Wednesday, August 26, 2015


Once again, I am sewing along at Project Run and Play.  I have enjoyed the challenges so far.  I like how they push me to grow my sewing ability.  This time the challenge was to use hand stitching in some way.  I chose embroidery. 

My grandma taught me embroidery when I was a preteen, but I haven’t done it since.  I always assumed it was too time consuming.  This month I discovered I was wrong.  Yes, it takes time, but it goes much quicker than I imagined.  It is a lot of fun too!

My sister’s mother-in-law sent me some fabric that she had sitting around from when her boys were small.  I loved the bright vintage cars on the black background and determined to make something out of it for Enoch.  At two years old, he is currently obsessed with anything with wheels and a motor.  His favorite word is caaaaarrrr! He uses this word to mean all vehicles from a motor scooter to a bulldozer.  Enoch saw the fabric and fell in love.  He played with it for a long time and would hardly let me take it away.  I knew we had to use it soon. 

I didn’t want to make clothing out of it for two reasons.  For the first, it’s quilting cotton and I knew it wouldn’t hold up to little boy play very well.  More importantly however, I wanted to make something that he would keep for a long time, not a pair of shorts or a shirt to be quickly outgrown.  I have been wanting to make him a backpack for a while so that’s what we went with.

I traced some of the vehicles from the fabric with a pen on to a scrap of cream fabric.  I then stitched around it with black.  I will definitely be doing something like this again. 

He still loves the fabric.  Caaarrrs!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Summer Swimsuit

Hi everyone.  It's Project Run and Play time again and this month's pattern is this sweet little shirt by Melanie at The Crafty Cupboard.    I really enjoy these challenges as they almost always stretch me to do something challenging in sewing, especially in the area of adapting patterns.

I have had on my list of sewing challenges to conquer, sewing swimwear.  I was scared of that stretchy, slippery stuff they're made of and so it has been put off.  However, my last trip to the pool convinced me that my frumpy "thing I wear which I will not show you"  needs to go.  As I have looked for a modest and attractive option, I really want to make my own.  I am scared out of my mind and probably won't do it, but I want to.  I want to in the same way which I want to sleep outside with a cougar screaming in the background.  It would be a thrilling adventure. . .

Anyway, the first step is to conquer my fear of the fabric.  For me the best way to do this is to sew for my baby girl.  She is my official sewing guinea pig.  She can actually almost get a swimsuit out of a thrifted one piece.  Sewing for her is so much more fun than sewing for me.  Plus, she needed a swimsuit.
Goodwill find about to be cut into.

Drawing the pattern was easier than I expected.  I just traced a onesie, and used the Chevron shirt pattern to draw in the details.  Cutting the pieces out of the thrifted suit was tricky.  There simply wasn't enough for the black base layer.  Fortunately I found a piece of four way stretch Lycra in my stash and was able to save the black base layer of the adult suit for my fully lined bodice. 

I made the sleeves shorter and rufflier.  I put a tie in the back instead of buttons.  I bound the leg holes with the skirt fabric.  I really love how it turned out.  

Sewing with the fabric was much easier than I expected.  Maybe it was the awful thin jersey knit that I made the muslin out of.  Anything is better than that stuff I guess.   Am I the only one who finds quality swimsuit knit easier to work with than low quality jersey?  Maybe the key word is quality. Incidentally , if the lady who cuts your fabric says "Bless your heart*, honey" about your fabric, that might be a hint.  Janalin is still learning to value quality over cheap price, but learning I am.  

Anyway, I like sewing with this stuff!  I will definitely be making her more swimwear.  As for a swimsuit for me,  I don't know.  Has anyone tried it?

*Bless your heart is southern shorthand for "I like to think I'm too nice to tell you, but you're doing something stupid."

