A morning walk of thoughts and … squirrel!

I love mornings that start well. Sets the tone for the whole day…and maybe it is also that extra spring in the step of a Friday.

I was up early, the sun is shining (again…after a day of storms). Yes, the birds are chirping. I was able to get my mile walk in this morning before the kids were up (I walk around our cul-de-sac so they can find me if they need me. Don’t call social services).

As I was walking I was struck by something, as usually happens. This is my time to pray, and I realized that in the space of one lap, 1/3 of a mile, I went through the following topics:

Thanking God for the gorgeous morning.

My health…good.

My kids…which led to thoughts and prayers and out their spiritual life and about homeschool. Which led to thoughts and prayers about curriculum and tutorial choices for next year.
Those thoughts were interrupted by thoughts about the one boy yesterday who just.could.not.finish.his.work.

Refocus, and prayers for my dad and mom as they continue in the journey and tedium of dementia.

Which led to thoughts about family. Trip this summer.

That led to thoughts about finances. Which was interrupted by thoughts about things I’d like to do.

That was interrupted by the fact that I was out of breath for the moment…financial thoughts always make me walk faster.

Then I thought about friends I would like to connect with soon…and prayers for them.

All…in the span of 1/3 of a mile.

My thoughts jump. They interrupt themselves and distract my focus.
Squirrel!

We’ve all been there. It was still a good morning and time of prayer…but I had to fight for that focus. Back to the boy who couldn’t finish his work yesterday. He was distracted, he was fidgety and he just couldn’t get it done. Mostly his reading.  We are such a fragmented people, and so inundated with competing demands for our attention.

We have just one more month of school and we will have completed our first year. There have been some great things and some areas where I know we need work, but there is one area that keeps coming back to me….

Be still and know that I am God.

Be still.

Focus.

Taking every thought captive to obedience in Christ

This is not something that simply happens to us. Without discipline, my thoughts are all over the place. Without discipline the school work does not get done. Without discipline…it is difficult (impossible?) to contemplate and meditate and focus on God. To be still and know that He is.

That is the area that underlies everything for me in the homeschool venture. To provide the space and the atmosphere and the encouragement…and the requirement…that my kids learn to be still, to silence the distractions, to take their thoughts captive. Maybe only for five minutes, maybe for an hour…but to learn this discipline. They need it to progress in their studies, but they need it vitally in their spiritual life.

I remember reading Thomas Merton responding to a letter where someone said it must be easier to be quiet and spend time in contemplation when you are a hermit. They were desiring that space for solitude and contemplation, and Merton responded that if we cannot find silence and solitude in the room with the television and the distractions we will go crazy in the cabin in the woods. Our thoughts will weigh down on us and distract us and frustrate us. We have to learn the discipline of being still right here…in the midst of all the noise.

I have to admit it took a lap or two before I settled in to prayers that were focused and not jumbled. Thoughts that were held longer than a fleeting moment. Now as we sit down to start school…the reminder is there. Learn to focus. Hold this thought in your mind…don’t be distracted.

Discipline.

Capture your thoughts and do not let them capture you.

Enough!!! Well…..not really.

Dinner the other night did not end well.  The boys were rowdy and would not tone it down. Not after the first request. Not after the second. Or the third.  Not after Dad left the table and Mom gave them the silent treatment. They were reprimanded and scolded and told to knock it off.

Life with three boys can be rowdy. Most of the time. They test each other constantly and if they are not physically wrestling, they are wrestling verbally. Constantly. Sometimes there is giggling involved and sometimes there are tears.

They test Steve and I often. Not out-of-control rebellion, but they question us and they push us to see if we push back. They are not surprised that we do.

Then there is the addition of the little Miss. She has enough personality to keep them all in check. Granted, she comes by it honestly…there are stories that my folks had to tie a piece of plywood to the top of my crib to keep me from crawling out in the middle of the night. Since I am now almost 43 I think it is safe to say that without fear they will be called by Social Services. Apparently, however, I was slightly a handful and Maddie is following in my steps. She can scowl with the best and she has got a mean pointer finger that seems to be attached to her eyebrows…they go up when she points at you and says, “No!”.

Something struck me tonight as I was rocking Maddie. I’m glad the boys push and I’m glad Maddie is full of personality and challenge.

Sometimes I have a headache and I wish they would veg. Sometimes Steve has had a long day at work and wishes they would just be quiet at dinner and talk like…well, not like little boys.

We are weary from the responsibilities of life and they are filled with the enthusiasm of childhood. The enthusiasm that embraces fart jokes and mocking your brother, or imitating all the facial expressions of the family. We want to say, “Enough!”, but actually I’m thankful that they will constantly be pushing us.

That means when they venture beyond our dinner table they will continue to push. Not that I want disobedient children, and it would be nice if they know which fork to use when they go out to dinner and can hold a conversation without, well, farting. I do, however, want them to be full of life.

I’m realizing as we make our way through this journey some things about what is required of me as a parent.

I’m required to guide them in their knowledge of wrong and right, and to show that there are consequences to choices. I’m required to be committed with Steve to be consistent in our expectations of them, and to create a structure that gives them space to be themselves while learning how to behave with integrity and some level of decorum.

There is more though…

I’m required to delight in their giggles and to know all the tickle spots that bring the best laughter.

I’m required to pay attention to what is important to them at the moment, because it is important to them.
I’m required to remind them that they have amazing imaginations, and then to listen as those imaginations take flight and spin amazing stories. Even at the dinner table. Even when I’m tired and have a headache and wish there was a little more quiet.

I’m required to put them to bed with some routine that brings them comfort and structure and love and stories and imagination and wonder. Sometimes, though, I’m required to rock them (especially the littlest) until their eyelids flutter and they give themselves over to sleep in my arms. Then I am required to be amazed at this litte Image Bearer who trusts me implicitly to know what is required to care for them.

I’m required to delight in them. Because as I delight in them they blossom and they grow and they experiment. They watch to see if I am watching and if I am bored with them….well, they just might be bored with me and with life and they may not be interested in what I have to say.

Sometimes it is simply twinkling lights hung up in an empty cabinet to create a secret play space. Sometimes it is the hour…or two…of reading before bed that spins stories of adventure and courage and faith and wonder. Sometimes it is talking of God with hushed voices because…well…because He is amazing and wondrous and Creator and they bear His Image.

Enough….sometimes I want to shout that, but really, I don’t. I want to shout instead: “Keep at it!! Keep pushing!!! Keep living…loudly, with vigor and enthusiasm. Ignore that I am weary and have a headache and am boring. Remind me that life is amazing and worth delight.”