Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My Scrapple Experiment (It’s More than Meat and Cornmeal to Me!)

Dear friends,

In a recent blog post about my grandparents' 75th anniversary, I mentioned that I decided to try my hand at making scrapple. Grandpa Hess had fried some for us when I was “up home” a week or so ago. He might even have learned the recipe from his German immigrant grandparents in Pennsylvania. By now most of you are wondering what in the world it is. Scrapple is a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch (which is actually German) recipe made from broth, scraps of meat, spices, and cornmeal. The ingredients are cooked, spooned into a bread loaf pan, chilled to set, sliced, and then fried to a crispy golden brown. Yum! I have always eaten homemade turkey scrapple when visiting my grandparents. It has always been a “comfort food” for me, reminding me of home and family. I didn’t know how to make it before now, so I purchased Rapa brand pork scrapple while I was in college, and then for Christmas breakfast since I’ve had my own family. But now I decided I wanted to make my own!


I knew I faced a daunting learning curve, and that I likely wouldn’t get it right the first time, especially since I wasn’t making it under the direct supervision of any scrapple experts. I had asked Grandpa for a recipe but he said he didn’t use one. He found one in a cookbook, but I forgot to copy it down. I did jot down some pointers and proportions that my mom’s cousin Priscilla Perry shared with me at the anniversary party. She uses a ratio of 3 parts liquid/meat to 1 part cornmeal and/or buckwheat. She prefers Bell’s poultry seasoning in the yellow box, along with herbs such as rosemary, sage, and thyme. That's Priscilla (in the middle) and her daughter Margaret with me in the photograph. Wonderful people!



This past Saturday morning back in Florida, I roasted a turkey in my big blue porcelain roaster and set it to cool on the stovetop so I could debone it later. My husband Thad saw it there and kindly did the dirty work for me. He threw away the giblets, which I had intended to use, but who am I to complain about that after all of the service he gave? He even separated it into white and dark meat, and put the broth in a separate container. What a guy! What I didn’t use for the scrapple, I saved for two turkey pot pies and a plastic bag of white meat to put in the freezer.












Next, I pureed some of the dark meat with the broth in the blender, and dumped it into the pot with the cornmeal, a can of chicken broth, some water, and various spices. I couldn’t find the Bell’s brand of poultry seasoning, but I already had the Spice Island brand in my cupboard anyway. I also decided to use some Miracle Blend no-salt herbal seasoning, thyme, and a generous amount of rotisserie chicken seasoning. Don’t ask me how much I used of each of the ingredients, because I was adding a little here, a little there, just like Grandpa would do! I did turn out a little on the salty side, so I could have used less rotisserie chicken seasoning.






After cooking a while, the scrapple seemed a bit runny, so I chopped up more dark and white turkey and added it to the concoction. It still looked like it hadn’t thickened up enough in the pan, but I didn’t want to scorch it by cooking it more. Hoping for the best, I scooped the mixture into two foil-lined bread pans and put them in the fridge to set overnight. I was relieved the next morning to find that it had firmed up, though not as much as I would have hoped. I asked my mom later, and she said I probably could have cooked it a little longer. Nevertheless, I guess I did it well enough, because I was able to slice and fry it. I’m always tempted to take it off the griddle too fast, but you can’t rush scrapple. It needs to cook all the way through, not just brown on the outside. Smooshing it flatter with the spatula helps the process, but most of it is just keeping an eye on it and letting it do its thing. It’s worth the wait!

My kids drooled over my scrapple and gobbled it down. Some of them drizzled syrup on it. Julia smiled and asked if this was going to be a tradition. Maybe! It’s a bit of a hassle to make, but now that I’ve done it once, it shouldn’t be so hard. After all, scrapple is more than meat and cornmeal to me. It’s about tradition, family ties, being resourceful, and learning to use my own intuition and ingenuity when someone isn’t around to show me what to do. I can’t tell you how pleased I was that I actually made good scrapple on the first try! That means an awful lot to me!

