Thursday, August 31, 2017

Counting August Gifts

This may have been one of my favorite Augusts.

Is it because I woke up each morning thanking God for another day with Ed?

Is it the contrast between the agony of July when I waited every day for Ed to start getting sick from chemo and radiation?

Was August good because Ed was able to do normal August activities such as attending Allegany Boys Camp open house? Ed has been on the camp board for several years and he has missed participating this summer. But he felt strong enough to take his normal role at open house of giving campsite tours and scrubbing the huge bean pot. 

We loved getting to see the campers who spent a week at our house this spring.

Boys of all ages try their hand at woodsmenship skills.

Was August good because of time spent together as a family? 

We spent a weekend at my parent's mountain farm. I loved sitting on the porch swing with my book, watching twilight fall over the farm with no human sound besides my own family. 

But the book didn't last long because I soon had companions.

Breakfast always tastes better outdoors.

And so does supper.

Is August good because Ed is slowly regaining his strength from the weeks of inactivity after surgery? Every week I see an improvement. 

We have greatly missed family bike rides. A friend lent Ed his electric bike so we tried a bike ride with my parents. Ed was able to pull this load of tag-along bike and bike trailer. 

Last year this little one was a screamer on bike rides, but this year she loved it and couldn't quit giggling. Ed was able to go six miles before deciding he better quit lest he be too stiff to walk the next day.

A few days later we tried another favorite family activity - canoeing. With the abundant rainfall, we were able to float the creek near my parent's home which holds many fond memories to Ed and me. No photos since we didn't want to risk the camera or phone, but just imagine a perfect summer evening, gorgeous Pennsylvania woods, rippling water, an obliging bald eagle, and delighted children.

The fact that Ed can work all day and still have energy left in the evening shows how far he has come. In July Ed would come home from work at 3:00 and collapse into bed for an hour before having energy to join us for supper. Now he works full days, skips the nap, and jumps into our evening plans. Ed has been doing some muscle-strengthening exercises and it seems to be helping. No longer do his legs get shaky by mid-afternoon.

Is it the joy of watching children use creativity? Usually we start school in July, then take off a few weeks in August for canning season. This year, the children are going with Ed to work a few days each week so my goal is only a few school days each week.

It means that we have no real schedule or routine (bad) but also don't have opportunity to get bored because our days vary so much.

One day I heard pounding in the basement and discovered that they had built their own painting easels. My children are not particularly artistic, but that doesn't keep them from having fun trying. (I'll not mention some of the other not-fun parts of our school days. Like attitudes about flash cards.)

Like most of the rest of the nation, we enjoyed the solar eclipse. We were not in the path of totality so we'd watch our sun then rush inside to watch the live feeds from NASA.

Did I enjoy August more because I did very little gardening and canning? 

I didn't plant much garden. I didn't buy fruit to can or freeze. I put a few green beans in jars, but mostly we just ate them fresh.  I'm loving the fresh meals with peppers, zucchini, and tomatoes, but most of my jars are still empty on the shelves. I still kept busy with sewing some new dresses and painting a bathroom, but those projects lacked the pressure of  bushels of tomatoes rotting or fruit flies in a box of peaches.

I love filling jars with fresh produce. I'm always my own enemy in August when I find three new relish and salsa recipes to try. But this year was a year to do less. And it was good.

This week my tomatoes ripened enough that I did a batch of tomato soup and salsa. And enjoyed every minute.  Until I got to washing up the dishes. Today I did a few dozen ears of sweet corn. I have several bushels of apples that I'm hoping will wait until next week to be made into applesauce. I'm getting the reminder of what August usually feels like - both the pleasure of the accomplishment and the weariness of preserving the harvest.

My girlies made sure I enjoyed the pleasures of summer by picking me flowers every single day. I gave the three-year-old a pair of child's scissors on a lanyard around her neck and they would carefully choose several blossoms to place on the kitchen table. Those few ragged stems were cherished more than a professional bouquet.

