More than we can handle

I’ve never subscribed to that tired worn-out cliche that “God won’t give us more than we can handle.” We WILL at some point or other go through more than we can handle, (whether it comes from God or not is perceived by the individual,) and we WON’T be able to get though it on our own. 

But when going through more than I can handle, I am amazed again and again at the empowering of God’s Spirit and Amazing Grace. 

That doesn’t mean I don’t feel overwhelmed at times, or that I don’t want quit. I’m human and I’m real. Giving up, quitting, hibernating until “it” gets better, are all options that dangle in front of my eyes like candy to a toddler. 

But somehow, with God’s help, we can not only make it through the trial, but find the redemptive work of grace within it. 

Whatever you are going through today, I pray you can sense God’s presence and power within and through you. 

“Sick Soup” and Turmeric Tea

Or “On the mend spiced red lentil-kale soup.” 

With cold and flu season on the horizon you will want to keep these ingredients for the soup and the tea handy! This is our family’s favorite “sick soup.” It’s a little spicy for the kiddos so adjust seasonings according to taste. It is also a good preventative from even getting the crud. 

The recipe is from “The Oh She Glows Cookbook” by Angela Liddon. 

On the mend spiced red lentil-kale soup

1 teaspoon coconut or olive oil

1 sweet onion, diced

2 large cloves garlic, minced

3 stalks celery, dived

1 bay leaf

1&1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4-1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes with their juices

5-6 cups vegetable broth (more as needed)

1 cup uncooked red Lentils, rinsed and drained

Salt and pepper to taste

2 handfuls destemmed kale leaves or spinach (I’ve used both)
Method: In large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5-6 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and celery, season with salt and sauté a few minutes more making sure the garlic doesn’t burn. 

Add the bay leaf, cumin, chili powder, coriander, paprika, and cayenne and stir to combine. Sauté a few more minutes until fragrant. 

Stir in tomatoes with juices, the veggie broth, and Lentils. Bring mixture to boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes until Lentils are tender and fluffy. Season with salt and pepper. Discard bay leaf. 

Stir in kale and cook for a few more minutes until kale has wilted. Serve immediately. (I like to make a double batch and freeze half.)

Turmeric Tea

In a saucepan, bring four cups of water to a boil. Add 2 inches of sliced fresh turmeric root OR 1 teaspoon ground turmeric. I also add about 1 inch of fresh sliced ginger root. (You can leave the peel on both roots.)

Summer for about 10-15 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh or cheesecloth. 

Enjoy as is or add raw honey to taste. 

Here is a link to the health benefits of Tumeric tea. Turmeric Tea Benefits  

Stay well, my friends, and enjoy! 

Why pregnancy and infant loss awareness matters

She sat in my office, her third visit sharing her story of loss. Her baby died several decades ago, after living a few short weeks. We had shared on a surface level the details of those few weeks and reactions and support or lack thereof. She leaned back now, folded her arms, and said, “It was hard, you know, but don’t you think it would be harder to lose and older child?” 

“No,” I replied, “Different, but not harder. I’m so sorry you’ve been told that.” 

I’ve heard that myself from strangers, family, friends, and way too many cashiers asking me if I’m having a party with the items they are ringing up and I reply, “Yes, to remember children that have died.” 

Here’s a disclaimer once again. I have sat with many parents whose child, teenager, adult child has died. I would never want to take away the impact of their life, their grief, their memories, their sorrow. I pray I never know that pain. In our groups we talk about the different stages and types of loss even within the child-loss community, so this is not about comparing losses. Ever! 

The point of this post and Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month (October) and Day (October 15) is to raise awareness specifically for this cause. 

It matters to me because after I told the Mom above that her loss mattered a dam broke, a weeping came forth, anguish flowed from her very soul. Some time later when she could catch her breath she said, “For the first time since my baby died I feel like someone understands. For the first time, someone acknowledged my loss for what it was to me” 

She changed after that. For the better. Releasing years up pent-up grief allowed healing to follow. I never see her now, but I’ll never forget that moment. 

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness matters for the women who seek me out after a speaking engagement thanking me and wishing they had someone to talk to sixty and seventy years ago. 

It matters to me because when I was terrified about a subsequent pregnancy someone told me, “Oh don’t worry, that first one was just cleaning your pipes out.” 

