Sunday, October 18, 2020

What a Saviour!


Yesterday, the ladies at my church enjoyed a one-day retreat in an old barn.

God gave us a lovely fall day to enjoy time in His Word and fellowship - as well as crafts, yummy food, and a holiday from the demands of normal life.

Even though I arrived home late (and still haven't loaded everything out of my van) I felt refreshed and prepared for our communion service this morning.

One of the songs I remember singing as a girl at communion is Man of Sorrows, What a Name, and I was glad we sang it this morning. I like how many names of Jesus are mentioned in this song, including Son of God, Saviour, Lamb of God, Glorious King, and, of course, Man of Sorrows.

I had procrastinated a long time (over a year) before ordering Ed's headstone. (It is daunting to plan something that is written in stone for possible generations to read.) Because of Covid, the process was delayed further. But after church I found that the headstone had been installed in the church cemetary this week. 

A heastone gives a solid, cold, and a uncompromising finality. While I'm glad to honor Ed, a headstone feels permanent. I've had seventeen months to learn about the lifechanging and irreversable ending of life, but moments like this drive the reality deeper.

Which is why I'm glad to be reminded this weekend of God's faithfulness, His plan of redemption, and the Son of God who became our Saviour.

Man of Sorrows, What a Name
by Philip P. Bliss

Man of Sorrows! what a name
For the Son of God, who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim:
Hallelujah! what a Saviour!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned he stood,
Sealed my pardon with his blood:
Hallelujah! what a Saviour!

Guilty, vile, and helpless, we;
Spotless Lamb of God was he;
Full atonement! can it be?
Hallelujah! what a Saviour!

Lifted up was he to die,
"It is finished!" was his cry:
Now in heav'n exalted high:
Hallelujah! what a Saviour!

When he comes, our glorious King,
All his ransomed home to bring,
Then anew this song we'll sing:
Hallelujah! what a Saviour!

You can also listen to Man of Sorrows, What aName.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Is He Worthy?

My family enjoyed a day at my parent's house yesterday. 

Eating great food, then burning calories at spike ball and bucket ball.

Playing games (and guitars. Not sure why the roof.) 

 Hugging squishy babies.

My family doesn't pretend to have oodles of musical talent, but we enjoy singing together. So last night ended with all of us squashed into the living room, belting out worship music. 

Two songs that we've recently learned and sang last night are Is He Worthy and Never Once. Even though I appreciate old hymns and the depth of their message, worship songs like this have been especially meaningful to me this past year.  

I've missed sharing songs with you here on the blog each Sunday and hope to stop by some more Sundays with the songs that are presently meaningful to me.

Is He worthy? HE IS! He is Faithful!

Thursday, October 8, 2020

5 Books on Managing Technology

Because I was asked to speak at a workshop on the topic of Mothers and Technology, I read a number of books this summer on the topic of technology.

The summer of 2020 was the perfect time to study the topic of technology. I was ready to face my personal social media habits and consider the example I'm setting for my children. It is a challenge that I'll continue to face, as all of us do in this age, and I'll probably be writing more about what I'm learning in future posts.

If you want to evaluate your technology and phone use, here are five books that I recommend.

Note: This post containes affiliate links.

Surving the Tech Tsunami by Gary Miller

When I finished reading this, I said that every Christian should read it. Miller's research meant that reading this book made me feel like I got a synopsis of many books. The style of the book is very practical and readable. At the end of the book, Miller shares his personal research in interviewing Anabaptists leaders and youth from across the US. His findings are sobering, and he gives us a call to action to find ways to survive the tech tsunami.

How to Break Up with Your Phone: The Thirty-Day Plan to Take Back Your Life by Catherine Price

I ordered this book from Amazon on a whim. In the first chapters Price writes about the current research on technology and why we should be concerned. In the second half of the book she takes us through a thirty day step-by-step process to gain control of our phone. She is practical and shares simple ideas that would have never occured to me but that made a real difference in my phone use. Lots of value packed into a short book.

12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You by Tony Reinke

This book, like Surviving the Tech Tsunami, asked hard questions about how our phone is affecting our relationship with God. Saturated with Scripture, I found this book challenging my attitudes and habits and asking how they line up with the goal of glorifying God.

Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked by Adam Atler

I had this book reserved at my library and finally got it two weeks before my workshop. I didn't think I had time to read all of it so skipped to the chapters I thought were most applicable. But this book lived up to its name, and I couldn't lay it down. As I learned about addictions and the deliberate design of social media to capture more of our time and attention, I became angry.

Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

The goal of this book is to help us declutter our lives so we can focus on what we truly value. A mix of practical tips, motivational insights, and research, this book helped me see what I'm losing when I'm constantly surrouned with noise and distraction. 

Do you have a favorite book on technology that I missed?  

Thursday, October 1, 2020

A Glimpse of September

Sunset in a field of goldenrod

 I didn't intend to take a blogging break but the life was busy for a few weeks, and then it felt hard to get started again. I've been having a lot of trouble with spam in the comments, so I had shut off all the comments. Thanks to those who emailed me to ask how we were doing. I'll be turning the comments on again.

Here is a glimpse of our last month.

On Labor Day, we traveled north to Lake Erie to vacation with two of my brothers. Our rental house was within biking distance of Presque Isle.

The children were excited about playing in the waves with cousins.

Some of the week was cold and rainy, but we had enough sunshine get sunburnt.

Singing together was a highlight, and we learned several songs that week.

Some of us watched the sunrise while drowning worms.

And almost every evening ended with a campfire on the beach.

The advantage of vacationing with other adults is that I could take a solitary bike ride along the bay. Delightful.

The next week found my sister-in-law and I taking to the skies. We flew to Georgia where I was asked to speak at a ladies' seminar. I felt out of my comfort zone, but the ladies were sweet, and we enjoyed the weekend.

Other events in September was the local townfest where my daughter set up her knitted hats.

We finished the rental apartment. Here are some before/after photos.

We had an early frost in September so we brought in the last of the garden harvest. The candy roaster squash went a little crazy, so if you need squash, please stop by.

I am loving this fall weather. And I'm not sure there is any place as lovely as an apple orchard in the fall.

With a bunch of help from family, we picked many bushels for applesauce and cider. I have a few more tomatoes to can, but hopefully I can soon put my canner away for the season. 

I love summer, but I'm looking forward to cooler weather and time for focused school work and neglected housecleaning. October holds several anticipated events with family and friends, and hopefully there will be quiet evenings with a good book and a cup of tea. 

Thursday, August 20, 2020

What I've Learned About Money and Generosity

There are topics that I never plan to write about. You won't find me writing about child training; I have too much to learn. I won't write about marriage; Ed made marriage too easy.

Personal finances is a topic I'd rather not address. But in the last year, I've been asked numerous times, by friends with worried expressions, how I'm supporting my children. They weren't being nosy. They were honestly concerned, sometimes nearly in tears. Some told that their greatest fear was being a widow.

I've found myself repeatedly assuring them that we are doing fine, that I'm not stressed about finances. In fact we have more than we need and have a larger emergency fund than any time in our marriage.

For several reasons, I've decided to share this post publicly here. I figure there are others who are worried for me who haven't had the courage to ask. Also, many of you have given to our family. You are the reason I don't have financial stress.

For years Ed and I were the typical couple whose expenses threatened to be higher than our income. In our first years of marriage, Ed put every spare cent into paying off our house. We were having a baby with its attached hospital bills nearly every year, but Ed still managed to pay off our house in record time. He then began saving for an addition to our house which he did a few years later. He was also investing in a business. I'm so grateful for his wise money management during those years. 

As our family grew, Ed's income didn't keep up. I know it frustrated him to be squeezed tight some months. He looked forward to just a few years when his business investments would start to pay off. In the fall of 2016, he bought a CNC router and installed it in our basement. He hoped this would bring in some side income and be a project he could do with our children. He had some big jobs those first months which allowed him to pay off the router investment quickly, and our bank account began showing more breathing space than usual. 

But then, in May 2017, Ed was diagnosed with a brain tumor. When faced with brain surgery, a few thousand in the bank look rather meager. Ed was barely communicating at this point because of his severe headaches, but he told me to start paying bills with the credit card, and we'd worry about them later. 

I was never involved in the bill paying, Ed took care of those details, but I always vaguely worried about money. Now I was faced with a husband who was seriously sick and  an overwhelming number of bills. But I can honestly say that I wasn't worried. This had to be a gift from God.

Our church, like many Mennonite churches, has a practice of helping each other with medical bills. But I didn't know if the fund could handle a brain surgery. But our church and another church gave substantial gifts, and I was able to pay Ed's hospital bill before he was even discharged. I can't tell you what a gift that was to me. The future looked uncertain, but I had a tangible reminder that God cared for us.

Ed was able to return to work quickly, and his router business continued to do well the next months. Our vehicles were very old, and Ed wanted me to have more reliable transportation. In the fall he used the money from his router business to buy a van that was almost two decades newer than our other vehicles. He began teaching me to handle the family finances, a task I hated though I appreciated his goal of preparing me. 

We were astounded at the gifts we received during Ed's illness. Many checks arrived in the mail, some from people we didn't know. Sometimes  a bill arrived in the mail and in the same mailbox was a check for nearly the same amount as the bill. When Ed's doctors found out he had six dependent children, they gave discounts and applied us to programs which wiped out almost all of Ed's chemo and radiation costs. When Ed's tumor grew back, he chose to participate in clinical trials at the National Institute of Health. Since he was a volunteer, they did not charge us for his second or third brain surgery or any of his treatments. Even our travel expenses were reimbursed. 

By Ed's death, all of his medical expenses had been paid. I had seen God work in so many ways in the previous two years that I didn't fear the future, even though I had six children and no breadwinner. 

I balked, but my family insisted that we set up a memorial fund in Ed's memory for his children. The generosity was astounding. I also had several churches and individuals offer us regular monthly support.

My dad, brothers, and brother-in-laws discussed various options that would give my family long-term income. Several of my brothers are carpenters and have bought houses to fix up and rent. An old house they had worked on went on the market. Half the house was remodeled into two apartments and an office, the second half of the house still needed major repairs. 

So last August, I wrote out a check for an old house in the historical district of a small nearby town. I wished that Ed could have seen how well God would take care of us through the help of God's people. 

Since then, family and friends have put an uncountable number of hours into this house. I love the my brothers are willing to save some of the old features in the house, including many fireplaces. We finished one of the apartments in the winter and were able to get it rented right before Covid. We are now working on the final apartment. Hopefully it too will soon be rented. 

Each month when I take the stack of rent checks to the bank, I'm humbled again at the generosity of so many people. I don't know what the future holds, but at this point, we have no financial needs. When my daughter began orthodontic work several months ago, I remembered how I dreaded that day when our dentist had first told us that she needed braces. I imagined the squeeze on our bank account. But  now, I could easily write out the check.

I've learned two things the past year. 

1. I've had to learn how to receive. 
I've always wanted to be the one who gave. I have a streak of independence and would much rather be the giver than the receiver. I don't mind accepting something like a baby meal because I know that I'll have an opportunity to return a meal in the future. 

But I've had to accept gifts knowing that there is no way that I can ever repay what I've been given. I'm dependent on the generosity of others. 

Soon after Ed's death, I complained to a friend about always being on the receiving end. She told me that God commands us to help the widows and the fatherless, and I had to allow others the blessing of giving. I've tried to remember this, but it is still hard. 

2. I've had to learn how to spend.
I'm a tightwad. Ed would probably tell you that I lean toward miserly. I don't enjoy spending money and shopping puts me in a bad mood. My typical method of shopping is to get on Amazon, read all the one-star reviews, and decide against the purchase. 

When Ed was alive, he made sure I stayed balanced. He'd insist that I make a purchase that I was stalling on. Once he was helping me in the kitchen and noticed my broken hand mixer (which I could use if I held it just right). He ordered a new on the same day. Because he was involved and observant, he noticed our needs. I was recently looking in our online purchasing history and I found that his last order, a few months before his death, was pillowcases and a kitchen trash can. 

But now I was the one who had to fill the van up  with gas, plan a vacation, and order household needs. For one that hates spending money, it was an adjustment. Add the fact that I wanted to be a wise steward of the gifts we have been given, and it could be crippling. I've had to tell myself repeatedly, "Ed would tell me to just buy it." Friends have been helpful by giving me gifts and telling me to splurge on a treat for the family. I'm slowly becoming more comfortable making purchases, which seems silly at age 44, but my tightwad tendencies haven't given up easily.

Thanks so much for those who have given us support through your prayers and gifts. You have helped this past year be much less stressful and your generosity will continue to bless of our family for years in the future.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Gardening, Painting, and Celebrating in August

The typical August finds every weekend filled with gatherings of friends. Adding gardening and canning means that August is usually one of the busiest times of the year.

But Covid canceled all our weekend plans in August. It is rather startling to look at a calendar with blank pages. 

But we are finding ways to fill and enjoy this month.

Cuddling kittens.

Digging potatoes.

Husking sweet corn for supper.

And many days of painting at the last apartment at our rental house. 

Covid had halted this project for a few months, but thanks to huge amounts of help from others, we are nearing completion.

But our August highlight will be Saturday when we gathered in a park under huge trees.

With family and a few friends.

To celebrate the marriage of my poet brother to his princess bride.

As the sun set, we gathered in the huge gazebo

To enjoy great food washed down with laughter.

The nieces.

The nephews.

Each of my siblings' weddings have been special. But at this one, the joy in seeing how God brought these two together was extra special. Only God could have found a girl so perfectly suited for Todd. So glad you are part of the family, Tanya.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Zucchini Stuffed Bread

A few weeks ago, my boys came in from playing with their dog. They said that their dog had ran through the garden, stopping to roll on the young zucchini plants. They reported that two of the plants were destroyed. 

And it looked like they were right. Most of the leaves had been pulled off the plant and the few remaining leaves were crushed. I had planted the zucchini plants late and didn't know if I had time to replant. 

But it takes more than a mere dog to kill a zucchini. Actually, the tiny squash bugs are the most hated enemy of zucchini in our area. This time the plants made a complete recovery, and now I have a fridge stuffed with zucchini.

Time to pull out our favorite zucchini recipes.

Zucchini bread is an obvious choice. We all love zucchini bread. But most recipes only take a cup or two. If I have a pan-full of zucchini, I need a recipe that uses zucchini as a major ingredient, not a garnish. 

A few years ago I found a recipe in Cooks Illustrated magazine that used, not just cups, but pounds of zucchini. The secret was removing as much moisture as possible from the zucchini so the bread didn't become too wet and gummy. 

It works. I simply place the shredded zucchini in a clean dish towel and wring out all the water I can before mixing it with the other ingredients. I adjusted the spices a little and increased the size of the recipe - who wants to heat up the oven for just one loaf? Now we have our new favorite zucchini bread recipe, one that is stuffed with this easy-to-grow vegetable.

Zucchini Stuffed Bread

10 cups (about 3 lb) shredded zucchini
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup oil
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups white flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 T. cinnamon
3 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp nutmeg
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, optional
1 cup mini chocolate chips, optional

Place shredded zucchini in a clean dish towel and squeeze out as much water as possible. Beat sugar, oil and eggs together. Add all ingredients together and mix well. Pour into 2 large or 3 medium-size loaf pans. Bake at 350 for 50-55 minutes. Do not under bake.

Need more ways to use zucchini? Here are our five favorite zucchini recipes not including zucchini bread.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Wet Granola - A New Favorite

When my mom told me that she had made wet granola, and they loved it, I was skeptical. Isn't granola supposed to be crunchy? Would the granola mold if I skipped the baking step? 

It took me a couple months, but after hearing about the praise of wet granola a few more times, especially from my children who had devoured it at my mom's kitchen. I finally tried it. 

And now I'm sold. 

I've made wet granola many times the past months, and it is likely that this recipe will always be connected in my mind to Covid and my brother's stay at our house. This recipe is so easy that I can stir up a new batch in minutes which means if I realize we are out of granola, I can stir up a new batch at 6:00. I don't mind the time savings of skipping the baking step, and it truly does just taste better than any other granola I tried. 

I continue to tweak this recipe, usually to take advantage of what I have in my cupboard. Any kind of nuts, seeds, or dried fruit goes great in this recipe. Craisins give it a peanut-butter-and-jelly flavor. My mom adds chocolate chips, but I refuse to let my children eat chocolate for breakfast. 

I still enjoy crunchy granola and won't throw out my other recipes, but wet granola has gained a place in my kitchen.

Wet Granola

1 cup coconut oil
1 1/2 cup honey
1 1/2 cup peanut butter
4 cups Rice Krispy cereal
10 cups rolled oats
1 cup raw wheat germ
1 cup sunflower seeds
nuts, raisins, craisins, or whatever your favorite granola ingredient

Slightly heat oil, honey, and peanut butter. Mix all ingredients together. Serve with milk or yogurt and fresh fruit. Store in tightly sealed container. 

I have never had wet granola spoil, but it also doesn't last long at our house. Maybe it wouldn't spoil since coconut oil, honey, and peanut butter are shelf stable. But if I was going to keep it longer than a week I'd probably store it in the fridge or freezer. 

Saturday, July 25, 2020

A Walk Through a July Garden

I think I'm enjoying my garden more this year than I have for years. 

For quite a few years I was either pregnant, had a small baby, or Ed was sick. I was glad I had a garden during Ed's illness because weeding gave me some place to work out frustration, but it wasn't well cared for. Last year I worked hard to get the garden back in shape after not being cared for properly for years. Layers of mulch have made this year's garden much more enjoyable. 

I'm trying to find ways to make the garden easier to care for. Mulch pays a huge role in this since I can't run the tiller myself. I've always used mulch in the summer but now I'm looking for ways to extend the mulching year round. 

The potato patch. We have been very dry so this photo makes the garden look both bigger and greener than real life. I watered a few times to keep the garden alive. Thankfully we have received several rains in the last three days so it is starting to green up.

The big-leafed plant is candy roaster squash - an old heirloom plant that grows huge. Strawberries are on the left.

As always, I hide the cabbage and broccoli under row cover to save it from the cabbage worm. Zucchini, peppers, and tomatoes are behind them.

Last fall I covered this section of the garden with cardboard, grass clippings, and heaps of leaves. In the spring I dug a hole in the leaves and planted the tomato, broccoli, and zucchini plants under the mulch. I have loved having a basically weed free section of the garden.

Zucchini blooms

Carrots (being chewed off by a groundhog) green beans, and sweet corn.

Green bean blossom.

Green tomatoes and blossoms.


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