Sign of the Potter: Jeremiah 18:3-6

Then I went down to the potter's house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make. Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, "Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?" declares the Lord. "Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel."

Monday, May 23, 2011

Scars Through My Daughter's Eyes

Most people who know me will tell you I'm a quiet and reserved person, especially around individuals with whom I am not close. Fewer of those people can tell you that I am also a person who is deeply judgmental and self-conscious about myself - especially about my appearance.

Like many young women, I was taught to cover up my flaws and put my best foot forward. But as a young teen I often found that my best efforts to cover said flaws were always met with failure. I'd go home after a day at school or in public feeling like the ugliest person in the world.

Though maturity taught me to look beyond outer appearances and I learned that inner beauty is far more valuable in the eyes of God and those who truly matter, that didn't stop the emotional and physical scars from manifesting themselves in my life...even to adulthood. To this day I still cringe to even think about going into public without "putting on my face". Enter my daughter, Morgan.

A few days before Mother's Day weekend, my family and I were getting ready to go into town to practice with our worship team. I was feeling rather low that day. We were all recouping from a virus we'd caught at Easter. I worried that I wouldn't have a voice to sing with. On top of that, I had a fresh beak out of acne on my face. It marred both cheeks and intermingled with the old acne scars left over from years of compulsive picking that I've struggled with to the day. As I gazed at myself in the mirror, the same old thoughts filled my mind. This must be what a leper looks like when their face begins to rot off.

Morgan skipped up and stood at my side along the bathroom sink watching me as I smeared foundation over my face. It was not a new site for her. My daughter has always loved watching me put make-up on. But for some reason she decided to ask me what I was doing. When I told her, she asked, "What is foundation for?"
"It's for covering up the ugly red spots on Mommy's face."

My daughter's little brow furrowed. "I don't think they're ugly."

I looked at her. "You don't?"

"Nope!" She smiled. "I think they're beautiful!"

I laughed. Then the truth of her words began to sink in. Morgan wasn't seeing my scars through the eyes of a world who judges appearances and holds a set standard of beauty. Instead she saw my scars as part of who I was...her mommy. My eyes and nose began to sting as I tried not to break down and cry in that moment. As they do now with the recounting of it. My daughter had given me the single most perfect mother's day gift and it wasn't even mother's day yet.
"Thank you, Morgan." I replied, wiping away the smudges round my eyes that began to form from the tears. All of a sudden they didn't really matter that much. Though my flaws abounded visibly on my face, my daughter thought they were beautiful. And that's what really counts.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Clinging to the Past, One Baby Spoon at a Time

More baby things to pack off to storage. I thought as I stood in front of the silverware drawer. I held in my hand an array of plastic and metal baby spoons in all colors and shapes - all of them too small to be practical for my one-year-old son anymore. Normally, carting baby stuff off to storage was nothing to cause pause. It only served as a temporary displacing of unnecessary items until the next baby came into the picture. However, this time, things were different. This time, we'd be getting rid of the spoons for good.

With the coming of 2011, our resolve to stop at three little ones became firm. Though we love kids and originally planned to have four, three rough pregnancies proved to both me and my husband that I was not cut out to endure another bout of sickness that would ensue from a fourth. 2011 as a result, has turned out to be a year of revelation for me. Each passing month I watched my youngest baby grow through the stages his siblings did and with each passing I realized that I will never get to experience these precious moments again.

Now I stood staring at a handful of baby spoons and I didn't want to let go. I didn't want to admit that I would no longer have little infants clinging to me, depending upon me for every need. I didn't want to say goodbye. Sure, logically speaking, clinging to a bunch of spoons can't bring those moments back. But they did rouse forgotten memories that I knew would most certainly fade again with the passing of time.
It was at that moment that another thought occurred to me. Clinging to those spoons was just like clinging to any other thing in this world. Something bittersweet and wonderful while it lasts, but destined to pass away...fleeting. My natural impulse was like that of any other human being, to hold tighter. That impulse only serves to make the pain worse. It's only with the letting go that we truly find release.

With everything and everyone that we cling to, we buy into the lie of this world all the more...the lie that tells us that this is all there is. That we have to horde every second because that is the only chance at joy we will get. All the while we ignore the Savior who promised that a day will come when "every tear will be wiped away"...that sorrow will be no more. A day of eternal joy, peace, and ultimate fulfillment is coming. A day when agape love will wash over us like a flood, bringing back the joy of all those sweet moments in an endless supply of new ones. No, better put, one perfect moment that has no end.

