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In this chapter of life, I am still not certain of the entirety of my life’s mission. I have been blessed with the most precious role as wife and mother. At this time, we are called to be a homeschooling family. Our home culture is of the utmost importance to me and is the place of greatest challenge for me. Reigning in my own weaknesses while fostering a loving and faith filled home environment continues to be a monumental task. I am a Christian and know that God would not call me to this mission if He was going to leave me unprepared or unsupported to meet the challenges.
While I am not certain about many aspects of my mission, it is clear to me that my children need to be lead to Jesus, inspired to fall in love with each other and nurtured into their own personal missions. I am best able to aid in those tasks by clinging to my faith, loving and respecting my best friend and husband and keeping my mind fed with classics. Anything else that He might call me to is secondary and periphery. Not unimportant, but of secondary importance. The first portion of this calling is clear and relatively “easy”. It gets messy, however, when I begin to unpack my mission in relationship to my children, my hobbies and my vocational talents.
Our loving Creator has created in us a need for hobbies and loves and interests and joys. For me, I am truly happy when working with food – either in the garden or the kitchen. I see food as life giving and I am privileged to be able to work with it so that it nourishes not only the body but the soul as well. I love to read or be read to. Stories instruct me more powerfully than any other teaching mechanism. Books are central to my happiness. Meaningful relationships are a gift to be respected, treasured and nurtured. I prefer well chosen and intimate relationships to masses of friends. Being friendly is not enough for me – being a good friend is important and I do not wish to engage deeply in relationships if I cannot be that. All of these things place demands on my time and my emotions.
Part of my mission is to cultivate a Leadership Education culture in our home. Three of my favorite ingredients in Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning are Ingredient #16 (The Binder) and Ingredient #7 (The Six Month No) and Ingredient #8 (The Six Month Inventory). Thanks to other TJEd veterans, I have been inspired to combine these three ingredients into one document. I purchased the Compass document from Freedom Educators and use it basically as is for the kids. For myself, however, I have adapted it to be more fluid for the mission work that I do as a wife, mom and a mentor. As I am now engaged in some mentoring, I have begun to work on another adaptation of this document for young women who are no longer scholars but not yet mothers.
In Leadership Education (or TJEd), we understand the pitfalls of “the conveyor belt”. For some, forms and documents and templates may just help the family to hop onto a “TJEd conveyor belt“. To those families, I acknowledge some small amount of envy. I genuinely wish that I could be more relaxed but must confess that I find tailor made forms to be liberating and inspiring, not confining. For whatever reason, having personal forms and printed routines helps me to focus on the big things. I guess that I am a “mapper” (a term that I learned in TJEd circles). I like to see where we have been and where we are going and having custom made forms helps me to stay on point with my children and really focus on the things that are inspiring to them and life giving to us all.
In this article, however, I want to focus on how those forms are inspiring for ME. A big part of Leadership Education is “having what’s mine”. If I focus too much on my kids, I cannot be truly inspiring because they are not seeing me lead my own life. I need to be grounded in my mission. My vocation. My calling. I have talents that need to be developed, skills to be learned and cultivated, books to read and work to do. Doing a Compass for myself every 3-6 months helps me to make the most of the gifts I have been given and helps me to focus on how to serve my family best.
Probably like you, I wear many hats. Those hats can and do overlap but they are also unique unto themselves. Some hats are more important in some phases of life than others. No matter what, however, those hats must stay balanced.
I said that I like food. In many recipes, we have additions that can be substituted and/or altered. Basic food chemistry, however, dictates that in most cases, there is only so much capacity in the recipe for variation. In my favorite zucchini bread recipe certain things must remain constant. The ratio of flour to baking soda to wet ingredients may vary slightly but generally must remain in proportion to its original scale. Obviously if I am using honey instead of sugar, the wetness of honey will change the amount of dry ingredients I need. But, there are are least 2 cups of variation allowed in additions. Those 2 cups can be made up of nuts, dried fruit, fruit peel and chocolate chips. How wonderful! Sometimes I make my bread with cranberries and chocolate chips. Sometimes with dried pineapple, pecans and coconut flakes. Each loaf is delicious and comes out “right” because the basic balancing was respected. This is how I view the hats that I wear.
At the end of the day, certain hats must be scrupulously maintained. For me, motherhood, marriage and spiritual life are always the same. Sometimes the marriage or the motherhood are harder than other times… during those periods, I consider the honey for sugar substitution and know that I need more flour (prayer time) to compensate. But the other hats… mentoring, gardener, scholar… those are more like the cranberries and nuts. I need those in the mix. They are part and parcel of my human expression but they are varied and they change with the seasons.
If I sit and make a general to-do list (which I do… all the time), I can easily become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of demands on my time and psyche. Using this Compass tool, however, I have a filter through which I can sift my tasks and focus my attention. Instead of listing every book I want to read, every skill I want to learn and every project I want to work on, I discern how the tasks and demands fit into my larger picture. Of all of the hats that I wear, where does this project fit and does that give me any insight into how important or timely it is?
Everyone will apply their Compass to their day to day life a little differently. For me, however, it was helpful to divide my day into sections and then to, as faithfully as possible, honor the work of that section. Of course life is messy and a sick child will need far more laundry and cuddles than normal. That is ok. My vocation of motherhood trumps my schedule. However, on a normal day, this Compass gives me permission to chase the balanced life and invest in the things that make me a complete person. *The reference to Mom School in my “Monday Kidschool” box can be better understood by reading this article.
This series of photos are a set of screen shots I took from my current Compass. This is how I work best – mapping and connecting themes. To see the photos in detail, click on one and you will see that they expand into a mini gallery.
My Compass is always evolving but this is what is working for me right now. A little organized. A little messy. Ultimately, flexible. Let me encourage you to make your Compass work for you!