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Sunday Morning Treasure Hunts

Sunday morning.  I have been sick for a number of days, tired out and coughing.  This is some kind of “crud” as I’ve heard it called, and seems to be highly contagious. But I am better, (somewhat) and I have a Sunday School Class that I am loathe to lend out.  Besides, there was a special activity that was in the lesson, and I thought that my three girlies, Victoria, Katie and Charis, would enjoy it.

The activity was a treasure hunt.  Not a hard or complicated one, but still fun.  So I schemed and planned and printed out the clues in a mad rush because I hadn’t allowed enough time on this crazy morning.   Then I got a text that Charis was sick and wouldn’t be there, so it dropped to two girlies.  That was okay.  These two would be fine.

I was able to get the clues out before class started, and all was well.  At the beginning of class they did the usual things; attendance, prayer requests, prayer, and then I introduced the plan.  “There are four different clues,” I told them.  “Take this envelope and go down to the table in the open area to open it and then do what it says.”  There was a brief discussion over who did what, but then they went happily off to their assignment.  They left the door open and I could see them down the hall.  They eagerly tore open the envelope and pulled out the first clue.

H-m-m-m-m-m-m.  I listened to the discussion.  It was going nowhere fast.

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“Are you girlies having some trouble?” I finally asked them.

“We can’t figure this out!” said one of them, frustration lacing her voice.

“Yeah,” said the other.  “This doesn’t make any sense!”  Back they trudged, holding the offending paper.

“Oh,” I said.  “I gave you the wrong clue!  Here is the right one.”  I handed them the next clue and they eagerly tore into it.  This was something they could understand.

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Off they tore again, down the hall and into the upstairs bathroom, emerging triumphantly holding the next clue.

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(I had to do the correcting because Loretta decided that she was going to move her class of “Littles” into an empty classroom, but she said they could just come in and get it from her, so that was set up before hand).  I heard them knock and heard her cheery voice as she gave them the fourth and final clue,

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Back down the hall they came, opened the closet door and there on the shelf were white bags with their names on them.  (Like this, except this is the one that Charis didn’t get.)

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They came cheerfully into the classroom with their precious sacks and set them on the table, smiling and eagerly opened them.  But the smiles turned wooden and the faces fell.

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“CORN???” asked Katie incredulously, searching her sack some more.

“Ah, corn,” said Victoria, surprised, but brave and gracious.  “I like corn.  Corn is good.  It’s one of my favorite things.”  She looked at it carefully, a bit nonplussed but trying hard to be grateful.

I said, “So what do you think?  Is that a nice prize?  Was it what you were expecting?”  I looked at their faces.  Katie was very sad.  She really didn’t like this prize at all and she wasn’t going to pretend otherwise.

“No,” she said glumly.  “This was not a nice prize.”

Victoria was looking very tenuous, like the longer she thought about it, the more disappointed she became. “It’s not exactly what I was expecting,” she admitted.

“So why did you follow my directions when you could tell that I gave you a bad clue at the beginning,” I asked.  Even as I asked it, I thought about how much effort I had put into having these girlies trust me, and how much I wanted them to ALWAYS trust me, but I also wanted them to THINK about clues that directions maybe should be carefully thought about before they followed them.  “Why did you follow the clues.”

“Because you said there were prizes,” they agreed.  “Because you told us . . . ‘

“You are so right,” I told them  “I said that I had prizes for you, and I do!”  I reached into my trusty bag and brought out a plastic bag for each of them that I had prepared ahead of time for this very minute (I really didn’t want them to think I was a bad leader!)

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In honor of our current autumn season, it was all in fall colors.  A Reese’s peanut butter cup, a new Eversharp pencil with 1.3 sized lead, and a new double ended highlighter.  Their delight was gratifying to see, and I said, “Can I have my corn back?”

“You sure can!” was the general consensus, as they shoved them back over the table.

“It didn’t even have salt!” said Victoria.

“AND it was way expired,” I said, laughing.

“It was???”

“Yep, REALLY expired!”  I told them.  “I would NEVER have given you gals this for a prize!”

And then we went on to talk about peer pressure and bad influences and how “Twelve Men Went to Spy out Canaan, Ten were Bad, Two were good.” (Katie, with her clear, true voice sang the whole song for us and did the motions, too!)  We talked about how easy it is to follow the majority and how important it is for us to listen to what God has to say.  We need to think about His faithfulness to us in the past, and sometimes we have to stand alone – or with the minority when what God has to say flies in the face of what most people are saying, doing, thinking.  They had read our “Bible Words” and had wise input and thoughtful answers.