It was then that I realized that I will never truly say goodbye to those moments. I’m just simply putting them into storage until the day Jesus and I walk hand in hand to go get them out again for good. 

And those baby spoons…well, I tossed them in a sandwich bag and sent them packing!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Fun Historical Fact #2: What's in Their Candles?

Candle-making is an ancient art that was practiced in many countries from the earliest times. But it might interest you to note the various substances used to produce these unique examples from around the world.

 Some of the earliest known candles were made in China in 221-226 BC. These candles were made from whale fat. The tapers were made from insect wax and seeds wrapped in paper. Beeswax candles were also used.

Early Japanese candles were made from squirrel wax.

Paintings in Egyptian tombs showed a cone-shaped candle. This form was produced by repeatedly dipping a wick made from either rushes or flax fiber in animal or vegetable fat.

Indigenous People
Around the 1st Century, in the areas of modern day Alaska and Oregon, candles were discovered that were made from a fish known as eulachon, "candlefish", which was a type of smelt. When time wasn't readily available to make candles from this fish's oil, the fish were dried out and impaled on a forked stick. Then the fish was lit on fire.

Candles were made from Yak butter.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, olive oil became a scarce commodity. So early Europeans developed tallow candles. Animal fat, the most popular being sheep, was melted in a pot and poured into bronze molds. Wicks were made from the pith (soft spongy center) of rushes. Poor, lower class individual often had to resort to glomming the animal fat onto a stick and lighting it.

The early American colonists possessed few resources readily available for candle-making during their early settlement. So they discovered that bayberries could be used. Since the yield was poor, the use of bayberries didn't last long. 

Needless to say, when paraffin was discovered and put into use by the 1830's, everyone was much happier.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Confessions of a Pack Rat

I admit that I was raised with pack rat-tendencies. Some people would call it hording. Others, like my father and grandparents, would brand the practice with a more favorable title. It's called "not being wasteful" or "living frugally". And truly I'm just passing down a trait that they learned. For my grandparents, it was a trait born out of necessity. The Great Depression coupled with the hard living that was common to farmers and ranchers in South Dakota (and many other areas of the Untied States) lead people to use everything they had. When clothes wore out, you saved buttons and scraps to repair clothes that could still be worn or create new garments. Bottles, cans and other grocery-bought items were kept for storing and sorting various goods, and flour sacks were used to make clothes because buying fabric or pre-made items cost a great deal of money for them. It forced creativity and innovation in people because they learned how to make do with what they had and use odds and ends to create new tools for which they were not originally intended. If something was useful, you were a fool to throw it out.

That being said, there is a point when a body can go overboard. This truth has become a painful reality in recent years. Anyone who has taken care of the estate of a departed loved one or those who can no longer care for themselves, can attest to this.

After the death of my grandfather circumstances forced my parents and aunt to place my grandmother in a home and put her house up for sale. This meant that much of our free time, as well as theirs, was to be spent cleaning out the house. No one looked forward to this task. Every nook and cranny of the basement was stacked with boxes and bags, much of it trash mingled with items of importance, that had to be sorted. I won't even mention the upstairs. Long story short, we are just now hauling off the last items, almost six months later.

My husband (who is also a scrimp and saver) and I had had enough. Each trip to town lead to another load of junk or family heirlooms that we had to bring home and find a place for. Our little double-wide trailer is now packed to the gills, as is our storage.

As I sat sorting through another load of buttons and sewing material, I found myself more resolute than ever that we were going to start seriously downsizing our junk accumulation. We've decided that this summer we are going to pool our salable items together with my sister's and parents' stuff and have one big garage sale (or auction). So, Newcastle residents, keep your ears open, you might be able to acquire some cheap (or free) goods.

And anyone who's interested in a button bracelet, let me know.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Romance of a Dakota Sodbuster

The other night I began reading the autobiography of my Great Grandfather, Dietrick (Dick) Busskohl. In the days of my youth when I'd visit my grandparents, I'd often hear them talk about the book and Great Grandpa's life experiences and though I'd grazed a few pages from his autobiography now and then, I never read the full thing. So I resolved to do so now.

Admittedly, sentimentality lead me to it. You see, I lost my grandpa to cancer two years ago. So I suppose that deep down, there was a part of me that felt I could connect to him, despite the loss, by reading about his dad. My hunch was spot on!

