Sometimes We Eat Cereal For Supper

by Elizabeth


Some days I spend hours reading aloud with my kids. Sometimes that means science doesn’t get done. Other days we pore over science books for hours, but grammar doesn’t get done. Some days we get all the subjects done, but I run out of time to prepare dinner. On days like those we eat cereal for supper. But only if we have milk in the house.

Or we might eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for supper. But only if we have bread in the house. Because even with dedicated weekly meal planning and shopping trips, I can rarely keep enough bread or milk in the house. Which makes for a lot of husband-texts like “please pick up bread or we won’t have supper” and “please get milk or there will be no breakfast.” If all else fails, I pop popcorn.

Some days not every school subject gets done, but I dance with my younger kids and laugh at my older kids’ jokes. Other days I put in a good, solid school day with the kids and feel satisfied but much too tired to write. I’m almost always too tired to exercise. Mostly I force myself to work out. I know from experience what happens if I don’t. Sometimes I don’t get to my email for weeks. Or I go for weeks without having time or mental energy to write. In those times I can really become unpleasant to live with.

Sometimes I go months without spending time with my closest friends. Sometimes I have so many social, school, and ministry engagements that I don’t get sufficient time by myself to be a kind, sane person. Sometimes I’m so worn out by all this busy rushing that I lock myself away and skimp on spending time with my husband. Other times I choose to hang out with my husband regardless of what else “should” be getting done. And nothing does get done, but I sure am happy. I have discovered, in fact, that husband time is the biggest key to my happiness.

Sometimes I bemoan the fact that I can’t do everything all the time. That I can’t seem to get my life in order and pull myself together and balance all the needs. But maybe I’m not supposed to. Maybe every day isn’t supposed to contain every thing. Maybe each day is only supposed to contain some of the things. Maybe something is always going to fall through the cracks.

And maybe I’m supposed to be ok with that.

A Few of My Favorite Things {April 2017}

There was a lot going on in our home school co-op in April, including a drama production and our end-of-year celebration, so I’m late in publishing my Favorite Things. This month I also have a separate Home Education/Parenting section, so if you’re interested in that, be sure to scroll down to it. There’s some really funny stuff from this month, too, that I wouldn’t want you to miss. Hope you enjoy! ~Elizabeth


Easter Sunday was, as usual, phenomenal at our international church. I went through a dry season last year, but after seeing a spiritual director in January, I’ve been able to respond to God emotionally again, which made Easter all the better.

One of my sisters is skyping us regularly for phonics lessons with my youngest daughter. It’s precious to watch them getting to know each other better and helpful to learn some new kinesthetic tools for reading instruction.

We received a package from my mom and new hand-me-down clothes from a teammate.

We have also procured new hand-me-down tables for the school room whose shape and height make more room for both study and play.

Jonathan and I had the chance to teach at a youth event. He talked about a Biblical view of sexuality, and I talked about building intimacy with God. Opportunities for me to serve outside the home can be rare indeed, and I always appreciate them when they come along.

Most recently, I participated in the Velvet Ashes Online Retreat with a friend. It was so good to catch up with her personally and to process the retreat material together. The retreat material stirred up issues inside me that I didn’t know needed addressing — which was good but not fun.



From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. Here I am again, reading children’s lit and calling it leisure. This one made me laugh but also offered astute insights into human nature and the mind of a child.

The Middle Moffat by Eleanor Ester. This is the second book about the Moffats, and though I’ve read it aloud before, the girls don’t remember it, and we’re giving it a re-read. Jane, “the middle Moffat,” cracks us up!

Mark: The Gospel of Passion by Michael Card. I finally finished this one, just in time for Easter. I wish I had a book club for this book (and his other Gospel commentaries). There are so many things to think on.

Invitations from God by Adele Calhoun. Almost finished with this one.

Also I just barely started Eugene Peterson’s Reversed Thunder, which is his commentary on the book of Revelation. It takes my breath away, it is so different from anything I’ve ever read on Revelation. It’s poetic and pastoral and speaks to the pastor and poet within.



First the FUNNY: Cosmo and Déjà Vu by Rebecca Reynolds. I laughed so hard I was shaking. I think I interrupted my husband’s own date with a nerd book. This is long but WORTH IT. Whatever you do, do not skip this post.

Now the overseas living stuff:

In Defense of Second Class Missionaries by Amy Medina.

You Are Not a Failure by Rachel Pieh Jones.

Three Reasons to Love an International Church by Jerry Jones.

And finally, this prayer from Danielle Wheeler.



Hidden Figures. Deviates somewhat from history, as do all movies, but this is a truly perfect storyline. And after watching her in this movie (and in the series Person of Interest), I can say Taraji P. Henson is a truly brilliant actress.

