Category Archives: Family

Simply Gifts

 

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Two years ago this morning on our Yoder family google group, a picture was shared that has warmed my heart over and over as I have thought of it. In many Mennonite Churches, the practice of Feet Washing is still practiced as part of our communion services. From my precious Daddy’s family of eight boys and three girls, only three boys and one girl remain. Two of my uncles live in Delaware, and shared the pastoral responsibilities of the Central Mennonite Church for many, many years. They are very different men, but are good friends. Both of them are aging.  Uncle Dan turned 90 in February and Uncle Jesse will be 85 in September. Uncle Dan lost Aunt Mary Lois almost 18 years ago. Uncle Jesse and Aunt Gladys are still living alone in their house at the end of Pleasant Cove Lane. Both men are examples of men who live their faith in shoe leather, and I love them both. My cousin, Naomi Miller’s husband, Rob, took this picture in their communion service two years ago, and it has been viewed over and over again. What a treasure! (Thanks, Rob!)

I love the family that I belong to.  On both sides, (my father’s and my mother’s) we’ve been blessed with a heritage that is rich and full and good. But in the things that we have that are so good, we are also charged with two things. One is that we are not to brag about the things that we have.  Listen to these “God Words” from Jeremiah 9:23-24  (New Century Version)

23 This is what the Lord says:

“The wise must not brag about their wisdom.
The strong must not brag about their strength.
The rich must not brag about their money.
The Mennonites must not brag about their heritage
Nor the Yoders and Werts (and Yutzys) their lineage.
(Whoops! It doesn’t say those last two lines. I put that in there!) 🙂
24 But if people want to brag, let them brag
that they understand and know me.
Let them brag that I am the Lord,
and that I am kind and fair,
and that I do things that are right on earth.
This kind of bragging pleases me,” says the Lord.

The second thing we are charged with is something that we often forget in the self centered society in which we live. It’s found in Luke 12:48b where JESUS says: ” . . . From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded. And from the one trusted with much, much more will be expected.”

May God grant that we who claim to be His People would live humble, unselfish lives. Serving others, loving others, giving to others, but always mindful that what we have has been given to us.  Gifts!

My heart gives grateful praise.

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Chilly Mornings and Shadows of Sorrow

The promise of a beautiful day made us decide to let the fire go out in the pellet stove. I came down in the early morning darkness, and it was chilly in the farmhouse at Shady Acres.

My heart felt bleak, too.  The last few days have been a struggle to stay optimistic.  I told someone earlier this week that everybody was grumpy!  OGA has been touchy and a little schitzy.  BL has been difficult beyond my ability to understand.  And my own restless heart has been impatient and selfish.  When I felt like even BL’s pulmonologist was a bit peevish this week and I resented being sent for a chest x-ray for BL, I was brought up a little short on the fact that the problem (just might!) lie with me.

This morning, when my alarm went at its usual time, I felt the darkness in my soul.  I turned over, accosted immediately by an unaccustomed ache in my head, and a stuffy nose.  But morning’s work was waiting, so I did what needed doing, the usual morning routines; Making  beds, combing, straightening what needed straightening, washing my face, getting dressed, using moisturizer, washing my spectacles.  Certain Man was already downstairs, having had difficulty with heartburn early in the night.  I came down to find him soundly asleep in his chair.  I went to get my morning vitamins and coffee.

How very much I’m missing my Sweet Mama.  The memories of her last few weeks of life have been hounding me, and the sadness sometimes feels overwhelming.  I know she’s okay now.  I know that she would say that the difficulty of those hard, hard days are but a part of a long forgotten past, and that she blesses the tempest, lauds the storm that tossed her safely on the Heavenly Shore.  I know she’s okay! 

But sometimes it doesn’t feel like I am.  Not all the time.  Not when I have something I want to ask her.  There are just life questions that only a Mama can answer.  Not when I have something I want to tell her. I wish I could see her eyes light up with that familiar gleam, and hear her opinions and reactions and verdicts on human nature.  Not when I just wish for the physical essence that was my Mama for all of my life.  The sound of her voice, the taste of her cooking, the smell of her cologne, the visuals that defined her — her pretty dresses, her neat hair, her beautiful face, her gentle touch.  My Mama.  Everything so gone.  So unreachable.  The aching void is made more acute by the color and light and authenticity of my memories, and by these long nine months.  (“Lord Jesus, she’s never been gone this long!”)

I bring myself into the comfort of the blue recliner that I purchased with money that I was given from Mama’s account, and shiver in the predawn quiet.  Folded on the back of the chair is the trusty afghan that Middle Daughter found, barely started, among her grandma’s things.  Deborah brought it home, worked on it furiously and finished it before Christmas.  When I opened my presents in our family Christmas gathering, there was this lovely blue and white afghan in a familiar stitch, lying in the tissue paper.  And when I heard the story behind it, I knew it would do more than warm me on chilly days.  On this morning, when it is easy to feel bereft, I reach for my afghan and stretch it over my toes and snuggle my arms under its  welcome protection.  It’s time to think.  It’s time to allow myself some grieving time.  It’s time to allow myself to be comforted.

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Allow myself to be comforted?  Sometimes I don’t even want to be comforted.  Sometimes I just want to feel the ragged, broken shards of grief, and I just want to feel the reality of this loss.  Sometimes I don’t want to listen to reason (she was so miserable so much of the time in the last year, she was getting older, we all have to go sometime, it must have been “her time”).  And sometimes I don’t want to listen to hope! (She is healthy.  She is happy.  She is more alive than she has ever been.  She had the promise of Heaven.  She was going HOME to be with people she loved as well her Savior.  She believed.  She had fought a good fight, she had finished the course, she had kept the faith.)

But in the softness of the afghan, in the reiterating of my sorrow, in the tears and in the memories, I find myself (strangely) comforted once again.  I think of the colors she loved, the spring time yearning she always had to dig in her flower beds and make something pretty.  I think about the fact that she fostered relationship with me and my siblings in such a way that we truly knew her, and in these days since her passing, I have things that bring up specific, wonderful memories that remind me that I was so blessed to grow up with the sort of Mama that she was.  Not perfect, but never wavering from her commitment to raise us to love Jesus and to make sure of Heaven, and to love each other and to do all we can to see to it that the next generation knows the way HOME.

Comforted?  Yes, I’ve been comforted.  Easter is just around the corner when we celebrate the victory of JESUS over death and the grave.  When our RISEN LORD became the cornerstone of our Faith.  Where a cross and an empty tomb became a place for me to hang this heart that sometimes feels so fragmented.

Is it enough?

Indeed, it is!

