Subscribing to Scribd

If you love books and have a bit of a budget for continuing education, then you might appreciate Scribd. Have you heard of it? It’s been dubbed the “Netflix for e-books.” Although there have been some serious accusations of copyright infringements since its inception in 2007 (by then Harvard student, Trip Adler), it is my understanding that at this point, Scribd has a clean bill of health and you can become a member without any concern that you’re doing anything shady. I joined last fall and have become a fan. For $8.99 per month, you can listen to as many audio books as you like, choosing from their vast collection of over a million titles and growing. Let me share just a bit of my own experience.

I love reading but all too often “don’t have time” for the pleasure of sitting and learning via the written word. To compensate, I discovered LibriVox (actually, my book-loving editor son told me about it), which self-identifies as “Accoustical liberation of books in the public domain.” This is a marvelous service, and you can access over 12,000 books that have no copyright issues. It’s completely free, closely affiliated with Project Gutenberg (another wonderful volunteer organization that has been digitizing culturally significant books in the public domain), and is always looking for volunteers who are willing to contribute their time and voice to adding to LibrVox’s listings with high quality books. Over the past 10 years, I’ve enjoyed a number of LibriVox’s audio books, and if you have no money for continuing education but have time and the means for listening to audio books, this is an excellent way to go!

And then, last year, I began hearing about more recent books that I really wanted to read but were (are) still under copyright. Again, my son came to my rescue, as did several friends, particularly one friend who travels by car extensively for her work. Scribd will let you have one month as a free trial, and within one month, I was hooked. (Also, if you’re a student and too busy during the year, you could still sign up just for the summer. 🙂 )

There is a seemingly endless array of possibilities out there, but I will tell you that I mostly read non-fiction Christian books, so not everything I want to read is available on Scribd, which is probably good. I love to underline, go back and rethink, and study the books I really love, so it’s good for me to OWN books. However, Scribd opens the door for learning at times that I just can’t read, like when I’m driving, folding laundry, or washing dishes. I hope nothing ever ends our desire to possess paper copies of precious books (the Bible most of all), but every avenue for growth and learning about God and good seems like a blessing to me.

Here are a few of my favorite books from those I’ve enjoyed since last fall (all of which could also be purchased, but I’m just giving you a sampling of what’s out there that I really appreciated):

*King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, by Timothy Keller (excellent study on the life of Christ from the book of Mark, for both seekers and those who have found!)

*Why Suffering?: Finding Meaning and Comfort When Life Doesn’t Make Sense, by Ravi Zacharias (so helpful for gaining perspective on why a “good” God might allow suffering in this life)

*Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design, by Stephen C. Meyer (highly technical but excellent information for those with scientific minds, providing solid philosophical and scientific arguments for the probability of intelligent design rather than random chance in the creation of the universe)

*Earth Psalms, by Francine Rivers (short, happy devotional thoughts about nature and God; easy listening for tired ears)

*A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Suffering, by Jerry Sittser (learning to accept and grow through tragedy)

*America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation, by Grant Wacker (fascinating, technical biography about one of our world’s most influential religious leaders)

*The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown (“The #1 New York Times bestseller about the Greatest Generation freshly adapted for the next generation” [that’s me]; wonderful account of a motley crew of young men who worked tireless to fulfill their dream of rowing their way to an Olympic Gold Metal back in 1936)

*The Classic Hundred Poems: All-Time Favorites, by William Harmon. The commentary on the poems alone was worth the listen; I felt like I’d taken a crash course in English poetry, and since I love to write poems, it seemed worthwhile to hear what the world loves best.

And more, although I won’t bore you. The point is, if you’re looking for a good resource for spirit and brain food, there are ways to promote learning and growth even during times when your hands are occupied with daily duties. Of course, nothing is as sweet and good as prayer and meditation, but if you have time for some audio books and $9 a month, you might also enjoy this avenue for expansion!

May Jesus bless you this summer as you pursue Him!

Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:12-13). “Let no man despise thy youth” . . . or thy old age! Let’s be lifelong learners!!

Family Flock arriving!

One of the curious surprises of this summer has been watching four families of Canada geese rearing their families on our lake. In this first photo (if you can see well enough), you’ll notice one goose out in front with four other families coming along behind. One couple has five goslings; one pair has four goslings, and two pairs each have three goslings. I don’t know the facts, but they get along so well and travel as a group, so in my imagination, they are one big family.

The fascinating thing to me is that the family of geese are exactly representative of our four oldest children, all of whom live out of town, but all of whom are (or will be) visiting us this summer. One couple has 5, one couple has 4, and two couples each have 3 children. If I imagine Alan out in front, as the old patriarch, these geese are the perfect picture of our family!! It seems too exact to be coincidental, and so I watch them with even more interest than I might normally, wondering just what lessons the Lord might teach me.

Pair of Mute Swans

This is the first year in my memory that we have had so many Canada geese. For years, a pair of mute swans reigned supreme. They looked absolutely peaceful and regal, but in fact they were territorially challenged and wouldn’t share the lake with the geese, routinely driving them away as effectively as they could.

After twenty years of monarchy, the swans have died (I think), and none of their cygnets have come back with new mates, so the Canada geese are now free to claim summer campsites wherever they please on the lake. Similarly, here at Tanglewood Cottage, we’ve already had the pleasure of a visit from Aaron, his wife, and their four sons, so we’re off and running!

Our second son, Michael, and his family of five will be visiting too, and when they come, the house will ring with the voices of merry children . . . not unlike the sometimes boisterous calls of the geese on our lake!

Our third son’s family of three will be visiting too, so you can imagine the joyous chaos!

Our daughter, with her family of three, will visit a bit later, so we won’t be able to enjoy them all at exactly the same time, but we will definitely be experiencing a lot of action between now and the end of summer!

Favorite activities include swimming,

boating, campfires, fishing off the dock,

and exploring in the woods.

And, of course, a lot of good eating!

We’ll be exhausted by the time they leave,

but also completely disconsolate that they have to go!

If you have grandchildren, I’m sure you know what I mean! I used to feel like swarm of locusts or a tornado blowing through our parents’ homes when our seven kids were little and we visited. Still, Alan’s mother would write soon to say she hadn’t had the heart to wipe off the tiny fingerprints from her windows just yet. 🙂

I think with all the company, I may not be a very good correspondent blogger until the flocks have come and gone, but I’ll be treasuring up good memories to share, and I hope you’ll be storing up happy times . . . perhaps with your families too!

Enjoy these precious times with loved ones! If you’re young, help your parents, will you? If you’re old (like me), remember that children are of infinitely greater value than any material possession.

Whether you’re the grandparent, parent, or part of the youngest generation, let’s all pray for each other, determine to love each other no matter what, and take pleasure in all the chaotic ups and downs of sharing real life together!

I think time passes more quickly than we realize, and the time to love and invest in our kids is now. Today. This summer! This year. Life is fleeting, and before we know it, our kids will grow up and move away . . . or our grandchildren will grow up and not be able to visit because they have summer jobs.

I am so excited to have all four families coming to visit us this summer, and if I am very, very blessed, perhaps Alan and I will live long enough to have them all come again! But, if not, I want to make the most of every moment of this summer, and I hope you will too! God bless you!

How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God!
therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.”
(Psalm 36:7)

Septic and Water Problems, Poverty and Wealth

Have you ever experienced first hand that “when it rains, it pours”? Among other complications with trying to build a new addition, our well shut down and had to be replaced, and the entire sewer line from our house to our septic system had to be dug up and the path restructured as well as the line replaced, since apparently the line was never set properly when our home was built 30 years ago. Ca-ching, ca-ching, ca-ching, and ouch, ouch ouch!

Now, I find myself tempted to complain, but the fact is: We have a well, and we have a sewer line and a septic system, which is not true for hundreds of millions of people around the world. For example, at the Bidi Bidi Refugee Camp in Uganda, there are 270,000 people trying to eek out an existence without a good water system, and I’ve heard that this camp—which was the world’s largest in 2018—has now been surpassed by an ever larger refugee camp in Bangladesh. While visiting the “City of the Dead” in Cairo, Egypt, we learned that up to two million people are making their homes among the vast network of tombs along a four-mile stretch of cemetery, the majority of which have very few amenities.

