Take time to be aware that in the very midst of our busy preparations for the celebration of Christ’s birth in ancient Bethlehem, Christ is reborn in the Bethlehems of our homes and daily lives. Take time, slow down, be still, be awake to the Divine Mystery that looks so common and so ordinary yet is wondrously present – Edward Hays
Our lives are marked with moments and monuments of celebration and gratitude for who God is and what He has done in our lives. Christmas is no different I guess but instead of walking this Christian existence in homes and pockets across our cities, in this season, the whole of the western world are trying to make sense of what Christmas is and means. As Christ followers we get to inject meaning into the those moments and memories.
This Christmas I want to celebrate not consume; I want to open my heart and my home and make Him room.
I want to minimize the crazy and maximise Christ
For the past 6 or so years we’ve walked the advent journey with the Jesse Tree, inspired by Ann Voskamp. Even before the glossy book and the pottery ornaments we used her printables and taught my children that through Genesis to the manger His name is whispered – He is coming. Advent.
We take time every day to read, reflect and place our ornament upon the tree.
Each card, each ornament represents a story through the old testament, a story which represents His character, his coming and our calling to draw Him close. Each story talks of the power of God throughout history, His redemption and salvation for His people. His amazing way of taking what was broken and almost gone, damaged destroyed and making it whole again.
Whatever your tradition or expression at this time is , give Him room. We’re not only preparing our hearts for a birthing but also the dawning of a new year. Consider now what God has done, contemplate what He has ahead for you and allow Christ to do His transforming work in your life.
Let me encourage you at the beginning of advent to allow His peace into your pace, to slow down and give Jesus some space.
The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything – The Bible
I love God’s Word; it shapes, guides and creates patterns in my life that make me more like Him. The Bible is so far from a dry and irrelevant text, it is living and active, and if you let it do its work in your life it NEVER returns void. Hear it, speak it and allow it to go deep, to sooth your soul, strengthen your spirit and blow upon those glowing God embers in your heart.
We can’t do Christian life without it – so open it today!
Twice a month we gather our Connect group in our home; we sit around cake, tea and God’s Word and share what we see and what He is saying. I not only love this bringing together of community and family but I love seeing one verse come to life before our eyes through simply allowing time and space to talk about it. Conversation is a catalyst.
I was reminded of one of my favourite verses in the bible, a verse that I live by and put into practice daily, here it is in The Message:
Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Philippians 4
This Pauline instruction to the Philippians is poignant and pivotal to our lives and our daily walk. At the end of verse 5 Paul states ‘the Lord is near’, followed by ‘do not worry’. What an incredible statement to surround this whole section of scripture, before we even start talking about your worry and what to do about it, remember, the Lord is near!
The fact that we know that He is near then urges us to follow the next instruction, ‘do not worry’, instead of carrying worry, turn all that emotion and distraction into prayer. I’ve learnt to practice this, I’ve created a devotional default when my heart is heavy. When something is going on in my life that is distracting and dissolving me into a bit of hot mess, I pray. Declaring first that I know He is near, I then pour out everything I’m feeling, carrying and burdened with to my Father God, who loves to listen. And what does He do? He doesn’t promise to fix it, make it all better and resolve it as we would want with our earthly understanding, no – but He does replace our heavy heart with His gift of peace. His overwhelming, life transforming calm that we can’t fathom or start to understand. He allows us to walk in wholeness and freedom with a light heart DESPITE our situation.
He brings calm to our chaos, stillness to our striving and turns our worry into wonder.
Talk to the Father today, open His Word and be transformed.
You are loved.
Loving this song at the moment; may it bless you today!
I am totally your classic ‘always something to do’ gal; I would have been your nightmare manager at McDonald’s (never actually worked there…I was a Pizza Hut waitress through my university days though) singing gleefully on an early shift ‘if you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean’ and all that – I’m a little exhausted just thinking about it! My University friend, Claire, would despair at me for never being able to relax and watch a film unless I was doing something else; writing a letter, writing in a journal, making my life goals etc.
A few weeks ago my son, Micah said “Mum, please come and sit with me and watch a film…and DON’T bring your book”. I laughed (cried a little inside) and met his request; we snuggled under a big Mexican blanket (which of course invites other little ones…and the dog) and melted into a film together. After a while Dave appeared at the door after being out, with a look of shock and awe on his face and said “wow, Mum is watching a film with you”!