And this old heart gives broken, grateful praise

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Pickled Eggs and Chocolate Chip Cookies

I bought a five dozen case of eggs last week.  It’s getting on towards spring, and I like to make pickled (red beet) eggs.  I always do this with an eye towards the man of the house.  Certain Man does not like this particular delicacy.  In fact, I noted in a post back in 2008 that I had to endure persecution when I would “stink of the house”  making pickled eggs.  (You can read about that here; https://maryannyutzy.wordpress.com/2008/12/29/706/, as well as see a picture of a very young Lem and Jessica Yutzy, get the recipe for red beet eggs, as well as one for Graham Streusel Coffee Cake).

To be honest, not much has changed.

However, that beloved Eldest Brother, Clint Yoder, came to Delaware for a very fast trip this weekend, and he loves pickled eggs, so I weighed my options carefully and decided to make a batch on Tuesday.  I usually only make one batch a year, but some years I need more.  I suspected that without my Sweet Mama, I wouldn’t need more than one this year, though.  She was one who always loved them as well.  Perhaps that is one of the reason I make them  When the smell of beets and vinegar and cloves and cinnamon is “stinking up the house” it feels like I’m a little girl again, and it is almost Easter and my Sweet Mama is making up a batch of pickled eggs.  She always stored them in a big glass gallon jar, and the deep richness shone ruby-red through the refrigerator light at the back of our big old farmhouse fridge.  Something about that familiar jar with the same gold lid and the taste of pickled beets say “home.”  And so, probably for that reason more than any other, I feel compelled to make them.

Tuesday morning, the morning I decided that they needed to be made, was the same morning that Middle Daughter decided that she needed to replenish the supply of chocolate chip cookies in the freezer.  She baked over a hundred cookies while I moved around her and put together the beets. the  spices and hardboiled the eggs.  The eggs boiled and the beets simmered (well, in this case, pretty much boiled furiously) with the spices and Middle Daughter complained some about the fact that one of the smells that her Daddy hated the most was mingling with one of his favorite smells, that of Chocolate Chip Cookies.

“I know,” I said, trying to comfort her, “but by the time your Daddy gets home, the smell will be somewhat abated, and he will see that you made chocolate chip cookies and that will make him not fuss so much about the pickled eggs. I plan to have them out of sight by then, anyhow.”

We both know that he loves cookies or cake or baked anything with his breakfast.  His favorite thing is to put chocolate chip cookies into hot oatmeal and have the chips melt just a bit and then eat everything all together.  This is a Yutzy Family thing to do, although I suspect it may have its roots in their Amish heritage.  No matter what the baked good is, it is better with milk poured over it, maybe some fruit on top of that, depending on the baked good, but at least milk!  Yes, it’s a soggy mess, and yes, it can look pretty mixed up and disgusting, but that’s the way he likes it, and I’ve noticed when I’m with his family, that he’s not the only one that is of this persuasion.  I haven’t tried to change him.  It really doesn’t hurt anything.  And if a man can’t eat what he wants, the way he wants it, and when he wants it, in his own house, it’s a pretty sad state of affairs, if you ask me.  So Middle Daughter helps to maintain the supply and he eats chocolate chip cookies with his oatmeal and we are all content.  And he doesn’t eat pickled eggs, no matter what the supply, and as long as he isn’t called upon to defend his position, or smell them too long, or have anything to do with them, we are still all content.

And so the morning passed, both cooks accomplished their endeavors and by afternoon, the eggs were in the garage, cooling for the garage refrigerator, and the cookies were baked, packaged in morning breakfast bags of three each and in the freezer, and a plate for munching was sitting on the counter.

Mr. Yutzy was quite pleased with the beautiful cookies.  So much so that he didn’t say much about the pickled eggs.

But then there were several occasions to haul them out.  My Bible study gals and their children had some after Bible study on Thursday.  I had put two dozen eggs in that big gallon jug and I thought there was plenty to share.  The eggs and beets were exclaimed over and eaten and the jar went down considerably.  I checked my supply and knew that there were still plenty for today’s lunch, but not a whole lot more.  Maybe this was one year when I would be able to justify making a second batch!

Today’s lunch was another one of those wonderfully miraculous provisions for me.  Eldest Daughter has made Sunday lunch for us twice in the last few weeks, and the Sunday morning difference has been really special.  And this week at Bible Study, one of my gals said that she wanted to bring lasagna for lunch today, would it be okay?  Do we eat lasagna?  I was so excited, I hardly knew how to contain myself!  “Yes, we eat lasagna!  Yes, it would be okay!  Yes, please!  Yes, please!”  And so it was agreed upon.

She brought the lasagna, baked and ready to reheat, last evening.  And with it, a tray of homemade cream puffs.

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Wow!  What a treat!  With all the stuff that I  bake, these are something I don’t dabble with.  These looked absolutely delectable.

And so, at lunch today we had lasagna, a lovely tossed salad, the making of which was overseen by Middle Daughter, Deborah, Delaware Lima Beans, cooked the way we like them, and what was left of the pickled eggs.  Oh, and those cream puffs!  It was a wonderful dinner, shared by family and friends.  Oldest Brother, Clint Yoder, Eldest Daughter and Beloved Son In Law, along with our granddaughter, and Nephew Josh with his lovely wife, Lawina.  We had sweet conversation, enjoyed a dinner that was mostly donated, and got things cleared away in record time.  The company was delightful, the food was good, and one of the best parts of all was that the pickled egg jar was depleted of the last egg, and (almost) the last beet.

I looked at my almost empty jar and thought, “Wow!  This is one year I get to make another batch.  Maybe tomorrow I should get started on that, since Certain Man will be at work, and I can get it done early enough so as to not cause (too much) havoc.

So wish me the best, dear friends.  In this house of very little tolerance for the existence of pickled red beet eggs, I’m planning to courageously move forward and see if I can replenish my supply.  Easter is still three weeks off.  I might even have time for two more batches.  Especially is some of you would show up to help eat them.

Pickled Red Beet Egg Eaters Unite!  We are just as good as the others!  It’s time to let our preferences be heard!  Here’s to the glass gallon jar with the ruby red goodness shining through!  Here’s to the ones who eat them with relish!  May the tribe increase!

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Filed under Cooking, Family, Family living, home living, My Life, Stories from the Household of CM & CMW, Uncategorized

The Train Goes Round and Round the Track, and Mama’s Canary Sings.

Whenever there is noise that covers the immediate area, Mama’s bird, Pretty Boy, turns on the trills and chops until it pulls my heart towards the memories of another room, sunny and comforting, with a familiar form in the recliner.  Mama is listening to that same canary, and there is a smile around her thin lips.

“I love to hear him sing,” she would say.  “He doesn’t sing so much, unless there’s some kind of noise, like water running or certain music.”

This week I needed to go out to Country Rest Home.  I parked in the front lot, facing the window where Sweet Mama spent her last days, took her last breaths, and from where her spirit took flight to Heaven.  I tried not to look at her house, tried not to think, but I knew, I knew that I was going to go over to the house that was first my parents’ home,  and where Sweet Mama lived for almost ten years alone.

