Monthly Archives: May 2016

The Kingdom of Heaven is like . . .

Matthew 13:33:  “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.”(NLT)

I looked at the proposed lesson for my LITTLES and wondered what in the world I could do to teach this lesson in a way that would help them remember the gist of the lesson.  There were two parts to the scriptural background; the verse about the yeast, and also the two preceding verses about the mustard seed. The word pictures and the activities that were suggested were good activities, but how do I use up a whole class period discussing “The Kingdom of Heaven” with children this young?

And just what is the Kingdom of Heaven in our lives, particularly as it would relate to these verses?  A  small seed, planted, growing into a great bush?  Or yeast, leavening a large measure of flour, completely losing its identity as it bonds with the other ingredients, yet it affects the whole batch of dough, and effects change in unmistakeable, cognitive ways.  What does this mean to me, for Heaven’s Sake?  And how can I make it real for my LITTLES.  I mean, they totally missed the lesson about the sparrows, and this is far more obscure than that.

So I thought and thought, and finally decided to bake some bread with them.  From scratch.  I would ask them what they thought the Kingdom of Heaven was, and we would talk about what it means to do things the way Jesus would do them, and how when we are kind and share and obey and tell the truth, how that “grows” inside our hearts and makes us happy.  I would ask them how it made them feel when other people were kind to them, and shared with them.  What it looked like when other children were disobedient or told lies or were mean, and whether that made them want to be their friends.  And we would bake bread and this time, I would constantly talk about the Kingdom of Heaven and what it means, and how it is like the yeast.  And maybe, this time, they would remember.

So we started out class period by meeting in the basement, and donning our aprons.


We had two extra children, but that was just fine.  And everyone entered into the discussion before getting to the actual mixing of the ingredients.  But once we got started, there was no turning back!

Most of the ingredients, I had pre-measured, so they each got a chance to add something. Here, we are softening the yeast in warm water.

Here Victoria stirs the yeast while we get ready to put the sugar in.

Judah dumps in the salt.

The boys watch the yeast to see if it’s growing.  They get a good understanding of what it smells like, too.  (I don’t think anyone spit, coughed or sneezed in it, but I can’t prove it.  I can say with a great deal of confidence that it did get breathed on!)

And then we stirred . . .

and stirred . . .

and stirred!


The yeast had been rising all this time, and now it was time to add it to our bowl.

Then it was time to talk about what that yeast was going to do to that bowl of dough.
(And they all listened carefully!)

And then it was time to add more flour and stir some more!

Then we finally got it pour out onto the table

. . . and every child got a chance to work the dough.  For videos of each child, go to and scroll down.  This was one of the best parts of the whole morning!

And then it was into the pans to rise.  Of course we had to check on the progress!  Sure enough, the dough was rising!

And then it was into the oven:  Whew!  That’s HOT!  But if you put your little hand on the outside of the oven after it was shut, it wasn’t hot at all.  That’s pretty exciting!


And then they waited and waited, and finally, the bread was brown enough and we took it out of the oven.


Oh, so exciting!  They each got to choose a loaf that was “theirs” and then they buttered the tops and lined up so protectively by the one that was “theirs.”

By that time we had survived the singing of the “blessing song,” when we sang to each child and during which I put my hands on each head when we say their name.  It was when I was doing that,  that we found a tick on one of the children’s heads.  Well, that caused it’s own excitement while Mom and a nurse and eventually Dad came to assist in the removal.  This tamed the excitement somewhat, and eventually, long past the ringing of the bell marking the end of Sunday School, we talked one more time about how the Kingdom of Heaven was like a small amount of yeast that we put into a measure of flour (and salt and sugar and shortening and milk) that made the dough grow and grow until it was enough for nine loaves of bread.  We stood together on  the tile floor in the Gathering Place of Laws Mennonite Church and gave thanks.


“For all good gifts, thy Grace imparts–
We thank thee, LORD, with humble hearts!”

