Saturday, May 1, 2021

Sisters' May Reading Challenge


I'm excited about this  month's reading challenge. So much potential for great reading! 

This post contains affilant links.

1. Read a book of letters (fiction or nonfiction).

For example: 

84,Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (A New York writer sent letters to a London used book seller after World War 2 and their coorespondance has become a classic.)

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer (Fictional letters between a London writer and the islanders of Guernsey and a celebration of the role literature played in their survival of World War 2 occupancy. Delightful book though there is a gay character- a minimal part of the book.)

Let Me Be a Woman by Elisabeth Elliot (These notes to her daughter were written decades ago but are still relevant.)

2. Read a book set in a country you've never visited (fiction or nonfiction).

We were going to suggest a book set in Mexico or Latin America for Cinco de Mayo, but that seemed too restrictive. But I would love to learn more about the  US neighbor so if you have some book suggestions set in Mexico, please let me know.

Examples for this challenge - they are endless.

Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan (Middle grade fiction from India)

Peace Child by Don Richardson (A missionary classic from New Guinea)

In the Land of Blue Burquas by Kate McCord (Powerful story of a woman reaching out to the women of Afghanistan.

3. Read a book that your mother or mentor enjoys.

In honor of Mother's Day, ask your mother for a suggestion of a book she has particularly enjoyed.

4. Read in your backyard, on your porch, or on your fire escape.

5. Ask someone at church what they are reading.

Have fun reading in May!

Friday, April 30, 2021

Sisters' April Reading Challenge

I thoroughly enjoyed this month's reading challenge. I'm not sure if it was the type of reading, or just my mood this month. 

This post containes affiliate links.

 1. Since April is National Poetry month, read from a book of poetry.

Charity - I enjoyed several books of poetry this month, though I read none of them in their entirety. From African American poetry to Emily Dickenson, my poetry books took a permanent residence next to my bed for the month of April.

Gina - For the last several years, I've been trying to gain a greater enjoyment of poetry. I picked up a poetry book by Mary Oliver at the library's poetry display. I especially enjoyed Oliver's nature poems but didn't care for some others. I decided that I need to read poetry differently than other books. It's okay to simply dislike some poems. 

2. Read a biography or autobiography.

Charity - Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Louis Zamperini’s life is one of contrast. As you read it you almost feel like he must have lived several lives. From rebellious childhood to a POW camp in Japan, you will be amazed at how many memories one person’s life can hold. Though at times I could barely read any more of the brutality faced as a Prisoner of War, the redemption made it worth every moment it took to read!

Gina - Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
Dr. Paul Farmer has dedicated his life to giving medical care to the poor. This biography reads like a personal memoir because Kidder spent a lot of time with Farmer, hiking for hours over Haitian mountains to see a patient and traveling to Russia to work with prisoners with tuberculosis. Kidder is a remarkable writer, and Farmer's passion for curing infectious diseases is inspiring. Note: the book is from a secular perspective and contains profanity and details of immorality. 

3. Read a fairy tale or a retelling of a fairy tale.   

Charity - The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

Loosely based on the fairly tale by the Brothers Grimm, Goose Girl is the story of a princess' struggle to relate to the people around her and mostly to her queenly mother. Ani's mother ultimately sends her off into an adventure that will either end Ani’s  life or make her a queen. I was pleasantly surprised to find that though it was an adult novel, it was still clean. It does contain violence, but it is not graphic. One caveat would be that  there is talk of powers or gifts that involve being able to speak to animals, wind, etc., but there are no wizards or witches.

Gina - The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy

What happened next in the "happily ever after" in the stories of Rapunzel, Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty? It isn't what I expected. Four men, all known only as "Prince Charming," are on a bumbling quest against the evil witch. The author throws in lots of humor and creativity along with trolls, a robber king, and a dragon. With four stories merging with four kingdoms and their royal families, I struggled to keep all the details straight. This is a fun middle grade book but with the fantasy and bad attitudes, I hesitate to give it to my children. 

4. Celebrate spring by reading in a park.

Charity - I loved the excuse to throw my book of poetry in my bag when we went to the lake last week. My enjoyment of Dickenson’s nature poems were definitely enhanced by the nature around me. Maybe I’ll read at a park more often.

Gina - I'm realizing that my little girls don't get the chance to play in playgrounds since we often choose activities the older children enjoy. So this month I took them to the park several times, reading my book between pushing them on the swings and admiring their climbing skills.

5. Share a poem with a friend by a card, email, text, or social media.

Charity - For the month of April, a few siblings and I created a chat to share poetry that we were enjoying in honor of the month. I loved reading what others liked. Sometimes laughing at a humorous poem, crying over a sad one, and, always, soaking up the beauty of words perfectly combined.

Gina - There is nothing more fun than sharing words with friends, and our sibling poetry chat was a highlight of my month. 

I'd love to hear what you read this month. Did you read an inspiring biography? Did you find a fun fairy tale? Does poetry lift your heart or are you a reluctant poetry reader like me?

Come back tomorrow for the Sisters' May Reading Challenge.

