Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Line by Line - by Jennifer Delamere - A Bethany House book review


Bethany House book reviews, historic fiction, telegraph operators, London


The year is 1881 and Alice McNeil is ready to leave her position at London’s Central Telegraph Office in search of a position with private company. With seven years’ experience and dreams of living somewhere other than a boarding house, Alice expects that her skills plus her determination will land her a job with a promising future.

The world of the telegraph has always fascinated me. How can someone have the skill to not only memorize the dots, dashes, and pauses needed to send a message in morse code, but understand it deeply enough to receive a message in code? Line by Line is a work of Historic Fiction by Jennifer Delamere focuses on an interesting point in London’s history approximately 20 years after the completion of the Transatlantic telegraph cable.

Alice gains a step forward in her career when she is hired by Henley and Company, an importer of wheat and cotton. There she soon meets Douglas Shaw, Mr. Henley’s second in command who travels the world gaining the contracts for their imports. Mr. Shaw sees the benefit of having Alice, who is an excellent telegraph operator, learn more about the business overall, and Alice begins to see new possibilities for her future. The problem is, even though sparks begin to fly, Alice is prepared to be a spinster because she thinks it will allow her freedom to live as she wants, and Douglas has his sights set on a young society lady, Miss Rolland, he has yet to meet. 

When Douglas and his friends find an etiquette book for ladies at a local bookstore, they read a few sections and laugh. Unbeknownst to Douglas, Alice is also in the bookstore and overhears their conversation. She isn’t out to catch a man, she just wants to read the book and laugh at its suggestions… or maybe find one or two to help her with a difficult co-worker, Archie Clapper. So she purchases The Spinster’s Guide to Love and Romance and takes it home.

I enjoyed the banter between characters, the history lessons on the ins and outs of detailed telegraph work, and the everyday look at life in London, England in the 1880’s. A fun read, Line by Line is the first book of a new series from Delamere: Love Along the Wires. I look forward to her future books to see whether they will follow Alice’s friends Rose and Emma, or Douglas’s friends Stuart Carson and Hal Halverson. 


I received an electronic ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

Graphic credit: Arlene @ Modern Vintage


Sunday, August 2, 2020

Write into the Hard Things




Write into the hard things. That is one of many insightful things that Leslie Leyland Fields imparted to us during her online writing class in April, May and June. Write into them, and then let God redeem them. It may not happen overnight, it may not even happen this side of eternity, but it is GOD who redeems us and our brokenness and uses it for His glory. 

Leslie taught these lessons from her newest book: Your Story Matters. It was a really good class. It is an even better book. There are a lot of hard (read to understand as: difficult) things in each of our lives. And there are good things as well. Sometimes the same instance is both hard and good.

At the end of May, our daughters and I were in a car accident. Someone else ran a red light, and hit us while we were turning. This has been a really, really long nine weeks. The girls' injuries are healed, mine are not. This is my hard thing right now. I want God to redeem it, to use it for His glory, and my good. So I am choosing to overcome the listlessness and apathy that come at the end of each hard day, and write. I write a lot, then none, then a little more, it is sporadic. Today I am sharing from early on, just a handful of days after the accident.


Week one, part one


Here I lie, flat on my back like a corpse in a morgue, except I'm not dead.

I know I'm supposed to be thankful, rather I am supposed to give thanks in all circumstances, but truthfully, it is hard to give thanks when you're consumed by pain. It must be around 2 a.m., I'm afraid to try to turn over and reach for my phone to confirm this hypothesis. I've been a wake for a while now. I took more Tylenol already, cranked back up the temperature on the heating pad I'm lying on, and yet, the pain continues.

How could one little car wreck cause so much pain? Will I be stuck feeling this way forever? I surely hope not. I feel awful. At least it wasn't worse- I'm not in the hospital in traction - I'll give thanks for that. I don't think my husband believes I'm badly injured. He is used to me being able to do whatever needs done. I know I don't look injured, but Oh! how I feel it!

So here I lie in the dark in the middle of the night and think and pray. At least when I'm praying for others I can block out most of the pain. Oh wait. Who was I praying for? It's okay, I'll start again. The pain in my neck has made it difficult to hold my concentration these past few days since the accident. It has also made my right elbow and outside two fingers either tingle or go numb often.


to be continued...





Monday, July 27, 2020

A Bride of Convenience by Jody Hedlund - A Bethany House book review


Jody Hedlund, Bride ships, historic fiction, 1863 Vancouver Island


Jody Hedlund has a gift for weaving fictional characters into real historical events in a way that makes a reader want to read more. Her latest novel, A Bride of Convenience, is no exception. This well written book is set on and around Vancouver Island, British Columbia in 1863.

