Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Widow with Oil - A Woman with Vision

Over a year ago, I wrote this article as part of the series looking in detail at Proverbs 31 and applying it to our lives as women today. But this week I needed this reminder to be a woman who places her hope in our God of Abundance.

The Widow With Oil - A Woman With Vision

She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar. (Proverbs 31:14)

She was a widow with no source of income. Because of her debts, her creditor threatened to sell her two sons into slavery and she was desperate to save them.

Some women would have given up in despair, but she had a faith stronger than her circumstances. Second Kings 4 tells us that her husband had feared God, and apparently she knew the same source of strength.

The widow sought out a man of God, Elisha, and begged for help. She could have feared that he would laugh at her problems. Surely there were many other desperate widows in Israel; he couldn’t help them all. But she decided it was worth the risk.

And the prophet did listen. But he didn’t dig into his pocket and hand her some coins. He asked, “What do you have in your house?” and then gave her a strange task. “Go to all your neighbors and borrow pots and fill them with oil from your small jar.”

How is this widow like a merchants’ ship? 

Like the merchant, who loads up his products and heads for foreign ports, she took a risk. The merchant doesn’t know if he can make a profit. He could encounter storms or pirates or a plague and lose everything, even his life. But he takes risks hoping that, by trading goods, he can acquire money to support his family. The potential benefits are worth the risk.

The widow, despite the possibility of ridicule or misunderstanding, obeyed the prophet and begged her neighbors for pots. Not just one or two, but many pots. With her sons’ help, she gathered the jugs, then closed the door of her house. 

Did she pray, this widow surrounded by borrowed pottery and two excited boys? Did her hands tremble as she picked up her small jug of oil and began to trickle the liquid into the depths of the first empty pot? Did her excitement grow as she filled one pot, then two, then three, and finally every jug in the room? Was she weeping or laughing as she realized that this oil, a valuable resource in that era, could be sold and save her sons from bondage?

My sons are not in danger of slavery, but too many days I despair over the wickedness of the world, the frustrations of child training, or my own bad habits. 

I want to be creative in seeking solutions, even ones that look as unpromising as borrowed crocks. 

I want to have my view of God expanded, to know that He is still in the business of filling my emptiness with His abundance

The God of Abundance, that the widow served, still gives generously today. He provides abundant grace, but not just enough to survive, to rescue from sin’s bondage, to escape hell. That would be more than I deserve, but He gives even more. He gives grace for victory over habits, grace for peace in a tumultuous world, grace for hope for our children’s future.

If I have a vision of God's power, what risks will I take? 

Like the widow, I will believe His Word and choose to trust God's goodness and love even when I don't understand. I will share the God of Abundance with the hurting ones I meet. I will submit to God (and my husband) even when it appears foolish. I will be willing to risk appearing silly or radical to help others find victory through Christ. “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” (Proverbs 29:18)

The widow had vision that allowed her to seek help from God in her darkest day. When I realize I can't control life's circumstances, but choose faith and obedience, I'll watch God's unlimited grace overwhelm my small pot of oil.

(Published in Keepers At Home magazine - Fall 2017)

Monday, September 18, 2017

Nothing Like Your Own Bed

We were able to take Trent outside to enjoy the lovely weather on Saturday. His pain level was tolerable and his leg only hurt when it was moved.

On Saturday evening my parents brought our other children to the hospital to visit Trent. It was nice to be all together as a family, even if for only a short time.

We were all very tired and eager to go to sleep. And so we tried. I have a new sympathy for parents with children in the hospital. I knew it was hard, but now I had a taste first hand.

Trent's room was tiny though we loved that he was at the end of a quiet hall. During the night Ed and I took turns staying with him on the recliner by his bed. Just down the hall was the NICU department which had a family room sponsored by the Ronald McDonald House. We were able to freely use this facility which was nice. It gave us a quiet dark place to rest that wasn't interrupted by nurses. But if several exhausted parents collapse on couches in a small room, you are bound to have one snorer. If you ever find yourself in such a situation, I'd recommend bringing earplugs. It was a long night.

We had to be up early Sunday morning to get Trent ready for his second surgery. But this was Sunday, and nothing was prompt. He didn't go into surgery until nearly 9:00. We were impressed with the doctors and other staff that we interacted with at Hershey. Trent's orthopedic surgeon had called in a plastic surgeon to help. If the skin could not be closed, he would do a skin graft.

But thankfully the swelling had decreased and they were able to close the wound without any grafting. When the surgeon showed us a picture of Trent's knee after surgery I was shocked that he was able to close the wound so well. I almost thought he had showed us the wrong photo. Trent will always have a battle scar and he'll have to be in a brace for a few weeks while it heals, but once again, we are grateful it is no worse.