Thanks for your patiences as I figure out the new email service. Some of you recieved two emails last week. Some found the email in your promotions. If you didn't get the email, and can't find it in your spam or promotions, try signing up in the right column. 

Friday, April 23, 2021

Grief and Trust in April

I love the change of seasons and look forward to each season as it arrives. But spring is my favorite. I enjoy watching the earth awaken from winter, robe itself in green, and burst out with the music of birdsong and blossoms.

For years I worked at a greenhouse. Every day my hands were in the soil, and I talked plants and gardening with customers. It was a dream job.

This spring may be more beautiful than usual, or maybe I just forget. I'm relishing all the spring joys. 

Yet I feel melencholy. I can't help but recall the past several springs.

2017 - Ed had more and more frequent headaches in April let to the discovery of a brain tumor and diagnosis of glioblastoma in May.

2018 - Ed's tumor returned, and he had his second surgery in March. In May he had a grand mal seizure which I veiw as the turning point of his cognitive ability.

2019 - In March we learned that the cancer had spread to the other side of Ed's brain. His quick decline to a wheelchair, then to a hospital bed, cumilated in his death in May.

2020 - Covid reached our area in March and normal life ground to a halt. 

While in many ways Covid didn't change my days as a mom and homeschooler, I feel like I've carried grief this past year. Grief for the misunderstandings and strained relationships. Grief for the loss of life. A grief that continues a year later.


Years ago, when I was still a teen, one of the customers at the greenhouse was a sweet older woman who loved gardening. Many years later I met Ed and discovered that this lady went to his church. Throughout the years, I've enjoyed many gardening conversations with her. She usually sat in the row in front of me at church and at this time of year, she would ask if I had been to the greenhouse yet. I have a gift certificate in my purse that she gave me last spring to the greenhouse where we first met. 

But this spring she is in the hospital fighting for her life against Covid. While I know numerous people whose life has been taken by Covid, this is the first person who I saw often. Will you pray for a miracle for Esther?


As I flipped through the photos I've taken the last few weeks, I realized that we've done many walks in the woods. 

At the end of March, I gathered with 25 widows (most of them strangers) at a camp on a Pennsylvania mountainside. We tramped in the woods that was still stark with winter, ate wonderful food, and spent hours laughing, talking, crying, and singing. I can't describe how soul-strengthening the weekend was for me.

A few weeks later, I hiked with my brother and children to Black Rock on the Applachian Trail. When Ed and I were dating, we hiked here often, but it was the first time I had taken the children. 

Last weekend I walked through the woods with my parents and enjoyed the redbud and other blooming trees. 

I've been thinking a lot about trust and what it means to trust a God who doesn't always answer prayer as I wish. A God who brings us each season despite personal or international grief. A God whose plans are bigger than mine. A God who walks beside us as we carry pain into a beautiful April. 

I'm realizing that I hold God at arm's lenth when He doesn't feel as safe and predictible as springtime. But I'm longing to find new life, renewed relationships, and joy that lasts longer than April blossoms.

And now I can't find a neat and tidy ending to this blog post. So I'll just close with verses that have been meaningful to me in case your April doesn't feel neat and tidy. 

That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;

That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 

May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 

And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19)

 I'm trying a new blog email subscription service and may have some bugs to work out. If you get this by email, I'd love to hear if you can view the blog posts.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Fish Tacos


My dad takes my boys fishing in every spring. But never have they caught fish like this year. For the first time in his life, my dad has pulled out his limit on trout. And not just one day. 

I love how easy trout is to serve. I brushed them with a little olive oil and lemon juice, sprinkled with salt, and baked at 425 for about 15 minutes. The fillets then lifted off the bones easily. Yum!

Speaking of fish...

I'm always on the lookout for simple meals. On one of our visits to my sister-in-law's home, she made us fish tacos, and we gained a new family favorite.

I now try to keep the ingredients for fish tacos on hand at all times. This includes a pack of frozen white fish such as tilapia or whiting, a pack of fahita-size tortillas, and cabbage. There are lots of others ingredients that can be added to a fish taco, but these three ingredients are the basics for fish tacos at our house. 

With these ingredients on hand, I can put together a simple meal very quickly even if we were gone for the day. The fish is often vacummed packed in single packs which can quickly be thawed in hot water. I usually bake the fish in the oven because it is simpler, but sometimes I go to the extra work of breading and frying the fish. 

The cabbage can be chopped an eaten fresh, but my children love if I saute the cabbage in a bit of butter. 

Then I pull out any other ingredients that I have in the fridge that would go on a fish taco. Avacado, cheese, hot sauce, onion, tartar sauce. 

Layer it all in the tortillas and enjoy! It isn't fresh-caught trout, but it is always delicious. There are few meals that my children enjoy more.

Do you have a simple meal that is a family favorite?

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Sisters' April Reading Challenge

I really enjoyed the March challenges. Five challenges (three books and two activies) was just about right for me. I hope you join my sister Charity and I for the April Reading Challenges. We'll give some examples, but you can choose whatever books you want to fit these categories.

This post contains affiliate links.

