Let Patience Have Its Perfect Work . . .

One of the things that we are learning about this crazy COVID-19 business is that there are almost no exact parameters by which to judge, I wish there were. I wish that there was a test that could tell me when I was infected, who gave it to me, when I infected Blind Linda, and how. I wish that there was a way to tell why some people have a terrible time of it, and even die from it, and then others scarcely have a symptom. It’s very confusing to me why I had certain symptoms, and other people say that they are troubled by other things that are far more impressive than mine ever were.

And now that Daniel and I have both tested negative, and are essentially considered recovered, I look back on our experience with more than a little sense of awe at how well we have fared. I’ve been asked repeatedly how I felt, what was my experience, how I am doing now. I am grateful for the many people who were and are praying for Daniel, Me and Blind Linda. The texts and the prayers and the check-ins and the many kindnesses are overwhelming to me. It’s really hard to believe that people care so much, but it’s very nice.

For this, my heart gives grateful praise.

I do not believe I was in any mortal danger at any point. I almost never had a temperature and the one night that I did, it was very low (100.). I was never short of breath. I did not lose my sense of taste and smell. Sometimes things tasted a little “off,” and I wasn’t very hungry, but I could taste and smell just fine. I was not beset with the more dangerous COVID side effects. I was tired. And grumpy (which for me feels like a serious side effect). One of the harder things for me was that it was necessary for me to care for Blind Linda (since there was no one else) whether I felt up to it or not. The State of Delaware said, “You are going to just need to keep her home, watch for any of the things that would indicate that she is in trouble (i.e. blueish tints to her extremities, vomiting, fever above 100 and pulse oxygen below 90 that doesn’t come up with change of position, difficulty breathing, and anything that appears unusual for her). There is no other way to handle this unless she needs to be hospitalized.” (She has also done fairly well, but at her last recheck, she was still positive.)

It was actually probably good that I had Linda to watch over because, to be honest, without being compelled to move, I don’t know that I would have! The physical thing that troubled me the most was an overriding ache. It was weird, but my skin hurt! It felt like all of my skin was overlaying a bruise. My bones hurt, too, and I walked like an old woman! (I know, I know! I am an old woman!)

Part of that “walking like an old woman” had actually started before I had COVID. Midway through December, I had a sudden, debilitating pain in my left hip one night as I was walking upstairs. The pain was sudden and blinding and disturbingly familiar (at least I thought it felt familiar). It resulted in putting my right foot up a step and then dragging the left one up behind it. It was a sick feeling as I contemplated the fact that there was probably going to be another replacement part in this body of mine that just keeps on letting me down! But I hobbled about, some days better than others, took care of Linda, hoped that things would settle down and prayed. A bunch! For wisdom, for patience with Linda when she was being difficult, for steadiness for the many times when I walk her (me holding both of her hands while I walk backwards) and for cheerfulness when all I really wanted to do was cry and cry and cry. I understand that is another symptom of COVID – being really, really sad. What I didn’t know was that I had another reason for all those emotions — I had another UTI.

“And it came to pass . . .” Through all of these muddled mixed up days, I tried to remind myself of that fact. This wasn’t going to last forever. But there was something that began niggling at the back of my consciousness in a most insistent way. I began to realize that, unless I began to make plans for our Linda-girl, we could find ourselves in a most desperate emergency where I would be unable to care for her, or there would be a bad fall that involved both of us — and we would be “Up Fish Crick Without a Paddle” to quote someone from my past. I was also feeling so weary, and so uncertain as to what would be best, and how I should proceed. As the days passed, and I began to seriously weigh the impacts on my health and the inroads into the life of our family at every turn, and the fact that Linda was needing more care than I was physically able to give, I began to understand that God was nudging me to take action. This was not something that I wanted, and the grief washed over me, almost overwhelming me during those days of pondering and calculating and appraising.

There was another side to this, and I needed to be honest about another side of the question. So, I looked at the many things that we’ve given up over the last few years so that I could adequately care for Linda, and I felt a deep longing for some time to devote to my children and grandchildren, for some time to write, for some time to think, for some time to go away with my husband without thinking of the logistics of Linda’s care. I felt a sudden homesickness for a person that I felt I didn’t even know – The person I would be without the defining role of “caregiver,” and I was more than a little afraid. Who will I be when I end this 35 year career that has been an integral part of my life personally as well as the lives of the people I love most, my family?

The days kept marching on, and with each day came a deeper and deeper clarity to my thinking. I could see many reasons for a change to be made, not just for me and our family, but also for Linda and her family. I began to tenuously broach the subject with Daniel, then my local daughters and finally mentioned it to my extended family. There was unanimous agreement that the time had come to make different plans for Linda, and my family urged me to not delay in getting the ball rolling. The pain in my hip was unrelenting. One day, almost on a whim, I called the office that orchestrated the replacement of my knees 11 years ago and made an appointment with the orthopedic PA. I was surprised that it was barely a week out, and I toyed with the idea of waiting to see what he had to say, but felt compelled to begin the process.

I don’t know what I expected, but the support and kindness and understanding that I have received on every single step along this complicated way has surprised and heartened me. The sense that God’s timing is decidedly ahead of us in all of this blows my mind! The process has started and it feels like an incredible relief, even while I also feel such a deep sense of sadness. Things like this can take a terribly long time, I’ve been warned, (like as much as 6-9 months) but even that is not something about which to be anxious. I told my team on Friday that I know it will take time, but as long as I know they are working on it, I’m fine with it taking some time. My prayer is that God’s hand will be so completely evident in this process that no one involved can miss it. There is so much room for human failure, and this old provider is very aware of my tendency to get into a hurry and make a mess of things.

One of the things that is making the waiting so much easier is that, following a NEGATIVE Covid test on Thursday, I made my way into Premier Orthopaedics (that is how they spell it!) and saw an old friend, Henry Mensack, PA. My worst fears were groundless, and it took him a little bit of no time to diagnose bursitis in my left hip, give me a cortisone shot, reassure me that I’m not in danger of needing a replacement and send me on my way rejoicing. Before any of you become unglued at the mention of a cortisone shot, please don’t judge! The relief was so quick, and so incredible! There are other ways, I know, but physical therapy in our current climate is not an option, and when I first started needing knee surgery, I bought valuable time with cortisone shots. and I’m very content at this point with the results this time around (so far, anyhow). The truth is that, in this situation, it buys me time to care for Linda while plans can be made that are best for her, without that debilitating pain. When I consider all the other factors at this point, that gift alone is providential and life-giving.

For this, my heart gives grateful praise.

And so, once again, I find myself in a place of waiting. It is another good time to “Let Patience Have Its Perfect Work” in my heart as well as my head. I believe that God has a plan. It may not look like I think it will, and it may take longer than I like. I don’t expect it to be uncomplicated or necessarily easy. I do expect that Jesus will walk with me through it, and that on the other side, I will be able to trace His Hand through it all. I believe that His love for Linda is no less than His love for me. He is to be trusted.

Please pray for us. And stay tuned for the story!

My heart gives grateful praise!

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COVID Sneaks in to Shady Acres

It’s been an interesting week at Shady Acres.

