We spend so much of our lives seeking the extraordinary: the mountaintop experience, the emotional epiphany, the magnificent moment. Hollywood trains us to see life as a series of extraordinary experiences, a quest for “not-normal” – and it comes through in the jokes we make: “You know you're thirty when shopping with your spouse is an exciting Friday night.”
But what if that is an exciting Friday night? What if a candle lit at home, a book read in the living room, a friend laughing across the dinner table - what if all of it was extraordinary and the clubbing, racing, booked-up-weekend life is actually… not so special after all?
Why do we measure the quality of the present by our most immature season of life?
Maybe you were a smarter 22 year old than I was but my 22-year-old priorities are not something worth emulating. I overbooked, overcommitted, failed to say no (and constantly said yes), stayed up late when I needed sleep, ate horrible food that eventually destroyed my health, and used dating relationships to silence the inner work God was trying to do. It was a season. God was gracious for it, God used it, and I am better for it… but I have no desire to return to it. And I certainly don't measure the joy of my current life by it.
I guess what I'm saying is: our culture looks to the twenties decade as the standard of “fun” and adventure. It's even leading current twenty-somethings to think time is ticking by, that once you're married with kids or in your thirties/forties (or both) the joy drains out like coffee from a broken cup. I'm suggesting something better. I'm suggesting that maybe, maybe, life gets richer with time.
Maybe… The good old days are the ones you're living, if you'll recognize their richness.
By volume, the rat-race pace of American culture isn't that extraordinary. It's normal. Which means those slow, “mundane”, ordinary days? They're actually the extraordinary ones. And if we open our eyes to the goodness of God within them, the little ways He shows Himself, they become something sacred. Or perhaps they already were… we just never stopped long enough to see it.
When we spend our lives racing for the extraordinary we actually undercut the work of the Spirit. The Spirit is at work in the mountaintop moments, but He does most of His sanctification in trial, suffering, and doubt; “enduring things” I like to call them. In the enduring things the Spirit stretches and refines us, calling us to a deeper and more ALIVE faith. In these seasons He awakens us to His voice, His priorities, and His calling. People who are comfortable in the ordinary often have the most extraordinary character. People who resist the mundane don't stop long enough to build the character they need for extraordinary purpose when it comes.
Stop long enough.
Pause a moment to recognize the purpose of your morning commute.
Pause a moment to see the cashier who serves you every morning.
Pause a moment to recognize that your boring Friday is God's grace to you.
Pause a moment, and let go of the pressure to return to your lifestyle at most immature, most rootless, most independent; cease trying to emulate the people longing for what you have – and embrace the extraordinary life you're living.
At my most superficially “free” I was most deeply lonely. I desperately wanted the life I live now. In my current life, I spend five out of seven nights at home reading books or playing board games or washing dishes or talking to kids. Sure, we travel sometimes, we have some concerts on the calendar, and there's a lot of “big” things I have the honor to do; but I don't live for those things. They are little blips, little highlights, in the midst of an already fulfilling life… not because I'm married, or have kids, or live on a farm, or write for a living. Not because I don't have hardships (because I do). I live an extraordinary life because I'm a soul loved by God, and there is evidence of Christ everywhere I go. There's nothing ordinary about that – for me, or for you.
**And hey, if you're in your twenties, in this season? Don't let the culture of your generation keep you from living into the joy of what you have. If you find joy with a single friend over coffee, if you delight in reading a good book on a Friday night, you're not boring. You're not missing out. You're living.
Ask Anything Q/A
Favorite decaf coffee? I know you're right about caffeine and anxiety!
Okay, this was in response to me sharing last week about how caffeine is directly linked to anxiety and anger for me. When I quit caffeine (now just drink a little each morning) I saw a complete transformation in my ability to handle stress. My energy levels also stay stable (for those wondering how I have “so much energy”!). THIS SAID: I own a Nespresso machine (a gift for my birthday) and I like the Melozio decaf pods. Sadly they don't make my favorite flavor, hazelnut, in decaf so if I have caffeine I'll have one hazelnut pod in the morning. For regular decaf, I look for organic water processed. I usually buy it locally from my health food store. TAG Coffee, one of our Every Woman a Theologian partners, also has decaf.
