Our family blog serves as my time-saving, no-cutting-and-pasting-required family scrapbook. Anything that I'd like my children (or their future mates, Lord willing) to remember about our family, I enter at the family blog. Happy times, random thoughts, heart-breaking trials, and evidences of God's goodness to us are much more easily tapped out on the keyboard than written by hand as in previous years' scrapbooks. Then, when an online book printing company runs a special on putting pictures and words into books, I transfer blog posts to the books so that they can be enjoyed leisurely and without a laptop.
As we prepare for Oliver's graduation celebration, I've been looking through some of the older scrapbooks and reading things that were written during the seasons when Meredith and Elliott were finishing school. The words, mostly written by Meredith, seem as relevant today as they did then and have been an encouragement to me as I contemplate the future of yet another graduate.
Written by Meredith in August 2009
A Tribute to A Young Man With Vision
This week across our country, many 18 year old young men are beginning their freshman year in college. I (Meredith) would imagine most are excited about the new adventure ahead of them. While I recognize that there is a small percentage of these young men who are actually intent on pursuing a particular career interest that requires a college degree and then, in turn, will actually use this degree upon graduation (and I enthusiastically commend these few young men!), statistics support the fact that many are going to college because it is simply "the next thing to do". Our generation seems to look at college in the same way we look at high school. Of course, upon completion of middle school we would move on to high school! However, many aimlessly head into college with the same mindset, not considering the time and money they are wasting if they are not intentional in their approach to their college education. As a young woman desiring marriage and knowing the effects of this epidemic (?) first hand-- an overwhelming deficit in the career and financial stability of young men in their early twenties-- I am thrilled to know an 18 year old young man who has chosen something vastly different from our generation's well traveled path.
While many may find his disinterest in furthering his formal education alarming or unwise, he believes it would be crazy to waste the next 4+ years at college when he could be actively pursuing and cultivating his interest in all natural farming!
He runs an all natural poultry operation, growing and processing 200-300 chickens each month. He sells his poultry, as whole chickens and individual parts, primarily to the customer base he is establishing at two farmers markets in the suburbs of Richmond.
This young man is not unpacking at his dorm and meeting new friends this week. Instead, he's up at 5 am milking cows, gutting chickens, and a host of other hot, labor intensive tasks. Who could possibly debate that what he is occupying his time with-- creating healthy food that plays a part in sustaining our community as well as financially preparing for his future-- is of less value or importance than his peers' choices?
Furthermore, he's not only pursuing what he enjoys and putting food on the table of many families, he's also financially profiting and well on his way as he prepares to one day provide for a family of his own. As many 18 year olds will incur debt (in the form of student loans) equal to, if not exceeding, the figure already sitting in this young man's bank account, he is intent on using his money as wisely and frugally as possible.
This young man is my brother, Elliott, and I am very proud of him!
Written by Joy in July 2009
Pursuing a Single Focus
Occasionally, when Meredith is preparing an email response to a question, she asks if she can read the letter to me (Joy) for my input. This particular letter below that Meredith recently sent to a friend had such remarkable insight that I asked if I might share it publicly. The perspective, as presented by a 21 year old, is an accurate summation of the "single focus season" in which so many young adults enter. It would behoove us as parents to carefully ponder what might be sacrificed during the years our children spend with an intense, single focus as it possibly might inhibit our children from cultivating their varied, well-balanced, abilities.
Letter Written by Meredith To A Friend in July 2009
I've given a lot of thought to your college question over the last few days. My first thought is to definitely seek the Lord on this matter! I'm sure you are already doing that. He will be faithful to guide you and make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Secondly, I have been admonished time and time again by several newlywed friends to enjoy these years with my family. While they love being married, they greatly miss their families. Because of this, I strive to treasure my time at home with my family NOW instead of always being sooo very eager for my own husband and family. Whether you leave for college or not, you're in the final stretch with your family the way it is today. As you noted, your siblings will likely pursue college, careers, and/or marriage within the next few years, so it is so important to treasure the days you have together.
My third thought is the most lengthy, but it is what has mostly been on my mind. It is not so much related to you trading four years with your family for a music degree as it is to spending four years away with one focus, (emphasis added) so I hope you don't mind me taking the liberty to share...
When I think of you, I think of someone who is extremely well-rounded. You have a great interest and wealth of knowledge in caring for your goats and other animals. You have an interest in making a profit from your goats' milk. You pursued horse riding lessons and initiated cleaning your horse riding instructor's house in exchange for free lessons. You are a very gifted writer and poet. You are a talented singer. You have invested years and years into becoming a superb pianist. You are obviously on your way to becoming a good voice teacher. You also enjoy gardening and cooking and being hospitable.