After the church service, they came to claim their loaves, and to gather bread for giving away and thus ended another morning of teaching my LITTLES about The Kingdom of Heaven!

Will they remember?  I don’t know for sure, but I think they just might!
If not now, then maybe someday.

And I pray God that it might be so!

Photo Credits:  Christina Yutzy Bontrager

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Filed under Laws Mennonite Church, The LITTLES Sunday School Class, Uncategorized

Jesus, The Sparrows and The LITTLES


We’ve been having some wonderful times in the big, sunny classroom in the upstairs right hand corner of Laws Mennonite Church.  The LITTLES and I have been working our way through the Spring Quarter of the Shine Curriculum that has been produced by MennoMedia for early childhood.  I have enjoyed the ideas and lessons put forth there, but often it is a spring board for my own take on the lesson, or ideas as to what we can do with the particular lesson that is proposed for a given Sunday.

Two weeks ago, we had the lesson about the birds, and how God cares for the birds.  Part of the lesson was what Jesus said in Luke 12:6: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.”  I looked into their open, beautiful faces after we had sung our opening prayer, and I told them the story of God’s wonderful care over the birds.  We talked about how five sparrows were sold for two “pennies,” and I asked them why they thought that someone would sell sparrows.  Of course, they had no idea.  And so I told them that in Jesus’ day, people were terribly poor, and they would buy sparrows to eat.  And they could get these five sparrows for only two pennies and it would give them a little bit of meat for their hungry tummies.  And then I went on to emphasize how God said that He noticed each one of those sparrows, though they were worth so little money, and how he noticed when even one of them died, and that Jesus said that we weren’t to ever be afraid or think we weren’t important, because we are worth MANY sparrows.  And He watches over us and cares so much for us.

I had made them each a sheet of paper with the cutout of an outline of a child on it, had gone into my photos, printed out a picture of each child and cut out the face to fit on each paper and had printed, “I am special to God”  at the top with their names on the bottom.  Middle Daughter and I had come up with a bag of fabric scraps that I took along to class.  And so, we talked about how special each child was to God and they each picked out some fabric and we cut out clothes for each child’s outline and glued the clothes onto the picture.

And what a mess that was!  Second Oldest Girlie wanted a dress, Oldest Girlie wanted a shirt and jeans.  Oldest Boy was observant and chose carefully, but then scribbled his face into obscurity while Youngest Boy didn’t much pay attention to anything except to use his glue stick indiscriminately over the whole thing.  Then Oldest Girlie got way too much glue on her paper, and made a terrible mess, Youngest Boy wanted to get up and find something more interesting to do, and it was pretty wild in there for about 15 minutes.  All the while, I kept coming back to the lesson, about how special they were to God, and how God cared for birds, but He cared even more for them!  (There was much exclaiming and goings on about this principle while I tried valiantly to stay ahead of each child’s requests for help and to finish in time.)

And then the first bell rang.  “What about my snack??!!??” Wailed Oldest Boy, looking in dismay around the cluttered table.

I took a deep breath, looked at where we were in finishing up, and said, “Okay, kids, let’s get things put away and you can have a quick snack.  We don’t have much time, but if we help each other, we can get this all done!”  And they helped remarkably well.  (When there is a snack coming, it’s easy to be motivated!)  And before I knew it, things were cleaned up, they were munching on fruit snacks and pretzels and drinking their juice.  It was a good time to review the lesson.

“Okay, kids,” I said cheerfully, sure that they would easily remember the lesson.  I mean, I HAD been reviewing all morning.  “What was our lesson about this morning?”

My question was met with blank stares.  They looked at me, they looked at each other and then there were shrugs and general dismissal of the question.  But I didn’t want to let this go.  We had an important lesson and I thought they should remember!

“Can you think?” I asked, just as brightly.  “What about the sparrows?  What did Jesus say about the sparrows – – – ?” I left the question hanging in the air expectantly.

And then a hand shot up.

“Oh, I know, I know,” said Oldest Girlie.  “The poor people ate’m!”


