There is a house, back a long lane, that is full of memories and love and peace.
I have often said that when I am homesick for my Daddy and my Mama, my husband will take me the thirty some miles to this house and we are received with enthusiasm and joy and love and an acceptance that gives me so much comfort. Infrequently, I will go with my daughters or my sisters, and they are never slighted in the same sort of welcome that gladdens my heart.
Uncle Jesse and Aunt Gladys are the closest people I have to Daddy and Mama. Daddy’s brother married to Mama’s sister. Their personalities are so different from my parents, but the genes are “synced” and the moral fiber is indelibly stamped and my extended family’s memories are intrinsically woven into theirs in ways that have become more meaningful as the years have passed. As in all families, the memories are interpreted through the eyes and hearts of those who live them, so we don’t see everything the same, but there is something so familial about time spent around the table in their home, sharing memories and heartache and laughter and God-thoughts together in ways that, in all honesty, I cannot even completely share with my own offspringin’s. The older I get, the more comfortable I get with the values of the even older generation.
Last week was an unusual week for me. I actually visited with Uncle Jesse and Aunt Gladys four times! Usually I don’t get there more than once a month or even two, but I think my soul needed it. Certain Man and I were up on Palm Sunday because their daughter (and one of my favorite cousins) Shirley Miller and her husband, Maynard, were in for the weekend, and it suited them and us for an afternoon visit. It was one of those soul-satisfying times when pictures and memories and laughter and stories flowed. Uncle Jesse did identification work on an old picture which stirred anecdotes and conjecture and questions that never did have answers.
On Monday and Wednesday and Friday, the opportunities to visit were presented, and at the risk of being a pest, I grabbed the chance to stop. Each time, the welcome was the same. Smiles, hugs, and a joyful reception that warmed my heart that has been inexplicably homesick for Daddy and Mama.
But it was Friday that has been in a holding pattern over my heart. Good Friday. We had worshipped in the darkness of Tenebrae at our church on Thursday evening, and though we had thought to attend the Good Friday service at Greenwood Mennonite Church, we realized we had a conflict. We had scheduled our usual 2-month blood donation for Friday morning at 10:30. We had already delayed it due to a number of reasons, and since there is a current shortage, we opted to keep the appointment. The days we give blood have developed a sort of pattern. We do the blood bank, stop out at Uncle Jesse’s, have lunch somewhere, and we will stop to do a quick shop at Sam’s before heading home. Usually, but not always, in that order. And this day held to its schedule quite well.
After getting done at the blood bank, we headed out to Pleasant Cove to Uncle Jesse’s house. There were no other cars parked outside the house except theirs, indicating that there were no visitors. We walked up the steps into the house and Daniel rang the bell. From inside we heard the cheerful, “Come on in!” that is typical of any arrival at their house. We came into the kitchen, carrying a quart of soup and some custard, and the two of them were sitting at the table. Daniel found a place in the fridge for the things we brought and then we meandered over to the dining room. Usually Aunt Gladys is sitting in her chair at the table and Uncle Jesse sits in his recliner across the room, but on this day, they were both sitting close together at the table. Between them on the table was a devotional book, and on top of it was Uncle Jesse’s magnifying glass. I realized that we had interrupted their morning worship, and I felt immediately like I was on Holy Ground. I thought about the two of them, now both 91. Their years have been full of triumph and joy and adventure and righteous living It has also been full of reversal and loss and disappointment and pain. They know how to forgive and redeem and hope and believe. They know how to love. They know that faith is not the absence of doubt but a choice to trust a God who has promised to never leave them or forsake them.
And so, they still invest in knowing Him better. They choose to sit together and read and listen to words about Him and His Way. They are not “cramming for their finals,” but rather, they are living with the light of Heaven in their eyes, looking for the morning that they know cannot be far away. There is a sudden catch in my throat when I think about them being THERE and me being here. I know there is much to draw them there, and that they want to go. Their bodies are letting them down; there are inconveniences and pain and confinement and even confusion at times. So many things to anticipate about eternal life and Heaven.
But I’m not ready. Yet. I probably never will be. I realize that none of us are here to stay, and the impacting losses will naturally increase as we age, but I don’t really like to think about it. So maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll think about this moment I have to savor. I’ll think about example and lives well lived and take courage for my own journey. I will hold the memories and the people close in my heart and trust that the journey I’m on will also prove the faithfulness of a God who is to be trusted.
For this, and so much more, #MyHeartGivesGratefulPraise.
A Pleasant Cove
There is a house, back a long lane, that is full of memories and love and peace.
The Castle Crashes Down
I didn’t know.
I trusted you, believed in you, and hoped for you. I prayed for you. You were my friend.
Tonight my heart aches. I am so sad.
I had suspicions that something was amiss, stories going awry, projected glory in the vague future, quotes pulled out of thin air, and a victim mentality that troubled me more than once.
I often wondered. But I didn’t know.
