An Intro And Welcome

A hearty hello to you my faithful readers and an extra howdy to all the new ones!! I’m happy to gird up my loins and write again. Praise God I’m feeling better than I did a couple months ago and heaps better than a year ago! My mental capacity is more stable, though still prone to sink below sea level if my ship is over loaded. But I’m blessed for the healing God has given!

I’ve had a stack of new subscribers in the last months since I took a break from writing. How they happened to come while I was on strike I’d like to know, so if you want to tell me who you are I’d be pleased to hear from you. And thank you for being here!

In light of that, I thought I would reintroduce myself… No, my name and height hasn’t changed and I’m not in the habit of sharing my weight. (Sorry if you were getting your hopes up.) If you want to know where in the world we live read my home page.

Quirks to describe me:

I love healthy food but not the effort it takes for those meals to appear on my table.

I love naps but not the time it takes out of my day. Most days it’s a ‘have to’ thing.  Some days I’m able to plow through without one which always feels like a great time saver. But then I drop in bed rather early so I don’t know which saves more time.

I love to declutter, organize, or decorate my house. Frequently I find myself caught in any of those without previous intentions.

I find it hard to make conversations with new  people or those you bout half know, but not enough to dive into heart stirring conversations. In my head I’m trying to think of what to say but as soon as anything comes out it sounds awkward. Sometimes the conversation goes better thanks to the other person’s contributions. Then I relax and enjoy visiting. I come away pleased with myself for being involved in good discussion with a perfect stranger.

I’m a task oriented person who loves to cross things off the list and it takes discipline to stop working. But no matter how fast or hard I work, the house never stays free of crumbs, dust, and detached hair. Nor do meals drop onto the table through the ceiling. Or clean laundry glide into the drawers. And so I keep working, hoping to- no, make that wishing to, someday reach the end of my mental ‘to do’ list. Maybe when I’m 89. 🤞

Now some words about my family. I don’t like bragging but neither do I want to bring up their faults. I’ll try to provide average information.

My good man Jerald is covered up being salesman and secretary for the local Mid-America Structures. (He switched from being a BigIron Sales Rep last winter.) He manages their dealer network plus has a couple lots where he sells sheds himself. He’s often meeting customers who want to look at or buy sheds. Him and I endeavor to make a weekly appointment with each other to nurture our relationship. Tuesday night is date night. It generally consists of early bedtime for the children so we can visit uninterrupted. I applaud him for being good at protecting our evening. These nights will get trampled quite easy in the roar of life, if not protected.

Reece is 3 and plays all boy- Its tractors, combines, boards, and tools. He doesn’t give slack for quietness aside from sleeping, for he is in the question stage of life. My most used answer is “I don’t know”. You would think a Mom in her 30s would know a few things but the amount of times I say “I dont know” in a day’s time is alarming. His questions are simple such as “who’s vehicle is that?” (Parked beside the road) “What’s that man doing?” (A random walking stranger) But how am I to know these answers? He digs out the bathroom scale to “check my feet” he says. (I wish feet were the only thing for me to check when I stand on it.) We rejoice he’s F I N A L L Y potty trained! I despaired the child would ever learn. We persevered, prayed about it, and had him pray about it and eventually he learned. Indeed, we praise God!

Josie is in a growth spurt. She requires extra food and lots of sleep.  At 7 years old she’s a social bug like her Daddy and school is her world! Saturdays are dreaded because it means a day at home. Often her first questions as soon as she’s home from school are: “Can I have a snack” and “what are we having for supper?” In this case an “I don’t know” is hardly acceptable even if it’s occasionally true. She’s matured to sleeping in her own basement bedroom and wakes with her alarm clock.  She enjoys reading in bed at night or when she wakes before her alarm. I’m grateful for the good collection of story books from back when I taught school or that her Dad had growing up. She polished off the Laura Ingalls series in surprisingly rapid succession.

And here’s a Summer family photo

Tell me, what makes you unique?

You can reach out to me at jeraldsflower@gmail.com, I would love to hear from you!

Gardens And Greenbeans

Mary Mary quite contrary, how does your garden grow?

Well, the picture  shows the answer for ours. There’s little produce found amidst the weeds. Jerald is the gardener around here and I help him sometimes with mulching or such. But this year something went koo koo to a greater extent than normal.  It’s an overall flop of about 90%. I wouldn’t be suprised at all if this was the norm if the garden was my responsibility. (Actually, there wouldn’t be a garden if I had to do it- I’d patronize Farmers Markets.) Because of bad experiences like this year, gardens depress me. And some people say gardens are therapy?! Life. Growth. They feel so close to nature.  I see weeds, bugs, probable death of plants and imaginative snakes. I feel close to dirt.  Occasionally there’s actual food to eat.

The poor green beans produced a couple pans of beans instead of buckets like usual. We ate corn once and decided we can buy corn on the cob that’s much better, so we never tried it again.  The cucumbers gave a measly crop of 3 or 4 tiny ones that were actually eatable. The melons look promising but the coons have been feasting on them well before their time, so we have yet to see if we’ll get to enjoy any.  The tomatoes finally started ripening last week.  (Way behind times I know, but I’m just grateful to even be getting any!) But that could change too.  It’s either feast or famine on zucchini and this year we hit famine. Not only did the zucchini perish but the summer squash died right along with it. I’m holding my breath for this volunteer summer squash at the edge of the garden. Don’t ask me how it got there.  Just maybe I’ll get a few to eat fresh?! That off colored leaf there worries me.

As far as I know we have a good crop of potatoes because we haven’t dug them yet.  The sweet potatoes look green and viney so I have my hopes up about them too.

If you have a good crop of green beans and want a slick way to can them, try out oven canning! Here’s how I did mine last summer.

Fill quart jars with your clean and snapped beans. Add: 1 teaspoon salt and 1 Tablespoon lemon juice. Bottled is fine.  Fill about half full with water, wipe rims and screw on lids and rings.

