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Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Jesus Prayer

School, family, church, and Jesus. Those seem to be my revolving topics. It's basically my life right now so it makes sense. Today I'm thinking about Jesus.

You know how life will be going along beautifully, wonderfully boringly, and then that thing comes out of nowhere and wrecks your life or breaks your heart? Or maybe it's that thing that you've known is there, and although you keep thinking, hoping, wishing, and praying that it will miraculously get better, it only gets worse? Yeah, I hate those things. I hate them for myself when I go through them. I hate them for my friends when they go through them. I hate it for all the pain it brings to so many more people than we imagine. It's not like we live in isolated bubbles after all. When hard things happen to one person, the pain and hurt ripple out to so many others. 

I know that God is not surprised by these things. I know that He sees the end game while at the moment I only see the field smashed up against my face because I'm at the bottom of a pile of metaphorical football players that tackled me to the ground. I know that Jesus won this game already. It doesn't make the tackle hurt less. (On a side note, I can use more than food related figurative language!)

When these things happen, I often find myself in one of two places when trying to pray. I either can't find the words I want to say, or I have entirely too many words. Either one of them makes me frustrated and going in circles. I've found something that really helps focus my thoughts and prayers in these times. It's so simple, foundational, and liturgical that I skipped over it for the longest time. In my little book of Common Prayer, it's called "The Jesus Prayer" and it goes like this:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

It's concise. Simple. Plain. OLD. And yet it is beautiful. It brings me back to where I need to be. Lord Jesus Christ. Son of God. Have mercy on me, a sinner. When I realize I'm talking at Jesus instead of to Jesus, this ancient prayer snaps my attention back to where I need to be. When I don't have the words to pray for a child that is in pain and breaking the heart of every person that loves her, I pray "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on _____, a sinner." When I pray for the parents that have to watch their child walk a difficult path, I pray "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God..."

Sometimes we use long, beautiful, abundant words to shield ourselves from the reality and the feelings that we need to give to God. At least I do. This prayer helps me strip all of that away until I'm coming to God with the pain, the longing, the hope, the anger, and the joy that's tied together into one giant ache in my heart.

If you find yourself in a place where you don't know what to pray or you can't slow your thoughts enough to get a single sentence out, take a breath. Try praying through this prayer a few times. I hope it helps you as much as it helps me in these moments.






Monday, July 11, 2016

How the Dumonts do homeschooling

In case you didn't know, we are homeschoolers. I know, I know. You're shocked. ;)  Homeschoolers are kind of like Baptists. We all carry the same name, but we come in wide variety of flavors. I can't speak for how other people homeschool, but I thought it might be interesting to explain what our homeschool experience looks like to my friends and family. After all, I can't have you thinking we're denim jumper fundamentalists (not that there's anything wrong with that), or that I let the kids run wild all the time. They only run wild some of the time. All of the time would be crazy.

If I were to liken our homeschool experience to ice cream, I think we would be Caramel Praline ice cream. I'd love say we're the Rocky Road kind of homeschooler, but alas, that would be a lie. I say caramel praline because we're very vanilla in many ways. We read books. Lots of books. I like books. We do copy work. We do memorization. It sounds plain and boring. But THEN we make it fun and add songs, games, and go on lots of great field trips. We go on trips when everyone else is in school. It's awesome and a somewhat decadent lifestyle (aka caramel). Then sometimes things go off the rails. Things get pecan-y.

Sorry for getting caught up in the food analogies. I can't help myself. So seriously, what does homeschooling look like for us? Well, in the summer, I do my prep. I read blog posts on school planning and organization. I go to conferences and training. I research curriculum TO DEATH and try to find the best deal on all of the books I'll need for the upcoming year. Shopping includes looking through my own library to see if I already own what I need, visiting used book stores, and posting on local facebook groups to find the books I need from other local homeschool moms. I order online for the things I have to buy new.  I make goals for each child for the year and make a tentative schedule.  I pull out all of the books I'll need or make sure my library has what I need. I make copies and list videos/movies we might use. I get familiar with the books and curriculum I'm using. I don't pre-read everything because I don't have the time or ability to read every book for three grades of kids. Plus that's crazy. The more prep I do, the better our year goes. Usually by the time we get to July, I'm ready to jump into our new school year. Sometimes we actually do start in July. This year, we're starting August 1st.

