Category Archives: parenting

What I Learned this Year (top ten from the Lunchroom Lady)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” –Galatians 6:22-23

 

Well, it’s official. This lunchroom lady has hung up her apron for the summer. That’s what my kids call me . . . the “lunchroom lady.” I remember the moment the label first surfaced on our first day of homeschooling two years ago. I was busy tidying up the kitchen after feeding my two students in our makeshift cafeteria (a.k.a. the dining room) when I heard my son playfully utter his request:

“Hey Lunchroom Lady, may I have another slice of pizza?”

I laughed back then. But after two years of making lunches, administering educational plans, keeping records, and keeping the peace between sibling-students, I don’t feel much like laughing anymore. Instead, I feel like crying. Why? Because I’m just not convinced it’s working for us—mostly for me.

Maybe because of the guilty feelings I carry about altering their social scene. Maybe because my personality isn’t well-suited for round-the-clock, child supervision. Maybe because, at forty-eight-years-old, I’d rather be pursuing other goals.

Am I hurting them? Am I hurting me? Probably – at least to some degree, and this is a difficult wrestling. These next several weeks will tell the rest of the story—whether or not my “want to” will resurface for another year of more of the same. I can’t imagine it will, but time has a way of adjusting emotions, reshaping feelings into something lesser than what was first felt and believed. What now seems so traumatic will (in coming days) seem less severe. Perhaps then will be the time to make decisions regarding my children’s educational needs, not now while stress threatens to muddy the waters of reasoned responses.

As a parent, I have a responsibility to educate my children, and as a citizen of the United States, I have a legal obligation as well. Accordingly, I can either allow the state this role or I can assume my position as the “lunchroom lady” as well as the many other roles that naturally surface alongside as requirement—teacher, principal, janitor, recess monitor, and the like. For a variety of reasons, my husband and I made the decision to homeschool our two youngest children a couple of years ago. And today, on the backside of our 180 days of compulsory attendance, I’m wondering about the depth and the strength of our learning.

What did we learn? Was it enough? Was it worth the investment?

I can’t speak for my kids, but I can offer a few thoughts about the depth and strength of my learning this year. Here are a few “take-aways” written on my final exam, a few tips from this lunchroom lady for those who choose to follow in my footsteps:

1) Selfishness doesn’t belong in the lunchroom; be prepared to take the test anyway.

2) Not every good idea is the right idea; choose rightly and be at peace.

3) Independent learning can foster laziness; when no one is watching, it’s easier to default to lethargy rather than industry.

4) A wise lunchroom lady understands that she must feed her soul before feeding others. Living it in reverse promotes crankiness.

5) Test days make poor study days; study daily, and you’ll walk more confidently and peacefully through the exam.

6) Manners are free; poor etiquette comes with a price tag.

7) The cafeteria is never really closed; after lunch comes supper—family life after the school day ends. Keep the apron handy as well as the Kleenex.

8) Strap on the Holy Spirit; pray for his fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). It’s going to be a long day (see #7).

9) Grades are good indicators but aren’t always accurate reflectors of the rest of the story.

10) Lean into the rest of the story. This is the curriculum that matters the most.

And there you have it—a few closing thoughts from the lunchroom at Peace Academy. As you can tell, my kids weren’t the only ones who learned something this year. I was a student as well; truth be told, I probably failed more exams than either of them combined. It’s a sobering thought and, perhaps, a driving force behind my tears in recent days. At the age of forty-eight, I never imagined this would be my classroom—the curriculum that God would use as the crucible to refine and purify my heart. It’s my strong impression that we still have some work to do.

What did I learn? Was it enough? Was it worth the investment?

Time will tell, but until then, I must lean into the rest of the story . . . my story; read some more of the text and add a few lines of my own. This is the curriculum that matters. This is the course of study that counts for the kingdom, and this is the life I have chosen. God has generously laced this journey with his marvelous grace so that, no matter the grades on my report card, there is more than enough mercy and love to pass me through to forever.

Grace is not an excuse for failure—for not showing up to the classroom, not listening up to the teacher, and not living up to my learning. But grace is what it has always been—available. Available to catch me, cradle me, renew me and reshape me when I fail. Grace keeps me in step with God’s Spirit and, every now and again, he uses me as his conduit therein. Because of this truth (this overriding understanding that I am duly enabled by God’s grace to be a dispatcher of his Spirit), I am able to move forward beyond the stressors of this academic year and to consider a next one.

Maybe right now, you’re in the midst of a difficult learning season. You didn’t plan on adding this curriculum to the heavy course load you’re already carrying. Instead, it added you, and you cannot imagine making it through to the exam, much less passing it.

Take a moment to breathe. Take a moment to read, again, the ten tips from this lunchroom lady. Take a moment to pray over each one, and then take more than a moment (take two or ten or twenty) to consider #10. Lean into the rest of the story, and see if God doesn’t have something further to say to you. What you hear in those moments might just lend you enough strength and depth to walk the curriculum through to the finish.

Keep in step with the Spirit and keep company with his available grace. Against such things, there is no law. Instead, because of such things, there is life and, every now and again, there is laughter.

“Hey Lunchroom Lady, may I have another slice of pizza?”

Maybe, Son. Just maybe.

What difficult classroom are you experiencing in this season? Is there one particular tip from the list above that God is using as a prompt in your heart? Never underestimate the rest of the story. It just might be the best of your story in the end.

Click here to learn more about Beyond the Scars – a tool to help you or someone you love examine the rest of the story under the lens of grace. Peace and prayers, friend.

Photo credit – Copyright: chris_elwell / 123RF Stock Photo

Sabbath Sunrise – a prayer for my son

Paint my boy a Sabbath sunrise, Father – one filled with the color of hope, not the cover of despair.

Take the pain that’s been smeared onto his canvas at night and replace it with splashes of your morning grace.

What she has taken from him, replace it with what you have given to him. A hope. A future. A plan that includes something best, not something less.

His are deep wounds, bleeding red, hot, and furious. Stop the hemorrhaging with your hands—the very ones that bled and shed red for our sin and our pain.

I can no longer cradle him in my arms. My lullabies sing harshly, and I have few words to fix the ache within. Only scattered thoughts to fill the awkward pause in between his despair and his healing.

So Father, would you paint him a Sabbath sunrise? Would you paint me one as well?

How we need the color. The warmth. The reminder that all has not been lost in the night.

Your sun still rises. This is gain. This is resurrection. This is Sabbath.

Give us eyes to see it, minds to conceive it, and hearts to believe that you painted it just for us—your perfect peace in the midst of a perfect storm.

For him, my boy with a broken heart. For me, his mom whose heart breaks alongside.

Amen.

Christmas Is

She held on tightly, arms wrapped fully around my waist and her head burrowed deeply in my coat.

“Mom, I don’t want you to go.”

Her plea was persuasive but not enough to keep me from loading up the van and making the two hour trek northward to my parents’ home.

“I know, baby, that you don’t want me to go, but it is because of this very reason that I must go. You see, I have the same kind of love in my heart for my mom as you have for me. And this is my way of wrapping my arms around her and letting her know that I, like you, don’t want her to go.”

And with that, my daughter released her grip, signaling her willingness to share me. To allow me to make the journey home so that I might spend a few hours expressing love tangibly. Not so much in words, although words always find their way into such extravagance (case in point – this post). Mostly, it’s just living love by being together.

This is why I make these frequent trips home. This is how I hug my momma’s heart and express to her from the deepest place within me …

“Mom, I don’t want you to go.”

Not that she plans on doing so anytime soon. This isn’t a good-bye post. Mom (and dad) are in good health. This is just one of those pauses in the road, a rest stop of sorts when all I have to give is the gift of a few words added as a postscript to the gift of a few moments spent together.

Isn’t this mostly it … the message of Christmas? A family’s love wrapped up in moments? A child wrapping arms around hearts and expressing that which often seems inexpressible?

Love.

Oh there’s faith and hope and all the many soulful expressions of a life lived with Jesus, but at the end of the day … at the end of our journeys, love wins the day. Love given to us on earth. Love given to us from heaven.

It’s in these pauses—these moments that we take to hug one another—where we’ll find the heartbeat of Christmas. Wherever love lives, God is.

Some 2000 years ago, a Father hugged his Son and sent him on a journey to his mother’s house. She, in turn, hugged the Gift as he arrived. I don’t know about the many conversations that must have transpired between Mary and Jesus during his earthly tenure, but I imagine there was one or two not so unlike the exchange shared between my daughter and me just a few days ago. Perhaps something along the lines of …

“Son, I don’t want you to go.”

“I know, mom, that you don’t want me to go, but it is because of this very reason that I must go. You see, I have the same kind of love in my heart for all of God’s children that you have for me. And this is my way of wrapping my arms around them and letting them know that I, like you, don’t want them to go. Instead, I want them to be with me, in the place where I am going. This is why I must make the journey home to my Father’s house. This is why you must let me go.”

And with that divine declaration, Mary released her grip, signaling her willingness to share her son with the world. Indeed, living love by being together! God with us. Immanuel. God in us. Immanuel. God through us. Immanuel. This is the message of Christmas.

Tend to your loving this week, friends. Keep it in mind, and then take the time to live it with arms and hearts wide open. Wherever love lives, God is. May it be so for each one of us in our pilgrimages to the manger this year. As always …

Peace for the journey,

 

Silent Night

Silent night.

It’s been one of those for me. I tried to fill it with a few phone calls and text messages to friends while waiting in my car for my kids to emerge from their youth group meeting. No one answered. All was silent, and the hush filled my heart until I could no longer suppress my reality. The pain inside of me was going to find its voice, and the silence offered it a stage for release.

Rather than trying to hold the silence at bay, I gave in to it and allowed it to hold me. Cradle me. Collect all the tears that had been welling up within me. In those moments of surrender, the Father allowed me to move out of my silent night so that I might enter into another one—the holy quiet belonging to Bethlehem some 2000 years ago.

Mary’s labored breathing followed by the push and pressure of Emmanuel’s eagerness to make his entrance. Joseph’s soft responses to his beloved. Stabled animals shuffling in the hay. Neighs and brays; snorts and sneezes. Whispers of the wind stirring as symphony. A baby crying. The boisterous interruption of a heavenly choir.

And therein, my momentary pain was overshadowed by lasting remembrance.

Perhaps this is the beauty of a silent night … when sorrow bumps up next to Salvation. When pain nestles closely to Promise. When that which is holding us so tightly releases its grip to the mighty Hold of heaven—tiny fingers wrapped around human hurt, reminding us that all has not been lost in the silent night. Instead, all has been gained there, in that place of sacred collision.

It doesn’t seem reasonable, this holding of peace while simultaneously holding pain. But it feels right. Even in the ache, I’m willing to take hold of it, make sense of it, because the thread that ties me to the eternal is stronger than the frayed threads that tie me to the temporal. I am made for heaven, and a silent night tethers me to home.

Maybe today you’re wrapped up in a heart-hurt. Life has surprised you with pain, an unexpected grief that threatens to steal your peace. You have nowhere to place it, no friend to shoulder the load. The silence is deafening, and your escape uncertain.

Me too. Greater yet, God too! God is with us as we make our pilgrimages to Bethlehem this year, as we wrestle with our pain and strive to make peace out of chaos.

Emmanuel is in the manger. Emmanuel is in our silent nights. Emmanuel … holding our hearts. Healing our hurts. Keeping us safe. Walking us home.

How I love the gift of Jesus; how I need this blessed grace! On this silent night, I bend the knee and bow the heart to honor the King’s advent in my life. ‘Tis a sweet mercy and a blessed trust to have my silence interrupted by the great and glad declarations of heaven. As always …

Peace for the journey,

My Silent Night

Oh holy, quiet Bethlehem;

Tonight I linger here.

Beneath your stars, within your walls,

Your truth resounding clear.

 

The Baby cries his advent;

The momma cries relief.

The daddy cries his tears of joy;

The heavens cry belief.

 

How lovely is this moment;

That lingers then and now.

Both quiet and both willing,

For peace to take a bow.

 

To enter in and change me;

To soften pain with praise.

To dry my tears with silence,

To cause my hope to raise.

 

Oh silent night! Oh holy night!

You’ve never sung so strong.

So clear, so true, so tenderly,

Relieving all that’s wrong.

 

You are where I’ll linger;

You are where I’ll sing.

For unto to me a child is born,

Onto him I’ll cling.

(written by F. Elaine Olsen.12-01-13.allrightsreserved)

 

 

pilgrims on pilgrimage

They threw their lanyards on my desk. Safe-keeping I suppose. Mom tucking away treasures for later retrieval, a time when things will be remembered. Events remembered. This remembrance.

Pilgrims on pilgrimage.

In thinking about this milestone in their journeys of faith, I think on my own. Those seasons of youth retreats, conference gatherings, and mountaintop moments of kingdom clarification. And while my mother didn’t pack away any “lanyards” of remembrance for me in those earlier seasons, my heart still remembers what it was like to be a young pilgrim on pilgrimage.

Now I am an older pilgrim on pilgrimage. The destination has not changed since the days of my youth, but the route to that destination? Well, it’s not what I had imagined all those many years ago when I first put my heart and my hands to the grace plow. There have been a few detours along the way. Still and yet and to this day, God’s road is before me, pebbles of the gospel truth cradling my scarred feet.

Faith walks on despite missed exits and alternate routes. Sometimes faith rides the high winds of glory. Sometimes faith wallows desperately in the shallows. And sometimes … most times, faith simply walks on. Walks forward. Walks through.

Perhaps I’ll pin these words, this truth to their lanyards so that years from now, when they pull them out of their remembrance boxes (and after life has afforded them each a few detours along the path of grace), they’ll better understand what it is to be a pilgrim on pilgrimage. That their mother at forty-seven was still walking on in faith despite missed exits, despite everything that threatened to stymie her pilgrimage home. Perhaps they’ll need to know that then even more than they need to know it now.

Oh the great consistency of faith that grabs hold of a heart and never lets go!

Oh the certain grip of mercy that keeps hearts upright and willing to believe in the destination even though current scenery is blocking the view!

Oh the limitless love of Jesus that never grows weary of the grace-chase and that never runs out for or away from sinners!

This is what has kept me. This is Who has kept me. What more can I do? Who more can I be?

I am a pilgrim on pilgrimage, just like my children. Faith has brought us thus far. Faith will lead us home. Every last one of us. Billy. Elaine. Nick. Colton. Jadon. Amelia.

Yes, I’ll pin this proclamation to their lanyards so that in the future when their children ask them, “What do these words mean?” they’ll be able to tell them the truth about a woman named Faith Elaine who walked on in faith, despite missed exits and alternate routes … all the way through, home to arms of Jesus.

This is good legacy. This is the best I can give. May God keep and preserve this remembrance in their hearts as they make their pilgrimages of faith. Walk on, sweet ones. Walk always with Jesus.

Peace for the journey,

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