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.

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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

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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.

 

Bella’s Last Day, Maybe

Luke came outside last week to find the corner of our shed torn up. Apparently Bella had been on the hunt for a rodent and followed it under there as far as she could go. That was definitely as far as Luke could go with this dog, and the thought of paying for any more of her shenanigans was too much. He navigated Craigslist that afternoon, and we had an interested buyer that evening. Wow. I didn’t realize anyone would be in the market for a dog like ours. But, she could make a good hunting dog, and would love a more farm-y property with lots of acreage to run. And she still has the ability to have puppies, which could be really cute if she was wed to another pointer.

This week ended up being a series of ups and downs with her, though, with yeses, then noes, from the potential buyers. She’d scratch at the window screen yet again and I would think, well, that might be the last time she does that, or maybe the next to last time. But today has promise. As soon as Luke gets home from work he is taking her to meet a family in Fredericktown. This could be the one. I hope so.

Goodbye, Bella. It’s been real.

Shower Thoughts and a Lovey Contest

 

This past Saturday, the girls and Carol threw me a surprise baby shower. I will not disclose how surprised I actually was, but I was impressed with the magnitude and extent of their planning. As I approached the church, I passed a man who looked a lot like my dad, driving what looked a lot like his Jeep. “Wow,” I thought to myself. “This is bigger than I realized.” And it was. Aspects like these I was grateful to have surprise me, and people there I had not seen in a while (I don’t get to see my parents all that often these days, either).

It was humbling to see these ladies want to come out and support my family like this. And the gifts were over the top. Julia will be well dressed! Best of all was feeling the love of my daughters and Carol for me. I didn’t deserve a word of the praises spoken of me that day, but it meant so much that they are with me in this life, that we are not on opposite poles, just trying to get along. So many parent/child relationships are that way, and stay that way into adulthood. Here I was trying to find more ways to show love to my older children, and my girls beat me to it on many levels. Oh, you guys! as Dory would put it.

So, a fun contest for us. Pictured above are all of the blankets or taggies Julia received at the shower. Whew! As she grows, she will narrow down and weed them out to reveal her one true soft lovey, and I want you to have a chance at guessing which one it will be. Click on the picture for a better view. The wait will be long; Elijah has only latched onto his blanky in the past few months. (I was horrified to see that a replacement Amy Coe cable blanket would be $40 on eBay, but Luke reminded me that we don’t have to go the replacement route, we simply offer him a different blanket if this one is reduced to tatters. Oh, yeah. That is much more cost effective. Thank you to my Lovey for pointing that out.) My money is on the red and green beauty made by a dear lady at church. I love the colors, and the back is a white plush like you would find on a stuffed lamb or bear. Love. My second choice would be the pink plush with the cow head. The horns are too much.

It is finally March, the time I can allow myself to nest and plan to my heart’s content. Feel free to join me.

Photo taken by Aliyah

New Year’s Blogging Eve

I’m sure others are having a more exciting and memorable last day of the year, but no one is celebrating it exactly like us. Let me set the scene…

Elijah and I are in our bedroom. He has successfully gone down for bed awake and unrocked for about two weeks now. Like Kenan before him, he was a ‘rock me to sleep and put me down real gentle’ baby for um, 17 months. I really don’t mind; obviously I allowed the habit to continue because it worked, but also because I will never get those nights back. An Elisabeth Eliot memoir I read told of how her mother was very strict about children, even babies going to bed when the parent dictated. One reason for this was to train the child to adjust to the parents’ schedule, not the other way around. “His parents may want an hour or two to themselves of an evening,” her mother said. That sounds good, and may be the right course, especially those late nights I wish I had trained these little boys. But I keep coming back to the thought of how short this time is, and how long and quiet my ’empty nest’ period will likely be. I’ll have plenty of evenings to myself then, Lord willing.

