The Frustration of My Fractured, Distracted Brain


I used to be someone who could hold it all together or die trying.

Then I had eight kids.

Then I thought homeschooling them would be a brilliant plan.

Then I had to feed them three meals a day and do all the domestic stuff that keeps a household and adult sanity in tact.

Then I began to write and publish and edit for other people because I was bored (just kidding).

And I kid you not, there is a decade of my life in all of this that I barely remember. I have two children whose babyhoods escaped me entirely, as in, I don’t remember them as babies. Before you snap your laptop shut and write me off over that last confession, you have to know that they were born 14 months apart, at the end of the line-up and the beginning of tragedy, and it’s a doggone miracle that any of us had clean clothes.

I suspect that you have had a season very much like this, too, and if not, perhaps you’re not in the Western Hemisphere? Because we westerners and more specifically, Americans, spin plates like nobody’s business. Out the door with the spinning plates flies our concentration, leaving us with a sort of living whiplash.

Just today as I sat down on the living room couch to work on an article due this coming Friday,  child #6 is searching for her make-up brush, child #7 is singing “Radio Gaga” at the top of his lungs and walking through the house looking for a glue stick, child #4 is Marco-Poloing me from college to debrief her Easter weekend, and child #5 needs to discuss her rehearsal schedule. Sometime within the next 8 hours, children #1, 2, and 3 will text me with a question, a request, or an anecdote.

I also have a long-suffering husband who needs dinner and who I married because I really, really like spending time with him. Child #8 hasn’t been mentioned yet because he’s at school, but that’s after a night in which he woke up his dad and me (separately) with complaints of stomach pain and diarrhea, both the result of too many Hot Cross Buns and Easter candy.

Somewhere in all of this I am supposed to be working on an article about the parables and reaching my own readers because I’m committed to helping people leave legalism with their faith somewhat in tact. And a high school lit course I’m preparing to teach. And laundry.

I laugh, painfully and ironically.

And sometimes I’m mad at God about it.

How does ministry happen in a life like this? When and how am I supposed to dedicate my time to study? I can’t recall what it’s like to concentrate on anything because there is never a time when I’m not interrupted by someone or the next door neighbor’s dogs. Focus eludes me.

I read about great Christians who came before me and I’m in awe of women like Catherine of Siena, who spent the first three years of adult life in seclusion in her parent’s basement so that she could commit herself to studying the Scriptures and to her deepening prayer life.

Well, yeah, I think. If I had three years by myself in a basement, I’d get pretty good at prayer, too.

I’m a little bit jealous.

I’m a lot jealous, if I’m being completely honest.

As I was listening this morning to a book about notable Christian women like Catherine, I began to feel like I had been robbed of an opportunity to use my overly curious brain and intelligence for the glory of God and the good of others. Good grief, the distractions in this household!

And then a tiny thought entered into my consciousness and wormed its way in like it had found a ripe, juicy apple.

What if God calls me to the distractions?

Ouch. What if? What if, in all of this whirlwind of never-ending activity and need, there is ministry happening in spite of the distractions? And what if, more to the point, ministry is happening because of the distractions?

What if the ministry is the distractions?

Catherine of Siena was the 25th child born to her parents. Mercy me. During the three years of seclusion, guess who was caring for, walking alongside, feeding, dressing, listening to, guiding, educating, and nurturing all of Catherine’s other siblings upstairs? Her mother, called to the distractions. The point was not lost on me.

Honestly (and let’s be honest), this is not a revelation that has totally changed my life today. I’m not writing this to tell you that my life has been radically changed by the realization that God has given me a poignant ministry opportunity right here in my home. Christendom has been clanging that gong on behalf of its mothers for centuries, and it doesn’t make me feel any better.

Honestly, I will still struggle because of my fractured, distracted brain and the circumstances of motherhood that do not allow me to have solitude, silence, or time. My friend Sallie Borrink has written an excellent piece on why gifted women (that’s me) struggle with the construction of motherhood. Might be helpful if you, too, have a hard time with all of this.

