Thursday, July 19, 2018

Miriam - A Woman of Courage



We are enjoying summer picnics, hosting friends from Canada, preparing sweet corn for the freezer, and wondering how summer is flying by this fast. 

Busy summer is a good time to pull out an old article from my files. This is a continuation of my study on Proverbs 31 and women from Scripture. I wrote this last June soon after Ed's cancer diagnosis. This week I needed a reminder to keep courage. 

Miriam - A Woman of Courage

She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. Proverbs 31:17

I like to appear strong, capable, and efficient. I shy away from any impression of weakness; I don't want to be needy and vulnerable. But sometimes I'm helpless to control the circumstances of my life.

Our human weakness is especially evident in the area of our health. We may try to live a healthful lifestyle, but accidents and disease still occur. 

As mothers we want to protect our families from poor health. So we strengthen our arms, read another health article, and order more supplements. This may be right and good, but sometimes our search for health steals the place that belongs to God and becomes an idol. We want to control our health so badly that we may forget the One who truly is in control.

Young Miriam knew about the king's evil command to cast all the baby boys into the river. She watched in disbelief as her mother dared to place her baby brother into that dangerous river with only the security of a bulrush basket and his family's prayers. She mustered up the courage to stay near the river to watch that floating basket and even dared to speak to Pharaoh's daughter. Miriam witnessed with her own eyes the power of God to intervene in impossible situations.

Over eighty years later, Miriam watched her now-grown brother hold out his rod over an impassible body of water. Behind them tramped the king of Egypt with his army. With no possible way to escape, the people cried out to God, and God opened up a path through the sea.

Miriam led the women in a song of praise. “Sing ye to the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.” (Exodus 16)

The children of Israel were not a bunch of weaklings. They had built Pharaoh's cities and were mighty in number. But God placed them in a position where muscles and numbers weren't enough, and they had to call on Him for deliverance. “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.” (Psalm 20:7)

I need to remember that, like the Israelites, God uses my weakness to show His grace and power. Not when life is easy, not when I think I'm in control, not when I appear strong and capable, but only when I realize that I need God's power to hold up my arms.

I'm writing this a few weeks after my husband's diagnosis with aggressive brain cancer. He went from being strong and rarely sick to experiencing severe pain and unable to think or communicate clearly. We are now on a journey which has included scary statistics, endless doctor appointments, brain surgery, radiation, chemo, radical diet changes, and an unknown future.

What do we do when we are faced with a health crisis? 

Our reactions can look much like the children of Israel by the Red Sea. First may come fear. We are confronting something we cannot control, we can't see a way out, and we are scared. Anger is another option. When God allows our health to be taken, we find out how important health is. When we feel we have lost something that belongs to us, we can react in anger and bitterness. Like the Israelites, we can lash out at God for leading us into this mess which He could have prevented.

Courage looks at the facts of our human frailty and trusts God. 

Courage recognizes that sometimes God's best answer to our prayers is a glorious life with Him.

Courage is not fearing the death of our physical body, but the spiritual death that comes from a soul filled with bitterness. (Matthew 10:28)

It is normal to desire life, and we want to care for our bodies as the temple of God. (1 Cor. 6:19) God gives us wisdom to research cures for illness. But we dare not follow the example of Asa who asked the Syrians for help in war and sought the doctors' assistance for his foot disease. The prophet told Asa that God was looking for opportunities to show His power and Asa had done foolishly in not turning to God in his distress. (Read 2 Chronicles 16)

God expects us to strengthen our arms, to weave a basket, and to raise our rod. He gives us wisdom to choose how to use our resources. But we glorify God when we realize that the strength of our arms comes from God for all areas of life including parenting, relationships, finances, weather conditions – and our health. 

Like Miriam, Moses, and the children of Israel, I want the courage cry out to God and defeat fear. 

However He answers, with miraculous healing, unfathomable peace, or grace for another day, I will rejoice in His deliverance.

This article was first published in Keepers At Home Magazine, Summer 2018 issue.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Banking Memories

Is no news, good news?

This past week was so chock-full with making good memories that I rarely picked up my laptop.

Ed was feeling great all week so we stuffed the schedule. We usually keep a strict early bedtime for his sake, but this week we were up late many nights. One night we butchered beef with my family. Another night we talked until after bedtime with friends from church. 

A special treat was spending a day with a friend who I haven't seen for years who was on furlough. I love friends who only take minutes to bridge the years and get deep in discussion of what really matters.


We spent the Fourth with friends who took our children caving and introduced us to an amazing park with huge rocks for exploring.


