I tried to comment on my sister’s new blog, but was unable because I don’t have a Blogger or Google account (well, actually I have both) that was wanting to cooperate. This is what I would have said.

I loved Steven Curtis Chapman’s book. I read it this fall, and was encouraged in many ways. What I didn’t expect was to find that the journey he and his wife are on closely resembles Luke’s and mine. They and we have struggled, for a myriad of reasons. We couples both have read the marriage books and gone to the marriage counselor expecting at some point there to be that magic solution that fixes it, whatever ‘it’ may be. But that isn’t how it has worked out. The best Steven and Mary Beth, and we ourselves, can do, is to say, “Today, we are together. Today, we are okay.” That is all we have, all we are ever given. And it is a precious gift.

I’m beyond words at having the chance to wake up for nineteen years, going on twenty, and making trouble, making up, and making babies with my best friend.

Happy anniversary to us.

Christmas Thoughts

As I ate breakfast this morning, I spoke to my unborn child about movement. “It simply won’t do to not feel you today, or any day of the coming Christmas holiday. I can’t go there again.” Mine is a family filled to the brim and overflowing with gifts from the Father of lights, but there remains that choked sob this time of year that sighs, why? What space time continuum would it have altered to have allowed her to live, except ours, in the most wonderful of ways? But I know better than to complain for too long.

Luke is so good at buying the kids gifts. He is a sucker for a good deal, and has a heart that always wants to give. I’ll have to pay close attention to what the kids unwrap on Christmas morning, because I am only aware of some of the things they are getting. He ordered much online this year, or bought it when I wasn’t along.

He has wanted to take the family out to dinner at a restaurant for some time. Last year it didn’t make it to the calendar, but this year, we go out tonight. Some of the younger kids have never been to a sit down restaurant ever, so this is big. This afternoon, I’m working on making sure we all have something decent to wear. Should be a memorable time.

Bacon Karma

Last week, we went to see Tim Hawkins with some friends. Since we hadn’t seen this couple for some time, we arranged to eat at a restaurant beforehand, and catch up. As funny as Tim was, I think our fun at the restaurant closely rivaled the main event.

We met at Outback. I had given our friends their choice; if it were up to us we would have gone elsewhere because we think their food and service are lousy. This set the stage for the evening, I’m sure. As we are seated looking at our menu, I marvel to the group that the trend right now must be to take a perfectly good piece of meat and pile another meat on top of it, in an obnoxious way. The steak had crab on it, the chicken bloomin’ onions, and the salmon was piled with bacon. This last pictured meal looked pretty good to Joel, so he ordered it.

As we waited (a while) for our food to come, we tossed around bad restaurant experiences. Luke and I talked about how I have sent plates back before, a dubious character trait he might not have married me had he known about. One time at Bob Evans, the salmon fillet was so tiny, I felt I had to say something. “I’ve ordered a lot of salmon,” I remarked to the waitress, “and this is the smallest portion I have ever been served.” She patiently explained that they are all the same weight, that they come prepackaged and are served as they are. “Well, can I at least have some more coleslaw?” I reasoned.

Our friends and Luke had a good laugh at my salmon story, and at me, when Joel’s salmon came to the table. A single, scrawny piece of bacon lay across the fillet, and we all busted loose. It looked nothing like the picture! He commented how he could say something to the waitress in a nonthreatening way, to find out where the bacon went, when the waitress overheard him. “Oh, the picture is of the 12 ounce, not the ten ounce. Somebody else complained about that, and that is what I found out.” Oh, my. We were talking too loudly before dinner; the bacon fairies heard us, and figured what goes around should come around. What great memories to be had, though. It isn’t often you can tuck away two great salmon stories.

Something To Celebrate

I have to remember to pull the chicken out of the oven when I am done here. It is not baking, just sitting in the only free space I could find in our cluttered kitchen. But I am not complaining about my full larder- this means I can cook and bake things that make me cry with happiness.

On October 1, I took a pregnancy test, and the positive result was not a surprise. But it did give some legitimacy to the emotional rollercoaster I had been on for a few weeks. At one point, I was experiencing a panic attack similar to those in my postpartum days, and I wondered if it could be menopause. No, just a really intense pregnancy. I’m not feeling well physically, and that gives way to feeling down and depressed a lot of the time. As I go through my days, two thoughts are always at the forefront:

If I could just lay down…


When is the next time I can eat?

Because, anytime I am eating I feel good, much better than when I am not eating.

This has birthed (ha, ha) a new appreciation for good food, and I actually get pretty excited about certain meals these days. The other night, I was not up to cooking dinner, so Luke asked Sarah if she could make something. The plan was to have chicken pot pie, and I had all the ingredients for that, but it sounded gross to me. She decided to transform the ingredients into a chicken noodle soup, that further transformed into chicken and noodles when it turned out too thick. I put some in my mouth and immediately wanted to cry, it was so good. It tasted like Bob Evan’s, but better! And now I knew how to make this dish again, and feel good again, for much less money than Bob’s. It is for dinner tonight, too!

Making Mexican rice last night, and smelling it come out of the oven, aroused a similar teary reaction in myself, and I got to thinking. Man, there are some foods which are so, so good, and what a sweet mercy of the Lord to have this pregnancy be one where I can celebrate those foods and not have to avoid them. Here is a list of the ones I’m loving right now:

Chicken and noodles

Mexican rice


Chicken salad with grapes and walnuts

Tomato basil soup (the smell of basil sends me over the moon!)

Tuna salad (seriously, the saltiness is great)

Fried eggs on toast

Blue cheese dressing

Kettle chips

Peanut m&Ms

Anything with Sriracha mustard on it

This is only what I have discovered so far. I still have six months to eat to my heart’s content.

Disclaimer: This is not intended to promote overeating, during pregnancy or otherwise. I only gained five pounds in my first trimester, to my surprise, so I must be doing something right.

Please note: The real celebration, the real joy, comes from knowing our little 13th (16th) wonder is on the way. Though I feel crappy, it isn’t anything like other women experience during pregnancy. I’m just trying to put a fun spin on things while I’m feeling so low. Thank the Lord for good food; I might be much lower without it.

Be Anxious For Nothing

I was praying this morning that I could avoid being anxious about something, only to hear news about something else later today that caused more worry than that thing before. (I’ve been mentioning prayer often, but that shouldn’t give anyone the impression I’m very far along on this spiritual journey.)

Maybe the bigger thing WAS my answer, as if to say, you think that was a stressor? Try this. And remember that some people deal with even worse, every day.

The kids are at cross country practice. I’ve got the younger six with me at home. It is so pleasant outside right now, with a cool breeze and approaching clouds to take away the sun’s brightness and heat. The bugs are so loud you can make out little else. I love the sounds, and the smells, of fall. Anticipating a new season never disappoints.

Today is Aliyah’s birthday. She’s 17! I remember much about her birth, and bits from her childhood, but not as much as I would expect. We just live life with each other, day by day, and those early days get farther away. She’s a great young lady, in spite of my many sins raising her. This, of all things, should encourage me not to worry about tomorrow. For seventeen years now, and more, it has been out of my hands.



So said my soft spoken yet verbose dentist of the break in her front tooth. It didn’t go so far as the central tissue being involved, and didn’t damage the root. I almost burst into tears when I heard him say that word, as if it were just the right stroke of luck. No, it was God, working in mercy, as He so often does. I don’t know if my dentist is a believer in God; he serves enough pastors and sheep in our community not to be familiar with all that. I hope he was struck once again with the mysterious ways of Him tonight. That would truly be fortuitous.

Nice To Be Missed

It has been a rough few weeks, with illnesses, stresses, and trials. ¬†Julia has been a unique baby in that while she is sick with a cold, she refuses to nurse. This causes me to wonder each time if she is weaning. Up until now she would recover and get back to nursing, but this latest illness put nursing away for good. I’ve handled it okay, not having too much discomfort. But I am a little sad at the thought this might be the last baby and that was the last time I got to nurse. Last night when she got up with a stuffy nose, she leaned in close as if to say she missed me. I needed that. She is certainly old enough to move on, and on the move she is, walking a little farther each day.

Micah’s birthday is coming up on Thursday, and she told me she wants to have a party. “The only party I ever had was my baby shower, so I would like to have a party this year.” It struck me that this means she never has had a party (how did I miss this?), and the shower she refers to wasn’t so much as a celebration of her, but a condolence in the wake of losing her sister. I knew my family just wanted to do something special for Micah and me, though no one could give me what I really wanted- Micaiah. So this party void need be remedied! I asked her to write down ideas in her journal, and I’ll take a look at them today. We can make April 27th great again. We can.


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

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

Welcome Baby


Just when I have the opportunity to write, the words don’t want to come. I’m almost a day out from Julia’s arrival; at this time yesterday I was trying my darndest to get an epidural, not knowing that she would be born in only forty more minutes. That is the rough side of many hard experiences in life- we know not when they are to end, we want to give up… when the answer, the reward, is just around the corner. I didn’t mean to go all devotional on us, but it is true.

This had to be the shortest labor of any I have had. They didn’t even start the pit until 7:30, and she was born at 11:55. I think this is what I expected Elijah’s induction to be like, and when it instead became an all day affair, I decided I wouldn’t get my hopes up for Julia. I packed the Mitford book I was reading, my phone with Spanish app for practice, my iPod with music, trying to provide plenty to fill the hours (I thought). This did turn out to be a good tactic- I read for the majority of the time, then did my Spanish. In other labors I have avoided time-fillers, and I am not sure why. It definitely helped me keep distracted from the mounting pain.

She’s a sweetie. There are no words to describe how undeserving I am and how grateful I am of this gift from God. May He find me faithful.