They came pouring into the kitchen, hungry for home cooked food, and I looked at this motley group of young, sophisticated, and brainy young people and wondered what made them tick.
Mostly strangers to me, I listened intently to the spirited exchanges and thought about their life stories. What made them tick? What was in their hearts? I was standing at the counter by the fridge, working on cinnamon rolls when I became aware that there was a handsome young man standing at my right elbow, watching me.
“So,” he said said suddenly. “What would you say is your favorite hymn?” He caught me flatfooted, off guard. H-m-m-m-m. Why would this worldly wise, cynical millennium want to know a thing like that??? Trick question? Honest seeker? I would have been much more prepared for a cooking question. I looked into his face for a clue. It was emotionless. Calm.
My favorite hymn. For me it was a no brainer. I have a lot of hymns that I love, many that speak to me in the depths of my heart in times of grief, times of despair, times of rejoicing, times of praise. But there is one . . .
I turned my eyes away, and gave him the scoop. “My favorite song,” I almost whisper, “is a very common song. It’s old and it may seem common place. The song is ‘Tell Me The Old, Old Story,’ but the thing that captivates me most about that song is the last verse.”
“Tell me the old, old Story when you have cause to fear
That this world’s empty glory is costing me too dear.
Yes! And when That World’s Glory
Is dawning on my soul
Tell me the old, old Story-
“Christ Jesus makes thee whole.”
He turned abruptly and walked away without comment, without acknowledgement. I went back to my morning tasks but my heart was pondering so many things. Then this morning, in our Monday Morning Family Zoom Meet, we were talking about favorite songs, and this story came back to me with the words of that last verse impacting me somewhere significant and deep.
“This world’s empty glory.”
What is that? How does it cost me? How would it show, if it were “costing me too dear?” Would I know? Would you know? And if you did, would you tell me? And if you told me, would I hear you?
“Oh, Lord Jesus, let your eyes look me through. May there be a clarity to my thinking, a trust in your ability to hold me steady, and whatever else may happen, let your Glory dawn on my soul with peace. Any other glory will not carry me through. The gaudiness and the glitter may distract me now, but I know from experience will turn to sawdust around me, and I can almost taste the emptiness in my mouth. It isn’t worth it.”
It just isn’t worth it!
They came pouring into the kitchen, hungry for home cooked food, and I looked at this motley group of young, sophisticated, and brainy young people and wondered what made them tick.
When I was a little girl, and always wanting something to do, sometimes on hot summer afternoons, My Sweet Mama would send me out to fetch a collection of dandelion stems.
“Get the longest ones you can find,” she would say, and away I would go to find the exact thing that she asked for. I suspect that she would “make hay while the sun shone” (as she sometimes put it) and got some short jobs tackled while I was out there pulling stems, but eventually I would return with some stems that she deemed good enough.
She would fill a short jar with cold water, and then she would select a sturdy stem and carefully make two half-inch slits in one end of it, making four little loose sections at what was now the bottom of the stem. She would blow into the other end to be sure that it was unobstructed, then she would put the cut end of the stem into the water and blow a steady breath into the other end, making a delightful noise as the bubbles rose to the surface around the stem.
It was so exciting, to see Mama start these little things for us. We would blow vigorously into the end of our very own miracle toy and watched the bubbles rise with fascination. As the bubbles rose, the small pieces of dandelion began to curl up and over themselves in the most satisfying fashion. It would form the most delicate curls that would hang in round perfection off the bottom of a common green stem. We could use up many a long, hot hour with our homemade diversion.
This week, my sister in law, Rose, gave me an armload of rhubarb. I brought it home and stuck it upright in a tall container overnight. Yesterday, I cleaned it and trimmed it and put it into my big sink in water, while I cut it up and got it ready for the freezer for pies and rhubarb sauce. It was magnificent!!!
We had just gotten home after 6 days away, and I kept getting diverted from my task by various “homecoming rituals.” Some of the stalks of rhubarb lay in the water longer than expected. I came back to the sink and found my rhubarb starting to curl in a very familiar way. I found myself suddenly transported to a cement porch step on a hot summer afternoon, and wondered at the lurch in my heart.
