Monthly Archives: May 2011

One Thousand Gifts . . . 



229.  A mason jar of lilies . . .



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Rachel’s Life Roads

There was a time when she would not go to sleep unless she held my hand.  Night after night, camped out on the floor of our room, my hand draped down over the side of the bed so she could know that I was there and still attached.  Not comfortable with a toddler in our bed, I compromised with a pallet on the floor between our bed and the wall.  She seemed more than comfortable there.  I always made sure that her hand was not going to go anywhere when she fell asleep and let go because that always got her awake with a jolt.  Paralysis in my shoulder became more common than conjugal encounters (and far less satisfying).

Certain Man, a prince among men, was never jealous or resentful.  “She won’t be here forever,” he would say good-naturedly with his half-grin.  I wondered.  Thoughts of a ten year old camped out on our floor became less and less attractive all the time.

He was right, as usual.  There came a day when she decided that being in an older sister’s room had decided benefits, and away she went.  She’s been going ever since.

I thought today about all the roads this girlie of ours has walked down.  Many, many have been the miles that she has walked in unfamiliar and even unsafe territory.  She has slept in hostels and tents and cars and bus and train stations as well as airports.  She has narrowly escaped falls from high places, got food poisoning in Luxembourg, vomited in the trash cans of Paris train stations.  She has lived in big cities, walking the streets where Satan has a heyday.  She has witnessed the selling of drugs and ammo and bodies and souls.  She has bicycled alone through the darkened streets of Bangkok at unearthly hours.  She has encountered terrifying situations, been divinely rescued more than she knows, and been in situations that caused her to face her own mortality square on. 

And I don’t think she has told me the half.

Today she seems so far away.  Almost every day there are letters from a college in Ohio reminding me that when she does come home, there will be but five days (5!) for her to walk the country roads around Shady Acres with which she is so familiar.  I wonder if she will tramp the length and breadth of this old farm the way she did when she was a little girl, and if she will remember the days when her world was this small.  I wonder if she will sleep soundly enough for me to creep to her bedside in the still of the night and watch her even breathing and drink in that face that feels almost unfamiliar.   I wonder if this practice of being alert has become so much a part of her that she never sleeps soundly.

What I wonder most about is her heart.  It’s difficult to see the hard side of this destitute old world and still be soft.   She’s adapted so well, grown so much, expanded her horizons so far beyond what I have ever needed to, or, quite frankly, wanted to.  She’s an adult, with life dreams and the fire to fuel what she believes is her calling.  What about her heart?  Over the months, I’ve come to realize that, had she stayed at home, and been content to be safe, that heart of hers could be even harder than it is this way.

 Staying safe, and being comfortable hardens hearts, too. 

And in the worst sort of way.


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Our Love Bug

Our Little Love Bug

I’m missing Love Bug incredibly much!!!

Eldest Daughter and Beloved Son in Law took her along on their
“Honey Trip”
to celebrate their 12th anniversary. 
(Fancy that!!!)

And today they should be home again!

Another “Happy Day” at Shady Acres!





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Happy day at Shady Acres . . .

My Sweet Mama is getting better and better.  It is such a relief to our family.  She went to church yesterday, and came home with us for lunch.  Grandbaby Charis is enthralled with anything that belongs to the outdoors, and Grandma had noticed a bug on the window screen leading out to the new deck.  Of course, we needed to investigate.  The poor bug was rather comatose on the arm of the rocker outside the window when this picture was taken.  Charis was fascinated, but wary.

Then Charis got up on Grandma’s lap for some lotion and some hugs:

And then they smelled the flowers together:

This past week was flower planting week at Shady Acres.  I still have a side bed to do and some containers that I would like to do, but I got a lot of flowers planted this past week with Our Girl Nettie’s help.  Charis loves the flowers, and there is a little spot on the railing between Grammy’s new window boxes that is just fine for sitting:

And laughing at Mommy and Auntie Beebs when they make faces:

And smelling the flowers:

(Geraniums sure do smell funny, don’t they?)

And then there is always Auntie Beebs to hug and kiss on:

. . . So many wonderful gifts that I’ve been given.
I am so thankful for each happy day.


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This isn’t a story.

It’s nothing drama-filled.

It’s not even very interesting.

But can anyone tell me what this plant is?

view one:

view two:


View three and four:



Certain Man’s office gave this to him in honor of his ten year anniversary with the state as Plumbing inspector. 
The bloom comes up on a thick, broom-stick like stem.
The flower has been beautiful for almost two months and shows no sign of wilting. 
There are very sharp, needle like projections at the end of each “petal”
and they are a great deterrent for two year old hands that like to pat the flowers.
  It is so unusual, and so beautiful.
It did not come with any care instructions, or recommendations as far as light and watering,
so if someone knows something, I’d be happy for the information. 



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Resurrection Morning . . .

We gathered in.

Wonderful breakfast, wonderful friends, but my heart was heavy.
I hadn’t heard from the three kids we take to Sunday School all week. 
I planned so carefully for their presence, and for this day of gladness.
“JESUS IS ALIVE!!!” I had planned to tell them.  Their mother was going
to come.  And their Mom-Mom.  And (maybe) the man they call “Daddy”
(when they don’t call him by his first name).

But the best laid plans of mice and men — and especially Mennonite women–
often go awry.  And these plans certainly had.  When I brought my Sweet Mama
home from the hospital on Wednesday night, my heart was heavy with the things
that were on my schedule for the days immediately following.  I had prayed and
asked for wisdom and felt like the wisest thing was to “clear the decks” of
everything except taking care of Mama.  One of those things was our usual
Thursday night supper/playtime/gabfest with “my kids.”   I had thought ahead
to Sunday Morning, and wondered if they didn’t come to Thursday night if they
would show on Sunday morning.

And so I prayed about that, too, and decided that I would just talk it all over
with their mother. She didn’t answer her phone (no surprise, really) so I left
a detailed message, asking her to please call me so we could discuss things about
Sunday morning.  Then I waited to hear from her.  Nothing.  So I prayed about
that, too, and I honestly felt like God said that the ball was in the Mother’s court.
And if the children didn’t come because she hadn’t followed through, I needed
to lay it down.  Let it go.  Trust that God had a better thing in mind for this
Easter morning.

Easter Morning.  The people at Laws Mennonite Church gather in.  I’ve said it
before, but the truth is there is so much to celebrate when we are together when
it isn’t Easter, but so much more so on the Holy Days as we remember the sacrifice
made for us.  It helps, I suppose, that the food is usually spectacular when we are
together, and Easter Sunday Brunch was no exception.

Then we gathered in the familiar auditorium for the Easter service.   Just as we got
started, Certain Man’s chicken house alarm went off, and he needed to leave.  I always
miss him when he isn’t there beside me!  The Sunday School class we call the “Younger
women’s class” had carefully planned the program.  We had a guest worship leader. 
Peter John and his wife, Brianna, had agreed to be with us to provide music and
direction for the meeting.  Pete led off with the old song, “Watch the Lamb.”  Such
an appropriate song for this season, and one that I sincerely love. 

I was totally unprepared for the trainload of emotions that was barreling down
the track straight at me.

There was a time, probably 20 years ago, when my brother in law sang
that very song in our Easter program.  Suddenly, I was transported back in time
to when he and my sister, Alma, and their four children were a part of our church family.
As were my brother, Mark, and his wife and their six children.  As were my other sister,
Sarah, and her husband and their six children.  I sat there in the meeting of our church
family and suddenly there was no thrill of joy in this resurrection story.  The day
had become one to count the losses.  I looked around at this group of people whom
I love dearly, and appreciate deeply, but there were so many people missing who
once were there.  Somewhere around the middle of the song, the tears began to fall.
I missed our sons.  I missed my many cousins.   But it hasn’t just been my physical family
that has chosen to go.  It’s been friend after friend after friend.  And (I weep to
acknowledge) the walk away isn’t finished yet with the people I love.

I struggled to sing those songs of joy, and I tried to let the joy seep down through
the heaviness to the place in my heart where things usually get resolved for me.  The
words were timeless, the truth needed no defense, the resurrection is something
that I believe with all my heart.  And this spring, this glorious spring!  What a
constant reminder of a mind-boggling phenomenon. 

I reminded myself that this music was the music of praise, of victory, of joy! I
listened to Pete’s voice and heard a three-boy band, practicing in my living room
a decade ago, and thought about Pete and Lem and Steven working so hard to mesh
their voices and talents.  Pete. Steven. Lem.  My heart gave another lurch, so I
forcefully wrapped that thought up in a distraction and put it away.  I couldn’t think
about this now.  But the train just kept on coming.   It seemed like we sang song after
song that brought back incredible memories.  There was the song that was sung at
Rachel and Lupe’s baptism right there in our little church.  I tried not to think about
Thailand and Guatemala and my faraway girlies.

And I got increasingly good at “not thinking about things” until one of the very
last songs.  I tried, I really did . . .  and finally gave up when the words and music
to an old Keith Greene song floated through the quiet sanctuary.

My eyes are dry,
My faith is old,
My heart is hard,
My prayers are cold.
And I know how I ought to be
Alive to You and dead to me.
But what can be done for an old heart like mine?
Soften it up with oil and wine.
The oil is You, Your Spirit of love.
Please wash me anew with the wine of Your blood.
Keith Green

In the memories of my mind bank, I saw a young man, Oldest Son’s best friend,
alone with his guitar at the front of the auditorium.  He was singing this song
from his heart as only he could sing it, and it struck a resonant chord in more
than one discouraged soul.  It was dead quiet when he finished, and I
remembered the poignant acknowledgment of the condition of my own “old heart”
so in need of softening and washing.  Now, sitting in the congregation of believers
this Easter Morning, I wondered if I (personally) or we (corporately) had learned
anything at all.

Later, praying about a totally different situation, I was mulling over losses and
going on and making the best and seeing the progress and the whole concept of
“hope.”  As I prayed yet again for Karissa and Kevin and Carla and Eric and Kelly,
my heart was struck anew with how this life and its losses and the things that
happen that we hate, and the people that we miss and the situations that are just
so “wrong” in our eyes are still not out of the control of The Father.  I don’t
believe that God “likes” loss and reversals and pain.  In fact, I think He hates it
with a God-intensity that we have no comprehension of.  It’s all part of the fallen
world.  It’s what happens in a world that is under the curse of Sin.  HOWEVER- –

God had a plan for the fallen-ness of this old world and the horrific pain that comes

as a result of it.  And there was even proof!   I call it Resurrection Morning.  With
that mission accomplished,  God, through His son, Jesus, had a plan that included
GRACE for every single one of us and our shortcomings, our character  flaws, our sin. 
And just as there is a “best thing” for those who have such daunting things to face as
Karissa and her family, so there is a “best thing” for our little church and the challenges
that we have faced and are facing.                                                                                  

Do I know what that is?  No, I don’t.

Do I intend to keep on doing my very best for The Kingdom?  With all my heart. 
Do I have hope?  Absolutely!
But it is a choice as well as a relinquishment.
So I am not discrediting or minimizing the losses, but I cannot allow it to cripple my vision.
I choose to hope, even as I choose to do my best and let God write the rest of the story.     


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While I wasn’t looking, Spring has come to Shady Acres once again!


The Tulips have come — and gone.  They were so delightful this year!


The  Quanson Cherry Tree was more beautiful than ever —

(These blossoms are mostly gone, too. 
Rain and a steady wind make for quick work!)


The Bleeding Hearts are still blooming–


And the Lilacs are almost over, too!


As most of you know, My Sweet Mama has been here with us for the past few weeks.
This has made it possible for us to see some of our family that we don’t usually see.
Last Sunday, those who could make it were here for Easter Dinner.
That was a really special time!  I neglected to have my camera handy, though.

Then yesterday, My nephew, Mike and his lovely wife, Heather were here to visit Mama with their three children.
Middle Daughter has discovered a bubble recipe and found instructions for a very innovative “bubble maker.” 
Mike didn’t take long to figure it out and he blew huge bubbles for his two boys, Jadon and Colin.
while Heather blew small distracting bubbles from the side.


While the boys and their parents did the bubble thing,

Eight year old Lauren climbed trees!


And Certain Man cleaned out flower beds and picked up leaves.

It was a wonderful, end of April Day!


This morning, “Our Kids,” dressed in their Easter Finery, were along to church with us.
Due to a mix-up in communication the week before, they didn’t make it along to our Easter Brunch and program.
Can’t NOBODY tell me these three aren’t just about the cutest things ever!

The last two weeks have been tumultuous at their house.
I’m learning that I can’t fix even small things in some situations.
I’m also learning that God has a plan for this family that is way bigger than I can understand.
It’s my hope that we can make a difference.





Once again, Lord Jesus, may your watchful eye be on the children.




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