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.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Down Memory Lane: Quilting, Hymn Sings and Nostalgia

In my experience, quilting is a sure time for the mind to wander; at least if you're quilting alone. If there is more than one of you on the job, quilting is a sure time for chatting. Or, it can be a great time to go through the old tape closet and listen to every single cassette down the long line. I have great memories of doing that with my sister on cozy afternoons by the quilt -- singing along; starting on the next song before it came on because we knew them all by heart; shputting the wanna be bass (the dutch "shputting" sounds nicer somehow than "making fun").


Today I was sitting at my quilt alone, no sister to go through the old tapes -- although, goodness knows, we have quite a few. My little school time buddy was spending the day at grandpa's because he's spoiled (and I'm spoiled and grandpa's are spoiled), so I'd been spending the day in delicious, selfish projects: finishing a book, practicing choir music and now, quilting.

Coming to the quilt straight from practicing music had me in a singing mood and I was happily belting out songs in my quiet basement, with the dehumidifier for accompaniment. I grew up in a family of singers and have loved music for as long as I can remember. As a little girl, I sat by my mom on the hard, wooden benches in our tiny country church with its cement floor and block walls and lovely acoustics. She had a beautiful voice and I joined her singing alto at a very young age, I want to say before I ever went to school.

When I was young, our church hosted their mid-week Wednesday evening service in each other's homes. Packed in our brown, VW van or crammed into the old Reliant, our family would sing. Someone would start a song and then another and another. I can think of a whole list of songs we used to sing on those Wednesday night drives -- "Some glad day my soul will fly, way up high, in the sky..." I loved the rhymes in that one. "Once I wandered alone, in blackness of night..." We never had a good, strong soprano but songs with alto lead? Those were our best. "You have heard of little Moses in the bullrush..." Some of those songs I've never heard sung anywhere else.

The first Sunday night of every month was "Hymn Sing" at Shady Lawn. On those nights, out would come the stacks of old, green songbooks stored inside the pulpit. These were doled out carefully, a few to each pew, and the evening would commence. It was a sad day when the stack of green songbooks no longer reached around and a different book had to be chosen as the old, 'Select Church Songs' were no longer in print.


I did a google search today, and there it was, in all its nostalgic beauty. Although, I don't remember the day that ours looked that nice.

The song that got me started down memory lane today, all alone at the quilt, was this - "Soon we'll come to the end of life's journey, and perhaps we'll never meet anymore......" Suddenly I was transported back, back to that little girl on the hard church pew with the voices ringing out around me. "If we never meet again, this side of heaven...." Me, with my little girl voice joining mom's rich alto and Elsie's soprano joined by Wilma's, crazy how you can be transported back in time and just hear those voices!

That old, green songbook held many favorites. Some of the best were the songs by Albert E Brumley. "I'll Fly Away", "Jesus Hold My Hand", "If We Never Meet Again", "The Sweetest Song I Know"..... I would love to page through that old book again. That pretty one pictured above is on Amazon for 70 some dollars; I think I'll settle for hunting up mom's old copy when we're home for a visit.

The trip down memory lane led to looking up Albert E Brumley songs and listening to different ones. The deeper the nostalgia went, the stronger became the urge to forget the quilting and write it all down. Looking back those days seem perfect; full of love and old songs and memories. I'm sure that is the perspective of a child and there were just as many cares and worries and responsibilities as there are today but it was a fun trip, and I'm glad I took it.

One thing I will never forget and that is this: When the moderator announced "We'll sing one more after this", for a perfect ending to a monthly hymn sing, the song needed to be "When All Of God's Singers Get Home". It made the evening complete.

Monday, October 30, 2017

7 Days, 7 Photos, And The Importance Of People

There's this challenge floating around on social media right now: "7 days, 7 black and white photos of your life. No people. No explanations. Challenge someone different every day." I'm a sucker for these kinds of things.

Maybe it's because I'm in love with lists. Maybe it's because I like the spark that a little challenge adds to my life. Maybe it's because I really am a social media addict. Or, maybe in the case of this particular challenge, it was the intriguing idea of 7 pictures of my life that didn't include people.

Do you have any idea how much of your life includes people?

Coming up with 7 meaningful photos of your life without including any people in them is harder than you might think. I quickly discovered my whole life is entwined with people. My life without people would be meaningless, dull and lonely.

