Friday, August 10, 2018

Jesus, Lead Thou On

Ed is halfway through his radiation treatments and feeling well. The affects of radiation are cumulative so it is possible that he'll feel worse the week after the treatments, but we are thankful that he can feel good and continue to work.

Recently I was introduced to this old hymn and have enjoyed singing these prayerful words. I especially enjoyed this hymn after reading a biography of Zinzendorf and the incredible missionary work that he was part of in the 1700's.

Jesus, Lead Thou On
by Ludwig von Zinzendorf
Translated by Jane Borthwick

Jesus, lead Thou on
Till our rest is won;
And although the way be cheerless,
We will follow calm and fearless.
Guide us by Thy hand
To our fatherland.

If the way be drear,
If the foe be near,
Let not faithless fears o'ertake us;
Let not faith and hope forsake us;
For through many a woe
To our home we go.

When we seek relief
From a long-felt grief;
When temptations come alluring,
Make us patient and enduring;
Show us that bright shore
Where we weep no more.

Jesus, lead Thou on
Till our rest is won.
Heavenly Leader, still direct us,
Still support, control, protect us,
Till we safely stand
In our fatherland.

Here is a recording of the tune if you want to sing along. (You may need to click over to the blog to view it.)

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Buckeye Bars - And How They Got Their Name

These bars are not a keto friendly recipe. But they are delicious. Since my friend Stephanie shared the recipe with us several years ago, they have become my daughter's specialty. She often bakes them to take to picnics, and we are often asked to share the recipe.

A note on the name - especially for those who don't live near Ohio.

Buckeye candy is a peanut butter ball dipped in chocolate. I often make them at Christmas. These bars are reminiscent of the candy but much simpler to make. Buckeye candy reminds me of the Hershey Reeses candy so maybe a better name would be Reeses Bars.

Buckeye candy gets its name because it resembles the buckeye nut. This nut, which grows on a tree, was given its name "buckeye" by the Native Americans because the nut resembles the eye of a buck (male deer). The buckeye tree is the state tree of the state of Ohio and Ohio has been given the nickname "Buckeye State."

So from a deer, to a nut, to a candy, to a brownie - you finally get Buckeye Bars. If you live near Ohio, this makes total sense.

For the rest of you, just call them Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars.

Buckeye Bars

Bottom Layer:

1/2 cup softened butter
2 T. olive oil
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips

Beat butter, oil, and sugar together. Beat in eggs and buttermilk. Add cocoa, baking soda, flour, vanilla, and salt and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread in greased 9x13 pan. Bake 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Do not over bake. Cool.

Middle Layer:

2 cups 10x (confectionery) sugar
1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup peanut butter

Mix sugar, butter, and peanut butter well and spread over cooled brownies.

Top Layer:

1 cup chocolate chips
6 T. butter

Melt chips and butter together in saucepan on stove over low heat. Spread over peanut butter layer. Cool. Cut into bars.

We like these best when they are refrigerated, but it is not necessary to store in the fridge if you wish.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Grasp the Opportunity to Live Well

A glimpse into the last few weeks.

Two weeks ago, Ed spent a Saturday morning tilling up the green beans and planting a fall cover crop on that part of the garden. I've wanted to try planting field radishes as a cover crop for several years and finally did it this year.

The soil was dry and dusty since it had been weeks since we had rain. But that afternoon it rained, and over the next few days we had about five inches of rain. The field radishes popped up by the end of the week. I'm loving the green grass again, but the weeds are taking the opportunity to go crazy. With rain every day or two, we are beginning to think we are living in a monsoon.

Last week my family came over on one of the few non-rainy evenings and helped us cut and split firewood.

With many hands helping, a lot of wood was stacked in a short time. 

We are so thankful for all the support we have. Ed asked if some of our friends could help drive him the two hours to his radiation appointments each day these next three weeks, so I would not have to drive him every day. Ed had far more offers than he had days of the week. I've had offers for babysitting and friends have dropped off meals. I wish there was a way I could share our support with others who have to walk alone.

On Tuesday, we took the children with us to Ed's doctor appointment so we could have a family outing. The children and I hung out at the clinic playroom until Ed was finished.