Place cookie or bread racks in the oven on top of your oven racks. This gives stability to the jars. Do not place jars on a baking sheet! The jars will need even heat circulating  throughout. 

Fill your oven with jars. Turn to 270*. Begin timing after oven has preheated. Bake for 3 hours. Turn oven off and let the jars inside until they’re mostly cooled. I like to do it in the evening then I can turn the oven off at bedtime and by morning the jars are cool enough to remove. (They may still be warm but will be sealed)

This method can be used for pints but reduce the baking time to 2 ¹/² hours.

I love the simplicity of oven canning!  No need to run that pressure cooker all day long,  getting only 7 quarts canned at a time. You can chuck your oven full of jars and have them all done in one whack! And no pressure to keep you on edge either!

For more oven canning recipes read here.

May you feel blessed that your garden is hardly as bad as mine and if it is, know your not alone! 

I’m not a gardener, so my  flowers should be admired. Only one germanium has died so far! 😜 And we love our front porch at day’s end.

On a different note, I will be taking a break from writing for some time.  Because of my mental health the last two months, we are trying to cut out any possible stress factors. I enjoy writing and don’t like to count it as a stressor, but my hubby thinks otherwise.

I do have a guest post coming in the next month, so will still be posting that. 

Thank you for reading and understanding!

Sew Basic Cape Dress Patterns

Before I met Sew Basic dress patterns, I had an old pattern that I used back when I was in my twenties. As any Mommy knows, going through pregnancies & nursing can change your body a lot. I would just guess around on my pattern, adding or cutting off here and there, or exchanging my regular bodice for a nursing pattern when I needed it. I had to play around with it until I got it perfected. But then if you loose weight after baby, or perhaps can’t loose that weight, your previous dresses may or may not fit. I did a lot of changing around and adjusting with many dresses I sewed! Seams didn’t always match up either. Also, with my old pattern I would use the bodice piece for the cape- I  had to remember to fold in the side, & not cut as wide, but then cut wider at the top, making my own guesstimated slant cut. (Actually not as complicated as it sounds) But its another thing I love about the Sew Basic patterns- they have a separate cape pattern included!

Around 2 years ago I finally tried out the Sew Basic Cape dress patterns for myself and absolutely love them! Yay what preciseness and yay what beautiful seams!! I’ve used the little girl dress patterns quite awhile for Josie. It’s super easy to just order the next size whenever she needs it! Or for myself, I have lost over 30 pounds in the last year, and it was so easy to simply order a smaller pattern!

Sew Basic dress patterns were designed by a Mennonite lady, Michelle Oberholtzer. She has an Estsy shop where she sells a wide variety of sizes.  From little girls dresses all the way up to women’s size 48. They are just as the name suggests- basic and simple.  I love the design and easy to understand pattern! These patterns are also available at many Mennonite or Amish fabric stores.  Mt. Hope Fabrics & Gift Shoppe in Mt. Hope Ohio carries these patterns as well as a beautiful selection of fabrics. They have prompt shipping services too! You can look them up online or call them at 330-674-5292.

I haven’t used these yet but Michelle has added a nursing bodice to her line of patterns. What a brilliant idea! Now when you need to have nursing access you can simply use the nursing bodice in your size!

The dress patterns come printed on large paper, which you will then need to cut out  yourself. It comes with a sheet of step by step instructions on how to sew the dress as well as a sheet of pattern adjustment how to’s if needed. She thought of everything. And these are beautiful patterns!

The patterns all come with a variety of options. You can do a fitted or gathered sleeve. You can do a fitted, gathered or elastic waist. There’s different skirt patterns clearly marked with the style.

To figure out your dress size, you simply measure your bust and that number will give you the size of dress. If your between two sizes, you choose the one you think would fit you best.  Example, when I first started with these patterns I ordered size 42 even though I measured a little smaller. (I hate tight dresses and would rather err on the side of having it a bit loose than too snug.) It fit well for me, although I made some minor adjustments to my liking- I felt the sleeve hole was a little snug, so I cut the pattern a tad deeper. The bodice tends to be more short waisted, but that’s not a problem because I just cut the bodice pattern a little longer.  If your really short waisted, there’s the option of folding up the bodice to make it shorter.

Bodice & cape patterns

The neck line in these patterns tend to be a bit large, so you may want to keep that in mind. Just don’t cut quite as deep and don’t sew the neck line as deep either. Snipping the inside of the neck almost to the seam line really helps the neck to lay neatly.

When I first started with this pattern, I had  used the fitted skirt pattern which only has darts in it. It fit nice but later I decided it was not ample enough. So now I use the gathered skirt, cutting it just a tick smaller and then I have plenty of extra to put in two good sized pleats- approximately 2″ each.  I really like my dresses this way. It provides fullness without the bulkiness of a bunch of gathers. I feel it’s important to have enough fullness in the skirt for modesty and only a dart or very small pleat will not give you that fullness.

The skirt pattern I use. I have the side folded in where I cut it smaller.

I don’t care for puffy, gathered sleeves, so I use the fitted pattern. Although its fitted, there’s enough extra that it doesn’t fit tightly over my arms. That’s something I would  caution against; don’t have your fitted sleeve so tight that it fits snugly over your arms. It can easily happen. Tight sleeves aren’t modest just as tight skirts aren’t either.

My sleeve pattern

These adult dress patterns have a lot of darts. I don’t like the time it takes to sew them in, but it truly is worth it! (And it really don’t take long to sew them in, it’s just that I’m always in a hurry and I don’t like the extra step.) The darts in the bodice makes for a neat fit. And I especially think the darts in the back cape, helps so the cape doesn’t awkwardly stand away from the bodice. I don’t utilize the darts in the front cape but instead, I cut it wider to allow for pulling in gathers. Without an elastic waist, I feel gathers really help with adding fullness in the cape, so that it doesn’t outline what shouldn’t be seen.

One of my favorite dresses using the Sew Basic pattern.

These dress patterns are great for anyone but especially for someone learning to sew because they’re so simple. If you’re looking for a quality pattern for yourself or daughters, I would urge you to try one of these! I love to sew and what’s more rewarding than turning out a neatly sewed dress? It always makes me feel accomplished!

I like to organize my patterns in plastic sleeves in this large folder. Using masking tape & a sharpie makes it easy to see what style pattern I’m looking for. 

Two Lovers In The Big City

The morning dawned with a dewy mist of splendor. The sun’s brilliant rays matched the beaming smiles of the bride and groom. Could it really be true that today they were saying “I Do”?!! A perfect dream come true!  Well, not perfect but pretty close.

Eleven years later and we’re still a perfect pair- perfectly imperfect. But how love grows and changes along the way! It certainly does change and at times, quite rapidly. Only a week before this, I was feeling irritated at Jerald and full of despair. Weeping with tears and discombobulated thoughts, I meditated seriously how we probably need marriage counseling. How I prayed! And also prayed I would feel better by the next week. Sure enough, God answered my prayer! When I was feeling emotionally stable again and mentioned all this the next week, Jerald laughed at me and shared his wisdom.

Last year when we celebrated our 10 year anniversary, we enjoyed a few days in Gulf Shores which you can read about here. We took the children along. While we thoroughly enjoyed the beach, I actually enjoyed this year much more since it was only us two and the travel was minimal- I’m not a traveler!

This year we celebrated a few weeks post anniversary. On June 10, we woke the children, finished up a few things and headed south to drop off the children with Steve and Karla. What a blessing to have such trusty caregivers! The children were too excited about staying there to be sad they weren’t going with us.

Then we were off to Kansas City with no younguns in the back seats. A delightful drive indeed. No squabbles and none of this “he hit me” “It’s my turn” type of talk. No deadlines or appointments to meet. And what pleasure to chatter uninterrupted to the one I love most! (Uninterrupted being the key word here.) We discussed a wide variety of ideas and possibilities. I saw a jet low in the sky and nearly burst out with “look at the airplane”! But caught myself just in time.

Now we’re simple country folk not up with city life. We got into downtown looking for a place to park. Spending money on something as simple as parking wasn’t what we were here for. Seeing nearly vacant lots, I piped up “There’s a spot”! “Or there”! I kept yelping out suggestions to my knowledgeable husband. Advice freely given, you know. Every answer came back the same. “You can’t get in there”. “You can’t get in there”. Finally we tried one but had no clue what to do to lift the parking bar. So we hit the ‘help’ button. “Can I help you”? the lady answered. “Yeah how do we get in here” Jerald asked. “That’s for employees”. “Oh”. The wife should have kept her mouth closed, because I think, under such noisy influence, the husband gave in to trying out a lot. “But we’re not in a hurry,  we have nothing planned,” we assured ourselves. We put it in reverse, drive back up the way we had just come and resigned to the parking garages.

I hate parking garages. They give me claustrophobia.  Scene 1- All I can think of is the concrete floors crashing down beneath thousands of tons of vehicles. Of course this would happen while I’m looking for a parking space or walking out to find my vehicle. I can imagine myself instantly crushed to bits. Or partially crushed but yet alive, yelling in tortureous pain to be delivered. Scene 2- Just by looking at those dingy low ceilings reminds me of being stuck in prison or in some vacant dungeon, by kidnappers. I have no experience in either but my brain is creative in imaginary scenarios.  I take deep breaths when I’m out from underneath the despairing possibilities.

The depressing outlook. Doesn’t it give you the creeps?!

After the uneventful walk out from the parking garage and some deep breathing of fresh air, we amble hand in hand, to Panara Bread, which is located inside a massive building of some sort. Eating lunch outside gave such a touristy feel.

Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

We walked up the streets to visit the Federal Reserve Bank to learn about Federal reserve notes. These are the kind of notes everyone loves because they’re worth so much! Watching the inspection of bills was informative and super interesting. The machine is hand loaded with bills. The machine checks each bill for counterfeits, graffiti, or tears. When one is discovered, it automatically shreds it and a brand new bill gets put into place. This way the exact dollar amount stays the same. The robots moving pallets of cash was intriguing. The realization of the billions of dollars so close to you and yet so far, was fascinating! One full pallet of $100 dollar bills is worth 64 million!!! If the vault is full of 100 dollar bills it would equal more than 138 billion!!!! And we were right outside the window of these millions of dollars!! The thought was enriching.

There were bags of free money available which held approximately $83. We grabbed one but unfortunately it was unusable. Otherwise we would tour this place more often.
Here’s how you increase your face value.
This block of gold weighs 28lbs and is worth over 600,000.

After touring that rich place, we trotted back to that parking garage, climbed in our vehicle and drove out completely unscathed. We headed over to Crossroads Hotel and checked in….at the grand hour of 3:00 pm. But we didn’t have any schedules except relax and enjoy each other! I kept exclaiming how relaxing it is without the care of the children. Normally when we’re at a motel, we’ve been traveling. Often it’s nigh bedtime and I keep trying to collect my brain, figuring out who should use the bathroom and get cleaned up first, how to keep noise levels to a minimum, cut out the bed jumping or how exactly to occupy the ones who aren’t getting ready for bed.

But there was none of this since my hubby is not in the habit of bed jumping or hollering. We could simply lounge around in the unique, old fashioned hotel. The room was completely adorable and the glass, walk in shower luxurious. We headed out around 5 to eat supper and do some shopping.

To be sure, we are not in the habit of patronizing such luxurious hotels. This was a splurge! But we had points on our credit card that could only be used for travel. And besides, Anniversaries are special to celebrate! Every year together is truly a gift from God!!

Crossroads Hotel
Isn’t this cute?!
We’d give this place a 5 star review
His and Hers
Red Lobster was happy to feed us supper. The Baja bowl I had was drool worthy. And don’t ask how much peach tea we drank! 😋

We shopped a variety of stores that evening looking for decorative bed pillows. It’s something I’ve never spent money for. But recently we redid our bedframe which resulted in a large open space on the wall. Just what we wanted- because minimalism is so peaceful. We had agreed to get some large pillows to add color. Indecisive me, could never conclude on this alone. Thus it was the perfect time to shop together. And we did. I was unsure of the ones I found. After he gave his opinion, I put those back and we headed over to Target. We found some we both liked but I was still reluctant. I didn’t want to spend so much just for pillows! We made the purchase but concluded to stop at an At Home the next day just to make sure we weren’t missing something better. I was convicted I nearly exhausted my long-suffering hubby’s forbearance levels. It was a good thing we had no deadlines. Or maybe not?!

Saturday morning we had breakfast delivered to our room.

After our leisurely morning we headed towards home, stopping along the way at a couple stores and then also ran into town wide yard sales. But it was past bargain time since it was Saturday afternoon. We made a purchase at the first sale. Otherwise we got a good walk in and that’s it.

And sure enough At Home was worth the stop. They have aisles and aisles of pillows! We found the perfect 3rd pillow to add color to go along with the one pale green wall in our room. I have plants in clay pots which go along with this terra cotta color. I’ve learned to love my houseplants! The ‘throw’ you see under the pillows were cheapies- two beach towels.

The only thing that disappointed me about our trip was that I started feeling ill Friday evening. Sore throat and slightly achey. I didn’t sleep well at all which was a shame in such comfortable conditions with no children to wake us. Unfortunately I felt sick on Saturday but managed to drag myself around. We picked up the children and arrived home about 4 pm. It was wonderful to be home again- all together ❤️ Our trip wasn’t perfect, but pretty close.

Home: the best hotel ever!

On Eating Out And Pie

Spring hobbled in hesitantly this year with so  much huffing and puffing it sounded like it would blow the house down! The weather kept throwing cold spells at us with only a sprinkling of mature warmth. But finally. At the very end of May- Yay!!! Yay for bright sunshine, blue skies, the scent of fresh cut grass and pleasing temperatures! And its an all time triple yay for NO wind!! I’m confident its been worse this year. I don’t want to complain, but can I squeak out one negative comment? I promise to also include positivity. I love fresh air but I only wish it wouldn’t move at such an energetic speed!  When we have a day with sunshine and zero wind, it’s in order to pause and meditate on the fact. And for sure, thank the Creator of the wind that there’s no wind! 

With the arrival of Summer, we must eat out. At least, if you ask my children. And I doubt yours are much different than mine.  Eating out, but not in town. Eat in the country. In Nature. In the shade. In the grass. My children absolutely love to eat outside and I do too. It’s simply enjoyable to eat food outdoors plus it cuts down on tableside crumbs, which makes it a win win! It’s my belief that it takes minimal effort to take the food and accessories outdoors.

Here’s the method I use: First off, just cook whatever you have on your menu. You don’t have to grill or have picnic foods. A casserole or pan of pizza is fine and often more simple than grilled hot dogs or hamburgers with all the toppings.

I keep a beautiful Hearth & Hand magnolia tray that’s extra large, within easy reach. This was a Mother’s Day gift from my husband one year and I love and use it so much! On this tray I pile our food, utensils, plates, cups etc. Utilize every possible space. On top of the plates I’ll set the casserole dish or a bowl of food. Stack the cups together.  On the very top I throw on the tablecloth. There might be a pitcher of tea and maybe one or two other items to carry separately but my big tray holds 90% of things. 

This tray comes from Target
We ate meatballs, fried potatoes and broccoli cauliflower salad this time

  Then you just haul it outside. You’ll need the tablecloth first so that’s why you place it on top of everything else. Throw that on the picnic table (or grass), then set out the plates and food and voila! You’ve got an outdoor meal without making a dozen trips back and forth!

We love our grain bin gazebo Jerald built last Fall! If you’d like info on how to construct one yourself, you can read about it here

This tray method may not work as well if you have a large family.  But you could still use the same idea except you’ll need to solicit help to carry out the serving bowls of food, because obviously it won’t all fit on one tray.

Sometimes even for lunch, I’ll fix the children’s plates with leftovers then pile that along with their water cups on a cookie sheet and take it out to where they’re playing.  It’s fun for them besides it helps keep the kitchen neat! On a rainy day recently we even had an indoor picnic in their tent under the bunk bed.

When it’s only our family, there’s several reasons I prefer using real dishes and utensils for picnic eating above disposable. 1) It doesn’t blow away in the energetic air. 2) Especially for children who need stability in more ways than one, real plates are much more practical to eat off of. I use a malmac type. 3) The heavier dishes help hold down the tablecloth in the energetic air.

When I’m hosting large groups of people I do like disposables for easy cleanup.  But I’d still recommend having a couple malmac bowls if you have small children in attendance.  But if you don’t live in Nebraska this may not be necessary. 

Now I’m coming at you with that piece of pie-  a refreshing orange pie which tastes like Summer in one bite. Not hard to make. Perfect for eating out.

Mandarin Orange Pie

1 ¹/² c water- heat to boiling

5 T. Clear jel

1/2 c water

3/4 c sugar

1 pkg. orange koolaid

2 15 oz. cans Mandarin Oranges, drained.

While water heats, whisk together clear jel and half cup water. Then stir in the sugar and kool-aid. Pour this mixture into the boiling water and cook until thick. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Stir in the oranges. Chill.

White filling: Beat together 4 oz softened creamcheese & 1/2 cup powdered sugar. Last beat in about 3/4 of an 8 oz cool whip.

In a baked pie shell or graham cracker crust, spread a layer of the white filling then top with the orange pie filling. Last, spread with remaining cool whip. Garnish as desired. This can be served immediately or chilled for a few hours. This will make one large pie.

This week, take time to eat outside. That is, if the air isn’t too energetic.

Homage To My Mother

You never fully realize a Mother’s work and influence until you are one yourself. 

My beautiful Mother at her 75th birthday this past February.

