Saturday, March 8, 2014

In praise of Laura

We just finished The Long Winter…. actually our own winter is going by crazy speedy fast, but Laura's…..  oh!  The Long Winter is the sixth book in Laura Ingalls Wilder's fantastic series.  Our whole crew loves these stories so much and its pure gift to share the stories, to learn from them, to enjoy their lives and stories together.  Isaiah has stumbled upon a bit of boy-ness that makes Laura suddenly a little uncool so he's started to pretend he's not interested in these books anymore, but he's still glued while I read aloud and he'll quietly ask me to keep reading each time I finally close the covers.  Laura (as I call her and all her books) is good for us- boys and girls alike.  I've seen several tangible benefits in our home from the inspiration of these stories, even beyond our simple, sparkling pleasure in these sweet stories.

1. Their example of working hard together.  The whole family contributes: it's expected, it's nonnegotiable, and the work they do is done with excellence.  Inspiring.   I saw something recently about couples being happier when they do chores around the house at the same time and so we've tried to apply this for our whole crew too.  I really do think the Ingalls and the Wilder families (Farmer Boy) have been fantastic role models for how our crew can work together like this too.  This mama is grateful. Even I am learning to keep my kitchen (more) clean meal by every single meal and I honestly think Laura's example is the leading influence for this!

2.  The kids know they're loved.  Ma and Pa Ingalls and Mother and Father Wilder love their kids solidly.  Their love was heathy nourishment and their children grew up strong in it.  Mother Wilder loved Almanzo with an extra slice of apple pie served to his plate and the twinkle in her eyes, which Almanzo knew came from her joy in giving her son his very favorite.  Father trusted his boy with real responsibility, giving him the opportunity to rise to the occasion, to earn the joy of conquering on his own.   I definitely want to gear my kids towards understanding and receiving my everyday service of them, my patient (Lord may it be!) training them as LOVE…. and not to miss it and only see love in lavish gifts and crazy wild speeches of gooey praise of their unending, amazing,perfect awesomeness that's ahhh…. not actually, totally true.  (Sorry, Grandma :) )

3.  And that bring me to….  Gifts.   We've been through many Christmas's with the Ingalls and they have shown us well the joy of celebrating simple gifts, homemade gifts, needed things.  There's no thought of needing mountains of gifts to celebrate a day- one or two or even the crazy notion of three gifts- would be wildly abundant.  I can just imagine the Ingalls would have thought that any more gifts would be a sort of gluttony and would be just plain undesirable, unhelpful, unhealthy.  I think so.  I want to leave way for my kids to celebrate with gifts and to practice generosity, thoughtful attentiveness to the desires of others, and saving and planning for others….  but this doesn't mean that we need to heap up gifts for Christmas or even birthdays.   I'm not trying to be a stick in the mud.  I do love gifts and I want to give gifts well.  But excellent gift-giving is not in quantity given or amount spent.  For birthdays for our K crew, we'll try to keep it to family members giving gifts and letting our friends know that their friendship is the best gift they could give.

Here's the photo credit: a beautiful site that will be a
future field trip for us…. I hope! 
One thing we're working on (oh Lord have mercy!) is celebrating a simple service as a gift and giving thanks for it!  After a meal or a read aloud from mom or dad, how sweet to lead the kids in expressing their thanks for what they've just been served….  How very much more happy it is to hear  (and to say!) "Thanks for reading, dad" rather than "nooooo, you've got to read more."   Seems to me there's a large bit of training in this:  helping our kiddos to see these gifts and form a habit of expressing thanks for each gift.  Worth it.  I long that our kids would know that we read to them, serve them breakfast, wash their clothes, provide everything they need because we love them.  It's all gift…..How much happier they will be in life if they can see this now in the little world of parents and children and toys and meals….  and if they can grow to understand this infinitely and perfectly true in regards to their Heavenly Father, and all that He gives and allows in our lives.

4.  The kids can learn to watch and listen and learn.....  The idea that every question is a good question is just not doable.  There may be super-parents out there who can answer every question that pops up in  every one of their kiddos' minds, but it sure isn't me.  From times when we're reading and the kids need to learn to listen to the story (where their question will be answered),  to moments in the kitchen, working together, and a child needs to learn to watch and learn to understand what's happening.... What a very good thing for our kids to learn to learn rather than simply letting them beg to be spoon fed every bit of knowledge they hope to gain.  I want our kids to be learners like this!

5.  Considering prejudice.  Ma ~ dear, beautiful, admirable, wise Ma is prejudiced against Indians and it's dirty, ugly, sin.   But it's exactly the thing we absolutely need to stare down, to see it for what it is and pray the Lord to root it out of our own hearts and serve to sever it's roots in our community and our world.  Our little John has a hard time with the idea that we should actually learn about slavery…. He knows that it was terrible and wrong and so it makes sense to him that we shouldn't ever hear about or talk about it.  But just as this is the hard story of our country's recent past, it's also the true story of the propensity of people.  How sad but true that we all wander at times towards thinking that we know and do and look and speak better than others.  So Ma…. Sadly, she's an example in this, in what we don't want to be.  But it does provide a great opportunity to talk about a very hard, sad, needed lesson.

And just to share a bit of the beauty and inspiration on these pages, here is the song the whole family sang together at the last page of The Long Winter:

This life is a difficult riddle,
For how many people we see
With faces as long as a fiddle
That ought to be shining with glee.
I am sure in this world there are plenty
Of good things enough for us all,
And yet there's not one out of twenty
But thinks that his share is too small.

Then what is the use of repining,
For where there's a will, there's a way,
And tomorrow the sun may be shining,
Although it is cloudy today.

Do you think that by sitting and sighing
You'll ever obtain all you want?
It's cowards alone that are crying
And foolishly saying "I can't!"
It is only by plodding and striving
And laboring up the steep hill
Of life, that you're ever be thriving,
Which you'll do if you've only the will.

So… does that make you love Laura with us?  I hope so….  It's fun to share and enjoy a dear friend together.  And yet, enjoying her doesn't mean I agree with everything (like the wretched racial prejudice.)

In fact, another aspect I've been surprised by, and have noticed with sorrow, is how Gospel-less these stories are.  At one point in On the Banks of Plum Creek (I think) Pa remarked about how it's nice to go to church and be with other people who want to try to do right.  But being Christian is not about trying to do right, but about trusting in the Savior alone for right-ness before God.  There's been not a drip of that mentioned anywhere in the books…. Even in the many Christmas chapters there's  hardly been a mention of whose birthday the celebration was about.   This has been a sad discovery for me, as I was hoping to find a bit more Christian roots in these stories, these beautiful families.  But, there is beauty to enjoy from them still….

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