Dick Busskohl was born into a farming family who immigrated from Germany to the United States in 1884. The family struggled to make a living renting and working farm land from older, previously established farmers in the vicinity of Nebraska. After many hard years struggling to make ends meet and feed their large family (11 or 12 children if memory serves), my great-great grandfather was finally able to earn enough money to purchase property of his own. Unfortunately, his health was failing and he died shortly after a home was established on their own farm.

By this time, most of their children were grown and had families of their own. So my great grandfather, Dick, being the youngest, was left to tend the family home with one of his older married brothers, and care for their aging mother. A great many things occurred in the years that followed, but that would be a rabbit trail to go into.
Eventually Dick left home and took on several jobs as a farm hand on other people's places. In the spring of 1906, he found himself making a descent living for the time. In his free hours, he liked to help out playing the fiddle and square dance calling at their local country dances. One night, a new girl showed at the dance. She was tall and slim with beautiful "yellow" hair, as great grandpa recalled. All the boys at the dance were instantly drawn to her and wondering who she was. Dick liked to joke around, so he said aloud to the younger guys, "Leave her alone, she belongs to me."

The beautiful blond danced so well and it seemed to Dick that she was so carefree and happy go lucky that he just had to meet her. So he sought out someone who could introduce them. He discovered her name was Anna Hamann and that she and her family had recently moved to their little town in Nebraska. Dick wasted no time in getting acquainted with the family and ended up asking Anna out to the one of the next dances.

The day of their first date came upon him, and Dick did his best to make good appearances for Anna. He put on his high stiff-collared shirt (which he exclaimed was likely to cut a man's throat) and polished up his brand new buggy to fetch Anna in. He'd hitched the buggy with a team of colts, one of which, hadn't been broke long. Everything went quite well at first. Dick and Anna enjoyed one another's company at the dance and were looking forward to a nice ride together on their trip back to her home. A nice rain occurred while they were in the dance hall and it left the roads quite muddy though.

Neither thought much of it. So they headed off. The two became so engaged with one another that Dick didn't realize until much later that the horses began poking along. It wouldn't do for him to return Anna home at a late hour, so he decided to wake them up. Without giving it much thought, he popped the green broke colt with the buggy whip. The startled colt leaped from his spot, causing his hind foot to slip and this sent a hoof-full of mud right into Anna's face.

Dick was horrified. Here he had this pretty, high-classed girl from a well-to-do family sitting beside him, the poor farmer's son, with little means, and he managed to ruin everything on their first date. Or so it seemed. The spooked colt managed to unsettle his partner, and Dick struggled to control both horses. All his efforts only served to frustrate him more and he had difficulty trying to quiet the team. Anna found the whole display amusing and to Dick's surprise, she suddenly broke out in a fit of giggles. She couldn't stop and soon he found himself joining in the laughter. Then and there, my great grandfather decided that any girl who could laugh with a mouthful of mud was a girl he wanted to spend the rest of his life with.

They were married in October of that year. And though they faced many struggles and heartaches in the first years of their marriage, Dick discovered he'd won a real prize in his Anna. Despite her high upbringing, she was willing to leave it all and follow him to South Dakota, traveling the harsh Midwestern roads in an uncovered wagon, with a one-year old daughter on her hip. They built a life together and had nine more children, of whom, my grandfather, Art, was the youngest. And I am truly grateful for the legacy they left to us.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Fun Historical Fact # 1

The Lake of the Bloody Eye
Lough Derg

     From the peaceful scenic beauty of this lake, one might never guess that Lough Derg has a tumultuous past. As Ireland's third largest lake, Derg is now known as a Ireland's Pleasure Lake, where tourists from abroad come to enjoy all the water sports and outdoor ventures Derg has to offer.

     But Lough Derg is also a lake shrouded in myth and history. Covering 32,000 acres, Derg is a veritable inland sea, though it is freshwater. From the Middle Ages and before Derg's channel served as one of Ireland's oldest routes for travel and commerce. Monks and hermits from it's various monasteries tried to lead peaceful existences, but the clans and Viking invaders vying for control of the region often kept peace just out of reach.

     Lough Derg, meaning "Red" or "Blood Lake" served as a constant naval battleground from early times. Ireland's famed High King, Brian Boru, lead many naval conquests against Vikings and opposing clansmen upon its waters. Some of the more infamous battles occurred between his clan, the Dal Cais, and the O'Connors of Connacht. These bloody feuds earned Derg the title: The Lake of the Bloody Eye.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Faith Enough

(This was posted back in July 29, 2010 on Facebook notes.)