Abraham Merivale, known to locals as Pastor Abe is serving the Church of England during a five year stint as a missionary in the British Colonies. He spends most of his time in the mining camps outside of Vancouver, but comes down to check in with his Bishop and get supplies several times a year. He loves his job, the miners he serves, and the rugged mountains. What he doesn’t love are the Bishop’s ideas about how he should be re-creating the Church of England in the wilderness. Abe is more concerned with the state of men’s hearts than whether or not a new church building gets completed this year.

Zoe Hart has recently arrived in Vancouver upon one of the Bride Ships that left England, sailed around South America, and has brought dozens of former millworkers, all women, to this rugged land. She isn’t sure she wants to marry, unless it helps her find her twin brother who ran away from home after being falsely accused of setting a mill on fire. 

Zoe has a huge heart for others, and soon finds herself taking over the care of a native baby, Violet, whose mother died and whose English-born father has failed at mining due to his alcoholism. But she cannot keep the baby in the Marine barracks where the other bride-ship women are staying. The baby cries, and the women are looking for husbands, not outside responsibilities. While none of the women will be forced to wed, many are hopping to find either a husband of a job and leave the barracks as soon as possible. They do not understand Zoe's desire to take on baby that night prevent finding a husband, or a job.

Zoe is hurting from the loss of her friend who dies shortly after they arrive. Now she really needs the help of others, but isn’t sure whom to trust. Through an unusual turn of events, Pastor Abe finds himself suddenly without a fiancĂ© back home. He is reeling. Zoe is determined to find someone to help her find her brother. Local Dexter Dawson says he will take her if she marries him, but should she trust him? What about Pastor Abe?

Want to know what happens next? Pick up a copy at your local bookstore or online. It is also available as an E-book.

I found the storyline compelling. To think that literally hundreds of women arrived on a handful of bride ships, trusting that there would be something better than their lives in England when they arrived in Vancouver. What challenges and trials must they have faced back home to board a ship knowing they would very likely never return? Not only were they sailing half-way around the world, they were doing it through the same oceans that were filled with the warships of the American Civil War. 

One part I always appreciate about Hedlund’s series is that she includes some historical information at the end of each story. This helps the reader walk away with a deeper understanding of what parts of the story were history, and what were fiction. She often references the historic texts she used while researching as well.

If you are a fan of Jennifer Delamere, Elizabeth Camden, or Jocelyn Green you are sure to enjoy this third book in Hedlund’s The Bride Ships series. I give it 4.5 out of five stars.


I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Will you or won't you homeschool this year?

*affiliate links are used in this post*


I am not going to lie - you have a HUGE decision ahead of you in the next couple of weeks. What are you going to choose for your children's education for this semester? There is so much uncertainty out there about if in-person classes will happen at local schools, will parents be able to continue e-learning and still keep their jobs, and how will you balance it all?

There are choices, but there is also help! If you want to try homeschooling your children this fall, I'm going to cheer you on, point you to helpful resources, and try to answer as many of your questions as I can. If you choose e-learning - I'm going to cheer you on and support you as best as I can. If you send your children to class - I'm going to cheer you on, pray for their health and safety, and try to hold you up as you balance all those deadlines. Whichever option you choose: I support you!

I know homeschooling is not for everyone. It was tough, but we found it worth the effort. I worked anywhere from 15-35 hours outside of the home the entire 16 years we homeschooled our girls. And by saying "we homeschooled" I'm, really saying "I homeschooled" while Kurt went to work 40 or more hours a week to make sure we could pay the bills, and then made sure no one burned the house down while I slept on the weekends. ;)




If you are considering homeschooling, or wondering if e-learning will be enough, I encourage you to check out your options. There are full curriculums in a box you can purchase, or you can use an online resource like SchoolhouseTeachers.com that offers either full curriculum or single subject choices all for one price per family. If you love printed books, look to purchase as many of them as possible as used copies to save you some money. Many (most) homeschooling families sell their curriculum at a significant discount once they are finished with it. We always preferred printed math books, so I would budget to purchase them, then sell the teacher's books and DVD's to other homeschoolers once both girls were finished. A savings to the new owners, and a little cash to put towards the next year's books for us - a win-win! We used SchoolhouseTeachers to fill in the gaps between our printed resources, but I know many families use it exclusively.

Want to know more about how we homeschooled? There are dozens of posts here in the blog archives that you can read. Lots about field trips, many about different curriculum we used over the years, quite a few about being different than everybody else - and how that is perfectly okay, and most importantly, some timely posts about God's faithfulness to help us through both the good and bad times. God gave you those precious children for a reason - it is important that you find out why that is!