I finished my errand at Country Rest, and sat in my car for a bit.  And then, when I was pretty sure that no one would follow me and that I would be alone in my journey, I parked my van in front of the familiar front porch and looked at the curtains and blinds in the windows and bushes and (now wintering) plants that look just about the same as they always have.  Except that there was no light inside.  Mama almost always had light.

I stopped at the mailbox and retrieved some mail, and then went in through the front door as I always did.  It smelled just like my Mama’s house.  Her smell was there.  I felt my heart quicken just a bit with the recognition of the sweet, identifiable scent of Alene Yoder’s house. I was home!

I came around the corner, into the living room and it was then that the import of her absence hit me full.  The house was empty.  From where I stood at the opening into the living room, there was a broad expanse, with almost nothing to break up the space.  All the way at the other end, a lone folding chair sat at one table space, and a hickory rocker was pulled up to another.  A small, rickety bookcase, that had served as her bedside table for as long as I can remember, was against a far wall, and two recliners were snuggled together inside the short wall to my right like Daddy and Mama were using them when they shared their nightly devotions together.  The silence was a roaring noise in my ears.  It felt like I should be able to call, “Hey, Mama!  I’m finally here!” the way I must have done a thousand times over the last ten years, and hear her respond from the next room, “I’m here, come on in!”

I began the trek across the big living room, into the dining room, my footsteps muted on the carpet in the deserted house.  And then I heard the sound of weeping.  A whimpering noise was coming from somewhere in my throat, spilling into the empty house, running rivers down my face and dripping off my wobbly chin.  The sound in my ears made me only cry harder, and I stood helpless against the onslaught of grief, suddenly fresh and raw and anything but reasonable and restrained.  I plodded into the deserted study, hovered at the door of her bedroom where she took her last, catastrophic tumble.  The floors were swept clean, and there was no vestige of my Mama there.  “Oh, Mama, Mama!  You are so gone!  I miss you so much.  I miss you so much!”  I stood where her recliner always sat and wrapped my arms around the empty space and brought them tight against myself as if I could somehow hug the place where she always was, but I came up with nothing.

It was probably in that moment that some things began to sink into my fur brain.  I realized that I was never again going to feel my Sweet Mama’s presence in that empty house.  I would have memories, and as long as the smell was there, and the shell of the house was largely unchanged, I would remember her, and think of her, and feel the familiarity of this place that held so many good times, but I wouldn’t be able to feel like she was there somewhere, lurking just around the corner.  And that was a big enough thought that I decided to not stay any longer.

I picked up the rickety little bookcase and thought I would take it home and see if Certain Man could sturdy it up and maybe it could be useful somewhere in the house.  And I got into my van and headed for Milford.  Home was waiting, and the afternoon was gray and chilly.  I came around the corner at 36 and 16 and considered stopping at Mama’s grave.  When all was quiet at Greenwood Mennonite Church and there were no cars in the parking lot, I pulled in and parked beside the brick steps going into the country cemetery, and walked over to the granite marker where we laid her body to rest.

I was crying again, and I traced the letters on the stone.  “Why???” I asked aloud.  “Why???”

And that was when I felt like I was held gently by my Heavenly Father.  “Are you asking why she went to where she is happy, healthy, and free?  Do you think she is worse off now than she was when she was with you here?”  I looked at the grass, almost totally grown back over the grave, and thought about Daddy’s body, now there for ten years, and thought about why the grief was so unmanageable on this January day. I thought about her there, in Heaven with Jesus and Daddy, with her parents and many, many friends.  I thought about what it was like up there, and wondered again just how it would be.

“There’s a city of light mid the stars we are told,
Where they know not a sorrow or care.
And the gates are of pearl and the streets are of gold
And the building exceedingly fair.”

The song rose unbidden in my heart and the next thing I knew, I was singing it in a shaky voice to the falling light.  The cemetery was quiet, and the notes were anything but beautiful, but I grew stronger as I plowed on.

“Let us pray for each other, not faint by the way,
In this sad world of sorrow and woe.
For that home is so bright
And is almost in sight,
And I trust in my heart, you’ll go there.

Heaven.  Our someday Home.  Her present Home.  I cannot begin to understand what was waiting for Mama that June night when she left this all behind and stepped into GLORY and LIGHT and PEACE and PRESENCE and ETERNAL LIFE.  But this I do know.  It wasn’t empty.  It wasn’t quiet.  It wasn’t full of any memories that made her weep.  Mama was Home, and I believe it somehow smelled and looked and felt familiar, but still so far beyond her wildest expectations that it’s unfathomable to us mortals.

I turned away.  Homefolk were going to soon be worried.  It was time I headed on out to Shady Acres where my life still is, and where the people I love still gather.  My tears were over for now.  There will be more, and there will be days when the grief feels fresh and raw and unmanageable.  I’ve come to know that it’s all part of the process.  I don’t like it, but I’m trying to make it my friend. There are valuable life lessons to be learned here, and I don’t want to miss them.

And so, tonight, for the process of letting go, for the part that empty houses and tears and gravestones fill in that process, and for the hope of Heaven and for Jesus, who made it all possible; for this and so much more:

My heart gives grateful praise.

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2015 Yutzy Family Christmas Letter

*Christmas, 2015*
Shady Acres Farm *7484 Shawnee Road* Milford, DE*19963

Dear Family and Friends,
The year is fast winding down, and it is time to get this letter out once again.  What can we say about a year like 2015?  It’s hard to condense it down into a single Christmas letter, to catch the events, the various things that have influenced us and changed us, the losses, the gains, and the flavor of this season of our lives.  Whew!  But here goes.

Last year ended, and our new year began with our church family coming together in a reassuring way, showing unity and courage and foresight as we put together a plan for rebuilding our church house after the arson of December, 2014.  As a congregation, we worked through issues of forgiveness and reconciliation, as well as feelings of loss and violation.  We haven’t been perfect in this year of rebuilding, but God has been faithful to us, proving over and over again that “He meant it for our good!” This has made the most difficult days and the hardest times, hopeful.  On December 6th, four days after the first anniversary of the fire, we held our first service in our beautiful new sanctuary.  We plan for a public open house after the first of the year, but these first weeks, our church family is savoring this gift that has been given to us through what has proven to be a severe mercy.  Our small church family has been through a lot of changes in the past year.  We had three weddings, a birth, two funerals, and installed two young men (Caleb Bontrager and Tyler Schrock) on the Leadership Team.  All while using a facility shared with us by Grace Community Church in Greenwood. We are so grateful for their generosity and willingness to allow us such free access, but it is really nice to be back into our own space again.

