Tuesday, November 25, 2014

He Gives Me Joy

This song has been running through my mind. Just hearing it takes me back to the side of my Mom's grave where my sister had copies of it passed amongst the crowd so we could surprise my dad and sing it because she knew it was a favorite of his. It speaks to me of my Dad's unshakeable Faith in a God who is Good no matter what. And it speaks to me of the beauty for ashes that God promises to bring.......

He gives me Joy --- Joy --- Joy
He gives me Peace --- Peace --- Peace
I sing His praise and a hundred
Million angels start singing.
He talks to me and the freedom bells
Of my soul start to ringing.
He gives me Joy
In the morning.
And gentle Peace
In the evening.
I sing His praise and all Heaven
Plays a sweet orchestration.
He speaks to me and my heart strings
Play a song of jubilation.
He gives me Joy
In the morning.
And gentle Peace
In the evening.
He gives me Joy like I never knew,
He's been my friend,
He is always true.
He's been my strength,
He helps me make it through,
He gives me Joy.
He gives me Joy
In the morning.
And gentle Peace
In the evening.
He gives me Joy --- Joy --- Joy
He gives me Peace --- Peace --- Peace
He gives me Joy.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Rest In Peace

It's one of those mornings when it feels impossible to start my day without writing. But when I sit down and try to string words together, it feels impossible to write.

Simply put, I am in Ohio; I want to be in Arkansas. There is someone staying at my house this week, there is Thanksgiving to plan for and more company coming this week; I want to be hugging my family members and being a part of the graveside service for my baby niece.

Saturday morning my brother, Mark, and I left for Arkansas with plans to meet our sister, Lisa, in Columbus. Before we reached Columbus, we hit dangerously icy roads! After sitting in stopped traffic and debating our options, we finally turned around and went back home without ever meeting up with each other. An hour after we were home, we got the call that baby Rosanna had passed away. There were too many conflicts in schedules to climb back in the car and try again, and it seemed clear that home was the place to be.....until yesterday morning, when it would have been easy to doubt the clearness....

So, here I am.

I have no tidy ending. No special inspirations or explanations or declarations. But I guess that's what Faith is, and without Faith it is impossible to please Him. So I guess He has me right where He wants me!

Rest In Peace Baby Rosanna.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Winner....and A Surprise!

Giveaways are so much fun! The most fun for this writer, of course, is seeing comment after comment come flying in :) I explained the whole deal to my oldest daughter and she joined in the fun - "How many do you have now, mom??"

I ended up with 49 in the drawing, which means there will be 48 disappointed people today. But, sadly, that's the way giveaways are! You're always more than welcome to check out Amazon or send a check to Dorcas Smucker and get a book for yourself, of course :)

Jasmine drew the lucky number this morning which was commenter # 19 -- joyfully83@yahoo.com Congratulations! I'll send you an email and you can get me your mailing info and your copy of Footprints On The Ceiling will be on it's merry way!

And now for the surprise..... I'm always a little amazed at how many people come out of the woodwork for a giveaway (granted, I know not nearly all of you read my blog regularly). Still, I happen to be able to check statistics a bit and I know very well that only a tiny margin of my readers comment! I tell myself that's ok, that's not why I write - I write because a) I told the Lord I would use the gift He gave me and b) Its the way I process life. I know many people say "I don't want to comment and who knows who all will read it!!" I'm tempted to tell them "Oh my goodness!! I never thought of that! I think I'll stop blogging pronto." But since I'm not the mean kind, instead I'd like to tell all of you who don't want the world to see -- email me personally any time!! You have no idea how encouraging it is to hear what people thought when they read something you wrote! Ok, I got a bit carried away there :) If you don't feel led to comment or send an email I'll love you anyway....and keep on writing. Don't think I could stop if I tried, actually!

That wasn't the surprise, by the way. The surprise is this: I'm going to give away another copy of Footprints On The Ceiling to a certain group of people! I went through the comments and took out all the people who have ever commented on my blog. I wrote all 8 names on slips of paper, folded them up, put them in a cup and drew out ........ Tina!!!!! Which is fitting. She is one of my most faithful commenters and I appreciate that so very much! (Oh, and she has a Birthday coming up :) )

Thank you to all of you for making this so much fun! Have a Happy Thanksgiving, a Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Dear Baby Rosanna,

Monday morning, November 17, as you were sleeping peacefully, tucked in the safe cocoon inside your mamma, I looked at the chalkboard on my wall and wondered, "What shall I write on it?" A phrase from a Bible verse came to my mind, so I decided to write it down. "There is no fear in Love" I wrote, carefully shading the word 'fear' in block letters and scrolling out the word 'Love' in graceful curves.

