Monday, August 31, 2009

Get a "Lives"...

I'm sure my son, Ben (the Classicist) would be impressed if he knew I was spending some time contemplating Plutarch today. Plutarch, of course, wrote The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans: a collection of stories and comparisons of great Romans and Greeks.

A friend on my classical education loop asked today why she should consider adding the reading of some Plutarch to her already busy homeschool. I answered off the top of my head that I thought reading Plutarch was the next thing to do after reading mythology: he tells us of the virtues of great men from early Western culture. Reading Plutarch helps us to understand Western Civilization. I plan to use some Plutarch in my composition class this year, as a matter of fact.

Later, I discovered that George Grant says it even better (no surprise about that!) in his essay on "Why Read Plutarch?".
In part, Dr. Grant says:
It was the primary textbook of the Greek and Roman world for generations of students throughout Christendom. It was the historical source for many of Shakespeare's finest plays. It forever set the pattern for the biographical arts. It was the inspiration for many of the ideas of the American political pioneers--evidenced by liberal quotations in the articles, speeches, and sermons of Samuel Adams, Peyton Randolph, Patrick Henry, Samuel Davies, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Henry Lee, John Jay, George Mason, Gouverneur Morris, and Thomas Jefferson. Indeed, after the Bible it was the most frequently referenced source during the Founding era. For these and a myriad of other reasons, Plutarch's Lives is one of the most vital and consequential of all the ancient classics...

...But why [is reading Plutarch so important]?

First, a classic worth reading is one that has influenced our own day to some extraordinary degree. If we are to understand why people think as they do, act as they do, or feel as they do; if we are to comprehend the foundations of our institutions, the tenacity of our traditions, or the precariousness of our policies then we need to have substantive background information. Plutarch's Lives has been the primary lens through which western intellectuals, educators, artists, musicians, dramatists, and historians have viewed the Greco-Roman world. If for no other reason than to grasp the significance of that influence, the Lives is vitally important. But the influence goes even beyond that, extending to the form and function of all the "Social Sciences." Plutarch's Lives is seminal.

Second, good books should make us think. Great books are those that provoke us to think in great ways. The Lives certainly fills the bill in that regard. For hundreds of years, great minds have wrestled with Plutarch's ideas and ideals. And that wrestling has given rise to many of our greatest freedoms. It was only as the American founders for instance, struggled with the ideas of a benevolent dictatorship like that of Lycurgus, or of a military tyranny like that of Sulla, or of a fractious anarchy like that of Antony--all of which were presented in the pages of the Lives--that they were able to hammer out their peculiar notions of liberty.

Third, good books should be artistically beautiful. Great books should epitomize glorious art. As Leland Ryken has asserted, "Any encyclopedia can give us facts but art gives us truth." In other words, a book that gets its facts wrong--as Plutarch undoubtedly does--can nevertheless sometimes lead us to the truth. There is no question that Plutarch's prose styling and his literary construction is brilliantly artistic. We can learn much from his pioneering efforts.

The whole essay is very convincing. So, Gentle Readers, as Dr. Grant says, "Get a Lives..."

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Applebutter Adventure

My Mom and I had a lovely mother-daughter time on Saturday. Our goal was to recreate the apple butter my mother remembers her mother making. My grandmother died when she was just 50, my mother was just 25, and I was just 5. So, without a recipe, and only my mother's memories to go on, we set about our adventure. Not only did we make some delicious apple butter that seems similar to my Grandmother's, but it afforded us a day filled with family stories and memories. It was lovely!

I have been blessed to have my mother with me for these first 49 years of life. I am very grateful for her, and hope I never take time with her for granted!

And here is the recipe we came up with:

Grandma's Apple Butter

Combine in a large, heavy kettle:
5 quarts applesauce
5 Cups white sugar
5 Cups brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
Bring to a boil, then simmer under low heat for several hours, until mixture thickens, and when a spoonful is placed on a saucer, no water ring appears around the edges (yesterday this took us about 8 hours!) Stir occasionally. Fill sterilized jars, seal with lids and rings, and process in water bath for 10 minutes.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A woman's function is laborious because it is gigantic

It's that time of the year: parents are taking their precious children and leaving them at college; some of the younger set will return to schools, and some will be homeschooled by their moms. All of these activities seem to contain built-in mom-angst: How will my child fare? Have I done everything I could to prepare them for this? How can the time fly so quickly? How can I let them go with so much yet to say and do?