Funerals.  As many of you know, there was one that affected our family directly.  My Sweet Mama, whose health had been in severe decline for the last year and a half, fell in May, broke her femur, had surgery, developed pneumonia, had a heart attack, and just didn’t seem to improve much over the 12 days she spent in the hospital.  On June 2nd, we brought her home to a big sunny room at Country Rest Home where we could spend time with her and have help with her many physical needs.  There were good days and bad days, as there always are in times like this, but on June 16th, she went home to Heaven while we stood around her bed, held her hands and reminded her of what a wonderful Mama she had been to us.  This entire letter could be about how that has impacted us – my siblings and their families, our family and me personally, but it’s been another odyssey of both splendor and sorrow.  It’s been one that has made me quiet and more introspective than is comfortable.  I keep reminding myself that I won’t always be this sad, and it won’t always feel this empty.  But I do know that I will always miss her, even while I’m hopeful for the future.

And then, there are some wonderful things to report on the family front.  Our youngest daughter, Rachel, graduated from Bryn Mawr College with her Master’s degree in Social Work in May.  A series of events made it possible for her to be home through her Grandma’s illness and death, giving her time to be with Grandma, and to lend a hand to the home front when I needed to be gone.  The rest of the summer she was home, checking out jobs, mowing lawn for her Daddy, babysitting some, applying for jobs, visiting friends, going to weddings, being interviewed for jobs, making two trips to the west coast this fall, and (finally!) taking a job.  Earlier this month, she accepted a position with Catholic Charities in Washington, DC, as a social worker/ clinical case manager.  She is working in their homelessness and housing department with children and families. She is living with three other girls in a row home, and seems to be settling into both the job and the living situation with alacrity.

Lem and Jess are in the same apartment in Alexandria, VA, but are actively pursuing home ownership for the near future.  Lem just finished course work for his PhD in Social Work at Catholic University and is carrying a full load as a psychotherapist at Alvord, Baker and Associates, while he works on preparing for comprehensive exams in February and March.  Jessica changed jobs this year, and is now working as a Research Analyst for the US Government Accountability Office.  She is enjoying this job immensely; from the people with whom she works, to the impact that the GAO has on improving life for average Americans. They continue to be involved at The Table, the church where they have found good friends and common ground.  The last few months have been very intense for them with Lem’s schedule, but one of the things that we’ve admired about these two is that they can endure hardship when they have a plan and a dream, and they have proved it to us again this last semester. Having them in the same area as Rachel has been a great comfort to these “elderly parents.”

Raph and Gina, with their three boys, Simon, Liam, and Frankie, have had an eventful year.  They are finishing this year with really good news on the job front for Raph.  As of January 1st, Raph will be a full-time employee of Grace Mennonite Church (a realization of a life dream).  His official title is Director of Students. He will be overseeing the junior high, high school, and young adults of the congregation with a focus on high school and young adults.  Gina, a wonderful mom, is also a supportive wife and best friend to Raph.  It’s been wonderful to watch how God has knit this family together in ways that seemed only remotely possible when the boys first came, nearly three years ago.  They are doing well, and even though there have been significant bumps in the road this year for this family on several fronts, there is hope and joy and so much love and laughter. One of our favorite things to do is to spend a weekend in Holmes County with the “Ohio Yutzys” and soak up the comfort and activity of life in their home.

Deborah’s year has been different than any other since 2007 in that she hasn’t been out of the country this year.  She enjoyed a trek to Mississippi and Louisiana with her friend, Liz Washburn Strite. They visited Deborah’s friends, Joel and Althea Bontrager and their family in MS, and a friend of Liz’s in New Orleans.  Visiting New Orleans fulfilled one of Deborah’s bucket list dreams (as did holding a real live tarantula while there).  She worked long hours for Delaware Hospice (now in her sixth year there) and has been very involved in the renovation of our church house.  She is taking a break from teaching the young women’s class at church this year, but remains involved in the lives and families of her friends.  In April, she discovered that there were some serious complications with her liver, and was advised to engage in focused diet and exercise.  She complied, even while more testing was being done, and the results have been favorable, health wise, and also flattering to her physique.  However, when the tests were all in, it was discovered that she is dealing with a genetic disorder called Alpha-1, which is best managed by doing exactly what she is doing: Watching her weight, exercising, not smoking, and not drinking.  (H-m-m-m-m-m.  The last two aren’t as big a challenge as the first two for a lot of us!)  The good news is that the last lab results show that everything is back within normal limits and we are all relieved.  She still has her living quarters on the left side of the upstairs landing in the old farmhouse at Shady Acres, and having her here has been a decided plus for both her daddy and me.

Christina and Jesse, along with Charis, are still on Bontrager Road, about 1½ miles away.  Charis is in first grade this year at Mispillion Elementary here in Milford, and does well.  She is learning to read and writes the most wonderful notes to the people she loves. (Dere Gemme you arE the Best Gremall ever.  Love Charis.)  (And if you can’t read that, there’s something wrong with you!) Christina, still a homemaker, is involved with school projects, transporting Charis to and from school, and is the motivating force behind several projects within our family as well as helping out at church.  Jesse, still our beloved son in law, is a valuable asset to Daniel and me on so many fronts.  He lends a helping hand when Daniel needs a strong arm for any of a number of projects.  He is my go-to tech when I need something in the world of computers and printers and the problems that come up there.  He is a systems engineer at Burris Logistics and his intelligence, aptitude for solving difficult problems, and loyalty have paid off in recognition and advancement.  He is a good provider for his family and is a creative and involved Daddy to Charis.

Daniel and I are still involved in life in ways that keep us interested and motivated and engaged.  Daniel continues in his job as Plumbing Inspector for the State of Delaware, raising chickens, gardening, taking care of our farm, and serving on the leadership team at our church as deacon.  I am still caring for handicapped adults (Linda, 16 years, and Audrey, nine) and leading a Thursday morning Bible study that has been meeting at our house for probably 20 years.  I’ve taught “The Littles” at our church part time over this last year, and that is probably one of my favorite things to do.  Children are so honest, interesting and beautiful.  I’ve not been writing or blogging as much since Mama’s death, but discovered recently that the therapeutic value for me personally is worth the time and emotional investment that it takes.  I’ve been blessed with a husband and family who are supportive, and I’m looking forward to being a bit more consistent with postings at https://maryannyutzy.wordpress.com/. (So if you want to catch up on what is happening in our lives before next year’s Christmas letter, you can check up on us over there).

We are enjoying the Christmas season here in our house on Shawnee Road.  We’ve already had some of our yearly gatherings, and Daniel has his huge Christmas Village set up. (Come and see it!  It will be up until late January.)  The Nativity scenes are scattered through the house, too, and the family comes for early Christmas this weekend (the 19th). We are always delighted for a reason to have our family together under one roof.

But the Christmas Village, the nativities, and even the offspringin’s and their families gathering in are only reminders that this special season points the way to Easter, the Cross and the Empty Tomb.  The Baby came to bring us hope.  In this year, when it has seemed that everything has been so different from what I may have chosen, the one thing that has kept me steady has been the hope of the resurrection, the promises that Jesus made to us that He will never leave us, never forsake us.  For this and for all the blessings that this year has held, my heart gives humble, grateful praise.

