Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Summer Deluge

A friend told me recently that her dad, a new widower, found it hard to go to social events. I understand why it would seem easier to stay at home. I've talked to widows who didn't go to church for weeks. I think that if I lived alone, I might be tempted to become a hermit.

But that wasn't an option for me. My children love social life.  I hear, "What are we going to do tonight?" almost before they are out of bed. If I suggested staying home when there were options on the calendar, I'd have mutiny.

But then, I like people and enjoy new experiences, so I'm usually joining my children in the desire to plan activities.

In a typical summer, there would be evenings we would stay at home. Maybe Ed wanted to mow the grass, or do some other home project. Maybe he had to study for a sermon or just wanted a quiet evening at home.

But this year there was nothing holding us back. If we were home all day, why not go away in the evening? If we decided to go to the park in the afternoon, grab some supper, and not get back to bedtime, there was no reason we couldn't.

I've been struggling with a complete lack of routine this summer. I realize I fit my life around Ed's schedule. What time does he need breakfast before leaving for work? When will Ed get home? Could he fit that event into his Saturday or should I decline?

But none of those questions apply anymore.

The result is that we have meals at all hours, spend whole days away, and have fit more events into one summer than usual. Some things that have been our routine for years, such as waffles every Wednesday morning, we've suddenly quit.

Sometimes I worry that I'm filling the missing hole that Ed left with busyness. I know that some widows turn to shopping, or food, or alcohol when they lose their husband. Am I staying busy to replace Ed and keep from mourning? Is this a healthy way to deal with grief? Will we get to the quiet days of winter and fall apart?

Or has it been a summer when friends and family want to show they care by spending time with us? Are we making up time for the things we couldn't do the last two years? Is our search for joy in the middle of grief driving us to spend more time together?

I have more questions than answers.

But I do know, that when I look through the photos of the last weeks, I do see joy.

And I am grateful.

Here's a glimpse.

Many Tuesdays found us at a city park playing games with the children. My children loved these evenings and hopefully some of the contacts will help my brother's new church.

I should have kept a list of all the things that I did for the first time this year. There were big things concerning finances and the small things like grilling steak. Ed did so many things that I took for granted. But it hasn't hurt us to tackle new projects like homemade ice cream.

So many events bring back memories of the last time that we did this with Ed. 

Last year Ed wasn't feeling good but...

...he played an inning of softball at the church picnic.

...went to the Allegany Boys Camp Open House.

...helped us dig and sort potatoes.

Now we do these things alone and just remember.

My youngest daughter didn't remember taking bike rides. 

We enjoyed a ride with my sister and her husband on the York Heritage Trail. 

A couple weeks later we went with Ed's brothers and their families on part of the Great Allegheny Passage. It had been years since we biked this beautiful rail trial.

We also had experiences that were new. Such as a history tour of local Anabaptist sites. 

We were the only locals in this group which included families from Peru, Paraguay, Ontario, and Texas. 

Every three years, our  local small town celebrates their history. We spent a day touring some local spots and eating free food from local businesses. This lady showed us how to die cloth.

We even watched the parade which was a new experience for all my children. I had to laugh, because only in a small town do people line up to watch rusted farm equipment and shiny fire engines file down a highway.

This was a summer that I was grateful that I lived in Pennsylvania. We had numerous visitors who came to Pennsylvania for family gatherings and took the time to visit us. Our picnic table saw friends from Ontario, Belize, and Peru. It was a special treat to meet ladies I've only known only through the written words we've pounded out in emails. I love that my children got a glimpse of God's work in other lands.

But far-away friends are not more important than our local friends. We've been given so much by living in a supportive community. Cousins stop by to say "hi," cookies and flowers show up on our kitchen table, and friends invite us for cook-outs. When I look at the calendar I'm reminded of lunch at a friend's house talking about widowhood while our children played, the fabulous day spent with my writers' group, and the hours spent at a coffee shop talking about books with a friend. The deluge of love has been amazing.

But we also needed to stay home and work occasionally. Lots of rain meant abundant weeds and tall grass. I sewed dresses for my girls and continued to de-clutter the house. My goal was to take one box to the thrift store every week. I haven't done it quite weekly, but some weeks I got rid of four or five boxes so I think my goal was met.

My sister helped me to do some painting and switching bedrooms around.

