Friday, June 7, 2019

A Little Bit Of Vague And Haphazard

Summer vacation is here, with it's slow mornings and long evenings. We've had a lot of rain in Ohio and not so many summer-ish days. We haven't even made it to the lake yet this year, which is unusual for us.

Last week we put 40 quarts of strawberries away... in jam, small lunch containers in the freezer, and our stomachs. It's amazing how quickly a job like that goes these days!

We celebrated Chris's birthday...

And our 18th Anniversary...

Then and now!

Chris took the day off  Saturday and we had a most lovely day wandering around together. He's such a good sport when it comes to shopping, even if thrift stores are a hazard for too many cassette tapes and random books

He patiently waits 
while I browse though fabric

And good naturedly buys the Amish dresses at thrift stores that I suddenly realized would make cheap fabric for making dresses for my 9 and 11 year old girls. You can't beat $3.50 for a whole dress compared to $6 and $7 a yard fabric!

We did nothing fancy or extravagant; hit up Dairy Queen for lunch and played a round of miniature golf and talked and laughed and enjoyed each other's company. 

Came home to a messy house and a table full playing Monopoly and food that needed to be made for fellowship dinner the next day. Real life is always there waiting but out of the ordinary days sure help to give us fresh courage for the journey. 

In other news? In other news life is very ordinary. I do mounds of laundry that re-appear every time I turn around and cook piles of food that disappear just as quickly. I try to make myself put people to work and often end up letting them play too much. I putter around in my wet, little garden and work on my challenge to keep up with memorizing my girl's quiz passage. I'll tell you this, mom doing memory work does wonders for motivating a 9 year old! 

Underneath and in between it all, God keeps working away at our hearts; stretching us to places we never dreamed of and re-arranging our hearts in ways we never expected. I alternate between kicking and screaming at the process and marveling over the amazing ways He chooses to bring about His plan. One thing is for sure, God is creative beyond belief and as I read through Proverbs (our church is currently reading through the chronological Bible), I realize anew how wise it is live by His principles and direction.

I feel like I should apologize for the vague and haphazard post. But vague and haphazard seems to be the story of my life right now, so what can I say?

Off to take care of laundry and scrounge some lunch around.... and then I should make someone restock the fresh cookies and think ahead toward supper.......

Happy weekend!

Friday, May 31, 2019

What Is Beauty? {A guest post}

Have you ever read/ listened to someone else's words and felt like you were hearing your own heart - only strung together in a much more beautiful way than the jumbled mess in your mind? I felt exactly that way when I read a post on the blog by Daughters Of Promise

The subject of beauty, and all that goes with it, is one that gets a lot of attention at my house these days. I'm raising three daughters, you see. I long for them to grasp the meaning of true beauty and struggle with the best ways to guide them.  

I've never used make-up or nail polish or any of a host of other things most normal girls at least experiment with. Honestly?Most of the reason is that I am a very practical person; I hate anything extra that takes up large portions of time and money. Beautifying routines are just a pain in the neck for me, certainly waaay more trouble than they're worth, in my mind. 

I realize I'm strange. I realize that for me to squash all my daughter's girlish desires for beauty on the basis of my own is not quite fair of me. I want to be careful to not teach something as sin, that is actually a God given desire. But there's more to it than that. 

I long for my daughters to realize the truth: that God made them beautiful exactly the way they are. That accepting and embracing the masterpiece He created is more beautiful than any painting or tinting or manicuring they can ever do themselves. 

And that is the message so beautifully given in this post that Anita Yoder is kindly allowing me to share here with you. 


Where’s that eye cream my friend gave?

This was my thought the minute I saw my eyes have crow’s feet when I smile.

When I noticed wisps of silver at my ears and temples: I’m too young for grey hair. Where can I buy some brown tinted shampoo?

I didn’t think I had a complex about my age. I don’t notice wrinkles and grey hair on other women. But on my face? Suddenly I was aware of a complex I couldn’t even name.

It had something to do with my idea of my face, and wrinkles and grey hair didn’t fit into that. Or then it was connected to my self-image, and my body’s new developments messed with who I thought I was: not beautiful, but not aging.

What is beauty, anyhow? I started mulling.