Have a wonderful Christmas season and a blessed New Year!
Affectionately,
Daniel and Mary Ann Yutzy

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Filed under Family, Holidays, My Life, Uncategorized

The siblings break bread

It is a Tuesday afternoon.  I stir the white sauce that is slowly thickening on my front burner.  On the back burner, a large kettle is beginning to simmer with carrots, onions, celery, potatoes and seasonings.  The shrimp is thawed in the over the sink mesh colander, waiting for its turn to be added to the chowder that I’m putting together for our evening meal.

I hear the door into the laundry room entry way open and feel a surge of anticipation.  He walks into the kitchen with that familiar tread.  My brother is here!  I put down the  scissors I am using to cut the shrimp and dry my hands.  He is not a hugger, but he doesn’t mind a hug sometimes and this is one time when I get away with it.  His smile is steady, but there is a quiet in his bearing that stabs my heart.  He has traveled many miles alone over the last thirteen months, and today was no different.  There are 600 long miles from his home in South Carolina to Shady Acres, and he has driven them repeatedly in the last year.

It isn’t long until the door opens again and in come Uncle Jesse and Aunt Gladys.  We had invited them to join us this evening. These two. Our Daddy’s brother and our Mama’s sister.  Their presence and persons comfort me like no one else can.  Their support and understanding and love have been inestimable, and in them are the tangible remembrances of the two who were our parents.  It feels so right to have them here.

The doors keep opening and shutting behind my beloved siblings and their spouses.  Bert and Sarah come, bringing tender and delicious homemade biscuits.  Alma comes with luscious looking pumpkin pies, lamenting the fact that Jerrel has a DFA meeting, and then Mark and Polly complete our circle, with Polly bringing a marvelous tossed salad to round our the simple meal.  There are beloved faces missing.  Nel and Rose are in Pennsylvania.  Frieda is in Heaven.  Daddy and Mama — I fight back a catch in my throat, and purposefully put it away. We will be glad for who we have in this place, at this time.  We gather around the long dining room table, ten of us at this gathering, and Uncle Jesse prays the blessing.

How many times did I hear Daddy’s voice, raised in prayer at a meal time?  It’s been a long time, but the words of my uncle’s prayer wrap themselves around me with familiarity and quiet comfort.  He thanks God for the food, for the opportunity to be together and prays for blessing on this time shared and for the ones who made the food. Around the table, the hands are joined and we listen to his quiet voice.

And then the “Amen” is said and the food is passed and the conversation weaves a pattern of memories and laughter and tears.  We share so much common ground with each other and with these two whose genetic heritage is the same as ours.  There are stories of Grandpa Dave, and the laughter is vibrant and genuine.  We ask questions and talk about our childhood.  We wonder how our daddy would have handled getting old and infirm and dependent and agreed that God was incredibly merciful to him and to us when He took him HOME.

We don’t speak much about our Sweet Mama.  The missing has settled into a deep and dark chasm for me and there are days when I feel like my heart will burst with all the things I need/want to tell her. I know she is safe.  I know she is happy.  I know that it really was God’s timing.  And I also know that it won’t always hurt this bad.  But it’s hard for me to talk about her without the tears.  At least for now.  And so we remember the good times, several “safe” things, and draw strength and comfort and courage from the time we spend in sweet, sweet fellowship.

All too soon, the night is over.  Uncle Jesse and Aunt Gladys have a somewhat long trek back to their home in Dover and it’s dark.  I worry about them heading off into the November cold, but they are cheerful, dispensing hugs and thank yous and beaming good will to us all.  My brothers and sisters and their spouses gather their leftover food and also depart.  Certain Man takes down the table, puts away chairs and helps to straighten the dining room while I load the dishwasher and put away leftover soup.. The neight has been exactly what I’ve needed.  When I kissed my auntie good by, I smelled the sweet smell of cologne and her cheek was so soft against mine.  It wasn’t my Mama’s signature Chantilly, but it was reminiscent of how important it always was to our Mama that she smelled good.  Oh, Mama!  How I miss you!

The years did pass so swiftly.  Sometimes it seems like Daddy and Mama have been gone forever.  This isn’t something new or unusual or peculiar to the children of Mark and Alene Yoder.  It’s just life.  We had excellent parents.  Truly the best!  Human, flawed, and with their own foibles and peculiarities and sometimes follies.  But so right for us.  So full of faith that they lived before us, and they loved us.  This night reminded us so much of our Daddy and Mama.  But for me, the one thing that shone the brightest though the presence of our precious Uncle and Auntie was the faith mixed with that unconditional love.  We were so blessed.  We are so blessed.  The gifts that we’ve been given through no effort of our own, are gifts that many, many people all over this world have not been privileged to have.

For the gifts of Heritage, warm memories, siblings that are good friends and an extended family who cares — for these good gifts, —

My heart gives humble, grateful praise.

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Sorting it All Out

My Daddy’s study.  Spiral notebooks of my Daddy’s careful sermon notes, reference books, history books, family pictures, boxes and boxes of correspondence, endless files of minutes from various local church and school committees as well as incredible amounts of detailed secretary’s notes that he took from conference committees through the 70’s and 80’s and beyond.  There were school yearbooks, conference reports, even private files that held the responses of church members dealing with church problems before Daniel and I were back from Ohio.  (I refused to read them, but rather discarded with abandonment and even a sense of having no right to know any of it when I would discover such incriminating evidence.  Did he have to keep this???  Was this something that would ever be necessary for posterity???)

When we left for Claytor Lake State Park in Virginia one Thursday afternoon in September, I was to the point of not wanting to go.  I was bone weary and soul depleted.  There had been incredible amounts of canning, bean picking, laundry, sorting, bill paying, estate work, State reports for OGA and BL to get into the proper persons, and the ordinary household chores that needed doing.  I had been determined that I was going to get it all done before we left, and I fell far short of my goal.  My sister in law, Rose, had done a lion’s share of the physical work at Mama’s house that week, but I felt the pull of all the essence of my parent’s home and their very lives being drained away by the decisions I was making concerning their “stuff” and nothing felt “right.”  It may be possible to read every card ever written to Mark Yoder over the course of his life, (including his teen years) but is that the proper use of time?  Do I take a year of my life to organize all the papers, all the files, all the notes, all the sermons, all the tax returns, all the medical and financial records just so they are organized?  And then what?  Who wants them?  I would like to know what is in all those pages and pages of information, but then what?  My siblings and I conferred (as well as the inlaws) and they all said the same thing:  Unless something is legally important, or specific to your particular family, Don’t Save It! (With the exception of Daddy’s sermon notes — those are in high demand among the grandsons.)