Bejeweled was a movie I watched on the Disney Channel growing up, and I wanted my children to see it. It can be incredibly difficult to find some of these made-for-TV movies from the 1980’s and 1990’s, but I was able to find a mediocre version online that was good enough to introduce my kids to this family-friendly non-murder mystery.

Polly was another made-for-TV movie from my childhood. (My family used to have both on VHS, but who knows what VHS is anymore, let alone still has the video players?) I was able to find a version of this one online too. It’s based on the classic Pollyanna story, but with a racial reconciliation twist. I wept at the ending. It was even better than I remember. I can’t wait for the new heaven and new earth when all WILL be made right.

Next up for movies from my childhood? Hopefully Perfect Harmony, another Disney movie about racial reconciliation.

Kathy Litton on Helping Grieving Friends at Grace Covers Me.

An evangelical climate scientists talks to David Remnick about winning over climate change skeptics. A short 15-minute listen. Powerful.

Kid Snippets from Bored Shorts. I laugh so hard at these. (See below for explanation and specific links.)



First the FUNNY: Math Class from Kid Snippets.

Which reminded me of this meme:


Other good Kid Snippets are “Fast Food,” “Hair Salon,” “Driver’s Ed,” and “Salesman.” I watched all of these with my kids. Hysterical.

Attachment Parenting in the Teen Years: 8 Applications by Melia Keeton-Digby. In the early years I was most definitely an attachment parent, but I never really thought about it extending past the baby and toddler stages.

Getting Through to Teenage Slackers by Joshua Gibbs.

Processing Speed 101, a Webinar at the online community Understood. This is an interview with the authors of Bright Kids Who Can’t Keep Up: Help Your Child Overcome Slow Processing Speed and Succeed in a Fast-Paced World. Encouragement and explanation for those with non-traditional learners.

The Low-Down on Narration from the Schole Sisters (Brandy Vencel, Pam Barnhill, and Mystie Winckler). I need all the help I can get on narration.

Sheila Carroll on Narration for the Mason Jar podcast. You may have to search iTunes to access the entire interview, including the info on narration.

Amusing Ourselves to Leisure, also from the Schole Sisters. Comforting to know I’m not the only one who gets to the end of the day or the week and is too tired to do something educational for myself.

Pam Barnhill’s interview with Missy Andrews of Center for Lit (whose podcast I also listen to when I have the time). It’s always helpful to hear experienced mothers talk about family and education.



In Jesus Name by Darlene Zschech.

What a Beautiful Name by Hillsong Worship.

Covered by Planetshakers.

Victors Crown by Darlene Zschech.

Even So Come by Kristian Stanfill.

Even Unto Death by Audrey Assad.

Hosanna by Paul Baloche.

We Believe by Newsboys.

Overcome by Jeremy Camp.

The modern worship songs I mostly hear at church, and I truly love them. But I’m still homesick for the acappella hymns of my childhood, and since my kids don’t know them, we’ve recently started adding hymns to our morning family devotionals. We take one hymn and sing it all week long. So far we’ve done We Praise Thee O God, Hallelujah Praise Jehovah, and To God Be the Glory. Every time I sing a hymn I think it must my favorite. But they’re pretty much all like that. I love their beautiful language and their metrical structure and their theological depth. So much truth packed into a small, easy-to-swallow (and memorize) package.

After 8 years of homeschooling, I’m giving up

by Elizabeth


I give up. After eight years of homeschooling, I just can’t take it anymore.

Wait a minute, WHAT?!

No, I’m not giving up homeschooling.

But I AM switching to a different kind of schedule.

For years I avoided the way “expert” homeschoolers scheduled their school year, with six weeks on and one week off.

I was afraid that kind of rhythm would make the school year last forever and that I wouldn’t have a significant enough summer break to recharge.

Who wants to do school all the time?? And school all the time is exactly what that approach sounded like. I opted for the “traditional” school schedule instead.

Practically speaking, what that meant was that we plowed through our weeks and plowed through our months and plowed through our years, desperately trying to get to that elusive “perfect” summer.

(And also, it meant desperately trying to squeeze in as much school as possible before that very interrupting excursion known as the missionary furlough.)

But what I’ve discovered (took me long enough, huh?) was that going without adequate breaks is just not good for us, even if those breaks, when they come, are adequately long.

One simply cannot push hard for 12 weeks straight (or more) without a break and not lose some small part of their mind.

I had avoided the six-weeks-on-one-week-off approach out of fear that I would feel like we were “doing school” all the time, yet ironically, what I felt in going the traditional route was that we were doing school all the time.

So even though I’d heard about the 6-on-1-off approach before my oldest was even in preschool, I rejected it out of hand.

And lived to suffer the consequences.