The miles of aisles selling cremes, toners, colors, and oils seem to imply beauty is in a bottle or package. Particularly one with shiny wrapping and curlicue graphics. The bottle’s contents will surely imbed the same attractiveness on your face or hair or legs.
Age-defying. Blemish-perfecting. Clearer skin after 7 days. Glossy hair – in the color of your choice. Break-through ingredient. Regenerating technology. Nature’s micro-oil infusion. Shimmering. Instantly luminous.
Beauty is something you can hold in your hand, exchange for some money, and keep within arm’s reach every day. Or on your vanity, catch-all basket, or bag. (Beauty is also the style and color of your shoes. Or scarf. Or belt design.)

Several years ago when a friend was approaching 40, I noticed the wrinkly skin at her wrists and thought I’m glad my hands don’t look like that. But now I’m 40 and her skin has become mine. When I spot the odd discolorings that used to be clear, and sagging skin that used to be firm and smooth, I feel compelled to run out to find the bottle with the graphics that promise me the fluid that will instantly restore the effects of sun, wind, caffeine, and hormone changes. If not instantly, then at least in seven days.

In my town, I watch a woman with a lithe figure join another fitness group. I observe a young girl with professionally-manicured nails buy a new color of nail polish. Women cluster around moisturizers on sale because today beauty is finally more affordable. Tomorrow it’ll be too late and beauty’s promise will evade them.

I cannot scorn these women because when I give myself permission to be honest, I feel the same desperation and compulsions. I walk down the sidewalk, past hundreds of drop-dead gorgeous women and sophisticated men, and I feel their eyes stop on me, sometimes curious, sometimes disdainful. (In Eastern Europe, status quo and fashion are uber-important, and staring seemingly isn’t considered offensive.) When their eyes catch mine, I know their attention was arrested by my unfashionable clothes and white veil, but what I really wish is that they’d think my eyes or smile or hair are gorgeous enough to catch their eye.

Or am I the only woman who wants to look amazing enough for a stranger to admire her face?

Part of being a whole woman means recognizing the pull – the groaning, longing, powerful tug – inside our hearts toward beauty. To be acknowledged as beautiful. To respond to beauty. To connect with its power.

Because beauty is powerful. It shouts and sings and cajoles. It can be heard above the noise and distractions of the dusty daily. It soothes and comforts and refreshes.

It is so compelling and powerful that woman’s first fall from grace involved noticing beauty, responding to it, and demanding it. Eve did what every alive woman does when beauty, not God, calls the shots. She responded to what pleased her eyes and took it into her hand for herself. Who said you can’t hold beauty in your hand?

Sometimes when I stand in a store, the shiny packages and sleek ads remind me of that fruit that looks so pretty. Youth in a package. Beauty in a bottle. It fits in your hand, smooth and shining and promising.
This is not a call to dump all our creams and never again patronize a pharmacy. This is a call to mindfully engage the messages we’re absorbing. We may be believing some lies about beauty or ourselves. We may be scared of beauty’s power. We may be demanding it, plucking it off in handy sizes to enhance, defy, and manipulate.

Striving and grasping defeats beauty. So keep it simple, sweetie! Eliminate the body odor. Trim the chin hair. Clean and smooth your nails and heels. Part of beauty is being at rest, not obsessing, insisting, grabbing.

Being at rest and being beautiful requires knowing our Creator and His heart. His hands would never shape something untrue to His character. We, His pieces of art, are beautiful as soon as we use the smile He gives. Have you noticed this? It is an endless joy to me, how an other-wise plain girl’s face is transformed when she smiles.

Beauty isn’t in a bottle. It’s in an identity that is more true and deep and changeless than the loveliest skin you ever saw.

Anita Yoder hales from Guys Mills, Pennsylvania, with pieces of her heart scattered from Virginia to Ireland to Poland. If you liked her words here, you might enjoy checking out Tis A Gift To Receive, where she blogs about the exciting adventures and ordinary days of her life.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

A Child Shall Lead Them

Ever notice how large children's ideas are? How they believe anything is possible? How bright and exciting everything looks through their young eyes? Those of us who are old and wise - we grown-up people who have been around the block a few times - we often tend to squelch that enthusiasm, don't we?

Several months ago, my third born came home with shiny eyes and a big idea. I listened to it silently, with all my grown-up wisdom, and subtly tried to reduce the 11 year old brainstorm down to a reasonable size. Yes, the idea sounded lovely. Yes, she was excited. But......

That's what moms are for, right? To shield their children from disappointment and disaster and help them think rationally and reasonably? Older siblings now, they aren't as kind. They roll their eyes and make snide remarks and squash big ideas; moms just nicely try to provide direction.

So, like I said, my daughter came home with this big idea...

