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An Ordinary Sabbath

It was just a typical and very ordinary Sunday, but today it was if my eyes were opened and I began to see what has always been there before me with new eyes, with greater insight, greater appreciation, and yes, with greater gratitude.

My husband and younger children left early since my son had some responsibilities to take care of in preparation for the meeting and since I would be staying later, we went in separate cars. As I arrived, I saw across the parking lot that Sister Schain had also just arrived and Hyrum was helping her with her wheelchair as others in the Butterfield family helped her to carry things in. I smiled as I waved a cheerful hello to them. I smiled because of course who could not smile to see a 12 year old boy cheerfully helping a sweet sister like that. I smiled because Sister Schain and the Butterfield family are all dear friends of mine. Memories of moments shared with them flashed through my mind. Serving with Myrlene in Relief Society. Rushing Susan to the hospital just in time to meet her husband there 20 minutes before their last child was born six (?) years ago. And I also smiled because my own children have often been the ones privileged to be the ones giving help with the wheelchair when we arrived just as Sister Schain was arriving.

As I walk into the building, I smile again and say hello to 10 year old Benjamin who is holding the door for me. I settle into my seat next to my family and we sing the opening hymn. Danielle is leading the music and though she is only 16, she leads the music with the easy confidence of someone much older and more experienced. There is a prayer and some announcements. A new family is welcomed into the ward. We all smile because the Freeman/Lewis family is not really new. They lived in our ward previously and have just moved back. 

We sing another hymn and the Sacrament is blessed and passed by our young men amid the reverent hush of people contemplating upon promises, prayers, and progress. This has grown to be my favorite part of the meeting. Each Sunday for the last 20 years, I have sat in this particular chapel to partake of the Sacrament. Before that, there were other chapels much like this one, such as the chapel of my childhood…where I was the wriggly child much like the one in the pew in front of me today. And though the chapels have changed, the spirit that I feel in my heart never changes. Over the years my family has changed as new children were born to us and as they have grown. And I have changed as I have, in these same pews, prayed and contemplated over challenges, blessings, and struggles…some my own, some those of friends and loved ones…and I have changed, and I have grown. Yes. This is my favorite part of the meeting, much like a touchstone to me which I keep coming back to week after week, each time finding myself changed in increments into something better…into someone more understanding of myself and of those around me…and hopefully into someone of greater use to those around me.

The mother in front of me, Lauren, sits with six children of various ages, at least two of them not her own. Lauren is somewhat new to our ward and I don’t yet know her well. I see that she has the two youngest Goodrum children with her. Lauren quietly helps her children to take the sacrament and keeps them busy with small activities. The youngest is a little more restless than the rest and walks back and forth across the pew. We smile and wink at him, retrieving the toy he has dropped.

And I remember when mine were that small.

Lauren’s little one wants to stand in the pew in front and she places him there where he walks down to Bro. Brown, who receives him with a smile and quietly takes him on his lap until the toddler tires of it and heads back to his mother. Beloved by all, Bro. Brown was just released after serving for a number of years as our Bishop in this ward. He now has another calling and Bro. Fortin is serving as our new Bishop.

As Lauren and those near her care with quiet acceptance for the needs of the toddler, we listen to those who have been asked to speak. Sam, the youth speaker for today, speaks with poise, humor, and understanding about obedience, particularly admonishing youth to be obedient to their parents and to the Lord. The next two speakers speak about choosing the right. I jot down a couple of notes which I want to remember and ponder on in the next couple of days. “You will move in the direction of your current most dominant thoughts.” And “You can only coast downhill.” Small thoughts but full of portent for my own needs in the coming week in which I can use some help in keeping focused on what matters most in my life as I seek to not be distracted by the trivial or false urgent things which tend to crop up and derail my efforts at living a Christ centered and meaningful life.

We then dismiss to attend our Sunday School classes as the youngest ones go to their Primary classes. Here the meeting is less formal and we actively discuss the lesson topic which is taught by Bro. McKinley, a long time member of our ward.

