The Dutch Rush

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Category: Charlotte Mason

habits and joy

Before we leave the topic of working hard for our families, I have to give you the trick to keeping things going.

It’s all good to talk about work, but actually doing some every day…can be painful.

I know you’re all hoping my trick makes work easy.  In a way, it does.  But only because it takes out the drama/trauma of decision making.

…the effort of decision is the most exhausting effort of life.

-Charlotte Mason

Such an absolute statement!  But it’s so true in my life.  Decision is half the battle in most of the things I do.

Later she says it’s not all of those things we have to do that exhaust us so much, it’s the “making up of one’s mind as to which thing to do first” (or if we are going to do it at all…).

Each of us has in [our] possession an exceedingly good servant or a very bad master, known as Habit.

-Charlotte Mason, Ourselves

Habits.  They’re your ace in the hole.  When put to good use (as your servant), they can save the day!

It is pleasant to know that even in mature life, it is possible by a little persistent effort to acquire a desirable habit. [A habit] falls in with our natural love of an easy life.

-Charlotte Mason, Home Education

She says that we are willing to work hard at first when we are promised that a habit will get easier as time goes on.

The beauty of a habit is that after a certain amount of time, we just naturally “do the next thing” if we are giving our attention to what needs to be done.

But where is the joy? Well, I think the joy is in the triumph of making yourself do the thing you know you ought to do.  And doing it well.

This power of making oneself work is a fine thing. Every effort makes the next easier.

-Charlotte Mason, Ourselves

Charlotte reminds us to form a habit of distinguishing what must be done at once from what may be done.  Then, once we form the habit of singling out the important things and doing them first, we have saved ourselves and others a lot of annoyance and have gained what she calls “integrity in our work”.

Integrity (in our work) makes for [joyfulness], because the person who is honest about his work has time to play, and is not secretly vexed by the remembrance of things left undone or ill done.

-Charlotte Mason, Ourselves

Sometimes we need a little inspiration to think how this might look in “real” life.  So of course it makes sense that I would quote some fiction…

Polly was tough as a pit pony, and a wonderful worker. But she did not find drudgery monotonous, and she was possibly the happiest person in the city…

…her face was flushed and beaming and instantly the atmosphere of the cold stuffy room was subtly changed because she was happy.  Polly’s chief joy in life was feeding people.

-Elizabeth Goudge, The Dean’s Watch

And there you have it… “she didn’t find drudgery monotonous, and she was possibly the happiest person in the city”.

Jean-Francois-Millet bread

commonplace books

You may have never heard of a commonplace book. Most of my friends look at me a little strangely when I mention it…

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The idea is simple.  You could really just call it a quote book.  But I got tangled up in the Charlotte Mason crowd, and she and others used to call it a commonplace book.  It really is encouraging to go back and look at what you thought was important enough to write down from the books you read.  Here’s what Charlotte says about them.

It is very helpful to read with a commonplace book or reading diary, in which to put down any striking thought in your author, or your own impression of the work, or any part of it; but not summaries of facts.  Such a diary, carefully kept through life, should be exceedingly interesting as containing the intellectual history of the writer;  besides, we never forget the book that we have made extracts from, and of which we have taken the trouble to write a short review.

This goes along with what I mentioned to you all awhile back.  I really think it is a valuable trick she is teaching us, especially women, to always have something worthy of thinking about. When we don’t have good things for our minds to chew on, it’s all too easy to dwell on what someone said that hurt us, or why we may be irritated with our husband.

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Since I’m a random person, my book would make a neat, tidy person go bonkers.  I have put pictures of my sweet little people in my book…randomly.  No order to it at all.

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I’ll give you a few examples of what I’ve recently put in my book.

Those who seek first their own pleasure out of marriage and make the happiness of their partners only a possible by-product…are doomed to misery.  It is an inexorable law of our lives that only through making others happy can we expect happiness.  So many wives seem to want to learn this lesson the hard, bitter way.

-Leo Kinsella

The people who do us good are never those who sympathize with us, they always hinder, because sympathy enervates.  No one understands a saint but the saint who is nearest to the Savior.  If we accept the sympathy of a saint, the reflex feeling is – Well, God is dealing hardly with me.  That is why Jesus said self-pity was of the devil.

-Oswald Chambers August 10th

That is a painful quote.  We want to tell people when we feel “God is dealing hardly with us”.  But I love that quote, and it seems to go hand in hand with my next one.

You need not cry very loud, He is nearer than you think.

– Brother Lawrence

It is no small comfort to me to know that God has called me to my work, putting me where I am and as I am.  I have not sought the position, and I dare not leave it.  He knows why He places me here-whether to do, or learn, or suffer.

-Hudson Taylor

Shall I tell you the secret to happiness?  A thankful heart.

– Margaret Jensen, in First we have Coffee

And now for the fiction.  Somehow I even choose fiction that hurts!

She was shamed.  Women like herself, sheltered, indulged, secure, beloved, and yet they dared to find life hard;  they dared to pity themselves because the path they trod was strewn with pink rose petals when their own choice would have been crimson.                      –

-Elizabeth Goudge  in Pilgrim’s Inn

Maybe some of you already do this.  It is a comfort to look back through these when things seem difficult.  I suppose one of the tricks to this is that you have to be reading things that supply good quotes.  I think you can tell a lot about someone by what they read.

One of the great and humbling joys of my life so far, was seeing what Alyssa had written in her book.  She reads good things.