This year I hit a point when I realized enough was enough. I couldn’t take any more hustle. I couldn’t take any more hurry. I was done with the way we were doing things.

That’s part of the reason we’re extending our third term by half a year: to be able to get into a better rhythm and routine with school and ministry.

(And also, because I was tired of feeling like my toes and fingers were freezing off in that blasted Missouri winter.)

Next school year, we’re doing things differently. We’ll take a pretty short summer break and start our next school year soon after finishing this school year.

But then we’ll take much more regular breaks throughout the school year, before heading back to the States for a few months – this time without school work.

(Why did it take me two entire home assignments to figure out that meaningful school work is just NOT going to get done while dragging a family of six across the United States?? What can I say, I’m a slow learner.)

The upside of all this? Many Cambodian and international holidays fall easily into a 6-week rotation (we have a lot of holidays here), meshing our schedule better with both father and friends.

Another upside? Getting to skip half of hot season next year.

I only wish I had listened to the experts earlier.

Some people call this approach Sabbath schooling, as it mimics the Biblical pattern of six days of work followed by one day of rest.

Others call it year-round schooling, since it stretches the school year out longer (though it doesn’t quite reach the level of studying the entire year).

Whatever you call it, I’m claiming it as my own.  I’m giving up my entrenched public school ways and adopting newer, more sustainable ways.

And if you, like me, are worn out and exhausted, maybe you need to, too.

Two Sanity-Saving Home School Practices

by Elizabeth

I’ve written lots of theoretical home schooling posts before (see here, here, here, and here), but sometimes we just need a little practical help. So that’s what I’ve got for you today: two practices that are saving my sanity right now. Maybe they can help you, too.



I first heard of looping from Sarah Mackenzie (here and here). In a nutshell, loop scheduling is a technique that can be used for subjects you need to get done regularly but that don’t have to be completed every single day. (That means math is a subject that should never be looped!) Classic looping examples come from the fine arts – things like picture study, composer study, and poetry reading. It can also be applied to various housework tasks.

When I first heard of looping, I didn’t think the concept applied to me, so I ignored it and moved on. Then this year happened. I now have a 7th grader, a 5th grader, a 3rd grader, and a 1st grader. That’s a lot of grade levels to manage. And it’s a lot of language arts — if you, like me, think each child needs to do reading, spelling, phonics, handwriting, composition, grammar, and vocabulary each day.

The hours required to do that many subjects within a subject was eating up our days. And I constantly felt like a failure, as we simply could not finish every single piece of language study every day. Nobody had ever told me that all my children needed to do every language art every day, but somewhere along the way I internalized the expectation.

Then I started remembering my own middle school education. I only had language arts for one hour per day, plus homework. But that wouldn’t add up to 3 or 4 hours per child per day (HALF our home school day), even in middle school. It would be 1 or 2, max.

Then I remembered some more: we studied language arts in units. We’d have a poetry unit, then a grammar unit, then a literature unit, then a composition unit. We didn’t do all the things all at once.

I started thinking I needed to apply this to our home school. I started thinking in terms of units. If we’re deep in an intensive writing unit that already takes a couple of hours a day, it’s just torture to add the stress of separate spelling and grammar and vocabulary lessons at the same time. Why not finish the writing unit and then move on to the nitty-gritty of grammar or spelling?

And why had I not thought of this possibility before?

Later I spoke with my husband – who was himself homeschooled – about these things. He agreed that my expectations had been ridiculously high and supported my effort to find more reasonable expectations.

Then I spoke with my Home School Mom Friends, and they reminded me that my “new” approach had a name – it’s called Looping.

So that’s what we do now. We loop our language arts, and everybody is much happier and less stressed.

***We do not loop reading. Reading – both reading aloud together and reading silently alone — is the foundation of our education, and they happen every day. ***



I’m a type-A, perfectionistic, over-achieving person with a bent towards workaholism. In the past, therefore, whenever we had any down time in the home school day (immediately after lunch, for example, or when all my kids were working on individual assignments), I tried to fill that time with other work: emails, blog posts, life planning, ministry event planning. I wanted to squeeze every available second out of my day.

This posed a problem for me, however, because in entering another world, I was drawn away from my home world. Once I entered the world of outside work, it was hard to shift my mind back into whatever school question (or sibling squabble question) was being asked. And an open computer is a distinct sign to children that you are not available to them.

My thoughts and attention ended up being divided, and I never felt like I finished any one thing. I was trying to become more efficient but ended up being less efficient. (Additionally there’s the black hole of social media, surrounding which I deceive myself about how productive I’m really being.) I was perpetually exhausted in this kind of non-boundaried life. And I think my kids were getting less of me than they deserved.

