Wednesday, December 25, 2019


Thanks so much to each one who has messaged me to say that you are thinking of us over this Christmas season, the first without Ed. 

Sometimes silence on this blog means I'm struggling, but this past month we have just been busy. We've stuffed our days full of cookie baking, caroling, and gatherings with friends and family, besides the normal homeschooling and household work. 

I'm tempted to think my life is busier than most, until I talk to others who appear equally busy. And I know most of my busyness is self-inflicted, the result of my choices. I always find time for friends and books, even if it is never enough, so my life is rich.

Last night we arrived home from spending Christmas Eve at my parents to find several packages inside our door including a box of donuts. Some packages had labels (we puzzled how some blog readers from British Columbia delivered a large package), but the givers of other packages is still a mystery. Since it was nearly midnight, we fell into our beds, but this morning the children enjoyed the carefully chosen presents. Another reminder of how much we have been given this Christmas.

But we also have reminders of how broken we are. 

Ed proposed on Christmas Eve, the best gift I was ever given. There is nothing that can fill that gap.

This morning, before I was barely awake, I read the message that another godly man had ended his painful journey with cancer. When he had shook my hand at Ed's viewing I never imagined that he would be gone by Christmas himself. Sometimes it is hard for me to cry for myself, but today I cried for his family and their pain-filled Christmas day. 

My friend Stephanie wrote yesterday, "Christmas isn’t for the merry. Christmas is for the broken." 

Jesus didn't come so that we could enjoy a crackling fireplace with a favorite book and a cup of cocoa in a new pottery mug. He came so that miserable people with no hope of anything but pain and death in their future, could have the hope of life and joy.

Below I share an unfamiliar carol that speaks of grieving people who long to find light in their darkness. 

I hope you have joy this Christmas, but if you are more familiar with pain than parties, may you hear God's Word speaking peace to your heart.

Veiled in Darkness Judah Lay
By Richard Douglas

Veiled in darkness Judah lay, waiting for the promised day,
While across the shadowy night streamed a flood of glorious light,
Heavenly voices chanting then, “Peace on earth, good will to men;”
Heavenly voices chanting then, “Peace on earth, good will to men.”
Still the earth in darkness lies. Up from death’s dark vale arise
Voices of a world in grief, prayers of men who seek relief.
Now the darkness pierce again, “Peace on earth, good will to men;”
Now the darkness pierce again, “Peace on earth, good will to men.”
Light of light, we humbly pray, shine upon Thy world today;
Break the gloom of our dark night, fill our souls with love and light,
Send Thy blessed Word again, “Peace on earth, good will to men.”
Send Thy blessed Word again, “Peace on earth, good will to men.”

Saturday, November 30, 2019

My God, I Thank Thee

November has been full. The every-day challenges were surrounded by special days spent with family and friends.

I hosted a group of fourteen writerly friends for a delightful day of sharing words and books.

Our annual family hog-butchering day.

A day trip to DC with the high schoolers in our homeschool group to visit the Museum of the Bible. The collections and multi-media displays were fascinating and informative.

Eating lunch on the top floor within sight of many of the famous landmarks of DC.

Making Christmas cookies on Thanksgiving Day.

We wanted to have an authentic early American Thanksgiving meal, but the hunting was unsuccessful. We had to pull out some wild game harvested on previous weeks to enjoy a meal of venison, squirrel pie, and cornbread.

Of course, the joy of every fun experience and special day is dimmed by the inability to share them with Ed.

On Wednesday evening at church we sang "My God, I Thank Thee." This hymn put into words my thoughts this month, though I admit that often my heart fights against these words. It is one of those songs that is hard to sing honestly. I'd like to stay on the first and second verse, and not go on to verse three.