If you ARE considering homeschooling, but not quite sure where to start with curriculum, I suggest a family membership to SchoolhouseTeachers.com. If you are certain you're going to homeschool, you can get their once-a-year Shark sale special of $179 for two years for the entire family. That works out to less than $8/month for two full years of curriculum for all grades. Use coupon code: SHARK20 - this offer is non-refundable. 

If you're still sitting on the fence about homeschooling, why not try the quarterly payment of $49.97 for all grades, or only $37.97 for PreK-8th grade? One of the best features of SchoolhouseTeachers is that it has helps for parents, streaming videos and world book access for families, and a truly helpful "Start Here" section.

Not sure homeschooling is really legal? It is - in ALL 50 states and Washington, D.C. You can do a quick web search for the requirements for your specific state in less than five minutes. That gives you a great perspective on what will be needed both to get started, and to follow through with homeschooling. 



And because I know your next question might be this one: what do I need to buy? I want to point you back to this ever popular post of ours about school supply lists for homeschoolers

Check it out, ask questions, and know I'll stand by you whatever educational option you choose for your children for this fall!






Monday, July 20, 2020

At Love's Command by Karen Witemeyer - a Bethany House book review



Karen Witemeyer, historic fiction, wild west, Christian romance

Karen Witemeyer's latest book, At Love's Command, is a historical romance set in Texas in 1893. Since my family took a trip out west when I was in 8th grade, I've always enjoyed reading about the landscape and people of the western half of the United States. 

One of the things I have come to appreciate about Witemeyer's books over other authors in this genre is her inclusion of the hardest parts of western life. Not just the tough landscape, but the tough questions that people faced back then and are facing again today: Whose land is this? Are we better or worse with law enforcement, what are the challenges of seeking justice in a rugged and often unforgiving landscape? Must our future life (and happiness) be dictated by our past mistakes, or does forgiveness really change us?

At Love's Command focuses on Dr. Josephine Burkett, and a retired calvary officer, Matthew Hanger. Though these are fictional characters, the challenges and choices they face come right from the pages of history. Calvary life after the Civil War ended was challenging, and many soldiers then, as today, face a certain amount of PTSD as well as self doubt. Being a female doctor in what was considered a man's profession was an almost unsurmountable obstacle, yet, some women trudged through the bias and misunderstanding and forged the way for others. 

Dr "Joe" and Matthew face challenges from within and without. Josephine is worried for her younger brother Charlie, who cannot seems to accept their father's direction and insistence he work for a living, instead of relying upon Dad to provide him with funds. She also wonders if part of Charlie's waywardness could be attributed to her leaving home and striking out for a new place to begin her medical practice, instead of trying to begin nearer to home. Texas is a big state, even with the use of trains it takes time to get home and back.

Matthew and his group of Horsemen: Jonah Brooks, Luke Davenport - commonly called 'Preach', and Mark Wallace have decided to leave the calvary behind and work as guns for hire. Not in a traditional mercenary fashion, but in trying to use their refined skills to search out justice for the oppressed and a fair ending to disputes and cattle rustling. When Mark gets shot while on an assignment, the nearest town with help is a wide spot on the trail with a single Doctor: Dr Joe. Sparks of a different kind fly when Matthew, who is used to being in charge, must defer to Josephine's directions, and her rules.

The only good thing about reaching the end of this book is knowing that it is book one in the series, and more will follow! I read it twice. I found the characters well-developed, unique, and achingly human. I look forward to the second book in the Hanger's Horseman series. If you enjoy reading about less-than-perfect people as they learn about God's love and forgiveness, this one is sure to entertain and inspire you. You too will become friends with Dr Joe and the Horsemen, and will look forward to their further adventures.



I received a digital ARC of At Love's Command in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

P.S. Big thanks to Arlene for creating the graphic for this post.


Tuesday, July 7, 2020

A Gilded Lady by Elizabeth Camden - A Bethany House review


Bethany House Publishers, Christian Fiction



Caroline Delacroix is a princess of Washington society. She knows all the right people and understands the ins and outs of social calls, elegant dinners, and how to not offend society matrons. Her skills are about to be put to the ultimate test as the personal secretary to Mrs. Ida McKinley, the reclusive wife of President William McKinley. It is the end of July, 1900, and King Umberto of Italy has just been assassinated. Caroline must help the First Lady navigate the correct protocols while paying her respects to the Italian Ambassador’s wife. Thankfully Caroline knows Italian, and puts an appropriate, if not 100% truthful, spin on the First Lady’s words.

Nathaniel Trask has been working for the US Treasury Department tracking down counterfeiters and solving other crimes. Under his supervisor, John Wilkie head of the Secret Service, Nathaniel has just wrapped up an investigation in Boston when the news of King Umberto’s assassination hits. Against his wishes, Trask is assigned to the White House, in hopes that an actual plan for the President’s safety can be developed before similar threats arise in the US.