Kind of puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? Many “poor” people in North America and Europe are “richer” than the “richest” folks in some parts of the world. At least, in some ways! In other ways, maybe not so much! I have a friend whose family invited over some friends from Africa one night. Later that week, their 3-year-old daughter asked when the “rich” people were coming over again. After a lot of confusion, the mother realized that the little girl was thinking about the “rich” color of their African friends’ skin! Her parents would talk about how “rich” a dessert was when it was made with dark chocolate, and the little girl (wisely) made the connection to people with rich, dark skin as being “rich” too!

Although people who struggle financially may not be wealthy as the world counts wealth, I believe they can be rich in love and wisdom and grace. Often, poverty helps us focus on what really matters in life, and there are things which are much more important than having flushing toilets or running water in our homes!

True riches come from being able to drink from the pure, clean fountain of life: “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14). True riches come from knowing and loving God: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33). True riches are found in loving others and being loved by them! “There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches” (Proverbs 13:7).

True riches are knowing that we have a home prepared for us in heaven because we have recognized our spiritual poverty and have asked God to forgive us for our sins and Jesus Christ to become our Lord and Savior. “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

As unpleasant as water and sewage problems are, spiritual thirst and having our lives fouled by sin are much deeper problems. Thankfully, we have a Savior who promises to be with us through the trials of life, both spiritual and physical. “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). He cares for us.

Gentle Rains

Another day of gentle rains! I want to publicly thank God for these wonderful rains, because I’ve been praying for them!

In the process of building an addition, our yard became a muddy mess! Alan carefully sowed grass seed everywhere, but every time we turned our backs, the geese would come and gobble up the profits! One of my daily tasks has become chasing the geese away so the grass has a chance to grow. (And then, I have to scatter more seed after they leave.) I feel like Disney’s little cocker spaniel, Lady!

A Tangle of Wild Grapes and Highbush Cranberry Blossoms

Our yard covers more than an acre, and to water the lawn with a hose and sprinkler would take more time, energy, and hose-length than we possess, so I’ve been asking the Lord to bless us with gentle rains to help the grass seed sprout and take root before it all gets washed away or eaten up.

Gray Dogwood, Cornus racemosa, growing wild along our Michigan woodland lane

God has been answering my prayers! We have had one of the most wonderfully cool springs I can ever remember, with the perfect blend of sunshine and soft showers!

The grass has taken root, and we’ve become hopeful that—short of a disastrous drought—the grass may flourish. Perhaps by next summer we will have enough soft grass to support both the grazing of geese and the romping of grand children!

Wild turkeys grazing in the meadow

Well, and enough for the wild turkeys too . . .

Doe and her young fawn grazing with the geese in our yard

And the deer, especially now that the herd
has a number of new fawns to feed!

Mock orange on a rainy morning

Working hard to plant and protect the grass, and praying for rain and sunshine—which only God can provide—reminds me of a greater task we’ve been given: that of sharing spiritual “seed” (the Word of God) with others. “My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass” (Dueteronomy 32:2).

Fragrant wild roses perfuming the misty morning air

God has been merciful and kind to me, and he will provide for you too if you’ll surrender your heart and will to Jesus. He calls each of us with a quiet, gentle voice that can only be heard in our hearts. “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

White-tailed fawn in our woods

Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great” (Psalm 18:35).

Magnify

Do you ever wake up on a rainy morning and say to yourself, “I just need to go for a walk!”?

Peony crowned with raindrops

Yesterday was one of those days for me, so I donned my raincoat, grabbed my trusty umbrella (to protect my camera), and took off to see what I could see!

Orange Bearded Iris in Rain

It was as I thought—absolutely beautiful!

Peony buds in the rain

The amazing beauty of springtime
is always exhilarating and glorious, isn’t it?!

Purple Bearded Iris

First I walked along the lane to check out the woods and swamp.

Wood ducks in a swamp

At first, I didn’t see anything of particular interest, but then I saw a movement in the distance. It wasn’t until I was able to zoom in with my camera that I got a clear picture: a pair of wood ducks resting on a log, trying to negotiate the rain. They kept shaking their wings, and I smiled, thinking about the saying that something is as insignificant as “water off a duck’s back.” Not if you’re a duck! They worked hard to shake all the rain off their feathers!

Montmoreceny cherries starting to ripen in rain

I’ve been meditating my way through the Book of Psalms in the mornings lately (and I most highly recommend Charles Spurgeon’s Treasury of David for eloquent insights on the these comforting scriptures)! We need a lot of life’s drenching rains to grow spiritually. Bless God for rain; without it we would all die!

Wild roses blooming on our lane

That morning, I was meditating on Psalm 34:3, “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.” I feel like just one little wild rose, but one blossom in the midst of a cluster of wild roses can still attract attention . . . and may any attention we attract always magnify our wondrous creator, who has “made everything beautiful in his time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)!

Water droplets falling off lily pad leaves

I thought about how much more we can see when something is magnified. Without my camera, and it’s wonderful capacity for magnifying life, I would have known it was raining, but I wouldn’t have been able to recognize the distant pair of wood ducks or seen the tiny droplets of water dripping off the edge of the lily pads. May those of us who know God be like magnifying lenses for those who don’t.

Honeysuckle

Although I could smell the heady sweetness of honeysuckle, without magnification, I couldn’t really appreciate how beautiful it is. As we meditate on God’s beauty and draw near to him, may we share that sweetness with those around us!

Elaeagnus angustifolia, commonly called Russian olive, silver berry, oleaster,
Persian olive or wild olive

We have lots of Russian olives in bloom along our lane, but how could I explain to you how joyous they look without magnification?

Highbush Cranberry blossoms

We can’t “magnify the Lord” in the sense of making him anything greater than he is, because he is the Creator who holds the universe in his hands! He is already higher than the heavens and deeper than the seas . . . crowned with beauty and glory!

Mock orange budding in the rain

But, as we draw near to him and begin to appreciate his beauty, we are filled with such awe that we want to share what we’ve experienced with others, just like I love sharing my experiences with you!

Daisy

With magnification, even the common experiences of life become uncommon . . . like the daily miracles we may fail to notice—the breathe of life, color, water . . .

Nightshade

Only through the magnification of God’s Word do we learn to understand that not everything which is beautiful to look is also safe to eat. Some things are really bejeweled poison! “The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable” (Isaiah 42:21).

Waterlily bud in the rain

Only with magnification can we see the tiny details, like the minuscule fly resting on the lily. (Can you see it?) “Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour” (Ecclesiastes 10:1). Can you think of anywhere outside scripture where we are given so many insights about the “little” details of righteousness?

Tiny clover blossoms and a tiny slug

I realized that magnification makes me aware of the fragility of life. How easily I might have stepped on these delicate clovers growing in the middle of the road! Even more surprising, there was a miniature slug sitting in the middle of one of them, which I really did not see until I studied the photo later! Whom might we harm because they’re in the middle of our road?? Ever read the children’s book, Horton Hears a Who?

Robin Hood Roses in rain, out of focus!

Finally, I realized that the most powerful camera in the world (which I certainly don’t own . . . but for the sake of argument), with the best magnification potential in the world, would be absolutely useless if it isn’t focused properly! If we don’t learn how to use the Bible (the world’s most powerful tool for revealing and magnifying God) to focus others on the magnificence of God, we won’t have anything worth sharing with others! Instead, we’ll be much more likely to confuse or frustrate them.

Robin Hood Roses in the rain

I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving.”
(Psalm 69:30)

Just an Itsy Bitsy Mouse

What’s not to love about a tiny mouse? Bright black eyes, pink ears and tail, tiny little paws. Soft and shy.

While they’re adorable when you find them out in the field, and it’s somewhat funny to find an old boot stuffed full of dog food that they’ve stolen from your pet’s dish,

it’s not adorable or funny when they confer with the mice of NIHM on how to colonize your screen house and start chewing holes in your home!

Therefore, we’ve had to resort to capturing them in live traps and taking them to a nearby reserve where we set them free to begin life anew in a vast park with ample supplies of all things mousely.

