Monday, September 5, 2022

Sisters' Summer Reading Challenge

Since Charity's wedding was this summer, we purposely kept the challenges this summer light and fun. And we both enjoyed our reading very much! 

This post includes affiliate links.

 1. Reread a classic you enjoyed as a teen. 

Charity- Anne's House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery

Anne and Gilbert's first year or two of marriage are described in this beautiful novel. I listened to it the month after my husband and I got married and loved the sweetness of their story while enjoying the sweetness of our own start of life together. Montgomery combines the usual lively fun and laughter with a hint of sadness and also an unexpected plot twist.

Gina - Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Though I read this book as a teen, I had forgotten most of the plot. I enjoyed the story, but was so annoyed at the manipulative male characters that I nearly threw the book across the room. I find it fascinating that a book with such strong religious content was hugely popular when it was published in the 1800s. But the gothic-style of the Bronte writers just isn't my favorite; I'll return to Jane Austin.

2. Read a portion of a book of essays or poetry.

Charity - The Works of G.K. Chesteron

This was a perfect excuse to dabble in Chesterton's poetry. Though I didn't read the entire book, I enjoyed various poems and his longer poem "The Balland of the White Horse." Chesterton was a lover of old England and in this poem I enjoyed his delight in a past time.

Gina - A Passion for Books edited by Harold Rabinowitz

I picked this book up at a used book store while on vacation last year. This collection of essays, quotes, and lists is the perfect bedside companion for a book lover. The collection spans many years and includes a variety of authors and topics but all focus on a love of books.

3. Read a book with a beautiful cover. 

Charity - Pilgrims Progress Part 1 by John Bunyan

I love old copies of books. It might be almost an obsession. My beautiful book has a dusty blue cover with gold flowers and leaves on the spine with an intricate gold title. Doesn't it sound breathtaking! I wasn't able to read the entire book, but part one was wonderful. I grew up knowing the story from a children's abridged edition, but I had never read the unabridged version. Hopefully I can soon read part two.

Gina - This Beautiful Truth by Sarah Clarkson

I don't usually choose a book by the cover, but this book had a lovely cover, beautiful writing, and "beautiful" in the title. I didn't agree with all the author's theology, but her account of struggling through severe mental illness and the people who walked with her, inspired me to be the hands of Jesus to the hurting people around me.

4. Read a book by an author you've enjoyed.

Charity- Let Me Be a Woman by Elisabeth Elliot

I consider Elliot to be one of the most influential authors in my life. One reason is because she greatfly influenced two of my older sisters who I admire very much. This particular book is a collection of letters that Elliot wrote to her daughter before her marriage. The month before my own wedding found me gleaning her wisdom, but this book is for woman at any stage of life who want to grasp what being a woman of God means.

Gina - Lila by Marilynne Robinson

I have this crazy problem of saving books. Lila has been on my shelf for a while, saving for - I'm not sure what. Robinson's writing always blows me away, though her style probably isn't for everyone. Lila, the main character, has grown up as a drifter, but when she walks into a small town and steps into a church to get out of the rain, she meets an elderly pastor who changes her life. This is the third book in the Gilead series, but is set a few years before the first two books and could be read in any order. Since each book in the series is narrated by a different character, the reader sees the town and its inhabitants in a new way with each book.

5. Read a book about someone on a journey.

Charity - A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay

This light novel is the story of the journey of Emily Price from a whirwind romance to living in Italy. It is also a journey of growth as Emily learns that some things she can't fix. Though a little more sappy than I generally read, I loved that the book was a clean, fun easy read.

Gina - The Greater Journey by David McCullough

I started this book months ago and worked through its many pages slowly. I wrote recently about the author's skill as a historian and author. In this book I followed Americans in the 1800s as they traveled across the Atlantic to Paris. Some were searching for medical training, others for inspiration in the great art museums, still others were representing the US government. Each one met people and saw things that changed their lives. Though the information didn't feel relevant or useful to my life, it was fun and mind-stretching to journey with this book.

6. Read a love story.

Charity - Come Rain or Come Shine by Jan Karon

I am a huge Mitford fan. This book was an easy reread as I waded through the last wedding planning and furniture buying! Karon writes about the biggest wedding in the Mitford series being planned and all the normal stress with a few surprises for everyone. As usual, Karon makes you fall in love with her quirky and hilarious characters.

Gina - Yours Cheerfully by A. J. Pearce

I've looked forward to a sequel to Dear Mrs. Bird ever since I read it and fell in love with Emmy. This was the perfect audio to listen to as I ran errands in the days before Charity's wedding. The story set in World War 2 London was SOOO much fun, though the plot was a bit predictable. I learned about wartime weddings and female workers in British munition factories, but the author's historical research didn't slow down the story. 

7. Choose a Psalm and read it every day for a month (or as often as possible.) 

Charity - Psalm 63

Psalm 63 is a beautiful psalm of praise, longing, and satisfaction. I loved reading the same words every morning, until now, a month later, I can almost quote it. I hope I can say with David, "God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you."