Tonight a friendship lies in shambles. I know that you are believing and will believe things that are not true, but I neither can, nor really want to set things straight. It’s never going to add up in your mind to anything except that you’ve been wronged. That is how it always is in the stories of your colorful life. Who was it that made you feel like you needed to pretend to be so much more than you are? Ah, my friend. You can choose to be enough.
There is physical evidence that there have been carelessly constructed stories that you may have made yourself believe, or may have put in place to protect your image, that were not true, and it makes me wonder how much more is true and who you really are.
I do not think I want to know.
I wish you well. I wish you love. I wish you joy. I wish you Truth.
Most of all, I wish you Truth, because it will set you free.
But I’m still sad.
My tears keep brimming over, and yet their only anchor is the person I thought you were. And that person is missing,
Lord Jesus, there is Grace enough. We all need your mercy.
Sunday Morning Illusion
Sunday morning. The music from my radio alarm clock had become a part of my dreams and I had overslept. I came out of the bedroom into the kitchen, thinking I would get a cup of coffee before anything else. My eyes blurry, my feet shuffling, I twirled the lazy Susan in my corner cupboard until I found one of my “pet mugs.” The corner cupboard, for some reason, is a very cold cupboard and I decided to fill my mug with hot water before making coffee so it would stay warm longer. As my black, round mug filled at our Instant Hot, I looked out the kitchen window, over the deck to the yard and on to the bird feeders that Certain Man had filled yesterday. I was suddenly stopped short!
There was a small fiery red flame on the birdfeeder that Certain Man had filled the day before. The sunshine was shining directly on it, and I instantly went to the “somehow the sun has refracted on the Plexiglas and started a fire” part of my brain (that didn’t stop to think that Plexiglas doesn’t do that!) and my blurred vision demanded a second closer look. I blinked really hard and took another look. It really did look like a fire starting on the edge of our bird feeder! About that time, something moved in that flame.
Well. The sun was reflecting brilliantly off the Plexiglas. And a beautiful male cardinal was sitting squarely in the middle of the sunspot at an angle that made it look like a flame. It wasn’t a fire at all. It was a wondrous display of illuminated red glory. It was so impressive that I ran to see if I could capture a picture of it. Of course, although I tried really hard, I couldn’t. No matter how close I brought it, it was all through a glass, darkly, and it just didn’t show the fire.
My heart was suddenly quiet before my Heavenly Father as I thought about all the things in my life right now that really do look and feel like fire. Things that I want to not only endure, but embrace because it’s the way things are right now and I don’t want to miss the lessons. But it’s not easy. (In fact, it’s hard!)
What if it only looks and feels like a fire, but is really the Son shining off of the commonness of our humanity, transforming it into something miraculously beautiful? What if we could somehow believe that what we are seeing here and now is only an illusion of destruction and is, instead, the Glory of God reflecting off our human experience and expression?
My Cardinal fed at the feeder, gobbling up the sunflower seeds and finally taking flight. I picked up my thoroughly warm cup and made a cup of coffee. Sunday morning. Our church family would be gathering in. I didn’t know it then, but this Sunday morning service would be a litany of stories of God’s Presence in the lives of these people I love dearly. We would go late, and no one would seem to notice. There would be triumphant singing, encouraging teaching, laughter and tears and reminders that there is too much at stake to quietly quit. And the fire in the lives of people I love would reflect the Glory.
What a sweet, sweet Sunday.
My heart gives humble, grateful praise.
Yutzy Family Christmas Letter
Christmas*2022*Shady Acres*7484 Shawnee Road*Milford, DE*19963
Dear Family and Friends,
The Christmas Story is repeated often in these days leading up to Christmas (at least in our circles!) and it never loses its wonder to me. However, there is a verse in The Holy Bible that calls me to look deeper at not only the Christmas story, but at the events that this last year has brought into our lives as a family. It’s found in Luke 2:19. “But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.” This Mary has had much to ponder and even treasure over the past 12 months.
It is hard to know where to start with our yearly Christmas letter. The past year has been a wild ride for our family on so many fronts, and I feel like it is easier to focus on the lows instead of the highs. But to not remember how moments were touched by Grace and Glory would not give an accurate picture of a year like none other.
There have been many happy times. Daniel and I have traveled more this year than ANY time in our marriage. We’ve been to Canton, Ohio and Washington, DC, (numerous times for various reasons) Plain City and Rosedale, Ohio for a family reunion. In May we flew to San Diego, CA to join family and friends in scattering the ashes of Daniel’s sister Lena. Afterwards we took a trip up to see the famous redwoods and sequoias. There were family bucket list items crossed off and it was a wonderful trip. But the biggest trip of all was to Guatemala to see our “Almost a Daughter” Lupé, and her family. What an exciting time! Daniel and I traveled with the best traveling companions ever, Youngest Daughter Rachel and her husband Rob. This Grammy came home with a host of sweet memories and increased appreciation for our brave, far away girlie and her ability to embrace a culture and country and make it her home. It was so sweet to meet (for the first time) the three children who call us Grandpa and Grammy (Nicole 13, Joshua 10 and Sofi 6) as well as spend time with her good husband, Ervin. It also increased our awareness of how many things we take for granted in our country, and how privileged we are. For starters, I’m most appreciative of our highways, our traffic laws, our policemen, our personal vehicles, as well as public transportation. But there was a whole lot more, and I came home to the farmhouse at Shady Acres with a deep, deep gratitude for many things that I have taken for granted all my life!