I tried to shake the tugging memory by wondering if Rhubarb and Dandelion are related somehow, and examined the stems of the rhubarb as I diced them into a measuring container for pies. My examination of the stems revealed the familiar looking curls, but a solid center. They really aren’t related, I decided, and finished the chopping and bagging and freezing.
The memory kept dogging me today, though, so I decided to go and try to find some dandelion stems and make some curls. It’s been years, but I haven’t forgotten how to do it. “I’ll just pick me a few stems, and see if the curls are as similar as I thought,” I said to myself after lunch was over, and headed out the back door.
I stopped just outside the garage in the hot summer sun. It felt oppressive, and I felt like I could hardly breathe. I took a quick look over our lawn, and not seeing a single speck of yellow, looked again. Not a single dandelion anywhere. We haven’t waged war against dandelions in our yard, but Certain Man’s careful manicuring has made them non-existent. I felt strangely disappointed that there were none to be had, but escaped back into the cool of my kitchen and got ready for my afternoon intermediates Sunday School class.
I’ve thought happily about my innocent, carefree, childhood and the path my life has taken and the curlicues of the side roads and detours. I thought about the memories that are so good and about a Mama who would stop her work to blow dandelion curls with her children. I thought about the world in which my grandchildren are growing up and I wished for them Rhubarb pies and Dandelion curls on hot summer evenings.
And then I know . . .
They will have their own recollections of childhood, and will trace those memories some day. They are growing up in a totally different time, to be sure, but this Grammy prays that when memories come crowding in on a random Sunday afternoon, they will be remembered with a gladsome and grateful heart. And I add another prayer that part of those memories will be of a Grammy that not only prayed for them, but also loved them fiercely.
My heart gives humble, grateful praise that I can call them “mine!”
Certain Man has had quite a respite from stories being told about him and his escapades. He has not had a lack of escapades, as you can probably guess, but the scribe in the family has had a great dearth of time over the last few years, notably since Certain Man retired some two and a half years ago. This is not because he is demanding or any such thing, but rather that it’s a lot easier to concentrate when I am alone than when a man (that I have found interesting as well as powerfully attractive) is around. “Time alone” has been in very short supply for Certain Man’s Wife!
However, the last week at Shady Acres has had some monumental happenings that have caused me to realize again that the possibilities of boredom are rather remote. The days from August 1-4, 2020, held a whirlwind of activity that left me amused and pensive and astounded and very aware that “Shadows fall on brightest hours, that thorns remain,”
A couple of weeks ago, when the Washington Yutzys came home for an extended period of time, Certain Man and I were astounded to hear that the mattress on the spare bed in the one room was not fit to sleep on, and that the one in the other room “left much to be desired!” Certain Man and I have had a mattress in the master bedroom that was expensive, and had a ten year warranty – which expired earlier this year. Certain Man has an inherited sleep disorder that seems to radically disturb his sleep with restless leg syndrome, sometimes some muscle cramps and a funny restless movements that affects his arms which, for want of something better, we just call “the Fidgets.” Here of late, he’s also had some increasing back and shoulder pain, leading him to believe that our mattress must be the culprit. Now I happen to like our mattress very much, but when it seemed like we should provide a different mattress for the one spare room, we discussed getting a better mattress for our bed and sending each mattress down a room, with the oldest finding a new home.
The ads for the Sleep Number beds had caught CM’s eye and given that he likes his mattress fairly firm and I prefer not to sleep on Gibraltar, there came a day when I found a sale and ordered a new Sleep Number bed for the Master Bedroom. Certain Man was In agreement, and in fact, acted like he was relieved. Then we gave the one set of mattress and box springs away, and moved the two other sets down one room, and the new bed came, was set up and we were ready to get a good night’s sleep.
Alas and alack! Thursday night was the first night on the new mattress and we had not been given any instructions (save written) about this beast, and while I went to sleep and slept soundly, Certain Man tossed and turned, adjusted the number, tossed some more and finally moved to the spare room where the old mattress was calling his name. Friday night I read some things, caught some adjustments that needed to be made to his side and he tried again. The same thing happened. I slept like a rock. He tossed and turned and adjusted his number again, and finally gave up and moved to the spare room again.