I’m not expecting that all of you will want to run out and buy a turkey to make scrapple after reading this, but maybe you will think about how you can adapt your ancestor’s traditions in your own home. Or maybe you will take a risk and try doing something new to stretch your horizons. As with most of life, you don’t have to get it exactly right the first time. Like our inventive and visionary forebears who made this country great, you do have to be willing to use trial-and-error – and then just do it!

Who knows -- someday I may be teaching my own grandkids how to make turkey scrapple!

If you would like to see a real recipe for turkey scrapple, there are a whole bunch of them on the web. Here is one: Turkey Scrapple. And here is someone else's blog post with photos and instructions. Finally, here is a little history about pork scrapple.

Blessings,
Virginia Knowles
After I posted this, I received comments from some of my Hess relatives, including Priscilla Perry, who gave me the original instructions.
~~~

My aunt Nancy Allen added this information…
Good for you! Here is what Daddy told me when I asked (but I have not tried it yet): Grind up turkey, chicken or pork scraps, ~1 1/2 cups. Add 3 cups broth + seasoning - salt, pepper, thyme, marjoram, sage ~ 1/2 tsp. Add about 1 cup corn meal for every 4 cups of broth/meat mix. Put in bread pan, refrigerate until solid, slice and fry. May dip in egg and flour. He always adds quite a bit of oil as he fries it, I discovered, and it of course makes a spattery mess - but it is worth it! Your cousin Judy Delbene likes it too and I think of her whenever grandpa fixes it because he did that once in FL when she and I were both there for breakfast.
~~~~
Priscilla Perry sent along these additional instructions for making scrapple. They actually raise cattle (in addition to 3,500 hives of bees) so they make beef scrapple, too.
Virginia,
Since I don't always measure too carefully when making scrapple, if it seems too thin after cooking I add a quick cooking cereal such as 1 or 2 minute Cream of Wheat or farina or grits. You can add this about 1/4 cup at a time and cook the required time after each addition until you get the desired consistency. I make it thick enough to hold its shape.Dipping the slices in a little flour or corn meal before frying helps them to brown and helps keep the oil from spattering. A non-stick pan helps also and uses less oil. I usually make scrapple when we butcher a beefer and I use the meatier bones to make the broth but I have made scrapple by boiling bulk sausage to make a meat broth.
~~~~~
Margaret Kane, who is Priscilla's daughter, wrote this...
Virginia, I read these additional instructions Mom sent to you, and I chuckled because it was exactly what I was going to advise you to do, but I haven't had a chance to respond until now. I don't measure anything when I make scrapple, and I guess that's because I learned at my mother's elbow. ;-) The process is free-form and is entirely about achieving the right consistency. I used to make it from beef bones when I was a teenager at home, but I make it out of poultry now, or the bone from a pork roast combined with poultry. After I have cooked the bones to pieces and have removed all the inedible parts and the fat, I add various cereals to the broth. I put the slow cooking cereals in first, and save the instant thickening stuff (such as instant grits or instant cream of rice) until the end. When the stuff is thickening up and needs just a bit of fine-tuning, I start adding the instant grits until the spoon will almost stand up on its own. I pour the hot scrapple into lightly greased bread pans, then let them cool before putting them in the fridge. By the next morning they'll unmold easily and cleanly. As for seasoning, I use Bell's seasoning, and skip the pepper entirely. We have delicate digestive systems at our house, so we make a bland scrapple that is just as yummy as the spicier stuff, and for anyone who likes a peppery taste, the seasoning can be adjusted at the table. We use only a little oil and a nonstick pan, just like Mom. I have never tried making it with sausage--that must have been an experiment she tried when I wasn't there to witness it. ;-) I'll bet that would be tasty, too!
-- Margaret
(Margaret is a home school mom in North Carolina, and I am privileged to be her friend, too! She has been so kind to our family in the past few years.)
~~~~~

Candy Hess (who is about my age even though she is the wife of my mom’s cousin, and who is also a very sweet friend who has gone out of her way to bless our family) wrote this...
HI to ALL from the North Carolina Hess Branch! Here in the Sunny South we eat livermush :) It is delicious and very similar to the scrapple you all love so much. Scrapple is a bit spicier. We cook it the same way. Some like it fried thick and others (like myself) like it fried thin and crispy. Doug introduced me to scrapple in Pennsylvania and I really loved it. If you're ever in the south, look for livermush and cook it the same way. Neese's is my favorite brand. All livermushes are not equal.
~~~~~~
Curt Bonser, the husband of my mom's cousin Jane, wrote this:
Hello for the Oklahoma gang, Jane and Curt. Twice while traveling we have found scrapple on the menu. About five years ago we turned off I-80 on to US 322 in northern Pennsylvania. Shortly we saw a sign outside a restaurant, scrapple. It was about 9:30 in the morning and we had had breakfast at the motel not too much earlier. Guess what? We turned off the road and had a second breakfast of scrapple and coffee. Boy, what a fond memory while traveling to my 45th high school reunion. Another fond memory of eating scrapple comes from a trip in the mid 1990's to York, Pennsylvania. for a National Kaiser Frazer meet(a defunct brand of American made cars). We drove a 1953 Kaiser from Manhattan, Kansas, our home at the time, to York. We drove out to a rural town NW of York for breakfast, and much to our delight, they had scrapple on the menu. I think we ate scrapple four times that week. I like maple syrup on my crispy fried scrapple, my mother always ate her scrapple with ketchup, ugh. Our scrapple as I grew was pork based and looked much darker than the turkey scrapple. I grew up in East Tennessee and my parents had to make our scrapple. When I was in the service, Viet Nam war, Jane and I could get scrapple at the commissary. We are a scrapple deprived couple living outside of Eastern Pennsylvania. That's a bummer, scrapple deprived.
~~~
There you have it! Scrapple is a family tradition worth preserving!
New note on July 13: I made my third batch of scrapple this weekend. I had a 20 pound turkey, with ample broth, meat, etc. I used a lot of "scraps" that we wouldn't otherwise eat, as well as giblets, a little bit of skin, the brown mushy stuff, broth from the boiled bones, etc. I used the blender for all of it this time since there was so much and I didn't want my kids to recognize some of the stuff in it. I also added farina (a cooked cereal) at the end for instant thickening. In my hurry, I forgot to add any spices, but it still turned out well. And I still have 3 large bags of sliced scrapple that I froze on wax paper on a cookie sheet.
One of my boys thanked me profusely for frying some this morning, and kept patting me on the back, hugging me, and telling me what a good mommy I was. One of my teen daughters said "YAY!" when she smelled it frying as she was waking up. Everyone enjoyed it. It may be a while before I make it again, but I think it's becoming a family tradition in our household.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Giant Passes: Dr. Ralph D. Winter

Dear friends,



You can't read or watch the news this week without seeing continual media tribute to three notable entertainers who passed away in the past few days: Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, and Ed McMahon. But today in Pasadena, California, a memorial service is being held for a true giant in my eyes, Dr. Ralph D. Winter, who passed away last month at the age of 84. Most of you have never heard of him, but his name has been a very familar and welcome one to me for about 25 years. Who is he? Dr. Winter was the founder of the U.S. Center for World Mission and William Carey International University, and co-founded several other mission organizations. His research and strategizing in the field of world evanglization has been crucial. He was truly a man who lived and breathed for the Kingdom of God, and he has received his eternal reward.


You can read more about him on the Mission News Network blog (which feeds into my Google reader because I want to keep up on what is going on) or on the U.S. Center for World Missions tribute page. The latter site links to many resources related to Ralph Winter, including multimedia presentations, and tributes from Chuck Colson and John Piper.

