faith · family · homemaking · kids · Lent · motherhood · Orthodoxy · parenting

Guest Post @ Illumination Learning

A Woman’s Hidden Heart 

If you have not already signed up to receive Illumination Learning‘s posts via email…do so!  Full of practical and spiritual advice for the Orthodox mother, father, and educator. Love Jennifer’s kindness and wisdom!  Click the link above to read a post I wrote as a Lenten reflection for mothers for Illumination Learning. Thank you.

IMG_0121[1]

baby · faith · family · homemaking · kids · motherhood · parenting · saints · Uncategorized

What I want my daughters to know about the 2016 US Election

(I wrote this three days before the election.)

A certain Hillary Clinton campaign add depicts small children innocently watching the television as Donald Trump makes fun of the disabled, offering up one calloused and derogatory remark after another to the massive crowds at his rallies. The television add ends with this epitaph, “Our children are watching.”

Epitaph, you say?  Yes, in an horrifyingly ironic way Hillary’s tag line is like an inscription on the tombstone of the unborn.  Our children are watching-in memory of the children who are not watching the television, the children who are not our choice.

Dear daughters, labor to discern the times and ponder what is good and true and beautiful.

We live in a world where it is not okay to make fun of the disabled and yet it is perfectly okay to abort a disabled child.  Understand the times. Ponder how evil is always rooted in some convoluted lie-some twisting and confusion of the truth.

Mother Angelica said, “I do not vote for candidates, I vote for life.”  And this is where I stand.  All other issues flow from this one issue…life.

Hold your ground as a woman.  Do not be deceived by women who tell convoluted lies.  For woman is created to be a child-bearer, physically and/or spiritually.  And bearing children is hard and you will suffer.  As long as I am alive I will help you bear this burden.  As a woman I will try my best to support you.

And do not hate men.  Come alongside them and bear their weaknesses.  Do not be deceived by women who tell convoluted lies.  For woman is created to be a help meet, physically and/or spiritually. This is hard and you will suffer.  As long as I am alive I will help you bear this burden.  As a woman I will try my best to support you.

Hillary Clinton does not represent me as a woman, nor does any other woman who shares her ideology.  She represents all I am trying to repent of, sin that is rooted in a strong-willed desire to rule.

Stay veiled- stay hidden- stay quiet in spirit- stay repentant.
Look to the Theotokos, pray, and remember the icon of motherhood.
Do not be deceived by convoluted lies.
Remember the woman who ran for President of the United States of America in 2016- remember her in your prayers.
If she wins-keep praying.

To the woman he said, I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in sorrow you shall bring forth children; and your desire shall be to your husband, and he shall rule over you. Genesis 3:16

faith · friendship · homeschooling · kids · motherhood · parenting

Sidetracked by Loneliness

Homeschooling can be a lonely business.  At times we home school mothers experience isolation so acutely that we feel derailed, lost, sidetracked.  This is a weird phenomenon given the fact that we are with our children all day each and every day- well, most days.

Many factors contribute to loneliness, and each mother has a different set of circumstances and a different list of needs.  What we do share is the need for true connection and friendship.  If we perceive that this need is not being met, our days can take on a sort of depressive gloom that trips us up -the heart occupied with a nagging sadness is heavy, and this contributes to an overall sense of loneliness.

I cannot say that I have found the answer to this problem.  Maybe its not a problem that must be solved, but a reality that must be understood. It’s strange how we can have wonderful friends, and still feel lonely- disconnected.  We may have a Church family, a great mother, a spiritual father, an attentive and sweet husband- and yet, there is this disconnect.  This makes me wonder about the monastic nature of homeschooling- how spending my days away from the madding crowd is a much bigger spiritual struggle than I give credit.  Whether I understand why or how, the fact remains that I deal with loneliness.

We are very afraid of loneliness…we are especially afraid when our children experience loneliness.  It’s hard-the hardest thing I do as a homeschool mother of five, and some days I give into the schemes, the plans, the frenzy of a mind panicked.

I will it not to be so.

I am not very good at manufacturing happiness.  I’ve tried-boy, have I tried.  I’ve tried so hard that there was no space left on the calendar, no wiggle room, no chance for loneliness to sidetrack our happiness.  In the end this happiness was about as one dimensional as the wall calendar it was written on. It took mom and children to the brink…and we dangled there for awhile until finally- I came undone.

Because facing fear is about coming undone…it’s about unclinching the fist and opening up to the possibility that even if everything I fear comes upon me I am still held, I am still loved, I remain, we remain.

Deep and abiding fulfillment takes courage.

The courage to live it.

And homeschooling will stretch this courage very thin. I imagine that many of life’s circumstances stretch our courage thin.  We all fear being alone.

We praise thee, the Mediatress for the salvation of our race, O Virgin Theotokos; for in the flesh taken from thee, thy Son and our God hath deigned to endure the Passion through the Cross, and hath redeemed us from corruption, since He is the Friend of man.
~ Hymns of the Resurrection

jesus

Mediatress teach us your self giving love.  Make us worthy to receive your gifts and to know your abiding friendship. O Friend of man, make us worthy of your friendship and worthy of the friendship you give us in those precious souls here and now.  Help us endure the loneliness that comes from our own sin, and help us to know your mercy.  For Thou art good and lovest mankind.

faith · family · homeschooling · kids · motherhood · parenting · teenagers

What Teens Really Need

Yesterday, I was told a story about two very great kids we know, a young man and woman, who were caught in the library making out. I chuckled at the story…who knows if it is even true.  Both, age 16, come form great homes and are homeschooled.  Again I just chuckle…not because I am laughing at the indiscretion or making fun in the least, it’s just funny how we homeschool moms think that homeschooling will somehow insulate our teens from the normal processes of growing up.  I was kind of laughing at myself, knowing that in some sense the way I have chosen to parent could leave me vulnerable to such gossip.  It could happen to any of us.

And what if it does?!
Will the world come to an end?
Will all our efforts have been for nothing?

These fears reflect a very deep rooted heart condition, a condition that is hard to admit and face.  To face these fears is not simple, it requires true inquiry and reflection, and a willingness to be undone.

It’s crazy that we even wrestle with these fears…the very fact that I am alive and well and striving to live a life before God is proof that indiscretions do not ruin teenagers…I had plenty, and I survived. I was a good girl, but I made out with my husband before I married him.  My teenage girls know this, we have talked about love and sexuality and attraction and marriage…I have shared my heart with them and also my experiences, letting modesty and discretion be my guide. I do not glorify sin…but I do not see sin in everything.

Teens need real.
Teens need mercy.
Teens need relationship.
Teens need lots of conversation.
Teens need fun.
Teens need trust.
Teens need firm convictions.
Teens need unconditional love.
Teens need prayer.

Parenting with fear seems to be the norm these days, and I am guilty at times.  This culture has turned structures upside down, and it is scary…very scary.  Sometimes I watch my teens and I think; this is all they know, this culture is all they know.  Reality is that we are a part of this culture, and we will either cower in fear or face it head on, and the struggle will not leave us unscathed whichever path we choose.  There will be indiscretions…every generation has had indiscretions.

Parenting teens brings me to my knees.  In prayer I know that I must resist the urge to bolt from my heart and rule with an iron fist of fear.  In His hands, and living in His presence will see us through, for Love conquers all.  Love is the opposite of fear.

Perfect love casts out fear.  1 John 4:18    
faith · family · homemaking · homeschooling · kids · learning · marriage · motherhood · parenting · teenagers

How to Not Be Empty

Beware of the barrenness of a busy life. -Socrates

I really don’t know when I got it in my head that I desperately needed to outsource in our homeschool to be successful.  After Samuel was born I think I was determined not to let another baby hold my older children back from their goals (my goals is more like it). It was a great plan, so I thought… just let someone else teach them, hold them accountable.

What followed was a year of schooling outside the home, in co-ops and online.  How I reasoned that packing this gang of five up in a car and traveling an hour one way was an easier way to educate my upper level students is kinda foggy…but I do vaguely remember my husband warning me, counseling me, shaking his head at me.

At first we were cooking with gas…getting lots of educational stuff done, making friends, going to fun activities, and in general just enjoying the new day to day.  We were busy, and in the beginning that felt as if we were thriving.  However, after a little while I noticed that our lives were becoming less and less centered at home. My cooking became weird, our prayers too sparse, everyone was going in different directions, the littles were being cared for but not cared for, I was growing more and more discontent, and in general just feeling disconnected with myself and my family, especially my husband.

And then a few weeks ago I hit a wall, circumstances collided and my choices became clear…all that is left now is to correct course.  My mom commented, “Mandy, thank goodness you have things you can cut without hurting anyone…the activity and busyness of your life can be easily remedied.”  Her comments are those of a woman who knows what it is like to have responsibilities that cannot be remedied.

The ability to correct busyness is a blessing, almost like a gift, and I am very grateful for the freedom to choose the life I desire and need.

I see now that my outsourcing was about fear and pride…it was me believing that our home life was not enough…that I was not enough.  Ironically, it is the outsourcing that is causing a true emptiness, an exhaustion and distraction that makes me unavailable. It also refocuses our life on things that are not bad in themselves, but result in a deep and true distraction nonetheless.

So, here is my remedy for emptiness…how to not be empty…Go Home!

Women leave home for many reasons, and I only judge myself, we all have stories.   Sometimes home seems the most empty place on earth and outsourcing presents itself as a remedy, and for some this may be true.  However, for me my home is a fountain of grace, a constant outlet of energy, and a nourishing refuge.  Home is my remedy for emptiness, my journey has taught me this.

books · food · kids · learning · seasons · winter

Long Cold Winter

“Ho, Mouse!” says Hare.
“Long time no see!”
So they pop white corn. 
And they brew black tea.
            -Bear Snores On
family · http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post · kids · play

A Good Day

We stopped at the Fort Worth Zoo to see the lions, Samuel’s favorite.
We drove through Big D headed to Granny’s.  Frank Sinatra played on the stereo.  We met Pa Glen and Amma for dinner before the party.

Granny (Gigi, the greats call her) celebrated her 85th birthday.  So happy to be with her on this special day. 

The great grands had a blast seeing each other and catching up…what a beautiful bunch of kiddos.