Here is the before and after views. (Scroll fast if you are squeamish.)

Trent is able to walk without crutches. He has very little pain, just some achiness. It seems almost miraculous that the same boy on morphine on Friday is today smiling and walking without pain. I think it might be hard to make him take it easy these next weeks.

And the best part...the surgeon gave us permission to go home. We had a few more hours of waiting for meds and paperwork on Sunday afternoon, but we were back to our own house soon after 6:00 last night.

And our own beds felt so good.

Thanks so much for holding our family up to God in prayer.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Another Hospital Stay

I didn't expect to be writing an update from the hospital on this Saturday. But yesterday in the crowded Hershey ER I wondered how many other people woke up this morning having no idea they'd be in the ER before bedtime. We know life can change in a blink of an eye, but still, until it happens, it is easy to forget.

Yesterday morning the children started their schoolwork early, eager for the fun weekend we had planned. Before lunch, our ten-year-old finished his schoolwork and started his chore of push-mowing the lawn. Trent, our twelve-year-old, took his math book outside so that he could watch the mowing and help empty the bagger.

I'm not exactly sure what happened, but some combination of wet grass, a hill, and the turning mower, resulted in Trent falling and sliding into the mower. I heard screams from his brother that Trent had cut his leg on the mower. I dashed outside expecting the sight of dismembered feet and gushing blood. It wasn't as bad as I feared. The mower had caught Trent's knee. I'll spare you the gory details. There was hardly any blood, but this wasn't something I could fix with butterfly bandages. I knew he was headed for surgery.

I took Trent to our local hospital ER where Ed joined us. Trent was incredibly brave but by that time he was in pain. They started him on IV pain meds but it still took a while to get control of the pain. Our little local hospital didn't want to tackle surgery for a child so I rode with Trent in the ambulance to the Hershey Medical Center.

After lots of waiting, xrays, consultations, and more waiting. Trent was finally taken into surgery at just before 9:00 p.m. The surgeon was very pleased with the outcome of surgery. The injury was to the right side of his left knee and managed to miss tendons, arteries, bone, and nerves. The greatest fear is infection. They cleaned out the wound and joint well. The surgeon was able to repair the cartilage and stitch back the muscle and skin. Because of the swelling and the skin damage they were not able to completely close the wound. The plan is to go back to surgery on Sunday morning, clean out the wound again to help avoid infection and close the wound. If the swelling hasn't decreased and the skin still cannot cover it, they will do a skin graft.

Today Trent is feeling great. He has little pain, even though he isn't on anything stronger than Motrin. It is good to see him enjoying eating and playing games. He just got out of bed and tried crutches. He has had such a good attitude throughout this whole ordeal.

I admit that it is easy to say "Why us? Why now?" But when at a place like this, I am reminded that there is a lot pain and suffering in the world. In the cafeteria and waiting room I have heard heartbreaking stories of long-term emotional and physical suffering. Even here in the hospital we know that we have much to be thankful for.

The song "Lord Jesus, You Shall Be My Song" is a favorite song of Ed's which I listened to here today at the hospital. (If you are reading by email you may need to click over to the website to view the video.)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Question: Sewing Slips

Do any of you sew your own slips? Do you have a good source for slip fabric? Can you buy it online somewhere?

I need some new half slips for me and my daughters. I've been wearing the same ones for over fifteen years. Every couple years, I sew new elastic on the top, but by now they are truly worn out. When I shopped for new slips, I couldn't find any that were nearly long enough. And I think that a half slip would be super simple to sew if I could just find the right fabric.

And in case you are curious, for my little girls, I sew white cotton shorts. I use a knee-length pajama-shorts pattern. They are loose-fitting and suitable for church or play under dresses. In colder weather they wear leggings.

My older girls also wear knee-length shorts under their dresses for sports but like half slips for church. Any hints for finding fabric?

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Changing Frontiers - How One Family Does History With Toddlers to Teens

As a history buff and avid book collector, I love looking through book catalogs and choosing a curriculum that fits our family's educational needs.  Last year we wanted an early American history curriculum from an Anabaptist perspective which incorporated numerous biographies and historical fiction that could be used with various age levels. I couldn't find exactly the curriculum I envisioned.

Changing frontiers

I kept coming back to Changing Frontiers, CLP's new eighth grade American history book. The book itself was eye-candy with many maps, timelines, and color photos. But eighth grade? My four scholars were in grades two to seven last year. But we chose Changing Frontiers as our spine book for our family history study, though we didn't use the book in the way CLP planned.