I had been waiting to hear news of your birth for 2 1/2 long weeks past your due date, Baby dear, and I read your mamma's email that day and breathed a prayer yet again when I heard they would be going to the Dr for an ultrasound to see if everything was ok in your safe haven. When the phone call came from Kristine saying the Dr wanted you born by C-section because of your sideways position, I was happy to hear that at least the waiting would be over soon and you would be here at last!

Then came the text Monday evening letting us know you were here, and those words that sent the fear shooting into our hearts, "the baby is stable but there are some abnormalities."

Oh Sweet Baby! It felt like a mean trick coming on the heels of a hard summer dealing with the adjustments of your Grandma passing away! I lay in bed that night, fighting the questions and the fear. Wouldn't a sweet, new baby have been such a healing thing for everyone? Why? What could possibly be good about this, yet too?

Tuesday morning my chalkboard stared at me as I went about my work, "There is no fear in love....there is no fear in love...." If someone is Love, Rosanna, there can't really be anything to fear in them, can there? Did I believe God was Love? I thought I did! But this? How could this be Love?

Babies are miracles, did you know that Rosanna? "At conception 23 chromosomes from the father combine with 23 chromosomes from the mother to create a baby with a set of 46 chromosomes in each cell". Amazing. That sounds like Love to me! Such intricate, detailed, careful design to form a perfect, sweet little baby. That sounds like the work of a Creator Father who is Love.

But what if that isn't the only way Love looks? Is Love only Love when it looks the way I think it should?

I looked at my chalkboard last night, Sweet Baby. "There is no fear in love" it said, and I made a choice. I chose to believe that God *IS* Love. With that choice came the realization that a baby carefully chosen to have 3 #18 chromosomes in each cell instead of the normal 2 is just as intricately and delicately designed in every detail as one who has the usual number. This, too, is the work of a Creator Father who is Love.

Dear Sweet Little Rosanna, I don't pretend to understand why God chose you to be this particular version of His Love. I freely admit it isn't the version your mamma and daddy and siblings...or any of us...would have chosen. But there isn't a doubt in my mind that you were carefully and delicately designed to be just who you are just for us and I lift my hands to a Creator Father who *IS* Love!

I don't know how many days you will have here, Sweet Baby. I saw your picture yesterday and all I could think was "She is Precious!" I know that none of us really knows what Heaven is like and that a lot of our imaginings are probably not the way it will really be. Still, it makes me smile to imagine both of your Grandmas waiting for you up there, just aching to get their hands on you as you come through those pearly gates! So, whether I meet you here or over there, know that you are loved by many and Created special by a Father who is Love.

With Love,
Auntie Bethany

Please pray for my brother, Carl, his wife, Joy, and their 5 children as they bring their baby home today and journey through these first...and last...days with baby Rosanna. Thank you friends!

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Mystery Supper

I am like my mom in many ways, one of them being this: I get these big, creative brainstorms and then, for one reason or another, they never get carried out.

It all started with the School Auction. We have one here every year, see, and this year I was determined to contribute more than just food for the bake sale. (We won't go into the reasons behind that, that's another subject entirely!) A hot item at the auction in years past has been suppers - Thai Suppers, Hog Roasts, Barn Parties.....you name it!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - I am not a cook. Cooking, especially for other people, gives me a bellyache. It stresses me, haunts me, torments me and makes me change my mind everytime I think we should have someone over. I wish I wasn't like that. I dream of being the spontanious, jolly, relaxed hostess, but there it is. I am not a cook.

So, sell a supper at the school auction? Out of the question. Period.

But, I have this creative, brainstorming mind that comes up with ideas and says them and gets me into impossible situations. See, what they should do is get the school children involved more in this stuff for the school auction. In fact, you know what would be really great? Sell a supper and have some of the children help serve it.... a Daffy supper or a Mystery supper...there you go! There's 6 girls in Jasmine's grade, we should have them help us serve a mystery supper! The idea flew out of my mouth and that's what got me in trouble - Chris got a hold of it, and *liked* it.

Not only did Chris latch on to the idea, he built on it - what we really should do is TWO Mystery suppers. One with the 5th grade girls and one with the 7th grade boys! I listened with alarm to his ideas and, in typical "Bethany" fashion, started back pedaling as hard as I could. No way! Are you crazy? Do you know how much work that would be?? Sell 24 tickets for each supper, are you out of your mind???

I'll spare you the details, but at the last possible minute the phone calls got made and the information given to the auction committee and we were committed: One Mystery Supper for 24 served by the 5th grade girls; One Mystery Supper for 24 served by the 7th grade boys served back to back evenings in November. The man in charge said it better than I could have when we told him, "Either you're really brave or a little bit crazy!"

I'll skip the gory details - the nights laying in bed going over details in my mind, the lists and lists, the frustration between husband and wife that may or may not have had something to do with my recent "10 things I know about marriage" post....... Wait. I said I would skip that part (trust me, that's a drop in the bucket)!