Many of you know about some of the challenges that our family has faced this year: Middle Daughter Deborah’s breast cancer, Daughter in law Jessica’s ongoing fight against a chronic stomach disorder, and our four-year-old granddaughter, Ellie’s bout with a Synovial Sarcoma in her leg. These have certainly been front and center for us, and rightly so. This is our family, and their hard times are ours as well. There have been other points of sadness in our lives. Daniel and I both lost good friends in the last four months. My friend, Deborah Lynch passed away at the end of August, and Daniel’s “brother-friend” Gary Burlingame died the day after Thanksgiving. This season of Grief is not unique to us. It feels like there are daily reports of the deep, deep grief of others whose losses are staggering and crushing. And grief, though one of the most common human experiences, can often feel the loneliest. The gift that has been given us so freely over these last months is still the best gift of all, and that is prayer. Thank you for remembering us and our family. (We are praying for many of you as well). As far as our family is concerned, at present there is so much good news to report on the health issue side of things. Deborah, after the many complications, is back at work full time with Delaware Hospice, and continues to heal. There has been much progress in the treatment of Jessica’s chronic stomach disorder, and she is experiencing better health in the last while than she has for nearly two years. Ellie finished her last round of radiation the day after Thanksgiving, and the prognosis is very good. For each of these improvements, we are humbly grateful. I think the percentage of our family that has had Covid over the last year is pretty impressive (15 out of 17 and some of those twice) but we’ve weathered that pretty well. For the most part symptoms were mild and recovery uneventful.
Christina and Jesse and Charis are still in their house just down the road. The three of them and Deborah traveled with us to San Diego in May, and Jesse and Deborah did the planning for the trip up the coast. Jesse and Christina’s family picture on our Christmas card was actually taken Sequoia National Park. Jesse still works at Burris (at this rate, he will have 50 years in by the time he’s old enough to retire!) and he provides well for his family. Christina is a homemaker whose many giftings bless her neighbors, friends, and family over and over again. Charis is now a teenager and loves basketball, playing piano, and is in her school play again this year. She has a good voice and we are looking forward to hearing her sing a solo at our Christmas morning church service.
Deborah has spent the year mostly concerned with health issues. It hasn’t been an easy year by any definition, but the support she has received, the cards, notes, gifts and visits have all meant so much to her. Even with her many restrictions, she managed to enjoy the gardens and yard and woods around her Ambleside Cottage, and there were many helping hands that pulled weeds, watered, and even planted for her. She enjoys the birds that feed outside her windows, and even the squirrels have learned that there is usually a food source for them on her porch rail. She is back to work at Delaware Hospice but is working as an admissions nurse with a more regular schedule. Her cat, Julius (or Juju) has been a most constant companion over these last six months, and the company he provides is comforting. The best news is that Deborah is considered “cancer free” at this point!
Raph and Regina’s year has also been unusually challenging. Ellie’s diagnosis came at a time when there were many other constraints upon their emotional energies and time—constraints that don’t disappear (often intensify) just because there is a family health crisis. While the many concerns and needs have tried them with fire, the gold has been/is being purified, and their faith has held them steady. Ellie, a spunky and determined little girlie, turned five the day they removed her port that was used for sedation during radiation. Her personality has served her well during her treatment. Simon (13) Liam (12) and Frankie (11) our three handsome and athletic grandsons, spent a week with us this summer. We took a trip to Sight and Sound, swam in the neighbor’s pool, took in a local outdoor theater production of “Puss in Boots,” went to Chuckie Cheeses, ate out a couple of times, and put miles on the golf cart. The week ended with our whole family home for a short weekend – which was the weekend that we learned that the “cyst” that had been removed from Ellie’s leg the week before was actually a rare childhood cancer, setting their family (and all of us) on a journey that, while difficult, has truly been marked by Grace and Glory.
Lem and Jessica and Stella have also weathered storms this year. I alluded to the fact that Jessica is doing better, and we are so grateful. She is currently taking a short leave of absence from her job and hopes to return after the new year. Stella goes to a preschool a short distance from their house and loves it. One of my favorite “Stella stories” came out of the daily walk to school. I spent part of a week with Stella while her parents went to Scandinavia, and I walked her to school each day and picked her up after school to walk her home again. One day as we were walking, she suddenly asked, “Grammy, why do you sometimes wobble when you walk?” “Well, Stella,” I said, “sometimes my back is hurting and sometimes my feet are hurting and—.” “Yeah,” she said reflectively, “and you’re really old, too!” (Yes, well, there is that!) Lem’s job keeps him busy and the work load for family counselors is no party in ordinary times, and we are all aware that these are not ordinary times. At least he has plenty of work, and he seems to be able to lay things down at the end of the day and pick up at home where he’s needed as a daddy and a husband.