Even raindrops can't ruin the fun when children are getting dirty, and the moms are discussing books.


Like last year, Ed's brother and his family insisted on coming to stay with our children so we could take an early anniversary get-away. We had a relaxing overnight stay at Annapolis, Maryland and enjoyed a perfect July day.



We kayaked for several hours, watched the sailboats, and soaked in sunshine while eating lunch on the dock. The weather couldn't have been better.



In the afternoon we searched for some air conditioning and found a fascinating museum at the Naval Academy. The old boat models on the second floor were stunning. The one above was built by a French prisoner of war out of bones. The detail of the carving was unbelievable. We didn't have near enough time, and we want to bring our children sometime.

Back home we are listening to our children tell us about their fun (aunts and uncles are far cooler than parents) and transitioning back to a school schedule. (We start school in July, a few days a week, with the goal of finishing the school year in April.) It is time to get back to a routine. I'm reminded again of how much I enjoy teaching, but of how much time teaching takes.

Also this week Ed has his doctor's appointments where he'll get his staples removed and learn what the testing showed and what treatment is recommended.

I wish we could forget cancer. But that is not our reality. So we attempt to add to our bank of good memories.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Present Blessings

“Reflect upon your present blessings - of which every man has many - not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” - Charles Dickens
This quote is hanging on the wall of hospital just down from Ed's room. I might add not to fear future misfortunes as well.

Sometimes I'm afraid that if I share the ways we have been blessed, I'll appear a Pollyanna that is absent from reality. 

But we have had many blessings. If I share bad news with you all, maybe I should also share the blessings, too.


Ed's biopsy surgery yesterday went well. It took longer than expected because the surgeon had to take numerous samples in several areas before pathology was satisfied. We are waiting for the full pathology report.

Compared to a craniotomy and resection, the biopsy incision is small, but they still opened his skull and stirred around in his white matter. But Ed took a long nap after surgery and felt great. We spent the evening roaming the halls and visiting the patient library. We've learned in the last year to enjoy every moment together, even when stuck in a hospital. 



I don't wish to be back in the hospital for any reason, but this visit has been far less stressful than in March. We've made so many trips to the city that some of the anxiety has worn off. I recognize most of the nurses in Ed's hall, and Ed had the same excellent surgeon as in March. I don't get lost going to the cafeteria any more, and when I took a wrong turn yesterday, I could quickly correct myself. I can tackle the labyrinth of halls and know the shortest distance to the lab, surgery waiting room, and the nearest restroom.

With Ed's surgery scheduled last minute, I was surprised to find an opening for me in the Family Lodge next door. It is hard to sleep well when curled up on a chair in a hospital room. While I hate to be separated from Ed overnight, lying down in a real bed in a quiet room for a few hours makes me a better functioning person.

The surgeon has discharged Ed so we plan to head for home soon.

Thanks so much for praying for all of us.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Hope in Midst of Questions


"How's Ed?"

It is the question that begins most conversations these past months. 

I don't mind the question. Ed's health is on the forefront of my mind, and I don't mind talking about it.



But I'm not always sure how to answer the question. 

I usually say that Ed is feeling well. And it is true. He is working full time. He hasn't had any seizures since the one in mid-May. He doesn't have headaches. He passes his neurological exams with flying colors. He has no weakness on either side which would be common after brain tumor resections like his. He didn't feel well on the days he took his medication, but that was only four days a month and his blood-work has been great.


He has been more tired, but by now we are used to his lack of energy. He can still enjoy most activities such as picnics, short walks, and games with the children as long as they are not too physically taxing. 

Some days, when I think of the last year, it feels like a miracle to have him present and enjoying life with us. I don't take a day for granted.


"How's Ed?"

Often Ed's doctors will pull me aside and ask "How's Ed" and I know they are asking about his emotional health. And I'm glad to say, "He's doing well."

All through the past year, Ed has been my rock. If he were angry or depressed - it would have been far harder for me. For all of us. We have our moments of frustration and misunderstandings, but we have had so many good days.

Peace - I call that a miracle.


But when I am asked how Ed was doing, there was always the looming question, What was going on that we couldn't see? What was happening inside his skull? Would we gain a reprieve of a few months? Or was those cancer cells busily multiplying? 

With Ed feeling well, I didn't even want to know.


Last week Ed had an MRI which told us what we didn't want to know. In the last two months, the cancer has actively regrown.

Because of the location that some of the tumor was found, his doctors are concerned that his tumor is morphing into a different variant of glioblastoma.