For the final meeting of the day, I head to meet with all of the young women in our ward where I am serving as one of the leaders. We meet first with all of the young women ages 12-18 and then divide into three classes by age. It is not my turn to teach, so I sit in as Sister Hermann teaches our small class of 12 and 13 year old girls, and as April signs for Darby who is deaf. April does not live in our ward and is a member in another ward, yet she gives up hours of her time and the opportunity to meet with her own ward in order to sign for Darby. She does this of her own free will and as a volunteer. In doing this she makes it possible for our girls to communicate more fully with each other and for Darby to receive and participate in the lesson.

Finally, with our regular church meetings over for the day, I send my family home as I meet with the other young woman leaders. None of us asked for our callings, but we each gladly…even joyfully… accepted the calling to serve and now we meet to discuss the needs of the young women. How can we strengthen them in their testimonies of Christ? How can we help them to place His teachings foremost and center in their lives? What is needed to help them to become good leaders?

As our meeting began, we learned that Lori who serves with us has been diagnosed with a stage four melanoma and will be having surgery this week. She slips into the meeting a little late looking like she needs a hug. After the meeting, there are hugs, a few tears, and words of encouragement along with promises of prayers for Lori in the coming week. We have been serving together for a short time, but have become quick friends.

I attend one more meeting this day. One of my students (from when I served in a different calling as a seminary teacher a number of years ago) is leaving next week to serve as a missionary for our church for the next 18 months. Before she leaves, she is speaking one last time in her ward…a sister congregation to my own ward which meets in the same building but at a different time. I attend to hear her speak and to give her a hug and tell her what a wonderful missionary she will make. I am so proud of her.

This Sacrament meeting is much like the one I attended a few hours ago, complete with a wriggly, yet obviously tired toddler who gets passed around among the patient adults sitting nearby until he finally falls asleep in his grandmother’s arms. This meeting is also different because it is the yearly Primary program in which the youngest of us (ages 3-12) put on the program with the songs they have learned in Primary over the course of the year. These sweet young ones, both the timid and the confident, also give short talks. The very youngest may speak only a line or two which they have carefully practiced. It is a wonderful program in which we adults can be taught in the spirit of  “a child shall lead them” if we only listen carefully with open hearts…which is so easy to do with children. In this particular program the more confident children seemed to outnumber the timid ones in the singing. There was even one sweet boy whom I’m sure is destined for opera. The final number was sung by the children with a counterpart by Danika, my former student, and one of our best tenors in the stake, Bro. Quinton. Beautiful, sweetly sung, and full of the spirit which I always feel in our meetings.

After the meeting, even though this was not my “home” ward or congregation, there was much fellowship and lots of hugs from friends whom I see less often because they meet in a different ward than I do.

So what was it that I found to be so suddenly extraordinary in this ordinary Sabbath? It is so hard to put into words, but I will try. I suddenly felt and recognized with new eyes this incredibly timeless sense of community amid the sweet spirit of worship that I have already so often recognized and felt. A sense of each person being there for the others. A recognition of each person serving in small and in larger ways. An acceptance of all from the smallest to the oldest…a recognition that though we each have our challenges and imperfections, we are all in this together. A feeling of “it takes a village”, but in the proper way…the way which recognizes the importance and preeminence of families even as we quietly do what we can to help, strengthen and uplift both individuals and families. And even as I saw with new eyes the things before me, I was also aware off the “things not seen”…the behind the scenes things that few people see and that we so often take for granted.

In a word, I saw charity in action at every turn. I saw acceptance and people who serve quietly and selflessly. And even with all of our personal imperfections, all together it becomes somehow perfect…a ward “family”.

A typical, ordinary, and very extraordinary ward family on a typical, ordinary, extraordinary Sabbath. There is no place I’d rather be on a Sunday morning or afternoon!

When Things Are Hard

I don’t often write about the hard times, preferring to dwell on the peaceful and the happy. But these last weeks have been very challenging ones for me. Not in some great and crisis-challenge sort of way, but in the day to day life-is-REALLY-too busy sort of way. I have friends who currently have much bigger and even heart breaking sorts of challenges in their lives than I do right now. A child with cancer. An abusive husband and impending divorce. An injury which will take months to heal. A marriage on the rocks. My challenges seem small in comparison, but they are still hard for me.