Okay, okay – it’s not quite my jam to sit and watch any old film, I really don’t like T.V and I am very intentional with my time – but I have had to learn to add into the baseline (and schedule) of my life a rhythm of rest.
And before you start to feel really sorry for my kids and plan to whip them off to the movies without me; I am with them 24/7 people! We sit with piles of books, we linger over tea and conversation at the table, we walk together and I hold them, kiss their little Boden faces and tell them emphatically that I love them many times a day!
BUT, I am learning to rest on their terms at times. We have a such a mulch of personalities and love languages in our home (moi: INFJ, Acts of service and time come out pretty high on my love tank needs) and as much as I need to be energised and fueled for life, so do my family – with me in the mix!
A few times a week I like to bring them over to my side (insert evil laugh); twice this weekend I planted myself sprawled full length on the sofa with Big Magic in hand and shouted ‘it’s quiet (book) time’! My 4-year-old grabbed a couple of Donaldson classics and found a nook between my body and the sofa we were on and wedged herself in; the dog snuggled on my feet, my husband read the newspaper, my (almost) teen flicked through Spotify on my Kindle Fire to plan her birthday playlist and while Joel napped upstairs Micah adventured through his favourite dinosaur book. I could hear a gentle hum of a child, the flicking of pages, the deep inhale and exhale of a black Bassadore heavy on my feet.
The left-overs remained on the table for a little longer, the dishes were piled up in the kitchen and who knows if anyone had clean underwear for tomorrow; that moment, right there is where I was fully present.
Over the top of Micah’s hum and Sienna’s quiet recitation of ‘The Gruffalo’, I looked up at my husband and said “this is a thousand times better than watching T.V”.
We should always have something worthwhile to think about, that we may not let our minds dwell upon unworthy matters – Charlotte Mason
My interest in the life and works of Charlotte Mason stems from early on in my research before embarking on actually teaching our children at home.
I often still feel in the early stages of discovery but have now been implementing her methods in our homeschooling days for 8 years. My interest isn’t purely to aid my ‘teaching’, I am fascinated by a woman who influenced the face of education in a time where children were ‘seen and not heard’, were physically punished for poor spelling and did not have the freedom to express their informed opinions or feelings about a particular text or subject. Charlotte’s work and life was ‘for the children’s sake’; she believed and fought for the plain fact that ‘children are born persons’ and wanted to give them all an opportunity to create a life long love for learning, enjoy good ‘living’ books and an appreciation of God’s creation.
In 2012 I took a bit of a pilgrimage up to the Lake District (Ambleside) to visit her old stomping ground (she was actually nearly fifty when she moved to Ambleside, in 1891 and formed the House of Education, a training school for governesses and others working with young children) and her gravestone; I was saddened to see the buildings unloved and more or less abandoned over the years but glad they remained standing to tell some of the tale of her life and work. Her incredible legacy has and continues to impact so many of us across the globe.
My learning about her life and implementing her educational methods in my home have made a huge impact on many area’s of my life; here are 5 for starters!
Reignited my love of books
Let their books be living books, the best that can be found in liberal supply and variety – Charlotte Mason
I’ve always been a reader, albeit a bit of a lazy one, but I’ve always loved and thrived on self-education (I wasn’t home educated). Over the past few years my love of reading, learning and getting lost in real, ‘living’ books has been rekindled and has enriched my life incredibly. I’m a true believer in modeling for our children what we’re labouring to implement in their lives; if you want readers, be a reader!
Habits are worth the work
“Let children alone… the education of habit is successful in so far as it enables the mother to let her children alone, not teasing them with perpetual commands and directions – a running fire of Do and Don’t ; but letting them go their own way and grow, having first secured that they will go the right way and grow to fruitful purpose.” ― Charlotte M. Mason
Don’t skip this bit! I know habit-forming can be laborious, tedious and time-consuming but it is SO worth it. It’s incredible how doing the same thing every day, learning a simple skill (i.e. attention) can massively impact your family life and your personal life.
Every day nature study – brought it to life
Let them once get in touch with nature and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight and habit through life – Charlotte Mason
My childhood was full of nature walks and adventures in the Yorkshire countryside; my foraging mother would collect treasures, smell trees, point out flowers and admire God’s beauty like no one I’ve ever seen before. I’m so thankful for that heritage but it didn’t come to life in me until I started home educating my children and brought nature study into our regular rhythm. I have now become my mother (smile), only ten times ‘worse’ – and I love it!
