Thursday, April 29, 2010

Strengthening the Bars of My Gates

"Praise your God, O Zion, for he strengthens the bars of your gates and blesses your people within you.  He grants peace to your borders and satisfies you with the finest of wheat."  -- Psalm 147:12b-14

If you've been with me for a while (and thanks so much, by the way!), you already know that I prefer my life in Maine to my life here in the 'burbs.  Where we live for most of the year, the whirlwind lifestyle is very much en vogue.  Women I know laughingly relate all the activities, events, and places where they and their children need to be, sometimes all at the same time.  For myself, I prefer a quiet life.

Over the last few months, I have been struggling with the fact that we are just too busy here at my house.  This is not just a matter of personal preference, either.  It's become painfully obvious to me that I simply cannot function in a whirlwind. 

This has really been a quandary.  I tusselled with it mentally and with a few friends in conversation, but then things took a turn about two months ago when I became ill with some sort of odd stomach/intestinal distress.  I also felt exhausted.  It took some time, but I finally realized (duh!) that we are doing too much.  The girls' education is God's calling for my life and should be my top priority, but it has suffered due to our over-extended schedule and my recent illness.  Conviction has been all over me.

I asked my small accountability group (there are six of us) to pray for me two days ago.  I specifically asked for clarity and guidance, as well as improved physical and emotional health.  And things started happening.

That afternoon, I came across an excellent blog entry, "Slow Parenting," on the most recent edition of the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival.  (If you've never checked out this blog carnival, I highly recommend it.)  Jennifer writes, "I don't want our house to be grand central station, where all the members of the family are just 'passing through' on their way to other destinations."  Wow.  That's actually what has been happening in our home.  I could quote Jennifer's whole post here, but pop over and read it -- slowly -- for yourself.

Later that very day, I opened a magazine we get, and the title of the publisher's op-ed column was "Slow Down.  Right Now!"  Since I don't believe in coincidences, I know my friends' prayers were already at work.  God was talking to me.

But it's complicated, as such things typically are.  Knowing one needs to make changes and actually making those changes are two very different things, especially when one has to consider responsiblities and commitments made to other people.  I hate letting people down.  But, a little voice whispers, haven't you been letting your children and yourself down by trying to do too much?

So this morning, when I awoke way too early with these things heavy on my mind, I randomly selected Psalm 147 to read.  The verses I quote above jumped out at me.  They are perfect truth for our situation.  I need the bars of my gates strengthened, and I need peace granted to my borders.  Frankly, I need better borders.  I need to reinstate necessary boundaries for our home education to be a success.  And the Lord will bless my "people," i.e., my family, and satisfy us with the finest of what we need.  If I carefully attend to my children's education and the quality of our home life, I will gain strength, blessings, peace, and satisfaction.

But if I remain in the whirlwind, I will feel weak, anxious, dissatisfied, conficted, and I will miss out on blessings.  Honestly, I've had my fill of all that.


  1. Yes, lots to ponder both in Jennifer's original post and in your follow-up.

    Praise God for Prayer Warrior friends!

    I shall ponder your words this weekend when we're away and quiet. I wonder how I can apply them to me.

  2. Oh, Ellen, I wish for your needed balance and strength to say NO, and keep your homeschool and life as simple as possible to have time to 'do nothing' as I call it. I know how it is, and for me it's very difficult to say no, but I try to...I've given up some things (money, as I used to do more photography jobs), fame, :-), the kick of having a full agenda (sometimes ours is too dull ha ha ha ;) but in the long run, I'm more at peace and enjoy life with the girls more. I also find more time for God this way too. It's soooo easy to over schedule, soooo easy. I enjoyed the book Boundaries too, it helped me in my lack of assertiveness.

  3. BTW, I enjoyed that post. Very well said.

  4. Praying for you, Ellen.
    Funnily enough, a friend of ours who has one of our ponies on loan (same kind of deal you have) has found the pony to be her answer to this.
    She now has a good sound reason to say 'no' to all kinds of stuff, as they have to come to see the pony.
    She has found it life changing, as so much else has been calmed down.

  5. A very searching post. I'll never forget the light-bulb moment I had that the answering machine could get the phone, nor the look on my children's faces when they realized they were the priority.

    I am so grateful for the Lord's tender mercies.


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