My baby that I had dreamed about, loved with every fiber of my being, grieved with every cell in my body, had been reduced to nothing more than a “pipe cleaner” in this person’s view. 

This Awareness matters for the family who’d suffered multiple losses and the husband decided he needed to put school on hold. The school refused to reimburse him for his current classes that had just started even though it was so he could provide and care for his grieving family. I sent a letter to the school saying how I had walked with them through this grief and that to minimize their losses was only compounding their grief. The school not only complied, but sent a letter of apology to the family for misunderstanding just how devastating their losses were. 

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness matters to me because we are told we can have more children like they can be replaced like rag dolls. We are told we should “get over it,” “be over it,” “move on,” like a part of us wasn’t just ripped out and buried or cremated. It matters because the Mom in my office the other day received a note saying, “I hope you feel better,” like she had the flu instead of just given birth to a stillborn baby. 

It matters because the silence of family and friends can be deafening when all we want is for these little lives to be acknowledged and remembered. 

We are ONE in FOUR! This matters to me because ONE in FOUR women know this pain and we are still held captive to our grief because of societal norms. 

I don’t care about media attention, but I am passionate about a societal shift. We need safe spaces for mothers and fathers and siblings to have their grief validated and healing support to follow, not glossed over by platitudes, cliches, and their babies reduced to pipe cleaner status or a time of not feeling well. 

We need compassionate doctors and nurses who empathize with this loss, pastors and clergy who offer funeral services at the wishes of the family no matter how early the loss. 

We need co-workers and bosses who give those grieving this loss the space and understanding they need. We need to stop minimizing the impact these precious lives had in the lives of those who so desperately loved them. 

I will join the chorus of those refusing to keep our losses private. I will work the rest of my life to campaign for this awareness so that, God forbid, should our own daughters know this same loss they will find a society that embraces them, encourages their voices, and nurtures them in grief and healing. 

In closing, here is a poem I wrote two months after our daughter, Sadie Rose, was born, lived, and died. It is raw, it is real, and I still feel this way. 

Don’t Tell Me

By Regina Cyzick Harlow 

August 2007

Don’t tell me everything happens for a reason

Don’t tell me this is just a season

Don’t look at me and raise your eyes and tell me that you know

That God takes care of everything because He loves us so

Don’t shrug your shoulders in my face and tell me “God knows best”

Don’t comfort me by saying my baby’s found eternal rest

I’d rather hold my baby girl and feel her flesh and blood
To smell her breath upon my face and feel her baby hugs
I’d rather kiss her tender cheeks and comb her baby hair
Than cling to idealistic dreams of knowing her “over there”
I wish her cries would wake me when I desperately needed sleep
I wish a smelly diaper meant I’d get to wash her sheets.
I’d love to feel her on my breast and hear her baby sigh
Oh God I cannot take this pain, why did she have to die
I’ll never hear her footsteps as she patters down the hall
She’ll never learn to ride a bike or play with baby dolls
She’ll never call me mommy or sing her ABC’s
She’ll never get to help me decorate the Christmas tree
So before you in all your wisdom tell me how to deal with grief
Just close your mouth and walk away and give me some relief
I know you want to help me and you don’t know what to say
But hugs, and tears, and smiles are best, when my heart feels this way.

Life, Love, and an Unforgettable 10th Anniversary Celebration

Saturday the husband and I celebrated ten years of marriage. Ironically, the weekend of our wedding we had leftover hurricane rain and winds but everything cleared out just in time for a perfectly beautiful Sunday afternoon wedding. This weekend we had the leftover rain and winds from Hurricane Matthew. 

“Rain on your wedding day is auspicious,” my friend told me, but apparently the rain fairies didn’t get the message to the marriage fairies. 

The first ten years we weathered some pretty difficult storms; the death of our firstborn daughter, the death of his father, additional loved ones in declining health, me giving my life to the work of our non-profit, him working six days a week at the business he started, three years of ministry school for me, and the list goes on. 

We’ve also been incredibly blessed with two more biological children and the opportunity to love a foster child for nearly a year now. 

Some of this crazy was our own volition, some was life’s calling. For example, we chose the addition of children and to become foster parents, the husband chose to start his own business, both of us knowing it would be a grueling first couple of years with no guarantees we would make it. (We would make these same choices a thousand times over so no regrets.)

