Archive | February 2013

Prayers for David

By Karen Hendricks

Copyright (c)

Copyright (c)

It’s hard to find the right words to say when someone dies…  especially when that someone is a child. One of my children’s classmates died yesterday. David was an 8th grader diagnosed with cancer just a few weeks ago. It seemed to happen in the blink of an eye.

His mother and I were pregnant at the same time, comparing notes on our growing babies, about 15 years ago. David was born a few weeks before my daughter and soon they were sitting in our laps next to one another at toddler story time at our local library. Before long, they were in grade school together, learning to read and count, running and laughing on the playground. I remember David as a child who was always happy and smiling. He was one of “my kids” several times as I chaperoned school field trips. Then the awkward middle school years began and it was no longer cool for my daughter to admit she was friends with “boys.” But they had many classes together, including this year during 8th grade on the same “team.” David was hospitalized and diagnosed with cancer about three weeks ago. His classmates made stacks of cards and told him how much they missed him. When the tragic news came yesterday, my daughter said time stood still in the classrooms–talk and tears revolved around David for the rest of the day.

The only words I know how to express at a time like this are words of Christian love and faith. I pray that David’s family can find healing in time, taking comfort in the happy memories that David left behind. There is no doubt he is now an angel, pain-free, in heaven.

In the book When Mothers Pray by Cheri Fuller, there are 17 chapters that address the many different types of prayers that we as mothers can offer, as a way to guide our children on their paths through life. Chapter 4 is “The Toughest Prayer: The Prayer of Release.”  Fuller writes, “ It doesn’t matter what you call it—relinquishment, release, letting go—when the situation demands it or when you sense a nudging to give your child to God, it’s a scary proposition and one of the most difficult problems we face in prayer. We moms were made for nurturing our children, not relinquishing them.”

Prayers of release, Fuller writes, can be offered for children with medical conditions, those needing surgery—basically in times when our children’s problems are too large in scale and scope for us as parents to manage and control them. It’s a tough point to reach. But ultimately, Fuller says, it’s a reminder that our children truly aren’t ours but God’s. While it’s our job to care for our children as best we can, all children are gifts from God. We entrust their care to God when we can no longer do so on our own.

Please say a prayer today for David’s family, for all families touched by cancer, for all families grieving the loss of children. May our words bring help and healing.

Peace, love and hugs to you…

To learn more about cancer in children, from the American Cancer Society, click here

For a list of resources recommended by the American Cancer Society for families who have lost a child to cancer, click here


Roses are Red, Boys Don’t Want Flowers

By Jen Ashenfelter

I think guys have it easy on Valentine’s Day. I will gladly accept a wide variety of gifts–roses, jewelry, stuffed animals, sexy PJs, perfume…. I could go on. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe most gals would agree with me that those are acceptable gift choices. I’m easy to please–it’s the fun things, the simple things that really make this girl happy. (My hubby never disappoints.)

I remember several Valentine’s Days when my father walked through the door at the end of the day with a red foil-wrapped, heart-shaped box filled with chocolates…just for me. (My little sister received her own box.) I couldn’t even tell you what my mother got from Dad because I was just so over-the-moon about my own box of fancy chocolates.

Many years later, along came my sons Nick and Chris. I wasn’t used to thinking of Valentine’s Day gifts for boys. When they were younger it was much easier—stuffed animals were good. As the tween years approached, stuffed animals became unacceptable (and quite honestly, we were overrun by these fuzzy creatures).

Candy is universally accepted, except with one son having allergies to peanuts, tree nuts and eggs. Look at the ingredients on those heart-shaped boxes—a box full of disappointment for my youngest. What’s a mother to do?

With that said, my husband and I didn’t want to set a precedent for giving gifts more appropriate for a birthday or Christmas. However, I wanted to give the boys something special.

Here are a few ideas—which don’t require a holiday spending account—for a fun gift to give your special boy.

Toy sets – Add a train or track set to a Thomas the Train collection. The small LEGO kits include a variety of vehicles and mini figures to go with any larger set. Celebrate your future car enthusiast by adding more Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars to the collection.

Books – It’s a day to celebrate love so why not instill a love of reading with a new book.

Movies – There’s always another Disney or Pixar movie to own, as well as adding to a series collection: Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Iron Man, Batman…the list goes on depending on interest and age. If you don’t get out to the movie theaters often, consider a family dinner and movie date…or a gift card to the movie theater.

Music – A tween or teen can never have enough downloaded music and games so iTunes gift cards are perfect.

Art – Crayola, need I say more? Feed their love of art by adding a new piece to their creative supplies—stickers, colored pencils, stencils, finger paints or chalk. For older kids, sign them up for a photography class or spend an afternoon together at a local museum.