Once we officially start our year, things get really interesting. This will be my first year really teaching all three kids at the same time. I'll have a 1st grader, 5th grader, and 9th grader. Gulp. We do Classical Conversations so a lot of my schedule for my subjects is already laid out for me. Each week Matthew and Charlotte will learn their memory work. They'll do their history and science topics, their world timeline, and grammar and math facts. They'll read and doing writing assignments. Tommy will be in class one day a week then work on his assignments the rest of the week. 

In many ways, Tommy is the easy one at this point. You'd think he'd be the most difficult since he's in high school, but he can do most of his work on his own at this point. I check up on him, help him when he gets stuck on something, and try to keep him accountable to his work. One of my biggest goals in homeschooling and parenting in general is to get these kids of mine to the point that they don't need me. I taught him how to learn so that he can teach himself anything. And he's a natural student. That helps. =)  This year, he'll be doing physical science, Latin I, Algebra 2, American Lit. Econ/American Gov, and Drama/Music Theory.

Matthew is also easy. We'll read books and do some simple handwriting and math. It won't take long, and it won't be hard. It's not supposed to be hard. It's supposed to be easy and fun for him right now. Charlotte will be the project child this year. She'll be in 5th grade. She's in the middle point where we need to refine some areas. She'll want to rush ahead because she's able to jump forward in many ways, but other subjects will hold her back. In other words, I'll get to be the mean teacher that makes her rewrite the sloppy work until it's neat or practice those math facts again. She'll hate it. I'm already prepared for the battles that will ensue. BUT she'll survive, and she'll have better handwriting and a firm grasp of her math facts. ;)


And that's about it I suppose. If you've ever wondered what homeschooling looks like, this is basically how we do it in our house. Some years have been excellent. Some years have been ugly. I'm hoping for excellent this year. If you have any questions, let me know!.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Summer and a churchy conclusion

It seems to be time for my monthly Dumont update. We are in hardcore summer mode. The kids are having friends over. We're going to the beach. Cookouts, ice cream, and popsicles are happening. Football is wrapping up, but we've been at the park two evenings a week for the last month and a half. VBS is going on this week. Tommy has already done his yearly week with his friend, aka "Bro Week". Charlotte and Matthew have done a kids camp while I went to my CC practicum and training. Official schoolwork ended at least a month ago. In fact, I've been spending my time gathering books and curriculum for this fall and our next school year. I've done a few projects including upcycling an old TV cabinet into a homeschool containment device for board games, curriculum for the upcoming year, and supplies.

I'm already passed the ugly stage of the yearly book reorganization. In case you don't know, this is the time when I take all my school books off their shelves, move my bookcases around, and pull out the books I need for next year while shelving the ones I won't need. It's a big production that takes days. I can't tell you how much Jon loves it when I decide to move bookcases. He acts like the stacks of books all over the floor bother him, but I know he looks forward to this every year.  A couple of other pinterest projects have happened. It's been good if just a smidge on this side of chaos.

Then there's our ever evolving church discussion. After years, years I tell you, I'm done with the subject, and I've come to my conclusion. I've read, searched, vented, and commiserated. I've gone through periods of attending out of a sense of obligation. I've listened to speakers, read blog posts and books. I pulled out my systematic theology book more than once to get some help in where to look in Scripture for prescriptive as opposed to descriptive. And where have I landed? Well, we landed at Journey Church where we started over 5 years ago.  Church theology is one that is more fluid than soteriology for example. Councils and smarter people than I have hammered out the meaning of certain doctrines centuries or even a millennium before me. Doctrine on the church though is still evolving and didn't get councils, discussions, and creeds. So if a church teaches the Gospel of Jesus, and the people live to love others, what more do I need? Every church gets things wrong sometimes because each church is made up of people that get things wrong sometimes. God knows I get enough wrong on a daily basis.