And so, I would run a perfunctory eye over files, riffle through committee notes, check the correspondence for personal letters from or to family members (and that alone was voluminous!) and then turn my head and put them in the large dumpster.  Over and over again my siblings would reassure me, “Mary Ann, we just can’t save everything!”  And they were right, of course, but it was still one of the hardest things I have ever done.

Late that Wednesday afternoon, I left My Sweet Mama’s house barely able to hold back the tears until I was in my car and out of the driveway.  Much of my time that afternoon had been spent going through cards, letters, birth announcements, engagement announcements and wedding invitations that had been sent to my grandparents, Michael and Alma Wert, from Daddy and Mama and my siblings and their families.  The years that were marked in that brown manilla envelope were full and exciting and so far gone.  I had read a letter that I had written to my grandparents while I awaited the birth of our third child, telling about five year old Christina and two year old Deborah and the excitement I felt over the new baby coming.  I held the birth announcement for that baby, and thought about Raphael, now older than I was when I wrote that letter.  I drove along the familiar road through the small town of Greenwood and tried to see through the tears.  I rounded the corner at 16 and 36 and came down the road towards Milford.  The brick church by the side of the road with the familiar cemetery was on the right and there were no cars in the parking lot.  I pulled my van up beside the steps going into the graveyard and stopped.

I had not been to Mama’s grave since the day we buried her except for the day we buried Uncle Eli.  In the days following Daddy’s death, I had stopped often, sometimes going in the dark, sometimes in the rain, usually in the winter cold, but always feeling such a need to somehow be where we had laid his mortal remains to rest.  I knew he wasn’t there, but the part of my Daddy that I could see and touch and talk to was down there — somewhere, and I felt like I could talk to him there.  And I would!  I always ended up with my heart turned toward my Heavenly Father and there was where I found comfort.  However, I always felt better after being there.  With Mama, it’s been different.  To think of her body being there — and knowing how she always wanted to be carefully dressed and combed and smelling good and attractive, and knowing how she hated being alone and cold — well, that has been a huge hurdle for me.  It’s just been easier not to go.  But on this day, I needed to be there, the place where we had laid her to rest, and I needed to tell her my heart, and to sob out the grief and heart pain and indecision and questioning that was eating away at my resolve to be strong and upbeat and cheerful. I traced her name against the hard stone, and thought about her life and the last weeks that took her away from us.  Even as I acknowledged that the Mama we knew had been starting to slip away, it was still this horrible, empty place in that house that was always so cheery and welcoming, and this horrible empty place in my heart where this woman, who gave me life so often gave me comfort or encouragement or just plain took my part — whether I was justified in “my part.”  Or not.

I finally pulled myself away.  There was so much yet to do.  The tears ran on and on down my face as I headed my mini-van out onto Shawnee Road and headed towards Shady Acres.  The sun was heading down the sky behind me and I felt keenly the weight of sorrow and grief and loss that seemed to be embodied in the discarding of the things that were important to the lives of my Precious Daddy and Sweet Mama.

The weeks have passed.   Almost six to be honest.  I haven’t been back to my Mama’s house since that day. It’s hard to go without one of my sisters with me and they have both had incredibly unpredictable weeks this last while.  And on days when it may have suited them, it didn’t suit me.  But this excuse has come to an end with the return of my brother, Nel and his good wife, Rose, for a few days.  Tomorrow, it looks like we go back to the fray.  And I will be glad to be there with good support and diversion and helping hands.

But I also dread it.  I keep thinking about that house — particularly that spot where her chair sat so that she could keep an eye on everything, and be a part of everything that went on in her big room that was so full of light.  Her bird that she loved, and that she pampered and talked to, is now here at Shady Acres in the care of Deborah.  I come down in the mornings sometimes and take off the polyester wrapping cloth of pale blues and white that Mama always used.  He looks up at me and chirps his questioning noise.

“Good morning, Pretty Bird,” I often say to him as he hops about in the cage she bought for him.  And then I often find myself saying, “Oh, Pretty Bird!  Do you miss her, too?  Do you miss her as much as I do?”  He’s just a bird, but his morning songs comfort me as I remember that last day, as she was sinking fast, how he burst into song on that long afternoon and sang and sang.  He — here at our house.  She — there in the sunny corner room at the Country Rest Home.  He doesn’t often sing in the afternoon, and Middle Daughter, noting the song, told me later that she felt certain that Grandma was about to head on HOME.

HOME.  That’s where she is.  She is safe.  She is happy.  She is with Jesus.  She is warm and comfortable and healthy.  She is where there is no night.  She is not lonely.  She has no need to cry.  She is never afraid.  She has no more pain.  She isn’t being bossed around.   She is beautiful.  She is alive.

The thing I miss most, of course, is the conversations I had with Mama.  Last week, I wrote a note to her, briefly touching on a number of subjects — things that I would develop into a longer conversation if she were here to participate.  This is what it said:

Ah, Mama.  I wish I could talk to you today!  The leaves are falling without changing much color this year, and the beans got froze out early.  I saw a robin and his mate at the outdoor bird watering station in the cold.  Doesn’t he know its time to fly south?  The hummingbirds are gone.  Aunt Gladys has two new great grandbabies, and they are both Naomi’s sons’ children, born less than forty hours apart.  The church building is coming along.  This morning, Daniel talked to the person who called 911 for us.  That was so interesting.  It seems impossible that a year ago, we were waiting for word of Frieda’s homegoing — and now you are there with her.  We couldn’t know how soon you would leave us, it’s true, but I’m so glad we didn’t.  I don’t know if I could have borne that.  Rachel finally found a job, and will be moving to Washington, D.C. next month.  She placed third in the Pennsylvania Society of Clinical Social Work’s annual awards for Clinical Excellence. Our chickens are almost ready for market and we want to go to Ohio and see Raph and Gina and the boys.  We still aren’t finished cleaning out your house.  It’s mostly done, but I think I’m allergic to something in that house.  Everytime I go in, my eyes water and my nose runs . . .

So much to tell you, Mama.  And no more time.

The thing is, as I looked over this note, I realized something.  I was wrong about something.  That business about the leaves falling without changing colors.  That’s how it looked about ten days ago.  The leaves were falling off our trees and they were brown and green and nothing else.  But something happened on the way from then to now.  I’ve had the chance over the last three days to observe a number of woodlands and ponds and lakes — and the leaves are more beautiful than I have ever seen.  it has to be the prettiest display that Delaware has had for — well, maybe forever!  And I cannot get this off my mind.  I was so wrong about the leaves.  Maybe, just maybe I am wrong about this, too.  Maybe this grief that right now looks so dark and colorless and even “terminal” is going to surprise me someday with its color and life and beauty.

Maybe.  And not just “maybe.”

I have to believe that the word is more like “Probably.”

And for that hope, my heart gives grateful praise.