Did I enjoy August more because of the delightful weather? 

There were only a few days that we ran our air conditioning. Every few days we had a rain shower. I never remember grass so green in August. Instead of watching corn curl, we mowed grass. The red raspberries, which the last two years just dried on the stalks, are plump and juicy. We are picking bags of them  for the freezer.

Except for the many berries that don't go further than the mouths of these two.

Any guesses on who is inseparable at our house? Our other girls are five years apart so it is fun to watch these two interact. 

Why did I enjoy August? 

Maybe all of these things. Maybe because of your prayers. Maybe because of the many reminders of the blessing of God. 

There are still so many unknowns for our future. We live under the shadow of a terminal illness. (Though our minister reminded us last week that every human is terminally ill. None of us will make it out alive unless by rapture.) 

But there are many things we do know. I'm finally able to concentrate on Bible study again and have been drinking in the truths in Romans. These verses are ones I have read and reread this week. I'm highlighting a few favorite words.
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. Romans 5:1-5

I love how the Amplified Bible states verse 5. "Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God's love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us." James 5:1 (Amp)

Faith, peace, hope, from God this August.

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Monday, August 28, 2017

New Sizes: Sew Basic Dress Patterns

Last fall I told you about my new favorite dress patterns for girls - Sew Basic Dresses patterns. Since then I've used those patterns many many times and continue to be very pleased.

This summer Michelle at Sew Basic designed some more sizes. Now she has available sizes 10, 12, 14, and 16. I was thrilled. My thirteen-year-old needed more dresses so I had the perfect model to try out these new patterns. As difficult as it is to find little girl dresses, I think it is even more difficult to find modest dresses for young ladies.

The pattern includes two skirt patterns, one fitted and one pleated. It also includes two sleeve patterns, fitted and gathered. A cape pattern is included or you can choose to omit the cape and make a lined bodice if you prefer.

We made the first dress exactly according to the pattern except for lengthening the skirt by a few inches. Michelle said that because of paper size, she couldn't make the skirt pattern as long as she wished. We also added a cuff to the sleeve.

The fit was perfect for my daughter, but the bodice was a little high-waisted on her. So for the next dress I used the extension line on the pattern to lengthen the bodice. This time we used the pleated skirt. Again the dress fit perfectly.

The third dress I again used the extended bodice this time with the fitted skirt. Again my daughter was super pleased with the way it fit. The pattern fit together so well and is so simple that she was able to help cut out the dress and do some of the sewing. Hopefully with a little more practice she'll be sewing her own dresses.

You can purchase Sew Basic patterns at Etsy or contact Michelle at sewbasicdresses 

Disclaimer: I was given two patterns to review, but the opinions of this review are my own.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Giveaway: Anything But Simple

I often get emails asking questions about Mennonites. I love emails and enjoy interacting with readers. But there are some questions that frustrate me - those that ask how Mennonites do this or that or what they believe about a specific topic.

Worse is when the one asking is doing a research paper on Mennonites. I'm glad they looked for a primary source, but how can I give a correct answer for a diverse group? It would be like asking questions of one Muslim or one Native American, and expecting them to have the same opinion, practice, and belief as the rest of the group.

I can only answer for myself. And my answers are going to be influenced by my background, my experiences, my beliefs, my personality, and my specific setting.

But I do love that there are many that are interesting in learning more about Mennonites, and if that is you, then there is a new book I can recommend for you.

Lucinda J. Miller wrote Anything But Simple to share her life as a young woman growing up in a Mennonite community. I couldn't have written this book. Not only do I not have the writing talent and skill of Luci, but her experience in growing up in a small farming community in Wisconsin, her sensitive and introspective personality, her myriad of friendships with a wide variety of people have influenced her life story.

