Monthly Archives: February 2016

“They Called Him Laughter”

It’s been a wild ride in the Sunday School Class that I call The LITTLES at Laws Mennonite Church.  When December rolled around and it was time for Christmas, I was so behind in the curriculum that it wasn’t even Christmas in the lessons.  There were numerous reasons for this — sickness, schedules that precluded a separate class for the children, and my deep desire to not “waste” any of the already purchased study aids and lesson plans.

But I cannot bear to not have a good celebration of the birth of our LORD, so I set about the first of December to write my own lesson plans, find crafts that  were pertinent and to wing my way through.  The thing I didn’t remember was that December 1st began the new quarter in our Menno Media’s SHINE series.  So as December hurried to its end and the New Year loomed, I realized that I was without new material and that I needed to get stepping.  So I did some thinking and praying and decided that I was going to start with Genesis 1 and tell stories from Genesis until March 1st when the new quarter would begin, replete with Easter appropriate stories and activities for my small fry.

And we’ve had a blast.  I purchased some big beautiful pictures from friend Karen’s bookstore and looked online for child friendly crafts that were not copyright protected and set to work.  We went through the story of Creation, the story of Adam and Eve and the fall of man.  We covered the story of Cain and Abel and then the story of Noah and the flood.  We touched briefly on the Tower of Babel and then marched Mr. Abraham right  on out of Ur of the Chaldees to Canaan and talked about The Promise made.  In today’s lesson, we were talking about the birth of Isaac, how it takes patience to wait for things to happen, and about how God keeps his promises. Children love to talk about babies and they love the idea of old people having babies.

“What would you think,” I asked Katie Burkholder this morning, “if your Great Grandpa Millard and Great Grandma Lura (Benner) had a baby?”

She paused to consider.  “I would think,” she said carefully, “that THAT would be really funny!”

“And Charis,” I said, “What would you have thought if Grandma Yoder had had a baby?”

She laughed out loud.  “That would have been really, REALLY funny!” she said.  And giggled again at the thought of it.

“Why would that have been so funny?” I asked.

“Because they are so OLD!” was the chorus.  (Nobody feel insulted, here.  I’m regularly reminded by this group that I’m really old, too!)

And so I told them that Mr. Abraham was older than any of those people.  He was a hundred years old!  No one could think of anyone who was a hundred years old.

“Why do you think you don’t know anyone who is a hundred years old?” I said.  They looked very thoughtful and then one of them said, “Maybe because they are already in Heaven?”  And of course, that was a good answer.

And so we began the story of Isaac and how Abraham had to wait so long to get his little baby.  “Have any of you had to wait a really long time for something you wanted?” I asked them.  They were ready with the usual “My birthday,” and “Christmas.”

“Anything else?” I questioned.  “Anything else that you had to wait really long to do and your thought you just couldn’t wait?

“Yes,” said Charis.  “I had to wait and wait to be born!  I really wanted to get out of there!”

“Me, too,” said Katie.  “I had to wait so long, too.  It was so long and I was uncomfortable!  I wasn’t born until August Twelff and that was a long time!”

“Grandma Yoder was so lucky,” chimed in Charis, getting tuned in to that thought.  “Her birthday was on the first day of January.  The rest of us have to wait way longer in the year for our birthdays to get here!”

Yes, well. Now you know.

Back to the subject of Isaac we went and we had some projects to complete and the story to finish.  My LITTLES did so well, catching on quickly to why his name was “Laughter” (after first thinking that it was because he was a happy baby and laughed a lot).  They helped to make an instant pudding snack while we talked about how hard it is to wait for something to happen.  The vanilla pudding was divvied up into four containers with lids and they worked on other projects while we waited for the pudding to firm up.

The bell rang before  we were ready, just like it usually does, and there was a mad scramble for the coloring papers and projects and snack bags and out the door the four of them tumbled on their way back downstairs to their parents.  I looked around the room, all in disarray with crayons and markers and glue sticks and cutouts and stars and snack remnants all lying askew about.  It made this Delaware Grammy smile,  and I heard “Isaac” lingering in the corners and all around the cheerful, well equipped classroom.

This Delaware Grammy, short on grandbabies, and at an age when most gals have enough little ones in their lives, finds it to be soul satisfying to have these precious four LITTLES each week, entrusted to my care, to learn to know their hearts, their individual personalities, to hear their observations and to listen in on their thought processes. Each of them fills a different spot in my heart, and they and their families and especially their parents often find their way into my prayers.  Such a happy privilege is mine!