I have been attending some fitness classes for about the last year and a half. These classes are SO challenging to me. I work really hard until my muscles are shaking and I can’t go on. My body literally weeps great drops of sweat with the effort. As I see the sweat that has fallen to the floor, I joke that I am being reduced to a puddle. But I know better. I know that it is in the struggle that I am becoming stronger. Sometimes it is my mind which defeats me, and sometimes I have literally pushed all the way to the end of my strength.

Thankfully, with each class there are periods of rest…sometimes very short, but there are moments of blissful rest after the extreme effort. Moments to catch my breath, to rejoice in what I’ve accomplished, or to commiserate over stopping too soon and resolve to do better next time. Sometimes, I can push through to the end and finish feeling strong but spent. Other times, I quit even as I hear the instructor urging us to not give up on ourselves…and then I try to remember to honor myself for what I did do. And then I go back again for the next class. That part is important…to just keep showing up. If I give up, I will not continue to get stronger…I will even lose the strength I have gained. So, I keep showing up.

Life is like these workouts at times. Sometimes it’s just really, really hard and we struggle to get it all done…to endure to the end. We weep great drops of spiritual sweat…sometimes even real tears as we deal with the day to day challenges or a very painful crisis. Sometimes we let our minds defeat us as we lapse into negative thinking and we quit too soon. Sometimes we push to the end and finish feeling spent but strong.

But through it all there are always moments of rest and peace, sometimes brief, sometimes longer in which to catch our breath, to rejoice…or commiserate and resolve to do better. To honor ourselves…and others…for what we have accomplished. And like the instructor who urges us on, we call out encouragement to each other. “You can do it!” “You are amazing!” “You inspire me!” “Keep going!” “We’ll finish together!”

I realized something today as i pondered on this. I realized that in the moments of struggle, I look ahead to the moment of rest and feel such gratitude when those oasis moments come. Oh yes, I already knew that.

But wonder of wonders, I’ve also found that in the moments of rest and peace, I look back on the struggle with at least equal gratitude for the strength I’ve gained, for the things I’ve learned, and sometimes simply that I made it through.

Life is good. I suppose it’s meant to be hard sometimes. Keep showing up.

RC

When the Bus Drives By

bus drives byI watched the bus drive by this morning. Two of them. I was sitting in my hammock with my breakfast bowl warm in my hands. Enjoying the last days of summer. I can already feel autumn creeping into the air. All of my friends are posting “first day of school” pictures on Facebook. Children with either excited or accommodating-mom smiles on their faces. Each ready with heavily loaded back packs on their backs. Pictures taken on the porch, or stepping onto the school bus. Parents celebrating their new found or found again “freedom”. But I just sat and watched the bus go by. My children were upstairs sleeping in the “children all nestled and fast asleep” fashion. Well, except for my 17 yr. old son. I had just dropped him off at his yard keeping job. He is determined to get in as many full days as he can before he goes to part time next week when we begin his last year of home school.

As I watched the bus roll by, I became somewhat contemplative. How many times I have watched this same bus…the big yellow monster that  gobbles up children in the morning and spits them out at night…how many times this has been part of my day. Today I came to see this occurrence as symbolic. It’s a symbol of the freedom that my family enjoys. Yes, we are a bit out of step with the rest of the world. We don’t shop for clothing in a back-to-school rush as others do. We shop for clothing when it is needed. When what we have is outgrown or worn. We eat our breakfasts sitting down…often together, sometimes each alone. Summer doesn’t begin and end all at once for us. It comes much more gradually as the days weave in and out of each other. As sweatshirt mornings turn into sweatshirt days. We study what we choose. When we choose. We take breaks when we need them. We work for as many hours at a time as feels right. We get outdoors…and breathe. Really breathe. We live life a little more slowly than most. And oh how that suits me! I’ve definitely become one who marches to the beat of a different drummer. To the beat of my own drummer.