1. Since April is poetry month, read from a book of poetry.

    Examples: A.A. Milne, Emily Dickinson  


2. Read a biography or autobiography.

    Examples: A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael by Elisabeth Elliot 

    Truman by David McCullough

3. Read a fairy tale or a retelling of a fairy tale.   

    Examples: Beauty by Robin McKinley

    Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

4. Celebrate spring by reading in a park.

5. Share a poem with a friend by a card, email, text, or social media.

Have fun with these reading challenges!

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Sisters' March Reading Challenge


Charity and I enjoyed the March Reading Challenge so much. The amount of challenges was much less than the Brighter Winter Challenge and felt more doable. Here is a review of what we did for the challenges.

This post contains affiliate links.

1. Read a book set in Ireland (in honor of St Patrick's Day).

Charity: Let Me Die in Ireland by David Bercot
Several years ago I read this book for the first time and it impacted my life deeply. Reading it again only challenged me more. St. Patrick’s life is surrounded by many myths and this book seeks to bring a story to tell the truth about this man of God. Not only is his life story fascinating and educational, it also bears testimony to what it looks like to be a part of the Kingdom of God.

Gina: A Slip of a Girl by Patricia Reilly Giff
 This is a free verse novel about the Irish Land Wars. I listened to it on audio and the reader's Irish accent added a lot of pleasure to the listening experience. Nory Ryan's Song is by the same author and also about the Irish Potato Famine, and I may have enjoyed it more since it is in prose not in verse. 

2. Read a book written by a female missionary.

Charity: Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler Rose
As a young wife, Darlene traveled into the jungles of New Guinea with her husband. They were ready to serve God among the unreached. But World War 2 and the Japanese invasion of the island would change her plans. This is her story of God’s faithfulness even while facing unimaginable suffering. Gina and I place this among our top favorite books by a missionary. 

I had read this book as a teenager and thought it would good to reread the wisdom in these pages. Elliot writes Scripture-saturated books. This one starts with a study of the Lord's Prayer then proceeds into a discussion of finding God's leading and will.  

3. Read a book about food.

Charity: Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
This memoir was the product of an impulsive thrift store buy. Though it’s focus is far from just food, she still had me drooling over her descriptions of Italian cuisine. Through the pages of this book she tells about the beauty of Italy, the trials of renovating an ancient house, the culture in small Italian towns, and, most of all, the amazing food that is placed on her table. My favorite part is her two chapters of recipes. Some day I hope her meals will grace my table in PA.

All of Reichl's memiors are a step into an unfamiliar world of food and culture. Save Me the Plums tells of her years as the editor of Gourmet magazine. I liked Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires more but this trip into the high-stress magazine world and high society of New York City was fascinating.

4. Write out a quote and tape it to your mirror.

Charity: “I have been safer here, overshadowed by Your love, than I would have been anywhere else on this earth outside of Your will” - Darlene Deibler Rose

Gina: "God gives us more than we can handle because what we can't handle drives us to dependence on Him." - Masonheimer

5. Mail a book to a child, invalid, or friend.

Charity: I was overjoyed to have an excuse to send a book to a friend who recently moved away. I sent a book by one of my favorite authors, Elisabeth Elliot. A few months ago, during a hard week I picked up her book Keep a Quiet Heart, and it was perfect for those days. Each chapter is an excerpt from her newsletter, so it is short and could be used as a devotional. 

Gina: My mother-in-law, who spends most of her days alone, told me that she looks forward to a good book so I ordered a copy of A Chance in the World by Steve Pemberton to be mailed to her house. I've never read this book but it had been recommended to me. Maybe I can read it next.

If you did one or more of the March Challenges, we'd love if you shared in the comments.

Check back on April 1st for the April Reading Challenges.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Strength for Today and Hope for Tomorrow

Long-time readers may remember that nearly ten years ago, Ed was ordained a minister at our church. That week had been hard as I surrendered part of my husband. In the years following, we experienced the challenges of church ministry but also found joys. Seeing God work in our lives and the lives of others was rewarding. The extra time spent studying God's Word was a blessing. We enjoyed being part of the ministry team at our church. 

That all changed with Ed's illness and death. Since then I've struggled to figure out my role and identity in our church. Who am I if I'm a former pastor's wife? Typically widows of ministers are in their seventies or eighties. Young widows are rare, but young minister's widows are even more rare. I didn't feel like I fit any normal category in the church.

This week a new minister was ordained to take Ed's place in our church. I fully supported the ordination and was glad to see our church moving forward. It is a joy to see a younger man take a leadership role.

But the week was also harder than I expected. Emotions that I've buried deep were raked out to the surface. I had to recognize and name some of my coping mechanisms that I've used as a barricade. 

Last night at the ordination, the service began with the well-known hymn "Great Is Thy Faithfulness." It was the perfect reminder to me that God has been faithful the past ten years, and His faithfulness would continue in my life and in the life of our church.

Great Is Thy Faithfulness
by Thomas Chisholm

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee,
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not,
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above;
Join with all nature in manifold witness,
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.

Here is a video if you'd like to listen. (If reading by email, click over to the blog.)


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