We finished the time together with two extra students, Phillip and Isaac, and then we ran out of time (as usual).  They all went scrambling down to their “snack time with the Daddies” and I picked up the mess that was left behind and thought about the morning.  I always wonder how much they actually get.  I’m always glad when the teachers’ manual has something like this that works with my class, and that I can maneuver around a bit to involve each of the students.

And, of course, I thought about adult peer pressure and how it still affects me as an older Grammy and wife and mother and sister and cousin and friend and teacher and neighbor.  The issues are real.  And there are some things upon which I have purposed to not expend energy.  . . . I almost wrote down what some of those are, but then I would start a furor, and I’m content to not do that.

“Ten Men Went to Spy Out Canaan,
Ten were bad, two were good.”

Even the terminology of that song is in question these days.  (You don’t call people “bad!”)  However, I’m reminded by this timeless story that we cannot always go with the majority, no matter how Godly we think they are.  We need to come back again to what God says, how He has worked in the past, and be discerning as to what He is asking of us now.

Even if it’s just you and me on one side and ten bad men on the other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Stars in the Crown

I was sitting at the table at Church Retreat a few weekends ago..  Linda was in her wheelchair pulled up at an angle in front of me.  Her bib tied around her neck, her sightless eyes in a frown, her little mouth opening automatically as I spooned her turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy and green beans into it.  It was such a good lunch!  Around me the church family that I love started to clear tables and clean up the weekend mess, while some still visited at the tables, lingering over dessert.

I looked across at all these dear people, and back at my BL, who was complaining about everything this morning.  I willed myself to smile at her because I do not want my face to be a reflection of hers, and I spoke quietly to her, trying to soothe out the grumpiness that often causes people to keep their distance.  (“Why can’t she just be nice, Heavenly Father?  Sometimes I don’t feel like she’s even trying!”)

I thought again about what it would be like to be her.  70 years old.  Blind.  Non-verbal.  Autistic.  Breast Cancer.  Colon Cancer.  And a host of other problems that can cause discomfort.  And this morning, she had been hauled out of her bed, dressed, fed, and drug off to Church Retreat, to a big noisy room with a lot of unfamiliar voices.  She didn’t have her beloved recliner to sit in.  There was an inviting fire in the huge fireplace, and she was beside it, but even the crackling of the fire seemed to disturb her.  It was a damp, cold morning and nothing was quite right.  I looked at her troubled face and knew that, once again, I had no idea what she wanted or what would make her happy.

I was sad that morning.  A host of other things were on my mind, and disappointment was thick in my throat.  I was distressed over the disappearance of Donna Miller, and felt sick in my stomach with the futility of her family’s desperate searching.  I was weary from the busy days of the week before and concerned about my two youngest grandbabies – both of whom were ill.  We were expecting out of state company in the afternoon, and I was scheming as to how I would ever get a Certain Man shook loose in time to get home before they got there.  My head and my heart were full of so many things, my hands on automatic, filling the spoon, putting food into Linda’s mouth, waiting for her to swallow, filling the spoon, putting food into Linda’s mouth . . .

And then she walked by.  Tall and slender, every hair in place, clothes impeccably neat and tastefully coordinated.  She smiled at me as I sat in my chair, and then hesitated.  “I’m telling you what, Mary Ann,” she said.  “You are going to have stars in your crown.  You are going to have so many stars in that crown that you won’t even be able to lift it onto your head!”

I felt a familiar lurch in my stomach.  Those “flitting through my head a thousand tidbits a minute” thoughts about what things are really like in my heart compared to what shows.  I thought about what she said and I thought about what it says in Revelation about laying crowns at the feet of Jesus, and how I’m pretty sure that I won’t be lifting my own crown onto my head.  And then I thought about casting my crown at His Feet, and my heart was suddenly on Holy Ground.

“It will all go back to HIM,” I said softly, almost to myself.

She looked uncomfortable.  “What?” she asked.

“It will all go back to HIM,” I said with a little more confidence.  “The crowns will all be put at Jesus’ feet.”

“Yes, Yes,” she said, also a bit reflectively.  “That’s true!  They will!”  And she went gracefully on.

But her words had been stamped on my heart, and have been the cause of some reflection and thought.

Stars?  Jewels?  Crowns?  I haven’t really thought much about rewards or setting them anywhere.  A crown, particularly a heavy one, seems awkward and hampering.  What are crowns a symbol of?  “Why a crown, Lord Jesus, and for what purpose?”