My God, I Thank Thee
by Adelaide A. Proctor
Hymns of the Church #683
My God, I thank Thee, who hast made
The earth so bright,
So full of splendor and of joy,
Beauty and light;
So many glorious things are here,
Noble and right.
I thank Thee, too, that Thou hast made
Joy to abound;
So many gentle thoughts and deeds
Circling us round,
That in the darkest spot of earth
Some love is found.
I thank Thee more that all our joy
Is touched with pain,
That shadows fall on brightest hours,
That thorns remain;
So that earth’s bliss may be our guide,
And not our chain.
I thank Thee, Lord, that Thou hast kept
The best in store;
We have enough, yet not too much
To long for more:
A yearning for a deeper peace
Not known before.
I thank Thee, Lord, that here our souls
Though amply blessed,
Can never find, although they seek
A perfect rest;
Nor ever shall, until they lean
On Jesus’ breast.

Thanksgiving two years ago. 

Monday, November 18, 2019

Six Months Walking

It has been six months since Ed's death.

If you are someone close to me who is thinking, "Oh no, I forgot." Don't feel bad. Every month on the 18th at least one friend has called or messaged me, and often I had not remembered the date. I think of May 18th every day, but I'm not often aware of dates and anniversaries.

In many ways I feel as if I've lived a couple lifetimes in the last six months. I'm living a life I never dreamed of and walking a road I never wanted. I'm not surprised at the grief, but I never imagined I'd find joy even here.

I've enjoyed the fall weather this year more than usual, possibly because I've been enjoying regular hour-long walks in the roads around our home. After a challenging morning of homeschooling, to walk in the sunshine several times a week feels like a gift.

I always enjoyed walking, and before I married I had a job that I could walk to across farm fields. But with babies I was too busy for walks. But last fall Ed needed exercise, and we started walking several days a week. I did it for him, but enjoyed it for myself. I learned that I could leave for an hour, and all my work would wait until I came back. And I might have renewed energy to tackle it.

If you asked me last fall, I would have told you that I enjoyed walking with Ed. I know we talked and laughed and watched the birds. But now I only remember how slowly he walked, completely unlike his usual six-foot stride that made me trot to keep up. I remember how I worried when I saw him decline week by week. How I feared that our options to keep fighting his tumor were dwindling.

This week, as I walked the familiar stretch of road as I've have dozens of times in the last months, I had a flash of memory from sixteen years ago. That fall I was pregnant with our first child, and we woke up early enough to walk together before Ed went to work. 

I had not thought of those days for a long time, and instantly that memory brought back a rush of that heady time of life when we were relishing new love and new life and our days held the promise of a million dreams. 

It is rare for me to think about days such as those. My mind circles around the days last fall and winter, watching Ed lose his personality and control of his body to the monster in his brain. 

I wonder if subconsciously I'm pushing down memories from those happier, hopeful days to protect myself. As long as I remember Ed struggling in a cancer-ridden body, I can't wish him back to earth. But remembering Ed before, in the days when cancer and surgeries and seizures were unknown, brings back too many what-ifs and whys. 

So I watch the clouds scuttle over blue fall skies and the golden leaves dance in the wind. I relish equally beautiful words of an audio book. I chat with friends and make plans and dare to paint new dreams.

I wonder if it is okay to feel happy. To hold my face to the wind and feel joy. I know that Ed is happy. Unspeakably so. And I think that he's want me to find joy too.

That knowledge doesn't take away suffering. Seasons continue to move on. The golden leaves fall and crunch under my feet. 

Now the tree limbs are bare, making their own kind of stark beauty. The cycle of seasons continue.

We survived the first six months without Ed. We leave the busyness of summer to join the quiet of winter. I look forward to sitting by the fireplace with a book as snow falls. But I know that motherhood in winter means finding profitable activities for children without losing my own sanity. 

I suspect the neighbors will continue to see me walking, watching the sky, my ear buds turned to a fun book, my nose red from the cold, and my heart searching for joy. 

Monday, November 11, 2019

Captain Garrison winner

I enjoyed hearing about the people from history who inspire you. We are so blessed to have people of faith who have showed us how to live in faith and victory.

I pulled one name to win a copy of Captain Garrison. The name was Mary Burkholder, who had donated books for an earlier giveaway this fall. 

She wrote...

"My children chose George Bauman, a character from the Martyr's Mirror, who is written about as 'Joyful George' in the Fruitful Families devotional book, written by Howard Bean."
I hope your children enjoy learning about Captain Garrison and will add him to their list of favorite characters. 

Thanks, Katrina, for this giveaway.

