Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, and A Giveaway!

Today my mom would be 74.

I was all set to come here this morning and write lots of sentimental stuff about what she taught me and do a giveaway in her honor, like I've done the last three years since her death. I say I was all set -- I actually wasn't in the mood. I have way too many other things that need to be done today and the words just weren't really coming. Then I discovered that some kind friend had publicly commented on Facebook about the Christmas letter I sent with my cards this year and now she had everyone curious....

After I crawled back out from under the bed, I decided - Why not?

So, here's my Christmas letter and photo for all you fine friends who didn't receive one in your mailbox. Stick around til the end, because I'm also doing a giveaway in honor of my mom's birthday today. (I'm not even gonna try to tie this all together with a pretty bow!)

         ------------------------------------------

Twas weeks before Christmas at
The House On The Hill,
When the mom of the bunch there
Sat down with a will.
The pictures had come
That she ordered with care,
"They didn't turn out!"
She was heard to despair.
"They're flimsy as flimsy,
And, oh how absurd,
The top line they nearly
Chopped off those two words!"


The husband advised her,
"Just cut off that line."
Her daughter assured her,
"Oh, they will be fine!"
The mom of the bunch there
Could hardly decide,
At last she decided
To swallow her pride.
"I'll send them, I'll send them,"
She bitterly said.
"They'll soon all be stuck in
A box 'neath the bed!"


The envelopes then were
Addressed with a flair,
Each name on the long list
Was written with care.
But then came an issue
Much worse than the first --
A card with no letter
Was really the worst! 
Supposing she skipped it?
But that would not do.
A card that was flimsy,
And no letter too?


So, shrugging her shoulders,
She picked up her pen
And sat down to write all
The news once again.
"The children are growing,
My husband is great.
This year we have traveled 
To this and that state.
We've moved to our new house,
We're happy and gay.
The Lord has sure blessed us,
What more shall I say?"


The pen hit the table,
And made a great clatter.
But no one was there to ask
What was the matter.
"Oh what a great letter.
I guess it is true,
But such a bland missive,
It just will not do!
The truth is, we're blessed, yes.
But we're also broken;
We fail and need Jesus
And I am not jokin'."


Who cares about houses,
How much the kids grew?
Who cares where we've traveled
And what all we do?
While husbands are great,
Who cares about mine?
It's really enough that
He makes MY eyes shine.
Who cares whether pictures
Are really just right,
And letters are written 
All cheery and bright?


In all of the gloss and
The glare of this season,
Don't ever forget that
He came for one reason.
To a world that is broken, 
He came to restore.
To bind and redeem
And give life evermore.
Perfect cards, gifts and letters
All take second place,
To the best gift of all --
Sinners, saved by Grace.


Then the mom of the bunch there,
She laid down her pen.
And she sighed a great sigh
As she took it again --
"Flimsy pictures aside,
May your day be quite bright.
Merry Christmas to all,
And to all a goodnight!"

(This proves that the words weren't almost cut off on the original pic! ☺)

--------------------------------------------
And now, the giveaway. Several weeks ago I did a review for Dorcas Smucker's newest book, 'Fragrant Whiffs Of Joy'. I still have a copy left to give away! If you'd like to join me in remembering my mom, leave a comment telling me one thing your mother taught you and your name will be entered to win 'Fragrant Whiffs Of Joy' and, depending what mood I'm in, any other goodies I can stuff in the envelope 😉

Saturday, December 9, 2017

In Which Bethany Is Interviewed And We Peek Into Her Week

Good morning to you all on this sunny, Saturday morning in Ohio! About My Father's Business here, reporting on Bethany Eicher's week. Hi Bethany, we're all waiting to hear about your week, how did it go? Did you find it impossible to be cranky if you were actively trying to make others happy?

B: Good morning! Wellllll, I would say there is a lot of truth to the statement but I don't know if I accomplished it completely last week.

AMFB: So you're saying you still had some cranky moments?

B: I'm not going to comment on that, except to say I did find that what you're focusing on really does make a difference.

AMFB: And how did you come to that conclusion?