When our fourth daughter was born three years ago, Ed suggested that we give the master bedroom  and bath to the girls. The girls' bedroom was very small, but I didn't want to give up our room. When Ed got sick, I shelved the idea since I didn't know what we would need for wheelchair and hospital bed. But when I mentioned the idea this summer, my girls were excited. 

They love their new room. 

And I'm surprised at how much I enjoy my new space. The furniture and photos still hold memories of Ed, yet the smaller room feels restful. 

Best of all, having their own bedroom and bath has greatly reduced the getting-ready-for-bed chaos. I'm not sure why, but separating the boys and girls into their own bathrooms has radically dropped the stress level. 

I haven't done as much gardening this year - mostly just eating fresh veggies. Some parts of our county are experiencing drought, but we've had just the right amount of rainfall to make our garden lush and green.

We've enjoyed lots of fresh sweet corn.

I've done almost no canning this year, but we did do a bushel of peaches. I had not canned peaches in several years so my children needed a refresher course.

My girls are delighting in a new batch of kittens.

These two make sure our red raspberries are picked daily - though few berries make it to the house.

 My ten-year-old planted some cut flowers in the garden and has given away many bouquets.

In the hottest days the children beg to go to a nearby creek. While they splash, I sat on a rock with my feet in the water and a book in my hand. Refreshment for everyone.

We started school in July when the heat drove us into the air conditioning. I'm eager to make up for the chaos of the last school year, but so far we haven't yet found a school routine either. I do think I'll enjoy the kindergarten enthusiasm though I can't believe she is five already.

One challenge for school (and life) has been my voice. For weeks I have had very little voice. I managed to keep talking though I sounded croaky, but reading aloud and singing was impossible. I'm blaming allergies though I've never had this problem before. Every week I see a small improvement. One morning last week I found myself singing, something I haven't been able to do all summer. I still don't have a very wide range of notes, but it feels good to at least join in congregational singing at church again on a few verses.

Last weekend found me at a ladies retreat. As always, it was a time of refreshment, an oasis, a restful lull in the middle of August. The workshops, the food, the decor - it was all nearly perfect. 

But the best was the conversations with both new and old friends. I love that this is a safe place to laugh and cry and share my fears. I met many Home Joys readers, chatted with new widow friends, and cherished long conversations with my sister who is headed for Asia soon.

I'm often asked, "How are you?" I don't know how to answer that question. I think I'm okay. In some ways I feel more fragile than three months ago, and I try not to worry about what it will be like six months, or a year, or two years. 

But today, this moment, I'll being held by God and He is helping us find joy in our summer days.

And that is enough for today.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

We Rest On Thee

When I chose "rest" as my word of the year back in January I didn't know how much I would need rest.

Our summer has been recklessly busy. I love summer activities and our whole family is relishing the freedom of busy days and late nights. For the past two years our schedule was focused on caring for Ed. I didn't realize how much I tried to protect Ed from stress until I no longer had to. We miss Ed, but none of us miss cancer and the blight it put on our family.

But even though we are busy, I find that rest is possible. I can ache from pulling weeds, stay up late reading, scramble to get ready for an appointment, and still know rest.

It doesn't happen by default. I can't change much about my circumstances or my children or the current events. But I can choose my intake.  I can be intentional to listen to music that refreshes, read books that inspire, and spend time with people who encourage.

Rest isn't just a physical state of sleep or relaxation. One dictionary definition is "a peace of mind and spirit." I consider this kind of rest to be a gift from God and an answer to those of you who pray for us.

And it isn't just those of us who find ourselves in widowhood who need rest. I found an old post from a few years ago where I wrote about this same subject. Apparently I've been on a journey of learning to trust God and rest in Him for a long time.

On Sunday we sang a new-to-me hymn. I love the message of this hymn and all the names and attributes of God that it describes. To me this shows that finding rest is not something we can do ourselves but only found in God.

I learned that this hymn was sung by Jim Elliot and his four friends before they reached out to a violent tribe in Ecuador in 1956. When Elisabeth Elliot wrote the story of their deaths, she chose the title from a line in this hymn, Through Gates of Splendor.

We Rest On Thee
by Edith A. G. Cherry
Hymns of the Church #501

We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender;
We go not forth alone against the foe;
Strong in Thy strength, safe in Thy keeping tender.
We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.