We ended up selling only half of the tickets, so we decided to combine the two suppers and do it all one evening. Thankfully, it suited everyone for Saturday, November 15 so Saturday, November 15 it was! And, guess what? We survived! It was even actually kinda...how can I say this.... I would have to say, if I'm honest, that I'm glad we did it and yes, it was actually kinda fun!

Chris was the Chef, I was the decorator. I made some of the food, yes, but he was in charge of all that. We did a slight twist on the Mystery Supper idea and mixed two different meals on our menu - a picnic meal and a formal meal. They had to choose between two clues for each item and the goal was to try to see how close they could get to a whole meal from one menu.

We used the church basement and had all 12 students come for the afternoon to help set up, decorate and play. They also planned two skits to do, one by the boys and one by the girls. If you've ever helped with a Mystery Supper, you know it got a little wild in the kitchen with 12 servers ages 10-12!! But we got it done and I think they all had fun doing it.

We all crashed into chairs when we got home Saturday night, exhausted, relieved and too tired to lift a finger. Except me. I proved that I'm like mom in yet one more way - I put practically everything away before crashing!

And that is the end of the story. Except the part about having a terrible sore throat and a stiff shoulder/neck and Charles keeping me awake for nearly 3 hours during the night which resulted in Chris waking me up at 10 til 9 Sunday morning and me and the littles staying home from church...where they were having communion, no less.....but we won't go into that, y'all don't have to know everything!!

PS. I'm curious how many of you noticed the mis-spelled word in the picture? Saturday night, after I finally crashed into a chair, I was showing pictures to Jennifer and Lillian and I suddenly noticed it!! All I could do was laugh. One of the girls had strung my banner for me and I never noticed and no one said anything about it!! Oh well. All's well that ends well.

The End

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Book Review and a Giveaway!

Some of you may remember that back in June I asked several people to share their "How We Met" stories on my blog. One of those people who shared their story was Dorcas Smucker. It just so happened, that June was also the month Dorcas was in the process of compiling articles from her monthly column in their local paper, "The Register-Guard", into a new book. One day on her blog she requested assistance in coming up with a book title. She received a number of creative comments with title ideas. Several days later, she linked to the "How We Met" story I was sharing on my blog and a reader commented, "I enjoyed your story! You must share it in your next book so that you can use the title 'In the Warehouse there are Footprints on the Ceiling'...."

I guess I wasn't the only one who loved that idea, because here I am, ready to tell you all about Dorcas' latest book "Footprints On The Ceiling" and to offer you a chance at a free, signed copy!

I consider Dorcas to be a master in the art of story telling. I have enjoyed reading her blog Life In The Shoe for quite some time, and thoroughly enjoyed my copy of her book "Tea and Trouble Brewing" which I reviewed two years ago on my blog. Recently I purchased her other 3 books - "Ordinary Days", "Upstairs the Pheasants are Revolting", and "Downstairs the Queen is Knitting". As I read them, I marvelled at all the hilarious and fascinating things her children did and said. "How can so many things all happen to one family" I wondered?! In the days that followed, as I went about my activities and listened to my own children, the secret suddenly dawned on me - it wasn't that so many more interesting things happened to Dorcas and her family. No, the secret was that Dorcas has a gift for taking notice!

"Footprints on the Ceiling" is another delightful book full of all the little happenings Dorcas stopped and took notice of as her children became young adults and she entered her 50s. While many of us would know we love to pick blackberries, only those with a gift for "noticing" would realize how this simple activity brought out all the traits of our mother in us! Many of us might also find ourselves in the situation of frantically trying to fix our teen-agers mistakes, but not all of us would take note of the lessons God might be teaching us on trust and quietness.

One of the unique things for me about "Footprints on the Ceiling" was the fact that, because I follow Dorcas' blog, I had already read a number of the chapter in her new book. This fact didn't take away from my enjoyment of the stories. In fact, I have to say, my favorite chapter "The Right Way to Tell a Story" brought just as many smiles and chuckles the second time around and "Writing the Family Stories" produced the same lump in the throat and misty eyes as it did before!

Footprints on the Ceiling is available for $15 per book, postage included. You can mail a check to Dorcas Smucker, 31148 Substation Drive, Harrisburg, OR 97446. US addresses only. To send a copy to Canada or overseas, email Dorcas at dorcassmucker@gmail.com. The book is also available on Amazon here. OR, leave me a comment either here, on facebook or via email and you just might get a free, signed copy! One week from today I will compile the comments and randomly draw a winner, so please leave your name and email address so I can contact you and send you your book!