This really bothered me because he had planned to help our Beloved Son in Law #1 move furniture into his parents newly renovated house on Saturday morning. I was sure he would be exhausted with getting so little sleep. On Saturday morning, I bestirred myself and was barely motoring when he came breezing in from doing chores and said that he was heading up to Bontragers.
“I’m already late,” he said darkly when I asked him where he was heading so early on so little sleep. “I said I’d be there by 8:15!” I thought he should at least eat some breakfast, but when Eldest Daughter called and said they were getting a breakfast sandwich from Starbucks, I stopped interfering.
A little over four hours later he came in, exhausted but triumphant. “All done,” he announced, “at least for today. It went really well!” He told me about the morning, and then BSIL#1 came in with a ham and cheese sub for his lunch as a thank you for the morning. There was one for me, too, and we sat on our chairs with a cool drink and thanked God for the job well done and a chance to rest a bit. He took maybe three bites of his first half of sub when the phone rang.
It was April, and her voice was just a bit frantic. “Is Daniel there?” She asked. He was. “Well, could he come down here to Mom and Dad’s and rescue us??? A pipe broke in the basement, and there is water pouring out, spraying all over the place down there!”
I looked over at my husband and felt sorry for him. I wondered what he would do with his barely started sub, because, for pity sakes, you can’t let a friend’s basement fill up with water on a Saturday afternoon while you lounge around eating a sub! But this man is a plumber from way back and he knew exactly what should be done.
“You are going to have to give me a few minutes,” he said with quiet authority. “We are just eating lunch. But go down and turn of the water main to the house!” There was a short discussion about what else might need doing, and then he resumed eating his sub.
I was worried. Visions of water pouring into the basement, of the possibility that just maybe someone wouldn’t know how to turn off the main, and knowing that there was a house full of company and probably people were needing water for some reason kept flitting through my head. Of course I had to say something about the possibilities.
Wrong thing to do. “Hon,” he said a more irritated than I liked, “someone down there knows how to turn off the water main. It’s not that hard. If they don’t, it’s high time they learned.” All righty, then. I would not mention it again. And eventually he went down, came back home to use some home tools on a stubborn fitting, went down again, went into ACE Hardware for supplies and by late afternoon, had the thing fixed and working again.
In between all of this activity, he was trying to find a lift chair for BSIL#1’s parents. When helping to move furniture he had discovered that an old lift chair of theirs no longer worked, and wanted to see if he couldn’t procure another, more serviceable one. He had several leads, made several calls, and by evening, had found one through another friend. There were calls made to determine when the trip should be made to Lewes to pick the chair up. BSIL#1’s Papa, James, was going to go along with him to fetch it home. Certain Man wanted to go and get it Sunday afternoon. James preferred Monday morning. I kept wondering why, when Certain Man had so little sleep, he wanted to interrupt his Sunday afternoon nap for such an endeavor. Finally I asked him. He looked at me a little thoughtfully and then said, “Well, when I know I have to do something, I like to get it done!” But he did decide to not go on Sunday, and he caught a nap in the afternoon, slept a little bit better on Sunday night, and set off on Monday morning with James, and together they loaded the chair, moved some furniture around for the lady from whom they got the chair, and brought it back to Milford. They removed the broken one and situated the new one and Certain Man came home, thinking that he could work in his woodshop for a while. That was a comforting, pleasant thought.
And then the phone rang again. It was Elaine, sister of Friend Gary, who was in the hospital. Elaine thought that he just be discharged today, and she had a problem. There were severe storm warnings from the tropical storm, Isaias, and Gary’s car was parked in the driveway, under the carport, under a big tree. She didn’t want it there in the storm, and she also wanted it moved so she could get out with her car if she needed to go fetch Gary home from the hospital.
“If you could just come and push it out into the yard,” she said, “and then I will call Minner’s Towing to come get it and take it to Kings. It’s not been acting right, anyhow, so it needs a good goin’ over. But for now, I just want it out of the carport. All you need to do is push it into the yard. I can steer it for you!”
I saw Certain Man look thoughtful, like he was hatching a plan of some sort. “Why don’t I just bring my trailer up, and load it up and take it in to Walls Service Center and they can fix it,” he asked, “rather than just pushing it out into the yard.”
“No, it has to go to King’s,” said Elaine. “That’s where Gary wants it. That’s where he always takes it. They do all our work, but that would be fine if you want to take it up there.”
“Alright,” said my spouse agreeably, “I can take it to Kings. Just let me get my tractor loaded, and I’ll be up and maybe James can help me get it loaded and I’ll take it on up to Kings for you.” The gratitude was effusive. It was one less thing for Elaine to worry about in this already worrisome time. CM called James, and James said that he would be glad to help, and so CM sallied forth to do the next thing on his list.
Monday was Eldest Daughter, Christina’s birthday and I was busy most of the day, making a birthday supper for her, so I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention as Certain Man flitted in and out, now getting this, now getting that, and conversation was sparse. I was busy doing my stuff, he was busy doing his. We were on a tight schedule for supper because some friends were planning to come and do a birthday parade for Christina at 5:30. We actually did really well at getting around and supper was fun and actually restful.
About halfway through the meal, Certain Man suddenly started talking about his trip to Kings with Gary’s car. “James and I loaded it,” he said, “and that went pretty well. He went back to his place, and I took the car on up to Kings. When I got there, the guy told me to just put it out there behind another car that was there, waiting for repair, so I backed up ahead of that car and went to unload it. Well, after we had loaded it, it had been put into park so it wouldn’t roll anywhere on the trip up to Kings. However, I had a problem! You can’t put Gary’s car out of park without putting your foot on the brake. The fenders on the trailer make it impossible to get the doors open wide enough to get into the car. I didn’t know what in the world I was going to do!” Around the table, the rest of us, Jesse, Christina, Charis and I waited eagerly to hear how he managed to ever get this car off the trailer.
“Well,” he said, smiling at the memory of it all, “I finally rolled down the window and climbed in through that, got it out of park and climbed back out again!” For some reason, this struck us all as funny and we laughed heartily.
“I wonder,” I said, “if King’s has a surveillance camera. That would be something to see!”
“I’ll bet,” said someone else, “that they were in there watching and getting a good laugh out of it all!”
“That’s not all, though,” said Certain Man. “When I got the thing out of park and started pushing it off the trailer, suddenly it started rolling a lot faster than I expected and I saw that if I didn’t do something fast, it was going to hit the other car that was parked there. I still couldn’t get into the door because of the fender of the trailer, so I dived in through the window again and hit the emergency brake and got it slowed down enough to stop it in time.” He told the story with such a calm and humorous slant that it sounded like just another day in the life of Certain Man, Deacon Dan, Daniel Yutzy, and we all laughed with him.
“What a blessing,” I thought. “That he was able to get that car stopped in time. He really didn’t need another thing to go wrong on these miserably hot days.” And then it was time for the birthday parade and we all went out and enjoyed the noise and the faces of people we love and the many birthday wishes. We came back in, cleaned up supper, had some Rhubarb Pie and Christina and Jesse went back to their house and I was ready to sit down and do nothing for a bit when Certain Man dropped a bombshell into the middle of my peace.
“Hon,” he said, rather hesitantly, “I didn’t want to say anything before supper, but I think I might have broken a rib when I dived back through that window to hit the emergency brake. I heard something pop and it really hurt, but I might have just pulled a muscle or something . . .” His voice trailed off.
Of course, I was immediately on alert. “Sweetheart, let me see where it hurts! Why didn’t you say something? Shouldn’t you go and get it checked out?” He obediently showed me where it hurt, and there was no bruising, but I thought it looked a little swollen, and he couldn’t bear to have me touch it except very lightly. “I think you should go and get it checked, Daniel” I said, “just so you know what’s going on.”
