A Poem…This Broken Faith

This Broken Faith

O pilgrim, know your bruised and fractured soul
shines beautiful, like sun sparks through the rain
and though the darkness longs to claim its toll
this broken faith glows brilliant though the pain.
What words are there to still the baneful voice
whose lies in blackest darkness now you grope?
Such strength it takes for us to make the choice
to silence despair’s siren call with hope.
To struggle on when everything seems lost
and you can barely lift your voice to pray
Oh, God forbid we underrate the cost
of simply moving forward day by day.
So true, sometimes the very bravest act
is moving forward, longing to go back

For some reason, it needed to be a sonnet.


A Kind of Fatih That Breaks the Heart

 Empty Chair photo by Andrew Hale.  Used with permission.

We sat in a circle, ladies sharing our hearts after a talk about having faith.  My sweet friend shared her fears, talked of the crucible of faith that had become her heart these sixteen weeks. Spoke of the faith that grew in her heart as the child grew, sixteen weeks day by day, in her womb.

This was no easy faith.  Twice before, you see, at sixteen weeks my friend had known the grief of losing tiny sons, the babies she had longed to hold, to mother.  Twice before.  There was no reason, there was no explanation, only emptiness and grief.

And so this faith, it was not the ordinary kind.  Oh, we long so much to have that ordinary reassurance, to have the child-like faith that everything will turn out, just like we want it to.  To have the comfortable, blind, naive assurance that a good God, a fair God, would never let such terrible things happen.  Not to a family who has had them happen already twice in a row.  Not to a family whose little children have been praying, each day, for the baby in Mommy’s tummy to live this time.  Oh, please, not again.

My friend, she knows a deeper kind of faith.  A kind of faith that breaks the heart, a kind of faith that walks blindly in the darkness of that brokenness and weeps, yet still knows that the hand of God cups ’round, embraces, heals with ways and plans beyond all understanding.  I have to have faith, she said, not that this baby will make it, but that God is good and is in control no matter what happens.

So much, we wanted to see that faith rewarded with a perfect outcome.  So much, we wanted this time to be different, this time for her to bring that child home in her arms and for the glory of God to be shown by the miracle of a child’s safe birth.  But it was not to be.  Just days after we prayed in that circle, the nightmare began a third time.  One more tiny, perfect son, lost.  One more devastating night in the hospital, one more crushing loss.  This time, they almost lost her.  This time, the bleeding wouldn’t stop.  And when she woke up, confused by the doctors saying they’d saved her life, that she was lucky to be alive, she knew the loss was even more final:  no more pregnancies, the risk is too great.  She walked out with empty arms and an emptiness in her heart that no words can justly describe.

In such devastating grief, even the strongest Christian begs to know….Where was God?  

He knew about this.  He allowed it.  He had the power to stop it and He chose not to.  Why?

And this is where the faith comes in, the messy faith, the ugly faith, the heart-breaking faith that defies all earthly reason.  This, now, is where faith seems to be lost and the empty heart seems to swallow the soul and the broken pieces seem too shattered to make sense of, too scattered to even start to put back together.  This is where the broken-hearted faith stumbles, wounded and bleeding and crying out to God in pain, in grief, and yes…in rage and where the soul rends and the strength fails and hope seems far away.  Where faith is just a thread, is a frayed and knotted rope you didn’t realize you were holding on to, where faith is a path cut through the tangled weeds and briers that you didn’t realize you were walking on until you look back, see it cut its way through the impossible darkness, winding ’round the hidden pits and snares. It is where you say the words, God is good, in all things and you don’t understand them and sometimes you don’t even want them and yet they stand, they pull you through, they pull you through.

 Friends, will you pray with me for my friend?  For her family?  I know many of you have suffered similar losses, if you feel led to will you email me or leave a link in the comment box…any words of wisdom, any thoughts or stories that might help would be appreciated.  

holy experience

Homeschool Curriculum

“What curriculum do you use?”  That’s one of the first questions you get as a homeschooler….well, after “Are you crazy?” and “How do you do it?” and “What about socialization?” (the answers…yes, probably…day by day…and, don’t even get me started on socialization.)

