Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Big Change in the Mailly Home

Big changes are coming our way!  And no, we're not expecting another baby!!  We are sending one of our children off to school.  No, not AWAY like to boarding school, but to a classroom school setting.  After 6 years of homeschooling Grace, she will be attending a small, private school for 6th grade!

I am a die-hard homeschooler.  I really, really think that homeschooling has many, many benefits over a classroom setting.  Like the writer of this article over at Passionate Homemaking, I love homeschooling because it lets Richard and I be the primary influence in our children's lives; it cultivates strong family relationships; it encourages a love of learning in our home.  With homeschooling, we are assured that our children's education is focused and centered around Christ.  We are able to fine-tune their schooling to fit their strengths and weaknesses.  Our kids are taught by a teacher who knows them best, loves them most, in an environment that is most familiar and safe to them.  An added element with Grace is that she visits her biological dad every other weekend and has influences there that go against much of what we believe.  She also is 7, almost 9 and 10 years apart from her younger siblings.  These factors make us that much more purposeful about strengthening her family ties and being the strongest influence in her life.

However, I do also understand that homeschooling doesn't work for every family, and it doesn't work for every child.  There are seasons!  So although in the back of my mind I had always thought we would always homeschool, we have come to a season in which a classroom setting seems best for our oldest daughter.

There are several reasons we felt lead to putting Grace in school, things that can't be helped - like the large age gap and needs of an older child and much younger children - and things that are unfortunate realities - like my lack of discipline and structure, and Grace's difficulty in independent study.  Although we still have desires for Grace to learn at home with me as her teacher and her siblings as her classmates, we believe she will benefit more from the structure of a classroom setting.  However, this school has many, many of the aspects we love about homeschooling tied up in it.  In fact, I think it might be considered the best of both worlds, or at least the closest thing you can get to homeschooling in a classroom setting!

RiverTree School is a Charlotte Mason school.  It is small, Christ-centered, filled with good books and nature walks and music and teachers who lead students on a journey of discovering great ideas.  Although there is part of me that is sad not to be the primary one going on that journey with Grace this year, I am very excited about this school and I believe whole-heartedly in their philosophies and approach to learning!  I think this will be a great year.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Meaning Behind "Held"

A song that has special meaning for me is "Held" by Natalie Grant.  It was released a couple of months before Matthias died and my sweet cousin sent me a copy of the song.  I heard it on the radio quite a bit in the months following and listened to it at home often... it has since become "Matthias' song" in my mind and I can never hear it without remembering vividly those early days and months after his death.

I decided today to research the story behind the song and found a great post on the website of Christina Wells, who wrote the song.

She actually wrote the song about three different women who had experienced great loss in their lives.  One was a young widow, one a friend who lost an infant son and the last one was her mother-in-law who had a stillborn daughter.

One woman she talks about is Vaneetha whose infant son had been treated at birth for a heart defect.
Paul was doing remarkably well and had just been celebrated at a church-wide baby shower, when he died unexpectedly in the night.  The first verse of “Held” refers to Vaneetha and her son, Paul.  She has always spoken to me about how knowing sorrow has allowed her to also know joy…and about the strange reality of feeling God’s presence most keenly in the moments of deepest grief.
I can so relate to that strange paradox of knowing God's love and His nearness best in a time of greatest pain.
Then she relates how her mother-in-law Sherry shared the story of her stillborn daughter:
She spoke through tears about the pain of carrying a child to term and then having to let her go without even getting to take her home from the hospital.  She told me about the still, small voice that spoke to her in the delivery room, saying: You have to choose how you will carry this loss after this moment.  You can choose bitterness.  Or you can choose to let me wrap you up in peace that can’t be explained and that will lead to hope.  You can choose to trust that you are not alone, and that everything you suffer here will someday be redeemed.
This conversation with Sherry eventually helped write the third verse.
I have appreciated the depth and power of these lyrics since the first time I heard the song, and I can tell this songwriter has an deep, true understanding of grief, suffering and redemption.
Other words from these women became the second verse, taught me that no person of faith since the beginning of time has ever lived without suffering.  In fact, they said, those who are students of Jesus have been promised that we certainly should expect pain and suffering in this life.
But.  In the middle of that heartache.  At every lonely, dark, lost moment…the Truth.
That in those moments, even then, especially then… we are held, held up, held together, by the the One who has walked here and knows the pain, and who also holds all of time, every story, my story, your story, the Greatest Story in his hands.

Remember the Shining Tears and Be Sure

Have you read "The Magician's Nephew" by C.S. Lewis? Chronologically it's the first of the Narnia series, in which Narnia is created by Aslan and Digory Kirk (who is the Professor Kirk of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe") has an adventure in that magical land. Digory's mother is dying at home in London, and Digory has hopes that Aslan will cure her. But first Digory has to go on a long quest to help protect Narnia from an evil that he himself brought into brand-new Narnia through his own foolishness and pride. As Aslan is sternly instructing Digory concerning this quest, Digory knows it's right for him to have to go on the quest, right for Aslan to be fierce and stern, and right that Digory's own desires should be put on hold until he remedies the wrong he has done.  But Digory's heart is still breaking for his mother.  Here's how the scene is described in the book:
"I asked, are you ready?" said the Lion. "Yes," said Digory. He had for a second some wild idea of saying "I'll try to help you if you'll promise to help my Mother," but he realized in time that the Lion was not at all the sort of person one could make bargains with. But when he had said "Yes," he thought of his Mother, and he thought of the great hopes he had had, and how they were all dying away, and a lump came in his throat and tears in his eyes and he blurted out: "But please, please-won't you-can't you give me something that will cure my Mother?"
Up till then he had been looking at the Lion's great feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion's eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory's own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself.    
"My son, my son,’ said Aslan. ‘I know. Grief is great. Only you and I in this land know that yet. Let us be good to one another."