So on this Wednesday, June 27, Ed plans to go back to the hospital for a biopsy of this new spot to help determine his next treatment plan. He will have a needle biopsy, which should be far less intrusive than his past brain surgeries. If all goes as expected, Ed will return home the next day, but I still hate for him to be wheeled into the operating room yet again.

Please pray that Ed's surgery will go well. Pray that we'll have peace for the next step in this journey. Pray that we can continue to hold onto hope - both in this world and the next.
According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. - Philippians 1:20

Friday, June 22, 2018

Rival 5 Giveaway Winner

The winner of the giveaway for a Rival 5 Game is

Crystal S.

Thanks to all who entered the giveaway and shared your favorite games. If you want to purchase your own copy of Rival 5, go to the Rival 5 website.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

My Unfinished Story

Our family in May, 2018

Last winter, I was asked to write an article titled, "My Unfinished Story" for the spring issue of Daughters of Promise magazine. When I reread this article now, I see how the ensuing months have brought more chapters of hard things (cancer recurrence, a second surgery, seizures). But our story has many pages of laughter, grace, and answered prayer in the midst of the pain.

For those of you who have followed our story in the last year, none of this will be news, but I thought I'd share it here on the blog. 

My Unfinished Story

May 10, 2017 began the worse chapter of my life. On that day, my husband Ed had several tests to find the cause of his intense headaches and mental confusion. That night the doctor called, apologizing that the emergency forced him to give the MRI results by phone. I jotted down "Brain tumor. Probably cancer.”

I sat on the bed and tried to tell Ed the doctor's report. His head was buried in the pillow, and he didn't verbally respond, leaving me alone to tell our six children that their dad has a brain tumor. I struggled to answer my eight-year-old when she asked, “Is cancer something that makes you sick or makes you die?” I put my one-year-old to bed, knowing she might never remember her dad. I didn't know the script, but neither did I have time to figure out how to do it right. Within days Ed was recovering from brain surgery; and by the next week, we had the pathology report that confirmed the doctor's fears. Ed had glioblastoma (GBM), an aggressive brain cancer with a median life expectancy of fifteen months.

If life was a book, then our first fifteen years of marriage had been a quiet romance. We had a few challenging pages—fussy babies, a miscarriage, and Ed's minister ordination. But on May 10 our idyllic story turned dark and brooding. If this diagnosis had been a book, I would have hurled it across the room. How dare the author pull such a mean trick? I like when a writer weaves a tale that makes me fall in love with the characters. I don't mind a surprise twist if it is right for the story, but I refuse to read the dark, hopeless tales where the author kills off my favorite character.

With this sudden twist of plot, could I trust the Author of my story? God crafted a saga set in a perfect garden, but sin ravished the earth and creation groaned. (Romans 8:22) Pain, grief, and cancer splashed across the page. Jesus stepped out of heaven to write a new chapter of hope and restoration, but he didn't ban the effects of sin on earth. Weeds sprout in my garden, my children succumb to the stomach bug, and microscopic cancer cells multiply to a tennis-ball sized tumor in my husband's head.

I had expected to grow old with Ed, imagining he would follow his grandfather's legacy of pruning grapes when he was ninety. Dreams vanished of taking our children on a canoe trip or watching our daughters walk down the aisle on their wedding day. But if our time together was short, I didn't want to waste a minute in bitterness or worry. But every time I thought of a chapter titled “Widowhood,” I shuddered. I couldn't imagine mothering six children alone—not when I barely kept my sanity each afternoon until Ed came home from work.

Ed began a rigorous treatment program of chemo, radiation, and a strict diet. He lost his hair, his forehead sported a radiation burn, and he daily swallowed anti-nausea medicine. But hundreds of people were praying for us, some even fasted, and God answered. Ed regained strength and was able to return to work. After an anointing service, I learned there were miracles besides healing. I felt peace as tangible as warm socks; instead of seeing every hour on the clock, I enjoyed restful sleep.

For weeks after Ed's surgery and diagnosis, I couldn't concentrate on reading the Bible. Tears lurked on the surface, and my brain (though I couldn't blame it on surgery trauma) plodded through simple tasks. I was grateful for friends who shared Scripture verses and hymns, along with casseroles and cookies. 

A few words trickled in, and I began to recall stories from Scripture. Joseph. Job. Mary Magdalene. John the Baptist—these men and women of faith had faced deep suffering. They too felt fear, confusion, and doubt. But in the middle of their unfinished story they journeyed in faith and raised their hands in worship. Joseph rejected bitterness while serving in prison. Mary Magdalene visited the tomb to show honor to her Lord even after His disciples had fled. Job refused to curse God and proclaimed that his “Redeemer liveth” despite no evidence of God's presence. John the Baptist took his doubting questions to Jesus, the only one who could give reassurance.

