Today’s ‘Imago Dei.’ post is from our friend Andrea Lipinski. If you are new to the Imago Dei series then you should know how it began. The Imago Dei series is all about you and your story as you have encountered the truly human things that transform us more into the image of our Creator. I first had the idea for this series shortly after launching this blog, but did not know exactly how it was to look. Then, I received a gracious gift, an email from a fellow Christian classical mom sharing her story. Immediately I was taken and knew that our series had found its form. Let the series continue.
Learning How to Live
by Andrea Lipinski
Since I was a young girl, I have always viewed life as a series of hurdles, which consistently grew in heights of complexity and depths of tragedy, but still, surprisingly I had hope. My hope was in knowing that God had chosen me, and I had not chosen Him (John 15:16). This truth was my hope and my anchor. God chose me. I did not choose Him. I also knew I would have tribulation in this world (John 16:33). So my childish analogy of life as hurdles seemed in harmony with truth as I grew older, married, and had children. Furthermore, I thought character formation only occurred in tribulation; I had no notion that God would use the daily habits of living. I had no idea that God would give me simple gifts of friendships, gardening, and apprenticing to help me learn how to live fully alive as his daughter.
As my oldest son turned five years old, my husband and I decided to keep our son home from the full day local kindergarten program. I did not know I would homeschool my children. I did not know about pedagogy, curriculum, and assessment. I did not know the purpose of education. I simply wanted a few more mornings and a few more afternoons to read books, finger paint, and explore outside – together.
After the first year went well, we thought we could do that again. Only this time, I knew I needed help. I talked with the local homeschooling moms. They showed me textbooks, manipulatives, schedules, field trips, and programs. That was a place to start. I believed there were still things I did not know. Something had to hold all those subjects and activities together. There must be more than curriculum to consider. I had no idea I would find “the teacher, not the curriculum, needs to be the focus of reform” while the curriculum “… sustains and nurtures teachers as practitioners of the art of learning” (Hicks, Norms and Nobility, viii). I found the Christian, classical tradition. While I repeatedly put down and picked up Hick’s book, I read other books, I taught my children, and I engaged in my community. I needed to be the focus of reform first, not my children, not the curriculum, and not the schedule.
During this time, God gifted me with friendships. I have good friends both locally and around the nation who homeschool and some who don’t. These friends have been iron sharpening me, fish oil fertilizing me, shears pruning me, prayers sustaining me, and sojourners traversing with me. Truly, the ideas, I am learning within the Christian, classical tradition, can grow in better soil because of the friends God gave me.
Within my community, we explored spiritual formation, and we learned St. Ignatius’ Examen prayer. This short prayer begins with thanking God for the gifts He gives, asking for the grace to know my sins, thinking through my day in sections to look for patterns, asking for forgiveness where I screw up, and committing to fixing my screw ups. Here is an app that shares a way of understanding this prayer and remembering the daily commitment.
This act of pausing daily to thank God for specific gifts is forming me. At dinner, we each share our personal highs and our lows; we are learning to see God’s gifts.
During this time, God gifted me with a garden. During a conference talk, Andrew Kern encouraged his listeners to spend the rest of their lives thinking about three words: nature, purpose, and propriety (“A Contemplation of Nature,” 2009). In desiring to know Christ more, it does not take much reading to see how often he spoke with garden analogies. I just did not see until more recently that cultivating a physical garden in my yard would help me understand Christ’s words and Christ’s nature. My vegetable garden by its nature needs water, sunlight, and fertilizer. Too much of any of those things is not appropriate either.
In our backyard, we have a physical garden to tend that is surrounded by fencing to keep the deer and rabbits out. In our community, we have relationship gardens to tend. Human relationships require -by their nature- water, fertilizer, sunlight, pruning, and harvesting. In human gardens, we might call this nurturing: conversations, praise, acts of service, repentance, and celebrations. We need to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15). When my family and I care for our gardens accordingly, we are blessed with fruit for our labors.
During this time, God gifted me with the Apprenticeship. “Children are souls to be nurtured not products to be measured,” -Andrew Kern. I joined the CiRCE Teacher Apprenticeship to become a better teacher (for the souls of my children); firstly I am learning how to live (for my soul). As apprentices, we read old books, we write new essays, and we think on normative ideas. I am learning that my primary task as my children’s teacher is to cultivate human nature because people are the temple of God. I am cultivating my humanity in reading, discussing, and writing. Then, there is an overflow for my husband, children, and community. Then, there is something in me worth imitating, that someone is Christ.
Last year during the Apprenticeship, we read Plato’s Phaedrus. For quite some time, I was stuck to page 6. I would read farther along, but somehow I repeatedly found myself back on page 6. My childhood diet of cold facts is being replaced with missing stories, myths, and tales. In Phaedrus Socrates shares, “if someone is skeptical about [Pegasuses], and tries with his boorish kind of wisdom to reduce each to what is likely, he’ll need a good deal of leisure… I am not yet capable of ‘knowing myself’ … so it seems absurd to me that while I am still ignorant of this subject [i.e. myself] I should inquire into things that do not belong to me.” I do not have to debunk the fairy tale. I can embrace the pegasus and the hobbit while inquiring of myself and the One who made me. From reading this book, a few apprentices also rearranged our homes to have more harmony with how we live and more beauty for where we gather.
Yes, God’s gifts of friendship, gardening, and apprenticing are reforming me and cultivating human faculties that can perceive the harmony of truth in its many different dimensions. My childhood analogy for life needs replacing; it does not harmonize with truth. Living is not higher hurdles. Living is knowing I am a daughter of the Most High King, I am an image bearer, and I am His temple. Caring for this temple of God according to its nature requires seeking repentance. Repeatedly throughout the day I pray, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” I am one who has been forgiven much and so I yearn to love Christ much (Luke 7:47).
What gifts has God given you to transform you into His image, which He created you to bear? Join the Conversation here.
Andrea Lipinski is a homeschooling mother and wife. She is a Journeyman in the CiRCE Institute’s Apprenticeship program. She loves to share the truth that God gives amazing gifts in the everyday places.
[box type=”shadow”] Thank you for sharing your story Andrea. For those of you reading this, I would love to hear your story as well. If you are interested in sharing contact me for more information. Blessings.[/box]