Alan and I have started making little dates out of our evening adventures, but—despite transporting them to new and improved surroundings—I always feel a little sad in case we’re separating parents and children (or whatnot), and so I make up stories about how this mouse is actually the husband, who is going to build a new nest in preparation for his beloved wife . . .

who will be arriving just in time for dinner tomorrow. In fact, over the past few months, Alan has caught myriad mice and chipmunks between his 6 live traps laden with peanut butter and bird seed . . . an apparently irresistible combination!

I have such a mother’s heart for little creatures that it’s hard to relocate them, but I’m thankful that Alan has a father’s heart to protect our home from intruders, even little ones, because they are actually quite destructive and dirty.

Remembering Song of Solomon 2:15 has helped me reconcile myself to the fact that “we ain’t in heaven yet,” and if we don’t protect ourselves from invasion, the consequences can be severe. “Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.”

We do have lots of tender grapes growing now, and possibly a fox or two in our woods, but even more importantly, I think there is a spiritual message for us in this passage.

Mice aren’t bad, and chipmunks aren’t bad. Neither are mosquitoes, spiders, flies, ants, or stinkbugs. But, if they invade our homes, then they are out of place and need to be captured and removed!

It’s easy to imagine the parallels in our lives and families, isn’t it? Got anything in your life that isn’t “bad” in and of itself, but will erode and damage your home if you don’t remove it? Maybe you can start having some nightly dates with your spouse to “catch” those sneaky little foxes and get rid of them! Don’t be sentimental. Be severe!! Protect yourself and your loved ones!

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.Do ye look on things after the outward appearance?” (2 Corinthians 10:3-7).

Fresh Strawberry Pie for Brianna and Alan’s 369th Birthday!

Every family has a few unique “fun facts,” and one of my favorites in our family is that our oldest son was born on my birthday and our youngest daughter-in-law was born on my husband’s birthday! So, we’re often privileged to share a birthday party. This year was Brianna’s 36th and Alan’s 69th, so together they’ve lived 105 years . . . but it was also fun to arrange the candles so that it looked like even longer! 🙂 Fresh strawberry pie has been one of Alan’s favorite birthday desserts since early in our marriage, so I thought you might enjoy making it too.

Fresh Strawberry Pie
(Feeds 1, or possibly 8-9 🙂 )

I forgot to photo making the pie shell, I think because I’ve written it up before, but in case you don’t have a favorite recipe yet, here’s mine:

One 10-inch Baked Pie Shell

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
2. In a mixing bowl, combine:
1.5 cups flour
2/3 cup Crisco (or other vegetable shortening)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold water.
3. Mix until a ball forms. Roll out (I always roll it out on top of some saran wrap so I can get it off the counter and into the pie plate in one piece, but you have to flip the crust over so the saran ends up on top and can be pulled off. Also, if the saran slides around, put a few drops of water on the counter underneath the wrap to make it stay in place.)
4. Arrange the crust in the pan, flute the edges, prick some holes in the bottom with a fork, and bake in a hot oven for 12 minutes or until it’s starting to turn a golden brown on the edges. Let it cool on the counter while you make the filling.

Strawberry Glaze

1. In a saucepan, stir together until completely blended:
1 cup sugar
ÂĽ cup corn starch
2. Next, add:
2 cups water
1 three-oz. package of strawberry jello powder
3. Heat, stirring almost constantly, until it bubbles, thickens, and clarifies

Let it cool to room temperature, and then add:
1 cup fresh strawberry jam or fresh freezer jam
2 pounds or 2 quarts hulled but whole strawberries (about 5-6 cups)

Coat the berries completely, then gently fill the pie shell. The berries can be heaped quite high, depending on how many strawberries you’ve got and how big your pie shell is. (I’ve made it without the jam, but it really does add to the overall flavor if you have some available. Just follow the directions on the package, but you may want to have made the jam beforehand. I tend to buy the berries when they go on sale about once a year for $0.99 a quart and make my year’s supply in May.)

Chill thoroughly in refrigerator, and then, just before you serve it top with:

 1.5 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar, whipped together until medium peaks form

If you serve it right away and the peaks aren’t too stiff, it may turn out like this, but nobody seemed to fuss!

May you live long and celebrate many, many, many happy birthdays!

When they are old, they will still produce fruit; they will be healthy and ·fresh [green; verdant]” (Psalm 92:14, EXB “Expanded Bible”).