Thursday, November 29, 2018

Review: In My Father's House and Silver Censers

Chris was confused. His mother has died, and he knows nothing about his dad. His life at the children's home is sometimes happy, but the strict staff members don't seem to care about his hurting heart. When Chris is hired out to a local farmer, his life becomes even more difficult.

 In My Father's House is a true story of a young man growing  up in western Maryland during the Great Depression. When Chris (not his real name) was an elderly man, he told his life story to Darletta Martin who recorded his experience of hardship, disappointment, and forgiveness. 

I recently lent the book to my sister. She said that the book must have been well-written because she couldn't stop reading even though she had work to do. Darletta had asked me to read her draft a year ago to edit for historical accuracy. Sometimes true stories have the well-earned reputation for being boring, but I stayed up late to find out what happens next in this book. Darletta is a talented writer, and I enjoy stories with local settings. Since there are so many children today who feel rejected, Chris' example of forgiveness is a valuable one.

Darletta has also compiled a poetry calendar called Silver Censers. For years she had gathered poems written by Anabaptist poets. With a friend's photography, she designed a daily flip calendar.

For over a year, this calendar has sat on my bedroom dresser. In the past few years I've been trying to acquire an appreciation for poetry. I've formed the opinion that poetry is best appreciated in very small bites. The short poems for each day have been perfect. Most are inspirational or based on Scripture and give me something to think on for the day. Ed claims to dislike poetry, but I find that he is usually the one who flips the calendar and reads the poem of the day before me.

The calendar includes poems by nearly 40 poets. I looked for my favorite poets such as Lydia Hess, Janice Etter, Elaine Gingrich, Christine Laws, Sheila Petre, and, of course, Darletta herself - but I was also introduced to many new poets. Not every poem is my favorite but with 365 options, I can find many to enjoy.

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You can purchase either In My Father's House or Silver Censers directly from Darletta Martin. Either one is $15.00 plus $3.00 for shipping. (Shipping is less for more than one.) You can email Darletta at dgdfmartin @ (delete the spaces) to place an order. She also sales larger quantities for wholesale orders.

And if you like to hold things in your hands before a purchase, come to the Christmas Craft Expo this weekend. Darletta will be there with her books.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Book Review: Growing Toward the Sun

You all know that I'm always looking for good books for my children. Vila Gingerich offered to send me a copy of her book, Growing Toward the Sun (affiliate link). I've enjoyed Vila's short stories and was eager to read her full-length children's book.

My nine-year-old read Growing Toward the Sun and said, "This is a book about a girl like me." I thought maybe she meant that it was a story about a girl from a Mennonite family, but, no, she said "Celeste likes mystery stories just like me."

Not only does Celeste like mystery stories, but she imagines that she is the next Sherlock Holmes. She carries a notebook and writes down clues. Who stole Sharon's purse? Is it the same person that stole the school story books and the chainsaw? If you've read Harriet the Spy, you can guess the trouble Celeste's notebook causes.

When Celeste accuses a shopper of kidnapping, Celeste's parents attempt to rein in Celeste's imagination. I love the Celeste's parents are loving and firm without making the book preachy.

I don't like fiction stories written about Mennonites and Amish by those who have have never lived in that culture. But Vila is writing about her own upbringing in the midwest. Since Vila is from a different Mennonite background than my own, I enjoyed learning a bit about her group through her story.

I'm always a little nervous reading self-published books. I've read some that I was so distracted by the typos that I couldn't concentrate on the story. I would add a few more commas to Vila's book if I was editing, but Growing Toward the Sun is well-written with a professional cover.

I'm looking forward to Vila's next story about Celeste. You can learn more about Vila's books on her website and purchase Growing Toward the Sun at Amazon.

Thursday, November 22, 2018


Holidays are an opportunity for thoughts such as, Will this be Ed's last Thanksgiving? These thoughts can suck all the thankfulness out of the day.

Last year we didn't know if it was Ed's last Thanksgiving, but we were given another year. So I'm trying to enjoy today and not worry about next year.

That goal is much easier this week when Ed is feeling better than he has in weeks. If Ed was still declining, it would be much more difficult.

Yesterday we had a follow-up visit with Ed's doctor. She was pleased at his improvement. His mind is more focused than a week ago. We hope that the improvement will continue as Ed receives more infusions.

Since this visit was shorter than most of Ed's appointments, we took the children along and did some sightseeing in DC afterward.

