Monthly Archives: November 2013

The other night while I was talking to one of the intended recipients of our annual Thanksgiving boxes, I was impressed with how often he entreated me to please pray for him.  I’ve thought a lot about that in these last few days, and decided that it would be appropriate to include a prayer in each of the boxes.  Tonight as we packed and passed out twenty very nice baskets, this prayer also went with each family’s box:

Heavenly Father,

                May your blessing rest upon this family today.  Where there is sickness or injury, would you bring health and healing. Where there is conflict, would you bring resolution and peace.  Where there is sorrow and sadness, bring comfort and give joy.  Where there is despair, give vision and courage and Hope.

                May this box, given in the name of your Holy Son, Jesus, remind this household that someone cares, someone remembers.  In the days ahead, may their thoughts and hearts turn towards you with honest desires to sincerely know you and find out your will for their lives both individually and as a family unit.

                Oh, Divine Master, no matter what comes into the lives of this family, may they discover your salvation, freely given, yet needed so desperately by us all.  And in this season of Grateful Praise, may this be where our deepest gratitude lies:  That you loved us and sent your Son, Jesus, to die for us so that we might have eternal life.

                                            ~Amen

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November 27, 2013 · 3:41 am

November 22, 1963 Fifty Years ago today.

So, for those of us who can remember– Where were you and what were you doing when you heard the news that John Kennedy had been assassinated? I was a fifth grader at Greenwood Mennonite School. Carolyn West Mast was conducting art class when there a a knock on the door. She answered it, and was immediately distraught but would not tell us what had happened except to say that “Something terrible has happened.” These were the days of the Cuban Crisis, and air raid drills and I don’t know about the rest of the class, but I was sure that someone had dropped an atomic bomb on our fair land somewhere.

Dave Hertzler was our home room teacher, and he came into the room and had us get ready for an early dismissal. We stood beside our desks, with our chairs all up on top they way we always had to before leaving and he announced in a tight and sad voice, “President Kennedy has been assassinated.” Which was the proper way to tell us except that a lot of us slower lower Delaware Mennonite elementary students didn’t know what that big word meant.

“What??? He’s been what???”

“Assassinated. Killed. He’s been shot.”

Talk about terror settling into the heart of a child. I was sure the Russians were gonna’ get us for sure. But they didn’t. And the country pulled together in the next drama filled days to say Good-bye to the youngest president we had ever had. We know now that he wasn’t a good man by any moral measure, but the country loved the First Lady and the young children and the man who said, “My Fellow Americans. Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.

“And the lights went out all over Camelot.”

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Searching for a Meaningful Christmas

He is only eleven, but he looks fifteen.  He reminds me so much of our first foster child, and when I look at him I wish that we could fill his heart as easily as we can the stomach as he shovels down his second bowl of cheddar cheese chowder, polishes off a piece of homemade bread with butter and homemade strawberry jam, then downs some ice cream.  He helped me make the chowder, following my directions with precision and energy when time was short before church the other night.  I just love him so much.

He has been loved.  He knows he is loved, and when he writes his thankful list he always lists, “I’m thankful for my loveful family.”  He has been bullied in school, though, and he can go from calm and reasonable to rowdy and, well, “eleven year old boy” in about three seconds flat, depending on what happens.

I’ve been searching for something suitable for my class to do for the Christmas program.  I know he can sing.  Last night, as he rattled around the sun room, waiting for us to be ready to leave for church, I was listening to the Mennonite Hour Singer’s Christmas Album.  I enjoy it greatly, and that is an understatement.  The songs bring back a thousand memories and there are times when I feel like a little girl in the living room of a house that still stands on Greenwood Road, listening to the old stereo, a boxy thing on four legs, while the rich, full music of four part harmony spills over and around.  It is my childhood Christmas and all is right with the world.

So I listen to the old, old songs of Christmas and ponder ways to work them into something that would be doable for my class.  And then the sound of a male voice comes out of my kitchen CD player.

Sweet little Jesus boy
They made you be born in a manger
Sweet little holy child
We didn’t know who you were
Didn’t know you’d come to save us Lord
To take our sins away
Our eyes were blind, we could not see
We didn’t know who you were

Long time ago
You were born 
Born in a manger Lord
Sweet little Jesus boy
The world treats you mean Lord
Treats me mean too
But that’s how things are down here
We don’t know who you are

You have told us how
We are trying
Master you have shown us how
Even when you were dying
Just seems like we can’t do right
Look how we treated you
But please Sir forgive us Lord
We didn’t know it was you

Sweet little Jesus boy
Born a long time ago
Sweet little holy child
We didn’t know who you were

Suddenly, I got this sweet, sweet picture.  This eleven year old prince is standing in the candlelight at the Christmas program of our little country church, and he is singing this song.  Someone is accompanying him on a quiet guitar, and the congregation is moved. It is a holy moment.

I was so excited.  I thought about it, got more excited, and then called him out to the kitchen.

“Do you like to sing?”  ( I thought he did.  I mean, he sings in church . . .)

“Not really.”

“Oh, come on.  Can you sing?”

“Um.  Not really.  Not very good.”

“Would you want to sing something for the Christmas program?  I mean, if someone would help you learn it and help you practice?”

“Um.  I don’t know.  I don’t really think so.  Maybe.”

“Listen to this song –”  I back up the track and the music fills the room again.  I can tell he isn’t impressed.  At all.  “Just listen!  Here.  Where it talks about ‘the world treat you mean, Lord.  Treat me mean, too.’  That is something you can kinda identify with –”

I can tell I’ve lost him.  We scurry around, getting ready for church and then get off.  Later, on the way home, the kids are talking about the Christmas program and what they would like to do.

“Ms. Mary Ann wants me to sing this old slow song,” I hear him tell the others. And then they are off!

The dreams of old songs by candlelight die quickly as they talk of writing their own rap for the program.  I hear “manger” and “danger” and some pretty creative ideas floating around and I look again at this sixty year old heart that has a hard time letting go and wonder when I will learn.

Isn’t it far better for them to write about Jesus in ways that are meaningful to them, with songs they can “stand” and that spark interest in their hearts and start their creative juices going than for me to get my picture perfect cameo in the Christmas program?

I suppose so, young prince.  That’s why I gave you and your friends permission to try to see what you can come up with.  God help me to keep my wits about me!  I’m just not a jammin’ and a tappin’ and a rappin’ woman.  Ask Youngest Son.  He knows what happens to this mama when there is just too much of a hip-de-do-dah thing agoin’.

And with that, I leave you with this final tip of the hat to what I saw in my head for a few brief minutes:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g8bEOVi-qJ4

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Of Funerals, Full Moons, Nasty Bugs and Tornadoes

Certain Man came breezing in last evening around nine o’clock.  His uncle, Joseph Beachy, passed away in Plain City, Ohio, and the funeral was yesterday morning.  CM left Friday morning around eight-thirty.  He actually spent less time in Plain City than he did on the road, if my calculations are correct.  He saw a bunch of people, ate supper at Der Dutchman with his Brother in law and sister, Ivan and Rachel Zehr, saw Youngest Daughter for a few happy hours, took in the funeral and the burial, talked to one of our “foster kids” (now grown) stopped by Yutzy’s Farm Market for some lunch meat, cheese and trail bologna, and got on his way home by 12:30pm yesterday.  He seems none the worse for wear.  And I am so glad that he is home again, I could almost dance.  Nothing seems quite right when he is gone.

The full moon casts its shadows over Our Girl Audrey these days.  I hear her rattling around in her room during the night through the room monitor.  Drawers open and shut and there is much rustling about.  Just when I think that I will need to get out of my lair and trudge down there to see what is the matter, the bed squeaks and everything is quiet again.  In the morning, she either doesn’t remember a thing or claims that she didn’t sleep at all.  This morning she lay quiet, without even her usual snoring until ten o’clock.  Then I reached in under the covers and tickled her feet to wake her up.  She seemed like she was doing pretty well, but by the time she came out for breakfast, she was walking half bent over and nearly crying.

“I jus’ cain’t make it, Mare-Ann,” she said, “I’m hurtin’.”

“It’s a rainy day, Audrey-girl,” I told her as gently as I could.  “It will be okay.”

“I know, but I cain’t make it,” she said again.  “I feel bad.”

“It’s okay,” I told her again.  “There is nothing you have to do today, so you can sit and rest.”

“I know, but I don’t think I can do my room,” she said sorrowfully.

“That’s alright, too,” I said, trying to be cheerful.  “You don’t have to clean your room.”

She ate her breakfast and got a banana and ate that, too.  She drank her tea and took her meds.  And then started again.

“Mare-Ann,” she said mournfully, “I don’t think I can do my room.”

“Audrey!  What did I tell you?

“About what?”  She asked, blinking like an owl.

“About your room today.”

She looked at me like I was the one who wasn’t thinking straight.  Then put both hands up in a hopeless gesture.  “I dunno.”

“I said,” said this somewhat disgruntled care provider, “THAT YOU DON’T NEED TO WORRY ABOUT CLEANING YOUR ROOM TODAY!”

She looked at me sideways, like she really didn’t believe me.  In the very least, she hates me to raise my voice at her.  “Alright,” she said resignedly.

I went back to putting meds into their places and organizing stuff in the med boxes.  I looked over and saw the frowny lines between her eyebrows.  I know that look.  She’s getting ready to say it all over again.

“There’s something else,” I said a bit forcefully.  She looked at me with her guarded expression.  “I don’t want you worrying yourself to death all day over your room and whether you should clean it or not.  Just don’t worry about it.  It’s all right.  I don’t want you fretting and stewing about not doing it.”

“You know I will,” she said, and then laughed ruefully.

I laughed, too.  “But you don’t have to!” I told her.  “You aren’t feeling good today, so you are supposed to just rest.”

She looked at me like I didn’t know what I was talking about, but took herself to her room and her chair and her heater and her television.  I’m pretty sure she wasn’t feeling up to par though because every time I checked on her, she was asleep.

But now, it is Sunday night and I’m really feeling under the weather myself, so I have a great deal of sympathy for how she felt yesterday.  Maybe mine is from the unseen reaches of the full moon, but I have a feeling that it is a nasty bug that is making its rounds.  However,  Certain Man is home, taking a huge load off my shoulders, our revival meetings with Dale Keffer at our little country church have already been an incredible encouragement to me, and if this cough and wheezing doesn’t keep me awake, I should be able to have a fairly good night’s rest.

And that is the news from Shady Acres, where Youngest Daughter has survived evacuation from her apartment to safer shelter on the Campus of Cedarville University, and where some of my extended family are suffering huge losses from the same storm that ripped through Illinois.  Steve and Lois Ulrich, Phil and Holly Hostetler, our prayers are with you tonight.

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The weather and some excitement around Shady Acres.

It has gotten cold in Delaware.  We even saw a few snowflakes this week.  Okay, more than a few, but not enough to make any impression.  Except on Certain Man.  He saw a whole lot more than he likes to see for an entire season.  Never mind that he says the same thing when he only sees one.

“I saw a snowflake today,” he will announce with that glint in his eye, “and that was already two too many.”  He thinks that strong statement puts his dislike of snow into pretty plain perspective.  I learned a long time ago that it does little good to argue with him.  Or to even act delighted about falling snow.  I won’t win anyhow.  You know, that business about
“A man convinced against his will
is of the same opinion still.”

Yes, that.

It is true.  At least it is true with the man that I know best.

He’s been working on getting things settled down for the winter.  He hauled out his chainsaw and “lopper-offer” thing that is long handled with a rope that comes down.  He uses this to prune off the higher up branches that are not quite so large.  He has done a remarkable job of taking down the old Mimosa tree that died, and thinning and pruning the swamp maples that stand like sentries at the road side of the big lawn.  He has developed a serious interest in making it a little easier to see across the lawn from the road to the house and vice versa.

This is because there has been a prowler at Shady Acres.

And because of the trees, it is hard to see anything that is going on under the cover of darkness.

It seems to have begun sometime last summer.  He and I were attempting to sleep one night a few months back when we smelled cigarette smoke.  Our windows were open, and we both wondered a bit, but people do walk on the road beside our house, and we have neighbors who smoke, so we just figured that it was someone on the road or a neighbor enjoying a smoke that was wafted in on the night air.  We discussed but didn’t investigate.

Then a short time later, while weeding the flower beds, we found a cigarette stuck firmly between the ends of two deck floor boards — like someone had put it there to store it somehow.  It wasn’t something that was accidental at all and we had some speculative moments as we wondered how in the world that got there, but again, we are pretty clueless and it didn’t ruffle our feathers too much.  This summer, there were times when we heard things, but we attributed it to a cat or some such things.  Sometimes, if I were down on my chair reading, and there was some strange, muffled thumps, I would quickly outten the light and head up to where brave Certain Man was sleeping.  And I would creep in beside him and feel really safe once I was up there and that was good enough for me.

But over these last few weeks there have been a few things we could not ignore.  Black tire tracks all over the cement between the chicken house and the manure shed.  Endless lines of circles that seemed to be just mischief, but disconcerting just the same.  We thought maybe a feed truck had done it  — gotten misdirected some how and had gone up to that area and turned around.  But there were a few too many circles, plus we were not due a delivery and had no feed ticket for that night.  Certain Man did report it, but the state police came and looked, but appeared unimpressed.

Then about three weeks ago, we found more cigarette butts in the rose garden beside the back deck that goes out to the wash line, and one lying up on the deck, against the house in a small pile of leaves.  This I found one day and was a bit startled as well as mystified.  I saved everything to show Certain Man.  When he perused the whole area, he decided to leave the deck lights on out to see if it would discourage the trespasser.  So, that night we went to bed with the yard lit up like a Christmas tree.  The only problem was, our hospice nurse daughter was working that night, and when she came home, she turned the back lights off before going to bed.

The next morning, on my way to the washline, I found an Hawaiian lei in the rose garden, wrapped around a three inch tree and stretched out to the full length with a single twist to it.  The lei had been in the pavilion, in a box where I kept prizes for the fourth of July picnic.  The night had been calm.  Certain Man and I had been out there late the night before, trying to figure out about the cigarette butts lying around.  This was obviously someone who wanted us to know that someone had been around.

Certain Man called a friend who is a state trooper, and she said that he should report it so that there would be a paper trail if anything more serious happens.  And so a friendly State Policeman came by and took notes and observed and agreed with us that it did not appear to be malicious, but more just mischievous.  He agreed that someone had been trespassing and encouraged us to keep a closer watch.  And then he went away again after a friendly chat with Certain Man about chickens and chicken companies and flock supervisors.

Since then we have installed some surveillance.  There are motion sensor lights on that side of the deck.  And we’ve received pictures of the area from the middle of the night.

A cat, making its way across the yard.

A feed truck, dispensing feed at the chicken houses.

Middle Daughter’s lights, shining across the yard when she made the corner to drive into the garage in the wee hours of the morning

The lights from the garage windows that shown across the patio at 1:47 a.m. when Certain Man, awake with his bothersome restless leg syndrome, went to the garage to fill a milk pitcher.

And one very windy night, the camera sent me 527 pictures of what appeared to be NOTHING, just picture after picture of dark outlines of deck rails and window boxes with waning summer flowers.

But no prowler.  Oh, the motion sensor lights come on at times, and we never know what it is, but the surveillance has not caught the picture of anyone or thing that looks even remotely suspicious.

“What are you thinking,” I asked Certain Man the other morning.

“I don’t know,” he said thoughtfully.  “I’m sorta’ thinking that it has gotten cold and that will make people less likely to prowl around.”

“But what are we trying to do, here?”  I asked him.  “What if we do get a picture of a prowler?  What are we going to do then?  Are we going to confront him?  Report him?  And do we want to catch him or are we just trying to discourage him from coming around?”

I didn’t get an answer on that.  Certain Man and I may not be exactly united on this front.  I honestly don’t want to “catch” anyone.  And whomever it is hasn’t done any damage (heretofore, anyhow) but I just don’t feel very secure with thinking that there is someone lurking on the dark side of my house.

Certain Man is doing some serious trimming.  We continue to monitor, and make use of the motion sensors.  I don’t run out to the back yard after dark with quite the abandon that I have enjoyed in the past.

But most of all, I continue to Pray.  It is still the best thing I have found to do in situations such as these.  “The angels keep watch,” I told Our Girl Audrey the other night when I was telling her about our escapades.  “We have the Angels.”

“And Jesus, too,” she reminded me in quick repartee.  “We’ve got Jesus!”

Ah, yes, Audrey-Girl.  We’ve got Jesus, too.  The hosts of Heaven have kept watch over this house through many dangers, and I believe they are watching still.

Besides that, in spite of all we do, the Bible says,

Psalm 127

1 If the Lord does not build the house,

    it is useless for the builders to work on it.
If the Lord does not protect a city (or in this case HOUSE)
it is useless for the guard to stay alert.

And so, while we will do what we can to be safe, and try to be responsible, we are in God’s hands, and under His watchful care.  May we live faithfully and joyfully and thankfully.  For HE is worthy of our praise.

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November 15, 2013 · 3:51 am

Harvest Joy, the Season of Grateful Praise

There’s been lots of activity around Shady Acres, the farm we call Home.  Harvest is everywhere.  The farmers run up and down the roads with their full grain trucks and wagons, interfering with traffic, and causing short tempered people to be even more short tempered.  Delaware’s harvest looks, (at least to my unpracticed eye) like one of the best we’ve had for a few years.  Our squirrels are busy, trying to steal from the bird feeders the winter supply they seem to think they will need.  And, sadly enough, there are hungry people almost everywhere I look.  The food stamp cuts are affecting people I love.

The people in the old farmhouse are looking forward to Thanksgiving and the gathering in of family and friends.  Middle Daughter made and hung this year’s Thankful Wall while I was gone today.  The wrong kind of paper made it necessary for her to do the picture in crayon, and I am just as pleased with the result as I would be with an oil color.  Simple and sweet.

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Tonight the candles are burning,

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. . . and the pilgrims are stuffed in their various corners and crannies.

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And this is Guy Fawkes Night (Bonfire Night) in England and our world traveling Middle Daughter is making a fire in the fire ring and having some friends over to celebrate this happy day.  Eldest Daughter and Beloved Son in Law and Only Granddaughter will join from our family.  Over in Alexandria, VA, Youngest Son is juggling a new job, and lengthy commute to Philadelphia for Grad school as well as a side job as a research assistant, while the Girl with the Beautiful Heart is back at work after the Government shutdown, and needing to exercise her adjectives every day in the situations that she is in.  Out in Cedarville, Ohio, Youngest Daughter is dealing with car troubles, pending tests and presentations and as wonderful an internship as anyone could wish for.  Up in Sugarcreek, Oldest Son and His Ohio Heartthrob are guiding and loving and teaching Oldest Grandson, Middle Grandson and Youngest Grandson that there are things in life that can be trusted (and doing a great job at it, I might say).

And so, with the Thankful Wall hung, the Pilgrims out and the candles burning, the Hot Chocolate Mix is waiting.  Come and see us, sign the Thankful Wall, and have a cup of hot chocolate with us.

Nothing is perfect for any of us, but Certain Man and I are grateful and glad from the bottom of these old hearts.

It is the Season of Grateful Praise, and we give THANKS.

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