In November our family vacationed in the Virginia mountains. On a cold, windy afternoon, I hiked alone to the top of the mountain. I worried that Ed's next MRI would find his tumor growing, a monster on the march. Gazing out over the mountain ranges, I reviewed what I knew of God—that He is good, He is big, He is wise. I knew I had a choice—either grasp and fight for Ed's healing and my happiness, or relinquish the pen to God. On that mountain I held out my empty hands like Abraham, yielding Ed and my future to God. I would confront the mountain of surrender again, but for now, peace had returned.

Sometimes, in the middle of a novel, I begin to doubt if the book is worth reading. I'm tempted to flip to the end of the book and read the last chapter to decide if the book is worth the time investment. Reading the end of a novel might ruin the plot, but our Author invites us to discover the end of His story. In Revelation, we find white-robed saints, who have experienced the worst of earth's misery, worshiping their Savior. We read of an eternal home, an incorruptible inheritance, a place with glory that cannot be compared to any of earth's suffering. (1 Peter 1:4, Romans 8:18)

I write this in January 2018, eight months after Ed's diagnosis. His hair has grown back to cover the long surgery scar; I wish I could as easily forget that GBM lurks in his brain. His December MRI showed a stable tumor. Though Ed is currently feeling well, we are reminded of GBM's aggressiveness when we attended the funeral of a friend, only 25 years old, who had the same disease. I ache for her family—and my own—while trying to grasp the truth that for the redeemed, “to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

Our next chapter may contain a worse day than May 10, but I can't focus on future fears. Grace can and will carry us through the unfamiliar pages. I have hope that these hard chapters will showcase the fingerprint of the Author and foreshadow a glorious climax. 

God's past faithfulness gives me courage to live my unfinished story.

Slightly edited from an article published in Daughters of Promise magazine in spring, 2018.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Kaiser Rolls

It has been over a year since I've shared a recipe. Today I'm breaking that record.


When I make these kaiser rolls, I think of May 2017 when Ed was so sick with terrible headaches and we didn't know why. I baked these rolls, one of the first times ever, to serve with Ed's favorite pork barbecue, but he hardly touched the meal.

But despite that memory, we do enjoy these kaiser rolls. They are chewy and perfect for sandwiches. I have made a lot less bread this past year since Ed can't eat it, but I've made these rolls numerous times.

The original recipe came from my sister who got it from one of Peter Reinhart's cookbooks. The original recipe called for making a pre-ferment one day and then finishing the dough the next day. That is too fussy for me. I adapted the recipe to mix all the ingredients at one time and either bake it immediately, or refrigerate the dough and bake in a day or two. Sometimes I bake half the dough into rolls the first day and save the remaining dough for the next day so we can have freshly baked rolls again with minimal effort.

I make these rolls with a mix of white and whole wheat flours, but they can be made with all white or all whole wheat flour. If you use bread flour, the higher gluten level will make these rolls even chewer. I usually add a bit of vital gluten to aid the gluten development and make them chewy but it is not necessary.

You can shape these rolls into simple round rolls. But I like to roll the dough balls long and skinny and "tie" them into knots. If you google "shaping kaiser roll knots" you'll find lots of tutorials.

I'm attempting to rewrite this recipe for sourdough, but I'm not completely satisfied yet. Hopefully with a little more work I'll have that recipe perfected enough to share.



Kaiser  Rolls

3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3 cups white flour
2 T vital gluten (optional)
1 T salt
1 T yeast
1 T honey
2 eggs
3 T olive oil
2 1/2 cups water
Egg and seeds for garnish (optional)

Stir all ingredients together except garnishes. Knead 6 minutes with a kneading hook at medium speed. (Or knead by hand - though you may need to add more flour.) The dough should still be tacky and hard to handle, though not sticky.

Cover dough and allow to rise 2 hours or until double. Divide dough into 16 pieces. Rest 10 minutes. Shape into balls or roll and twist into knots. Place on greased baking sheet.

Allow rolls to rise one hour. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds and poppy seeds. Bake at 425 for 13 minutes. Cool and serve with your favorite pork barbecue or other favorite sandwich toppings.

Variation: After mixing, allow to rise for 30 minutes at room temperature. Then cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and place in fridge. One to three days later, remove dough from fridge, divide into rolls, and proceed with the recipe. The rolls may need more time to warm and rise before baking.

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