by Jeannette Webb
For as long as I can remember, my mother’s carpet has been red. Not a rich garnet or subtle burgundy, but a fire engine red that seemed to leap from the heart of a flame. I spent a great deal of time on that carpet, lying on my back reading a wonderful book, toasting marshmallows in the large fireplace, playing a game with my siblings. The strength of the color enveloped us, warming our lives and later our memories.
Through the years, regardless of the color motifs of current interior decorating trends, my mother stayed true to her favorite color. When asked for an explanation by well-meaning friends, Mom always smiled and said, “Because it makes my heart sing.”
My mother is a rare and fortunate woman. She knows what she loves and public opinion will not sway her loyalty. I have to wonder how many people today are so privileged?
To know what makes your heart sing is to know where to go for inner refreshment, for solace, for courage. Sometimes it’s a color. Sometimes it is a place. It can be a book or a concerto or a discipline. It can be a cause. It can be found in service. It can be an idea or a question.
As college admissions counselors, we often ask, “What is it that makes your heart sing?” It seems like a random question that has nothing to do with planning homeschool high school or college admissions. In truth, it has everything to do with both.
At the heart of my relationship with students is my desire to understand what is important to them, the thing that isn’t on the daily assignment sheet or on the “What You Have to Do to Get Into a Good College Checklist” that so many people are fervently operating from. By learning what really matters to the student, we can then formulate a plan for high school, figure out extracurricular activities, and then successfully apply to college.
Understanding what makes their heart sing is a wonderful guide for determining which activity a student should pursue, which AP class to take, what to eliminate from an overloaded schedule. Obviously, school and life are filled with responsibilities that must be done and hopefully will be done with a joyful attitude. But, if there are things that lift the heart interspersed among the daily grind, so much more is possible for any human being. In fact, I will go so far as to say, that my primary job as a parent and as a college admissions counselor is to help the student identify what makes their heart sing.
I love the way John and Stasi Eldredge handle this concept in their excellent book, Captivating:
“‘Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it’ (Prov. 22:6 NKJV). This verse is not a promise about faith. It is not speaking of training a child to follow Christ or promising that if you do, the grown child will continue to follow him. Sorry. The proverb is about raising a child to know who he is and to guide him in becoming ever more himself. In the way he should go. Not in the way you would like him to go in order to validate you as a mother and a woman. It speaks of teaching a child to live from his heart, attuned to it, awake to it, aware of it, and when that child is grown he will continue to live a life from the heart. It is about seeing who a person really is and calling him out to be that person. The impact on a life that has been seen and called out is dramatic and eternal. The nurturing of life is a high and holy calling.”
Calling our children out to be themselves, helping them find what makes their heart sing is one of the best gifts we can give, not only to our offspring but to ourselves.