I have been present with mothers delivering stillborn babies, officiated funeral services for deceased children, sat with countless families and individuals grieving the death of their child, grandchild, sibling, texted with moms in the middle of the night because that’s when grief overwhelmed, visited with mothers on the mental health floor because all she could say to the doctors was that she wanted to be with her child that died. I conduct groups meetings and one-on-one support, plan and officiate multiple annual remembrance ceremonies and events, and I do nearly all of this as a volunteer. So… I got another part-time position to help with our household income, but both my work through our organization and my part-time job are life callings. Sure, ultimately it was my choice to say yes or no, but the call was birthed from excruciating pain and purpose and what an honor it is to serve our community in these ways. 

As we planned for our anniversary weekend, we talked about driving a few hours east for an overnight getaway. However, as I looked around our house, I had an epiphany. 

Why not have the kids stay with mom and the husband and I take two days to work on cleaning and organizing our house. (With the exception of dinner and a movie.) Surprisingly the husband agreed! 

I’ve never been a romantic and I’m practical to a fault, so I don’t think this caught my husband off guard. 

September a year ago our basement flooded from heavy rains. (We lost some sentimental items in that flood that gave us only a mere glimpse of what people in Hurricane Matthew’s path have lost. My heart has hurt so much for them this week.) The husband tore out the carpet, but everything has been sitting there waiting to be put back together. He started repainting this summer, but there was still more to be done. 

We have been blessed with cousin hand-me-downs, but they have accumulated without being sorted through, completely overtaking prime real estate in our daughter’s room. With our long days and tag-team schedules, clutter had unfortunately taken over way too much of our already small living quarters. 

After dropping the kids of with my mom Saturday morning, he went to work in the basement and I began methodically working my way through the bedrooms. All said, I hauled twenty-one garbage bags out the door. Only two were trash though, the rest were clothes stored for future use or donated. I also washed, folded, and put away twelve loads of laundry! (I don’t remember the last time all our beds had clean linens at he same time and being completely caught up on laundry!) He got the basement painted and ready for carpet.

We went to Union Station Restaurant and Bar for dinner, a historic building that housed Wetsel Seed Company for many years that has now been brilliantly transformed into a quaint restaurant. I had blackened tuna and steamed broccoli, he had country carbonara. The food was fabulous, but we hardly knew how to act without the three munchkins. I was reminded why I fell in love with this man. He is caring, a mama’s boy, has a shameless dry humor, and is a delightful conversationalist. 

We went to Lowe’s afterward to look at ideas for basement flooring. I’ve had a movie theater gift card for two years that we thought we might use, but we didn’t see anything that captured our attention. We came home and watched “Fireproof,” a movie about a couple on the verge of divorce but found a way, ultimately found God, and worked their marriage out to be better and stronger than ever. 

This morning I made three loaves of bread and ministrone then continued cleaning. This afternoon I made peanut butter bars. Mom brought the kiddos home after church and the husband enjoyed the Washington Redskins football win. 

The children were so excited about their clean organized rooms that they just wanted to hang out there. They promised to help keep them that way. We had our traditional Sunday evening routine; a big bowl of popcorn and America’s Funniest Videos.  

Our tenth wedding anniversary celebration was nothing like how we originally envisioned it, it was so much better. Next to my faith, there is nothing in the world as dear to me as my husband and children. Spending this weekend with and for them was the greatest joy of all. 

To many more years…

Confessions involving food, love, aging, and first-world problems

Last evening I was going to write a Facebook post how, without planning, everything I made for supper started with the letter S; salmon, Spanish rice, slaw, and spiced pears. It was simply a random observation that made me smile sometime during the preparation. Our palates were pleased and our tummies took in probably well more than our bodies needed. 

At some point during the evening I sent a Facebook message to a Haitian friend. He is associated with an orphanage where I volunteered some time and I worried about their well-being in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. 

While the husband so dutifully worked on dishes, I took a required online nutrition education class for a program our foster child is associated with. 

The evening got away and soon after the children were tucked in, I succumbed to slumber as well. The baby had a second fitful night, sneezing and coughing until I sat upright and held her. She slept better then and I dozed. I tried waking the husband twice this morning since the baby was finally in a deep sleep and I was holding her, but we both dozed off again until it was about a half hour before we had to get out of the house. At that point we all jumped up like  something was chasing us, scrambling to find clothes and get breakfast. 

I came downstairs to find last night’s rice and slaw still on the counter, unrefigerated and uncovered. My mood was quickly going from exhausted and grumpy to just plain mad. We eat leftovers for lunch every day so this not only meant delicious healthy food had been wasted, but that we also needed a plan b for lunch. 

The husband and I celebrate 10 years of marriage tomorrow, but life felt anything but romantic at this point. Of course it wasn’t “his fault,” but he was an easy target for my mounting frustrations. 

I jumped in the van, raced the kiddos off to school at which point I noticed my gas needle was on E. 

EMPTY, that’s what I saw and how I felt. 

After fueling up I scurried to my mother-in-law’s to take her to the walk-in clinic for some routine lab work. When I got to her house she couldn’t find her required paperwork. When my husband called the doctor to inquire about having it faxed over he was told the clinic is closed on Fridays. 

I had skipped breakfast, a second cup of coffee, and the baby was wearing mismatched clothes (at least it was clean) for an appointment that wasn’t even going to happen. 

In my mind I kept reminding myself these are all good problems compared to those being impacted by the violent storm, but that did not keep me from being frustrated. 

I ask my mother-in-law if she wanted to accompany me on a few errands. She was brave enough to say yes. 

I felt guilty, and often do, that my life is so fast-paced that I rush in and out, here and there with her, without really being present with her. I recalled a poem I memorized in school, called “Somebody’s Mother,” and pondered what Mary Dow Brine witnessed to pen these words. 

The woman was old and ragged and gray

And bent with the chill of the Winter’s day.

The street was wet with a recent snow

And the woman’s feet were aged and slow.

She stood at the crossing and waited long,

Alone, uncared for, amid the throng

Of human beings who passed her by

Nor heeded the glance of her anxious eye.

Down the street with laughter and shout,

Glad in the freedom of ‘school let out,’

Came the boys like a flock of sheep,

Hailing the snow piled white and deep.

Past the woman so old and gray

Hastened the children on their way.

Nor offered a helping hand to her—

So meek, so timid, afraid to stir

Lest the carriage wheels or the horses’ feet

Should crowd her down in the slippery street.

At last came one of the merry troop,

The gayest lad of all the group;

He paused beside her and whispered low,

“I’ll help you cross, if you wish to go.”

Her aged hand on his strong young arm

She placed, and so, without hurt or harm,

He guided the trembling feet along,

Proud that his own were firm and strong.

Then back again to his friends he went,

His young heart happy and well content.

“She’s somebody’s mother, boys, you know,

For all she’s aged and poor and slow,

And I hope some fellow will lend a hand

To help my mother, you understand,

If ever she’s poor and old and grey,

And her own dear boy is far away.”

“Somebody’s mother” bowed low her head

In her home that night, and the prayer she said

Was, “God be kind to the noble boy,

Who is somebody’s son, and pride and joy!”

Somewhere in the morning I sneaked my first glance at the Facebook world for the day and saw the response from my Haitian friend. 

“We are all safe,” he replied, “but our family has run out of food and everyone is underfed and hungry.” 

My breath caught in my throat. I thought about how often I eat because I am with friends or bored or stressed, without my body actually needing the food to survive. Suddenly a meal with all foods that started with an S seemed silly, shallow, and smug. Not that it was anything more than just a passing thought anyway, but the blessing of choices and abundance overwhelmed me once again. 

I have had time to pause, to breathe, to be mindful of all that is good in my life since the crazy chaos of the morning, and even in those moments of frustration I was keenly aware of my blessings, but I’m also so human, so imperfect. 

Someone told me recently that my life is to be envied; a loving faithful marriage, beautiful children, etc. There is no doubt I am blessed far beyond what I ever dreamed, but I would never want to appear perfect or make it seem like our family is without life’s normal frustrations and challenges. That’s why I am sharing this post with you today. 

What techniques or practices do you find helpful in stressful situations?  

Herbed lentils and rice, African influenced spinach, and apple cake

I try to vary my recipe sources to keep cooking fun, but sometimes for something different I make a whole meal using recipes from one cookbook. Tonight was one of those nights. 

I used a personal favorite, Mennonite Recipes from the Shenandoah Valley (Phyllis Pellman Good and Kate Good.) Besides being filled with delicious choices, one of the pictures inserted is actually my family’s very own horse and buggy! 

That picture was taken by our local celebrity photographer, Allen Litten. He knows our family well, but had no idea that was our buggy until we told him. We have that same picture framed. That was our beloved horse, Charger, bringing mom home from church one fall day. He was a faithful steed. I’m almost weepy thinking of him as I write this. I got my first car at 18 years old, but until that time my mode of transportation was horse and buggy, bicycle, or walking. 

Now you know why this cookbook ranks high on my list of favs. 

The first recipe is a family favorite. 

Herbed Lentils and Rice

Submitted by Leanna Yoder Keim 

She included this recipe note

Herbed Lentils and Rice

2&2/3 cups chicken, beef, veggie broth, or water (I used veggie broth)

3/4 cup dry brown lentils 

1/2 cup brown rice

3/4 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/2 teaspoon dried crushed basil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon dried crushed thyme

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

4 ounces Swiss cheese, shredded (optional for vegans)

Paprika (preferably smoked)

Method: mix together broth, lentils, rice, onion, wine, basil, salt, thyme, garlic powder, and pepper. Pour into 1&1/2 quart greased casserole dish. 

Bake covered at 350 degrees for 1&1/2hours. (If omitting cheese, test at this point to make sure lentils and rice are cooked and if so, the casserole is done. If adding cheese, remove the cover, sprinkle cheese over casserole, then sprinkle paprika on top. Return to oven for another 15 minutes or so until cheese is melted. 

This is a dish every single person in our household enjoys, which makes it that much better! 

(I left cheese off the one end for those who don’t eat cheese, but the rice got a little dry without the cover on.)

Next was a brand new recipe, but was such a hit it will become standard fare as well! 

African-Influenced Spinach

Submitted by Edith Shenk 

2 Tablespoons butter (I just used veggie broth, no butter, adding a tablespoon at a time so the onions didn’t stick.)

1 medium onion, chopped

1 medium tomato, chopped

1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter

2-10 ounce packages frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry, or 1&1/2 pounds fresh spinach, lightly steamed and drained

Salt to taste


Method: In frying pan, sauté onion in butter, veggie broth, or water, cooking until soft 

Stir in tomato and cook for 5 minutes

Stir in peanut butter and salt. Cook for a few minutes until sauce forms. 

Stir in spinach, heat through, but do not overcook. Pour into serving dish and sprinkle with nutmeg. 

I promise this is FAR more appetizing than it looks. My husband said he could eat the entire dish in one setting. I said the same thing. The nutmeg is a MUST to finish it off. 

Lastly, we splurged with “Elsie’s Fresh Apple Cake.” I know the Elsie that submitted the recipe. Our 5-year-old daughter’s name is Elsie, so when we came across this recipe she really wanted to make it. I’m glad she did! She put all the ingredients into the mixing bowl for me. We healthified it a bit so I will include those notes as we go along. 

Elsie’s Fresh Apple Cake 

Submitted by Elsie Rohrer Terry

1 Cup oil (I used 1 cup unsweetened pear sauce I’d made this summer, I’m sure unsweetened applesauce would be great too.)

2 eggs (I used eggs, but vegans could use ground flax meal/water)

2 cups sugar (I cut it to 1&1/2 cups and used raw sugar)

1 teaspoon vanilla 

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon salt 

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

2&1/2 cups flour (I used 1 cup oat flour)

3 cups peeled, chopped fresh apples

1 cup chopped nuts

1 cup flake coconut (I used unsweetened)

I also added 2 Tablespoons ground flax meal

Method: Mix together oil (or pear or applesauce), eggs, and sugar and beat well. 

Add vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, salt, baking soda, and baking powder, and beat well. 

Add 1 cup flour (this is where I used pat flour) and mix well. 

Fold in apples, nuts, and coconut. Add rest of flour (and ground flax meal if using) and stir well. Pour into greased and floured tube pan. 

Bake at 325 degrees for 1&1/2 hours or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. 

Elsie’s note says this is a great breakfast cake or a satisfying dessert. We loved it for dessert this evening and the kiddos are excited that it is on the breakfast menu for tomorrow morning. It was a huge hit. 

Let me know if you make any of these recipes and what you think! 

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