Monthly Archives: December 2016

Baby M.

I hold her small warm body against my chest and feel her nestle in.  She is so cuddly.  She just “told Grammy a story” in the way that small babies do, with crows and noises that sound like half complaints, half chortles. She will smile, and her bright eyes will follow faces sometimes, depending on how tired she is of the games.  She is so alert, and active.  Already at nine weeks, she tries to stand on her tiny feet, and has decided preferences when it comes to toys.  When she sees her mama or her daddy, her body does this excited little wriggle of recognition that is captivating — not just to them, but to this Grammy’s heart, as well.

She is the youngest member of our family, and she belongs to Eldest Son and HopeThriving.  (No, Raph does not have a new wife.  We just know Regina better than we did nine years ago when she first came into our lives.)  Baby M came into their lives on a day in late October when the leaves in Sugar Creek were strutting their stuff and singing “Glory!”  We had been to Ohio for The Three Grandsons’ birthday party and Eldest Son’s ordination, and were on our way home when Eldest Son called us with the news that they were on their way to pick up a two day old baby from the hospital.  Our trusty mini-van marked the miles remaining with grateful praise. Over the ensuing weeks, weekly photos to our family chronicled the development of this precious little one, and I found myself with a deep, heart longing to touch her and hold her and to whisper Grammy things into her little ear.  She was incredibly dear and grew more alert and beautiful every day.

Christmas day, 2016 was the first time I got to see her, and I was not at all prepared for the wash of emotion that came over me.  I keep thinking that one of these days the word that defines these little ones will settle into my brain and will help me to shut out some of the fickle voices that try to warn, detract and distract me from the emotions that I cannot help but feel.  It is a word that is both beautiful and repulsive.  Nurturing and desolating.

The word is foster.  I hate the word with all my heart, but I also love it for the all the good things it has given to me and our family.  I hold this wee one and her eyes are bright and she is smiling and trying hard to mimic the things that this crazy Grammy is doing.  I don’t hold her often, for there is always someone waiting in line for her, and besides, I almost cannot keep from crying when I am assailed with the “might be’s” and the “probably’s” that rattle around in my head when I look into her sweet face and see her wild hair.  And so, it seems like I hardly hold this beautiful little one.  I console myself by saying that it would be different if there weren’t a dozen other pairs of hands that want to hold her, and that, for the most part, there isn’t enough of her to go around.   Her sweet mommy and doting daddy hardly get a chance to do the parenting that is so important (besides changing poopy diapers.  No one is jumping for the chance to do that!).  But mostly, if I’m honest, I’m just trying to ignore a deep, deep sadness that has settled on my chest like a  compression fitting.

And so, when I do hold her and look down into her little face, I pray and pray and pray and pray.  I ask God for mercy on her, for her future, for her present.  I ask him for grace to accept whatever the future holds, and I pray for my son and his sweet wife and ask for strength and courage and peace and vulnerability to love her as every child deserves to be loved — with the intensity that doesn’t know how they will ever give her up, but with a surrender to God’s plan for her, as well as for them.  It’s the grief of foster care.  It’s the thing that keeps so many people from being foster parents — the reality that a child’s future can be snatched from them without regard of the child’s well being, attachments or memories.  There are always things lost to the child when they change homes — memories tucked forever in the hearts and minds of the foster parents that simply die because they aren’t retold and rehashed and relived in the life of the family. And what is lost to the foster parent, if they’ve made any investment, is immeasurable, too.

Selfishly, that is part of what I’m feeling, too, as I look into this little face.  I think of the children we’ve loved, and wonder where they are, what they are doing, how they are coping with life.  I wonder if they remember a sunny house on a hill in Ohio, where there was love and songs and hugs and rock-rocks and kisses and stories and prayers.  Did the days and months and even years in that house make any difference at all?

Ah, Little Sister, Baby M.  You of the chubby cheeks and wild hair.  You of the smiles and snuggles and bright eyes.  You belong to God first of all, and in relinquishing you to His care, we can do no more than love you for as long as we’ve been given.  And even though I choose to rest in that, I also beg God’s mercy for us all, that there could be some divine intervention, that some how, some way, before too long, you may come safely HOME.

