Tuesday, October 12, 2021


I'm laying on the recliner in my quiet house this morning, listening to the clock tick, and trying to untangle all the thoughts and feelings of the past 7+ days. The suitcases have all been unpacked and put away, the laundry washed and folded, but my mind keeps replaying and rehashing a myriad of thoughts and feelings and experiences. The short version is that my sister got married last Friday, and my girls and I spent the week before the wedding in Arkansas, helping get things ready. The long version is much more nuanced and layered with feelings and emotions, half of which aren't mine to share and the other half of which are rather sacred and personal. 

Rachel is the sister next to me in age (there's two brothers between us, which makes her a little over 9 years older than me), but growing up, I don't remember us being especially close. My next older sister was the one who was like my second mom -- we shared a bedroom and she combed my hair and I cried sadly when she went off to teach school in Virginia. Somewhere along the line though, Rach and I became close. Maybe, it was when I grew up and we were the same size and shared dresses and shoes. Maybe, it was when we lived in the same community after I was married. Maybe, it was after my mom died and Rach became my main source of connection with the world I had moved away from. For sure, it's been the last couple of years, watching her and Steven's story unfold and realizing how much alike we are in some ways and how very different in others. 

I feel so, so privileged to have been able to spend that week in Arkansas before the wedding. God worked out a ride for my girls and I, so we didn't have to drive out alone, and Chris was way more than generous with encouraging me to go and leave him and the boys behind. Forever grateful. It was such a good week. 

I'll share a few pictures, but I won't even try to do justice. It's not my wedding to share for one thing. Also, I couldn't begin to tell it all.  Rach is a woman of unbelievable creativity and sentimental attention to detail and the wedding was so perfectly her, it makes me get tears every time I look through my pictures again.

The venue was a little ol Arkansas church built in 1907. 

(And that is a tiny, little puzzle, made by a niece for the children's treasure hunt bags)

They kept the guest list to right around 100, and the effect was a relaxed, informal, "family gathering" kind of atmosphere.

It was a beautiful, beautiful day. 

And now, it's home to the real world. My emotions have been all over the place and I'm still catching up on my sleep but life goes on and we all go along with it...... 

PS. I'm sorry, Ohio. Arkansas is still the most beautiful place in the world. The End. 

Thursday, September 30, 2021

A Winner and A Few Other Tid-bits

I loved having all of you participate in last week's giveaway! I only wished later that I had asked you to answer some kind of interesting question to enter. That always makes reading the comments so fun, but I usually have a hard time coming up with a good question. 

Anyway. Without further ado. 

The winner for Luci's book Turtle Heart was: "I believe I would enjoy reading this book. Please enter me in the drawing. Thanks. Linda Rose"

Linda Rose has been a faithful reader (and comment-er) here for a very long time! She has frequently sent me encouraging emails as well. I think it is very fitting that her comment was chosen! Congratulations and I hope you enjoy the book 🙂 Email me your mailing address, and I will pass the info on to Luci. 

* * * * * * * * 

We have been having absolutely gorgeous fall weather. When I can stop my mind from screaming, "No! Help! Stop! Summer is leaving!!" I can actually enjoy it. 

We took a family bike ride one evening last week...

Excuse the blurry video screenshot...

It was a beautiful evening!

The girls took it upon themselves to bring some "fall" indoors another evening, while I was away...

(The black and white drawings are by Jasmine, and yes, she is amazing. They will be for sale in a few weeks at our school auction so, see you there!)

On yet another lovely evening, my girls and I had a little "photo shoot", just for fun...

Now this is how my camera roll looks...
It's fun to have daughters for friends. 

And now, if you will excuse me, we have a trip and a wedding and a big week coming up and I still have fifty-eleven things on my to do list....

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Turtle Heart -- A Review and A Giveaway

Four years ago, I talked here about a book by Lucinda (then) Miller. Today, I am happy to tell you about another book by the same author, although her last name has now been changed by her marriage to Ivan Kinsinger.

Luci is gifted in the art of story telling. In Turtle Heart you will find the same layers of emotion and honesty that drew readers into her book Anything But Simple. While enjoying the story line and the eccentricities of Luci's friend, Charlene, you will also find yourself digging deeply to examine hard questions. Questions like how to meet people where they are, like Jesus did. Questions about different cultures and acceptance. Questions about things foreign to a sheltered Mennonite world, like splintered families and homosexuality. 

There are many ways that I identify with Luci, in her story. Her description of herself as a youth and young adult could, quite easily, have been describing me:

"No one hates me and no one loves me because no one really knows me. I constantly wear a smile on my face because I want everyone to think I am enjoying myself, that I have friends somewhere, just around a corner. 

I am a young adult, more confident, but still commonly described as "sweet" -- a word I both love and hate. Hate, because it defines me as passive and without spine. Love, because it protects me. People treat me kindly because I am sweet."