Yea, in Thy Name, O Captain of salvation!
In Thy dear Name, all other names above;
Jesus our Righteousness, our sure Foundation,
Our Prince of glory and our King of love.
We go in faith, our own great weakness feeling,
And needing more each Thy grace to know;
Yet from our hearts a song of triumph pealing;
We rest on Three, and in thy Name we go.

We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender:
Thine is the battle, Thine shall be the praise
When passing thru the gates of pearly splendor;
Victors, we rest with Thee, through endless days.

If reading this by email, click over to the blog to enjoy a video of this hymn.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Pride and Prejudice Part 3

Part Three in the story of How I Became Mrs. Martin

The next year, 2000, was a very busy one for me. I did a lot of traveling and kept my parents busy shuttling me to the airport. I was twenty-four-years-old and single life was rich and fulfilling. It was a year of a lot of personal growth and I learned valuable lessons about myself and relationships. I saw Ed rarely that year, but he continued to be in the background of my thoughts. Toward the end of the year, I told a friend about Ed and I realized that I was peering past my Mennonite prejudice and focusing on Ed's godly qualities.

In October I saw Ed at a wedding reception. As people rushed around us, for the first time ever, I allowed myself to have an extended conversation with Ed. My busy schedule was clearing out and I admitted to Ed that I didn't know what I was supposed to do next with my life. Later I wasn't sure whether I was glad or sad to give him encouragement. Or even if he would take it as encouragement. (He did.)

Unknown to me, Ed was looking for the right time to ask me to begin a relationship. Besides waiting for me to finish globetrotting, his church had difficulties that year and he wanted to wait until things settled down. After Christmas Ed had foot surgery and he didn't want to be in a foot cast on our first date. But when the doctor check-up revealed that he would be in the cast for another six weeks, he decided to chuck his pride and quit delaying.

It was a Thursday evening in February, 2001 and my family was in the kitchen with a tableful of guests when the phone rang. Dad told him to call back the next evening since we had company. Poor Ed. After the agony of making the first call, he had to muster up the nerve a second time. But Dad gave Ed the permission he requested and he didn't waste time asking me. By this time, I was ready to say “yes” and we began dating. In only took a few weeks I knew that if Ed asked, I was willing to be his wife.

Our Mennonite/Brethren church differences didn't dissolve. We spent endless hours discussing church and our personal beliefs. I'm embarrassed to remember how many conversations ended with me in tears. I often wished that we could just have fun dating like normal couples, not dredge up intense issues. Sometimes I'm still surprised that Ed didn't give up on me. I'm sure he wished many times that I wasn't so strong-willed, opinionated, and intense.

But when we married we looked back on those conversations and saw the blessings. We were forced to learn to communicate and work through differences immediately. Our marriage benefited by the skills forged in that training ground.

Sometimes I am still shocked that a stubborn Brethren girl could became a Mennonite minister's wife. I had no idea when we were dating that we’d face brain cancer and our marriage would be cut short in less than seventeen years. But God gave me much more than I ever expected or deserved in marriage, and I'd marry Ed a dozen times over.

And I'm glad my pride and prejudice didn't keep me from accepting God’s gift for me.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Pride and Prejudice Part 2

Continuing the story of How I Became Mrs. Martin 

In the spring, Marlin and Teresa officially began dating. But Ed continued to show up at my church—maybe even more frequently than before. Slowly I began to think that Ed had other motives than just giving Marlin company. I had my suspicions on why—and who—was luring him back.

And I was angry. By now this group of youth had become comfortable, casual friends. I enjoyed volleyball, games after church, hikes, and cook-outs. Why did he have to go and destroy the companionship?

My first reaction was to avoid Ed. My friends would say that I “play hard to get.” I wasn’t interested in giving Ed any encouragement.

I told my dad my suspicions so I could have his input. Dad loves to talk to youth (actually he loves to talk to anyone) and he made it a point to talk to Ed whenever he had opportunity, which was often.

During the summer, I saw Ed more frequently than ever. I tried to ignore him, but the harder I tried the more I thought of him. My prayers were a convoluted confusion. I prayed that God would make Ed disappear, that Ed would find a cute little Mennonite girl—one that would fit seamlessly into his life—so that my life could return to normal. But in the next breath I asked the Lord that if He wanted Ed and I to get together—that nothing I would do would discourage him.

