Monday, August 31, 2020

Shades of Summer

Enough tomatoes from our own garden to 
can all the tomato products I need.

Peaches from the neighbor's orchard, 33 quarts of them.

Yellow pear tomatoes from a plant that became the largest 
ever grown in our history of gardening. It completely overwhelmed
its allotted spot--and the gardeners. Sadly, we couldn't keep up.
I hate having produce rot in the garden, so I uprooted the plant.

43 quarts of beans, and that's after missing
two weeks of picking them while we were in Indiana

Unbelievable amount of peppers from 4 plants. 
With a garden that produces well, I can almost
understand why some people say they enjoy
gardening--almost, but not quite.

One of my summer's best bargains--boots he can
put on himself. And take off. And put on. And take off...

Organic blueberries picked in Indiana with Mom. 
"Just until the children get tired of it," she said. 
I think the boys lasted 14 minutes but chivalrously
hung out with us until we each had three inches
of berries in our buckets. Delish!

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

National Aviation Day

After a five year break, John is back "boring holes in the sky," as he says. Yesterday Tyler was able to go with him for the first time since John's pilot's license is renewed. 

In the meantime, I was making supper and checked my Find My Friend app to see if my men were on their way home. They weren't. They were lined up with the runway, ready to land. 

They didn't fly yesterday because of National Aviation Day, but what a great way to celebrate it. And what a great way to end summer. Today marks our first day of school. 

Friday, May 22, 2020

The Garden is In

      In the Beginning, God created gardens. And then He cursed them as a punishment for man’s outright disobedience. 
      Curse notwithstanding, one of John’s former co-teachers still believes that “the nearest place to heaven on earth is in a garden. After all, that is where God walked with Adam.”
      Apparently my veggies think so, too, and not because they are partial to their environment. They view my garden as their Gateway to Heaven and step directly from their mulched beds into Veggie Paradise without so much as a pause in my kitchen.
      But I disagree with John’s co-teacher and my veggies. I think gardens are the brown of life. The hard work. The blistering toil. The sweaty brow. I came into marriage thinking all I needed to do to grow things was lovingly tuck a few seeds into their earthen bed like my mom did, till them a few times like my dad did and watch them produce enough to fill an entire wall with canning jars in the fall.  Wrong. We till and mulch and coddle and water like all good gardeners do. And the sweet potato plot offered enough emaciated tubers to satisfy two adults and one potato-hating toddler with a single meal of potatoes. 
      Our tomatoes died off completely, so I gave them a final withering glare and shelled out five dollars to purchase all the tomatoes I needed for the winter.
      “Five dollars!” John said, impressed with my frugal purchase. “We can’t grow tomatoes for five dollars.”
      “We can’t grow them period,” I said darkly, remembering the graveyard plot out back. 
      “If you didn’t like to garden, I would suggest we skip one altogether.” He sounded resolute, like he was ready to throw down his hoe if I didn’t find gardening therapeu--
      Wait. Did he think I liked gardening? I took it as a compliment. If he thought I enjoyed a dreaded task after years of working in it together, it must be a sign I’m maturing. At long last.*    
     The rest of the story is that we have not gardened since that conversation. In the meantime, our son grew up enough to want to grow things, a desire neither of his parents understand. Yet what can we do? If he wanted to grow exotic birds, say, I would feel justified in saying no. But gardening? We have the plot and need the produce, so we agreed to try it again. 

      Ironically, the first seeds we acquired for the garden were Job's Tears, a gift from the neighbor. I couldn't decide if planting tears is a fitting choice for people like us, or if planting tears means we have sown them all and will reap in joy. 
The center of Job's Tears can be removed and the shell can be used as beads.
      We planted the garden last night. The children thought gardening was wonderful. I hope they feel the same way in August. 