So during school hours, I started committing not to open the computer in order to “be more efficient.” I decided to read picture books to my youngest during that time. Or read something from my long list of books I’m always trying to get to but am too tired to read by the end of the day. When a child comes to you with a math question or a life question, it’s much easier to put away a paper book than it is to put away a screen.

I call these times the Lulls. They are the lulls in the day that I used to try to fill with more work. Now I stay present and fill them with my own education or enjoyment, and I feel less harried. Before, I was always trying to rush through school work so I could get to my “other work.” Now I don’t rush. Now the school day is more peaceful. And it’s all because I use my Lulls differently.

I should also mention that different days have different Lulls. If my older children are all doing a review assignment in math, I have much more Lull time. But if they each need to learn something new (or on the days we attend co-op), I have less Lull time. But that’s OK. The Lull time isn’t meant to be productive. I’m not trying to “get work done.” I’m merely trying to be more focused and effective in filling the time gaps.


So here’s how to apply the sanity-saving practices of Loops and Lulls to your day:

Loops: Follow those links up above to Sarah Mackenzie’s Loop Scheduling instructions. Spend some time figuring out which of your subjects a) don’t need to be done each day or b) already aren’t getting done each day. Place them on a list and cycle through them one by one. All your looped subjects will now be getting done on a regular basis, and you’ll feel less guilt and less pressure.

Lulls: Commit not to do other work while you’re teaching your kids. This is hard, I know. We want to get as much done as possible each day — “redeem the time” and all that. But focusing on school work alone helps your day go much more smoothly and, in the end, helps you be more efficient and less stressed out.

Happy Home Educating!

A Few of My Favorite Things {December 2016}

Happy New Year from the Trotters in Cambodia! As usual, I’ve got lists of the best stuff from this month, including a Christmas section, a Third Culture Kid section, and a Home School section, so be sure to scroll through everything to find what you want. ~Elizabeth


The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. My family attended this play at one of the international high schools in town. It was the perfect way to kick off our Christmas season.

More regular dates with my husband. I am so much happier when I get away regularly to talk with my husband. And now that our oldest is of babysitting age, we can go to our favorite coffee shop (Joma) more often.

The Sparrow. Our co-op performed an original play based on the story of Robin Hood. It explored themes of power, oppression, and poverty, and the students themselves gave input into the script. I loved the community nature of kids and parents working together on a project and the way it empowered my kids, each in his or her own way.

The Moms. “The Moms” are the women of our home school co-op. They are kindred spirits. We share both the experience of cross-cultural living (which is a powerful bond in itself) and the daily experience of teaching our children. There is no one like these women, and time with them is sacred and holy (not to mention fun).

Rogue One. We watched this on our family Christmas outing and followed it up with ice skating at the mall. Rogue One was a good, funny story with no bad language, no gory battle scenes, and a strong non-sexualized female lead — two years in a row on that count for the Star Wars franchise.

Boxing Day. I was invited to a Boxing Day party at some friends’ house, and one of the things we did was sing Christmas carols, yes even the less well-known ones, AND all the verses (the host is apparently a verse snob like myself). Of course the feasting and conversations were fun too, but the highlight of the evening was the singing.



I did not finish any of the books I began last month (maybe next month??), but here are the best things I did read and listen to this month.

Poppy by Avi. This story about a brave, intelligent little mouse is funny, adventurous, and fast. This was my first Avi book, but I might be hooked now.

Beatrix Potter The Complete Tales. I love Beatrix Potter, don’t you? But I recently realized I hadn’t ever read them to my girls. So we cracked open this treasury and read them aloud this month. Truly, Beatrix is as delightful as ever. In fact, I think her work is even richer for adults than it is for children.

Grandma’s Attic series by Arleta Richardson. We think Grandma’s Attic books are better than Caddie Woodlawn (which we read in November) and the Little House books (which got me hooked on reading as a child). These stories are filled with the misadventures of Mabel O’Dell, and practically every chapter has us laughing. We read them years ago but revisited them this month.

The Man Who Lit The Dark Web by Charles Graeber in Popular Science. When I finished reading this article, I said to myself: THIS is the most important story in this magazine, not the Mark Zuckerberg whose famous face graces the cover and who wants to change the world by immersing us all in virtual reality, but the man who discovered the atrocities of human trafficking while fighting terror in the Middle East and whose subsequent journey led him to organize teams of coders and computer scientists to more efficiently and effectively fight the sale of human flesh. I don’t know if this man (Chris White) is a believer or not, but this is the kind of work that pushes back the Darkness, and I’m thankful for it.

The Eternal Argument on the Bibliophiles podcast. More big ideas to chew on from the people at Center for Lit.



Don’t Ask Me About My Christmas Traditions by Amy Medina. Simply perfect.

Reflections on a Christmas Poem by Adam Andrews. Read the poem by Anne Ridler.