Sometimes I played volleyball beside Ed all evening, speaking as little as possible to him, biting my tongue every time I wanted to begin a conversation. I felt rude and unsocial. But when I asked Ed long after, he said he didn't think I was being rude since I never had much to say to any of the guys.

One evening that summer Ed invited our group back to his house after church for a cookout. I couldn't think of a way to excuse myself so I went with my stomach tied in knots. Would his parents be home? I didn't know much about his parents except that they were part of a very conservative Mennonite church, which Ed had left a few years before. What would they think of a Brethren girl?

Ed's parents were home and as we walked into the yard Ed's dad burst out of the house, to greet Ed's guests. If Ed's parents were uncomfortable with Ed's choice of friends, they didn't allow their feelings to show. Both were friendly and the perfect hosts.

I left the evening more confused than ever. Why had Ed invited us to his house? Was he only taking his turn at being hospitable? Did he want his parents to meet me?

I found out later that Ed's dad would bound out the door to meet anyone. He is the ultimate people person and delights in new acquaintances. But that night he did have extra motives to meet his son's guests. Ed had told his parents about me. Though they shared their concern with him that he choose a wife wisely, they did not harp on the subject in the coming years. In the future I would find them the most loving, accepting in-laws that a girl could ever desire.

I have no doubt that both of our parents were praying for us. Maybe more than anything, their prayers give our story a happy ending.

(To be continued)

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Pride and Prejudice or How I Became Mrs. Martin - Part One

I could write much about our last weeks. We've been busy with summer picnics, home improvement projects, history tours, gardening, and hosting friends. Usually we were a good busy and happy tired by the end of the day. (I also know the not-good busy and the sad tired, though not the last weeks.) But last week was our wedding anniversary and I found that I couldn't think of it without a feeling of suffocation. 

So I'm going down memory lane. About five years ago a blogging friend asked me to write the story of how Ed and I met. I edited it a bit and am sharing it here.

(Photos of Ed and I seventeen years ago)

Pride and Prejudice 
 How I Became Mrs. Martin

Lightening flashed and thunder rumbled—but it was only an ordinary summer thunderstorm—not an indication that I had just met my future husband.

I was standing on the front porch when I first saw him. Around me swirled laughter and voices. My friend Teresa and her sisters had planned a picnic on July 4, 1998. They invited a wide variety of youth from among their acquaintances at church, school, and work. When two young men ambled up the walk, I guessed that they were Ed and Marlin, Teresa's co-workers who I had heard about often but never met.

The rest of the evening is a blurred memory. I know we at yummy food and played volleyball until the rain chased us indoors to play games. Marlin and Ed turned an empty soda bottle into an Amish soda rocket, but I was unaware of the other sparks that were kindled that evening.

Over the next several months, Ed and Marlin occasionally appeared at a church service or a volleyball game. It didn't take long to figure out that Marlin and Teresa were moving their relationship to a deeper level than co-worker. I assumed Ed was tagging along with Marlin to give him company in visiting Teresa’s church.

I was twenty-two years old and spending many Saturdays watching my friends marry. I had the normal young woman's dream of marriage, but I wasn’t interested in the marriage options available. A Mennonite young man, though interesting from a single girl's perspective, didn't count.

To an outsider, my long skirt and white head covering looked similar to a Mennonites. I was often asked by strangers if I was Mennonite. But I was from a Brethren church and had built a wall of prejudice against Mennonites. I had never specifically said that I would never marry a Mennonite (I didn't want to make a promise I’d regret), but I thought it.

In October one of my dear friends, who also worked with Ed, married. After the wedding some of us played volleyball, including Marlin and Ed. Eventually hunger sent us to the tiny local pizza shop named Romeos. A few of us girls quickly slid into a booth, hungry for some girl talk. While I don't have trouble talking (usually I talk far too much) I was more reserved around guys. I preferred catching up with some dear friends. But the guys started shoving tables together and obviously wanted us to stay in a group so I left my comfortable huddle.