We have used three different core curriculums and are currently working with two.  This year I am using Sonlight for my older two kids and K12 for Youngest.   Last year, we used Winter Promise for the older two and K12 for Youngest, and in previous years we used K12 for all 3 kids with some other programs thrown in here and there.

Let me tell you a little about K12…it is a program available at a (substantial) cost to anyone in the US, but it is also available in some states as a free public school program.   There are some great things about the program and some not-so-great things, but it is a wonderful way to get started if you are just embarking on the homeschool journey.  It is not a Christian based program, but the program does take into account that many of the people who use it Christian homschoolers and I found that it is much more accommodating in that area than a traditional public school (you are allowed to opt out of certain lessons, and they include a unit on Bible stories that is optional as well).  If you use it, you’ll want to add your own Bible study.  But the program is very thorough, has many different types of lessons, is easy to use, and provides you with a ton of supplies at no cost (assuming you’re in a state that uses K12 as a public option).  They also provide you with access to a certified teacher in case you have questions or need help at any point.  In our experience, the teachers have been very helpful without being overbearing or intrusive, they are simply there for us to call on as little or as much as we need.  In our state, children in second grade and beyond are required to do the state testing while using K12, since it’s technically a public school (and is payed for by our tax money).  Classes are found online and in textbooks, and the program provides very clear directions for parents and many worksheets, lessons, supplies (microscopes, balances, rock collections, math manipulatives…even a computer in some cases) and books for students.  It was a great way to start homeschooling and we enjoyed many things about K12.  You can see some of the supplies that came with Youngest’s Kindergarten classes in this post.

Why did we decide to change curriculum for the older two?  Several reasons.  The  main factor was that the kids were starting to get bored.  K12 was great in many ways but after a few years, the kids were just not as excited about learning as they used to be.  I wanted them to have more hands-on experience, to have more responsibility choosing the direction of their learning, and to read more good books, and I felt like we could accomplish that better by switching curriculum.  We had used Sonlight before and enjoyed it, so I decided to look for a program that was more history and literature based.  We ended up going with Winter Promise, Quest for the Ancient World.  Winter Promise offers tons of great books, a good strong Christian perspective, and many ideas for in-depth projects and hands-on learning.  It was also great because we were able to buy a program that allowed me to teach a 4th grader and a 7th grader using the same core, with different independent study materials for each grade.  Youngest enjoyed listening to the books and doing the projects with us, too.

This year, we decided to go with Sonlight for the older two because Eldest is enrolled in a distance High School program, and Sonlight’s core curriculum transfers easily to credits in that program.  I would probably have stayed with Winter Promise, but after looking at some long-term planning we decided to go with Sonlight this year for both older kids, then switch to Winter Promise for Middle Child and Youngest next year while Eldest continues with Sonlight.  We have been able to stay with the same time-period in history with all 3 kids, and will continue to do that for the next few years so that group projects and read-aloud history books will apply to everyone’s studies.

We have kept Youngest with K12 because she is struggling with reading, and we feel that K12’s program is strong in the area of phonics and Language Arts in the lower grades.  Also, because it is a public school it has been easier for us to tap into resources to help her…for example they offer an intensive phonics program for kids who struggle with reading that we could not afford if we were not enrolled.  We’re working hard in the area of reading (I’ll probably post more on that another day) and the hope is that by next year, she’ll be ready to move on to an American History unit through Winter Promise with her older sister.

We also read many of the books used in Veritas Press, and have used Rosetta Stone for Latin and French, Power-glide for French, and Abeka and Apologia for science.  Eldest is using Video Text Algebra for math (and I am enjoying finally understanding Algebra through learning with him!) and Middle Child is using Saxon math.

Well, there you have it.  It’s very hard to put into one post what we use for school, and I’m afraid it’s also no. If you’ve got questions, feel free to ask in the comment box or email me!  And if you’ve got curriculum ideas that have worked well for you, please do share them!

