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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Swedish Tea Rings

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It was a chilly winter day.  Certain Man and I lived in a basement home on M.V. High Road in Plain City, Ohio.  I have always needed a sense of community wherever I have lived, and I would sometimes visit neighbors, walking to their houses and dropping by.  Down the road and around two corners lived Earl and Alice Yutzy, and on this particular day, close to Christmas in 1974, I stopped by their house and found Alice in the middle of baking the most fascinating little pastries in her cozy kitchen.  I watched the process and wondered if I could do that.

I do not know what Alice thought.  Or if she wished I would go away.  However, when I asked her for the recipe, she was willing to give it.  I copied it off on a piece of paper ripped from an old phone book and carried it home.  After some time I copied the recipe over onto a blank cookbook that someone had given me and that’s the page that you see on the picture.  I don’t know when I made the first ones, but I tried often during those first couple of years and what a mess it was!  They usually tasted okay, but they looked a sight!  But I kept practicing and practicing and eventually, I got a fairly good method and feel for the process.  (The only thing I didn’t do that I’m pretty sure that I remember Alice doing — at least on some of them– was decorate the tops with red and green maraschino cherries, cut to look like Christmas poinsettias with their leaves.  It was so pretty, and I would still do it in a minute, but just doesn’t work with the genes in my family.)

I always think about Alice Yutzy when I’m making Swedish Tea Rings.  I think about a young woman, interrupting her holiday baking, asking for a recipe that may have been a family secret, and how she was so gracious to me.  She was not elderly or lonely or looking for something to do.  She was a farmer’s wife with four of her seven children still at home.  She was busy in her church as well as her family, but I saw her that day, surrounded by Swedish Tea Rings that she was making to give away, and the picture was stamped indelibly on my heart.  I could make things for my neighbors and friends for special occasions that would tell them that they were important to me.   And so, the fire in my soul was kindled.

The years have passed as they somehow do.  I don’t make Swedish Tea Rings to give away at Christmas.  I have a cinnamon roll recipe that I also got from a friend in Plain City, (Catherine Good Miller) which I adapted over the years and it’s a little less labor intensive.  But our children remember the special times when I made Swedish Tea Rings when they were young, and sometimes I will make some for them and the ones they’ve brought into my heart when we all gather in the old farmhouse at Shady Acres.

When our family was all together two weeks ago, something was said (a bit wistfully) about Swedish Tea Rings, and on impulse, I mixed up what I thought was a double batch.  It was a quadruple batch and I ended up with a dozen rings!  (It had really been a while since I had made them, don’t you know?!?!?)  Anyhow, after the offspringin’s and their families had departed, there was still some leftover dough in the fridge and I found homes for the few extra in the days following when Certain Man felt something was needed and I hadn’t gotten to Christmas Eve Day Cinnamon Roll Marathon.  I was surprised at how easy they were once I got back into the routine.

Then late on Christmas Eve, I got a text from Youngest Daughter, back home in Washington DC.  “Can you send me your Swedish Tea Ring Recipe?  I might try to make a few for my work holiday party.”

Oh, dear!  I thought about my sparsely written recipe, and how difficult it was those first few years when I made these tricky pastries.  I thought about how the process of putting them together wasn’t on the written paper and how many times I struggled with that part.  I remembered the lopsided tea rings that people had cheerfully eaten in spite of how they looked and I texted her back.

“When is the party?

When she replied that it wasn’t until the 5th and that there was no rush for the recipe, I talked Certain Man into making a trip to Washington, DC, yesterday to “help” with her first attempt at these Swedish Tea Rings.  Our chickens went out on New Year’s Day, and Middle Daughter said that she would watch my Blind Linda, and it seemed like a perfect opportunity.

What a good day we had together!  I made a double batch of dough before I left since the dough needs to be refrigerated, then took along most of the ingredients for another batch.  Youngest Daughter proved to be a ready student and even Beloved Son In Law #2 got his hands into the melee.  We made the six that had come along from Shady Acres, and mixed up another three – and before we came home, all nine were done.  One was already eaten (we had to make sure it was good).  One was being sliced off, slice by covert slice and also on its way out.  One came home to Delaware with us, and there were dibs on five of the six remaining.

It was a most satisfactory day.

My heart gives grateful praise.

And now this recipe in a more legible form with some additional instructions.