I also identify deeply with her difficulty to stand up for herself and say no. It is helpful to listen to her navigate her own humanity -- feelings of resentment at being taken advantage of -- and her deep longing to be Jesus in skin to her friend. One does not have to cancel out the other, when apologies are given and we get up and try again.... and again. 

I love how Luci shares her struggles with hard questions about God and Faith. I am, by nature, an "accept-er" and some of her questions are not ones I have dealt with deeply myself, but now have children who do. Her father's wisdom in providing answers, when he can, but simply confessing "I don't know", when he doesn't, was powerful. In Luci's own words:

"...there is tremendous release in these words: "I don't know." I begin to realize I don't need to know everything, and that not knowing is necessary to living."

The fact that Luci has poured her heart and soul into Turtle Heart is evident throughout the book. She has opened the doors to her inner self and confessed thoughts and feelings that are vulnerable and raw. Through her words, she holds out her heart with open hands, asking the reader to handle it gently. Hoping against hope that as you do, you too will begin to see and love the people around you -- the ones who are like you, and the ones who are so very different -- through the eyes of Jesus. 

If you would like to read Turtle Heart yourself, you can order online through Amazon, or Barnes and Noble or order an autographed copy directly from Luci at lucindajkinsinger@gmail.com. 

Luci is generously allowing me to give away one copy of her book to my readers! If you would like to be included in the giveaway, leave a comment below (or via email or Facebook), and I will choose a winner on September 30, one week from today. US addresses only. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

My Father's Touch

When the world weighs heavy on your shoulders, sometimes the best thing to do is grab your camera, and search for beauty.......

Oh, the perfection of the artist!

Even in the humble marigold.... 

The changing of colors....

The mixture of textures....

Why, hello there!

The unfolding of the flowers...

The cheer from the simple...

Inside, as well as outside...

The touch of the Father is everywhere 
when you take the time to pause
 and look for it.

Friday, September 3, 2021


August 2006

I was twenty-seven that year. Mom of two, ages four and two, this pregnancy had been planned for, prayed for, and celebrated. This was a first for us. Not that the previous pregnancies had been unwanted or uncelebrated, but this time we had been in control of the timing and everything about it was perfect and exciting. The euphoria lasted two weeks, then I discovered I was miscarrying.

It's a little hard for me to remember, with the distance of fifteen years passing, how very difficult that experience was for me. If I'm honest, I don't think I grieved the loss of my child, so much as the loss of my perfect little plan. Why wouldn't God have wanted it to work out? Why? Why did He let it happen? 

And then, for one excruciatingly long year, I couldn't get pregnant. 

It seems ridiculous now, to remember how difficult that was. So many people go through years of infertility, and here I was with two lovely children already! But you don't know, when you're in the middle of a hard thing, how long it will last. Maybe there was something wrong that needed to be fixed. Maybe we would never have any more children. Maybe there would be a huge gap in our children's ages. Maybe this wondering and holding my breath every month and not being pregnant would go on forever.

That year was agonizingly long. I shake my head now, thinking of the tears and anguish that my husband endured. In the moment, the longing and the pain were so real -- I wanted a baby. The smallest of comments, from people who had no idea what I was carrying inside, stung and cut and hurt.

Finally, I made an appointment to have my thyroid checked. The doctor was booked three weeks out, but at least I was doing something. And then? Then, in the mean time, I didn't get my period and the pregnancy test -- those awful things I had come to hate and nearly refused to take -- was positive!

Our rainbow baby was born March 30, 2008.

January 2009

My baby was nine months old and I felt sick; nauseous. The feeling persisted. What was going on? Surely I couldn't be? No. Not that. But I was.

I looked at the positive pregnancy test, and I cried. I wasn't ready for this; no. Too soon! I didn't want to tell anyone. Why? So many things were wildly out of control in our lives already, how could we handle this too? My midwife laughed and said, "God does have a sense of humor. First you're crying because you want a baby, now you're crying because you don't want a baby. Somewhere He is saying, 'Make up your mind, lady!'"

Lillian Bethany
8 lb 14 oz  21 in long
Perfect in every way

(A note to mothers everywhere: it is possible to go at least three years without a menstrual period. Ask me how I know.)

September 3, 2021

My surprise baby is twelve today.

Almost every year, I remember. I remember the confusion and pain of God disrupting my tidy, good plan. I remember the year of longing and heartache and not knowing. I remember the joy and excitement of the first, unexpected positive test that I longed for and the shock and confusion of the second, surprise one. I look at my two girls, seventeen months apart, and I smile.

I'm not sure why I felt compelled to share my remembering this year. I think I have mentioned some of these details on my blog before, but never quite in this way. 

It is good to look back, and remember. I don't know why God chose to plan our family the way He did. I can't look back and see, "Oh. It's good it was that way because x-y-z that I didn't know". I think, mostly, He wanted me to learn how little control I ultimately have over my life, and how very capable He is of handling the details.

