Maralyn's Updates

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Who Could Have Ever Imagined?

I never intended to write a cookbook. I was only going to type up my boys’ favorite recipes when they left for college. The first “edition” was just a spiral-bound set of photocopies, but the boys kept calling home saying that another of their friends wanted a copy, so I just kept making more sets.

When I turned 50 I decided to make a fancier version of the book for some of my friends to thank them for their friendship over the years. That book was called Annie’s Best, and my friend Jeanne, a talented graphic artist, volunteered to design a cute cover and divider pages. The week of my birthday I was speaking on hospitality at a convention, so I had 600 copies of the book printed, and they had all sold in 10 weeks!

Five years later, by popular demand, I decided to publish a revised and expanded edition called Around the World with Annie. By then I had collected 200 new recipes, and I had also lived and taught in Europe for 16 years and had collected lots of delicious recipes from my international students. I had also written several stories about our international food experiences—funny stories—and these became the section dividers of my new book.

With 554 recipes and 10 fun stories, this book has been immensely popular. I’ve had many people tell me that it’s their favorite cookbook ever! They tell me they like it because every recipe is tried and tested. They also say that they love reading the small things I’ve written about the recipes…where I got them…how I use them.

Who could have ever imagined?

Last June when my ALS diagnosis invaded our lives, I decided to do a blog so I wouldn’t have to answer so many e-mails. I knew there would be people who would want to know what was going on, but they wouldn’t want to “bother” us. So, I began my blog. A side benefit has been that the blog is helping me synthesize the things that are happening in my mind. It has been therapeutical to write these 31 entries. But now you're telling me that it's helping you, too! Amazing!

Believe it or not, this blog site has about 1800 hits a month, averaging about 50 a day. You, my readers, are from 33 countries, and there are new readers almost every day. Many of you I’ve never met, but God is using this whole situation for the benefit of many.

Who could have ever imagined?

This week I passed the eight-month marker since my diagnosis. That day when the doctor said that I probably had 12-18 months to live, I thought ahead to spring, wondering what condition I’d be in by then.

Would I still be able to walk?
Would I still be able to talk?

Well...last weekend we celebrated our oldest grandchild Reuben’s fifth birthday, and I could not only walk and talk, but I could also cruise on the tube with our son David, and two of his little guys—the birthday boy (on my lap) and his 3 year old brother, Levi.

Who could have ever imagined?

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen!” (Ephesians 3:20-21)


P.S. If you’d like to contact me for any reason, just post a comment on my blog and give me your e-mail address, then I’ll write to you. It you’re someone I’ve never met, it would be fun to hear how you learned about my site. Yes, I do have extra cookbooks. If you're interested you can order one by writing to this address:

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Unselfish Love

In a few hours it will be Valentine’s Day so everyone’s thinking about LOVE, but I want to show you a less talked about side of love.

A few years ago our friends, Don and Evie, gave us a book called A Promise Kept: The Story of an Unforgettable Love, by Robertson McQuilkin. It was a sad, but heartwarming, love story. Robertson’s wife Muriel was 55 when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. At first he was able to continue in his job as president of Columbia Bible College and Seminary, but eventually he resigned so he could stay home and care for her, and he did just that for many years.

The book chronicled his feelings throughout the process. When we read it, what struck me was his depth of love for his wife, even though she no longer knew him. This was an unforgettable book. Its chapter titles were “In Sickness and in Health,” “To Love and to Cherish,” “For Better, For Worse,” “From This Day Forward,” “For Richer, For Poorer,” and “Till Death Do Us Part.”

I urge you to find and read that book!

Little did we realize that a few years later our love was going to have the opportunity to move to a new level. Last year at this time we were leading a couples fellowship for four young couples. Together we had dinner out, and later Jim told the young men, “Guys, love your wives like Christ loves the church.” Then he did a short teaching about what that really meant.

“Husbands love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself“ Ephesians 5:25-28.

And now, exactly one year later, Jim is doing just that.

With my diagnosis, and slight awkwardness, he has been doing all of his normal “manly jobs,” but also many of my "womanly" jobs—dishes, picking up, laundry, and carrying things from room to room. Until a couple of weeks ago, he was also doing most of the cleaning. Just recently I asked some ladies in the church to help clean so Jim wouldn’t have to do it all.

Everyday, he makes certain that I take my nap, and that I take both doses of my Pana C-315 (a multivitamin, mineral & superfood supplement). He also cheers me on as I faithfully do my exercises.

I feel so loved! Jim does a perfect job of protecting me without smothering me. For instance, he knows I love to cook, so he lets me do that without interference. He also knows I love to do errands, so he releases me every week, even though he knows I’ll be exhausted when I get home. He knows I need that bit of independence.

Because of my clumsiness, there’s always a little messy trail wherever I’ve been, but he never complains. He just quietly picks up the pieces.

His love has lifted me many times throughout these months as he continues to adore me. As he curls around me at night, when we’re ready to go to sleep, he always tenderly asks God to heal me. And at least ten times throughout the day, he looks at me and says, “How are you doing?” Later in the day he will hug me and say, “Get well, okay?” I laugh and say, “I AM!”

To the young men in my audience, I challenge you to follow Jim’s lead…or more accurately Christ’s lead…and give up your own comforts to cherish your wife the way she needs. It sounds hard, especially in an individualistic world, but once you reach the tipping point, it’s easy. Her response will probably be one of respect and love as she sees you sacrificing yourself for her.

Jim turned 64 today, and tonight he’s teaching a “Life of Christ” class at our church, like he does every Wednesday night. He has no idea I’m writing this blog. He’ll probably be slightly embarrassed, but I think his story needs to be told, because doing things God’s way just works!

So tomorrow, guys, give her some of the trappings of love…chocolates, flowers, dinner at a nice restaurant, or whatever, but make sure that you also give her what she really wants--REAL love. Unselfish love.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Contentment 101

If you had me as a teacher in the last five years you probably remember getting a mini-course in Contentment 101. It came in the form of a devotional. I told you, “Be where you are. Don’t miss the moment. While you’re here studying, don’t wish it away, even when it gets hard. Maximize whatever this situation brings. Make new friends. Study hard. Take time to exercise. Stay balanced. Be here!”

It’s human nature, I suppose, to live either in yesterday or tomorrow, but when we do that we miss today.

Look back. What memories do you savor most? I have lovely memories of being on a “cooking chair” next to my grandma. She taught me to prepare food with love and care. I wish she were still alive. I’d love to be able to share my adult life with her. But see? There’s joy and regret tied up in that one.

As humans it’s easy to plague ourselves with both the “Oh, if only’s…” AND the “Oh, those were the great days” feelings. So, both negative and positive things can keep us locked in the past.

But we also do it for future events.

Remember when you were in the last months of your final year in high school? If you were like me, you were excited about going to university. I thought, “I can’t wait to get to Evangel College. It’s going to be so cool. I’ll bet I’ll meet all kinds of neat people…maybe even my future husband.” (And I did! Forty years ago today we got engaged! ☺).

Or more often we fret about the future. We worry, “I’m afraid that I won’t be able to handle that when it comes.” Or “What if this…or that…?” And we lay awake at night stewing.

All of this robs the moment.

At this juncture of my life, my question to myself is this: Can I live up to the challenge I’ve launched toward my students?

The Bible is clear that being content with my circumstances is the best way to live. These verses have been jumping out of my Bible lately:

“Godliness with contentment is great gain…” I Timothy 6:6

“Be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.’” Hebrews 13:5b-6

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-12


Still in my mind, too, is a conversation I had with my neurologist several months ago. I was still in the shock stage after the diagnosis and he was patiently answering my questions and concerns. In his quiet, warm way he said, “I know we can’t choose how we die, but if I could choose, I think I might choose ALS.”

“What? (I was shocked!) Why?”

Over the next few minutes he calmly helped me see that my disease is relatively pain free. There are no treatments. There are months (sometimes more than a year) of preparation time, not days or weeks. The mind stays totally sharp. Even the death itself is not a desperate thing, but peaceful. “So,” he restated, “If I could choose I might choose ALS as my way to go.” Then he got a twinkle in his eye, “My friend said he’d like to just drop over dead of a heart attack, but not me! I’m a bit of a control freak, I guess, but I’d like knowing ahead of time about when I am going to go, so I have the time to put everything in order, say goodbye, and finish things.” Then he told me that he also has a “deep faith.” Ah-ha! I thought so! There was a peace about him that made me wonder if he was a believer.

Looking back I can see that he was telling me, “Want what you have. Be content. Don’t worry. Yes, I know this is tough, but don’t miss the moment.”

I’ll be very honest with you. My biggest temptation right now is to long to be able to speak clearly. “Oh, if only…” I yearn.

But I’ve been trying to remember to thank God for what I do have--my fingers, for example, because I can still type 90 words per minute. At least I can be articulate on paper. My fingers can fly over the keyboard almost as fast as my brain can generate new thoughts.

Also, it seems that my disease is progressing very slowly, if at all, and that’s clearly a miracle!

And I’m sitting around feeling sad I am that I can’t TALK clearly?! “Wake up, girl, and thank God for what you do have!” I remind myself.

How about you? Have you thanked God today for your fingers? Or have you thanked him that you can speak clearly? Or that you can walk at a normal gait? Or are you like me…fretting about what you don’t have…worrying about what’s around the corner?

Let’s remind each other to be content whatever our circumstances,