We went down to Annapolis that Ed and I had enjoyed so much on our anniversary trip a few weeks ago. 

At the Navy Museum, Ed took a nap on a bench, but otherwise, he felt great all day. Family times are precious.

I hate cancer. It feels like a robber who has stolen our comfortable life and is trying to take our future. 

But in the last year we have been given the opportunity to make the most of every moment. Never have I sucked so much joy out of every day. Never have I clung to the little joys of normal life. 

But you don't have to wait for cancer. 

Grasp the opportunity you have today to live well.

Hug a child.
Let go of a grudge.
Prepare to meet God.
Pick a flower.
Give a compliment.
Watch a sunrise or sunset.
Enjoy the moment without making to-do lists.
Write a thank-you note.
Count your blessings.
Say "I love you" more often.

We don't like to think of death, but if looking honestly at our own mortality allows us to live well, it is worth it. 
Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Keto Mocha Mousse

Ed continues the ketogenic diet - a high fat, low carb diet. The diet has not halted the growth of his tumor, as we had hoped, but since Ed is feeling well, he has chosen to continue the diet. Especially as he starts radiation today, we hope that the anti-inflammation aspect of the diet will help him feel well during treatment.

After a year on the diet it feels normal to cook special food for Ed. I'm always on the lookout for simple, delicious recipes. Keto food can be tasty so if I'm not licking the spatula when I fix a recipe, then it isn't good enough.

A friend gave me this recipe, and I've made it frequently this summer. Super easy and definitely passes the yummy test.

I split the recipe into two servings with 2 net carbs each. If you are not worried about carbs, you could change the sweetener to sugar or honey but, you would have to adjust the amounts.

Keto Mocha Mousse

1/4 tsp instant coffee
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cocoa powder
1/16 tsp pure stevia powder (or sweetened to your taste preference)
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Place all ingredients in a bowl. Beat until cream forms stiff peaks. Serve.

Variation: Omit the coffee and the cocoa powder and stir in pureed red raspberries after beating cream.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Mexican Rice

I was hoping to share some good deals on the Instant Pot on Amazon Prime Day, but they sold out so quickly that I didn't bother. This post contains affiliate links. 

I still use my Instant Pot often despite my initial reluctance to purchase one. Here is a recipe that I make nearly every week. I love that it always turns out perfectly.

Mexican Rice

2 cups chopped green pepper
2 cups chopped onion
1/2 cup butter
4 cups brown rice
6 cups water
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
2 tsp salt
2 tsp garlic powder
4 tsp chicken bouillion

Place all ingredients in Instant Pot. Cook on pressure cook on manual for 22 minutes. Allow to reduce pressure and serve.

I often cook this rice before leaving for church and just let it sit in the pot on warm until we get home.

If you don't have an Instant Pot, this recipe works well in a slow cooker for 4-6 hours. You may need to add a bit more water.

I usually serve this with a stir fry or baked fish or chicken. Usually we have some leftover rice which makes perfect fried rice for lunch the next day.

What is your favorite way to use the  Instant Pot?

Thursday, July 26, 2018

In Search of Joy

I've been thinking a lot the last few weeks about what brings me joy. I could relate to what a friend wrote to me in a letter this week. "I often live for the things that make me feel happy." When lots of things in my life are not happiness producers that is a problem. This summer my happiness meter has jerked up and down like an oil well.

I feel happy when...
Ed has enough energy to play a game with the children
the children are helpful and well behaved
my laundry is flapping on the sunshine
we enjoy a yummy meal of fresh garden produce
a bouquet of cheery zinnias sits on a clean kitchen counter
we get a lovely rainfall at exactly the right time

I feel sad when...
the groundhog chews down my zucchini plants to the ground
Ed falls asleep mid-sentence right after supper
nasty words bounce around the living room
I fight a losing battle with tiny ants in my kitchen

I don't want my joy to be dependent upon things, circumstances, and the weather.

I think God delights in giving us gifts like zinnias and a sun-ripened tomato and I want to find joy in these simple pleasures. When God answers our prayers, I want to rejoice. But these things can't be the source of my joy.