Here is a brief excerpt from his obituary:

John Piper, author of Desiring God and Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church (Minneapolis, MN), commented, “Ralph Winter was probably the most creative thinker I have ever known. On any topic you brought up, he would come at it in a way you never dreamed of. This meant that stalemates often became fresh starting points.” Likewise, Dale Kietzman, a professor at William Carey International University, noted, “He was constantly thinking outside the box. He did this to such an extent that you weren’t sure what the box was anymore.” C. Peter Wagner, a colleague at Fuller Seminary, has
observed, “History will record Ralph Winter as one of the half-dozen men who did most to affect world evangelism in the twentieth century.”

May God raise up more visionary men and women to take his place! There is nothing on this earth more important than knowing and then spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.


Blessings,
Virginia

75 Years and Counting: Celebrating the Marriage of Henry and Dorothy Hess

Dear friends,


Last week my maternal grandparents, Henry and Dorothy Hess, celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary! Every time I mention that to someone, jaws drop. Seventy-five years? That’s nearly unheard of these days! I was very fortunate to be able to spend six days visiting with them at my parents’ house in Columbia, Maryland. We had a big party for them on June 20, with over 50 relatives and old friends attending. This picture is of them with their five children. They also have 13 grandchildren, 26 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.




My brother John read a congratulatory proclamation from the governor of Maryland. They deserve it! My grandparents have had such a long and full life! They have always been adventurous, traveling the world and then showing us slides of such far-flung locales as New Zealand. When I was a child, they drove out from Pennsylvania to California to see us, and then continued on their trip to Alaska in their VW bus nicknamed the Orange Crate. In 1976, our family took a bicentennial trip in the reverse direction to attend the Hess family reunion, which was quite significant to me spiritually. You can read about that here: My Story of Liberty in 1976.

We also had a talent and tribute show. An impromptu choir sang, “I Only Have Eyes for You” and another song, my brother John played “Deep Purple” on the piano and accompanied his wife Dana when she sang, “Someone to Watch Over Me.” Various others sang or played the guitar. Another highlight was my Aunt Nancy speaking at length about several things she most appreciated about her parents, such as encouraging education, teaching responsibility, allowing pets, creating traditions, having fun, and demonstrating kindness and harmony. Of course she mentioned their creativity and frugality a few times along the way!


One of the most poignant features of the talent and tribute show was when my mom’s cousin Priscilla Douglas read a letter that my grandmother had written to Priscilla’s mother about marriage way back in the 1930's. In it, Grandma shared how confident she felt that her new husband Henry would love her faithfully even if she got old and sick. And he certainly has! (Last year she broke both of her hips, a few months apart. He quipped that it was a good thing she didn’t have three hips, because she would have broken another one! I took this picture of them last November when I visited Grandma in the hospital.) After Priscilla read the letter aloud, one of my cousins joked, “Was it written on the back of a placemat?” Grandma has been famous for that! And she has always ended her letters, “Remember that I love you.” We did. We do. We are very blessed with their legacy of affection and respect.


My father also gave his own touching tribute to my grandparents, telling of how much he appreciated them accepting him into the family over 50 years ago. Dad's hobbies are history and ethnology, and he constantly amazes me with his knowledge of my mom's family heritage. He and my mom met because my mom's cousin Charlie was my dad's roommate in college.



You may have already seen the poem I wrote to read to at the annivesary party. If not, you can read it here! I also read my poem "This Is My Song and I Sing."

"Diamonds in Our Family Tree"

by Virginia Knowles

Pink roses on the arbor
Arched over groom and bride
Now seventy-five years later
They’re still smiling side by side.
With love enough for a lifetime
And four generations since then
Stories and laughter are flowing
As we all “remember when…”
So Happy Diamond Anniversary
To Henry and Dorothy Hess
We’re so glad to be your family
Knowing we’re forever blessed.
You are diamonds on our paths
Dazzling in our family tree
What a heritage to treasure
What a loving legacy!


My original blog post, Diamonds in Our Family Tree, includes some other comments and pictures.

My grandfather has always been an avid vegetable gardener. I can remember the huge garden he kept at Squirrel Hill, their homestead near Dallas, Pennsylvania. Even now, though he can't get out and do the work himself, he still has a garden in my mom's backyard that he plans and supervises. Mom wasn't able to do much of the planting this year because of a bad back, so I offered to work a little down there the morning of the day I flew home. Unfortunately, she had to take Grandpa to the doctor, so neither of them was able to give me any but the most rudimentary of instructions. I'm sure they are going to regret the day they let a rookie black thumb gardener (me) try to plant corn. My nephew Doug and sister-in-law Dana helped out, too, and they don't know any more than I do, so I guess I won't be the only guilty party if the plants don't survive! I was trying to recall what I had learned about planting corn from Laura Ingalls Wilder's book Farmer Boy when I read it aloud to my kids a while back. I hope it helped! I'll post separately about my attempts to make turkey scrapple from scratch, another one of Grandpa's legacies to me.

Those of you who are interested in preserving family memories might also like to see my
Hess Family Heritage page which contains memoires of my German great-great-grandfather Henry (Heinrich) Hess and my grandmother Dorothy Hess, as well as vintage photos, letters, a page from a family tree, and other goodies. You can also view some of the photos from my trip to Maryland at: Over the River and Through the Woods, To Grandmother's House I Go and Hess 75th Wedding Anniversary and Reunion. I also have Vintage Photos of My Ancestors.

I encourage all of you to reconnect with your relatives this summer, even if it is by phone or e-mail. Learn a little about your family history, and think of ways you can leave a legacy for your own children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren!

Blessings,

Virginia Knowles

(Adding this in on July 8: My second cousin Ruth Moytica Parks in Iowa uploaded some video of my grandfather, Henry Hess, describing vintage family photographs in January 1996.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4UsEPj8piQ -- part 1, about 8 minutes
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYzkYFS1W2E -- part 2, about 4 minutes
Some of the pictures featured in Grandpa's video are also in the vintage photos album linked above.)



Saturday, June 27, 2009

Savor Each Moment as a Gift!

Dear friends,

While we were in Jupiter for the Knowles/Scerra family reunion, my brother-in-law Callum (husband of Thad’s sister Sarah) graciously offered to take groups of us out on his motorboat in the Intracoastal Waterway. Since my little Ben wanted to go, I waded out to the boat and climbed aboard too. As a little background, it should be noted that my husband’s grandparents were natives of the Bahamas, where the Knowles family is still well known in the fishing industry. They settled in the U.S. in the 1920’s, but my husband himself lived in the Bahamas for several years of his early childhood, spending much of his time at the beach and in the water. When Thad was about 8, they moved to western Massachusetts and managed a ski lodge on Lake Pontoosuc, where they could go canoeing or sailing. So Thad’s family is used to being on the water, while I’m much more of a land lubber. I can take a trip to the beach and splash around in the shallow waves, but that’s about the extent of it. (Some of you will remember a blog post called Fear! (Or Not!) mentioning my nightmare – a recurring one -- about huge waves sweeping me away at the beach.)
And now here I was on the Intracoastal, watching some of my husband’s kinfolk frantically hanging onto a tube raft towed behind a fast motor boat in deep water, smacking over the waves that Callum so artfully stirred up by swerving this way and that, and then losing their grip and trying to hoist aboard again. And all I could say was, “MY TURN NEXT!” Time for me to take a little risk and enjoy myself with outrageous fun beyond my usual comfort zone! I didn’t even need to take a trip to the chiropractor after it. I suppose it helped that I lift weights at the YMCA, which gave me the extra strength to hold on to that tube!


It dawned on me then that each day brings its own unique moments, and we don’t get the same ones over again. If I didn’t do it then, I might never have had the chance. “Carpe diem!” (Seize the day!) Or, as we moderns say, “Get a life!”

