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Incredible!SweetCorn, Incredible Sadness

It was two of the kind of days that seldom come at the end of July.  Cool, breezy, and so nice for the jobs at hand.  We worked in the refreshing coolness on Friday, making short work of over 1200 ears of gorgeous Delaware Sweet Corn, named (appropriately) “Incredible!” by some foresightful agriculturalist.

“I don’t remember ever having this nice a day for doing corn,” I said repeatedly to my sometimes skeptical co-workers, members of my family that are suckers for this kind of punishment on an annual basis.  They would look thoughtful.  Some agreed and some did not.  But no one could dispute the fact that it was almost perfect..  We finished in good time and put things aside for the 750 ears that would be coming the next morning.

Saturday.  By 9:30, a familial crew descended upon the grounds of Shady Acres and we got those 750 ears done and all cleaned up by three o’clock.  It was, again, a wonderful day .  The weather was almost as wonderful as the day before, the company was good, and the camaraderie was so sweet. It felt really good to have the year’s supply of corn in the freezer.  Then everyone scattered — taking the freezer bags of corn home to their own freezers.

Certain  Man, who had been working on his sermon, came outside to do the final washing and put the pavilion and driveway back to order.  I carried the clean wash baskets, muck buckets, pans, knives and put them away.  The afternoon sunshine was dappling down through the shade in the side yard and the pavilion’s cement floor was clean and wet.
corn day clean up

There were loose ends in the house to round up, and there were several loads of laundry from the morning still hanging on the line, warm and dry from the long hours it had spent there.  I stirred around in my house, started a bleach load of laundry from the day’s gathering and loaded the dishwasher.  I put away the corn utensils, pots and pans and felt that deep, deep satisfaction of a good day’s work.  I still needed to retrieve my dry laundry and do some Saturday night straightening, but I kept landing on my chair and taking breaks.

A little before seven, the phone rang and it was Eldest Daughter.  “Mom, did you know that Lem and Jess are stopping on their way home from the beach?”

“I had texted him, Chris,” I said, “and asked if they were stopping.  I hadn’t heard back.  I decided they had just gone on home.  I might have missed something, though.  My phone was almost dead and I have it plugged in.  I may not have heard.”

“Well, he said that he told you guys that they were going to be there around eight.”

Certain Man picked up my phone from the phone booth where it was charging and said, “Oh, yes.  There is a message here.”  He read it.  “It says they are going to be here around eight.”

Around the phone receiver, I mouthed to him,”Tell them it will be fine!”  And then went back to Christina and learned that the Alexandria Yutzys were hoping for some burgers on the grill.  That was fine because there was still nothing decided upon for late Saturday Supper.  Eldest Daughter was making some zucchini bread, and we decided that she should bring that on down to the oven at Shady Acres to bake and add to the late night snack.

And so the happy evening passed.  Burgers and fresh tomatoes and lettuce and garden tea and other snacks pulled from the pantry mixed with the smell of baking zucchini bread and a pot of Dolcés Jamaican Me Crazy Coffee.  I looked at this small gathering and was grateful for the gifts of this day.  The conversation and laughter and stories and the smell of good coffee wrapped around me with the love of those gathered there and I counted blessings.

Then, in the middle of it all, the phone rang.  I was surprised to see the phone number of my sister in law, Polly Yoder, appear on the caller I.D., and even more surprised when I answered, and it was my brother, Mark, Jr. on the other end.

“Mary Ann!  How are you this evening?”  It was my brother’s voice, subdued but strong.

“I’m good!” I answered, feeling good to the core.  “How are you guys?”

It was Polly’s voice as well as Mark’s that answered.  “Well–”  “We aren’t so good–”  “We’re feeling kinda’ sad this evening.”  And I heard the tremble in one of the voices.

Bravely, one of them went on.  “We just left Jeremy and Cheryl’s.  They got the results of the testing for Jase.”  I felt my stomach tighten.  I felt like I couldn’t breathe.  “. . . and Jase is positive for SMA.”

SMA.  Spinal Muscular Atrophy.  Our family already knew enough about this terrible genetic disorder. Jeremy and Cheryl’s sixteen month old daughter had the same disorder and, after brightening our lives for what seemed but a moment, flew home to Heaven one April night in 2014.  It is difficult to put into words how the days that marked her short live affected us all.  She had a smile that could light up a whole room, a deep affinity for her family that was a result of being known and loved and cherished and tenderly cared for all the days of her life.  Her short life spoke joy and value and God to us all.  It was the hardest of times.  But the valley was ablaze with GRACE and GLORY and HOPE.

Jeremy and Cheryl, their two sons, Max and Boaz, and Mark, Jr. and Polly and the rest of their family finished strong.  Their Anchor did not fail them.  And when we heard that there was another baby on the way, we all prayed for a healthy child.  It seemed like it would be the right reward for their faith and for their faithfulness in the storm that would have destroyed so many others. God gives good gifts to his children, doesn’t He?  He’s promised the desires of our hearts when we delight ourselves in Him, and delighting themselves in God has been the heart cry of this family.  I cannot erase the sounds of Cheryl’s voice, lifted in unmitigated praise and trustful relinquishment in a small church in Baltimore where we gathered to celebrate Ariel’s life.  There was a small white casket, and this brave young mother exalted a God who could do no wrong, who was worthy of our praise, even when we couldn’t understand.  Surely God would reward/honor that kind of faith.

He should, shouldn’t He?

He would, wouldn’t he?

Jase Marius was born exactly a month after his great grandmother went to Heaven.  July 16, 2015.  9 pounds, 9+ ounces. Beautiful. So incredibly beautiful.  I looked at his pictures, and searched for any clue of SMA.  I prayed that the testing, done once he was born, would come back totally clear.  I thought of all the things that would indicate it was okay. The truth is, SMA isn’t immediately evident, and all the looking to see signs that all is well in the first days of life won’t really reveal anything.  But I really thought it would be.  I thought it had to be.

But now, I couldn’t escape this report, these results.

Mark and Polly and I talked for a little bit.  The conversation around the table had stopped when my side of the conversation had indicated something was terribly wrong.

“Did somebody die?” Hissed Christina anxiously.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a very anxious Charis hovering at my elbow, listening intently.  I shook my head, and tried to reassure them, but they knew that there was some sort of bad news.  My heart ached for Mark and Polly and their family.  My heart ached for this old world where the very state of being human begs for Redemption.  These disorders of genetic nature happen because we are a part of a world where things can go so wrong — Sometimes because of our sin, or because of our wrong choices, but often because we are mortals and subject to the laws and accidents of this natural world.

And now I sat, the reality of what this little guy and his family were facing, crashing over my heart while the tears streamed down my face.  But we have a six year old granddaughter.  She was obviously troubled by my distress.  She sidled up to me and threw her arms around my neck.  I took her on my lap and felt the warmth of her healthy body.

“Grammy — what will happen to the baby?”