Confused enough to know direction
The sun eclipsed enough to shine
Be still enough to finally tremble
And see enough to know I'm blind
And see enough to know I'm blind

     I’ve always found the lyrics in Jars of Clay’s songs to be terribly profound. It’s one of the marks of a good band in my mind. So I suppose it’s of little wonder that they’re one of my favorites. Today I was listening to this song, “Faith Enough”. The line “And see enough to know I’m blind” really struck a chord. My personal lacks have always been an issue for me. Especially my lack of faith but other flaws seem a constant reminder of just how low I truly am. I’ve learned to be grateful for those reminders. They keep me humble…a quality that too few of us hold in esteem.
   It’s a profound thing to come to the realization that you “see” enough to know that you are blind. Because in that moment you realize just how little you know, how much farther you need to go, and how insufficient you are to get there. All that might sound pretty depressing to the average person, but to those of us who realize that it’s not about us and we have a loving God to depend upon, it’s actually a great relief.
     The line: “Confused enough to know direction” really resounds with me too. Of late I’ve been plagued with a real mental block. I can’t seem to comprehend the simplest of statements. I’ll read something on the internet or hear something on TV that comes at me in plain, everyday English – nothing complex about it – and it makes about as much sense to me as college algebra or a foreign language. My mind just can’t wrap around it and it (pardon the cliché) goes in one ear and out the other.
    “ It’s just enough to be strong in the broken places.” Sometimes I wish that I could be strong enough to overcome the broken places. They hurt too much. But that chorus really put it in perspective for me. You can’t be strong in the broken places. If a bone’s broken there’s no longer the strength of solidity to hold it in place. It needs support. But once you are placed under the circumstances where you are broken, the truth of that need for support is never more obvious. Eventually, simpletons that we are, we understand that we needed the support even before we became broken. Funny that there’s no higher level of education than the school of Hard Knocks.
     Well, I know that I lack considerably in a great many things. But I can say with certainty that I am grateful for those weaknesses when all is said and done.  Grateful that I’m:
Confused enough to know direction
Home enough to know I’m lost
Still enough to tremble
And a cynic enough to believe

Saved By Love: The How-To's Tools of Homeschooling - Melissa Stroh

Saved By Love: The How-To's Tools of Homeschooling - Melissa Stroh

Where to Begin? Homeschooling How-To

            To homeschool or not to homeschool, that is the question? Whether it is nobler to send your little ones off packing to your local public school without a second thought or to tackle their personal education yourself? Hmmm…good question! All kidding aside, only you can know whether you have it in you to teach your own child. But if you’re unsure, know that you are not alone. I’ve been there. Though I’m the farthest cry from the perfect teacher, after two years I have learned one important lesson…I can do it!
The decision to homeschool is a daunting choice for those who know nothing about it. My mother homeschooled my sister and I for two years (4th-5th grade for me). We attended public school the rest of the time. I never gave homeschool a second thought until years later when I found myself married with two kids and my first born was about to turn five. At that point I had to make a decision and I hate making decisions!
Fortunately, I was not alone. I have a wonderful sister in-law who homeschooled her daughters and I knew several homeschooling mothers in our town, one of whom, just happened to be the head of our local homeschool board. They showed me where to begin my journey, and I’ll do my best to impart a bit of that advice to you.
For starters, anyone who undertakes looking up homeschool info on the internet will quickly discover the barrage of information thrown at you. Tackling where to begin in that slush pile is tantamount to taking on the Atlantic ocean with a paddle and water-wings…you aren’t going to get very far before you’ve had enough. So here’s a couple good sites to begin with:  and
The first site will take you to the Homes School Legal Defense Association. There you not only learn about the how-to’s of beginning homeschool, but you will also discover where to find the education requirements for your state. Most states adhere to similar standards, but there are specifics that differ here and there and it’s important that you are aware of what those are.
I highly recommend finding a local homeschool group to offer you advice and support. These individuals can also tell you how to contact your local school district to comply with your state law.  And if you are a social introvert like me, you will be pleased to know that all of your contact with the school board should be in writing. If you are contacted by phone or in person, politely inform them that you prefer to keep all contact in writing so that you have a written record of all your correspondence.
If you are starting homeschool off with kindergarten, you most likely will not have to report your child until they are seven years old by the beginning of that school year. In my home state of Wyoming, a parent is not required by law to report that they are homeschooling until their child is seven years of age by September 15th of that year. After that, reporting to the school board may cease once your child turns 16 years old or they have completed the 10th grade.
Next, you want to consider your homeschool philosophy. How do you want to approach homeschool? What things do you feel are important for your child to learn? What can they do without? What kind of curriculum do you want to purchase? Some parents shutter at the thought of being in charge of every little detail of their child’s education. For them, an online accredited school with packaged curriculum is the way to go. Other parents (like me) prefer to have complete control and handpick their child’s curriculum from a variety of sources.
If you go the packaged route, it will take a load off your shoulders when it comes to keeping written records and such. But it will place a lot of pressure on your pocket book and hamper your schedule. As you may have guessed, if you hand pick your curriculum, you have the freedom to teach what you want at your pace, but you have the responsibility to keep all of your child’s school records. Some good sites to check out for curriculum providers or homeschool programs are: ; ; ; and
This, of course, is only the beginning of your homeschool journey. But I hope it gets you off to a good start.