Anything But Simple is beautifully written. I love the way Luci pictures farm life, her descriptions of her close-knit family, and her explanations of important church events such as baptism and communion. Luci also shares honestly about some of the hard things in her life, her father's youthful rebellion, church conflict, and her personal doubts about God. You might read the book and disagree with some of Luci's choices, but I appreciate her courage in revealing her weakness, mistakes, and pain.

I've had the chance to meet Luci several times and I know that Luci is genuine. This isn't a fake Mennonite/Amish depiction like one of those Amish romance books or the Amish TV shows. This is one young woman's view of what it is to wrestle with her identity as Christ-follower and a Mennonite and I'm glad she was willing to take us along.

Luci offered to give away an autographed copy of Anything But Simple to a Home Joys reader. I had bought several copies from Luci, thinking that I'd host my own giveaway, but I've managed to give all my copies away already. If you want a chance to win a copy, just leave a comment with your email address on this blog post.

You can view a trailer of Anything But Simple here. You can order your own copy of the book on Amazon or Menno Media. Or contact Luci through her blog to purchase an autographed copy.

Giveaway will be open for one week from today. Winner will be chosen by US mailing addresses only. This post contains affiliate links.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Complete in Thee

I spent Friday and Saturday at a ladies' retreat. I had registered earlier this summer since I figured by August I might need an Oasis. Even though our summer has been so much better than I expected I'm still glad I went. I feel like I was able to stand underneath a waterfall and be thoroughly refreshed.

I loved the practical workshops. I enjoyed the hours of conversation (with many of you!) uninterrupted by children and other distractions. I enjoyed the meals and special touches of beauty. The singing was marvelous, though far too often I was deep in conversation and forgot the time and missed the beginning of the singing.

But best of all were the main sessions. The topic was Complete In Christ. There was so much life-giving truth shared about how we can bring our brokenness to Christ to be healed by Jesus.

Here are a few of the songs shared this weekend that ministered to me.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Off the Shelf

It has been months. . .umm. . .make that a year, since I've listed the books I'm enjoying. The last "Off the Shelf" post was last June. Sometimes it seems that all I get read is prereading books for my children, but I still usually have a book or two of my own that I'm reading.

Here is a glimpse into the books that have captured my attention in the last year.

Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, Not Food by Lysa Terkeurst
I wouldn't normally read a book about weight loss, but, wow, this book is so much more. It made me consider my obsessions, my pity parties, and if there anything I seek to find strength besides God.  I HIGHLY recommend this book.

Upstairs in the White House: My Life with the First Ladies by J.B. West
The head usher shares stories of his job in the White House under five presidents from Eisenhower to Nixon. I felt like I was able to walk the stairs of that famous house. This is an old book and doesn't contain all the sleazy details that a modern book would maybe feel compelled to share.

Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl
I love food writing and this book was a treat as I followed Reichl as she started her new job as restaurant critic for the New York Times and found that her photo was in every restaurant kitchen in NYC. With disguises, she managed to get inside restaurants without being detected. I enjoyed her writing so much that I read Tender to the Bone where Reichl writes of her own personal food history beginning in her dysfunctional home. I loved the insights into growing up in the 60's though Reichl does not at all write from a Christian perspective.

There's Got to Be More by Melissa Eby
But after reading about expensive restaurant meals, this books was a refreshment. A young farming couple in the midwest wondered if there was more to life than a successful business and a happy family. A farming accident took Rueben's leg but didn't stop him from seeking more ways to serve God. Spending time at a home from handicapped children in VA and far-flung spots such as Haiti, Pakistan, Israel, and Bangladesh, a missing limb never slowed down this couple from sharing the love of Christ. An inspiring true story.

84, Charing Cross Road by Helen Hanff
Immediately after World War 2, a small newspaper ad began a correspondence between a money-strapped writer in NYC and an antique bookseller in London. This short classic collects those letters and gives a window into post-war London. To learn the rest of the story, I picked up Q's Legacy by the same author that tells of her writing journey.