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Yutzy Family 2016 Christmas letter

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Dear Friends and Family,
A Merry Christmas to all of you!  This season is a great time to remember all the people who have been a part of our lives in years past, and we enjoy hearing from you.  (Well, we’d like to hear from all of you, but we are very grateful for the ones who have taken time to remember us.)  The pictures are great, and the wall is filling up with Christmas cards.  We leave the pictures up for a number of months after we have taken down the cards, and it is one of the things that people will stop and look at and ask about.  One of the questions that we often get asked is, “How in the world do you know —?”  Let me tell you, it really is a small, small world!
I’ve wracked my brain for weeks over this Christmas letter.  There seems to be a lot in our world today about which to be discouraged.  There are differences of opinions on many popular subjects, there are wars and disasters and oppression and haters and people who just give up.  I remember President Kennedy making the observation in a speech that he gave around the time of the Bay of Pigs incident that has impacted me ever since.  (Yes, I’m old enough to have been living during his term of office!)  But what he said was, “We are living in perilous times . . .”  If ever there was a statement that defines where we are now, it’s that one.  (And I do think about it often.)
However, there has been a most persistent reminder coming over and over again to my heart in these days of uncertainty and that is that we are to be people of HOPE.  We are to remind the world of God’s goodness, His justice and His mercy.  We are to live and love the people that God has put into our lives with an eye on the Eternal, and hands that are occupied and invested in the present.
And so, with that in mind, I come to this Christmas Letter with a sense of the need to recount God’s Faithfulness in Daniel’s and my lives as well as in the life of our adult offspringin’s and our grandchildren.  There has been much for which to be grateful.
Daniel and I are both 63!  Daniel had toyed with the idea of retiring this year, but has opted to remain with the State of Delaware for now.  (If nothing changes, he plans to retire at 65.)  In addition to his “day job,” he is still raising chickens, raising a few beef cattle, doing some woodworking in his shop, gardening, and serving as deacon at our church.  Here at home, he tore down an old shop and made a place for his sister, Lena’s motor home to park.  (Lena was officially here from early August until after Thanksgiving, and that was a happy time for us.  She is now in Florida for the winter, and will be heading west in the spring.)  He is continually making improvements to his farm, looking for ways to make things better.  He loves the land, and he has a great sense of design.  I’ve often said that he has the eye of an artist, and he puts it to great use in the yard and buildings of the farm we call Shady Acres.  He loves helping our adult children with work projects, and enjoys the grandchildren and other little ones who are in and out of our home.  His Christmas village is up again this year, and it is pretty stellar!  Come on by and see it!
Jesse and Christina still live close by.  They have had a full and interesting year.  Jesse is still at Burris Foods.  There have been many stressful days there, and his job is anything but easy.  He’s been blessed with health and has proven over and over again that he will do what needs to be done, even at great sacrifice to himself and what he may want to do.  He is a kind and involved husband and father.  He is still my “go to” guy when I need help with something involving computers, and he helped to get my new computer up and going, as well as getting our Christmas addresses onto labels for me.  Christina is a stay at home mom to Charis, volunteers for many things at Charis’ school, and still manages the coffee bar on Sunday mornings at church.  She is a loyal and loving wife, mother, daughter and friend.  She has a heart for the marginalized, and she cares deeply about people.  Unfortunately, this tender heart has not been extended to the puppy, Maisy, that became a part of the family on Charis’ seventh birthday.  While a delightful friend for Charis, Christina has had the brunt of putting up with the antics of a young puppy (. . .digging up the flowers, tearing the neighbors sheets to shreds, dragging trash into the front yard, whining to come in, whining to go out, and the smell!) and though she has adapted and been gracious (for the most part) it has been a sore trial to her patience. Charis dearly loves this Rottweiler-Dachshund mix (I know!) and has spent many happy hours with her pet.  She also enjoys school, is reading very well for being only a second grader, and is a great companion for her Grammy on Thursday nights.  She is involved in piano lessons, and will sometimes spend time at her other grandmother, Achi’s, book store. She loves to follow Daniel around the farm, digging in the dirt, looking for kittens in the hay, harvesting cucumbers from her own cucumber vine in Grandpa’s garden and having sleepovers whenever she can talk the adults in her life into agreeing.
Deborah made up for last year by being out of the country two times this year.  She went to Prince Edward Island with her friend, Kanina Miller, on a trip that she describes as a “Bucket List” trip.  She had a wonderful time, was gone about eight days, and made some great memories.  In September, she went to Great Britain and the Island of Guernsey with another friend, Liz Washburn Strite, and even though she has been to England several times before, this was a trip that she enjoyed immensely- partly because of the company, but also because she saw places that she had previously missed.  She proudly says that they “did Land’s End to John O’ Groats” which is the equivalent of “sea to shining sea” here in America. On the home front, she swam with friends and their children, made cookies and cupcakes for the Bible study that meets at our house on Thursday mornings, as well as taking an endless supply of baked goods to other friends.  She’s teaching Sunday school again this year, and enjoys her class of the younger women very much.  She just celebrated her six-year anniversary as a hospice nurse for Delaware Hospice, and even though I may be biased since I’m her mother, I’m often grateful for the natural talents she has been given that make her an excellent nurse in this capacity.  She is efficient, compassionate . . . and often TIRED!  She is planning a big trip next year with her Aunt Lena – either an African Safari or to New Zealand, but those details still need to be worked out.  She is still occupying “her apartment” on the left side of the landing upstairs.  We are glad to have her living at home, but she’s been thinking seriously about more permanent housing.
