Coming Home

coming home

What is it about coming home, about making a life in the place you’ve grown up, that turns you inside out, so brazenly and cool? Without batting an eye, the town that reared you also reveals you, the real you, the old and new you. She holds up the kind of mirror that shines a reflection so accurate that all you can say is, yep, that’s true.

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The Gospel Power of Family

gospel power of family

When my mid-twenties brought the kind of failure that no one really plans for or considers is even possible for their own life (sure, maybe other people, *those people* over there, but never yourself), I found myself right smack in the middle of my own real-life churchy cliche…the prodigal son. Or, in my case, the prodigal daughter with tattoos and pink hair and a stubborn streak.

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Cultivating Family Devotion: A Few Thoughts

cultivating family devotion

Recently, over a plate stacked high with thick waffles and crispy fried chicken, a dear friend asked me an unexpected question. She referenced seeing photos on social media of my extended family, all seven (now grown) siblings -plus spouses and children- and my parents, and she asked how we maintained such close relationships now into our adulthood. I paused for a moment and considered her question. Did we actually have close relationships? If so, what (or who) do we attribute them to? 

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Steadfast

steadfast.png

Last week was difficult. One of our boys had a stomach virus and then the other one did. The youngest was teething tiny baby tooth #5 and wanted to be in my arms all of the time, literally. Michael and I missed out on a potential date night. I was sleep deprived, stretched thin, verging on hopeless. And it was like, one thousand degrees of Southern humidity all week with no respite.

My legs would travel from room to room, hands would wipe down a counter, arms move to dump another load of laundry in to the machine. My eyes burned from weariness. All of my strength was spent in keeping the ship on course, keeping the rhythm of our days steady. Yet my heart and mind were struggling to stay afloat. A prayer would rise to my lips, simple and desperate, “Lord help me.” 

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Hello, We Are New at Homeschooling!

Hello we are new at homeschooling

I wanted to give an update and share about how we are preparing for our first “real” year of homeschooling. If you’re curious about why we decided to try homeschooling our children (Judah, age 6 and Cedar, age 4) then start reading here! I’m saying it that way (“real”) only because we are following a combination of the Charlotte Mason method and Classical home-education method, which both emphasize an approach in early childhood that encourages the student to simply be curious and enjoy learning (whether that be a walk outside searching for frogs or reading aloud a classic like Charlotte’s Web), so as to build a solid foundation for later and a more systematic- style of learning. Already, we’ve been unknowingly doing this since they were able to pay attention to a book, so we will continue in this vein and help the curiosity to grow.  I’ve always encouraged the asking of “why” (even if it comes at a less-than-desirable time!) because it’s probably my favorite question, too.

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Lessons from the Third Child

Lessons

Here are some things I’ve learned since having my third child:

  • Organic teething wafers will allow you to (almost) enjoy a meal without interruption (almost.) One pack at home, two for a restaurant meal. Just go ahead and work that cost into the overall price of your bill. It’s worth it.

 

  • You don’t need *all the baby gear* -somewhere for them to sleep, a way to help you carry them easier (I love a sling for infants, Ergo for big baby), a few simple onesies and footie pj’s, a car seat, and eventually one baby spoon and one cup. I’m a convert to minimal baby items. Don’t need that extra stress of trying to match the correct lid to cup and there’s like, 20 options to sift through. Just…no.

 

  • How to add an extra punch of protein to any meal. It’s amazing how much more energy your body needs to care for three children and yourself. Actually, scratch that. It’s amazing that we can do that, period. (Hint: add nuts to everything.)

 

  • If you have help, even for an hour, use it. I’m sure that thousands of years ago, mothers would be like, “Hey, sister-wife? I need to go, uh, rustle up some herbs for this stew here so, can you watch the kids for a sec? Thaaaaanks. BRB.” The  baby will not remember if you take a walk by yourself or go mindlessly browse Ross for 45 minutes. Get a fancy coffee or a milkshake. Listen to a podcast that has nothing to do with babies or parenting. Breathe. Don’t try to have complicated conversation with anyone. Small talk with the barista is all you need right now. Remember that you are a person, and now also a mother. Again.