The next day our fun came at a slower pace. We crossed the street over to the ocean side for a barbecue beach day. This particular beach is covered with rock: not pebbles but long stretches of what I think was limestone. This made wading a bit of a challenge because of the slippery and uneven bottom. The best thing to do was float out on a body board and paddle in the water. Or, better yet, we could stroll down the beach to the large outcroppings of rock that were pocketed with small caverns. The water sprayed up through the holes as the waves splashed up under them. You could walk along the top if you watched your step. Or you could shimmy down into one of the larger openings if you watched your head – which I learned the hard way, of course. At first, one of my boys complained about having nothing to do. I had to laugh. Nothing to do at the beach, huh? OK, so it might not have been as thrilling as the motor boating, tubing, and kayaking the day before, but each day brings its own special moments, and some of them are quieter, more subtle ones.




This new beach day brought sea shells and (after the whining stopped) snorkel masks. For me, it also brought a chance to sit on a big rock and cuddle a little girl while enjoying the rolling waves at my feet. We need to live “in the moment” and enjoy each day for what it brings. During the reunion weekend, I savored my time, wherever and with whomever I found myself. Each person is precious, each moment as sacred, especially as we gratefully receive them as gifts from a gracious God who came to bring us abundant life.
~*~*~
"Little Things"
by Julia Fletcher
.....
Little drops of water,
Little grains of sand,
Make the mighty ocean
And the pleasant land.

Thus the little minutes,
Humble though they be,
Make the mighty ages
Of eternity.

A Busy June in the Knowles Family

Dear friends,

It’s been a busy month for us so far, not only with daily life in a big family, but with three main events!

Graduation: The first weekend in June, my parents flew down for Rachel’s graduation from The Regent Academy, the home school ministry of Metro Life Church. I can’t believe our third daughter is done with high school! It seems like just yesterday that I had three little girls ages three and under. During her senior year of dual enrollment at Valencia Community College, Rachel made the President’s List for her perfect 4.0 GPA with 21 credit hours. You go, girl!

Rachel with Thad and I
Rachel with my parents
Each graduate gets a display board
The 2009 TRA graduating class

Jupiter: The following weekend, our whole family blasted off to Jupiter. Seriously! Well, maybe not blasted. We drove three hours to Jupiter, Florida, where Thad’s youngest sister lives with her family. Sarah did an awesome job of hosting the first Knowles & Scerra family reunion with over thirty relatives flying in from all over the country. I’ll write another blog post about our experiences on the water.


Thad and Callum with the reunion welcome flag

Anniversary Party: Just a few days later, I flew up to Maryland to spend six days with my family, celebrating the 75th wedding anniversary of my grandparents. Can you imagine being married that long? While in Maryland, I set aside one day for visiting museums in Washington, D.C. with my sister Barb and our sister-in-law Dana. This trip to Maryland gets another two or three blog posts. Stay tuned!

Grandma and Grandpa

Blessings,
Virginia

Friday, June 19, 2009

Diamonds in Our Family Tree


Diamonds in Our Family Tree
by Virginia Knowles

Pink roses on the arbor
Arched over groom and bride
Now seventy-five years later
They’re still smiling side by side.

With love enough for a lifetime
And four generations since then
Stories and laughter are flowing
As we all “remember when…”

So Happy Diamond Anniversary
To Henry and Dorothy Hess
We’re so glad to be your family
Knowing we’re forever blessed.

You are diamonds on our paths
Dazzling in our family tree
What a heritage to treasure
What a loving legacy!
~*~*~

I've been meaning for quite some time to write a poem to give to my grandparents for their 75th anniversary, which is on June 24. I want to read it to them at their party tomorrow, which will be attended by 60 family and friends. But as of early this afternoon, I hadn't penned it yet for two reasons: I had been frantically preparing for my trip up here to Maryland (I arrived yesterday) and I had decided not to write in my usual free verse style. I figure that at their age (94 and 96), they might appreciate a sentimental poem with a traditional rhyme scheme, which is always a stretch for me to write. So I procrastinated. Then I read poet L.L. Barkat's blog post, Make Your Writing Happen, and I thought, "OK, that's it! Time to sit down with a pen and paper in a quiet place and write!" So I did. Then I printed it out with cropped versions of the above photos, and added the page to a notebook of my other poems (linked below) that I had printed out in a large font for them before I left Florida. I will give them the whole book as their present tomorrow. It's a surprise, so no one tell them!

