September 16, 2010

The Purpose in All This Book Learnin'

I admit I was a huge dork of a student.  Gold stars were my language, and A's were my ultimate in satisfaction.  I can remember stinging tears of shame and a sinking feeling of disappointment when papers came back to me with a less than perfect score.

And guess who is just like his mom?  One of the first things about school Micah told me is the paper apple each student has hanging on a bulletin board.  If they are well-behaved and complete their work, they get a scratch-and-sniff sticker on the apple, and when they've accumulated enough stickers that waft root beer and cotton candy, they get to choose a prize from the treasure box.  You would have thought Micah had climbed Mount Everest that first time he got to dig his little hand into the treasure chest of toys from Taiwan.

I now see that lust for gold stars was pride.  I wanted to be better than everyone else, and I was seeking approval from others through my school work.  Rather than finding my identity in Jesus, I found it in being a straight-A student.  And the cycle could continue if I let it.  I could be so intent on the destination of being the best mom or the best teacher or the best wife or the best leader that I lose sight of the journey.  And what happens when I get a D- in parenting on Wednesday?  I don't just have a bad day; I lose myself.  So I must guard against allowing my roles to become me.

And how do I protect my little boys from falling into the performance trap?  I continually consider the end game.  What is the purpose of education?  Haven't all teachers and parents had students ask them indignantly, "Why do I have to learn algebra or grammar or chemistry?  I'm not going to be a mathematician or a grammarian or a chemist."  You're totally right.  I want to say.  Diagramming sentences is completely impractical.  You will never diagram in the real world.

But this is where we as a society of educators and institutions have sadly fallen short.  We've told our students the purpose of education is to get a good job someday.  So we do well in school so we can get into a good college so we can get a good job so we can make lots of money so we can send our own children to the best schools so they can do well so they can get into a good college so they can get a good job.  And the cycle becomes one of endless futility.  Is the purpose of education to turn children into greedy workaholics?  Is having a good job wrong?  No, of course not.  But there has to be more than money on the line for the seventeen years (or more) of eight-hour days we all sit in a desk with a number 2 pencil in our hands.

John Milton said, "The end of learning is to repair the ruin of our first parents."  As an educator first to my own children and then to other students placed under my care, I must remember that the intellect shares a space with the soul.  I cannot feed one without affecting the other.  The goal of education in our home is wisdom.  Proverbs tells us wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing we desire can compare with it.  Reason can only be acquired through wisdom.  And reason is what our souls use to perceive reality.  The knowledge a student gains seeps into their souls to perfect their ability reason.  And, of course, the beginning of wisdom is respect for the Lord, so Nate and I train our children from a very young age to honor God.

Micah attends a university-model school which means he learns at home for two days a week.  I must keep the end goal in mind on the days when lessons don't go exactly as planned or on the days when he gets prideful because he does so well.  Why are we here?  Why do we sit at this table sounding out words, singing songs in a dead language, and memorizing the continents?  We do this because the end goal is wisdom.          

Blessed is the one who finds wisdom,  and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. Proverbs 3:13-14

Post script: A special thanks to my dear husband Nate and my fellow educators at The Potter's School, HEED, and Oak Grove Classical Academy for much of the above content.  

September 3, 2010

For the Love of a City

Milestones have a way of making me nostalgic.  One year ago today a red Dogde Caravan filled with a visionary pastor and his hopeful wife, two wiggly boys, an overwrought cat, bulging suitcases, an heirloom kitchen table, and way too many fast food wrappers passed through a canyon and rounded a bend in I 40 from behind the Sandia Mountains.

I can remember catching that first glimpse of Albuquerque.  I had seen it before from an airplane, but that visit was different.  Then it wasn't our city.  Now it was ours.  It was our mission field, where we had been sent.  Our purpose lay inside those miniature doll houses and drove in those toy cars and walked by the side of that ribbon of water meandering through the metropolis.  I knew no one, but I was already in love.

If you've been pregnant, you know.  You've felt the love of something not yet actualized.  I was in love with a church that didn't yet exist, and I had dreams for people whom I had never met.  My heart was breaking, and still does, for people who are marginalized and hurting in this city.  Every day I drive down Paseo del Norte and get a view of the whole city and still get choked up for the masses who might feel lonely, who might need hope.  Especially when I see the whole city a night, I can't help but think that behind each twinkling light is a story, a soul.  Each person behind each lamp will be somewhere in a million years.

I didn't know it was possible to feel so at home in one year.  I think God has a way of showing you where you're supposed to be.  New Mexico has become my home.  I have embraced her beauty and her eccentricity, and she has enchanted me.  In honor of our one year anniversary I've compiled this list of 52 things, one for every week we've been here, I love about this place.

1. New City Christian Church 
2. Magnificent city vistas
3. Brilliant sunsets that turn the mountain pink
4. Hiking in the Sandias
5. Wildflowers
6. Hiking the volcanos
7. Walking in the Bosque
8. Seasons
9. Green chile
10. Red chile
11. The smoky, spicy smell of roasted chile in the fall outside every supermarket
12. Nob Hill
13. Chile ristas
14. A short drive and you can be in the middle of nowhere
15. Farmer's markets
16. Junk shops on 4th Street
17. Our bustling house
18. Camping
19. Good neighbors
20. The mesa behind our house
21. The drive down Paseo
22. Oak Grove Classical Academy
23. MOMS Club Ventana Ranch Central
24. Hippies
25. The Rio Grande
26. Leaves that turn yellow
27. The ABQ Zoo
28. The ABQ Botanic Gardens
29. Explora
30. Tumbleweeds
31. Farm animals in the middle of the city
32. The Frontier Restaurant
33. The Lobos
34. Roadrunners on my back wall
35. Desert rain storms
36. Turquoise jewelry
37. Cowboy boots
38. Cottonwood fairies
39. Wide sidewalks in Ventana Ranch
40. Lavender in the summer
41. Good friends for my boys
42. Sophia's Place
43. The Petroglyphs
44. El Pinto
45. Enormous blue sky
46. Snow on the mountain in the winter
47. Balloon fiesta
48. Dry air, which equals great hair!
49. Turquoise Trail
50. Madrid
51. The diversity
52. A big city that feels like a small town

September 2, 2010

Ordinary Moments of Grandeur

Me: Make sure you remember what happens at school today so you can tell me what happens when you get home.  

Micah: Ok, Mom.  I'll write everything down in my mind. 

And so he does.  He gives details about what he played at recess, who he sat next to at lunch, and what book his teacher read aloud.

I want to write the moments down in my mind, not so I can dwell in the past, but so I can realize the glory of the extraordinary in the everyday.  Remembering the miracles will comfort when the load gets heavy and weight seems like too much to bear.  And the miracles don't necessarily arrive on momentous occasions or special days, but they happen in the monotonous wanderings of our every day.

So we left the dishes unwashed, and even though everything for Sunday was not quite ready, we hiked a trail expecting those miracles in the commonplace around every zig zag.  And we were not disappointed.

Fields of black-eyed susans

Juicy raspberries right off thorny limbs

Sweet mouths stained red

Cool mountain breezes that erase the desert heat

Aspen leaves fluttering their hello

Little boys with sword sticks fighting enemy trees

Majestic bucks surprised by our presence

Fading purple flowers announcing summer's end

Holding hands like young lovers

So the pictures are on my camera, which I can't find right now, so I'm writing these ordinary moments of grandeur in my mind.

"I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands."  Psalm 143:5