"Me and my friend, we thought we should write a weekly newsletter for the rest of the school year and get people to subscribe for a certain amount a week to raise money for <a ministry we had recently heard about at church>! Don't you think that would be neat??" And she bubbled on and on with complicated plans for how to pull this all off while the rest of us did pretty much what I described above and her enthusiasm slowly leaked away with all our wise, older-than-you-are years of experience.

But, thankfully for my daughter, there is this man at our house who's years of wisdom have not tainted his view of the possible quite as much as the rest of us. Or maybe it's just that he's not as afraid of what people might think or how it might look, I'm not sure. In any case, he took my daughter's idea and tweaked it and added to it and helped her run with it. He silenced all the eye rolling siblings and the well meaning mom and he put himself out there and stood up on Sunday morning when they asked for announcements and told the whole church about his daughter and her friend's big idea.

 After church that day, my two youngest daughters and their friend busily went around signing people up for their newsletter. For the next 10 weeks, The Antrim Herald landed in anyone's hands who had shown interest, and the donations began trickling in for a missionary family from our church.

This was a handwritten affair that required organization and a stick-to-it-ness not many 11 year olds possess. Every week new content had to be thought of and willing writers had to be found. It didn't take long to discover that the willing writers were the hardest part. Turns out those eye rolling older siblings and the well meaning mom were the most willing contributors to be found. The whole newsletter kind of turned into a family affair, with the man of the house providing the printing abilities by taking the handwritten notepaper along to work and printing off 32 copies every week.

The Antrim Herald was a creative piece of work with anything from current school events and riddles...

To teacher interviews and original poetry...

And the ever present jokes...

The most fun was watching the girl's shining eyes as people willingly and generously donated. The idea that these girls originally thought might possibly bring in $50 - $100 turned into a growing stash that in the end came to over $300!!

I'm quite proud of my daughter and her big ideas and her perseverance. Some weeks it would have been so much easier to just skip the whole thing but she never let her readership down. I'm also quite proud of the man I married who stepped in and gave a childish idea life. He's the best.

So. Have any big ideas? Have anybody rolling their eyes at you and giving you kind, enthusiasm squelching advice? Maybe you shouldn't listen. Maybe you can do much bigger things than you ever thought possible!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Class Of 2019

Oh hi. You mean people still stop by this place?

Believe it or not, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth nor gotten hit with the bubonic plague nor has the cat actually quite gotten my tongue. I'm still here in Ohio, living my life, doing my thing; I just don't happen to be talking about it very often.

"If my heart had a physical gauge to show the feelings of the past week, the needle would be stuck somewhere over by 'all the feelings'."

I started a post several days ago with that emotional beginning. But rather like the weather around here -- one day feeling like summer and the next you're shivering -- that beginning isn't really striking me anymore.

Last week was a busy one. I spent Monday, which was the fifth anniversary of my mom's death, going along on the school's field trip to the zoo. No, it would not have been my activity of choice. Me going along meant my kindergartener could go too, so there I was. It was a long day. A georgous, sunny one I might add, so there was that.

Personally, I think these
two were cuter
than any animals we saw...

I'm not sure why the rest of the week felt so harried. Wait, maybe that was a lie. Isaac's graduation Friday night was the main focus and there were several trips to town and lots of praying over layer cakes in association with that event. I'm not sure why the whole process brought out every single insecurity in me (and there are a lot) but the whole week was just rough. I decided later that grief probably had more to do with it than I realized... sneaky old thing that runs along under the surface, waiting to sabotage your life when you least expect it!

Gathering pictures
sorta started all the tears...

I was worried about making the cakes, 
then it dawned on me that I somehow
have to get the things to the
 church in one piece!

They don't call me creative for nothing. 
They still needed some help
upon arrival but
they were in one piece. 

We would never miss
The opportunity to play a game...

These two are a pair. 
I'm glad they got to graduate together. 
They both finished twelve grades
in eleven years...

Charles could hardly contain himself watching Isaac open the gift from him!

When I finally fell into bed at 12:30 a.m. after the event was over and the remains cleaned up and toted home, I kept seeing my son standing up there in front of the crowd delivering his speech.

(The speech that he finally 
sat down and wrote a few meager
notes for about 15 minutes
before graduation...)

(The speech that his little brother 
obliviously slept through...)