To purchase your own copy of Captain Garrison go to TGS International.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Giveaway - Captain Garrison

A young boy lives on an island near the sea and longs to sign onto a ship and go on an ocean voyage. When his dream comes true, he finds himself captured by pirates, barely escaping shipwreck, and unjustly accused of a crime.

That story line has been repeated often in stories through the years since we love to hear tales of men braving danger on the sea.

But in Captain Garrison, Katrina Hoover Lee includes all the above while also telling a story that goes deeper into the danger of the soul.

Katrina has written several nonfiction books including Blue Christmas and Voices of Syria. This is her first historical fiction telling the story of Nicholas Garrison who lived from 1701-1781. I enjoy historical fiction but often wonder where the history ends and the fiction begins. Katrina based her story on Garrison's short biography that he wrote before his death. His account is included in the back of the book so curious readers like myself can figure out exactly what is true in the story.

I've been fascinated with the accounts of the Moravian missionaries in the 1700s and this book delves into their work and passion. I found the book both an enjoyable read and personally encouraging.

The book is excellent for teens. Katrina doesn't ignore the evil of Garrison's early life and, though his infidelity is written about discreetly, if you read this book aloud to your children (something I'd recommend) you might want to look ahead to decide what is appropriate for young children.

Katrina is giving away a copy of Captain Garrison to a Home Joys reader.

To enter a giveaway for Captain Garrison, leave a comment on this post. Share with us a character from history that you find inspiring. If reading by email, click over to the blog and let your comment there.

Don't forget to share your email address with your comment or I have no way of contacting you.

To purchase your own copy of Captain Garrison go to TGS International.

You might also enjoy Katrina's blog.

Giveaway open for one week from today and is open to all US postal addresses. Winner chosen by

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Winner of The Missing Invitation

Thanks to all who entered the giveaway for The Missing Invitation. I enjoyed hearing about the books you enjoyed as a child.

The author, Tina Fehr, has given me two copies to give away to readers, so I pulled two names for the giveaway. They are:
  • Rachel who enjoyed Wee Willow Whistle.
  • Susan who joined many others in listing the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder as one of her earliest book memories.

If you would like to purchase The Missing Invitation or any of Tina Fehr's other books, go to Christian Light.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Christmas Craft Expo

My girls have been stitching and crocheting the last weeks.

My oldest has made zippered pouches of various sizes.

My ten-year-old has been crocheting cell-phone purses.

Other ladies have been painting, baking, crafting, and sewing. They are making soap, binding journals, pouring candles, and shaping pottery.

The anticipation is rising for the Christmas Craft Expo to be held, Lord willing, this Friday and Saturday.

We had so much fun last year and if you are a local, make time to stop by this weekend.

You can see all the details and photos of some of the products on the Christmas Craft Expo 2019 Facebook page.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Giveaway - The Missing Invitation

The missing invitation

Why is friendship so hard sometimes?

When I received a review copy of The Missing Invitation from the author, Tina Fehr, I was reminded of the friendship angst of elementary-aged children. (Which maybe isn't so far from adult friendship problems.)

In The Missing Invitation Megan is eager to befriend the new girl at church. But when the other girls at church ignore her and don't invite her to their special singing, she feels hurt.

Tina Fehr has written three books for children based on her homeschool family's experiences. Daddy on the Mend tells of trusting God when Dad is injured in a work accident. In More Trouble Than Trouble Creek Andrew learns to get along with his siblings. Now The Missing Invitation focuses on friendships. These books are appropriate for children ages 5-8 and could even be used as a family devotional. The lessons that Megan learned in this book could be a good conversation starter in  your family on the importance of being a good friend.

Tina gave me two copies to give away to readers.

To enter a giveaway for The Missing Invitation leave a comment on this post. Tell us one of the very first books you remember reading (or having read to you) as a child. If reading by email, click over to the blog and let your comment there. I'll choose two comments to get a copy of The Missing Invitation.

Don't forget to share your email address with your comment or I have no way of contacting you.

To purchase your own copy, go to Christian Light.