In our world today, crowns are symbols of many things, but most commonly it denotes authority or intrinsic royalty.  Both of which, if I understand the teaching of Jesus, are already mine.  So it’s not that I’m going to “get one” but rather that I already have one.  And whether there are stars or jewels in that crown as a direct result of what I’ve done and haven’t done is not something that I thought very much about or particularly care about . . .

Except in one context.  When that day comes and it’s time for us to lay at those crowns at the feet of the one who deserves our worship, then I want it to be precious in His eyes; literally the best that I can bring to the feet of The One who has given so very much for me.

Lord Jesus, May it be so!

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The Wedding Pies

“Rob and I have decided,” said Youngest Daughter to me one afternoon shortly after Rob had gotten up the courage to ask her Daddy if he could marry her, “that we don’t want wedding cake.  We want pies.  And we would like it if you would make them.”

It was early summer.  October 19th seemed a long way off.  Besides, I like to make pies.  And I love this daughter and the man she had chosen to love, as well.  “Of course, Rachel,” I said without hesitation.  “I will be glad to make the pies for your wedding. Do you know how many people you are going to have and how many pies you will want?”

“Well, we aren’t having a big wedding,” she answered vaguely.  “Let me get back to you on that.”

This girlie of ours planned everything down to the last comma and exclamation point.  It wasn’t long until she told me that she was pretty sure that the maximum capacity for the reception was 110 to 115.  That was good to know.  “How many pieces do you want each pie cut into?” I asked her, “six or eight?”

“Oh, eight, of course,” she asserted stoutly.  “People won’t want more than a smaller piece after eating the dinner.”

“Well, then,” I said to her, “We should probably have about 15 pies.  What kind do you want?”

“Um, I don’t really know yet.  Let Rob and I discuss it and get back to you.”

“That’s fine,” I said.  “I will get the pie crusts into the freezer and then fill them just in time for the wedding.”

Sure enough, on August 5th, her list came through.

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This looked very doable to me.  I was familiar with each one of these pies.  The only “hard” pie was the Lemon Meringue which just happens to be Youngest Daughter’s favorite.  I did wonder at the fact that there were eight different pies, but decided that if this was what was wanted, this was what was going to be done.  And I was going to make a Lemon Meringue Pie that would SING it would be so beautiful and taste so nice.

There came the day when Middle Sister and Youngest Sister came to help me, and we moved a lot of work that day.  Middle Sister (Sarah Slaubaugh) made cheddar cheese soup and washed dishes and helped weigh out pie crusts and assisted with making fruit slush for the rehearsal dinner.

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Youngest Sister, (Alma Heatwole) is turning into a champion pie crust maker, and she mixed the pie dough, then I weighed it out into equal portions.

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Then she rolled them out and I got them into their pie pans and crimped the edges and got them into the freezer.

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It was quite an operation, but when all the things were done, it was a huge weight off the shoulders of this mother of the bride.  Middle Sister came back the next day and washed all 72 cylindrical vases for the tables at the reception as well as the 22 votive candle holders.  She also mended some of the boxes that they had come in so that they wouldn’t fall out and break on the way to DC.  It was an incredible help, and the days passed by so quickly that I was almost breathless.

If you read down through that pie list, you noticed that one of those pies was a French Silk Chocolate Pie.  This is a frozen pie.  It was also the only pie that I could make ahead of time and transport to DC without fear of disaster.  So I got busy on Wednesday and baked the pie shells and filled them.

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(And yes, there were three of these pies because we had promised to leave one for our gracious hosts, Keith and Leah, who were out of town for the week, and we wanted them to have one that would still be good when they got back!)  I stashed those three pies away and felt so good about them.

Thursday.  It was  such a fun, interesting and profitable day.  I took all my recipes and copied off two copies of each.  I measured and calculated and put all the dry ingredients for each pie together in a heavy plastic bag and labeled them.  I measured as many of the wet ingredients as I could and put them into separate, tightly closed jars.  I put all the ingredients together into a larger ziplock bag along with one copy of the recipe.  I checked all the ingredients off as I finished each recipe so that I would have no guessing the next day, and also so that I would not be dragging a bunch of baking supplies along to DC that I would only use a little bit and then have to drag them all back home.  I put all the bags into one of my sturdy large gray totes along with the list and the sheath of recipes, and I was pretty pleased with myself when it was all done.

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Then I figured out how much butter I would need, how many dozen eggs, how much whipping cream, and tucked in the bottle of vanilla, and I  felt like I was set.

Friday morning.  We couldn’t get into the church until noon, and we pulled up there around two or three minutes after 12:00. Les Graber, maintenance man and all around helpful guy, let us in and I got started right away.  I baked the four pie shells that I needed and set them aside.  The rest of the pies needed to be filled and then baked.  So I got the Apple Crumb in, then the Pecan, then the Vanilla Crumb, then the pumpkin and finally, the rhubarb.

Next I started the Lemon Meringue.  I expected this pie to be fairly “easy-peasy” because I had grated the lemon peel at home, juiced the lemon juice out and measured everything.  The filling went together super well. and it looked and tasted really good.  I beat the eight egg whites into huge and beautiful mounds, added the sugar and the cream of tarter, and started to spoon it over the hot pie filling.  All of the sudden, my heart dropped to the pit of my stomach.  Oh, no!  I had forgotten the vanilla.  I looked at the pies with several large dollops of meringue on them and pondered what I should do.  I decided first to just add vanilla to what I had left and beat it up good and maybe just cover it all up.  Then I thought that maybe I could at least scrape off the top of those mountainous peaks and put it in with the remaining meringue and “just beat it up good!”  I should have known better.  I really should have.  But I scooped as much of that meringue back into the big KitchenAid mixing bowl and started to whip.  My meringue sank lower and lower until it looked like a thin pudding of some sort.  Some of the lemon filling must have gotten in and done more damage than I had expected it to.  Oh, dear.

My next idea was to just start all over with it.  I checked my eggs.  Nope!  Not enough.  I still needed to make the Peanut Butter Pie and there weren’t enough eggs for me to just take eight.  Besides, what would I do with eight leftover egg yolks???

Wait a minute!  Egg yolks!  I needed six for my peanut butter pie and I didn’t need the whites because I top my Peanut Butter Pie with whipped cream, not meringue.  And besides, four egg yolks a pie when I use jumbo eggs, is way too much.  Three each would be plenty.  Before anyone noticed or told me not to, I poured that offending, pity-sakes of a bowl of meringue down the sink and turned on the water to wash away the evidence.  I procured my precious egg yolks and made my Peanut butter pie while the egg whites came to room temperature.

Back in my element, I whipped those egg whites up and added the Cream of Tarter, the sugar and the vanilla, and got them onto the pie.  Middle Daughter, Deborah, attended to the final smoothing of the tops and we popped them into the oven and set a timer.  I pulled them out a little later and felt like they could maybe use a little bit more time, so I put them back in and set the timer for another five minutes.

Well.  When that timer went off, I slipped my flat cookie sheet under the first pie and slid it out.  It was a tad bit darker now than I wanted, so I hurriedly went to get the second one out.  I was using the top oven which was a one rack oven.  I had already gotten burned on my cookie sheet earlier, so I was trying to just slip it in as fast as I could and not linger.  In went the flat cookie sheet and the heat rose out of the open oven door.  I  needed to hurry!  I quickly pulled my cookie sheet out.

Oh, no, Oh, no!!!  I looked down at my cookie sheet and all that was on that cookie sheet was the meringue!  I kid you not.  Somehow that sharp, flat cookie sheet had gotten between the pie and the meringue and slid right on through to the other side.  When I pulled it out, there was the meringue, perfectly round and unscathed by the trauma.  I looked at it in disbelief.  I pulled my now naked Lemon Pie out of the oven and still just could not believe it.  Daniel and Christina came to see what was going on when they heard my cry of dismay, and they started to laugh.

This was no laughing matter.  “What am I going to do?”  I wailed.  “What in the world am I going to do???”

“We are going to put it back on,” said one of my laughing sidekicks.

“How in the world are we going to do that?” I asked almost in tears, “I don’t think it’s possible!”  But then I kinda caught the vision and thought about possibilities.  We hauled a large pancake turner out of the church’s drawer and carefully slid that meringue right back onto the pie.  It didn’t break, it didn’t dent, it just went back to where it was before it was so rudely removed from its rightful place.  The cook’s critical eye was not very happy.  It wasn’t as high as it should have been, and it (for sure!) was not sealed to the outer crust, but it was on, and it didn’t look too bad for what it had been through.  I had to be content.  I stashed it in the fridge for the night and decided not to look at it again.

Saturday was busy from morn till night, and the wedding happened and our youngest chick got married.  The wedding was beautiful, and the food at the reception was incredible.  Kelly and her husband, Doug, from Lemons and Grace Catering did an absolutely fabulous job with the food, and–

Yes, there was no cake.

But there were pies.  And some of them got totally gone, and some of them did not.  The Lemon Meringue, bless its heart, was not as popular as some of the others.  It wasn’t as pretty as some of its neighbors, but it had been through a lot.  No one said a negative word.  The ones who knew the story held their peace, except for the guilty one.  She never could keep a secret, and so now the whole world knows.

It could have been so much worse.  This is for sure.  And so, once again, for all the things that might have been — and weren’t, and all the things that came together and made this weekend a happy time —

My heart gives humble, grateful praise.

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It’s fuzzy, but it’s My Girlie and me, and I love her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Early Morning Paranoia

The one room in my house that stays orderly is our bedroom.  (My RBI roommates probably have a hard time believing that, but it is true!)  I make that bed every morning, and I do not make piles of things on the furniture.  There are (almost) never misplaced items on the floor, and if I stub my toe on anything it’s the edge of the dresser, or the bed leg under the dust ruffle, or the corner of the night stand.  Certain Man has an uncanny knack of finding anything sharp with his bare feet, so I am especially careful about dropped pins from my prayer veiling, or anything that could possibly pierce the tender skin on those feet that work so hard, every single day.

So this morning, I was making my way across the bedroom after my alarm went off.  It was somewhat dark in the room, and I didn’t have my glasses on yet, and I felt my bare foot step on something kinda flat and hard down beside the dresser.  I peered at it from afar and pondered what it might be.  It was about the size of a dime, dark colored and I thought that maybe it was a piece of bark that fell out of somewhere with all the woodcutting that Certain Man has been doing for his friend, Gary.  I reached down to pick it up, but when I touched it, it moved!  I felt a leg kinda squiggle under my tentative finger.

Yikes!

“It must be a Stink Bug,” I thought.  “Miserable creatures are such a menace!”

So then I stood for a bit contemplating if it would run away, or if I should go get a tissue and flush it down the toilet, but finally decided the best thing to do was to just pick that thing up and fling into the toilet.  I carefully reached down and caught it between my thumb and forefinger — .

And it was nothing but a dark colored rubber band, all wrapped up around itself that sprang to its healthy round shape in my grasp.  The “leg” I felt was nothing more than the under part of the band where it had been wrapped around itself.  Shew!

I felt relieved.  Then foolish.  Then amused.  And then, because I’ve been wanting to write some more stories, I decided to write it down.  There have been so many stories in my life in the last couple of years that are not mine to tell.  Many are sad.  Some are heavy.  This one is not.  It’s just another story about a Delaware Grammy and her everyday life on a chicken farm in Rural Delaware that has so many stink bugs that I’m getting paranoid.

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A Song to Remind Me

It was about ten days ago that our family came home for a few days — and even though some were here at one time and some at another, we did have some time when EVERYONE was here at once, and that was sweet.

By Saturday noon, everyone was gone.  Rach and Rob had helped to put down the table and set furniture right before they left, and it was looking a bit more like our home.  I listened to the sounds of the empty house and my heart was full.  When these offspringin’s come home with the grandchildren, life rips along at an unbelievable pace, and I hardly have time to savor the moments like I would like. There are meals to make and laundry to do and one (or a dozen) more thing that just needs picking up or putting away.  I love to hold babies, talk to the older grandchildren, Listen in on the conversations of our adult children and their loved ones, plan special events, etc., but the events leading up to this year’s family time made it impossible for me to think in terms of what I should I do, how I could make things extra special, and what were they really interested in?

We had a great time.  They took in the beach, made pots of coffee, swam in a neighbor’s pool, were here for the picnic and the days flew by.  The last evening, when Lem and Jess were looking to head down to Ocean City to spend time with her parents, we decided to order pizza in instead of going to Grotto’s in our usual manner.  That was a whole lot less hectic for our last night together.  Strangely enough, it was a whole lot better atmosphere around our big dining room table.  There are 17 of us these days, and with one or the other of the babies in a high chair, we still fit around that old table that Ralph Yutzy made for his family 50 some years ago.

And then, before I could really assimilate it, they were gone.  All of them.  The Sugarcreek Yutzys, the DC Yutzys, the Ambleside Cottage Maiden, and the Bontragers from the Big House on Shawnee Road — all disappeared into the hot Saturday sun and left us in the old farmhouse at Shady Acres.

As the hours passed and became days, the ache in my heart grew and grew.  For one thing, having everyone home reminds me of how much I love these grownup offspringin’s and the people they have brought into our family, and those Grandchildren!  They fill in spaces in my heart that I didn’t even know I had.  Along with realizing how much I love all of them, I also realize that I have so many dreams for them, prayers yet unanswered and concern for the world in which our grandchildren are growing up.  So many things so wrong, and so little hope for righting the mess, and the imagination of this Delaware Grammy sometimes runs wild, as I think of my beloved children and grandchildren.

One afternoon this week, I was doing something in Linda’s room.  Charis was here and hanging out with my tablet in the kitchen.  I was thinking about all the events of the past week, words I’d overheard that I really wish I hadn’t.  I was praying much for Rachel, subpoenaed to court in a distasteful custody proceeding that was so intense it was making her physically ill.  The proceeding, drug out by cross examining of a different witness, had gone long – and she hadn’t been called to testify.  She was mandated back the next day, Friday, her day off, Rob’s birthday, and a host of plans for the day went slithering down the tube.  I knew it wasn’t mine to worry about, and I brought it to the foot of the Cross, but my heart ached for my girlie, and for her state of discomfiture over this proceeding.  How I wished that she could just lay it down and not worry so much.  So this Delaware Grammy was mulling all this over in her head, and I just. felt. so. sad.

And then, a song began to make its way into my head.  I had heard it several times already, but it suddenly impressed itself on my brain enough that I stopped and listened.  It was a YouTube production, and it was well done, but over the well played strains of music, I heard the clear high voice of a child, singing every word along with Youtube, hitting every note, tone on.  I listened and then I followed my heart to the kitchen.  Charis stopped, mid note, and looked up, embarrassed.

“Were you singing along with that song?”  I asked her.  She nodded shyly.  “That’s beautiful, Charis.  Who taught you that song?”

“Daddy,” she said quietly, proudly.

Daddy.  My heart was instantly alive with delight.  “Oh my Charis, Darling!  That’s wonderful!  Will you sing it for me again?”

She ducked her head, embarrassed.  She wasn’t willing to sing it right then.  But that was okay.  Hearing the voice of my granddaughter, singing a song that she learned from her Daddy on this dark, discouraging day was like a special voice mail of Hope from my Heavenly Father.

Several days later, we got to talking and had a sweet, sweet time together.  I told her what her song had meant to me – how it felt like a gift to me from God and that I was so thankful for it.  She listened carefully, and then, when I asked her if she would sing it again, she agreed.    Of course, I got a video clip of it to remind me of that special gift.  It won’t mean as much to anyone else as it does to me, I am sure, but it makes my heart give grateful praise, and it just may bless someone else as well.

Charis sings: 

 

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In Loving Memory: Mighty Mack Shiery

Tonight, in the same country cemetery where we’ve laid our loved ones down, we added another little grave.  Mighty Mack Shiery, my niece, Carmen’s eagerly anticipated son, died a month short of his due date.  There was a tiny grave, carefully dug by Jeffrey, his grieving father.  A small alabaster colored coffin was in a plain wooden box that was also built by his daddy.

I thought tonight about the incongruities of life and death, and wondered once again, how we can sing at time like this, through the tears hot and bitter, filled with all the broken dreams of a young Mama and Daddy.   But sing, we did.  “It is Well With My Soul” and “Jesus Loves Me” and “Lift Your Glad Voices.”  I listened to Mighty Mack’s sister, the one who gave him his name, and heard her two year old voice, singing with all her might in a voice as clear as the hot May evening sunshine, “Jesus loves me, this I know.  For the Bible Tells me so . . . ” and the tears coursed down my hot cheeks, thankful for the reminder that “the children know!” 

Lord Jesus may we all know . . . and believe!

Little Boy Shiery
You slipped away and
Left behind the shell
Of your earthly existence.
No one knew that you were leaving.
No one saw the angels pick you gently
From the warmth of your Mama’s body
And carry you into the presence of Jesus.

Little Boy Shiery
So many earthly dreams disappeared
In the split second it took
For you to go from darkness into
The Ethereal Light.
There, in that Land of Perfect Day
You skipped the stage of Helpless Humanity
To be whole, complete and alive.
Are you laughing? Talking? Running?
Did your curly red hair go with you there?
Are your eyes a beautiful blue like your sisters’?
Have you met people there who know you?
Did your Great Grandma hold you to her heart
In gladsome welcome?

Little Boy Shiery.
What is a wondrous beginning for you
Is a heart rending ending for those
Who have loved you from before your first heartbeat.
The grief is raw and the sorrow deep.
There are no answers to the questions
That pound our hearts with unrelenting anguish.
And for the pain to which
Our humanity binds us
We plead the Grace
That carried you safely Home.

 

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Traveling Mercies

I’m really old fashioned in so many ways.  And even though it is an odd phrase, I love the implications and memories that are associated with melding of the two words, “Traveling Mercies.”  An acknowledgement that we have a Heavenly Father who watches over his children, who protects and provides and guides them on the highways of our country and the journeys of our lives.

So Saturday morning, when Daniel and I started out for Washington, DC, for a “Parent’s Work Day,” I asked that Heavenly Father for Traveling Mercies.  We were loaded with a plethora of “stuff,” it was looking like rain, and it felt right to acknowledge that, without the mercy of our Almighty God, we could be in a heap of trouble.

Daniel had made an monstrosity  of a picnic table for Lem and Jessica’s little patch of a yard.  He had been working at it for weeks, and it was everything that it was supposed to be.  Too large for his regular workshop, he had fashioned it in his machine shop that is at one end of the old chicken house.  Thanks to the help of Deborah and Jesse, it was now in pieces, carefully labeled to be put back together once we were on site, and loaded and tightly strapped down onto Daniel’s open trailer (that gets pressed into use for anything from carrying calves, or pigs, or mowers or trash or large woodworking projects that he cannot fit into anything else).

Rachel had asked for an additional shelf for her record cabinet/book shelf  that Certain Man had made for her a few months back.  He had gotten the shelf ready to go, and tucked into a safe spot where it wouldn’t get knocked about. (This is a picture of the original piece before it got taken to Washington earlier this year)
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She also had requested that her Dad bring along his pressure sprayer to do some cleaning up under the deck and in the basement entryway.  “And would you please bring some roundup so we can get rid of some of the weeds where it is impossible to mow?”  The pressure sprayer was on the back of the pickup along with necessary tools for the yard work and the installation of the picnic table at Lem and Jessica’s house.  There were also a number of empty planters on the deck at Rachel’s house, so I was hauling along potting soil and a flat of flowering plants and Coleus to see if there was a place for them.  These items were on the back seat of Daniel’s Colorado so as not to be blown all over the place on our trip across the bay.

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The night before we left, I had texted with Jessica and discovered that our schedule was a bit different than we had planned, which made time at Rachel’s house to make some soup and a batch of bread if I planned carefully, so tucked in among everything else was my trusty soup kettle, a chicken, some celery, onions, carrots, corn, Fordhook Limas, and Ramen Noodles, and all of the pre-measured ingredients for three loaves of bread.  There was also the fixin’s for a gallon of Daniel’s favorite Garden Tea, some fresh asparagus for the DC Yutzys to share, some frozen beef for Lem’s freezer, books to read to Stella, and a couple other things that we thought might be needed.

I am not exactly comfortable riding in city traffic, even with a minivan, but when you add a trailer to the back end of the pickup truck, it felt like the Traveling Mercies were really needed.  Daniel is an alert and observant driver.  He has traveled many a mile with a trailer on behind, and he did well.  He realigned his load in Denton before we hit any serious traffic and he skillfully maneuvered his little one man convoy to our destination.  It was a smooth trip and even though we had some rain, it wasn’t terrible.  I was extremely grateful!

The day went well, and things progressed as planned.  We finished up at Rachel’s house (with the help of Rachel and her boyfriend, Rob) in acceptable time, with missions all accomplished.  Then we trekked over to Lem’s house for the biggest job of the day.  After a quick lunch of chicken corn noodle soup and fresh bread, the troops were ready to get at it.  And so, the huge project that Lem had envisioned and his Dad had brought to life began to be set into place.

What a wonderful time it was!  Hard, hard work and so much satisfaction when Daniel was able to say, “It went together better than I expected, and turned out like I wanted it to.  Stella and Grammy got to watch while the rain came down and it got chilly.  Such a happy day!


And then, suddenly, everything was done and it was time to go home.  Time for something that I had been dreading all day.  Rachel’s car needed to come home to Delaware for an oil change and some other repair work, and since I was NOT going to drive that pickup with its trailer on behind, I was the one to whom was given the task of driving the little roller skate of a car that belongs to our daughter.  (At least it had automatic transmission!)

It had started to rain in earnest now, and I had a quick instruction from Rachel as to where the wipers and lights were, and how they worked.  I adjusted the driver’s  seat from my long-legged girlie’s position that was almost in the back seat and I prayed for Traveling Mercies.   There was a light on in the panel of the car, but I didn’t know what it was.  I figured that Rachel knew what it was, so it must not have been important, and so we got on our way.  Daniel led the way.  I figured he could get us out of the city better than I could, and at least I wouldn’t be the one responsible if something we got lost.  I also figured that, with the trailer on behind the pickup, once we got out on the freeway, I could logically “keep up” with this man (who has a reputation for a heavy foot) without having to speed.  Too much.

I was wrong.

In all fairness, it was raining heavily, and he thought that someone that was in fairly close proximity to him was me, so he went as fast as he wanted to as long – as that car kept up!  Trailing woefully behind, I was under great duress!  It wasn’t hard to keep Daniel and his trailer in my sights as long as I kept up a little, but the man was really flying.  My left hand that suffers from De Quervain’s tenosynovitis began to ache intensely.  I realized that I was gripping the steering wheel with a death grip like I thought it was going to get away.  I thought dismal thoughts about what would happen if someone lost control in that mess.  I thought about telling him go on ahead since I knew the way home once we were out of the city, but when I tried to call him, he didn’t answer.  Without blue tooth, trying to call was dangerous under any circumstances.  Given the present set, I decided to do my best and prayed for Traveling Mercies!

Then he saw he had missed a call from me and called me back.  He was immediately remorseful when he heard my distress, and said that he was going to slow it down for me.  We were almost to the Bridge by then, and he wanted to stop and get a drink at the Dairy Queen after the Bridge.  Did I want to stop, too?  I did not.  All I could think about was getting HOME.  So at the Bridge we parted ways.  I took myself to Shady Acres, (Oh, Boy!  Did it look good!) arrived shortly before he did, and parked Rachel’s car outside the garage.  I came into the warmth and light of home where Deborah had carefully watched over things and cared for Blind Linda while we were gone.  I found my chair and put my feet up!  Wow!  I was exhausted!!!  When Daniel came home and had gotten everything unloaded from the pickup, he parked the car in the pavilion out of the rain, and we called it a day.

Sunday Morning.  We needed to take Linda to church with us and Daniel needed to pick up our friend, Gary, so we decided to use Rachel’s car since it is easier to get Linda in and out of it than it is our minivan.  Daniel was going to drive the minivan to give room for Friend Gary’s long legs, and I was going to drive the car.  Daniel loaded the big stuff in the minivan, (Linda’s transport chair, my box of Sunday School supplies, bibles and quarterlies and such) then went out to bring up the car so we could get loaded.

I was in the house, and wondered what in the world was taking him so long.  Then I looked out of the window and saw him out at the shop, and realized that he must have needed to put air in a tire or something.  I got everything ready to go – Linda in her chair and myself all ready — and he still hadn’t come in.  So I went out to look what was keeping him.  It was raining and he was standing out in the rain looking at that rear tire.  Then he got into the car and slowly backed it all the way in from the shop to the pavilion and parked it, got out and walked across the black top towards me, holding something in his hand.

“I take it that we aren’t using Rachel’s car this morning,” I said. “What’s the problem?”

He looked at me with a sort of disbelief and wonder on his face.  “It’s a wonder you got home last night, hon!” he said.  “When I went out to bring the car around, the back tire was totally flat.  I knew she was having tire pressure problems, but I didn’t know it was a major issue.  But I can’t believe you didn’t have a blowout or something!  All that was holding the air in that tire was the little screw on valve cap.  The valve was broken off inside the cap and there were only a few rounds of the cap screw holding it on!  If it had come loose —,”  He held out the tiny piece.  “Put it in on the stand, and we will deal with it later!”

My heart was suddenly very, very quiet .  I thought about that ride home in blinding rain and speeds that were too much for this Delaware Grammy.  I thought about all the “might have been’s,” and “What if’s” and even the discomfort I felt in driving an unfamiliar car.  I thought about the term, “Traveling Mercies” and all the arguments (and scoffing) against the term that I’ve heard lately.  And I thought about a God who knew the heart of his daughter and knew that I wasn’t praying out of a lack of faith in His presence or His care over me, but rather the confidence that His Eye was on me for good – that He could bring me safely Home if that was His Will.  That I was not alone in that car, driving home, that HE was with me.  That I can ask, that I SHOULD ask, and then trust that He will do for me what is best.

It’s just a term, and it means different things to different people.  I’m not hung up on whether it is biblical or proper or archaic.  I only know that for this Delaware Grammy, who has been extended mercy one more time while traveling, it’s comforting!

My heart gives grateful praise!

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