Rachel and Rob are still in Washington, DC. Early this year they realized that the neighborhood they were living in was not a good fit for them, and they were able to find a more secure apartment in a better section of town. It is closer to Lem and Jessica, and even though it’s small, it fits them so well. They’ve traveled some this year, and Rob has been in graduate school and Rachel has worked two jobs. We never see enough of them, and their time with us over Christmas will again be rather short. Rob started a new job at Le Diplomate, a fancy French restaurant in DC and he needs to work Christmas Eve. Rachel plans to come over earlier in the week, and Rob will come as soon as he can and we will be grateful for what we can get! We are looking forward to having all 17 of our family home over Christmas, (overlapping for a mere 24 hours). Rachel has been drawing up spreadsheets to keep us all organized and in line. I’m finding these days when I don’t have so much to be personally responsible for everything a lot more relaxing and fun! This is one aspect of getting older that I’m not about to complain about. These offspringin’s of ours are learnin’ and it’s good for all of us!
Daniel and I are both going to be 70 our next birthdays! (Can you believe it???) Daniel continues to work “part time” at First State inspections here in Milford. He enjoys the people, the plumbers and the diversion. He is still raising chickens and serves as deacon at our church. He has some ongoing pain issues from his fractured vertebra and is also treated for macular degeneration with shots in his right eye about every six weeks. That journey seems to alternate between encouraging and discouraging. They decided to start him on a new medication about 7 weeks ago, and the results have not been as good as we had been led to believe they would. His doctor says that it sometimes takes two to three injections before any improvement, so we remain hopeful. Daniel’s courage is something that astonishes and challenges me. It’s not easy to go and get a shot in your eye every six weeks, but he rarely complains. I’m so proud of him.
I have had a year of busy hands and a full heart. Some days the sadness dogs me like a dark cloud, and the tears just don’t want to stop. But even though I have been (honestly and rightfully) sad, I have not been afraid, and I have not been frantic. Many of you have heard me say this before, but it bears repeating. “I have experienced God’s inestimable Grace in ways that I cannot begin to really describe. It has felt like I’ve literally been wrapped in grace, carried by the prayers of the people that love me and our family.” I have never felt like things were all going to turn out the way that I want them to, and even now, there are heavy concerns and many unknowns that I have no idea how they will (or even can) resolve. Some things look too broken to fix. But we are not alone, and sometimes I think that that is the real miracle. We are not alone! Jesus walks with us, and He promised to never leave us or forsake us. I have never believed that more fully than I do now, and it gives me courage, strength and peace.
“Peace on Earth, Good Will to men,” the Angel said. Ponder that in your heart and have a blessed Christmas.
Daniel and Mary Ann
Smile Lines and Wrinkles
It was around six o’clock in the morning. I stood at the bathroom sink and got ready to comb my hair, wash my face and get ready for this busy day. My cousin, Jon (one of the cousins that I’ve got “going and coming” by virtue of his Papa and my Daddy being brothers and Our Sweet Mamas being sisters) and his good wife, Heleen, were in the area and had called for anyone who wanted to, to come to the local coffee shop for coffee, breakfast, or just to be together.. Amity Coffee Roasters is also a family business, as it is owned by a nephew, Elmer Slaubaugh and his wife, Melody, and I certainly wanted to go!
My cousins and I are getting older. On my Daddy’s side there were 60 of us. The youngest of the 60 is now 56. The oldest is 80. Sometimes I think about how these years have passed and the age old axioms rattle around in my brain like so many loose marbles. “Where did the time go? How did I get this old so soon?”
On this morning, the face looking back at me in the mirror is lined and the chin sags. I need glasses to see things clearly and they aren’t on at the present, but I’m pretty sure that I look every bit of my 69 years. “H-m-m-m-m,” I think while pulling the comb through the tangled hair that is more gray than dark, “Maybe I’ll pull out my wrinkle cream from Olay and put some of that on this morning. It’s getting chilly out, so some moisturizer certainly won’t hurt. I don’t want to look too old when I go to see my cousins!”
I finished combing, washed my glasses and face, pinned on my prayer veiling, put on my glasses, made my bed, got dressed . . . and never thought about Oil Of Olay Wrinkle cream again until I was in the middle of breakfast. And then it didn’t matter any more.
For those who are interested:
(Clockwise from left to right)
James Bontrager, Karen Bontrager, Joan Mills, Uncle Jesse, Paul Yoder, Ilva Hertzler, Leslie Yoder, Sarah Slaubaugh, Jon Yoder, Heleen Yoder (peeking out from behind the head of) Mark Yoder, Jr., and me.