So what does one do when the world rushes past and the bus drives by?

Smile…and wave.

Oh…and say thank-you!

Roxane:

Truly, all that matters most in my life is a result of someone else’s sacrifice.

Originally posted on Home Educated Mom:

Memorial Day…my Grandma called it Decoration Day. Most of my most cherished and valued memories of this day are tied up with memories of my Grandma. I used to go with my grandparents each year as they went and decorated the graves of the loved ones and ancestors in our family…and there were a lot of graves to visit. We visited multiple cemeteries. Who knew that there were so many cemeteries? It seemed that my grandparents knew of every small and hidden cemetery for miles around…and we visited each one…every year. I think that my Grandma couldn’t bear it if a family member or relative that she knew of went unremembered on that day.

In my memories, Memorial Day was usually a beautiful day heralding the beginning of Summer. In Utah where I grew up, it was also (appropriately) a day heralding the end of school and the beginning of…

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Roxane:

Just going through some of my old blogs. I especially like this one. I need to get back to blogging…

Originally posted on Home Educated Mom:

Today we are canning cherries. It’s actually my first time canning cherries, though I remember eating my mother’s canned cherries as a child. The sweet taste of cherry bursting in my mouth on a cold winter’s day… the beautiful color of the ripe red cherries in the jar. A feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds. After all these years, those cherries which long ago nourished my body, now nourish my soul as I remember…

A flood of memories wash over me whenever I get out my water bath canner or my pressure canner. I remember canning with my mother and my grandma. I remember the year that I helped with the tomatoes on the morning of my first prom. I think I did get most of the red stain off of my fingers before the dance that night, though my fingernails retained an light orange hue.

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Handout for HECOA teleseminar

I’ve posted the handout for my teleseminar here in case you have trouble downloading it.

 “Principles for Happy Home Educating Families”

 My vision for this seminar is that it would reach new and veteran homeschoolers who feel overwhelmed, stressed, and/or a little unsure. I would hope that each person who tunes in would leave with the feeling that home education is not nearly so hard as we often make it for ourselves. I would hope for them to leave feeling a renewed sense of trust in themselves and in their abilities to provide a fantastic education for their children. I would hope for them to leave feeling hopeful and joyful about their choice to homeschool and committed to enjoy it even more.

Sometime ago my friend Christy (also a veteran homeschooling mom) and I were visiting about homeschooling and she wondered what a “7 Habits of Highly Effective Homeschoolers” list would look like. This list would probably be different for each homeschooling family, but the idea really intrigued me and I was able to quickly jot down the main ideas that I would put on my list; the things that I, as a veteran homeschooling mom, would share as the important habits homeschooling families. Or perhaps just as accurately…the things I wish that I could go back and tell the me who was just beginning home education all those years ago (15 to be exact).

I turned the title (imitating The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) around a bit because I would want to de-emphasize the “effective” part and emphasize happiness instead. While we do want to be effective homeschoolers, I don’t believe that this is really our ultimate goal. Keep asking yourself the question “why?” and you will sooner or later come to the bottom of it all. I think that our ultimate goal for our children and ourselves is happiness…as in “Men are that they might have joy.” We want our children to be successful…why?…so that they will be happy. I would submit that happiness is the end goal of what we do in our families. These items on my list are really principles more than they are habits. Application of these principles will help us to find joy and happiness in our homes and in our homeschooling.

Principles have many different applications and will be applied in different ways depending on the circumstance, family, or need. So, rather than being method based (I could never tell another parent how to homeschool), my list is a principle based list and I believe that every homeschooling family can apply these principles as they seek for happiness in their homeschooling. I believe that these principles…applied in the ways which work best for each family…will help homeschooling families to educate at home with peace, joy, and confidence. I’d love to share it with others.

Here is the list of principles…yes, I know, it’s more than 7…and probably growing.