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Sing to Me Dress

During our honeymoon I told my husband I wanted to spoil him and asked how.  I am not sure what I expected him to say but without the slightest hesitation he answered, "Sing a lot, smile a lot, and have lots of people over."  Almost three years in and that's still what my man wants.  Nothing better than a smiling, singing wife, and a house full of people.  I like it that way too.  I mean who doesn't like to be genuinely singing and smiling.  And as far as the house full of people goes, that's fun too, especially since last time we had a table full at breakfast time, he cooked for them.  We go together well this funny guy and me.

This month I'm playing along with the March sewing challenge from Project Run and Play.  We were to take this dress pattern and do something with it. The dress is cute, but I have to say that when I saw that doll dress hanging on the clothline something clicked.  It was just begging to become a pinafore over a ruffly backed dress.  So I skipped the original dress and graded the doll dress up to size 6-9 months to fit the little lady.

I am very much a beginner at pattern sizing.  I printed the original pattern and also pulled out my 6-9 month size free pattern from The Stitching Scientist.  I have made this pattern before and know that it sews up nicely and, importantly, fits my baby.
To make my pattern I lay the doll dress over the dress it was supposed to go on top of and drew what I thought would fit.  It kind of worked.  I learned a bit and will try again next time.  For making patterns I use wrapping paper.  It is light weight, comes in a big roll, and has a one inch grid on the back.  

I sewed the dress first.  I cut the pieces out as I would to make a regular peasant dress except I left the bottom half off of the back.  I sewed the four pieces together and ended up with this.
This fabric takes me back a year to when first found out I would have a little girl to sew for.  I went to Walmart and stocked up on cheap fabric to practice on.  Even though it is cheap Walmart fabric, I love it.  It is such a cheery bright green and has these adorable little birds on it.  Can you tell I'm ready for spring?
Next I cut the biggest piece of the fabric I had left into three 3 1/4" strips and made them into ruffles.  An excellent tutorial on making a ruffle skirt is available here.  When I added the top and middle ruffles I added a lace ruffle.  I simply placed it under the green ruffle and sandwiched it all together.  Since my major (only) grip with the peasant dress is that it's hard to get those baby arms into the sleeves, I added a key hole and button closure to the back.  I used the neckline elastic to make the button loop; just made it stick out the casing, folded it back over and closed it all up.

With the dress done, I could finish the pinafore.  I placed my cut out pinafore over the front of the dress and suddenly realized that my  pattern grading hadn't gone as well as I thought.  That 18" doll pattern wasn't intended for a 7 month old baby and I hadn't sized the neckline up properly.  Oh well.  Then followed a series of crazy sewing makeshift that I will spare you.  When it was all over I had this.

That lovely ribbon covers up some things you probably just shouldn't do in sewing.  It does it quite nicely I think.  The shoes are from Amber over at Crazy Little Projects.  They are lovely, but they don't stay on.  Can we really expect that?
This is my Sing to Me Dress full of singing birds and butterflies. It's a reminder to serious little me that at the end of the day, singing, smiling, and having lots of people over, isn't such a bad way to live.  Happy Spring!
She gives Daddy plenty of smiles
unless he's pointing a camera at her. . .then no.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

My Journey of Joy: The Beautiful Birth of Enoch Leach

Foreword:  This is my experience.  It is one of the most beautiful and sacred things that has ever happened to me.  I almost hesitate to share it publically for fear of being misunderstood.  Not every mother has had an experience like mine and I mean no condemnation to anyone who has chosen to give birth differently than I have.  I hope others will give me the same respect.  If you had a horrible labor and got an epidural or planned a caesarean, or screamed curses and vowed you’d never do it again, I totally admire you for giving birth, for giving life to a child.  Your birth was just as sacred as mine.  Now, simply let me share my story.  Just please, let’s not let the controversial aspects of birth detract from the beauty of it.