The brain remains distracted. The writing is what it is. The time spent with Christ alone is limited. But here’s the truth I will stand on until the day I die:

He knows this.

All of the spiritual growth born out of hearing and reading the Bible, praying, fasting, and other spiritual disciplines is his work, not mine. The real miracle is that God can take the 8 minutes I spent praying this morning and expand it to reach every person I come in contact with today, including you.

And while I still thrash against the unstructured ministry of the distractions that accompany serving others, I can relax knowing that God has promised to finish what He started.

The lesson for us all? Be still and know that he is God. Our ministry is fed by the knowing, not the doing.

Review—Kendall Hunt Pathways Heroes: Amos Fortune, Free Man

I was compensated for my time reviewing this product. I received the product for free. All opinions are honest, and I was not required to post a positive review.

Kendall Hunt’s Pathways Heroes Focus for 6th Grade: Amos Fortune, Free Man

Many of my regular readers are home educators, and as you know, from time to time I share some of our homeschooling resources and best tricks with you.

I was super interested to get my hands on a copy of Kendall Hunt’s Pathways 2.0 Grade 6 Heroes Unit, Amos Fortune: Free Man because this is the year the 6th grader and I have been studying American history. He’s a reluctant reader (ahem), so I am always looking for solid lit guides that will engage him and get him into the story.

Amos Fortune, Free Man is a Newbury Medal winning book about an African man taken to America as a slave. This particular literature curriculum, Kendall Hunt Pathways 2.0 Grade 6 Heroes: Amos Fortune, Free Man is quite a mouthful! Let me break it down for you.

The front yard swing is always the reading spot of choice for my 6th grader.

The front yard swing is always the reading spot of choice for my 6th grader.

What You Need to Know About the Kendall Hunt Pathways Heroes: Amos Fortune, Free Man Curriculum

From the publisher website:

Pathways 2.0 is a comprehensive elementary reading program with integrated language arts. This approach allows students to follow a variety of avenues to become readers, writers, and learners. Organized around broad themes and a scope and sequence of skills, Pathways 2.0 uses award-winning trade books that children want to read to deliver the skills that they need.
— from the Kendall Hunt website
  • The full curriculum includes a hardcover copy of Amos Fortune, Free Man and an ebook version of the Teacher Daily Lesson Guide. Score for the homeschooler who doesn’t have a lot of shelf space; I love printing only what I need from an ebook format.

  • The curriculum is designed for a classroom setting. This can typically be seen as a negative for me, because it means I have to wade through the classroom management sections, the group activities that can’t be replicated with my one student in a homeschool setting, and a litany of standards guidelines, irrelevant to our family.

    In this case, I didn’t find it difficult to pick out what would be most useful or helpful. I simply made notes about what I wanted to cover and circled the pages to print copies and use as a worksheet where applicable.

  • The curriculum is more than just a literature guide. In addition to questions about the text, the Teacher Daily Lesson Guide offers vocabulary, spelling, writing mini-lessons, independent writing exercises, handwriting practice, and grammar mini-lessons. There are also opportunities for interactive read-alouds. As a homeschooler, I see this as a benefit. While we might not need spelling practice, the option to use it is great as we pass down curriculum to a child who might.

  • For us, there were important lessons and worksheets that taught my son to RACE: Restate the question, Answer the question and all its parts, Cite evidence from the text, and Explain the evidence. He is continuing to use this as we’ve moved on to other studies.

    He also learned to skim a non-fiction passage for the main idea, how to recognize denotative and connotative meanings, and how to spot allusions.

  • As of this writing, the package (book and teachers guide) is priced at $40.

About Kendall Hunt Publishing

Kendall Hunt is an Adventist curriculum publisher. The Teacher Daily Lesson Guide references an Adventist worldview, but as a non-Adventist, I did not find it to be an issue or to conflict with our own views of Scripture and faith. More on how the topic of Adventism shows up in the curriculum later, but for now you might want to be familiar with the faith connections made in the Teacher Daily Lesson Guide:

Unit Essential Question: What can we learn from heroes that will enable us to be heroes for God?