Some of you are aware that when the virus started back in March, our adult children were very directive with us about staying home, and their intentions if we didn’t at least do our parts to be safe.  And yes, we did have one of those offspringin’s threaten to “come over there and steal all the batteries and slash all the tires if Dad can’t figure out how to stay home!”  Daniel and I talked it over and we decided that we were going to listen to our adult children, and that we would do our best to be careful, not just because they said so, but also because of Blind Linda, who is quite compromised at any given moment even without a virulent strain of the Coronavirus.  I made the decision in early March to keep her out of her day program, and we’ve been given much grace in the months since then.

On Christmas Eve, Daniel started feeling like he was getting a head cold.  His nose was stuffy and he was tired.  He kept falling asleep during our Family’s Christmas Eve Zoom gathering, and I was concerned.  His daughters wanted him to go get checked, but the next day was Christmas, and then it was the weekend, and he thought he was feeling a lot better.  However, when Deborah needed to be tested on Monday morning for her job at Hospice, we prevailed upon him to go and get tested as well.  28 hours later we received the results and Daniel was positive for COVID-10.

“It’s a false positive,” he intoned over and over again.  “I just don’t feel sick enough.  Haven’t lost my sense of taste or smell, I’m not short of breath, don’t have a temperature, no sore throat, no cough, no nothing!  I just think it’s a false positive!”

Well, of course I needed to report his positive test to the state of Delaware because of Blind Linda, and they said I had to take her and myself and go be tested the next day (Wednesday, the 30th).  Now I was feeling a little “off” but I kept thinking that the imagination is a very strange thing, and I am highly susceptible to the power of suggestion.  You know, it’s like, “Does my throat maybe hurt a little bit?” (Swallow, swallow).  “I think maybe my throat does hurt a little bit!” (Swallow, swallow.)  “Yep, pretty sure that my throat is getting right sore, and it feels like I have a tickle starting in my chest!”  (Cough, cough!) “I believe I just might have COVID, in fact I’m sure I do!”  So since I know that I’m prone to that sort of negativity and imagination, I decided that I would nor imagine anything for Linda or myself until we had the test results.  Since they were done on Wednesday, I expected them back on Thursday.

And so we went about our business, and I moved to the spare room so that Daniel would have the master bed all to himself and I wouldn’t have to worry about catching anything from him (if I hadn’t already) and maybe we could both get some sleep.  Deborah brought over a pulse-ox monitor, and some alcohol wipes and a temporal thermometer for me to use with Linda.  The state asked me to keep track of levels at least twice a day (I knew that I’d be checking a lot more often than that) and to go into the hard quarantine mode immediately.  The first day Linda’s oxygen levels hovered around the low 90’s, but they have consistently been above 95 since, and she has never had a temp that registered about 100.  And since her temp is often fluctuating, I didn’t know if that was a symptom or not.  She was extremely grumpy, though, so much so that I said that she maybe didn’t have COVID-19, but I was pretty sure that she had “GRUMPYCOMPLAINT-2020!!!

When the days kept passing by with no results, I became even more confident that we were going to be fine.  The results are usually back in a max of 48 hours.  We did have a holiday, but in speaking to someone at headquarters, I was told that they were not stopping for a holiday or anything, but rather working on through.  I also thought that, due to the seriousness of the pandemic, they would hustle the positive results out faster. However, we kept on staying home, keeping to ourselves and Daniel kept mumbling something about “false positives,” and was as busy as ever with his farm and his yard and his chickens.

Around 5:00 this evening, there were two quick messages on my cell phone and our results were in.  I checked them both, feeling a strange mixture of anxiety and relief,  There it was, plain as day, Both of us tested positive for the virus.  Yes!  Both Linda and I have COVID-19.  Now what?  Well, for the most part we are going to do what we’ve been told to do, get lots of rest, drink lots of water, keep track of the oxygen levels and the temperatures.  I’m going to see to it that Linda doesn’t just sit, (It’s important to keep moving) and I plan to keep on being active in my usual household things — and I plan to pray and ask others to pray as well.  There’s a great cloud of witnesses who care and will help us bear this burden, and we’ve already had phenomenal expressions of care and tangible gifts of food, texts, and even a state of the art air filter.  God’s hands and feet in the form of people who love us is overwhelming.

At this point, it looks like it could be a fairly light case for all three of us, but I’ve been warned that things can change in a very short time.  I do not feel panicky or frantic, but I have a deep respect for the scientific research behind this pandemic, and it is nothing to ignore or take lightly. There are a lot of heartbreaking stories that we are hearing every day, and the stories are far from over. As God’s people, may we be known as prayer warriors and encouragers.  I promise, there are never too many of either.

I love you all – please pray for us!
~Mary Ann for the Shady Acres Crew

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The Proverbial Dam

There has been an emotional dam
Since March of this year
When I realized that my life
Was changing.

“Hold onto your heart,” I told myself,
“Give Grateful Praise.
This isn’t forever.
It’s probably not even for long.”
But it was.
And it has been.
And it will be.

The months have passed.
There has been
Schedule disruption
Illness
Death
Isolation
Loneliness
Confusion
Misunderstanding
Condescension
Pride
Division
Superciliousness

“Hold on to your head,” I told myself.
“You love people on both sides.
Alienating loved ones will do you no good.
Be true to yourself,
But love without rancor
Or distain
Or conceit
Or the audacity that says
You cannot be taught.”

And so I held on to
My head and my heart.
But somewhere along the
Long and arduous pathway
Something became numb.
Whenever things became heavy
I set them away from me.
I assumed it would be easier
Later.

Now it is later.
The dam that held
This dark river back is leaking
And the water won’t stop.
I feel old and numb.
The dark water is cold.
The Challenges are real.
Sometimes it seems that
What wants to
Take me down
Is a selfish sadness.

Grieving the losses is healthy
Sadness is honest.
But if I only let myself feel it when
I cannot hold it in any longer,
It’s neither honest nor healthy.

It’s too much to carry alone.
Through the dark waters,
above the roar of a dam breaking
I hear the voice of my Shepherd.
“Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest. 29 Accept my teachings and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your lives. 30 The burden that I ask you to accept is easy; the load I give you to carry is light.”
(Matt11:28-30, NCV)

Ah, my Abba-Father, here is my quit claim.
I am giving you myself, for I am not any use
To my friends, my family or my self on my own.
Live your life in me. Carry my burdens. Inhabit my praise.

Then shall my heart give honest, grateful praise.





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Christmas Letter, 2020

Shady Acres Farm * 7484 Shawnee Road, Milford DE  19963 * Christmas, 2020

Dear Family and Friends,
                The farmhouse at Shady Acres is quiet.  It’s been quiet for much of this past year as we, like you, have adjusted, adapted, coped and lived out our lives in a world that is quite different from anything that we’ve experienced in our lifetimes.  Many of us are facing this season with heavy hearts, missing faces from our family circles that will never be there again, dealing with the absence of traditions that have lent meaning and life to our family’s heritage, and struggling to keep things as normal as possible for the people we love and who count on us.  And, of course there is more:  Financial concerns, health issues, quarantines, fear, unrest, uncertainties, misunderstandings, loneliness, and anger . . . so many things in a world gone so wrong.
                It would be so easy for this Christmas letter to turn into a lament, and while I’m not saying there is no place for that, I’ve been thinking a lot about something in the familiar Christmas story in the Holy Bible:
                “Fear not!  For behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be too all people,” the Angel said to the Shepherds on a Bethlehem night, 2000 years ago.  “For unto you is born this day . . . a Savior, who is Christ the LORD!”  (Luke 2:10, 11)
                What wondrous news!  The reality is that, in this year when we all have felt the need for some good news, there is this ageless, immutable, irrevocable, good news already in place. There is a Savior, a Redeemer, and it is Christ, the LORD. I believe this, and it has given hope & comfort & courage & peace.
                Our family has had to weather some really tough times this year.  For Daniel and I and our children, the biggest thing was the death of Daniel’s oldest sister, Lena.  She was a beloved sister and aunt to her big biological family and a loyal friend to myriads more.  In the days and weeks following her passing we discovered over and over again just how far her circles reached.  She had that unique ability to make each person think they were her favorite, and the loss is inestimable.  Grief is not a novelty in our family, but I cannot get used to the sudden gripping sadness that pops up at the strangest times since Lena is gone.  The reminders are on every hand; jigsaw puzzles, mint tea, warm blankets, lilac candles – the list is as varied and unpredictable as she was.  Some of the time, I can think that she’s just off traversing the country in her motor home and will be back, but then I remember that we won’t see her face again this side of Heaven, and there is a tightness in my throat that chokes me.
                When the pandemic began, our offspringin’s united in urging (nay, ordering!) us to stay home.  I had already decided to take Blind Linda out of her day program at Easter Seals because of how compromised she is under normal circumstances, but I had done that hoping that maybe by mid-summer, she could return to her regular activities.  Well, it’s mid-December and there are very few signs that she will be going back anytime soon.  With very few breaks, we have been taking care of her 24/7 for over 9 months.  It has greatly curtailed the usual activity and traffic at our home, and it hasn’t always been without angst, but for the most part, we have been at peace with this situation.  “To everything there is a season . . .” and this is the season for serving in place.
                Our out of state family extensions have all had a most eventful year.  Raph and Gina sold their house in Sugarcreek and moved to Canton, Ohio, in August.  The house is very well suited to their needs, and has quickly taken on the personality of their family.  It’s just so right for them.  The boys, Si, (11) Liam, (10) and Frankie (9) are settling into their new school and making friends, doing chores and involved in numerous extracurricular activities.  Ellie, (3) is a bundle of energy and spunk. We did get to spend a week with the four children in early November while Raph and Gina had some time away (to Mexico, no less!) and it was delightful.  Raph is still working in Sugarcreek, at nuCamp RV in Customer Service, and Regina works part time at First Federal Bank in Berlin.  The boys finished the 2019-20 school year with remote learning in Sugarcreek, but the schools they attend in Canton have stayed open with restrictions and guidelines that appear to be working for now.
                Lem and Jessica, in Washington, DC, with Stella (3) began looking for a new place to live just after the first of the year. What an incredible blessing it was that they could sell their house and find another very suitable place and get moved into the house before the pandemic prevented any such activity!  Their new home is a town house in a quiet neighborhood, with room to spread out.  This has been integral since both Lem and Jessica have had to work at their jobs from home, and Stella is also home all the time.  Lem & Jessica are both still at their respective jobs – Lem now in his eight year as a psychotherapist with Alvord, Baker and Associates, and Jessica with the US Government Accountability Office in her fifth year as a research analyst. Rachel and Rob (mostly Rob) helped out with child care until October when Lem and Jess hired a nanny for Stella’s care.  She seems to be perfect for the job, and we not only thank God for her, we pray for wisdom and courage and patience and strength for all three of them.  Whew!  This delightful Stella-girl is wonderfully enthusiastic and articulate beyond her years! 
                Rachel and Rob have been a big part of Stella’s life in this past year.  “Uncle Rob” is one of her favorite people (along with “Auntie Rach”) and has spent countless hours keeping her occupied while her parents worked.  When COVID hit DC, all hotels were shut down, so Rob’s Employer, Towne Parke, officially terminated their employees so that they could collect unemployment benefits.  The months have dragged on, and Rob has now applied to go back to college beginning in February.  We still pray for a job that will challenge and satisfy him, as well as allow him to pursue his Masters’ degree.  He and Rachel have been in very close quarters these last nine months and they, too, are considering a move to a place where they won’t need to share a house with three other people.  We see this as wise and healthy planning on their part.  They have adapted and sacrificed and tried to protect their own space, but there comes a time when it’s a lot better to have your own kitchen, as well as a place to work that doesn’t oust your spouse from the tiny living space that is home.  The particular idiosyncrasies of this pandemic have made both Rachel and Lem’s jobs extremely stressful as clients want things fixed and think that the therapists should be able to do something!  Adults want to blame their parents, the schools, their children and if all else fails, the therapist. Earlier this year, Rachel said to me, “Mama, I have never been yelled at by my clients as much as I have this year!”  That’s a sad commentary on the adults of this world.  Shoving the blame never has helped much.  Yelling hasn’t, either.  In any case, our DC offspringin’s are hopeful that the year ahead will be easier.
                Deborah has been in her Ambleside Cottage for almost two years.  Her cat, Julius, has been there nearly a year and a half, and “Ju-Ju” has been a great companion for Deborah. He is old, but he is not a mean-spirited cat, and that is certainly a bonus.  There has been an impressive amount of rain this year, and Deborah has had to fight with the rising water table presenting as water in her basement.  This is extremely disconcerting to her, and she and her Dad, always partners in anything challenging or new or antique or perplexing, have cast about for solutions or reasons or anything that might bring this all to a screeching halt. So far there haven’t been any lasting solutions.  It’s been a hard year for our Deborah-girl.  She was one of the first Delaware cases of COVID, and she had it hard.  Just as she was recovering, her Aunt Lena moved in for what was supposed to be the summer and early autumn.  Deborah had built her house with her Aunt Lena in mind.  She had a suite built that was especially suited to Lena’s dwarfism, and it was not only very accommodating, it was also beautiful.  Deborah took great pains to have it inviting and warm and very private.  Lena was only here 45 days before she died of (what they said was) an aggressive sarcoma.  Though, as I said, we all feel this loss intensely, for Deborah, it has been profound.  She’s still a Hospice nurse (now in her 11th year with Delaware Hospice).  Grief and its many faces are no strangers to her.  So, we pray for her, and we are thankful that she is doing very well again.  She is just home from a quick trip to DC, then Ohio, then back to DC and then home, taking and bringing family Christmas to each of us since we cannot be together this year.
                Jesse and Christina and Charis have been our “go to” resource over this last year.  They have gotten groceries, picked up meds, lent their hands to work and moving projects and have been the best sports ever about it all.  Jesse has been able to work from home during the pandemic, and things at Burris remain busy and full of changes even amidst the major disruptions around the country.  Jesse joined his brother, Caleb in redoing their parents’ house after a fire did significant damage.  Long hours in the heat of the summer and dark of night paid off.  James and Karen, who were with Jesse and Christina for most of the renovation work, moved back home in late August.  There were no expensive diversions this year for Jesse and Christina in the form of trips or purchases, but they, along with all of us, kept their heads, held onto their hearts, and are stronger for it.  Charis finished her school year with remote learning, and started this year with remote, switched to Hybrid, but is currently back to remote until January 11th.  She is a bright spot in our lives, often spending the night, and lending her helping hands to any of a number of projects.  She loves to climb on Grandpa’s haybales, and spends many happy hours outside on the farm.  It’s difficult to believe that she is already 11 years old, and taller than her Mama.  (Incidentally, Charis took our Christmas picture this year).
                Our church family has been an incredible source of support and diversion over this last year.  We’ve done birthday parades/drive-byes for many of our members.  We’ve been working to finance and install an elevator so that everyone can have access to the basement Gathering Place when we are back together again for meals and celebrations.  We’ve added a missionary family to our budget that is going with MAF to Haiti.  We’ve cooperated with each other in the guidelines and precautions issued by our governor even when our ideas about such differed greatly.  We learned to live with Zoom services for everyone at first, and eventually for both those who could attend live services and those who felt more comfortable at home. We’ve had a significant death.  This year has stretched us and blessed us and given us a sense of unity that is precious.
                And so we count the blessings of this past year.  It’s easy to want to enumerate the losses, to think of all the things that we can’t do – things that have even defined us as a couple, like company, food, our family home for Christmas, Daniel’s Christmas Village (not up this year), my writing, and more.  As the days have passed, I’ve been impressed that I should be concentrating instead on what can be done instead of all the things that can’t.  We can still bake and deliver cinnamon rolls for friends and neighbors.  I can still make party mix and Hot Chocolate mix to give away.  I could even write my Christmas letter (which I just did) and mail it even if it is late.  We can still pray for the people we love and care about (which we also do).
                Whatever your losses this year, may the Miracle of the Season, the Gift that was given to us as a baby, fill your aching and broken hearts with hope.  May you realize that God walks with us in our sorrow.  May you remember that He said that He has already borne our griefs and carried our sorrows (Isaiah 53:4).  He loves you.  He cares.  He is here.  He promised.
                Merry Christmas!  May we look at the coming year with Hopeful Hearts.
                Daniel & Mary Ann

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Bread Recipe for Smaller Amount

Because you asked . . .

Smaller Size Bread Recipe

¾ cup dry milk powder

2 ½ cups hot water (1 lb., 4 oz.) 

½ cup sugar

4 teaspoons salt

¾ cup warm water (6 oz.)

2 teaspoons sugar

2 heaping tablespoons dry instant yeast

½ cup Crisco®

Scant 7 cups King Arthurs Bread Flour® (2 lbs.  6 oz.)

Mix hot water, dry milk powder, salt and sugar together in Kitchen Aid mixing bowl using wire whisk attachment.

Dissolve yeast in warm water, sprinkle 2 teaspoons sugar over mixture and let rise.

Melt Crisco® in microwave just until melted (it shouldn’t be HOT).

Add about half of the bread flour to the first mixture and mix well.

Add yeast mixture and mix well.

Add melted Crisco® and mix well.

Change wire whisk attachment to dough hook.  Add the rest of the flour.  Turn speed to either 1 or 2 and allow the dough hook to do its work.  The dough will become smooth and elastic.  This can take several (maybe 5 or more) minutes.  Take the dough hook out, smooth the top of the dough and grease with Crisco®.  Cover and put into a warm place. Allow to rise until it looks double in size.  Punch down and divide into three loaves (1 lb. 7 oz. to 1 lb. 9 oz. each).  Punch, smack on the counter, and slap each loaf until you do not hear any more “whistles” of air coming out.  Shape into loaf, grease top with Crisco® and put into pan (8”X4”).  (Then I take a fork and jab the dough at about one-inch intervals all up and down the loaves to get rid of air bubbles.  People say it isn’t necessary, but I’ve been doing it for 40 years and I think it is!!!)

(This is a good time to start your oven preheating to 450°.)  Cover the loaves and let rise again in a warm place until about double in size.  (A good way to check is to gently touch the edge of the dough and if your finger leaves an imprint that does not spring out, it is very ready to go into the oven.)  Put the three loaves into the oven, allowing space between them for even heating and immediately turn the oven back to 400°.  Bake for 9 minutes.  Without opening oven door, turn the temperature down to 350° for 15 more minutes.  Take out of oven, remove from pan, put onto a cooling rack.  Butter tops to have a softer, shinier crust. Allow to cool.  Put into a heavy-weight plastic bag that is a good fit.  Can be frozen.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call me @ 302-422-5952 (home) or 302-382-0418 (Cell).
~Mary Ann Yutzy

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Tell me . . .

They came pouring into the kitchen, hungry for home cooked food, and I looked at this motley group of young, sophisticated, and brainy young people and wondered what made them tick.

Mostly strangers to me, I listened intently to the spirited exchanges and thought about their life stories. What made them tick? What was in their hearts? I was standing at the counter by the fridge, working on cinnamon rolls when I became aware that there was a handsome young man standing at my right elbow, watching me.

“So,” he said said suddenly. “What would you say is your favorite hymn?” He caught me flatfooted, off guard. H-m-m-m-m. Why would this worldly wise, cynical millennium want to know a thing like that??? Trick question? Honest seeker? I would have been much more prepared for a cooking question. I looked into his face for a clue. It was emotionless. Calm.

My favorite hymn. For me it was a no brainer. I have a lot of hymns that I love, many that speak to me in the depths of my heart in times of grief, times of despair, times of rejoicing, times of praise. But there is one . . .

I turned my eyes away, and gave him the scoop. “My favorite song,” I almost whisper, “is a very common song. It’s old and it may seem common place. The song is ‘Tell Me The Old, Old Story,’ but the thing that captivates me most about that song is the last verse.”

“Tell me the old, old Story when you have cause to fear
That this world’s empty glory is costing me too dear.
Yes! And when That World’s Glory
Is dawning on my soul
Tell me the old, old Story-
“Christ Jesus makes thee whole.”


He turned abruptly and walked away without comment, without acknowledgement. I went back to my morning tasks but my heart was pondering so many things. Then this morning, in our Monday Morning Family Zoom Meet, we were talking about favorite songs, and this story came back to me with the words of that last verse impacting me somewhere significant and deep.

“This world’s empty glory.”

What is that? How does it cost me? How would it show, if it were “costing me too dear?” Would I know? Would you know? And if you did, would you tell me? And if you told me, would I hear you?

“Oh, Lord Jesus, let your eyes look me through. May there be a clarity to my thinking, a trust in your ability to hold me steady, and whatever else may happen, let your Glory dawn on my soul with peace. Any other glory will not carry me through. The gaudiness and the glitter may distract me now, but I know from experience will turn to sawdust around me, and I can almost taste the emptiness in my mouth. It isn’t worth it.”

It just isn’t worth it!

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Dandelions and Rhubarb

When I was a little girl, and always wanting something to do, sometimes on hot summer afternoons, My Sweet Mama would send me out to fetch a collection of dandelion stems.

“Get the longest ones you can find,” she would say, and away I would go to find the exact thing that she asked for. I suspect that she would “make hay while the sun shone” (as she sometimes put it) and got some short jobs tackled while I was out there pulling stems, but eventually I would return with some stems that she deemed good enough.

She would fill a short jar with cold water, and then she would select a sturdy stem and carefully make two half-inch slits in one end of it, making four little loose sections at what was now the bottom of the stem. She would blow into the other end to be sure that it was unobstructed, then she would put the cut end of the stem into the water and blow a steady breath into the other end, making a delightful noise as the bubbles rose to the surface around the stem.

It was so exciting, to see Mama start these little things for us. We would blow vigorously into the end of our very own miracle toy and watched the bubbles rise with fascination. As the bubbles rose, the small pieces of dandelion began to curl up and over themselves in the most satisfying fashion. It would form the most delicate curls that would hang in round perfection off the bottom of a common green stem. We could use up many a long, hot hour with our homemade diversion.

This week, my sister in law, Rose, gave me an armload of rhubarb. I brought it home and stuck it upright in a tall container overnight. Yesterday, I cleaned it and trimmed it and put it into my big sink in water, while I cut it up and got it ready for the freezer for pies and rhubarb sauce. It was magnificent!!!

We had just gotten home after 6 days away, and I kept getting diverted from my task by various “homecoming rituals.” Some of the stalks of rhubarb lay in the water longer than expected. I came back to the sink and found my rhubarb starting to curl in a very familiar way. I found myself suddenly transported to a cement porch step on a hot summer afternoon, and wondered at the lurch in my heart.

I tried to shake the tugging memory by wondering if Rhubarb and Dandelion are related somehow, and examined the stems of the rhubarb as I diced them into a measuring container for pies. My examination of the stems revealed the familiar looking curls, but a solid center. They really aren’t related, I decided, and finished the chopping and bagging and freezing.

The memory kept dogging me today, though, so I decided to go and try to find some dandelion stems and make some curls. It’s been years, but I haven’t forgotten how to do it. “I’ll just pick me a few stems, and see if the curls are as similar as I thought,” I said to myself after lunch was over, and headed out the back door.

I stopped just outside the garage in the hot summer sun. It felt oppressive, and I felt like I could hardly breathe. I took a quick look over our lawn, and not seeing a single speck of yellow, looked again. Not a single dandelion anywhere. We haven’t waged war against dandelions in our yard, but Certain Man’s careful manicuring has made them non-existent. I felt strangely disappointed that there were none to be had, but escaped back into the cool of my kitchen and got ready for my afternoon intermediates Sunday School class.

I’ve thought happily about my innocent, carefree, childhood and the path my life has taken and the curlicues of the side roads and detours. I thought about the memories that are so good and about a Mama who would stop her work to blow dandelion curls with her children. I thought about the world in which my grandchildren are growing up and I wished for them Rhubarb pies and Dandelion curls on hot summer evenings.

And then I know . . .

They will have their own recollections of childhood, and will trace those memories some day. They are growing up in a totally different time, to be sure, but this Grammy prays that when memories come crowding in on a random Sunday afternoon, they will be remembered with a gladsome and grateful heart. And I add another prayer that part of those memories will be of a Grammy that not only prayed for them, but also loved them fiercely.

My heart gives humble, grateful praise that I can call them “mine!”

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Certain Man-Deacon Dan



Certain Man has had quite a respite from stories being told about him and his escapades.  He has not had a lack of escapades, as you can probably guess, but the scribe in the family has had a great dearth of time over the last few years, notably since Certain Man retired some two and a half years ago.  This is not because he is demanding or any such thing, but rather that it’s a lot easier to concentrate when I am alone than when a man (that I have found interesting as well as powerfully attractive) is around.  “Time alone” has been in very short supply for Certain Man’s Wife!

However, the last week at Shady Acres has had some monumental happenings that have caused me to realize again that the possibilities of boredom are rather remote.  The days from August 1-4, 2020, held a whirlwind of activity that left me amused and pensive and astounded and very aware that “Shadows fall on brightest hours, that thorns remain,”

A couple of weeks ago, when the Washington Yutzys came home for an extended period of time, Certain Man and I were astounded to hear that the mattress on the spare bed in the one room was not fit to sleep on, and that the one in the other room “left much to be desired!”  Certain Man and I have had a mattress in the master bedroom that was expensive, and had a ten year warranty – which expired earlier this year.  Certain Man has an inherited sleep disorder that seems to radically disturb his sleep with restless leg syndrome, sometimes some muscle cramps and a funny restless movements that affects his arms which, for want of something better, we just call “the Fidgets.”  Here of late, he’s also had some increasing back and shoulder pain, leading him to believe that our mattress must be the culprit.  Now I happen to like our mattress very much, but when it seemed like we should provide a different mattress for the one spare room, we discussed getting a better mattress for our bed and sending each mattress down a room, with the oldest finding a new home.

The ads for the Sleep Number beds had caught CM’s eye and given that he likes his mattress fairly firm and I prefer not to sleep on Gibraltar, there came a day when I found a sale and ordered a new Sleep Number bed for the Master Bedroom.  Certain Man was In agreement, and in fact, acted like he was relieved.  Then we gave the one set of mattress and box springs away, and moved the two other sets down one room, and the new bed came, was set up and we were ready to get a good night’s sleep.

Alas and alack!  Thursday night was the first night on the new mattress and we had not been given any instructions (save written) about this beast, and while I went to sleep and slept soundly, Certain Man tossed and turned, adjusted the number, tossed some more and finally moved to the spare room where the old mattress was calling his name.  Friday night I read some things, caught some adjustments that needed to be made to his side and he tried again.  The same thing happened.  I slept like a rock.  He tossed and turned and adjusted his number again, and finally gave up and moved to the spare room again.

This really bothered me because he had planned to help our Beloved Son in Law #1 move furniture into his parents newly renovated house on Saturday morning.  I was sure he would be exhausted with getting so little sleep.  On Saturday morning, I bestirred myself and was barely motoring when he came breezing in from doing chores and said that he was heading up to Bontragers. 

“I’m already late,” he said darkly when I asked him where he was heading so early on so little sleep.  “I said I’d be there by 8:15!”  I thought he should at least eat some breakfast, but when Eldest Daughter called and said they were getting a breakfast sandwich from Starbucks, I stopped interfering. 

A little over four hours later he came in, exhausted but triumphant.  “All done,” he announced, “at least for today.  It went really well!”  He told me about the morning, and then BSIL#1 came in with a ham and cheese sub for his lunch as a thank you for the morning.  There was one for me, too, and we sat on our chairs with a cool drink and thanked God for the job well done and a chance to rest a bit.  He took maybe three bites of his first half of sub when the phone rang.

It was April, and her voice was just a bit frantic.  “Is Daniel there?” She asked.  He was.  “Well, could he come down here to Mom and Dad’s and rescue us???  A pipe broke in the basement, and there is water pouring out, spraying all over the place down there!”

I looked over at my husband and felt sorry for him.  I wondered what he would do with his barely started sub, because, for pity sakes, you can’t let a friend’s basement fill up with water on a Saturday afternoon while you lounge around eating a sub!  But this man is a plumber from way back and he knew exactly what should be done.

“You are going to have to give me a few minutes,” he said with quiet authority.  “We are just eating lunch.  But go down and turn of the water main to the house!”  There was a short discussion about what else might need doing, and then he resumed eating his sub. 

I was worried.  Visions of water pouring into the basement, of the possibility that just maybe someone wouldn’t know how to turn off the main, and knowing that there was a house full of company and probably people were needing water for some reason kept flitting through my head.  Of course I had to say something about the possibilities.

Wrong thing to do.  “Hon,” he said a more irritated than I liked, “someone down there knows how to turn off the water main.  It’s not that hard.  If they don’t, it’s high time they learned.”  All righty, then.  I would not mention it again.  And eventually he went down, came back home to use some home tools on a stubborn fitting, went down again, went into ACE Hardware for supplies and by late afternoon, had the thing fixed and working again.

In between all of this activity, he was trying to find a lift chair for BSIL#1’s parents.  When helping to move furniture he had discovered that an old lift chair of theirs no longer worked, and wanted to see if he couldn’t procure another, more serviceable one.  He had several leads, made several calls, and by evening, had found one through another friend.  There were calls made to determine when the trip should be made to Lewes to pick the chair up.  BSIL#1’s Papa, James, was going to go along with him to fetch it home.  Certain Man wanted to go and get it Sunday afternoon.  James preferred Monday morning.  I kept wondering why, when Certain Man had so little sleep, he wanted to interrupt his Sunday afternoon nap for such an endeavor.  Finally I asked him.  He looked at me a little thoughtfully and then said, “Well, when I know I have to do something, I like to get it done!”  But he did decide to not go on Sunday, and he caught a nap in the afternoon, slept a little bit better on Sunday night, and set off on Monday morning with James, and together they loaded the chair, moved some furniture around for the lady from whom they got the chair, and brought it back to Milford.  They removed the broken one and situated the new one and Certain Man came home, thinking that he could work in his woodshop for a while.  That was a comforting, pleasant thought.

And then the phone rang again.  It was Elaine, sister of Friend Gary, who was in the hospital.  Elaine thought that he just be discharged today, and she had a problem.  There were severe storm warnings from the tropical storm, Isaias, and Gary’s car was parked in the driveway, under the carport, under a big tree.  She didn’t want it there in the storm, and she also wanted it moved so she could get out with her car if she needed to go fetch Gary home from the hospital.

“If you could just come and push it out into the yard,” she said, “and then I will call Minner’s Towing to come get it and take it to Kings.  It’s not been acting right, anyhow, so it needs a good goin’ over.  But for now, I just want it out of the carport.  All you need to do is push it into the yard.  I can steer it for you!”

I saw Certain Man look thoughtful, like he was hatching a plan of some sort.  “Why don’t I just bring my trailer up, and load it up and take it in to Walls Service Center and they can fix it,” he asked, “rather than just pushing it out into the yard.”

“No, it has to go to King’s,” said Elaine.  “That’s where Gary wants it.  That’s where he always takes it.  They do all our work, but that would be fine if you want to take it up there.”

“Alright,” said my spouse agreeably, “I can take it to Kings.  Just let me get my tractor loaded, and I’ll be up and maybe James can help me get it loaded and I’ll take it on up to Kings for you.”  The gratitude was effusive.  It was one less thing for Elaine to worry about in this already worrisome time.  CM called James, and James said that he would be glad to help, and so CM sallied forth to do the next thing on his list.

Monday was Eldest Daughter, Christina’s birthday and I was busy most of the day, making a birthday supper for her, so I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention as Certain Man flitted in and out, now getting this, now getting that, and conversation  was sparse.  I was busy doing my stuff, he was busy doing his.  We were on a tight schedule for supper because some friends were planning to come and do a birthday parade for Christina at 5:30.  We actually did really well at getting around and supper was fun and actually restful.

About halfway through the meal, Certain Man suddenly started talking about his trip to Kings with Gary’s car.  “James and I loaded it,” he said, “and that went pretty well.  He went back to his place, and I took the car on up to Kings.  When I got there, the guy told me to just put it out there behind another car that was there, waiting for repair, so I backed up ahead of that car and went to unload it.  Well, after we had loaded it, it had been put into park so it wouldn’t roll anywhere on the trip up to Kings.  However, I had a problem!  You can’t put Gary’s car out of park without putting your foot on the brake.  The fenders on the trailer make it impossible to get the doors open wide enough to get into the car.  I didn’t know what in the world I was going to do!”    Around the table, the rest of us, Jesse, Christina, Charis and I waited eagerly to hear how he managed to ever get this car off the trailer. 

“Well,” he said, smiling at the memory of it all, “I finally rolled down the window and climbed in through that, got it out of park and climbed back out again!”  For some reason, this struck us all as funny and we laughed heartily.

“I wonder,” I said, “if King’s has a surveillance camera.  That would be something to see!”

“I’ll bet,” said someone else, “that they were in there watching and getting a good laugh out of it all!”

“That’s not all, though,” said Certain Man.  “When I got the thing out of park and started pushing it off the trailer, suddenly it started rolling a lot faster than I expected and I saw that if I didn’t do something fast, it was going to hit the other car that was parked there.  I still couldn’t get into the door because of the fender of the trailer, so I dived in through the window again and hit the emergency brake and got it slowed down enough to stop it in time.”  He told the story with such a calm and humorous slant that it sounded like just another day in the life of Certain Man, Deacon Dan, Daniel Yutzy, and we all laughed with him. 

“What a blessing,” I thought.  “That he was able to get that car stopped in time.  He really didn’t need another thing to go wrong on these miserably hot days.”  And then it was time for the birthday parade and we all went out and enjoyed the noise and the faces of people we love and the many birthday wishes.  We came back in, cleaned up supper, had some Rhubarb Pie and Christina and Jesse went back to their house and I was ready to sit down and do nothing for a bit when Certain Man dropped a bombshell into the middle of my peace.

“Hon,” he said, rather hesitantly, “I didn’t want to say anything before supper, but I think I might have broken a rib when I dived back through that window to hit the emergency brake.  I heard something pop and it really hurt, but I might have just pulled a muscle or something . . .” His voice trailed off. 

Of course, I was immediately on alert.  “Sweetheart, let me see where it hurts!  Why didn’t you say something?  Shouldn’t you go and get it checked out?”  He obediently showed me where it hurt, and there was no bruising, but I thought it looked a little swollen, and he couldn’t bear to have me touch it except very lightly.  “I think you should go and get it checked, Daniel” I said, “just so you know what’s going on.”

“Ain’t gonna’ do it,” he said stubbornly, the pain lines around his eyes.  “They don’t do anything for broken ribs, and I’m not going to go down there and sit at the hospital when they aren’t going to do anything anyway!”  He settled back into his chair with a grimace and I got my cell phone and texted his nurse daughter, Deborah, who was working.  He will listen to his daughters better than he will his wife, and I needed reinforcement.  It didn’t take long for the phone to ring, and Deborah was insistent that he should go and get it checked.  He is better able to resist instruction when the daughter isn’t physically present, and he employed all his fatherly powers and still said he wasn’t going to go.  “At least not tonight,” he said with finality.  “Maybe I’ll go in the morning if it’s still hurting.”  I finally texted our family doctor and (wouldn’t you know?) he sided with Daniel.  “U can have it looked at in the morning.” He texted.  So that settled it.  I found a sort of binder that was around here, and CM slept better that night than he had any since the new mattress came.  He got up Tuesday morning, and thought that he must have just pulled a muscle, he felt so much better.

Then came noon time.  CM came in from whatever he was doing outside and washed up at the kitchen sink.  He turned to grab a hand towel and something reminded him, rather insistently, that something was not right!  The look on his face told it all, but he still managed to get out, “I don’t know, Hon.  Something happened with my side!”  He got himself over to his chair and this time it took very little persuasion to get him to go and get it checked out.

He came home several hours later with the diagnosis.  Sixth rib, on the right side.  Broken, but not displaced.  He was sent home with instructions to not overdue it, and to not lift anything “too heavy.”  No, they had not given him a rib binder.  (“It doesn’t help any when it is just one rib.”)  They sent him home with no pain medicine except to say, “See your family doctor.  Take ibuprofen until then,”

Tuesday was the day that Milford, DE was hit with the tropical storm, Isaias.  Shady Acres had been running on generator for several hours, but the electric was back on by the time that CM returned from the ER.  He had gotten into his recliner when the electricity went out again.  I heard the generator make its thunderous starting noise and went in to see if CM had noticed.  He was on his feet, clearly upset.

