Monthly Archives: September 2015

Marking the Years

She was lithe and young and beautiful.  Her long navy dress with its spaghetti straps looked out of place at the minimal services roadside rest area.  Her hair was flawlessly casual, and she washed perfect hands under the free standing sink beside mine.  I halted in my handwashing, my hands suddenly still under my own stream of water.

“Wow,” I said softy.  “You are all dressed up!”

She laughed.  “Oh.  Well.  Thank-you!”

I finished washing my hands and went around the corner to the side power blow dryer and held my wet hands under its blast.  I watched as the skin on my hands rippled and moved under the powerful stream of air, and the skin looked old and droopy — like my Grandma Yoder’s did when I was a little girl, and I watched her peeling peaches or washing dishes or braiding rugs. The similitude startled me and I felt a sudden sense of strangeness with the hands that have been mine all my life.  I finished the drying and went back out into the sunlight where Certain Man was waiting on me.  He was in his usual good humor, and he smiled when I walked over to him.  The smiley crinkles that I love so much ran along those perfect eyes and deepened as I came towards him.

“Are you ready to go?”  He asked in his pleasant voice.

“Sure am!” I replied in an effort to keep my voice light, happy.  I couldn’t voice the unrest I was feeling, how old and clumsy and worn out and uninteresting I felt.  We both got back into the mini-van and headed on down Interstate 81 towards Delaware and Home.

It had been such a restful weekend for me.  We had been planning this Yoder campout for almost a year, and it had been on a whim that I had signed up last November.  I had thought that maybe even My Sweet Mama would feel good enough to go along, and I had rented a cabin that would hold six people as soon as it became available.  But instead of planning and packing for Mama’s comfort, I had spent the week (before we went to the campout)  helping my sister in law, Rose, clean out some cupboards in Mama’s house, and we (mostly Rose) had even made great progress in the room that I had dreaded the most — My Daddy’s study.  It was a satisfying week, we accomplished a LOT, but there is still a long way to go, and the reminders of the passing of time and my own mortality were rife in the boxes and files and notes of a lifetime.  Where did the years go? How did I get to be almost sixty-two?  Am I really ten years older than Grandma Wert was when I was born?  I mean, she was old!  Am I really only two years younger than Grandma Yoder was when I was born?  She was ancient!

I felt the years in the pages of the memories that I packaged and brought home to peruse.  I felt the years in my bones as I realized that there were a whole lot of things that weren’t going to get done.  I felt the years in these replaced knees as Rose crawled around on the floor, getting into places that were just not accessible to me.  I felt the years in the weariness that came from activity that, even ten years ago, would have been remedied by a good night’s rest.  And it was with a sense of how mortal we all really are that I packed for the weekend away with my cousins, and knew that we would have even fewer faces than we had only a year ago.

The weekend was wonderful.  My cousins are mostly older than me, and I looked at the beloved faces and saw the tears and heard the laughter and felt the joy of belonging to a family who knows they aren’t perfect, but still enjoy the heritage and the memories of being a part of Dave and Savilla Yoder’s expansive family.  Most of the weekend, there was only one of the older generation there.  Uncle Paul came early and stayed to the end.  On Sunday, Uncle Jesse and Aunt Gladys and Aunt Miriam put in brief appearances, and there was a smattering of the next generation, but mostly it was the cousins and their spouses, sitting around, talking and remembering.  The thing is, from the youngest of the grandchildren to the oldest, there is only 24 years.  When you consider that there were sixty-one of us, that’s pretty impressive!  Over the years, we’ve lost some — Rhoda Arlene and Steve (Uncle Monroe and Aunt Naomi) Robert and Joseph (Uncle Jesse and Aunt Gladys) and Eugene (Aunt Miriam and Uncle Elmer) but there were 35 of us born in the 50’s. (15 in the 40’s and 11 in the 60’s.)  So what that means is that, as cousins, most of us are growing old around the same time.  This weekend, along with the memories and songs and eating and tears and laughter, there was talk of retirement and pensions and aches and pains.  There were assistive aids and talk of surgeries.  We really are getting older.  But in that company, with the people I’ve known and loved from my youth, I didn’t feel old.  I just felt typical and familiar and ordinary and comfortable.

But now, at this roadside rest, face to face with this adult and vibrant youth, my age and mortality were sitting uncomfortably in the pit of my stomach.  “You don’t mind getting older,” I told myself, chiding the wistful longing for the vitality and opportunity that suddenly seemed long gone.  “You have always embraced the passing years, relishing maturity and wisdom and experience and the stages of life as they come and go.  What is going on here?”  I shook back the tears in the seat beside Certain Man and redirected my attention to the book on tape that we were listening to.  The stories of James Herriott filled the car and we went on down the road.

I stole a look at the profile of this man that I love most.  His observant eyes were on the road, his strong hands on the steering wheel.  I saw his muscular arms, tanned dark from his many hours outside on our farm.   His hair is silver, his beard white.  The glasses have been a constant since before I knew him, but I never think of him looking old.  His face is unwrinkled except for those smiley crinkles, cheekbones still that defined, chiseled look above the beard that he has had without reprieve for forty years.  I think about the life that we have had together for over forty two years and everything seems so timeless — yet brief.  I think about our children, scattered and making their own lives and I think about My Sweet Mama, now home to Heaven, and how very short everything about this life really is.

It’s an old, old story, and it’s been told to every generation from the beginning of time:  Life just goes so swiftly.  Time doesn’t stop for anyone.  Before we know it, we will be — well, HERE!  And it hasn’t taken but a blink of an eyelash to get here.  And someday, down the corridors of time, but in that not too distant future, our grandchildren and great grandchildren may gather on a lovely September day and talk about the kind of people we were, the loves and misadventures of our lives, and the implications of the mistakes, the value of the successes and the memories they have of who we were and what we did and how we lived our lives and how we died.

And in all of these things, I pray that they laugh.  I pray that they will forgive.  I pray that the memories will be encouraging and that there will be understanding granted for our humanity.  I pray that they will be able to say, as I did this weekend, that when there was nothing else for Grandma Yoder to do but to hold on through the hard times, that she did what needed doing because it was the right thing to do, and she was committed to doing the right thing.

But if they talk of nothing else, I pray that they will speak of the Faith that held me steady.  That the One who died for me is a Redeemer, not only of broken lives, but of broken hearts, and bad situations and mistakes and follies and foibles of a woman whose humanity sometimes causes her to catch her breath with longing at that which is gone and can never be regained.

And I pray that they will think of me There!, in that land where we will be forever young, forever whole, forever healthy, and that they will know beyond all doubt that I am more alive at that moment than any of them are.  And that there will not be a single thing There! that will cause me to turn a wistful glance towards a long ago past.  It will be forgotten.  And what I’ll have there will be far better than what I left behind.

Ah, my friends, my cousins, my siblings and most of all, that Man that I Love Most– hear this, once again one of my favorite quotes from the pen of Robert Browning:

“Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made. Our times are in his hand who saith, ‘A whole I planned, youth shows but half; Trust God: See all, nor be afraid!”

And so, for what has been, what is, and what is yet to come, my heart gives grateful, expectant praise.


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Filed under Aging, Family living, My Life

CMW Looks for a Way

“I’m so proud of myself,” I announced to the general public of my kitchen, as I came out of the laundry room.  “General public” in this case was all of Certain Man and Youngest Daughter.

Youngest Daughter was mixing up a cold glass of Ovaltine and milk.  Certain Man was dishing himself a bowl of ice cream with some toppings.  I heard the p-f-f-f-f-f-f-t-t-t-t sound of the Redi-Whip can as he swirled a couple of rounds on top of his cold vanilla sweetness.  “Wonderful!” He said.  “What did you do?

“I did surgery on myself!” I announced triumphantly.  That stopped everything.

“What did you do???”

“I took that troublesome lump off the inside of my lip that I kept biting.”  I had the offensive tiny white piece in my between my thumb and forefinger.

This produced sounds of retching from Youngest Daughter, with great holdings of the stomach and strong statements as to the state of her health and why she would never be a surgeon and other strong verbalization of disapprobation.

“Hon!”  Said Certain Man.  “What in the world do you think you are doing?”

“I was tired of biting it all the time, so I took it off!”

“But how? You have a fit every time I try to do something even little, and then you go and do something like that!”

“I was careful,” I said, pulling my lip out.  “See!”

“But how did you do it?”  He looked askance at where the rather large skin tag had been.

At my last cleaning, I had asked my dentist about removing it, and he said it was a common thing and he didn’t seem to think I would want to spend the money to have it removed.  I have been troubled by it for years and would often peer in there to see if it was going away by itself (it wasn’t!) or getting larger (sometimes it seemed like it maybe was!).  I had tried various things over the last few months when it seemed that I was catching it over and over again and giving it a hearty bite when I was eating.  I’m not saying that I didn’t unknowingly “worry” it at night, but I truly seldom “bit my lip” in my waking hours (unless it was this accidental, excruciating move that caught me so unaware and sometimes made me want to cry!).  Over the last month, I’ve taken to giving it a good brushing with my toothbrush, followed by some good listerine mouthwash, and I thought it was actually doing better, but then, last week one day, I crunched down on it and we were pretty much back to square one.

Tonight, after putting the ladies to bed, I noticed that it was more tender than usual.  I explored it with my tongue and wondered again what I could do to get rid of it on my own.  I perched in front of the bathroom mirror where there was plenty of light and looked the situation over.  And had a sudden inspiration!

“I wonder what would happen if I took a length of dental floss and tied it around the base of that skin tag and pulled it really tight.”  There was a time, years back, when I had a large, blood filled skin tag on my leg and I tied a string around the base of that very tightly and it dropped off in a few days and I’ve never had a bit of trouble with it since.  I honestly didn’t think this thing through very carefully, but I got a piece of waxed dental floss and tried to loop it over the skin tag.  It slipped right off.

“Lord Jesus, maybe this isn’t going to work.  But if this is something I can do for myself, would you please help me?”

On the very next try, it looped over nicely and I pulled it tight.

Ouch!  That hurt.  Maybe I should just take it off.  But it wouldn’t come off.  It wasn’t as tight, but that dental floss was securely around it and wasn’t budging.  I looked at my poor skin tag and at the dental floss hanging out of my mouth and wondered if I could trim it off short and just leave it there for the night.  That didn’t seem like a good idea.  I thought of calling Middle Daughter, the nurse, but remembered that she isn’t fond of this sort of ministrations to family members.  Besides.  She would probably scold me.  I decided to pull it tight again.  I only got so far, and then it really hurt again.  I thought maybe I should just knot it, trim it off till morning and see what happened.  But I couldn’t get it to knot since the original crossover was behind the skin tag.  So I thought some more.  Looked at it some more.  Pulled it tight again until it hurt and then stopped.

I decided to bring it around to the front of the skin tag and see about knotting it there.  So I brought it around, crossed it over and pulled it tight again.  It still hurt but not quite as bad.  H-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m.  Maybe if I would pull it tighter by degrees, I could manage to actually squeeze it off.  I kept working at pulling it tighter and tighter until I finally could pull it no tighter.  The skin tag was pearly white against the pink skin, but no matter how hard I pulled on the ends of the dental floss, it wouldn’t cut through the connecting tissue.

I went and got a razor blade.  Everyone was absent from the kitchen and didn’t notice my goings and coming.  I went back to the bathroom mirror and assessed the situation.  A razor blade did not look like a good idea.  If I only had a sharp scissors!  No, wait.  Maybe I should put an ice cube in there to deaden anything that I might feel before I snipped.  Back to the kitchen to get an ice cube.  When I put that on the lip, I realized that things were not quite as “dead” as I thought.  I discarded the ice cube in the bathroom sink and thought about it.  I again pulled on the dental floss ends and didn’t feel any discomfort at all in the skin tag.  Then I remembered that OGA had a very sharp, little scissors in her top dresser drawer.  I fetched it out, sterilized it under the Instant Hot in the kitchen and went back to the bathroom mirror.

The two ends of the dental floss worked very well to pull the skin tag up and out from the rest of the lip.  I positioned the blades of the scissors as carefully as I could and “snip!” the skin tag was off.  No pain.  However, the dental floss was still firmly attached to the connecting material.  I hadn’t cut close enough!  So once again, I took my scissors and tried to actually get into the dental floss that was holding flast.

Success!  The dental floss came off, leaving a tight little “stitch” still in place.  There was no bleeding, just a smooth, clear place where the bothersome skin tag had been.  It was about then that I did my little victory dance, and went to the kitchen to make my proclamation.

Certain Man was looking at me dubiously.  “That still doesn’t sound good,” he said disapprovingly.

“Doesn’t it look okay?” I asked him.  “I mean, it isn’t bleeding at all, is it?”

“No,” he admitted, “It’s not bleeding, and it doesn’t look bad, but it could have been bad.”  He took his bowl of ice cream and went back to his chair.  I finished up a few things in the kitchen, and felt for changes on the inside of my lip.  Eventually the little “stitch” came out, but apparently it had stayed long enough to keep serious bleeding at bay.  If there was one thing that worried me, it was the way mouth injuries will bleed and bleed and bleed.  I seem to be spared that.

And now Certain Man went to bed.  He had an eventful night apart from his wife’s shenanigans.  The house is relatively quiet — and I will also head to bed. It’s been a good day for me, too, and I am very tired.

Tonight, I am thankful for a great many things.  I had lunch today with a woman whose heartache over her family was beyond my comprehension.  I give thanks for my good, good husband, our five terrific offspringin’s and their spouses and our grandchildren.  I’m grateful for my two sisters and three brothers and their families.  We really don’t realize how good we have it.  May I just say that the decision to follow Jesus is still the one thing that makes a difference in the lives of people?

I’m thankful for tomatoes.  And for canning jars and cookstoves and recipes and food for the winter.

I’m thankful for my kitchen that sees so much living and is so serviceable and handy and pleasant.

And I’m thankful that God sometimes chooses to honor the harebrained ideas of this Delaware Grammy with crazy exciting results and gives me so much joy on the journey.  And I’m especially thankful for a place inside my lip that is unfamiliarly smooth tonight and that, as of now, it really does not hurt.

My heart gives grateful praise.

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Filed under Family living, Stories from the Household of CM & CMW

The Littles

We’ve started the new Sunday School year in our congregation.  Even before Mama fell in May, I had planned to take the month of June off from teaching The Littles because of family vacation and a Yutzy reunion.  With the passing of my Sweet Mama, it was easy to just let other people take care of things and to soak up time with my peers in an adult class of women.  I needed them.  I needed the time.  And it was healing and good.

But I missed my littles.

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We had many good times in the crowded room beside the kitchen at Grace Fellowship Church’s gathering place, where our church body has been meeting since the fire damaged out building on the corner of Carpenter Bridge and Canterbury Roads.  This picture was take the night we got together to pack a goodie box for another child.  It was only taken seven months ago (Actually seven months ago today!) but I cannot believe how much they have grown and matured in these short months.  Katie is a self assured kindergartener, Judah is talking and paying much better attention and Charis is more aware of the needs of her classmates and is less jealous of her Grammy’s attention.  All three are more participant.

The summer had passed so quickly, and I thought often and prayed that God would show me whether I should offer to teach the class for the year coming up.  We have some talented young blood coming up in our church, and teaching is a blessing that is often overlooked in the maturation process.  I know that not everyone is cut out to teach, but I also know that choosing to teach has been one of the ways that God has used in my life to encourage growth, personal study and reliance on HIM for wisdom and courage and strength and even results.  The blessings that I have reaped have been beyond what I have deserved.  And quite honestly, though I really wanted to teach this particular class again, I also didn’t want to step in and  volunteer when God had laid it on someone else’s heart to teach the class.  He may have had blessings abundant in store for someone else, I reasoned, and it would be wrong for me to grasp someone else’s opportunity.  And so, even though I thought the end of summer was coming quickly, I decided to hold my peace and wait and see.

Then one of our superintendents, Davey Burkholder, approached me last Sunday and asked if I would be willing to teach that class of Littles.  I was suddenly unsure of what I should do.  I asked for some time to think about it.  He said that was fine, and in the reorganization part of our Sunday Morning service, it was announced that they were looking for a teacher for the class and they asked for volunteers.

“Whew!” I thought.  “That will be a defining event.  If someone volunteers, I will know that it isn’t for me this  year.”

But I kept mulling it over and over in my head.  I asked Certain Man what he thought  I should do.  He didn’t know.  And he didn’t feel strongly one way of the other from what he said.  I asked Middle Daughter whether she had any advice for me.

“Well, Mom,” she said carefully, “I think that wanting to teach the class is a pretty good indicator of what you should do.  It’s something you enjoy, and if you want to, then I think you should!  I’m taking the year off from the young women’s class, and if you need me, I can help you out.”  And that pretty much did it for me.

So I waited a few days, then called and got the curriculum and found myself back in one of my favorite spots yesterday morning.  The lesson that we used on Sunday was one from the last quarter that hadn’t been used, and it was called “A song for walking outdoors.”  One of the activities that I decided to do was to take the three on a walk outdoors looking for different things that they could pick up in nature to put in their ziploc plastic bags to take home with them.  A flower, a leaf, a seed pod, bark from a peeling tree, a stone, berries. Grace Fellowship Church is located in an industrial park, and is surrounded mostly by concrete and asphalt, but there were stones, a few trees, lots of weeds, and  a couple of patches of grass.  Around a corner and past a chain link fence divider there were some landscaping bushes around another building that I hoped would provide some berries for variety.

I checked the time and then said, “Let’s go over there and see what we can find.  There might be something different over there!”  The three of them were delighted and we headed out across the asphalt patch that separated the us from the other building.

“We have rules,” said Katie confidentially.  “We aren’t allowed to go anywhere on this pavement over here without a grown up.”

“That’s a good rule,” I told her.  “You should never go anywhere without a grown up unless your Daddy and Mommy say it is okay.  And this isn’t a good place for you to go unless there is a grown up with you.”

“Yup,” she said happily.  “But you are a grown up!”

I laughed.  “Yes,” I said, “I guess I am!”

“You are a very old grown up.” She said. (Emphasis Katie’s.)

And I laughed again.

Oh, my Katie-girl!  If you only knew how it is.  Just yesterday, my own girlies were five years old and learning family rules.  The day before that, it was me.  I only turned around twice before I got “very old.”  But you and your brother and my granddaughter, all growing so fast, remind of once was and I feel the eternity of the spirit in these old bones.  You cannot imagine how it is to feel five years old in your heart, but almost 62 in a body that will not run and jump and dance to the music of our incredible world.   But I promise you this.  There is coming a day when this body will dance to the music of Heaven.  And my spirit, eternal and free, will be as young as yours.

And what is inconceivable to me now will be an actuality.

My heart sings grateful praise.

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Filed under Grace Fellowship Church, Laws Mennonite Church, My Life, Praise

Learning Lessons from OGA

“Mare-Ann,  I ‘on’t like ‘at soup.  I ain’ gonna eat it.”

She sat at the table, looking at the homemade beef stew that I had put in front of her like she expected something to crawl out of it.  I walked over to see what was wrong.

“Why not, Audrey?”  I couldn’t see anything amiss.

She shrugged.  “I ‘on’t like it.”

“Why don’t you like it?  What’s wrong with it?”

“It ‘on’t taste good.  I ‘on’t like it.  I ain’ gonna eat it.”

“It hurts my feelings, Audrey, when I make good food for you and you say it isn’t good.”

She was unmoved.  Her lips were in that familiar, straight. intractable line.

“You need to eat it.  It’s good, Audrey!.”  I looked at the soup to see if there were any mushrooms in it, but I hadn’t put any in it, knowing that she wouldn’t eat it if there were mushrooms.  “Look, Audrey!  It has our own beef, our own potatoes, our own carrots.  It is good.  You have to eat it.”

She set her jaw, stubborn, but didn’t say anything.  I finished chopping Blind Linda’s identical supper into small pieces, and got her started eating, and continued working in the kitchen, keeping an eye on Audrey’s progress.  She would occasionally pick up her spoon and stir it around, but not a single bite went to her mouth.  She nursed a can of caffeine-free pepsi a little at a time, and when she thought I wasn’t looking she ate her banana.  She burped loudly a time or two and watched with her owlish eyes while Linda polished her plate off in her usual record time.  Then, when she thought enough time had elapsed, and I wasn’t watching, she ate her Schwan’s chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich, and then continued to sit in her chair with that stubborn, determined air.

I pondered my options. I knew that if this came down to a confrontation, it wouldn’t end well.  I was ashamed of how angry this whole thing made me.  It wasn’t just this incident.  It felt like a whole catalog of miniscule rebellions had been adding up over the last week.  In addition to being angry, I was soul weary.  A deep self-pity was washing over my heart as I realized that, once again, these two individuals that I care for are mostly incapable of understanding or even caring about what I was feeling or thinking or dealing with on any given day.  Not that they couldn’t have learned, somewhere along the line, but temperaments as well as life experiences have left them feeling like they have to watch out for #1 at all costs.

And so, I rattled around my kitchen for a while and fought an inner war with myself.  “It’s only a bowl of soup, Mary Ann.  For pity sakes!”  “But it’s the principle of the thing!”  “Do you really want a fight on your hands?  Is it worth it?  You know she’ll be angry and psychotic for the rest of the night.”  “I know, but –”  And on and on and on.  I finally decided that I was just going to go out of the house for a minute and find out what Daniel was doing.  That way, she could leave the table, dump the soup in the trash, or do whatever, and I wouldn’t have to deal with it.

So I cheerfully said to her, “Audrey, I’m going to go out and see what Daniel’s doing.  I’ll only be a minute.”  And I forced myself to smile at her.

“Alright,” she said, without any enthusiasm.

I toyed with the idea of traipsing around on the deck to look in the kitchen window to see what she did when I left, but I decided that was a little overdone.  I went on out, saw Daniel working himself silly in the hot evening sun, and then went back in.  Audrey was gone.  Her supper cleared away except for the white corelle bowl, still filled with a thick beef stew, swimming with chunks of succulent beef.  It sat, lonely and defiant at her place at the table.  I sighed and scraped it into the compost bucket and cleared the rest of supper away.

We didn’t speak much the rest of the evening.  Whenever I did talk to her, I acted as if nothing had happened, and she, though not overly friendly, did not mention the uneaten beef stew.  The evening finished as usual, with bedtime juice and the usual routines.  I nursed my hurt feelings, and wondered if this was one of those things that I was just overreacting about.

Morning dawned, and with it, no lessening of my angst.  I try to keep mornings as happy as possible, with cheery greetings, silly songs and extra help for Audrey with dressing, breakfast and such.  But this morning, there was not much cheeriness.  Rather, there was a war going on in this carnal heart of mine.

“Maybe I should just turn the tables on her,” I reasoned in some of my lesser glorious moments.  “I’ll put out her meds, but she can just get the rest of her breakfast by herself!  She can get her own banana, fix her own tea, get her own ice water, and make her own oatmeal. And do without her strawberry yogurt.   If she doesn’t like the food I fix for her, she’ll just have to find out how far she gets by herself!”

It’s not that she can’t fix her own breakfast, but over the years that she has been here with us, I have found that fixing her breakfast for her sets her into a better frame of mind, makes her feel loved and, as a result, makes it an easier start to the day.  So I thought and pondered and practiced how I could say this in a way that would make her know exactly how wrong she had been, how she needed to suffer for what she had done, and learn her lesson from the (obvious) natural consequences of her behavior.  I almost had it down pat when that little voice came into my thoughts that always discomfits my best laid words.

I started thinking about our Audrey girl.  She isn’t a child.  She’s 67 years old.  Most of her life, all of her decisions have been made for her unless she provided enough disturbance to make things uncomfortable enough that someone would do things her way.  And by the time she got anything accomplished that she wanted, it was so long getting it done that she felt like it was only done because people were aggravated (not because they loved her).  Which, unfortunately, was probably true.  She has endured hurtful words, physical abuse, social ostracism, and dealt with paranoia, pain and misunderstanding over and over again.  In the years that she has lived with us, we’ve tried hard to make these years the best years of her life, and constantly reassure her that she is loved, that she is wanted, that she is NEEDED, that she is safe, and that she is a grown woman and that, as such, she has choices.  There will always be things that she wants that she cannot have.  She would like to live independently.  She would like to not take her psych medicine.  She would like to have massive amounts of money at her disposal to spend as she wants.  She would like to live on pepsi and chocolate and chips.

And while I do try to make sure that she eats properly, it really isn’t my right to tell her what she likes and what she doesn’t like.  And if she really doesn’t like beef stew for some reason on a given night, how is that offense-worthy?  And if a person with a history of diminished value on almost every aspect of her life can’t even decide that they don’t want supper on a given night, is that cause to treat her with decided coolness?  Or to think of ways to “punish” her?  Well, I wouldn’t go straight to “punish” but make the “natural consequences” more difficult for her?

I decided that I would fix part of her breakfast for her.  She could get her own oatmeal, but I would do the rest.  I still wasn’t feeling all that gracious, but I knew I had my own heart work to do, and I also knew that God has been so gracious to me when it comes to things like this that I was pretty sure it would right itself without any help on Audrey’s part.  And she was more grudging that she had to fix her own oatmeal than she was grateful for what I had done.  But I decided that was okay.

The next day, at Byler’s Store, I found some breakfast sandwiches that looked wonderful.  She loves Jimmy Dean Sausage, egg and cheese croissants, and I thought these looked like they would be even better.  I brought them home.  I thought they were a little more work than Jimmy Dean, and they were on biscuits instead of croissants, but they really looked yummy.  When she came out to eat breakfast the following morning, there was a napkin with a note on it, her tea and yogurt and banana and ice water — and the new breakfast sandwich standing ready.

She didn’t like it.  It was “too dry” and the flavor wasn’t good.  She coughed and snorted and carried on and sighed.

She was probably halfway through the sandwich when I started to cry.  I stood at the counter putting out her meds with my face averted from her and cried hot, bitter, disappointed, sad, misunderstood tears.  I really didn’t know why this all mattered so much to me.  I knew that the tears weren’t just for that silly sandwich or even Audrey’s stubbornness and independent quirks, but I felt such a deep, deep sadness and a good dose of frustration and a (teeny bit!) mad.  But Audrey never noticed, and it was time to get Linda finished up and out the door.  I got the tears dried, packed the lunch, got Linda into her wheelchair and pretended that everything was fine with Audrey.

When everyone was out the door, I may have cried some more.

But then God  (it’s always better for me when God interrupts my pity parties with a lesson from what’s troubling me) reminded me again of something that has nothing to do with how Audrey responds, but everything to do with how I respond to her.  To her, yes, but also to a Heavenly Father who provides me with everything I need, gives me more than I need, and loves me with an everlasting love.  And sometimes I sit at His table and refuse to eat.  Or protest that what He has given isn’t good enough.  That it doesn’t taste good.  That it goes down dry.  That it doesn’t satisfy me.  And it doesn’t cross my mind to think about what He thinks of my evaluation of His provision.

“Oh, Lord Jesus.  This hasn’t been about Our Girl Audrey at all, has it?
Create in me a clean heart, Oh God, and renew a right spirit within me . . .

And this humbled heart shall bring you grateful praise.”

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