Monthly Archives: January 2011

There was a CD playing in the new “under the counter/CD player/radio.”  (I just cashed in some of the points that I’ve accumulated over the years of being a “Silkies” customer.) 

As the music and lyrics to the praise song, “Holy is the Lord” filled the kitchen, I was surprised to suddenly find the tears crashing down my face.  Middle Daughter was immediately concerned.

“Momma, whatever is wrong?”

I tried hard to explain it, but really, what it came down to was this, “This music always makes me miss my faraway kids.”

She was clearly puzzled.  “Really, Mom, they didn’t really listen that much to this music.”

That was true.  They usually played their music through their headphones when they were downstairs, and I really didn’t hear it very much if they were in their rooms.  So that made me think about why I felt such a sense of loss when I heard the music on this particular CD.  (Blessed Be Your Name: PRAISE & WORSHIP — bought off the “LIFESCAPESthebeliever”  rack at Target.

“You know, Deborah, it’s true that they didn’t play this that much here, but — ” I struggled to put my finger on what that feeling was that came over me when I heard the music.  What picture came into my head when I heard it that moved me so deeply with a sense of loss?

And now you all are going to think that I am hardly even Christian.  I really should associate this music with joy and victory and success and really, really CHRISTIAN feelings, because what it “sits me right in the middle of” is the commissioning service that is held just before sending out the REACH teams each year.  Part of that service is an extended time of praise and worship.  And when I have that music swirling around my ears (and heart) it feels like I am right there — getting ready to say good-bye to one of my kids.

Sometimes when I finally identify what it is that is bothering me about something, I am able to put it away, and let it go.  For some reason, this morning, I am missing all three of my absent kids incredibly much. 

And I don’t think listening to PRAISE & WORSHIP music is going to help very much.

I think I’ll go listen to an old 60’s album called “Blue Velvet.”

And that probably isn’t very “Christian” either, but Blind Linda will like it.

 

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“. . . but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me.

Don’t stop them,

because the kingdom of heaven

belongs to people

who are like these children.”

Matthew 19:14  NCV



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I sit on the bench — always the same one.  Not because it has to be, but because I learned a long time ago that I can concentrate better if I always sit at the same place.  But it isn’t MY bench, or OUR bench, it’s just the place we sit when it’s available — and it ususally is.

Earlier this week, I had spoken to my neighbor about the three children coming to Sunday School.  They were very interested, and it was because of their interest that I had them over on Thursday night.  I felt like I needed to know them a little better, have somewhat of a relationship with them before “setting sail” on a Sunday morning.  Most of my interaction has been with their Mom, and because of her willingness to give life details, I have felt like I knew these children somewhat — even though I hadn’t really had much personal time with them.

On Thursday night, we had about two and a half hours together.  We played games, baked cookies and I read to them.  They were hungry for hugs, very responsive to suggestions, and NOISY.  And BUSY.  And HUNGRY.  And so incredibly precious.  And they really, really wanted to go to Sunday School.

So we made arrangements to pick them up.  This morning, while I finished last minute Sunday morning things, Certain Man went down the road to retrieve the children.  While he was gone, I started to think about what big mess we were into now.  And I thought again about this man I married — and his willingness to be inconvenienced for Jesus’ sake.  Especially when it comes to children.  There are a great many men out there who would be disgruntled, peevish or would even forbid the kinds of involvement that we often find ourselves in.  But he has almost never been anything but supportive, encouraging, and affirming.  I really do have a husband who is one in a million.

So he cheerfully went off, retrieved the three kids and came back home to load up ladies and his scatterbrained wife and we got to church on time (for a change!).

Sunday school went well.  I continue to love teaching this class — which today included two of the three we had brought along.  I was pretty sure that class would be okay — there is plenty of activity, moving around, things to occupy heads and hands and no one is too quiet, at least in the basement class where we meet.  But then Sunday School was over, and the church family that meets at the corner of Canterbury and Carpenter Bridge Roads does not have any separate provision for children during the sermon.