Unit Big Idea: God uses heroes to reveal who he is.

The Faith-Based Worldview of Kendall Hunt Pathways Heroes

If you’re curious as to how that plays out in this particular curriculum, the publisher has given us an explanation of the Adventist Worldview:

Adventist Worldview, from the Kendall Hunt Pathways Heroes text

Adventist Worldview, from the Kendall Hunt Pathways Heroes text

Out of this meta-narrative of Scripture, the publisher has given us thoughtful questions to ask our students as they read the text, in this case, Amos Fortune, Free Man. I appreciated the focus on the faith of the story’s main character and was able to enter into some thoughtful conversations with my 6th grader using the chapter questions as a guide.

Occasionally there would be some Adventist-specific questions, but I found it easy to skim past them or to engage my son in a discussion about differing practices and beliefs within Christianity. This is one of the reasons we so value homeschooling, so we don’t shy away from educating our kids on the differences amongst believers.

By way of example, the following questions are posed in the section covering chapter 4 of Amos Fortune, Free Man:

  • Is your view of the Sabbath more like the white people’s view (it was a day of many rules) or more like Amos’s view? Explain your answer.

  • Some students will feel that Sabbath is a day full of “thou shalt nots”, and some students may not observe Sabbath. This is an excellent opportunity to teach students the joys of Sabbath observance and to allow the students who already have that understanding to share the Sabbath celebrations of their families. It is also a good time to share with students that loving God makes it possible to follow Sabbath observance out of our desire to spend time with Him.

For us, the language about Sabbath isn’t common in our faith community, and it was how I was tipped off to Kendall Hunt’s faith background. But the questions are really good, and we personally wouldn’t avoid having such a meaningful discussion with our own students. It’s your call.

How the Kendall Hunt Pathways Heroes: Amos Fortune, Free Man is a Benefit to a Christian Homeschool

As you well know, good literature has the power to transform our thinking and positively affect the way we view the world. By choosing solid books such as Amos Fortune, Free Man and providing a thoughtfully written guide, Kendall Hunt is empowering the home educator to encourage our kids to be thinkers and world changers.

As a homeschooling mom of many (as in, my 6th grader is our 7th homeschooler), I appreciate curriculum that I can grab, quickly make a plan to implement, and go.

You can see all of the titles in the Kendall Hunt Pathways Series here.

More homeschool-related posts:

Who, If Not the Muslim, Is Our Neighbor?


King Solomon wrote, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

Last night I wore my Huguenot Cross to the mosque. I almost always wear it everywhere I go, but last night as I sat and listened to the grief and the sorrow and the condolences shared among our local Muslim brothers and sisters, I was struck by the symbiotic symbolism of the cross I wear and the events experienced last Friday in a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The Huguenots were the French Protestants of the 16th and 17th centuries, emerging out of the Reformation like their Protestant brothers and sisters in nearby countries of Germany, Switzerland, England, and Scotland. They suffered severe persecution at the hands of French Catholics.

On August 24th and 25th, 1572, some 3,000 Parisian Huguenots were dragged out into the streets and massacred, their bodies thrown into the Seine and their homes and business burned to the ground. Plotted by Catherine de Medici, the killings continued outside of Paris into all of France, with the death toll reaching nearly 70,000.

“Carts piled high with the dead bodies of noble ladies, women, girls, men, and boys were brought down and emptied into the river, which was covered with dead bodies and ran red with blood,” -Simon Goulart

And as I sat there last night surrounded by grieving Muslim men, women, and children, I could hear the cries of the Huguenots. My heart ached as it recalled the wailing of the Jews, the millions (yes, millions) of Bengali Hindus, the Sikhs, Baha’is, and people who follow smaller factions of faith. Each, at some point in history and many today, experience hatred and intolerance.

In it all, there is this truth:

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

The lie is that we have the right to step in and act as God, deciding who lives and who dies. And as Christians, we have two great commandments: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.

Who, if not the Muslim, the Jew, the Sikh, the Hindu, the Bah’ai, the Catholic in your community, is your neighbor?

Huguenot Cross.jpeg