I am sitting in bed with the covers over my legs, typing at my portable keyboard that I plug into my phone. Being a pretty good typist isn’t good enough in the dark that E needs, so I’ve got my iPod light wedged between my chin and chest. A picture would be worth a thousand words in this case. Happy new year with a neck ache!

The older six are out playing games at the table with Luke. His mom got us a few decks of Dutch Blitz for Christmas, a ‘vonderful goot game’ of numbering cards that has become addictive for these volk. Luke deserves the time to unwind- he spent the dinner hour putting down grout on the master bathroom floor. Yay! The hope is that he can get the master bath functional, then get us three (L, E, and me)  out of the master bedroom, then get Carol moved in. Yay!

The younger four are playing mostly nicely together back between the kids’ rooms. I’ve only heard angry cries and a stampede out to the table once so far. We tried putting them to bed, but it didn’t really work; it is obvious there is a special celebration drawing near that they are being kept out of. So they have been allowed the extra play time, if they can keep it to a dull roar and not wake E.

A nursing home Luke’s grandma was at would have their party early on NYE, letting the ball drop at 9. Every year that goes by, I like that arrangement more and more. It is like turning your clocks back before you go to bed. You know it is going to happen; you don’t need to stay up and watch.

Easter Weekend

I wish I had a picture of Kenan picking up eggs at this morning’s hunt. As it is, I will have to fix the images in my mind of him pointing, then hopping like a bunny and bending over to pick it up, then doing it all again. Kinda like the Beast character from the movie when he has a snowball fight with Beauty. They are growing up so fast, changing so fast. Thank God for pictures, and for Aliyah who is always taking some.

Last night we had our annual foot washing. We started with a few hymns (we are just not singing these enough at church; anyone else notice this?), then read the passages about the Last Supper. Later we went around and shared what Easter means to us. I was pleased that even the younger ones had some great things to say.

Tomorrow is full, from Sonrise Breakfast to a family supper. I am looking forward to it. I didn’t get anything new to wear, thinking I would wear my purple dress I wore last year. It would have looked totally different, as last year I was sporting a pretty big belly in April. But this afternoon I was downstairs and found a sweater and skirt I think will look pretty good, handmedowns from my sister. The outfit should coordinate with others in the family, as I want to try to get some good pictures of us all.

Of course, nothing I have mentioned so far has anything to do with the true meaning of Easter. Thank You, Jesus, for giving Your LIFE for me. We started watching The Passion of the Christ last night and I noticed how even before Your trials, You likely were led away from Gethsemane tied up in such a way that it made it hard to walk upright. You were bowed low, even then, for me. Help me to die to my pride like You did.

 

We’ve prayed the prayer with no reply
Words float off into the night
Couldn’t cut our doubt with the sharpest knife
Oh, oh God forgive us

Silence isn’t comfortable
We want drive through peace and instant hope
Our shallow faith it has left us broke

[Chorus:]
Oh, oh God forgive us
Oh, oh God forgive us
Enslaved to our uncertainty
Help us with our unbelief
Oh God forgive us

Young and old, black and white
We’re rich and poor, there’s no divide
Hear the mighty, hear the powerless, singing

[Chorus]

With our white flag sailing in the night
Eyes pointed to the sky
Hands up and open wide, open wide

Oh, oh God forgive us
Enslaved to our uncertainty
Help us with our unbelief
Oh God forgive us
-For King and Country

Merry Christmas!

Every year it seems one Christmas carol stands out to me; instead of its words running over the floor of my brain, some actually dribble down through the cracks. Here is this year’s gem. “O hush the noise ye men of strife” has, ironically, become my new battle cry.

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold;
“Peace on the earth, good will to men,
From Heaven’s all gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever over its Babel sounds
The blessèd angels sing.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife
And hear the angels sing.

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophet-bards foretold,
When with the ever circling years
Comes round the age of gold;
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.

