Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Birthday Books

New reading:

The Book of Margery Kempe, by Margery Kempe
This is the earliest surviving autobiography in English. Kempe lived about the time of Chaucer, 1373-1440.

Bede's The Ecclesiastical History of the English People
This classic early history is a book I've long wanted. I've read large portions online, but am glad to have a copy of my own.

It was a very "medieval" birthday!

A Cyber Party with Real Cake

Some friends in Iowa were getting together this morning to eat coffeecake and visit. They posted the coffeecake recipe on facebook, and invited any of us WAY too far away, to bake a cake, pour some coffee, and enjoy "virtually." So I did! With a little help from my computer:

A yummy pot of coffee, in the trusty coffee press:

Whipping up the batter:

Sprinkled with brown sugar and cinnamon:

The delicious result! Thanks for a great recipe, Liz!

Liz's Coffeecake:

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder

Stir together with a wisk. Then add:

One egg, in a 1 cup pitcher -- after cracking the egg into it, fill it with milk to the 1 cup line.

Pour into 8x8 baking pan. Top generously with brown sugar and cinnamon (and nuts or coconut, if you like). Bake about 30 minutes at 350.

Sorry 'bout that

I just haven't had anything much to post for the past few days! The house is so QUIET with only 2 children, and life is so peaceful, who needs to blog? I do a little laundry, a little cooking, a little floating in the pool, a little grocery shopping with the husband. Anna and Peter will come back home on Friday. We also have a little visitor this week: Tasha, the Corgi!

This morning, I am (hopefully) going to make the world's best coffeecake, recipe thanks to Liz Gardner. Liz and several friends are enjoying coffeecake this morning at 10:00, and I've decided I'll join them, from a distance. Iowa is a pretty long drive, even for coffeecake!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Time to dust off the old sewing machine...

Here's a fun, easy sundress I made for Julia yesterday:

WalMart closed their fabric section. They're closing out their fabric departments nationwide. And when WalMart came into our town, of course they forced all the other fabric stores out of business.

So now we are left with no fabric stores. I went to Hancock Fabrics for this cute dress fabric, but it was quite a drive. I also bought material for 4 new aprons. I do hope that someone will open a fabric store in our town again.

Nothing is easier than this dress: a seam to attach the lace edging, a seam up the back, make a couple of straps from leftover fabric, a little measuring, and you're done. Julia loves it too, and the fabric was 1/2 off.

Now that I'll be home, sewing is something I want to do again, and the girls need more instruction in it. Pictures of those aprons will be coming in the next few months.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Man-made Global Warming? Sceptics Just Won't Hush

I just read this article from the Wall Street Journal, indicating that the science supporting a man-made global warming theory is deteriorating, and more politicians and scientists are digging into the deficiencies of that science. Millions of dollars of expensive anti-carbon legislation hang in the balance. Read it by clicking this link.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Will of God

Now, that's a phrase we fling about a lot, isn't it?

We become anxious about God's will during at least two types of situations: 1) When we don't know what to decide, and we want to know God's will for our lives, and 2) When something painful and horrible happens, and we can't believe that it is God's will for us.

I'm revisiting this issue now, not only because of the uncertainty of our present state in life (that's #1 above) but also because of a book I recently read, Two-part Invention by Madeline L'Engle.

I love L'Engle. I love her children's books; we bought a boxed set of five of them for Julia for Christmas. I also dabbled briefly in her devotional book, Glimpes of Grace, but did not continue to read. I could tell that, theologically, she held different views from mine -- interesting views, of an interesting woman. I'm not adverse to reading other's ideas, but at the time I had other pressing reading, and I set it aside.

What we believe about God's will is inextricably tied to who God is, and how well we understand Him. Notice, I do not say, "inextricably tied to who we think God is," because this is the problem. L'Engle and I believe different things about God, and thus we have radically different understandings about God's will. God is not of our own definition; He does not conform His character to my preferences. He is Himself, and it's my job to know who He is.

As she suffered the agony of watching her beloved husband die slowly of cancer, L'Engle penned these words:

"Consequences: cancer is a result of consequences. It is not sent as a punishment. I do not have to make the repulsive theological error of feeling that I have to see cancer as God's will for my husband. I do not want anything to do with that kind of God. Cancer is not God's will. The death of a child is not God's will. The deaths from automobile accidents during this long holiday weekend are not God's will. I would rather have no God at all than that kind of punitive God. Tragedies are consequences of human actions, and the only God worth believing in does not cause the tragedies but lovingly comes into the anguish with us."