Giveaway open for one week from today and is open to all US postal addresses. Winner chosen by

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Giveaway Winner for My Other Name Is Mom

Thanks to all who entered the giveaway and share about a friend whose mothering inspires you.

The winner of the giveaway was Dorcas from Maine. I hope your friend finds My Other Name Is Mom encouraging in her mothering journey.

To purchase your own copy of My Other Name Is Mom, go to Mary's website. Until December the book is on sale for $9.99. You can also email Mary at myothernameismom @

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Giveaway - My Other Name Is Mom

I usually buy used books so it is always a treat to read a newly published book. I also enjoy reading books written by people I know. And one of my favorite things ever is sharing books with friends.

I get to combine all three joys in the next weeks. I have been given several new books recently. I'm looking forward to sharing them with you. Plus the authors gave me extra copies to give away, so look for book giveaways in the coming weeks.

The first book I'm sharing is My Other Name is Mom by Mary Burkholder. I've known Mary since we were young girls in the same homeschool group, but Mary moved hundreds of miles away to Mississippi so I've not known her as a mom.

Mary's newest book begins with the history of feminism and how it has impacted Christian women today. Then Mary gets practical with chapters on the supermom myth, mommy guilt, and how to keep romance alive. I love that Mary doesn't pretend that motherhood is easy and reminds us that we don't have to have it all together to be a good mom. She writes about meeting the emotional needs of our children, battling worry, and the loneliness of mothering. Mary ends the book with some homemaking tips.

Some parenting books make me feel like a failure. Right now I feel so discouraged as a mother that I don't need more guilt. I felt like Mary was right with me in the exhaustion of motherhood. She holds a high standard and calls us to sacrificial love, but doesn't make me feel like a hopeless case.

Lyndon and Mary Burkholder and children

To purchase your own copy of My Other Name Is Mom, go to Mary's website. Until December the book is on sale for $9.99. You can also email Mary at myothernameismom @

To enter a giveaway for My Other Name Is Mom leave a comment on this post. Tell us one thing you appreciate about a young mother in your life (you don't have to name her). I'll send you the book to give to that mom. (I don't mind if you read it first.) If reading by email, click over to the blog and let your comment there.

Don't forget to share your email address with your comment or I have no way of contacting you.

Giveaway open for one week from today and is open to all US postal addresses. Winner chosen by

Friday, October 11, 2019

Peanut Butter Apple Dip

We are enjoying our daily apples this fall. My daughter made this peanut butter dip the other night, and we considered it a winner.

Peanut Butter Apple Dip

1 cup peanut butter
8 oz pack of softened cream cheese
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup milk

Measure ingredients into bowl. Beat for several minutes until fluffy. Serve with apple slices.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Apple Season

After some unseasonably hot weather, I thrilled to wake up this morning to a chill in the air. I love fall with its colors and flavors.

Last week we went with my brother and his family to pick apples.

Friends allowed us to come into their orchard after their harvest was completed and pick up drops and missed apples.

Walking through the quiet rows of trees with distant mountains in view in the slanting evening light was restorative.

With the help of a dozen children, we picked over 40 bushels which were divided among the whole family.

At home we turned several bushels of apples into applesauce. Ed used to take applesauce in his lunch every single day, but now I don't need nearly as much.

Then my family got together on a rainy evening and made apple cider. 

We have not made cider for several years so it was extra special.

What is your favorite fall activity?

Sunday, September 29, 2019

To North and Back Again

Two years ago, Ed asked the children where they'd like to go on a family trip. They chose Niagara Falls, a place neither Ed or I had ever been. Our vacation plans were abandoned when Ed was diagnosed with cancer a few weeks later, but after Ed's death, the children and I dared to dream again of a trip to Canada.

Our plan was to stay at state parks and tent. We spent three days camping in Virginia to see if we could manage tenting without Ed. I knew an extended trip with six children would be challenging, but figured we'd either rise to the challenge and have a bonding experience OR I'd lose my sanity and stagger home early. 

Then my brother offered us his RV. My children have fond memories of the year Ed rented an RV for a week-long trip, but I was not comfortable driving a RV. Siblings to the rescue. My youngest brother Vaun offered to drive for us. It was one more time this year that I had to swallow my pride and accept help, but by the end of the trip, I wondered how I ever thought I could survive a long trip as the only adult. 