They-I-You….What I needed to hear (and maybe you, too?)

My plate is heaped full to overflowing this week…photos to edit, house to clean, painting to finish (the snow is coming!) and school to do. 

I was not planning to post at all today, but I had a moment and popped over to visit my friend, a Simple Country Girl.  She spoke right to my heart….maybe it’s what you needed to hear today, too? Go on over, please, and read what she has to say today. 

And I want to know where I can get one of those shirts!

The Very Same Lies

She is crying hard, hands over her face, hair falling all around.  I sit for a moment, trying to gather my thoughts, finding a place to start.  Where did this come from, so suddenly?  Youngest is a soggy mess on my lap, the tears that seemed to come from nowhere still rolling down her cheeks.
“Please, tell me again what you’re feeling?”

A long, shuddery sigh, a hiccuping intake of air.  “Nobody loves me, Mommy.  Nobody thinks I’m smart or good and nobody likes to play with me.  I just can’t do anything right!”  Fresh sobs take over as she finishes those last, terrible words.

I sigh, wipe tears from her face, hold her tight.  I rock her gently on my lap, wait a moment for the sobs to quiet, tilt her little face up to mine.  “You know, those things are just not true.  I know they seem true right now, I know how real that can feel.  But those thoughts are just not true.  They are lies that Satan would love you to believe, to make you feel terrible.  The only power he has is to lie to you to try and get you to forget the Truth.  He loves to whisper those lies in our ears and make us think we aren’t good and we aren’t loved.  Those lies can feel very real, can’t they?”  She nods, the tears have slowed and she is listening quietly, earnestly.

“Did you know that everyone feels that way sometimes?”  A pause, a tiny shake of her head.  “Well, everybody does feel like that sometimes.  I feel that way and think those same thoughts sometimes.  I guess the devil just isn’t very creative with his lies…because I sometimes have to put those very same thoughts right out of my head, too.  It must be something he knows will make us stumble because pretty much every girl I know, grown-ups and kids alike, struggles with those very same lies sometimes.  They feel so real, but they are nothing but garbage meant to make us feel worthless and useless.”

She is calming now, I can feel her little body relaxing into my lap and her breathing is ragged, but the sobs have stopped.  I rest my chin on the top of her head, glad I can still hold her like this and rock her like this. Broken over the fact that this world is so fractured, that it is so easy to lose sight of Truth.  I wish I could take these lies and hurl them back to hell, protect my daughters and my friends and all the sisters and mothers and  women in my life and myself from these lies that are so easy to believe.

“You know what the truth is, don’t you?”  She nods a timid nod, looks to me and waits to hear the words.  “The truth is that you are so loved I can’t even start to describe it.  I love you with all my heart, and Daddy loves you, and your brother and sister.  You have lots of friends who love you and who love to be with you.  The truth is, you’re smart and funny and so very creative and you can do so many things!  And the truth is, you’re good and sweet and loving and altogether lovable.  The truth is,”  and I turn her around on my lap so we are face to face, “The truth is that God created you to be His special child, and He has great plans for you that are bigger than you can imagine.  You are precious to Him and to all of us and nothing is ever going to change that.  Do you understand?”

She is smiling a little now, nodding hard and sitting a little taller.

“You see, you knew that, didn’t you?  Even when you were feeling so bad, I bet you knew in your heart what the Truth is.”

“I knew it in my heart,”  she said.  “My brain just forgot it.”

“Well, it’s pretty easy to let thoughts and feelings get the best of us.  But you know what?  We don’t have to listen to those lies.  They’re just the same old lies that every one of us has to fight and they’re just plain wrong.  What do you think you could do next time you hear those lies start in your head?”
“Pray?”  she suggests, and I nod.  “That’s exactly what to do.  Pray those lies away, and ask God to take your thoughts captive.  Ask Him to catch those lies and throw them away before they can make you sad.”
We prayed, and she slid off my lap smiling again.