I did do the challenge. I spent 7 days looking at my life with eyes to see what photos I could take that would give a true picture of what it includes. The interesting fact is that, while the photos do not include people, every one of them is evidence of the many people in my life.

Day 1/7


Five mornings a week I pack lunches for my school children. The contents of each are as individual and unique as the person who eats them.

Day 2/7


It's a rare day that couldn't include some version of this photo. Why? Simple. Seven people live in this house and they all wear clothes.

Day 3/7


Some version of this photo could also be found nearly every day. Why? Again, the people who live here. At least three of them are young, creative, messy and have huge imaginations -- that's a house behind those curtains.

Day 4/7


Five afternoons a week I see some version of this scene. It represents the privilege of a Christian school and a row of dedicated mothers, unified by one cause: Time to pick up school children.

Day 5/7


Shopping day. Need I say more? That Goodwill bag is definitely the most fun part of the photo.

Day 6/7


Food prep. How much of my life is taken up by that task? I could have just used some version of this photo every single day but the stuff usually disappears before you have a chance to take a picture, if you know what I mean.

Day 7/7


This is kind of my favorite photo in the whole bunch. That silent, empty auditorium represents so much more than meets the eye. It represents community, friendships, encouragement, fellowship, belonging, growth, accountability, security, faith, love... All because of the people who are not pictured.

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

Maybe some of you are like me. If you are, take up the 7 day challenge! Regardless, take this opportunity to go let all the people in your life know how important they are to you.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

To Be Apart

It is my uneducated belief that there is nothing so good for a marriage as time spent apart. Maybe not always. I also believe it is essential for a good marriage to place high value on time for just the two of you together. But there is nothing that makes you appreciate what you have, more than when you don't have it; nothing.

Chris and I have always been very generous with each other when it comes to allowing the other one to go off and do something on their own. He pushes me to do it and I encourage him to go if he can. Sometimes it's just a Saturday afternoon run to town for him by himself or going to the sewing alone for me. Other times it's ongoing projects, like him being in charge of the school's Bible Quizzing and going to a practice every Tuesday night or me going to choir practice once a week and helping with the Christmas program. Sometimes, it's bigger things, like me going to Arkansas alone to be there for my dad's surgery or him going off for a week to help a buddy with a job.

'Absence makes the heart grow fonder' is not a meaningless, empty saying. It's true.

It's not until they're not around that you really realize how much you depend on their support every single day. How much you take for granted another adult in the house to fill in the gaps where you leave off. How much you rely on another person in authority to take over when you're weary of 'adulting'. How nice it is to not carry the sole responsibility for everything. How hard it is to go to bed at a decent hour when you know it's going to be just you laying there....

My week has gone well, really. It is quite different to be a single mom when your two oldest tower over you and your youngest tucks himself into bed at night. I remember the days when work required Chris to overnight somewhere and I had two 'babies' to put to sleep. First one cried and then the other until finally I joined them and wondered if I would ever make it past those days! Time has a way of dimming those memories but it is much easier when your children are older, there's no question about that.

Weeks like this have a way of making me face my fear head on. The longer I live, and the more people I learn to know, the more often I hear the words 'cancer' and 'freak accident' and 'sudden death'. Some days I wonder how much longer it can be before the news hits closer home? Sometimes I think I should be more surprised and shocked that we're all alive and healthy than I would be to find that we're not! Having my husband gone for a week drives in a sharp reminder of how it would be if he never came back. It's sobering. And it's good for me.

I need these kind of reminders over and over and over. It's nearly impossible, it seems, to keep the perspective of eternity in the forefront. He goes off to work every day and comes home; I take children to school and do housework. Repeat, repeat, repeat. In the daily-ness of life, it's so easy to think it will stay this way forever. Many, many people could testify to the fact that life can change drastically in the blink of an eye -- one phone call, one Dr appointment, one freak accident, one last good bye.

It's been a long week. The road to Arkansas is long and, while I know it's a bit irrational, the battle with fear will be so much less when all those miles have been traveled and Chris is back, safe, at home. Still, I'm glad for these experiences. If you get the chance to be apart from your spouse for a day or two... or seven, I'd encourage you to do it. You'll appreciate each other in a whole new way on reunion day!

PS. And when he shows up at 8:00 on Sunday morning instead of 8:00 Sunday night, you might discover you can do cartwheels and backflips.....in your mind, at least.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Dear Mom

My husband is gone this week, Mom. Any idea why that's been making me think of you?