“I don’t know, Charis, but I do know this, that his family will love him, and Jesus loves him and He can heal Jase.”  Her eyes were earnestly seeking mine.  “But Charis, if he does go to Heaven, just think about it!  Grandma Yoder will be waiting right there to just snatch him right up and hold him and squeeze him.  And that will be wonderful, too.”  I fought back the catch in my throat as I tried to think of hopeful words for her.

And so the evening passed.  Lem and Jess left for Alexandria, Charis went home with her Daddy and Mommy.  Certain Man went to bed so he could get up and finish his sermon.  I folded laundry, stirred about and thought and thought and thought.  And cried.  Deborah came home from Shakespeare in the Park and helped me clean the kitchen and we talked about life-important things.  Mostly about trusting God when things aren’t the way we want them to be.  About letting Him be God when it feels like everything is out of control.  About knowing that He is ruling and reigning and controlling, even when we hate what is going on.

After midnight, I climbed the steps to bed, took my shower, washed my hair, and finally slept.  The morning was here before I was ready.  I came downstairs to organize the morning, and it felt like a cloud was covering everything I did.  I stood at the counter, methodically counting meds and getting ready to get Our Girl Audrey and Blind Linda up and ready for the day.

“Oh, Lord Jesus!” I was going over the same row for the umpteenth time. “This looks so big, so hard, so overwhelming.”  The tears kept falling and I felt so incredibly sad.  “I thought your promise was that this child would be okay!”  Somehow the words settled into my anxious heart.  “Okay???  Are you saying he isn’t ‘okay?'”  “I know, but we asked for health!  And you could have made it that Jase was born without SMA!”  Then the words from Jeremiah 1:5 kept coming insistently to my head.  They were so strong that I finally went and looked them up.  I heard what God was saying to Jeremiah and I knew that it was true for this much prayed for, much loved, much anticipated Jase Marius.

“Before I formed (Jase) in the womb, I knew (him). Before he was born, I set him apart for my holy purpose.”  Jeremiah 1:5 GW.  God’s purpose for Jeremiah was that he was to be a prophet.  What is God’s purpose for Jase?  I don’t know.  But I do know that God has a purpose for Jase.  And He will show us what that is.

The other verse that was cross referenced from this verse was this one: “I saw (Jase) before (he) was born. Every day of (his) life was recorded in (my) book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” Psalm 139:16 NLT

God’s eyes are on this family for good.  He is neither surprised nor dismayed; neither stymied nor baffled.  This is hard.  We don’t understand. But He is God!  He has a plan.  He can be trusted. He is worthy of our praise.

And so, today, this heavy heart will choose to give HIM (grateful) praise.

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Filed under Family

Profile Pics and Penguins

It was just one of those crazy things on facebook.  “How old do you really look?” asked the headline, bold and insistent.  One of my younger girlfriends had taken the test and it declared her to look like she was 28.  Which she declared to be her actual age.  I’m not gonna’ say what her real age is (I don’t really know, Judi!) but I suspect that she is a few years older than that.

Anyhow, my interest piqued, I decided to take the same test.  I forgot that my flamboyant Coleus was what I was currently using for my profile picture so I plowed ahead with the little procedure.  Imagine my surprise when the results came back that I look 24!  Words were thrown around like “Absolutely Amazing!” “Confidence”  “Vitality” and I was genuinely puzzled.  What in the world was going on?  And then I realized that this was all based on a pretty plant.  Not my sensationally youthful face.

Alrighty then.

I should have known.  I mean, I really am not under any sort of delusions of grandeur when it comes to whether I am young or not.  I think being a Grammy helps me to keep a realistic view of things when it comes to my youth or my lithesome appearance.  I enjoy a relationship with our granddaughter that allows her to say pretty much anything she wants to say to me and this is what she said to me one hot day last week when we were walking together.

“Oh, Grammy!”  She said with a conspiratorial giggle.  “You walk just like a penguin!”

Indeed.

This morning my heart gives grateful praise for a container of “absolutely amazing” coleus, for a 61-year old body that still does what I need it to do, for penguins and for granddaughters who don’t mind walking with one.

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Our beloved granddaughter, Charis, reads to her Great-Grandma Yoder’s bird, Pretty Boy.

coleus

The infamous coleus profile picture.

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Filed under Family

Of Life and Hope and Frieda and Heaven

It’s the first Easter without her. Somehow the resurrection and the promise of The Eternal comfort me like never before. My brother was here this weekend, moving though our lives with grace, some tears, but also a determination to remember the good. He saw family, laughed and watched the activity that never stops when the Yoders are together, visited with Frieda’s family, fellowshipped with old friends, laughed with his cousins, comforted his aging mother with his presence and his tender care, ate pickled eggs and read old books. He was home, but he wasn’t. Never more than a breath away are the memories, drawing him to another time and another place. So many things to remember. He is a more pensive, gentler version of the man he has been, and though the grief has changed him, it hasn’t made him angry or bitter.

Saturday would have been her birthday. It is strange to mark the day without her. Even as I know that this is the way of LIFE, I hate this death business. Even stranger to me is how we mark a death and rejoice in a resurrection on the same weekend, but live as if we aren’t really paying attention to the fact that we have this hope within us. Most of the time, we don’t want to think about dying.

Tonight, I think of those who are already there, and wonder what they are doing. Has it been a split second for Daddy, these nine years since he crossed over? I just cannot comprehend. Sometimes I think I have to wrap my mind around it somehow. But how can a mere mortal understand Eternity, the very presence of God and His GLORY?

I stopped at my Daddy’s grave last week to think and pray and cry. In the next row, Freida’s gravestone, newly placed sat in its simple beauty. I hadn’t seen it there before, and in that moment I acutely missed the grace and honesty and fire that was my red-haired sister in law. I stepped over to her monument and touched the rough top of it, crying now so hard that I couldn’t see.

“We miss you so much,” I said. “I wish I had told you more often how much I loved you!” And then I went through the sharp Delaware wind to my van and came on home.

Home. My favorite place in all the world to be. Here are the people I love most. Here are the memories and the familiar. But even here there are scary things — medical issues, aging, auto accidents, bills, disappointment and reversal and loss. But when we get to THAT Home — ah, there will be nothing to disappoint, destroy, alarm or regret. There will be all the good and none of the bad. And I believe that the people I love most will be there, with good memories intact and none of the bad.

One time, in a desperately difficult time in my life, I dreamed that my Daddy came to me and he said, “Where I am, relationships are so easy because there are no regrets.” Sometimes that aspect of Heaven lures me more than anything else. And gives me pause to consider how to do relationships here with no regrets.

Brothers and sisters. In these days when we are so often bogged down with the things of living, may we fix our eyes on Jesus, believe His Words to us when He says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me will have life even if they die. And everyone who lives and believes in me will never die!”

And may we live like we believe it.

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Filed under Dealing with Grief, Family, Resurrection