B: Well, I would say it really did make a difference in my week to have the idea of making others happy at the front of my mind. Even when I wasn't necessarily doing something specific for someone else, my focus was different.

AMFB: Interesting. So did you do a lot of specific things for other people last week?

B: Yes and no.

AMFB: Yes and no? Can we get a little more specific with that?

B: Well, it was a very ordinary week. I didn't do a lot of specific things for people outside my four walls at home. I guess I kinda decided if this is going to change me it's going to have to work at home, you know what I mean? I can't just be coming up with a bunch of unusual projects for other people, if that makes sense.

AMFB: Yes it does, I like that. So you're saying you chose to focus on the people closest to you? How did that look?

B: Pretty normal, actually.

AMFB: Ok, so not a lot of fancy tea parties or special activities? What did you do exactly?

B: Well, I read more stories; I played some games. We had some special snacks - like I made cinnamon rolls one day, just for anyhow (which is very unusual!) We got out the ice cream and chocolate syrup one night for a snack before bed, little stuff like that. 

AMFB: So maybe you could say it was more paying attention to the little things than it was actually doing lots of extra specific things to make people happy?

B: Yes, exactly! I found myself viewing everything I did in a different light. Like I looked at the things I needed to do as doing them to make my family happy, instead of just jobs that had to be done - poor me. Two of my girls needed dresses for programs, I let the children choose the supper menus for the week, baking cookies for lunches... things that needed to be done but I looked at them as ways to make my people happy, and it made such a difference in my focus!

AMFB: So basically you're saying that you didn't look for all kinds of extra things to do to make people happy, you just focused on how the things you needed to do would make people happy and that changed your attitude in the process?

B: Yes! Yes, I would say that is what happened.

AMFB: That's awesome! Did that carry over into things you needed to do for people outside your family, as well?

B: Yes, I would say so. We had the opportunity to host my son's friend for several days last week while his parents were gone, umm, I helped give two Christmas programs with our church choir - one at a church on Sunday evening and one at a hospice Christmas service another evening, I worked on Christmas mail, we invited friends over one evening. I know I looked at all those things differently because I was thinking about 'actively making other people happy'.

AMFB: Made it 'impossible to be cranky', hu?

B: Ha ha, I guess you could say that. I didn't do it perfectly, of course, but there's no question that it made a difference!

AMFB: That's great! I really love the idea that it's not about doing all kinds of extra big things for others - cause, I mean, we can't always be doing that! But that it was more looking at the daily things in a different light.

B: Right. Of course, it always helps to throw in a few extra things just purely because you know it will make people happy...

AMFB: Sure! That keeps it exciting.

B: Exactly. But that's not really what's going to hold you up through the long haul. I mean there's a lot of daily-ness that just has to be done every week; no amount of coming up with exciting ways to make people happy is going to change that! 

AMFB: Yes! That's why changing our focus on those things is so key!

B: Absolutely. 

AMFB: Thank you so much for sharing, Bethany! This has been very interesting and, hopefully, helpful for someone else out there today. 

That's all we have to share today! As always, we'd love to hear what you're thinking or maybe you have something to share about your week of actively making others happy? Feel free to tell us in the comments! 

Have a great weekend.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Some Fun For January

I feel like I've been doing a lot of whining on here lately. How about we talk about something a little more fun for a change?

For the past several years I have done a series of posts in the month of January. If you're new here, you can find a list of them on the upper left hand side of my blog. This year I have not felt led to do a series. I kept waiting and listening but I just never felt anything laid on my heart.

This morning I was baking cookies and my mind was wandering hither and yon. I really wanted to do something fun/different in January and this brainstorm suddenly popped into my head: What if I would do Q & A posts in the month of January? Does that sound weird?

It sounds a little weird to me, too, but maybe kind of fun?

The questions could be anything from a list of random things you'd like to know about me to a question about my faith. You could ask for a tutorial for anything from sewing to making our favorite cookies. You could ask for a post about a certain topic or a story from my past. If your question is too hard, I'll do my best or than be honest and say I don't know. If there's too many on theology, I'll have Chris do a lot of guest posts ☺

Interested?

If I don't get any questions, I'll take the month of January off. Wait, did that sound like a threat?