Exercise – An afternoon of rock climbing, hiking, biking, skiing, tubing, ice skating, bowling—you get the picture.chocolate covered strawberries

Food – What’s that saying: the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach? With two growing boys in this household, food is never turned away. I’ve never been a fan of going out to dinner on Valentine’s Day, so I’m perfectly happy to make a favorite dinner we all enjoy, set a nice table and sit down together. To top it off, our dessert tradition has always been chocolate-covered strawberries!

I might stray from our tradition this year for something equally scrumptious: Oreo Truffles. I discovered these tasty gems when a coworker brought a batch into the office before Christmas. I can’t wait for Christmas 2013 so I’m making them now. (I could make them at any time but that would be too easy; it’s safer for my waistline if they are only made for special occasions.)

Something tells me I may be the last one in America to discover Oreo truffles but in case I’m not, here’s the recipe. Happy Valentine’s Day and show the little men in your life how much you love them with a special surprise. Enjoy…

Kraft Foods Oreo Truffles


Photo Credit: Kraft Foods

36 OREO Cookies, finely crushed, divided

1 pkg (8 oz) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened

16 oz BAKER’S Semi-Sweet Chocolate, melted

Make It

  • RESERVE 1/4 cup cookie crumbs. Mix cream cheese and remaining cookie crumbs until blended.
  • SHAPE into 48 (1-inch) balls. Dip in melted chocolate; place on waxed paper-covered rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with reserved cookie crumbs.
  • REFRIGERATE 1 hour or until firm.

Kraft Kitchens Tips

How to Melt Chocolate

Place unwrapped chocolate in microwaveable bowl. Microwave on HIGH 2-1/2 min. or until chocolate is completely melted, stirring every 30 sec.

How to Easily Dip Truffles

To easily coat truffles with the melted chocolate, add truffles, in batches, to bowl of melted chocolate. Use 2 forks to roll truffles in chocolate until evenly coated. Remove truffles with forks, letting excess chocolate drip back into bowl. Place truffles on prepared baking sheet; let stand until firm.

How to Store

Store in tightly covered container in refrigerator.

Coping with the empty(ing) nest: Expand your circle of concern


Image by Klest, via Wikimedia Commons

by Chris Little

So, in my ongoing exploration of the transition years when the kids are getting older and leaving home, last time I wrote about the importance of looking within, of getting to know yourself again after what so many years of raising the kids, when our own concerns are often placed far into the background.

In this post I’d like to talk about another strategy for coping with this sometimes-painful transition: expanding your nest. When the kids were little, after I had stepped off the merry-go-round of my full-time career to devote my time to raising them, my focus was pretty much entirely on my family and my home—my nest. I stenciled walls, mixed up batches of homemade play-dough, baked bread, made scrapbooks, the works! Sure, I taught some Sunday school and helped out at the kids’ school, but for the most part, my focus was on my young family. Nothing wrong with that!

But I find that as the kids inch their way out of the house—they’re 15 and 18 now—I’m finding that I have a little more space in my life, a little more time and energy, and a little more interest in looking outward and broadening my circle of concern to include more of my community.

In a way, I’ve begun to think of my entire community as my nest. And it strikes me that getting more involved in my community through volunteer work might be a meaningful strategy for transitioning out of the child-rearing years into my life as a mom with children who are out in that world themselves, instead of living at home with me.

Doing meaningful volunteer work doesn’t pay, of course—but it’s work that our communities desperately need. And who is better positioned to do this work than those of us who aren’t tied down to full-time careers? What’s more, in addition to helping make our communities richer, healthier places, we’ll be setting a great example for our kids.

So here are three steps to keep in mind as you think about expanding your nest to include your community:

1. Take stock of your heart.

What do you love? What are you really good at? What excites and motivates you? How do you spend your free time? Focus your energy on these things, and volunteering will feel meaningful and rewarding. I know a mom who always loved to play tennis with her kids, so as they grew up and out of the house, she started a young peoples’ tennis league in town, and now she’s teaching kids of all ages to enjoy her favorite game.

2. Take stock of your community.

What’s going on in your community that interests or excites you? What’s not going on in your community that you would like to see happen? If you’re concerned about funding cuts to your kids’ schools, it might be meaningful for you to volunteer for the high school sports booster club. If you love to exercise, how about teaching a fitness class at the local YWCA?

3. Step into it! But strive for balance.

It might take a little courage to step into volunteering in your community, especially if you haven’t been involved previously. Start small, and be careful not to overcommit. And remember that the work you do, no matter how small it seems to you, makes your community worth living in—and worth coming home from college to visit! And I can only think it will make your own life richer and more rewarding too.