From the time I first learned of the marvelous, mysterious thing that is childbirth I have looked forward to it with a mixture of anticipation and dread.  It seems that every mother has a horror story or two of hours of excruciating pain and agony.  Yet something in my heart knew that it was an experience I did not want to avoid.  Though afraid of pain, I wanted the reward of childbirth: a baby.  When I was courting Stephen, I read the birth story of a friend who had given birth naturally in water.  I read about her pain, but then there came the moment when her little girl was placed in her arms.  With tears I realized that any pain would be worth that moment. 
Before and during my pregnancy I did a lot of research on birth and Stephen and I decided on a home birth with a professional midwife.  We greatly appreciated the personal support and quality care we received from our midwives. 
My pregnancy went well with an average amount of discomforts.  As the time for Enoch’s birth drew closer I grew in faith and courage.  With prayers and joyful anticipation I prepared for the birth of my firstborn son.
I went into labor at midnight on May the 24th.  I tried to go back to sleep but it just wasn’t happening even though the contractions were still more than twenty minutes apart.  I told Stephen to try to sleep and went to the living room to pace around.  I was really excited!  I found that movement was key to relaxing through the contractions (which never got as bad as I thought they would.)  During those early ones I would lean against the wall and rock my lower body and sing “Jesus Loves Me” to myself.  I hadn’t planned that, but looking back it makes sense that I would choose a song that had meant love, safety, and happiness to me since I was a baby.  I also spent some time with God reconnecting.  I found that prayer really helped, not because I couldn’t handle the pain, but because it was so necessary for me to let go and I needed to trust myself to Someone bigger than myself.  
I was really afraid of overreacting to labor so I convinced myself that I was still really early and could handle it all just fine on my own.  Still I thought maybe my Mom would be awake, (it was now in the early hours of the morning) and would like to know what was going on.  She immediately wanted to get in the car and come be with me.  I didn’t think I needed her yet, but didn’t tell her that.  My dad wanted to come too, which I hadn’t planned, but, since I knew he was really nervous about his daughter having a baby, I thought it would be good to let him come to the house anyway.  We had the birth pool set up in our bedroom and a door separates the living room/ dining room/kitchen from the bedrooms and bathrooms, so he could be close without actually being in the room.  He spent the time in the living room waiting for progress updates and probably had the roughest experience of any of us. 
After I got off the phone I decided to call my midwife, Shea, and give her a heads up.  My contractions were well within the every five minute range and even though I didn’t think they were that intense, I decided to call her.  I knew she was out of town for an infant resuscitation course that was required to keep her license and that her partner, Barbara, would have to come to the birth instead.  I really like Barbara so that was no problem although I was disappointed Shea couldn’t be there.   Shea was also disappointed that the baby was coming when she couldn’t come herself.  She asked if I had tried going back to sleep, but after timing the contractions that came during the call she knew this was the real thing.  She told me to call Barbara when I thought I needed to.  I told her that since my mom had worked her whole nursing career in labor and delivery I thought she could probably check me when she arrived and we would call Barbara depending on what she found.  She thought that was a good idea and advised me to wake Stephen up in the meantime.  I was ready for some support. 
I “woke” Stephen (he wasn’t asleep) and he helped me through contractions until four when my mom arrived.  I asked her to check me.  I was certain I was still at no more than 2, but she told me to call the midwife because I was “at least a five.”  I was so relieved and happy to be that far along!
Stephen filled the birth pool which we had purchased, and I got in.  The warm water felt so good!  I had a much easier time relaxing there in the water with my mom, sister, and husband rubbing my back and arms. 

The labor was amazing.  I felt so much love from my husband, mom, and sister that it was very manageable.  As I got closer to full dilation, and the contractions got more intense, Barbara had to keep reminding me not to fight.  As I would come to those moments I would recite a Bible verse in my mind and I would calm right down.  I could not believe how much it actually helped.  I really didn’t think that would work for me like that.  The time went by and looking back it really doesn’t feel like it could have been as long as it was.
Finally, after nine hours of labor, I was ready to push. I pushed for a while.  It took a few tries to figure out how, and then I went for it, certain my baby would be in my arms in no time.  An hour went by.  And then another.  It was much harder work than I expected, although not as painful as it might have been.  After two more hours of pushing, I was starting to get discouraged and questioned whether I would be able to give birth naturally.  We tried a few different positions and finally I felt him move.  I will forever be grateful that I didn’t have an epidural, because that feeling of his head moving gave me the strength to finish.  At 1:20, four and a half hours after I started pushing, Enoch was born and immediately placed in my arms.  No way can I describe this moment!  My little boy looked up at me with a trusting inquisitive look.  “Hi Precious,” I said.  Stephen held me as I held Enoch and we kissed and cried together.   