One cold day in February, Teresa called to say her co-workers were organizing snow tubing excursion. “Will you go along?” That evening, Teresa and three of her Brethren girlfriends, met a few Mennonite guys, plus several couples to car pool together to snow tubing. The young men offered to drive, but already feeling awkward with this group, we girls refused to be separated and drove together to Teresa's disappointment. Whether any young men were disappointed, I never asked.

At the mountain, the snow tubing course was crowded and the lines were long. But the evening was cold, crisp, and lovely. At closing time, I lingered to the back of the line, enjoying the beauty of the West Virginian mountains before the last ride. Ed waited too and gave my tube a shove for a head start down the mountain. In thanks, I lingered at the bottom so Ed could catch up, and we briefly chatted as we walked over to join the group. Nothing memorable was discussed but it was, to my memory, our first real conversation just the two of us.

(To be continued)

Friday, July 12, 2019

Eleventh Dutch Oven Gathering

Some moments begin an unexpected train of events.

Soon after Ed and I married we went camping with friends, and they made a cherry pie in a dutch oven.

Ed caught cast-ironitis immediately. Soon he was making apple crisp and cornbread in his own dutch oven.

These dutch ovens are not the pans used in the kitchen. They are cast iron pots which sit on three short legs and have a flat lid with a lip for holding coals. These are the pots that traveled west on covered wagons, served food to gold miners, and were carried by cooks on cowboy chuck wagons.

Over the years Ed added more pots to his collection until he could make meals with four different recipes all cooked in his pots. He also read all he could on dutch oven cooking and wished he could attend a Dutch Oven Gathering (or DOG) to enjoy cooking with others, but they were all held out west. In 2006 he heard of a DOG to be held in Cape Cod, Massachusetts and planned a family vacation to coincide with the event. We enjoyed our vacation, but the DOG was canceled because of lack of participants.

Meanwhile, Ed kept cooking. He dragged his pots to family gatherings, picnics, and even to work. My brothers caught the bug and bought their own pots, as did several of Ed's friends. Finally in 2008 Ed decided to host his own DOG. We invited everyone we knew that owned a dutch oven to join us in a cook-off at our house. Everyone made their favorite dutch oven recipe, and we all voted on our favorite.

If you are a long-time reader to Home Joys, you know that it became a tradition. Each year we enjoyed a night of camaraderie and good-natured competition around hot coals. And every year we ate well. The variety of foods that could be baked, broiled, stewed, fried, and simmered in a dutch oven always amazed me.

It has been a few years since I've posted about our Dutch Oven Gatherings. In 2016 it rained and though we managed to hold the DOG with the help of the basement and a canopy, I didn't get many photos.

In 2017, soon after Ed's first brain surgery, my parents hosted the DOG at their house. Several people cooked keto food for Ed and proved that special diets can still have creative delicious food, but I never blogged about it. Last year, for the first time since it began, we didn't have a DOG. Between Ed's health and the constant rain, it just didn't happen.

This spring when I asked my sons if they wanted to host a DOG, they immediately started planning. I thought we could have it at our house and Ed could enjoy it from his wheelchair, going inside to rest as needed. Most of the DOGs have been held in the height of summer on the hottest day of the year and we thought May would be more comfortable. But Ed's quick decline meant that we never even set a date before we knew it would be impossible for him to attend.

But my boys didn't give up, and so we scheduled this year's DOG on the Saturday of Father's Day weekend. It is hard to do things like this without Ed, but I knew that Ed would be delighted that we were still carrying on a tradition he began.

So twelve years after the first, we held the eleventh Dutch Oven Gathering at our house.

And, except for missing Ed, it might have been the best yet. We had the largest number of participants cooking with 27 pots. Some of these folks had attended every DOG, some were here for the first time for the inaugural use of their brand-new pot. Some of these cooks weren't born when we hosted the first gathering. We even had our first female participant. (Though there is always quite a bit of female help behind the scenes.)


Again, the brick retaining wall was the perfect buffet line.

Then it was time to open the lids and dig in.

My brother's daughter and two sons rolled dough and made fry bread. 

It disappeared so quickly I only got a bite.

The competition was stiff, but those three won the DOG favorite for 2019.

You can also read about past dutch oven gatherings. 2015, 2014,  20132012201120102009

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

On Starving and Audio Books

This spring I struggled to read. My time to read was limited, but even when I had some quiet moments I was often too distracted to concentrate.

That doesn't mean I didn't read. I'm not sure I could ever completely stop reading. In fact, when I look at the list of books I've read the past months, I was surprised by its length.

But it didn't feel like I was reading nearly enough.

Then I realized my problem. Ed constantly told me about the book he was reading or the audio book or podcast he heard on the way to work, or the sermon he was preparing. Even if I had a season when I didn't have much reading input, Ed was giving me intellectual stimulation. I perused many books through his narrative. Often by the time he finished telling me about a book, I felt like I could check that book off my to-be-read list and choose another.

Input from Ed ended last fall, but it took me months to realize what I was missing. Until I felt malnourished.

I wasn't sure how to compensate for the loss. I knew there would never be a true replacement from constant daily conversations with Ed. But to survive, I was going to have to find others ways to feed my mind less I continue to feel starved.

At about the same time I inherited Ed's phone. I barely knew how to text and only was vaguely aware of the meaning of  "app." But I wanted to catch up on technology and learn to use this tool.

I am a visual learner and never preferred audio books. When I'm reading a printed page I can block out all distractions. Ed could never understand how I could read in a loud house. I said it was long practice in growing up as the oldest of nine children. (Ed was the youngest of his family)

But I don't have the same ability when I'm listening to an audio book or podcast. I find myself grumpy because someone asked me something and I missed an important point of the book. Or I find my mind running down a rabbit trail and distract myself from what I'm listening.

But with the hours I was spending on the road (now that I was doing all the driving) I decided to learn to like audio books.

I began with children's books. I couldn't drive and mother well, but an enthralling story could keep the peace in the back of the van.

We borrowed audio books on cd from the library. We enjoyed books such as Young Frindle and The Tale of Despereaux. But our local library had a limited selection and often the cds were scratched. I wanted to find digital files through an app on the phone.

Ed had signed up for a trial for Audible - Amazon's digital audio book service. I loved the book selection; Amazon has nearly any book available. The quality is good, the site easy to search, and when you choose a book you have it for life, even after you unsubscribe. (Though how often would I listen to a book again?)

But Audible seemed expensive. The subscription costs $15.00 a month and includes only one book a month. You can get discounts and find good deals, but for someone accustomed to the library, the cost was a drawback.

So I decided to try some other book subscriptions. 

Several of my friends used Scribd and like it. This online book subscription cost $8.99 a month with  access to a large number of audio books and e-books. But you don't actually own the files so you lose them if you cancel your subscription. (Though, again, I rarely relisten to a book.)

I signed up for a trial of Scribd and showed it to my children. They jumped into reading and listening to their favorites. I soon found that one daughter listening to an Elizabeth Enright book on a laptop, my son listening to The Farmer Boy on the phone, and another son reading Survival Hacks on the other laptop while another daughter waited impatiently for her chance to Homer Price or The Penderwicks or books by Andrew Clements or Edith Nesbit.

Soon I found that the books that I had saved to listen to later such as The Hobbit or The Insanity of Obedience or Decisive or The Next Right Thing were now locked out. Apparently, if you download too many book in one month some books become unavailable. We found this especially true of the audio books but also occasionally with e-books. Apparently it depends upon the popularity of a book and the agreement that Scribd has with the publisher. We learned to pick the ones that we really wanted at the beginning of the month before we used so much they became unavailable. But we found there was always something to read or listen to, just maybe not our first pick. I doubt this would be a problem for most families who don't have so many book addicts in one household.

We were pleased with the quality of the audio books and found numerous e-books that we couldn't find at our local library. I don't care to read on an screen, but like audio books, now that I have a phone always with me, and I spend more time away from home, reading e-books was a way that I could greatly increase my book consumption. Now I can reread my favorite books from authors such as Jamie Langsdon Turner or Elisabeth Elliot right on my phone.

Scribd also contains free books from Librivox. Of course we didn't need Scribd to enjoy these books but their app made it super simple to use. I listened to Leo Tolstoy's Confessions while sewing, and we enjoyed Anne of Green Gables on our trip to North Carolina.

We  use three devices for Scribd and found that they sync well, keeping the place we left off however we are reading/listening. I do find that books are sometimes harder to search for on Scribd compared with Audible. Sometimes I can't find a book by the title but can by the author. Or I can't find it on audio but when I click on the e-book I find it available in audio also.

