to come together in love and unity.

Which brings me to my next point...

2. Are you promoting a spirit of unity with your thoughts, conversations, and fellowship?

{What? You're still reading this after all of that toe-stepping and weird talk about trees in our eyes?}

Though many different sorts of people read this blog, I think that most of my readers are at least sympathetic to the Christian faith and have probably observed or experienced {or run from} some of the disunity within the church over this issue of school. 

In a very timely message on "Authentic Christian Unity" last Sunday, my pastor shared this quote:

In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.
                                                                      ~ Rupertus Meldenius, circa 1627

Meldenius was a German theologian during the Thirty Years War, a time rife with violence and religious factions in Europe. It's a great quote, isn't it? But you're probably thinking the same thing I am. What happens when we can't agree on what's "essential" and what's "non-essential?"

Disunity arises when we confuse the two, when we interpret something Scripture says differently than another person. 

Our own church is an interesting mix of public school and homeschool families. We don't have many private school folks because there are so few private schools in our area. I think ours is an "interesting" mix because churches have a way of fostering homogeneity among its congregants. It's common to find a church in which most of its families homeschool or most of its families support and attend the church-chartered private school or most of its families attend the local public schools. 

But our rather large church reflects an array of choices. And I love that. Why? Because I think it can allow us to practice real Christian unity and charity. We're not bound together because we're likeminded about all things, even important things like education. And because we don't all do things the same way, we have even greater opportunity to practice unity; we're bound together by the love and spirit of Christ himself and not by our identical decisions.

Jesus {who is our model, our motivation, and our means} befriended every segment of society: Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female, prostitute and patrician. For so many of these people, Christ was the only common ground. 

How much more can He unite us?

Our Youth & Family Ministries at church actually wrote a statement on formal education, acknowledging that "the Scriptures do not explicitly tell us how to teach our children regarding formal education." I'd like to share an excerpt because it gets at the core of Christian unity on the issue of school:

Therefore, we encourage families to act on their own convictions and show grace to those who choose to apply Scripture differently... 
Our calling is to go as far as the Scriptures go and no farther. Therefore, our calling is to help youth & families know Christ and His Word in such a way that biblical wisdom will govern each family's application of scripture regarding formal education.  
We acknowledge that the differences that exist regarding formal schooling options can often provide opportunities for sinful hearts to overflow into gossip, judgmental attitudes, and condescending thoughts and words. In acknowledgment of the damage that such sinful attitudes and actions can do to Christ's body, we call all families to dialogue about issues such as school choice with humility, grace, and gentleness {Prov. 15:1}, reflecting the grace we have received from Christ, our merciful Savior. 

Humility, grace, and gentleness. Those virtues are at the heart of unity on any issue that threatens to divide us. 

But there is a virtue that binds all of these others together, a virtue that is the "greatest," a virtue that Colossians 3:12-15 invites us to literally "put on."

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love*, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
*emphasis mine 

Can you see it? The key to coming together on this issue is love. And quite honestly, you don't have to believe in the Bible or any of this Christian charity stuff to recognize that humility, gentleness, and kindness--bound together by love--is truly the answer to living in a community that is full of grace for those who do the "non-essentials" differently.

: Classical-ish homeschool mom. Sister-in-law: Public school mom and now K12 on-line school mom. My mom: Combination of public school and private school among her own 4 kiddos. Sister: Homeschooled 2 years. Now is a public school mom at their inner-city Title 1 school. Me: Homeschool-turned-public-school-mom.
Different personalities, different kids, different family dynamics, different communities, different needs, and different ways of schooling.
Common denominator? A whole lot of love. 

So in light of love and charity, what practical and tangible action steps can we take? You can probably come up with some of your own but here are a few to get us started:

  • If your kids don't attend public school, acknowledge and appreciate those who, day in and day out, teach over 90% of the children in your community. I talked a little about that in this post {and confessed that I haven't been good at this.} Virtually all of us have friends, family members, or acquaintances who work in the public schools. How often do we thank them, pray for them, or enter into conversations with them in the bleachers or on the sidelines about how their year is going? 

  • If you've chosen public school or private school but you know homeschooling mamas, ask them how their year is going? Show interest in what they're doing and the unique ways they're learning. You may even learn something from one another about creative ways to study, or books your children have enjoyed, or fun field trip ideas. So many of our learning opportunities and methods can overlap; see one another as a friend and also as a resource.

