A tragedy occurred this week, and I have not been able to get the events and people corresponding to it out of my mind. I didn’t know them, and am only distantly connected with what happened, but being somewhat in the know about it all has really left me sad. I ask myself, why so sad, since I didn’t suffer any loss or heartache directly. In fact, this has all bothered me so much that I wonder why it is not affecting others like it is affecting me. This morning at church, no mention was made of the incident during prayer time. Throughout the week, I thought I might hear of more people reaching out to help, but only a handful are, it appears. The majority of people have already gone back to their daily lives, without much thought about it. And I would, too, usually. I hear about something tragic in the news, probably hundreds of somethings in a year’s time, and my heart doesn’t even skip a beat. Why now? I guess one takeaway I ought to have is to be more aware of those around me, and the problems they may be having. Also, to pray that this awful string of events not be wasted, that God would be glorified somehow. That maybe this could open a new door for the gospel, that was before closed, to families. To make my tears count. This experience brought about in me, once again, the realization that I have no idea what is going on in people’s heads and hearts, and I have no control over others or their decisions. But God has complete control, and though He allows us to have our way, prayer is powerful. I think of the prayer, loosely quoted, “Lord, the waves are so big, and our boats are so small…” His plans will prevail, and His love endures forever.

House Help

Ahhh- it feels good to sit back in a chair and rest. The morning has been very fruitful, but I’ve had to spend a lot of time harvesting that fruit, ha. Pumpkin bread, blueberry muffins, meat sauce for chili mac, and rice pudding. Not bad for a few hours.

Some angel ran a dishwasher load early this morning before they left for the cross country meet. That got me thinking again how to help us with the dishes. It isn’t working to assign it to a person, or even multiple people. It isn’t working to use paper and plastic. It isn’t working to have me do it all, obviously. But it occurred to me that if we all were involved,that  just might work. If each person put their dishes in the washer right after a meal, and if the meal prepper washed their dishes right away, hmmm. This starts sounding like something I read at Like Mother Like Daughter once. Maybe I’m a bit mannish, having to think of these things myself.

We went apple picking yesterday, but I haven’t done anything with the apples we picked yet. Just wasn’t feeling it. I’m going out this afternoon to get a new Crock-Pot, one I plan to do applesauce and homemade cider in. We’ll see.


Fix Up

I’m sitting outside Volunteers, waiting for the girls to come out. I had forgotten how much I dislike doing this. When I got in the door, I instantly forgot what I was looking for, and almost felt guilty for taking up space in the store. There were some good buys, though- I found some Robeez for Julia. She now has three pairs of fun shoes. I’m all about shoes. You can wear an outfit only so often, but shoes are so much more interchangeable. Though now I’m wondering if I will be able to wear anything but my sneakers. I hurt my leg a while back, and have slowly tried to get back to running on it. I didn’t listen closely to Luke’s directions, and ran two days in a row last week, and it is hurting again. BUT I also wore these Clark’s shoes to church, and wondered of a couple hours in different shoes was enough to make my leg sore. I wish I would have listened to Luke because I can’t know.

Girls are back. Time to go.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The eggnog has flowed, the casseroles dished, the stuffing stuffed down gullets. Ah. I am feeling good, NOT feeling too full, and feeling really good about my practice of self control this year. A few factors: Candace Cameron Bure’s book about eating right mentioned a great principle to use during dinner- am I satisfied? That answer will come before- am I full? so we must eat intentionally, eat slowly (this one is hard for me!), eat thoughtfully. That one question is huge. Another factor is having a scale in the bathroom that I have been weighing myself on each morning. I am pleased by what it has been reading lately, and I think that sticks with me through the day. Not THE still, small voice, of course, but an important voice nonetheless.