She married my Dad at 24 years old. He came from a vastly different background than she.  My dad says with certainty it was the Lord which allowed her to love him.  He was, as he likes to say, a Tennessee hillbilly and she a beautiful Beachy girl. I can only imagine her adjustments after marriage, yet I never heard her enlarge on that. 

She birthed 8 children in 13 years, of whom I am the youngest.  Was she rundown and weary through yet another pregnancy? Did she pray for grace to mother another child when she was already busy to the brim? For by this time she was also the minister’s wife. Did she complain when her husband was gone to yet another church related meeting? Did she feel overwhelmed when Dad was heading out of state for another week of revival meetings?  I do not know.  I have never heard her complain about such things.

When I was growing up, our church had no Sunday host family, as many do now.  There were two others in the ministry but with my Dad now also being the Bishop, it seemed people took for granted we would invite any visitors. So it was many a Sunday found us hosting impromptu visitors for lunch.  My Mom didn’t go to church without being prepared for lunch.  We were a large family as it was, thus we needed to have a meal in waiting. She would often prepare extra but many were the times we still added to that food and accomadeted visitors. One Summer in particular we had visitors almost non stop.  I grew weary of company yet again!! Use hospitality one to another without grudging. (1 Peter 4:9) was an extremely convicting verse that I didn’t care to ponder. I know Mom struggled some with that but I don’t remember her grumbling around about it every weekend either. Once, Dad went through our guest book counting the number of folks we hosted in our home. In a 3 year span we had approximately 1,800 people!!! He still has those statistics downpat today- I just asked him for this post.

One Summer I vividly remember another incident. By now I was about 12- 14 years old. My Dad was gone to Cuba helping establish a small church there.  This was a communists country, but he risked his life to further the gospel. This exact trip he was baptizing and holding communion there.  They did it at night for less chance of discovery.

One night while he was gone, Mom had a terrifying experience. Her bedroom was downstairs in our old house and we children all slept upstairs.  She woke about midnight to see her bedroom door slowly opening. (The door naturally swung open unless propped.  She had a habit of propping the door open at a narrow angle with a slipper, incase any of we children needed something, we could come on in.) As she saw it opening she supposed it to be one of us. So she called out “Marc. Marc”. She thought it’s just my oldest brother getting up for work and needing something. Until she saw the clock showing almost midnight.  There was no answer to her name calling, and the door stopped opening. Indeed, fear struck deep!! She began praying fervently, wondering what she should do! She lay there unmoving, feeling hot with terror. After a minute or two she got a sudden urge to get up, slam that door shut and bolted it! It was an old door with a knob that didn’t lock, but had a sliding lock further up.

She sat back on the bed and decided she will be locked up until morning. ”Certainly there is no going back to sleep,” she thought. Then, ever so lightly, she saw that door knob wiggle!!! She prayed urgently for safety and wisdom to know what to do.  By now a half hour or more had elapsed. She continued in fervant prayer and kept wondering what to do.  She had heard no footsteps or any noise. After about 3 hours, she felt at peace and decided she will open that door, quickly turn on the lights and check all around.  There was not a person in sight, and definitely no evidence to be seen.  She turned back to her bedroom, now shut and locked the door again and slept well the remainder of the night.  

As we children appeared the next morning, she questioned all of us. “Were any of you down here last night?!” Nobody had been. We had windows open that night as we often did. We checked for footprints or any evidence. There were none. After that night, my brothers took turns sleeping on the living room couch until Dad returned home. The event remained a mystery, until Dad came home.  The date and hours of that happening were discovered to be the very hours that Dad, miles away in Cuba, was involved in intense church work. Intense because of the knowledge that they could be caught and imprisoned at any minute. Him and the other bishop had went to pick up the converts, held the baptism ceremony and communion service in a dilapidated building, then drove the converts back home again. A 3 hour event. Satan was fiercely upset at Dad’s activity that night.  Dad was kept safe and so was Mom, but we feel Satan tormented her because she was wife to this man of God.

There are hundreds of sacrifices of a Minister’s wife and do not think they are exempt from troubles, temptation, or torment. God bless every faithful preacher’s wife!! There is much, much behind the scene work, tears, and prayers in supporting her minister husband! Appericiate your ministers and their wives!

The years we lived in Alabama, my Mom also served by sewing coverings for many of our church ladies. She enjoyed it and fitted many hair buns. When there was an interest, she also taught others how to sew them. Sewing coverings is no simple task.

When my Mom is the cook, no one will be exempt from numerous attempts offering more food. “Can I get you anything else? Are you sure you don’t want more?!” I mean, she feeds you a cooked breakfast and asks if anyone wants cold cereal yet! It makes me chuckle just thinking of that. When I was still at home, I’d get petrurbed at all the food and variety she wanted to serve especially when having company. “Shouldn’t we add applesauce yet? Oh we need to put bread on! Let’s have butterscotch and pumpkin pie incase someone don’t like one or the other they have a choice.When having company, she’d often worry whether she would have enough food. I’d be like “Mom just chill! You never run out of food. It’ll be just fine!” But now for some reason when I host, I keenly remind myself of my Mother. And to this day, when I’m at Mom’s house, she has way more food on the table than actually necessary. If you’ve eaten at Mom’s house you know what I mean.

At nearly 72 years old, with divers health ailments, my Dad no longer serves in the ministry. Diabetes, heart disease, and Parkinsons leaves him quite feeble. But Mom faithfully cares for him year after year. She rarely leaves him for more than an hour or two. He’s not able to travel much anymore, so neither does she. I know she’d love to visit her children and grandchildren more often but she sacrifices that desire and remains faithful to her marriage vows, ”in health or in sickness.” They celebrated 51 years together in February of this year.

Mom and Dad and their devoted puppy Paula.

Not only has Mom been a supportive godly wife in big things but even in the small things like honoring his food choices. And believe me when I say he doesn’t eat too healthy. He also enjoys coffee, Lipton tea, and his diet soda. She doesn’t drink any of these herself but still she serves him. And doesn’t harass him of his choices.