I said, “Well, we are back on generator!”

He looked at me with something akin to panic.  “Hon!  We don’t have power!”

“Yes, we do,” I counterclaimed.  “I heard the generator come on!”

He barely let me finish.  “We do NOT have lights, so we do NOT have electricity,” he stated with urgency, and headed for the door, with me right behind him.  Something was dreadfully wrong.  Our generator starts within 7 seconds of the power going off, but this time, it misfired.  It was hot.  Our chickens were due to go out in 10 days.  This was serious!  We got to the top of our ramp in the garage when the generator fired again, and this time, it caught and the current flowed.  But it had been off long enough to trigger all the alarms in the chicken house.  CM went down the ramp and out on to the asphalt.  I stopped at the alarm box and reset the alarms.  H-m-m-m-m.  They cleared and reset.  All was well.

“Daniel,” I said to my spouse who was heading for the chicken house, “you do not have to go right now.  The alarms all cleared, and you are supposed to be taking it easy.”  He set his jaw and acted like he had no intentions of listening.  “Really, Daniel,” I said, pressing my luck, “the alarm are all cleared and everything is fine.  You don’t need to go right now!”

He hesitated on the lane, then said resolutely, “Hon, I’m going to go check it out.  I know the alarm says it’s okay, but I need to put my eyes on it to be sure that everything is okay!” So while I grumbled to myself about stubborn men who had broken ribs and didn’t listen, he headed out to the chicken houses.  As I watched him go, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something amiss at the pasture fence.  Our six beef cows of varying sizes were happily chewing on the leaves of a hefty limb that had fallen on their fence and given the state of the fence, it wouldn’t be long until they would discover that freedom was within their reach.

“Look there,” I said, pointing at the congregation of bovines.  “That fence is going to need to be fixed or they are going to get out!” 

He never broke stride.  “It’s going to have to wait until after I get back in from the chicken house,” he stated firmly.

“But Daniel,” I protested to his departing back, “you aren’t supposed to lift heavy, and you are supposed to take it easy!  How are you ever going to get that big limb cut up and off the fence when you aren’t supposed to lift anything heavy?  I mean, a chain saw and—“  I should have saved my breath.  He was on his way to the chicken houses and there was no turning back!

It was a good thing he went.  Oh, the alarms were all okay, but something else was not.  It wasn’t long before he was back, visibly shaken and also upset.

“There is a huge flood in house #3,” he said as he gathered boots and changed into coveralls. “A ¾” water line, going to our cooling pads somehow came loose and it’s been running awhile and I’m going to need to get the tractor and start pushing the muck out of there.  With chickens going out next week, I need to really get things taken care of as soon as possible!”

Middle Daughter, Deborah, was with him.  “Mom,” she implored, “do something!  See if people can come help.  He has no business trying to do this with a broken rib!  I will get in there and help, and see what I can do, but that’s the biggest flood I’ve seen in Dad’s chicken house and it’s too big for just him and me!”

I was eager to comply, and with help from both Eldest and Middle Daughter, calls were made, and help came before we knew what was really happening.  Josh and Lawina came and with help from Granddaughter Charis, and her friend, Amanda, cut up the limb and got it off the fence, piling the wood into a nice stack, and fixed the fence.  BSIL#1 came with his brother Caleb, and they worked in the chicken house along with Middle Daughter and friend Ashley while Certain Man drove tractor, pushed out the biggest part of the liquid mess and orchestrated bringing in over 30 bales of straw to scatter about.  He also fixed the leak, helped pick up some of the dead chickens and oversaw the cleanup.  All the while, his broken rib was talking to him and it wasn’t saying anything nice to him at all.  It was a very tired man who went to bed that night in that bed that he hadn’t been able to get comfortable in for the any of the previous nights – and slept the best he had for quite a while.

And so we have muddled through.  The mortality numbers from the flood were not nearly as bad as anticipated (we had to open the end doors and that makes it difficult to cool a chicken house on a day as hot as that day) and the efforts made to cover the wet and keep the chickens out of the mud were also very successful as well.  Certain Man has been sneaky about doing things that are deemed risky by his wife and daughters, but it seems that the more we holler, the sneakier he gets.  However, there are some built in consequences and I would like to note that he is sitting on his chair a whole lot more than usual and he is walking a bit more gingerly than is normal for him.  Oldest Granddaughter and Middle Daughter have been helping to pick up dead chickens in the mornings and if it doesn’t absolutely have to be done, he is doing a fairly good job of “letting it slide.”  (There’s just so many things that won’t wait!0 

And that’s the news from Shady Acres, where CM is still my favorite, and I’m trying to determine if that particular rib that he broke has any connection to the rib that God used to make a “Help Suitable” for Adam all those years ago.  I must say that I am certainly attempting to be just that – a Suitable Help.  I’m not always sure I’m doing so well, beings I’m so unsuccessful in keeping him contained.  But I’m also counting my blessings that a generator “just happened” to misfire, at this particular time setting off all those alarms.  I’m also grateful that this man, who sometimes can frustrate me exceedingly when he won’t take my suggestions, decided (as usual) to go against what I thought was best for him and thus discovered that chicken house leak before it got any worse.  It would have been at least another two hours before someone was in it to check, and the damages would have been far worse. As it is, though it was bad enough, it’s had time to clear up fairly nicely before the chicken catchers need to be in there.

And so, once again for these blessings, and so much more, my heart gives grateful praise!

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Five Years

Five years ago tonight, we were gathered in the big corner room at the Country Rest Home, listening as Our Sweet Mama’s labored breathing went on and on and on. We sang, we talked quietly, and we kept careful watch. Deborah came in briefly, on her way to work, and left again. But before she left, she said, “Mama. She is dying. She does not have long.” and she wept hot tears.

It had been a long four weeks. The adult children of Mark and Alene Yoder had experienced a sweet, compelling unity in the difficult decisions that were made, and our Sweet Mama had spoken words of love in her last communication with each of us. There was a sense that she was getting ready to leave us, and while it was beautiful to think of her healthy and whole and with our Daddy, it was looking so bleak without her.

It was soon after 10 when there was a change. Instead of the ragged, labored breathing, there were these quiet, no struggle, easy breaths.  Her face was peaceful. And then Our Sweet Mama had her day to fly. I will always miss her.

It’t been a difficult couple of months at Shady Acres if I choose to look at the things that have transpired within our family, our community, or world. If I were to enumerate the things that have driven me repeatedly to the foot of the cross, probably some of you would not believe me. Some of you would feel sorry for me. Some of you would be angry for me. Some would be angry at me. Some would misunderstand. Which is why the foot of the Cross is the best place for the stories in my life that are not mine to tell, the sins that are not mine to confess to the world, and for all the things that can lay me low. I want to choose to abandon the angst, the bitterness, the rancor of soul that threatens to taint my thought processes and inevitably, my responses and relationships.

Tonight my heart is heavy for a beloved sister in law and the uncertainties that are before us. We rode the long miles to Philadelphia today with Certain Man’s Oldest Sister, Lena, for a consult with an Orthopedic Oncologist. (Oncologist. There are certain words in the English language that are just plain obscene!) The news is not good, although we wait for definitive results from biopsies and X-rays and more consults before we know the treatment plans.. I want be brave for her sake. I will myself to be brave for her sake. But it doesn’t change the familiar taste of bitter anxiety and grief that are causing the Artesian tears, a tightening in my throat, a sick feeling somewhere in my stomach.