My Thanksgiving menu this year included turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and green bean casserole. I decided to make the latter from scratch, even frying the onions, following Smitten Kitchen’s recipe. It was fantastic! Will have to make this all winter for a new comfort food staple. Two cold salads often find their way to the table, waldorf and oriental cabbage, I realized originated from one person, a good friend from our church plant days. Thank you, Jenny! I don’t have many friends, but the ones I do have are excellent cooks! The older I get, the better of a cook I get, too. This is because I have learned to only make the things I like. Ha.

My Garmin watch is showing that red line across the top, signaling when I have been inactive for close to an hour. Honestly, Garmy, what more do you want from me? I took 13, 600 steps today, from a mile run this morning to multiple trips round my kitchen this afternoon. I’ve earned some down time.

I want to hear about your Thanksgiving! What did you make? Where did you go? I will try to open comments here, but if you can’t get in, email me and I’ll post your comment.

He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me, and to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God.  Psalm 50:23

It Is What It Is

So, I left off with a rather smug letter to Marlin, a kind car salesman who has been in consistent contact with Luke about a 15 passenger van. Now that time has passed and the van honeymoon is over, well…

Let’s just say you don’t know what is coming down the road, pun intended. This vehicle is beautiful on the outside, but has required some major repairs on the inside. What a good object lesson for us in our own journeys through life. That outward appearance doesn’t charm us as much now that we’ve put so much money into it. But, it is what it is.

I wrote that phrase into an email to my dear friend, and got to thinking how simple, but good, this statement really is. I’m all for making goals, but sometimes in life it is more about being content in the place you are. I went to a ladies’ workshop at a church a few weeks ago, and the main takeaway for me was the truth from Acts that says, “God determined” people to live in the times and places He put them, so that they would seek Him. There are a lot of loose strings in my life right now, things I wish were different, or better, or at least DONE, tied up, so I could move on to a next thing. The popular “When my ship comes in, then…” brand of wishes are big in my brain. But the way this verse was shared that morning, it was like God saying, “I determined this, and this, and that, to all be up in the air right now, for some specific purposes of My own. I determined…even this.” So, all glory be to God, in the desert, in the wilderness, in the waiting. I want that to be my response more and more.

As I type this, Julia sleeps in the Ergo strapped to my belly (it is like she never left!), and the littles play Loaded Questions at my feet. Some of the kids are pre-readers and writers, and don’t know left from right, so just figuring out how to play is an entertaining listen. We are in Lynchburg for Liberty’s homecoming. Since Luke’s sister moved here and it is the second year we have visited along with his other siblings, it is becoming more of a family reunion/photo option than about Liberty. But many are at the football game right now, others out shopping, and that leaves me home babysitting the rest. I’m not really complaining; getting out with Julia in tow on a gusty 50 degree day is not desirable anyway. But it has been hard these last few months still having ones so young, but needing to interact with those who have teens, too. And, I don’t really fit in with either kind of moms. But, it is what it is.

This morning I was able to visit an old friend from Word of Life and Liberty days. I remember when I went on a College for a Weekend tour at Word of Life, Rebekah was the one that immediately approached me and took me under her wing. I couldn’t wait to get to school in January, because I knew way cool Rebekah was there waiting for me. We stayed friends through our time at Liberty, until she started dating a man that I didn’t like. This was completely my problem, her now-husband is a wonderful person. I was jealous, and didn’t have much tolerance for people who were different than me (99.999% of the population, I am coming to realize). He was there today, and so kind and outgoing to me, that I felt like asking his forgiveness on the spot for my stupidity back then. Jesus, and twenty years, can change a person, thankfully. Rebekah is well, living an inspiring and fruitful life in the mountains of Virginia 400 miles from me, but as we talked today, I realized that we both are having some of the same deep thoughts about life, and dealing with some of the same issues in home and family and spirituality. A good reminder that everyone everywhere has much in common with everyone else, though we are all different. And, I could conclude to my mother-in-law when I got back from my visit, Rebekah is one person I know who is a lot like me. Learning as we go. It is what it is.