  • Know the issues and vote for the good of the children being educated in your community. I know, this sounds obvious and like I'm just grasping at straws here but seriously, it's important. {I also know that personal politics may determine how we define "good."} If your kids are homeschooled or in private school, it's tempting to live unaware of the legislation that affects public schools. But please, don't live unaware and don't become apathetic. Imagine those public school kids as your own kids. Because they are, in a way, all of our own kids. Vote with conviction and compassion. {And that's as political as I'm ever going to get on this blog.} 

  • Understand that sometimes "self-awareness" decreases as personal conviction and excitement about an issue increases. Don't assume the worst. We see it and hear it everywhere: social media, in the parking lot, at various conferences or practicums, in conversations with friends, on the news. Someone is really pumped about an issue or an opportunity or, in this case, a way of learning, and they get a little evangelistic about it. Such conviction and enthusiasm can lead to alienating others. Sometimes people don't care if they alienate those who are already "on the other side." But sometimes they are simply unaware. 

    • Your neighbor who homeschools may not intend to make you feel less-than about public schooling when she goes on and on about the awesome field trip they took to the planetarium. 
    • Your cousin on Facebook may have no idea that she makes you feel less-than about homeschooling when she posts a picture of the back-to-school teacher breakfast she organized with a caption that reads: I just love being involved in my kids public schools!
    • Those homeschool moms who are always visiting together at church probably {hopefully!} aren't trying to exclude you because you're a public school mom. And those public moms probably {hopefully!} aren't trying to exclude you because you're a homeschool mom. As I've said before, you need "your people" because you need a specific kind of encouragement and that's okay. But know that we also need one another. Maybe you can be the one who chooses to be brave and initiates some conversation that's a bit more inclusive?

Don't assume the worst. Don't take counsel from your own insecurities and sensitivities. And if someone "on the other side" is actually trying to elevate their way over your way, know that you're not responsible for their attitude; you're simply responsible for yours.

Run hard after love, my friend. Recognize your own need for grace and receive it so that you can more generously lavish it on others. Pray that unity and community can become more important than being right or being understood or being approved.

Put on love. 


As I sat down to write this final post in a series, I felt two distinct emotions: Relief. That I was actually about to finish this thing. And sadness. That I was actually about to finish this thing. 

I thought I'd write five or six posts and I ended up with ten. I thought the introductory, story-telling posts would be the longest ones and that the other posts would be succinct and easy to write. Instead, some of my later posts felt like books in and of themselves. My husband would come home and ask how the day went and I would respond, lethargic and glassy-eyed, I wrote a post that felt like I wrote a book about rejecting fear-based motivation. I'm sorry the laundry is still not folded. And yes, we are having leftovers

I went deep over these last few weeks. Much deeper than I'd planned. And in mining the depths of this complex, confusing, and often controversial subject of school, I've realized that there's still so much more to say. 

But that's where you pick up with the rest of the story. Yes. You.

Here's the thing. I could write a book about the topic of "finding grace and freedom for ourselves and for others in our educational choices," and in some ways, I feel like I have. But a thousand great and inspiring books on the subject won't do a bit of good if we aren't able to live the freedom and grace about which I've written these last few weeks. 

This freedom and grace in how you educate your own kids? It's for real. There isn't a formula. There isn't a perfect way. 

It's all grace. I believe this with all my heart. God has written this message on my own life in a thousand ways. School just happens to be one of them.

And because it's all grace, we can live freedom and grace and generosity in our communities. 

We can experience trial and error.

We can embrace paths and ways we never planned to travel and we can embrace paths and ways others choose to travel.

We can listen to one another. 

We can learn from one another. 

We can lean on one another. 

And we can love one another. 

The end. 


Friends, thank you for reading. Thank you for your comments, e-mails, texts, and Facebook messages. Thank you for encouraging me as I write to encourage others. The community that gathers around here is a sweet gift. There are countless places and spaces where you can spend your time; I'm honored that you choose to spend some of it here.

Grace and peace to each one of you.


This is the tenth and final post in a series: 

Being Cool About School: 
Finding Grace & Freedom for Ourselves & Others in Our Educational Choices

{Whether We Teach Our Kids at Home, 
in School, or on the Moon}

You can read the earlier posts in the series here
Feel free to subscribe to the blog if you'd like to receive additional posts from a la modeYou can do that in the right sidebar. And you may unsubscribe anytime you like. 



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