What is your favorite book in the OT and in the NT and why?
Love this question! In the Old Testament, I have several favorites… Leviticus is one! (It's why I wrote the study on it!) But my ultimate favorite is probably Psalms. I find myself in Psalms anytime I'm going through something hard. I feel closer to God through those pages! In the New Testament, my favorite is either the gospel of John or 1 John. The epistle of 1 John was what I clung to when I was getting freedom from pornographic literature (sexual romance novels). It taught me to embrace the love of God for myself and by doing so, I found true freedom from sin. But I also adore the gospel of John, especially John 1.
How do you handle kids in church? Should they sit in church or go to children's ministry?
I think there is room for both. Josh and I really like to train our kids to sit through service for a variety of reasons outlined in this blog post. But we also utilize our church children's ministry (and volunteer in it). The most important thing to remember is that it is not your church's job to disciple your kids; it's YOUR job, and they are there to come alongside and support you.
What I'm Reading
The Charlotte Mason Companion: I have a stack of education/homeschool books I'm reading for my own continuing education and this is one of them. I bought the original CM book (Philosophy of Education) but I need a forerunner!
The Imitation of Christ: I got a vintage version of this on a yard sale and it's beautiful. It's kind of like a Catholic “My Utmost for His Highest” (though I must say old Oswald Chambers is still my favorite!).
If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home: I seriously love this book! Even if I wasn't reading for research I would be obsessed. Worth a read!
The Benedict Option: I am finally getting to the practicals of the Rule and how it impacts our life in a post-Christian culture. Enjoying this but want to read more on the Rule itself.
Little Women: My girls and I are watching all the versions of Little Women this semester (they have already seen the mini-series, my favorite version, a few times and just watched the 1990s version last week). After watching, they wanted to read the book - so this is a re-read for me and a first for them.
The John Woolman Nature Preserve: If you're in northern Michigan, this is a MUST see. It's a bit of hike (it's 40 minutes outside of St. Ignace) – both literally and figuratively. We went with all the kids and their friends and it is magical. It's called the “Narnia trail” for a reason! (Pictured above)
Super tempted by this Etsy shirt: It's just too cute… for the homeschool mamas.
Cocoa Banana Overnight Oats: I am terrible at eating breakfast lately. I've struggled since Ivan was born - and these really help me eat within 30 minutes of waking!
My much-requested Battle Songs playlist (from my reel on anger last week) is on repeat in the car and at home. These are songs I personally resonate with and like to sing to the Lord.
At Home with Phylicia
A review of our homeschool curriculum this year! I get asked this question constantly so I'm putting here again for those who missed.
Our core curriculum is Classical Conversations and it includes a community day with all the other members. There are about 40 kids in the girls' co-op and we meet once a week. Classical education centers on the Trivium, a spiraling method of education that begins with memorizing general truths/facts about an area of study for the foundational years, then moving to making connections and creating arguments in the middle school age, followed by debate and persuasion in the high school age.
To supplement each week's focus I use my own library of books plus our public library system. I order books on Sundays and pick them up later in the week after co-op. We read aloud constantly - last year we read aloud approximately 200 books. I adhere to the model of teaching that allows kids to learn in the most engaging way possible: through story.
For phonics and reading, we use All About Reading. Adeline is in Level 3 and Eva is in Level 1. This year we are adding All About Spelling.
For math we use Math U See. Adeline is finishing the Beta program and Eva is halfway through Alpha.
Morning Time, or Morning Basket as some call it, is a time when we begin the school day with the books we all use together. This includes poetry memorization, Pilgrim's Progress reading, nature study, hymn and folk song singing, manners study, and read alouds from favorites like Princess and the Goblin, Greek Myths, and Shakespeare for Children.
One of my favorite recent fruits from this method of education was while waiting in line at a restaurant. One of our girls brought up the sisters in King Lear and discussed with us how evil they were to each other. “They were nothing like the sisters in Little Women,” they said. “Why is that?” I prodded. “Because the sisters in Little Women fought, but they made it right. They didn't hate each other the way the sisters in King Lear did.” Without having a formal lesson on siblings and fighting, the girls drew their OWN conclusion from the stories in good literature. That's what the classical and Charlotte Mason methods are after.