You see, I looked at these familiar and beloved faces. The youngest was my sister Sarah, the oldest was my Uncle Jesse, and even though there were some wrinkles there, I didn’t find a single wrinkle among us all that I found offensive. Quite the opposite. I’m partial to people with smiley wrinkles, and that is something a good many of the Yoders have in abundance. But even the other lines spoke volumes to me of the grief, the struggle and the living that has gone on in the lives of these people and the people they love. It was a wonderful time together. We laughed and talked, caught up with each other’s lives and came away hoping to do it again before too long. We are not young. In fact, most of us are “Too Old to Die Young” at this stage of the game. But that’s alright. We have so much more!
We are so blessed.
Full Moon Rising, Soft Tears Falling
Certain Man invited me on a golf cart ride this evening to see the gorgeous full moon over our Delaware countryside. It’s there every month, but there is just something breathtaking about how it rises over the south east horizon and climbs its way high into the sky before we have a chance to think or look twice. Especially the Autumn Moons.
The day has been busy, but also so close to normal that my head was able to think about more than what needed to be done. There was bread to bake, soup to make, custard to bake, and of course, lots of dishes to wash. I hadn’t gotten things done after our “First Sunday Potluck” so there was quite a mess in this kitchen. So my hands were busy with lots of kitchen things, but my heart was far away . . .
Far away? Yes. In Canton, Ohio. In Washington, DC. In Cold Spring, New York. In homes not so far away in Harrington and Milford and Greenwood. And in Heaven.
Heaven? Yes, especially Heaven. Thoughts of My Sweet Mama swirled around and around in my head as the sting of missing her took a fresh spot in my heart. And there was a reason.
Last night, Certain Man and I went to a drama program at Greenwood Mennonite Church put on by the Lititz Area Mennonite School. Our granddaughter, Charis, went with us. The production was very well done, and left me more than a bit pensive. After it was over, Charis and I were getting into the car when she suddenly said, “Grammy, may I go and find Grandma Yoder’s Grave?”
“Of course!” I said. “I’ll come, too!” Grandpa was still talking inside the church house, and I figured we had time. She headed out towards the cemetery, and I got things deposited in the car and followed. I watched her stride across the parking lot and thought about this young woman, and how she loved her Grandma Yoder. The loss of her Great-grandmother was huge and there was a picture of her at the grave that has epitomized childhood grief in my mind. The grave was so new that the date (6/16/15) had not yet been engraved.
It was dark in the church cemetery. I have not been there lately and the gravestones looked surprisingly foreign to me, but by the time I got there, Charis had already found the stone that marked the final resting place of My Sweet Mama, and her beloved “Grandma Yoder.” My phone caught this teen as she once again knelt by the familiar stone and traced the letters with her hand.
My heart caught in my throat. My Sweet Mama loved this little girl with all her being. She had prayed unendingly for Christina and Jesse to have a baby and she always had time for a bouncy little girl with shining eyes and undying devotion. On Sunday afternoons, Grandma Yoder and little Charis would spend hours playing a made up game with squishy hand warmers accompanied by shrieks of laughter on both sides of the game and a whole lot of running on the part of the short team. No one ever won or lost, it was just pure, unadulterated fun and I would give almost anything to hear it again.
Charis’ Mama and I usually cleaned up and washed dishes while they played, and then I would drive My Sweet Mama home to her quiet house.
“I’m so tired,” she would usually confess. “It makes me so tired to play with her, but she loves it so much, and I enjoy it, too. I just don’t want to not play when I can!” I reassured her, as I always did, and soon another day was over, and another memory was in my overflowing trunk of good generational memories.
There came a Sunday in early May of 2015 that was the last time.
We didn’t know!
I have so many good memories. The memories help to hold me in a place of JOY in these days that sometimes threaten to shake my sense of calm.
In Everything Give Thanks
They came into the laundry room last Saturday after I got home from Ohio. Middle Daughter and Oldest Granddaughter. After the hugs and “welcome home’s” they said they had a question for me.
“Mama,” said Middle Daughter, hesitantly. “What are you thinking about the Thankful Wall?
I was puzzled. “What do you mean,” I asked. “What about the Thankful Wall?”
“Are you planning to have one this year?”
“Of course!” I was really confused. Why would they think we would break with this nearly 30 year old tradition?
She and Oldest Grandchild looked at me and then in a quiet voice Middle Daughter said, “Well, I thought that with the way this year has gone maybe you were just going . . .” Her voice trailed off.
“Oh, Deborie-Girl!” I felt my heart give a strange leap as I looked at this adult offspringin’ whose year has held so much reversal and loss, and The events in our family over these last four months went spinning through me head like a rapid-fire machine gun.
Here in Delaware, there was a breast cancer diagnosis, a bilateral mastectomy, a deep vein thrombosis, a pulmonary embolism, infection, a second surgery and a prolonged recovery.