She's a good writer -- thinking, clear-speaking, definitive. However, she presents a mass of assumptions with which I disagree.

L'Engle rejects a punitive God. God, to her, is all-loving and never-punishing.
L'Engle decides that God must be the kind of God she needs, defining His character according to her limited understanding, otherwise, she will decide He doesn't exist.
L'Engle's God cannot cause our tragedy and still comfort us in it.
L'Engle affirms free-will, particularly inasmuch as humans choose sin. With this I heartily agree.
However, she's decides that all human tragedy comes only from our choices, that God can have no hand in it.
In fact, she assumes that, if God did have a hand in our tragedies, it would by definition have to be a punishing hand.

So I ask, is there any other reason, besides punishment, why God would put tragedy into our lives?

And of course, the answer is yes.

I'm reminded of Jesus, commenting on the blind man by the side of the road. The disciples assume that his blindness is a punishment from God. Jesus refutes that. "It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him." (John 9:3) Jesus tells them that God planned this blindness, and allowed it to continue for decades, so that on one day, the man's healing could show God's power.

Perhaps L'Engle would not like this God either!! A God who allows - even orchestrates - human suffering, so that His own power will be shown? What kind of an egocentric megalomaniac god is that??

Does God allow human suffering? Yes, just read the first couple of chapters of Job to see clearly that He does.

Does God design human suffering? Yes, just read through David's psalms. How many times does David cry out to God, "How many days will you afflict me?" "The bones you have broken will rejoice!" Oh my. David understood that God had broken him, body and soul. (Ps. 119:75; 51:8)

Why would God break his children? Because He can also heal. And the healing of a broken thing can be far more beautiful than if it were not broken in the first place.

We don't want to accept that. Many, I know, cannot accept the concept of a God who breaks. It feels so much like punishment, so they assume that it is. They cannot imagine, much less see, the healing. And like L'Engle, when the healing of the break comes, they see it as God's love, but do not see that He has done both breaking and healing.

God is a Redeemer. He fixes broken things. This is one of His fundamental qualities. We know that He redeems souls, He saves them from hell. But He redeems events and situations too. He alone can take a tragedy, which He's first placed in our lives, and transform it into something glorious -- showing His glory as a Redeemer, and causing us to proclaim His glory in our lives, which is our reason for existence. Redemption places both God and man in their perfect roles.

It is this redemption that gives comfort. To this, God alludes when He tells us He will not give us more than we can bear, but will help us. When we, fallen parents that we are, give our children heavy things to carry, or throw them up into the air, or place them in a body of water, don't we always balance this risk with absolute certainty in our ability to help and save them? If the weight is too heavy, or the throw too high, or the water too deep, we quickly rescue them. How much more is God able to perfectly gauge the tragedies He sends us, giving us only what will help us trust Him, and giving us grace to endure as we grow? He is watching, like a careful parent, each moment of our suffering.

L'Engle could not love such a God. She could not see past the pain.

Some of our tragedies will not be redeemed until heaven. I see heaven as the rest we have at the end of our work. Some of this life's work is extremely sorrowing, but there is rest, and the older I get, the more I realize it is just around the corner. God always sees our lives from this perspective, and so should we.

What is the will of God? It is the stuff in the mind of God. God's will is all that an all-knowing, all-powerful Being desires. Is there anything He desires that He cannot do? No. Is there anything that occurs that is beyond His power to prevent? No. He either designs it, or allows it by giving us the freedom to choose it. Even our choices are at His allowance.

I have always loved this passage from Thornton Wilder's play, Our Town. Rebecca describes the address on a letter that was received from a minister. "The address was like this. It said: Jane Crofut, The Crofut Farm, Grover's Corners, Sutton County, New Hampshire, United States of America."

"What's funny about that?" George asks Rebecca. Most of us do not define our existence much more than that.

Rebecca continues: "The United States of America, Continent of North America, Western Hemisphere, The Earth, The Solar System, The Universe, The Mind of God."

Does your whole life exist in the mind of God? Is there anything in your life that is not part of His will for you? Do you know that even the ugly things in your life, He can redeem and make beautiful? It's true. If it's not, then there is a chunk of creation that is outside of His mind, and that cannot be. L'Engle preferred a weakened God, one who could only watch, saddened and unable to help, as tragedy struck. All He could do was hold her hand and wait for the pain to pass. How sad!