Books And More Books
My children learn more if they are immersed in history beyond a list of facts and dates. Since I was using the textbook for students younger than its intended age, I searched for biographies and historical fiction books to enhance the textbook.
  1. Picture books
Recently, publishers have produced a plethora of lovely historical picture books. Not only were they ideal for my younger children, but well-written picture books can also cement facts for older students. For example, JeanFritz has written memorable picture books about several early American leaders.
  1. Biographies
The textbook tells us about the movers and shakers of American history, but little about what experiences shaped their individual lives. I chose both short picture biographies and longer chapter biographies. Some books I read aloud, while others I assigned to my older children.
  1. World history
Did you know that Shakespeare was writing his plays when the first Englishmen were settling America? Neither did I. Though we focused on American history, studying about some world events enriched our understanding. We learned about individuals such as Good Queen Bess, Peter the Great, and Napoleon (usually with the aid of a good picture book such as those written and illustrated by Diane Stanley) which helped us put American history on the world stage.
  1. Historical fiction
Many of us will never forget the devastation of a locust infestation after reading Onthe Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Choose a well-written historical fiction book as a family read-aloud and your children won't realize you are “doing school” for their bedtime story. Our family has a habit of reading at least one book together at all times, so we chose a book that connected with our history study. We sailed stormy seas with Carry on, Mr. Bowditch, visited a colonial school house in Skippack School, and survived an Ohio winter in Cabin on Trouble Creek.

Schedules and Details
So how to pull this all together? I rarely write detailed dated lesson plans, because if we miss one day I panic. Instead I write a loose plan and adapt as needed throughout the year. With Changing Frontiers as my guide I didn't worry about missing anything important.
  1. Divide and conquer
We planned to spread our study of American history over two years. The first year we wanted to cover the years from Columbus to the Civil War—the first fifteen chapters of Changing Frontiers. I went through each chapter figuring roughly how much we would read each day. Though our school calendar has 180 days, I scheduled only 100 days of reading from Changing Frontiers, giving us time for other books. Then I divided up the sections into the school months and slipped this schedule inside the front cover of Changing Frontiers. If I had a guide of where I should be in January, I wouldn't have any rude surprises in April.
  1. Book lists
Next I searched our bookshelves and the public library to compile a list of picture books, biographies, and historical fiction. I did not assign these on particular days in our school calendar, just worked through them as we could, adding more or deleting, depending upon our time. The beginning of each chapter in Changing Frontiers lists important events and people mentioned in that chapter which is perfect for finding books to connect with the chapter.
  1. Organizing
I organized our family library in chronological order. When we finished a read-aloud, I could pull the next historical fiction or biography off the shelf. I kept a basket by the couch with the books we were currently reading. Besides Changing Frontiers, this basket usually included several picture books, a biography, and a historical fiction book.
  1. Library
Libraries are an incredible resource, especially for those who own few books, but also frustrating to a mom with many children. Any mom who has searched the library shelves while holding a baby and watching the toddler pull books off the shelf knows why I once said that I'd never go back to the library again. Then I discovered online reservations. Now each month I check Changing Frontiers for the next topics, reserve the needed books online, and pick them up at our local library.

Since we were using Changing Frontiers with a younger audience, we chose not to use the Lightunits or quiz booklets available from CLP. But without workbooks or tests, how would I evaluate our history study? We used the study exercises and class discussion questions in Changing Frontiers for informal verbal review at the end of each section. Often these discussions went down rabbit trails and became the favorite part of our school day. I also assigned writing projects connected with our history studies. For example, each child wrote a report on an early American explorer and then wrote a historical fiction story pretending they were an explorer.

School curriculum is designed to serve teachers, students, and families. The perspective of Changing Frontiers gave a solid foundation for our American history study and we were able to adapt it to fit our family's needs. 

This year we look forward to learning about modern times as we delve into the second half of Changing Frontiers. I'd love to hear what books you suggest we read to connect to our history studies. I especially looking forward to our study of the Civil War since we live near several major battlefields. I know where we'll be headed for some family field trips this fall.

This article was first published in the magazine 'Homeschooler's Friend' by CLP. This post contains affiliate links. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Giveaway Winner: Anything But Simple

We have a winner for Anything But Simple.

Kimberly W.

Hope you enjoy the book!

Thanks to all of you that entered the giveaway. You can order your own copy of the book on Amazon or Menno Media. Or contact Luci through her blog to purchase an autographed copy.

And thanks, Luci, for giving a copy of your book for the giveaway.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Counting August Gifts

This may have been one of my favorite Augusts.

Is it because I woke up each morning thanking God for another day with Ed?

Is it the contrast between the agony of July when I waited every day for Ed to start getting sick from chemo and radiation?

Was August good because Ed was able to do normal August activities such as attending Allegany Boys Camp open house? Ed has been on the camp board for several years and he has missed participating this summer. But he felt strong enough to take his normal role at open house of giving campsite tours and scrubbing the huge bean pot. 

We loved getting to see the campers who spent a week at our house this spring.

Boys of all ages try their hand at woodsmenship skills.

Was August good because of time spent together as a family? 

We spent a weekend at my parent's mountain farm. I loved sitting on the porch swing with my book, watching twilight fall over the farm with no human sound besides my own family. 

But the book didn't last long because I soon had companions.

Breakfast always tastes better outdoors.

And so does supper.

Is August good because Ed is slowly regaining his strength from the weeks of inactivity after surgery? Every week I see an improvement. 

We have greatly missed family bike rides. A friend lent Ed his electric bike so we tried a bike ride with my parents. Ed was able to pull this load of tag-along bike and bike trailer. 

Last year this little one was a screamer on bike rides, but this year she loved it and couldn't quit giggling. Ed was able to go six miles before deciding he better quit lest he be too stiff to walk the next day.

A few days later we tried another favorite family activity - canoeing. With the abundant rainfall, we were able to float the creek near my parent's home which holds many fond memories to Ed and me. No photos since we didn't want to risk the camera or phone, but just imagine a perfect summer evening, gorgeous Pennsylvania woods, rippling water, an obliging bald eagle, and delighted children.

The fact that Ed can work all day and still have energy left in the evening shows how far he has come. In July Ed would come home from work at 3:00 and collapse into bed for an hour before having energy to join us for supper. Now he works full days, skips the nap, and jumps into our evening plans. Ed has been doing some muscle-strengthening exercises and it seems to be helping. No longer do his legs get shaky by mid-afternoon.

Is it the joy of watching children use creativity? Usually we start school in July, then take off a few weeks in August for canning season. This year, the children are going with Ed to work a few days each week so my goal is only a few school days each week.

It means that we have no real schedule or routine (bad) but also don't have opportunity to get bored because our days vary so much.

One day I heard pounding in the basement and discovered that they had built their own painting easels. My children are not particularly artistic, but that doesn't keep them from having fun trying. (I'll not mention some of the other not-fun parts of our school days. Like attitudes about flash cards.)

Like most of the rest of the nation, we enjoyed the solar eclipse. We were not in the path of totality so we'd watch our sun then rush inside to watch the live feeds from NASA.

Did I enjoy August more because I did very little gardening and canning? 

I didn't plant much garden. I didn't buy fruit to can or freeze. I put a few green beans in jars, but mostly we just ate them fresh.  I'm loving the fresh meals with peppers, zucchini, and tomatoes, but most of my jars are still empty on the shelves. I still kept busy with sewing some new dresses and painting a bathroom, but those projects lacked the pressure of  bushels of tomatoes rotting or fruit flies in a box of peaches.

I love filling jars with fresh produce. I'm always my own enemy in August when I find three new relish and salsa recipes to try. But this year was a year to do less. And it was good.

This week my tomatoes ripened enough that I did a batch of tomato soup and salsa. And enjoyed every minute.  Until I got to washing up the dishes. Today I did a few dozen ears of sweet corn. I have several bushels of apples that I'm hoping will wait until next week to be made into applesauce. I'm getting the reminder of what August usually feels like - both the pleasure of the accomplishment and the weariness of preserving the harvest.

My girlies made sure I enjoyed the pleasures of summer by picking me flowers every single day. I gave the three-year-old a pair of child's scissors on a lanyard around her neck and they would carefully choose several blossoms to place on the kitchen table. Those few ragged stems were cherished more than a professional bouquet.

Did I enjoy August more because of the delightful weather? 

There were only a few days that we ran our air conditioning. Every few days we had a rain shower. I never remember grass so green in August. Instead of watching corn curl, we mowed grass. The red raspberries, which the last two years just dried on the stalks, are plump and juicy. We are picking bags of them  for the freezer.

Except for the many berries that don't go further than the mouths of these two.

Any guesses on who is inseparable at our house? Our other girls are five years apart so it is fun to watch these two interact. 

Why did I enjoy August? 

Maybe all of these things. Maybe because of your prayers. Maybe because of the many reminders of the blessing of God. 

There are still so many unknowns for our future. We live under the shadow of a terminal illness. (Though our minister reminded us last week that every human is terminally ill. None of us will make it out alive unless by rapture.) 

But there are many things we do know. I'm finally able to concentrate on Bible study again and have been drinking in the truths in Romans. These verses are ones I have read and reread this week. I'm highlighting a few favorite words.
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. Romans 5:1-5

I love how the Amplified Bible states verse 5. "Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God's love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us." James 5:1 (Amp)

Faith, peace, hope, from God this August.

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