In Washington, there was ongoing concern over the chronic stomach disease of our Girl With a Beautiful Heart, plus Youngest Daughter and Beloved Son in Law #2 both had Covid.
There was the surgery and roller coaster diagnosis issues until we found out that our Youngest Granddaughter did, in fact have a rare form of childhood cancer (a synovial sarcoma) in her right leg and needed additional surgery as well as radiation. There was a miscarriage in our family, and other crisis among the grandchildren. I got Covid when I went to Ohio to help out in August and gave it to Youngest Granddaughter. Certain Man caught it later somewhere else and Oldest Daughter, Beloved Son in Law #1 and Oldest Granddaughter also caught it. (And there were challenges that I actually forget)!
But God was there! We were not alone, and in just as rapid fire, I saw the blessings piling up in my head.
“Oh, my Deborie-girl! We have so many things to be thankful for! This year of all years, we need a Thankful Wall! We need to remember all the good things that we’ve been given.”
And so they went away. It looked like a big job to this “still not fully recovered” daughter, but Oldest Granddaughter was going to help her and they were going to get it done. One thing led to another and none of their plans worked out, so Middle Daughter finished it up on her own this week and brought it over. and she and her Daddy put it up.
“I’m sorry, Mama,” she said sadly. “It’s really simple. I started one thing, and it just didn’t look right, so I cut it off and started over!”
I was too delighted to care. “Deborah, it’s just fine. I like it very much. Simple is good. Thank you for doing it for me!”
And it is just right. Except that it is lacking signatures and there is a lot of space. After these pictures were taken, I decided to add one notation a day for this month at least, but so far, that is all that is up there. Therefore, this is an open invitation to stop and jot your addition to it.
My heart gives grateful praise
October Runs On . . .
The last four weeks have held adventure and pathos. We have traveled out of the country and came back home unscathed, (but not unchanged). There has been both a wedding and a death in our church family. I spent five days in Washington, DC, helping out with childcare while Lem and Jessica were on vacation, then Certain Man and I traveled with Rachel and Rob to Guatemala to visit our “Almost a Daughter,” Lupe, and her husband, Ervin, and their three children, Nicole (13) Joshua (almost 10) and Sofia (6). We came home in the wee hours of the morning on Wednesday, October 12th, and we had a few days in our own space. We celebrated my 69th birthday (with more good wishes and accolades than I felt comfortable with, but the kindness and support were heart-warming and very much appreciated) and then we turned our eyes towards finalizing plans for our trip to Canton.
The days had passed swiftly. There were several times when I heard Certain Man say that we were going to Ohio, and then he was going to leave me there for probably two weeks to help out, and he was planning to come home. I perused the postings of our daughter in law to see if the timing was good, if they really needed me to stay, and if, in fact, I would be of any help. I wanted to stay if I was going to be helpful, but I wondered if maybe I would be of more help later in the course of Ellie’s six weeks of treatment. Daniel decided that he would give Raphael a call. Ever the one who tries to prepare for whatever, just in case, I messaged Regina and asked her if she and Raphael could discuss the options before Daniel called. Her response was swift and defining for me. And another whammy for our family.
Ellie had started her radiation on Thursday, but in the middle of all the already chaotic scheduling, our oldest grandson had a health crisis and was accepted into a two week Partial Hospitalization Program beginning Monday. While the admission to the program was nothing short of a “God-Thing,” the ensuing scheduling chaos reeked of the other kingdom. Regina and Ellie needed to leave for Cleveland at 5:30 am to get to her appointment in Cleveland. Raph needed to leave by 7:20 to take Si to his PHP and then go on to work, but that left the two younger boys with no one to get them on the bus. Then, at 1:50, pretty much in the middle of Ellie’s naptime, someone needed to head out to pick up Si from his program at 2:30. For once there was no beating around the bush, but rather, “So all this to say that starting Monday through the next two weeks, we will take all the help we can get.”
I was actually so relieved to know exactly what would be the most helpful, and Daniel was pretty much vindicated in his prediction that he was going to take me and leave me for two weeks while he went back home and got ready for chickens (and get into any of a number of projects that he wanted to do). And so, I started once again to pack for an extended stay. There were lots of loose ends to catch up, and I felt like I couldn’t think. We decided that we would leave right after church on Sunday since Daniel was scheduled to preach, and the projected deadline kept me plodding along, hoping that I didn’t forget anything integral.
Sunday morning. Daniel had been working on his sermon steadily and there were times when I was curious as to just what his topic was. Often when we would talk, both of us were in tears as we tried to process all the things that had happened in the months preceding. I, as I usually do, turned to music for comfort and encouragement and to set my heart straight. One of the songs on my playlist kept repeating itself over and over in my mind and I finally asked Daniel if this song would conflict with his sermon, or if we could possibly play it somewhere in the service.
