Jane's Accidental Turtles

"We know that all things work together for good for them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose." —Romans 8:28 (KJV)

I met my friend Jane when we were both in our late twenties. We are creative women, each of us strong-willed, independent and competitive. We attack life with a vengeance, and we have strong opinions. But if you told us that we'd deny it.

I'm a writer, a quiet, steadfast observer. I tune in to everything that's going on around me. When I'm in a crowded restaurant, I can't help but listen to conversations at the surrounding tables. The writer in me is always listening, always sifting and sorting, translating the sights, sounds and smells into words. I soak everything up and hang onto it until I'm so full that I'm forced to let go. Jane sees this attention to detail as my being distracted and disinterested in the here and now. I wish that she could see the world through my eyes. She wishes that I could see the world through hers.

Jane is an artist, an outgoing, high-spirited adventurer. While my mind is occupied with the lives of pioneers in their covered wagons, Jane dreams of space travel and new frontiers in other worlds. She likes noise and she's noisy. There are televisions in every room of her house, and the radio is always blaring while she's doing some sort of project. Often, she seems unaware of what's happening around her. Jane locks into the moment, captures it and gives it form. Then she releases it and moves on to something new.

We are an unlikely pair. We mix like oil and water, yet God brought our two very different personalities together so we would learn from each other. Some of our lessons have brought wounds and others healing.

One place we meet well is in the kitchen. We are good cooks, and we compliment each other's style. At Christmas-time we have a long-standing tradition of baking cookies. Not just a few cookies, but dozens of cookies in dozens of varieties. (Jane and I don't do "simple.") We sing carols, eat snacks, sympathize with each other's aching backs and we bake. We rarely stray from our tried-and-true recipes, and when we do we're usually disappointed. We made divinity fudge with batter so stiff it burned out the electric mixer, we tried truffles only to find that after hours of work we had half as many as we needed, and we bored ourselves to tears with the monotony of making dozens of tart shells. Then, one year, Jane made turtles, turtles so decadent they were only made once. The recipe is locked away forever in the memories of that day.

The turtles came quite by accident. It was the end of our baking night, and leftover ingredients cluttered the kitchen table. "This is good stuff," Jane said, "We shouldn't waste it." She was right. We'd bought the best vanilla, the freshest spices, the richest chocolate, the creamiest butter.... Before I knew it, Jane was at the stove creating. She was intense, and I stayed out of her way. While I cleaned cookie sheets, she poured a little of this and a little of that into a saucepan. The mixture bubbled and simmered while Jane put trios of pecans on sheets of waxed paper. Then she dropped spoonfuls of her creation over the nuts.

We waited. By time the kitchen was cleaned, the turtles were ready to taste. They were the best turtles ever!

"How did you do this?" I asked.

"I have no idea," Jane told me. "I just put everything together, and it came out right."

The way Jane made turtles is the way God forms our lives. Romans 8:28 says that He works all things for good for those of us who love Him. It's hard to see God's good works when we feel like a burned out mixer, or when we work hard and don't make enough money, or when the monotony of a daily routine drives us crazy. But God works all things, every thing for our good. He takes unlikely ingredients and mixes them into the saucepan of our lives, and like Jane's turtles what comes out of the pan is better than anything we could ever expect.

Dear Father: Help us, please, to surrender to you all the ingredients of our lives. Take them, Lord, and use them in your recipe to create something beyond our expectations.

What Number is Your Turkey

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication
with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Philippians 4:6 ESV

(Reposted from Thanksgiving 2009)

My mother was the official turkey maker for our Thanksgiving dinners. Every year, Mom would fret about cooking the turkey, and Dad would answer by telling her how many turkeys she had cooked through the years. "We've been married 27 years, and you've made 27 turkeys. It'll be fine"….."We've been married 40 years, and you've made 40 turkeys. It'll be fine." It was the same conversation each Thanksgiving, and the turkey was always fine.

I confess, that I was somewhat annoyed by their annual exchange. Sometimes when we're young, we miss the significance of the little things – those little exchanges that couples have again and again.

Mom was a worrier, and I'm sure that she prayed to God each time she put a turkey into the oven. She read her Bible daily, and Philippians 4:6 was a verse that she liked to quote: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. "Dear God, thank you for this turkey. Now, please help me to cook it just right so it won't turn out dry. Amen."

Mom checked the bird often. She tested it for brownness and juiciness, and when it was finally done and presented to the table she always said, "I hope that it's okay." That's when Dad would chime in and announce the annual turkey number and proclaim that the bird was fine.

The last turkey was number 57. We didn't know that it would be the last. A few months after Thanksgiving, Mom became suddenly ill and died. That same year, Dad went into a nursing home.

Dad had dementia that progressed rapidly after he lost his wife. He no longer remembered the number of turkeys that Mom had cooked through the years, but he remembered Mom. As time went on, he forgot that I was his daughter. I became Betty, his wife. I looked like her and I sounded like her, and that, I think, was a comfort to my dad. In his mind, his beloved wife was still with him, and although I wished that he'd remember me, I played along. I was Betty.

On each of the nine Thanksgivings that Dad was in the nursing home, I cooked our traditional Thanksgiving dinner at home, packed it up, and took it there to share with him. Like my mother, I fretted about the turkey and wondered if it would be done enough or if I had overcooked it and it would be dry. The nursing home staff always prepared a private dining room where Dad and I could sit together and eat our Thanksgiving meal. In Dad's mind, he was home. "I hope the turkey's okay," I found myself saying as I presented Dad with a steaming plate of food. I half expected him to answer that this was turkey number 58 and it would be fine, but he didn't. I fed him the turkey because he was no longer able to feed himself. He said that it was good. Gone was the traditional exchange between my parents. Lost was the annual turkey count. But we went on sharing our Thanksgiving meals, father and daughter together, until he died.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." This year, I'm thankful for all the Thanksgiving turkeys that I shared with my Mom in joyful holiday fellowship. I'm equally thankful for the additional Thanksgivings that I had with my dad. Although the circumstances were sad, and grew more difficult with each passing year, we had each other. I'm most thankful for memories of the little things: my mom and dad bickering about the turkey and the wonderful smell of it roasting in the oven when I walked through the door. It was those little things that reminded me that I was home…and everything was fine.

Dear Lord: On this Thanksgiving Day, we give thanks to you for family, home, and for the sweet remembrance of Thanksgivings gone by. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.

What number is your turkey? I wish you, my readers, a blessed holiday filled with little things that become cherished memories...and most of all, I wish you a turkey that turns out fine!

A President's Thanksgiving Proclamation

Sarah Josepha Hale, a prominent author and magazine editor, best known as the author of the poem "Mary Had a Little Lamb," campaigned for 17 years to have Thanksgiving made a national holiday. She wrote letters to five Presidents of the United States -- Zachary Taylor, Millard Filmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, and Abraham Lincoln. Thanksgiving had only been celebrated in New England, and each state scheduled its own thanksgiving day with timing that varied from January to October, a day of thanksgiving was almost never celebrated in the American South. In 1863, it was Hale's letter that inspired Abraham Lincoln to support legislation to make the last Thursday in November a national day of thanksgiving. The timing was perfect. Just as it says in the Bible in Ecclesiastes 3:1, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven." The country was in the middle of a devastating civil war, and it was time to unify and count blessings, as elusive as they might seem. What better time to set aside a national day to give thanks?

Lincoln issued this proclamation on October 3, 1863.

Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation
Washington, DC—October 3, 1863

The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful years and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the Source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the field of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than theretofore. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.

In testimony wherof I have herunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

A. Lincoln

Times have changed. I can't help but think of 1 Chronicles 16:8 which says, "Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done." I wonder what the reaction would be if during this time of war and economic strife our President issued a proclamation stating that the whole American people should acknowledge God's mercy and offer thanksgiving and praise "to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens." Would it be accepted with accolades, or criticized by columnists and news talk shows across the nation?

[Dear Heavenly Father] "Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name." [Amen]
1 Chronicles 29:11-13 (KJV)

Lincoln art print credit: "To Save a Nation" by Larry Winborg

Joel's Story: A Miracle in Iowa

This week, I am honored to introduce you to my guest blogger, Shari Barr. Shari writes from a farm in southwest Iowa that she shares with her husband and two children. In addition to numerous articles, stories, and Sunday school curriculum, she has two books to her credit including “Memory Maker Bible Crafts for 2nd and 3rd Grades.” She has recently completed four books in Barbour Books’ Camp Club Girls mystery series to begin releasing in early 2010. Shari is a member of the Heart of America Christian Writers Network and American Christian Fiction Writers. In her guest post, this week, Shari shares with us an inspirational story about a young man who survived insurmountable odds. Here is Joel's story:

On a cold January day earlier this year, a tragedy rocked our rural community in southwest Iowa. Joel Herzberg, an eighteen-year-old senior at Villisca High School headed to Mt. Crescent Ski Resort in Council Bluffs for one last outing with his parents and three brothers before Christmas vacation ended. But the day was cut tragically short when Joel fell while snowboarding, striking the right side of his head.

After a few precious minutes, Joel slipped into unconsciousness. LifeNet arrived, rushing Joel to University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska, a mere five minute helicopter ride. After a CAT scan showed a fractured skull and a severed blood vessel, neurosurgeons performed emergency surgery to remove a blood clot that had formed. Doctors put him on a ventilator to help him breath and placed him in a drug-induced coma to reduce swelling and pressure on the brain.

Despite the medications, however, the pressures remained high. Doctors informed Jim and Jan Herzberg that their son’s condition was critical. Until he awoke, no one would know the extent of his injuries.

As is often the case in farming communities and small towns, the news of Joel’s accident sent shockwaves throughout the area. In an instant he became everybody’s son, brother or friend, whether or not they knew him. Prayer chains set in motion by family, friends and classmates sent multitudes of prayers heavenward. Complete strangers prayed in earnest as Joel’s story spread across phone lines and the Internet.

Soon after the accident, Jan began an online journal to keep family and friends informed on his condition. Though I had never met Joel, I followed his story relentlessly. As a mother to two teenagers of my own, the tragedy struck close to my heart. On the seventh day following the accident, my heart sank as I read Jan’s devastating entry. Neurosurgeons informed the family that Joel had been on the drug Phenobarbital long enough that if the swelling on the brain was from the accident, it should have been down by now. His rising pressures, along with another CAT scan, told them that the pressure was from a massive stroke he had suffered while the blood clot was placing pressure on the brain, critically injuring the brain stem. Doctors told the Herzberg’s that their son might not survive. The last line of Jan’s journal entry that day read, “We continue to pray now for a miracle, please pray with us.”

Despite the doctors’ discouraging prognosis, Joel’s family refused to give up. Neither did Joel. His condition stabilized and doctors removed the ventilator. He began to respond to stimuli, though doctors said the actions were simply reflexes. Still, countless prayers for a miracle continued.

During the following days, responses became more frequent. It became obvious that Joel’s movements were not reflexes—he was waking up. Several weeks later, he lay in bed watching a basketball game on a computer set up in his hospital room—a game in which he should have been playing. Villisca was playing their biggest rival, Stanton, in a close ballgame. And then it happened—Joel moved for the first time since the accident. The moment he moved his foot, the Herzberg family knew their son and brother was on his way back.

I’ve followed Joel’s story from the day of the accident, to moving to a rehab center where he learned to walk and talk again, and to receiving his diploma at his high school graduation in May. Now, more than nine months after the fall, Joel has returned home. He has dreams, big dreams that include college some day.

I’ve learned a lot about faith these last few months just watching this amazing family who refused to give up hope. The Herzberg’s are proof that God indeed listens to our prayers, working miracles every day through devoted doctors and therapists. Though I’ve often wondered why God allows these tragedies in our lives, I do know Joel’s story touched countless lives, including mine. Witnessing this miracle has taught me to never give up hope, even if it seems like all hope is gone. This was, without a doubt, all a part of God’s plan.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is a time and purpose for everything under heaven,” and this is, after all, the season for miracles.

Dear Lord, Help us to never forget your undying love for us and to remember that anything is possible for those who have faith.

Joel continues his treatment at home. Please pray for his complete recovery.

Look for Shari Barr's newest book: McKenzie's Montana Mystery, available from Barbour Publishing in March 2010. Click here to read more about it.

Thank you, Shari, for being a guest blogger on "God is in the Compost Pile."


I'm proud to be a contributing author to the following series of humorous devotionals.
And check out my "Kid's Bible Dictionary" and pre-teen mysteries, also from Barbour.

See all the books in the Camp Club Girls series.

See all the books in the Camp Club Girls series.
Click on the picture.
I am the author of these books, but I have not been compensated for mentioning them on this blog or linking them to the seller's website. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

By Max Lucado, Published by Thomas Nelson
Max Lucado has a unique way with words, and his children's book Hermie A Common Caterpillar is no exception. With simple text and bright, watercolor illustrations, the story of Hermie unfolds.

Hermie wonders why he looks and feels so common. Whenever he asks God why, God simply answers, "I'm not finished with you yet." Then, one day, Hermie feels very tired. He gets into his cozy, leafy bed, and he sleeps. And while Hermie sleeps a transformation takes place. When he wakes up, Hermie discovers that God has done something grand. You can guess what it is. Every caterpillar that lives to adulthood knows the end of the story.

Parents, please share this book and its powerful message with your children. We are all special because God loves us, and He has a unique purpose for our lives. Whenever we slump into feeling ordinary, we know that we have hope because . . .God isn't finished with us yet!

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

©text on this blog copyrighted 2012 by Jean Fischer unless otherwise credited. You may link to the blog, but please don't reprint the text without my permission.

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