I sat there for awhile longer, thinking.  Thinking of how the very same lies can often tangle my own thoughts, can bring me crashing down in the same way.  How it is so easy to see that these thoughts and feelings are lies when someone else is struggling with them, but they seem so real when they are infecting your own heart. Why do women believe these lies?  Why is it so easy for us to forget our own value, to forget how loved and special and blessed we are?  How can I, knowing these lies and seeing that the very same lies work just as well whether you are seven or seventy, still listen to them some days and let them steal my joy?

I am praying for these lies to be thrown down.  I’m praying for my sisters and daughters and friends, for wives and mothers and grandmothers and women everywhere…that we’ll see these lies for what they are and recognize them before they take root.  I’m praying that we’ll look at them, list them, name them and become so familiar with how they work that when we hear them whispered in our ears they’ll stand out like a flashing neon sign and we will stamp them out before they have time to tangle us up.  I am praying that we’ll cover those lies with the Truth that frees us from them.

I know that men probably struggle with similar lies, too…but it just seems to me that women are so often struggling with these feelings…that we’re unloved, unlovely, not good enough or beautiful enough or….the list can go on and on.  If you’re struggling, here’s a book that I have found very  helpful…Lies Women Believe: And the Truth that Sets Them Free.  

Walk with Him at Ann Voskamp’s Holy Experience…..

In, on, around (and up)…painting

The days start out cool and crisp, no frost yet but each morning teeters on the verge of ice.  The sun is low and lazy and sleeps in these days, taking hours to warm up.  By the time I am through with school, with dishes, with putting something in the oven to slow cook for dinner, the sun has climbed high and warmed the yard with yellow light.  I am here again, up high on a silver ladder speckled with various colors of paint in layers that track the projects we’ve done over the years.  I’ve been up here forever.  So many afternoons spent scraping and cleaning and spackling and priming and now, painting…it seems like this project has been going on for as long as I can remember, and will be going on forever.  This would normally bother me, but there is a peace about it that I can’t explain.  The hours I have been spending on this project seem to be set apart somehow, separate from the usual flow of life.  I feel like I am in my own world out here, high on the ladder with blue sky above and the sun falling warm on my back.  I am alone here with my thoughts, and I have nothing to do but paint and let my mind drift, listen to myself think.  How long has it been since I last took time to do that?  It takes a bucket of paint, a ladder and a huge project to get me to slow down, to converse with myself and pay attention to where I am.  I am doing what I am supposed to be doing, I am doing what has to be done.  And these hours painting the exterior of the house…laying fresh paint over thirsty, chipped clapboard…are also covering a need within, a need for quiet, for introspection, for covering a thirsty soul with prayer and thought and solitude.

The afternoon wears on, I hear the neighbor’s dog bark.  I feel surrounded by blue, enveloped in the warm afternoon sun and the cloudless azure sky and the rhythm of painting, smooth and easy.  For the first time in a long time my mind is empty, quiet, the mental equivalent of how my muscles feel after a good long run. A car door slams, a bird is calling from the tree near me and  for a moment I feel at home here, level with the birds in the trees.  I have to remind myself that I am this high up, to step back down the ladder.  For a moment I feel as though I could walk right out, six feet above the ground, walk through the deep blue sky with the warm sun falling all around and touch the tops of crimson trees.

Writing from where you are….In, on, and around Monday at LL. Barkat’s Seedlings in Stone

The Lead Paint Post

As promised….the lead paint post!
A long time ago I posted a picture of the peeling paint on our house.   Our home, built in 1930, had peeling paint on the clapboard exterior when we purchased it.  We signed a waiver, of course, stating that because it was built before 1970 there might be lead paint on or in our house.  We figured we’d cross that bridge if and when we came to it.

Painting an old Cape Cod style house is a lot of work…or a lot of money…or, well, both.  We managed to put off taking care of the exterior for years, until this Spring when we were sitting on the front porch with some friends after dinner.  I pulled a bit of peeling paint from the wood and it ripped off in a nice big flake.  This is easy, I thought.  My friend and I peeled about a quarter of the front of the house with our fingers, impressed with how fast the paint came off.  No problem!  We’ll just strip the old paint off and throw up a few coats of new.  We now had a big bald spot on the front of the house, so Hubby and I were committed to finishing the project before the winter weather set in.

