I've devoted this summer to teacher inservice.

Oh, I'm taking care of the kids and all, but I'm doing a lot of studying of the inspiring kind.

We're kind of past the rawest, worst part of our most recent adoption journey, and though we have years of healing ahead, we're done bleeding.


Because I'm not mopping up bodily fluids and emotional messes constantly, I have a little bit more energy to think than I used to.

And I'm thinking about the flow of our school days.

I love beauty.

I grew up in Southern California . . . sometimes I miss it so much I hurt.

Especially natural beauty.

So I tend to gravitate toward Waldorf/Montessori/Charlotte Mason types of inspiration.

Seriously, have you seen the gorgeousness of homeschools that use these plans?

Mine doesn't look like that so much.

Or maybe it does . . .

Anyway, I've been rereading some of my favorite Amanda Blake Soule (Soulemama) books because they are so lovely and dreamy and inspiring--and they're all full of beautiful crafts and food and sweet essays about the fleeting nature of childhood and about embracing the ebb and flow of the seasons.

Those are truths that speak to me.

My life is not dreamy.  Probably no one's is.  I just keep wishing it were, so I keep turning to books and blogs and Pinterest boards to see if I can make mine like that.  Like Soulemama's or Stillparenting.

So I've been a little frustrated.  Because trying to make my life look like a book or a blog or a Pinterest board is so very foolish.

And I've done a little pondering.

And as I prayed one night about what is wisdom for my family right now, the revelation came.

"Your beauty is not her beauty."


Then the light turned on; I realized so much!

In Handmade Home Amanda Blake Soule wrote:
The effort to make our time at home as rich as possible may initially take some planned dedication.  It will mean turning off the television, putting the computer aside for a bit, and setting aside some energy to engage our children at the end of the day when we may feel as though there just isn't any more energy to be found.

In The Rhythm of Family she wrote:
Wonderful things happen in our family when we choose to move slowly through our days.  When we stop running and rushing about, we discover more time, energy, and space for the things most important in our lives.

In The Creative Family she wrote:
Living a creative life doesn't necessarily mean that your time is spent with paint, markers, and sewing machine.  Perhaps those aren't of interest to your family, which doesn't mean you are not creative.  Living a creative life does mean that you and your family seek ways to nurture your creative spirit in whatever ways please you.

Now, after she writes these wonderful, true, words, what follows are gorgeous photos of crafts and homemade food and nature outings and essays about how lovely her life is as she shares homemaking skills with her children.

So, of course I assume that I need to do these things to have my own beautiful life and to make my kids' lives beautiful.

But I always get stuck when I try . . . for a lot of reasons.

We surely do try and try again.

After my revelation, I looked more closely at these paragraphs that speak to me, and I realized:

1.  She doesn't tell me to do what she does!  She just offers what's food to her heart to inspire me to find mine.

2.  I hate cooking with my kids in a group.  I love how happy they are in the kitchen when I do make that effort, but I always end up exhausted and grumpy afterwards, and I undo any good the cooking activity did when I scold and fuss and clean up.

3.  I hate crafting with my kids in a group.  I love the finished products, and I love the sense that I've done something "right" for them, but see #2 for how I wreck everything later.

4.  I haven't figured out how to make time to cook or craft one-on-one.  I could enjoy that.  But one kid's presence at my side is basically a siren call to the rest of the kids, and they either crowd around to "watch" or they cry at being sent away to wait for their own turn and then see #2 again.

5.  I love reading aloud to my kids.  I'm good at voices and interpretation.  My kids love listening to me read aloud, and when I read aloud, our whole home is at peace.

6.  I'm really good at doing schoolwork one-on-one.  There's nothing beautiful that I can document about a completed phonics lesson or a math drill or a writing conference, but I'm really at my best doing these things with my kids.  I look them in the eyes; I encourage, inspire, and gently correct; we connect at the dining room table with pencils in hand.

7.  There may be some truth to how kids have different learning styles, but if I try to teach each kid in his or her best way, I'm going to go crazy.  However, I can figure out how I teach best, and I can honor that--inspiring them to seek their own application of what I demonstrate with true enthusiasm and passion.  I can also assign kids work that appeals to each of their individual strengths.

8.   If I want to nurture strong, loving relationships with my kids, I need to be my best self--not my worst.  Of course I want to develop skills in myself instead of wallowing in my imperfections, but I don't have to plan our entire school curriculum around my weakest areas.  Instead I can embrace my strengths and allow them to lead me to work on my weaknesses.

In the year ahead, I am going to make more of an effort to include handwork and cooking with my kids, because I think they'll really like that.  They ask about it often.  But I'm not going to let the beautiful craft/nature/food photos in books and blog posts and Pinterest boards push me into thinking that my home is not rich or beautiful because the richness and beauty we experience defies photography.

We read.
We write.
We calculate.
We talk.
We pray.
We testify of Christ.

Not much to take pictures of.

(or maybe our kind of connecting can be captured visually . . . sometimes)

The nurturing and connecting in what we do is just as real as a photograph of a beautiful handmade scarf.

We do have lovely nature/cooking/crafting moments.

This is a nature collection . . . not a cooking moment. :)

But they aren't the core of our school days, and they usually happen in spite of me instead of because of me.

At the front of one of her books is a quote by Charlotte Perkins Gilman:
To be surrounded by beautiful things
has much influence upon the human creature;
to make beautiful things has more.
I can cook and sew and craft.  I can build and design.  I could add a lot of kinds of beauty to the world.

But right now, the beauty I'm making is my particular family--my family that reads and writes and calculates and talks and prays and testifies of Christ.

I can embrace that as wholeheartedly as Amanda Blake Soule embraces her own beauty.


  1. Well said! I also struggle with wanting to be just like another blogger—and sometimes it's hard, even though I'm aware that I'm not her and I need to do things my way. I think that God gave us our need for beauty, and some of us hurt more than others when we're removed from it. But I also think that the family you are raising is absolutely beautiful, and it will last longer than a room painted in stripes or an embroidered tea towel or a flower arrangement..

  2. I love this and need it so much right now. We are really soul searching and questioning so much about our days. I want my kids to have strong middle school and high school years. There is so much to consider.
    Blessings, Dawn

  3. Yes, yes, yes! My family's beautiful is different than another family's. And sometimes my family's beautiful is a whole lot of messy, real, struggling, growing pains while we push against each other and find new ways to fit together as everyone matures and needs change. I have learned that there are simply some blogs I can't read, FB feeds I can't follow, and times that I need to step away from looking on Pinterest because it's breeding discontentment in my soul.
    Different is not bad, it's just different. God created such variety that I know he doesn't expect us to all have the same kind of beautiful life.

  4. Beautiful! My life is not dreamy, either. I'm still feeling the weird transition that we're about to enter, and even when we find our new normal, it will still not be dreamy. But it's mine, and I love it. I'm okay with the art projects, but man, I hear you on the cooking together. My teens sort of bloom into their own cooking style as they experiment. Eli asked me to teach him how to make omelets, and that was cool, but for the most part, little kids stay OUT of the kitchen, and big kids figure it out on their own.

  5. What strong and confident expressions of your unique core self! In my opinion, this is how we bring the best of ourselves fully into the present moment--by learning to be genuine expressions of self.


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