Saturday, December 31, 2011

A True Titus 2 Woman

"Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored."
Titus 2:3-5

The world is a darker place this week. On Christmas Eve, just thirty minutes before midnight, God called home one of His saints, a bright light born on October 27, 1924. Her parents named her Sarabelle, but everyone called her Sally

I first met Sally at a Christmas dinner in the home of my future grandmother-in-law. Sally was the aunt of the boy who would, three years later, become my husband. The moment she walked in the front door the house brightened. Laughter and joy radiated from the tall redhead like light through a prism. Her blue eyes sparkled with curiosity. They didn't miss a thing. But oh, they gave back so much more than they took in. There was unmistakable love and acceptance in those eyes. 

Sally's ability to accept people just as they were came from her relationship with Christ. She had received His grace and, therefore, she exhibited that same grace toward others. Christianity wasn't Sally's religion. It was her life. The abundant life Jesus promised through a relationship with Him. 

I wasn't a Christian when I met Sally, but it was her influence -- and I'm sure her prayers -- that led me to Jesus. There was something so different, so authentic about her faith. It was an anchor that held through the bitterest storms: the death of two husbands, a son, her sister, her mother, and the pain of her own physical disabilities. The Lord was her Rock. Her Solid Foundation that never shifted.

Sally taught me well over the years. She was my mentor. It wasn't a formal thing. We never lived close enough to one another to meet regularly. But when we were together, I was a sponge; soaking up from her every drop of biblical truth in action I could hold. From Sally I learned that homes are a blessing from God to be used to bless others, and food is to be shared and celebrated with joy. I have fond memories of sitting across from her at the dinner table where we would first ask God's blessing and then she would look up at me, grin and make an oink-oink sound -- like a little pig -- before digging into her plate. It always made me laugh to see such a godly, dignified lady cut loose like that. And frankly, her action gave me permission to be myself. It's okay for a Titus 2 woman to laugh and have fun. Even to make oinky pig noises at the dinner table. Sally passed onto me never to take myself too seriously. A lesson that has served me well.

Although she didn't take herself seriously, she did take God's word seriously. She loved to study it. Daily devotions were important to her. I remember once I spent the night with Sally and her second husband Stephen. When I came out of the guest room in the morning, I tiptoed past their bedroom to the kitchen. The bedroom door was open, and I saw them sitting on the bed reading scripture together. I didn't have to ask if they did that every morning. I knew they did. It's a vision that will stay with me as long as I have brain cells. An elderly couple equally devoted to God. He was their priority. Beautiful.

I could write page after page of Sally Memories, but the dearest one I have is one of the last few. We were in my living room, not long after my husband died. Sally sat in an easy chair and I sat at her feet. We wept together. Not for the husbands we had lost, for we knew they were with the Lord, in a much better place. We wept because we had been left behind to face life without our companions. We wept for our widowhood; hers a few years old, mine still fresh. I shared with her that I had been reading one of my life verses, Jeremiah 29:11: "For I know the plans that I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope." But that for the first time the preceding verses, four through seven, held special meaning for me: "Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, 'Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.'" God had allowed the exile of the Israelites to Babylon, and yet He wanted His people to continue on with life in the strange place they inhabited. For in time He would bring them back. He knew the plans He had in store for them, and they included a future and a hope. Sally smiled. "Those are the same verses the Lord gave me when Stephen died." We discussed how widowhood felt like exile; suddenly you're in a strange place not of your own choosing. And how those words from our Heavenly Father told us that He wanted us to go on and live life to the fullest. In time He would bring us out of our exile, but until then we were to remain faithful. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6)

I will miss this dear lady as a daughter misses her mother. For, indeed, Sally was my spiritual mother. She was a wise woman. A gracious, generous and loving woman. A woman after God's own heart. She "fought the good fight", she "finished the course", she "kept the faith."  God brought her into my life to reach me and teach me how to follow Him. And in my greatest hour of need she was there -- as any good mother would be -- to encourage me and help me stay the course God had set before me. 

One day I'll see her again, in a place where God wipes away every tear and the Son never stops shining. I'm sure right now Sally is worshipping the King with all her loved ones who have gone before. 

As for me, I praise God for the joy and blessing of having a true Titus 2 woman in my life. Sarabelle Bausch, I want to grow up in the Lord to be just like you.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas on the Homestead

"When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?" -- Gilbert K. Chesterton

It's a peaceful, rest-filled, white Christmas Day on our homestead.

More than ever before, I'm thankful to God for the gift of His Son. We celebrated Christmas Eve with a large gathering of friends (some old, some new) in Allenspark: food, music, poetry, stories, the completion of the Advent wreath, singing carols. It was all centered around Christ and His birth. An old-fashioned and beautiful evening. I'm ready for Christmas Eve 2012 right now.

Several days ago I found a recipe online for Starbucks Cafe Mochas to make at home. I tried it and it's delicious. Not difficult to make, either.

Note: I used Ghiradelli Chocolate Mocha cocoa powder, and Starbucks Sumatra coffee for the espresso.

Merry Christmas. Rejoice! For a Son has been given.

"In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.' And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 'Glory it God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.'" (Luke 2:8-14)


Sunday, December 18, 2011

My Book Journey

“Reading is one form of escape. Running for your life is another.”― Lemony Snicket

Although I can't prove it, I'm pretty sure I was born with a book in my hand. My earliest childhood recollection is that of sitting next to my mother as she read to me. She wasn't allowed to hold the book or turn the pages. That privilege belonged only to moi.

The first book I read on my own was "Daddy's Birthday Cakes", a story about a little girl and her mother who each bake a birthday cake for Daddy. Soon after, "Growing Things" -- a tale of a young girl who learns to grow a sweet potato vine -- showed up on my bookcase. These stories instilled in me, at a very young age, a desire to bake and garden.

Both books were part of the Ding Dong School Book series, written by Frances Horwich and Reinald Werrenrath, Jr. and published by Rand McNally. Frances-- Miss Frances -- was headmistress at Ding Dong School, a 1950's educational TV program for preschoolers. 

Mother and Miss Frances weren't the only women who impacted my reading life. Aunt Louise loaned to me her complete Nancy Drew collection. I can still picture the books arranged sequentially on her bookcase. All in their original jackets. Beautiful, colorful, pristine jackets. I was afraid to touch them, afraid I might mar their appearance. Aunt Louise wasn't worried. "You are free to take them with you," she said. "Just make sure you read them." When I returned them to her, she raised her brows. "You've finished already?" I nodded. I had devoured them. (But only after I first removed the jackets and set them aside.)

My taste in books has always been eclectic. To me, the genre is less important than the author's ability to take me along on the journey. If the first chapter doesn't convince me to tag along. . .I abandon the trip for new adventures. John Witherspoon said, "Never read a book through merely because you have begun it." Exactly. I have a "no fault" reading plan. It may not be the author's fault -- or mine --  that I'm not into his book. Story preference is subjective. Why else would there be such a wide variety of books published?

Currently, I'm reading "The Cross Gardener" by Jason F. Wright. After 135 pages, I'm still traveling with him. A very good sign.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Corner Words

"Put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn't in the middle of the room. Life isn't a support-system for art. It's the other way around." 
Stephen King, On Writing

My writing space is now a corner desk in our dining room. Not because Stephen King recommends it, but because we wanted to reclaim our dining table. I've been using the table as my work surface ever since we moved into our micro cabin, and that has limited our meals to food that can be eaten from a plate on one's lap. The bare corner between the credenza and the bookcase provided just the right spot for a new work area. We now enjoy a more balanced diet and I have the added benefit of a great homestead view. I consider the desk, which Dennis had made to order, an early Christmas present. Dennis says every day is Christmas. (Is it any wonder I love that man?)

I always enjoy discovering where well-known writers work. In her article The Importance of Place: Where Writers Write and Why, published in Poets & Writers, Alexandra Enders writes: "Conrad Aiken worked at a refectory table in the dining room; Robert Graves wrote in a room furnished only with objects made by hand. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up; D. H. Lawrence under a tree. William Maxwell preferred 'small messy rooms that don't look out on anything interesting.' Katherine Anne Porter said she got her writing done in the country, where she lived like a hermit. Ben Franklin wrote in the bathtub, Jane Austen amid family life, Marcel Proust in the confines of his bed. Balzac ate an enormous meal at five in the evening, slept till midnight, then got up and wrote at a small desk in his room for sixteen hours straight, fueled by endless cups of coffee. Toni Morrison found refuge in a motel room when her children were small; E. B. White sought it in a cabin on the shore. Due to her problem back, Penelope Lively works in an armchair, with an 'ancient electronic typewriter' on her lap, while A. L. Kennedy finds comfort in a 'monster black chair' in a room 'the color of blood.'"

C.S. Lewis, one of my favorite authors, wrote in his office and rooms behind Magdalen College in England. Of his space, he wrote in a letter:

“My big sitting room looks north and from it I can see nothing, not even a gable or a spire, to remind me that I am in town. I look down on a stretch of ground which passes into a grove of immemorial forest trees, at present coloured autumn red. Over it stray deer. They are erratic in their habits. Some mornings when I look out there will be half a dozen chewing the cud just underneath me.”

Although I'll never reach the literary heights of Lewis, I feel a certain kinship with him every time I look through the window from my desk, as I did this morning, and see the deer descend Prospect Mountain. 

Sometimes what seems like the worst location in which to write, turns out to be the best. The Apostle Paul wrote the Books of Colossians, Philemon, Ephesians, and Philippians from a prison in Rome. To the church in Philippi he wrote: "Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear." (Philippians 1:12-14 NASB)

Where do you write?


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Benefits of Exercise for Cancer Survivors by Guest Blogger David Haas

My guest blogger today is David Haas.  

David is a cancer patient advocate for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. He writes and researches on the topics of fitness and cancer support groups in order to better the lives of cancer patients all over the United States. You can find his posts at

As someone who has lost several loved ones to cancer, and who has had cancer scares herself, I appreciate what David has to share with us. I hope you will, too. . .

Exercise Can Help

It’s no secret that living a healthy lifestyle has many benefits, but for those who have been diagnosed with cancer — whether they are in treatment or in remission — a regular fitness regimen is essential to maintaining an overall state of well-being.

In a recent study done by Dr. Matthew Buman of Stanford University, a volunteer group of cancer survivors were introduced to a strength training and conditioning program for a period of 12 to 16 weeks. The goal was to attempt to increase physical endurance, strength, and general quality of life among the participants. The analysis measured vitality, stress levels, fatigue, and other psychological elements—all of which showed significant improvements. Post-diagnosis research on women with breast cancer has shown that moderate physical activity can improve survival rates when compared with women who lead less active lifestyles. In fact, an increase in exercise may enhance both insulin and lepton levels, although a definite scientific conclusion has yet to be reached.

The National Cancer Institute is currently conducting a number of studies on the role of physical activity in the quality of life of cancer survivors. According to one report done by the NCI’s Cancer Survivorship Research department, a number of researchers are using exercise interventions to improve survivors’ emotional and functional well-being. While it is not clear if these types of interventions will alter the course of cancer, they hold the promise of reducing cancer-related morbidity and improving quality of life. They also appear to have enormous appeal to survivors eager to reduce stress and ‘take control’ of their bodies after cancer.”

Yoga is also gaining popularity as a holistic addition to the treatment of those suffering from mesothelioma and other types of cancer. Its central focus is on the individual, allowing participants to proceed at their own pace and intensity level. With an array of health benefits including improved flexibility and cardiovascular endurance, reduced stress levels and blood pressure, and increased dexterity and hand-eye coordination, yoga is an excellent alternative to strenuous exercise. 

The innumerable health benefits of physical activity are undeniable. It is especially important for those who have been diagnosed with, or are undergoing treatment for various forms of cancer. When the body is well balanced, the emotional and psychological advantages are invaluable, promoting a greater sense of stability and peace of mind.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Oranges, Hard Candy and a Simple Homestead Christmas

But Ma asked if they were sure the stockings were empty.  Then they put their hands down inside them, to make sure.  And in the very toe of each stocking was a shining bright, new penny! They had never even thought of such a thing as having a penny.  Think of having a whole penny for your very own.  Think of having a cup and a cake and a stick of candy and a penny. There never had been such a Christmas. —Little House on the Prairie, by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1935)  

Laura's words remind me of a conversation I had with my mother years ago. I was five or six at the time. We were sitting at the kitchen table in the old farmhouse, sorting through a box of Christmas cards. Mom held up a card with a beautiful poinsettia on the front. "What do you think of this one for Aunt Ella?" 

I looked at the card and smiled. "She'll like that one. She loves flowers." I pulled out a card and studied the face of a radiant angel. "I think the Webers would like this one."

Mom nodded. "Me, too."

Visions of Santa loading up the sleigh with my Christmas presents danced through my head, as we gathered cards for the rest of the people on mom's list. "When you were a little girl, Mommy, what did you get for Christmas?"

She looked up from her work and stared at me for a moment. "Oh. . .we got an orange. And a piece of hard candy."

My jaw fell to my chest. She couldn't be serious. "That's all?"


"Were you bad or somethin'?"

She laughed. "No. That's just the way it was in those days."

I thought Santa had been pretty stingy in those days. But later I learned that my mother's experience was the norm for previous generations. Especially in large families like hers. They lived within their means -- even at Christmas -- and their means weren't much. 

For a long time I felt sorry for my mom and her siblings. Sorry that they didn't have a real Christmas. But not any longer. Now I think they were the blessed ones; the ones who had the real Christmas. A simple Christmas. I envy them.

Maybe that's one reason why "A Christmas Carol" is my favorite Christmas movie. The contented way in which the Cratchits celebrate their meager Christmas appeals to me.

Keeping Christmas simple in a culture that believes more is more, instead of less is more, isn't easy. But downsizing to a 624 sq. ft. cabin has definitely twisted my arm into submission to a simpler Christmas decorating style. There just isn't room to display a lot of stuff, much less store it, so that simplifies decking the halls.

This year we're focusing on simple live decorations, like this poinsettia.

And these red carnations for the dining table.

We may just have the tiniest live Christmas tree in Estes Park. My plan is to repot it as it grows and reuse it in the coming years until it's too big for indoors and just right for planting outdoors.

Dennis's painting "Taos Peace Rally" has a Christmas theme. The lamp post is decorated with greenery and a red bow. The cross is a reminder of the real reason for celebrating Christmas.

"For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; 
And the government will rest on His shoulders; 
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. 
There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, 
On the throne of David and over his kingdom, 
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness 
From then on and forevermore. 
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this."
Isaiah 9:6-7

I'm happy we're keeping our homestead Christmas simple. Now all we need is a few oranges and some hard candy.