Raph and Regina have had a very eventful year. They were approved for another foster child and in May had placement of a wee girlie that we came to know as “Baby K.”  Raph and Gina and the boys had her for around 11 weeks, loving her and believing that God was going to do what was best for her.  She went home to a family that loves her, and Raph and Gina have been privileged to have ongoing contact with her.  Shortly after she left, they were contacted about a house that they had wanted to buy five years ago.  Did they still want it?  Absolutely!  The next weeks were such that made us all catch our breaths in amazement.  Baby K went home around the first of August, and by the end of October, Raph and Gina had sold their house, bought the new one, moved, had a birthday bash for the three boys, Raph was ordained to the ministry at Grace Mennonite Church where he has been employed full time since the first of the year, and they got a call for another newborn baby girl.  Whew!  I still find it all hard to believe!  Mia Faith has been with them for almost two months now, and she is equally as loved as Baby K.  Her future is uncertain at this point, but God has given grace to this family to walk with trust and courage and an open hand.  As their family, we certainly have been offering some fervent prayers for this little one, but it’s not our decision and God will give grace for whatever He asks of Raph and Gina and the boys.  The boys! Simon, Liam, and Frankie are growing, doing so well, and are three distinct personalities.   It’s hard to imagine our lives without them, and we are so grateful for the opportunity to be Grandpa and Grammy to these three live wires!
Lem and Jessica are now living in Washington DC.  This past summer, they purchased one floor of a condominium in the city.  They have worked hard to give it the feel of “home” and to make it a reflection of who they are.  It has seemed “right” for them to put down these kinds of roots, and we’ve enjoyed visiting with them in their new home.  Most recently, Daniel helped Lem install a set of shelves in the living area, and the result has been esthetically pleasing as well as serviceable.  In late March, Lem and Jessica took a trip to Europe that they had planned for long time.  By the time Lem had finished his course work for his Ph.D. and taken his examinations, while both had carried full time work loads, it was time for the two of them to have some time away.  They made some wonderful memories, took some marvelous pictures and came home still friends! They are employed by the same enterprises as they were last year; Lem at Alvord, Baker and Associates as a psychotherapist and Jessica at the US Government Accountability Office as a Research Analyst.  They have been associated with the Table Church since they moved to the Washington area in 2013, and have made good friends there.  We were honored to have some of their friends join us for an early Thanksgiving dinner in early November, and it is always so nice to meet and develop relationships with the people who are friends with our adult children.
Rachel spent the year at her job in Washington, DC at Catholic Charities.  It was an important milestone when she crossed the one year mark in early December.  This is a job that causes young social workers to rather quickly burn out and they tend to move on.  Though Rachel does get really weary of the dynamics of poverty, government and human nature, I’m happy to report that not only has she stuck to it, but has been a very profitable servant to this organization.  We are so glad that she has been faithful when it would have been much easier to quit.  She took a road trip this summer with her friend, Lynae Byler that satisfied her thirst for adventure to some extent, and she has developed some close friends through the Table Church that help to fill in the spaces in her life.  The more she establishes her independence, the less we see of her, but it’s gratifying to know that she has friends and is trying to be at home even when and where it may not be exactly easy.  She does talk of looking for another job, and that’s a distinct possibility.  The thing is, she loves the city, so it’s not just any old job that will be able to woo her from the attractions of city life as she has known it over the last two years- first in Philadelphia, and now in Washington, DC.
I’m still a care provider for the State of Delaware and Audrey and Linda are still here with us.  My interests don’t seem to change a whole lot from one year to the next.  There is still a Thursday morning Bible study at our house with young women who impact my life and challenge me constantly by their commitment to serve Jesus, raise children that are Godly, and to be women who impact their world.  I haven’t written as much this year because of the everyday things that take my attention, but it is something that I still enjoy and keep trying to find time to do.  The year has been full of many things, and I certainly have had many reasons to rejoice.  The Christmas season has taken on a different tenor in the years since Daddy died (and now Mama) but it is still a time of wonder and joy as I think about Heaven and all that was given to us when Jesus came to earth as a baby.  We have been given so much, and this season is a good time for us to remember and to give back to those around us.
May we never forget the Best Gift of all, JESUS!
Merry Christmas to all of you.  May your days be filled with Joy!
With Love from all of us,
The Yutzys