Blueberry Brownies

These things are GREAT. I've eaten them twice, but not made them yet. And with blueberries coming in soon, what better time to bake a few, right? Here's the recipe:

2 cups self-rising flour, or equivalent
2 cups sugar (perhaps a little less)
1 cup canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 pint frozen blueberries, unthawed
1 cup chopped nuts, optional

Beat eggs. Add flour, sugar, oil, vanilla, and mix well. Add frozen berries and nuts. Spray 9x13 dish and bake at 350 degrees for 45 -50 minutes. The batter will be very thick. You may use a mixer, but stirring with a spoon works fine too.

These are crusty on the top, and the moist blueberries settle to the bottom. And -- their biggest selling point -- even PHILIP LIKES THEM!!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Dashing into the Mountains

Adam and I drove to West Virginia on Monday to take Peter to Max and Anne's farm. They have a farm which our family long ago agreed is the most beautiful place on earth. And, unlike Eden, it doesn't get there on its own!! They work so hard, and for the next two weeks, Peter will hopefully contribute a little muscle to the effort!
They have a pick-your-own blueberry farm, 20 minutes north of Lewisburg. Here's a shot of some early berries:

Their children are a huge help to the farming effort. Here's Hannah:

They have a lovely farmhouse that adds to the rural effect, and the work.

It seems that each year, their garden gets bigger. See it stretching away to that tree? And there's more garden on the left. They've started strawberries and asparagus as well as their thousands of blueberry bushes.

And here's their driveway, winding away. We were sorry to leave! It was a quick trip for us. If you're ever in the area in July, stop for some berries at White Oak Berry Farm.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Typing is rather slow and tough these days. While trimming azalea bushes, I snipped the tip end of my left index finger. If I left these words uncorrected, you would see what I mean! Talk about typos, oh my! I really cut (almost all the way) off a good chunk. It's healing nicely, but is very sore. Playing piano in church this morning was challenging.

I'm loving these loungey summer days. Meals happen when they happen. The hours slip away. Decisions about whether to swim, or nap, or read, are made in a relaxed fashion; there's always time later for other options.

Adam preached this morning, a fine Father's Day sermon, on Ephesians 5 and the early chapters of Hosea. He aggressively challenged the men of the congregations concerning whether they were truly loving their wives as Christ loved the church, taking initiative in serving their wives, sacrificing for them, reconciling with them, pursuing them -- even if the wife is unfaithful, as in Hosea's case. And I can attest to the fact that Adam seeks to live out this Scripture faithfully. He is a wonderful, giving, devoted husband. I hope you're not wondering what this has to do with Father's Day, because of course the first way a man can be a good father is to be a good husband. And the best way to be a good husband is to understand what God says about husbands.

We have so much yard work to do. Nature is a force to be reckoned with, especially with the encouraging rains we've had lately.

Well, I'm heating up pizza from last night, and Adam is making malts. See you later!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Busy Summer

I always tell myself that THIS summer, I won't let us get so busy. It hasn't worked so far!

Peter and Julia already spent a week at camp, as you know, while Anna spent a week at her best friend's house.

Now Anna is at her aunt and uncle's house. On Monday, Peter will go to another aunt and uncle's house (the blueberry farm). They'll both be gone another 2 weeks.

Philip is working, so he is in and out. Plus, in all possible ways, he is already "at" college, he's so eager to go. That's a good thing. If he were clinging to home, I'd be worried.

Julia went to an interesting birthday party. It was a sleepover at the local Sleep Inn. They had the use of the indoor pool, which is instant entertainment and blissful exhaustion for 10 year old girls. The hosting mom even said that they slept!

Adam will be busy preaching at our church for the near future, so although it may not pay a lot, it will keep him busy while he's job hunting, and keep those preaching skills sharp.

Soon some of us will be going to Music Conference again. And hopefully, after that, things will slow down.

Yeah, right!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Shatley Springs with Church Friends

Yesterday, Adam and I traveled with a group from our church to a famous place up in the hills called Shatley Springs. It's an inn/restaurant (and not much else...) with great family-cooked food and lots of it.

They have nice rockers on their porch for visitors to while away the friendly minutes, waiting for lunch to be served.

We had a fun group of laughing folks.

Here's what we were served, "family style," which means they keep filling the bowls until you cry out "NO MORE!!" the chicken was fresh, hot and delicious. The country ham and baked apples were delish together. Cherry cobbler/ice cream for dessert.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Morning on Panther Mountain

The leaves are twitching, tree by tree
Like little horses, to be free
From bond of twig and chain of limb;
They, in their bondage, sing of Him.