I remember the Grace that has brought Lena home to us. I remember the incredible timing of these last four months, when monumental life changes fell into place in the unmistakable timing of Divine Providence. It is no accident that she is with us, no matter what expectations may have hung thick around Ambleside Cottage, no matter the dreams that she (and we all) held for the future– No matter. No Matter! I either choose to trust, or I sink in despair. I either choose to see God’s hand, or I become cynical and brittle and suspicious.

The timeless words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30 stir in my heart the sounds of hope. 28 “Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest. 29 Accept my teachings and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your lives. 30 The burden that I ask you to accept is easy; the load I give you to carry is light.” (New Century Version)

Lord! I do believe! Help me to believe more! Mark 9:24b (NCV)

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Rainy Morning Praise

It was not quite light outside.  I turned over in the comfort of my bed and remembered that it was Sunday morning.  The morning was full.  Certain Man had a zoom meeting at 9:00 with the older men’s Sunday school class which meant that I had to have Linda finished almost an hour early if we were going to have any place to put our laptop that wouldn’t glare.  No, wait!  Is that rain I hear?  Maybe that won’t be a problem after all.  No sunshine makes this Zoom thing easier!

I decide to get up.  It will give me some extra time to prepare lunch, as well as work on the Sunday School lesson for my intermediates that is scheduled for 2:00 this afternoon.  And so my morning begins.

I sit on the edge of the bed and take my hair down.  Ruffling through it to find the last pin, I hope this crazy hair will cooperate with me this morning.  I have never cared as much about hair as some people, but this aging hair has me perplexed!  It seems like it combs better and looks better the farther it gets from being washed.  But it gets thinner and shorter!  But a gal just cannot go along not washing her hair!  For cryin’ out loud!  I remember the story being told of how a man in our church (years ago) was holding forth in some sort of situation about “Why I Like Spring” and one of his reasons was, “It’s when my wife washes her hair!”  Well, it is Spring, and my hair has been washed (even more than once) so I guess I’m good!

Sometimes I think I’m a morning person.  I usually do feel good after I get moving, and I like the early morning quiet, but I also struggle in those first minutes after I’m either up (or supposed to be up!) with wanting to just be in bed a little bit longer.  (If I succumb to the temptation, I almost always have some sort of spectacular, crazy dream that leaves me either very amused or very sad. Anybody identify with that?)  Anyhow, getting up and getting my morning’s work done upstairs, getting combed and dressed is always a very good thing, affecting the rest of my day.  In these crazy days of schedules messed up and everything just not as ordered as they “should” be, I’ve found that keeping the routines, even though later than usual, is a very good thing.  And so, this morning it was a good time to be on with the morning.

I washed my face and combed my hair and then went to make my bed.  There was a crazy kid’s song stuck in my head that was decidedly not a Sunday song, and after the fifth or sixth rattling around in my head (I wasn’t singing it, but it was short and bothersome and no, I’m not telling you what it was or it will get stuck in your head and you don’t want it!) I decided that it needed replacing with something else.  Something better.  Something more Sunday Morning-ish.

It was quiet in my upstairs bedroom.  Certain Man was already down on his La-Z-boy recliner, probably studying, and I can sing without fear of bothering his train of thought or worrying about what he is thinking.  Which is something that I do think about.  There was a time when I never thought too much about this voice of mine.  It wasn’t wonderful, but it usually stayed on key, could reach the high notes and didn’t let me down.  Like this hair, it’s aging, too, and it doesn’t stay on key, it is often reedy sounding and the high notes?  Forget them!!!  (Sometimes I just do what my father in law always did and that is just sing the melody an octave lower and be done with it!)  However, I love music, and I love to sing, and it is my favorite private worship mode.

During this current pandemic, the songs that have blessed and ministered to me are numerous and intense.  Tears often are dripping down while I listen and sing along, working or standing alone in my kitchen, reading or praying in my chair, caring for Linda, or whatever I happen to be doing.  Grief and loss and uncertainties and sadness have marked this season for me and for my extended family in ways that I could not have anticipated six months ago.  Sometimes my heart feels almost numb and the tears catch me flat-footed.  I’m committed to trusting this Heavenly Father, and I believe that He has us in His Grip.  I have not felt despair or frantic.  I have not felt alone, but I have felt very sad.  Deep grief is an honest emotion.  Uncertainty isn’t sin, and it isn’t the same as panic, but in the face of great uncertainty, I feel the need to be brave when I don’t feel like it, challenged to choose optimism when the outlook is anything but encouraging.  And so, I often sing.

This morning, the first song that came to my mind was not a new song.  It seemed like it was not a particularly profound song, but it was familiar, and it was there, and I started singing those old words as I pulled the bed coverings straight and re-positioned the pillows.

I owe the Lord a morning song
Of gratitude and praise
For the kind mercy He has shown
In lengthening out my days.

My heart is flooded with memories of my Uncle Elmer.  This was his most requested song.  He sang it through the years of a life that looked like anything but good.  He sang it when lesser men would have given up on a God who allowed a mortal to be dealt such a “raw deal.”  He sang it when he spent hours and days and years pretty much alone with little to brighten his days.  He had a wonderful singing voice, and he never allowed his disappointment to stymie his faith.  I cannot sing the song without thinking of him, singing.  Believing.  His example shines huge before me in this difficult time.

He kept me safe another night
I see another day
Now may His Spirit, as the light
Direct me in His Way.

I sing this verse and think about how I pray each night over my Linda-girl.  Every night, but especially in this season, I thank God for His Grace and His Mercy through the day that is just past and ask for His continued protection over Linda and her family and our family, if that is His will.  I pray that He helps us to be careful and that sleep would be granted, especially to this Linda-girl, so confused by this sudden change in her daily routine.

Keep me from danger and from sin
Help me thy will to do
So that my heart be pure within
And I, Thy Goodness know

Ah, Lord Jesus, yes!  YES!  From danger, in this pandemic, but even more, from sin!  The climate of our world, the attitudes of people, the accusations, the bitterness, the blame and the superiority we give our own perceptions and viewpoints and the credence we give our own intelligence and knowledge in this time is causing us to sin against our brothers and sisters in ways that are anything but “your will.”  Make our hearts pure within.  Let us know your goodness.  How very much we need to get outside of ourselves and into your heart.  Keep us from judging one another in regards to response and choices.  Show us your way, Heavenly Father.  We are a needy race.  Made in your image, worth so much by virtue of that one fact, but the mirror is dirty and the reflection is muddled.  It’s why we need a Great Savior.

Keep me till thou wilt call me hence
Where never night can be
And save me Lord, for Jesus’ sake
He shed His Blood for me!

I ponder these words as I sing them.  My heart is quiet, but joyful.  I think about this blood of Jesus, shed for me, making it possible for me to be at home in Heaven some day.  Home with loved ones who got there first.  That place where there will never be night, no more sin, no more pandemic, no more uncertainties, no more tears, neither sorrow or crying, no. more. death.  Ah, Lord Jesus, I want to go there.  Keep me till thou wilt call me “hence” to Heaven, to Home.

The song is finished, my morning’s work is done, I collect my downstairs stuff and head out to meet this day.  Later, the people in our church family will gather and worship together,  (by ZOOM!) and I have lots to do before then.  But this rainy morning praise has settled into my heart, making me glad.

My heart gives grateful praise.

 

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