Filed under The LITTLES Sunday School Class, Uncategorized

Grandchildren Gifts

The call came on Friday night.  It was our Oldest Son, Raph, calling from Sugarcreek, Ohio.  I wondered what was up.  Raph (almost) never calls.  When he does, there is a reason, usually.  (Mother’s Day, my birthday, plans for arrival, etc.)  So when I heard his voice on the other end of the line, I was puzzled.  Maybe he wanted to talk to his Dad.  No, wait!  He had called my cell phone.  That meant he wanted to talk to ME!

We exchanged our usual banal formalities, “how are you doing,” and such and then he said, “Mom, I wanted to tell you in person so you don’t find it out online or otherwise, (because you will hear it there) that Regina and I are going to be getting a  baby  girl to foster in about 45 minutes. She’s about two weeks old, and we don’t know much.  We could have her only until Monday or Tuesday, but it could be longer.  We don’t know.”

. . . and thus he set my crazy heart straight into another tailspin of joy, hope, worry, pessimism, optimism, and Grammy-love.

Later that night, we saw pictures of the little one, with the little men of the family swarming (there’s no other right word for it) around the big guy who was holding the baby, cradled in his big arms, all of them looking almost like they couldn’t get enough of this new bundle.  My heart ached with wanting to be there —  to see her and to touch her.  How long would she stay?  How long would we have?  What would the morrow bring?  And how would the boys deal with this new attention grabber? How would they like her if she stayed and grew and got into their things?  What would it do to their hearts if she had to leave?

Oh, Lord Jesus!  I had better pray!

And pray, I did!  And then again, and then again, and still praying!

I wonder how it would be to await the birth of a grandchild knowing that there would be no question of DNA or biological parental relinquishment or court orders or home studies or social workers.  I’m not criticizing any of these, you understand, because it is through these channels that we have been grandparents to our four (or, now five, however temporarily) grandchildren (and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change any time soon).  I’m not raining on anyone’s parade who have grandchildren the natural way.  I’m all for that, as well.  (Youngest Son, if you and The Girl With A Beautiful Heart are reading this, take heed!)  And I rejoice greatly with friends and siblings and cousins who have precious grandbabies to show pictures of, expound upon, and brag about.  I look at those pictures and  think I see the DNA of the generations in the little noses or eyes or chins.  They are so beautiful.  I am so happy for each and every one of the little ones, their parents and especially their grandparents.

But (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?) there’s something that has been niggling at the back of my heart these days.  One of the things that has been exciting to watch has been the nurture and the excitement of other families over the coming arrival of the little one that is growing within the body of someone we love.  From the joy over the first positive pregnancy test, to the first doctor visit, to the first sonogram pictures, to the first movements, to the inconveniences of each trimester — all building up to the time when those contractions start and there is the long expected little one. A wonderful, albeit expected culmination of months of expectation

That.  That is what has been so different for our family.

It’s been close to a year since we knew that there had been application made for a baby girl to foster with the intent to adopt.  Over the months, it was amended to a girl, age three or younger.  The nursery was ready, the crib was set up, and the family waited.  In September, our daughter in law, Regina, whose instagram name is #Hopethriving wrote the following words, captioning a picture of the ready nursery:

Sometimes I feel like a piece of my heart is missing and I don’t know where it is. And the wait is exciting and scary and sad because I know the gift coming that will fill that piece comes at the cost of pain to a child, physically or emotionally or both. It can consume me, this wait. The questions of when and how long will that piece be here and how will a loss affect the boys is terrifying. So I put my trust in God for his timing and protection and whenever I walk past that room with that empty crib I say a little prayer for that little hurt heart that will someday fill it. #fostercare #waiting

(I shed some tears over that one, yes, I did!)