I was so proud of him, so proud. At the same time? At the same time I was so humbled, so very very humbled. Maybe no one else listening that night knows it, but this mother is keenly aware that any good thing in that young man standing there Friday night comes straight from the grace of God. Only the grace of God could cover my faults and failures and shortcomings as a parent; only God could woo and call and shape in spite of, and I cry tears of thankfulness again every time I think of it.

For some mothers, their child's first day of school is the hardest thing they can imagine putting their mother heart through. For me, my oldest graduating has to be the most emotional, heart wringing event I've experienced as a mom... so far. I didn't really expect it to be that way, so who knows what will hit me next?

All these years of school have felt somewhat safe; predictable; routine. Suddenly the future is wide open and that's my child, a piece of my heart, going out there to face the world and all it's harsh, uncertain, uncharted realities. Becoming a parent and taking on the weight of responsibility for another human is a scary and sobering thing. Watching your child on the cusp of the real world and trusting them to handle the responsibility themself? That's a whole different kind of weight, in my opinion.

But, the future comes by days and hours, not years. I have no doubt the God of grace, who was able to cover so much in the past 17 years, is fully capable of handling the next ones as well.

So here's to the future and a new stage of life. Here's to my oldest who has grown into a kind, dependable, level-headed young man of integrity and character .... with a side of wit, and a dash of teasing and an insatiable love for magic and games. Here's to us moms who's hearts melt into a tangled mess of pride and humility and tears. May the Amazing Grace of our Father cover us all. Amen.

PS. This is how we all
felt over the weekend...

PPS. And this is how I feel
about this chilly morning
and my last days of peace and
quiet before summer vacation. 

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, April 22, 2019

Dear Mom

There will probably always be moments in life that bring back the shock of that early morning phone call. I lay in bed this morning and re-lived it all -- the numb, slow motion process of getting ready to leave for Arkansas; the appearance of kind friends and the sweet gifts of love; the out of body feeling of just doing the next thing. I let my mind replay planning a funeral and greeting the long, long line of visitors until my feet tingled and my smile turned plastic. I felt again the utter exhaustion and laying on the floor searching for words while my family slept and the tears flowed.

We didn't have a chance to tell you goodbye, Mom. There were no long days and weeks of lingering and pain and last words. There was no declining and watching you fade away by inches. You were here one day, and gone the next; voice vibrant and suddenly silent. Many people have commented on how hard the suddenness must have been. Quite honestly, I've always been glad that's how you could go.

The truth is, there is no 'easy' when it comes to death. There might be pros and there might be cons; there might be easier and harder, in some ways. But there is no 'easy '.

Today a friend's mom is no longer here. Her story was completely different than ours - different parts harder and easier, if you will. But as I've watched her experience unfold and allowed myself to relieve my own, I'm reminded again that death has no 'easy'.

At the same time, I'm also reminded it has no power, no victory and no permanency! It is a strange paradox of pain and rejoicing, of sweet memories and tearful goodbyes, of heart wrenching finality and joyful anticipation.

So today Mom,  I embrace all of it. I'm imagining you welcoming my friend's mom to the choir; showing her around and rejoicing that another child has come home. At the same time, I'm wiping tears and lifting my friend in prayer, because death has no 'easy' and we miss you both oh, so much.

Enjoy the sights for me, Mom. One of these days there will be no more tearful goodbyes, what a day that will be!

Love,  Bethany

"Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows ... and with His stripes we are healed." Isaiah 53:4 and 5

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

John 15

Thoughts on memorizing John 15......

15:1 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman."

These are the words I've been listening to over and over for the past month. After reading the laborious laws and rituals commanded over and over to the Children of Israel, the deep, relational words of John 15 have felt soothing to me.

15:4 "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me."

No more meticulous law keeping, no more sacrifices and offerings; I cannot produce fruit on my own. Come, says Jesus. I want a relationship with you.

15:10 "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love."

Yes, your fruit is important; I want you to follow me. But I want that fruit to be a result of our relationship, because you love me.

15:15 "Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you."

Friends. Is there any sweeter relationship than that? Friends. We tell each other everything.

15:19 "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you."

You are different; called out; special. Don't be surprised when you don't fit in. I have chosen you. You are mine, not the world's.

Abide in me, abide in me.... how I long to rest in that place as effortlessly as the branch in the vine. How I long to abide in Him and He in me, so that His fruit spills out because that's all that is in me to bring forth.

John 15 was a familiar passage but committing it to memory has made the words there richer and sweeter.

"A cup brimful of sweetness cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, no matter how suddenly jarred." ~Amy Carmichael

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Bits Of Random

I can't seem to shake the zero ambition for writing. I tried to trick myself into the mood yesterday by saying if I got my cleaning done early enough, I could write a blog post... but it didn't really work. I thought of copying a fellow blogger who pretended to sit down with her readers for a cup of coffee but that idea kinda fell flat for me too. Maybe, the best thing to do is just to sit down and write. Or maybe I will discover the best thing is actually to just shut up; we'll see.

Today is the third day of sunshine in a row; I nearly forgot such a thing was possible! The breeze is still pretty chilly but that sunshine does wonders for the soul.

It's a busy time of the year, (Wait. Is there even a time of year that isn't?) with the last couple months of school ahead and a myriad of activities, especially for the high school students. The younger ones have had all kinds of special days at school including dress up ones.


And the high school spent a night and day going to REACH; which it sounds like everyone else and their neighbor also attended. Next week they reap the fruits of all their fundraising and take a trip to Washington D.C.  And then there is Choirfest and track and field to prepare for, not to mention graduation coming up and this year we are one of the parents...

Yeah. My head feels like it's spinning too. I have a feeling we're only beginning to get a taste of this stage of parenting.

It's a good thing we still have a healthy dose of a different stage of parenting to keep us amused most days.

What? You don't all have your bookshelves labeled by in house librarians?

We even have a library sign prominently displayed on our living room wall. You should come check out the great service!

I'll never get tired of this little voice sounding out new words. He loves bringing home new "books" to read. You know he has a good kindergarten teacher when every sentence with an exclamation point has to be carefully sounded out and then repeated in a loud, excited voice because he's been taught what those marks mean! It is also very amusing.

At the same time as I am making my way through Deuteronomy and now Joshua as I read the Bible chronologically, I've also joined my girls as they begin working on their quiz passage for next year. Much to my shame, it's been years since I've memorized Bible verses! It's a little shocking to realize how hard I have to work at it compared to brains that are so much younger than mine. With 7 chapters in their passage this year, I am not making any bold promises about keeping up with them but I have really actually enjoyed the challenge of working on the first chapter.

Reading through the Bible in a year means reading chunks at a time rather rapidly. I've been enjoying that. Listening to it in the NLT version makes it feel more like listening to a good story book. At the same time, repeatedly going over the same words time and time again as I memorize has been therapuetic, like a gentle, soothing cadence.

I know I have not updated you on our foster care story lately. It is complicated. We are right at a year since taking classes and still have no license in hand. I have no doubt that God has a reason for every odd detail in this process but I confess that I have no idea what all those reasons are. I'll also confess to tears and frustration but ultimately, it's pretty clear that He is in control, not me. I only ask that He makes the way very clear that He wants us to take. Maybe you could put in a few petitions for me to that end?

I hate being vague but the subject is too personal and a blog is too public...

I should be in the kitchen right this minute, working on food for a fundraiser supper tonight. Someday, in another life, I'd like to actually enjoy being in the kitchen. At present, let's just say the words 'enjoy' and 'kitchen' don't belong in the same sentence in my mind.

How people can be so different from each other is a never failing amazement. I told Jasmine how I actually made myself breakfast the other morning and even took a picture so she could see it.

She said something like, "Oh, wasn't it just fun to create something different and delicious?!" Ummmmm. Not really. I mean, it tasted good...

I'm not sure if one can change that perspective? Maybe. Or is it like our 2+ hour conversation after a Sunday lunch where we hashed all the sides of how two members of our household think, compared to two other members. All we could really conclude was that we believed the other side but we sure couldn't imagine being that way.

This is now getting beyond bits of random. High time I shut it down before I hit delete and decide it really would be better to remain silent.

I am going to go listen to an audio book, cut up salad stuff and, as *Susan would say, "If I can't look pleasant, I'll look as pleasant as I can."

A happy day to you, and twice on Thursday!

*Susan, in 'Rilla of Ingleside'

PS. Sometimes I really wonder what I'll be like at sixty. Totally forgot that the first thing I needed to do when I got home from school was mix up a batch of sourdough bread. Then, when I was mixing it, I dutifully get the bread flour out and when I get ready to put in flour, I promptly pull out the regular flour and measure it in!

That's not all. I needed to get gas after dropping school children off at school this morning. I grab my credit card and keys and hop out of the van. As the door closes I hear this beep and the sound of the doors locking and I have this moment of sheer you've-got-to-be-kidding-me panic.... until I realize -- Oh. Yeah. I'm holding my keys.

If this is forty, send help.