Category Archives: Holidays

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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Filed under Christmas, Family, Holidays, home living, My Life

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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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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“We need to hang it high . . .”

I looked at the beautiful wind chimes in the flat, heavy cardboard box that lay on my lap.  I had just opened the carefully wrapped present in our family Christmas celebration.  “Mozart” said the label on the box.  These would make some beautiful music.  I immediately began thinking of where I could hang them.

“Where do you want to hang them?” Asked Certain Man.  He had the whole week off and was busy getting things done.

“I don’t really know,” I said.  “I’ve been thinking about taking down the plant that Hortencia gave me last summer just before they left, and hanging them there, right outside my kitchen window.  I could hear them there.”

He looked at me with that look in his eye that said that he had a better idea.  (He really is like the old Ford slogan, He usually has a better idea!)  “I’ve been thinking, maybe,” he said, “that we ought to hang it off the upper deck, outside our bedroom window.  That way we could hear it at night.”

“That sounds fine,” I said.  “It would be nice to hear it at night.”  I thought about the fact that it was winter, and it would be spring before I could hear much of anything, and that if it was up on the upper deck near to the house (where I understood he wanted to put it) it wouldn’t get much wind at anytime and that wasn’t what I wanted, either.  But, still.  This Certain Man often thinks of things that never cross my fur brain, and I thought that he probably had a plan.

He did.

Yesterday, while I wasn’t looking, he put in a hook, up on the corner post of the highest platform, and hung the chimes right exactly where they should have been hung.

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The weather has been so strange this year.  Last night, it was so warm in our bedroom that I opened the window, and turned on the ceiling fan.  It had been a long day, and I lay there so tired I hardly knew whether I was going to be able to sleep.  And then, —

I heard the gentle noise of music in the night.  The chord was familiar and soothing.  The night was wild with the wind and rain, and I listened to the storm interlaced with the music.  A symphony, unscripted and unrehearsed emerged as if Mozart himself was composing in cahoots with the elements.

Certain Man said that we needed to hang it high so we could hear it from our bedroom window.  He was so right.  So very right!

And I slept the hard, deep sleep of the very weary, lulled by a melody that was provided by a gift from Youngest Son and his Girl With a Beautiful Heart, hung by that Man That I Love Best, and carried by a strange warm wind on a Delaware December night.

My heart could not have been more full of the grace and glory of this moment.

And I gave quiet, grateful praise.

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