Immensity Draws Near for the Sake of Love by Missy Andrews. Again, read that poem. This one’s by John Donne. (By the way, Adam and Missy Andrews lead the Bibliophiles podcast at Center for Lit.)

Sounding the Seasons by Malcolm Guite. As you know I’m really into poetry these days. It really is the densest and most efficient form of language, beautiful and soothing and searing all at once. You’re gonna want a hard copy of this book. But the following poems aren’t just good for Advent, they’re worthy prayers the whole year long.

O Sapienta (Wisdom)

O Adonai (Lord and Master)

O Radix (Root of Jesse)

O Clavix (Key of David)

O Oriens (Dayspring)

O Rex Gentium (King of Nations)

O Emmanuel

(The Latin ‘O Antiphons’ were the basis for the hymn ‘O Come O Come Emmanuel.’)

A print of Mary consoling Eve. I’d seen this going around on Facebook, but you can also purchase it here.

A new musical version of I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day by the ethereal Audrey Assad.



I Signed Up For This by Anisha Hopkinson. So good!!

Moving abroad will fix all of your issues . . . . and other lies by Jerry Jones. Funny (par for the course with Jerry) and true. Reminds me of Marilyn Gardner’s You Take Yourself With You (And Other Important Things About Living Overseas), which is also worth a re-read if you have time.

You and me: teen sweethearts on a wild 20 years together in the Kingdom, an article in the Phnom Penh Post about a married couple I’m acquainted with here in town. Such a sweet story, and describes so well the importance of Third Culture Kids connecting with other Third Culture Kids.

Nobody Knows by the Lumineers. I heard this song in the movie Pete’s Dragon. My kids have been watching this movie for a while, but I had never taken the time to watch it until recently. Its themes of longing and belonging surprised me, and its soundtrack is sublime — make sure you also check out Something Wild by Lindsey Stirling and Andrew McMahon (but skip the official music video as it alters the meaning somewhat, and just stick to the lyrics video I linked to).

Anyway, back to ‘Nobody Knows.’ Something about the folksy sound of this song drew me in, and then of course, there are the lyrics: “Nobody knows how to say goodbye, seems so easy till you try.” It’s so true — missionaries often need to receive special training in how to say goodbye well. Or what about this line: “Nobody knows how to get back home. We set out so long ago. Search the heavens and the earth below, nobody knows how to get back home.” Words for a global nomad if ever I saw any.

This month I was also privileged to read and review an advance copy of Marilyn Gardner’s upcoming book Passages Through Pakistan. Marilyn is a writing friend and Third Culture Kid who grew up in Pakistan. Although on the surface my TCK story diverges widely from hers, I found myself relating to so much in this book. I cried a lot, and laughed some too. I also got a kick out of how she told her story chronologically while also arranging the chapters around forms of transportation. Such a clever writing device. I’ll share my official review on here when the book gets closer to publication!



In Remembrance of Me, a communion song by Cheri Keaggy. This song was in my head a lot this month. Personally, I think Free Indeed did this song better a cappella, but I can’t find their version, so you’ll have to  settle for Cheri’s own version. Such beautiful lyrics.

The Creed by Hillsong. Yes, I’ve shared this song before, but this month when we sang it in worship, I was struck all over again how crucial these beliefs are to our lives and faith, and how important it is to repeat them again and again to our children (and to ourselves), to talk about them when we are at home and when we are on the road, when we are going to bed and when we are getting up.

Everything We Need by the group Acappella. These lyrics are straight out of 2 Peter 1:3, and I grew up on them. I just happened to hear it again as we were sharing some of our Acappella CDs with our kids on a car trip. And I really needed the reminder.

The Final Word by Michael Card. There’s no one like Card for theological richness and depth. He’s kind of like Malcolm Guite — a theologian and poet who turns phrases in such a way that I instinctively know they’re true, even though the words and ideas are new.  Read his lyrics here.



Hebrews 2:14-15:

“Because God’s children are human beings — made of flesh and blood — the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could He die, and only by dying could He break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could He set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.”

(You can read why it impacted me so much here.)

The ministry of Does God Exist publishes bits of information on different aspects of creation. These links are about the beautiful lotus flower, which is considered sacred here in the East. Its self-cleaning abilities have inspired scientists. It’s also a very hardy plant.



Should I Make My Child Apologize? by Brandy Vencel. There’s also a Part 2 and Part 3.

Get sleep. by Mystie Winckler. She’s also got Eat breakfast. Both posts have pithy little titles that pack a lot of (easily forgotten) wisdom.

And while we’re on the subject of pithy wisdom, check out my old camp counselor Laura Hamm Coppinger’s excellent (and funny) post Don’t Buy Stuff.

Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson. I’m nearly done working through this book. Occasionally it makes homeschooling feel like a too-heavy spiritual burden that my husband and I have to carry all alone, but most of the time it lifts the burdens. A few big takeaways:

  • Homeschooling is a lifestyle, and it is going to require sacrifice. (I have found this to be true; homeschooling is a job, and I am a full-time working parent, apart from any outside ministry I might add to it. Accepting at the outset that lifestyle changes will have to be made is helpful for coping with those changes.)
  • If you think homeschooling is a burden and not a blessing, then you are not free. (I have been on various points on this spectrum and know this statement to be true. I’m currently and have been mostly in a place where I think it’s a blessing, but I know the other side, and it’s not fun.)
  • As homeschoolers we do not have to follow the educational systems of institutions. (A good reminder as I tend toward scholastic snobbery even as I struggle to keep up with the workload I’ve assigned myself. My children’s education does not need to look like mine!)
  • The book also reaffirmed our family’s choices to read lots of books, both together and alone. (That was basically nice confirmation of what we already do.)

I also re-read Sarah Mackenzie’s much more accessible Teaching From Rest this month. One reviewer says she the book is a quarterly read for her, and it may become so for me too. But do yourself a favor and get a hard copy. Kindle is only second best in this case.

(For future homeschoolers I also always recommend Cathy Duffy’s 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum as it explains all the relevant educational approaches and helps you choose one based on your and your kids’ personalities.)

I’ve processed the educational and mothering ideas in these books in various forms here on the blog too:

The thing that happened while I was scrubbing the kitchen floor with a toothbrush

Dear Homeschool Mother of Littles: Don’t Give Up

The Home School Manifesto

Home School Burnout Part 1: Unrealistic Expectations (the first in a 4-part series)

A Few of My Favorite Things {August 2016}

August was a whirlwind of a month. I got away for 24 hours with the ladies on my team, which was lots of fun. We had plenty of playdates with friends during our 4 short weeks of homeschool summer. Then halfway through this month, we started school (it’s been going well so far). And this week, I finally got a date with my husband! It was only an hour and a half, but it was the first out-of-the-house date we’d had in 2 months – though it wasn’t for lack of trying! Either our schedules didn’t match our sitters’, or they did but someone got sick. In other news, I’m joining a home school co-op this year and am quite excited about that. ~Elizabeth



Mark: The Gospel of Passion by Michael Card. I started this Bible study/devotional/commentary and have made some good progress on it. While I really liked Card’s Luke: The Gospel of Amazement, his book on Mark is so much better (for me anyway). It’s teaching me a ton and challenging me to think in new ways. In fact, I often have to put the book down so I can contemplate what I’ve just read. I’ve been surprised by this, as Mark has always been my least favorite Gospel. But maybe it means there were treasures in there all along, and I just never knew it. (You’ll find a couple quotes from the book at the end of this post.)

Songbird by Helena Sorensen. This is the third and final book in the Shiloh series I raved about last month. Cannot tell you how much I loved it.

The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis. This isn’t the first time I’ve read the last installment in the Narnia series, but it’s the first time in a long time, and the first time I read it out loud with my children. And to be honest, I’ve never much cared for this one before. How different was my reaction this time around!

Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis. A new-to-me Lewis book that is as good (and strange) as everybody says. You can read two different responses of mine to both these Lewis books on Facebook here and here.

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. Could this book get any more perfect? I think not. The entire thing is a Littmus Lozenge: sorrow mixed in with sweet. (You’ll have to read the whole book to find out exactly what I mean by that.) And don’t forget to read it with a southern accent — this is the book that inspired my daughter to speak in one too.

Psychology Today magazine, July 2016 edition. One of our family’s favorite Saturday morning activities is visiting the book store (especially with no public libraries around here). We peruse the magazine section each time but because they are so expensive, we almost never buy magazines here. This month we made an exception, an exception that was well worth it. Several of the articles provided a scientific defense of important spiritual concepts – things like finding mentors, staying humble, not comparing yourself to others, not letting smart phones destroy your marriage and other relationships, putting down roots and becoming attached to your “place” in a mobile world, even avoiding cohabiting or serial dating before marriage (yes, that last one really was in this secular magazine!).



On Home and Glory: Musings on Daily Life and Divine Destiny by Heidi White. You know I’m a sucker for anything that talks about our longings, and that’s what you’ll find here.

Holding the Long View in Mind by Amy Young. Comforting, hopeful, and so very biblical, all at once.

Women, Trade Self-Worth for Awe and Wonder by Jen Wilkin. This post spoke to the deep places inside me that crave awe and wonder.

“I’ve Always Been a Good Girl” by Marilyn Gardner. I relate to this so very much (and in fact wrote about it earlier this spring).