Fans of Elizabeth Camden’s The Spice King will enjoy returning to the Delacroix family and the mystery that surrounds them in A Gilded Lady. Caroline is a free-spirited lady who wants to DO something more than just choose a husband and settle down. Her twin, Luke, is languishing in a Cuban prison, charged with treason. Caroline knows that something just is not right about Luke's arrest, but cannot figure out how to help her brother. Their older brother Gray is balancing the day to day operations of the family’s  spice import business with a need to free Luke from prison.

As Nathaniel and Caroline are forced to work together, sparks fly - but not always the romantic kind. Caroline looks for the fun in life, and admits to having a few bad habits. Nathaniel is straight laced, focused, and does not have time for nonsense like flowers and tea parties. In order for each of them to do their jobs well, they have to learn to work through their own pasts, and accept help from each other. Caroline must learn to appreciate the hard work of others, even if it feels like a wet blanket on the plans she is making to help Mrs. McKinley entertain Washington Society. The lessons Nathaniel has to learn are even harder: forgiveness, trust, and hope.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading A Gilded Lady. Since The Spice King was one of my favorite books from 2019, I had been eagerly awaiting book 2 in Camden’s Hope and Glory series. A Gilded Lady is thought-provoking, interesting, and filled with plot twists. Definitely a great book. Along the way I found myself searching the web to learn more about President and Mrs. McKinley, their transcontinental tour, and American life in 1901.

If you are a fan of Lynn Austin, Jennifer Delamere, Tamera Alexander or Jocelyn Green you will enjoy meeting the characters of Elizabeth Camden’s books. Their real-ness, faults, and small victories will both challenge and encourage you, while the well written storyline will keep you entertained. Just don’t start this book in the evening - you’ll have trouble putting it down and heading off to sleep!



I received an advance reader copy of A Gilded Lady from Bethany House Publishers. No other compensation was provided. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Emotions

Our emotions are tricky things aren't they? One minute we're up, happy, moving forward, and then something happens and we're sad, stopped, leaning over the chasm of depression and wondering if we will fall in. Have you been on that roller coaster recently? I surely have.

While it is possible to shut ourselves off from our emotional responses, build walls and keep other people at arm's length, that is NOT healthy. We need the ups and downs of our emotions to feel alive. We need the hope of turning our emotional burdens over to God to give us a way forward when we are feeling overwhelmed. 

Life isn't easy. Life is not always joy, rainbows, and unicorns. But life is precious, and we only have one chance to live it. I don't have all the answers to your struggles, but I know the God who does. I don't have all the answers to my own struggles, but Jesus promised that when I come to Him He will take my burdens and give me rest. He offers that same rest to you.

Whether you are laughing or crying, raging at the world or hiding under a blanket, God still sees you. He still offers His love and peace. He is holding out rest for your weary soul. Accept His gift.

I'll be praying for you.


Tuesday, June 16, 2020

How


Today I'm joining back up with one of my favorite groups, the Five Minute Friday writers. And yes, I am quite aware it is Tuesday - life is moving at a different pace around here ;)


How do we write stories that show both the grit and the grace of everyday life? I have been taking an online writing course this spring from Leslie Leyland Fields. Each week we are encouraged to think about another element of writing our stories. It isn’t write, write, write, but rather think, think, investigate, think, write, refine, write some more. 


This slower process has been good for me. It has reminded me that not everything needs written right now, and truly, maybe not every story even needs written at all. Through it all Leslie has encouraged and challenged us to not be afraid to write into the hard or difficult memories in our lives. Not everything I write needs to be shared - amazing, right?!? But for those things that I DO feel led to share, I want them to be the best they can. I want my writing to draw people into my story, the one where God is the center, where Jesus is the Savior, and where I keep listening day by day to hear where to go next.


How we write and what we write can either encourage or discourage others. Right now our world, and our country in particular, is going through a lot of very, very hard things. Am I adding noise to the chaos, or am I offering a glimpse of peace, of healing, or restoration? I pray it is the latter.


So I’m going to get back to writing, a little at a time, and see where this think, think, investigate, think, write, refine, write path takes me. To start with, I’m not going back very far. Just two and a half weeks or so. How soon will you read this story? I dunno.


Two and a half weeks ago the girls and I were in a minor car accident. It is categorized as minor, no airbags deployed, none of us had to go to the hospital immediately, but the changes in my life and activities these past two weeks have been anything but minor. That is where I will start writing. I am praying that through writing into this difficult time I can offer hope, and peace in the midst of this crazy world. So check back next week. Maybe some words will have been through the refining process by then.