Gina - Psalm 121

I printed off this psalm and hung it on the kitchen wall. Every morning for a week, we read the first verse at breakfast. The next week we added verse two. Each week we added another verse until last week we were reading (or quoting) the whole psalm. Not only was it a way to teach my children Scripture, but it was good for me to remember where my help is found.

8. Take a photo of a book you are reading.

Charity- That gorgeous book I told you about earlier, well, of course I took a picture of it! Books, flowers, and my own little kitchen table have been some of my joys of the past two months.

Gina - I realized that I take a lot of photos of books. When a friend asks for a book recommendation or I'm excited to share the book I'm reading - I snap a photo. I looked through the photos on my phone and had to laugh at how many book photos I found. Two books I read this summer, and took photos of to share, were Beyond the Darkness by Clarissa Moll and Why Bad Things Happen by Michael S. Martin. Both addressed grief in ways that were powerful and life-giving to me, and I'm guessing I'll be buying copies of both to share.

How was your reading life this summer? Does your summer schedule mean that you read less or more?  Do you change the type of book you read in the summer?

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Sisters' Fall Reading Challenge

I had so much fun reading in this summer. We had purposely kept the challenges lighter because our summer was intense, but now both Charity and I are ready to give a bit of challenge to our reading life. 

The goal of our fall challenges is to stretch ourselves a bit beyond our bookshelves. I can't wait to meet some new book friends. 

Sisters' Fall Reading Challenges 

1. Read a book that intimidates you.

The book could intimidate you because of its length or its topic or genre or author. More than once, when I've pushed myself to read a book that intimidates me, I've found a treasure. I think I'm going to choose a Dicken's book for this challenge.

2. Read a book about a founder of a ministry or nonprofit organization. 

If you don't have a book in mind, check your libraries nonfiction shelf. There are many books that would fit this category. It could be a missionary such as Amy Carnichael or Hudson Taylor or a humitarian organization founder like Clara Barton. Choose someone who lived years ago like William Booth or a still alive today like Joni Erickson Tada.

3. Read a book published in your birth year. 

This might be one of the most challenging because we don't typically categorize books by their publication date. One idea to find a book on your birth year is check out the Newberry or Pultizer prize winners. (You may have to check the year after your birth since the awards are usually given the year after.)

4. Read a book that others have raved about.

You can interpret this as you wish. It could be a book that got a lot of publicity on a best seller list. Or maybe a book that your mom or your brother or you friend keeps talking about.

5. Read a book set in your state or province.

This too may be challenging, at least I don't have a book immediately in mind for this challenge. Your local library may have a section devoted to local books. 

If you don't live in the United States or Canada, feel free to interpret this challenge as you wish. You may choose a book set in your country.

6. Read a book that addresses an area you want to grow in. 

Sometimes I gravitate toward books on my favorite topics, so here is a chance to read a book about a topic that I'm weak in.

7. Look up the definition of a word that you read in a book.

I usually just guess a word's meaning from the context, but I want to challenge myself to ocasionally look up the definition.

8. Carry a physical book with you.

When I unexpectantly have a few extra minutes, I usually reach for my phone because I always have it with me. I'm going to intentionally try to keep a book with me more often so that I reach for a book instead of my phone. So if you see me in the Walmart line this fall, I just might have my nose in a book. 

I might even try to keep a book on my kitchen counter, so that a book, not my phone, is the closest thing at hand.

I'd love to hear what you intend to read this fall. If you need any book suggestions for any of these challenges, just ask. We love to talk books!

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

A Tribute to David McCullough

Earlier this month, David McCullough, author and historian, died. 

My first thought was that I'd never again say, "McCullough has a new book out!" At age 89, certainly his death was no surprise, but he had been a prolific author, even in his elderly years.

A few months ago, I had gathered my reading lists from various places, some written in notebooks or the back of planners, others on sheets of notebook paper, and combined them all into one notebook. I found that I had lists of the books I read back to 2007. I also had several book lists that Ed had read from around that 2007 as well. 

Looking through my reading lists brought a flood of memories. Many of the book titles I can remember where I read them and what was happening in my life. Books that we listened to on vacation or I read while feeding a baby. Books that I still think about today.

So when I heard of McCullough's death, I pulled out those reading lists and looked for his name. I began to consider the influence that McCullough's books had on my life. McCullough was a masterful storyteller and a meticulous historican, but it wasn't the content so much as the fact that I chose to read his books that mattered.

I've enjoyed reading from the time that Dick and Jane were my compaions, but in my twenties I struggled with knowing what to read. Was fiction a waste of time? What did a married woman read? What was the purpose of reading? 

I don't have a record of the books I read when I first married, but I know I didn't read a lot. Ed and I enjoyed reading several classics together out loud, which was such fun. But I mostly read nonfiction on topics that I wanted to learn about such as gardening, bread baking, and parenting.

Then I began to read some blogs written by homeschool moms who were voracious readers. They exposed me to many more books. I started going to used book sales, searching for titles they mentioned. 

The first time I remember David McCullough's name mentioned was in a blog post where a busy homeschool mom said she was listening to Mornings on Horseback while she took walks. I told Ed about it, thinking that it would be a book he'd enjoy. He had listened to another book by David McCullough the year before, The Great Bridge. He listened to Morning on Horseback and then started looking for other audio books by McCullough at the library. 

About that time, I read a rave review on McCullough's book, John Adams and picked it up at a used book sale. I don't think I had ever attempted to read a 600-page book. I still wonder what possessed me to start that book. I had three small children, ages 3, 2, and newborn. I would put the children down for a nap, then curl up on my own bed with this huge book. I could only read a few pages at a time, and it took me months to finish. 

Then I immediately started Truman, an even longer book, almost 1,000 pages. Again, it took me months of naptimes to complete it. 

I'm not sure why I chose McCullough's two longest books to read. Ed, meanwhile was working through most his other books and would tell me what he was learning. Between the two of us, we read all of his books that were printed at that time. 

I look back on my decision to read John Adams and see it as the turning point in my reading life. Before that I read for information and occasionally pleasure. But now I was choosing to read a huge book that I didn't need to read. I wasn't a history scholar. I didn't need the information the book contained. It wasn't a fluffy book, but neither was it doctrinal or inspirational or pertinant to my life. I think that is when I changed from being a person who read books to being a reader.  

Maybe there isn't a difference, but I think there is. A reader reads books because they love words, not just to gain information. A reader reads books that aren't necessary for their life, because reading is what they do. In many ways, a reader can't not read books. It isn't a matter of will I read but what will I read. When I'm asked how I find time to read, I'm bewildered because reading is what I do, like eating or showering. It simply fits in my day by default. Sometimes I can only catch brief snatches, like the days I eat on the run. Other days I have time to linger long (over a meal or a book.) But skipping either for too many hours just isn't optional.

I didn't know it when I read them (I barely knew the term), but Truman and John Adams were both Pulitzer prize-winning books, in 1993 and 2002 respectively. Both took years of research. I enjoyed this old NYT article about McCullough that shares about his writing process including the fact that he typed his books on a typewriter. He also stated that he read each page aloud to his wife and she read it back to him, so his ear could catch what his eyes couldn't. His attention to detail is probably why one NYT critic said that McCullough was "incapable of writing a page of bad prose." 

David McCullough was born in western Pennsylvania and was a magazine writer for years before he wrote his first book, The Johnstown Flood, about an event near where he had grown up. After the success of that book, he became a full-time writer of books on American history. 

I'm going to list each of his books and share a bit about each. I'm not saying you should read them or want to read them, there are so many books in the world to choose, but if you read even one of McCullough's books, I'm guessing you will know far more than you did in your highschool American history class.

I'll include the Amazon affiliate links, but these books are easy to find at used books stores.

The Johnstown Flood (1968)

This is one of McCullough's shortest books and a great introduction to his work. Ed and I enjoyed reading this book with our book club and a few years ago, we listened to it as a family while on a trip. McCullough actually interviewed some people who had experienced the Johnstown Flood.

The Great Bridge (1972)

Ed told me so many fascnating stories from this account of building the Brooklyn Bridge while reading this book. 

The Path Between the Seas (1977)

This book takes place mostly off American soil, in Panama. I remember Ed being appalled at the lost of lives in the building of the canal.

Mornings on Horseback (1981)

This book shares the early years of Theodore Roosevelt, both as a child and then a young man, and the hardships he overcame.

Brave Companions (1991)

Brave Companions is a compilation of essays and speeches. If you want to dabble a toe into McCullough's writings, this would be a good choice.

Truman (1992)

Many consider this McCullough's masterpiece. This detailed biography on President Truman taught me so much about the early 1900s, including the Great Depression, the close of World War 2, and the Cold War. 

John Adams (2001)

Through the life of John Adams, McCullough describes the founding of the United States. I learned much about the birth of the Constitution.

1776 (2005)

When Ed read this book, covering only one year, he was amazed at how McCullough captured the drama of this time. Those living in 1776, on both sides of the Atlantic, didn't know if the Americans would win their independence.

The Greater Journey (2011)

I had not read a McCullough book for years but picked this one up this spring. Like usual for his books, it took me months to read it. McCullough follows Americans who traveled to Paris in the 1800s. This included medical students, artists, inventors, and ambassadors. Some have critized this book for not having a strong narrative theme through the book and I did find the large number of people it followed to feel rather random, but I enjoyed it.

The Wright Brothers (2015)

We listened to this book on a family trip. I thought I knew a lot about the Wright brothers, but this book didn't just talk about their famous invention of a flying machine, but followed them to Europe and covered their later years.

The American Spirit (2017)

McCullough was often asked to speak and this is a compilation of speeches that I have not yet read.

The Pioneers (2019)

I have not yet read McCullough's latest book which describes the settling of the Northwest territory after the Revolutionary War. If you are from Ohio, this is the story of the pioneers who carved homes in wilderness of this area.

There is a quote that says, "Five years from today, you will be the same person that you are today, except for the books you read and the people you meet." (credited to Charlie Jones) I'm not sure that is entirely accurate, as many life circumstances affect our lives, but the fact remains that books can be influential. I've enjoyed looking back and considering the influence that an American historian and author had on an exhausted young mom.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Lead Us, O Father (With Wedding Photos!)

I'd apologize for taking such a long blogging break, but I know you all have plenty to do and read without my words. 

I haven't known how to distill the events of this summer into words. These weeks have contained enough heights and lows to give emotional whiplash. I can honestly say that it has been good, which I hope means that I've been carried by grace, not that I'm in denial or too busy to process. 

Here is an overview of June and July.

The summer began with attending a writers' conference in Virginia the first week of June. It had been canceled for two years and when I walked in the building, I could feel the excitement in the room. I love connecting with old friends and new who love words, and I wanted to bask in the conversations and energy of the conference.

But it also ranks up as one of the most terrifying public speaking experiences of my life. The fact that I had been pumped up and prepared two years ago, in March 2020, then the event was canceled thanks to a virus, and then canceled again in 2021, probably meant that I had far too much anticipation built up. But I survived without fainting.

In the month of June, we hosted another TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) class. I love hanging out with passionate youth and I enjoy cooking food for groups, so this was simply fun. So many people offered to help with food and lodging, and it is great to see a community work together to host this event. 

If you or someone you know has an interest in teaching English, contact me for more information for next June's class. The teacher is excellent (and so is the food), and maybe some year I'll pretend to be a nineteen and participate in the class.

In June, Ed's neice ended her years of suffering poor health. Her sister had died soon after Ed three years ago; both had a rare auto-immune disorder. I left my children behind and traveled to North Carolina for the funeral with another van load so had time to think and process grief. To see her three-year-old watch the filling of her mother's grave and walk down the row of young gravestones was heart breaking. So much grief. 

The week after the funeral, Ed's mom's house was sold. It has been hard to watch her mental decline the past few years and last winter the decision was made that she could no longer live alone. She seems happy in her new quarters and I know she would never move back home, but still the sale of her house and the dispersal of her belongings feels so permanent. 

I took my girls over to her house to play with her toys and feed the fish one last time. I was surprised that it felt so hard to me to see my mother-in-law move. Maybe because that house held the memories of Ed and I dating, and with Ed gone, I want to hold on to every shred of memory. But time moves on and there is no holding on to the past, and everyone in the family is relieved that the big job of emptying her house is now over.

But on top and over all the other events of June was preparing for my youngest sister Charity's wedding. Family weddings are such fun and Charity's was extra special. Charity had only been three when I married, but the past couple years we have built a friendship that we never really had before. When my other sisters married, I was deep into babies, but this time I hoped to actually be present and helpful. 

Weddings are a lot of work, especially if the family is making the food, and especially when an outdoor wedding is planned. But we had so many offers to help, and it was such fun to see the details come together. 

All week the forecast said it would rain on Saturday. They had a tent for the reception, but the ceremony was planned to be held up on the hill in the hayfield. By Friday, the threat of rain was lessening, and the decision was made to try to hold the wedding on the hill. 

The wedding day dawned bright and hot. Not a cloud was in sight which meant we cooked in the sun, but at least it didn't rain. The setting was beautiful. 

But weddings are not really about the beauty or the setting or the decorations or the food. That may be the things we talk about after a wedding, but the real joy is seeing two people who love the Lord and are serious about serving Him, join their lives. 

The nine of us siblings

As the oldest in my family, I have worried about my younger siblings. What if they make poor choices? What if they bring someone awful into the family?

But I'm delighted to have Carson as a brother-in-law. I knew his parents when they were dating and have always thought highly of them. I've seen Carson grow into a man of high conviction. I'm so glad that Charity has a husband like him. 

Another blessing was that my dad, who continues treatment for his colon cancer, was feeling well at the wedding. He was able to postpone his next surgery until the week after the wedding. 

After June, July couldn't possibly feel as busy. There is work in my neglected garden and afternoons spent at the pool with friends. It has contained scary discussions on purchasing cars for my teenage drivers and the sober celebration of what would have been our twentieth wedding anniversary. Life is rich and full and terrifying and rewarding and wistful and delightful.

The hymn I have propped on my dresser this month is "Lead Us, O Father." Peace. Truth. Righteousnss. Rest. This is my prayer - and maybe yours too.

Lead Us, O Father, In the Paths of Peace
by William H. Burleigh

Lead us, O Father, in the paths of peace;
Without Thy guiding hand we go astray,
And doubts appall, and sorrows still increase:
Lead us thru Christ the true and living way.

Lead us, O Father, in the paths of truth;
Unhelped by Thee, in error's maze we grope,
While passion stains, and folly dims our youth,
And age comes on, uncheered by faith and hope.

Lead us, O Father, in the paths of right;
Blindly we stumble when we walk alone,
Involved in shadows of a darksome night,
Only with Thee we journey safely on.

Lead us, O Father, to Thy heavenly rest,
However rough and steep the path may be,
Thru joy or sorrow, as Thou deemest best,
Until our lives are perfected in Thee.

Monday, June 20, 2022

June Dew

In 2009, I watched my husband bury his father;

his strong, active body had been

no match 

against the burst blood vessel in his brain.

A year and a half later, on Father's Day,

I paged through a hymnal

with Ed's neice and nephew

choosing songs for their daddy's funeral.

Three years ago,

my three-year-old stood on tiptoe

to see into her daddy's casket,

a body consumed

by a monster in his brain.

Three months later,

a dad shoveled dirt onto the grave

of his eighteen-year-old daughter, Ed's niece.

Last week that same dad

buried another daughter,

while her three-year-old daughter watched.

Ed's family has faced too much loss.

Small children will never know

their daddy, their mother, their grandpa, their aunt.

Young lives


before the day was half spent.

We've needed Ed's dad.

He would have been our anchor, 

yet his huge soft heart would have volunteered

to go first.

I can't comprehend heaven. 

Does Dad knows that one by one

his family is joining him 

too early, too abrupt, too premature?

But maybe, 

from his height

above the mist and mountain craigs,

the view looks different.

 "We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work Thou didst in their days, in the times of old." Psalms 44:1

Photos thanks to the photographers who share their work at

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Motherhood Magazine Issue 2

Last fall I shared about a new magazine that I was helping Kerra Troyer to edit. Motherhood magazine is a full-color magazine designed to give encouragement to mothers. It is a non-subscription magazine which is sold as individual issues. 

We are now introducing Issue 2 of Motherhood!

We chose the theme of The Cross for the second issue. We all know that motherhood can mean laying down ourselves and our desire for a full night of sleep, and we wanted to look at how the Cross of Christ pours out His strength to us as mothers. Over twenty mothers share their stories of surrender and God's grace in these pages. 

Compared to the first issue, the second issue has a few more pages and quite a few more words including a few longer articles. I share an article on the topic of identity and how we can find a stable identity in the changing seasons of motherhood. Other women share their journey of laying down their hobbies, desires, even their dreams for motherhood itself. Also included are some turtorials and practical articles such as one with ideas for children helping with chores.

The second issue has been delayed because of the shortage of paper, but the shipping date is set for next week and Kerra is now taking preorders. Each issue is $12 plus shipping. If you place a bulk order or order issue 1 and 2 together, the price is reduced. See the Motherhood magazine website for more information. 

If you live near me and would like a copy of Motherhood, message me and I'll combine your order with mine so you can get the bulk rate. 

Visit for more information. You can also sign up for updates so that you will hear about future magazines.

If you prefer to place an order by email, contact Kerra at stan.kerra2012 .

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Sisters' Spring Reading Challenge

 Here is the report of our spring reading. Both of us were exceptionally busy, but that doesn't mean we couldn't find time to read!

This post contains affiliate links.

Sisters' Spring Reading Challenge

1. Read a classic you think you should have read. 

Charity- North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

This book has been on my TBR list for a while and I was delighted for an excuse to read it. The reader is transported to a factory town in England during the 1800s. In the story, Gaskell explores the conflict that often occurred between mill owners and their employees. Caught in the middle is Margaret Hale, a young woman that has been transplated from a totally different lifestyle. I appreciated learning about another place, time period, and social struggle. The plot, though sad, is also beautiful and sweetened with just enough hope.

Gina - The Enchanted April - Elizabeth Von Arnim - I tried to read this book a few years ago but quit because I didn't like the negative view of marriage that the book began with. But I tried again and found I had quit too soon. Four women who are disastified about their lives (including their husbands) rent a castle in Italy for a month. The book maybe ends a little too glibly, but I loved the sweetness that each woman found in their relationships by the end of the book. I listened to The Literary Life podcast discussion of The Enchanted April which brought out insights I would have never seen on my own.

2. Read a verse novel or a book of free verse poetry. 

Charity - A Symphony in Sand by Calvin Miller
I don’t think I can even describe this free verse novel. The words were beautiful and I wanted to soak up the delight of it. It is an allegorical poem about a young couple whose plans to marry are shaken by a greater Will. I felt as though I was reading the story of Mary and Joeseph and their potential turmoil from another vantage point. Maybe someday I will enjoy more of Miller’s Symphony series.

Gina - The Finale by Calvin Miller - This is the third book in Miller's Singer trilogy. This one is based on end times in Revelation. I like how Miller makes me think of Bible passages in new ways, but this is probably my least favorite of his books that I've read. It is just hard to beat A Symphony in Sand.

3. Ask a friend to pick a book for you--and read it.

Charity - Yours Cheerfully by A.J. Pearce

This sequel to Dear Mrs Bird was pure joy to my heart. After Pearce left me in the lurch after her first book, I was excited  to know what the future was for our heroine. If you enjoy WW2 novels you will definitely need to add these to your list and find time for the charm, tears, and laughter that the author gifts you. My favorite part is that I can recommend it as a very clean novel! 