Chris went off to Arkansas this week on a work adventure with his buddy from Horton's Countertops days. I'm happy he had a chance to get away and do something out of the ordinary. At the same time, I'm missing him dreadfully and it's made me go back in time and wonder how it was for you, Mom.

Your husband was a preacher. All the years of my life were interspersed with occasional weeks and weekends when Daddy would be gone. A lot of my memories of those times are vague; I was the youngest and everything happened before I was born (or so I used to think). Most vivid in my mind are the many, many weeks Daddy spent an hour away from home, teaching classes at Calvary Bible School.

This week I've been trying to imagine what those weeks were really like for you, Mom. Calvary Bible School landed in the middle of winter. In Arkansas, this could mean many things -- moderate weather, freezing temperatures, sunshine or maybe an ice storm. Back in those days there were cows to be checked on and a whole broiler house full of chickens to keep fed and alive. Way back in the day there were also pigs, I believe, who managed to make as much nuisance of themselves as possible when the man of the house was away. Inevitably, when Daddy was away, the cows would find their way through the fence or the feeders in the chicken house would decide to malfunction or the ice on the pond would need to be chopped so the cows would have water or a vehicle would refuse to start. Indeed, it seemed the whole farm was just waiting for the handyman to depart to spring any number of catastrophes on the poor wife left behind.

The thing is, Mom, I have good memories of those weeks! You used to let us take turns sleeping with you and do special things together those weeks when Daddy was gone. I have nothing but good memories of those days and I've been marveling this week at how much that fact reflects on the kind of Mom you were.


Daddy was not just a text away back then. In fact, you couldn't even count on the fact that you could get through if you tried to call him at any given time. You had children to care for -- to make sure they got to school and to settle disagreements between and to feed and keep happy. You had double the work and worry with your husband gone. I'm sure you felt lonely some days and misunderstood. I bet you looked at all the other wives who's husbands never taught at CBS and wondered what they had to complain about? I know you were just as human as anybody else, Mom, and there were times when those weeks without your man at home were just plain hard.

Maybe time dims the memories, but when I look back those days are filled with cozy times together and a mother who loved us and made us feel special. This week I'm the mom. I don't have any chickens or cows, much less pigs. It's not snowy nor icy and my husband is a text or phone call away at pretty much any given moment. I realize now the effort you put forth, Mom, to make good memories for us those weeks when Daddy was gone. I know now that you weren't necessarily having as much fun as we were. And, I for sure know that letting us take turns sleeping with you was most certainly not for your sake!

Thanks Mom.

Love, Bethany

PS. I'm trying to make good memories this week but, I confess, I'm drawing the line at letting anyone share my bed.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

How Romantic Is Your Marriage?

The two of us sat together companionably in our silent house. The clocks ticked, the air conditioner hummed, and slowly the stress of the day ebbed away. All five children had been invited away for an evening of games and pizza with the aunt and uncle and here we were, all set for a romantic evening.

Shall I describe the scene for you?

We sat together companionably, yes. Him on one side of the table in his dirty work clothes, eyes fixed on the laptop, right hand busily clicking and doing whatever you do in the fascinating computer game he was playing. I sat on the other side, feet up on a chair, mouth full, busily scarfing down the sub sandwich he had brought me -- the entire footlong length of it.

Sandwich gone, I scootched a chair up next to his and lazily scrolled through Facebook on my phone. "Suppose I would write about this," I grinned to myself. "How many shocked and appalled readers would I have? Does anybody else in the world do such unromantic things when they're given a chance for an evening alone? Granted, we're spoiled with willing 'babysitters' nearly any time we want one but are we odd? Should I feel slighted?"

He glanced at me with a sheepish grin, "I'm just going to finish this," he told me. "It won't take very long."

"That's fine," I assured him. "I'm not even feeling bad."

"And I'm not," I realized with a bit of surprise, as I leaned my elbows on the table and watched a game that made about as much sense to me as handing a pattern and a piece of material would to a man. And I found this discovery to be interesting. "There was a time when I would have been feeling bad," I mused to myself, absentmindedly checking through my email. We've never been the romantic candle lit dinner or fancy restaurant type; our romance has always been the kind found in small things and ordinary days. But I had to admit, there would have been a time that I would have chafed at sitting together doing this. "It's called mature romance," I decided, as I scratched his back and ran my fingers through his hair. "We're completely comfortable with who we are and what the other one needs and who cares about all the things you might think you should do when you have a chance for an evening alone?"