We head home tomorrow, back to the daily school routine. I look forward to it in some ways, as Julia has been very erratic and offbeat in her napping and feeding while gone. But, these kinds of breaks are good for me, too, to provide times of reflection and examination of things going on in my life right now. It is what it is, and I want to make the best of it.

Eye Vandy

Dear Marlin,

After my last blog post, I had everyone thinking, including myself, that we were going to buy a van from you. Luke had called you back last week about one, but you had rented it out and it wouldn’t be back until Luke had gone on his backpacking trip. As it turns out, waiting another week was a good idea.

A van came up for sale on Craigslist Sunday night, in Circleville, with make, model, miles, and money asked all aligned as the stars. Only trouble was it was an hour and a half away, we didn’t have two drivers to go down there, and the owner was leaving for vacation Tuesday. What a scramble we made, asking my mom to drive with Luke and hurrying down there before the kids had Running Club Monday evening.


And, we pulled it off! Luke got home at 5:30, and we all piled in the new van at 6:00 to head south again. I think you can appreciate, Marlin, the excitement we felt as we made that maiden voyage in this new (to us), beautiful, spacious van, after spending weeks at home opting out of many activities. Our son, Elijah, when someone is leaving the house, runs for his shoes and asks, “I go?” Most of the time the answer is no, but we could say yes on Monday night.

I don’t know if you have experience working on cars as well as selling them, Marlin. The man we bought this van from had a very sobering story to tell Luke about his experiences with it. He had bought this van in 2005, and was doing some work on it one day. While he was under the van, he asked his wife to do something with the key or the gearshift, and she reached in while standing outside the vehicle to do it. When she put it in neutral, the van began to roll. Since she wasn’t in the van, she couldn’t reach the brake, and the van rolled over her husband. He had many bones broken including his neck, and fractured his skull. It took a long time to recover from his injuries, and he went on disability because he couldn’t keep his job. He sued GM, but that became null when GM went bankrupt. He also sued the hospital, because they missed his broken neck (?!) That lawsuit had only just been settled, so he could now sell the van. So, this vehicle stayed in storage for a long time. Can you imagine, Marlin? I wouldn’t be able to even look at that van for quite some time after something like that. I bet he couldn’t, either.

Luke tells me you are Mennonite, Marlin, and that you are pretty strict in your lifestyle. You might think, as we do, that God was in this all along. I know He has given us more than we could have asked or imagined! But there is this surreal piece, that takes into account what tragedy has struck at the wheels of this van. I don’t want to think of it as ‘cursed’, of course. You and I know there is no such thing and we are not to be superstitious as followers of Jesus. But it does make me cautious, sober, thoughtful. May I be a grace-filled steward of this great gift.

Marlin, it’s been real. Maybe we’ll call you up in a few years when our family’s need dials back to a minivan or SUV.

Your Friend,

Valerie Burton

Can’t Find A Better Van

Luke and I are still dating. At least, we try. Right now Julia occupies the position of third wheel, but a chance to get away is still a great deal, so we go.

After we had test-driven the old Dodge van with back-up beeping, Luke said he’d like to go see a van over in Mt. Eaton, in Amish Country. They were asking more than he wanted to pay, but it couldn’t hurt to look. We buckled Julia in the car, and off we went to Holmes County.

We arrived at the place the van was parked, and waited for the seller. He drove up quite a bit later, with a six month old baby boy in his lap, a la Brittney Spears! Needless to say, this did not give me a great first impression of him, or this van.

Luke, Julia, and I climbed aboard and buckled up (Julia in her carseat and me in mine), then headed for the highway. My husband knows all of these things to try while driving a vehicle to check its maneuverablility and alignment. Things were appearing to work ok for a while. But when he would brake hard, the van would pull really far to the right. It was so freaky! Then Luke asked if I wanted to drive it. Um, no! Not with it pulling like that. He turned around in a cemetery, and one hard right almost landed us on someone’s grave.

When we met back up with the seller, Luke described what the van was doing and made a low offer. The man was actually selling the van for someone else, so he wouldn’t budge from the asking price. We thanked him for his time, and were back on the road.

People who don’t live near Amish Country think it is charming, hence the explosion of commerce there. As we drove along, I thought of how there is nothing about the Amish I find charming. Except maybe the way they stack their wheat and oats with little straw hats to shed water. A whole field of these mounds is quite picturesque. Luke was unhappy that we had driven all the way out to this quilt-buggy-barn mecca for nothing…

Wait. What were we passing every few minutes as we headed to Millersburg? Yes, there was another 15 passenger van, shuttling Amish people from one place to another. Though most have rules against owning a vehicle, many Amish may pay to ride in one, and ‘hauling Amish’ is a lucrative business. We have a neighbor on our road that does this in a van he won’t sell to us.

Maybe we weren’t wasting a trip after all. Just then we saw a van for sale on the side of the highway, and quickly pulled over to look. The vehicle looked good, the price looked even better, and the owner came to meet us right away. Luke said to me, “This is our van!” It did look like a great buy, but as he and the owner opened it up and tried out the a/c, they found it didn’t work. Augh. Always something. This man was really nice, though, and told Luke he would have it looked at the next day. It was suppertime by now, and Luke asked the man where a good place was to eat in Millersburg. He directed us to a pub that had good burgers. It also had a great bleu cheese salad, awakening my interest in bleu cheese. On another date to Delaware last year, we went to a place that had a phenomenal bleu cheese salad, and ever since I have been on and off bleu cheese kicks.

We talked over dinner how as we get older, we get comfortable in our skin and don’t care as much what people think. I said that is mostly true for me, only I have been so many different clothing sizes that it has been hard to keep to a ‘style’ of dress. So that aspect of my personality is still largely changeable. Still, I like nice things, and all through this van search I find myself turning off whenever the candidate is old, dirty, rusty, crumbly, etc. At first, I thought I was being a snob. But the more I think about it, there needs to be a balance. We have the money to not have to buy the dumpiest vehicle on the lot. Yes, the more we spend on the van, the less we spend on the House, but many things about this House-building project have been Providentially delayed, and the need for a bigger van is one of those Providential delays, to my way of thinking. Who could have known we would have 12 children needing vehicle space as well as House space? Only the Lord knew this. And, He knows we need to have a van where we all can go somewhere, together. We have been missing that lately, bigtime. The activities we have had to turn down in the past few weeks only fuel my desire for a better van. Not too old, not too broken; something that will cost us more, but also bring us more joy hopefully, as we are able to venture forth as a family again.

As Luke drove home from taking the kids to camp last month, he passed a used car lot that had some vans for sale. He met and spoke with the owner, and even had him over to our house (he was on his way back from Columbus) to look at our van. His name is Marlin Zimmerman and I really like him. (Mennonite, not Amish.) Marlin has called Luke back repeatedly, thinking of new ways he can use our van for parts and knock the price down on one of his. This kind of keeping in touch has certainly impressed Luke, and now, after weeks of clown car antics when we go to church or anywhere, I think he is ready to deal with Marlin. No, it is not the cheapest van we could go with, but it seems to Luke and me to be the better choice.

That’s Just Vandy


That is what you would hear if you rode with us in our van. And, as we have already outgrown it, the brakes are going to continue to do that, because we don’t want to put any more money into this vehicle. The last weeks have been a challenge, getting this person here and that person there with the two remaining vehicles we have. I realize this starts to sound like a first world problem; three vehicles, really? But we are thinking we do need to have a driving arrangement that could include all fifteen passengers (if Carol goes along), hence the search for a 15 passenger van.

There are many things to consider. do we get a nicer one with less mileage for more money, or a higher mileage one that costs less to just get us through the next four or five years? The former robs us of House Money, the latter seems like a big gamble that we won’t be hit with repairs every few months.

Luke test drove a few yesterday. The first was here in town, and he was able to bring it by the house so I could drive it and a couple of kids could ride along. It used to be a day care van, very inexpensive, had low miles, but was twenty years old! I told Luke it was difficult to keep some snobby feelings in check. Yes, it was cheap and might get us a year or two down the road, literally. And in nine year old Caleb’s words, a van like this was “awesome!” But could my older kids handle the embarrassment of the backing-up beeping (oh, yes) it made? Could I?

To Be Continued, at which time I describe our jaunt to Amish Country.

Less Than Six Degrees

Time once again for our library’s summer reading program. The adult version has us reading up to 16 books, and various other ways to earn raffle tickets, to go toward prizes and coupons. Some years I am so not interested, but for whatever reason this year am totally hooked on reading as many books as I can and completing the ‘bingo’ card on the back of my tally sheet.

I expected to have plenty of time to read, as I nurse all day long and can’t do much else with that time. What I didn’t expect was how these books, as randomly chosen as I could have done, are inexplicably linked. let me give you some examples.

I saw on a blog I read where the lady recommended a book called Raising Real Men. I was able to get this from the library, and enjoyed it very much. It is full of great advice for raising boys, and one book they recommended in there was Now Discover Your Strengths, the manual that accompanies the StrengthsFinder test. I got that book out of the library, too, thinking it would help my older girls as well as my older guys.

Another way to earn a raffle ticket in the library program is to listen to an audiobook on Hoopla. While browsing titles, I saw a book called 5 Habits of a Woman who Doesn’t Quit. That looked like something I could use, for sure, so I began to listen. The author mentioned starting a workout program and, of course, quitting, and the morning I was listening to that, I was just about to head to Mommy and Me. I thought that was strangely coincidental, I mean, what are the odds that I would hear that right then?! Then tonight, I was listening to the fourth chapter, and in it she mentioned StrengthsFinder! Weird stuff. Something similar happened with another book last week, but I can’t remember it now. It might have even been a Little House book! Just some crazy stuff to keep this big part of my summer interesting.

Anyway, here is my book list. F means finished, S means started. Have a go at one or two and see if strange things  relate for you, too.

Raising Real Men F

Your God Is Too Small F EXCELLENT READ You can get this as a pdf, simply google the title and pdf.

Happy Wives Club F

Love Comes Softly series F


Little House series F

Lessons From Madame Chic S FUN READ

In His Steps

In His Place


Prodigal Girl

Big Book of Homeschooling

All the Light We Cannot See S  (I almost finished this a while back, but quit because of vulgarity. A friend gave me the all-clear to finish it, as I had already read the worst, so I plan to fill in the place on my bingo card that says “a book you never finished” with it. It really would be one of my favorite books without these blemishes it has.)

5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit S HA HA HA

Now, Discover Your Strengths S RIVETING READ



At Mommy and Me today the ladies were talking about how meaningful it is to be able to stay home with their children. One mom put it, “You’ll never get that time back!” I look at Kenan, and Elijah, and now Julia, and though I of all people should realize how short this time is, I still find myself chafing, wanting the days to pass more quickly. My attitude stinks when it comes to the daily challenges that each little brings.

This week may not be the best one for introspection, what with my hormones still out of whack and VBS taking away all their playmates every evening. So we have had a Toy Story marathon! And tonight we go to a graduation party, one reason being I don’t want to be stuck home with them another night. The week has gone well, though. Last night I actually got Julia to bed for the night before the kids came home, so Kenan and Elijah and I could enjoy some outside time, watching for the van. We talked about what color the van was, and the house, and the shed..Elijah would run to Grandma’s car and call, “Mama, Mama” until I answered. He’d point to it and say something like ‘Grandma’s car’ then run back to me and do it all over again. Then we sat on the steps and the boys checked my hair for ticks. Pure country, let me tell you.

The girls got their first paychecks today, and it got me thinking about all of the ways we are blessed. I may not notice in the thick of it, but I know love can’t do anything but pay off in the end. Keep doing it, my friends.