You can try Scribd for two months free by using my link to Scribd (which also gives me a free month.)

But I wasn't done trying audio services. My local library offers Libby. Ed had often gotten digital audio books from the library. He was sometimes frustrated that just when he got to the end of the book, his loan would expire and he would lose the book. Popular books often have a waiting list and you can't renew a book if someone is waiting for it. (Just as in print books, though then you have the option of keeping it longer and paying the fine!)

But I wanted to try Libby for myself. I downloaded the app and requested All the Light that We Cannot See. This was both good and bad since this book is 16 hours long. I had found that I could increase the reading speed to 1.2 times without any loss, but that is still a lot of hours. At the time I was trying to take regular walks as a break from the demands of caring for Ed. My usual walk was 1 hour and having a terrific book like this encouraged me to walk more often. But I still was only half done before the loan expired. I had to wait a few more weeks before I could renew the book and hear the second half. (And now this is the book that I'm telling everyone to read. I want to get a print copy so I can reread it and mark up my favorite lines.)

I think that Libby will work well if I have the patience to wait for a popular book to become available and if I choose shorter book less than ten hours so I have a hope of finishing it before it expires.

In the last two weeks I have been reading books far more. I'm not as tired and feel like I can concentrate better. But by now I have become hooked on audio books as well. I still can't listen when the house is loud but now you'll find me cleaning the bathrooms with my phone stuck in a mug (an easy way to increase the sound volume), walking for the mail with the phone in my pocket, and using errands as a way to enjoy a few more minutes of my book.

Starting a good book makes me walk more often, though sometimes I turn off the audio and just enjoy the silence or listen to my own thoughts.

But I still miss talking about what I'm reading. Conversation continues to be the thing I miss the most about Ed. So if you stop by my house I'll probably ask you want you are reading and hope that you let me learn a bit from you.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on audio books. Do you like them? Do you have an audio book service that you like? What hints do you have to read or listen more? Do you have a favorite audio book that I should try next.

Reminder: You can try Scribd for two months free by using my link to Scribd (which also gives me a free month.)

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Finding God in June

Is June always this busy?

I think so. Community picnics, picking peas and strawberries, a week of Bible School - these events are found in every June.

This month we are also catching up on things that were not done earlier in the year such as achievement test and dental appointments. Friends and family have been inviting us for Sunday dinners and evening cookouts. We feel so much support.

Does it sound odd to say that we are having a good month? Maybe. We have our bad moments, but when I talk to moms with teens, I find that they deal with attitudes too. But we are having many good times. I don't know the proper way to work through grief and suspect that there aren't any rules. I'm at the point now that I can crack open the box, peek in, stir some memories around, then put it on the shelf for another day. I don't think I'm in denial or squelching my pain. I get panicky when I think of living without Ed for several decades. But I choose to only deal with grief for a little while then go enjoy these lovely June days.

 Here is a glimpse of our month.

My brothers continue to work on our AC project. Two different days we had to leave our house to avoid the fumes while they sprayed foam insulation in the attic. It was sorta fun to hang out for hours at the park, library, and mall play area with no hurry to get home. I realized how often I'm in a rush to get things done and rarely do I just sit on a park bench in the middle of the day.

A girlie tea party.

The children loved an evening with friends at the huge slide.

My dear friend Holly from Guatemala spent a week in Pennsylvania. We spent a whole day talking, only rousing ourselves from conversation long enough to feed our children. On another day I helped serve a tea party in honor of her mother's 70th birthday. It was held on the big front porch of her grandparent's farm house on one of the many perfect June days we have had this month. I felt like I had fallen into the pages of Southern Living magazine. 

On yet another evening, Holly and I with a few friends caught up on our current lives and relived memories of camping along the creek. I laughed harder those hours than I have in a very long time. Old friends are golden. 

My youngest brother took my boys and some of their cousins on a Saturday bike hike. I'm so grateful for all the ways uncles have invested in my boys' lives this month.

While their brothers were away, the girls wanted to do something special so they made cake pops. I thought it would be a Pinterest fail, but they had fun and the results tasted great even if they didn't quite match the photos.   

Long-time readers will remember the dutch oven gathering that Ed held each year. We decided to continue the tradition. We had maybe the best gathering yet, except that Ed wasn't present. I'll do a whole post on it next week.