Because, did I tell you what kind of a day it was? Let me tell you.

It was one of a string of days where summer had returned with a vengeance, as if determined to get as much 90 degree weather in as it possibly could with October looming on the horizon. I had spent the day turning two bushels of apples into applesauce by myself. My feet ached and my back ached and all I had eaten the entire day was yogurt and granola for breakfast and about a third of Charles' piece of pizza somewhere in the lunch time vicinity. Basically, I was exhausted and starving.

Chris had spent the day in and out of the cool Tire Shop office and 90 degree out of doors/bay listening to customers who complained about the price of tires or insisted that all four of their tires must be put on so that the letters on the wheels are at the top. He had dealt with employees who needed a course on work ethics and customers who couldn't make up their minds and people calling who needed immediate favors. Basically, he was exhausted and in need of some mindless activity.

Eventually the game ended and he headed for the shower, throwing back over his shoulder with a grin, "Now that's my idea of a good time - you, sitting there beside me, watching me play." I laughed and knew with certainty that I didn't feel one bit slighted.

"And maybe I will write about it after all," I decided, as I threw away the subway trash and went on to spend the rest of our evening in less mature romantic activities.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Dear Mom

I made applesauce today, Mom -- delicious tangy-sweet sauce from bags of big, beautiful, spot-free apples. It made me think of you.



You taught me many things, Mom. Most of the time I go along living my life, oblivious to the many ways you influenced me. Once in awhile something like a bag of shiny, beautiful apples will look me in the face and make me stop and think.



All the years that I was a part of your life, you lived in Arkansas, Mom. While being from the south is, without question, superior in many regards, easy access to fresh fruits and luscious gardens isn't one of them. You loved to garden and toiled tirelessly in spite of inevitable drought, poor soil and pesky bugs. You canned and froze and served fresh, and not once did we ever go hungry.

But this is what I learned from you, Mom -- you made do with what you had. If the corn produced little (as often was the case) but the green beans were prolific; we ate green beans. If an early frost nipped the peach trees we did without peaches. Because strawberries were expensive and blackberries were free, we spread our bread with blackberry jelly. I don't remember you ever once making a batch of strawberry jam, are you sure you were a true Mennonite, Mom?

English peas didn't do well, so we ate purple hull peas and zipper peas and lima beans. My brothers will testify to gaining pill swallowing skills because of the need to consume those loathsome limas. We ate okra because it grew and pears from the old pear tree on the odd years that it produced. On those years we were all expected to try new things like pear butter and pear and pineapple jam because -- you know, free food.

You were always willing to use what was available, Mom. When Ervin Dorothy had squash, you canned it. When someone offered you peaches from their scrubby little trees, you froze them. If there were strawberries available, we enjoyed them. And when it was time to can applesauce, you never stressed over Jonathons or Cortlands or Golden Delicious or Ginger Golds. You didn't insist on brown sauce or pale yellow or pink; you took what was available. I will never forget the year of the ugly red apples and the tasteless pink sauce.


It was me who needed apples that year, Mom, and me who had no money for being choosy. When a church lady's neighbor offered apples, free for the taking, we took them. We loaded up baskets and buckets of the spotted, red things and you came over to lend a hand. They sure weren't the prettiest apples nor the biggest. But we cut and snipped and cooked and when the applesauce came forth all pink and tasteless, you cheerfully added sugar and cinnamon and whatever else we could think of and called it good.

Today I thought of you, Mom, as I sliced up my beautiful, spot-free apples. As the sauce came out, all golden and tangy-sweet, I remembered. And I thanked God for a mother like you who taught me to make do with what you have. I also breathed a quiet thank you that this year it was shiny Ginger Golds.


                        Love, Bethany

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Months That Start With 'S' and Other Wisdom

Writing is a strange and uncooperative thing. Some days it just wants to come, and so I let it; other days, the more I look inside, the more it isn't there. It hasn't been there for quite some time now and it's bothering me greatly.


One can only have so many Tid-bits and Random Picture posts. There are only so many opportunities to host giveaways. I have no new recipes to share. The more I try to manufacture inspiration, the more there is nothing. And, might I add, that is the exact time when all the other writers I know seem to be starting new projects or writing eloquent words being shared by multiple people; coincidence much?