It's been easier for me to extend grace to people that don't follow Christ than those that do. I've known through much of this personal journey that the problem is mostly me. Not that the church doesn't have issues. Of course it does. But I have a lot of issues in my heart, and I can actually do something about those issues.  So I'm letting it go. I am all in with our church. It's our church home. We're committed. When I join the future churchy discussions and people start to dissect every line item of their church that's wrong, I will ask them "Do they love Jesus and teach the Gospel? Are they hurting people or are they hateful? Is your problem really an issue of preference?" If your answers are "Yes, no, and probably," I'm going to shrug my shoulders and tell you there are bigger issues in the world. I'm all for a good discussion, but I've exhausted myself of the constant critique.

By the same token, I know I have some friends with real questions and issues they're working through. Those are things I can get behind and talk about. I also had to go through my own path to get to the place I'm at now.  I couldn't have gotten here if friends weren't willing to listen to me question, argue, and be judgy while offering their own more tempered and gracious responses. So friends that put up with me, thanks for that.

Anyway...summer. I think I've covered it. Until July...

Thursday, May 19, 2016

I have a confession.

Hi friends, both old and new. I have a confession that I need to share. It's been a long time coming, so here it goes. I've become afraid of you. I spent the entire year of 2015 being cautious with my words for all the wrong reasons. I've been afraid you won't like me. That my "realness" would be horrifying instead of refreshing. I was afraid of judgement and criticism, and I honestly didn't want anymore advice, "I told you so" comments, or looks. You know, the look that says "You're all wrong about everything, but I don't feel comfortable telling you how wrong I think you are."  It's a real thing.

It took me the entire year of 2015 to recover from 2014. And now it's taken me the last 4 months or so to really dig deep into the city that we've decided to call home. I've been ever so slowly committing our lives to Charleston. We bought a house. I contracted to tutor Challenge A next year with our CC group (BIG commitment for me). I signed the kids up for camps and activities over the summer months in advance. That might seem silly, but it was hard to actually commit to summer camps in March. Do you know how many things can go wrong between March and July?! I can list 5 right now without even trying.  It's been a process for us. I have no doubt some of you have thought that we need to get over everything already. I know I've thought it about myself.

I insulated myself so well last year that it's taken me the first few months of this year to even realize how much I've closed myself off from anything new. I've become timid. ME. I'm not timid. But that's who I've become, and I don't like it. I've missed opportunities because I was afraid of drawing attention to myself or of making someone else uncomfortable, and for that, I'm ashamed.

So. Here it is. A few bullet points of who I really am and things I've wanted to say:
  • I drink wine. I like wine. I like beer too occasionally. I don't drink too much, but I make some delicious red wine truffles.
  • My van is trashed. I can't blame the kids. I mean, I can for a lot of it, but my car has always been a little trashed. The kids changed the form, not the behavior. And I don't even care that much.
  • Classical Conversations. It's been great for me and my kids, but I don't think it's the end all be all of homeschooling. CC moms that think this is the only way or the best way for every homeschooling family ever needs to stop. Stop talking. Please.
  • People that don't like CC, stop hating on it. Nobody's making you do it. Stop calling all of us weird. We're not any stranger or judgier than you are for your unschooling, or your unit studies, or your boxed Bob Jones curriculum. People talk about the things they do and like. You don't have to like CC, but please stop. Just stop the eye roll before I see it.
  • Don't trash your husband. Especially don't do it in front of me. The next time I hear it, I'm going to gently say "Oh, please don't say that. Please don't talk about him like that to me." And especially don't bash your husband to me IN FRONT OF YOUR HUSBAND!
  • I keep getting the very innocent question about where we go to church. Then I go into this long thing about where we used to go and where we've been visiting, but we might go back to the first place, and we don't know what we we're going to do, and we don't want to visit anymore churches because OHMYGOD. I'm so tired of visiting churches (all the moving, remember?), but we need a church, but I've kind of made my own family of Christians so maybe we don't need all the things the churches we visit say we need from them. Because let me tell you. Most churches are about 75% superficial, and I just. can't. do superficial formulaic church anymore. It makes my eyes hurt. And my heart. I don't want to spend all of my time with church people, and I don't even know what to do with all this. If you ask me about church, it's going to be an inarticulate mess of a conversation so be prepared.
I think that's enough for now. Oh wait, sometimes I say "bad" words. I'm very careful about where and when, but sometimes a good "bad" word is the best word to convey the meaning. So that's it. I'm making a conscious decision to put off the timidity that I ensconced myself in for the last year. Fear has had too strong of a grip on my heart. I've given in to the "what if" questions too much. It's exhausting, and I'm done. The insulation and timidity was good for me for awhile, but it's time to throw this blanket off and move into a new season.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Ode to the cinnamon roll

