Cultivating Civility

Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil. C. S. Lewis

As I pursue the idea of building foundations of truth and beauty and loveliness into the souls of our children, I have to say that we cannot pass on what is not a part of our own lives. A mom is the CEO of her home, the one who determines and cultivates the life, activities, values and soul, she must be working from the depth of her own soul. This is a long term call--a long distance run, and so pacing ourselves, making sure our own emotional cups are full, seeing that we are growing in grace and beauty is essential to modeling that to our children. I will be more intent on writing about how to build foundations in little ones, but first I would suggest that a mom must define, "What kind of a woman do I want to be? How can I become more excellent? How I am doing on growing more in grace and civility each day?" I suggest that each year, moms who want to grow in wisdom, must take a morning or afternoon away to think through personal goals for themselves and the plan in time to make those goals happen. I will be writing more about that after I finish writing about how to establish values that build children into strong, godly leaders. But, first, you must define who you want to be, so that the influence you give to your children will come from your own soul-set values and convictions. Below I share a story of my own life from a few years ago--and I see that my children love it when I am a picture of civility--it draws them to their finer selves! Enjoy.


Excitement bubbled up inside as I considered the day I had charted for myself. A morning away as a real, live friend, around my own age! Carefully applying my make up, smoothing my hair to its most beautiful style and dressing up in something a bit more sophisticated than my regular jeans marked an adult day out with a beloved friend. Time away from my work-a-day world of children, dishes, teaching, writing and then doing it all over again, is rare. I am one who sometimes likes the predictable on such days--depending on those places I know will bring pleasure and comfort. Meeting my friend in a favorite cafe promised to provide a spot for catching up and sharing dreams and ideas. Now the reason I am telling you this is that I was looking for a day off--a day without conflict, a day of rest before the "busy-ness"  of the year starts again!

High-backed, overstuffed chairs provided privacy from the other customers and just the settling in we needed for our morning together. A steamy pot of tea, warm apple-caramel coffee cake all went down easily. Times like this help me to find my center. A busy and passed-too-fast summer had left me a bit fragmented and out of breath. I was storing up this pleasure and goodness and relaxation against the very busy next few months of a new school year, which is upon me!

After an hour and a half of conversation, we were ready to proceed on to our next pleasure--a stop at a lovely gift shop, filled to the brim with china tea cups and pots, delectable bits of jams and jellies and tea; a beautiful array of cook books and biographies and children's books, feminine clothing and an array of other girl-pleasing artifacts. We hoped to exchange some ideas with the owner about books and art and other future projects.

Just walking in was a pleasant sensate experience, because of all the pretty and fine gifts scattered around the shop. As we chatted with the store owner about our day and some of the books and one of my new projects, she engaged with us in lively conversation. I looked at my watch and realized that I needed to be home to take Joy to a choir practice and so I tried to savor my few minutes as of quiet heart-sharing with my friend. We left the shop and I drove home. Much to my pleasure, the traffic was much less than usual and I found myself home with a half-hour to spare.

I chose not to glance in the kitchen to see what messes were there, but instead, made myself a cup of hot tea. I knew the messes would be there to tame when we all got back home later. I walked over the backpack and a small stack of books on my stairs to my bedroom. They could be cleaned up before dinner. I walked in, lit my candles, turned on my cd with the soothing piano melodies rising and flowing from my Pride and Prejudice cd (very beautiful, by the way!). Joy, who had been in her room reading, heard me and gently knocked on my door.

"Come in, sweetness!" I responded. "Here, have a few sips of tea with me before we have to leave."

She sat down, and began to bubble all over me with thoughts and ideas and incidences that had happened in her morning. I intentionally took a deep breath and observed with thanksgiving at my child who has so much become my delightful friend. We had fifteen minutes together in peace and pleasure.

"Mom, I am so glad you take time for civility--it makes me feel special, and most of all, it really makes me feel like you like listening to me and just celebrating life together." (Has she been around Sarah lately? And now, she regularly lights candles, sips tea and reads--hummmm--where did she get the habit?)


I taught my monthly mom's group and we were discussing chapter 8 in Mission of Motherhood. Our topic was becoming the gardener of your children's souls. Even as you would not expect a garden to emerge from throwing a handful of seeds into the wind into your back yard, so we cannot expect our children to have excellence in their own personal lives by just hoping it happens. Though education is important, it is mostly the way we invest in the other moments of life when our children's souls, manners, habits, skills will determine who they really become. When we become the gardener of their souls, we plant beauty, memories, confidence, and  winsome ways of living that  will capture their own imaginations. (Mission of Motherhood)

First, we must take time to be civilized. I know that my soul dries out if I don't plan in time that fills my own emotional cup. Getting away from my home (where all the chores cry out my name!), to a lovely place where I can think or read or share time with a friend is something I try to plan into my schedule. It doesn't happen as often as I like, but I need it so that I can get back to my center and fill the cups of all those who are in my life to take from my own heart--children, husband, friends, and ministry. I will have nothing to give if I don't take care of myself first. So each year as I plan my children's needs and schedules and activities, I take time to get alone and evaluate, "How am I doing--physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally? How can I simplify my responsibilities so that I can make it with grace through the next months.

Next, though, I make sure to plan in civilizing times with my family--traditions like family dinners or deserts that we will share with our friends, special Sunday afternoon tea times--the first Apple Pie time with a story book. (Giving my children the responsibility of decorating the dining table, writing little notes of encouragement  to their guests who will come, lighting the candles, making the meal.) We plan a time for making cookies or bread or flower baskets to share with those we know who are in need of encouragement or love. (We found cute pumpkin baskets and filled them with dried flowers--Joy sold a few to raise money for a dog she hopes to purchase and then we chose two for special family friends who need to know they are appreciated.)

Plan civility into the moments of your life this fall. Make time for you to have your own experience, however small, that will remind you that you are royalty--as a child of the king. And then, make time for your family, to have peace and beauty and manners and elegance in your home, however small. It will produce a soul that values taking the time to celebrate the importance and intimacy of friendship and fellowship. Happy weekend!