Sharing life at home, and what that means

Sharing life — isn’t that the funniest phrase, if you dissect it?

When the first few people (all church people; I’m not sure I’ve heard it outside that context) used that phrase with me, it stuck like an oddball thing to say: “Sharing life.” To share life means meals and chores or errands; possessions, maybe money, some talents. The lonely new mom in me loved the concept: I still miss grocery shopping with my best friend on Thursday nights, after the kids were in bed. Shopping for bananas and yogurt alone feels so isolating.

Taken into the context of parenting, of schooling, though, that’s what I’m aiming to do this year: share life.

Life gets ugly. Sometimes life doesn’t take naps and screams for two hours instead. Sometimes life throws up. Sometimes life breaks your favorite glass. Life is hard on carpets, helps develop patience; trains me in not-hurrying. Life costs money. Life doesn’t travel as much as it wants.

But life’s all we have, right, and these people in this house are put here so we can, well, share stuff.

So, as year one begins next week, that’s the hope I have.

Last year I started our “laid-back” kindergarten at 8:30 in the morning. That just doesn’t work for us. This year, Monday, we’ll take our first-day-of-school picture and then eat breakfast and read our Bible story; we’ll be listening to our composer (Hildegard von Bingen; I’d never heard of her either, but Alice thinks her music’s cool) then. I don’t know what time this’ll be. We’re a family; not a Fortune 500 company. There’s no rush. It’ll get done or it won’t; I’m enthused enough to know it’ll be fine.

We’ll probably do some dishes and play; we’ll read through some of our stories; do copywork and take our nature walks before lunch. We’re an Ambleside Online family, so our schedule for the week and our readings are picked from their site; we’ll do math while the youngest two are napping or playing. We’ll bake pumpkin bread and invite the neighbors over for a slice in the afternoon. Our free reads are our bedtime stories. Our folk songs, our bedtime songs.

Sharing life isn’t adding more stuff to life — it’s taking out what doesn’t fit in this season and changing what we do. Sharing life’s just; this is just what we do, together, happily most of the time, because we want to and we know certain skills, knowledge and stories are important to us as humans. That’s all.

It’s so less formal than I thought I’d be comfortable with a year ago; but this morning as I got out of bed — later than normal, again — I think it’s more akin to sharing life than reproducing a structure that doesn’t feel like home. Home, nature; they all provide a lot of opportunities for growth, and so does sharing that with people outside our family. But this isn’t about checking boxes off our to-do list (I’m writing this for myself as well as anyone else who needs it); it’s about growing people.

I didn’t know I was going to start reading a book called “The Life You’ve Always Wanted,” but it was in a stack of books from a friend, and as I watched a documentary on tiny houses and that wasn’t quite it (with three kids); and as we’re dealing with the drama of applying for a job my husband already has and that’s definitely not it; this book was shouting at me from the pile. I want a life I’ve always wanted to live.

There’s a chapter on unhurried lives. Hey, I want that. School will school me in a life that doesn’t hurry, I think. My daughter’s handwriting practice; math, maybe; or poetry. Un-hurry this year, Erin:

“Hurried people cannot love. … It is because it kills love that hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life. Hurry lies behind much of the anger and frustration of modern life. Hurry prevents us from receiving love from the Father or giving it to his children. That’s why Jesus never hurried. If we are to follow Jesus, we must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from our lives — because, by definition, we can’t move faster than the one we are following.”

John Ortberg, ibid.; I can’t believe I’m reading a book with a seagull on the cover, but it has thus been so helpful. {Sidebar conversation: his chapters on transformation in a Christian’s life reads much like Mason’s thoughts. God wired our brains to transform. It’s a divine providence. /End sidebar.}

My interactions with the kids will tell them more about the world and God than forcing anything; the more contrived something feels, the more likely I am to want to stop (and the more they probably will, too).  I’ll be gauging for that awkwardness.

Most of all, this is me, before our school year’s begun. Like I hope my children will yield to the Spirit, so will I. I’m under no other authority than they are. I expect our year will look different in May than it does next Monday. I hope so, because stagnation is no good for anyone.

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