Gina -The Sound of the Page by Ben Yagoda 

I was studying writing style for a workshop and a friend gave me this book. Yadoda interviewed numerous authors and asked them about writing style. I took pages of notes and recommend it to any reader who wishes to learn more about writing style.

4. Read a book that has siblings as the main characters. 

Charity- My book for this category was disappointing. As I read it I was amazed by the skill of the author and the beautiful way he wove words together and created his plot. But the excessive profanity and a few scenes ruined it. 

Gina - A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus 

This is sweet middle-grade story of three orphans who leave London during the bombing of World War 2 and hope to find their forever home in the country. Maybe everything worked out a little too much like a fairy tale, but I loved the role that books and the library play in the story. Perfect to read aloud to your children.

5. Read a book about a less famous historical event.

Charity - Peony by Pearl S. Buck
I found this book on my pile of unread books and was overjoyed that it was about a time and place in history that I knew nothing. Based in China during the 1850s, I never realized that Jews had emigrated to China to find a better life. The book explores the struggle to maintain their religion and traditions while living in a different culture. Through the eyes of a young Chinese bondmaid in a Jewish family, Buck shows how a people became one with the culture around them until nothing was left of their heritage. 

Gina - The Heart Mender by Andy Andrews
I never knew that German U-boats stalked American ships in the Gulf of Mexico, within sight of the shore. The author found Nazi artifacts buried in his backyard which sent him on history research journey. He wrote this novel based on the amazing story he uncovered. A little preachy at spots, but kept me gripped to the end. 

6. Read a book that has an elderly person a main character.

Charity - Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens
Any excuse to read another Dickens will always be accepted. This particular book is unique in that we get a glimpse of the United States through the eyes of Dickens. Though much of the criticism is lost on me since I didn't live in that time, it was still fun to read what he had to say. Though hard to get into at first, this novel of family conflict, greed, and pride will having you turning pages if you only give it a chance. And never be sure that you know the ending! 

Gina - The Last Book Shop in London by Madeline Martin
I didn't plan to get on a World War 2 binge this spring, but this was the third, and maybe my favorite set during this time in history. A young woman from the country finds a job in London working for a grumpy old book seller right before the start of the Blitz. Well researched and such a fun celbration of the power of books. 

7. Read from a book before picking up your phone in the morning.

Charity - My normal morning routine is to turn off my alarm, dress, and leave my phone in my room until after breakfast, devotions, and a few moments with a book. I strongly recommend keeping your phone from taking precious reading time! 

Gina - I typically don't pick up my phone until after I've read my Bible in the morning, but I rarely read other books in the morning. But I have the habit every night of plugging my phone in the dining room, then doing my bedtime routine (which includes reading!) without any phone distraction. If you have trouble finding time to read, try losing your phone every day for an hour or two.

8. Copy a poem (or write one) and hang it where you will see it.

Charity - I found one of my brother’s poems and enjoyed reading it many times around Easter. Maybe I found even more joy in it because I knew whose words they were. I can give him much credit for helping me learn to appreciate poetry.

Gina- I've shared a few weeks ago how I copied out several prayer hymns and propped them where I could see them. I think this is a practice I'll continue.

We'd love to hear what you read this spring!

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Sisters' Summer Reading Challenge

 A new season means a new reading challenge! We are keeping this list a bit lighter and fun for summer. 

This post contains affiliate links at no extra cost to you.

1. Reread a classic you enjoyed as a teen. 


    Little Women by Lousia May Alcott

    The Secret Garden by Francese Burnett

    Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

    Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

2. Read a portion of a book of essays or poetry.


    Essays by E.B. White or Dorcas Smucker

    Endless Feasts compiled from Gourmet magazine

    Keep a Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot

    Poetry by Malcolm Guite

    Habitation of Wonder by Abigail Carroll

3. Read a book with a beautiful cover. 

This may be an old book, a new modern design, or whatever says beauty to you.

4. Read a book by an author you've enjoyed.

This can be any genre and any category.

5. Read a book about someone on a journey.

This could be a literal physical journey or a spiritual journey. 


    Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

    Three Weeks With my Brother by Nicholas Sparks and Micah Sparks

    Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi

6. Read a love story (fiction or nonficiton). 

Charity's wedding planned for this summer is putting love on our minds! 


    The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

    Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

    Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot

7. Choose a Psalm and read it every day for a month (or as often as possible.) 

8. Take a photo of a book you are reading.

We will be back next week with a report on our reading this spring.

Monday, May 30, 2022


Three years is a short time. 

Three years is a long time.

It is long enough that my six-year-old doesn't remember her daddy.

It is long enough that Ed's voice is dim in my own memory. 

May has been so crazy busy that I didn't spend a lot of time contemplating the last three years, but memories drizzle in.

I've been reading The Lazy Genius Kitchen by Kendra Adachi which is more of a figure-out-your priorities book than a cookbook. She constantly asks, "What matters most?" Do I value ease, or simplicity, or low cost, or variety?

It wasn't a very big jump from thinking "what matters most?" in my kitchen and menus to life and relationships and future plans. 

And it is made me think back to past decisions, specifically Ed's choices. 

