We stand at the passing of one season ready to move forward into another. The change of the season marks a good time to reflect on what I’ve learned before moving ahead. Planting seeds, dismantling walls, and conquering giants are a few of the lessons I learned this spring.
What I’ve Learned This Spring
Mary Lennox was Right About Gardening
“Might I have a bit of earth?… To plant seeds in–to make things grow–to see them come alive.”
Mary Lennox, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s character, from the perennial novel, The Secret Garden, stands in front of her well-heeled yet emotionally disconnected uncle-guardian with a lump in her throat, sheepishly asking for a little soil.
She doesn’t ask for a doll or sweets, just a bit of earth.
Mary knew that gardening awakens all of the senses numbed by winter. There is something therapeutic about digging, planting, weeding, and hoeing.
From the first arrival of my seed catalogs in January to the final blossom before frost, there is extraordinary satisfaction in growing something.
I’ve known about the apparent benefits of gardening for a while, but for some reason, this spring ushered in more profound awareness.
Homeschooling is What I do, Not Who I Am
I spoke these words “homeschooling is what I do, not who I am” to a fellow homeschool mom. After two-plus decades of watching the yellow school bus pass by our house, I finally realized this. Call me a slow learner.
The years taught me that I wrapped my homeschool friends around me like a security blanket. As the years went on, I realized that the homeschool cocoon that I enveloped myself in prevented me from stretching my missional wings.
When I leaned heavily on homeschooling to help define my friends, select the books I read, music I listened to, it became a sanitized form of idolatry.
Homeschooling is a family matter driven by choice or calling.
This recent discovery is a game-changer in my conversations. When I meet someone, I no longer feel compelled to include that I homeschool. Instead, if the conversation flows naturally to how we educate, then, yes, I am all in to discuss that part of my world.
Don’t misunderstand me. I love homeschooling. This season taught me that raising kids who cultivate a relationship with God isn’t wrapped in a homeschool package. It’s much, much more than that.
Discovering Friendship in Unlikely Places
This year, I took a much-needed sabbatical from tutoring at our Classical Conversations homeschool community. During that time, I needed to transition into another sort of task to stay involved and cultivate friendships.
Someone donated a Keurig to our Tuesday community, so my inner coffee enthusiast took the reigns and established a coffee bar for our homeschool moms.
Initially, the coffee gig was self-serving. I needed a second cup of the brew when 10:00 rolled around.
As the school year progressed, the coffee cafe (affectionately named) transformed into more than a place to fuel up.
As I refilled the creamer and replenished the cups, the coffee bar served as a meeting place to unpack burdens and share joys. Our quiet gathering spot offered a safe refuge to ask for prayer or to be prayed for while the breakfast blend brewed.
Sometimes the seemingly unspeakable burdens took us to a private room where we sipped our coffee and talked in hushed voices, always looking for ways to glorify God in the seemingly incomprehensible tragedy or hurt.
Our makeshift coffee spot was the place where introverted me exchanged a bold hello to moms new to our community. By the time our coffee cooled, we had discovered common ground so that the next time we met for a cup, there was no need for pretense just transparency.
Most often, a coffee chat started with “How’s it going?” which then invited a battle-weary mom to unravel her stress. She came for coffee and left with a hug.
Build Boundaries, Don’t Erect Walls
It’s easier to erect impenetrable walls when dealing with conflict or difficult people. Starve them emotionally until they are too weak to care about the relationship.
Instead of digging moats and constructing walls to deal with conflict, I am learning to build boundaries.
I’ve learned that boundaries keep the lines of communication open, not shut off. You can still talk between a boundary marker, but you can’t hear voices through thick walls.
Boundaries can make friends out of enemies.
Defeating Our Goliaths
On May 23rd, 2019, my youngest son graduated from the University of Maryland. Along with millions of other college graduates across the country, he straightened his mortarboard and adjusted his gown just before stepping onto the stage to receive his diploma.
He entered college with the challenge of confronting a giant and figuring out how to combat his foe.
Books and print material were battlegrounds for my son. Reading was his Goliath.
Every struggling reader hopes that someday he will reach a certain age, and the disability will fade along with teenage acne.
A reading disability doesn’t disappear. Ever.
Decoding words for my son was like trying to walk through a brick wall. Whenever it was time to read, his body temperature elevated, headaches erupted, and irritability ensued. His signature coping mechanism was to break Ticonderoga pencils in half.
Fidget toys weren’t on the horizon yet.
You could tell what kind of day we had by counting the number of pencils shards strewn across the floor.
David defeated the Philistine giant with “one” smooth stone fastened in his sling. He refused to use the military weapons offered to him. Instead, he used a flat rock and a crude sling.
Malcolm Gladwell’s book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, fell into my lap just before my son clasped his college diploma.
Gladwell asks the question, “You wouldn’t wish dyslexia on your child. Or would you?“
People who have to overcome difficulties are forced to work harder than their peers. Desirable difficulties contain hidden advantages you can access while being forced to overcome an obstacle. People forced to overcome adversity often compensate for their disability and develop skills that may have otherwise lain dormant.
My son eventually found a way to defeat his powerful opponent with courage fueled by faith. He knows, firsthand, to delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
His disadvantage turned out to be an advantage.
Overcoming an obstacle challenges you to learn out of necessity, which, is inevitably more powerful than the learning that comes easily.
As a mom, I answer Gladwell’s question with a confident “YES.”