For a time after Matthias' death I was like Digory staring at the Lion's massive paws and terrible claws.  I understood God's sovereign right to give a baby and then take him away again.  I knew God's power and His inscrutable ways were not mine to question and His purposes not mine to understand.  As I was thrashing around in my agony and burdened down by grief, I was unable to look into His face.  But then one day I did.

One day I cried out from a heart full of pain,

"You took him!  You took him from me!"

And there was anger and accusation there.  In those words I was telling God, "You don't love me.  You just do your holy, mysterious thing without regard to how it affects us puny humans.  Do you know what you did to me when you took my baby?  Do you even care about my tears?"

And in that despair I finally looked up into His face, and I also was surprised more than anything in my whole life.  For I too saw the tears in His eyes and in a moment I knew that there was a sense in which He was sorrier about the death of my little baby than I was myself.  Is it not a wonder!?

He knew.  He understood how great grief is.  He was sorry for me, for my loss, for every tear I shed.  He was grieved for me.  His heart broke for the weight of sadness I carried.

Yes, He has great claws.  Yes, He took Matthias.  It is true that I do not understand His purposes or His ways.  He can give and take life in the blink of an eye, and yet He is saddened by the death of a little baby.  And yet He saw each tear I cried in the dark of the night and they mattered.

Do you remember when Jesus' friend Lazarus died?  Jesus delayed in coming to him when Lazarus was sick, so that Lazarus would die.  Jesus also knew that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead that very day, in order to display the power of God.  And yet when he reached Lazarus' tomb and saw the great grief of Lazarus' sisters Mary and Martha, he wept.  Why did he weep?  Jesus was in control of Lazarus' death! In a sense Jesus wanted Lazarus to die!  And not only that, but He knew Lazarus would be alive again to be reunited with his sisters in a matter of moments.  But He loved Mary and Martha.  Their tears mattered to Him.  Their great grief broke His heart and He wept for their pain.

That was the day when I looked into His face and saw His tears for me.  I went to Richard, almost afraid to ask, and said,

"Is God sad that Matthias died?"

Such a theologically ambiguous question that my rational, precise husband could have answered with a long and technical answer.  But he didn't.  He said, "Yes, He's sad."

Sometimes I still struggle in my grief.  Sometimes I wonder again if the 36-hour life of a little baby boy matters to the God of the universe.  Sometimes I again cry out, "Why did you take him?"  Sometimes I'm not sure if I am loved and held.  But then, like Digory, I remember the shining tears and I am sure.

He [Digory] was very sad and he wasn’t even sure all the time that he had done the right thing; but whenever he remembered the shining tears in Aslan’s eyes he became sure.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Circle Time

For the last couple of weeks I've been implementing "Circle Time" with the kids.  This happens in the morning after Clementine goes down for her morning nap, around 9am.  We sit on the floor in a circle (hence the name) and have a time together reading the Bible, singing, and praying.  Here's roughly what it looks like:

  • Mama reads Psalm 100 out of the Bible
  • Kids and Mama practice memorizing Psalm 100, with plenty of actions and going very slowly 
  • Mama reads out of The Big Picture Story Bible
  • We talk about what we read for maybe 2-3 minutes
  • We sing a hymn, encouraging the two younger ones to memorize the chorus
  • Mama and whoever else wants to prays

That's it!  Short, sweet, doable for busy moms with young kids.  And I have seen so much fruit from it!  My kids are now asking to do Circle Time if I forget, and are reciting Scripture and singing hymns... it's beautiful!  And the best part is it's SIMPLE and SUSTAINABLE.  I'm not setting myself up with grand ideas about doing some sort of inductive Bible study with my preschoolers and then giving it up after two days because it's too much.  This is really, really simple and easy and short.  But I can do it pretty much every day!  I love it, and so do my kids, and for the first time I feel like I'm really consistently feeding my kids spiritually.

I do require them to SIT and to be still, to listen attentively, etc.  But the time is short enough that that's not too much of a problem for a 2.5 year old and a 4 year old.  If Clementine is awake then it's really rough so during her a.m. nap is best.

I got this idea from Preschoolers and Peace, by the way.

Here's some evidence of the fruit I've been seeing - Moses singing our current hymn, "Nothing But the Blood":

Remembering Matthias 5 Years Later

This is a card I sent out this year to commemorate Matthias' 5th birthday and to thank many people who walked with us through that time. God has blessed us so much with people willing to enter into this grief and walk that path with us. Thank you! And thank you to those who have read Matthias' story and remembered him with us each year. We are blessed to hear his name spoken and have our dear son remembered and loved.