I bet my 2013 new year’s resolutions didn’t look like yours. I’ve always been a little fluffy, so instead of focusing on the weight room, I trained my sights on our classroom. Since the “new year” I had in mind was our new school year, I kicked off the semester promising things like
- opening with circle time every day by 8:00 a.m., bright eyed and bushy tailed.
- working through every item in my teacher’s planner.
- arriving at co op, appointments, and lessons early.
- grading in red ink.
- reading only the classics.
- taking one field trip a month.
- practicing what I “teach” (using correct grammar ain’t easy).
- convening class outside more often, being more “Charlotte Mason.”
It was easy enough to jot down my plans, even with M&M on my hip and my eyes crossed from sleep deprivation. But like all resolutions and promises, these were mere words, whether I wrote them in indelible red ink or with my favorite yellow Papermate pencil. For just like Proverbs 19:21 says, “There are many plans in a man’s heart, Nevertheless the LORD’S counsel—that will stand.”
Nope, my plans didn’t stand, or sit, or even crouch low to the ground. They were pulverized. By the year’s end my planner was covered in red X’s, its pages splattered by all my spilled blood, sweat, and tears. Before we’d tucked into any holiday turkey I’d resorted to
- leaving my planner opened to the right day so that if I wasn’t awake the little people could get started without me.
- relying on Sesame Street—and not circle time—to teach the alphabet and counting and the difference between “far” and “near.”
- finding creative ways (e.g., crying, pleading) to get my little people to read one more line, do one more math problem, or wash one more dish.
- including shopping at Costco as a field trip.
- considering the works of Dr. Seuss, Sandra Boynton, and Jeff Kinney as classics.
- struggling to explain abstract math concepts with a straight face, knowing they’d never use them.
- accepting I wouldn’t arrive on time, let alone early, and being satisfied to just get anywhere at all.
- enjoying the occasional recess even if we didn’t picnic during history, trying to be more “Mommy” and less “General Patton.”
Okay, fast forward to the present day, to the official start of the 2014-2015 school year for many (we tend to work year-round, completing the old stuff and beginning the new simultaneously). I still try to capture our life in my black, faux leather-bound planner, though it’s hard to fully describe our seeming pell-mell, headlong, shotgun approach to anything called “schoolwork.” My seventh-born straw didn’t break this camel, but M&M’s arrival did teach me that it doesn’t matter what I’ve planned or promised or resolved to do. God will order my steps and laugh at my vain attempts to have my own way. (Psalm 2:4)
It all boils down to discipline.
No, not the knee-jerk “Go to your room!” and “I’m going to tell your Daddy” type of discipline. That’s just an external reaction to a cause; with might and right on my side I give the direction and the little people respond accordingly. And no, not the eat-fewer-sweets, walk-three-days-a-week kind. Losing a few pounds before visiting Mama provides its own motivation and gratification. Believe it or not, it’s not even the umpff that got me through childbirth seven times. Then, I didn’t really have a choice; my body took over, told me to shut up, suffer, and push.
The discipline I’m talking about is the pray-before-my-feet-hit-the-floor kind. The read-my-Bible-daily-no-matter-how-busy-I-think-I-am and ask-God-then-commit type of resolve. While it was easy to ask God’s help when I was in a jam, it was the seek-God-first daily bread that I struggled to sink my teeth into.
Don’t we all choke on that at times? It’s why I hear my friends complaining, “I don’t know how I’m going to get this all done!” This meaning the cleaning and the teaching and the loving and the hand-holding and the hand-wringing and the nose blowing and the Facebooking and the blogging and…and…and. AND we’re passing these habits down to our children because we’re not focused on the one main objective, first and foremost. How can we expect them to turn off their cell phones and tune in to God’s voice if we’re focused first on grammar and not on God? Economics isn’t the only thing that trickles down; so does a life of faithful discipline.
Disciplining myself to put God first doesn’t really involve my teacher planner. It’s a heart thing, so it’s not when I do it; it more about how and why I do everything. I’m learning “Commit [my] way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.” (Psalm 37:5) Yes, I still have to potty train a toddler, take thrill rides with a teenage driver, and live in a house filled to the brim with high-octane estrogen. But loving God enough to study Him more diligently than English literature helps me teach and lead when I
- remind the Crusader, “Have you done your Bible study?” even if he’s hunched over his college applications.
- lovingly dust off crying children and force them back on their feet, bicycle, or Wordly Wise vocabulary book.
- make way for Holy Spirit intercession instead of refereeing, jumping into, and monitoring every argument among my little people.
- remember that it’s not whether it’s the first part of the school day or the last coherent thought before bedtime; it’s whether I give Him my all in it all.
And I can only hope that after all, maybe I will lose a few pounds.