The Homeschool House Fixer-upper

            I had a dilemma. No question about it. The real kicker? It was a mess of my own making…to a degree.
            Two issues plagued me. The house that was supposed to be a refuge for me and my family more closely resembled a disorganized storage facility than a home. The other issue involved homeschool. My oldest son, Josiah, a.k.a. Joe, was mottling through his first grade year while his little sister, Morgan, plunged into Kindergarten with a fervor unrivaled by any four year old I knew. Joe was struggling but accomplishing what he needed to do in a day’s work and I figured that after a few months he’d grow accustomed to the new curriculum. Little did I know my high hopes were about to take a nose dive.
            Every day became a fight with Joe. He came to understand the lessons he needed to learn. But he also came to despise them. It would take him an hour to do half of a worksheet. A parent might accept that if the worksheet were teaching a concept their child struggled with. For Joe, it was handwriting, and he knew what to do. He just didn’t want to do it. That quickly became the norm with every subject. I’d be forced to hover over his shoulder the entire time just to get him through one worksheet. This process included yelling, temper tantrums and desk pounding – most of it on my part, and it almost always ended with Joe proclaiming, “I hate school!” Six o’clock in the evening rolled around and Joe would only be halfway through his work for the day.
            It was bad enough that I couldn’t come up with a way to get Joe through school without a fight, but nothing else was getting done. After spending an entire day at odds with him, I was too discouraged and worn out to deal with house work. Although I knew my husband understood my predicament, I couldn’t help but feel like a total failure to him and my kids.
            Fellow homeschooling mothers offered me great advice. I took in every bit of it, then set off to apply it to my frustrated son. Some ideas were flat-out failures. Others lasted for a few days to a week. But nothing lasted.  I’d like to say that when all hope seemed lost, my salvation came upon me in this bright light of revelation. But it wasn’t quite like that.
            I lay awake in bed one night, pondering my predicament. After hours of tossing around, an idea came to mind. It was one I’d thought of before but never did because I figured it would be a flop, same as the rest. After reconsidering it, though, I decided to try it out the next day.
            That morning I announced to the kids that we were going to do something different. Then I laid out the rules of our new homeschool “game”. They were to pick out their first subjects for the day. Then they were given a choice of any room in the house to work in, even the bathrooms. But they had to agree on a room for all of us to start in. Whatever room they picked, Mommy had to clean in that room until one of them finished their subject. The first one to finish his or her subject got to pick the next room for us to work in. The kids loved this idea and promptly agreed on Joe’s room. Of course, what kid wouldn’t want their mom to clean their room while they did homework?
            Morgan finished first and chose her room next. So the day progressed and we went from room to room, the kids working while I cleaned, pausing now and then to give instruction. Even my one-year-old son enjoyed playing on the floor in each place. When my husband returned from work that evening, the house was by no means spotless, but much cleaner than when he left. And to top it all off, Joe finished his schoolwork by 4:00 that evening. The results were not astounding, but I was thrilled regardless.
            The kids still love the game and we plan to continue using it from here on out. I would highly recommend it to any homeschooling parent or those who send their kids to public school and struggle with the homework routine. By God’s grace, our home is slowly transforming into a sanctuary again and this frazzled Mommy can finally take a guilt-free break!