Word got around, and we had many friends offer to come over and help us with the house.  I can’t even begin to tell you how blessed we are with our Church Family…in no time at all, we had enough people offer to come over and work that we figured we could get the job done in a few weeks…one weekend to chip the paint off, one to paint it.  Friends with ladders, painting equipment, experience and huge hearts were all willing to give us their time to help get the job done!

Then we remembered the lead paint warning.  It is, after all, an old house!  Hubby went out to the paint store and brought home some lead testing kits.

The instructions read that the testing tubes would turn pink if lead were present.  Ours turned even pinker than the example on the package!  All our paint-party plans came to a screeching halt.  What to do now?!?  We had a house covered in lead, exposed wood waiting to get damaged with wet weather, and a hazard that needed to be dealt with properly in order to avoid contaminating ourselves and the neighborhood.  What we didn’t have was the money to pay a professional to do it!

A friend of mine reminded me of the Lead Free Kids program, a government program designed to help home owners remediate their lead paint safely.  The program gives grants to home owners to have the work done at no cost to them!   To qualify, you need to be below a certain income bracket and you need to have children living in the home who are six years old or under.  The income bracket was quite generous, but our youngest child is seven.  I almost didn’t even call, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to give it a shot.

I’m so glad I called!  It turns out that the program (at least where we live) will also consider painting your house if you have children under the age of six visiting on a regular basis.  We have wonderful little visitors over all the time, and were able to qualify for the program!

Being a government program, it was not a fast process.  We begin the application process in the Spring and work didn’t get started on the house until Summer was nearly over, and there was some paperwork, phone-tag, and waiting involved.  But what a blessing!  The program sends people out to test for lead all through your house and yard, and pays for lead testing for anyone under age six.  Then, they send professionals out to bid on the job, and choose a company to work on your house.  Finally, professionals come and scrape the damaged paint off the house, completely clean all the chips from the area, seal the remaining old paint with a primer, and paint your home!  We even got to choose the color.

The program covers the paint inside and outside your home (we had one small area inside that needed to be painted, but the rest was safe).  If the soil is contaminated, they fix that, too.  And if you have windows that have lead, they’ll replace them at no cost as well!

We were able to have our house painted…for free…through the Lead Free Kids program.   It was well worth the paperwork and waiting, and we are all now safe and sound in a freshly painted house!  The program did not, however, cover our rental cottage…so Hubby and I did the work ourselves….following very careful guidelines.  Thank goodness the cottage is small, it was a lot of hard work and I don’t know how we could ever have done the whole house ourselves!  We are now almost done with the project and the whole family is going to be very happy to finish the last of the Lead Paint Saga, hopefully before the cold weather sets in.

Do you have an older home?  Learn from our story….Check for lead before you start a painting project!  And if you do have lead and live in the United States, go to this website and see what programs are available in your area!!!  If my friend hadn’t known about the program, I would never have known to call.  Where we live, they don’t advertise and we would never have known the program existed.   It would have been dangerous and very difficult for us to have undertaken the project alone, and the estimates we had on having professionals come and do it ranged from $7,000 to $12,000….and that’s before we knew that the existing paint was lead!

The day we found out that we had lead paint on our house, I had no idea how we would ever manage to fix it.  The grant we were given was a huge blessing, and I hope that by sharing our experience other people will be able to benefit from this amazing program, too!  Please, pass the word on to anyone you know who might benefit from this!   

Gratitude Journal…Beautiful Broken

No photos of my own to post today…just these shafts of rainbow-light captured by Youngest in the early morning sun.  The light was pouring through the window, casting itself about the house in strings and lines and waves of color.  Beautiful, simple light…broken by the prisms of an oval leaded glass, shattered into rainbow pieces that danced on floors and walls and captured the attention of a little heart looking for beauty, ready to appreciate the gift of a thousand dancing rainbows swinging near the break of day.  Oh, the fractured beauty of the rainbow…its glowing bravely against the gray, showing clearly how things broken can be the most beautiful of all.