Dorcas' stories have inspired me to take notice of the everyday happening in my own life. Sometimes motherhood feels hectic and busy or mundane and boring! In truth, it's a special job full of happenings just waiting to inspire, amuse, teach and humble us, and maybe even others, if we take the time to stop and take note.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

10 Things I Know About Marriage

1) It is quite possible to write about submission for 31 days and months later suddenly realize you are completely missing the point!

2) No matter how wonderful your relationship might be, there are places along the way when love is simply a choice one makes.

3) Selfish people cannot have a happy marriage.

4) Were it not for Jesus, all marriages would almost certainly end in divorce!

5) If the enemy can destroy your marriage, he pretty well has your kids wrapped up too. This isn't about the tangible, this is spiritual warfare. Get mad in the right direction!

6) Sometimes having a friend you can confide in who shoots straight with you, yet totally understand, is truly Jesus in skin!

7) There is no "he is the bad one / I am the bad one", we are both sinners, saved by grace, trying to make life work.

8) If you focus on all the negatives, they grow!

9) Whether your spouse is in the wrong or not, you can't change them. But you can make both of you miserable trying!

10) You can change yourself and your attitude. It's not about "fair", hard as that is to accept.

What do you know about marriage?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Family Ties

When Chris called me Monday at noon and wondered if I could be ready to go by 3:00 I wasn't sure how I felt. We'd been throwing ideas around about going to IN for my Aunt's funeral, but suddenly I wasn't so sure I really wanted to be gone for two days and nights all by myself! "I think you should," he said. "That way you don't have to worry about anyone else. You can just enjoy being with everyone and talking to people you haven't seen for years."

So, I went! I scrambled around finishing up laundry, packing my bags, writing down things for Jasmine to remember/do....my school children had no idea mom would be gone when they came home that evening! Chris and I met my dad halfway between OH and IN and I left my mom/wife life behind and entered single/daughter mode as we drove along toward IN and two days away from my family.

Have I mentioned before that I am married to a very wise man? I am. It was amazing to spend time with my sisters and dad and relatives without needing to worry about anybody else! I went off to brunch with cousins and shopping with sisters and standing around talking at the viewing and late night ice cream without needing to think about a.n.y.b.o.d.y. but me. Only you moms can understand how very strange that felt! No tired, cranky little children or bored big children. No feeling guilty about the husband who was tired of meeting strangers and keeping track of children an hour ago. No trying to settle babies in strange beds and allowing enough time to get everyone dressed in the morning.....

My mom and dad both grew up in IN. When their oldest was 3 and their second born only a couple of months old, they moved to a tiny mission church in AR. I grew up far, far away from grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and cousins, and back when I was little, making a trip to IN was a lot bigger thing than it is now. Often, our family would spend a week there in the summer time, not because we were taking a fancy vacation, but so my dad could work while we were there to pay for the trip! So, while I have good memories with cousins and family, I never felt like I knew many of them well and as we grew up and married our connections became even looser.

There's something about getting older that makes you look at those family ties in a different light. Something that makes you want them a little more, appreciate them a little more, value them a little more deeply. Tuesday night after the viewing all of the girl cousins and in-law ladies congregated in the back room at "Honey's", a little ice cream shop with more flavors and toppings than you can imagine. We all drew up chairs and talked and laughed and ate ice cream. We went around the circle and each shared a little about our lives. There was a wide variety of ladies in that circle - nurses, teachers, stay-at-home moms, work-a-day-job moms, home-school moms, curriculum writers and more. We looked different from each other, we grew up in different settings, we liked different things, held to different ideas...we were about as varied as the many ice cream toppings we had just debated over! But as we sat in the circle and talked and laughed and nodded and asked questions, the differences shrank into the background and we shared the common thread of women living normal lives all with a tie to the Mose and Katie Gingerich gene pool.

Wednesday as I sat in the funeral service and stood at the gravesite I felt that strong, family tie again. Not so very long ago it was the grandparents in the front row, laying their spouse to rest. Now, our parents are the front row and we cousins are standing in back with our youngsters. Life is so short! Not so long ago Aunt Fran was a woman like us in that circle Tuesday night. As I sat in the service, with tears streaming down, I was convinced once again that there is a God, and He does make a difference! If Aunt Fran could live with the reality of M.S. for 25 years and leave behind the testimony of acceptance and cheer and strength that she did, there is a God, and she knew Him. Not only that, but life is short - all of us are swiftly moving up to that front line! Am I gonna let God make a difference for me?

It's good to be home, to hug little people and catch up on the news and crawl into my very own bed and return to mom/wife mode. But I'm glad I had the chance to view the family ties in a new light, to feel that deep appreciation and value for what was and, with God's help, to pass it on to the row coming behind!

Ps I discovered I have a crowd of lurking relatives who read my stuff! I thought maybe a picture might jar them out of the shadows :)