Daniel preached on the Sovereignty of God that morning, and the song was played at the end of the service. Our church family, ever supportive and sympathetic, and some of our favorite people ever, gathered around us and prayed for us, for our extended family, and especially for Raphael, Regina, Simon, Liam, Frankie and Ellie. They wept with us, hugged us tight, and blessed us in the going, the staying and whatever else we felt we needed to do for our Canton Family.
We pulled into Raphael’s and Regina’s around 8:30 that evening, and were enthusiastically welcomed by our four grands and their Mama and Daddy. The schedule fell into place the next morning, Daniel left for home Tuesday morning, and so we have completed the first week of the two weeks that I’m planning to spend here. Canton is beautiful in her autumn dress. It’s amazing the colors just outside the front door that I see each morning as I watch Liam and Frankie get on the bus.
In other updates:
Ellie is finished with 7 of her 35 treatments. It’s no fun for this little girlie, but the personnel at Cleveland Clinic are beyond fantastic. They are working very hard to make things as easy for her and her Warrior Mama as they possibly can. There will always be things that just do not quite suit a little miss of four that has to endure so much more than it feels like she should have to, and it would be easy to spoil and give in and let her get by with a lot. She is opinionated, determined, and surprisingly strong for such a pint-sized girlie. (Last night one of her parents was commenting on “words that are most used in the household,” and the general consensus was, “No, Ellie!!!”) I’m proud of the two of them for the effort they exert to teach her obedience, kindness and helpfulness. She’s resistant, but they are tenacious (as she, though it aggravates her sore, needs them to be).
One of the things that the clinic does is have prizes for Ellie to choose each day. One day last week she came home with a 63 piece puzzle for ages 5+. She made good progress on her own, but I helped her finish it the first time. The second time, my help was very minimal, and the third time, she put every single piece in by herself! She’s done it on her own a couple of times since. It fascinates me because she does not start with the outside. She always starts with the same area every time and actually seems a little put out by the edge pieces. She’s really good at this, and it makes me wonder what she has going on in that brain of hers that allows her to see from the “inside out.”
Filed under Uncategorized
Last week, I stood at the door of Ambleside Cottage, looking out over the lawn and trees. The squirrels were busy, and the jays were scolding. The air was crisp with a temp that is unusual for mid-September. I thought about the summer that had slipped away without much notice from me. Certain Man had watered flowers more often than he probably wanted to, and garden things had been sadly neglected. There were tomatoes that got quietly put onto the compost pile and even a couple of handfuls of lima beans that turned sour in the small bag in the fridge. (It was their own fault! Those beans of mine hardly produced enough at a time to even make a meal for CM and I! I would shell my paltry few and put them in the fridge, hoping to get some to add to them, and then, next thing I knew, they smelled funny. I did get my first two bags in the freezer just before I left for DC, but even so, the pickin’s have been slim!)
It’s been three months since Deborah had her bilateral mastectomy. The blood clots, the infections and the complications have made this recovery far longer than we had hoped. She ended up with a second surgery about six weeks ago, and she is healing well, but she just isn’t quite there yet. The days have been challenging for her, but there have also been glorious accomplishments. She finished her Bachelors Degree in Nursing (BSN) and she did it with a 4.0 grade average. (She wouldn’t tell you that, but I’m allowed! I’m her Mama!) She has actually started back to work at Delaware Hospice, but is only allowed to work from home because she is still under fairly stringent restrictions (no driving, no combing or washing her hair, no reaching up too far, no reaching out too far, no leaning forward or bending over, no driving). Fortunately, Delaware Hospice has been more than accommodating, and she has enjoyed getting back into the swing of things- at least in part.
Last week, anticipating this week’s daily trek to take 4-year old Stella to school, I started to walk over to Deborah’s house for the morning chores there. I had hoped to get a little used to the walk. The distance is somewhat similar. The terrain? Not so much. Leaving the back yard door, the walk is uphill almost all the way to her school. And there is mostly blacktop and sidewalk. It’s not that far, (only .2 of a mile) but I’m almost 69 years old, and I have two replaced knees and there is that crazy thing called “spinal stenosis” that wants to remind me when I’ve slept in an unfamiliar bed. Which causes me to sometimes have a peculiar gait.
Yesterday, Stella said to me, “Grammy, why do you sometimes wobble when you walk?” (Please note. She did not say “waddle!”)
I said, “Well, Stella-girl, Grammy’s back is kinda’ hurting today.”
“Yeah,” she said thoughtfully, “And you are really, really old, too!”
Yes, well. That, too! (She told me the other day that she thought I was “a hundred years old” so I guess that does make me a old. A little bit old, anyhow.)
September mornings are delightful here, though, in spite of the trek that makes me puff. I come into the alley behind Lem and Jessica’s house and the squirrels are scolding, the walnuts dropping, and the yellow flowers are blooming by the back fence. There are neighbors who don’t do well with their trash, and the other day I saw a city rat nudging through the garbage, but he went his way and I went mine. This morning the crows were scolding loudly about something and in this section of town there are lots and lots of trees providing shade and privacy. I’m not a city girl by any chance, but these mornings, so full of life and a bit chilly are invigorating.