I had my heart set on visiting Ed's sister Jean in North Carolina on Father's Day weekend since her husband Jason died eight years ago on this weekend. We drove down Sunday, enjoying an evening with fish tacos and games. 

On Monday morning we decided to drive to the beach. We had numerous delays including a bridge detour. We finally arrived at the state park where we planned to take a ferry to an island. When we pulled into the park and saw "ferry closed for the season" we nearly had tears from our travel-weary children. We found another beach and the boys hit the waves in minutes. 

By the time we loaded up our sun-burnt children hours later, we were ready to get home. But Jean had ordered 100 pounds of blueberries from a local blueberry farm and I thought we should take the time to get them first. 

We arrived at the farm down a long sandy lane just before closing time. We were met by the owner who told us that someone had already picked up our berries. Apparently Mennonites are the only ones who order 100 pounds of blueberries so when a Mennonite man asked for 100 pounds of berries, he was given Jean's berries. The pickers were just pulling in with a trailer load of berries so we offered to wait. We were able to watch them sort and box the sun-warmed berries and the owner loaded our boxes extra full for our trouble. 

I was a little worried about traversing the lane again. The deep sand made traction nearly impossible and the trucks had worn deep ruts. My van isn't good in snow and we soon found sand is just as bad. Our boys climbed out and threw sticks and beach towels into the ruts, but we were stuck. I figured we'd have to trudge back up the lane and beg help from the blueberry farm but on the same lane was several houses. In the house closest to where we were stuck lived friends of Jean. They kindly pulled us out of our predicament. I think God looks after widows.

How we regret that we have no photos of that experience. We know that anyone hearing of our adventure will figure that we were two females with no driving smarts. We have no proof of the horrible condition of that lane because my phone charger had broken earlier in the day and the only phone with us that still had power didn't have a camera. Jean's friends said that on the worse days the blueberry farm keeps a truck out in the lane just to pull out vehicles.

By now our snack stash had been mostly depleted. Jean suggested stopping to eat but her oldest son had put a huge casserole in the oven at home when he got home from work so I wanted to just keep driving. We opened a box of blueberries and nearly consumed five pounds by the time we pulled into the driveway hours later. The children still ate a huge pile of food before scrubbing off the layers of sand and falling into bed. 

I only wish we could have told the tale of our day to Jason and Ed. How they would have laughed at our escapades. I didn't even mention our failed attempt at dumpster diving. I'm so grateful for a fun adventurous sister-in-law who can keep laughing whatever happens.

The rest of our trip was low key. We hung out at Jean's just enjoying time together. We helped bake for their farmer's market. It was fun to get a peek at their daily activities.

I made over 25 pie crusts - probably more than I usually make in a year. 

On the night of the 18th we lit sparklers. I told the children that it had been one month since Ed had died. I asked our five-year-old if she thought there were sparklers in heaven. She didn't hesitate to inform me that there wasn't any darkness in heaven because Jesus is the light. 

Back in Pennsylvania, we had only been home for a few hours when the toilet overflowed. It wasn't a photographic moment. I thought I had it mopped up, but the next morning I found that it had leaked into the basement onto the stacks of boxes awaiting return to the attic. 

If any of you wonder if your prayers are being answered, here is proof. I was only mildly annoyed and not the stressed, frustrated, overwhelmed person that I would have expected to be when cleaning up a putrid mess after hours of driving.

I'm slowly working through the list of things that need transferred into my name. I'm almost enjoying the challenge though I wish it was not necessary. Nearly always I find that it is more complicated than I expected. One day I visited the bank and thought I had every possible paper signed. But taking Ed's name off one account dominoed into several other issues. I was at the bank two more times that week. Yesterday I did the titles and registration on vehicles. I'm amazed that I can walk into an office with a death certificate and explain what I need without tears. I remember totally breaking down one day when I was on the phone with the auto insurance secretary a few weeks before Ed's death. 

Either I've grown callous.

Or you are praying. 

I choose to believe that latter. God is powerful enough to help widows with stuck vehicles, clogged toilets, teenage attitudes, and endless paperwork. And He is gracious to give kind friends, helpful family, fun-loving children, and an overdose of beautiful weather.
I waited patiently for the Lord...He brought me...out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock...he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God; many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord. Psalm 40:1-3


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