Maybe, I needed to look back and write it out, because I need that lesson today just as much as I needed it then.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Pretty Much Normal

I lay in bed and the tears just wouldn't stop seeping out of my eyes. I could easily have burst into full out sobs, but how silly would that have been? Every sentimental bone in my body ached, as I went over every little detail I was nervous worried about. Mentally, I counted up the months... seventeen of them. Seventeen months I'd been with my four youngest children almost every single day. Seventeen months we'd done everything together -- worked, played, argued, learned, fought, talked, laughed, cried. Seventeen months, we'd kind of been each other's everything. Tomorrow, they would go back to school.

Everyone has had their version of  'crazy' from 2020 and it's aftermath; this is mine. 

Seventeen months ago, school closed. I went from five days a week at home alone, to never being home alone, plus homeschooling and foster care. Twelve months ago, we chose to homeschool, and embarked on an adventure I never, ever wanted. Now, I cried, because the adventure was ending.

I don't know if I'll ever fully understand what these past seventeen months have been about. I feel like a completely different person than I did that day school closed so many months ago; a person I'm not really sure I know or recognize. It feels like our family has been in this sort of incubation period, where we've needed to learn to dig deeper, lean in closer and grow together, in a unique and different way. Now, it's time to turn that loose, and sort of reintegrate back into the real world. It's kind of scary for all of us.

That all sounds overly dramatic and a bit ridiculous and it probably is. This morning, I sent the four scholars off to school and practically danced around the empty house shouting hallelujah! Two days from now, I'll probably be crying into my pillow again. Maybe, after all, I'm simply losing my mind?

I feel like I have a lot of soul sorting to do in these next quiet days at home. I have just as many conflicting feelings about that, as the sad tears and happy dancing I just described above. 

Yesterday, I cried over the first day of school and Facebook memories from ten years ago.

Ten years ago: 
First day of school in Ohio

Re-enactment picture
before Isaac left for work

I went to town and bought groceries and had to call my husband to instruct me on what to do for my overheated van.

I picked up school children and discovered my youngest had thrown up at school twice on the first day.

I packed up clothes for my husband, who left on a work related fishing adventure.

I doled out purple medicine and emergenC to multiple children coming down with colds and sore throats.

I went to bed, and hoped for the best.

Maybe, after all, life is overly dramatic and a bit ridiculous. 

Today, I'll clean my dirty floors and sew the back to school dress that didn't get finished and hang out the never ending laundry... and marvel at the silence. Tomorrow, we'll take the emotions and drama that the day brings and go from there. It's pretty much all we can do, and it might even be pretty much normal.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Odds and Ends and Things Not Of General Interest

If you are familiar with the book "Cheaper By The Dozen", you immediately recognize the reference in my title. I feel like I have nothing of great importance to say -- things that Frank Gilbreth would have marked 'not of general interest' -- but I'm gonna give you a hodge podge anyway. 

We've spent a good bit of time the last few days peeling and cutting up peaches to put in the freezer. This was a fun book to listen to while we worked. 

We listened to it on Libby, read by the author, which made it very entertaining. She has fantastic, practical tips for decluttering and we all enjoyed her humor. Highly recommend. 

I also highly recommend having a husband who brings these home and sticks them in the freezer for his wife. 

I'll generally decline ice cream, and I'm not that much of a candy fan. Like my mom, I usually can't resist a candy bar, but these? These are over the top. I love them. 

It has rained and rained and then thunder stormed again in Ohio the past two weeks. We thought we might need to borrow the Amish neighbor's boat directly. 

Our grass was looking like we should invite the Amish neighbor's horses over for a free smorgasbord. Isaac finally got a bunch of it mowed today. 

I don't listen to podcasts a lot. I'm not particularly a fan of them, honestly. Every once in awhile I'll listen to one and actually love it. One that I do listen to fairly regularly is Couple Things with former Olympic Gymnast Shawn Johnson and her husband Andrew East. They are kind of the most unlikely people for a little ol Mennonite mom like me to listen to -- wildly different backgrounds and lifestyles, but I think that's why I find it so interesting and intriguing. Their faith and commitment to their marriage are not so very different from my own and it's eye opening to listen to people with a different world view. They host a wide variety of couples on their podcast and, while I don't always agree with all of their beliefs, I have come away inspired many, many times. 

Next week, school starts. It still does not seem real at all that I will be home alone five days a week again and I have a lot of emotions about it.  Pretty sure I will sit down and have a good, long cry and then I plan to sit on my recliner, put up my feet, and eat the silence and solitude with a spoon.

* * * * *

And now, I will leave you to decide if this hodge podge was of general interest or whether, like Mr Gilbreth, you are bored stiff. 

'Dad was the one who decided what subjects were of general interest. Since he was convinced that everything he uttered was interesting, the rest of the family had trouble getting a word in edgewise. 

"Honestly, we have the stupidest boy in our history class," Anne would begin. 

"Is he cute?" Ernestine asked. 

"Not of general interest," Dad roared. 

"I'm interested," Mart said. 

"But I," Dad announced, "am bored stiff. Now, if Anne had seen a two-headed boy in history class, that would have been of general interest." '         ~Cheaper by the Dozen