I know it's wrong, but I can't help myself. I can't get you out of my head. I can still taste you, and I need you again. I tried to get to you last week, but the kids were with me. They don't understand why I want you so much. How can they know the pleasure you bring? Finally, this evening I'm free for just an hour. It's more time than I need. Tonight, we'll be together again. Just me and that sweet cinnamon flavor. Oh cinnamon roll, how did you work your way into my life? I've eaten so many cinnamon rolls in my day, but there's something different about you. Maybe it's the iced coffee I drink with you. Damn you, Panera and your magical Thursday evenings of cinnamon rolls! You're no good for me! You're full of calories, white flour, and sugar! You do nothing but push me into larger pants, but I can't say no. I must have the sweet, cinnamon, goodness; Feel that first tender bite of pastry. Smell the heady scent of cinnamon. Cinnamon roll, you will be mine.

And that, folks, is what happens when Jon gets me a laptop for my birthday. I can now write again without being interrupted by the kids and their incessant need for Minecraft, Spotify, or email. You get to read about my sinful desire for cinnamon rolls.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Where are we now?

My writing has slowed down a lot. Our lives have slowed down after 5 years. It's amazing how life flows from one season to the next, and you usually don't even realize it's happened until it's done. I wake up this morning and I realize that we've flowed into the picture of the suburban American dream complete with an HOA, a mortgage, and slightly crammed schedule of troops, school obligations, teams, and youth group. This looks like a place we've been before, but it is so different. We see the world with totally different eyes than we did 5 years ago. And although we might look like everyone else with a cursory glance, our focus is no longer on acquisition but surrender. Part of what I've learned in the last few months is that even if our lives don't look as visually exciting and dare I say "authentic" from the outside, it doesn't make our new life any less meaningful and impactful. But enough of that. So what have we been up to lately?

First, Tommy is finishing up 8th grade. He's preparing for mock trial next month where he's playing the part of one of the prosecuting attorneys. I have to get ready for high school. I'm going to have a high school student. My child will be in high school. I have to keep saying it out loud because it doesn't seem possible. This little guy was going with me to college while I finished up my senior year just yesterday! As of today his career goal is to be a singer. Ahem. He's so 13.

Charlotte is on her very first overnight camping trip with her American Heritage Girls troop. This is kind of a big deal. She's an hour and a half away. She is thriving in our homeschool group. Her biggest struggle in life at the moment (other than her brothers) is finding friends in our neighborhood.

Matthew. Ah, Matthew. He's still the same kid. He says random things. He makes up elaborate stories about his careers. This morning his BBQ restaurant had its grand opening and is doing well. He and Tommy will be on flag football teams this spring. This goes well with his football obsession. I need him to have other football people in his life because I can only fake excitement in the same football conversations for so long.

Jon is working a lot this weekend. He's growing a mustache for Mustache March. Apparently that's a thing in the Air Force. I will post pictures soon.

And finally me: Well, a few things have happened to me in the last month. First, I'm going to be directing Challenge A next year in our CC group (that's roughly the 7th grade group for Classical Conversations). I'm really excited to take on something new. I'm a project person. I need new things every once in awhile to keep my soul happy. Second, I started and quit Whole30. My friend didn't think I could do it, and she's right. I hate putting myself in a box of rigid rules. It makes me die a little inside after awhile. I did it long enough to detox from all the sugar and carbs that my body was addicted to. I found out that I actually CAN be one of those people that wakes up with energy in the morning and keep going for the whole day. Who knew that a diet full of fruits, veggies, and healthy fats could make such a difference! Still, my deep, passionate, lifelong love affair with pizza will not be denied. Pizza and I have a bond that I can't fully describe with words. Um...I didn't mean to profess my love for pizza so much. I was trying to say that I cleaned up my diet long enough to discover some of the things that bother me. Basically, sugar. Anything that makes my blood sugar go up and down quickly is really bad for me. My goal is to generally eat vegetables, fruit, and protein. Desserts are now the rare treat they were meant to be. Bread and pasta can't be the star of the show anymore. They can be like the guest star that shows up every once in awhile for the season finale. I'm not even that sad about it because I felt so good once I cut all of those things out.

