Madison Reads

And when she learned to read,
a whole new world opened before her eyes.

Long before Madison was old enough to go to school,
she was wishing and longing and waiting to go.
Her number one priority in life
was to learn to read, books were waiting,
stories hidden on the pages, anticipated.

Kindergarten was so exciting.
She would come home in the afternoon
and chatter until bedtime about everything she had learned.
She told of numbers and letters, what Jenson did,
what Delanie said, and what Carolyn had told them to do.
She was going to learn to read.

First grade was all she ever wished for.
Miss Lois kept everyone entertained.
There were object lessons, recess, green eggs and ham,
eggs to hatch, and chickens to carry home.
Best of all, she finally learned to read.

She read little books and big books,
skinny books, fat books, funny books,
and books that were over her head.
She read to her siblings
and told long drawn out book stories to her parents.
She read inside, curled up on the chair,
and outside on the swing.
She sneakily read while she folded laundry,
and of course, late at night in bed.
She had learned to read
and a whole new world had opened up before her.

Leaving Miss Lois’ room was cause for tears.
She was sure there would never be a teacher
she loved as much or could teach so well.
But Miss Brit swept in and taught with passion
and Madison fell in love again.

Those years of school flew by,
full of fun, good memories, and laughter.
There were creative writing lessons
that lit a fire in Madison.
She poured her all into her stories,
spinning tales for her teacher’s pleasure.
A substitute teacher was long remembered
for his mud ball fights and a water hose.
Once upon a time, she tangled with a cousin
in a sprawling, scrapping fistfight.
There were art classes, long walks in the fall,
and a painted paper dragon to walk around.
Many times, Miss Brit took Madison under her wing,
listened, consoled, and guided her.

All the while, Madison read on.
She read everything in the school library,
asking for books on shelves for older kids.
She lapped up everything from the public library,
soaking in the words, pouring over them,
reading and rereading the best.
When engrossed in a book,
nothing phased her, nothing was seen or heard,
she was completely oblivious to the world around.

In 6th grade Madison moved on to Alan’s room,
merely quaking at the thought.
She remembered times from years past
when she sneakily traded jobs to avoid
having to go into his room.
And now, here she was,
about to spend the rest of her school years
under his tutorage, sure that none
could match so great a teacher as Miss Britt.
Words from older and wiser ones
told her Alan’s teaching could not be compared.
In no time at all, he had put her fears at ease,
and once again, she was sure she was
being taught by the best.

Social life was her favorite pastime,
all her spare minutes were wrapped up with friends.
Sleepovers with Audrey and the girls,
paired in groups for a Science Fair,
or battling it out in a water fight.
School plays each year were a highlight,
practice days always led to good times.
She loved Talktionary in the mornings
or a softball game at recess,
and slowly she improved in volleyball.
There were Honor rolls and field trips,
bus rides, and squashed into vans,
laughing, talking, and having a good time.

Along with reading,
she took up a baking hobby.
There were cakes, muffins, cookies,
and pastries of the likes her family could not name.
There were fails and flops,
but she persevered and soon turned things
into delectable desserts.
When it was too much to eat at home,
she carried it along to school
to feed her classmates.
If there was food involved in a Science Fair,
Madison was usually volunteering.
Food from Israel, an Ohio State cookie,
and even a cake like a heart.

High school brought new challenges,
always something new to learn.
Algebra was a test of her good spirit,
the dreaded math equations seemed to best her every time.
Biology was a favorite with many good times in class.
Instead of digging right into cellular structure,
they started with a joke from each of the three,
waiting to see who would laugh first.
Class time often involved iced coffees
and lots of snacks to power through.
Chemistry stretched her brain
and tried her smarts, but she prevailed
and enjoyed her time in that book.

Since reading was such a key factor in her life,
it surely meant others liked to read just as well.
Books and more books were stuffed into her bag
and toted along to school.
“Have you read this one? You should read that one.”
was her encouraging way of passing on her love of words.
Soon her locker library held nothing but books.
She would wheel and deal,
passing out new ones and collecting the returned.
She acquired a small bookshelf from a cousin,
built just to fit her locker,
to help run her budding librarian career.

When it seemed all books were exhausted, still she read on.
She gathered information, stored it in her brain,
spewed knowledge to her family’s bewilderment,
while still reading and learning more.
She studied medical textbooks,
read fiction, biographies, poems,
and retained copious amounts of knowledge.
She read her Bible, dug in and studied,
changed, grew, and loved Jesus more.
Her soft spirit portrayed what she read
was abiding in her heart.

Life took a turn for Madison
and her last year of school was not
all she had dreamed of.
Plagued with health issues,
she missed a lot of activities,
spent most of her hours sleeping or studying ,
while still trying to make the most
of her time left in school.

In the Spring she waved good-bye to classmates,
excited for plans of Spring break,
never knowing she was leaving school for the last time.
Plans disrupted, schedules changed,
quarantined at home, and home school with Mom,
the schoolroom was left behind, quiet and empty.
She was disappointed, there was so much missed,
yet through it all, her cheerful attitude prevailed,
and still she smiled.
She bent to her task, read and studied,
and pulled up her grades,
never giving in to the challenges before her.

Madison, as you graduate
and leave your school years behind,
keep your smiling, cheerful attitude,
and continue fighting for the underdog.
Don’t quit reading, studying, and learning,
always strive to grow and mature, especially in Jesus.
Never give up, cultivate your soft heart,
reach out to Jesus, lean on his strength,
and no matter what life brings your way,
with Him, you will prevail.

The Heart

This was written almost three years ago, but the last week my mind has been drawn back to it again and again. Perhaps there is someone out there who needs it.

The heart was cold, dry, and musty.
It was empty and dehydrated from lack of nourishment.
There was no dripping joy of gladness overflowing,
no welling up of tender love and care.
It was empty, shriveling up, and becoming hard and brittle.

Life had taken a toll on the heart and deserved all the blame.
Things were hard, ruthless, unfair, and overwhelming.
All the “Why’s” “How’s” and “I can’t handle anymore.”
kept crowding in and taking up more space,
leaving no room for a positive thought.

Self-pity slowly dripped acid into the open wounds.
“Life is just about giving and never receiving,
giving of time, talents, money, health, and even family.”
“There is never a moment of peace,” it whispered,
“You deserve so much more than you are getting.”
And the cold, dark, and broken heart believed.

Faith wavered when prayers went unanswered.
Doubt crept in and worry filled all the corners.
Life seemed to have more questions then answers
and the heart was starting to believe the lies.

The more time passed, the more the heart hardened.
Life lost its sunshine and everything
was covered with the cloud cover of hurt.
Anger and weariness took over.

The heart looked longingly at others,
wishing for what they had, for the song they sang.
It wondered how to find this again,
and was there something missing?
The head knew all the correct answers,
but the heart was not feeling them.

Over time one small note after another
made its way across the path of the heart.
“I am faithful, I will not fail you.
Lean on Me, trust in Me.
I am a refuge for the weary.
I am a shelter from the storm.
I am comfort, I am protection.”

But is it true? Do I dare believe?
Can I trust Him again?

“I am close to the brokenhearted.
I hear your cries.
You are precious to me.
You are mine and I love you.”

And with the touch of His finger,
a tiny sliver of hope was born.

Slowly, slowly over time the heart began to warm
as more notes, more words, made their way around.
Deep in its depths where it was cracked and broken,
a little light began to shine in and break up the darkness.
The Mender poured in healing oil, warm and smooth.
He worked the rough edges, patching the cracks,
smoothing the broken pieces and closing the gaping holes.
A heart badly broken is not mended in one day,
but patiently He worked, never giving up
and ever so slowly, healing began.

There were still days when the heart
wanted to whither and shrink,
to pull back and believe the old lies.
But the Mender had a gentle touch
and while He worked He quietly whispered
words of encouragement, of love, truth,
and peace into the once torn and ragged heart.
Each stitch was reshaping and reviving
a broken heart to be made new.
Each patch was bringing new strength and vigor
to a once worn and struggling soul,
life was returning to the heart.

While the heart may not be as beautiful as it once was,
each mended piece and scar tell a story,
each patched and sewn corner weave a tale.
The heart is now filled with gladness and singing,
light squeezes through the threads,
spilling out to tell the world of the Mender’s touch.

And They Did Eat

And lo, the days of quarantine were upon them all
and the tribe of Eric, son of Dan, did reside at home
day after day after day upon day
until day turned into night and into the morning,
with no knowledge of what day may be tomorrow,
neither could they tell what day was this very hour,
from the rising of the sun to the setting thereof.

And behold, while they remained in the house,
they did roam about, searching for things to devour
and the sound of munching and crunching
did fill the ears of all that were in the house.

And the Mother of the tribe did weep and wail in lament,
saying unto herself and to all within hearing,
“How is it that the consumption of food is so great among us?
Shall I go out and sell all that we have to buy bread?
Whatever has overcome thy stomachs
that you believe starvation to be nigh?”

And they answered her not, for they did not observe,
neither did they hear, for the sound of their chewing was deafening.

And so it was, that day after day the mother of the tribe
did lean over the fire, cooking for the children of her youth;
and the consumption of food thereof was great.

There were meats to be grilled, potatoes to be mashed,
squawking chickens to be plucked and cooked,
hamburgers to prepare, while pasta and sauces simmered.
Cookies and pies, breads, bars and cakes,
more cookies, along with fruit and veggies galore.
There was the frying of pancakes and eggs, sausage and bacon,
bowls of cereal, with bagels and muffins for all.
Great dishes of lasagna, heaping piles of chipotle,
pizza and steaks and roast beef with gravy,
along with all the leeks and garlic of Egypt.

Behold, they fared sumptuously every day
and they did all eat but were not filled.

And turning, the mother wiped the sweat from her brow
yet her eyes beheld not the fruits of her labor,
but only the crumbs that remained,
being licked up by the dog.

Disbelief and despair marked her face
and upon seeing her look, her son wailed also,
“Mother, where has all the food gone?
I find nothing at all to eat! Behold, I perish!”

And sitting down, she did put her head into her hands
and sighed greatly, saying,
“My son, I too am begging for an answer to thy question.
Who are the ravishing among us scarfing it up?
For lo, all my work has disappeared, eaten by people
roaming to and fro, looking for what they might devour.
What is this that has come upon us?”

And her cooking spirit did wither and fail,
and she rose from her chair with a heave and a sigh,
proclaiming to all within hearing that
she was weary and worn and in need of much rest.
For never in all of her days had she beheld such a thing,
that the staying home of the tribe
had turned them into ravishing wolves,
scavenging for food to be devoured before the next.

And with the voice of a trumpet, she did declare
them to be filled, fat, and full, and no food was to be eaten
until the serving of the next square meal.

And a great cry arose, but she did drown them out, saying,
“Get out thy books. Home school hath begun!”


Take Heart

Though our hearts tremble with fear,
take heart, God is still in control.

Though disease strikes our body,
take heart, He is the Great Physician.

When you feel the enemy creeping closer,
take heart, He parted the Red Sea.

When giants of doubt loom large and leering,
take heart, all He asks is the faith of a mustard seed.

Though worry overtakes us for our future,
take heart, He feeds the sparrows.

When your assurance wavers,
take heart, His covenant is trustworthy.

Though difficulty rains down on all sides,
take heart, He is a refuge in troubles times.

When the burden you bear feels too heavy,
take heart, He will give you rest for your soul.

When you feel deserted and all alone,
take heart, He will never leave you or forsake you.

When it feels as if Satan is pacing all around,
take heart, He closed the lion’s mouth.

When you walk through the valley of the shadow,
take heart, His rod and His staff will comfort you.

Though anxiety crowds your mind,
take heart, He has promised peace beyond understanding.

When the road before you looks overwhelming,
take heart, He has offered His right hand.

When the storm is crashing around you,
take heart, He can calm the winds.

Though our hearts tremble with fear,
take heart, God is still in control.

Take Heart-1

© Shannon Hostetler

And Then There was 2020

Is it Tuesday? Or Wednesday? 24th? 26th?
Who would know? The days have all run together in a big, long, heap of a week.
Friday?! Praise Jesus.

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It wasn’t long ago I was wishing for time to slow down.
It wasn’t long ago I was wishing to stay home more.
It wasn’t long ago I bemoaned all the running to and fro.
And lo, it hath happened!

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Yes, we are staying at home, but no I don’t feel like I have any extra time. I am now Mom and school teacher, plus all the usual, and I have been made aware of how very much I love school teachers. God bless you people!

One thing I have figured out though, at the end of a stressful day of teaching, a teacher gets to send the students home to the parents.
What does a home school mom do with them when a stressful day of school is over?
Just switch from Mom-teaching to original “Mooooommm-ing.”

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But we will survive.
And not just survive, but live and thrive and use this time for good.
Who am I if I cannot bring glory to God in everything?

We are prone to engrave our trials in marble and write our blessings on sand.
Charles Spurgeon.

Prior to quarantine, we spent our time…

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Deep in the throes of remodeling.
If you haven’t remodeled any part of your house, just sit still and quietly trust me that it is no picnic. It.never.ends. The end.

We added a room to the back of the house that is now the living room, the old living room was then turned into the dining room and next, we proceeded to rip out the kitchen and move it to the garage while a new kitchen is being installed, all the while, none of these rooms are completely finished, but we live in them all. Wow, that sounds nice and simple written in one long run-on sentence. Divide that into days and weeks and months and it will be about right.

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Oh, and we are also finishing three rooms above the garage.
I thought I would be painting for years. Stiiiiiiiiiiillllllllll not done.

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But once again, there are worse things.
I have all the luxuries, except a dishwasher, and for that inconvenience, I have children. (insert mucho laughter here)
They have always been spoiled with a dishwasher so this is actually very good for all of us. It brings back many memories of washing dishes when I was a kid.
Mom, I’m sorry I made this process so painful for you.

Other things that happened…

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For a boy, having the kitchen in the garage is almost a dream come true. You grab food, back the car out, shoot some hoops, bike a circle around the island for an orange, and then rollerblade right over past the cookie box. Next, you bribe your sister into a round of 4-square, then race her on the scooter, all the while you are still in the garage where Mom liked to send you for her peace of mind, but now she has to be out here with you!

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One little girl turned seven.
Tell me how?
(Here you may insert all the sappy Mom thoughts
about her baby growing up so quickly)
She was almost sick on her birthday and then home from school sick the two days following.

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Madison whipped up some macrons one day.
They had caramel in the middle.
I won’t ever tell how many I ate.

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She made a birthday cake for a fish-loving little boy.
All the fish were chocolate and quite edible.

She has been battling Lyme and a few other autoimmune diseases and hasn’t been baking as much she would like this winter.

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Reagan and her team won 2nd place in their division at Ohio Valley Bible Quizzing.
She worked long and hard for it and now knows 7 chapters in John.

— — — — — —
We took a week and celebrated Spring Break in FL.
Only to come home and be on permanent break from school.

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It was a good week.
The kids love to go feed Aunt Sandy’s neighbor Donkey.

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We played Frisbee at the beach one night, or some of us did and some of us just watched. A lady watching offered to take our photo. Okay, so maybe it was after she watched this mom’s feeble attempts to take a family selfie.

I am enjoying this stage of life. They are all still at home, all able to fend for themselves, and we have so much fun together.

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When you are seven this is called having the world by the tail.

— — — — — —
And in the middle of all of this, Eric and I celebrate 20 years of being married.
The day we got married, 20 years seemed a long, long way off into the future.
I’m not sure how it got here so fast, but it sure didn’t seem like 20 years.

Indeed, I have much to be grateful for.