Tuesday, June 16, 2009

This Can Change Your Life

I have four young children, and so I am sometimes asked how I find the time to read and write when people find out that I actually do these things. Most of the time, though, the question comes with a judgmental attitude, as if to accuse me of perhaps being lazy, or neglecting my children, or being selfish. I believe the root cause of this attitude, though, is envy. Perhaps the person asking has a self-righteous belief that we mothers are to sacrifice to the point of neglecting our own minds, talents and passions. Or perhaps the person asking struggles with thier own time management skills and so just cannot fathom how I can realistically do it all. Often, though, I discover or notice that this same mother, for example, who asked me how I find time to read, herself watches TV and talks on the phone much.

I have taken many personality tests, and always get the same results. Apparently only 1% of the population has my personality, so perhaps I do not realize how difficult time management can be, but for myself, I am both a doer and a dreamer. This is my personality. INJF's are visionary people who need time alone and usually enjoy reading, but at the same time they are doers because of their "J" preference for closure. I like my home to be clean and neat, but I am not willing to give up my mental nourishment time just so that it will be perfect. I have learned to let some things go for now, while my children are so young. Ten years from now, I will not feel sorry that my home was not perfect, but I would feel sorry if my mind had not grown in those years. Yet this does not mean that I am lazy; I am always on top with the dishes and laundry, and I am doing my best to clean for health and comfort.

When it comes to my children, I read to them A LOT. Obviously, I homeschool so I also spend time with them doing that. And I do my best to always be there for them, to listen to their stories and answer their questions. Even if I am in the middle of something else, I try to remind myself to stop and give them my focused attention when they need it.

I am not perfect at all....I still have room to learn much about housekeeping and child training. But my life does not revolve around these things. I agree with what I read on the Mommy Revolution site: "Life is not all about you, but it’s not all about your kids, either", "Motherhood is just part of a whole and integrated life" and "Our children are one of the many gifts we give to the world."

Today I read a story to Sarah and Peter about King Alfred, which said that he spent 8 hours a day working, 8 hours studying, and 8 hours resting. This made me think of a quote by Charlotte Mason (a 19th century British educator), "Life should be all living, and not merely a tedious passing of time; not all doing or all feeling or all thinking- the strain would be too great- but all living." We need balance.

Especially in our modern times, people often seem to look down upon those who read to learn, unless they are in school. Are our brains supposed to stop growing just because we are "grown up"? Back in the late 19th century, Charlotte Mason wrote,
"The press and hurry of our times and the clamour for useful knowledge are driving classical culture out of the field; and parents will have to make up their minds, not only that they must supplement the moral training of the school, but must supply the intellectual culture, without which knowledge may be power, but is not pleasure, nor the means of pleasure.."

The press and hurry of her times? It is even worse today! Not only do our children need spiritual and intellectual stimulation, but we moms (and dads) do! Charlotte Mason called this "Mother Culture":
"Is there not some need for "mother culture"? So many mothers say, "I simply have no time for myself!" "I never read a book!" Or else, "I don't think it is right to think of myself!" They not only starve their minds, but they do it deliberately, and with a sense of self-sacrifice which seems to supply ample justification. Never be without a really good book on hand...Do not think this is a selfish thing to do because the advantage does not end with yourself. . . The more you study on your spare time, the more there is in you to bestow upon your pupils."

The myth of not having time due to self-sacrifice is false. It may make us look so good, so virtuous, so Christ-like, but it is not based on truth. We need to continue to feed our minds, otherwise they will not grow. First, our minds need to continually feed on God's Word, for that is how they are transformed...that is how we grow the mind of Christ in us...that is how we think God's thoughts, which are truth. The Word of God is LIVING: it changes our minds and our lives. Charlotte Mason said that if we could only read the Bible, that itself would be a liberal education.

But that does not mean we should not read other books. Sometimes I get the feeling that some Christians believe the Bible is all we should read. But is not the Spirit alive in other believers, and still speaking through them? Honestly, the Spirit has spoken and continues to do so even to those who do not necessarily realize it. Charlotte Mason called the Holy Spirit the "Supreme Educator of Mankind", "
in things that have been called secular, fully as much as in those that have been called sacred." God's truth is not *only* found in books that are explicitly "christian".

Charlotte Mason also wrote about the importance of reading "living" books. The Bible is the greatest living book (and the only perfect one, free from errors) but throughout history until today, people are writing living books. Miss Mason said that "
People are naturally divided into those who read and think and those who do not read or think..." You see, reading the right books makes us think...we become "thinkers". Again, I quote Charlotte: "Mind appeals to mind and thought begets thought and that is how we become educated. For this reason we owe it every child to put him in communication with great minds that he may get at great thoughts; with the minds, that is, of those who have left us great works; and the only vital method of education appears to be that children should read worthy books, many worthy books."

But why is it so important for us to read and think? "Knowing that the brain is the physical seat of habit and that conduct and character, alike, are the outcome of the habits we allow; knowing, too, that an inspiring idea imitates a new habit of thought, and hence a new habit of life; we perceive that the great work of education is to inspire children with vitalizing ideas as to every relation of life, every department of knowledge, every subject of thought; and to give deliberate care to the formation of those habits of the good life which are the outcome of vitalizing ideas."

When we become thinkers, and are inspired by a truth or idea, we will want to develop a new habit based on that idea. And as that habit becomes a part of our life, our character is changed.

For example, say we open our Bible and read Philippians 2:14-15, "Do all things without complaining or arguing
so that you may be blameless and innocent, God's children without any faults among a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world."

We read this scripture, and think about what it is saying. We are inspired by this new idea to change our habits. So we seek God's grace to not complain and not argue. As this way of living becomes a habit in our lives, our character is transformed. We are changed; and it all began with reading an inspiring idea.

The same can happen through reading anything, whether it be a work of fiction or non-fiction. Not too long ago, I was reading a great book for women, and in the discriptions of what "fallen Eve" may look like, I saw myself. I saw my weakness to become needy, mousy, and clingy. With this, my eyes were opened and then I noticed when I was literally acting out that negative habit. The book gave me a new "idea" that this behavoir was sin on my part, and because I was inspired by that idea, I began seeking God to change these negative habits of mine. As He is helping me to replace them with healthy, faith full habits, my character is changing. Reading that book has resulted in my character being transformed.

Fiction books can likewise change our lives, especially children. They love fiction, and provided it is wholesome, living books that you are reading to them, it is the foundation of true education. True literature should give our children heroes to admire. As they think about their heroes' noble actions, the children unconsciously acquire high ideals and high standards of conduct. I love what Karen Andreola wrote, "This admiration ripens their intelligence until it becomes quick to recognize noble thought and eager to receive its inspiration."

"Great character comes out of great thoughts, and great thoughts must be initiated by great thinkers; then we shall have a definite aim in education."- Charlotte Mason

God is the greatest of thinkers, and we need to read His word to think like Him. But He has also spoken to other great minds that can change our lives forever, if we will but read what they have so liberally shared. Remember, "thought begets thought". We were made with the analytical and creative mind of our intelligent Creator.

About Bible reading and scripture memory for children, Charlotte said: "The mind of the little child is an open field….where, morning by morning, the sower goes forth to sow, and the seed is the Word. All our teaching of children should be given reverently, with the humble sense that we are invited in this matter to co-operate with the Holy Spirit; but it should be given dutifully and diligently…..that the Savior of the world pleads with us to 'Suffer the little children to come unto Me", and "It is a delightful thing to have the memory stored with beautiful, comforting, and inspiring [Bible] passages, and we cannot tell when and how this manner of seed many spring up, grow, and bear fruit."

So, read to your children, and read for yourself! Realize the power of the written word to change lives.

I'll leave you all with this poem:


Strickland Gillilan

I HAD A MOTHER who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea,
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth,
"Blackbirds" stowed in the hold beneath.

I had a Mother who read me lays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every boy has a right to know.

I had a Mother who read me tales
Of Celert the hound of the hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness blent with his final breath.

I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings-
Stories that stir with an upward touch,
Oh, that each mother of boys were such.

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be --
I had a Mother who read to me.


Amy said...

Hi, my friend! I so love EVERYTHING and am so challenged by every word!
And I LOVE being challenged to grow up! O yeah! Thankyou for your passion and for sharing it here!

You have been such a inspiration to me!

HUgs.. Amy

Esther Ruth said...

I am challenged too Amy! We are learning together, eh? Love you lots!


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