Looking back, I am certain that if I had been in a hospital, I would have been given a c section.  I would have consented to it.  It really looked like my small bone structure was preventing his birth, but Barbara was so calm and confident (and careful to check his heart rate very frequently) that we didn’t panic.  I kept trying and I did it.  Only by the grace of God, but I did it.  I didn’t even tear. 
I really think there is a huge difference between labor pain and other forms of pain.  It is such a happy kind of pain I think.  I felt so safe and loved and excited that my baby was coming that it could no way have been called suffering.  Every other kind of pain (except maybe vigorous exercise) feels like an injury, like something is wrong.  This isn’t like that, at least not for me.  I do think though that it is worth it to prepare yourself for pain.  Also I know that some women have had a much harder time than I did and have been in worse pain.  I don’t want to trivialize someone else’s experience, but that is how it was for me. 
Giving birth was a life changing experience for me.  I no longer fear childbirth.  (Watch my next one be terrible, I know.)  I believe that God allowed couples to be given an experience to prepare them to raise children in a world full of sin and danger, a world that calls for every ounce of parental strength.  I feel that going through this experience together with Stephen helped me to love and trust him more.  Also it taught me to look to God for strength when the demands of motherhood are too much.  Just as God used the curse of hard work tilling the soil as a blessing to men, he turns the curse of pain in childbirth into a blessing for women.  There can even be joy in it.  God is like that. 
And did I mention I can’t get enough of my precious baby?  J

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

30 Years Later

Dear Mom and Dad,
July 10, 1983 Chewelah, Washington.  I wasn’t there, but I am sure it was a bit like my wedding a year ago.  Lot’s of friends, lot’s of pictures, lot’s of details.  Hopes, dreams, plans, promises meant to be kept.

Many things have changed in the last thirty years.  You have bought and sold houses, moved from the northwest to (gasp) Arkansas, started careers and changed to different ones, changed to a total vegetarian lifestyle, and changed from a computer that only displayed blinking green text, to graphic designing on flat screen.   You have watched your family grow from just the two of you and a couple cats, to one baby girl and then two.  You watched those little girls grow and shaped and molded their little lives.  You homeschooled them, taught them to read and then tried to get them to stop reading long enough to get the dishes done.  You watched them become adolescents, then busy college students, and finally teachers.  You welcomed a new son-in-law.  You held a new baby boy.  There have been lots of changes, but the friendship you committed to thirty years ago is still there stronger than ever. 

 To Beth and I your marriage has been a granted, something we never considered not being there.  Not everyone can say that to their parents.  So, although I haven’t said it enough over the years I want to say that I have always appreciated the security of the home and family you created for us.  I thank you for the sacrifices you made to make us what we are.  Thank-you for not giving up.  Praise the Lord!
I wish we could all be together today. Love you both!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Reflections on the Life of Promise

