Friday, May 29, 2015

Abigail - A Woman of Good Understanding

Abigail - A Woman of Good Understanding

She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.” Proverbs 31:12

She was married to an unreasonable man. The Bible describes him as churlish and evil. His rage and foolish decisions gave him dangerous enemies.

When she heard that her husband's enemy was headed to their home with murderous plans, she acted immediately. Gathering a large quantity of food and loading it onto donkeys, she headed into the wilderness to confront the enemy. Her peace offering and humble entreaty for her husband's life halted their advance and avoided bloodshed.

You can read the whole story in 1 Samuel 25. The short edition is that David asked Nabal for some food in exchange for protecting Nabal's sheep. Nabal's derisive refusal so angered David that he planned to kill Nabal and his household. Abigail's quick action to bring David food averted the violence. A few days later, God ended Nabal's life.

Was it right for Abigail to take her husband's possessions and offer them to David without Nabal's permission? I don't recommend emptying your husband's bank account and buying a huge quantity of food to give away. But the Bible says that Abigail was “a woman of good understanding” (1 Samuel 25:3), and David blessed her for preventing his revenge. We can learn from Abigail how to do good to the undeserving.

Most women in Abigail's position, married to an evil man, would have lashed out in anger or withdrawn in bitterness. But in Abigail, we see neither. She could have hoped that David would make her husband suffer as he had made others suffer. But in Abigail's example we see the New Testament commands to “do good to them which hate you” (Luke 6:27) and to “overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

I know nothing about marriage to a cruel man. My husband loves me better than I deserve. But he is also human, and like me, he isn't perfect. What do I do when I get annoyed at his habits? What is my reaction when he is working late yet again? How quickly do I hold a grudge at some small offense? Do I show respect to my husband always, or only when I decide he deserves it? Do I wait until my needs are met until I seek to meet his needs?

I have found that loving my husband sometimes means choosing to do good even when I don't feel like it. Instead of having a pity party when I'm left alone with the children on another Saturday, I can make his favorite dessert and thank him for working hard for his family. Choosing to do good changes my attitude. Resentment fades when I look for ways to bless him.

Abigail did good for a man who was unworthy. I can follow her example by doing good to my husband, all the time, every day, all the days of my life.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

"Miss Kim" Lilac and Birthdays

The year we married, Ed gave me a "Miss Kim" lilac for my birthday.

The "Miss Kim" lilac is a dwarf lilac. It grows slower than most lilacs and keeps a neater more rounded shape, even without pruning. After thirteen years, it is nearly six feet tall, which is about it ultimate height.

"Miss Kim" blooms later than most lilacs. I love that weeks after my other lilacs have quit blooming, "Miss Kim" opens up her fragrant blooms. With the bedroom windows open, I can smell it indoors.

And since my birthday is mid-May, nearly every year it blooms on my birthday, reminding me of Ed's gift those years ago.

Almost every year I try to get a photo with the children in front of the lilac. Today I scrounged through the photo files. It was fun to see the growth of both the lilac bush and my children.

We just won't mention what the years have done to me.






And this year, 2015.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Christian Heroes: Then and Now

When I was young I read a lot of missionary biographies. The stories of men and women who were sold out to God and willing to serve Him in difficult circumstances had a huge impact on my life. The testimony of their faith and commitment bolstered my own.

And maybe more important, their witness of God's faithfulness showed me that God was worthy of my own trust.

I want my own children to have the same heritage of stories of Godly men and women.

For the past several years we have been adding to our collection of Christian Heroes: Then and Now series by Janet and Geoff Benge published by YWAM. Each year we've added a few more until we have a shelf full. We haven't yet read all of the ones pictured on our shelf above, but so far, we haven't found a bad one. (I know that if you are like me you have your head turned sideways trying to read the titles!) And we have dozens more to purchase if we wish.

Janet and Geoff Benge combine their well researched books with interesting facets to make a fascinating book. Many of these people had thrilling escapes and close calls that had us reading an extra chapter.

Some of the people we've read about are well-known - such as George Muller, John Wesley, and Gladys Aylward. But we've also learned about little known persons as we traveled by dog sled with Wilfred Grenfell in the Artic, visited sick women with Ida Scudder in India, and sailed in the South Sea islands with Florence Young.

These people were not perfect. They made mistakes like every human and the books sometimes mentions their failures but ultimately the glory for their lives is given to the Lord.

Many times we added to our knowledge of history. While reading about Count Zinzendorf, we learned about the early colonization of Pennsylvania. David Livingston's biography introduced us to the fight against slavery. We learned about the Great Chicago Fire in the life of D.L. Moody.

I like how these books have opened our eyes to other countries and cultures. Recently we were reading the book on Sundar Singh and his outreach to Nepal. The recent earthquake in Nepal gave us a connection to that area of the world and when we saw photos of the Himalayan mountains, it made Singh's treks in bare feet even more astounding.

Janet and Geoff Benge also wrote books about individuals in American history. We have enjoyed the volumes on William Penn and Milton Hershey in this series.

The books are listed for ages 10 and up but I read them to our whole family and the six-year-old was eager for the next chapter. And as an adult, I gained as much or more than my children from reading them.

These books are available from Amazon or directly from YWAM Publishing. Purchasing by sets or in bulk is the most economical way to purchase.

Do you have any favorite missionary biographies? What character building books do you consider a good investment for your family?

(This post contains affiliate links.)

Monday, May 18, 2015

Rhubarb Bars

This is the time of year that I turn to my seasonal produce recipe book. I love having recipes organized by fruits and vegetables. Rhubarb producing well? Fill to the rhubarb section so that I don't forget a favorite recipe. Or maybe try a new recipe that I had stored there.

This recipe is one I clipped last year from the Lancaster Farming newspaper but never tried. But one taste and my family decided it was a keeper. Ed liked it best warm; it tasted like rhubarb crisp. I think I preferred it cold but either way it was consumed quickly.

Rhubarb Bars
(adapted from a recipe in Lancaster Farming)

3 cups rhubarb
1 cup sugar
2 T cornstarch
1/4 cup water
1 tsp vanilla

Crust and Topping:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cup oatmeal
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional
1 3 oz- packaage strawberry jello (1/3 cup)

Mix rhubarb, sugar, cornstarch, and water. Cook until thickened. Cool and add vanilla.

Mix flour, oatmeal, butter, brown sugar, and baking soda together until crumbly. Add nuts. Pat about half of the crumbly dough into 9x13 pan. Press down. Spread the cooled rhubarb mixture over crust and sprinkle with gelatin. Sprinkle other half of crumbs on top. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes or until light brown.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

May Garden Plans

May is the busy month in the garden. The to-do list is long but without the heat of summer, gardening is a delight.

With our cold April, some tasks were delayed. Our asparagus didn't start until May this year. But once May arrived the weather quickly warmed and we've enjoyed lots of sunshine.

But it might sound like we are never satisfied with the weather because we are very dry. Tilling the garden uncovers dust. I don't ever remember such a dry May. I have already had to drag out the hoses and water. Often we don't need to water until mid-summer, if at all. Hopefully the rains will begin soon or it will be a long summer.

(the potato patch)

Last week my garden was a disaster. I really didn't want to write this post and share photos of my garden in that state. About half of the garden was covered with tall weeds. I had tried to work in it a little but it was too bad for me to tackle on my own. But on Saturday evening Ed tilled the garden. I told him that it was the best Mother's Day gift I could have received. He hilled up the potatoes and we were able to mulch them this week so hopefully the weeds won't reappear. I was also able to plant most of the garden vegetables.

(our main garden)

Here is my list of garden tasks for this month in my zone 6 garden. Your goals may vary depending on your garden and your area of the country. I'm about halfway through with my list but the weeding and mulching will keep my busy the rest of the month.

1. Plant beans and corn, as well as another planting of greens. 

(broccoli, lettuce, beets, and tomatoes)

2. Plant tomato plants early to mid May. Tomatoes like 50 degree soil. Cooler temperatures, day or night, will slow their growth. Just because the air is warm doesn't mean the soil is warm. I like to plant as deeply as possible, only letting the first two or three sets of leaves above ground. Roots will grow along the stem and promote a healthier plant.

Plant eggplant and pepper plants in mid to late May. These really enjoy warm weather and should not be planted until the soil is 60 degrees day and night. I have found that it is not worth trying to rush pepper plants. Cold weather will stunt them.

3. Plant flowering annual plants and 
sow flower seeds such as zinnias, cosmos, sunflowers, and marigolds directly in soil.

4. Finish dividing perennials flowers and pinch back the mums and fall blooming sedums.

(another view of the potato patch)

5. Hill and mulch potatoes.

6. Plant vine crops such as pumpkins, squash, and watermelon.
Vines love the heat and prefer the soil to be 85 degrees before planting so I'm not in a rush! Some folks fork in manure or compost and cover with black plastic to warm up the ground for a few weeks before planting.
I have never tried it but would like to.

 Mulch. The secret of a weed free garden! Covering our garden with grass clippings has been a huge time saver in the summer! As soon as the seeds are up enough to see the rows, we put a thin layer of grass clippings between the rows. We add to it as the summer progresses. This also helps to conserve water.

(new strawberry plants, carrots, and onions)

So what are your goals this May in your garden? 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Review - Silent Grief: Hope for Surviving Early Miscarriage

Several years ago I discovered Kendra Graber's blog. Soon after, Kendra had a miscarriage. I appreciated some of the things she wrote over that time of grief.

Kendra knows first hand a mother's hidden sorrow of miscarriage. She is determined not to waste her experience with four miscarriages but to use them to encourage others.

Kendra has written a short book called Silent Grief: Hope for Surviving Early Miscarriage. In her book she tells her story - and the story of her lost babies. She includes insight from Scripture on the sacred God-given life in each unborn baby. One chapter of the book covers the physical aspects of a miscarriage.

