Thursday, July 2, 2020

Hummus

This spring when my brother moved in with us over the quarantine, he brought a jar of tahini with him. He has introduced us to several Middle Eastern foods since he returned to the States, and I decided to try learning to make hummus. 

Who knew a can of beans could turn into something so yummy. And with a food processor, it is super simple, taking only minutes

Tahini is a sauce made of toasted sesame seeds and can be found in ethnic grocery stores.


Hummus

1 (15 oz) can of chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans)
3 T olive oil
3 T tahini 
1 T lemon juice
1-2 cloves of minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Drain and rinse chickpeas. Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until a smooth paste.

Drizzle a little olive oil and sprinkle paprika on top for garnish.

Serve with crackers, carrot sticks, or cucumber slices.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Italian Pasta Salad

I'm often frustrated about blogging in the summer. I compile brilliant posts while weeding the garden or sitting by the creek, but few words find their way out of my brain. Life is full and busy, and I struggle to write about it in a way that feels profitable. I don't want to just add to the noise on social media, plus I'm facing the deadline for several projects, which sucks my desire to show up here. 

But I'm finding that I miss writing about food. Summer food is so much fun. This blog started by sharing my favorite recipes, but I've lost that aspect the last few years. When Ed was on a very strict diet, I didn't have the energy to be creative about any other food. But probably the biggest deterrent is the photos of mouth-watering food that I see online and in cookbooks. I love beautiful photos of food, but I'm not a photographer. 

What I really like to do is share food with people. I enjoy people around the table. Since I can't have you all over, the next best thing is to share a favorite recipe. 

So, the next few weeks, I'm planning to share what we are eating. If I snapped a photo on my phone, I'll share it, but don't expect anything spectacular. I promise that a good photo isn't needed for it to taste good.

This recipe for Italian Pasta Salad came from my sister's work at a deli and made a huge amount. This spring I've made some large batches for several events, but I managed to cut it down to a bit more manageable size, though it still serves a crowd.

This recipe is endlessly adaptable. Don't like olives? Skip them. Enjoy broccoli? Double the amount. Don't have any tomatoes? It will still be delicious. 

This salad is perfect combined with grilled chicken, but I've been known to eat a meal entirely of this salad.


Italian Pasta Salad

1 box (1 lb) dry spiral pasta
2 cups chopped broccoli
1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 cup shredded carrot
1 small can (2.25) sliced olives (drained)
1 cup chopped pepperoni
1 cup diced provolone cheese
1 cup diced red pepper
1 bottle of zesty Italian dressing

Cook pasta until barely tender. Drain and cool. Add all ingredients to pasta. Toss. Best flavor if allowed to sit for a few hours before serving.

If you don't want to buy dressing, here is my favorite homemade Italian dressing which works great for this recipe.

Italian Dressing

1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp honey or sugar
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp mustard
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
1/4 tsp paprika

Blend together with whisk, blender, or food processor.


Here is some other favorite summer recipes that we've been enjoying this month.

Easy Method for Freshly-Squeezed Lemonade


Friday, June 19, 2020

This Blessed Life

I haven't known what to share in this spot. For several weeks I wanted to just listen, choosing to stay off almost all news and social media, and look for some wise Christians who understand race issues because they live it daily, and listen to them. 

Meanwhile, life at my house has been full. I love the long days of June. It is almost startling how many hours we have in a day when we don't have schoolwork to accomplish. We've been sewing dresses for my brother's wedding, painting and replacing flooring, and spending hours out doors. 

Here is a glimpse of the last month.


I love how boredom sparks creativity. My son spent hours shaping a bow from a few simple materials. Sadly, it cracked after a few uses, but now he knows how to make the next one better.


The girls did a bedroom makeover, painting the walls and rearranging furniture. My brother-in-law helped pull out the old carpets and install vinyl flooring. I love the final result, but in the middle of the project, when it accidentally became a much bigger project than expected, I wondered why I wasn't content with forty-year-old carpet. But when several men interrupted their Friday morning to come to my rescue, I was reminded of how blessed I am with support.


The boys' room got the same flooring with a lot less drama. 


In the last ten years, our pasture has grown up into an impossible jungle of honeysuckle and briers. In 2017, Ed set the goal of getting some goats to work on clearing the undergrowth. Of course, the summer of 2017 held different plans. Since we were forced to stay home this spring, my boys thought it would be the perfect time to get goats, especially since my brother is staying here and could help. 

A friend lent us three goats, another brother gave us electric fencing, and Project Goat began. Each week we move the fencing to another spot in the pasture. My brother has to use the chainsaw just to make a spot to place the fencing. 


But in that one week, these three goats can eat it bare. It is amazing at how they clear out the brambles and grapevines. I'm seeing parts of the pasture that have been buried in undergrowth for years.


A sultry afternoon is a chance to take our dog swimming in a nearby creek.


My six-year-old learned to ride a bike.


If you are a long-time reader, you might remember our frequent bike rides on the C&O Canal towpath in 2015 and 2016. We had spent many Saturday and Sunday evenings biking sections with the goal of some day completing the whole route. It had been four years since we biked the towpath, and it was such fun to go back. There is just nothing like biking along a quiet river on a summer evening.


Added fun to the towpath is the many caves to explore along the river.


My oldest had turned sixteen just after everything had closed down this spring. Finally, two months later, the offices reopened she was able to get her permit. When she drove home I thought I might not survive teaching six children how to drive, but she caught on quickly. I might enjoy riding in the passenger seat again.


Early May was so cold that many of our strawberries were frozen. But to my surprise, we are still getting a nice amount of berries.


We served another community cookout. This time restrictions were lifted enough that we could enjoy sitting with our neighbors and listening to their stories. 


The scooter gang who did our meal deliveries at the community cookout.




We visited some parks that had not been to for years. This one holds so many memories to me, but my children could not remember being there. We made new memories by fishing, catching salamanders, and grilling soft pretzels.


However crazy life may be in the world, if you have little girls who giggle contagiously at the simplest joys, your life is blessed.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Arise, My Soul, Arise

What do I write on a week that was personally busy and fulfilled, but contained so much pain for our nation? 

I have no words. Only cries. 
For understanding. 
For forgiveness. 
For restoration.

Then I remember Jesus, our Intercessor, who stands before the throne, pleading with His blood for our forgiveness.

I was in my early twenties when I first heard this song, and I'll never forget the joy-filled message of these words. 

I have no answers for the crisis in our nation except to turn to the Lord and plead His forgiveness for all the human race and the many ways we have walked our own roads instead of His way of love.

Arise, My Soul, Arise
by Charles Wesley
Hymns of the Church #296

Arise, my soul, arise; shake off thy guilty fears;

A bleeding Sacrifice in my behalf appears;

Before the throne my Surety stands,

Before the throne my Surety stands,

My name is written on His hands.


He ever lives above, for me to intercede;

His all redeeming love, His precious blood, to plead:

His blood atoned for all our race,

His blood atoned for all our race,

And sprinkles now the throne of grace.


Five bleeding wounds He bears; received on Calvary;

They pour effectual prayers; they strongly speak for me:

"Forgive him, O forgive," they cry,

"Forgive him, O forgive," they cry,

"Nor let that ransomed sinner die!"


My God is reconciled; His pardoning voice I hear;

He owns me for His child; I can no longer fear:

With confidence I now draw nigh,

With confidence I now draw nigh,

And “Father, Abba, Father,” cry.


Click over to the blog if reading this by email to hear these words sung.



Sunday, May 31, 2020

There Is a Land of Pure Delight


At a quaint farmhouse back a long lane.  



I joined four friends for a writers' retreat this week.


Hours of conversation.


Amazing food such as a Belizian brunch.


Fragrant springtime blooms.


Solitude in God's stunning beauty.


I returned from those three days feeling refreshed down to my soul. I have never had an experience quite like it, and I'm still pinching myself to see if I was dreaming.


But now glad to join my favorite people again.

A retreat like this reminds me of how blessed I am. Yes, there are hard moments in my daily life, but I've been given so much joy. I don't even need to get away to experience friendship and love and beauty; I find it every day. 

Days like these with brilliant blue sky and puffy white clouds and smiling little girls are when I mourn for all that Ed lost. I wish he could be enjoying these blessings for a few more decades. 

But is that the right perspective? Ed never mourned for himself; it was always the pain of others that grieved him.

I want to enjoy the blessings God gives me to the fullest, but I don't think I need to pity Ed for missing springtime. I truly want to believe that "the best is yet to come.' And Ed got a head start.

This morning I was flipping through the hymnal and chanced upon this song. If I could stand with Moses, or Ed, I don't think I'd compare the delights of heaven to a May day in Pennsylvania. 

There Is a Land of Pure Delight
by Isaac Watts 
Hymns of the Church #988

There is a land of pure delight, 
Where saints immortal reign;
Eternal day excludes the night, 
And pleasures banish pain.
There everlasting spring abides, 
And never with'ring flow'rs;
Death, like a narrow sea, divides
This heav'nly land from ours.

Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood
Stand dressed in living green;
So to the Jews old Canaan stood,
While Jordan rolled between.
But tim'rous mortals start and shrink
To cross this narrow sea,
And linger, trembling on the brink,
And fear to launch away.

O, could we make our doubts remove,
Those gloomy doubts that rise,
And see the Canaan that we love, 
With unbeclouded eyes!
Could we but climb where Moses stood, 
And view the landscape o'er,
Not Jordan's stream, nor death's cold flood, 
Should fright us from the shore.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

God Himself Is Present

Wherever you are worshiping today, whether at church or at home, God is present. Jesus was called Emmanuel, God With Us.

This hymn has been a favorite for several years. Not only does it remind me of the presence of God in my own life, but it calls me to surrender.

God Himself Is Present
by Gerhard Tersteegen
Hymns of the Church #135

God Himself is with us:
Let us now adore Him,
And with awe appear before Him.
God is in His temple,
All within keep silence,
Prostrate lie with deepest reverence.
Him alone God we own,
Him our God and Savior;
Praise His name forever.
God Himself is with us:
Hear the harps resounding!
See the crowds the throne surrounding!
Holy, holy, holy,
Hear the hymn ascending,
Angels, saints, their voices blending!
Bow Thine ear to us here:
Hear, O Christ, the praises
That Thy church now raises.
O Thou fount of blessing,
Purify my spirit;
Trusting only in Thy merit,
Like the holy angels
Who behold Thy glory,
May I ceaselessly adore Thee,
Let Thy will Ever still
Rule Thy Church terrestrial
As the hosts celestial.

Gladly we surrender
Earth's deceitful treasures,
Pride of life, and sinful pleasures:
Gladly Lord, we offer
Thine to be forever, 
Soul and life and each endeavor.
Thou alone
Shalt be known
Lord of all our being,
Life's true way decreeing.
Amen.

Click over to the blog to view the video if you are reading this by email.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Well Done

This weekend marks one year since Ed's death. I thought about sharing one of Ed's favorite songs or maybe one of the hymns we sang at his funeral, but instead I'm sharing a song that I don't think Ed ever heard.

I first heard it sung this winter for Clayton Shenk by his school students. In the months since then, our family has listened to this song so often that even my little girls can be heard singing it.

I miss Ed every day, but when I listen to Well Done I can't wish him back.

If reading this by email, click over to the blog to hear the song.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Quarantine Family Challenges

At the end of March, when quarantine was just beginning, I was chatting with my youngest brother and sister about the coming weeks. We knew that without social events, the children would need activities to stay busy. We wanted ways to connect as a family, even if we couldn't get together. We decided to face these challenging times with some intentional challenges.

And so began our Quarantine Family Challenges, now on their seventh week.

Each weekend, myself or one of my siblings, set several challenges and messaged them to the rest of the family.


 Frying fresh-caught trout

Sometimes the goal of a challenge was to spend more time outdoors.
Identify five wild flowers or plants.
See how many different birds you can identify this week.
Plant a tree or bush in memory of COVID-19
Camp overnight in your backyard
Find something in the wild and eat it
Find the North Star.
Remember the Lord's faithfulness while watching a sunrise

Running a 5k

Some challenges encouraged us to get more exercise.
Take a walk and smell a flower
Run or walk 5 km in place of the Red Bud Trail Run and post your time
Bike 5 miles
Play a family game of kickball or croquet

Some challenges prompted family laughter
Act out a Bible story.
Take a family picture in a tree.
Record and share a family vlog about life under quarantine

A few of the challenges led us to learn or try new things.
Learn about a country that you previously knew nothing about.
Upcycle any object.
Make something you've never made before
Learn a new song on an instrument (if you play one)
Log your first Geocache find
Memorize a new Scripture verse

Planting a new bush

Some challenges encouraged us to reach out to others.
Call an older person
Share food with your neighbor
Send a letter/card to an elderly person
Some challenges were challenging (at least for a few of us).
Whistle a tune with somebody in harmony.
The whole family do a day without Internet or data
Write a line of poetry
Try a day with no arguing among siblings.

The Quarantines Family Challenges have met all their goals. It has pushed us to do and try new things, gave us a connection with family even from a distance, and provided a needed focus to unscheduled days.

Many of us find that we are stronger together. This is true all the time, not just during a quarantine. If you have a goal that you want to pursue, find a way to be accountable.

Here are some examples, all of which can be done while not meeting face-to-face:

  • When I wanted to get to bed earlier a few months ago, I texted a friend each night when I turned out the light. 
  • A few years ago, a friend and I had one day a week that we read nothing but our Bible - no books, no magazines, no internet. I couldn't have done it alone, but I could with a friend.
  • One of my friends has a daily writing goal. Each evening she texts a friend to tell her if she met her goal.
  • Another friend who wanted to be more consistent in Bible reading, texted a friend every day with the reference that she read.
  • Last month, my sister bought identical copies of four books and sent them to my daughter and a friend. After they read the book, the three has a discussion about the book by email.

Whether you goal is to more reading, exercise, weight loss, decluttering, or practice an instrument - if you tell a friend about your goal and set a way to regularly check in, you are much more likely to make your goal.

Have you made any quarantine goals? What ways did you find to connect with family and friends?

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Let Their Be Light

As a mom of six, I sometimes crave solitude. But weekends like this, I realize that even though I wish for quiet some days, I thrive on interaction with people.

COVID-19 scrapped my social calendar, and I've missed seeing friends and going to church. But I have enjoyed the less stressful weekends and quiet Sunday mornings. I still have a loud and busy household, and I'm never bored for a minute, but it is nice to not to watch the clock and rush.

But this weekend was fuller than any for the last two months. And even though I had no down time, I loved it. Here is a glimpse of the blessings, in  no particular order.


1. Great food. I made a triple mammoth batch of pasta salad. I love chopping veggies, especially a lovely variety like this. But I also enjoyed grilled pizza Saturday night and a delightful Sunday breakfast of caramel apple coffee cake and omelets, both meals made by my children and brother and sister.


2. Time spent with favorite people in the outdoors. We geocached for several hours this afternoon. We chose harder caches which means we didn't find many, but the weather was amazing, especially after snow flurries yesterday. We even hiked to my favorite stream. I love how little girls delight in simple pleasures like throwing stones in water and watching the splash.



3. Laughter shared because of silly family challenges. I'll tell you more about these later this week.




4. Counting blessings. Yesterday we helped serve a community meal. Time spent with the homeless has a way of making me realize how blessed I am. This afternoon I chatted with a young mom at the park. She looked ready to cry and in a few minutes she dumped out her despair and asked me what she should do. And she was seriously desperate enough that she was asking me, a stranger for advice. I didn't have any solutions, but I hope that just listening to her helped. She found out that I too was a single mom and asked me blunt questions on how I survived financially. How could I tell her that I've been so well supported that I have no financial stress when she has absolutely no one and is in danger of becoming homeless with three little children?

I  know that Mother's Day is hard for many people, like this mom. Sometimes it highlights crushed dreams or disappointments or personal failures.

This year might be even harder for many. Some mothers have had their days stretched to the breaking with 24/7 care of their children. Add in financial or health or political worries, a many don't have a rosy picture to share about their weekend.

I wanted to share a hymn today about peace, but since we were busy, it is now late Sunday night before I'm sharing this.

"Let Their Be Light" is my prayer for our community, and our country, and our world. I think that COVID-19 is a chance for another Great Awakening - a time for revival in the church and in the world. But I fear that worry, and bitterness, and fighting will destroy the opportunity. I'm praying for humility and surrender to God in my own heart and in the hearts of all God's people so we can reach out to hurting people with the hope of Jesus Christ.

Let There Be Light
William M. Vories
Hymns of the Church #778

Let there be light, Lord God of hosts,
Let there be wisdom on the earth;
Let broad humanity have birth,
Let there be deeds, instead of boasts.
Within our passioned hearts instill
The calm that endeth strain and strife;
Make us thy ministers of life;
Purge us from lusts that curse and kill.
Give us the peace of vision clear
To see our brothers’ good our own,
To joy and suffer not alone,
The love that casteth out all fear.
Let woe and waste of warfare cease,
That useful labor yet may build
Its homes with love and laughter filled;
God give thy wayward children peace.

(If you are viewing by email you may need to click over to the blog to view the video of this song.)

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Geocaching

In March, when the events on our calendar were being canceled. I asked the children to brainstorm things we could do just as a family.

One of the children suggested geo-caching.


Geo-caching is sort of a treasure hunt. People hide a small box containing a log sheet and then list the gps coordinates on an online site at geocaching.com.

Six years ago, Ed introduced the children to geocaching. We had found dozens of caches (57 to be exact) over the next year or two. We scoured our local area for caches, and every time we traveled, we searched for geocaches. We found that geocaching made taking a walk or bike ride a lot more fun.

But somehow we had stopped geocaching. Ed got a new phone and never downloaded the geocaching app, and we moved on to other pursuits.


But a quarantine seemed the perfect time to get back into geocaching. Just minutes from our house, someone had put quite a few new geocaches in recent months. Three Sunday afternoons have found us walking down the streets of our small town and poking through cemeteries looking for geocaches. I discovered scenic spots that I've driven by for years.


Ed had planned to build some of his own caches after he had experience finding a few. It is suggested that you find 100 caches before building your own. We are now up to 70 caches so my goal is to get to 100 by the end of summer and then build our own caches in memory of Ed.


If you need an excuse to take a walk, try geocaching. The app downloads easily and besides a phone, all you need is walking shoes and a pencil to sign the logbook. Geocaches can be found all over the world so unless you are in a very rural area, you probably have some close to you.

Have you tried geocaching?

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Who Shall I Fear?

When I was a teen, I was on a trip with several other girls. One of my friends was reading Psalm 91 every single day. That was the first time I thought about the power of reading the same passage over and over again for an extended time. 

In the years since then there have been numerous passages I have read over and over and over again, usually because I'm helping my children memorize them. My method of teaching Bible memory is to choose a passage and read it every day for months until we all know it by memory. 

Psalm 91 was the passage that we had learned in the months before Ed's cancer diagnosis. I was so grateful that we had that passage embedded before we hit a crisis. 

Last fall, when we took our trip to Ontario with my brother, we picked Psalm 27 as our passage to learn on our trip. We completed the chapter in the months following. This spring, I've been hearing these verses echo in my mind as we've faced the uncertainties of Covid-19. 

Psalm 27 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord.Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me.When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies.Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty.I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.

The first few verses of Psalm 27 has been made into a beautiful choral song.

(If reading this by email, you may need to click over to the blog to watch the video.)



I'd love to hear what Psalms have been meaningful to you this spring.

And maybe you want to choose a passage such as Psalm 27 or 91 as your Covid-19 Scripture and read it every day. It will be time well-spent.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Seek Truth



Today I'll share the last of my five quarantine goals. (The others were keep a routine,  celebrate my children, take a walk, and find ways to serve.) This one is probably the most important and incorporates the first four.

Back in January and February, I took part in a reading challenge. With the goal of reading more books, I found that my online reading shrank significantly. Then in March, we spent a week in North Carolina with almost no internet service.

When we got back to Pennsylvania,  I realized that I had gotten out of the habit of online reading, especially on social media. The timing was perfect as opinions and debates were flying around social media concerning Covid-19.

But as the weeks went by, I found myself being sucked into the conversation. I wanted to stay aware, but checking the stats for my county would turn into an hour of reading news reports and opinions.

In past years, when I would bury myself in brain cancer research, I found that there were two emotions that I needed to take as warning signals: anxiety and anger. I gained so much good information from brain cancer forums and other online sources, but anxiety or anger are two emotions that I couldn't handle.

There are proper times for negative emotions. I'm sometimes hit with deep sorrow when reading the Scripture, when God reveals my sin. The news should drive me to prayer for the lost condition of the world - and not just since the pandemic. There is a time for tears and heaviness of heart.

But I when I feel anger or anxiety, I assume that those emotions are not from God, since He rebukes worry and rebellion.
"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." 2 Timothy 1:7
When reading, I try to ask myself questions such as: Do I know this is truth or is it someone's opinion? Is this an area of my responsibility?

For me this has meant that I read about current events but in a limited way. For example, I need to know the latest Covid-19 rulings for my area so that I can be respectful of our leaders' requests. I want to stay aware of the needs of the world, not inflict fear, but to spark empathy and prayer. I've put more weight in the opinions of those who are first-hand witnesses. When I wanted to learn more about pandemics, I have sought information from history to learn how pandemics have affected our country in the past instead of reading others' conjectures on Covid-19's impact.

But even more, I have sought to keep turning to God's Word. Opinions of experts change every week or two, but the Bible never changes.

At the beginning of March, a long-time friend Thann Bennett sent me his new book My Fame, His Fame. I don't often read books in the inspirational Christian genre since often if feels like they take a whole book to say what could be said in one chapter. But I think God knew I needed a Scripture-saturated book to read this spring.

My Fame, His Fame relates the story of Habakkuk and call us to live lives to bring God glory. Maybe none of the thoughts in the book were truly new, but I needed reminded that God's people have faced very difficult situations in the past and called out to God who answered, though not always in the ways they expected.
"When what we know of God does not feel sufficient for our current trials we have two choices: to walk away or to press in deeper until we find more of Him." - Thann Bennett
Another blessing to me this past month has been the short book Coronavirus and Christ by John Piper that is available as an e-book or audio for free in many languages.

The goal of seeking truth in what I'm reading, listening, and thinking on is a lifetime goal, but one that is even more important the past month. Satan will always send lies to bring bondage to our soul, but what we do with those lies is our choice. God's Word—not just read, but known, understood, and lived out—is the only way my mind can find freedom and victory.

I'd love to hear how you are seeking truth.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Find Ways to Serve

In writing about my five quarantine goals, I've covered keep a routine,  celebrate my children, and take a walk.

I'm a little embarrassed to share the fourth goal, since I fear it sounds like bragging. I don't want anyone to feel bad when reading this. Many of you are overwhelmed by the extra load of homeschooling. Please don't compare. You may be serving your family at top capacity right now.

When this quarantine began, I knew how self-centered I could become. When life turns topsy-turvy, I want to huddle around my children and shut out the world. It is easy for me to think only of myself, so I set the goal to find ways to serve.

I knew the elderly people, without church or visitors, would be lonely. Thankfully the mail service still works, so my first goal was to send a card every day.

I haven't made that daily goal, but I have sent far more cards this past month than usual. I don't know if the cards have been a blessing to anyone else, but I know it has been good for me to get my mind off of myself.

Others around me have also been looking for ways to serve.

My brother called various local organizations to see what their needs are. He found that many don't have their usual volunteers over this pandemic, but their needs are increasing.


One such  place was our local homeless shelter. So one afternoon we made and delivered a meal. When I think that just a few miles from my house there could be hungry families, I feel embarrassed at my full freezers. And I love making large quantities of food.


Another opportunity came through a lady at our church. Our local hospital had received a shipment of N95 masks from the federal stockpile, but the straps needed replaced.  My daughter and I both spent a day sewing with many other ladies to fill this need. 

I've been blessed to see how others are serving.

One of my friends came to our house very early in the morning when we were all still sleeping and placed a box of treats for the whole family on the porch.



My brother and my sons got up early on a Saturday and baked cinnamon rolls which they delivered to some neighbors. Another Saturday they helped a neighbor replace an exterior door.

Another brother, who lives in a low-income neighborhood, is planning to host a community take-out meal. One of the goals of the meal is to evaluate the needs in his neighborhood.

One of my friends is texting an encouraging verse or quote along with a lovely photo every day. 

There are so many ways that we can reach out to others. It doesn't have to be anything big or elaborate. 

Last week I visited Walmart for the first time in weeks. It was also the first time I was in a store since masks were required. I hate how masks hide emotions and give everyone an air of distance and unfriendliness. Typically when I shop, I keep my eyes on my shopping list and move quickly through the store. But with masks, everyone looked so sad, and I determined to try to make a difference. I purposely made eye contact with fellow shoppers. I nodded, said "hi," and smiled broad enough to squint my eyes. It felt a little silly, but my unseen smiles were returned and some shoppers stopped to say a few words. I think all of us are starved for some human contact.

Thann Bennett wrote, "Loneliness stems not from a place of being physically alone but from the lack of being truly known." I can't end the loneliness many are experiencing right now, but maybe I can do a little to show someone that they are noticed. 

I'd love to hear the ways you are finding to reach out to others. Or the ways others have encouraged you.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Hail, Holy Light

This Sunday morning can bring a mix of emotions.

Do you feel
contentment or frustration?
joy or anxiety?
peace or anger?
faith or fear?

Changing negative emotions may seem impossible.
We may feel helpless to change circumstances
or adjust your attitude.

Maybe that is why we like the Psalms.
David shows us despair turned to praises.

How long wilt forget me, O Lord?
Forever?
How long shall I have sorrow in my heart?

Hear me, O Lord, lest I sleep the sleep of death. 

I have trusted in Thy mercy.
My heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation.
I will sing unto the Lord
because He hath dealt bountifully with me.

(Excerpts from Psalm 13)

Despair to Request to Trust to Praise.

Did David's emotions change from the first verse to the last?
Or did he choose the action of praise and drag his emotions along?

I love when we start a Sunday morning worship service with Hail, Holy Light. I like the reminder that our praise is joining the song of creation, the heavenly beings, and believers around the world to worship God.

Hail, Holy Light
Edwin P. Parker
Hymns of the Church #50


Hail, holy light! The world rejoices
As morning breaks and shadows fly;
All nature blends her myriad voices
To greet the dayspring from on high.
Break forth, in glory far excelling,
O light eternal, love divine!
Let Thy bright beams, all shades dispelling,
Around us and within us shine.
The heav’nly hosts fall down before Thee,
And Holy! cry, nor ever rest;
The saints on earth, with them, adore Thee,
Creator, Savior, Spirit blest.
Accept, O Father, we entreat Thee,
The worship which Thy children bring;
O, grant us grace in Heav’n to greet Thee,
And with all saints Thy love to sing.

(You might have to click through to the blog to see the video if you are reading this by email.)



Saturday, April 25, 2020

Take a Walk

I'm writing about my five quarantine goals. I've already shared about Keep a routine and Celebrate my children. The third is Take a Walk.

This isn't a new goal, and it is one I've written about before.


1. Walking Alone

For years I wanted to walk more often, but, with young children, I didn't think I had the time. But I began taking regular walks with Ed as part of his therapy. I learned that work doesn't go anywhere when I take a walk, but I have the energy to tackle it. When Ed became too sick to walk, I began walking alone, with an audio book. My regular route, three miles around the block on our quiet roads, took me an hour. For the last year, I've tried to find time for this walk at least once or twice a week. I always find it refreshing.

I know that I feel better after a bit of exercise. But exercise for the sake of exercise can be difficult to do. For me, framing exercise as a treat and alone time, made all the difference.

After Ed died, I didn't have 5:30 to look forward to when Ed would come home from work. A walk in the afternoon couldn't replace Ed, but it could help me feel human.

My children learned to enjoy my walking time too. I rarely gave them work to do when I took a walk (besides watching the younger girls who don't need much watching.) So for them, my walks were a time to play games or read without chores or school work.

When the quarantine started and evening plans were canceled, I knew a walk would be more important. Without interaction with others, I would need an hour of quiet more often. Since we had less on our schedule, it would seem easier to find time to walk, though I didn't find it that way. My walks were made even more enjoyable by watching the world wake up with spring this past month. Listening to great audio books or podcasts helps too.


2. Walking With My Children

My walks around the block are almost always alone. Maybe I should take a child with me for some one-on-one time, but even an extrovert cherishes a bit of alone time.

On the first Sunday that we didn't have church, my children grumped. Most Sundays we fill with activities. Besides church, often Sunday afternoon and evening are spent with friends or family. All my children enjoy an active social life, maybe even more since we are homeschooled. On that first weekend when we couldn't get together with anyone, we had some bad moods.

So I told them that every Sunday afternoon, weather permitting, during the quarantine, we were going for a hike. The announcement wasn't met with excitement. But each Sunday, we've been out walking. Now that my brother is staying with us, it is easier. They don't dare complain to their uncle as they do to mom. We even started geocaching again, which maybe should be another post.


3. Walking With Others

In Pennsylvania, even with the stay-at-home order, we are allowed to leave home to exercise. I miss seeing the other ladies at church, and I've used the exercise allowance to also fill a need for socializing. I've met several times with friends to take a walk. We could keep a proper social distance while still enjoying face-to-face conversation.

I've also enjoyed meeting neighbors on my walks that I've never spoken to before. I don't think it is my imagination that people are more eager to talk this past month. One elderly man shut off his lawnmower to ask how far I was walking and where I lived. Another elderly woman was pulling out her driveway in her car. She stopped and wound down her window to chat. I think we all have a greater desire to communicate.

What about you? Have you found getting outdoors to be important for your sanity this month? In what ways are you interacting with your neighbors?

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Celebrate My Children

I'm sharing the five goals that I set for myself when the quarantine started. I already shared about keeping a routine. My second goal was to "celebrate my children."

As a homeschooling mom, I spend nearly every waking hour with my children. Most of my energy and brain cells are given to them. It could sound like I'm a good mom - and I hope I am. But I know how often my heart isn't in the giving. How often I resent the giving. How often I withhold my heart.

Often, especially in the past few years, I've done the bare minimum in mothering. I did laundry and made meals and even read books to them. (I always read books.) But I didn't do more than I had to.

I'm not trying to make anyone feel guilty. There is days (months, years) that the bare minimum is all a mom can do. Children need to learn that all of life is not all about having fun. Mothers are not the Entertainer or Magic Genie. Children need to do chores, to contribute to the family life, and to accept limitations.

But too often I say "No" to a project, to an idea, to a special treat, just because I don't want to be bothered by the extra effort.

When I learned that we would be home all day, every day, for who-knows-how-long, I knew I needed to find special ways to celebrate my children. I decided to say "yes" more.


1. Say "yes" to special treats and menus. 

Does it matter if we stay up late some night and eat ice cream before bed? Probably not. But usually I would think of another collection of dirty dishes in the sink and say "no."

And why will I go to the "bother" of making soft pretzels when we have friends over, but never make them just for my children?

That first week I left the children plan menus. Of course they picked things we rarely, if ever, have - like rootbeer floats. Though I should have been avoiding grocery stores, I ended up at the store more often that week. But we had a lot of fun at meals that week- and the weeks after. Since losing Ed, I've lost a lot of joy of cooking, but the past month, I've enjoyed it more, maybe because I've considered the wishes of my children more when planning meals.



2. Say "yes" to messy.

Any home with six children is going to get untidy. I'm used the mess of Lego, dolls, and puzzle pieces. But when the children get out paints on the dining room table or start carving in the living room, I groan. And I don't usually initiate any ideas that make more messes.

One evening, my son helped me plan a mystery supper for the others. We prepared a meal with lots of individual components. We printed up menus with each food item and utensil - giving each a mystery name. Each person chose the mystery items they wanted for their three courses and wrote them on their menu. Then we served each course. Some had chosen (unintentionally) to eat chili, jello, and icecream with no utensils. The children had never had a mystery supper. Saying "yes" to messy, on this night, meant saying "yes" to lots of laughter.

3. Say "yes" to projects.

I can procrastinate a long time with projects that upset the household. Maybe I'm too stuck on routine. I know that tackling a project will mean a neglect of other things. But when our calendar cleared out, I figured this was a great time for projects.

My oldest daughter wanted to paint the girls' room. I can come up with all sorts of reasons not to paint, but my daughter did most of the work. After two or three days, their room looked so fresh and clean. The rearranged furniture expanded the size of the room. The upheaval was worthwhile. Now I'm working on two more painting projects both inside and out. Fitting a proejct around school means that it will drag out a while, but if I waited for the perfect time, I would never start.

I know that there are many times a mom needs to say "no" to their children. But the last few weeks I've discovered that I say "no" too often, when I just don't want to be bothered. Since I've been purposely looking for ways to celebrate my children, I've discovered that I'm a bit more selfish than I want to admit.

What about you? I'd love to hear what you are doing with your children on these days of quarantine.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Rise, Glorious Conqueror

Yesterday while I was cleaning, I listened to Coronovirus and Christ by John Piper. (You can download it for free.) I was again inspired to look for ways to bring God glory through this pandemic.

Nothing surprises our God. He is not wringing His hands helplessly. We don't have to resort to blame, or fear, or panic. Not when He is still the risen Lord and conqueror of death.

May His name prevail.

Rise, Glorious Conqueror
by Matthew Bridges
Hymns of the Church #261

  1. Rise, glorious Conqu’ror, rise,
    Into Thy native skies;
    Assume Thy right;
    And where in many a fold
    The clouds are backward rolled
    Pass through those gates of gold,
    And reign in light!
  2. Victor o’er death and hell!
    Cherubic legions swell
    Thy radiant train;
    Praises all heav’n inspire;
    Each angel sweeps his lyre,
    And waves his wings of fire—
    Thou Lamb once slain!
  3. Enter, incarnate God!
    No feet but Thine have trod
    The serpent down:
    Blow the full trumpets, blow!
    Wider your portals throw!
    Savior triumphant, go
    And take Thy crown!
  4. Lion of Judah, hail!
    And let Thy Name prevail
    From age to age;
    Lord of the rolling years,
    Claim for Thine own the spheres,
    For Thou hast bought with tears
    Thy heritage!

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