Thank God for the laughter!


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The Perpetuity of Joy

It comes to me in the quiet of the gray of February.  Sometimes I want to push it away, to savor the sadness for a while longer.  But it insists on having a say.

And it whispers in the warmth of a pellet stove’s comforting flame.  I feed yet another bag of fuel into the waiting hopper and think about how happy it makes me to have this source of heat in a farmhouse that is drafty around the edges.

It talks to me in the voices of friends and family, and I hear the love and sense the care.  I can almost touch the intangible when I see their help, freely given.  A clean house, an encouraging note, an errand run, an understanding word, a listening ear, pellets brought into the garage before I had to ask, trash taken to the road . . . The list is endless.

I smell it in the warming scent of chicken cooking on my kitchen range.  The celery and onion combine with the smell of chicken and it makes me laugh to think that I got to the store at the right time to get two chickens for $.75 a pound just in time to make a big pot of soup on this gray day.  When I go to the freezer, there is corn just waiting to be put into the big pot of broth.  And I remember hot summer days and so much corn I wondered what in the world we were going to do with it all.  And then I remember the helping hands and the conversation and the incredible results with more than enough corn for everyone.  I rummage in the freezer and find the Lima Beans that  are carefully stashed from last summer as well.  I remember long hours in the bean patch, with the biting flies and  wasps and stink bugs.  The memories of having bean plants that good friends gave us, picking fat Delaware Limas that my strong husband planted and weeded and tended so carefully, along with the memories of the sweet yellow corn, make me happy down to my toes.  The green limas look vibrant, and I know will taste wonderful.  I drop them into the soup along with with the corn, shred two long orange carrots and put those in for some color.  The lid of my big kettle pops a merry tune while the soup simmers.  It makes me so happy to be able to make soup, enough for us and to share.

On a busy Saturday, my neighbor stops by to get some of that soup.  I’ve not known her long, but she is kind and she offers friendship and smiles and diversion.  We visit together while I fold my laundry and it’s an interlude of shared life and the joy finds me and reminds me how good it is to have new friends and neighbors that are friendly.

The days have been the strange mixture that I’ve learned is normal for February and also for this season of my life.  The sadness wants to crop up, unexpected and unbidden, to drip onto the counter where I’ve turned to try to hide the fact that, once again, I’m crying. And I think about the losses, and  I miss my Sweet Mama, and I want to just stay there in the sadness for a while.  I want to sit on my chair and think  about, well, stuff.  But often, when I go there, there is this little bird that chirps a greeting, and often sings a chop and a trill of joy.  He’s a grey canary, and he lived with my Sweet Mama for the last years of her earthly life.  On days when I’m missing her the most, I’ll stand by his cage and ask him, “Pretty Bird, do you miss her, too?’  He’s often very quiet while I weep.


But sometimes, he sings.  He sings a song that speaks hope and Heaven to my heart.  He sings of contentment and he sings joy.  I listen to his song and think about another bird, no longer caged, but truly home and free and alive and singing.  I know she’s singing!

And through the sorrow, I know the perpetuity of joy.  It seeks me out, it will not let me go.  I will always miss her, and this life will always hold sorrow of some kind, some how (and usually, today!).  But it gives all of life a different color to have glimpses of joy where ever I look and in whatever I see.  Sometimes it’s so fleeting I’m not sure it’s there.  But usually (usually!) I can find it if I look for it.  And so, I will look.

And for this gift of constant joy, my heart gives grateful praise.

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Vinegar and Cinnamon

It was Saturday morning.  It was bed changing day at Yutzy’s Adult Living Foster Care Home and also  the morning for a weekly special medication schedule.  But on this morning, there was also something else on the schedule.  My extended family was getting together for breakfast and to celebrate the birthdays of two of our uncles.  Uncle Daniel was turning 90 on Valentine’s Day, and Uncle Paul would be turning 88 later this month.  For weeks, the plans for this morning had been brewing, and it looked like almost 50 of us would be able to be there.