So I wonder, what volunteer work is meaningful to you? How do you find ways to engage meaningfully in your expanded nest?

Next time I’ll write about another strategy for adapting to your empty(ing) nest: Investing in your work.

Write Away! : “How to Journal” Part Two

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

Photo Credit:, by buechertiger

Photo Credit:, by buechertiger

There are many reasons why people keep journals and it only takes a few moments to “get something off your chest,” reach a decision, record a special time, or capture a moment. You need not be a “good writer;” journaling is a relaxed activity. Our blogger, Karen, even likened blogging to a more modernized approach to writing!

~          ~          ~

In Part One of this series (Click here to read Write Away: “How to Journal” Part One), we gathered the materials we need to get jump-started on our way to journaling. Then we looked at where, when, and how to begin recording our thoughts. Finally, we set about starting our writing from lists and “seed phrases.” ‘CCBLITTLE’ shared that she tries to write every morning before the rest of her family wakes up because it helps her start the day feeling more connected than if she just rushes headlong into her to-do list.” She also keeps a stack of favorite books nearby to “seed” her thoughts when she wants to be a bit more introspective.

Now, here is additional inspiration and suggestions for getting your thoughts flowing and down on paper! I pick up with #4 of 5 components to the journaling process.

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” H.D. Thoreau, Author/Poet/Philosopher

4) More Inspiration

Looking/staring at a treasured object or an old photograph may bring inspiration. All objects have a story. You can create a ‘structure’ around which to write about them – a time period, details, people present around you. These are your memories … a link between past, present, and future.

*Your Turn: Go on a “treasure hunt” around your home – I guarantee you’ll find something to write about!

Many different stories can come from the same object, experience, or picture. Additionally, just one of those can trigger many memories surrounding it. It can further jump-start our writing on many different topics – all stemming from that one thing or experience.

Looking at objects or pictures is also a useful tool by which to trigger our memories and can even give us a great story idea. By using “clustering,” or story mapping, we can generate a list of ideas that can lead us to individual stories or one story which is a composite of those stories mingled together.

*Your Turn: Take a blank piece of paper and draw a circle in the center. Now draw several connecting lines outward from the perimeter to other circles. Leave room inside each circle to list a few words. In the center circle list the name of the object or picture you chose. In each of the outlying circles, list a word or even a few words that come to mind as you look at it. Be sure to use your 5 senses if you have an object! There it is … the beginnings of your story!

You can also create a timeline as inspiration for writing about a specific time in your life if that is the direction your journaling is taking you. Throughout our lives, we experience events and happenings that shape us. Some are dramatic – a loss, a powerful life lesson. They impact us not only in that moment but over time as well, and change us and our lives permanently, whether for better or for worse. Some are less notable – simply a brief “Ah ha!” moment that we process quickly and take with us on the rest of life’s journey. Often these experiences confront us with a decision to be made – a ‘right or wrong,’ a ‘left or right.’ And these turning points can be major or minor. They can have a big impact on our lives or a small one.

Turning Points can be categorized and broken down into three general life stages:

Childhood (birth to approximately 12 years old)

Adolescence (approximately 13 – 21)

Adult Years (21 to present)

Personal narratives can be generated from any of the ways you get your ideas. As you go through your life, you are always writing “the next chapter.” All of your experiences and interactions (no matter how seemingly small and insignificant) are part of, and have a place in, your story. All of us have a story to tell – one that is important and valuable.  If we leave our stories untold, we may never know what kind of a lasting impact they can have on someone’s life outside of our own.

*Your Turn: Choose one timeline from above to write about. Try to write uninterrupted for at least 15 minutes.

The World is a great book, of which they who never stir from home read only a page.” St. Augustine, Scholar/Philosopher

5) Some Final Seeds and Lists for the road!


For once in my life…                           A current obsession

A childhood pleasure …                    Once upon an autumn time

A road not taken…                              A favorite meal

Once I traveled…                                At this very moment

*By taking a Seed and “entering into the scene” we have an opportunity to expand on it. As an example, use one of the following Seeds. Remember to use vivid imagery!

My mother gave me

An old pair of shoes


*Nouns preceded by an adjective can also serve as a Seed:

The gold leaves

The empty bowl


I delight in…                                     I like most to…

Home is…                                          All things chocolate…

You should be off to a good start now!  

Feel free to share more of your journaling time ideas with us – we’d love to read them!

In one of my previous blogs, “It’s the Little Things That Matter,” I promised I would show you the last page of the journal I kept while at a remote ecumenical retreat center in Wyoming. As you can read, below, this was a time of great upheaval and pain in my life, yet I found that attending a spiritual retreat and journaling about my experience brought a sense of healing and closure so I could move on with the next chapter in my life.