My wonderful mother is recreating a beautiful arbor with pink (silk) roses for the party tomorrow. I'll post a link to this weekend's photos sometime soon, but right now it's time for me to go out and join the crowd of relatives in the living room again!
You might also like to see my Hess Family Heritage page that has some of my grandparents' stories and vintage photos on it.
Blessings,
Virginia Knowles

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Gems from Morning Quiet Times

Dear friends,

I've been studying in the book of Ephesians during my morning quiet times lately. I haven't gotten very far yet, not because of neglect, but because I am working through it very slowly, trying to savor it carefully.

For a few days I camped on a single verse, Ephesians 1:2: "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." I wrote down as many things as I could about what the words "grace" and "peace" mean in this context. For example, after reading a bunch of other verses about peace, I jotted down that it seems to be conditional on faith, obedience, repentance, purity, unity, and devotion to God. Peace is not passive at all. It takes effort to stay focused on the goodness of God -- and to not let our peace be robbed by bitterness, fear, conflict, busyness, spiritual resistance, conflict with others, or even subtle apathy! Not only can we have peace with God (through the sacrifice of Christ, who brought us reconciliation), but we should also be peacemakers who seek reconciliation with others (and for others) in a way which honors our Prince of Peace. However, we should not make peace with sin (letting it "be" in our lives) or with elements of our culture which defy the gracious reign of God. Peace is a shalom wholeness, a calmed heart in the midst of chaos.

This morning I meditated on the phrases in verse 10, "to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth." Obviously, this speaks again of our reconciliation between God in heaven and we humans on earth. But I think it goes farther than that. There is a hint here of our stewardship over the things in our lives, what goes on around us as we walk on this rocky globe that the LORD has bestowed upon us. As we appreciate the natural beauty and wonder of the earth, we can thank God for this bounteous gift and worship him as the magnificent Creator of all. As creative people created in the image of our Creator, we can also use our redeemed imaginations, our God-given creativity, to enrich and influence those around us in a way that clearly points them to Christ the Savior. I read an article on Mission Network News yesterday about the Fonderie, a ministry in Paris which is bridging the gap between the church and the arts community. Yes! As an aspiring poet, I seek to reflect the beauty of the Lord and bring praise to Jesus. But this pursuit is not limited to the arts. I can bring all areas of my life -- marriage, mothering, homemaking, church, friendships, teaching, writing, recreation and entertainment -- under his Lordship for his glory. I must not live a fragmented, fractured life. All of these "things" can be united in Christ, so I can live a fully cohesive and integrated "shalom" life of wholeness, and so I can serve others from a full heart. I encourage you to do the same!

As I work my way through the rest of Ephesians, I trust that God will grant me even more understanding, inspiration, and enthusiasm for life!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Summer Schedule, Isaiah, Apple Pie, Handel's Messiah, Orphans, Nature Photography

Dear friends,

This is sort of a multi-subject blog post, but all of the topics in the subject line really do tie together. Trust me. You can click on the imbedded links for more information on various resources. At the start of our summer break (a month ago already) I had decided to put the younger kids on a reasonable summer schedule. Unfortunately, it took me a while to get going on it, but we have been trying to keep to one these past two weeks, more or less.