In February, my sister-in-law, Ruthea Wolford gave birth to her fourth child by emergency c-section.  Little Promise was born in critical condition and almost died at birth.  She spent the rest of her life in neo-natal intensive care in Little Rock, AR.  During that time Ruthea stayed in Little Rock to be close to her.  All of us prayed earnestly for her recovery from an extreme case of fetal hydrops.  God said wait.  On April 30, Promise fell asleep.  
 Yesterday, Ruthea sent me this letter she wrote to Promise.  She believes that Promise is completely unware of this letter and will not know anything until Jesus wakes her up when He comes.  She wrote this letter, not to communicate with Promise, but to express some of what this experience has done for her.  The resulting first person letter is, well, you'll just have to read it.  You might want to get a tissue box first.  ~Janalin
          Although you are safe in Jesus arms, close to His heart, and sleeping in Jesus (we know it as death but not forever!) until He comes, I’m going to write as thought I’m writing to you since it helps me to formulate clear thoughts.  As your mommy, from the time I knew I was carrying you, I was confident that God would be with me and strengthen us for everything to do with the pregnancy.  In prayer time, I had assurance from God that this whole experience would be enshrouded by a rainbow so to speak and that the end of the story would be filled with peace and joy. 
          You were a little “missionary” sent to me from Jesus and I know my life will NEVER be the same, both the void that you have left and the deep lessons I’m learning.  This has been the biggest trial of my whole life and yet I believe will also be the biggest blessing.  Since your death on April 30, I have had many questions and tears and also healing times with Jesus, although as each day passes, I understand more of the picture.  Here are some of the precious lessons I treasure.
          From the womb, your life was bathed in prayer.  After your traumatic birth, thousands of prayers ascended every day for your healing as people from all over the world and all ages started praying for you.  I also was catapulted into unceasing prayer for your little life continually hanging in the balance.  I’ll never forget the night in the elevator when God impressed me to start praying for you every hour with whoever I was with, by phone or in person.  It became a great blessing.  I saw many answers to those prayers for you and for others (“Thank you God!”) and many other people joined.  It wasn’t difficult to make time to pray because your need was so great.  I know that God is leading me to this same kind of prayer experience in many areas in life, especially for your brothers and sister (who miss you so much) as they grow and face all of life’s troubles and temptations.  God wants me to feel my constant and great need of Him and be continually in tune.
          In connection with that lesson, I felt helpless and was helpless to heal you or help you like I wanted to.  As each day passed it was a new lesson in being cheerful with the unknown and things I was helpless in.  God wants me to feel that helpless dependence on Him each day!
          In the past I would feel a bit irritated about many things and situations in life that seemed big in the moment.  But now it seems that nothing holds a candle to your fragile life that was holding on by a thread.  I’m so thankful to God for this fresh perspective.  Now, nothing holds a candle to eternity and being with Jesus.  “And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace”.  How many people are holding on to spiritual life just be a thread?
          When you were first born, I cried and prayed until I was assured by God again by the quiet conviction that He HAD given you to me.  I didn’t have to worry about whether or not you would make it and I could treasure each day with you.  Now, looking back I see that God is the same God now as in Abraham’s day and just as He really gave Abraham the promised land back then (Gen. 13), so He gave you to me. And just as Abraham received it by faith until he possesses it with all of us, so you are still mine by faith until we are in heaven.
          When I saw God had given you to me, I chose then to give you everything I had, even though I at first was inclined to hold back because nobody had assurance that you’d make it and I didn’t want to bond with you only to lose you.  But I spent all the time I could with you, I loved you as much as I could, I sang and prayed with you more than I had done with Isaac, Joy, or Seth during your short life because that’s about all I COULD do.  Thanks to the Lord, I have no regrets for my part in your life which is a wonderful example of how God wants me to live my life every day….a life with no regrets.  I see a clearer picture also of how God has given absolutely everything to us despite the fact that the majority of us humans don’t recognize that or love Him for it.  He keeps pouring His love out in un-numbered ways.  He bonds with us even though the certainty of spending eternity with us depends on our decision.  Thank you Lord, for giving your all and holding nothing back.  “The Lord would be so bountiful toward His human family that it cannot be said of Him that He could do more.  When He gave Jesus to our world, He gave all heaven.  His love is without a parallel.  It did not stop short of anything.” Comments on Matthew 26:6-13