Why am I so blessed to have a godly Mother? And to still have her with us at 75 years old and in relatively good health?! Many do not have that privilege. Many have said goodbye to their Mother, perhaps even at a young age. I keenly remember my Mother’s sister Bertha King, who died when her children were very young. My cousins were close to my age. But they grew up without their Mother and I still have mine. Why?

Maybe you are facing your first Mother’s Day without your precious Mother. Maybe your Mom didn’t care much about you and you mostly have sad memories. Maybe your Mother didn’t want you and were raised by another Mother. Maybe you are a Mother but you never got to Mother your darling baby because you said goodbye before you ever met. Maybe you are praying you can be a Mother but God hasn’t answered your prayer.

My heart goes out to all those with grieving hearts today. May God bestow His grace upon you! I don’t have answers why God allows these seemingly unfair things of life. I only know that God would not be God if we could understand His ways.

Treasure your Mother while you have her.

The Days That Were

Many moons ago, I was a young gal living in the South.  Oh the energy I had and the mounds of work I would attack in a day’s time! Hot, sticky nights playing volleyball with my youth group; the air pungent with the scent of wild onions, and always sweet tea around. Ah the carefree days of one’s youth! And I fondly remember the days that were.

My bestie & I pose by my VW back in the day.

Then I was dating- how could life improve? Those sparkly moments of a budding relationship. Then dreaming of a life together…. Ah those beautiful days! And I fondly remember the days that were.

Dating/2010

Then we were married- I moved far from home. But how thrilling to now make this house our home!  Life now as one was sweet and unique; sharing love, forgiving faults. Ah the sweetness of our young bridal days! And I fondly remember the days that were.

Just married/2011

The most darling little face, made us parents one day.  We’re a real Mommy and Daddy with a daughter of our own! Yet we tremble in awe of this precious soul thrust into our care! Life begins as a family of three, and really, how much better could life be?! Those cute baby moments, those fun little ‘firsts’… And I fondly remember the days that were.

Ok. I got a lil carried away with photos and partiality here… but she was so chubby & adorable!!! I still miss this patch of daffodils we had close to our house in Indiana! 😞

Four years later we welcomed with joy- a darling, red haired, sweet baby boy. Big sister, little brother- we’re now a family of four! Ah those precious baby days! And I fondly remember the days that were.

2019. One blonde. One red. Precious!!

The day is drizzly, windy and gray- I’ve not accomplished much this ordinary day. My little boy wrecks havoc in orderly spaces. There are days he plays with things not even toys. But those mischievous, bright blue eyes- ! His humor and love cover a multitude of faults, still, he wears me out many a day. Will he ever tell me he needs to go potty?! Will he ever learn to control his hot headed temper?! Will it really be 25 years until I’m caught up with my work?! Will my daughter ever learn to work cheerfully with nary a grumbling word?! Will she ever learn to turn her clothes right side out, before throwing them in the hamper?! Oh, wait, these are the days that are!! It won’t be long now and I will fondly remember them.

But in fond rememberance of the days of yore, I should remember that most beauty also had sorrow. Among the flowers, there were thorns. And yet I remember the beauty.

In recent days, this thought came upon me: We tend to remember the good in days gone by and forget the sorrow. Yet in the present, we can be so aware of the thorns in our path that we miss the good. Today, remember the beautiful good that’s in your life!

I have a plaque hanging by my kitchen stove with these words:

You will never have this day with your children again. Tomorrow they will be a little older than they were today. Today is a gift. Just breathe, notice, study their faces and little feet. Pay attention. Relish the charms of the present. Enjoy today. It will be over before you know it.” – Anonymous

I know how tough it is to relish the charms amongst the chaos. How difficult it is to notice their little feet. Unless, of course, they’ve stumbled upon one of those thorns along the path. Accompanied by deafining howls.

This smile & red hair just gets me! And to think that I’m his Mommy! 😘🥰

Parent’s Appreciation Banquet

The end of February we were completing our year of being sponsors for our church youth group. Before our term was up, we thought it would be nice for the youth to do a Parent’s Appreciation Banquet. So in this post I’ll be sharing what we did for that event.

At first I couldn’t conclude on centerpiece decor. I love to decorate and when something really strikes me, I know because of the thrill it gives me. I thought & thought but nothing gave me the thrill.

Then early one morning sleep eluded me long before I wanted.  When you can’t sleep you start to think before you even think about thinking. My brain piled up with a thought jam.  Since I was already thinking, I began thinking of potential centerpieces for the Banquet.  I prayed a little prayer asking God to help me know what I should/could do for centerpieces.  In a couple minutes tulips entered my thoughts. “Yes, pink tulips! With bird figurines, eggs and baskets!” It was an instant thrill, and that was settled. “Thank you God!” Of course I wanted to ask the other committee ladies what they thought of the idea before I forged ahead.

The baskets I found at Target but spray painted them white.  The eggs and bird figurines I bought at At Home. The spanish moss I just picked up at Hobby Lobby. Between me and the other committee lady, we had enough white pitchers to use that night.

We decided to use glass dishes, cloth napkins and goblets for class. My friend Kathryn who was assisting me in this banquet planning,  had globe string lights used at her daughter’s wedding.  She generously allowed us to string them up over the tables for that night.  These were our main lighting which gave a very cozy, romantic hue!

  Now on to the menu…. We wanted something elegant and delicious.  We discussed food options and concluded on the following menu: grilled porkloin, twice baked potatoes,  greenbeans with bacon, crunchy romaine salad, dinner rolls, cheesecakes and layer cakes. For drinks we had Welch’s Sparkling Rose- a Valentines exclusive and coffee. For appetizer: chocolate covered strawberries, meat & cheese cups and a pink punch.

Each couple shared a Sparkling Rose drink. The mini cutting boards were a take home gift for each couple.

I found the cutting boards at Hobby Lobby and the mini jam jars we ordered from Amazon.

Dinner in progress
Credits to my man for smoking and grilling the porkloin.
Twice baked potatoes
Appetizer table

We had the youth do various jobs besides serving their parent’s their food. We had 2 guys do valet parking for the couples. We had 2 girls right inside the door to take they’re coats and hang them up. Next we had a greeter girl who directed them to the auditorium where a young married couple served them appetizers. They stayed in there until we were completely ready. Then we had someone from each family go out to the auditorium and escort their parents to their seats.

The coat girls

After an opening and prayer, the youth filed through to fix their parent’s plates. They were to keep tabs on their drinks or anything they needed all evening. Except for dessert we had self serve so they could pick and choose from the variety.

There were a few more cakes that weren’t put out yet and sadly, I failed to get a picture with all of them on the table.

We had some activities afterwards that were fun for everyone:

We had the boys needing to locate their mother’s hand
And then the girls needed to locate their father’s foot!

These activities made for lots of laughter! The girls got the correct feet but 2 of the guys were very unsure which hand was their mother’s and ended up choosing the wrong one!

Following are photos of the youth with their parents.  There was one couple who was not able to get there until later, hence the two empty place settings in the last picture.

L- R. Everett and Ruth Bender. Katie and Galen Steria. Norman and Kathryn Farmwald.
L-R. Karla and Steve Nisly. Michael and Lois Charlton.
L-R. William and Elizabeth Plank. Margaret and Mervin Miller.
L-R. Fred and Drusilla Halteman. Ken and Sue Miller.

I believe everyone enjoyed the evening and it’s good for the youth to think about how much their parents really do and have done for them. It’s also a great way to honor their parents. I hope this will give someone inspiration to plan an Appreciation Banquet for people you love. ❤️

Guest Post- Things Teachers Wish Parents Knew

Sometimes it’s good to see someone else’s perspective on an issue. The following article was compiled by Jerald’s brother Jesse along with the help of his co-teachers at Zion Christian School.

  • Take a legitimate interest in what your teacher is doing in the classroom. While teachers appreciate kind words like “You’re doing a great job” or “Appreciate it”, ask questions about what they are teaching or techniques that are being used to help students learn better. Anyone that is enjoying his job and is doing it as well as he can, loves to talk about it; this is no different in teaching. It can also be a wake-up call to teachers that are struggling with motivation in teaching well!
  • Don’t treat your school/teacher as a daycare/babysitter. Teachers appreciate the trust that parents have in them but there is nothing more frustrating to teachers when they feel like they are the only ones working with a child’s bad habits. If a child has bad habits at school, they usually have bad habits at home as well. If you think that it’s up to the teacher to fix an issue alone since it’s taking place at school, there probably won’t be any success on the teacher’s end of it. Yes, the teacher is responsible for them while at school and can be a huge influence on them, but the success or failure of that child is ultimately the parent’s responsibility. Teachers cannot and should not try to be the parent. Our job is to help in their growing process.
  • When you are approached about a problem with your child, follow up in a couple days and then again in a week or two to see if your child is improving. Don’t expect the teacher to always make the first move in communication when discussing where your child is at in his work, behavior, etc. Check in with the teacher at random times throughout the year to see how your child is doing. Your child is only 1 of possibly 20 in a classroom!
  • If you contact the teacher about a problem, do it after school so the teacher has the evening to think about it. Contacting them in the morning before school starts can make a very difficult start to the day and keeps the teacher from being able to focus on the task at hand.
  • What is discussed at home more than likely will find its way to school through the mouth of a youngster. This, of course, gives teachers a peek into homes which can be very encouraging but equally demoralizing. It doesn’t mean that we believe everything a child says at school, but bad attitudes at home towards the school or teachers will eventually express itself in a child’s behavior at school. Problems will develop quickly in a child when he sees that his parents have an issue with the teacher or if his parents do not have a good relationship amongst themselves. Most times, a young child’s heroes are Dad, Mom, and teacher, and when any of those are not a working unit, it causes a child lots of confusion which leads to insecurity. Insecurity creates another whole set of issues at school in that it will cause drama in the classroom and drag innocent students into the middle of it. Disagreements should never be discussed in front of a student. A child should not have to be forced with the decision of “Who do I listen to, Dad, Mom, or teacher?” Keep in mind that this applies to teachers as well, so it is a two-way street.
  • When discussing your child with the teacher, make sure he is not around. And NEVER do it when other classmates are around. It’s not respectful to your child and it’s very awkward for the teacher.  
  • Offer to come do an art project or some type of skills training some afternoon. This can be for both dads and moms. Some examples could be painting, cake/cupcake decorating, making butter, trapping demonstrations, wiring, or anything in which you have a talent or enjoy doing. Depending on the event, you can have boys do one thing and girls another. My experience has been that children love this, especially if it’s their parents.  
  • Your child needs plenty of sleep to function properly at school. It can be very taxing to teachers when they are trying to teach a new concept and a student is half throttle. When he doesn’t understand it, he becomes grouchy and will even cry at times. A healthy diet is also important. Too much sugar, candy, and junk foods make the brain foggy. There is a noticeable difference in children who bring vegetables, fruits, and other healthy things in their lunch versus those who open their lunch box and find it packed with prepackaged foods. Start off their day with a healthy breakfast. Cereal may be the handiest thing for you to feed them, but most cereals are loaded with sugar and other junk. Be aware of how much screen time your child has. Excess screen time can hinder a child’s development. Teachers that regularly work with students who have excess screen time can always tell!
  • Give your child responsibilities at home. Make sure they do them without a lot of prodding and that they do them well. A child should know how to obey voice commands and obey the first time they are told to do something. The voice of a teacher is so important at school. If a student doesn’t learn to listen well and follow instructions, school will be more difficult, especially as they progress into harder concepts. 
  • Make sure your child knows how to tie his shoes before going to school. It is also very helpful if they know how to put on their coats, caps, boots, etc. when going outside for recess. If your child doesn’t know how to properly use the restroom without assistance when entering kindergarten (assuming he’s not handicapped), you should probably reconsider whether he’s ready for school!
  • Just because your child is an angel at home, doesn’t mean he is an angel at school. Remember, the last thing a teacher enjoys doing is calling or texting you with a report that your child has a problem. So don’t shrug it off by saying, “Jonny is such a good boy at home; I find it hard to believe that he has that problem.” It’s rather amusing that sometimes parents will believe their little “angel” more than they will an adult! 
  • “Helicopter” moms (They can be dads too but are usually moms) are a hindrance to a child’s development. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a parent that hovers over their child and never lets them get out of their nest. Many problems would never rear their head if Mr./Mrs. “Helicopter” just stayed calm and trusted the teacher to oversee “Jonny” and “Sue” while they are at school. This does not contradict the earlier points on working together as a parent/teacher team. There’s a balance in this; some things at school you need to just let the teacher take care of. I have seen numerous times throughout my years of teaching (whether in my classroom or another classroom) where a student was more relaxed around his teacher than around his own dad or mom and that is very unfortunate! That is what a “helicopter” parent will do to a child. 
  • Visit your children’s classrooms during school hours. They LOVE it because it shows them that you care about their lives. Remember, this is their life 9 months out of the year. It also shows that you value a Christian education, and it will carry over to your children in their perspective of school. It is one of the best ways to help them understand the blessing of a Christian education. Encourage them to keep going, even if the lessons seem difficult to you. Teach them at home that doing their best is important, not just a passing grade where they can slide into the next grade! Dads, if your wife is bringing hot lunch and it works for you to stop in to eat as well, you will make your child’s day! 
  • Exercise much caution in taking your child out of school. Vacations should be taken when school vacations are given. It’s disruptive to their learning and brings an increase to the teacher’s workload. A lot of teachers may not be local, and parents would be appalled if the teacher just went on vacation whenever they felt like it.
  • Teach your children at an early age that the heart that gave a gift is more important than the gift itself. A teacher that has 20+ students cannot afford buying expensive Christmas and birthday gifts. A lot of Mennonite schools do not pay for Art projects, so money comes out of a teacher’s pocket there too depending on what it is. I have heard of Mennonite children who thought that a gift that they received at school wasn’t enough. I’m sure Dad and Mom would cringe if they knew their child said that but maybe not spending extravagantly on them at home would help that situation! This is not a pity party for teachers. A teacher teaches because he/she enjoys it, not because of the salary!
  • While teachers enjoy cards, small gifts, snacks, lunches, school visits, etc. throughout the year as appreciation tokens, support and communication are so much more a gift!  
L-R Malinda Kemp, Ruby Stoll, Norma Troyer, Ross Rhodes, Jan Schrock, Jevon Schrock, Erica Eshleman, Jesse Rhodes, Judith Miller, Bethany Wagler, Lisa Stoll, Janelle Graber

