what we learned

New York Times best-selling author Lori Gottlieb says, “Most big transformations come about from the hundreds of tiny, almost imperceptible, steps we take along the way.”  The simple things I learned – this summer of 2020 felt subtle, almost silent like I wasn’t making any progress or change at all.

The things I learned weren’t earth-shattering revelations but more about reflecting and refining some of the practices and relationships already in place. Every quarter, I join Emily P. Freeman and other writer-friends in looking back just before moving forward.

The Simple Things I Learned This Summer – 2020

Stepparenting

Children don’t volunteer to be stepchildren. They inherit the often complicated relationship with a virtual stranger that takes years to curate.

In a lot of ways, stepparenting can be more challenging than parenting.

When I first became a stepparent almost 30 years ago, there were very few resources available to navigate through the treacherous emotional current.

One thing for sure, as a culture, we need to change the generic title of stepmom or stepdad to something with a little more love appeal. After all, we added an endearing twist to “daughter-in-law” who is now “daughter-in-love.”

Occasionally, I hear “MOD” for “my other dad” or the cute reference to a “bonus-dad.”

Anyway, the chosen title can bump into loyalty issues with the biological parent. It can be a delicate matter.

When people ask how many kids I have, I say six. They are all lumped together as my brood.

Over time I learned that my stepchildren did not need a replacement parent. They had two perfectly competent biological parents.

It took years to figure out the bewildering stepparent puzzle. Once the pieces started to fit together, a beautiful, imperfect picture of our family emerged.

The need for rest and a handful of quiet

The older I get, the more I realize that knowing God takes time and stillness. Christian writer and philosopher Dallas Willard shares that ” The way to liberation and rest lies through a decision and a practice.”

Chronic busyness crowds out opportunities to become a diligent student of God’s word. As the pandemic muscled its presence into summer, my schedule reflected only the necessary day-to-day activities.

what i learned

Suddenly, I had time to cultivate the practice of getting up early in the morning to do an in-depth Bible study, journal, and read a few pages from a faith-based non-fiction book.

I’ve always done devotions, but in the last three months, there were fewer distractions and interferences.

I am about to cross the threshold into fall, clutching a valuable remnant of summer.

During this time, I unearthed a few weeds that had embedded deep, ugly roots in my heart. This emotional excavation happened because of time and stillness.

Streamline bread baking

This summer, women, and men rolled up their sleeves and tied their aprons to hone their baking skills, particularly bread baking.

While quarantining bakers served up challah and sourdough, I took the easy way out with the no-knead artisan bread. It’s the world’s easiest bread recipe.

milled grain

I’ve milled grain and made bread for years, so I didn’t need any convincing that homemade bread with freshly milled grain produces a superior product.

I ruthlessly pruned bread baking down to four ingredients. Simplify, simplify. The bread undergoes a few stages, but they are just long enough to experience the art of bread baking.

Complicated recipes strangle the joy of baking and cooking. I discovered that I could make baking simple without compromising nutrition.

A common pitfall of homeschool parents

COVID forced some parents to forge new paths for schooling. As my silver homeschool anniversary approaches (and gray hair to prove it), a few people asked for my insight.

homeschooling

Having my sixth child at 42 and she’s 13 (go ahead do the math) pretty much secures my position as the oldest mom at most homeschool functions.

I listen to young homeschooling moms declare their formulaic approach to parenting and schooling, like reading a recipe for the Instapot.

The resounding confidence that positive outcomes will occur as long as they follow the latest faith-based parenting guru or homeschool empire.

When I hear this, I squirm in my seat and fidget with my pen. Years ago, I ascribed to this same belief.

I invested time and energy following a formula until I fell into a dangerous pitfall of self-reliance. I ignored the warning signs along the way then suddenly found myself drowning in a quagmire of legalism.

It’s hard to imagine that sweet toddler perched on a swing clad in her sequinned princess dress and a homemade paper crown, will someday question and oppose “the formula.”

I’ve been in the home education culture long enough to have witnessed homeschool empires collapse and gurus disgraced.

This was a summer of reflection. And as I look back, my unhealthy reliance on formulas revealed my lack of trust in  God.

At 56 (in case you aren’t great at math), I still have five more years left to homeschool. I am a recovering formula-following home school parent. I keenly pay attention to signs of pitfalls ahead.

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