And so, yes, we had about nine months of waiting, not knowing, hoping and waiting some more.  When we were in Ohio a few weeks ago, I peeked into the room that had been made ready for the baby, and it was back to being a little boy’s room.  I knew it wouldn’t take much to make it into a nursery again, but it was symbolic to me of how hard it is to hope and hope and not have the ongoing testimony of things happening.  I watched my daughter in law care for her boys, her heart so full of love for them and hopes and dreams for their futures.  I watched my son, tussle and play and tease (How can that Raph Yutzy be so LOUD???) and sing and pray with his boys, and knew that this family gave more than lip service to a God who was going to do what was best for them. When they spoke of expectations, their voices changed, and there was a quiet resignation to what was, and a willingness to wait.

But still they hoped and prayed that God would send them a little girl.

So when the call came on Friday night that two week old “Baby K” was coming to their family (and ours, as well) my heart, as I said, went on a tailspin of emotions. As I processed the kaleidoscope, I realized that, for all the joy of this moment, and in spite of how grateful I am to God for this priceless gift, there was a deep heart envy of something that, while being a given in the arrival of most grandbabies, was not ours to savor and enjoy.   I wanted the joy of the anticipation, and I wanted the security of knowing that she was ours to keep for all the days of her life.  And, if the truth be told, memories of little ones that Daniel and I loved and lost under the same circumstances seemed to haunt my heart, cloud my vision and kicked me hard in the gut of hope.

“This will never do!”  I think in my saner moments.  (I do have them!)  “It will not help me.  It will not help Raph and Gina and their family or our extended family.  Most importantly, it will not help Baby K.”  And then there was that business about God being pretty specific about what he thinks about us wanting something that wasn’t ours.  He felt it was important enough to put it in The Ten Commandments, for pity sakes! So. What do we do with those empty places in our lives that feel like they are our right to enjoy, but (obviously) are not ours?  Where do we go with the broken dreams, injustices, unanswered prayers and the bitter taste of envy or resentment or disappointment?

I go to the foot of The CROSS.

It sounds simplistic, and it sounds like a stock answer.  But I’ve found that it is always the first step for me not only to acceptance, but to embracing what has been given, and believing that God has a plan, a “better thing” in what He has given than I ever could have dreamed or would have had on my own terms.

I go to the foot of The CROSS.

I wrap up the “might have beens” the “should have beens” and the “if onlies” and “I wishes” and specifically and intentionally leave them there.  I ask for clear vision to see the good that God is doing here and now (as well as what He wants me to do) and I need to push that foot right out of the gut of hope and replace it with a conscious recounting of God’s faithfulness in the past, the mercies He has granted, and the gifts that He has given when I thought that all was lost.

I go to the foot  of The CROSS.

I bring a sacrifice of praise when it feels like it might choke me.  I remind the LORD how hard this is for me, and I am not quiet about my fears, and then I fill this mouth with praise until my heart follows.  Then I purpose that I will not hold back my heart from love or hope or joy  when I think about a little girlie, loaned to us for now, and I will borrow from the strength of family and friends who love and care and support and pray.  I will remember the words of our brave daughter in law, #Hopethriving when she says, ” . . I feel very at peace and am trying to just enjoy every minute we have.”

For sure.  That’s the best thing to do.  And God helping me, I intend to do it.

“We have this moment to hold in our hands-
  And to touch as it slips through our fingers like sand.
 Yesterday’s gone and tomorrow may never come,
 But we have this moment.  Today.”  (Gaither)

Here’s to our personal raft of grandchildren:

Charis, Simon, Liam, Frankie — You four are THE BEST!  And I wouldn’t trade you for the world.  I love all four of you to the moon and back.  I bless the day you became ours and I’m so glad you all have come to stay.  I’m more than glad that I am your Grammy.  I’m ecstatic!  (Let’s see what we can do next to make life interesting!)

And Baby K — welcome to the crazy, noisy Yutzy family.  We not only confuse people who watch us, but we confuse ourselves sometimes.  It’s a wild ride but the love holds fast and is big enough for you.  However short or however long, we welcome you and you will always have a piece of our hearts.  May Jesus stamp His image on your heart through this encounter and may you find in Him the Friend that will never desert you or forsake you.