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Chapters in December

The skies are grey and heavy with rain on this Saturday a week before Christmas.  I’m supposed to be editing my yearly Family Christmas letter.  The envelopes are addressed, and stamped, the cards are ready to go into the envelopes, and the letter is mostly finished, but it’s been a difficult task this year.

Certain Man is home today, in the house, working on tomorrow’s sermon for our congregation at Laws Mennonite Church.  I’m sitting for the first time since I got up!  And I did sleep in this morning.  In fact, when I got up and saw that it was after eight o’clock, I rattled around the old nursery rhyme in my head, editing it as I went.

Mary Annie has grown so fine
She won’t get up to feed the swine
But lies in bed till eight or nine
Lazy Mary Annie!

This week has been another week in the journey I continue to make in life.  I think the last months I’ve felt more like I was walking in my Mama’s footsteps than I ever have before.  One of the things that is evident to me is that the Mama I remember best was far younger than I am now.  And often things come up that hit me squarely in the face that were things of the years when I considered her “old.”

One of the things that has been entirely too reminiscent of her has been this thing of getting accustomed to my partial plate.  Mama had a bit more vanity than I do, and she went the route of implants and caps for most of the teeth she lost, but as the years passed, she was forced to go with dentures.  They were a sore trial to her, and they hurt, and they didn’t fit right, and they wouldn’t chew the things she wanted them to chew.  Lots of times she had sores in her mouth from where they rubbed, and she was dependent on me or someone else to take her to her dentist in Dover to get things adjusted or repaired or replaced.  I feel so sorry sometimes when I am dealing with even a minor maladjustment to my partial plate and I think of how she must have felt and how miserable she must have been with the constant lack of satisfaction with her teeth.  I wish that I had paid better attention and tried harder to help her get that one issue resolved.  I felt like I did run her to Dover a lot, but if she felt the despair in proportion to what I feel, I’m certain that she often wished that either she could just do it herself, or that I would have understood better and done more.

And then there is that issue with her feet.  In the last months, the feet that I inherited from her have been giving me a fit!  Last week I had a few days when I felt like I couldn’t walk!  I have been seeing a specialist, and he had told me on my first visit to his office that my feet were not in any kind of good shape.

“The arthritis in your feet, particularly your left one, is very advanced,” Dr. Menendez said that day in September.  “You have some bones in there that are ‘lipping’ and there are calcium deposits and just bad arthritis.”  He sat at the end of the table, holding my foot so gently in his hands, like he was willing it to be better somehow.  I saw a look in his eye that I decided to read as “compassion” instead of “pity” but I knew that he had seen something on the x-ray that told him that I wasn’t lying when I said that my feet sometimes hurt.

“I don’t feel like I’m in any sort of a crisis right now,” I said to him.  “Rather, I’m here for sort of a base line consultation at the advice of Dr. Wilson, and because I have a feeling that in the not too near future, I may need some help.  I also wanted to know if what I am doing now is the best thing I can do for them, or if there is something more I could be doing.”

He affirmed all of the things that I had been doing, prescribed a different anti-inflammatory, and told me that if I ever felt like I needed some shots in those feet, I shouldn’t hesitate to call him.  He did think that “putting them up whenever I could” might be a good practice to pursue.