So here we all were, on the bench, and Certain Man was bringing the message.  I got out my Bible and notebook so I could take notes, as is my custom.  I love these Sunday morning times and have a strong commitment to not only staying awake, but listening carefully enough so as to have some insights to carry with me.  Except that this morning, there was no spare time for taking notes.  I watched distractedly while there were stickers and notebooks and markings and whisperings and thumpings and munchings on anything that was remotely edible.  From the standpoint of having extra children in the church, it was wonderful.  It was an answer to my prayers.  It was so exciting.

But there was something else going on in my heart.  It has been many a year since I have had a row of children that I was more or less responsible for.  And all through the sermon, there was a conflict waging in the battlefield of my soul.   You see, I have come to enjoy my quiet bench.  I like just “blending in” and having the freedom to think and pray and take notes and just be my own (selfish) self.  This bench was a radical difference.  And I am all for settling kids down and teaching them proper church manners and how to behave, but I also know these things take time.  And the issue cannot be forced.  Too often children have been made to conform to certain standards of behavior so that a church is satisfied, and the result has been temporary acceptability, but a damaged concept of what it is that God really wants of them.

And so I look at the faces of these kids, and realize that so much more is being caught than taught right now.  And if I am going to be frustrated and impatient and even resentful, they are certainly going to catch that.  So what do I do with this dilemma?

I don’t know.  But I know that God cares about this.  He loves these kids.  It is no accident that they are a part of our lives in this time, in this place, in this way.  And so, I intend to ask Him for the answers.  For wisdom.  For creative ideas in how to keep them excited and enthusiastic and COMING.  And for creative ideas in harnessing the energy, directing the hearts and minds towards things eternal (they are not too young for this!) and for the patience I (and all of us in our complacency) will need.  In the past, I’ve made the mistake of thinking that the children that rode to Sunday School in the Yutzy Van were somehow our “property” to maintain in the church family.  The years, and some heartbreaking failures have shown me how wrong that mindset is.  It’s important for there to be a family that is their primary support/contact and authority, if you will, but it is imperative that these children form relationships within the church family that they look forward to exploring and expanding and enjoying.  Friendships with other children.  Exchanges with trustworthy adults.   All things that can help to point them to a God who wants to be an integral, vital, living part of their lives.

It’s a big order.  And inconvenient.  And it doesn’t feel very “comfortable” or “tidy” or even “safe.”

And that bench that has been so quiet and peaceful and somewhat orderly will just have to embrace the change.

As will the graying grandma who likes to sit there.

 

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“I intend to be inconvenienced for Jesus’ sake!” 

These words are ones that often ring in my head when
I have decisions to make about involvement in other people’s lives.

Do I really mean this?
They are very hard words, to be honest. 
And the very word “inconvenienced” is something that goes against my grain.

Sometimes I tell myself that I am getting older.
That I deserve some peace and quiet.
That my heart has been walked on enough. 
And when all is said and done, how much difference will my contribution to the Kingdom really make?  How much of it is wood, hay and stubble?
How much is gold, siver, precious jewels?

And how much is my “inconvenience” enabling someone else to ignore what God wants to say to them through the struggle?  Do I allow people to struggle just because it is “good for them” and “they’ll never learn if they don’t hit bottom” (or some other inane thing I like to say when I really don’t feel like being involved)?

And why are the most heartrending stories on my back door step?


And why are they so incredibly cute?

 

 

 

“Lord Jesus, the children, THE CHILDREN!!!

May you have mercy on us all!

And in that mercy, may your greatest gift be that of showing us the way to love as you do,

Inconvenienced, or not.”

 

 

 

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. . . A time to tear down, a time to build

 

The 2010 Christmas Village . . .

 

. . .that gave us all so much enjoyment, (but especially the Small Fry) . . .

 

 

Has been taken down . . .

 

And (along with the manger scenes) been boxed up . . .

 

And put away.

 

The Sun Room at Shady Acres is back in place.

And it feels good to have it back to normal after two months of Christmas village.

 

Now that we can get out of the front door of the Sun Room, we are celebrating our finished deck railing

We are so very happy with how it turned out. 

Thanks, Davey!

I’ll try to remember to post a better picture when the weather turns warmer, but we think it’s really, really nice!

 

I celebrated the end of the Season by making a big pot of Chicken Rice Soup.

It has been warm and comforting on these wet, cold and silvery winter days.

There is much to be thankful for.
  My heart is full.
And I give grateful praise.

 

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This morning, in our church gathering, our song leader, Joel Bontrager, chose the song, “God of Grace and God of Glory  (from the Mennonite Hymnal, song #434).

It’s funny, yet delightful, how certain songs will trigger memories that make you smile on a Sunday morning that has been difficult (at best) and made more difficult by a bad attitude (that was me this morning, sorry to say!).

But Joel led the song, and I suddenly remembered Chorus practice at Greenwood Mennonite School.  The year was ’66-’67, and there were two new teachers at our school that year.  A very, very young Don Yoder and a new EMC graduate, Henry Shank. The two of them took the Greenwood community by surprise, and I dare say that more than just a very impressionable eighth grade girl were never the same again. 

Some times I wish I knew the adult dynamics of those days.  (I suspect that I’m better off not knowing.)  But Don Yoder was a much loved cousin who had actually boarded with my family on weekends while he went to LMS, and in my eyes, he could do no wrong.  And then there was Henry Shank who somehow looked at this insecure and often ridiculous teenager and decided that he saw some things to encourage and bless, and did so with an open and generous hand.  It wasn’t long until he was also a trusted and much loved advisor.

Mr. Shank directed the high school Chorus that first year that he was at GMS, and Mr. Yoder also participated, lending his great voice to the young men’s section of the choir.  One of the songs we sang was “God of Grace and God of Glory” and one day after practicing it at great length, Mr. Yoder, having observed that it was a great favorite of Mr. Shank, made one of his quiet snide remarks about it being “Mr. Shank’s wedding song.”  Of course, this little joke went around the students, who were quite interested in the fact that Mr. Shank was planning his wedding to a certain beautiful Lois Bechtel in the near future. Somehow the lyrics made us snicker when we applied them to a marriage.  How little we knew!

And then, one day at practice, as we prepared, once again, to sing the song, a student happened to mention, sotto voce, but still heard by our director, “Humpf!  Mr. Shank’s wedding song!”

First a look of puzzlement, then one of enlightenment, and then one of humor passed across Mr. Shank’s face.  And soon he was laughing out loud as he gleefully said to a somewhat amused but red-faced Mr. Yoder,  “You’re responsible for that!!!”

Ah, Mr. Shank.  We couldn’t know then that your life would be cut short — that you would marry that girl you loved so much, and together would have three beautiful children, and then, only 5 days after your 40th birthday would go to be with the Lord.  Sometimes  I think of the days when you introduced us to some of the great songs of the church, and how music will always be a part of the memories I have of you.  And “God of Grace and God of Glory” will always be “Mr. Shank’s Wedding Song” in my head, though it was, of course, NEVER sung at your wedding.  Today I looked at the words of this great song, and from the standpoint of a marriage of over 37 years, think it might just be one of the best wedding songs I have ever heard. 

If more of us could live the principles found here, truly petition the requests found here, and invite this “God of Grace and God of Glory” into the heart of our marriage, what a difference it would make in our homes.