We think you are exactly right for this time and this place, and we’re so glad you are here.

Love Always,


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Filed under Family, Family living, Foster Care, Grandchildren, Uncategorized

Another Part of my Heart

One year ago, Hortencia Mancilla and I were cooking together.


In a facebook post, Middle Daughter, Deborah, noted that this picture is of “The mothers making the dishes they are famous for: fried chicken and mashed potatoes and chorizo y huevos.”  And she tagged Youngest Daughter, Rachel, and our “almost a daughter,” Yajaira.  Hortencia is Yajaira’s Mama.

What this post didn’t show was two breaking hearts, for it wouldn’t be too long until Hortencia and her husband would be moving from our rental trailer and flying to Guatemala to be with their 27 year old daughter, Yajaira, their son in law, Ervin, (whom they hadn’t seen in over seven years) and their two grandchildren, Nichole and Joshua (whom they had never seen).  On the night this picture was taken, Hortencia had come to our house, bringing the ingredients for one of Rachel’s favorite Mexican dishes, chorizo y huevos.  (We call it “eggs and pork,” but I don’t know if that’s literal or not.)  It isn’t something I enjoy, but it was eaten that night by Youngest daughter with big blue eyes bright with tears that wanted to spill over, and memories of happier times when it seemed like life could just go on like it was — forever.

And then there came the day that Hortencia and her husband came to tell us a final “good-bye.” The next morning, they would be leaving. It was an incredibly  difficult time in my life.  My Sweet Mama had already fallen and was in very poor condition. My heart was torn in a thousand directions. I could scarcely assimilate the pain that was crashing around my heart. Once again, prevented from saying what was truly on our hearts because of the ever present language barrier, Hortencia and I spoke heart language in hugs and tears and gestures.  Then finally, reluctantly, they began their last trek across the yard to their trailer home. I stood at the door of our garage, watching them go, tears flowing down my cheeks as I realized that the time of having them as our neighbors was coming to an end. And then I heard a sound that still wrings my heart and brings tears. I heard this little Hispanic Mama, sobbing huge wracking sobs as she picked her way across the lawn that we had shared for over twenty years.  America had been home to her for most of those twenty years, but her own homeland was calling.  She had children and grandchildren here.  Family in Mexico.  Her youngest girlie, in Guatemala.  Somewhat broken in health and saddened by life, she was heading towards a lot of unknowns.

I could not bear the sound.  Hortencia is feisty and loyal and determined.  She has been strong when I would have crumbled, resourceful when it looked like there was really no way through.  She held on to a marriage and made it work when lesser women would have given up.  And she has almost never allowed me to see her cry.  But that night, as I listened to the noise of her grief as she made her way through the twilight to a trailer that had already been pretty completely emptied except for boxes that were to be shipped, my heart ached with the sisterhood of motherhood and loving and losing and change and farewell.

She is often in my thoughts, even now.  And I realize that I am probably going to be judged for my stand on this whole thing.  I know that there are people who come into this country and live here illegally and collect undeserved benefits.  But I’m going to say it again.  Illegal immigration looks so different when it has a face that you’ve learned to love.  Illegal immigration tastes totally different in your mouth when it’s chorizo y huevos, made by people who feel like family.  Illegal immigration sounds totally different in your ears when it’s the laughter of a baby that seems like one of your grandchildren.  Illegal immigration is easy to dismiss unless you put faces, voices, fiber and family stories to the issue.

I didn’t do it on purpose.  I would probably been far more comfortable for these last twenty plus years if I had never rented my trailer to a family on a dark night when they came knocking on the door, asking for a place to live.  I didn’t realize how things were.  By the time I did, it was too late to undo my heart.

Tonight, this family I love is no longer in the USA.  Yajaira is in Guatemala with her husband and two children.  She is expecting her third.  She has made a life for herself and is happy.  Hortencia and her husband, Christino, are in Mexico.  Are they happy?  I don’t know.  I hope so.

Part of my heart is, and will always be with them and Yajaira.  And even though seeing pictures like this hurts, I wouldn’t have it any other way, because I have loved and I’ve been loved back.

And that is good.



Filed under Family, Immigration, My Life, Uncategorized

Asparagus Thoughts on a Red Kitchen Kind of Day

It feels like it’s been raining a LOT in Delaware.  I’ve always loved rainy days, and (usually) I’m the one who is delighted when I look out and there are clouds and it’s cool enough to justify running the pellet stove one more day.

The asparagus has started to grow prolifically   I look at the shoots, growing so tall in the wet and spring and wonder, briefly, if there is asparagus in Heaven.  Nope, I’m pretty sure there isn’t.  Especially since you can’t have a crowd of more than two or three without great controversy concerning this vegetable.

I’ve loved asparagus for years, relishing the first picking, often picking it before it was really quite ready, and always taking one of the first pickings to My Sweet Mama.  She often “had a hankerin’ for a mess of asparagus” before there was enough in our sparse patch to take to her.  But the patch has grown over these last few years and we have plenty this year.  I’ve already given away a big bag to a neighbor, and plan to give some more.  There is a lot out there and a whole lot more coming.

I don’t quite understand what is wrong this year with my taste buds. I picked the first batch, cooked it up and scarcely tasted it.  It felt like it stuck in my throat, then lay in my stomach, heavy,  like a bite of bad food.  I was pretty sure there wasn’t anything wrong with it, and was gratified when Daniel and the rest of my household ate it up.  The next picking, The Offspringin’s grilled to go with an early spring cookout.  There wasn’t an abundance, and grilled asparagus has never tempted me, so I wasn’t a bit jealous when they ate that.  Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve picked it, washed it, snapped it, cooked it, and just haven’t wanted to eat it.

I’ve wondered about the phenomenon over the last several weeks, and felt this gnawing sadness at the back of my conscious thought.  The coming Mothers’ Day celebration has added to the knot in my throat and the catch in my throat.  And then a picture, found inadvertently this week, brought me face to face with the fact that the Mama I’ve had for every single Mother’s day for 62 years is gone.  And I cannot even walk into the place that she called home and find any resemblance of Alene Yoder there.  I knew that in my head, but somehow, stamped in bright read and changed windows and different flooring, was the proof that things have changed forever and my Mama is gone.

The kitchen when she cooked asparagus and a thousand other things with the touch that she learned from her Mama, has been decimated and remodeled to someone else’s taste.  And someone else, who has their own memories and opinions and ways of doing things, will soon be rattling around in my Mama’s house, making it their home.  And part of me hates it so much I feel like throwing up.

Mom's kitchen

I know that things have to change.  I know that it is probably easier for the house to be completely different if there is going to be different people in it.  What am I to expect?  That someone who isn’t my Sweet Mama would move into her house and leave it exactly the way she did, and do everything the way she did?  How would a clone of my mother really work out in my life and in my emotions?  Would it really be helpful?  I promise you!  NO!!!

And so, I give into the changes that have been made, knowing that it isn’t really up to me anyhow.  For me, there is no right, no real choice in this matter, except that I can choose to be happy, to be realistic, to embrace what is mine to remember and to love, to acknowledge that what is most tangible isn’t what is the most real.  And to remember happy times of laughter and love and good, good memories that cannot be changed by a sledge hammer and a paint brush.

Mothers’ Day, 2015

And so, Mama, once again, I am so thankful for the Mama I had.  I knew that I was going to miss you, and I knew that it was going to be hard.  I’m often surprised at the things that bring a fresh stab of grief and make me pensive and quiet.  Today I remember a year ago when we had no way of knowing that a short 12 days later, a fall in your bedroom would set the course that would take you away from your sunny kitchen and from us.  

I knew I was going to miss you so much, Mama.  I just didn’t expect that missing you so much would cause asparagus to taste and smell like grief.

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