We left early Tuesday morning. The children loved the extra room and flexibility that traveling in an RV brings. 

Our first lunch on the road.

We set up camp at Four Mile Creek State Park, NY right on Lake Ontario.

When we go camping, we always eat as many meals as possible over the campfire. I was glad Vaun was willing to join our tradition. 

We thought about doing some hiking at the park, but we knew we were only about fifteen minutes away from Niagara Falls. We couldn't wait one more day.

We found free RV parking on the far end of Goat Island. This island straddles the Niagara River between the American and Canadian falls. In preparation for our trip, I had talked to many friends who had visited the Falls recently. Without exception they had all stayed on the Canadian side of the falls (where the best views are found) and all mentioned how commercialized it was.

So I was pleasantly surprised to find that Goat Island, on the New York side of the Falls, had been kept very wild looking. We walked out to the Three Sisters Island and watched the pulsing rapids of Niagara River. In the distance we could see the mist from Horseshoe Falls. 

And then we rounded the corner and stood on the brink of the falls, watching millions of gallons of water dash over the falls every minute. The power of the water is indescribable.

We spent the rest of the evening walking Goat Island, enjoying sights of all three falls as the lights illuminated the falls. Since we were above the falls, we couldn't get the full view, but the feeling of power unforgettable. 

We started early  the next morning, parking at Fort Niagara and taking the free shuttle the rest of the day to various spots. The Niagara Power Visa was our first stop.

 This free science museum is provided by the New York Power Authority. I didn't expect much, but figured it wouldn't hurt to stop since it was free. 

We spent two hours enjoying the interactive exhibits and could have stayed longer. I've spent money for science museums that were not nearly this high of quality. And we almost had the whole museum (and their helpful staff) all to ourselves. 

View of the hydro-electric dams (Canada's on the left and New York's on the right.)

Next on our list was to visit the falls up close. We went back to Goat Island to Cave of the Winds. We were given ponchos and sandals and taken by elevator down to the base of Bridal Veil Falls. 

Here was built a series of platforms and stairs where we could climb and enjoy the power and spray of the falls. The Hurricane Deck was the favorite of my oldest four children. They were soaked. 

This was the only tickets we purchased during our stay at Niagara Falls, but it was a highlight to the children.

We planned to travel into Canada the next day, but we kept looking across the water at the Canadian side of the river. Finally we decided to just walk across the bridge and say we walked to Canada. 

This was the first time any of us visited our neighbors in the north (even though Vaun and I were both in several other countries half-way around the world). By this time the little girls were exhausted and the sun was hot, so after taking in the view from the bridge, we didn't even touch our feet to land and headed back through the US customs. (My children were all young enough they didn't need passports to cross the border but they did need birth certificates.) 

It was a rather quiet ride back on the shuttle as most of the children fell asleep. They revived when we stirred up the campfire and grilled chicken. For the second night in a row, it rained. I listened to the rain on the roof of the RV and thanked God that I wasn't in a tent.

The next morning we stopped at Whirlpool State Park and took a walk along the Niagara River. If only we had more time. We could have spent hours here. But we wanted to officially visit the Canadian side of the falls.

Unfortunately, by the time we got through customs and found parking, the light mist was turning into a heavy drizzle. 

The view of Horseshoe Falls (on the right) and American Falls (on the left) was obscured by the rain. After seeing what we could, we decided to move on. 

Our next stop was Welland Canal. Obviously boats can't go up the Niagara River so the canal shuttles traffic between Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. At the St. Catherine's Museum, we learned history of the area. (Museum admission by donation.) 

The museum also has a viewing area of the canal and one of the locks. We arrived just in time to see a large cargo ship go through the locks.

Our destination for the night was the Valens Lake Conservation Area. This park was our favorite campground of the trip. We didn't have any success fishing, but the campground had been carved out of woods with barely enough trees removed to park the RV. This meant lots of privacy between campsites. Even though we were only a short walk from the lake, the trees hid the view of the campsites from the lake making the lake seem very private. 

We watched the moon rise over the lake and only then went back to our campsite to build our fire and make our supper. 