Kendra also includes the stories of many other women who have lost babies through miscarriage. If you have ever felt alone, this section proves that you are not. Many other women have walked through this same valley.

Silent Grief also includes a section on how to help a friend who had a miscarriage. Sometimes it is hard to know what to say or do but this gives practical advice.

Silent Grief will be a valuable book for any woman to read, whether or not you have experienced a miscarriage yourself. It underlines the value of each baby in the sight of God. With just over 50 pages, it is a quick read.

For many, Mother's Day is a reminder of broken dreams. My heart aches when I think of some of you who I know personally who long for your lost baby. I well remember my own heartbreak twelve years ago when our first child's life ended so quickly. I wish I would have had a resource like this back then.


Silent Grief is available in e-book format - either in Kindle or pdf. I found it easy to download and read as a pdf on my computer.  At only $2.99, it is a great deal. Order at Kendra's blog, Living in the Shoe

Kendra is hoping to sometime have a papervack version also available for gift-giving. Check back at her blog for updates on future availability.

Kendra gave me a free copy of Silent Grief to review but the opinions stated here are my own.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Weary but Pressing On

This is when I want to quit.

Maybe I'm just not good at completing projects. Maybe I'm too scatter-brained to stick at one job for a long time. But after a week and a half of deep cleaning, I'm done.

Not "done" as in finished with the job. Completion. Just done in. Want to quit.

I'm not sure why. I love the progress I've made. I have all the windows washed except for two and it is a delight to see the sunshine stream in. It is fun to open up a newly organized drawer or closet. I'm glad that I started with my bedroom since it is inspiring to end each day in a sparkly room. I was able to remove some stuff from our house completely - such a freeing feeling.

But for all the effort put forth the past week, there is a lot more to do. I have some stacks labled don't-know-what-to-do-with-it. There is very grimy areas I have not yet touched. And that saying "cleaning with children is like shoveling while it is still snowing?" It is true. The toy-library-craft room is getting worse every day since my attention is on other places. Yesterday there was a giant blanket/pillow house that somehow took stacks and stacks of books to complete. Guess I should have taken the opportunity to dust the bookshelves while the books were on the floor.

And then there is the constant interruptions that mean that I never ever get as much done in a day as I think I should. Somehow there is still laundry to do and meals to make whatever other goals are on the agenda.

So, that his how I feel, but I'm writing this to commit to plowing on.  I'm not going to quit yet.

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. Galatians  6:9 

I have been working rather randomly. (Maybe a mistake but when everything needed clean it seemed ridiculous to make a list.) But this week I am trying to gain some focus by writing down one thing to accomplish each day. I need to make bite-sized goals and celebrate small steps of progress.

So if you are mired down in the middle of a project - whether it is cleaning or something else - remind yourself why you started and what your goal is.

It is okay to feel discouraged. It is even okay to take a break (which I did for a few hours the last two days.) But then jump back into your project. Make a few small doable goals that will push your closer to your final goal. Put on some praise music and work with joy.

A smile makes any job easier.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Is My Home a Haven?

(An edited post from six years ago that is still true today.)

Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands. Proverbs 14:1

My organizing/cleaning streak has a  problem.

The more focused I am on my projects and my to-do list, the more frustrated I become at the little people that are not sharing my cleaning drive. I begin to think that the thing standing between me and an organized home is my children. 

Not a good attitude for a Godly mother.

It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman and in a wide house. Proverbs 25:24

A clean home is important. My husband appreciates a home that is in decent order. I try to keep our bedroom free of clutter to form an oasis in the avalanche of “stuff” that appears in a busy home. My goal (which I don't always meet) is to have the children do a quick toy pick-up before Ed gets home so that he doesn't need to shovel a path just to get to the couch. A reasonably clean kitchen and bathroom is needed for proper health and hygiene. Organized drawers and closets save frustration in searching for items. 

My home should be a comfortable place for my family. But what really makes a home a haven? Is it polished floors and immaculate counters? Is it picture perfect decorations and meticulous organization? Is it gourmet meals and picturesque desserts? 

Or is it place of emotional comfort and safety? A home that oozes love and encouragement to those who enter?

Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith. Proverbs 15:17

I spend my days concocting meals, scraping gunk off the high chair, and scrubbing grass stains off jeans. And I'm doing it all because I love my family. But some days I wonder if in the busyness of serving my children's physical needs do I neglect to connect to their inner needs?

How would my day's schedule change if I thought it would be the last I would spend with my husband and children?

What is more important, the to-do list or a game of Connect Four with the six-year-old? Trying a new recipe or reading yet another Richard Scary book?  My latest sewing project or a nap so that my husband doesn't come home to an exhausted, cranky wife?

I count it a privilege to make a home for the family I dearly love. I want my attitude, especially when my plans are turned on end, to reflect that love and the joy of the Lord.

How about you? I'd love to hear how you cultivate joy and peace in your home.


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