This is the time of year that Moms (and Dads and others) need to remember that our children belong, not to us, but to the Lord. He is their God, and will rule and guide them or allow them to follow their own way as He sees fit. We need to be reminded to let them go.

And yet, being a mom is a very important job, not because their salvation depends upon us, but because God has given us a high and privileged calling to train them up in the way they should go. We should work tirelessly and vigorously to raise our children, not because they will benefit from it (which they will) but because it is our calling before God. When we stand before God at the end of time, He will be interested in how we used our privileges.

So this fall, Gentle Readers, as the mothers among you get back into the swing of things, remember the importance of your calling, remember the preciousness of your charges, and remember the greatness of our God.

How can it be a large career to tell other people's children about [arithmetic], and a small career to tell one's own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman's function is laborious because it is gigantic, not because it is minute.
~G.K. Chesterton

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Of walking and words...

This morning as I went on my morning walk, I took the path that runs along White Rock Canyon, overlooking the Rio Grande. It is a beautiful, if rocky, walk, and for the hour-plus that I trod the trail, I listened to the end of a P. G. Wodehouse book of short stories, entitled, My Man Jeeves. The thing about Wodehouse is his amazing ability to capture the exactly perfect word to paint a whole picture of a scene. He is ironic and funny and a master of the human condition. He can make the word "Chappy" replete with a thousand nuanced thoughts. I laughed aloud, and marveled at his use of the language.

My friend Cindy is marveling about words today, too. She has been imbibing Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet, and says in part:
After watching Hamlet last night, I found myself wondering if Shakespeare was a mere mortal. The words, the beautiful words. How did he do that? How did he fill every single line with meaning and substance and pictures and ideas? Were the Elizabethans the final height of civilization? Why in 500 years is the closest thing to a William Shakespeare, PG Wodehouse?

Why, indeed.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Vegetables, too...

Today, we turned to some vegetable garden produce. On the left you will see something on the order of 7 or 8 quarts of tomato puree. This is still cooking down on my stove, and will be canned after dinner. On the right is a bowl of steaming hot beets, which got sliced, pickled, and made into 7 pints of pickled beets. My pickled beets recipes is delicious: it was given to me by the mom of my best friend in high school. If you ever care to make them, the recipe is below. You can make the syrup and used already-canned beats, too, if you wish. However, using fresh-from-0the-garden beets is the best!

Ma St. Clair's Pickled Beets
~Boil, then cool and peel enough beets to make 12-14 cups of sliced beets.
~Mix together the syrup ingredients: 2 Cups water, 2 Cups white vinegar, 2 Cups sugar, 1 TBS cinnamon, 1 tsp cloves, 1 tsp allspice.
~Add the beets to the syrup, and simmer about 15 minutes, until at a low boil.
~Can in prepared jars. This will make about 7 pints.

Oh, and we didn't ignore apples today. We made another 5 pints of caramel apple jam, and an apple strudel-crisp for dessert tonight!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A few apple recipes...

I have had a few requests for recipes, so here you go:

Caramel Apple Jam (pictured above): the recipe can be found here. It has the delicious flavor of apple butter, but with nice chunks of fruit. The only alteration I make is that I add 8 cups of chopped fruit instead of 6. It still firms up great, and we enjoy the fruit!

Gwen's Pork Chops: My sister's recipe: so easy and so yummy! In a little oil in a skillet, brown some boneless pork loin chops that have been seasoned with either salt and pepper, or mace. Use one chop per person, unless you desire left-overs. Into the skillet, layer one peeled, sliced apple per person, and slices of sweet onion (or my friend Tina does this in her crock pot). Sprinkle a little brown sugar and cinnamon over the apples and onions. Add enough water to the pan to just barely coat the very bottom of the pan. Place the chops on top of the apples, cover, and cook until apples and onions are tender. The apples and onions form a delicious sauce for over the pork.

Pie Crust: Pie crust is an individual thing. I was not a baker when we got married, and pie was my dh's favorite food. IO worked for years, trying everyone's fool-proof recipe for crust, and eventually found this one. It may not be the keeper for you, but it was for me!
For one pie crust (double for double-crust):
1 Cup unbleached flour
1/3 cup Crisco (I don't buy any other brand. This is the only one that makes it turn out well)
A pinch of salt
Cold or iced water (the cold seems to make a difference)
~Mix flour and salt. Cut in shortening with pastry blender. Add water (the original recipe calls for 2-4 TBS, but I'm sure I use more than that in my dry climate). Roll on a floured surface, and you're ready to go!

Apple Pie filling:
6-8 cups peeled, sliced tart apples
3/4 cup (or less) sugar
1/4 cup flour
2-3 tsp. cinnamon
1/4-1/2 tsp nutmeg
I also like to sprinkle cinnamon sugar on the top of my pies when baking.

Applesauce: (Pictured below) The big thing with applesauce is a Victorio strainer. If you are trying to make applesauce in your food mill or processor, you are working way too hard! With the strainer, here is all you do:
~Wash and quarter apples, removing stems and any bruises or bad spots (yes, you leave the cores in, and the peels on!)
~Steam the apples until they are very soft. Strain and reserve the liquid from the streaming.
~Let the apples cool.
~Put the apples through the victorio strainer: the sauce comes out one way, and the peels, cores, etc. come out the other way.
~I add about 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup sugar per quart of sauce, depending on how tart the apples are, and enough of the reserved liquid to make it a nice coinsistency. Heat to boiling, and either can or freeze or eat. Yum!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Rejoicing in my domestic life...

This is what our kitchen looks like when we are in apple pie mode (not to be confused with Apple Pie A La Mode...) Here, Marilyn is peeling, slicing, and mixing, and I, when I am not taking a photograph, am rolling out dough. And then I help with the apples, and we get it done. This photo is from last Saturday, and we completed 6 pies in a couple of hours: one to eat, and 5 for the freezer for future eating.

Gentle Readers, many of you have questioned my sanity where this whole apple business is concerned. Why, you ask, do I continue to make apple things by the truckload instead of getting rid of some of these apples? Well, the short answer is that over the last 29 years of being a wife and mother and homemaker, I have learned the pleasures of domestic life. It took me many years to learn to enjoy work of this sort, but as I submitted myself to God, and learned to look for His blessings in the circumstances of my life, I learned to rejoice in plenty (even in plenty of apples). I learned that if my calling is to be a homemaker, I should work as hard at that as I would at anything else, and that there can be great joy in making things of beauty and use (and delicious flavors) out of otherwise wasted resources. I love knowing that for the next year I can be a generous with the fruit of my hands (literally!), generous to my family, to my friends, and to strangers. I will be better ready to be hospitable, and flex with God's schedule of appointments for my life.

So, Gentle Readers, don't feel sorry for me as I slave-away in my kitchen. I am rejoicing (most of the time, anyway!) And, the labor results in tangible results like the one below. It's a good thing to work with ones hands.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Cleaving to Christ

“Almighty God, Thou hast in the Gospel set clearly before us with how many and how dreadful sins we are afflicted. This Thou hast done in order that we may learn to be displeased with ourselves, and so lie down, confounded and despairing, in our sins and in the guilt contracted from them. Thus we may yet know the true glory that Thou hast offered to us, and we can be made partakers of it if we embrace with true faith Thine only begotten Son, in whom perfect righteousness and salvation has been offered us. Grant we may so cleave to Christ and receive his benefits in faith that we may be able, not only before the world, but also against Satan and against death itself, to glory in Thee, for Thou alone are just and wise and strong. May Thy strength, Thy justice, Thy wisdom shine upon us in our iniquity and ignorance and weakness, until at last we may reach that fullness of glory laid up for us in heaven through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.”
~A prayer of John Calvin, as recorded by Dr. D. Calhoun

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A rising star...

Last night we had the privilege of attending a performance by our young friend, Nicky Rood. She performed mostly original pieces, and did a fabulous job. She performed in a lovely space at Vanessie in Santa Fe, and we enjoyed listening in the company of friends. Nicky is on her way to Berklee College of Music in Boston, having just completed high school. Take a listen to this, found on Youtube:

Watch for this girl's name. I feel confident she is going places. And her heart is sweet...may God preserve her sweet heart in the brutal music business!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sweetener of life...

The last few days, through the technological wonders of Facebook and Google searches, I have reconnected with several old friends. Not that they are all that old, though I guess they are all as old as me, but they were my friends in high school. What a joy this has been! I have a few friends from that time period that I've never lost track of, which is also a great blessing (to me,'ll have to ask them if being my friend for 30+ years has been a blessing to them! I can be tough on my friends...)

So today I am grateful for rediscovering some friends I thought lost. What a delight!

Friendship! mysterious cement of the soul!
Sweetener of life! and solder of society!
~Robert Blair, The Grave. Part i. Line 88.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Traviata in SF

Monday was our last opera performance of the Santa Fe season. Here I am, at our tailgate picnic. The menu was cold chicken and vegetable salad with red wine-dijon dressing, home-made focaccia bread with Parmesan and rosemary, fresh sliced, sugared peaches, and home-made apple tarts for dessert. Yum! And the sunset on the the mountains to boot.

We saw La Traviata with Natalie Dessay singing Violetta. I used to want to change voices with Kathleen Battle. Now I want to change voices with Natalie Dessay. She gave not only an amazing acting performance (who would have thought she could really make you feel sympathy for Violetta!?) but her singing was superb. I understand many say she was not a real "Violetta", but for me, hearing her nuanced vocal performance was a treat after much soprano screeching, if you know what I mean. The two male principles (sung by Saimir Pirgu and Laurent Naouri) also had fabulous voices. And the orchestra was wonderful as always, large and melodramatic in typical Verdi fashion.

True to opera, of course, the story line of Traviata is a bit sordid. Verdi and librettist F. M. Piave attempt to introduce a little redemption in the name of religion at the end, but it was too little too late. And they didn't resist the temptation to make the one noble character apologize for his own good sensibilities. Contrary to the text, religion is never able to bring lasting comfort to us: only a relationship with Christ can do that. Still, it was a night of gorgeous music!

Below is a concert version of one of the arias from la Traviatta sung by Ms. Dessay. It should be enough to entrance any of you who have never seen her perform. She is marvelous.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hip-hooray for Elsa

Our sweet dil Elsa has just gotten a new job. As most of you know, Elsa is married to our son, Ben, a PhD student at Indiana University. Elsa is such a wonderfully supportive wife, and working so hard and responsibly to keep their little boat afloat while Ben is raking in the money as a teaching assistant. She stocked shelves for a while at Kroger. And then she has spent the last year-plus as a secretary in the graduate school of business. They didn't really know how to use her amazing mind and energy, but she was a blessing to them, I am sure! Now, she will be shifting to administrative assistant in the department of ballet and opera in the school of music. In addition to a slight raise, she gets two season tickets to the opera! This should be a better fit for Elsa, with more responsibility and less time to fill, and she should get to work closely with her sister, Mariel, who is a music librarian at IU. And Elsa was a flute performance major (along with her English major) so this area should hold more interest for her. This has been a matter of prayer for many of us, and it is wonderful to see God answer our prayers so graciously.

Congratulations, Elsa! We know you will be a blessing to the department, and you continue to be a blessing to Ben and to us!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Wretched man that I am...

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
~Hebrews 12:1-4

This was the text of the sermon we heard this morning. (It will eventually be posted here.) I found it challenging on several fronts.

How often do I run as if I am alone in this marathon we call life? Do I notice the "great cloud of witnesses" before the throne who have gone before me? Usually I am too self-focused for that, I'm afraid.

How often do I work for endurance, rather than running helter-skelter in my day-to-day life, looking for my own comfort, and without the focus necessary to prepare for the marathon. I don't look for the joy set before me: I am consumed by the discomfort that would distract me.

How often do I consider Christ: Him who died for me as a guiltless sacrifice? I am much busier considering my own wants and plans.

The neglect of these things are why I grow weary and faint-hearted. I find myself, like Paul, exclaiming, "Wretched man that I am, who can save me from this body of death?" And with Paul, I can only answer: Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25) It is all His grace.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Apples, apples, everywhere...

Today my sister Gwen and her two daughters, Hallie and Atalie, came to help with apples. The girls and uncle Dave picked a couple more bushels of apples, leaving MORE still on our one little tree. And Gwen, Marilyn and I worked like madwomen in the kitchen. We made three pies, 13 quarts of applesauce, and a fresh apple cake. Most of the produce, along with a bag of apples, went home with Gwen. It was a fun day of working together and teaching Gwen and the girls about making and canning applesauce!

And for those of you interested (I DO intend this as sharing our blessings and the joy of our apple abundance, not as bragging) that brings my total apple numbers this year to 21 pies, 52 quarts of applesauce, 6 fresh apple cakes, 1 apple strudel, and 5 apple tarts. And not only are there still apples on the tree, my garage refrigerator is FULL of apples, and my hearth in the living room is covered with bags and boxes of apples. What a lovely time to be able to share God's bounty with others!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Redemptive tweets and other thoughts...

After reading this excellent reflection this morning (thanks, TC), I am pondering my twitter posts of late. Dr. Sills write in part:
Someone has said that humility is not thinking less of yourself, just thinking of yourself less. Enter Twitter and Facebook. Humility used to guide believers to wait and let others praise them and not do it themselves. The heroes of yesteryear who reluctantly received the crowd’s adulation have been replaced with shameless personal promoters who peddle their self-made brand to as many as possible by all means possible—under the guise of social networking. I will admit that these folks seem to be larger than life superstars with all the news that’s fit to tweet, if it’s all true, but seriously, all this genuflecting is making my pants baggy...
...Remember Jesus? I have tried to imagine Jesus tweeting and sending Facebook updates like many that I see.

“Just healed a blind man.”

“Lunching today with chief tax man in Jericho @Zacchaeus.”

“Walked on water this evening, disciples amazed I could calm a storm. lol.”

“Fed 5,000 men and their families with a boy’s lunch today.”

“Washed the disciples feet. Being intentional to exercise and model humility.”

“Check my reviews from the crowds last Friday. #Jerusalem”...

This makes me wonder if my posting of my apple productivity is bragging. How do we redeem this medium, anyway? Do I honor God in my tweeting?

In the latest version of the Mars Hill Audio Journal (I highly recommend subscribing if you haven't, and they have a very affordable downloadable version now!) there is a fascinating interview with Makoto Fujimura. One of the topics included his thoughts on blogging, and how those taking part in blogging now have an opportunity to mold the media. That is a redemptive thought.

How do I redeem my twitter and blog posts to reflect Christ and encourage others to follow him instead of just me? Something good to ponder.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Pilot who steers my ship...

“Seeing that a Pilot steers the ship in which we sail, who will never allow us to perish, even in the midst of shipwrecks, there is no reason why our minds should be overwhelmed with fear and overcome with weariness”
~ John Calvin

A friend of mine posted this quote this morning. It seems so very applicable to me today. She posted it in regards to teaching: teaching not from a place of fear and anxiety, but from a place of peace and rest. That is a great application.

I've been applying it to apples: having the blessing of abundant apples, and making decisions about how to use such a blessing without being weary or overwhelmed.

I see my tendency to forget the practical fact that God will provide and care for me. I act as if it's not true, in little things like apples, or bigger things like relationships and cancer. I act like I'm an atheist, with no hope outside of myself.

Oh, to remember my Pilot, capable and powerful as He is, and live as if I am resting in Him...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mid-week miscellany

Some thoughts on marriage: Here is a bit of good, practical advice for those of us in the estate of wedded bliss. Though we've been married less than half the time of the couple mentioned here, it resonates with me! And Al Mohler has some interesting thoughts about the changes our culture is pushing for in the area of marriage. And this piece by Ross Douthat in the NY Times is excellent, too.
Some thoughts on babies: This is an amazing new technology to help doctors and others visualize what's going on in the womb. And they are little works of art! Be sure and flip through the photos! Here are some thoughts on population control from a carbon-footprint perspective. And here are some excellent thoughts from a doctor about handling the painful death of a child in-utero. Well worth reading and considering.
Just for fun this week: Fun sandwiches, anyone? These little works of art would delight your children...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Fun fellowship

We enjoyed lots of fellowship this weekend. On Saturday, we enjoyed having some missionary friends of our join us for lunch. We have supported them in several spots around South America, and now they are doing prison ministry in Colorado. They are a joy and a treasure to us. ANd they do such brave and sacrificial work for the Lord that they always make me feel like a spiritual coward by comparison. They are dear and amazing people, with tender hearts for God's people.

And on Sunday after church, this group gathered around our table: Marilyn on the left, Dave on the right, Our dear friend from NYC, Kirk Van der Swaagh, at the far end, half-hidden from by the flowers, and on the left side, Kris and Jacob Hollis, and Kendall and Drew Hollis on the right side. We have crossed paths many times with the Van der Swaaghs: first, their daughter and son took online classes with our boys, and participated in Schola Summer Academy in Idaho with us (and that is where we met Kirk, too.) Then Hannah was in Elsa's class at Hillsdale, and we had the privilege of running into her there, and even hearing her play. And additionally, the matriarch of the clan, Barbara, has been a virtual friend via my classical education loop for many years. That brings in the Hollis connection: Kris also knows Barbara via that loop.

It was fun hearing about life in Greenwich Village, and talking about our quirky life here in Los Alamos.

What a blessing the fellowship of God's family is!

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Domestic beauty

Today we had the pleasure of friends for lunch: long-time, long-distance friends. What a pleasure to sit and visit... and we get to enjoy them next weekend as well. And more long-distance and local friends are coming for lunch tomorrow. What a blessing friendship is!

Today was an apple processing day, in-between company. There is something so very pleasing about harvesting, processing, and storing up...storing up not to hoard, but storing up for the winter, storing up so you can be generous to others, being good stewards fo the wealth God has bestowed.

I probably should have an apple photo. But I am still so enamored of the RMNP photos, that I want to keep using them. And now, to add to the beauty from our wonderful trip, I have the beauty of freshly made pies and cakes in my freezer, and jars of lovely applesauce! Domestic beauty is no less beautiful because it is domestic!

Friday, August 07, 2009

Today in Santa Fe

I had a day in Santa Fe with my dh. Here are a few of the highlights:
~Deck blocks weigh about 50 pounds a piece. I should not try to lift them.
~We found a great restaurant for lunch named Joe's Diner (intersection of Zia and Rodeo Roads). Dave had a beef brisket quesadilla, and I had a grilled ham, brie and peach sandwich. Both were fabulous!
~When you have a coupon to get an extra 20% off everything you buy at Kohls, and everything you buy is already 50-80% off, you can save some real money.
~When ordering something at a Vietnamese restaurant that comes with rice paper, look for the bowl of hot water. That is where you are supposed to put the rice paper before you wrap other things in it and eat it. (Good food at the Saigon Cafe on Cordova for dinner!)
~After you've been married for 29 years, a day of shopping and eating adventure is perhaps more delightful than it was 29 years ago.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

I give myself...

Betty Scott married her Moody Bible College sweetheart, John Stam, in China in 1933. They served as bold lights for Christ during the full-swing of the Chinese Communist Revolution. In 1934, several weeks after their first child, a daughter named Helen, was born, the Communists surprised them at the gate of their compound. They were marched through the streets of the neighboring town in their underwear, ridiculed, and finally they were both beheaded in the public square. But what about baby Helen? 30 hours after her parents were executed; a Chinese pastor found Helen tucked into a sleeping bag, along with ten precious dollars. That amount of money was enough to get Helen out of China and to safety.

What can make a mother leave her precious baby in a sleeping bag as she marched off to certain death? She knew God loved Helen even more than she did. And she knew God was her heavenly father, too. Betty’s famous prayer is a model for us. She wrote:

“Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept Thy will for my life. I give myself, my time, my all utterly to Thee to be Tine forever. Fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit. Use me as Thou wilt, send me where Thou wilt, work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost, now and forever.”

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Health Update

Today was my routine every-three-month visit to the oncologist office. Everything seems to be going well. I am due for scans again, and will get a breast MRI in September sometime. Though she still would like to convince me that the tamoxifen I'm taking is not responsible for my side-effects, I managed to talk her out of sending me to a rheumatologist for my aches and pains. I have a feeling they will go away when I stop taking tamoxifen... I am learning to be firm with her, and I think that will help me! She pointed out that I am over a year done on my five-year course of tamoxifen, for which I am grateful. Additionally, she pointed out that I am still not a year out from either my radiation treatments or my last surgery. So recovery is still happening.

My sweet husband came with me to my appointment, just because he knew I'd love the distraction. We then had a "date": we went to Subway for lunch, and did a little grocery shopping together. And yes, after 29 years of marriage, that is a real date! I can't think of anyone I'd rather walk around the grocery store with.

Thanks for your continued prayers and concern, Gentle Readers! I am very grateful for a return of energy and a feeling of well-being. God has been very good to me.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Iron sharpening iron

Iron sharpens iron,
and one man sharpens another.
~Proverbs 27:17

I have been blessed with a plethora of wonderful friends: friends who love me unconditionally, tell me the truth even when it hurts, and put up with me when I am a pain. I know that my sanctification has been furthered by the blessing of godly friends who are willing to live out their faith before me in transparency, and love me even when I am transparent with them.

Today I spent the day with friends, and am much richer because of it!

Monday, August 03, 2009

The Hanson Clan

The celebration of my parents' 50th wedding anniversary was really a blast! We met at the YMCA of the Rockies in beautiful Estes Park, and enjoyed a myriad of activities, ate our meals together in the cafeteria, had a block of rustic hotel-type rooms all together, and even had a little meeting house at our disposal (it was named Kansas, and led to a plethora of puns about "not being in Kansas anymore.) On Saturday night, we played a wheel-of-fortune-type game: my parents competed against each other and the puzzles had both a category and a series of blanks to answer. These were all family memories and inside jokes, and my parents had to explain each one for the benefit of the grandkids. It was great fun! We also spent some time thanking Mom and Dad for their blessings in our lives. Below are some group shots from the last morning, and below them, the reflection that was read to Mom and Dad on Saturday night.

(Above) Jeni and Matt, having a good time.

The Browns: Kirk, Atalie, Hallie (behind), and Gwen

The Hansons: Marsha, Rachel, Jeff, Myka

The Finnegan contingent: Nikki and Tim, Chris and Dave

And here is the whole clan!

The Fruit of Fifty Years

In 1956, a young man began dating a young woman.

He was a senior in high school, an athlete, and a friend of her big brother.

She was a sophomore in high school at a Catholic girl’s school.

When he graduated, he enlisted in the Navy with her brother, and served his country for two years.

She finished high school at 17, and because her parents said she couldn’t marry until she was 18, she continued working at the King Korn Stamp Center at Eagles Supermarket for another year.

He went to school on the GI bill, studying business at the University of Dubuque.

They were married in 1959.

In 1960, their first daughter was born.

He worked at Karr-Adco and studied.

In 1961, their second daughter was born, and it was time for her to stop her work at King Korn.

He worked for Ralston-Purina after he graduated from college, and in 1962, their third child, a son, was born.
They survived a harrowing move from Iowa to Colorado and back that would have ended many a marriage, but they continued on.

He worked for John Deer, and then Apple River.

In 1965, their fourth child, a daughter, was born, followed by another daughter in 1968.

Apple River was overtaken by N-Ren, the country was overtaken by change,

And they were overtaken by a concern for those in need.

Their sixth child, a son, was born in 1969.

They moved to Minnesota, and then on to Ohio.

They worked, they trained their children, they cared for their parents, they helped to improve schools, they labored for the good of others.

A poster in their home said, “It is better to wear out than to rust out.” They taught this to their children.

They believed you should have integrity in your beliefs, and make them your own. They instilled this in their children.

There were happy times.

Spouses and grandchildren and retirement, all seasoned with laughter.
Houses beautifully decorated, thriving gardens, friends, fulfillment.

There were hard times.

Cancer and disease and death.

Heart-ache and disappointment, job losses and worries.

But they continued on, for more than 50 years. And what is the fruit of those years?

We are your legacy.

Those you have loved and helped and touched are the fruit of your hands.

Thank you for giving us stability and love, years of laughter and support.

Thank you for raising your children to be faithful and fruitful.

Your children and grandchildren reach out beyond your reach to a big, wide world and affect it for good, thanks to your love.

Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad! We love you!

Saturday, August 01, 2009

RMNP: the last of camping, the start of a family reunion

The end of our week at Rocky Mountain National Park saw us hiking to Alberta Falls, and then Tim and Nikki hiked on to Sprague Lake, where we met them for a picnic.

The next morning saw us back at Sprague Lake to catch the early-morning reflections. They were just fabulous!

And then, we broke camp and headed to the YMCA of the Rockies on Friday to meet up with the Hanson clan and celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of Jack and Shirley. Our first evening activity was a wonderful game of volleyball. Gwen sacrificed her body for the team, and we all laughed and enjoyed one another.

To be continued...