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
I'm fascinated with the topic of habits and how to make permanent life changes. Since I loved the Heaths' Made to Stick, I thought they'd do this topic well. And they did. Their many varied stories and illustrations encouraged me as a parent to work at finding the bright spots, encouraging a growth mindset, and shaping a path to build good habits.

The Day the World Came to Town by Jim Defede
What happens when the US air space is closed and dozens of planes over the Atlantic are rerounted to Canada? On September 11, 2001, the tiny town of Gander, Newfoundland hosted thousands of unexpected guests. This warm story describes events and the people who were caught in the drama of that historic day.

In the Land of Blue Burqas by Kate McCord
The five years that McCord spent in Afghanistan gave her a love from the women of that country and she shares that love with her readers. Full of her conversations around the tea tables behind the tall walls, I gained an appreciation for the hope I have in Christ that so many in this world lack. Though it tells some sad stories, it isn't the kind of book that makes me wish I could scrub a few scenes from my mind. This book was a gift to me from a Home Joys reader who thought I'd love it - and she was right.

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell
In Gladwell's typical style, he takes us on a journey to visit a familiar Bible story, war-torn Ireland, college campuses, a children's cancer ward, and Birmingham to expose connections that I would have never uncovered. And as always, the trip is a joy.

I haven't been reading a lot of books about cancer this summer. I'm not sure if that is good or bad. A Home Joys reader sent me What Cancer Cannot Do by Phylis Ten Elshof, a small gift book that I found super encouraging. I also read When Cancer  Clouds the Sky by Beverly E. Hannah. Beverly is a local author who recently self-published a book about her personal cancer journey. Since Ed is a printer, he sometimes gets to connect with local authors and it has been a joy to get to know Beverly.

I also bought myself another copy of A Grace Disguised: How a Soul Grows Through Loss by Jerry Sittser. I had given my copy away and this is one book that I thought I needed to reread this summer. Sittser has so many great insights on grief and God's grace. I haven't gotten to far in rereading it since it got on Ed's side of the bed.

What are you reading? By looking at the books I've enjoyed, do you have a book suggestion for me to read next? That is, after I finish the half dozen books that are presently on my bedside.

(This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase at Amazon, I get a small payment at no additional cost  to you. Thanks.)

Monday, August 7, 2017

Immortal Love

Yesterday morning at church, Ed preached his first sermon in nearly three months. The last time he preached was the day before his intense headaches began. A lot has happened since then.

Ed preached on the will of God, which is a topic he has thought a lot about these last months. Ed has always disliked how easy tears come for him, but I love that he has a soft heart just like his dad. And yesterday I know his audience understood his emotion.

Ed asked the congregation to sing "Immortal Love, Within Whose Righteous Will" which I never remember singing. The words are poignant.

Immortal Love, Within Whose Righteous Will
by Stopford A. Brooke

Immortal love, within whose righteous will
Is always peace,
O pity me, storm-tossed on waves of ill;
Let passion cease;
Come down in  power within my heart to reign,
For I am weak, and striving has been vain.

The days are gone, when far and wide my will
Drove me astray;
And now I fain would climb the arduous hill,
That narrow way,
Which leads through mists and rocks to Thine abode,
Toiling for man, and Thee, Almighty God.

Whate'er of pain They loving hand allot
I gladly bear;
Only, O Lord, let peace be not forgot,
Nor yet Thy care,
Freedom from storms, and wild desires within,
Peace from the fierce oppression of my sin.

So may I, far away, when evening falls
On life and love,
Arrive at last the holy, happy halls,
With Thee above;
Wounded, yet healed, sin grieving, yet forgiv'n,
And sure that Jesus is my hope of heav'n.

I could not find a recording of these words with the tune by Charles H. Purday that Hymns of the Church includes. But I did find a video of the same beautiful tune to different (though equally beautiful) words, "Unto the Hills." If you listen to this recording maybe you can sing the above words to the same tune. (If you are reading by email you might need to click over to the website to view the video.)


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