“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” Ecc 3:1
It’s been a long, cold winter in the Great Lakes region of the US. In Ohio, where I live, it has been a season of record cold and snowfall. There have been so many school cancellation days, our state government was forced to add more, so as not to extend the school year beyond the middle of June. The Vernal Equinox was last week. Yet, I see neither bud nor flower in my little yard. Even as I am writing, the snow continues to fall in great, blowing swirls. This time of year, I always find myself saying, “Enough, already!” I am so weary of winter.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Ecc 3:11
Some seasons are bright and flowering, others rainy, green and filled with newness. Another season may have the pale beauty of a world washed in white, or of a vibrant, multi-colored quilt stretched across the woods. The Word of God tells me that there is beauty in every season, for those who would look for it, and not wish it away too quickly, before the lessons of the season have been gleaned.
I am guilty of having done this. There are always times in life that are difficult, and we would like to impatiently hit the fast-forward button on life. SKIP. It’s exhausting to care for a house full of busy little children. It’s not easy to encourage a husband who is unemployed. Sometimes it is a difficult medical diagnosis that brings you to your knees. It’s so easy to forget about beauty.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4
My husband and I joined the ‘sandwich generation’ last year – homeschooling our 3 teenage boys, while caring for our 3 aging parents. My 83-yr-old mother is a lovely woman, and she lives with us. She is extremely kind, terribly forgetful, and always pleasant. She is legally blind, and she needs assistance with many things. We cannot leave her home alone. She has some dementia as well, and she has had three major surgeries in the past 15 months. My husband’s parents live 5 hours away, but they require regular assistance as they grow older and more feeble.
In this ‘sandwich’ season, I am thankful that my children are able to bear witness to my husband and I caring for our parents. They see the hard decisions and the strain, but they also see the joy, the care, and the thankfulness. Sometimes, they see our own self-pity and irritation. But then they see repentance and forgiveness. My husband and I must allow the Holy Spirit to first do His work in us. Then, we can teach the lessons to our children – it’s the narration of life.
Instead of wishing away this season too quickly, my prayer is to embrace it fully. I want to learn all the lessons that God has for me, and teach them to my children. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we may otherwise miss. It is so precious to see a teenage boy take his grandmother for a walk, to help prepare her dinner, or to cover her with a warm blanket. I have seen my boys turn off a television show they were watching, so that their grandmother can listen to the evening news. They will stay home with her on Monday evenings, so that my husband and I can go out to dinner. Our boys are learning what it means to serve, and to lay their own ‘rights’ aside. It is a lesson that God will use for the rest of their lives. One day, they may be asked to care for a wife, or for children, or for a friend, or for us.
“Justice requires that we should take steady care every day to yield his rights to every person we come in contact with; that is, ‘to do unto others as we would that they should do unto us: to hurt nobody by word or deed.’ Therefore, we must show gentleness to the persons of others, courtesy to their words, and deference to their opinions, because these things are due.” Ourselves, 137
Perhaps the most important lessons in this season are not about the subjects that my children study. Maybe they need to learn the lessons of respect, duty, gentleness, courtesy, and deference.
Perseverence must finish its work.
Our school year does not look AT ALL the way I had planned. In fact, my lesson plans from last summer have been discarded, and we have scaled back most of our subjects. Others, we had to omit altogether. But education is a life. We have enjoyed six years of a great feast of ideas in our homeschool. My children understand what it means to think for themselves. They have learned to labor with their own minds, to read great books, to love truth and beauty, to educate themselves. We are surrounded by great books in our home. We share rich relationships, and we have the constant instruction of the Holy Spirit. There is no need to worry about whether my children have ‘done enough school’ this year. They are learning the lessons that God has given, laid upon a solid foundation. So, instead of anxiety and fear of the future, the fear of not having ‘done enough,’ I choose gratitude.
“The grateful man has a good memory and a quick eye to see where those who have served need service in their turn. Especially does he cherish the memory of those who have served him in childhood and in youth, and he watches for opportunities to serve them. Gratitude spreads his feast of joy and thanksgiving for gifts that come to him without any special thought of him on the part of the giver… He is thankful for all the good that comes to him.“ Ourselves, pp. 110-111
It occurs to me, as well, that these hard seasons are opportunities to further lay the rails of habit. Learning to walk through a difficult time, with thanksgiving, trusting the Lord to lead you, makes the next hard season easier. (There will always be a next time.) Adversity smooths out our rough edges, allowing us to more easily overlook the small things that drive us crazy. We come into the next season changed, equipped for whatever God wants to do in the next season. It trains our eyes to become quick to see those in need, and to lay ourselves aside.
“Never let us reflect upon the small annoyances, and we shall be able to bear the great ones sweetly. Never let us think over our small pains, and our great pains will be easily endurable.” Ourselves, p. 90
I glance back at our school year, with all its stops and starts. It was very bumpy, and in many ways, not so very pretty. I see everything I had hoped to accomplish, but failed to do. I see the field trips I wanted to take, but didn’t. There were books unread, pages unfinished, chapters missed.
However, I also see how my children have grown this year. They have taken on projects and studies of their own, read books that were never assigned. They took things apart and put them together again. They wrote in journals, wrote computer code, and wrote poetry. They watched and performed Shakespeare. They took pictures of nature’s beauty. They dug for fossils and minerals, and came away with treasures. They started a worship band with some friends, and are writing their own songs. They are leading Bible study with groups of younger children at church, and helping in the nursery. They ski and they swim. They cook, crochet, play instruments and draw. They care for their grandmother.
“It is quite plain that to think fairly, speak truly, and act justly towards all persons at all times and on all occasions, which is our duty, is a matter requiring earnest thought and consideration – it is, in fact, the study of a lifetime.” Ourselves, p. 138
I know of no way to document the lessons we learned, but yet, those are the ‘study of a lifetime.’ I can smile in this season, at the end of a long winter. I see that my 3 teenage boys, approaching high school graduation in the next few years, have their feet set in a very large room.
That is all the progress I need to see.
“The question is not, – how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education – but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?” School Education, p. 171
Maura Timko is a member of the Great River Learning Community in the Cincinnati, OH area.
© 2014 by Maura Timko