THE POWER OF LEARNING FROM OTHERS
by Eric Elder
I’ve just been to the last of 3 college graduations in the past 5 months, and I’m so thankful not only to the kids for all of their hard work, but to Lana, for being the incredible mother and teacher that she was. Lana homeschooled Karis, Lucas and Makari from kindergarten through high school, so today I just wanted to honor her for the incredible job she did. At the same time, I’d like to let you in on one of her secrets of success: learning from others. As Paul encouraged the Philippians:
“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice” (Philippians 4:9a).
Believe it or not, when I first started dating Lana 30 years ago, one of the questions I had about marrying her was what kind of mother she would be. And to be honest, she had the same question!
She said that college had prepared her for a job in business or computers, but it hadn’t prepared her for one of her most important jobs: mothering. She knew how to do accounting, computer programming and business writing, but she wished she had taken classes in cooking, sewing, nursing or child psychology.
There was so much to learn and she had to do it all on-the-job. I remember the first time she tried making spaghetti for the 2 of us. Having come from a family with 9 kids, she had no idea how to make various-sized portions, so she just put the whole box of spaghetti into the boiling water. We had spaghetti for a week!
But Lana spent the next 23 years learning everything she could to become the incredible wife and mother that she was. When someone made a meal that she liked, she asked them for the recipe and tips on how to make it. When she found an older woman who knew how to quilt, she asked her for lessons and ended up making many beautiful quilts over the years. When she had questions about child-raising, she read books on parenting. When the kids were sick and she had no idea what to do, she looked up answers in a big medical book my mom gave us when we first got married.
From the time Karis was born, Lana wanted to homeschool our kids. Homeschooling was still pretty new at the time, and neither of us knew anything about it. But Lana said the reason she wanted to have the kids in the first place was because she wanted to spend time with them, and homeschooling seemed to be a great way to do that.
So even before Karis was old enough to go to school, Lana started going to homeschooling conventions, asking other homeschoolers how they did what they did and researching the best curricula and lesson plans she could find.
We heard from other homeschooling parents to just take it a year at a time and decide each year if we thought this was still the best plan for the kids and ourselves. So we started that 1st year with just 1 year in mind. Then every spring, we’d re-evaluate if it was going to work again for another year. 1 year turned into 2, and 2 years turned into 3. Eventually Lana was teaching 6 different kids, with 6 different learning styles, in 6 different grade levels.
She headed up the local homeschooling group and coordinated various field trips and reading programs. To anyone who met her at that time, they would have thought she was just a natural supermom. But she would be the first to say that she wasn’t. She had worked as long and as hard as the kids to become the incredible mother that she was. When Karis graduated from high school, I was so proud of Karis, but I was also so proud of Lana. I gave her a note saying that she should get a certificate, too, for being such a great mother and teacher.
As I watched each of the kids walk across their respective stages this year to receive their college diplomas (Karis with a 4-year degree in biblical studies from Liberty in Lynchburg, Virginia; Lucas with a 3-year diploma in worship and leadership from Hillsong in Sydney, Australia; and Makari with a 2-year certificate in transformational ministry from Bethel in Redding, California), I couldn’t help but look to heaven, too, and say to Lana, “Well done, Mama! Well done!” I wished she was there in person to see each of them graduate, but I couldn’t help but be thankful for her investment of time, love and attention into each of the kids’ lives. I could see the fruit of all her efforts right before my eyes.
I can’t believe Lana’s been gone now, as of this week, for a year and a half. She was only sick for 9 months, and she’s been gone now for 18, twice as long as she was sick. Time just keeps flying by. But as I think about her life and her investment in the kids, I also think about one of her favorite stories that encouraged her to make the most of the life that she had.
It was a story about a women who had a neighbor with a beautiful flower garden. Every time this woman complimented her neighbor on something in her garden, her neighbor would dig up part of the plant and give it to her to plant in her own yard. Over the years, this woman had been given countless starts for countless plants, yet her own garden remained bare. She thought she’d never be able to have a beautiful garden like her neighbor, so she never even bothered to put the plants in the ground. She ended up jealous and dejected, with nothing to show for all that she had been given.
Lana didn’t want to be like this woman with the bare garden at the end of her life. So whenever she saw something beautiful in someone else’s life, or something that someone else was doing that she liked, Lana would ask how to do it, how to make it work in her own life, then she’d give it a try and see if she could do it, too. Although Lana and I both wondered at the beginning of our life together what kind of mother she would be, she turned out to produce one of the most beautiful gardens I’ve ever seen, all because she kept learning from others as much as she could, then putting what she learned into practice in her life.
If Lana were here I know she would encourage you to do the same. If you see something in life that you like in others, or something that others do well that you’d like to do, too, ask them how to do it. Learn from them all you can. Then plant what you’re given and watch what blooms. It’s never too late to start!
Lana, I love you. I’m proud of you. You continue to encourage me and the kids and so many others to be the best that we can be, too. CONGRATULATIONS! You have so much to be proud of!
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