I’ve learnt to trust the learning ability of a child
“Self-education is the only possible education; the rest is mere veneer laid on the surface of a child’s nature.”
― Charlotte M. Mason
This is a whole blog post in itself (I will do it), I never fully realised the full learning potential of a child if you just give them room to grow, discover, observe and breathe in this big beautiful world that we live in. With each child I have been ‘braver’ to not have every moment scheduled and schooled, to allow plenty of room and trust the ways of a child and Charlotte’s method. I’ve had incredible ‘results’ from my brave ways (wink) and thriving children who I thank God for everyday!
Mother culture – exploring my own learning and creativity
“If mothers could learn to do for themselves what they do for their children when these are overdone, we should have happier households. Let the mother go out to play!”
― Charlotte M. Mason
With the combination of Charlotte Mason, Brene Brown and now Elizabeth Gilbert, I’m finally loving my creative self, believing in her and leaning into her. So much of motherhood is time given over to those in our households; loving, nurturing, feeding, nursing and guiding but I’ve learnt to realise that I am at my best from a place of rest! I need to renergise, read, write, walk, gaze at beauty and fill my soul in order for me to pour into the people in my life.
So mama’s – let’s go out to play!
How have the life and works of Charlotte Mason impacted your life?
So here we are in November; we’ve had incredible weather here in the UK, the sun has been shining as the beautiful coloured leaves fall to the ground and there’s that perfect crisp ‘nip’ in the air, enough to get you under a blanket whilst picking up a book or two!
When writing to mothers, Karen Andreola in A Charlotte Mason Companionsuggests that we all have three books on the go at one time so that we can pick up the one we “feel fit for” at that time, she suggest:
A Stiff Book (ie, a challenging one)
A Moderately easy book (ie a biography)
A Novel (preferably good ones – not twaddle. examples included George Eliot, Charles Dickens, etc)
I don’t quite follow her pattern but I like having a few on the go so I can choose which one suits the mood or time of day! I make it my goal to finish this group of books within the month before I move on…
Never be without a good book on hand – Charlotte Mason
(This is on Kindle with an add-on audio so I can do both!)
I’m also re-listening to It Starts With Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig as I’m on round 2 of the Whole30; I didn’t quite catch everything fully during the first listening so once the two above are through I’ll start on this one again whilst doing dishes!!
Thank you for all your comments and recommendations on Instagram and Facebook from last months ‘What I’m Reading’ post – I’m lining some of them up for the new year…watch this space!
So what have you got picked out of the book shelf for November?
If you’re interested in ‘balancing’ work and pleasure, stop trying to balance them. Instead make your work more pleasurable.
I’ve never been particularly ‘fitness’ inclined; I did start a gymnastics class when I was a child and achieved a couple of ‘Coca Cola’ badges for my mum to sew onto my leotard (which I proudly annoyingly pronounced ‘Leah-tard’) but I just think the instructors felt sorry for me! I mean why balance on a bar when you can walk around the room?
I still feel the same today; I’m a little more aware of the need to intentionally work-out my body everyday but I’d still rather walk around a room than balance on a bar, a box or a tightrope!
The seasons of our life ebb and flow over the years; some come in like a crashing wave and knock us to the ground, others gently tickle our toes as a reminder things are changing. The problem with ‘finding balance’ in our lives is the need to repeat the wobbly, eyes to your toes bit over and over again. Balance can only last for a few moments, or if you’re really good a bit longer but no matter how great of a acrobat you are, eventually, everyone falls off, or has to get off.
So let’s keep our feet firmly on the ground and eyes fixed on Jesus, let’s assess the space that God has given us; look around the room, have we been invaded by unnecessary responsibilities, have people been ‘fly tipping’ or dumping in our protected area? Or do we just need to rearrange a little?
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
Matt 11: 28 – 29
I am an introvert; I only discovered this in my 30’s which helped me greatly to understand why I felt so exhausted after a big event, party or church gathering. According to the Myers Briggs test I’m an INFJ (Introversion, iNtuition, Feeling and Judging); I can do the loud and the crowd, but only for short spurts of time, only if I can escape of my own accord (with a book – wink), and only if I can energise alone either before or after.
This is me!
I don’t like being crowded out in any sphere of my life. About 12 years ago Dave and I were doing some exhibition work in London promoting our graphic design company we ran at the time. We had to ride the tube at rush hour to commute to the venue over the few days we were there. I’ve never experienced anything like it and HATED it! Just as you thought the person stood next to you was pressed close enough to your ear the train would stop at another station and a whole new load of people would get on.