I don't feel bad about quitting because I think it did what it was meant to do. I learned how unhealthy my eating habits had become, and it forced me to change direction. No matter how much I described my attempt at Whole30 as a type of fast or trying to figure out the best way for me to be healthy, my kids were still starting to categorize foods as good and bad which I'm NOT okay with. I also don't want to be one of those people that doesn't eat what is served when visiting someone's house. I didn't want to be ruled by food, and I was starting to feel like I'd exchanged one form of food slavery for another. I think Whole30 is great for a lot of people, but it just wasn't for me. Still, I encourage everyone to look at it and cut out the described foods for at least a week and see if you feel a difference. I'm serious when I say I've felt like a new person in the last few weeks. I haven't had so much consistent energy since...I don't even know when. College maybe? Before kids? I've been happier. It's made me calmer and happier in general. I got rid of all the ups and downs I had everyday. Even adding in a few of the foods I'd abstained from, I still feel great. So seriously. Give it a try. You might be amazed at how much better you feel.

And one last thing. We've been visiting a new church since January that I'm considering falling in love with. I haven't quite decided how I'm going to let myself feel about things yet, but it's got the hallmarks of what I've been longing for in a church family. The people are friends with each other, it's not simply a Sunday morning things to do. The services are simple. We sing songs, we pray, we sing more songs, we listen to teaching. There's no production to it, which I really love. I know lots of people really enjoy the loud production that is so popular today, and I'm glad that option is available. For me it always felt like more of a distraction than a help in corporate worship. I know that's personal preference, and I can't totally worship in both settings. Differences are good. God made all different kinds of people so of course churches will look different from each other in the superficial.

And that's it. You've gotten the Dumont family update for February and half of March. No trips, no moves, no devastating job changes...just normal family stuff. =)



Friday, January 8, 2016

Beautifully boring January

I always settle on my New Years Resolutions/goals about a week late, and this year is no exception. For 2016, I'm doing things a little differently. Like everyone else, my yearly goals tend to get lost and forgotten by March. I think about them throughout the year, but it's not a constant thing like I'd prefer. So this year I'm taking my yearly themes (you know...be healthier, read more, be better in general) and breaking them down into monthly goals. Let's call them baby goals. Since we just moved into our house on January 1st, my January baby goals will have some extra house themed projects. Yay!


January Goals
  • Get comfortable cooking fish at home
  • Read one theology book that I already have on my bookshelf but haven't read yet
  • Get curtains put up downstairs. Replace the incredibly ugly vertical blinds with cute curtains instead. 
  • Consistently hit our 9am-12pm school session during the week.
  • Exercise 3 days a week.
  • Get the kitchen and living room completely put together 
  • Dust at least once a week
So how did these things make my January list? Well. The fish thing might seem random, but we all know that fish is great for us to eat so it fits solidly under the "be more healthy" column. My family (except for Jon) actually likes fish, but the thought of cooking it was intimidating to me. No more. I cooked fish for lunch yesterday, and I'm going to try for once a week or so. The theology book and the dusting were both inspired by our move. I packed up all these great books that we have, but I've never read. And they were embarrassingly dusty. This month, I'm going to read God is the Gospel by John Piper. I know. I can't go wrong with Piper. =) Then I will dust all the other books so they never get in such a state again. School and exercise are the obvious ones. New year, new me. Or whatever. School slides throughout the year so January is a great time to reboot those plans I made in August.

And finally, the house. I plan on getting this house together room by room. From day one, we started with the kitchen and living area. Since this is the space we spend the most time in and people will see when they visit, it made sense to me to put it together first. Throughout the year, I'll work my way room by room until I get things completely put together.

Finally, isn't this a completely boring blog post? No job loss announcements, no life changing news at all. Just completely boring and forgetful information that no one really cares about but me. Isn't that wonderful? Seriously. Sometimes boring is beautiful.