Today I’m sharing with you four of my all time favorite cookbooks.

I get it, many of you no longer use cookbooks like we all did twenty years ago with the rise of online sites like Pinterest, and allrecipes.com which can provide any 5 star recipe for anything at any time of day but… there are some strange souls still out there, just like myself, who enjoy nothing more than curling up with a real cookbook, in all of its tattered, splattered and mangled glory. I probably own 50+ cookbooks – most purchased at Goodwill or garage sales, including two of the ones mentioned today. All of these can be purchased used on Amazon for under $2.00 – totally worth the pure joy (and tastiness) they’ll bring to your life. Continue reading “Meet my Current Loves – Cookbook Style”

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I officially met Brenda online about two years ago. Somehow the two of us connected through Instagram, and she graciously volunteered to review my newly published memoir Sunlight Burning at Midnight.  I was a little awe struck with her being the first real author to volunteer to review my book.  We later crossed paths again at a writer’s conference where I met her in person, and she is the real deal.  She gave me a big hug as I blabbered on and on about how honored I was that she actually read my book. She has recently written another book (she’s way speedier than I am – but most of her babies have flown the coop in my defense), a wonderful book called Fledge, Launching your Kids Without Losing your Mind, which I enjoyed immensely.  I’m not officially in the fledging stage, but I recognize that it is just around the corner, and this book was full of wisdom, laughter, and heart warming stories.  Brenda is not afraid to share her shortcomings and failures throughout the journey, and these honest stories are what connected me to her words, and I’m sure will connect you as well.  Continue reading “5 Truths About Stress by Author Brenda L. Yoder {and a giveaway!}”

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I shooed one of my children out of the kitchen, yet again, annoyed that I had to hear another complaint of boredom or some long winded tale about how one of their siblings had grossly mistreated them.  It sure felt like we were on day 100 million of this year’s particularly long winter break which continued on and on with the recent bout of inclement weather and now a flu crisis circulating throughout the schools.

“Aghhh, I sighed, frustrated again at how much work all of the kids were during these days without school. I didn’t understand how they could complain of boredom so often. We had purchased this beautiful property in the middle of nowhere on 30 acres of land, the river in the backyard, with the expectation that our children would spend their days romping in the fields, building forts, playing tag and hide and seek and whatever else they were able to convince one another to play, but that wasn’t generally the case.  Usually they were inside belly aching about how bored they were.

I returned to prepping for dinner that evening, a slow simmering chicken curry; garlic, onions, ginger and jalapenos chopped and sizzling in the pan as music played in the background,

“I’ll praise you in this storm” belted out an old time favorite of mine by the popular group Casting Crowns.

I’d been experiencing a bit of a faith crisis in the recent months as I desperately tried to remain in control as my life felt more and more out of control. Makes sense, right? Hormonal issues that inevitably arrive with aging, teaching which I loved but didn’t love as much as writing, writing which is my passion but doesn’t really pay the bills – at least not yet, raising 8 kids – now a few teenagers and a toddler; struggling to do right by our handicapped son Lucas, but in pursuing the best options for him also needing to sacrifice more of our limited resources and time. So many balls in the air.

It all felt overwhelming most of the time, and I knew I wasn’t handling it well.  Lately I spent most of my prayer time complaining, grumbling, and begging for super human strength to get through the days – annoyed that God would bequeath so many responsibilities upon my aging shoulders.

Praise you in this storm, huh,” I muttered.  I had so believed those words during some of the most difficult days of life – as a baby grew in my belly in 2004 – a child proclaimed to be dead even before taking his first breath and then again as my first husband took his last breath here on earth and now, when I had eight healthy children and a healthy husband, a good marriage, all of my needs met, I couldn’t muster up some praise in this pathetic little pity party of a storm I was having for myself?

I wasn’t even sure what exactly I believed anymore. I had faith, for sure, but what did that mean?  I had recently enjoyed listening to diverse preachers and teachers of the word and this had in turn caused me to question many of the traditional tenants of my faith including a woman’s role, the church, what the first church actually looked like and what is all meant in my search for community, identity, and faith in action. 

“Jesus help” I sighed in indignation and frustration.

“Go Play” I heard gently whispered  –

“What?” I replied

“Go Play! Stop complaining and stop focusing on the negative and stop stressing about all of the tenants of ME, and stop all of the belly aching and just go play! I made it for you! Bask in my creation, jump on the trampoline with your kids, breathe in the beauty of nature all around, enjoy your life, enjoy what I have created for you – for your pleasure!  Take joy in the food you are preparing, savor the chocolate pie, sip the chardonnay, make love to your husband, read a good book, teach your daughters how to sew – GO PLAY!”

Could it be that all of my questions about my life, my faith, and my children could be answered in one simple command?  Go Play?  It’s what I desired for my children – to stop complaining and bickering and go play!  To enjoy what we had purchased for them!  To enjoy the beauty of their lives!  Could it possibly be that the God of the universe just wanted the same for his child?  For me to honor him through my enjoyment of what he’s blessed me with? 

My perspective shifted as it usually does when the Almighty has words with me.  A slow smile crept across my face as I poured myself a glass of chardonnay, wrapped up the kitchen duties and headed to the porch to sit with my husband.  As I opened the back door, still slightly hesitant about leaving so many tasks undone, I heard a whisper laced in joy urging me forward,

“Yes, go play.”

Just keep livin!

winter.jpgMany moons ago, on a dark winter night, as the children lay nestled in warm beds and my husband reclined pale and motionless in his chair, I wrapped myself in a thick coat, pulled boots upon weary feet, and ventured out into the bitter loneliness.

My emergence was greeted by a silent dirt road, my being enveloped by the brisk air as the blackness provided shelter from the rest of humanity. Nothing but stillness awaited my pilgrimage. I was free.

I glanced to the left and recognized a spattering of houses and to the right – nothing but naked branches swaying in the stagnant air. I leaned into the vacancy and began moving, one foot in front of the other – the vicious cold biting my face and freezing the tears as they fell. I walked in penance for whatever grave sin I had committed – a sin which had led to a recent life of so much pain and heartache. I knew that surely if my husband held the strength to wage war against numerous rounds of poison, and my son had the strength to defy the proclamations of death voiced against him, and my children possessed the strength to look into the abyss of eternity staring back at them through their daddy’s hollow gaze, then surely – SURELY – I could face whatever lay ahead. And so I walked. I walked the coals – the clear crystal coals intermingled with the frozen ground. And nothing moved. And all was silent.

I walked and I paused and I crumpled to the earth, fists curled and pumping into the night sky –

“CURSE YOU NIGHT!” I screamed.

I screamed and I screamed until the noise was deafened by gasps – gasps of oxygen being pumped into a broken heart, gasps of air reviving a weary soul, and then I rose, yet again, to face my tormentor and crumpled beneath the weight of the heavy cold air. I wrestled and rose and cursed and moaned and fell again and again and again, all to the beat of the maestro’s baton, to the beat of the never-ending drum of life.

Eventually I grew weary, as we all do, and I turned back– slowly fixing my gaze to reality, the dim lights flickering through the swaying trees – ready to return to my life- a haven of pain and grief and joy.

This Do In Remembrance Of Me

Breaking the bread and drinking the cup – wrestling, walking, moaning, cursing, accepting – traditions which enable our remembrance. The bread and the wine; the aching joints and all of the movements that stir our remembrance of something greater than ourselves – a remembrance of His faithfulness.

I still walk in the bitter air, but I no longer seek the solitude of the night. I now turn to face the warmth of the sun, often walking hand in hand with those I love – those born of the light. The bitter cold of what was and the warmth of what is – of how life can unravel at any moment into something bright and beautiful and unexpected.

Choosing life. Choosing warmth. Choosing light. Choosing to Just Keep Livin.