Being crowded out is no fun for anyone, infact it becomes dangerous and hence the need at large events for ‘crowd control’.
Maybe it’s time for some crowd control in our lives; stop shoving yourself in the corner and letting the responsibilities of the day suck you up. YOU have responsibility for your own life, own it, lead it and take control again!
Remember, God has brought you to a place of space and you have room to grow, be fruitful and move in the land. He wants you to learn the unforced rhythms of grace; nothing forced, nothing heavy – and you’re not teetering on your tiptoes waiting to fall off; you just need to apply a little crowd control to your space.
“The willingness to show up changes us, It makes us a little braver each time.”
― Brené Brown
If you missed last week’s thoughts on ‘balance’ you can read it here.
“Reading aloud with children is known to be the single most important activity for building the knowledge and skills they will eventually require for learning to read.”
― Marilyn Jager Adams
In a time where there are SO many distractions and forms of digital entertainment for our children it’s so easy to drop the beautiful habit of reading aloud. Whether you have babes in arms, preschoolers, homeschoolers or children in full-time school; reading aloud is a gift we give our children, a chance to snuggle up with them and a perfect opportunity to slow down and immerse ourselves in a child’s literary world.
Some of the happiest memories of my childhood were when my beautiful mother would gather myself and my siblings on her bed and she would either read a book or make up an adventure story! The bed would become a flying carpet or a ship at sea; we’d be lost on a desert island or taking flight over sights and scenery that she would describe and that I can still ‘picture’ today.
“To receive many blessings, read to your children from the womb to the tomb.”
― Joyce Herzog
So here are 5 reasons (or reminders) why we should read aloud to our children:
Improves Their Long Term Reading Success
Decades of research shows that reading aloud to a child daily is one of the most important activities for their reading success. That goes for older children, too. Studies show that children who are read-to are more likely to have good vocabularies, write well, and do well overall in school . They’re also more likely to keep reading on their own
2. Helps Expand Their Vocabulary
Your child’s auditory understanding is higher than their reading comprehension. When you pick a difficult book that your kids can’t read on their own, you are exposing them to a treasure chest of new vocabulary words. This stretches a child’s language development, particularly if you stop to talk about the meaning of these harder words.
I encourage my children to write down ‘hard words’ on a piece of paper whilst they are reading, and look them up later; a little habit I picked up from my Dad. Obviously if they can’t understand the story due to said hard word I help them out!
3. Increases Their Imagination And Creativity
When our children have travelled to the country fayre with Wilbur and Charlotte and ‘tasted’ Templeton’s treats, when they’ve ‘smelt’ the Shire and lost themselves in Middle-earth; when you’ve gasped together and cried (that would be me) whilst reading about the life of Bruno and Shmuel the books do their own work in our listeners hearts and imaginations. I finished reading ‘Charlotte’s Web’ to my youngest children over a week ago and they are still playing and crafting games around the characters they’ve fallen in love with!
4. It’s Time Spent Together.
Reading time is time when you’re focusing on no one else and nothing else but them. It’s impossible to read to your son or daughter and look at your smart phone or watch TV at the same time! It’s a prime opportunity to slow down, sit down, snuggle up and breath in a book with your children – now, who doesn’t want to do that?!
5. It Builds Life Skills
It builds listening skills, increases a child’s attention span, and develops the ability to concentrate at length of which all are learned skills.
So where should I Start?
Pick a perfect 15 minute slot every day and create a habit
Pull yourself a book list together; there are some helpful ideas here
Ask your children what they would like to read
Just DO IT! It doesn’t matter if you’re not the best reader or eloquent speaker; you’re creating a bond, amazing memories and instilling life skills into your children!
We have an obligation to read aloud to our children. To read them things they enjoy. To read to them stories we are already tired of. To do the voices, to make it interesting, and not to stop reading to them just because they learn to read to themselves – Neil Gaiman
Want to hear more? Tomorrow morning on my radio show ‘Live With Leah’ I’m interviewing primary school teacher and English subject leader Jenny Jenkins. We’re going to be chatting about the joy of books, reading aloud to our children and how we can encourage this in family life amidst the digital distractions we’re bombarded with!
Check out the show live at 8am (GMT), listen locally on 101.5fm or stream from Radioplus.org.uk.
Connect with us during the show via our Facebook page – tell us where you’re listening from and ask questions to add to our live conversation!
And finally, check out this book for more inspiration: