Soft & Slow: why doing less can mean learning more

If I’ve learned one thing after three years of homeschooling

Wait, scratch that.  Start over.

If I’m still learning one thing after three years of homeschooling, it’s that less is more.  We have workbooks and unit studies and experiments and read alouds and a morning basket and memory work and copy work and and and…

The days we try to cram it all in to feel like we accomplish something often result in tears, tantrums, and slammed doors (and I don’t mean just the kids).  As we wind down to the end of this school year – 10 weeks to go, according to our planning system – we are taking a softer, slower approach to a few of our mornings and are seeing great results.

On Mondays and Wednesdays, all four kids are home all day.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the two big kids and the baby are home (our three year old attend a morning preschool on our ministry campus).  On Fridays, it’s just me and the baby as the big kids are at a casual co-op on our ministry campus, and the three year old is at her preschool.  Can I get an amen for Fridays!?

This past Wednesday (a day with all four kids) we took the slow, soft approach to school and it was miraculous.  After about ninety minutes of Morning Basket, the two big kids worked together on an Easter Egg Spelling game.

Then we tackled one of our all time favorite activities – dying eggs!  We decided to use only primary colors, dye the eggs, and then switch them to a different primary color to see if we could make secondary colors.

The worksheets stayed filed in their folders.  Pencils didn’t leave the storage shelf.  We sorta made a mess, and we got a little loud.

It was peaceful, fun, and full of learning.

Other days will look different, and those pencils will find their way into tiny hands as we tackle spelling words, math problems, and handwriting.  On this day, I cherished how I felt when school was over and know that slow & soft is worth it.


Write A New Story

I was laying in bed yesterday morning, in between alarm-going-off and actually-getting-out-of-bed.  Pondering all the things that were to come that day, I remembered that my husband was leaving for a three day trip in a few hours.  Immediately I flashed back to all the other trips he’s taken over the past few months (our work usually keeps us pretty local but he’s had some commitments over the fall and winter that took him all over the place), what had happened during those times apart, and a slow wave of anxiety started to rise inside my chest.  We had been sick.  The power had gone out.  The kids missed their dad.  Memory after memory crashed through me as I began to dread the upcoming 72 hours while he was gone and we were here.  The suddenly, like a splash of cold water, this thought appeared in my mind.

Write a new story.


Before my day had even begun, I was allowing the past to determine how the future would unfold.  Thanks to a decent understanding of my DISC profile, I know that a high S (that’s me!) tends to evaluate future events in the light of what’s gone before, so I had a pretty good idea where this ruminating was coming from.  Nonetheless, this simple thought rang out: Could I write a new story for myself, my family, my life over the next few days?  Did I need to let what had happen influence what could happen?

Write a new story.

It’s the morning of Day 2 and the story is halfway over.  I’ve struggled with the blank pages and new pencils, but what we’ve written so far isn’t half that bad.  After all, it’s ours and it’s new and there’s still more to write.

The Most Painful Weeks I’ve Ever Had

We looked at our summer calendar at the beginning of 2016 and cringed.  Packed to the brim, it seemed like those months would fly by in a blur.  What did we decide to do in the midst of those crazy, busy, three months?  Take a trip to Washington to see family and friends, of course!  And not just any trip, but a three-week road trip that started and finished with 25-hour drives to our destination.  Did we already mention ‘crazy’?  Yup.

Seemingly endless days with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins stretched out into the late sunset, pushing bedtime further and further back each night.  The county fair.  S’mores.  Bounce houses and water slides.  Baseball games.  BBQs. Swimming.  Blackberry picking.  Sleepovers.  Food, food, and more food.  We soaked in these quintessential, americana-laden moments under the soft summer sun.

It was the best three weeks we’ve spent in Washington in a long time.  It was also the most physically painful three weeks I’ve had in recent memory.  Starting with a wicked sore throat that hit me around midnight on our inaugural night of driving, to the massive cold sores that erupted around my mouth, not to mention the strange prickly, red rash I was recovering from that attached my neck the week before, it all culminated in waking up one morning with a stabbing, stiff pain in the left side of my neck and shoulder.  No stranger to knots in my back, I went about my normal routine of massage and stretching, spending good portions of that day working out the kinks (literally).  After a pre-bed session with a tennis ball and a wall (it works -try it!), I climbed into bed hoping for a great night’s sleep and a sore-but-loose back the next morning.  What I got instead was an immediate lock-up of the muscles on that side of my neck and shoulder, and throbbing pain radiating from my neck, down the side of my scapula and out towards my elbow.  Sleep?  What sleep?  More like measured breathing and deep sighs reminiscent of childbirth.

I tried icing it.  I tried stretching it.  I tried heat, rest, laying down, standing up.  I tried it all.  After about two days I couldn’t take it any more and searched out a massage therapist…and then a chiropractor…and then another visit to the chiropractor.  The pain would not go away.

Sleep was nearly impossible.  I woke up more than I slept.  One night I lay in bed, trying to move as little as possible, breathing deeply and trying to manage the pain.  I turned my thoughts heavenward and asked, “Okay God.  I give up.  What can you teach me through this?”  Almost immediately, an image flashed in my mind.  It looked something like this:


Lightswitches.  Um…what?!?

I turned my thoughts back into a prayer and asked, “What does that mean?”  As soon as the sentence finished forming in my mind, a story began to unfold.

I am in a big room.  Tall ceilings, lots of space.   A bank of light switches in one corner.  There are lights everywhere but only a few are turned on.  This room represents God’s character.  The absolute fullness of who He is.  Every aspect of His being.  The lights that are turned on symbolize my knowledge of who God is.  God is loving.  God is merciful.  God is forgiving.  Those familiar characteristics that I easily identify and understand.  But what about the lights that were turned off?  And the bank of light switches?  Here is where the pin dropped for me.

Pain and suffering can illuminate an aspect of God’s character that I might have never noticed before.

Does my situation change who God is?  Of course not.  It does provide an opportunity for me to flip a switch, thus pouring light where shadows had previously existed.  His character is made known to me in new ways. He becomes my healer, my redeemer, my strong tower, my warrior, my jealous lover.  He has always been and always will be, but I never needed to know until now.

In my mind’s eye I watched as the light switches were turned on one by one and the room began to glow brighter than ever before.  The questions poured through my mind.  How many switches do I ignore, content to know God in the measurable, limited ways I’ve always known Him?  How often do I run from challenges because I value my comfort more than the expansive illumination of an infinite God?  Will the pain ever be so great that I slam the lights off and leave the room?

Eventually, my shoulder and neck healed.  It took weeks of cautious movements, slowly building strength, for everything to begin to feel normal again.  While I am so thankful to move without pain, I often think back on those three weeks.  Deep gratitude.  Deep revelation.  The lights are on.




My 2016 Vision Guide – review and revisit


Kona, Hawaii; September 2011

I’m revisiting parts of this post today to see how my 2016 unfolded and if it kept true to any of the insights I had when the year began.  Sidenote: I love this gal’s blog and mission, which is where I found this Vision Guide to help start my year off right.  Her workouts are accessible, effective, and uplifting (I’ve completed all of her challenges at least twice).  Take a moment to check out her stuff – it’s great!

Based on what worked or didn’t work in 2015, what lesson did I learn?

I am at my best when I: read, sleep, have a rhythm to my days, am learning something new, carve out space and time to be alone, nourish my body with delicious & nutrient-dense foods, and ask for help before the crisis hits.

This insight still rings so true with me twelve months later.  These rhythms of wellness are so critical for me to be able to truly engage and thrive in my own life.

One step I’ll take to improve my health in 2016 is:

Buy a greens powder mix to add to smoothies, like this one.

I didn’t buy a greens powder mix, but I did win a huge basket of products from this company when I attended a Birth Without Fear meetup earlier this year.  I’ve loved everything we’ve used so far and am bummed that the two protein mixes have run out. 😦  Our wonderful neighbors did give us some greens mix they had a few weeks ago when our whole family was under the weather which was so generous of them.  That mix has been added to some of our smoothies and we all like it.

One step I’ll take to improve my fitness in 2016 is:

Participate in the January Fitness Challenge.

Not only did I participate and complete the Challenge, I was asked to lead it in 2017!  Wow!  Apart from that honor, the Challenge helped me shed a clothing size and kickstart some healthier eating and self-care habits that have remained constant throughout the year.

One place I’d like to visit:

The San Diego Library’s downtown branch.

Done!  For my birthday weekend we visited and it was swoon-worthy, if slightly overwhelming..  Sigh.

One habit I’d like to break:

Listening to the lie that says, ‘You are all alone and no one is helping you.’

This lie is not as strong or believable as it was at the beginning of the year.  I actually was alone for some longer stretches as Scott traveled extensively, especially in the final three months of the year.  I’ve found that when I have to face a reality of my “worst fears” (in this case, actually being alone without any help) that there is a degree of breakthrough into truth in my mind and heart.  I also have tried to ask for help before or in the midst of a struggle, instead of slogging my way through it and then harboring resentment against the person who I thought should have aided me.  I’ve grown in this area but still have room for more victory.

One habit I’d like to create:

Tracking what I read.  I like this idea.

Done!  Over 100 books this year!!!  I also tracked what I started and didn’t finish, as well as how far I got into those books (like a fraction: 117/200 pages) in case I want to revisit them in the future I can pick up where I left off.

One relationship I’d like to work on:

With XXXX.

I love XXXX.  We are as opposite as can be when it comes to so many things, and yet I see faint glimmers of similarity as well.  There were flashes of progress throughout the year, but there is definitely space for growth.

My top three values in 2016 will be:

  1. Obey God’s voice.
  2. Love others.
  3. Nourish myself & my family.

These values were definitely present throughout my life this year.

Three ways I can make more time for these values:

  1. When I have a sense about someone or thing, mention it to Scott or someone else I trust so I am accountable to it.
  2. Make time and space for people to be in our lives – at meals, at our home.
  3. Provide a majority of nourishing foods with a minority of indulgent treats.
  1.  I acted more quickly on this step but I still hesitate because I don’t want to be presumptuous or judge-y.  I think I need to ‘practice’ listening to the discernment the Holy Spirit has given me and if I fail, at least I can do it in a safe place with a person I trust first before I act on what I sense.
  2. We had married couples over a lot to listen to their stories, ask questions, and encourage each other.  We didn’t host a lot of meals at our house but almost every night had other people at our table for dinner on campus.  There is a family that moved into our neighborhood recently that I want to get to know, so it’s a good reminder to see this value listed.
  3. I did really well this year with this value.  For the better part of the year I did not eat any added, refined sugar which is huge for me.  I slept better, felt better, and my emotions didn’t carry me away as much as they have in the past.  There are still some tweaks I would like to make regarding our day-to-day nutrition, but we are doing very well with what we have.


At the end of 2016 I will feel…

peacefully accomplished.

Well, it’s the end of the year and I do feel at peace and accomplished.  Imagine that?


I can barely remember the last time I stayed up until the strike of midnight on New Year’s Eve.  I doubt I’ll make it past 9:30 PM tonight.  After all, in the grand scheme of things it’s just another day, right?  Yet it’s healthy to pause, reflect, and recognize all that happened in 2016 and I’m glad that the year’s end prompts me to do just that.  While 2016 was challenging in many way, it also was one of my better years.  Here’s to a year that’s coming to it’s close and a year that’s just starting to unfold.

When the winds change

It hit 81F yesterday. At the end of December. Yup. We love where we live. 

As the day shifted into the afternoon, the winds changed and this expansive bank of clouds rolled in and covered horizon to horizon.  The temperature dropped.  The sunshine faded.  But the clouds…the clouds were awe-inspiring.  This photo only shows a sliver of what the heavens were displaying.

I seem to be finding the same message wherever I turn: change can bring beautiful things.  A very appropriate refrain as we close out one year and welcome in the next.



It’s not the most traditional Bible verse about the Christmas season, but I haven’t been able to get it out of my head.


God sent Jesus not because we deserved it, but because of His mercies.  He is the reason for our salvation, not us.  It’s so easy to slip in to a human-centered Gospel, where Jesus came for us because He loved us.  Wait a minute…Jesus doesn’t love us?  Of course He does, but that’s not the primary, central, core reason for His incarnation.

Jesus came to earth as a feeble and vulnerable infant because God’s glory deserved nothing less.

God’s heart for Himself and the pursuit of His own glory among all nations is why Jesus was born.  As John Piper says, “It is profoundly loving for Jesus to exalt Himself…it is only Him that truly satisfies the human soul.”

Rescuing us from death.

Guiding us to a path of peace.

Light from heaven breaking into the darkness.

Oh come, oh come, Emmanuel.