Ed wasn't perfect, though it is easy to remember only the best. But when I think about Ed and how he faced cancer and death, there is one song that comes immediately to mind. 

Those of you that have read here for a while know that Ed enjoyed hymns and I've shared quite a few with you. 

You can find all the posts where I shared hymns here.

But in the last sermon he preached, he shared the words to the praise song, "Blessed Be Your Name."

The words were ones that he lived, but I've struggled to sing these words from the heart. Three years later, I'm not sure I'm any closer to singing some of the verses. As the song states, it is a heart choice. This song is based on  Job 1:21  and though I'm not in the category of Job's wife, who suggested Job curse God and die, I don't always have Job's response. This is a song that requires hands open and raised. 

And possibly tears.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

A Mother's Prayer

I love when several things come together, building upon each other. 

It started when a friend, a widow who lives alone, told me that she sings and plays hymns as worship to God. Somehow I had never thought of keeping a hymnal with my Bible. 

Then another friend told me that she wrote out hymns by hand, and hung them where she could see and reread them. 

Then another friend mentioned that she uses hymns as prayers. My church tradition doesn't include scripted prayers, but we sign many hymns that are prayers.

So I put these three suggestions together and flipped through a hymnal, finding prayers of worship, prayers for others, and prayers for myself. I copied several out and propped one by my mirror. 

The first hymn I chose was one that I've considered my "mom prayer." These words help refocus my mind on days that parenting feels too big. I thought I'd share it with you on Mother's Day. Whether you are a mother or not, we all need to be filled with God's love before we can love others.

Lord, Speak to Me
by Frances R. Havergal

Lord, speak to me, that I may speak,
In living echoes of Thy tone:
As Thou hast sought, so let me seek,
Thy erring children lost and lone.

O lead me, Lord, that I may lead
The wande'ring and the wav'ring feet;
O feed me, Lord, that I may feed
Thy hungering ones with manna sweet.

O fill me with Thy fullness, Lord,
Until my very heart o'erflow
In kindling thought and glowing word,
Thy love to tell, Thy praise to show.

O use me, Lord, use even me,
Just as Thou wilt, and when, and where;
Until Thy blessed face I see,
Thy rest, They joy, They glory share.

Friday, March 18, 2022

O Who Is Like Jehovah God?

The last few months have felt intense. It isn't that our schedule has been frantic, but I've felt the pressure of Lots To Do. I don't have babies any more, but I'm finding that life with teens can be even busier than life with babies - though in a different way. Homeschooling has been intense this year, and I'm constantly comparing what I accomplished with what I had hoped to accomplish - and seeing a gap.

I knew February was a short month, made even shorter because we spent the last week of the month in Tennessee, helping with rebuild flooded homes. But in the days leading up to our trip, I wondered why I was so stressed. Had I overcommitted? 

Our week in Tennessee was a real blessing. It was good for me to walk away from my normal responsibilities and help others for a week. I loved meeting believers from other states and the fellowship of conversation and singing together. And hearing the stories of those that lost loved ones in the flood brought perspective to my own life.

When we came home, we jumped into life with its challenges and joys. I found myself again discouraged. I'm typically a high energy person, and I like deadlines because they help motivate me. But maybe I had gone over the limit into Too Much. 

In the past two weeks, I've spend time reflecting and asking questions. How can I build margin so I don't feel stressed? How can make sure I don't overcommit in the future? On weeks that are extra busy, how can I make sure I'm balancing times of rest? 

Here are some of my questions and conclusions. 

1. What is my motivation for being busy? I know that I find my identity in what I do and in feeling useful and helpful. This can lead me to overcommitting or feeling like I'm the only one who could fill a need. It has been helpful to me to remind myself that, in the sight of God, I am not more valuable if I'm doing a lot.

2. What role does grief play? One day, when I felt totally overwhelmed, I was talking with a friend about my schedule, which included things like taking my oldest son for his driver's test and preparing taxes. She reminded me that some of the activities on my to-do list were things that Ed would have probably done - roles that a husband and dad often fill. Some of my feelings of being overwhelmed was possibility processing the grief of not having Ed to carry the load with me. 

3. Are there signals that I'm too busy? I enjoy taking an hour-long walk, usually with an audio book. Some days when I'm tired and longing for a nap, especially Sunday afternoong, I have found that the fresh air and exercise make me feel even better than a nap. With homeschooling, I don't walk as often as I like, but I try to squeeze one in once or twice a week. But I realized that I have taken very few walks this winter. The cold weather was partly to blame, but I don't mind bundling up and walking in cold temperatures. The real culprit was simply not seeing a walk as a worthy investment of time - something worth making time for. If I skip walking for several weeks, it may be a sign that I need to let something go. 

(And the fact that I can take walks at all is credit to having teenagers. For years, I longed for the freedom to say "I'll be back in an hour." So you moms of young children, hold on, there are joys of parenting teens.)

Another warning sign for me is if I feel like I need to stay up late to get work done. It was important to Ed that when the children went to bed, that we stopped working, too. If the kitchen floor wasn't mopped yet, it would just wait until tomorrow. Occasionally there was a deadline that had to be met, such as a bill that needed paid, but rarely did he get on the computer after the children were in bed. I've tried to keep this habit, because I know how little self-control I have when I'm tired and "checking something quick online" can last an hour. If I'm so busy that I feel like I have to do some work after the children go to bed, I know that I'm out of balance. Having quiet time to read and getting to bed at a decent time makes a big difference for me.

4. Am I taking "thought for tomorrow"? (Matthew 6:31:32) The next six months look very busy and the swirl of activities and plans in my head can consume me. It is helpful for me to ask what I actually have to do now and what can wait until later. There is actually a lot of things happening the next few months that I can do nothing about right now. I like to plan ahead and I don't like to procrastinate, but deciding what I have to do this week, and what can be left for tomorrow, is clarifying to me.

Enjoying the puppies.

With the world events the last few weeks, I have felt guilty for being stressed about my small problems. If I was fleeing my home or wondering what to feed my children, everything on my agenda would disapear. The grief of the world can make my busy days feel even more overwhelming. 

That is when I'm grateful for the power of Scripture and soul-strengthening hymns. There have been so many songs that have been meaningful to me the last few weeks, and I'll share one. 

Edited 3/20/2022
Martha Groff gave me permission to share these words with you. 

O Who Is Like Jehovah God
Word by Martha J. Groff, Based Psalm 40
Hymns of the Church #109

O who is like Jehovah God? 
To whom can we compare
The vastness of this mighty King,
The Lord, to Whom we sing?

The nations are as dust to Him, 
As one drop in a pail; 
No one can be compared with Him
Who can His greatness dim.

And yet this great and mighty God,
Whose goodness never fails, 
Has pledged our strength He will renew, 
And this He'll surely do.

If we upon the Lord will wait
When we are tired and worn, 
He'll lift us up on eagle's wing, 
This God to Whom we sing.

O who is like Jehovah God? 
To whom can we compare 
His glory and His majesty 
Through all eternity!

"Hast that not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.
He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall untterly fall;
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."
Isaiah 40: 28-31

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

February Brighter Winter Reading Challenge

My sister Charity and I both took part in the Brighter Winter Reading Challenge. Here are a few of our favorite books read in February. 

This post contains affiliate links.

Charity - a book recommended by a family member and a book written by a pastorSurving the Tech Tsunami by Gary Miller

I was challenged as I read this book to evaluate how I use technology. It’s easy to fall into unwanted habits. Gary Miller reminded me again of how important it is to guard myself from unhealthy content, and to work hard to have healthy relationships. This book reminded me to work as a body together to navigate the tech tsunami, because we can’t do it on our own.

Gina - a book by pastor's wife 
This book covers some of the same themes in Butterfield's other books (Confessions of an Unlikely Convert and The Gospel Comes with a House Key) but delves deeper into repentance, identity, and community. Butterfield relates her experience as a former lesbian in a way that is discreet, wise, and inspiring. She holds up truth about God's character and allows it to reflect on the reality of human character and I'm guessing I'll reread parts of this book.

Charity - a book written by an author of different ethnicity
Defying Jihad by Esther Ahmad
In her own words, Esther tells the story of growing up in the Middle East in a extremest Muslim family. Esther longed to live for Allah and if dying in jihad guaranteed enteral life for herself and her parents then she would. So she volunteered to be a suicide bomber. But then she found there was Someone who could answer all her questions, Who was the answer to all of her questions. This is an incredible story about the search for truth and the sacrifice to follow Jesus.

Gina - a book about a disability
Blind Courage by Bill Irwin
This is the true story of a blind man who hiked with his guide dog on the entire Appalachian Trail. I enjoy reading books about the AT since it runs so close to our house. Bill weaves the account of his hike with stories from his past. He lived an ungodly life with addictions and several failed marriages until he found Christ. Bill doesn't minimize the intenst challenges of the hike, and since he had to go so slowly because of his blindness, it was winter in Maine by the time he finished. The book inspired my faith in God, but it didn't not lure me to through-hike the AT. 

Charity - a book with a color in the title and an award-winning book
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
I delight in middle-grade, well-written, exciti,ng and yet cosy books. This one fit all of those boxes and got an extra point for being a historical fiction. Set in the time period of the Salem Witch trials, Kit finds herself uprooted from Barbados and transplanted to Puritan New England. Not only is their solumn religious lifestyle hard to understand, Kit also doesn’t understand why she can’t be friends with the Quaker woman who lives on the edge of town. I loved the excitement of the story and Kit’s sailor friend and the tiny touch of romance. 

Gina - a book of letters
Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
As letters fell off a sign in the town, the people of the island community of Nollap are commanded to not use that letter. As this novel in letters unfolds, fewer and fewer letters of the alphabet can be used to communicate to friend and family. Those who love words will find this book a fun challenge to read. The book is humorous because it feels slightly ridiculous, though there are far deeper themes of survival in a tolitarian government.  

I'd love to hear about the highlights of your February reading!


Related Posts with Thumbnails