  • Simplify
  • Balance
  • Trust
  • Lead Out
  • Enjoy
  • Love
  • Individualize
  • Look for Principles
  • Keep the “eye single”

Simplify

  • Simplify your family life (home, routines, physical “stuff”, etc.)
  • Simplify your schedule/activities.
  • Simplify your goals…what really matters most?

Balance

  • Work with play.
  • Activity with “down time.
  • Structure with Latitude…Flexible structure.

Trust

  • Trust yourself…your intuition, your instincts, your “gut”…or your heart.
  • Trust your children. Trust that they are growing and learning in the way that is best for them.  Trust their hopes, desires, dreams, preferences, time tables for growth, etc.
  • Trust the Lord (or your higher power… whatever your word for this concept). Trust that you will be given or be able to find the answers that you need personally for your individual family and situations.

Lead Out

  • Show the way…be the example. Read and study for yourself…enjoy it. Study things that you are passionate about. Let your children see that passion. Share your excitement about what you are learning.
  • Consider the difference between a shepherd (who leads) and a sheep herder (one who pushes).

Enjoy

  • Find peace.
  • Find beauty.
  • Enjoy the small moments. Enjoy being with your children. Your years with them are short.

Love

  • Love life.
  • Love your children…just love them first…all else will come. The best environment for learning is one in which the child knows he is loved. Many “mistakes” are remediated quickly and easily when children know that you love them. Children are forgiving. They don’t expect you to be perfect, but they do need you to love them. At the end of the day, if you child knows his math facts, but doesn’t know you love him and hasn’t felt that loving connection with you, then not only have you decreased your effectiveness with your child, but you are also missing out on the best that home education has to offer.
  • Love what you study. Only use books and curriculum that you love. Be passionate about life and learning.

Individualize

  • Study your children first. What are their strengths and passions? What are they interested in?
  • Find curriculum second. What will best meet this individual child’s needs? What will most interest him/her? What would be the most enjoyable learning methods and environments for this child?

Principles first

  • As you consider how to structure your home, think principles…not methods. There are no “recipes” which fit every family or even every child within the same family. The habits listed so far are all principles. Principles can be applied in many circumstances. The way a principle is applied will look different depending on the circumstance. Homeschooling does not look the same in every family. It does not look the same for each child. It does not even look the same every year for a given family or child. THAT is the beauty of home education!

Eye Single

  • This is my way of saying “focus on what matters most”. The concept of course is biblical (Matthew 6:22), but the principle applies whether you take the bible to be your guide or not. Keep your eye focused on the ultimate goals…the things that matter most to you and to your family and children. Don’t get caught up in the minutiae which don’t matter. Focus on the ultimate goals first and the methods, curriculums, etc. will follow. Be careful of buying someone else’s “package”, curriculum or otherwise, before you’ve determined what you want to teach. What to teach comes before how you teach…and who you teach comes before what you teach. Spend time on this and the rest will fall into place.

 

If these ideas and principles “ring true” for you, then you might be interested in visiting my blog or facebook page sometime. I can be found at homeeducatedmom.wordpress.com. You can also “like” my facebook page either directly from my blog, or by looking for me under Home Educated Mom. I’d love to have you stop in for a visit sometime…and be sure to leave a comment or two. I love knowing that I’ve connected with someone out there.

I wish you the best in your home as you home educate your children. May you find all of the joy and happiness that is there for you in your own unique home education lifestyle!

I am in the process of posting blogs on each of these principles. You can find the first one here.

Today I will be participating as a speaker at my first live teleconference with Home Education Council of America (HECOA). I will be speaking about the joys of home edcuation and principles to help ensure that your home education journey is a joyful one. Come join us today at 2pm pacific time. You will need to register with HECOA (free) and then sign up for the classes you are interested in. You will receive a link and phone in information, so that you can choose which way to participate. There are a number of seminars available, so check them out.

The broadcast may also be available for a limited time as a replay, so if you can’t make it for the seminar, you may be able to listen to the replay. If it is available for replay, you will find it under the “live seminars” tab on the upper right side of the HECOA page.

Looking forward to it.

-Roxane

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