We parked at Union Station. What fun to walk through this busy train station with its amazing architecture. Made me want to bring my suitcase and jump on a train bound for California.

Note for large families: The Union Station parking garage costs $15 for a whole day and has plenty of room for large vans.

Next door to Union Station is the US Postal Museum, which is part of the Smithsonian. We learned about the history of the postal service through the many exhibits.

The children explored the huge postage stamp collection.

Ed walked slowly, but he wasn't exhausted yet so we walked over to the US Capital building.

We were able to catch the last Rotunda tour of the day. We were here a few years ago, but I always enjoy the sculptures and paintings depicting US history.

Then it was the challenge of getting home. Thankfully, the Thanksgiving traffic wasn't bad. I still don't enjoy driving, but since Ed quit driving a few months ago, my skills have certainly improved. With Ed's coaching, I'm learning to maneuver in city traffic. But no one is more glad than me to arrive home.

Last week, a family day like this would have been impossible. So grateful for God's continued care for our family. 

Friday, November 16, 2018

Newton's Law and Prayer

Newton's First Law of Motion states that an object at rest stays at rest until acted upon by force.

I didn't plan to prove a law of physics the last few weeks, but I'm finding it hard to get back into blogging.

The past month has been hard. And I don't like to write about hard things.

Some of you have contacted me saying that you hope I'm quiet because I'm having fun with my family, but, just in case, you are praying.

Thank you. I've needed prayer.

I keep thinking about the post I wrote about asking for prayer for the things heaviest on our heart. So many of you have held us up in prayer this past year, and I know you are a safe place for me.

But this past month I was afraid that if I shared how things were at our house I'd spill out something like "Brain cancer is hard on a marriage." Or "I feel like I'm losing Ed by slow inches."

I'd rather write a book review.

Last month's MRI had showed what we thought was inflammation caused by scar tissue. We had decided to give it time to heal before trying more treatment.

Ed continued to feel well as far as no pain or headaches, but his fatigue increased. He struggled to concentrate which made it difficult to work or even hold a conversation. These symptoms are common for those with a brain tumor in the frontal lobe, but it was frightening to feel like I was losing Ed as his personality changed.

Brain cancer is brutal. It is not content to affect one area. Because the brain is the control center of the whole body, it can affect the whole being. For Ed it means that no longer does he have the motivation to conquer projects and initiate new ideas. Because of his distraction, he needs help to work through even common tasks.

Thankfully his memory has not been affected. We still have so much to enjoy, and I have blessings to count. But I also worry about the future and grieve our losses.

This week was Ed's monthly battery of tests as part of the research study he is participating in. On Tuesday we spent the day at the clinical center moving from one floor to the next for his MRI and other tests. We had planned to meet with his doctor the next morning, but before we left for the day, Ed's doctor told us she had time to discuss his MRI. There did not appear to be a huge change in the tumor (thank you, Lord) but the swelling had increased significantly. While it is impossible to know exactly if the inflammation is caused by the tumor or scar tissue, the signs point to scar tissue. Because of Ed's other symptoms the doctor immediately put Ed on a higher dose of steroid for the night and planned to discuss our further options in the morning with the rest of the team.

Instead of fighting rush hour traffic only to return to the city in the morning, we decided to spend the night at a hotel down the street. We were able to relax, enjoying window shopping in the ritzy shopping district. We try to make the best possible use of our "doctor dates."

In the morning we met with Ed's team of doctors. We decided to give Ed several doses of an infusion of a medicine that acts as a super-steroid. Typically this medicine works quickly to reduce swelling that is caused by scar tissue. Sometimes it can take weeks to get approval for this medicine, but Ed has amazing doctors. Ed was able to get his first dose in the afternoon before we even left the hospital.

This was the first time Ed has received any of his cancer treatment by IV, but it went well. A special blessing was that we had a Christian nurse to do the infusion. She told us that she prays each night for the patients she will have the next day.

I think we are already seeing some positive results of the medication. Ed seems a little more alert the past two days. Ed plans to get another infusion in three weeks and will probably have a total of four infusions. We pray that he'll continue to improve, and the side effects will be minimal.

So now you know why it meant so much to hear from a number of you this week. When I feel too weak to pray, God sends others to pray for us. Medical decisions are never easy - especially for someone like me who spends hours reading about drugs and their side effects. But once again we felt carried by God and knew His amazing peace.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.
Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. (Psalm 46:1-3, 10-11)


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