To me, It seems like it would be so sad for you to have to take four years to focus on primarily only *one* thing! If you choose to pursue a scholarship for college, you would graduate in four years with extensive knowledge and experience in the realm of music, but at the cost of shutting down most of your other interests (at least for a few years).
Granted, I do not have the same appreciation for music or pursuing a degree in music like you do, so I can only relate with my love and interest in real estate. If, at 17 or 18, I would have moved in with the most successful real estate salesperson I know-- a woman who does millions and millions of dollars in sales every year-- and spent the following four years "shadowing" her, I would have a wealth of knowledge, four years of hands-on experience, and confidence when I'm selling properties. I would probably have a whole lot more money in my bank account and I would be well prepared to venture on to exciting new endeavors in real estate.
But I wouldn't have much experience working with my family. I would barely know Sheridan. I would have very limited (if any!) experience in bushhogging lots for our tractor service, bookkeeping, selling peanut gift boxes, gutting chickens, milking cows, cooking meals for eight people, the list could go on and on. Personally, for the calling in which I most desire to pursue (a wife and mother), I feel the past four years-- as diverse as they have been-- have prepared me for that so much better than spending four years with the primary goal and focus of pursuing real estate. (emphasis added)
I look forward to seeing how the Lord leads you! I will be in full support of whichever choice you make because I have confidence in your close walk with the Lord and I know He will guide you, whether He leads you to stay home or to go to school.
Written by Joy in November 2008
Only when Meredith graduated from her homeschooled education, and we began fielding the many inquiries from others as to what her plans were regarding college, did we begin to articulate our plan for Meredith's post high school years. As parents who firmly believe in higher education, we purposed to make available to Meredith a multitude of advanced learning opportunities through the finest training establishments.
Since Meredith's most sought after career goal is that of becoming a wife and mother of excellence, we concluded that the most advantageous form of higher education would be in an intense apprenticeship program where all the many aspects of home management could best be explored. When we considered where that training might take place, we could think of no better facility than our own home - where a young woman desiring to cultivate home management skills would be most greatly appreciated!
Because of that, Meredith's days are spent in a very deliberate, thought out, purposeful manner where the many aspects of home management are covered in depth. As a wife and mom in training, Meredith has full responsibility of homeschooling the younger boys, overseeing the kitchen including the preparation of all meals, overseeing all, including the weekly "big" housecleaning, and she is my right arm in running our businesses.
Not long ago, a woman my age asked Meredith what she did as a graduated, at-home daughter. When Meredith finished detailing her daily activities, the woman looked at me and said, "So, what do you do all day?!" A fair question and one that deserves close inspection as we forge a new path in this modern day of the "Return of the Daughters". What does the full time, stay-at-home mother do when she has, residing with her, a homemaker in training? How does she continue to fill her day with productivity and usefulness?
During a season in which we had moved to a remote town and were living in a rented, small trailer, I found myself in such a state. With a 14 year old daughter who was very capable of running a household, and all our city-life busyness replaced with the isolation that country living demands, I no longer was scurrying around each day trying to get my long "to do" list accomplished by the close of the day. At first, I didn't know what to do with the extra minutes in my day although I tried to fill them by "over cleaning" - washing things more often than needed, organizing to the point of insanity, and the like. Realizing that I had entered a new and unknown season in my life as a homemaker, I began asking God for wisdom and direction on how to to fill my days purposefully as I turned over much-needed training opportunities through household responsibilities to my older children. God so graciously gave me meaningful ways to fill my extra minutes.
Whether one has many little children still underfoot or is facing an almost empty nest, a woman with an at-home older daughter taking over many of the household responsibilities, can explore opportunities with eternal significance to fill the extra minutes she finds in her day. What a wonderful time to share life experiences with younger mothers, through mentoring relationships. In this great age of cyberspace, one doesn't even need to leave her home to share a word of encouragement with those scattered across the country. As others are in busier seasons of motherhood, why not coordinate an on line ladies Bible study where the participants can respond via email in between wiping noses and flipping loads of laundry from the washer to the dryer? Of course, a season with extra minutes is an excellent opportunity to spend more time reading our finest home management manual, the Bible. And what a fantastic time to post a few verses around the bathroom mirror to commit to memory. It is a great benefit to an at-home daughter in training, as well as the entire family, if a mom with extra minutes in her day chooses to use them drawing nearer to God.
My season of extra minutes has come and gone but I enjoyed it immensely. I still have two precious friends, as dear as sisters, that God gave me during my "extra minute season". I have wonderful memories of Bible studies and the ladies I met. I continue to be strengthened by the verses I learned and the lessons God taught me through more concentrated study of His Word. If you have an at-home daughter, don't fear your replacement and not allow your daughter to wholeheartedly take over many of your responsibilities during her season of training. Don't worry how you'll spend your extra minutes. Instead, enjoy a rich time with the Lord as you watch your precious daughter develop into a beautiful homemaker right before your eyes.