*This was the introduction for my article "The Sanctified Pursuit of Pleasure," printed in Daughters of Promise magazine, May & June 2015 

Saturday, May 9, 2020

A Mother's Worship

When prayer and praise
pervade His sanctuary,
my voice unites with others
(or chokes up completely)
in worship.
I believe 
amid the swelling song
of a multitude,
God sees my soul 
reaching up, 
alive with longing.
My declaration of His greatness
confesses my smallness. 
By this, 
I worship.

When noise and duty
hem me in,
and small hands jerk my dress
while someone calls, "Mom!"
above incessant crying,
I turn from frying onions
and trip over playthings--
I feel no swell of worship
and offer no eloquent praise.
I only whisper,
“Lord, help me.”
I believe 
amid the cacophony 
in my kitchen cathedral,
God sees my soul 
reaching up,
alive with longing.
My desperate, 
“Lord, help me,”
declares His greatness
and admits my smallness.
By this, 
I worship.
--Sara Nolt 
Inspiration for this poem came through Joylynn Esh who said, "One day a Canaanite woman fell at Jesus' feet and said, 'Lord, help me.' It was her form of worship." I'm still blessed, Joylynn. Thanks.

Sunday, May 3, 2020


From Cristmus to April 28 corona has been here. It is getting worse and worse. Sometimes I feel so borde that I ask Riley (who is ongly 2 years old) "What shall we play?" 
He sais, "Um."
Legos is something comeforting because there legs and arms move. But the thing is there's no friends
only Tyler and Riley. 
--Sophia Nolt, age 7 (unedited and unabridged)

Here's hoping that Lancaster County will soon be released from the stay-at-home order, which we have been honoring. 

Monday, April 27, 2020

Everything Is Funnier After You've Stayed at Home For a Solid Month. Even Husbands.

Tonight on the table, I saw my copy of the Homeschoolers' Friend,* freshly arrived. "John rarely sees my work in print," I thought. "I'll show him this time."

I had written an article about Roald Amundsen, Robert Scott, and their race to the South Pole. John would be interested in their story. "Here," I said, handing him the open magazine. "Maybe you would like to see something of mine after it is published." 

I stood at his elbow and began skim-reading the article, as I supposed he was doing. 
He wasn't.

"Will you look at that!" he said, assuming a fake Southern accent. "They printed the wrong picture. That doesn't look like you at all." 

I'll take it as a compliment (no offense to Amundsen), and I will continue showing John my work before it reaches the illustrators. 

Unless, of course, we are in quarantine and I'm low on laughs. 

*Homeschoolers' Friend is a magazine for homeschooling families, published by Christian Light four times per year. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Guest Post: Just Stand Back Up

My Sarah girl had quite the six-year-old philosophy going on this afternoon. She asked if I'd like to come to her singing show which would include "some thoughts."

After singing a few songs, Sarah said: 
"So. Life is like a game, and Jesus is the goalie. 
And Satan has the ball sometimes, and he tries to throw the ball and knock us down. 
And Jesus blocks the ball. 
But sometimes Satan knocks us down and we get confused. 
But then we just get right back up and stand for Jesus. 
And if we stand up often enough, Satan just leaves us alone after a while." 

I sat there, astonished by the simple philosophy coming from her beautiful, sincere heart. "Where did you hear about this?" I asked.

"Nowhere. It's just how I think it is. Is it that way, Mom?"

The illustration she shared is a little too real for me personally, too real for all that's happening around us to pass it off as six-year-old rambling. Sometimes it really does seem Satan has the ball and is doing his best to score a goal.

But. The Goalie.

That's a force Satan can't mess with and win! My choice to stand right up back up for Jesus and just do the right thing determines my victory in so many places of this game.

It's that simple, friends. Just stand right back up for Jesus. Trust Him to block those scores the enemy is trying to make.

We are on the winning team. 

Vera Smoker is a lover of Jesus, authenticity, and good cups of coffee with friends. Her delight is to make their home a warm, welcoming place for her husband of almost eight years and their two children. Hobbies outside of homeschooling include cooking, making flowerbeds delightful, camping, hiking, and all other things outdoor with family and friends.