How will I proceed? With much prayer.



Saturday, May 9, 2020

Happy Mother's Day




mama encouragement, motherhood, Jesus loves you



Happy Mother's Day!


I know some of you are having a terrific day, and others are so disappointed or mad that they want to cry. Mother's Day runs the gamut from over the top joy and love to the depths of despair and sorrow. All of those options are on the table today. If you need to cry, go ahead and do it. If you want to dance and sing, that's okay too. 

After 22 years of motherhood I think I've lived all the possible options for the best and worst of attitudes and occurrences on Mother's Day. May I offer a suggestion? Stop being so hard on yourself, and your family. Motherhood is really hard, and vitally important. We will all have our up days, and those filled with struggles. Some days are a glorious struggle filled with laughter and smiles at the end. Other days seem like they'll never end and are full of heartache.

God gave you those precious children for a reason. More than one reason actually. You are to teach them about God and Jesus' love and sacrifice. They are there to refine you and teach you about sacrifice and finding strength in God alone. 

Mother's Day will be hard for a lot of people this year, what with travel restrictions, quarantines, and social distancing. Take time today to think about the blessing you have. Focus on the good you've found in motherhood. If you need some time alone today, take it. If your family makes a mess, leave it for tomorrow. 

Today, work through whatever you need to with God's help. While today may not start out happy, you can find joy in God's presence, and peace. Go to Him and find strength for this really awesome, yet really tough job of motherhood. 

Consider yourself hugged Mama!
You are loved.


Saturday, April 25, 2020

time for reflection



introspection, mental health, trusting God



Taking time for reflection or introspection is hard work. Some of my friends journal every day, others - not at all. I fall somewhere in the middle. Whether we think, pray, meditate, draw, create, journal or do something else entirely, we need to set aside time to reflect - and then adjust our lives if needed - regularly.

A few weeks ago our pastor said something like this: ‘don’t think you have to be broken to go to counseling, we all need counseling.’ I’ll add on that we are all in some measure cracked, broken, or unsure. Maybe you won’t feel compelled to go see a pastor or counsellor after your self-reflection time, but might you seek out a trusted friend and talk things through? We are meant to live in community, not in isolation. Is anyone else missing their in-person community during this time of social distancing to try to slow the speed of the corona virus, or is it just me?

A few days ago I spent about an hour on the phone with a good friend. We were talking about the struggle to find a new normal, a routine of sorts to structure our days and weeks since our normal activities have been cancelled, postponed, or moved online. Our church has been really good about having regular facebook live events in addition to streaming our weekly services. This is helpful, but I miss seeing people and interacting face to face. I miss the presence of other people.

Have you encountered something similar? A struggle to find your rhythm? I think that’s okay - even expected right now. Some days I wake up energized, ready to clean a closet or go outside and work in my garden. Other days I just want to curl up alone, with a book or a movie. My moods and aspirations change often. Your probably do too.

I am grounded through all of this by the knowledge that the same God who carried my grandparents through the 1918 influenza epidemic and the Great Depression is still here guiding me today.

When we take time to reflect, we find different challenges on different levels. Some days all your reflection may prompt you to do is wash a load of laundry or bake some cookies. Other days you will dig deeper. Like when I got to 1 Corinthians 13 in my Bible reading earlier this month. I don’t want to be a noisy gong, be nothing, or gain nothing. That prompted me to take a deeper look at all the times recently when i have not been loving towards my family. I’ve been feeling a little off-centered since then. Good thing I’m a lump of clay that the Master Potter can re-center.

If you’re feeling a little off-balance too, I encourage you to go to God and ask Hi to help you too.

Life is too short to not live it. Spend a little time reflecting on where you are today. Then ask God where He wants you to be.





Thursday, April 16, 2020

At Home Nature Play



nature play, stay at home, opt outdoors


Hi out there!

I wish I could see all your smiling faces in person.

Being separated from our friends and extended family really stinks!

Fortunately, for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, Spring is slowly making its way to us. To encourage, and hopefully inspire you, I'm linking my monthly newspaper column about At-home Nature Play. I hope it gives you some ideas to implement, for yourself, and the kids.

Find the column here.





Tuesday, March 31, 2020

March 31, 2020


COVID19thoughts, encouragement, new normal


What if this is your new normal?

What if whatever unusual situation you find yourself in today becomes your way of life for the next three months, or even the next three years?

Does that thought cause you dread, anxiety, or even grief? As Americans we have had it oh so good for oh so long that we might have, as a collective nation, forgotten what it is like to struggle for existence.

If we were to take a look back in our history, we would find that our grandparents, and for some of us our great grandparents, knew exactly what it meant to sacrifice and struggle. They are now referred to as the Greatest Generation - those born from 1901-1924, those who grew up during the Great Depression and served and worked during WWII.