 

God Of Grace And God Of Glory :

God of grace and God of glory
On Thy people pour Thy power
Crown Thine ancient church’s story
Bring her bud to glorious flower
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
For the facing of this hour
For the facing of this hour

Lo! The hosts of evil ’round us
Scorn Thy Christ, assail His ways
From the fears that long have bound us
Free our hearts to faith and praise
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
For the living of these days
For the living of these days

Cure Thy children’s warring madness
Bend our pride to Thy control
Shame our wanton selfish gladness
Rich in things and poor in soul
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
Lest we miss Thy kingdom’s goal
Lest we miss Thy kingdom’s goal

Save us from weak resignation
To the evils we deplore
Let the gift of Thy salvation
Be our glory evermore
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
Serving Thee Whom we adore
Serving Thee Whom we adore


Words by Harry Emerson Fosdick
Music by John Hughes


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All in a Day’s Work

It’s been another cold week in Delaware.  Certain Man was sick when the snow fell last week, and he didn’t get the lane scraped.  He thought it was going to snow again and he would just do it all at once.  The only problem was, there were state buses and many different cars and pickups going in and out and that first snow got packed pretty hard on the area right in front of the garage.  Some days the sun would come out a little and melt the top enough to make glare ice when the sun went down.

And then, he was right!  It did snow again.  That is, it snowed again after it sleeted and put some more ice on top of the old ice.  So bright and early on Wednesday morning, Certain Man got out his trusty tractor and pushed the little bit of snow around that was out there so the lane was somewhat clearer.  But that ice, right in front of the garage, stayed right where it was — only slicker and thicker because of the sleet that had fallen on it.

In the mornings, when putting Blind Linda and Our Girl Audrey on the bus, Certain Man’s Wife would look at that thick layer of ice and could almost see one of them crashing down in disarray and disaster.  The bus drivers weren’t happy either.  CMW explained to them that it was because Certain Man had been sick, but it seemed to be falling on unsympathetic ears.  It was beginning to concern her.  What would be the liability if one of the drivers slipped?  And what would happen if one of the ladies went down?  None of these scenarios seemed to be such that it would simplify her life any.  She thought she had seen some salt or ice melt in the garage, but a careful search had turned up nothing.  And since there is no longer a cat in the house at Shady Acres, there was no kitty litter, either.

CMW likes to be warm and dry.  She likes the pellet stove to run without interruption, and though it isn’t her favorite thing to do, she is well able to carry the 40 pound bags of pellets that supply the large holding area in the stove.  It comforts her greatly that Certain Man is very conscientious about keeping a supply of pellets in the garage, off the floor and easily accessible at the top of the ramp that comes into the back door.  A bag lasts a little less than 24 hours in this cold, cold weather, so it is inevitable that, some of the time at least, CMW needs to carry pellets and fill the stove.  Lately it seems like it is all the time. 

It seems like the job of cleaning out the ash tray at the bottom of the stove is also her responsibility.  The very efficiently burned pellets make a fine, dust type ash that pushes out of the chamber and falls into the tray.  Depending on the type of pellets, it hangs over the edge of the burn chamber like a blackened clump of snow, hanging off the roof of the chicken house.  When this happens, whomever is tending the stove takes the pointed claw-type thingy that came with the stove and scrapes it off and into the usually overflowing tray so that the fire can burn a little more efficiently.   It usually makes a bit of mess when the burn chamber is cleaned, but a greater mess is almost always forthcoming when the ash tray gets cleaned because, unfortunately, it seems like Certain Man and CMW tend to wait on each other to do it  — and it gets quite full, indeed.

So, today, CMW was alone in her house — a rarity, and not unpleasant at all, to be truthful.  She had turned down an invitation to go shopping and was pretty tickled about being able to stay in.  And then she noticed that her fire was going out.  She needed to carry pellets.  Then she noticed that the ashes were hanging over the edge of the burn chamber and that the ash tray was overflowing into the bottom of the stove.  That was when she got a bright idea.  What would happen if she were to spread those ashes over that thick pad of ice in front of the garage?  She went to fetch her bag of pellets while she pondered.  H-m-m-m-m-m.  This just might be a good idea!  Whenever she cleans the ash pan, she always just dumps the ashes into the empty pellet bag to carry out, so it would really not be much trouble to just dump it out over the ice.

