This morning I finally said it out loud, the words of heresy I didn’t know were in me, words torn from my heart of hearts.

I am tired of being a puppet in a story I don’t understand. I am tired of explaining for God.

I felt the words scream out from me, felt the ripples shudder across the gray-green barren land for miles, though I said them soft and broken at my kitchen table.

Some tears are gentle and heal the heart. Some scald and sear and rip as they fall. My only sister, oh my sister… her miracle baby given and taken away. Why did He do that?

Please do not stop being Good just because I doubt you.


Move me closer to the Child

The past year has taught me to be shy of newborn hope, though I hold it still against the heart. I stand near the holy Baby with my drum, and throb to Him my pain and my anger as worship. This is my Christmas offering.

A Christmas hymnsing

Confession: I never, ever get my fill of the Christmas carols. For this reason, one of our new favorite-of-favorite holiday traditions is inviting friends in for a hymn sing.

Each year, our local community enjoys a Christmas concert at 4:00 on a Sunday afternoon—and we’ve found that in the evening afterwards, very few of our friends have other plans made. We’re already dressed up and in the mood for joy. It’s the perfect time to get together.

hymnal - Silent Night

We borrow Songs of Faith and Praise from our church house, and The Mennonite Hymnal from our sister church; and we ask my dad (who is good at things like this) to bring along lesser-known sheet music for us to try.

Then we line up two very capable babysitters to entertain our 15-20 kiddos upstairs, with books and games and child-friendly food.

And then—we sit in the living room and just sing.

And sing.

Partway through the evening we break for food: this year, a build-your-own taco bar with lots of fixings.

taco salad

It doesn’t all go as planned. My boys throw hissy fits about sharing their Legos. I later vacuum chip crumbs from every corner of my upstairs. And when we try to finish the music with a rousing rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus, we can’t remember where to go, and get stuck in an endless circle involving “King of Kings” forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever—And so we end the evening hunched over my very quiet laptop instead, listening to Christopher Hogwood’s chorus perform it, so at least we can get the final chord Exactly Right.

But oh, it is JOY!

I love to see the bright faces of family and friends. I love the way the children glow over the fun they had. Most of all, I love the beauty of a dozen or more full voices blending together in worship of a newborn King, and in friendship with one another. This is the part I long to come back to each year. Glorious!


Where do you sing the songs of Christmas? Which carol do you love best?
And if you are local and wish you were here, tell me! I’d love to include you next year…

Rumpelstiltskin Reloaded

Some time ago I complained heartily about the fault lines running thickly through the story of Rumpelstiltskin. Remember?

“If anyone can hand me a better version that actually makes sense of the key elements in the story, be it a paragraph or a page, I will publish it here. Put on your thinking cap; ask your children for solutions; dig out your reference books. Serious, satirical, or sappy—anything would be better than the above. I’m grading for logic, not polish. Best version gets a prize, and I’m not joking.”

Incidentally, a Shari Zook version is not forthcoming. I had fun trying. I wrote a Memphis version in which the King turned out to be Elvis; but it just didn’t work. My husband told me so, and he is a) prone to overrate my work, not underrate it and b) never wrong. So that version called in sick and will not be showing…

But I’m happy to announce that I had three other takers! I’m linking to their versions below. Some snowy afternoon, curl up with hot chocolate and enjoy them all. Then cast a vote, or tell me which parts of the rewrites were especially fun.

Rumpelstiltskin Over Easy, by Regan Zook

  • This succinct version was written by my 7-year-old son. Paragraph breaks were added for readability; original spelling and punctuation have been preserved. The moral of the story is: Problems? What problems? There’s always a way out somewhere. Includes original artwork.

Rumpelstiltskin – An Alternative Ending, by Ryan Zook

  • Short, ironic, and political, this version finds its own solution to the problem. Meet Jenny, a savvy young woman who forms surprising alliances.

Rumpelstiltskin Re-Imagined, by Amy Smucker

  • Romantic, bittersweet, and almost modern, this version takes its time to develop a storyline that actually makes sense. Meet Annie, a young woman working hard to pay off her father’s debt—and Will and Andrew: the two young men who fall in love with her.

Many thanks to the participants for their courage and inspiration! No way I could pick a “best” version, so everyone gets a prize.

Amy's pen

Don’t you wish you had joined the fun? That’s okay, next time you’ll be braver…

Giveaway results: Simple Servings

Happy to announce our Simple Servings giveaway winner!

Simple Servings cookbook 01

Marlene on December 3, 2014 at 2:50 pm said:

Shared with mom and sis via email. Peanut butter granola, my tenacious pregnancy craving, is ever before me.

Congratulations, Marlene!

Thanks to all who participated in the giveaway! I loved hearing all your yummy and creative food ideas.

Simple Servings is available anytime through Christian Learning Resource, but please take note of the special offer this week: FREE SHIPPING on cookbook orders placed by Wed Dec. 10. Click here to view or order.

So place your bid on Monday or Tuesday, and enjoy a worthwhile purchase!


Winner was chosen, as always, by random.org.

Moving on

This is me writing yesterday.


This is me writing today.


Thanks to all who shared thoughtful and gracious comments (both of approval and disapproval), and thanks to everyone else as well. I would just call to mind two things that I say in my blogging purpose statement; they seem to fit.

“I make a continual and deliberate effort to reveal the fact that I am a common woman who thinks that both dungeons and pedestals are restricting, and all humans need real faces.”

Which being interpreted is, I am human and permitted to say what I think, including the occasional really dumb thing for which I may pay through the teeth. (And believe me, I have.) You are allowed to speak your mind as well, and you do not have to agree with me or approve of me.

“I am here to encourage you, to humor you, and once in a while to infuriate you—”

—and I do the latter as infrequently as possible.

We go on.

Coming up soon we have

Giveaway Results
Rumpelstiltskin Reloaded —no, I did not forget
and A Christmas Hymnsing

No sensibilities should be harmed in the making of these blog posts.