          Along the same line, pumping breast milk for you was a huge trial for me.  It wasn’t because it hurt or because of the idea of feeding a pump instead of you.  It was because I didn’t know if you would ever get it, and every single time I pumped it was a reminder of how sick you were, how much I loved you and yet couldn’t hold you, etc, etc.  One day, God impressed me with the thought to not even worry about the future of you using my milk but simply to see it as a love gift for you right then.  This is such an example also of Jesus’ pure love to us constantly…simply because that’s what He is, pure love with no strings attached.  What a beautiful picture into Christ’s character.  I thank the Lord for the opportunity to feel more of His heart.
          Sometimes I felt almost guilty about being with you so much, since Isaac, Joy, and Seth needed me too (although Grandma was here).  Then as I prayed I realized again that I needed to be right where I was, with YOU.  God has a place and plan for me to be every moment of each day.  For each of us as His children, there may be needs all around us that call for our attention but our focus, attention, and energies need to be on the one place God has in mind.
          More than anything, I wanted to hold you in my own arms.  I prayed many times that Jesus would do that for me since I couldn’t, and I’m sure He had ways of making you feel His snuggling.  Yet that desire to hold you personally  was always there. I’m thankful for the precious moments Daddy and I held you before you died and I’ll always treasure that.  But the trial of not being able to hold you has also given me a deeper glimpse into God.  I know He would love to hold us all close physically and can’t wait until heaven when we will be united with Him.  I thank God to feel that with Him!
          You had no idea that you had an unconscious influence or even what “influence” is, but nonetheless it was great.  People and nurses who were with you commented on what a peaceful baby you were.  We had been praying all along that God’s name be glorified and we believed it could best be done by your life. However, we still believe that His name is glorified and claim that verse “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain”.  By your life and death, may God’s name be truly honored.  I believe you will have many stars in your crown and yet you were totally unaware of almost everything to do with this life except for the pain you were subjected to.  You have taught us so much.  You rested in Jesus…and that’s what my position should always be…resting in Jesus.
          With your life, we have been surrounded and immersed into hundreds of other people with intense needs too.  Jesus was moved with compassion on this earth for the crowds surrounding Him and He wants my life to be filled with compassion also.  “Lord, forgive me for my insensitivity to needs around me.  May I ever have your compassion and know what to do about it.”  I had never felt deep compassion for these kind of needs partly because I was never really aware of all that is happening and partly because I hadn’t suffered myself that much before.  Now, my outlook is completely different and I’ll never be the same.  In the past,  at times I’ve felt a bit judgmental about other people, but I realize more now that I’ve never carried their burden and that maybe I would make those same decisions if I was in their shoes..  I’ve entered more into God’s heart of compassion for us humans who are just as helpless as you have been in your little bed.
          The time you smiled at me gave me such a feeling of joy that I’ll never forget.  God must also long for our “smiles” of recognition and joy for who He is.
          A few days before you died, I was overcome with sadness and sat down to cry.  After a little while, God brought to my mind a song to sing and the thought that my remedy would be to sing.  God is in the business of helping us humans heal and how good He is at it.  Sometimes I can’t sing because of tears and my throat is tight but then I can again.  What a help to be able to sing through the tears.  I think I see deeper how music is like prayer and connects me with God in a way to bring continual healing and help.  Again, thank you God.

          Although I miss you terribly, I see that you had a mission to complete which you did, so you could say with Paul, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” 1 Timothy 4:7,8.  You were preserved and healed in the womb when the doctor didn’t think you’d make it, you survived your birth which was another miracle, and God also worked after your anointing in a special way.  Evidently He saw you had a special work to do, like the song I sang every day (Come Thou Fount) and this one… “God has a plan for you, something only you can do.  You are so valuable to Him.  You are beyond compare, a precious jewel so very rare.  He gave His everything to make you His own.  God wants just you, no one else will do.  Listen to Him call you by name.  You were in His plan before the world began and He wants you to live your life for Him.”
          We can’t wait to see you and we know it will be soon!  We are so thankful God brought you into our family!

Our faith must pierce beyond the veil, seeing things that are invisible. No one else can look for you. You must behold for yourself. In the place of murmuring for blessings that are withheld, let us remember and appreciate the blessings already bestowed (MS 42, 1901).  {7BC 930.11}

Sunday, July 8, 2012


Sunrise on the Goat Rocks Wilderness Area with Mt Adams in the background.  Washington State

Every mountain climbed is an experience all its own.  Every one demands its own level of exertion; every one offers its own reward; and every one sings its own song.  I have seen the sun rise from Round Mountain in Washington State and gasped at the melody of sun streaks over the lake, the wonder of Mt. Adams towering over the Goat Rocks, and the majesty of a pink Rainer turning to gold in the dawning light.  I could almost hear the orchestral strains of breaking dawn complimenting the harmony of stillness.  A concert that made the strenuous moonlit hike shrink into nothingness.  I have climbed the gentler slopes of Arkansas’ Ouachita Mountains.  They offer a less spectacular view and a less exhausting climb, but hum with the sweet sound of insects and birds in harmony with the breeze rustling the beech, pine, and oak trees.   I have climb foothills in the Italian Alps, urging myself up the last slope to feast on the sight of peaks of three countries. The Alps swell with melody.  Waterfalls seem to gush from every cliff and rivers thunder through every gorge.  The green meadows lilt with the music of bells worn by the flocks and herds.  No two mountains offer the same; each sings a song wonderfully its own. 
Castelluzzo is no exception.  It was one of our easier hikes actually.  My husband and I had already climbed Monte Servin above the famed Pra del Tor in Waldenses territory and Punto Vergio above the rugged Valley of the Invincibles.  Our honeymoon in Italy was filled with excursions into the beauty the Alps had to offer, but Castelluzzo was a must climb for us.  There were no cow bells or vast fields of wildflowers, and the clouds obstructed what vista there might have been.  We were there to claim the reward of standing where a battle was fought and gloriously won.  We were there to hear the song of the martyrs.
We were oddly silent on this hike.  I listened to the sighing of the trees, the thud of solid ground beneath my feet, and the roar of the distant river.  My mind was taking in, not just the beauty of the tree covered heights, but the scene of 500 years ago.  I saw lines of people climbed the trail before me.  I saw babies in their mother’s arms.  I saw terrified little faces, anguished lips moving in silent prayer, and calm determined eyes.  I saw hateful stares and malicious smirks.  I saw drawn swords and other hideously ugly weapons drawn to prevent any attempt of escape.  Only one escape was offered: renounce this heresy, this idea that one could be saved without the intercession of priest and saints, say mass, go to confession, and you may walk down this mountain and live.  My line of people kept climbing.  My husband and I followed. 
Isaac Watt’s hymn was playing in the background of my mind.  Am I a soldier of the cross, a follower of the Lamb? And shall I fear to own His cause, or blush to speak His name?
The night before I had sung that song in the Tempio Valdesi in Pra del Tor, wheezing the notes out of the antique pump organ.   Suddenly, the message of the song overwhelmed me.  I assessed the last few years of my life.  Lately the passion for God that had filled me in earlier days was lacking.  Maturity and experience had tempered my zeal with reality.  Although I still experienced many moments of joy and even fun in ministry, some days, I honestly just wanted to quit.  But now I knew I couldn’t. The weariness with ministry, the growing reluctance to take on responsibility, the longing for a quiet life of ease and contentment, the frustration with working hard and feeling that it was never enough, all came home to me in that moment.  I felt like a plastic toy soldier next to a seasoned warrior as I compared myself to those who had endured so much without complaining.  With tears I told God that whatever He asked of me would be done cheerfully.  Now this climb up Castelluzzo.
We entered a beautiful meadow.  How peaceful, I thought.  It seemed hard to believe this was the scene of such ugliness.  Grass covered the top reaching from the forest on the back to the rocky cliffs before us.  I could still see my Valdesi friends marching through this field and I knew what was next.  Maybe there was one last chance; one more attempt to convert their victims to their system.  This being denied, the men, women, and little children were taken around the last boulder.
My tears flowed freely now.  The men who had committed no crime but courageous faith, the mothers who had taught the words of the gospels to their children, the innocent little ones too young to understand, the young bride like me, full of dreams of a simple life with husband and children, all were thrown over the cliff.  The soldier returned to the fort in the valley.  My husband and I were left to walk back down the trail in peace. 
Why not me?  Why was I born in a time and place where freedom was granted and men worshiped their God in peace?  A strange mixture of gratitude and envy surged through me.  Gratitude for freedom, envy for a faith that could conquer that.  The song kept playing.  Must I be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease, while others fought to win the prize or sailed through bloody seas?  Are there no foes for me to face, may I not stem the flood, is this vile world a friend of grace to help me on to God? 
I crawled between two rocks in search of a quiet place out of the wind.  All was still.  I saw them again, forced to this point choosing not between a Sabbath afternoon of outreach and a nap but between life and death.  Am I a Soldier? 
I opened my Bible to Hebrews 11: 32- 40
"And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:  Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.  Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:  And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;  (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.  And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:  God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect."  
Why not me?  The answer came clearly.  You too.  The martyrs of Castelluzzo and thousands like them are asleep waiting.  It is for us to finish.  We 21st century Christians who have everything, we who stay home if it rains, we who are quick to protect our temporal comfort and slow to protect someone else’s eternal life, we walk in the footsteps of the martyrs.  We are called to the same degree of commitment. 
Sure I must fight if I would reign, increase my courage, Lord; I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain, supported by Thy word.
I moved closer to the edge.  My mind, heart, and soul tried to take all this in.  How did they do it?  Were they merely spiritual giants with no fears?  Was theirs an innate courage, some martyr gene that hadn’t made it into my DNA?  For a long time I pondered this.  A tree moaned in the wind.  The river thundered far below.  The song played on. 
The saints in all this glorious war shall conquer though they die, they see the triumph from afar with faith’s discerning eye.
They saw beyond the moment.  They saw a crown laid up ahead.  They saw a city with foundations.  They saw a robe of white and a mansion of gold.  But they saw more than all One who had ever been their Helper.  They saw open arms to catch them as they fell.  They had already proved Him in lesser trials. 
The sun poked through the clouds bathing my rock with warmth.  I smiled.  This grizzly place, these cruel jagged rocks, this scene of such unspeakable evil, was a beautiful place.  A victory was won here that may be repeated in each moment of sacrifice faced by God’s people.  Not by being active and zealous in our own strength will we follow.  Not by a sudden infusion of that mysterious martyr courage will we finish this war, but by looking beyond the moment to the One who has endured more than they all. 
Hebrews 12 follows Hebrews 11.  It reads. “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [us], and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,  Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of [our] faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.  For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” 
This is the secret.  Consider Him.  Not once a week, or even once a day, but every time the temptation comes to be careless.  I leaned back onto the grass.  My commitment of the previous night could be kept.  Any weak ordinary Christian had have this if we will just look away from the moment, away from our problems, away from ourselves, to one who has fought this glorious war and won. 
I stood and begin to join in singing the final verse of the song Castelluzzo had sung to me.  When that illustrious day shall rise and all Thy armies shine, in robes of victory through the skies the glory shall be Thine.
Yes a victory was won on Castelluzzo by Jesus, the One who was so mistreated in the person of His people, and so glorified by them.  The glory was His and always will be.  No super Christian walked down the mountain that day.  But Jesus walked beside a dependent one.  The work was still there.  It was still hard, and seemingly unrewarding, but it didn’t need to be doable.  I wasn’t doing it alone anymore.  Castelluzzo continued to sing it’s song, to demand its sacrifice, and my heart had found strength to meet it.