Alice Yutzy’s Swedish Tea Rings

Dough

1 Tablespoon (or package) yeast (I use Fleischmann’s instant or rapid rise)

1/4 cup warm water

2-1/2 cups flour (I use King Arthur’s unbleached bread flour)

2 Tablespoons Sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened (I use Parkay for the dough, butter for the filling and glaze)

1/4 cup evaporated milk

1 egg unbeaten (I use extra large or jumbo)

Filling

1/4 cup Butter, melted

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

Soften yeast in water.  Mix flour, salt and sugar together.  Cut in softened butter until crumbly.  (I use my Kitchen Aid for all of this)  Dump the yeast mixture, evaporated milk and unbeaten egg into the mixture, and mix thoroughly.  (I put my dough hook on and let it go!  It does a great job.  When the dough is all satiny and smooth, I weigh it out into three equal parts and put each part into a sandwich bag that I’ve sprayed with Pam and put it into the fridge (or freezer).  When it is thoroughly cooled (at least two hours in the fridge), roll out to a rectangle of about 8″ x 10″ and spread 1/3 of the filling on it, (this is a little less than 1/4 cup) trying to get it out to the edges where the ring will be joined.  It is a sparse spread.  Then roll it like a jelly roll.  Then put the “log” on a square of tin foil that has been either buttered or sprayed with Pam. Form a circle with the log of dough, trying to seal the ends together (this is where I had a struggle when I first started and still don’t always have it look the way I would like for it to).  Once it is in a circle (and it is not a big circle at all.  Maybe 6 inches across before it’s cut)  take a kitchen shears and make cuts all the way around the circle every 3/4 inch or so, cutting almost to the middle of the circle.  When you have cut all around the circle, slip a finger under one of the cuts and hold the top of it gently with another finger and flip that 3/4 slice of dough over on its side so that the coiled filling shows.  Continue all the way around until all the slices are lying on their sides.  Let it rise in a warm place until it is a little bit puffy (at least 30-45 minutes).  The recipe says to bake for 20-25 minutes, but I’ve found that 15-17 minutes @350 is about right.  Once they are slightly browned, they are ready to come out.  Transfer the tea ring, tin foil and all, to a heavy 8″ paper plate.

Glaze them when hot with a glaze made from 4 tablespoons melted butter, 2 cups powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 2-3 tablespoons milk.  I always mix this up, then put in the microwave to make it more easy to glaze the ring.  And I know that this is a double recipe of the glaze for 3 tea rings, but I find that it takes a double batch to adequately glaze 3 rings.  But people can suit themselves.

And that’s how it’s done.  And labor intensive?  Yes, at first, but it does get a lot easier with practice.  I promise.

Enjoy!

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Christmas, 2019


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Dear Family and Friends,
Christmas Greetings to you and yours!  Our world has made another trip around the sun and 2019 is almost history.  This family has had a memorable year.  We’ve had some exciting family events, and enjoyed some milestones of significance.

In last year’s letter, Jesse and Christina had moved into the Big Bontrager House on Shawnee Road, and were still getting settled.  The last 15 months at this house have held oodles of company, lots of living, and many more memories to add to the plethora already there.  Christina, who loves to mow (somethin’s wrong with that girl!) certainly got her chance this summer!  She tended the perennials and kept after the landscaping in ways that were outstanding.  The yard and gardens were beautiful.  Jesse, now 25 years at Burris Logistics, is a Systems Engineer whose job continues to thoroughly baffle me.  I just know that he’s capable, he’s good, he’s faithful, and he works hard.  Charis continues to be Grammy’s good helper with many things and her Grandpa’s sidekick in many adventures.  She has a beautiful clear voice and she has been chosen for solos and ensemble numbers in the community children’s chorus of which she is a part.  She is 10 now, and has grown up overnight!  She’s practically as tall as her Auntie Beebs! (Deborah).

Deborah, who at the writing of last year’s letter was planning to be settled in her new house before Christmas, ended up with reversals of all sorts (as frequently happens when a house is being built) and didn’t accomplish that move until after the new year.  But she has been in her own place now for most of this year, and has brought a welcoming charm to her Ambleside Cottage.  She is still a hospice nurse, working the field as an evening and overnight home health staff nurse.  She logs many miles, and gets into some interesting situations, but she carries it off with much grace.  She has been with Delaware Hospice for nine years, and to those of us who love her, it feels like it’s a very good fit for her talents and temperament.   A rescue cat named Julius has become her house partner and has a distinct personality. He is good company for Deborah.  Daniel’s sister, Lena, still traveling for another five or six months plans to move into Ambleside Cottage for the summer months and then, when she can no longer keep warm, will hie off to Arizona or California or Florida (or somewhere warmer) for the other months.

