Saturday, September 21, 2019

Because Of Lincoln

Nearly eighty thousand people have followed the story of little Lincoln Arrow Schrock. Two years ago, Lincoln was diagnosed with stage four Neuroblastoma at the age of three. This past Thursday, September 19, he slipped into the arms of his Jesus.

I too have followed their journey from afar. I've quietly traced the rollercoaster life they have lived. I have wept with them when they wept and rejoiced when they rejoiced. I didn't know them personally, but across the many miles from Wisconsin to Ohio, their story touched mine.

As parents, it's impossible to hear stories like Lincoln's without being impacted in some way. You can't hear about a three year old being diagnosed with cancer without looking around at your own four year old and imagining "what if". It's only natural to wonder, What would we do? How would we respond? How would something like this impact our lives? It's impossible to imagine the agony of decisions, the physical weariness, the brutal ups and downs, the intense pain of your heart.

I don't pretend to know exactly how we would handle a diagnosis like little Lincoln's. I doubt that we would do everything like Matt and Kaitlyn but I'm not here to talk about any of that. What I'm here to talk about is the most important part of any story: God's Glory.

I am in awe of the impact of Lincoln's story.

You couldn't be on social media this past week without seeing his name pop up somewhere. More than one blog has mentioned his story; many individuals have talked about his influence; a group of over two hundred moms has formed to keep each other accountable to treasure their children because of Lincoln... and more. And everywhere his name is mentioned, you hear people who have seen Jesus.  This is the part of following along with Lincoln's story that gives me goosebumps.

A three year old diagnosed with cancer and battling a monster for two long, grueling years is heartbreaking. Everything within us cries out at the unfairness; the awfulness; the anguish and sadness. I don't know a parent who wouldn't be willing to trade places, rather than watch their child go through so much pain. Nothing about such a story is pretty. It is hard, dark; something we would go to great lengths to avoid. No, nothing about it is pretty. Nothing except the beautiful redemption of Jesus.

Lincoln loved his Jesus.

Lincoln's family loved his Jesus.

The light of Jesus shone forth in every tiny detail of Lincoln's story. Not one of those eighty thousand people following his story could help but see it. That one detail takes a story with so much pain and heartache  and turns it into a beautiful one. Does that take away the pain? No. Does that make us glad for the heartache? No. But oh, the glory Jesus has received from the story of little Lincoln Arrow! I am in awe of what God can do when we hand Him our stories, ashes and all.

"Of one thing I am perfectly sure: God's story never ends with ashes."

 ~Elizabeth Elliot, These Strange Ashes

Friday, September 13, 2019

Book Recommendations

Happy Friday! I'm back with the promised post telling you about books that I recommend. Instead of four, I'm going to tell you about eight; how's that for a bonus?

Some of these books I've listened to, and some of them I have read. I now own one of them because it was that good; the rest have been returned to the library, either physically or online. Which brings me to this -- did you know you can get audio books from an 'online library'? My local library uses a free app called the Libby App; other libraries use different ones.

We have the App on all of our phones now and have listened to lots of books, at home and on trips. You can't always find what you're looking for and often you have to place a hold on a title and wait awhile but we sure have enjoyed it! 

So, without further ado....

It's been quite awhile since I read this book. I know I got it because of seeing it recommended somewhere but I can't remember where? I wasn't planning on sharing this one but this post reminded me of it. This is not my typical read. I don't like books that you have to wade through but this one was so intriguing and so good that it was worth some wading. 

This was a fun read. If you're into behind the scenes history type of stuff, you'll enjoy this book for sure. 

If you like marriage books, these are both good ones. It was summer time when I got these in on Libby, which isn't a good time to listen to books. I didn't quite get them both listened to before I needed to send them back so I have "For Women Only" on hold again.

I got this book on audio from the library a couple of years ago and it is incredible. Each of the main characters has a different reader and I honestly felt like I knew each of them personally after listening to this book. This probably isn't one you want to listen to with your children, at least not young ones. There's some language and explicit scenes that wouldn't be appropriate. I listened to it again on Libby in the past year.

These next two books are by the same author. I'm not sure which I would recommend that you read first? If you're a parent, and you only read one, I would highly recommend "Raising Grateful Kids In An Entitled World". I cannot say enough good things about this book. This is the one I decided I needed to have on my bookshelf so I could re-read it and mark it up and lend it out. I love "Rhinestone Jesus" too. It stirred me deep inside and made me wonder what would happen if we all pursued our 'God sized dreams'?

And then there is this one. Have you gotten on the ennagram bandwagon? If you're interested in the ennagram, this is the book you want to read -- in my opinion, of course. I haven't listened to all of it yet, mostly just to the numbers that describe me and my family members. We listened to some of it together as a family and it was very entertaining. When it began to vividly describe my eleven year old, she got a peculiar look on her face and protested,  "Just shut it off!!" Spoiler alert: You will find it amazing when it begins to describe your insides better than you could yourself but you prooobably won't like [at least some of] what you hear.

That's all for now.  Another time I might share some audio books we've enjoyed as a family. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

On Book Reviews

I really hate writing book reviews.

The truth is, I really hate writing when it takes a lot of work. Incidentally, that would explain why I've written so little in the past months but that's not what we're talking about. For me, writing a book review is a lot of work. 

