the art of persistence
I was going to title this "the art of perseverance" but then felt like that wasn't quite right. Perseverance to me indicates a somewhat passive enduring of sorts... surviving but not necessarily thriving. Persistence, on the other hand, feels more intentional and active. It turns out that when I looked them both up, perseverance actually includes the word persistence in the definition, and persistence does hit more at the root of what I'm looking for: firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition. Either way, the basic idea of endurance in the face of hardship is a skill that's very important to me to teach my children. Grit, flexibility, determination, implementation, stewardship, self-control, self-discipline, motivation, tenacity, leadership, and stick-to-it-iveness -- all of those things surround and feed into and stem from this idea of persistence.
Used incorrectly (as it is by many children, and even a fair number of adults, including me at times!), persistence is a frustrating and exhausting trait. After all, any word that includes "obstinate" in the description is going to have it's pitfalls! But paired with wisdom, it is a trait that I believe enables us to seek God more deeply, trust Him more fully, and follow Him more completely. Without the option of walking away or giving up on something, we find ourselves needing Him more and seeing more how intimately He cares for the details of our lives.
I recently read a college entrance essay shared by a mom whose son wrote about the satisfaction of setting down his screen and working with his hands. He described multiple examples of times throughout his high school years where his intentional decision to take up music and woodcraft projects instead of turning to his phone allowed him to "pick up his life", and for his phone to begin serving him, rather than ruling over him. I found it really inspiring to read and it renewed my desire for my children to develop, in and of themselves, the ability to chose to do what is more difficult in the short-term, in order to find deeper joy and fulfillment in the long-term. Screens offer short-term solutions for short-term problems, but because everything on them is so instantaneous, they don't teach us persistence. And in fact, they train us to be frustrated with the amount of time it takes to accomplish any other task, because a google search or a few clicks on the kroger app, and we can have just what we want in a matter of seconds with little-to-no investment of our time or energy.
I made scones this morning, and rather than pulling out an appliance I usually just use my box shredder to shred the butter when I make them. As I found myself bemoaning how long it takes I realized that actually, shredding three sticks of unsalted butter takes less than two minutes. My threshold for tedium is shamefully low. Contrast that with the chapter we read in Farmer Boy last night about their meat processing days... "All this time [Almanzo] was grinding sausagemeat. He poked thousands of pieces of meat into the grinder and turned the handle round and round, for hours and hours. He was glad when that was finished." (p. 282). I guess. I would be glad too.
As a mom, being able to place a grocery order and check that off my list for the week is absolutely serving our family and it's going to fulfill a short-term need that we have and its an efficient way to do it and I'm so very grateful. But there are other things we have to do that require more time, and they are still worth doing even if they take a lot longer or seem a lot less efficient. One of my children really struggles when he can't win a game, in particular. In his pursuit of gratification, his tendency is often to try to simplify the game, or make it more fair, in order that he stands a better chance of winning. I respond to this often (with less patience than I should have), that the solution to winning is not to make the game easier. The solution to winning is to practice to get better at the game. Is it harder? Quite a bit harder. Is it worth it? Even he would definitely say that yes, the satisfaction of winning is obviously much greater when you've had to work for it and learn to do it - not just when it was handed to you.
We struggle to attain the standard set in the plan of God, but God does not simplify the plan for us. He instead gives us the grace and lessons and skills we need to meet the standard, with His help. Sometimes, all it takes is a little more time than what we would like.
(Details for projects pictured above, that have taught us much about persistence this winter: 1) Chunky knit blanket - we used this tutorial (but quite a bit more yarn for a bigger blanket than suggested) and found it to be excellent. It is very easy to drop stitches as Ivory learned the hard way, so follow the video's recommendations to count stitches! // 2) Paper circle tree - DIY inspired by a friend of mine on instagram - we used dowels stuck into holes we drilled in wood log coins, wooden beads ordered from Amazon (make sure the size of beads you order will fit around the size of dowel you use), and just circles of paper! A fun, cute, cheap, and practical project, perfect for a class party or any other holiday event where you need a make-and-take! // 3) Grant and Titus built this flower press for Ivory, and then Titus used his new wood burning kit to trace and wood burn a design onto it for a gift for Ivory for Christmas. The design we used is from here: Shealeen Louise // 4) our own invented Memory game using wood pieces we cut out with a multi-tool. This was a messy and multi-step project but very gratifying and worth it! I love games they can play together. // 5) Fort-building. Enough said. :) // 6) painting and puzzles, always patience-practicing things to do -- and a drawing that Ivory imitated from watching this video.)