For years, as many of us as were inclined and able, got together for breakfast about once a month.  Because it was on a Saturday, I almost never attended.  (If you want to read one story about THAT, you will find it here: )  However, when I realized the import of this special breakfast, and heard that there were so many signed up for it, I decided to make it a priority.  We were told to bring a breakfast item for the breakfast bar, and that egg casseroles were being furnished.  I watched (on our family google group) as the items added up: muffins, bacon, sausage gravy, fruit, juice, and decided that I would make a pan of Refrigerator Cinnamon Rolls as my contribution.  That would take a minimal amount of time on Friday evening and a nominal about of work on Saturday morning.  Breakfast wasn’t until 9:30, so that gave me plenty of time to get them finished before needing to leave.

I came down to my chilly kitchen soon after 6 in the morning after mixing up one batch of dough the night before. The air was dry from the never ceasing pellet stove, so I started some water simmering on the cooking range.  Several weeks ago I bought a large teakettle especially for this purpose.  It’s a heavy duty tea kettle (I wanted it as “Amish” as possible — unadorned and hard working) that holds nine quarts of water.


It has worked out well except for one thing.  We have very hard water at Shady Acres, and after a day of faithfully steaming away, there are serious lime deposits on the inside of my tea kettle.  At first, I went after it with a Fuller Brush/Stanley Chore Girl, but after realizing how hard that was on the inside surface, I switched to just throwing a  cup of white vinegar in there every couple of days and boiling it throughout a morning while I was doing other stuff. This was one of those morning.  It wasn’t long until my kitchen had the distinct smell of pickles.

“No matter,” I thought.  “It won’t be long until the smell of cinnamon rolls will overshadow the smell of the vinegar, and it will be okay.”  And I fetched the dough from the garage fridge and set to work on those cinnamon rolls.

Yoder Breakfast sits hard on my heart for some reason.  It makes me think about my Daddy and his brothers getting together for breakfast years ago. It makes me think about my Mama and how she will be absent from this gathering.  It makes me think of the uncles and aunts that are left and how they are aging.  I’m almost always melancholy when I’m getting together with my extended Yoder family.  There’s just too many people that I miss.  And so I think about these things while I work the dough into long roll, and then cut it into the swirled cinnamon rounds and put them in the pans.  I think about this particular gathering and about the ones that are not going to be there.  I think about the faces that will be there that were absent for many years past, and I hug to myself the promise of my husband to go with me, and it gives me courage.  And so the minutes pass.

An hour later, my cinnamon rolls are ready for the oven.  They’ve risen properly and it’s with satisfaction that I slide them into the oven.  It isn’t long until that smell that I’ve been longing for begins to waft through the house.  It’s a rich baking smell, predominately cinnamon, and I inhale it deeply and gratefully.  I rattle around in my kitchen, washing dishes, cooking the base for the cinnamon roll frosting, and straightening up as I go. The smell, for the most part is glorious.   And when the cinnamon rolls come out of the oven and are iced, ready to go, this Delaware Grammy is satisfied with more than the smell.

cinnamon rolls

And though the smell is still wonderful, every now and then I catch a quick, distinct smell of  vinegar in the cooking tea kettle. And that got me to thinking.

Vinegar and cinnamon.  Two distinct kitchen smells.  I’ve grown up in a family that much prefers cinnamon over vingar.  “Sour” is a taste to get rid of if you are our kind of Yoder.  But my tea kettle needed that dose of vinegar.  Without the vinegar, the cleaning process would have been a whole lot more painful and damaging.  The vinegar is what will ease  things along and shine the teakettle up.  I could throw all the cinnamon I own in that teakettle and it wouldn’t help  in the least.  It might smell good, but it wouldn’t fix the problem of that unsightly, hard build up on the inside of the container. Vinegar has its place as well as cinnamon in the kitchen.

Life has a lot of days that are vinegar and cinnamon.  And that day had a lot of that sort of variety.  We went to the breakfast, Certain Man and I.  A chicken house alarm delayed us, and Certain Man almost didn’t make it, but it got worked out and he came and that was sweet for me.  My cousins are aging, and there are life stories among us that break my heart –Death, Multiple Sclerosis, cancer, heart attack, divorce, fractured families, broken hearts. And the smell in my nose and the taste on my tongue is vinegar.  But we come together with far less competition than we once had, and we’ve learned some things along the way about our own frailties and failures.  There is acceptance in the hugs, understanding in the sorrow, and listening ears.  There is camaraderie and sympathy and affirmation.  And it hangs in the air like the smell of cinnamon.

We sang together for a period of time.  The first song chosen was “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” a song we often sing as a family.  The words and music, familiar to most of us, filled the basement of Greenwood Mennonite Church where we had met for breakfast on this cold, cold morning.  Across the table, down a few chairs was my Uncle Daniel.  Uncle Daniel, turning 90, sat at the table with his family.  There were children,grandchildren and even a precious great grandchild.  Uncle Daniel has been a widower for almost 18 years.  He’s had heartache, loneliness, health issues and disappointment.  There’s been a lot of vinegar.  But when he prays, the voice that is starting to tremble speaks of a faith that is strong.  It speaks hope and assurance and Heaven to me, and to us all.  And as the first phrases of Great is Thy Faithfulness were rising, I heard a clear bass voice, strong and completely on key, coming from this elderly man.  He sang with familiarity and intent, and as I looked at him, all I could smell was sweet, sweet cinnamon.

Our lives are a mixture of vinegar and cinnamon.  The thing that challenges me is that we determine what people smell when they are around us.  It has to do with what we choose to put over the flames of our lives.  And in this, I give grateful praise for the examples that have gone before me.  For parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts who have shown the way, confessed that it wasn’t easy, but that it was worth it, and encouraged and prayed and remained faithful.

May we be known and remembered for the cinnamon.


And for those of you who have asked, here is the recipe for those Cinnamon Rolls.

Refrigerator Cinnamon Rolls and Caramel Frosting

1 cup sugar
1 cup margarine
1 teaspoon salt

1  1/2 cup boiling water

Cream together sugar, margarine and salt. Add boiling water. Mix well.

Then, in a separate container, mix:

2 tablespoons (I heap them up) active, dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
in 3/4 cup lukewarm water
(Let this mixture soften and rise)

While it is rising, To first mixture, add:

4  slightly beaten eggs

Mix well, then add yeast mixture and mix well.

Add four cups bread flour, mix well.

(I have a Kitchen Aid mixer, so I mix to this point with my wire whisk attachment, then put in the dough hook.

Gradually mix in another 4 cups bread flour. (The dough will be sticky)

Place in large (at least 4 times the size of the dough), well greased container with cover, and refrigerate at least two hours, but preferably overnight. If you are going to leave it overnight, you will want to check it and punch it down at least once.

Take half the dough and on a lightly floured surface (use as little flour as possible) roll it out into a rectangle. (If you want small cinnamon rolls, roll it long and not too wide.  If you prefer larger, make it about 8″X 12″ ). Spread it with soft margarine, and sprinkle liberally with cinnamon. (Some people like to put brown sugar on at this point, too, but I don’t think it is necessary. The dough is sweet and the icing is very sweet, so I don’t usually put any more sugar into the rolls.) Roll the dough like a jelly roll, beginning at the long end. When you are finished, slice into slices approximately 1″ thick. Place cut side down into a greased 9″x13″ pan. Place rolls touching each other but not crowded. Let rise in a warm place until nearly double in size. (Usually this takes about 45 minutes) Bake at 375 degrees in middle rack of oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Frost with caramel frosting while still warm. Dough will keep in refrigerator for about a week. You can make fresh rolls whenever you want.

Makes 4 – 5 roll pans of six rolls each,

OR, 2 (9″ x 13″) regular size cake pans of 12 rolls each,

OR 1 large “sheet cake” size pan of 24 rolls (unless, of course you are making them small like I did this pan.  Then one recipe makes a large sheet cake pan of 48!)  🙂

Caramel Frosting

1 cup butter (NO SUBSTITUTES)
1 can evaporated milk (12 oz)
2 cups brown sugar

Mix together in heavy saucepan, bring to a rolling boil and boil for one full minute. Pour into large mixing bowl, and add:

2 pounds confectioners sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla.

Mix well. Frosting will be thin while it is warm. Spread liberally over warm rolls. Refrigerate left over frosting.

Questions? Call me at 302-422-5952.

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“Classic Injustice Collectors”

It was an ordinary Friday Morning, January 22, 2016, to be exact.  I was straightening up my kitchen, doing meds and trying to make some resemblance of order on the counter where everything gets stashed, when a story came on NPR’s Morning Edition.  I was half listening, half off in another world when something caught my ear. For real!