So. Anything you've ever wanted to know about me or hear about, send an email my way at christopherbethany@juno.com. I'm not sure if I'm being brave or crazy but let's have fun. The more creative, the better.

      ---------------------------------------

PS. Can I count this for actively making others happy?

Friday, December 1, 2017

I Am A Woman

I'm pretending to be sitting in my room folding this pile of laundry.


The laundry is a good ploy. It keeps people from bothering me - they don't want to take the risk of getting put to work, see. Rather clever of me.

What I'm really doing in here, is trying to decide whether I should bother with a blog post this week. And, if I do, should I take the easy route and grab some pictures and some chatter and call it an update? Or should I try to come up with some insight into something that would encourage and inspire? I wonder, is there something somewhere between the two of those? Because neither one of them is really grabbing me.

If you are ever near Cambridge, Ohio during the Christmas season, check it out. It's worth it.

I am an odd woman.

Some days my husband looks at me, with humor in his eyes, and says, "Are you sure you're really a woman?" I mean, what real woman never had big dreams for her wedding day, has to be told to spend money when she shops, has zero bottles of perfume (I was going to lie and say 'has one old bottle of perfume' but I felt convicted), and likes to pack as little as possible for trips?

Finding boxes of old pictures 
is so entertaining!

Other days he looks at me and rolls his eyes and says, "You're a woman."

Those are the days when I am in an impossible funk. The days when everything weighs me down and there's not even a good reason. When I hold my husband at arms length and snap at my children and I'm tired and probably I'm depressed. What if I am? What if, really, I need help? What if I'm going off the deep end and I never even realize it but just keep plodding along in this hopeless, everlasting, pointless life? Probably, after all, it's because I should pray more. People who read their Bible every day probably don't ever feel this way and really, I wonder if I am even a Christian and, oh my goodness, what IS wrong with me? Probably it's some deep, dark, something from my past that I've never dealt with. Supposing it is?

On just such a day as this, when I felt sure that my marriage needed fixing (although three days prior I was sure I had the best marriage in the world) and I couldn't think of anything to make for supper (again) and I didn't even feel like going out to eat with my husband (sure sign of deep problems). On just such a day as that, I got told what my problem was.

This picture makes me smile,
every time.

Have you ever had someone shoot straight with you and tell you what your problem is? I wonder if you liked it? Did you say sweetly, "Why yes Dear, you are right! Thank you so much for telling me."?

I confess, I did not. I confess that I said instead, "I don't think I want to go out to eat with you."

But then a funny thing happened. After some thought I realized something, and this is what I said, "I'm actually relieved to be told my problem. I was sure it was something much more complicated and hard to understand. I think I might actually be able to deal with this 😉" You wanna know what my problem was - according to my straight shooter? 

"Focusing on Bethany Eicher."

And he (It was Chris. You had no idea, right?) added to that this nugget: "It's impossible to be cranky if you are actively trying to make others happy."

Ouch.

I think God was actively trying to make me happy this morning with His
beautiful handiwork!

So, here's the deal. This next week I'm going to focus on actively trying to make others happy. Next Friday I'm going to report back how it went. Anybody else have my problem and want to work on this with me? It's always better to work on things together.

And now, the laundry.

       --------------------------------------

Excuse the over use of parenthesis in this post. And please, don't get all concerned that I really might be going off the deep end, because I'm quite sure I'm not (today, anyway). (I mean, today I'm quite sure.) Bother. Also, you do know you are responsible to keep me accountable this next week, correct?

That is all.

Friday, November 24, 2017

A Winner + A Few Random Pics

I had such fun reading all the things y'all have been saying 'yes' to! I always have this compulsion to answer every comment on my blog. This time I disciplined myself and stayed out of the comment section so it would be easier to choose a winner but I read every one and enjoyed them immensely.

My eight year old's contribution to
 my wall decor; her thankful list.

And now, what you've been waiting for: the winner of  "Fragrant Whiffs Of Joy" is comment number 30. "Fixing a special snack for the children to eat outside on this lovely day. Rosa"

Congratulations, Rosa! I will be in contact soon and get your book sent your way.


It's a beautiful, sunshiny day in Ohio. I have piles of laundry and a messy, dirty house to attend to. Most of my help went off to the tire shop this morning to help with their busy black Friday, so I'm preparing to tackle the mess myself. The sunshine is helping.


Happy weekend to you and yours. When you feel like you should be doing more, being more, accomplishing more, remember that the key is being willing to serve. May you find joy in even the smallest opportunities to say yes to serving ...for Him!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Book Review and Giveaway: Fragrant Whiffs Of Joy

I've been in a bit of a funk lately. Deep in my heart I've felt restless, wondering what my purpose is right here, right now. In the midst of it all, God's been silent. Well, maybe not exactly silent but He's been awfully, awfully quiet. Or, maybe if I'm really honest it's more that He keeps insisting on speaking a language that I don't want to hear. Multiple times in the past several months He has impressed on me that His big picture is so much bigger and different than mine.

Still, I find myself turning right around and looking at my life through my tiny little magnifying glass, seeing only the ugly little spot that it magnifies. Actually, maybe it's not even so much ugly, as it is boring.

"What do you want me to be doing these days, God?" I keep asking. "It feels like we're just sitting here, waiting for something. What is it?"

In the vast silence that follows, life goes on -- Dirty laundry piles up, hungry people expect food, bathrooms don't stay clean, sign up sheets at church need my name on them, obligations keep us busy.... and I offer to do things, like write a book review on my blog.

I am well known for saying I will do things and bemoaning the fact later. In the moment I always think of every reason to say yes. Incidentally, most of those reasons revolve around the idea that I should, more than that I want to. That is another subject for another day. Let's just say it is a trait that can be both good and detrimental.

So, anyway. A while back I offered to write a book review and host a giveaway on my blog for Dorcas Smucker's new book "Fragrant Whiffs Of Joy". I've written reviews for her last two books and giveaways are always fun, plus - I get a free book in the process, why not? But there is something about being in a funk that affects every other area of your life! The closer the time came to write the review, the less I felt like doing it.

Part of the problem was that I didn't actually have the book in my hand. Due to shipping complications, the books wouldn't be arriving until shortly before my day to post; I had a PDF copy to read but it's just different then holding a book in your hand. Added to that is the fact that this book is being reviewed by a whole line of bloggers on a "blog tour" and I am way down the line, which means every day I'm reading everyone else's creative descriptions of Dorcas Smucker's wonderful writing abilities. I like to be creative and original and there just wasn't much of that left.

The biggest part of the problem, though, was the whole God being so quiet thing. Why wasn't He talking to me lately? Or was He talking and I just wasn't hearing? Why did I keep coming back around to this same frustration when I had seen so clearly how He works in big pictures? And of all things, why had I agreed to write this crazy book review? Such a dumb little thing but oh, how it bugged me.

Wednesday I shook myself out of my funk and cleaned my bathroom, made granola and straightened up the house. Before it was time to pick up school children, I carried the trash out and made the trek down the hill to check the mail. There, lo and behold, was my package of books; one for me, one for my giveaway and one for me to do what I liked with.


I hurried back up the hill and checked my granola. With one eye on the clock, I flipped a book open and scanned down quickly over the page. I ended up reading the whole chapter and then I stood there with tears welling up in my eyes.


"... our kids have learned that you can have all kinds of new experiences, learn things you never knew, and even get a taste of wildness right where you are, in your daily dutiful life.

The key is in being willing to serve.

... you don't have to go to the corners of the world for interesting things to happen. Sometimes they're right in front of you and you don't realize it...

.... If you open your life to opportunities to serve, you never stop learning, and you never know what will happen next."

The whole chapter was basically God underlining exactly what He had been saying all along.

Tears spilled down my cheeks as I turned off the oven and grabbed my keys. Pausing in my dash out the door to grab my jacket and four year old son, my heart sobbed, "How do you do that, God? How do line everything up in an instant and speak straight to my heart in the most unexpected ways? Thank you, thank you!"

It's an odd book review, if you can even call it that, but God insists on speaking in ways that I never thought of so I think I'll go with taking a page out of His book this time.