Why Charlotte Rocks

Since most people have not had the pleasure of getting to know Charlotte Mason, I feel it my duty to introduce them.

Sadly, she is long gone. It is up to helpful people like me to read her books, and to then write long, rambling, informative blog posts about her.

If you didn’t already know, Charlotte was a British educator at the turn of the 20th century, who was passionate about introducing children to living ideas. If you’re interested, the book “For the Children’s Sake” is a wonderful  introduction to her ideas and philosophy.

Charlotte was an advocate for children, and cared about what and how they were being taught. I have gained so much from reading her books and implementing her ideas in our school.

I really could go on and on.

Don’t worry, I won’t.

The quote I wanted to share today is not necessarily about education, it has more to do with a new way of thinking. I love it, and refer to it often.

Before you read this, I want to make sure you know I am not offering this from a place of lofty superiority. I struggle almost daily to be the kind of person who can let hurts roll off of me. I love this because it gives me a goal to reach for. It reminds me of who I want to be.

“There is another class of persons in whom pity is strong and ever active; but all their pity is given to one object, and neither sorrow, pain, or any other distress outside of the object has power to move them. And these are the persons who pity themselves. Any cause of pity is sufficient and all-absorbing.

They are sorry for themselves because they have a headache, because they have a toothache, or because they have not golden hair; because they are lovely and unnoticed, or because they are lanky and unlovely; because they have to get up early, or because breakfast is not to their mind; because brother or sister has some pleasure which they have not, or because someone whose notice they crave does not speak to them , or speaking, says ‘make haste’ or ‘sit straight’, or some other form of ‘boo to a goose!’

Such things are not to be borne, and the self-pitiful creature goes about all day with sullen countenance. As he or she grows older you hear of many injuries from friends, much neglect, much want of love, and above all, want of comprehension, because the person who pities himself is never ‘understood’ by others.

Even if he is a tolerably strong person he may become a hypochondriac, with a pain here, and a sensation there, which he will detail to his doctor by the hour. The doctor is sorry for his unhappy patient, and know that he suffers from a worse malady than he himself imagines; but he has not drugs for self-pity, though he may give bottles of colored water and bread pills to humor his patient.

You are inclined to laugh at what seems to be a morbid, that is, diseased, state of mind; but, indeed, the daemon of pity, self-pity, is an insidious foe. Many people, apparently strong and good, have been induced by him to give up their whole lives to brooding over some real or fancied injury. No tenant of the heart has alienated more friend or done more to banish the joys of life.”

OUCH. Right? I see so much of myself there. Thankfully she answers with solution instead of leaving us there to be miserable…

“Our defense is twofold. In the first place, we must never let our minds dwell upon any pain or bodily infirmity; we may be sick and pained in our bodies, but it rests with ourselves to be well and joyous in our minds; and indeed, many great sufferers are the very hearth of their homes, so cheerful and comforting are they.

Still more careful must we be never to go over in our minds for an instant any chance, hasty, or even intended word or look that might offend us. A spot no bigger than a halfpenny may blot out the sun of our friends’ love and kindness, of the whole happiness of life, and shut us up in a cold and gloomy cell of shivering discontent. Never let us reflect upon small annoyances, and we shall be able to bear great ones sweetly. Never let us think over our small pains, and our great pains will be easily endurable.

The other and surer way of guarding ourselves from this evil possession is to think about others. Be quick to discern their pains and sufferings, and be ready to bring help. We cannot be absorbed in thinking of two things at the same time, and if our minds are occupied with others, far and near, at home and abroad, we shall have neither time nor inclination to be sorry for ourselves.”

-Charlotte Mason {Vol. 4 p 89-91}

Should I mention that some weeks I come straight home from church and read that? Because (probably just for me) sometimes it takes great effort and determination to not be hurt by people. Duh. This sounds like crazy woman problem #808.

I struggle to get my mind in the right place, a sort of “take every thought captive” type of thing. It makes me realize that our daughters need us to help them with this. This is a human condition for sure. But in my experience, it begins early for girls as they go through life getting their feelings hurt.

We have to be ready with a new way of thinking.

It will bless our families, and our daughters’ families who are not even here yet. Our husbands will be relieved. Because, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a husband mention “hmm, I wish my wife would get her feelings hurt more often, that would make life so much better”.

So here’s an idea for catching things early in this way of thinking, courtesy of Charlotte:

“But what if from childhood they had been warned, ‘Take care of your thoughts, and the rest will take care of itself; let a thought in, and it will stay; will come again tomorrow and the next day, will make a place for itself in your brain, and will bring many other thoughts like itself. Your business is to look at the thoughts as they come, to keep out the wrong thoughts, and let in the right. See that ye enter not into temptation.'”

-Charlotte Mason {Vol. 2, p. 46}

Just for your enjoyment, here are some beauties from our trip in June…it would be hard to explain how sick we were, and how badly we wanted to go home at that moment. This particular Burgerville had to have you show them your receipt every time you needed into the bathroom…did I mention we were sick? The amount of times I showed that receipt is just ridiculous. This was moments before we began our 12 hour car ride home. It must have been worth it, because we only stopped three times…in 12 hours. TWELVE HOURS.

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This one wasn’t staged, Joel just kept taking pictures, apparently. We had to make sure our ice cream was still there.

photo 2  I guess this is how I look when I’m telling people to give me my phone back… 3

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