It’s been an exciting year for Raph and Gina, along with their four children, Simon, (10) Liam (9) Franklin (8) and Elise (2). They are still in Sugarcreek, Ohio, where he works for nuCamp RV in Customer Service. Starting in January, (Lord Willing) he will also be serving on the worship team two Sundays a month at The Branch, where the family is currently worshipping.  Regina works one day a week as a cashier with 61 Surplus and also as a night auditor for Comfort Inn.  The finalization of Ellie’s adoption was a high point for their family (as well as our entire family) and is a miracle of no small proportions.  It has been a joy this year to see each of the four children mature in their respective ways.  All three boys played baseball this summer (and they are really good!) and are interested in a number of different activities.  Simon loves hunting and fishing with his Grandpa Yoder and actually bagged his first deer this year.  He’s a good help to his Mom in the kitchen and is a great baby sitter.  Liam is a thinker and a planner and has the determination that reminds me often of his Uncle Lem at this age.  He took medals in track this year, but along with being athletic, he is also gentle. He, too is great with his little sister, and is the one who often fills her demand to “Read!”  Frankie is an open handed, giving young man.  He has unbelievable dance moves (and doesn’t mind showing them off!) and he makes us laugh. He also loves that little sister, and for his birthday this year, asked if she could come to his party at school. Although our Sugarcreek Yutzys live pretty far away from us, they still impact our lives and we are so grateful.

Lem and Jessica are still in Washington DC.  Lem, now in his seventh year as a psychotherapist with Alvord, Baker and Associates, is kept very busy.  His caseload is heavy in numbers and in life issues.  Jessica has been working for the US Government Accountability Office since 2015 as a research analyst and continues to both enjoy and excel in that environment.  The high points of this year were team efforts in this marriage.  Lem graduated with his PhD in Social Work in May, and he could/would not have done it without Jessica’s support and encouragement.  It was a tough haul, and all of us are glad that he is officially finished!  Through it all, they have been intentional and team parents to their little girl, Stella, who turned two in November.  She is a delight to be around and is growing so fast and has quite a vocabulary. She loves books and animals and the outdoors and shows great partiality to her Uncle Rob (after her Da-da and Ma-ma).  She also likes Auntie Rach and she has lots of opportunities to spend time with them.  She enjoys time spent at her other grandparents’ beach house, and talks about “Cappy’s Boat!” and loves sea creatures.  Enthusiastic and determined, she is a great mix of the Lee and Yutzy genes.

Uncle Rob and Auntie Rach.  The Christmas Card picture tells some of their story.  On October 19, 2019, our Rachel-girl married Robert William Orr.  It was a beautiful day in Washington, DC, and all of Rachel’s family was on hand for the momentous occasion.  The nieces and nephews were all part of the festivities and what a hoot that was!  From two formal guest receivers (Simon and Charis) to a ring bearer with shades and a strut, (Franklin) to an amicable and gentlemanly  escort for the two tiny flower girls (Liam) to the precious two girlies, one of which joyously threw flowers in the air and all around (Stella) and one, somewhat cranky from “hand, foot, and mouth” disease, resisted going at all until she suddenly saw a bribe at the other end of the aisle and went to the safety of her parent’s pew (Ellie) it was a delightful day.  Lem and Jess led the service, and “Dr. Lem” performed the ceremony.  This Mama made pies for the reception at the request of the bride and groom, who preferred pie to “plain old wedding cake” and Rachel’s Daddy made himself more than useful in transporting supplies and procuring needed items and providing encouragement to a very disgruntled Mama when there was a pie disaster.  (You can read about that -as well as several other family things that have happened in the last year- on my blog at this address: https://maryannyutzy.com/ ) Rachel started a new job the month before their wedding, when she was accepted into The Bethesda Group as a psychotherapist.  This job was desirable because she has more control over the hours and the client load (and the pay is better, too!).  Rob still works as a Guest Services Captain for a company called Towne Park.  Last year he was at the Hyatt next to the White House, but now he works for The Hotel Monaco in downtown DC.  They are living in the basement apartment of the house where Rachel has lived for the past two years.  It’s small, of course, but well suited for them.  They are good friends with the gals upstairs, and since the common kitchen is upstairs, an amicable relationship is certainly an asset.

One very exciting high point in our lives this past year was reconnecting with one of our foster children from the late 1970’s.  Those of you who knew our family during those years just might remember the baby that we called “Raynie” who came to us a little under 11 weeks old and stayed until his second birthday.  Raynie is now Freddie Lee, is all grown up and had done very well for himself and his family.  After connecting through social media and private messaging, we visited him and his wife, Amanda, in their home in Pickerington, Ohio.  He is daddy to 4 beautiful, brilliant girls and has a lovely wife, Amanda. It’s an incredible story of despair and hope and grace that has been woven through these last 40 years, and we are in awe of how God continues to orchestrate this particular “melody” in our Life’s Song.

Daniel and I are alone in the big farmhouse at Shady Acres except for Linda who will have been a part of our household for 20 years on January 1st.  She is 70 now and her age is telling on her.  She had two hospitalizations, (including one cardiac arrest) this year.  Both times it was thought that she had a partially obstructed bowel.  They finally did surgery, expecting the worst.  However, the problem was resolved with a simple snip to a loop of scar tissue that was causing a “back up” and what a relief that was – not only to her, but to those of us who love her, as well.  She is doing well at this writing, and we are grateful.

Daniel and I are also experiencing some of the ill effects of getting older.  Daniel has been having treatments for Macular Degeneration in his right eye for five months.  Both eyes were diagnosed as having “dry” Macular degeneration back around the first of the year, but the right eye went suddenly to “wet” and treatment has stayed the progression pretty well, but seemingly not helped it too much, either.  It’s a scary diagnosis, and troubling, but he is following the recommendations, and we are trusting that we are never out of HIS care. What a comfort to know that we have a Heavenly Father who knows us, knows what is best and that we can trust him.  Not that everything will go the way we want it, but that He will never leave us, never forsake us.  We are not alone.

Another milestone (of far less significance than any mentioned heretofore) is that we have now lived at Shady Acres for thirty years.  I’m pretty certain that a Certain Man had no intentions of staying here this long when we first moved in, July 1989.  “Seven years is long enough,” he would often intone with gravity and purpose, “for anyone to live in any one place!  You need to move so that you can clean out the corners and get rid of stuff!”  I’m not in the least against “getting rid of stuff,” but moving has been the making of some of my most difficult dreams, and it has been the last thing I’ve ever wanted to do.  Granted, our early moves were good, but once we settled down here, any time a move was mentioned there was loud indignant outcry from the Offspringin’s, and quiet prayers from their Mama.  Of course, no one knows what tomorrow may bring, but at the insistence of those same Offspringin’s, Daniel and I did some estate planning and it looks like we can stay right here as long as we are able.  So!  There are large empty bedrooms upstairs, and anyone who needs a place to stay is welcome to come. (Just please give us a little warning!)

And that is the latest news from Shady Acres and the Yutzy Crew.  Merry Christmas to one and all!

Daniel and Mary Ann for ourselves and the rest of the family

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Sunday Morning Treasure Hunts

Sunday morning.  I have been sick for a number of days, tired out and coughing.  This is some kind of “crud” as I’ve heard it called, and seems to be highly contagious. But I am better, (somewhat) and I have a Sunday School Class that I am loathe to lend out.  Besides, there was a special activity that was in the lesson, and I thought that my three girlies, Victoria, Katie and Charis, would enjoy it.

The activity was a treasure hunt.  Not a hard or complicated one, but still fun.  So I schemed and planned and printed out the clues in a mad rush because I hadn’t allowed enough time on this crazy morning.   Then I got a text that Charis was sick and wouldn’t be there, so it dropped to two girlies.  That was okay.  These two would be fine.

I was able to get the clues out before class started, and all was well.  At the beginning of class they did the usual things; attendance, prayer requests, prayer, and then I introduced the plan.  “There are four different clues,” I told them.  “Take this envelope and go down to the table in the open area to open it and then do what it says.”  There was a brief discussion over who did what, but then they went happily off to their assignment.  They left the door open and I could see them down the hall.  They eagerly tore open the envelope and pulled out the first clue.

H-m-m-m-m-m-m.  I listened to the discussion.  It was going nowhere fast.

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“Are you girlies having some trouble?” I finally asked them.

“We can’t figure this out!” said one of them, frustration lacing her voice.

“Yeah,” said the other.  “This doesn’t make any sense!”  Back they trudged, holding the offending paper.

“Oh,” I said.  “I gave you the wrong clue!  Here is the right one.”  I handed them the next clue and they eagerly tore into it.  This was something they could understand.

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Off they tore again, down the hall and into the upstairs bathroom, emerging triumphantly holding the next clue.

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(I had to do the correcting because Loretta decided that she was going to move her class of “Littles” into an empty classroom, but she said they could just come in and get it from her, so that was set up before hand).  I heard them knock and heard her cheery voice as she gave them the fourth and final clue,

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Back down the hall they came, opened the closet door and there on the shelf were white bags with their names on them.  (Like this, except this is the one that Charis didn’t get.)

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They came cheerfully into the classroom with their precious sacks and set them on the table, smiling and eagerly opened them.  But the smiles turned wooden and the faces fell.

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“CORN???” asked Katie incredulously, searching her sack some more.

“Ah, corn,” said Victoria, surprised, but brave and gracious.  “I like corn.  Corn is good.  It’s one of my favorite things.”  She looked at it carefully, a bit nonplussed but trying hard to be grateful.

I said, “So what do you think?  Is that a nice prize?  Was it what you were expecting?”  I looked at their faces.  Katie was very sad.  She really didn’t like this prize at all and she wasn’t going to pretend otherwise.

“No,” she said glumly.  “This was not a nice prize.”

Victoria was looking very tenuous, like the longer she thought about it, the more disappointed she became. “It’s not exactly what I was expecting,” she admitted.

“So why did you follow my directions when you could tell that I gave you a bad clue at the beginning,” I asked.  Even as I asked it, I thought about how much effort I had put into having these girlies trust me, and how much I wanted them to ALWAYS trust me, but I also wanted them to THINK about clues that directions maybe should be carefully thought about before they followed them.  “Why did you follow the clues.”

“Because you said there were prizes,” they agreed.  “Because you told us . . . ‘

“You are so right,” I told them  “I said that I had prizes for you, and I do!”  I reached into my trusty bag and brought out a plastic bag for each of them that I had prepared ahead of time for this very minute (I really didn’t want them to think I was a bad leader!)

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In honor of our current autumn season, it was all in fall colors.  A Reese’s peanut butter cup, a new Eversharp pencil with 1.3 sized lead, and a new double ended highlighter.  Their delight was gratifying to see, and I said, “Can I have my corn back?”

“You sure can!” was the general consensus, as they shoved them back over the table.

“It didn’t even have salt!” said Victoria.

“AND it was way expired,” I said, laughing.

“It was???”

“Yep, REALLY expired!”  I told them.  “I would NEVER have given you gals this for a prize!”

And then we went on to talk about peer pressure and bad influences and how “Twelve Men Went to Spy out Canaan, Ten were Bad, Two were good.” (Katie, with her clear, true voice sang the whole song for us and did the motions, too!)  We talked about how easy it is to follow the majority and how important it is for us to listen to what God has to say.  We need to think about His faithfulness to us in the past, and sometimes we have to stand alone – or with the minority when what God has to say flies in the face of what most people are saying, doing, thinking.  They had read our “Bible Words” and had wise input and thoughtful answers.

We finished the time together with two extra students, Phillip and Isaac, and then we ran out of time (as usual).  They all went scrambling down to their “snack time with the Daddies” and I picked up the mess that was left behind and thought about the morning.  I always wonder how much they actually get.  I’m always glad when the teachers’ manual has something like this that works with my class, and that I can maneuver around a bit to involve each of the students.

And, of course, I thought about adult peer pressure and how it still affects me as an older Grammy and wife and mother and sister and cousin and friend and teacher and neighbor.  The issues are real.  And there are some things upon which I have purposed to not expend energy.  . . . I almost wrote down what some of those are, but then I would start a furor, and I’m content to not do that.

“Ten Men Went to Spy Out Canaan,
Ten were bad, two were good.”

Even the terminology of that song is in question these days.  (You don’t call people “bad!”)  However, I’m reminded by this timeless story that we cannot always go with the majority, no matter how Godly we think they are.  We need to come back again to what God says, how He has worked in the past, and be discerning as to what He is asking of us now.

Even if it’s just you and me on one side and ten bad men on the other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Stars in the Crown

I was sitting at the table at Church Retreat a few weekends ago..  Linda was in her wheelchair pulled up at an angle in front of me.  Her bib tied around her neck, her sightless eyes in a frown, her little mouth opening automatically as I spooned her turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy and green beans into it.  It was such a good lunch!  Around me the church family that I love started to clear tables and clean up the weekend mess, while some still visited at the tables, lingering over dessert.

I looked across at all these dear people, and back at my BL, who was complaining about everything this morning.  I willed myself to smile at her because I do not want my face to be a reflection of hers, and I spoke quietly to her, trying to soothe out the grumpiness that often causes people to keep their distance.  (“Why can’t she just be nice, Heavenly Father?  Sometimes I don’t feel like she’s even trying!”)

I thought again about what it would be like to be her.  70 years old.  Blind.  Non-verbal.  Autistic.  Breast Cancer.  Colon Cancer.  And a host of other problems that can cause discomfort.  And this morning, she had been hauled out of her bed, dressed, fed, and drug off to Church Retreat, to a big noisy room with a lot of unfamiliar voices.  She didn’t have her beloved recliner to sit in.  There was an inviting fire in the huge fireplace, and she was beside it, but even the crackling of the fire seemed to disturb her.  It was a damp, cold morning and nothing was quite right.  I looked at her troubled face and knew that, once again, I had no idea what she wanted or what would make her happy.

I was sad that morning.  A host of other things were on my mind, and disappointment was thick in my throat.  I was distressed over the disappearance of Donna Miller, and felt sick in my stomach with the futility of her family’s desperate searching.  I was weary from the busy days of the week before and concerned about my two youngest grandbabies – both of whom were ill.  We were expecting out of state company in the afternoon, and I was scheming as to how I would ever get a Certain Man shook loose in time to get home before they got there.  My head and my heart were full of so many things, my hands on automatic, filling the spoon, putting food into Linda’s mouth, waiting for her to swallow, filling the spoon, putting food into Linda’s mouth . . .

And then she walked by.  Tall and slender, every hair in place, clothes impeccably neat and tastefully coordinated.  She smiled at me as I sat in my chair, and then hesitated.  “I’m telling you what, Mary Ann,” she said.  “You are going to have stars in your crown.  You are going to have so many stars in that crown that you won’t even be able to lift it onto your head!”

I felt a familiar lurch in my stomach.  Those “flitting through my head a thousand tidbits a minute” thoughts about what things are really like in my heart compared to what shows.  I thought about what she said and I thought about what it says in Revelation about laying crowns at the feet of Jesus, and how I’m pretty sure that I won’t be lifting my own crown onto my head.  And then I thought about casting my crown at His Feet, and my heart was suddenly on Holy Ground.

“It will all go back to HIM,” I said softly, almost to myself.

She looked uncomfortable.  “What?” she asked.

“It will all go back to HIM,” I said with a little more confidence.  “The crowns will all be put at Jesus’ feet.”

“Yes, Yes,” she said, also a bit reflectively.  “That’s true!  They will!”  And she went gracefully on.

But her words had been stamped on my heart, and have been the cause of some reflection and thought.

Stars?  Jewels?  Crowns?  I haven’t really thought much about rewards or setting them anywhere.  A crown, particularly a heavy one, seems awkward and hampering.  What are crowns a symbol of?  “Why a crown, Lord Jesus, and for what purpose?”

In our world today, crowns are symbols of many things, but most commonly it denotes authority or intrinsic royalty.  Both of which, if I understand the teaching of Jesus, are already mine.  So it’s not that I’m going to “get one” but rather that I already have one.  And whether there are stars or jewels in that crown as a direct result of what I’ve done and haven’t done is not something that I thought very much about or particularly care about . . .

Except in one context.  When that day comes and it’s time for us to lay at those crowns at the feet of the one who deserves our worship, then I want it to be precious in His eyes; literally the best that I can bring to the feet of The One who has given so very much for me.

Lord Jesus, May it be so!

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The Wedding Pies

“Rob and I have decided,” said Youngest Daughter to me one afternoon shortly after Rob had gotten up the courage to ask her Daddy if he could marry her, “that we don’t want wedding cake.  We want pies.  And we would like it if you would make them.”

It was early summer.  October 19th seemed a long way off.  Besides, I like to make pies.  And I love this daughter and the man she had chosen to love, as well.  “Of course, Rachel,” I said without hesitation.  “I will be glad to make the pies for your wedding. Do you know how many people you are going to have and how many pies you will want?”

“Well, we aren’t having a big wedding,” she answered vaguely.  “Let me get back to you on that.”

This girlie of ours planned everything down to the last comma and exclamation point.  It wasn’t long until she told me that she was pretty sure that the maximum capacity for the reception was 110 to 115.  That was good to know.  “How many pieces do you want each pie cut into?” I asked her, “six or eight?”

“Oh, eight, of course,” she asserted stoutly.  “People won’t want more than a smaller piece after eating the dinner.”

“Well, then,” I said to her, “We should probably have about 15 pies.  What kind do you want?”

“Um, I don’t really know yet.  Let Rob and I discuss it and get back to you.”

“That’s fine,” I said.  “I will get the pie crusts into the freezer and then fill them just in time for the wedding.”

Sure enough, on August 5th, her list came through.

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This looked very doable to me.  I was familiar with each one of these pies.  The only “hard” pie was the Lemon Meringue which just happens to be Youngest Daughter’s favorite.  I did wonder at the fact that there were eight different pies, but decided that if this was what was wanted, this was what was going to be done.  And I was going to make a Lemon Meringue Pie that would SING it would be so beautiful and taste so nice.

There came the day when Middle Sister and Youngest Sister came to help me, and we moved a lot of work that day.  Middle Sister (Sarah Slaubaugh) made cheddar cheese soup and washed dishes and helped weigh out pie crusts and assisted with making fruit slush for the rehearsal dinner.

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Youngest Sister, (Alma Heatwole) is turning into a champion pie crust maker, and she mixed the pie dough, then I weighed it out into equal portions.

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Then she rolled them out and I got them into their pie pans and crimped the edges and got them into the freezer.

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It was quite an operation, but when all the things were done, it was a huge weight off the shoulders of this mother of the bride.  Middle Sister came back the next day and washed all 72 cylindrical vases for the tables at the reception as well as the 22 votive candle holders.  She also mended some of the boxes that they had come in so that they wouldn’t fall out and break on the way to DC.  It was an incredible help, and the days passed by so quickly that I was almost breathless.

If you read down through that pie list, you noticed that one of those pies was a French Silk Chocolate Pie.  This is a frozen pie.  It was also the only pie that I could make ahead of time and transport to DC without fear of disaster.  So I got busy on Wednesday and baked the pie shells and filled them.

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(And yes, there were three of these pies because we had promised to leave one for our gracious hosts, Keith and Leah, who were out of town for the week, and we wanted them to have one that would still be good when they got back!)  I stashed those three pies away and felt so good about them.

Thursday.  It was  such a fun, interesting and profitable day.  I took all my recipes and copied off two copies of each.  I measured and calculated and put all the dry ingredients for each pie together in a heavy plastic bag and labeled them.  I measured as many of the wet ingredients as I could and put them into separate, tightly closed jars.  I put all the ingredients together into a larger ziplock bag along with one copy of the recipe.  I checked all the ingredients off as I finished each recipe so that I would have no guessing the next day, and also so that I would not be dragging a bunch of baking supplies along to DC that I would only use a little bit and then have to drag them all back home.  I put all the bags into one of my sturdy large gray totes along with the list and the sheath of recipes, and I was pretty pleased with myself when it was all done.

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Then I figured out how much butter I would need, how many dozen eggs, how much whipping cream, and tucked in the bottle of vanilla, and I  felt like I was set.

Friday morning.  We couldn’t get into the church until noon, and we pulled up there around two or three minutes after 12:00. Les Graber, maintenance man and all around helpful guy, let us in and I got started right away.  I baked the four pie shells that I needed and set them aside.  The rest of the pies needed to be filled and then baked.  So I got the Apple Crumb in, then the Pecan, then the Vanilla Crumb, then the pumpkin and finally, the rhubarb.

Next I started the Lemon Meringue.  I expected this pie to be fairly “easy-peasy” because I had grated the lemon peel at home, juiced the lemon juice out and measured everything.  The filling went together super well. and it looked and tasted really good.  I beat the eight egg whites into huge and beautiful mounds, added the sugar and the cream of tarter, and started to spoon it over the hot pie filling.  All of the sudden, my heart dropped to the pit of my stomach.  Oh, no!  I had forgotten the vanilla.  I looked at the pies with several large dollops of meringue on them and pondered what I should do.  I decided first to just add vanilla to what I had left and beat it up good and maybe just cover it all up.  Then I thought that maybe I could at least scrape off the top of those mountainous peaks and put it in with the remaining meringue and “just beat it up good!”  I should have known better.  I really should have.  But I scooped as much of that meringue back into the big KitchenAid mixing bowl and started to whip.  My meringue sank lower and lower until it looked like a thin pudding of some sort.  Some of the lemon filling must have gotten in and done more damage than I had expected it to.  Oh, dear.

My next idea was to just start all over with it.  I checked my eggs.  Nope!  Not enough.  I still needed to make the Peanut Butter Pie and there weren’t enough eggs for me to just take eight.  Besides, what would I do with eight leftover egg yolks???

Wait a minute!  Egg yolks!  I needed six for my peanut butter pie and I didn’t need the whites because I top my Peanut Butter Pie with whipped cream, not meringue.  And besides, four egg yolks a pie when I use jumbo eggs, is way too much.  Three each would be plenty.  Before anyone noticed or told me not to, I poured that offending, pity-sakes of a bowl of meringue down the sink and turned on the water to wash away the evidence.  I procured my precious egg yolks and made my Peanut butter pie while the egg whites came to room temperature.

Back in my element, I whipped those egg whites up and added the Cream of Tarter, the sugar and the vanilla, and got them onto the pie.  Middle Daughter, Deborah, attended to the final smoothing of the tops and we popped them into the oven and set a timer.  I pulled them out a little later and felt like they could maybe use a little bit more time, so I put them back in and set the timer for another five minutes.

