You cannot be a source of the Spirit's life-giving water for your children if the well of your own spirit is empty or dry. -Clay ClarksonI've been thinking a lot about this quote from Clay & Sally Clarkson's wonderful book, The Life-Giving Parent. Ever since I started homeschooling both kiddos in earnest about a month ago, I'm more aware than ever of how my inner state impacts the atmosphere of our home. I often wonder what my kids will remember of their experience of homeschooling when they are grown and gone. Will they remember feeling loved and accepted and valued for their unique gifts? Will they treasure warm memories of cuddling on the couch together with our favorite books, or exploring beautiful fields and forests on our nature adventures?
On days when the laundry is piling up, and there's nothing but wilted celery and a few apples rattling around the refrigerator, and I haven't had a quiet moment to myself in days, it seems much more likely that they'll remember me snapping about the fifth uncapped marker I've found on the floor today or griping again about the toilet that no one in the family can seem to remember to flush except me.
When I'm caught up in the busyness of life and all the things I need to accomplish in a given day, my soul is left feeling empty and dry. If I want to share the life-giving water of the Spirit with my children, I have to take the time to be shaped and led by the Spirit.
Here are some practices I've found that help me invite God into my homeschooling and remind me I am made to live out of an ongoing relationship with Him.
Prioritize Morning Time
I've given up calling this a quiet time because it is usually anything but quiet. I do try, though, to set apart a few moments at the beginning of every day where I sit down with a cup of chai tea, turn on my Happy Light (if you live in climate that's cold and dark for months at a time you need to invest in one of these!), and spend some time reading and journaling.
Right now my favorite resource is my Write the Word journal. Each two-page spread includes a place to note the date, write a few things I'm grateful for, copy out a Bible verse, and unload my scattered thoughts for the day and get them down on paper. Sometimes I jot down a list of to-dos, sometimes I write a prayer, sometimes I copy down a quote from a book I'm reading.
Read Uplifting Books
If you know me at all, it will surprise you not one bit that reading books is an important way I nourish my spirit. These are some of my favorite reads that have challenged and encouraged me spiritually.
Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life by Phileena Heuertz
I recently finished this book and love how it wrestles with the tension between action and reflection. It describes the author's own story as an activist on sabbatical who embarks on a pilgrimage of the Camino in Spain. In addition to her own story, she includes practical guidance on spiritual disciplines and helpful reflection questions.
Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight in Our Busy Lives by Wayne Muller
This is another book that balances Scriptural inspiration with practical spiritual disciplines. The teaching on how to develop a Sabbath practice in our modern lives is excellent. I'm looking forward to reading this one again soon!
Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: Moving From Affluence toGenerosity by Ron Sider
I read this book every couple of years and am always challenged by it. It is a great reality check for those of us in America who struggle with contentment or don't feel that we have enough.
Check Out Podcasts for Inspiration
I love listening to podcasts! It turns mundane chores like folding laundry or washing the dishes into a thought-provoking and refreshing time. I try to choose programs that are both interesting and edifying. Here are a few of my favorites:
The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman: The episodes are short and sweet, but they go to a deep place spiritually. Rooted in Scripture, Emily's memorable insights and examples stay with me for days. And her voice itself is soothing to the soul. New episodes drop once a week, but for a while I was going back through the archives to listen to an episode a day because they're just that good. Episode 7 on faithfulness in the small things is one I return to again and again.
Little Faith Podcast by Havilah Siegmann: This is a newer podcast that grapples with what it means to live out our faith in front of our kids without falling back on black-and-white answers that are limiting and ultimately unsatisfying. The podcast will challenge your assumptions about faith and invite you to a space of deeper wholeness and authenticity. Her episode on moving away from fear-based parenting was one of my favorites.
The Wild + Free Podcast with Ainsley Arment: These episodes are full of encouragement and inspiration from a diverse and growing group of homeschooling mothers who are united by their desire for their children to experience a rich education without losing the adventure and wonder of childhood. I always feel like I can make it through another day when I listen in on one of these episodes. My all-time favorite is Episode 13 on Laying the Feast.
Get Grounded With Time in the Outdoors
It's said that actual physical contact with the Earth has a calming effect on us physically and emotionally. In the modern world it's possible to go days at a time without actually touching anything that isn't man-made. When our bodies physically touch the Earth, the sand, a tree, a flower, there is an equilibrium within us that is restored, a calm that comes. I can't say I understand the science on this one (you can read more about it here) but I've certainly found it to be true in my own life. On days when I'm most frazzled, a simple barefoot walk in the grass does wonders for my mood. We try to make time for grounding in nature every day, and if I forget the kiddos are sure to remind me!
Nurture Spiritual Friendships
Do you have friends in your life who ask you how you are doing spiritually? Who you can call at any hour of the day or night if you need someone to pray for you? Who notice when you're not doing well and aren't afraid to sit with you in your sadness or anxiety or frustration without telling you how to fix your problems? I'm so grateful that I do. If you haven't found friends that build you up spiritually, you may have to initiate and put forth more effort to find them. I promise you it will be worth it in the long run.
Find Your Music and Keep It Playing
Even if you don't have time for anything else, you can always put some uplifting music on in the background. I have a few different sound tracks for different types of moods.
If I want something to really soak in the Spirit's presence, Housefires is my favorite:
If I'm feeling discouraged and I feel like giving up, this one always gets me fired up:
And if I just want something that will put a smile on my face, Rend Collective does the trick. Note the llama - I have a thing for llamas :)