In Defense of an Ordinary Life by Elizabeth Esther. So very important and so very true.

A Prayer of the Heart in 30 Words or Less by Emily P. Freeman. If these breath-type prayers are what you’re needing, you’ll find more like them from Sarah MacKenzie in the quotes section below.



Dear Writer, We Commission You by Idelette McVicker. Go back to this post when you need inspiration. Every time, go back to this.

Mending Thoughts by Jenilee Goodwin. The idea resonates.

The Mental Neat Freak by Jennifer Fulwiler. A very helpful explanation.

Harry Potter, Jesus, and Me by Andrew Peterson, whose music I’ve linked to before (most notably here and here) and whose Wingfeather Saga I’ve just started and which I will probably review next month. This article is long but good — and I’ve never even read Harry Potter.



The Gift of Saudade by Marilyn Gardner. More on our longings (and as you know I can never resist that).

The Mother of Modern Missions? by Abby Alleman. With this post, Abby created a safe space for those struggling in the missions community. More important than I can say.



Wasted on Children: Keeping Babylon at Bay by Joshua Gibbs. “The more you love a child, the harder you make it for the Babylonians to love them later. The more you lavish on a child, the more the Babylonians will have to lavish on them later— and the Babylonians are, in truth, really not willing to lavish a whole lot.” Dense (like everything from CiRCE Institute).

This year’s *totally official* homeschool permission slip at Brave Writer. The permission we all need to enjoy our children.

How to Protect Your Child from Sexual Abuse and Molestation: A Pediatrician’s Advice at The Mom Creative. No explanation necessary.



Thank You by Hillsong United.

There is no one like You
There is no one like You, God
All my hope is in You
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus

To Your name
We give all the glory
To Your name
We give all the praise

We Glorify Your Name by Hillsong LIVE.

The highest praise is yours
The highest praise is yours
The highest praise is yours
In all the earth

Healing Grace by Donnie McClurkin. The instrumentation here is a bit dated and slightly different from the way we sang it at church, but oh, these lyrics (reminiscent of The Book of Common Prayer don’t you think??).

Merciful God and Father
Loving us like no other
Hear our prayer
The cry of our heart
As we come to You
We acknowledge our transgressions
We confess to You our sins
Show us mercy and compassion
Touch our lives with Your healing grace

Leave Me Astounded by Planetshakers.

All my hands have made I’m laying down
All that I hold dear, my many crowns
I’ve tasted and seen of Your great love
You satisfy me, You satisfy me

My constant request above all things
Every hour I wake, be near me, oh God
Though I’ve tasted and seen of Your great love
Show me Your glory, show me Your glory

Leave me astounded, leave me amazed
Show off Your glory, let heaven invade
We’re waiting with worship, we’re waiting with praise
For the almighty presence of God to invade

Glory by Hillsong.

Glory to the risen king
Glory to the Son
Glorious Son

Lift up your heads
Open the doors
Let the king of glory come in
And forever be our God

(Apparently glory was a theme for me this month.)



Yeah. ANOTHER sermon on fear by Nadia Bolz Weber. 12 minutes of fear fighting — but don’t worry, it’s free of the salty language that sometimes accompanies her written work.

Amy Boucher Pye on the Intersection Between Creativity and Faith on James Prescott’s podcast. A relatable conversation on faith, creativity, editing, and writing. And Amy has such a lovely, velvety voice, don’t you think?

Why We Should All Be Reading Aloud to Children, a TEDx talk by Rebecca Bellingham. 10 power-packed minutes of read-aloud inspiration.

The Jim Gaffigan Show. I’m often too serious and in need of laughter in my life. (Of course, if you’ve ever seen me laugh, you know I do it so whole-heartedly that I look and sound ridiculous.) But you’ve read my writing and seen my reading list — there’s some pretty serious stuff here. So my husband recently asked me if I would join him in watching The Jim Gaffigan Show. He’d seen a few episodes and wanted to share the joy with me. It’s mostly clean, and I deep-belly-laughed a lot, which made him laugh even more. Jim and his wife Jeannie aren’t producing a third season due to the very respectable reason that the show was taking too much time from their real-life family, but you can still enjoy the first two seasons.



Greg McKeown on the importance of hand-written journals and records:

“Paper is an important technology.”

Somerset Maugham, found in Madeleine L’Engle’s A Circle of Quiet:

“The common idea that success spoils people by making them vain, egotistical and self-complacent is erroneous; on the contrary, it makes them , for the most part, humble, tolerant and kind. Failure makes people bitter and cruel.”

Ann Greve with an explanation that makes a  lot of sense to me:

“We never leave God’s presence, but sometimes we leave God’s fellowship.”

