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.