He sends the breeze to stir their soul
And in one voice the leaves extol …
Extol … I ask, what do they sing?
This foreign voice, this fallen tongue,
What exaltations have been wrung
From every single, silenced string?

That nature sings His praise, I know
‘Tis true. But Adam’s crushing blow,
Like Babel’s fall, has made us all –
The leaves, the beasts, and Whitman’s grass
Like strangers. We’re reduced to pass
Each other, hearing no one’s call.

And yet my heart is stirred as well,
And yearning toward the leaves, their spell
Both saddens and enlivens me.
That God is speaking with his trees,
And they with Him, I know. My heart
Is broken so, and can’t take part.

Ridgehaven, June 10, 2009

copyright by author

Baby Grace Has Fun:

Happy Grace, sitting on Hunter's lap.

She liked the porch.

She and Grandmother are looking at her FAVORITE THING: Tasha the Corgi!!

She and Tasha got on VERY friendly terms.

Aren't the cute? Tasha was a very good girl, and tolerated being chased, grabbed and screamed at, all week long. How many old ladies do you know who would do that willingly?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Cousin Fun

I'm a bit late with these photos. Here's Peter, sad to say good-bye to some of his friends from camp:

He gets a hug from a girl. That's his cousin Hannah, looking on.

When all the camper cousins returned to the grandparents' house, they had fun playing games in the backyard (until they had to stop because they were waking the baby!)

Ben and Peter check out the lunch choices.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

"Sour Nip"


The "Sour Nip" story was told to me years ago by a dear friend, Clarissa. Clarissa has 2 lovely daughters, both in college by now I imagine. But when they were babies, it was faddish then for mommies to nurse their babies for an extended time. Some mothers nursed their babies until they were standing up and asking for a "snack." Ahem.

Anyway, Clarissa did nurse her babies until they were old enough to talk. The younger girl was particularly attached to this endearing activity, but Mama Clarissa was wearying of it. She wondered how to encourage her daughter to give it up. And, you guessed it, she decided to apply lemon juice to the pertinent area. The little girl curled up for a snuggle with mommy, but -- OOOOOH -- yuck! She backed away, looked up into Clarissa's eyes, and said, "Mama! Sour Nip!"

I thought of this sweet story this past week while talking with a friend. We both recounted stories of times when God, the wise parent, had given us a "sour nip." God places his children is positions of service and ease. We are happy with life. We anticipate living in a particular place, or doing a certain work. We settle in for a period of nurturing and leisure.

And then God can make those places, those times, turn sour. He can make us long to escape the very pleasures we once longed for. He can give your town, your job, your church even, the taste of "sour nip."

It's important (but difficult) to discern the Lord's leading. Often when we think we've "got it!" and understand what He's about to do, He changes it again. But tasting the "sour nip" is one way of accepting God's changes and leading in our lives. And although He may turn attachments in our lives a bit sour, our relationship with Him is ALWAYS sweet.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hunter's Tea, part two -- the food!

Alright! Let's see if I can remember it all! Both Hunter and I failed to take a picture of a "perfect plate" before we began to consume. We enjoyed:

Cucumber sandwiches; cheese/carrot sandwiches; scones with Devonshire cream, orange marmalade and raspberry jam; salted nuts; baked and crusted brie with pecan syrup sauce and apples, served on crackers; lemon curd tarts crowned with blueberries, a towering trifle, and Assam and peach teas. What a feast! Long ago, all Hunter's friends learned to cook supper for the menfolk after her teas, but NEVER to plan eating supper themselves!

Mercy cleaned her plate!

The happy eaters. I think I drank seven cups of tea. The peach tea was divine!

Hunter's Tea, part one

For those of you who have been deprived of the pleasure of knowing Hunter, my condolences. I have had the privilege of her friendship, and what a beautiful thing it is! She had a tea for me :) Le Table:

{I adored her Haviland.)

The elegant Hunter, herself:

{Please note the Minnie Pearl hat, complete with tag. The fun apron came from her friend, Margaret, whom I must meet, if this is any indication of her temperament!}
Le Menu:

{Hunter and I both exhausted our French for this occasion.}

Mes Amis: Here are Chris, Hunter and Carolyn, three dear friends. Do you know, Chris and I figured out that we have known each other for about 35 years! Can you imagine. She says the first time she saw me, I was a little girl playing with Barbies on the beach in Florida. My dad evidently convinced her husband to go to seminary. All the rest is a wonderful history of ministry. With friends like this, and love like this, all the troubles of life are reduced to their proper places.