First things first. At 9 AM (after breakfast and getting dressed, which are necessary preliminaries) we gather in the living room for Bible time. We start with reading a little bit from the Scriptures. We are currently dabbling in the book of Isaiah. I am not reading it straight through since it is very long and parts of it are difficult for kids to comprehend. I'm just dipping in for key concepts and verses and we talk about them -- blitzing through seven chapters in two days so far. Then we sing some hymns. Several years ago I compiled a small family hymnal with some of my favorites. We haven't used it much in recent years, but I copied a page from it for each of us to put in our Bible notebooks. Our "hymn of the week" last week was "Trust and Obey" and this week it is "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." Ben is learning to read the song verses by himself -- such good practice for one who has just finished Kindergarten! After singing, we do our memory work with verses assigned by the National Bible Bee. Andrew, Micah, Naomi and I are plugging through memorizing the verses. Micah so far is the family champ with about 30 verses done, but I am edging up close behind. Bible memory is not only good for the heart (spiritually speaking) but for the brain as well! Think about how it makes you think! How is the sentence structured? Is it a contrast or a completion? What repetition is used? What logically comes next? What new vocabulary words can we learn? Stretch those brain cells! (Ben is also using these as reading practice!) We didn't cut up the verses pages into cards. It's easier just to hole punch the pages and put them in notebooks, one for each of us. The notebooks are all stored in one bin when we're not using them.

After Bible time is a half hour of general clean up (often used for putting away laundry or straightening up), a half hour of reading aloud, an hour of free time, an hour for lunch and cleanup, then quiet reading time for an hour or so while Melody naps. Around 2:30 we might run errands or go to the YMCA, where I try to work out with my friend Beverly twice a week. (I was going to take the kids to the Orlando Museum of Art last week, but they have ceased offering free admission to local residents on Thursday afternoons. Sigh. (Leu Gardens is still free on Monday mornings, though.) After errands (or more free time at home), we get ready for dinner, and the rest of the evening flies by from there.

We don't stick to the schedule very strictly, but it's a good starting point. As long as we at least get in our Bible time and some chores and a little bit of quiet, I'm a happy mama. Today, we're switching things up a bit and going to visit my married daughter Mary after lunch.

This morning as we read in Isaiah, I remembered a picture book, Hallelujah Handel by Douglas Cowling, that I had just checked out from the library. It is about George Frideric Handel, whose masterpiece The Messiah is largely taken from the book of Isaiah. What I hadn't known is that Handel donated the proceeds from The Messiah to the orphans of London. (Think of the wretched conditions in Dickens's "Oliver Twist.") I wanted to play The Messiah for my kids but couldn't find my CD. Fortunately, I remembered that my friend Brian had given me a tape of it when we were in college about 25 years ago. I dug it out and we blasted it through the house at full volume. (I know Micah will be humming it; I hear many classical hums from him! His 18 year old sister Rachel is usually the one who puts on this kind of music or plays it on the piano.) I plan to look up The Messiah on the web today and find the Scripture references so we can look at them tomorrow as I play some of the songs again.


Handel's use of creative profits on behalf of the orphans strikes a chord with me (pun intended). I send some of my own book profits to Headson Makazinga, a pastor in Malawi who is establishing an orphanage. My Aussie cyber-friend Viv Gregory actually moved to Ghana to work with orphans for a season. And now my 16 year old daughter Joanna is planning to use a portion of the profits from her nature photography to fund the repair of an orphanage in Haiti, where a Mission:X team from our church is going next month. Joanna is going to the Dominican Republic, at the other end of the island from Haiti. (She doesn't have her on-line photo album set up for this yet, but I'll pass along the link later. Until then, you can see some of her work at http://www.joannasportfolio.blogspot.com/. I think she is selling 5 x 7 photos for $8 and 8 x 10 photos for $12.) Here are just two to whet your taste:


Well, Lydia has just informed me that she's made an apple pie, which is enough incentive to get me off of the computer! (Oh, wait -- it's still in the oven! I can stay on for a little bit longer!) Joanna made an apple cobbler with Melody last week, and posted pics on her blog here. It makes me hungry even looking at it. Speaking of apple pies, I checked out several picture books with stories featuring pies, as well as a book called Apple Pie Perfect: 100 Delicious and Decidedly Different Recipes for America's Favorite Pie. (We made the butterscotch pie recently.) I'm going to review several of them in my next Hope Chest e-magazine, and I'll probably post it on this blog, too. I love picture books as much as I love pie!


OK, that's enough for now! Time to eat apple pie!
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