Tomorrow morning, Lord Willing, after walking Stella to school, I plan to come back here, pack up and head back to Delaware and that Man I Love the Most, our little farm and the next door girlie that I still comb, and make sure that she has what she needs to live and move and have her being. I will feed her old cat, JuJu, and give him some Grammy treats and it will be so sweet. Tomorrow night, if plans carry, I will spend time with my sibs and their spouses (Except for Nel and Rose) and I’ve been looking forward to that with an almost ache.
Today in Ohio, our littlest grand is fighting the biggest battle of us all, and I watched a clip of my tall son cradling her to his chest while they both sang, “What a Wonderful World,” and I weep. There is so much about this old world that is wonderful, and I love these September mornings. My heart gives grateful praise, but along with that, this Grammy’s heart is heavy.
Please pray for our Ellie-girl.
She Dances . . .
Elise Evelyn. Our Ellie-girl.
She is life and light and movement and spirit and song and fire. And she dances. There is no stopping the feet and the voice and the personality that has trusted and engaged and loved without reserve. She knows no strangers. She knows what she wants and when she wants it and how she wants it, but she has also learned that sometimes you just cannot have what you want and when and how.
Gift to our family. A Sacred Trust.
There have been hundreds of people who have said, “How lucky she is to have this family!”
Oh, Ellie-girl! We are the ones who have been so blessed. And there was no luck involved. You came to us, a six week old baby, and we wanted you to stay from the minute we laid eyes on you.”
It was a long journey, with many tears and uncertainties and times when it seemed that she was gone for good. There was a day in July when a state car took her away for her new life, and we wept and prayed and felt the grief that was worse than death. But in Washington, DC, a client cancelled and Uncle Lem locked the door of his office and got down on his knees and pled for mercy and intervention. People all over were praying, for something to happen.
And God chose to intervene and sent an angel in the form of an unknown man who warned the case worker. He showed up and followed her around while she surveyed the premises of the intended placement and when no one was listening, he hissed, “Don’t you leave that baby here!”
“Don’t you leave that baby here!” He offered some brief words of explanation, and then was silent.
The caseworker called her supervisor and Elise came back home. The story wasn’t over, there were still hurdles to cross, and there were 5 times (all together) when an actual date was set for her to be moved to another placement, but each time, something (rather, Someone) intervened.
My Ohio daughter in law was given the family name when she joined our family, “Ohio Heart Throb.” Just for the record, she has a new name. “Warrior Mama.” She’s earned it fair and square and has the scars to prove it. She faced imperious case managers, biased directors and held her own with honest and objective directives when she had had enough of the dilly-dallying of bureaucracy and the indifference of a state system. I’m so proud of this woman. She has known relinquishment and broken dreams and grief. She has given up when she realized it was in the best interest of the child. And this time, she knew what was in the best interest of Elise and she fought for her future. And won!
On April 19, 2019, the baby known as “Sweet Baby E” became Elise Evelyn Yutzy.
Most of you who follow this blog know that our Ellie-girl is facing a huge challenge. This week she starts a “five day a week for six weeks” radiation therapy for a synovial sarcoma in her leg. The risks are great, but the risk of not treating is greater. But she still dances. She still bosses her brothers and plays with her dollies and watches her “shows” and does all the things that she wants to and can. She doesn’t begin to understand to import of what is happening. She doesn’t even know the catch in her family’s throat, the sadness in her daddy’s eyes, the unrelenting hurt in her Mama’s heart, or the fear that her brothers are grappling with. And it’s better that she doesn’t.
People have been so kind. From the beginning of this journey, people have given and shared and prayed and loved and given some more. Nothing is taken for granted. Raph and Regina find the generosity and outpouring of care and concern hard to believe. For them as well as for us, the love and the prayers have been the best gifts. I call it “wrapped in a bubble of Grace,” where a sense of God’s provision and presence gives me courage and strength. I’ve said it more than once because, though I cannot explain it except by God’s grace, “This is hard, and I am sad. But I am not afraid, and I am not frantic. I’ve walked with this Heavenly Father for over 60 years, and He has never failed me yet. He hasn’t done everything the way I wanted, or spared me from heartache and loss, but He has carried me when I couldn’t make it on my own. He promised not to leave me or forsake me, and I don’t believe that He will stand apart from my grief now any more than I would stand apart from the grief of one of my children. He is here and He is not silent. My heart gives grateful praise!”
There are a lot of expenses connected with Ellie’s cancer treatment, and Ellie’s Uncle Lem and Auntie Jessica have started a gofund.me account to help out. As the families of Raphael and Regina, we are helping, but there is always more that is needed. I’m attaching this link so that if you are so inclined, you can access it without too much trouble. Thank you for listening, for reading and for caring and praying. The prayers are still the best gift!