Here it is – enjoy your writing time!

The culmination of a powerful and healing retreat

The culmination of a powerful and healing retreat


Six more weeks of winter?

By Ruth Topper

Tomorrow, February 2, is Groundhog Day. It is not necessarily a day of family gatherings, gift giving or big celebrations but it is a holiday that is worthy of being pre-printed on many calendars. In Pennsylvania everyone waits & watches patiently to see if Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow (or not)! Legend has it that if “Phil” sees his shadow there are six more weeks of winter. If Phil doesn’t see his shadow, spring will be here soon.

Punxsutawney Phil

Punxsutawney Phil

I have lived in Pennsylvania my entire life and have listened to the radio or caught the news every year to see what prediction Phil has for when spring will arrive. I have to confess, though, that I really don’t know much about the tradition and history of Groundhog Day. So, to support my blog and to further educate myself I googled “Groundhog Day” and found the official website of Punxsutawney Phil – Here you will find “The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club” Groundhog Day website. Please feel free to visit the website yourself to get all the details. Here are a few fun facts that caught my eye:

1. Groundhog Day has been celebrated in Punxsutawney since 1886.

2. Groundhog Day, always on February 2, is a popular tradition in the United States. The tradition is based on a legend that animals awaken from their hibernation on a specific date. In the past nature greatly influenced our lives so on February 2 the groundhog came out of his hole after a long winter sleep to look for his shadow. If he sees it, it is regarded as an omen of six more weeks of bad weather & will go back into his hole. On the other hand, if it is a cloudy day and he doesn’t see his shadow, he takes it as a sign of spring & stays above ground.

3. Another tradition is that Groundhog Day is based on is Candlemas Day. This was a custom with the early Christians in Europe that the clergy would bless candles and distribute them to the people. This day marked a milestone in winter and the weather that day was very important.

4. The Romans spread the tradition of Candlemas Day to the Germans. The Germans added to the tradition that if an animal, the hedgehog, saw his shadow on Candlemas Day then there would be six more weeks of bad weather (or a second “winter”). Many of Pennsylvania’s earliest settlers were Germans. They determined that the groundhog was a suitable substitute for the hedgehog and February 2 was selected as the day to celebrate!

The Germans recited:

For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day,
So far will the snow swirl until the May.

This passage may be the one most closely represented by the first Punxsutawney Groundhog Day observances because there were references to the length of shadows in early Groundhog Day predictions.

5. On February 2, Phil comes out of his burrow on Gobbler’s Knob – in front of thousands of followers from all over the world – to predict the weather for the rest of winter.

Did Phil see his shadow?  Oh no - does this mean 6 more weeks of winter?

Did Phil see his shadow? Oh no – does this mean 6 more weeks of winter?

6. Punxsutawney Phil is named after King Phillip.

7. The average groundhog is 20 inches long and normally weighs from 12 to 15 pounds. Punxsutawney Phil weighs about 20 pounds and is 22 inches long. A groundhog eats lots of greens, fruits, vegetables and very little water. A groundhog can whistle when alarmed and whistles in the spring when they begin courting. Groundhogs are very clean animals. They are one of the few animals that really hibernate. They actually go into a deep coma where the body temperature drops to a few degrees above freezing, the heart barely beats, blood hardly flows and breathing nearly stops. A groundhog’s life span is about 6 to 8 years. Phil receives a drink of a magical punch every summer during the Annual Groundhog Picnic. This gives him seven more years of life.

8. Phil has enjoyed growing fame over the years. Some highlights include:

  • In 1981 he wore a yellow ribbon to support the American hostages in Iran.
  • Phil traveled to Washington DC to meet President Ronald Reagan in 1986.
  • In 1993, Columbia Pictures released the move, Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray.
Bill Murray starred in Groundhog Day.

The movie Groundhog Day was released in 1993.

  • Crowds as large as 30,000 visited Punxsutawney on Groundhog Day after the release of the movie.
  • In 1995, Phil was on the Oprah Winfrey show.
  • In 2001, Phil’s prediction was shown live on the JumboTron in Times Square, New York City. Also – Pennsylvania’s Governor, Ed Rendell, attended the ceremonies in Punxsutawney. He was the first Governor in office to do so.

So – tomorrow is Groundhog Day. I hope you now have a better appreciation for this traditional, yet quirky, holiday. Take a few minutes to take note of Phil’s prediction for this winter. What do you think of his prediction?

P.S. On a very unrelated topic – but important one this weekend – GO RAVENS!!!!

(Photo Credits: