Becoming A Brave Learner

This fall I am setting out on the grand adventure of home education with my oldest daughter for the second year in a row.

I am so grateful for the past year we have had together as she sits on the verge of young adulthood.

One of the most inspiring books I read last summer as I prepared to develop her syllabus was The Brave Learner by Julie Bogart. I picked up the book eager to soak in new strategies, creativity and the ethics of home education.

While I certainly encountered all that and more, I went away most inspired to be a brave, curious learner myself. The kind of person who wonders, explores, imagines and creates for pure joy. The kind of person who dares to step out into brand new territory with excitement and courage. The kind of person who inspires those around her to learn and grow bravely amidst the opportunities that abundantly come our way.

Julie Bogart’s passion is not only to encourage brave learning in our children but to model that out of our own brave and curious lives.

If you are a mom reading this, please go back and read that again. Not just skimming this time. Let it sink in.

Do you live this way?

Has it even occurred to you to live this way?

To model a brave and curious lifestyle to your children.

Something in my soul woke up and gasped for air when I immersed myself in this incredibly daring idea that I could continue to be a brave, curious individual with ideas, creativity and soul food of my own.

In the busyness of everyday life, I often forget that I am a person outside of my children, husband and home.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mom and I am a firm believer that to do this mothering thing well you must be willing to sacrifice huge parts of yourself and learn how to grow inside of this role. Embracing that this will take up the entirety of your life for a season is crucial.

However, the longer I mother, the more I understand and grieve this idea that women lose themselves in the years of toting toddlers and helping with homework and grocery shopping and load after load of laundry .

When is the last time you did something all your own that made your soul stir with feelings of bravery, pride, fear, anticipation or freedom?

Do your children see you laughing, learning and wondering?

Do they see you attempting, failing, striving, persevering in the face of difficulty?

Do they catch glimpses of you that make them see you with new eyes and wonder who you are? Do you help them look forward to adulthood by the way you are living today?

Do they have something to admire and aspire to when they catch a glimpse of your life?

This made me stop and reanalyze my priorities.

Suddenly it mattered that I had laid aside passions and dreams of my own and let them slip out of sight.

The more I read, the more convinced I became that in order to teach my children well and lead them on this adventure of learning, I needed to take some time back for myself. I needed to place some of my own passions back in center field so that I could show them what it looks like to learn and discover, create and strive toward something. I needed them to see what it looked like to set goals and work hard to achieve them; to believe in myself and to be confident in the talents I’ve been given. I want them to remember a joyful, passionate, brave mama. I want them to look back someday and remember me laughing and creating and daring. I want them to think about me when they read those verses in the Bible that talk about abundant life!

Endeavor.

Create.

Wonder.

Imagine.

I encourage you to let each of those words sink in and decide which one of those you most want to model to your children.

Then take a deep breath, and jump.

Take lessons.

Go back to school.

Set time aside to pursue your passion.

Read.

Face your fear and learn to breathe.

Go somewhere you have never been before.

Make a career plan.

Be honest with your partner.

Pray.

Grieve what you’ve sacrificed and count the costs worthy.

Cry.

Surrender the pieces you’ve lost and embrace the pieces you’ve encountered along the way.

This is not just the latest boss babe, women empowerment, girls rule speech…this is about you living life abundantly, utilizing every part of who you are for His glory.

Pray for wisdom from your Creator to know what it is that He is stirring up within your soul and for the courage to pursue it boldly.

You, sweet Mama, matter.

Nobody else can quite replicate your particular part of His image, and that is a vision the world needs to see. The little eyes watching you are waiting for glimpses of that glory. They are waiting for instruction on how to live out this one, brave, beautiful life He has placed within you.

Not because you are something extremely special or because you deserve happiness above all else.

No.

It’s because of Him, and the life He has intended for you.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.”

Proverbs 31:35

-AF

When You Just Don’t Feel Like Enough

It’s one of those seasons.

I feel like no matter how thin I stretch my heart across the grid of my life I cannot quite reach the borders.

I look at the faces circled around my table and I long to be able to fill the gaps.  My heart staggers a bit at the distance between where we are and where I want us to be.

I see the slumped shoulders of a girl with the weight of a changing world on her preteen shoulders.  Catty friends, difficult assignments, disappointing grades on her report card and the constant pull and tug of her sister.  I feel her creeping away from me, and I’m just not ready for this.

I see the runny nose of a little boy getting over the cold, his eyes rimmed with tell-tale redness.  He’s been whining and weary for days now.  His constantly outstretched arms beg me to pick him up, up, up.  I can’t do it all, sweet boy.  I can’t fix it for you.  But I dole out more Tylenol and fill his sippy cup for the hundredth time.  Breathe in gratitude; breathe out the chaos.

My middle child flits in and out, constantly bending to the pressures of the needs above and below her.  I know I need to carve out time for her that will not be dictated by toddlers or preteens.  Her body is tense these days, and her heart feels far beyond my reach.  I feel my heart ache with the words her teacher shared and the stubborn tilt of her chin.  I wonder if she knows brittle hearts break the fastest.

My baby watches the world with delight and I wish I could say I don’t miss a thing…but I do…every single day I do.  I reach my fingers to land softly on the bumpy, brittle valleys of his head…testament to the surgical interventions of the last year.  My thoughts jump to the MRI we’re waiting for, the EEG and neurology appointments next week and the therapy sessions coming up.  I wonder what I’m missing and why he’s not sleeping well.  I smile when he pops out yet another new word, tucking it away to savor; it feels like hope.  The next minute in fierce toddler style he is screeching at me and throwing his bowl off the table.  I can’t figure out whether I should laugh or cry as I look at the rice scattered all over the floor.

My husband’s phone rings and I hear tidbits of his conversation.  He’s setting dates, planning meetings, sounding eager as they plan the future.  I am so proud of the new opportunities arising for him…I wonder if he sees me barely keeping up to his enthusiasm.  I’m apprehensive of the change, only because I am unsure what to expect.  I know he knows this too.  I put on my brightest smile because I want him to know how very proud I am of him.  I see how hard he’s worked and I know he deserves this.  I know he will take care of us all no matter what…but still I feel a bit like I’m drowning.  I just can’t quite keep my head above the water.

My phone alarm rings…medicine time.  I see it’s almost gone and make a note to call the pharmacy in the morning.  I hope this will  be the last refill and that our neurology appointment will bring only good news of his brain scans.

The back door slams…they’re home from school.  She’s full of chatter and stories…I can’t tell which ones are true today.  The oldest is quieter than sometimes…I think she looks tired.  I try to catch her eye but she’s turning her back and leaving the room.  We’ve been getting to bed on time but I know she hasn’t been sleeping as well and life is just draining the joy out of her lately.

I catch sight of the conversation on the screen as she talks to her birth mother.  I see she’s asking questions about her father….questions with hard answers.  I run a hand over her back and let her know I’m there but inside I feel the air squeeze out a bit…I know I can’t protect her forever.  I grab my phone to text birth mom to thank her for always being so patient and kind…for being a role model my girls can look up to.  I’m so grateful for her presence in our lives.

I see the time and hurry to pack his backpack full of snacks, diapers, wipes and extra clothes.  I throw in the play dough and a few toy cars…he gets bored with the play room at the Children’s Aid office.  I call out that it’s time to go to his visit and he comes running, eyes wide with excitement.  I rush him to the car…I have good intentions to be on time but still we manage to arrive a few minutes late.  I hope she knows it’s not because we don’t care.  I ask her if she’s feeling better this week and mentally remind myself I need to text her more.  A picture, a funny story…something.  She hands me a bag of new clothes and I smile, even though they’re the wrong size.  I pull the social worker aside to ask about next week’s plans and let her know he fell off the kitchen chair yesterday and bumped his head.  She lets me know quietly that court didn’t go as well as we hoped.  I kiss him goodbye and wish I could save him from the heartbreak of his own story.

My phone beeps and I see an email pop up from the school.  It’s my daughter’s principal asking to set up a meeting to go over my daughter’s test results.  I agree to the time and then wonder who will watch Little Boy.  My stomach pulls into knots, wondering what the testing results will say.  Will it help or hurt us at this point?  I put medication and dietary changes on the list of things I want to research to help kids with ADHD and FASD and check my calendar to see when our next pediatrician appointment is scheduled for.

I’m trying to present the new phonics rules to her and guide her through the activities suggested.  See, hear, touch.  See, hear, touch.  She needs all three senses to grasp the new concepts.  The toddlers are squabbling over cars and blocks and the best spot on the couch.  I look from my daughter to them, trying to decide if it’s worth interrupting her lesson to help them sort it out.  I love homeschooling, but I also hate it.  There’s possibly an end in sight and that both makes me terrified and relieved at the same time.

He offers to take the little ones with him for a while and I sigh gratefully.  For a few minutes the house will be quiet.  I glance toward my untouched Bible in the basket by my chair.  I’ll pick it up at nap time, when their eyes close and I sit outside their bedroom door waiting for Little O’s restless limbs to fall quiet.  I wish I felt inspired but lately it’s mostly just choosing to believe that I’m being fed whether it feels like it or not.

Choosing to believe that He’s filling in the gaps I’m leaving behind in my own life, my children’s lives…the world around me.

Sometime I open my eyes in the morning and wonder…how am I going to keep it together today?

How am I going to get through the next week, hour…five minutes?

Honestly, I don’t always know…but somehow it happens.

Sometimes I do it well and sometimes I feel completely overwhelmed by it all.

Anxiety is such a joy stealer, and fear…it is a liar.

Many times if I stop and think I know it was not me at all that held it together.

Grace comes in so many different forms and always at the right time.

There are tears, but there are also a lot of kisses and laughter and funny stories and so even the bad days creep by.

Life can be such a puzzle, can’t it?

As moms our hearts and minds can feel like they are divided into a thousand small pieces, scattered over the table in a kaleidoscope of colour.

I don’t really have any solutions.

I guess I just want you to know that you’re not alone out there.

Yes, you.

The one who teeters on the tightrope of her life, wide-eyed at the chasm below.

The one who is having a hard time believing that Spring is just around the corner.

It’s been a long winter, hasn’t it?

But new life is on its way.

Easter is just around the corner, promising that the best endings come from the most painful stories.

Hang in there.

We’re going to  be ok.

~AF