Our little love story

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It goes a little something like this:

Dennis and I met after the sudden, unexpected loss of my brother John last summer. Dennis went to auto mechanics school with my brother and now lived just a few miles from my Dad’s farm. In the week’s after John’s death, while I stayed with my Dad, Dennis and I became acquainted. It was a time of grief and adjustment. When Dennis asked me out for dinner, I told him I didn’t know, I just wasn’t myself. No pressure, he said, we could just eat dinner and be friends.

I soon started a new job and spent most of my weekends up at the farm with my elderly Dad who was in failing health. Once I called Dennis and he came over and fixed the tractor. Sometimes we would drive into town for Sonic happy hour. Some evenings we just sat in the living room and watched TV while Dad slept.

It wasn’t when Dennis pulled the car up the door in the rain and helped my dad get in. Nor was it when he was right at home in the kitchen helping my sister cook a huge pot of spaghetti. I don’t think it was when he stayed up til midnight working on his daughter’s car so she could get to work the next morning. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t when he held my hand walking through the tool store, not at all self conscious. Not in church when he could sing all the words without looking at the hymnal, or when he opened his well-worn Bible. It wasn’t even when we were riding down the highway in his truck and he looked over and said, “You sure are pretty.”

No, it happened while we sat on the couch and I could feel the rumble of his chest as he talked about fixing the carburetor on a John Deere tractor. That was when my head figured out what my heart – and Dennis – already knew. That this very strong, very gentle man was the answer to all those years of fervent prayers.

On October 1, when summer gives way to autumn, a season of harvest and thanksgiving, we’ll get married. I’m so excited about it I can’t sleep. My heart is so full of blessings, for steady, kind Dennis and the beginning of our new life together.

The best of the story is yet to come.

Brides Of A Feather: Robin

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Julane Hiebert with her debut novel Robin.

Julane Hiebert with her debut novel Robin.

I’d like to introduce you to a dear friend and gifted writer Julane Hiebert.

This fall, I got to visit Julane at her wee cottage in Kansas and receive a signed copy of her debut novel Robin.

I had the priviledge of reading this delightful prairie romance while Julane was in the final stages before publication.

Robin is the first book in the Brides of a Feather series set in Julane’s beloved Kansas prairie.

Robin is the oldest of three sisters who lose their parents. She travels to Kansas to live with her Uncle John on his ranch The Feather. When neighbor Ty Morgan picks up Robin at the train station, they get caught in a Kansas twister. Robin finds that life on the prairie is much harder than she expected, but she also finds some unexpected gifts in the people she meets.

Sara and Julane

Sara and Julane with the book cover in cookies!

I just couldn’t help rooting for Robin! She has a handicap that makes it hard for her to do a lot of work, but she tries hard to fit in at her new home and helps everyone and brings a much-needed gentle touch to the men on the ranch. The romance was sweet and  unfolded nicely through the story. One of the things I liked most about this story was that it wasn’t just a romance, but had several fun characters who all played a part in the story, on the ranch and in the little town.

A few months ago I reread one my all-time favorite books and told Julane that her writing reminds me of Janette Oke. Don’t take my word for it – Romantic Times agreed with a four-star review!

A book cover cookie!

A book cover cookie!

Best of all, this is the first book in the Brides of A Feather series. The second installment about Lark will be coming out in March.

To help Julane celebrate the release of her novel, her critique partner Sara Meisinger ordered special cookies. We had a blast enjoying this moment with her.

Congratulations to Julane for dream come true! I highly recommend her writing. You can buy the book here and find out more at her blog.

Fall Favorite: Apple Raisin Bread

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My friend Rita snapped this picture of apple raisin bread before the last slice was gone in our Bible study this morning. I promised to share the recipe with her.

This is a fall favorite from the Mires Family Cookbook contributed by my Aunt Mildred. It makes a delicious, moist bread loaded fruit. It’s not too sweet and has a warm, homey flavor.

apple raisin bread

Apple raisin bread – It doesn’t last long!

Apple Raisin Bread

1 c. sugar
1/2 c. oil
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. chopped apples
1/2 c. raisins
1/2 c. nuts (optional)
1 1/3 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon

Chop apples, may peel or leave unpeeled. Combine sugar and oil. Add eggs and vanilla. Stir in apples, raisins and nuts. Add dry ingredients. Pour into a greased loaf pan. Bake for 20 minutes at 325 degrees. Stir up a mixture of brown sugar (about 1/4 cup) and nuts. Sprinkle mixture on top of bread, then continue cooking for about an hour.

It usually takes about 2 apples to make 2 cups.

 

Forever Royal in 2015

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October: When even the sky is royal blue.

This month has reason to celebrate in addition to my birthday – The Kansas City Royals! This season I set a record by attending four games.

The first was in April. Look how bundled up Charlotte and I are as we enjoy milk and cookies with the Ag Expo and United Electric. The Royals won that game against the Twins.

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Cheers to the Royals!

We got to sit in the Royals dugout.

We got to sit in the Royals dugout.

I started working for CMA this summer, where our boss Charlie is a big Royals fan. The August employee meeting was held at Kauffman Stadium, then we took a behind-the-scenes tour of the stadium.

 

The club house.

The club house.

After that, we got to see the Royals beat the White Sox.

My enthusiasm for the Royals showed up a lot this year, as I look back over photos and see me wearing a blue KC shirt everywhere from Pikes Peak to Amish Jamesport, where the lady in a bonnet working at the bakery asked me about the score and we chatted about our favorite team.

Royals ALDS

Royals in the ALDS

On October 9, CMA gave away tickets and I was able to go with three of the guys from the office to the American League Division Series. It was the first playoff game I’ve ever seen. We sat in the very top row of the stadium. And went nuts cheering the Royals on to beat the Houston Astros.

My sisters and nieces and I cheered on the Royals from home to clinch the division series, trading texts about how much we adore Salvy and hate Joe Buck. Then, not only did the Royals advance to the American League Championship Series, but I won tickets to Saturday afternoon’s game. I got to take my niece Beth, who really loves her Royals.

Rooting for the Royals in the ALCS

Royals in the ALCS

The Royals started out slow, down 3-0 by the seventh inning. As fans, we knew what we had to do. We cheered and clapped and waved our rally towels and inspired the boys in blue to a 5-run inning.

For those keeping score at home, the Royals have won every game I’ve attended this year. No game is scheduled for my birthday on Oct. 26. If the Royals keep winning — and I see no reason why they wouldn’t — the World Series will open the day after my birthday.

Slugger celebrating the Royals win.
Slugger celebrating the Royals win.

Blue is a beautiful color for October.

Cowgirls and mamas

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The scene is vivid in my memory. I’m 5 years old, riding in a light blue 1973 GMC pickup while Mom is driving. We’re towing a gooseneck stock trailer loaded with cattle.

“You watch that way and see if there’s any cars coming,” she tells me. The gravel road we’re traveling  meets the highway at the bottom of a hill. She explains that if we come to a stop, the truck won’t be able to pull all that weight up the hill.

I sit up on my knees, look out on the ribbon of highway stretching between fields, and tell her the road is clear.

“Here we go,” Mom says. She grips the steering wheel, presses the gas pedal to the floor, blows right that past stop sign and doesn’t let her foot of the gas til we crest the hill.

Mom could do a lot of things. She taught Sunday school, canned green beans, read story books and stretched $10 a long way in the grocery store.

Deep down, though, she was always a cowgirl.

cowgirl saying

I’ve been missing Mom a lot lately. It’s strange how big a hole can remain in your heart even after 20 years. I saw this quote by Dale Evans and it was the perfect description of Mom’s special brand of courage. It was Mom who taught me how to make elderberry jelly and coax a newborn calf to nurse from a bottle. It was Mom who showed me how to grow tomatoes and make hand-me-downs seem almost as good as new.

She woke us up early on Saturday mornings and asked, “Do you want to hoe, chop wood or work?” Life on the farm was tough, but Mom taught us we did it because we loved the life it provided, not because it paid well or brought accolades. She showed us there are a lot more important things in life than money.

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It was Mom, the cowgirl, who encouraged me to become an FFA state officer. When I majored in agriculture science in college, Mom told me that was fine, but I needed to take some journalism courses, too. She knew better than anybody where my skills would be best used.

I’ve had some new opportunities lately to chase some dreams and it’s been kind of scary. I’ve tried to imagine what advice Mom would give.

And I see her at the wheel, a 50-year-old farm wife — she was 45 when she gave birth to me, the youngest of eight children — running full throttle down the highway like the biggest cattle baron in the county.

She’d say you can do more than you think you can and sometimes, you have to “cowgirl up.”

I love you, Mom. Thank you for everything.

Some sweet truth

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Last June, I picked and preserved these delicious raspberries from my patch. The last few weeks I’ve been cleaning out the freezer – to make room for this year’s produce. A new recipe I picked up from the farmers market made some delicious raspberry bars.

I was also reminded of one of my favorite quotes:

The pursuit of truth is like picking raspberries: You miss a lot if you approach it from only one angle.

~ Randal Marlin

Wise words to remember in this information age – more information does not necessarily mean more truth.

On a related note, the raspberry bushes are greening up nicely this week. Good thing there’s room in the freezer.

 

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Put that on a motivational poster

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applesofgoldInspirational plaques. I’m starting to have a bad reaction to them.

It’s impossible to walk into a decorating store or craft display at the local festival and not be bombarded with a thousand motivational sayings.

Anyone else know what I mean?

Facebook is even worse. I can’t figure out what my friends are up to because of all the advice dished out in eight-word poems. Unwrap a piece of chocolate and it tries to tell you how to live life. I bought some cough drops this winter and they promised, “a pep talk in every drop.” Sure enough, each little wrapper was stamped with motivational thoughts. There’s only one thing I ask from a cough drop and it’s not advice.

I confess to have fallen under the influence. Here are sayings displayed on plaques in my home:

Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, but learning to dance in the rain.

Saddle up and follow your dreams.

Life is good.

A face without freckles is like a sky without stars.

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, think on these things.

Amazing grace.

Friends are the family you choose.

Love hopes.

As Christians, we are some of the worst offenders. The gaudiest picture, with a few words of scripture penciled on it, suddenly becomes sanctified.

Why does this trend bother me?

  • Life is too rich and complex to always be summed up in a cute saying. There are situations where simple wisdom does apply, but much of the time, there are no easy answers and it’s a mistake to always insist on one.
  • It dulls me to the Bible. The living word of God starts to sound trite when it is stamped on every mug and coaster I own. Is it possible to have too much scripture? Maybe? I know it’s a pitfall for me to emphasis only certain verses and ignore others or to try to apply a verse to a situation where it doesn’t fit.

I probably need a plaque in my living room with this verse from James:  “Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.” I haven’t found that one at the store yet, but I also haven’t really looked.

Have I turned into a curmudgeon or is anyone else tired of all the motivation?

Or maybe I just have a case of the Mondays.

10 thoughts on Christmas music while the cookies bake

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A dozen naked Hershey kisses are lined up on the counter, waiting to be nestled in warm peanut butter cookies when they come out of the oven.

SONY DSCAnd as usual this time of year, I’m listening to Christmas music. Right after baking and all the lights, that’s my favorite thing about this time of year. I’ve drawn some observations from these hours of carols:

1. It always strikes me as odd that I have to turn the channel from a Christian radio station to a pop station to hear Christmas music.

2. Every time I hear a Carpenters song, I am amazed at the beauty of her voice. It also makes me a little sad.

3. Bing Crosby had more class in his little finger than any popular entertainer today.

4. When a hipster tries to make a hymn sound cool, it’s just embarrassing. Dude, a song written in 1818 does not need your help.

5. Speaking of 1818, “Silent Night” is one of the most beautiful songs ever.

6. Best melancholy Christmas songs: “Hard Candy Christmas” by Dolly Parton, “If We Make It Through December” by Merle Haggard and “Blue Christmas” by Elvis.

7. It bothers me that songs about mistletoe and snowflakes far out number songs about Jesus. Even on Christian stations.

8. Most over-recorded song: Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Most over-aired song: Chestnuts Roasting …. I can’t even finish this line I’m so tired of it.

9. The surest way for a singer to achieve near-immortality is to record a Christmas album.

10. If I could sing, I’d record an album called The Forgotten Carols of Christmas. I’d include songs like “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly,” “Birthday of a King,” “There’s a Song in the Air” and “Hark! The Herald Angles Sing.” (It’s not forgotten but it is my favorite.)

The cookies are done! I need to get back to work.

 

Thanksgiving Reflections

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This post was originally from 2010. I’m tearing up day-old bread for stuffing tonight and thought of it.

It’s Thanksgiving. I’m making pie, stuffing, baked squash and salads with jello and Cool Whip starring as main ingredients.

Alan Jackson is cued on the stereo and soon he’ll sing, “Let It Be Christmas.”

But for now, it’s Thanksgiving and that gives rise to a reflective mood. I’ve had some quiet time to let my mind wander as I’ve been cracking black walnuts. It’s a tedious task, pounding the hammer to crack the hard shell, then tapping it just right to jostle out a little bit of nut meat. It takes a special combination of patience and persistence to do the job well.

My Aunt Sis had both; she sold shelled black walnuts by the quart. We lost her this fall and she’s been on my mind, especially around Thanksgiving.

Her given name was Celia, but my dad called her Sis, so she was our Aunt Sis. She was never idle a moment, always crocheting, cracking walnuts or clipping coupons. She didn’t drive and she usually walked to town to clean houses. They only got a telephone a few years ago. And I don’t know if I ever once heard Aunt Sis complain.

She was a woman not of words, but of action. When she joined us for Christmas, she brought a sack filled with grocery items — each with the UPC code carefully removed to be sent in for a rebate. The year after I graduated college, I had a cold at Christmas time. Newspaper reporter salaries being what they are, I could only afford the discount brand of tissues and it felt like I’d been wiping sandpaper across my face. Aunt Sis handed me her goody sack and right on top was a box of name-brand, extra soft Kleenex tissues. It may very well have been the best Christmas present I got that year. It was a gift just like Aunt Sis herself – unpretentious and practical and immediately put to work.

I can afford the good Kleenex now. I’ve got several boxes sitting around the house. And I have much to be thankful for.

Cracking walnuts and reflecting, I remember Thanksgiving last year. I was working at a different job, making plans and thinking life was going a certain direction. But I quit the job, worked as a freelance writer for nearly a year, and now I have a different job. I’m growing my hair out and I rearranged the living room and in other ways, life is going in a different direction than I had planned.

I’m thankful. For my wonderful family. My friends, my job, my new computer, my country, my church, my house slippers, pumpkin spice coffee creamer, cell phones and that God not only allows new directions in our lives, he ordains it.

I’m thankful for Aunt Sis, for black walnuts and a few moments to reflect on it all. The pie’s almost done baking. The house smells like Thanksgiving morning. Blessings to all of you and may you have a few moments to reflect, as well.

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