The announcer was talking about acts of violence that were blamed on ISIS, when there  is no verifiable connection between the perpetrator(s) and the ISIS organization.  The phrase that caught my attention was this:  “The attacks dubbed as ISIS-inspired in this country have tended to be the work of what law enforcement officials call ‘classic injustice collectors.'”  (Dina Temple-Raston) (*See link at the end of this post if you wish to read the entire story) The commentator went on to say that these are people who have been nursing various resentments for years, and when someone or something happens to push them too far, they “re-invent themselves, using whatever cause will give them a greater sense of purpose as well as . . . publicity.”

“Classic Injustice Collectors.”  That phrase stuck in my mind as I reviewed some events that I’ve been spectator and party to over the last months, and with a pang I realized that it is that business of “injustice collecting” that often plays havoc in my life and in the lives of people I love.  As people of principle, it’s easy for us to accumulate the injustices of our world and the circles in which we move, and to have a sense of being called to bring justice. Especially if it is people we love.

Let me hasten to add that there are injustices of the world that we ought to address.  The poor, the prisoner, the alien, the defenseless and enslaved.  We should never hold back from doing what God has moved on our hearts to do.  But there are many other things that I’m reminded of with vivid (and regrettable) clarity.  There have been so many situations where I have chosen to let my feelings run away with me (“I’d rather be mad!”) or wanted my own way enough to withdraw (“If you don’t play my way, I’ll just take my ball and go home!).  Over and over again, it’s easy to think that people are being insensitive or intentionally hurtful when in fact they are just unaware of how a particular thing might be looking to us and might be unaware of what it is that we desperately want or need.

And yes, that can be hurtful, too.  To think that people don’t care enough to find out what it is that we need, or how we feel or where we are vulnerable can really add to our sense of inadequacy, unimportance or injury.  And so, we collect the injustices like it’s our job, tallying them up, holding them seethingly in our hearts and then, one day when no one, (maybe/probably not even ourselves) is expecting it, it all comes pouring out in the name of a cause that it somehow felt right for us to align ourselves with.  And people are surprised at our venom, confused by our alleged motives, frightened by our rampage and bewildered in the aftermath.  (Where did that come from, and why?)

I find this especially hurtful in the Family of God, but I’m suggesting it is nearly as prevalent here as in general society.  We are “Classic Injustice Collectors” with a spiritual twist.  And sometimes it’s so easy for me to justify what I am feeling with a Biblical injunction or instruction.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a part of a church family.  About how easy it is to carry a grudge quietly or to be so thin skinned that almost anything can set the wrong way with me.  And this morning, again, I was thinking about the words of Jesus when He said that we are to go the second mile, turn the other cheek, bless when we are cursed, pray for the ones who persecute us.  And the words in Corinthians when we are instructed to give up our rights for our brothers and sisters and that we are to forgive.

Forgive.  That’s the word right there.  The only way to living free of the bondage of having to collect is to forgive.  Where else in all the world is there a word that encapsulates a loosening of chains like this one?  I looked up synonyms for this word and some of them are extravagantly descriptive.  (“dismiss from mind”  “bear no malice”  “wipe slate clean”  “allow for”  “bear with”)  Words that would change the state of my heart as well as my outlook if I were to just live there!

I honestly believe that it’s impossible on our own.  And when I say, “that’s what GRACE is for,” I know it sounds trite, overused and simplistic.  But it’s still Truth.  God’s GRACE, extended so freely to us, is the means by which we extend grace to others, offer forgiveness, live in forgiveness, and empty out that collection of offenses.

We all have things that we feel we have to have, or we want deeply.  I really like it when I can feel understood.  Even if someone doesn’t agree with me, if they understand where I’m coming from, that feels good.  There are a few other areas that are very important to me, and I’ve written and re-written this paragraph as I’ve tried to defend myself against past charges.  It suddenly occurred to me that I was collecting offenses again, as I thought about complaints that have troubled me that I wish I could somehow straighten and disagreements over petty things that I’ve allowed to fester in this old heart.  Some of these are as old as our marriage.  Some are a recent as this week.  Will I never learn?

And so, tonight, once again, I turn a heart that knows the darkness of the suffocating blanket of offense to the light of God’s truth and the blaze of His Holiness.  May He shed light and truth and peace into those corners where old affronts and injuries (real or imagined) cower, awaiting the chance to rear their unseemly heads.  And may the freedom wrought by their dispersal be that which will lead more than this Delaware Grammy Home.

I’m not able to do this.  But I know the One who is.

For this and for so much more, my heart gives grateful praise.

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