I went out of his office that day with a heart that wanted to turn away from this aging process.  Dr. Wilson has told me (more frequently than I care to remember) that I’m “a young woman trapped in an old woman’s body.”  Excepting that over the years since he started to tell me that, the “young woman” has mutated to being a bit more age appropriate for the body, I’m rather forced to admit.  I remember hearing Uncle Johnny talking at one of our family reunions some time before he died.  He said, “You know, I’ve always been able to count on this body of mine to pretty much do what I want it to do when I want it to do it.  But something has started to change, and this old body is letting me down!”  Yepper, I’d say that pretty much catches it.  This old body is letting me down.

In the months since that first visit to Dr. Menendez’s office, I’ve had a life so full of happenings that I’ve hardly had time to think about feet.  There’s been canning to finish, lima beans to freeze, a beloved sister in law living in our yard, a dishwasher that needed replacing, seven family birthdays and a trip to Ohio, parties for my grandsons, Grammy days with my granddaughter, an ordination for Eldest Son, a new foster baby in the family, Thanksgiving, a Christmas Open House for Certain Man’s office friends, Christmas preparations and shopping and then the usual things with Our Girl Audrey and Blind Linda.  Life just hasn’t stopped, and that business about putting my feet up just hasn’t been a happening thing.  And slowly I became aware that there was something just not quite right with these crazy feet of mine. And last week, when it was rainy for a few days in a row, and I could barely motor, I called Dr. Menendez’s office and asked if I could come in for shots. The thing that really put me over the top was that the foot that hurt the most was my “good” one.  That kinda’ scared me because when my “good knee” went bad on me, it had to be replaced before my “bad” one.

They put me on the schedule for Thursday, a week out, and I hobbled about and got ready for the Christmas Open House, and prayed.  And the pain diminished and I felt a whole lot better about things.  I started toying with the idea of not going.  But then I had a regularly scheduled visit with Dr. Wilson, and decided to ask his advice about whether I should have it done.  I thought maybe he would advise against it.  However, it was my first visit to him since he had read the x-rays, and he had some strong words to say about it.  “Go get the shots,” he said forcefully.  “By all means, get them.  It’s Christmas, you are going to be on your feet a lot, and it just doesn’t make sense to not get them.  I really think you should!”

And so, on Thursday afternoon, I tromped off to Dr. Menendez’s office.  I thought I had prepared myself quite muchly for this encounter.  I had taken My Sweet Mama to her specialist often for this sort of thing, and I knew that it wasn’t pleasant, but as I sat on that table waiting for the doctor to come in, I was overwhelmed by such a feeling of Déjà vu that it almost took my breath away.  My feet stuck out the end of the table, and the veins, purple and prominent made their tracks across them in almost the same pattern that I had seen on Mama’s.  And when Dr. Menendez brought his spray for numbing, and sprayed it on my foot while putting a needle into almost the exact same spot that Mama often had hers, the pain from the needle wasn’t even a scosche compared to what was crashing through my heart.  My Mama!  My Sweet Mama!  What she must have felt those many times that she went for these shots, hoping to find relief for the pain that dogged her every step.  What had she thought?  Did she really think it was going to work this time?  Did she think she would spring out of there, able to do all the things that she so longed to do?  Did she somehow know that she was fighting a losing battle with time and aging and a body that was “letting her down?”

It was another chapter in my Decembered grief.  I missed her terribly in that moment, wished for the chance to talk to her again, and ask her more about what was in her heart.  Dr. Menendez put bandaids on the the drops of blood that appeared on the tops of my feet.  He smoothed some callouses off the bottom of my feet and reassured me that I would feel better.  I chatted with him cheerfully over the pain in my heart and took myself out of the office and into my mini-van and headed home.  And then, as I motored towards home, I talked to My Sweet Mama and cried some overdue tears.  The years slipped away so quickly.

But my feet are feeling so much better.  The weeks ahead hold so much promise.  The offspringin’s and the grandchildren are coming home for Christmas and I don’t feel nearly as incapacitated as I did a week ago.  I’m looking forward to the celebrations of Joy that are ahead.  The message of Christmas is that of incredible hope.  A Savior is born!  He came to us, in our sorrow, our need, our pain.  He came to bring Light and Healing and Life.  He came to bring Peace and Joy.  All the things that are wrong with this old world will someday be put right by this Precious Christmas Gift.

And that includes bodies that let us down.  My Sweet Mama’s feet don’t hurt her anymore.  She’s dancing in her brand new feet, and they are beautiful.  What a glorious expectation!  What a thing to look forward to!

My December Heart gives grateful praise.

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