Dorcas Smucker is a Mennonite pastor's wife and a mother of six who lives in a farmhouse in Oregon's Willamette Valley. She has written a newspaper column for 17 years and is the author of six books. In each chapter of these books you will find a monthly slice from Dorcas' life, originally published in the Eugene, Oregon 'Register-Guard'.

Dorcas' writing is always an inspiration. She has a unique ability to not only take note of the stories in the daily-ness of life, but to turn them into colorful, relatable life lessons. I love her descriptions and her candid, honest take on life.

"Fragrant Whiffs Of Joy" can be ordered directly through Dorcas Smucker at 31148 Substation Drive, Harrisburg, Oregon 97446. Books are $12 each plus $2 postage. Checks or PayPal accepted. It is also available on Amazon. If you have questions, contact Dorcas at dorcassmucker@gmail.com.

Before you run off an order yourself a copy, there's a chance you could get one for free (without even writing a review!) All you have to do is leave a comment telling me what small opportunity to serve you have said yes to lately. It doesn't have to be anything big or fancy -- it can be as simple as a yes to your toddler who begged for a story in the middle of your busy day. Mine would be saying yes to the idea of giving away a couple plates of cookies one day this week.

One week from today, November 24, I will draw a winner and send them their autographed copy of "Fragrant Whiffs Of Joy".

Ready, set, go........

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Tale Of The New Girl On The Block

To Whom It May Concern: This story has no great moral or lesson. It is written love in heart and twinkle in eye.

Carry On.

-------------------------------------------------------------

There once was a girl born in the hills and the sticks of the South. Her world was a happy, secure one, full of family and friends and close community.

The girl resided in a modest, two-story white house; the only home she knew. Her family attended a small, country church where the fellowship was rich and the sense of belonging strong. Her parents were pioneers in the little mission church; forerunners in it's history, position and story. She knew everyone, everyone knew her.

This was her world.

Years passed and the girl grew up. Opportunities came along the way to gain glimpses outside of her world -- attending Bible school, a year in voluntary service... Always, there was the safety of home to return to.

In the process of time, the young lady met and married a young man. This man chose to join her in her close knit world and they lived happily there, starting their own family and finding their own niche. Time had a way of bringing changes to the woman's community but it was still home; she knew and was known by the history and life of the place.

More years passed and the circumstances in life pointed the little family in a different direction. The woman now found herself in the hills and the sticks of the North (contrary to popular thought, there is such a thing), surrounded by the people and the places that were once her husband's world.

The people were friendly and kind and welcoming. The woman was not a complete stranger but here, there was no history; here, she was Christopher's Wife. Where once the activities of community were as natural as breathing, here they were a constant reminder of not knowing....

Here, you didn't take care of your own food for the fellowship dinner.

Here, there was no quilting on the first Thursday of the month but The Sewing on the second Tuesday.

Here, the ministers had an Opening before the message and Took Counsel at member's meetings.

Here, you heard what people said and had no history to filter it through.

Here, you did not know and you were not known by the history and life of the place.

Here, you joined Christmas program practice and learned all new songs while the rest brushed up on the fruits of years of practice.....

So it was, that six years later the woman found herself standing, once again, amidst this group of singers one night thinking sarcastic thoughts and feeling as foreign as the day she had entered this world. A wave of sadness washed over her as she stood amongst the friendly, smiling people who told her they were happy she was there.

You see, she knew what it was like to be them; the fun, secure place it was to be -- to know all the memories, to share all the history, for all of it to be as familiar as the air you breathe. While the sarcastic thoughts danced through her mind, in her heart she could hold no resentment towards these people; reality is simply a part of life.

Could they have stopped to think a little more what it was like for the newer people in their group? Probably. Was there really anything they could do to erase her wave of sadness? No. Had she done the same thing to countless people in her own life? Definitely. Was it worth being sarcastic and annoyed and never coming back? Doubtful.

So, the woman went her way, pondering these things. And when she had filled her husband's ears and he had laughed heartily (as she knew he would) and said things like "Dose of your own medicine" and "I told you so" (as she knew he would), she picked up her music folder and changed the subject.