She hauled the bag of pellets in to the family room and plunked them down on the hearth.  Certain Man always keeps a scissors on the mantel for opening the bags of pellets and she cut off the end and hoisted it up and began pouring it into the hopper.  Suddenly there was the sound of a great spilling of pellets.  Oh, dear!  CMW rutched the bag around and peered under it to see what was going on.  “Oh, dear!” is right!!!  Somehow the bag had caught on the edge of the stove and there was a tear in the side of it close to the bottom and pellets were pouring out at an alarming rate.  CMW stuffed her hand into the hole to stem the tide, and finished pouring the bag into the stove.  Suddenly, a familiar stench accosted her nostrils that made her stomach turn.  Cat pee.  Male cat pee.  Whoo-hee!  Some male cat had found this bag somewhere and marked his territory but good!  And CMW had been hugging that bag with all her might.  So.  Guess what (who) else was smelling like cat pee???

CMW wrapped the bag up good, and went over to the large family trash can to see if there was a bag there from the previous fill.  There was.  So she discarded the torn bag and went back to the family room and emptied the ash pan into the large pellet bag.  When everything was in order, and the stray pellets brushed together and picked up from the floor and the hearth and the stove was steadily burning, she washed the offensive smell off her hands and forearms and changed her clothes.  Then she proceeded to the outdoors and attempted to scatter the ashes over the ice pad in front of the garage.  That was almost an exercise in futility.  The ash was such a fine dust (see paragraph #5) and the wind was just strong enough that most of it blew away and ended up against the white siding of the farmhouse. 

“Certain Man will not appreciate that!”  Thought CMW, just a little bit ruefully.  She looked at the muddy looking mess the ashes (that had managed to go where they were supposed to!) were making on the top of the ice and it began to dawn on her fur brain that there might be something else that Certain Man wouldn’t appreciate.  He had just gotten his driveway sealed before the cold weather set in and CMW was suddenly concerned.  “This might not have been the best idea,” she admitted, feeling guilty.  “What do I do now?”

What she did then was to go back into the house and tried to forget about it.  It was still morning.  The sun hadn’t moved to that side of the house and who knew what might happen when the sun hit it?  Besides there were things on her “to do” list that needed attention.  But it kept nagging at the back of her brain, so a little before two o’clock she decided to go and check on things out there.  The sun was shining brightly, but that ice pad in front of the garage looked pretty much the way it had three hours earlier.  CMW decided to have a go at it with the snow shovel. 

At first the going was tough.  And the sturdy snow shovel just couldn’t move the ice.  But as CMW kept chopping and hacking away, slowly, slowly, the ice started to chip off and let go.  CMW began to feel a little bit cheerful.  Chop, chop, chop.  Shovel, shovel, shovel.  The progress actually began to impress her.  “I could be paying someone to do this, ” she thought.  “I wonder what Daniel would have been willing to pay someone to do this?”  And she began to hold imaginary conversations in her head with her better half concerning the dangerous situation if the ice wasn’t removed and how much he may have been willing to pay to have the ice removed if someone did a really careful job, etc., ect., etc., until the job was suddenly done!  The ice was all gone and with it the ashes. (Which, incidentally had seemed to have a sort of reverse effect on the ice.  Where there was a liberal sprinkling of ashes, it seemed like the ice had gotten harder and adhered to the blacktop and didn’t want to come loose!)  It was getting colder, and even though the sun was still shining, it felt like it was time to get inside.

CMW took one last look at the clean area and was very content.  If Blind Linda or Our Girl Audrey or even one of the drivers fell now, it wouldn’t be because the area hadn’t been cleared off.  That felt a whole lot better to CMW.

And she went into the house to get a cup of hot coffee.

 

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