My mind feels dry. Dry as.... well....

Dry as the leaves falling, crunchy, from the trees.
Dry as the sun on a day without a breeze.
Dry as the dirt 'round the plant with curling leaves.
Dry as the throat gripped in fear's tightest squeeze.

Dry as the wind blowing sun's hottest glare.
Dry as the towels hung in summer's stifling air.
Dry as the earth in a desert bright and bare.
Dry as the soul burdened low with every care.

Dry as the grass withered brown in Summer's heat.
Dry as the skin worn and rough on barefoot feet.
Dry as the lips cracked by fever's steady beat.
Dry as the heart scorched by silence and defeat........

This mournful bit came forth one day and I shelved it in disgust. Pathetic. Not even true. In fact, I had someone tell me recently, "Your life sounds so easy and fun!"

Today I finally discovered the reason: it must be something about the atmospheric pressure in the months starting with 'S'! One year ago on this very day I wrote, "I confess to feeling really dry lately; brittle in places."

Alrighty then.

Now that I have that figured out, I can relax and stop trying so hard. Eventually the atmospheric pressure will change, another month will appear and I'll wonder what was so bothersome about it all. And if it doesn't? Well, then I'll go on with my fun and easy life and be happy.


My fingers bear the battlescars of quilting these days. I've been listening to the Bible as I sit and stitch, started in at the beginning and have gotten through to the building of the tabernacle. I'm always just amazed when I read/hear about Pharoah. Seriously, was the man insane? How could your heart be that hard? By the time it came to the tenth plague, did he really think the firstborns wouldn't be killed? What was he thinking??

And then the children of Israel. Honestly, people! You walked through the Red Sea on dry land. A short two months later, how could you really think God would let you starve to death when he parted the waters for you and swallowed the Egyptians up after you had all walked through?

I was discussing these things with my children one day after school and my daughter said, "But how did you feel when we moved to Ohio and had no house? How could you have wondered if God knew what he was doing??" Wellllll. You know, God hadn't done anything as big for me as parting the Red Sea!

Children are pretty good at putting us in our places.

I guess it's mostly being able to look back on the whole picture that makes me judge the Israelites so harshly. I suppose, after all, my doubt and questioning of what God is doing would look pretty silly too if I could see the big picture. I reckon a lack of inspiration and a drought in spirit is a small thing in the grand scheme of a life story.

Happy weekend to all of you. Go enjoy your life (fun and easy or otherwise) and rest in the arms of a Father who deals in big pictures.



Monday, September 11, 2017

Giveaway Results and Other Tid-bits

Giveaways are fun. There's always this happy little thrill of surprise as I watch all the comments come rolling in. I know by now that they will but it's still so much fun.

The time is here to announce a winner and I've got a happy little surprise for you, this time. I decided to buy a copy of Anything But Simple myself and give away TWO books instead of one! So, without further ado -- Winner #1 is Katrina, who commented: "I enjoy reading your blog and would be delighted to win this book."  Winner #2 is Jessica, who commented: "Hi Bethany,
You don't know me, but I've been one of your quiet readers for quite a while. ☺ Don't give up your book dream; you have a wonderful way with words, too! Please enter me in your drawing... Thanks!"

Congratulations ladies! I'll be contacting you via email so we can get your books on their way. Happy reading and thanks for commenting.

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

Just a few pictures of life these days to finish this up.....


I've got a quilt in at my house, the first of three for my girl's beds, and I can't tell you how much fun I'm having! It also makes me miss my Mom. Quilting and Mom just go together and it's funny what triggers grief.


Charles likes to play with my pins, sticking them into the quilt and calling them "snakes",  for whatever reason, and looking underneath to see all the "pokes".


Lillian turned eight and was quite pleased with the doll sized garment bag and hangers she had been hoping for.


The weather has taken a definite turn towards fall and in the spirit of acceptance and resignation, we had a little "hot drink party" one evening.


I have to concede that the cool, crisp mornings are beautiful but Oh, Summer! Missing you already.

And with that, I will run along. The ever looming what-to-make-for-supper question must soon be answered........