La Famile: My mother, with Faith and Mercy Sky. Mercy was a perfect lady at Hunter's Tea, which is the usual effect her home has on little girls. Even baby Grace played quietly on the floor.
(Please do not correct my French, Carolyn (haha) - It's been about 25 years since I looked at it!)

A day with Carolyn and her crew

I told Carolyn when I took this pic that I LOVE the expression on her face. She claims to be unphotogenic. I beg to differ! She is holding her #3, Tessa.

Here is Eowyn, such a lady :) I don't know how I failed to get a picture of Tristan. (Don't they pick amazing names?) And their kids eat EVERYTHING. I'll never forget the day I dropped by her house at lunch time, and 2-year old Tristan was eating Crab Bisque for lunch. On this day, she served spinach quiche, which we all gobbled up.

It was so wonderful to have a whole, undisturbed day with my dear friend. And I can honestly say "undisturbed," because her children are well-behaved and secure enough not to need her attention every 3 minutes, interrupting and clinging. It was a pleasure to be around them :)
Carolyn gave me a birthday gift: Jan Karon's Mitford Cookbook. I'm THRILLED! I've wanted that book for so many years, and I've enjoyed thumbing through it the past couple of days.

#24 and #25

We Robinsons are a prolific bunch. My parents have 5 children, and (I hope this count is correct) 25 grandchildren. And just when we thought we were slowing down, here came a couple more adorable babies! Here's the gorgeous Abraham:

He had fun playing on the porch with his big brother William, and his mom, DeVona.

I couldn't resist getting a picture of his FABulous curls!

And here's Faith, mother of SIX, with her latest, Grace. Such a sweetie! You should see her dimples :)

Camp Week

Julia with her counselor. I took about 4 minutes to get her stuff on her bunk, and then left her to it, with a kiss and a hug. She loves camp.

See that smile?

Peter registered, jumped into a van, and was taken to a location in the woods for a camp week full of tent-sleeping, fire-cooking, few showers, hiking and whitewater rafting. He loved this last year.

Like every summer, we join a group of cousins for the camp week. We usually try to get a picture before they head over.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Over the River and Through the Woods...

And up the mountains too! Yes, we're going to the grandparents' house. Camp is next week, so I'll be taking some of the children there, and I'll be staying with my folks while the kids are at camp.

And yes, Hunter, I will get to visit with you too! Yay! And Chris, maybe I'll get to give you a hug too :)

Since I'll be without wireless internet for the week, this may be my last post for a while. Just check back in next weekend, and I'll have pictures galore and lots to tell.

Here is the latest from our friend, Elisabeth Elliot:

"There are times when the entire arrangement of our existence is disrupted and we long then for just one ordinary day -- seeing our ordinary life as greatly desirable, even wonderful,in the light of the terrible disruption that has taken place. Difficulty opens our eyes to pleasures we had taken for granted." ("Keep a Quiet Heart," p. 47)

I know that feeling; perhaps you do too. An earthquake has rocked your world, and you know that things will never be the same. How difficult it is to accept a changed world, a seemingly ruined life! Why can't things just stay beautiful?

I read an email message today written by the daughter-in-law of the pastor of 1st Baptist Church in Montgomery, AL. One year ago, she was young, happily married, new mother, perfect health. In one second -- LITERALLY, ONE SECOND -- her world fell apart. She experienced a brain hemorrhage, extensive bleeding. Now she can barely swallow, can't walk, is partially paralyzed.

Yet she writes with joy and thankfulness. She has accepted what God has done, and does not mourn her losses. She has hope in a new future -- not the one she'd written for herself, but the one she's now accepted as her own, from God's hand.

One phone call, one blink of an eye on the interstate, one trip on the stairs, one word from a loved one. One heartbeat. In an instant, life changes. We must be pliable in our Maker's hands. Whenever I think of myself in God's hand, I remember what is underneath me: a piercing hole that symbolizes his love and sacrifice for me. His hand is a good place to be.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Estate Sale Finds

Our elderly neighbor died early this year, and now the family is selling the contents of the home. I strolled over, and look what I found:

I adore flow-blue dishes, and these are just gorgeous. Price? $5 for the pair.

Love this trivet. My mom has some like this. It was only a dollar.

They had some jewelry for sale also - all items were $1.50. I picked up two long necklaces: