Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Ed's Funeral Video

I know there are many of you who wished you could have attended Ed's funeral.

Here is the video of the service. Thankyou, Enoch, for providing this video for us.

If you are viewing this post by email, you may need to click over to the blog to see the video.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Camping and Rambling

Which is worse, a sudden death or a terminal illness?

Ed's family has experienced both, and I think it would be impossible to choose even if we could. The sheer shock of the first is devastating, but slow suffering is equally hard.

This week I found both a pro and a con of Ed's terminal illness.

I appreciate that Ed could prepare for his death. In many ways he lived life as normal, but as soon as he heard his cancer diagnosis he began making me pay the bills. Ed had always took care of all financial matters, and I didn't pay a bit of attention to it. I wished it could have stayed that way. While I appreciated his efforts to teach me, I hated every minute of it. I didn't want to have to learn.

But last week when I sat down and quickly paid the month's household bills, I was so glad for the ease in which I could do it thanks to Ed's training. Family finances is one job that is no longer stressful to me.

But one thing I find very difficult with Ed's illness is that when I think of Ed, all I remember is the last months. The frustrations of lack of communication. The daily reminders of his declining brain function. Maybe if his illness had been only physical, I would remember the "real" Ed better. But brain cancer stole the man I married while he could still walk and talk. When I try to remember real conversations and "normal" life, there is only a fog.

I know those memories will return with time, and our little vacation this week helped bring back some of those memories.

I took the children on a short camping trip. I told them that it was a test. If we survived (maybe even thrived) on this trip, we'd try a longer camping trip.

The children rose to the challenge. Camping was so much easier than it was even a few years ago. The older ones could help put up tents, build fires, and pack the van.

The little girls are old enough to hike on their own two feet and entertain themselves with coloring books.

One friend told me I was amazing, but I may have been just crazy. Tent camping with six children? As the only adult? But every time I would start to panic I could hear Ed saying, "Of course you can. You'll be fine."

One of the greatest gifts Ed gave me was his confidence. Whether is was starting a blog, volunteering in prison, handling the family finances, or speaking to a group of ladies. He would never let me say I couldn't do it. He just assumed that I could, and he gave me the confidence to try.

So, we tried camping. And it worked.

We stayed at the Shenandoah National Park in VA that stretches the length of the Skyline Drive. We were able to use our A Kid in a Park pass again. Our children had never been there so it was fun to introduce them to the park. 

We stayed at Matthew's Arm Campground within the park. It was rather primitive with no showers, but we enjoyed our stay. We hoped in vain to see black bears. A mama bear and her two cubs were daily visitors to our campground, but we didn't catch even a glimpse. In the middle of the night, curled in a tent with my two little girlies, thoughts of bears wasn't good for sleeping, but we did wish for a distant glimpse of these furry creatures.

Skyline Drive curves around the top of the mountains with frequent overlooks. The views are stunning. The many visitor's centers gave us opportunity to enjoy several ranger talks about the wildlife and the history of the park.

Three days was not nearly enough time. There were so many hikes off Skyline Drive that we wanted to try. We are already planning where we will stay and what we'll do when we go back.

The hike to Dark Hollow Falls was all downhill into a ravine (and then back up), but the falls were worth the hike. The height of the falls and their beauty cannot be captured in a photo.

Camping brought back so many memories of Ed. When we were first married we did a lot of tenting. From sultry July evenings along the Conocheague Creek to a freezing November night camped on the beach. From July sunshine on a New Hampshire riverside to the pouring rain on the Clarion  River in northern Pennsylvania. I'll always be grateful we packed in so many fun experiences in those first years.

Our tent camping ended when we had three children in as many years, and we switched to cabin camping. But the memories continued. So grateful that Ed made family time a priority.

On the third day we drove over to Luray Caverns, just outside the park boundaries. The children had never been to a cave or cavern before. Usually we look for free or very inexpensive vacation spots, but we had been given money to spend on something fun as a family so decided to use it for tickets. The children loved the cavern tour and it was the highlight of the trip.

Now we are back home, and my brothers continue to work at replacing our AC. They finished pulling out all the old insulation which made an appalling mess. Don't worry. They cleaned it up.

And we are in time to enjoy our strawberry harvest. The berries are huge this year, and we've filled several large bowls with their yumminess.

Camping, home projects, spring harvest. Remembering Ed. Making new memories. This is our life today.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Do the Next Thing

I've always liked to detect possible challenges and find a solutions to avoid future problems. I like to think that trait is an asset, though it probably caused a lack of sleep in the last months.

I've had several scenarios surrounding Ed's impending death rolling around in my head these last weeks. Now when I look back I see that some of the thinking and discussion with others allowed events to glide smoothly.

I had hoped that Ed could be part of our family life as long as possible. We place his hospital bed in our dining/living room right by the window to the back yard. I'll always cherish the memories of that last week when we pulled the rocker and the loveseat by Ed's bed and filled them full of friends and family. Almost never was Ed alone, day and night. Until the last day he still had a firm grip in his right hand and often someone was beside his bed holding his hand. In his last minutes on earth both his brothers were by his side.

I have regrets in life, but not about how Ed was cared for in his last days.

On Monday I took the children in to the funeral home to have a private viewing. I had worried that the three-year-old would be upset with burying Ed's body. I had told her several times that Daddy's body was sick, and God would give Daddy a new body in heaven so he wouldn't need his sick body.

The casket was a great curiosity to her. She kept standing on tiptoe and peering in at Ed. I heard her say to herself "That is Daddy's sick body."  I know she understands very little about the impact that Ed's passing will have on her life. Right now she does know what she lost. But I was relieved that she wasn't upset at the funeral and burial.

I had thought (worried) a lot about the viewing. I knew there would be many people who would want to honor Ed and his family by attending the viewing. I've stood at the funeral home when long lines zig-zagged across the room and out the door. I dreaded the stress of greeting friends while knowing that a line waited.

Ed's brothers and I had numerous discussions on how to best arrange the viewing. With the help of the funeral director we chose to have longer viewing hours and arranged the room to keep the line moving.

Six hours of a viewing is a long time. The children soon tired of standing next to me shaking hands and joined their cousins. Ed's family and my family were spaced around the room, but I was alone by the casket. I didn't mind. I wanted to stand by Ed, and, in a small way, still be a couple one last time.

I was humbled by all those who made the sacrifice to attend the viewing and funeral. Church family and friends who have supported us through these last two years by their presence and prayers. Old friends and neighbors who knew Ed as a child. My parents' cousins. My cousins. Ed's cousins. Ed's cousins' children. My fourth-grade teacher who saw the obituary in the newspaper. Several of Ed's grade-school teachers. Blog and email friends who know me only by written words. Childhood friends who have known me since birth and could tell my secrets. Ed's work and business associates. Widows who also lost their husbands to brain tumors who have encouraged me through their phone calls. Ed's school friends who helped make him into the person I knew. Friends of Ed's siblings. Friends of my siblings. And Many More.

But never was there a long line. If I wished I could chat with friends knowing there wasn't a long line behind them. When I was leaving the funeral home I stopped to thank the funeral director for how well the evening went. He asked me if I knew that we had 900 people through the line. I was shocked. And thankful. All the planning had paid off, and I wouldn't have changed a thing, even though my eyes felt red-rimmed and scratchy, and my body sagged.

The funeral on Wednesday also went smoothly. It was held at my parent's church since our church is too small. I sat on the front bench at exactly the same place Ed and I had sat at our wedding. Hearing old familiar hymns sung by a full audience and hearing words of worship to our Sovereign God were soul strengthening.

The burial was hard. The finality of the grave could not be ignored. I have no idea who attended the burial. I stayed composed only by not looking at anyone. I knew if I saw tears, my own would flow.

The meal after the burial was a beautiful example of love. Many women from various churches worked together to prepare the meal. Again I was surrounded by the love of family and friends. I enjoyed hearing their stories about Ed and their reminders of God's grace at work in their own lives.

My parents brought us home from the funeral. My dad saw my terribly weedy garden that I've been ignoring and got out the tiller. I typically enjoy gardening, and we spent the rest of the evening pulling weeds. It felt so good to do something with my hands instead of my head and heart.

That night I slept better than I had in weeks.

What does a widow do the day after her husband's funeral? I didn't know the rules, but I jumped into Thursday thinking I would return my house to order just like I had my garden. The house was generally under control (constant company made sure of that), but the corners and cupboards needed attention. Every May when school ends I have a desire to declutter and organize. This year that desire was magnified ten times. Maybe because house cleaning was something within my control. Maybe because the house has been so neglected the past months.

Then my brothers were rained out of their barn painting project and decided to work on our AC project. Replacing our AC means pulling everything out of our attic to remove the old insulation. Soon my dining room was covered with boxes and the house with a layer of insulation dust. It was almost laughable.  My house had went from generally clean to disaster. I started sorting and organizing, glad that at least I was in a decluttering mood. Nothing like a funeral to make one willing to get rid of Stuff That Won't Go With Us.

In desperation to not trip over boxes for weeks, I looked for any empty spots - not easy in a rancher that contains six children. I opened Ed's half of the closet, pulled out clothes, stuffed them into bags, and carried them to the van to give away. I never would have chosen the day after the funeral to put away Ed's clothes, but I would do it sometime, and it gave me a place to stuff boxes. It made sense even if it was crazy.

When I told a friend how I spent the day after the funeral she said that in a thousand years she'd never would have guessed cleaning insulation debris and bagging clothes.

Elisabeth Elliot suggests, "do the next thing," when faced with hard life circumstances. I guess that is what we did.

But the weekend wasn't all work. The children and I planned a short camping trip for next week. Ed's brothers helped us plant a memorial tree. We enjoyed cookouts with various friends and family on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings. Volleyball, S'mores, mountain pies, banana splits, discussions on heaven, and more.

Do we feel relief, grief, or something else all together? I don't know. I won't attempt to figure out the jumble of my emotions. Just holding on to the promise that God doesn't forsake the widows and the fatherless and doing the next thing.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Ed's Obituary

Ed's death was so expected, and I had wondered what I'd feel after he was gone. Not shock, obviously. Relief that Ed is no longer suffering. A little bewildered as I often think I need to go check on Ed. Of course there is grief. But since I've been grieving since October, relief is greater than grief right now

Yesterday all my family gathered at our house. Since I'm the oldest of nine and have over a dozen nieces and nephews, it made a crowd. The weather was absolutely perfect. Originally we had planned to be at our homeschool field day on Saturday so the men must have been in a sport mood. While we women sat under the trees and watched the little ones, the men played hard games of Ultimate Frisbee and Spike Ball with the older children. My children were sun-burnt, grass stained, and weary by the day's end.

If you are a long-time reader of this blog you may remember the sudden deaths of my father-in-law and brother-in-law. I well remember the stunned emotion while sitting in the living room with family planning funeral arrangements.

Ed's brothers had done so much work the past week that most of the funeral details were already made, and there was no panicky decisions to make.

You may read Ed's obituary.

I know that some of you who are my real-life friends are trying to decide if you should make the trip to the funeral. I won't tell anyone not to come, but there will be a crowd, and I won't be able to spend with each friend that comes.

So if you decide to send an email, write a card, call me on the phone, or stop in for a visit, instead of attend the viewing or funeral, I won't be offended.

Thanks so much for all your support and prayers. I feel nearly embarrassed by the flood of riches I've been given through your love. I'm sorry I cannot personally acknowledge each of your kind notes.

Saturday, May 18, 2019


This week we've listened to one of Ed's favorite recordings many times. ("Heaven" by For Hymn) I don't know if he could hear or understand the words, but I could.

Today, in the early morning hours, I turned it on again. At 2:30 a.m. Ed breathed his last breath of earth's air while the song "Safe in the Arms of Jesus" was playing.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

730 Days

730 days. 104 weeks. 24 months. 2 years.

Two years ago today Ed had surgery to remove the brain tumor that was causing intense headaches. The preliminary test during surgery showed that the tumor was the feared glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) an aggressive cancer with life expectancy of not more than a year. A week later the pathology report would confirm the diagnosis.

Throughout the last two years with radiation, chemo, radical diet, more surgeries, and clinical trials, Ed was blessed with many good days. We were able to take family trips, make memories, and squeeze the joy out of ordinary days.

But there is no respite from a diagnosis such as GBM. Never do you forget that without a miracle, your days are numbered.

We all know we could leave this earth at any time. I've heard numerous times, "I could be in a car accident tomorrow and die before Ed." I've probably said it myself. And this week this fact became true for the mother of a dear friend.

But I don't live like I expect to die tomorrow. I've watched Ed this past two years and saw the difference in how a GBM diagnosis affected his life. He wasn't morbid, but every decision from buying a new pair of shoes to planning a vacation was affected by the facts of his disease. Sometimes I was surprised by how well he was able to set aside the diagnosis and enjoy the moment, but I know it was never far from his thoughts.

For the last week we have sat in vigil around the hospital bed set up in the living room. Our family surrounds us with their love and presence. My brothers and Ed's brothers take turns staying with him at night so I can sleep. We try to keep Ed comfortable with the help of morphine and oxygen and the advice of our home-care nurse. Sometimes his breathing is labored, but in the last 24 hours he seems to be resting peacefully. Only rarely does he open his eyes, and he hasn't spoken for days.