For those of them that were children at the outset of WWI, I doubt they understood the sacrifices their families were making to send men off to war. They only knew what had happened in their short lifetimes, and that varied widely based upon where they lived and their economic status. Some had been in cities with a natural gas boom, or where cars were being seen as a new mode of transportation, not just a toy for the rich. Others lived in rural areas and life continued on as it had for the decades before they were born. This Great Generation grew up during a war, lived through the depression, and served in the following war.

We are currently facing a war of a different kind: a war against a virus that threatens to undo our world’s economy, and for many of us, our current way of life. How do we explain this to our children? How do we even wrap our own minds around our change in circumstances from only a month ago? One day at a time - one prayer at a time. Our children know their own “normal” - what we need to help them understand is their new normal, as we navigate our own. Prayer is the first step, loving each other is the second.

We do not know what the future will bring. Only God can see outside of linear time. In three weeks’ time will the curve of new cases be flattened, even gone? Or will it take three months or even a year before our lives attempt to return to what we used to think of as normal?

In the midst of all this uncertainty, what are we to do? What should we be called to do? Let us each start by doing our part. Today in your home, or at work if your job has been labelled essential, let’s each do our part. Wash laundry, cook meals, stock groceries, care for the sick - whatever your part is in the fabric of our nation - go do it. And do it well. In Colossians 3:23 Paul admonished fellow believers “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”

We are called to work heartily. Whether that is a third grader working to master long division or a CEO re-writing the budget so their employees are paid, work heartily. Work hard. Give it your best effort today, and again tomorrow. God is watching. He wants us to be a blessing to those around us and not a burden. One way to do that is by doing our part - without complaining.

Do the hard work of prayer. Your life, regardless of how it looks today, offers you the opportunity to pray for others. Instead of joining in the masses who are complaining about our elected officials doing too much or too little in this crisis - spend that time in prayer for them. Pray for your family, your neighbors, your local firemen, EMT’s, the Doctors and nurses at your local hospital. Pray for those who are still working at the grocery store or the gas station. Pray for those working at home, the unemployed, those in quarantine, those in the hospital. Then do the really hard work of praying for those who have lost a loved one to this virus. You have time to pray today - use it wisely.

My final admonition for you today is to not give up hope! Looking back through history we see both good times and bad. They alternate. This too shall pass. There will be an eventual end to this virus and the havoc it is causing in our world. In Romans 5 we are reminded that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character, hope. Why? Because the Holy Spirit pours God’s love into our hearts. If this all sounds foreign to you, I encourage you to read the Gospel of John. You can read it for free on the Bible App on your phone, or at biblegateway.com - then ask questions - get answers - meet Jesus.

In just under two weeks we will celebrate Easter. Celebrate all Jesus has done for us. It does not matter what our new normal is. What matters is remembering all God has done for us - and that He has promised to never leave us.



Easter is coming.


Work hard, celebrate with awe.


Sunday, March 22, 2020

March 22, 2020



coronavirus, thoughts on living, Gods peace


A fellow writer posted yesterday and asked us to share our stories. She asked us to share our coronavirus stories, that in doing so, we would read each others’ words and not feel so alone during this time of social isolation.

A week ago my boss asked us to practice social distancing - in an effort to keep people safe and healthy - without being socially distant.

Catching a theme here? Yeah, me too. So now, at 12:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, I will write, and pray that God gives me the words to share what’s on my heart. Let’s begin shall we?

It’s early on Sunday, March 22nd, 2020 and I’m thinking back on this month. Just over three weeks ago I went to the NFL combine in Indianapolis. People were all around me, having fun, talking football, thinking of the future in rosy hues. It was a good day to be alive, spend time with friends, and to laugh at the snow.

On Tuesday, March 3rd, Our older daughter and I went to Fountain Square. An old neighborhood in Indianapolis that has seen a revitalization over the past 20 or so years. It is where my dad grew up in the 40’s and 50’s. We went duck pin bowling, bought chocolates, and browsed the vintage clothing shops. It was a windy but sunny day full of the promise of a coming spring. We laughed and danced.

On Friday, March 6th I went to work as usual, and then the girls and I attended the opening of an art exhibit celebrating diversity and inclusion through art. The future still looked bright and free.

On the following Monday, March 9th, my youngest daughter and I went to Indianapolis. We went to the Garfield Park Conservatory and photographed tropical flowers. Then we went to the City Market for a late lunch of NY style pizza. She had been wanting to go there for years, and since it was Spring Break, I made sure it happened. That afternoon marked our first real conversation about coronavirus (COVID-19) as we walked around downtown and talked about how we thought they would work to keep everyone safe for the Big 10 college basketball tournament. Later that week the tournament would be cancelled, along with every other major and minor sporting event across the US.

On Wednesday, March 11th my mom came over for lunch. It was nothing unusual, just the girls, grandma, and me. We had wanted to see her, and get her expert advice on a knitting project Arlene was doing. My mom is 77 years old and in good health - a situation I try to never take for granted. I know many people younger than her who struggle with a host of health challenges.

Thursday the 12th was a day for errands and grocery shopping. The lines were longer than usual. People were starting to talk a lot more about coronavirus - they were beginning to stock up - there was a tension in the air. The news from other countries was not good. People were getting infected and many were needing hospitalized. This was not just another round of seasonal flu. What would it be like here? This was the day the Big 10 tournament (and many others) was cancelled. Now it was getting real - affecting things close to home. The outlook was much less rosy than it had been just 4 days before. Had it only been four days (three really) since that Monday afternoon stroll around downtown Indianapolis?

I went to work on Friday, March 13th. Our regular solid cleaning routine had been ramped up even more. Not panic, just concern. We had less visitors than usual. I think the public was just waking up to the understanding that if the Big 10 tournament was cancelled, other things might be as well. At the end of the day we had an all-staff meeting. We found out that we would be closed to the public until at least the end of the month. There would be more details on Monday. Stay home tomorrow. I understood it - we are a museum. We let people learn through experiences - most of them hands-on. Earlier that afternoon we had heard that the Children’s Museum was closing. I, along with most of my co-workers, had figured we would not be far behind. It it was closed, and we hadn’t, we would have been inundated with children and they parents, way beyond even our normal capacity - and that would not have been good for the recommendation to keep a local distance to avoid spreading the virus.

This past week at our house had been different, and yet not. Our younger daughter was granted a second week of Spring Break wile her college figures out the logistics of switching to all online courses for the remained of the semester. Our older daughter had worked that weekend, worked again on Monday, had a shift cancelled, and then was told her employer would be closing - permanently.

Having the three of us home mid-week was not that unusual, other than the news about the virus. You see, we spent 16 years as a homeschooling family, from the first day of Kindergarten, to the last day of high school. That has prepared us for a lot of this “new normal” we are in right now. We know how to go for long walks in the woods each day to get our exercise, how to enjoy curling up with a good book, and how to bake up a storms’ worth of good treats.

But more importantly than all of that, we have faith in God and in Jesus Christ as our Savior. We know where to weather our storms. Being a Christian does not make this storm easier, but it does make it possible to hold on to hope int he midst of it. We have hope because we know the One who holds our tomorrows. He is the Alpha and the Omega - the beginning and the end. He knows our future. The same God who created the universe and named the stars knows my name. I am His beloved child.

Fear may be on a daily quest to try to undermine my peace, but it will not win. This peace I have has been hard-won and will not be surrendered. It has come as my faith has been tested and tried over and over again. I have been through the refiner’s fire over and over again - and I know that He is not done with me yet. There is still dross to remove. It is a life-long process, this refinement.

I do not fear the future. I used to. Then I finally came to understand that wavering back and forth across the line between faith and fear is too exhausting. I had to decide to go all in and trust God with everything: my marriage, our kids, mu job, my very life. I had nothing to lose. I was in a dark and painful place. I knew I could not thrive there, I was barely surviving there! So I let it all go. I had been reading a book about healthy spirituality and this line stood out to me as though it had been written in neon lettering in the sky ‘ a person with nothing left to lose becomes the most powerful person on earth.’

What did I have to lose? Nothing of value. I could see my life that I thought I had control of crumbling around me each day. I surrendered. For the first time I truly meant it with my whole heart when I prayer “Whatever, Lord.” Whatever He wanted to give, or take, or do - it had to be better than what I had - which was nothing.

So where does that past surrender leave me today, in the midst of a global pandemic? Safely in the arms of my loving Heavenly Father. Hands up and open wide. I can now close my eyes, stretch out my hands, open my heart and connect with God in a deep and powerful way through the Holy Spirit that lives within me.

As we look tot he uncertain future we have many questions. Will the social distancing be enough to stop the spread? Will thousand more have to die, or will most recover? Will someone I know and love catch COVID-19, struggle to breathe, and possibly even die? I do not know any of these answers, but I do not need to. I know life had been hard, is hard, and will continue to be hard for many of my friends. Some of them know Jesus and have begun to receive His peace. Others do not know Him and have no peace, no real hope. I pray for them all.

My grandparents lived through WWI and WWII. They were a vastly different generation than what I see today. They might have worried, in fact I’m sure they did, but I think they did something that we lack today: they prayed. Then they trusted God to keep His word and they went on living, loving, and serving others. The trusted God to not forsake them, to give them comfort and hope. Perhaps they were made of sterner stuff than we are. They didn’t have google to answer all their questions - shoot - they’d only had the Dewey Decimal system for 35 years when WWI began. We struggle to imagine life without toilet paper, they struggled with not having food. We want to be over-informed on what is happening across the globe, and anxiety runs rampant because of it. They were under informed, and yet lived to tell us about it.

What lessons of faith did I learn from my grandparents that can help me during these challenging times? Perhaps they can help you too. I learned that you can always, always pray the Lord’s prayer - that His will would be done. I learned that family is important, and we should be quick to forgive others. I learned that God can be trusted - no matter what!

When I was 10 my grandfather died. My most vivid memory of that summer is from his funeral. During the eulogy, their pastor talked about how Dale trusted God. Someday, hopefully quite a ways into he future, I hope the same can be said of me at my passing, “Carol trusted God.”

I am praying for you to trust Him too.




Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Gardening 201- Winter Sowing

This post originally aired on February 20, 2013. Since I've seen many of you on FB and IG talking about growing some of your own produce this year. I wanted to share it again.


You've chosen seeds, you have a great idea about where to put your garden...but what? It's only 11 degrees outside? (Or twenty, or forty.)

Never fear, enter winter-sowing! We live in Indiana. Where most people don't get enough sunlight in the winter, and it can be really difficult to start seeds indoor without grow-lights. So what to do, what to do? 


Last winter my friend introduced me to a great blog "A Garden for the House." Kevin has WAY more time than I have, for cooking, blogging, & gardening, but I love his advice on winter-sowing. You can go directly there from this link if you still have questions when I'm finished today: http://www.agardenforthehouse.com/category/gardening/winter-sowing/


The general idea is this: start your seeds outdoors, in little greenhouses made of recycled milk-jugs. Since it'll be too cold for anything to grow for a little while, they'll just sit and wait. Once it starts to warm up outside, your seeds will be all ready to go, you'll just need to keep an eye on when they need water.



Here's last year's lettuce on March 16th


By the end of March it was already big enough to eat! Our "frost-free" date here is May 1st, so we were WAY ahead of the game.
We did this for the first time last year and had the best tomato starts I have ever gotten from seeds. Short and stocky!


Now I'm going to show you how I winter-sow. I do it a little differently than on agardenforthehouse, but it's just a few tweeks of my own.

First- save LOTS of empty (washed out) milk and OJ jugs! We had 28 so far, but I'll probably end up starting 40 mini greenhouses total this year, so I'll keep saving them!

Next up, gather your supplies: you'll need: jugs, a tray to pot on, some newspaper to catch your mess, seeds, potting soil, a BLACK sharpie, duck tape, a sturdy knife & kitchen scissors. An empty box to put down when you are cutting is a plus.

Then, punch at least 4 drainage holes inthe bottom of each jug (do this first to ALL of them so you won't forget it!) I punch the knife in, and then twist it. It makes a hole about the size of a writing pen.


After that, you'll need to use your sturdy knife to cut a slit in one side, I like to put it in the middle of a side that adjoins the handle. Do this step for several jugs at a time, them move to the next step.




The following step is to use your scissors to make the slit wrap around all but the part under the handle, this will be your hinge!


Now to the messy part. Mix up your potting soil nice and muddy. On days when the weather breaks, I do this outside in a 5 gallon bucket. But since it was 45 and windy, I did it inside in an old ice cream bucket.

Now put soil in the bottom about 2-3" deep and plant your seeds according to the package. For small things like lettuce, you can plant a few dozen per jug. For plants you want to grow big and stocky (like tomatoes) limit yourself to 4 per jug. 


Use your duck tape (whatever color you have on hand) to tape shut the two sides opposite the handle-hinge. Notice the drip-tray to catch (at least most of) the wet, soggy soil leaking out the drainage holes!



LABEL, LABEL, LABEL! Use a black sharpie (other colors fade too soon) and mark what you planted in each jug & the date you planted it. After all, those tomato plants are all going to look alike when they are still small!


Finally, put your jug greenhouses outside in your garden spot (whether it's ready yet or not!) 


Today I only started 10 greenhouses, but I didn't want to go dig in the garage for more potting soil, so the next time it's warm(er) out, I'll get a lot more started. 


Don't be discouraged if you aren't ready for this because you don't have your seeds yet. It will still be helpful to start your plants in March or April the same way. I'm starting mine now for 2 main reasons: 1- I want fresh lettuce ASAP, & 2- I'll be doing a lot of these, so spreading them out makes it more enjoyable!



Dreaming of fresh tomatoes!
Thanks to Arlene for being my photographer for the day!