Andrew Peterson in On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness:

“‘Janner,’ Oskar said, ‘there’s more to the world than just seeing it. If you can’t find peace here in Glipwood, you won’t find it anywhere.'”

“All of the passion and sadness and joy of those who listened would into one common strand of feeling that was to Janner like homesickness, though he couldn’t think why; he was just a short walk from the only home he’d ever known.”

“Janner hadn’t realized it, but his cheeks were wet as well. ‘There’s just something about the way he sings. It makes me think of when it snows outside, and the fire is warm, and Podo is telling us a story while you’re cooking, and there’s no place I’d rather be — but for some reason I still feel . . . homesick.'”

Aspirations (or breath prayers) from Sarah MacKenzie in Teaching From Rest:

Oh Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Jesus, my God, I love thee above all things.

Jesus, I trust in you.

My God and my all.

My Lord and my God!

God, come to my assistance. Lord, make haste to help me.

O Lord, increase my faith.

Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Michael Card on the “Lord of the Sabbath” incident in his commentary on Mark:

“Lordship by definition knows no boundaries. There is no area of our lives where He is not master. Jesus’ proclamation of lordship should cause us to stop and take account. We need to realize that whatever the facet of our orthodox observance, no matter how correct or biblical, He claims lordship even over that.” 

Here’s something else from Card that stays with me and just won’t go away. It was one of those moments where I put the book down so I could try to absorb what I just read. And I’ve now copied it into my journal not once, but twice. In the passage in Mark 6 where Jesus walks on water and the disciples are afraid, the words Jesus spoke in the original language were actually:

“I AM; no fear.”

I’m struck by both the simplicity of Jesus’ statement, and its power. I’m not sure whether Jesus is making a statement here, as in “Wherever God is, there’s no fear,” or a command, as in “Do not fear.” Maybe it’s both. And maybe that’s why it stays with me.

And lastly, C.S. Lewis in Till We Have Faces:

“I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?”

Dear Homeschool Mother of Littles: Don’t Give Up

by Elizabeth


Dear Homeschool Mother in the Little Years: please don’t give up. Don’t quit, not yet. Just keep going.

One of these days you’re going to look around and find that everything you’ve been working towards, everything you’ve been yearning for, it’s happening. Right here, right now. Today.

One of these days you’re going to turn around and find your children reading on their own. For fun. And yes — even the kid who struggled to learn how to read.

One of these days you’re going to turn around and find your children teaching themselves things for the pure joy and curiosity of it all. And then they’re going to turn around and tell you about all the things they’ve been learning and reading.

One of these days you’re going to turn around and hear the sound of those instruments you’ve been making them practice. And one of these days, you’re going to turn around and find that the excitement and wonder you carry for the natural and supernatural worlds, your children carry it, too.

One of these days you’re going to turn around and find your children able to play board games and card games that you actually find interesting. {Yes, even your favorite word games.} And then you’re going to turn around again and watch them invent new games to play with each other.

One of these days you’re going to turn around and find your children making up imaginary worlds that have imaginary languages and imaginary cultures. And then, when they invite you to visit, you’ll go to those places, too.

One of these days you’re going to turn around and find that your children are actually helpful in cleaning up after dinner and taking out the trash and cleaning their rooms. And you’re going to depend on them to help run your household.

One of these days you’re going to turn around and hear them cracking jokes. Like, actual funny jokes. And you’re going to hear new one-liners dropped at the dinner table nearly every day. {And then you’re going to thank God for giving your children the sense of humor that may or may not have skipped over you.}

One of these days you’re going to turn around and find yourself having deep theological discussions with your children, discussions that hold their interest. And you’re going to be able to talk about the Sunday sermons, because they were actually listening.

I tell you these things because this past month as we closed out the school year and started our summer vacation, I’ve been reflecting on the state of my home school. Sometimes reflection can be a dangerous pursuit: it can lead to despair over an apparent lack of progress.

But this month something very different materialized for me: satisfaction and delight. Because all those things I mentioned? They’re happening for us. All of a sudden. Even after I’d given up on some of them EVER happening.

So dear Homeschool Mother in the Little Years, don’t give up. Don’t quit. Not yet. Nurture your little family. Plant those seeds and water them, then place them in the sun to warm. One of these days you’re going to look around and find that those seeds have sprouted and are bearing fruit — maybe even all at once.

Experienced home school mothers used to tell me this too, and I didn’t believe them. I didn’t think that promise was for me. And you might not think it’s for you, either. But take it from someone who can despair with the best of them: this promise IS for you, and your efforts are NOT in vain. So don’t give up.

One of these days it’s going to be worth it. You’re going to turn around and find that everything you’ve been working towards and everything you’ve been longing for is finally coming to fruition. It’ll all be right here, right now, today.

Just keep going.