Hanging out around the campfire the next morning was delightful. Most mornings Vaun made us chai. What a perfect mix of a Middle Eastern drink with Ontario scenery and my favorite Pennsylvania people.

We had chosen the Valens area to camp since it wasn't too far from some of my Ontario friends. Throughout the day, several friends joined us at the park.

Julianne and her boys joined us in the morning. Sharon brought her family in the afternoon.

Leona's family joined us for the evening. While we moms gabbed about books, motherhood, and homeschooling my children made new Canadian friends. Vaun was a good sport at chatting with my friend's husbands. 

The time we spent with people on this trip was a highlight. Some of these ladies I had never met in person and real-life connections are so much better than email friendships.

Rain threatened all day, but only really rained when we were making mountain pies. Thankfully the pavilion at the park had this huge cooker available.

Saturday we enjoyed another campfire breakfast and leisurely packed the RV. We headed around Lake Ontario, waving to Toronto. We stopped for lunch at a beautiful park by the lake where we were amazed at the cultural diversity. It was obvious that immigration is much higher in this area and I would have loved to hear the stories from the others who were enjoying the park.

Our children were eager to arrive at my friend Regena's home. Their family had been to our home several times so our children didn't need time to warm up. I didn't see much out of them for the rest of the evening.

The next day we traveled with Regena's family to church. The hour-long trip wound through gorgeous woods and lakes. What a way to prepare for worship.

We spent the rest of Sunday with Patricia's family. It was special to share our stories since the last time we met as they also have experienced death inf their family.

I had met Patricia before, but not her children, but our children weren't strangers for long. The beautiful setting of their farm drew the children in. 

On Monday morning I woke up in the RV back at Regena's house. This was the view of the river across the road from their house.

The boys didn't waste time after breakfast getting a canoe in the water.

I spent the day enjoying friendship while doing normal Monday tasks of cooking and laundry.

We enjoyed the famous French-Candian poutine that evening.

This dish includes French fries with cheese curds and gravy. Other toppings such as bacon, sausage, peppers, and onions were also available. The result was absolutely delicious.

On Tuesday our friends took us to Kingsport to Fort Henry. 

We enjoyed learning the history of the fort. It was interesting to hear history from a British/Canadian point of view instead of the American perspective which I've read in history books.

After lunch we hiked to Landon Bay Overlook. This is in the Thousand Islands region of the St Lawrence River. I tried not to watch my boys scramble down these rocks.

Most good things have to come to an end. We said good-bye to our friends in Ontario and crossed the river into the US. 

We set up camp at Wellesley Island State Park. The Thousand Island's region has many New York State Parks to choose from. We picked the closest to our route and were not disappointed. 

Very few other campers shared the park with us that night, but I was told that the summer can be crowded. 

The boys got up early and, with some hints from a fellow camper, finally had some fishing success with this 14-inch bass.

Sizzling fish made a perfect last campfire breakfast. We would have loved to stay longer, but home was calling. We were nearly to the Pennsylvania line when the RV began making ominous engine noises and losing power. We shuffled off the interstate and found a repair shop. They said they didn't work on large motors, and it was after 5:00 anyway. After numerous phone calls, we decided that all the shops in this small town were closed. After talking to my brother who owned the RV, we decided to see if we could get closer to home. 

I ran into the grocery store and restocked our food in case we were stranded in the RV for a few meals and we stumbled toward home. It was a long night. The children soon tucked into their beds. We avoided the interstate and limped through tiny Pennsylvania towns wondering if this was where the engine would totally stop. It guzzled down oil at an alarming rate, but a little after 3:00 we pulled into our driveway. The children all woke and staggered to their beds except the five-year-old who never woke until morning.

Many miles, many friends, many smokey campfires, many answered prayers, and a memorable family trip.

And just a bonus...

Three tips for an amazing vacation (said tongue-in-cheek)

1. Homeschool your children so you can vacation without crowds in lovely September weather.

2. Build friendships with those who live in scenic areas so you soak in glorious views mixed with sweet fellowship.

3. Make sure you have a brother twenty years younger than yourself who has a servant's heart. 


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