Well.  When that timer went off, I slipped my flat cookie sheet under the first pie and slid it out.  It was a tad bit darker now than I wanted, so I hurriedly went to get the second one out.  I was using the top oven which was a one rack oven.  I had already gotten burned on my cookie sheet earlier, so I was trying to just slip it in as fast as I could and not linger.  In went the flat cookie sheet and the heat rose out of the open oven door.  I  needed to hurry!  I quickly pulled my cookie sheet out.

Oh, no, Oh, no!!!  I looked down at my cookie sheet and all that was on that cookie sheet was the meringue!  I kid you not.  Somehow that sharp, flat cookie sheet had gotten between the pie and the meringue and slid right on through to the other side.  When I pulled it out, there was the meringue, perfectly round and unscathed by the trauma.  I looked at it in disbelief.  I pulled my now naked Lemon Pie out of the oven and still just could not believe it.  Daniel and Christina came to see what was going on when they heard my cry of dismay, and they started to laugh.

This was no laughing matter.  “What am I going to do?”  I wailed.  “What in the world am I going to do???”

“We are going to put it back on,” said one of my laughing sidekicks.

“How in the world are we going to do that?” I asked almost in tears, “I don’t think it’s possible!”  But then I kinda caught the vision and thought about possibilities.  We hauled a large pancake turner out of the church’s drawer and carefully slid that meringue right back onto the pie.  It didn’t break, it didn’t dent, it just went back to where it was before it was so rudely removed from its rightful place.  The cook’s critical eye was not very happy.  It wasn’t as high as it should have been, and it (for sure!) was not sealed to the outer crust, but it was on, and it didn’t look too bad for what it had been through.  I had to be content.  I stashed it in the fridge for the night and decided not to look at it again.

Saturday was busy from morn till night, and the wedding happened and our youngest chick got married.  The wedding was beautiful, and the food at the reception was incredible.  Kelly and her husband, Doug, from Lemons and Grace Catering did an absolutely fabulous job with the food, and–

Yes, there was no cake.

But there were pies.  And some of them got totally gone, and some of them did not.  The Lemon Meringue, bless its heart, was not as popular as some of the others.  It wasn’t as pretty as some of its neighbors, but it had been through a lot.  No one said a negative word.  The ones who knew the story held their peace, except for the guilty one.  She never could keep a secret, and so now the whole world knows.

It could have been so much worse.  This is for sure.  And so, once again, for all the things that might have been — and weren’t, and all the things that came together and made this weekend a happy time —

My heart gives humble, grateful praise.

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It’s fuzzy, but it’s My Girlie and me, and I love her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Early Morning Paranoia

The one room in my house that stays orderly is our bedroom.  (My RBI roommates probably have a hard time believing that, but it is true!)  I make that bed every morning, and I do not make piles of things on the furniture.  There are (almost) never misplaced items on the floor, and if I stub my toe on anything it’s the edge of the dresser, or the bed leg under the dust ruffle, or the corner of the night stand.  Certain Man has an uncanny knack of finding anything sharp with his bare feet, so I am especially careful about dropped pins from my prayer veiling, or anything that could possibly pierce the tender skin on those feet that work so hard, every single day.

So this morning, I was making my way across the bedroom after my alarm went off.  It was somewhat dark in the room, and I didn’t have my glasses on yet, and I felt my bare foot step on something kinda flat and hard down beside the dresser.  I peered at it from afar and pondered what it might be.  It was about the size of a dime, dark colored and I thought that maybe it was a piece of bark that fell out of somewhere with all the woodcutting that Certain Man has been doing for his friend, Gary.  I reached down to pick it up, but when I touched it, it moved!  I felt a leg kinda squiggle under my tentative finger.

Yikes!

“It must be a Stink Bug,” I thought.  “Miserable creatures are such a menace!”

So then I stood for a bit contemplating if it would run away, or if I should go get a tissue and flush it down the toilet, but finally decided the best thing to do was to just pick that thing up and fling into the toilet.  I carefully reached down and caught it between my thumb and forefinger — .

And it was nothing but a dark colored rubber band, all wrapped up around itself that sprang to its healthy round shape in my grasp.  The “leg” I felt was nothing more than the under part of the band where it had been wrapped around itself.  Shew!

I felt relieved.  Then foolish.  Then amused.  And then, because I’ve been wanting to write some more stories, I decided to write it down.  There have been so many stories in my life in the last couple of years that are not mine to tell.  Many are sad.  Some are heavy.  This one is not.  It’s just another story about a Delaware Grammy and her everyday life on a chicken farm in Rural Delaware that has so many stink bugs that I’m getting paranoid.

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