Life flows around Ed. We sit by his bed and watch out the window as the children play volleyball with their cousins. We pull out the table, fill it full of people, and enjoy my brother's omelets. We gather around for bedtime stories. We laugh, cry, and discuss the latest book we are reading. We say good-night knowing that if Ed would wake in heaven it would be his gain and our loss.

730 days of knowing that this good-bye was coming. I'm not sure if it makes it easier or harder.

But I know we've had 730 days of God's grace, and we haven't used it up yet.

 2 Timothy 1:9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,
 Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
 1 Peter 5:10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

On Zion's Glorious Summit

In the last post I said I wish I could write a different ending to our story. That wasn't exactly correct.

I do wish I could write 2019 differently. I wish I could grow old with my husband. I wish I didn't have to watch Ed grow weaker every day, spending more hours sleeping than awake, barely aware of his surroundings. I wish I didn't have to order a hospital bed, discuss advanced directives, and figure out how to explain to a three-year-old that their daddy is going to die.

But I love the ending that God has written.

I've been reading through the last chapters of Revelations, and I copied few excerpts here for my reminder of God's ending to our story.
I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away...
I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain...
And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new...
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son...
And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.
And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof...
And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb...and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life...
And there shall be no more curse...
And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.
(Revelations 21:1,3,4,5,7,22-23, 22:1-3,5)
A few months after Ed's diagnosis he found a new-to-him hymn. It was so meaningful to him that he made copies of the hymn and took them to church so our congregation could learn it. I think now is the right time to share this hymn with you.

I imagine that Ed is hearing the song and longing to join the redeemed around the throne of his king.

On Zion's Glorious Summit
by John Kent
On Zion’s glorious summit stood
A numerous host redeemed by blood!
They hymned their king in strains divine;
I heard the song and strove to join,
I heard the song and strove to join.
Here all who suffered sword or flame
For truth, or Jesus’ lovely name,
Shout victory now and hail the Lamb,
And bow before the great I AM,
And bow before the great I AM.
While everlasting ages roll,
Eternal love shall feast their soul,
And scenes of bliss, for ever new,
Rise in succession to their view,
Rise in succession to their view.
Sanctus (after last verse)
Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of hosts, on high adored!
Who like me Thy praise should sing,
O Almighty King!
Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of hosts, on high adored!
Holy, holy, holy.

As usual, you can listen to the song through the video below, but if viewing this 
post by email click over to the blog.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

In Slow Motion

A friend described my life as a nightmare of being stuck on the railroad tracks while a train bears down on you - and you can't move.

The description fits. I wish there was a way to escape this story. Can't I write my own ending? 

(Photos on this post are from my  walk "around the block." Watching spring emerge these last weeks has been restorative.)

Ed's MRI this week showed significant growth in the new tumor in the center of his brain. Because of the physical and cognitive decline we've watched this last month, I wasn't surprised. Still, it is hard to see confirmation of our fears.

Old barn covered in wisteria

Ed's seizure on Monday left him even weaker on his left side. At first he could not move his fingers or lift his arm. He has regained a little movement, but still can't use his left side much.

My brothers and Ed's brothers take turns coming every morning and evening to help Ed dress and shower. With the children's help, I can move him from his wheelchair to the recliner, but it isn't easy. I'm so glad to have the help of family.

Road-side poppies

In the past two years we've thrown a lot at Ed's cancer including multiple surgeries, chemo, radiation, diet, and experimental treatments. We knew Ed had the most aggressive form of glioblastoma multiforme, which has dismal statistics. But Ed had nearly two years of good quality life after his diagnosis, for which we are thankful.

But now we feel it is time to change tactics. We've stopped all treatment and are focusing on caring for Ed. Brain cancer patients rarely experience pain, and Ed appears comfortable and worry free. Our palliative doctor and home-care nurse have been helpful in giving us the needed equipment and information.

I don't know what the coming weeks hold, but I know that we'll need to hold onto God.

      Abide With Me

      by Henry F. Lyte

      Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
      The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
      When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
      Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

      Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
      Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
      Change and decay in all around I see;
      O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

      I need Thy presence every passing hour.
      What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
      Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
      Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

      I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
      Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
      Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
      I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

      Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
      Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
      Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
      In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
      If reading by email, click over to the blog to listen to this hymn.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Sharing Others' Words

I have half-written posts that I'd like to share, but Ed had a short seizure last night, and I'm not in the writing mode this morning.

Some of my favorite websites have shared posts recently that were so good I wanted to save them to reread. Enjoy their insights.

Anita shares some profound thoughts on loneliness and our longing for God in the Seduction of the Sehnsuht Part One and Part Two.

The Mullet family has experienced far more physical illness than most, and Cindy shares on Finding Hope in Suffering

Shari Zook's words brought me to tears in What I Saw: Good Friday Reflections.

Sara shares a poem she learned as a youth that echoes today in Dying to Self.

Katrina Hoover Lee shared some of her favorite Easter poems including the poignant Gethsemane.

Desiring God shares on How To Make Urgent Medical Decisions for Your Loved One.

May these words inspire you.

Friday, April 26, 2019

One Day at a Time

For months, my general response to "How are you?" has been "We're living one day at a time."

The past few weeks this has been even more true. I can only focus on today. Or maybe this moment.

I can't dwell on the past because then I remember how much better Ed was last month, or last summer or last year. The days I thought were hard then, now seem easy. I wonder why I didn't appreciate how good I had it.

No, I can't focus on the past.

I can't focus on the future. I do have to make plans. I must make phone calls, line up supplies, and work out details. Sometimes I even allow myself to dream, to plan a summer book club or look up a new camping spot the children would enjoy. But I can't imagine how I'll make it through the next weeks, the next months, the coming years.

No, I can't dwell on the future.

A few months ago I didn't know how I'd manage if Ed lost his ability to walk. Now it's our reality.

How are we managing?

We "do the next thing" as Elisabeth Elliot said often. Each moment there is a task ahead of me and always there is strength for that task.

When I accept my present reality and walk into it, I find grace for the moment. 

The last weeks have held some good times. Ed and I enjoyed his niece's wedding. On Palm Sunday Ed's family was together at his mother's house. My family spent Easter Sunday together, enjoying the presence of my brother who returned from teaching English in the Middle East. And of course, Easter is a reminder that we have a risen Savior who gives us hope.

Enjoying Iraqi naan at our untypical Easter dinner.

But Ed's wheelchair is now necessary just to move across the room. His shaky hands make eating difficult. The weakness on his left side is more obvious. Every day I see another sign of his deteriorating health.

But our families are holding us up in very tangible ways. My sister helped me scrub the winter grime off the windows to let in the spring sunshine. Ed's brothers and my brothers have helped with various projects around the house such as building a wheelchair ramp and stacking firewood. If I mention that my faucet is leaking, I have brothers vying to fix it.

Many of you have emailed, sent mail, and remembered us in various ways. Thank you for your love and reminders of God's care. Your prayers are holding us up and are the reason we are finding grace.

A friend sent me the words to this song which have been echoing in my mind ever since. I know that often people reject God in times of suffering. My prayer is that I will hold tighter to Him as my only place of safety.

Under His Wings
by William O. Cushing

Under His wings I am safely abiding,
Though the night deepens and tempests are wild,
Still I can trust Him; I know He will keep me,
He has redeemed me, and I am His child.
Under His wings, under His wings,
Who from His love can sever?
Under His wings my soul shall abide,
Safely abide forever.
Under His wings, what a refuge in sorrow!
How the heart yearningly turns to His rest!
Often when earth has no balm for my healing,
There I find comfort, and there I am blessed.
Under His wings, oh, what precious enjoyment!
There will I hide till life’s trials are o’er;
Sheltered, protected, no evil can harm me,
Resting in Jesus, I’m safe evermore.

Enjoy listening to this song in this video. (If reading by email, click over to the blog to view.)

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Book Review - Suffering Is Never For Nothing

One of the shaping influences of my life is Elisabeth Elliot. I read almost all of her book in my teens and early twenties. I also had the chance to hear her speak in person at several different events.

I remember sitting on a couch next to Elisabeth in the lobby at one of these events. I thought I'd bubble over with questions, but I couldn't think of anything to say. (Yes, rare speechless moment for Gina.) Elisabeth turned the questions to me asking how I pinned my hair into a bun. We ended up comparing hair notes (she also wore her hair in a bun.) That was when I realized that Elisabeth wasn't only wise and articulate, she was also kind, funny, and, well, human.

When I heard of Elisabeth's death a few years ago, I pulled the whole stack of her books off my shelf intending reread them all. I don't think I got past my favorite (A Path Through Suffering). This post contains affiliate links.

I rarely buy new books. I'm such a tightwad that I'd rather borrow books from the library or wait until I can find the book used.

But when I heard that a new book by Elisabeth Elliot had been published, and when I learned the topic, I immediately ordered it from Amazon.

Suffering Is Never For Nothing was compiled from a transcript of a small conference where Elisabeth spoke on the topic of suffering.

Elisabeth met suffering personally. Her husband, Jim Elliot, was murdered while trying to share the gospel in Ecuador. Cancer took the life of her second husband. Elisabeth has personal experience with wrestling with the hard questions of why God doesn't do something about suffering.

Her answer? He has. God walked the ultimate path of suffering and won the victory. For all of us who suffer.

This book is unlike Elisabeth's other books. The tone is conversational since it came from her spoken words. The prose is not tight like her other books, and I wonder if Elisabeth would be embarrassed to have her unedited script be put to print.

But I underlined many passages in this book and when I finished the last page, I turned to the beginning and started reading again. Right now, a deep theological tome would be too much for me to ingest. But when I read Suffering Is Never For Nothing, I can see Elisabeth's tall thin frame standing behind a lectern, with her soft but authoritative voice sharing God's Word through her life story.

And again I thank God for the way His grace in Elisabeth's life is able to strengthen me.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Bookmarks: Picture Books on Inventors

I love the recent trend that has produced many lovely picture-book biographies. These books aren't just for young children. I enjoyed the introduction to famous, and not so famous, inventors.

This post contains affiliate links.

by Judith St. George, illustrated by David Small
Short blurbs on many inventors and fun illustrations make this book a winner for any child who dreams of inventing the next spectacular widget.

by James Rumford
Rumford uses lovely water-color paintings to describe what Gutenberg needed to print his first books. Also check out Johann Gutenberg and the Amazing Printing Press by Bruce Koscienlniak which traces the history of printing throughout history.

by Gene Barretta
How could one man give us everything from a postal service, bifocals, and world-changing documents? This book shares the practical brilliance of Ben Franklin which impacts our world today. Look for other books by this author such as Timeless Thomas: How Thomas Edison Changed Our Lives.

by Pat Miller, illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch
Hanson Gregory was only a teenager when he invented the breakfast treat that millions enjoy. Learn of his brave deeds and colorful history along with the true story of the doughnut.

John Deere's Powerful Idea: The Perfect Plow 
by Terry Collins, illustrated by Carl Pearce
You might recognize the famous green tractors, but do you know how the John Deere Company began? Bright comic-style illustrations share the story of frustrated farmers and a struggling blacksmith. You may also like John Deere, That's Who! By Tracy Nelson Maurer, illustrated by Tim Zeltner.

written and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully
She may have been young, and she may have been a girl, but that didn't keep Mattie from loving tools and building things. Mattie's invention of the paper bag is still used today. Soft illustrations show Mattie's life and sketchbook.

by Peter Busby, illustrated by David Craig
From a toy helicopter to bicycles to gliders, and, finally, the first powered airplane – these brothers’ hard work paid off. Richly detailed paintings and period photographs share their story in fascinating detail.

by Jen Bryant, illustrations by Boris Kulikow
Most boys would have given up, but young Louis was determined to read even though he was blind. Braille was still a child when he invented the Braille alphabet. The child-friendly illustrations help tell the story of this young inventor.

by Catherine Thimmesh, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Windshield wipers and chocolate chip cookies are only two of the products you’ll learn about in this book with its short chapters. Learn about women who turned a good idea into a useful invention.

by Chris Barton, illustrated by Don Tate
Lonnie loved to build action toys. Even when he became a real rocket scientist, he didn't stop inventing. Bright illustrations introduce children to a modern inventor and scientist.
I only shared a few of the picture-book biographies on this list. I hope to share more soon. You can also check out my book list page.

Friday, April 12, 2019


Last week was intense. For three days Ed had chemo infusion which meant leaving early to get to the clinic. Once there we had a few relaxing hours while Ed had the infusion. I brought my laptop and caught up with email and placed my orders for next year's school curriculum. Only a mom of six would consider sitting in a doctor's office as a peaceful break.

Since Ed's brain tumor is so aggressive, chemo probably won't do more than slow its growth - if that. I was worried that the chemo would make Ed sick with little benefit. But Ed felt great all week and was never nauseous.

At the end of the week, I spent parts of two days at a writers' conference. The workshops were wonderful, but I enjoyed the social interaction even more. Writers often tend to be introverted loners, but, get a whole group of them together, and the room was full of crackling passion. I loved meeting some of you that I've only known through email. 

I may have enjoyed it even more since I didn't know if I would be able to attend this year. I'm so grateful for my family who made it possible. But I doubt I'll leave that long again. Ed continues to decline, but I'm used to caring for him. We are learning the things that make it easier to function, even if it is hard to admit they are needed. Today we got a wheelchair. His left leg is dragging more making it harder to walk. We also stopped physical therapy. Though it feels like we are giving up, we need to face reality. 