I refuse to tell you how long these
blocks have been on my
dining room floor, 
stacked in various creations. 
I just keeping moving them to the wall
and sweeping and mopping around them. 

I love to read. As a young girl, I used to read voraciously. I almost forget how much I used to read until I watch my eleven year old and then I'm reminded. I'm a fast reader and if I start a good book, it's almost impossible to put it down until it's done. Somewhere along the line, when duties and responsibilities became a bigger part of my life, I all but stopped reading books. Occasionally I would have an all day/ late night fling where all of my other duties would suffer and time would stand still but mostly, I just didn't read.

In the last year or so, I've been trying to read more.  There's probably several reasons for that. It's partly just because I have the time and I've gotten into audio books but also because I know it's so good for my mind; so much better than the mindless other things I do instead. Most of the books I've been reading are ones I saw recommended by someone else. So, of course, you know what that made me think I should do.

I love the creativity so much. 
They're all crossing the street 
in the crosswalk....

But oh, dear me. Writing a book review is so much work! And I really hate writing when it takes a lot of work. 

Here's the thing. I am not good at taking a whole conversation with someone or a whole story or a whole book and relating it to someone else. My husband can come home from a meeting and, nearly verbatim, repeat to me what every person there said and did. I love it. But I don't have that ability. Of course, it probably goes back to the fact that I read too fast and can't remember half of it by the time I get done. I'm not sure how that corresponds to conversations but I have the same problem remembering those. 

We had a birthday girl last week...

And she got to have some
 friends over after school.
They had a little "tea party"...

A n y w a y.

There are several books I have read recently that maybe some of the rest of you would enjoy. I am not your typical 'book review' kind of person. I don't know my authors, I hate looking at books at thrift stores, I don't know genre and literary so forths and what have yous. We own very few books, especially when compared to a lot of readers that I know. Somehow I just never felt the need. I can get practically any book through our library system and if I buy it, there it will sit on a shelf after I've read it, and for what purpose? You book buyers feel free to argue with me and keep building bookshelves, I really don't mind; that's just not me. 

We've got our second
teen-age driver in the house. 
Those firsts don't really get less terrifying. 

I have at least four books I'd like to tell you about -- four books that I'm going to 'recommend'. I like that word better than 'review'. I don't think I'll even try to write reviews, as such. The very thought gives me a headache. And now that I have wasted all your time meandering around the subject, I think I'll leave my book recommendations for another day. 

Back soon!

PS. I don't know why I like sticking in random pictures that have nothing to do with the post. I hope you don't mind. 

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Why, Hello There

Last week I wrote this really eloquent post about 'opening the door to a room that's been closed for nearly two months' in which I described the 'cobwebs and dust' and the room 'trying to get me to come back' and my arguments about 'tears and heartache and stories that can't be told'. Last night I re-read the draft and thought to myself, "How silly. Why don't you just  cut out the dramatics? Why don't you just say: A lot has happened. I can't talk about it. I want to get back to blogging. Here we go."

I like that a lot better than a creepy room with dust and cobwebs and a closed door.

Here we go.

Hi. My name is Bethany Eicher. I still live in Ohio with my husband, Chris, and our five children.

Chris and I,
at Calvary Bible School
this summer, 

Here we all are,
 in front of the cabin at CBS
where Chris and I
 spent our first night together. 
I wanted to try for a better
picture but it was all
I could do to persuade
some people
to even take one...

School has begun once again and this year finds me at home alone five days of the week.

First day of school

I know. Unbelievable. Honestly? I am loving it. The quiet hours are just amazing and I feel slightly guilty every day for the amount of time I have on my hands to work on projects that have been pushed to the side for months. But I'm choosing to throw the guilt out the window and accepting each quiet day that I have as a special gift. These days could end at any time because several weeks ago we finally, finally became licensed for Foster Care.

Some day maybe I will tell you that whole story. Maybe. I'm not making any promises about anything right now. I've learned in the last six months that there are some things you just cannot write about. Sadly, I let that fact shut down my voice altogether. It's hard to be authentic and discreet; I finally convinced myself it was impossible. I'm still not sure how to make the two hold hands peacefully but I cannot stop writing. My soul has shriveled in these past months of silence and that is not what souls were meant to do.

A Fisher Price 'tag sale'...
The young entrepreneurs woke
up the next morning
to find $5 and a note saying
that daddy had bought
out the whole sale!

One of the projects I've been able to work on, in these golden, gifted days, is a dream that my mom had for years -- writing the birth story of the little mission church I was raised in in the hills of Arkansas. Ever since mom's death, we've been tossing this idea around that someone needs to write her book for her. My sister and I have finally... kinda-sorta-pretty-much... committed ourselves and it's been in that process of reading through stories and rewriting other's words that I've felt that spark again inside and I feel my soul breathing a sigh of relief.

So, here I yam. I know I don't owe any of you an apology, that all of you understand how life happens. But I have missed writing and interacting with you in this 'little room', if you will. Hopefully some of you are still hanging around to listen to my yammering and give me friendly encouragement after all this silence.

And now, it's a beautiful, glorious day outside and high time that I stepped out there and enjoyed some of it!

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!