 

  • And finally, This Too Shall Pass. Teething, growth spurs/sleep regression, spitting up fits, dirty diaper fests, doctors visits. But also- first belly laughs, two-teeth smiles, baby chatter and squeals, early morning snuggles. Savor the moments that make your insides fill up with light and hope. Either way, in the sweet and in the difficult, just take a deep breath and open your hands. The sun spins so much faster third time around.

 

Sunday Lunch

Sunday Lunch

In our family, Sunday afternoon means a shared meal around a large, worn table. Everyone is included; the children squeeze in between adults and the volume increases dramatically. The food isn’t fancy or fussy but warm and nourishing and delicious. There is always dessert (usually one of those doctored-up cakes with fruit and maybe whipped cream.) My father thanks the Lord for His blessings and we dig in.

Because it is Sunday, we’ve already gathered in worship and prayer and now we congregate in fellowship. Eventually the meal winds down and little boys get bored of the chit chat. They rush toward the back door like a rag of wild colts and someone yells, “Put on your shoes! Jackets!” and off they go, into the freedom of the back yard.

We are sisters and brothers but we are also adults now, with mortgages and families of our own. In the same kitchen where we sat together as kids, eating cereal everyday before school, we’re now taking turns filling missed-matched mugs with steaming coffee. I snatch one last bite of dessert on my way back to the table. My mother bounces a baby on her lap, so does my youngest sister. We settle in our seats; this is the second act.

Someone remembers a time from our childhood- a story centered around an injury (“Was that Laura or Rachel that had the seizure on the back porch?”) or a relationship lost (“Was he Canadian? What was that accent?”) and always with an effort to top the last story (“Well, I had to take my drivers test in a 15 passenger van! Including parallel parking!”) We do our best to solve the problem of the week. Talk it up one side and down the other. Not much changes but we feel better.

The best stories come from my grandmother, who remembers all and knows all. Without any haste, she takes her time to unravel the yarn. People are both first and last name, with fathers and mothers and siblings. Places are specific- homes are on avenues or in hollers, jobs are not only in offices but in towns, in states, and in the span of certain years. The actors in the story are made vibrant by a hairstyle or the color of a dress and they drawl with thick accents. The drama unfolds and it is better than a movie.

After a little while, once the food is settled, someone starts to sweep up. And another takes the liberty to slice pieces of cake on to paper plates and wrap them in Saran for the road. The brothers-in-law talk in a semi-circle outside while the boys get muddy. Sisters gather coats and diaper bags and disperse to find their people. We linger in the sunshine a little longer.

Finally, necks are hugged and baby cheeks are kissed. We say a “See ya later!” on the way out because we live in a small town and it’s the truth. God willing, we will be here again next Sunday.

 

 

The Real Reason We Are Homeschooling

Real Reason Homeschooling

After giving a little life update on Instagram recently and sharing that our family has decided to homeschool, I had a handful of friends message me and ask that I share more about what led to this decision. There are so many elements that have contributed to our arrival at this decision that it’s kind of hard to know where to start. But I guess I’ll just dive in.

As a bit of history– I attended public school K-12 and Michael attended both public and Christian/private and also homeschooled 2 years (7th & 8th grade.)

Let me just begin by saying that this decision was so. hard.

Before I had kids (all the best statements start that way! ha) I didn’t give the education of my children much thought. But once my first born hit about 3 years old, I was like, “Hold up…I have to make this epic decision right now?!” Which of course, I didn’t. I had time. But the decision felt epic…it felt too big for me to make alone, or even for Michael and I to make together. We needed the Lord’s guidance and we began to pray about the right direction.

Our oldest did his first year (pre-K) at a homeschool enrichment program that met once a week but went all day (9am – 3pm.) For months he would cry every time that we left him. I waited for him to get used to the routine, but 6 months in and he was still crying. I struggled with knowing if this was the normal adjustment or if he needed something different than what we were offering him. It was a good program with a wonderfully supportive staff and yet, there were other signs that he wasn’t fully engaged.

Fast forward to the next year– his Kindergarten year. We are continuing to pray, I am researching and reading all about different homeschooling methods and ideas, and we are talking to friends that homeschool about their experiences. The school year begins and although I am wrestling in prayer over it still, we send him to the public school down the road from where we live. At this point I am working and am 8 months pregnant and even though this homeschooling idea is alive and well in my heart, it’s been temporarily put on the back burner. It felt too big to take on at that point, too much. I’m not sure what I thought it had to be, but my expectations are usually way too high and especially so for myself (grace! I’m learning…) so I was afraid of making the decision. I was scared of failing.

The very first week of school and I can already sense there are changes in our home. This new schedule of having to get the boys up at 6:45, get myself and everyone ready, and my oldest off to school by 7:40 is brutal. We are rushed and stressed. Some mornings go smoothly, but most are a challenge. My work day gets shifted into the hours of 8-2:30 and then I am back in the carpool lane by 2:45. We finally get home by 3:20 and then the second shift of the day starts– homework (yes, homework for kindergarten!) and housework and dinner and clean up and bath and bedtime routine. And then make a packed lunch for the next day. And then maybe try to hang out with Michael before crashing asleep (pregnant, remember?) It was not the lifestyle that I wanted for us long term, but it was the season we were in and we had to do our best.

When I would dream about what I really wanted, it looked so different. I wanted a peaceful home, most of all. A sanctuary from the loud and busy and demanding world. A place for my family to rest and to grow and to love one another and a place where we could all thrive. I also wanted freedom and flexibility in our day, in our schedule, and in what we put our hands and minds to. I wanted to give my boys the chance to really fall in love with learning and not just the experience of “going to school.” I wanted to train them in a holistic way; yes, we would teach them to read and write and know how to calculate sums, but also how to take care of themselves and their surroundings, and how to speak with respect and how to listen to others, and sometimes how to make soup and bread and have a civilized conversation over the meal. I wanted to raise these little boys in a way that would produce good men. And I wanted our days to be marked by prayer and scripture and inviting the Holy Spirit to guide us, always.

Another important element that influenced our decision was simply time– we wanted as much time with our boys as possible, recognizing both our responsibility to guide and train them and the limited amount of time we would actually have to do that (we wanted more than 3 hours on weekdays with them and we also respected the short years they would actually be under our roof.) The time we have to influence our boys is a precious gift and I was increasingly feeling the weight of that gift.

So what was holding me back from making the switch? As I mentioned before (did you catch it?)…F E A R.

Ugh. Fear of failing my boys, of not being a good enough teacher, good enough mother, good enough…whatever. Good enough. What a weird standard. Set by whom? The fear was also screaming lies about losing myself, losing whatever independence I might find in work outside the home, out in the hustle and bustle of the community. Fear of losing some easy description of what I do, who I am, printed in small font on a business card under my name. Fear of losing whatever shred of identity that still stood on its own, untethered to the part of me that was a mother.

And then one random Tuesday morning, I relented to the struggle. I submitted. I bowed my heart to the thing that I knew the Lord was calling me to and that I had been fighting (even though I also knew Him to be totally trustworthy and that He was a Father that gave good gifts!) My desirous pride, clinging to the rusty idol of independence, had been graciously brought to the light so that I could see it’s disfigured form. It made my stomach turn. Why would I ever assume that a home of peace and contentment could be cultivated by such an ugly master?

Even though there are a hundred different practical reasons that we’ve decided to homeschool, this is the heart of the story. This is the real reason. Because this is where Jesus is leading our family and we must follow.

Let me tell you the truth. The relenting brings freedom.

If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.” (Matt. 10:38-39, NLT)

 

Family is…

lankford family 2017
photo by jon c. stout

Family.

They look like you, or they don’t. They sound like you, or possibly not. They blow your phone up in group text threads. They share your last name, sometimes. They share your history, most of the time. Sometimes they are the ones to bail you out of jail, sometimes they are the ones calling the cops. You anticipate their arrival and then argue over mashed potatoes. You miss them while apart, criticize them to their face, defend them to the world. They are crazy, but you are a part of it, too.

Family is loyal, devoted, faithful, ardent, steadfast, true, and committed love.

(…and it’s messy.)