Ed would tell you that he feels well; he has no pain or headaches. He talks very little, but enjoys visitors. In many ways he is childlike, agreeably doing what he is told, though on rare occasions acting like a stubborn two-year-old. To be honest Ed and I have less conflict now than a few months ago when I'd get frustrated when it seemed like he wouldn't try harder. I know, I wasn't being reasonable, and I'm not proud of my attitude. Now his limitations are more obvious. 

This week we've had no appointments, and we spent several afternoons enjoying the spring weather and cleaning up the yard. I thank God for my little girls who cuddle baby kittens, give wonderful hugs, and help keep me sane.

I might be crazy for planting a garden, but last year I found pulling weeds was therapeutic after a doctor appointment. I figured I might need the relief this year too.

Since we had a break in the rain, Ed's nephew tilled the garden and the children helped plant onions, sugar peas, potatoes, and broccoli.

Spring is a reminder that life continues. God doesn't change despite my current circumstances. He is still in control of the earth's rotation, and He'll continue to carry us in His vast, unmeasured love.

O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus
by Samuel T. Francis
Hymns of the Church #291

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o'er His loved ones, died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth, watcheth o'er them from the throne!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best!
'Tis an ocean vast of blessing, 'tis a haven sweet of rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, 'tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee!

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Giveaway Winner and Unexpected Kindness

Thanks to all who joined the giveaway for The Sugar Shack. It was fun hearing how your enjoy maple syrup. 

Random.org chose Ruth Anna as the winner of a copy of The Sugar Shack. 

To order you own copy of The Sugar Shack or My First Deer Hunt, email florencejfox at gmail.com . Cost of one book is $8.99. Michigan readers pay 6% sales tax. Payment by check is preferred. All book orders will have free shipping until May 31, 2019.

Thanks, Flo, for making this giveaway possible.

Authors must be generous folks.

Last week I had a surprising email from Robert Kurson, the author of Rocket Men which I had briefly mentioned in a blog post. He offered to send a package to our children.

A few days later we found a fun package in the mail. The box contained a copy of the Rocket Men audio book, two tiny pieces of actual moon rock, and a "first day of issue" envelopes with the Apollo 8 stamp from May 5, 1969 in Houston, Texas for each of the children.

I love that this stamp has the words of Genesis 1 that the astronauts on Apollo 8 quoted on their Christmas Day report from the moon that was broadcasted throughout the world. One a fun slice of history for our children.

This post contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Giveaway - The Sugar Shack

Here in Pennsylvania, the maple sugar season is drawing to a close.

But at my friend Flo's house in Michigan, the sap is still running.

Flo's children help collect and cook sap. In Flo's newest book, The Sugar Shack, her daughter Kenzie gives us a tour  through the woods and into the sugar shack explaining the process of turning sap into syrup. Full-color photos help those of us who've never watched the process to understand.

Flo includes facts about maple syrup at the end of the book and shares a few of her favorite recipes incorporating maple syrup. If you are a long time reader, you may have enjoyed Flo's wonderful coffee cake recipes.

Flo is giving away a copy of The Sugar Shack to a Home Joys reader. To enter the giveaway, please let a comment, give us your email address, and share your favorite way to enjoy maple syrup.

To order you own copy of The Sugar Shack, email florencejfox at gmail.com . Cost of one book is $8.99. Michigan readers pay 6% sales tax. Payment by check is preferred. All book orders will have free shipping until May 31, 2019.

You may also enjoy My First Deer Hunt in which Flo's son Laramie shares the story of bow hunting with his dad. Like The Sugar Shack, it is written from a child's perspective for children ages 4-7 and illustrated with full-color photos. Ordering information and price are the same for both books.

Giveaway will be open for one week and is open to readers with a US postal address. 

Monday, April 1, 2019

Friendships and Resurrection Hymns

Years ago Ed's church youth group had a tradition of going Easter caroling. They'd get up early on Easter Sunday, visit the elderly people from church, and celebrate the resurrection by singing Easter hymns.

Easter is often an ignored holiday, but this youth activity made it special.

Last night, several of Ed's friends from his youth group days came to our house. Since most of us have children now, the ranks have grown. We managed to squeeze 50 people into our house, though the majority were little bodies. 

Though we are a few weeks early, we sang some favorite Easter hymns as well as some of Ed's favorite hymns. Then we chowed on snacks, the children played, and the adults laughed over long-ago memories. 

Old friends are a treasure. 

Friends that remember the crazy events from our past. 

Friends that have grown and matured with us through the years. 

Friends that help carry our burdens. 

