Well, it's been quite a week…may have started with a sag in hormones, but a bunch of things conspired to exacerbate the situation… Being the time of year that homeschoolers assess what's been accomplished (and what's been missed) in terms of academics, I was in this mode well before Rachel requested to see Micah's old writings. Oh boy. That was like opening a kettle of fish.
You see, Micah, our firstborn, was a prophet in his day. His portfolio, tucked carefully away in my closet, holds candid exposés of life as he experienced and perceived it in the Skelton household. The hurts and injustices, inconsistencies and hypocrisy are skillfully outlined in the form of essays and plays, written too accurately to miss or brush aside. There I am in all my glory (not!) trying to manage a household of jostling students who also happened to be my flesh and blood and bear my imperfections… The age comes when one's offspring are more apt to 'rise up and call you blessed' but this was not that age. The assessment I got was honest. And convicting. God's arrow to arrest us in our steps and help us to begin adding grace to the running of our household. But change takes time…Micah left the nest with his own custom baggage. This is not easy to face as a Mom, who wants only to live to bless her children, to love them well, to prepare them for their futures with good things… But the kettle was opened.
Add to this the feelings of nostalgia and regret that inevitably accompany digging through old school books. I had a phone call from a younger homeschool mom in the midst of this, asking for advice and recommendations and I was having a little dig-about to see what I could share… So many books we've waded through together. So many good memories. And always, so much left undone.
This would all be manageable if it were all history, but the writing of our history is not yet complete. You see, Rachel has yet one more critical year of school to finish, and I am VERY aware of this fact given the time of year we are at…Just a few more weeks of this year and then just o-n-e m-o-r-e y-e-a-r in which to teach her all she needs to know before we wave goodbye and she flies off to Bible school…Talk about pressure. And all these good books, so much potential learning, so much to cover, so much to think about…How are we gonna do it?! Too much to bear.
And then came Monday morning at breakfast over our customary Monday-cream-of-wheat. Rachel hadn't yet joined us. I opened my mouth to put in words the pressure I was feeling and the restless night and tortured waking thoughts, and well, the dam broke…I took my toast and tea and retreated to unload my heart...
'To you, O Lord, I call
my rock, be not deaf to me,
lest, if you be silent to me,
I become like those who go down to the pit.
Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy,
When I cry to you for help,
When I lift up my hands
Toward your most holy sanctuary…' Ps.28:1,2
And this is where Rachel found me when she popped her head in to ask what to do with my cold bowl of cream of wheat! Weird, seeing Mom with a blanket over her head all curled up in a ball…praying… for Rachel, for us, for the years locusts have nibbled on, for mercy, for forgiveness, for strength and wisdom, for HELP!
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul…let me not be put to shame; Indeed none who wait for you shall be put to shame (Ps.25:1-3)
"Who is the man who fears the LORD? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose. His soul shall abide in well-being, and his offspring shall inherit the land…" Ps.25:12,13
Praying for Rachel. My fearfully and wonderfully made last-born—this delightful child that undoes any sense of competence that I may have gained with the previous five children…delightfully herself, and so very different than her mother in many ways. She is my dreamer, a visionary that can see teddy bears as potential companions for orphans or old folks if I could just help her get an Organization rolling…She dances along with visions of sugarplums --the potential of all that could be, while I, pre-occupied with the fine print, run into barricades! She composes fiction like it’s the most natural thing in the world while I labor to ferret out facts and put them in order. She doodles in bears of every describable pose and occupation, while I look for models to painstakingly copy. We are different.
She loves to be celebrated; I prefer to be inconspicuous. She thrives on anticipation of 'exciting' things to come; I on the rhythm of the commonplace. And she knows how to SMILE and to HUG and to quiver with delight! "Are you excited Mom?!!" How many times have I tried to explain that excitement throws me off balance. I'm happy in a quiet way. I try not to look too far ahead, on purpose, so that today's business is not sabotaged with the emotional energy of anticipation… Makes no sense to a dreamer. So here we are in my 'old age' trying to figure each other out. Daily companions. Teacher and student. Mother and daughter. Improbable friends for a season of my life that might otherwise be bland and predictable…
And into this difficult day comes an essay by Rachel, inspired by her brother's of yesteryear perhaps… to be read aloud to Mom… You should know that Rachel's been reading Our Town, the play by Thornton Wilder. Do you know it? It's an extraordinary piece studied by generations of high schoolers for its unusually ordinary theme—the preciousness of everyday life. There is no particular plot. It takes place in a little-known small town where generations have lived and married and died without fanfare. And it poignantly reminds the reader how precious is each moment and detail of ordinary life. Sometimes only in the loss of a thing, or of life itself do we realize what we have had…
“Good-by, Good-by, world. Good-by, Grover's Corners... Mama and Papa. Good-by to clocks ticking... and Mama's sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths...and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you.”
"Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it -- every, every minute?” ( from Our Town, Thornton Wilder)
So given that backdrop, here's Rachel to read me her daily piece of writing…
"As she walks out with her teddy bear tucked beneath her arm—the last thing in the house she had found hiding in the closet, she pauses at her room, remembering… [a host of words followed that evoked the return of my tears] …She's leaving this place, leaving for college. Her child-ness is gone. She's grown up. She smiles at her teddy bear."
Oh my! I escape to vent my tears only to hear a knock at the door instead and here's that young mom in need of some good books and homeschooling advice! Oh my! What treasure I've been entrusted with. It can't be time to wave the flag of surrender. Still there is a task at hand. Still a treasure to enjoy, and experience to share.
"Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord…(Ps.27:14)
"Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame." (Ps.25:3)
The week began like that. But one and another little thing have lifted my perspective back to waiting in anticipation of how God will see us through. One sweet conversation was part of that. Rachel shared with me her 'take' on how to be happy, no matter what comes… She watches morning by morning as we swallow our 'happy pills' (Vitamin D). She'll have none of it, just laughs that it's a mere placebo effect that makes us think we've braved the gloomy winter months on account of Vitamin D. Not her. At the start of 2011, she says, she decided she was going to be happy, no matter what the weather. And she has done it. Every morning she comes down to breakfast smartly dressed in her new 'business style' skirts and tops, her hair neatly put up in a girlish swirl. She eats, clears dishes and gets right to her school work. You wouldn't know she doesn't enjoy school. She just gets down to it. 'If you always wish for the weekends you'll waste your life just wishing for them,' she says. The same goes for the days that look 'fierce and scary'… you don't have to worry about them till they come. "I believe Grace will come when you most need it, not now just worrying about it." And she compared it to not needing the ticket for the plane a year ahead, only when it's actually time to board…
I wished I had recorded her words, just got the snatches she wrote down later. But there was something she said about smiling (she's always smiling!). She said something to the effect that 'I just go through the day thinking that everyone is smiling at me'! Well if that won't make a person happy! I think there's something to that. Maybe everyone's not smiling, but the One who matters most of all IS smiling when He watches us. That is something to live by! And maybe I'll learn to smile through my days yet with this Treasure under my roof. Bless you Rachel. You are God's gift to me!
There were other things that lifted my spirits…a vigorous tandem ride, getting out to weed the garden, taking time to paint and draw, reading Words of encouragement, the advice and loan of books by a friend, repenting, and putting action to good intention…but I will close with the words of a hymn that filled my thoughts one morning and turned my heart from hesitant 'unworthiness' to joy. It goes like this:
Arise, my soul, arise! Shake off thy guilty fears;
The bleeding Sacrifice In my behalf appears.
Before the throne my Surety stands; My name is written on His hands…
He ever lives above, For me to intercede;
His all redeeming love, His precious blood to plead;
His blood atoned for all our race, And sprinkles now the throne of grace…
[I had been reading Leviticus 10 and thereabouts. What a graphic picture is this laying one's hand on the head of the animal that is to be killed because of your sin, and then having its blood splashed on the altar. So serious, this sin. 'without shedding of blood there is no remission' of it!]
Five bleeding wounds He bears, Received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers, They strongly plead for me;
"Forgive him, O forgive," they cry, "Nor let that ransomed sinner die!"
The Father hears Him pray, His dear Anointed One;
He cannot turn away The presence of his Son;
His Spirit answers to the blood, And tells me I am born of God…
My God is reconciled, His pardoning voice I hear;
He owns me for His child, I can no longer fear;
With confidence I know draw nigh, And "Father, Abba, Father" cry…
If you haven't heard Twila Paris' rendition of this on her Sanctuary CD, don't miss it. Jim has posted it here.
May its message haunt you with hope as it has me!
"Blessed be the LORD! For He has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy.
The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; My heart exults, And with my song I give thanks to Him." (Ps.28:6,7)