We are nearing the fifteenth month since Ed's GBM brain cancer diagnosis. Every day I thank God that Ed is still with us since I know that many with GBM do not have even fifteen months. Ed fights fatigue but still works and enjoys spending time with the children as much as possible.

But saying that "it could be worse" is a small comfort when I wish my husband was cancer free. It makes me mad that I can't plan next weekend or next month because all plans depend on how Ed feels. Counting blessing, though a valuable exercise, can't always salvage broken dreams. Even Jesus wept with his friends so I don't think we have to force a smile on our face when our hearts ache.

My joy cannot be dependent upon circumstances. When I think of the believers who have been persecuted for their faith  and lost every earthly pleasure to serve Jesus, I realize that I have all I need for joy. Ed has had such firm faith throughout this past year that all will be well. He has confidence that in life or in death, God is with us and we have nothing to fear.

I've been reading slowly through Isaiah and love the prophecies of Christ such as Isaiah 61:3. "To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified."

I want the joy in my heart to be because of Jesus.

This week Ed had another MRI which showed significant tumor growth in the last month. Aggressive GBM like Ed's can double in a week or two, but even knowing that fact doesn't make these scans any easier to prepare for.

In hopes of slowing the growth of his tumor,  Ed has decided to do some more radiation. He starts August 1 and will have 14 treatments. Please pray that the treatments will go well and that he will not have severe side effects. Pray that our faith in God will stay strong, and we will find joy in Him.

I'd love to hear about the little gifts of God that are bringing you joy today as well as what brings you deep unfailing joy in hard times.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Six Girls and Three Good Books

My oldest daughter often shares favorite books with her friends. Like me, she knows that a good book improves with sharing.

At the beginning of summer, we asked several of her friends if they'd be interested in a summer book club. We chose three books that we had recently enjoyed reading, handed out copies, and set a date in July for a book club meeting.

Last week six girls and their moms met at our local library. All the girls and some of the moms had read all three books. I had prepared a short quiz on facts from the book plus some open-ended discussions questions. 

We had brought a box of favorite books that we had picked up at the used book store. The prize for the winner of the book quiz was first chance to pick a book. Everyone went home with a "new" book. 

Some of the girls asked if we could hold another book club meeting in August, so I called the evening a success. 

We chose the three books for their literary quality, ease of finding at the local library, and their ability to build empathy. We also chose books that were slightly below the girls' reading level. This was meant to be a fun summer activity, not a challenging school project. None of these books were overtly "Christian," but all shared important life lessons and didn't contain objectionable material, in my opinion. 

Here are the three books we read. (This includes affiliate links so a purchase gives me a small commission at no extra cost to you.)

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
I had tried reading this book years ago but was turned off by the frilly cover. But this spring I tried again and loved it. Esperanza enjoys a privileged life as the daughter of a rich landowner in Mexico. But when her father is killed, Esperanza and her mother flee to the US. Life at a migrant farm during the Great Depression is hard,  and when her mother catches Valley Fever, Esperanza is forced to find a way to survive. 

This story is based on the author's grandmother's life. I highly recommend listening to the audio version so that you can enjoy a good Spanish reader. Even my boys listened to the book. I didn't know when we chose this book how much immigration would be in the recent news. I love how books like these help me walk in another's shoes for a few hours.

My daughter said this was the favorite book she read this year. Nine children climb on the bus on the first day of school, and we travel with them through the year with a different child narrator each month. There are a lot of characters,, but several mysteries and a strong plot line keeps the story moving.

Each child has their own set of challenges at home (these aren't the perfect Sunday School families), but by the end of the year, each one has learned how to support each other. Note: The book contains a violent bus crash that some children may find disturbing. 

A Long Walk To Water by Linda Sue Park
This book will probably be added to my list of best books I read in 2018, even if it is a juvenile book. Park shares the true story of Salva, one of the lost boys of Sudan in the 1980's. The hardships that Salva survived and the way he has chosen to help others is inspiring. Also included is the fictional story of Nya who spends her hours each day walking to get water for her family.

The book is not long, but will be remembered long after you read the last page. Note: This book contains description of war and terrible violence but is not graphic.

If we have another teen girl book club next summer, by the books we enjoyed, what books would you recommend?


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