Friends that remind us of our risen Lord.

This week Ed plans to have three days of chemo treatments. We needed the reminder of the power of our risen Lord to walk with us through hard days.

A few favorite lines from the songs last night - 
Death cannot keep his prey - Jesus my Saviour!
He tore the bars away - Jesus my Lord! - Robert Lowry
But Jesus hath cheered the dark valley of sorrow,
And bade us, immortal, to heaven ascent;
Lift then your voices in triumph on high,
For Jesus hath risen, and man shall not die. - Henry Ware
Love's redeeming work is done, Hallelujah!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Hallelujah! - Charles Wesley

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Mocha Cake

I wouldn't have thought anyone could beat my mom's chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting, but when we were in North Carolina one of the ladies made this cake. The mild coffee flavor enhances the chocolate perfectly.

I came home and immediately made this cake for my family. 

This photo was taken right before I enjoyed the last piece. SO good.

Mocha Cake

1 ¾ c. flour
2 cup sugar
¾ c. cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup hot coffee

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9 x 13 cake pan or two 9 inch round cake pans.

Mix dry ingredients in bowl. In another bowl combine all wet ingredients except coffee. Mix wet and dry ingredients together on low speed, then add coffee until just combined.

Pour batter in greased pan (or pans) and bake for 35-40 minutes. Cool in pans for 30 minutes then gently remove and place on cooling racks till cooled completely.

Mocha Frosting

6 oz. semisweet chocolate
2 sticks butter, softened
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 ¼ c. powdered sugar
1 tbsp. instant coffee powder

Melt chocolate. Beat butter until fluffy. Add egg yolk and vanilla. On low speed gradually add the powdered sugar. Dissolve the coffee powder in a small amount of very hot tap water. Slowly add chocolate and coffee to butter mixture until blended. Spread immediately on cool cake.

Some of you might not like the idea of eating raw egg. Just let out the egg yolk. It will turn out fine without.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Off the Shelf

Most of the books I read are middle-grade fiction that I'm pre-reading for my children, but here are a few adult books that I read (and loved) this winter. 

This post contains affiliate links. If you click over to Amazon and make any purchase, you'll help support this site.

The Lake House by Kate Morton
read almost no adult fiction. I feel like I don't have time to read fiction when there is so much nonfiction that I want to read. Plus I tend to lose sleep when I'm reading a good fiction story. But occasionally, I like to pick up a well-written fiction. And The Lake House was worth it. 

This book begins in the 1920's when a child disappeared from a sea-side estate then jumps to 2003 when a detective is researching this cold case. The child's sisters are now elderly ladies who think they know what happened those many years ago, but soon they learn that there is much they didn't know. 

I love a detective story that keeps me guessing "who dun it " the whole way through. Morton is a master at characterization and each character seemed real to me. There is a very small amount of profanity and a mention of adultery in the book, but not in a sensual manner. 

Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction
by Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd
I like to read a good writing book at least once a year. This book was written by a Pulitzer Prize winning author and his editor. The two of them worked together for decades, and I loved listening to their writing and editing process. Unlike many writing books, this one didn't contain questionable excerpts to wade through. Highly recommended for any writer.

Ed and I started this nonfiction audio on our trips to the city for his doctor appointments, but then we finished listening to them with the whole family and my boys couldn't get enough. 

I'm not even interested in space travel, but Rocket Men held my attention until the very end. This is a great example of nonfiction story-telling. It contained some profanity (direct quotes) that I wish the author would have omitted, but not bad enough that I couldn't let my children listen.

And an extra because I can't quit talking to my friends about this book...

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt
I think this was my favorite book I read last year. It might have even landed on my top-ten books list. 

Okay for Now is listed as a middle-grade novel though I would recommend it for teens or older. Schmidt nails perfectly the voice of Doug, a struggling teen who has just moved to The Dump in a stupid town in northern New York. I rooted for Doug as he makes new friends and discovered hidden abilities. I finished the story in awe of how the author put me into the head of a troubled teenager in a dysfunctional home. 

Okay For Now is an example of how what the author doesn't tell you is as important as what he does tell you. I could give examples, but then I might give too much away. And I really want you to read this book. (There is a small amount of romance including a quick kiss.) 

This book would be perfect for anyone who works with troubled teens, especially teachers. It is set in 1969 (think the Space Race and Vietnam War) and masterfully combines John James Audubon's paintings. I finished this book with a longing that every book was written this well. Okay for Now is a sequel to Wednesday Wars, but can be read alone. But, if you enjoy one, you'll want to read them both.

What are you reading?


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