And this is how I knew who the beauty seeker was….a lover of grace, with pig-tails and Swedish Fish teeth.

Thank you, Lord, with all my heart…

421.  For small beauty-seekers, finding grace in everyday moments
422.  For friends who gather, lift each other up
423.  For one sweet family who sets off today on a new adventure…how we will miss them, how we treasure each one of them.
424.  For the bands of believers who play music to Him, for their hearts and friendship
425.  For the chaos of many young children playing night games outside, as the wind rushes through the trees and leaves tumble
426.  For the bittersweet of friends leaving, friendships growing, the blessing of hearts shared
427.  For projects getting finished, wrapped up before the snow falls
428.  For the blessing…oh the blessing…of being surrounded by people who love you
429.  For the beauty in the brokenness
430.  For the close of one thing, the beginning of another….

holy experience

What’s going on around here?

What’s going on around our house?  Well, turns out that one of the downsides to an old, charming home is that any home improvement project you start opens up a Pandora’s Box of other issues that need to be fixed before the actual project can even get started.  Case in point:  Lead Paint (can you hear the scary violins playing in the background? I hear them every time I hear the word lead…)   The news isn’t all bad…on Monday I will share with you our Lead Paint Saga in hopes that our experience might help someone else out there with the same problem!

Have a blessed weekend!

Breakfast Favorite…Easy Frittata

I have to confess, I’m not much of a breakfast person.  Pretty much the only breakfast I like is one that’s eaten after 11:00, for lunch.  I know, I know…it’s the most important meal of the day.  Yep.  So I make it for my kids sometimes, on the days when they don’t make it themselves…Eldest is King of the Eggs!

Here’s a recipe we like that’s fast and easy and has great leftover-recycling potential!  I just whisk up some eggs…I usually do two per person.  If I’m not making many eggs, the frittata will be thin instead of nice and puffy, but nobody seems to care too much.  Add a tablespoon of milk, cream, or milk replacer for every 4 eggs you’re using.  I like to add salt, pepper, garlic powder and dill to my eggs, and a little chopped green onion if I have it.

Then, snip up some bacon (we use turkey bacon), ham, sausage or turkey and throw it in a cast iron skillet.  Here is a great place to recycle some chopped meat from last night’s dinner! NOTE:  For you gluten-sensitive people, make sure you don’t let any gluten touch your skillet!  I’ve heard that cast iron retains the evil stuff and you may get sick if you cook in it again.  Yipes!  If you need to make a bigger frittata, you can use a baking dish…just transfer the ingredients from the skillet to the dish.

Cook the meat completely if raw, or reheat meat until hot through. Arrange the meat in a layer on the bottom of the pan and turn off the heat.  Now you can add other stuff…chopped potato, vegetables of all kinds, diced tomato, fresh basil, grated cheese, feta or blue cheese crumbles, (watch for wheat in that blue cheese!).  I love to toss some fresh spinach leaves in.

Pour the eggs over everything and pop it into the oven.  Bake at 350 until the eggs are set, and the edges are browned and pulling away from the skillet.

Cut and serve…you can top the slices with cheese, salsa, sour cream, or…Youngest’s choice….ketchup.  Ick.

Here are some fun combinations:

Taco Frittata:  Add leftover taco meat, green onion, tomatoes, olives, cheese…whatever is left over from your taco dinner last night!

Basil and Blue Cheese:  Fresh basil leaves and blue cheese crumbles

Onion and Mushroom:  Caramelize onions with a little olive oil, cook mushrooms ’till done, and pour eggs over.

Pesto Potato:  Cubed cooked red potatoes warmed and tossed with pesto.  Mmmmm!

Pizza:  Cook green peppers in the skillet with a little olive oil.  You can leave them in rings and flip the frittata onto a plate when it’s done for effect!  Sprinkle chopped pepperoni over the peppers, add some mozzarella and the eggs.  Serve with tomato sauce drizzled on top if you’d like!