Monday, September 4, 2017

Book Review and Giveaway: Anything But Simple

Somewhere in the dark, hidden corners of my heart hovers a dream. Occasionally I allow it to surface -- the secret, improbable idea that I could write a book. That someday, magically, I could have the ability to paint pictures and draw images and weave words that would carry a reader through page after page. That somehow I could acquire the determination to accomplish such a monumental feat.


Then, I read books like Anything But Simple by Lucinda J Miller, and I shake my head decidedly. I am quite content to write little blog posts and let others accomplish the monumental feats.

I've been reading Luci's blog for quite some time. I've enjoyed reading about her life, her dreams, her stories. More than a tiny, hovering dream, Luci has had a passionate desire to write a book. The burning intent for her words? To capture life as she has experienced it.

Luci grew up in a small, Mennonite community in rural Wisconsin. To grow up Mennonite is to be set apart from the world at large for life. The best way I can think of to describe this odd phenomenon is to imagine being born Russian and living in America. You can learn to speak English fluently, dress American, eat American, adopt the customs and the thoughts and the ways of Americans but you will always be a Russian. So it is to be born Mennonite.

As God so often seems to enjoy doing, in an odd twist of circumstances, Anything But Simple is not the book Luci first dreamed of writing. However, I think it captures the burning intent she so longed for: life as she has experienced it.

Luci is a very gifted writer. Not only does she weave stories and ideas for the reader to ponder and digest, she infuses emotion and layers of feelings into her words. As you read about her childhood, her family, her dreams, her struggles -- you are there. You feel the painful shyness of the little girl who cannot bring herself to mention needing a bathroom; the sensitivity of the lonely teen who is sure they are not only different, but alien; the growing awareness as an adult of two worlds and the struggle to navigate through both.

In the telling of her life as a Mennonite, Luci pours out her heart openly and honestly. There is no catching the high points of the Mennonite world and exaggerating them, no unrealistic portrayal of how Mennonites think they should look. What Luci shares is reality and the reality is that while she was born a Mennonite and will always be set apart from the world at large, she was also born a sinner with a heart no less in need of a Saviour - no less bent toward sin - than any other person ever born.

When I contacted Luci with an offer to do a book review and giveaway on my blog, she graciously accepted my offer and sent me an autographed copy of Anything But Simple and the chance for one of my readers to win a copy of their own! Her books are available on Amazon and Menno Media or you can contact Luci through her blog to purchase an autographed copy.

For a chance to win your free copy, leave me a comment and be sure to include an e-mail address where I can contact you. This giveaway will close one week from today and is open to only US mailing addresses.


Thursday, August 31, 2017

A Recipe For Lunch Packing Moms

I don't really enjoy cooking and my blog is anything but a food blog but occasionally circumstances call for desperate measures. Back to school and packing four lunches a day is cause for talking about food and sharing recipes! Today I am shamelessly copying a fellow blogger and passing on a great lunch box idea for you all. If you want professional pictures, check out her post about packing lunches. If all you want is the recipe because you're desperate for something quick you can grab out of the freezer in the rush of a school morning, read on.


These things don't have an official name. I'm calling them 'Pizza Pockets' but you can take them, customize them, and give them your own name!

I took our favorite stromboli dough recipe:

1 T yeast
1 C warm water
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 C vegetable oil
3 C flour

Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water, then add other ingredients. Let rise five minutes.


(I love that it only has to rise for five minutes - anything quicker is better when you don't really like to cook!)


I doubled the recipe and rolled half of it out in a big rectangle. Next I cut it into twenty square-ish squares with a pizza cutter.


Since I have about as many preferences for ingredients as I do children (you probably don't have this problem, so no need to dwell on my issues), I did some squares with cheddar cheese and ham, some with cheddar cheese and pepperoni, and some with mozzarella, ham and pepperoni. You could add whatever you like!

(Have fun trying to keep the different kinds separated once they're closed. I lined them up on the pans carefully and used a toothpick to mark my row.)

Then I folded the corners in and pinched them closed and baked them at 350 for 20-25 minutes. I repeated the process with the second half of the dough giving me forty cute, little lunch life-savers.


I melted some butter and added a little garlic salt and oregano to it and brushed the tops when they came out of the oven. They looked so irresistible that Charles and I had a couple for lunch with pizza sauce for dipping. Yum.


After they cooled, I bagged them up in labeled bags (God forbid the pepperoni hater should end up with the ham hater's Pizza Pocket!) and stuck them away in the freezer.


I've been feeling like super mom all day!