This compilation of ideas is brought to you by the teachers of Zion Christian School who bring a combined 64 years of teaching in 12 different schools. ZCS has 119 students in grades K-8 and is a patron supported school located in Daviess County, IN. Comments of appreciation can be sent to Jesse Rhodes at imanindianaguy@gmail.com

Of Ambitions And Reality

Who’s wadded up over their New Year’s goals? Maybe I am. Maybe I’m not.

For years I never got a bang out of setting goals or making resolutions. The reason? Simply because I despise a broken track record. I like perfection; whatever the goal, I don’t want it messed up. Not one day missed or forgotten. No exceptions. When I mess up I get a mental black mark. I hate black marks.

So pessimistic me (I’d like to say practical me) predicts I’ll mess up months before another year ends. My goal is to save stress; don’t set New Year’s goals.

I have changed in this area to a certain extent. I acknowledge it’s a perfect time to analyze one’s life. Especially our spiritual life. Asking ourselves questions such as, “Am I growing stronger in my trust in God? Are there relationships I should be doing more to build up? Am I taking time to teach my children about God? What can I do to enhance our marriage?”

And it’s perfectly good and well to set some goals for the year ahead, be it physical or spiritual. If it pleases you, go right ahead and spell out your plans. Or, as some like to do, figure out your word for the year.

Diet and exercise plans are great ambitions for many. Putting organization dreams into action is a noteworthy goal. Limiting/disciplining ourselves on social media use is a very wise goal as well. Overall I lean more towards evaluating my spiritual life and looking at ways to grow. Yet at the same time, I don’t like to have such mountainous ambitions that it feels kin to impossible.

It’s also good to reflect on our past year, if we can reflect in a positive way. Don’t commiserate on how rough you’ve had it- it’s easier to do that but it’s not edifying. Focus on God’s faithfulness in supplying daily grace. When we felt we couldn’t take another step, God provided. When we prayed long and hard, God eventually answered. He gave us wisdom for that hard decision. Quietly, faithfully, He whispers grace upon our days. Reflect on that and know He will be there next year too.

The last number of years I’ve endeavored very small goals. About 4 years ago I aspired to memorize a small portion of scripture each month. The last 2 months of that year I spent refreshing myself on the earlier passages. (So I didn’t attain my goal 100% but at least I tried!) Since that year, some of those passages have become extra special to me.

This last year I went even smaller and tried one verse a week. For easy memorization, I posted it at my kitchen sink. Here again, I attained about 85 to 90% of the time. Maybe the mark is gray instead of black.

On this next year, I’m still swirling ideas. I’m late with the program I know; the New Year is already upon us! But December was just flat out hectic for me so I haven’t wrote up anything. Just thoughts to discuss with myself or my husband. I’m planning to do some of both. Perhaps next year I can fill you in on my goals. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t!

Most importantly, let’s be committed to stay strong in the Lord. Small, daily choices and duties make up our lives. It’s quite unlikely I’ll make groundbreaking headlines in the news this year. Can I be quietly steadfast in the mundane?

Therefore my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 15:58

In a small saucepan, throw in 4 or 5 cinnamon sticks and those orange peelings from your breakfast citrus. Fill with water, and simmer on your stove all day. The aroma will fill your house with a spicy, cozy scent as you welcome the Year ahead!