-Edmund Sears, Richard S. Willis

Christmas Vacation

Sweats and socks aren’t pretty, but they sure feel good at day’s end. Besides, with Luke gone for the evening, there is no one to impress. He took the girls to Zoo Lights with the youth group, and I don’t expect them back until late. Time enough to think over the events of the day. This morning’s Bible reading was in John. A few weeks ago, our pastor listed a ‘top ten blessings in Christ’, and as I copied them down, I noticed how many of the Scripture references were in John. The next evening at BSF, a lady shared how she was stuck in the airport and decided to read the book of John, and ended up reading the whole book while she waited for her flight. These two ‘coincidental’ mentions caused me to think I should read it, too. Right now in BSF’ Moses study we are going through Leviticus, and I am far enough along to take a break (I am needing one, to be honest). John seems like just the book to dive into. Yesterday’s verse that stuck out to me was John 1:7- He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that all might believe through him. I got to thinking about that being a little h- meaning it was John the Baptist through whom those will believe, and what a privilege he had. But then I saw the ‘all’ there, too- God never does anything halfway or halfhearted. His intention was for John to use all his God-given abilities to perform the tasks given to him, with the goal that all might believe in Christ through him. Wow. How little of my day do I spend doing, even thinking about doing, everything to His glory and that my actions might lead others to Christ. I need to be constantly reminded of my awesome privilege and responsibility to be a witness, first to my family, then to any others God puts in my path. So I was excited to sit down this morning and see what more there was to see in John chapter one. I didn’t have to look far- verse 16 is so rich. For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. Again, there is that thought of God being a superabundant God. My computer didn’t give me a spelling warning for that word, of which I am surprised, since it seems like a word you’d make up. But I am glad it is a word, because that is what He is like- He gives, and gives, and gives some more. Other verses that talk of fullness, and, incidentally, most use the word ‘all’, too, are: Ephesians 1:23; 3:19; 4:13; Colossians 1:19; 2:9. So good. I didn’t mean this to be a Bible study post, but it has been neat to see these things in His word. I have started looking for the word ‘all’ in John- found three times so far, just in the first part of chapter one. I started my Christmas puzzle today- it is one we got last year and I put together then. But three or four pieces were missing, and I collected it all in its bag and put it away, only to find some puzzle pieces in Adon’s bed later on. I put these with the puzzle, vowing to reassemble it this year, to see if they really do go with this puzzle and I do (miraculously) have all the pieces to it now. Maybe I will post a picture of the result. Last night we did something for the first time: went out to town and left Aliyah and Sarah in charge! A is 14, S is 12, soon to be 13 in February, and both are very mature and responsible. Still, I have dragged my feet at leaving so many at home with them just because sheer numbers bring such wild cards to the game. We did take Elijah, since he is nursing and probably the highest maintenance kid. The kids kept the phone, then we would stop at hot spots and email them to check up. It ended up being really fun and I didn’t get as nervous as I thought I would. The kids just sat and watched a movie, and the evening went really well for them. We’ll probably do it again soon. We were able to get some more Christmas gifts last night, and only have a few more things we want to get for the kids. Luke does the bulk of the Christmas shopping; when I realize how big a job this is, I am grateful all over again. But he says he loves doing it: thinking about what each child would like, and trying to make it happen. The gifts are all under a tarp in the basement. Older kids have been down to do laundry, but the gifts are in the dark part of the basement and Luke has given them all the lecture of how bad they’ll feel if they peek; then it won’t be a surprise on Christmas morning. I don’t know if they have or not. I used to peek as a kid- there was a weird closet that went under the stairs of our split level in the Plains, and my parents would hide gifts there. Other years I remember touching the presents all over to discern where the cardboard was and where the lumps/plastic wrap was, and after a year or two knew exactly what a Cabbage Patch Kid box felt like. I regret that, now, but at the time I remember still being pretty ecstatic at Christmas. Plans are to have my parents up to breakfast, then open presents. We have a Christmas Eve service at church, then a lasagna dinner, but other than this there are no other set plans.