“Ain’t gonna’ do it,” he said stubbornly, the pain lines around his eyes. “They don’t do anything for broken ribs, and I’m not going to go down there and sit at the hospital when they aren’t going to do anything anyway!” He settled back into his chair with a grimace and I got my cell phone and texted his nurse daughter, Deborah, who was working. He will listen to his daughters better than he will his wife, and I needed reinforcement. It didn’t take long for the phone to ring, and Deborah was insistent that he should go and get it checked. He is better able to resist instruction when the daughter isn’t physically present, and he employed all his fatherly powers and still said he wasn’t going to go. “At least not tonight,” he said with finality. “Maybe I’ll go in the morning if it’s still hurting.” I finally texted our family doctor and (wouldn’t you know?) he sided with Daniel. “U can have it looked at in the morning.” He texted. So that settled it. I found a sort of binder that was around here, and CM slept better that night than he had any since the new mattress came. He got up Tuesday morning, and thought that he must have just pulled a muscle, he felt so much better.
Then came noon time. CM came in from whatever he was doing outside and washed up at the kitchen sink. He turned to grab a hand towel and something reminded him, rather insistently, that something was not right! The look on his face told it all, but he still managed to get out, “I don’t know, Hon. Something happened with my side!” He got himself over to his chair and this time it took very little persuasion to get him to go and get it checked out.
He came home several hours later with the diagnosis. Sixth rib, on the right side. Broken, but not displaced. He was sent home with instructions to not overdue it, and to not lift anything “too heavy.” No, they had not given him a rib binder. (“It doesn’t help any when it is just one rib.”) They sent him home with no pain medicine except to say, “See your family doctor. Take ibuprofen until then,”
Tuesday was the day that Milford, DE was hit with the tropical storm, Isaias. Shady Acres had been running on generator for several hours, but the electric was back on by the time that CM returned from the ER. He had gotten into his recliner when the electricity went out again. I heard the generator make its thunderous starting noise and went in to see if CM had noticed. He was on his feet, clearly upset.
I said, “Well, we are back on generator!”
He looked at me with something akin to panic. “Hon! We don’t have power!”
“Yes, we do,” I counterclaimed. “I heard the generator come on!”
He barely let me finish. “We do NOT have lights, so we do NOT have electricity,” he stated with urgency, and headed for the door, with me right behind him. Something was dreadfully wrong. Our generator starts within 7 seconds of the power going off, but this time, it misfired. It was hot. Our chickens were due to go out in 10 days. This was serious! We got to the top of our ramp in the garage when the generator fired again, and this time, it caught and the current flowed. But it had been off long enough to trigger all the alarms in the chicken house. CM went down the ramp and out on to the asphalt. I stopped at the alarm box and reset the alarms. H-m-m-m-m. They cleared and reset. All was well.
“Daniel,” I said to my spouse who was heading for the chicken house, “you do not have to go right now. The alarms all cleared, and you are supposed to be taking it easy.” He set his jaw and acted like he had no intentions of listening. “Really, Daniel,” I said, pressing my luck, “the alarm are all cleared and everything is fine. You don’t need to go right now!”
He hesitated on the lane, then said resolutely, “Hon, I’m going to go check it out. I know the alarm says it’s okay, but I need to put my eyes on it to be sure that everything is okay!” So while I grumbled to myself about stubborn men who had broken ribs and didn’t listen, he headed out to the chicken houses. As I watched him go, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something amiss at the pasture fence. Our six beef cows of varying sizes were happily chewing on the leaves of a hefty limb that had fallen on their fence and given the state of the fence, it wouldn’t be long until they would discover that freedom was within their reach.
“Look there,” I said, pointing at the congregation of bovines. “That fence is going to need to be fixed or they are going to get out!”
He never broke stride. “It’s going to have to wait until after I get back in from the chicken house,” he stated firmly.
“But Daniel,” I protested to his departing back, “you aren’t supposed to lift heavy, and you are supposed to take it easy! How are you ever going to get that big limb cut up and off the fence when you aren’t supposed to lift anything heavy? I mean, a chain saw and—“ I should have saved my breath. He was on his way to the chicken houses and there was no turning back!
It was a good thing he went. Oh, the alarms were all okay, but something else was not. It wasn’t long before he was back, visibly shaken and also upset.
“There is a huge flood in house #3,” he said as he gathered boots and changed into coveralls. “A ¾” water line, going to our cooling pads somehow came loose and it’s been running awhile and I’m going to need to get the tractor and start pushing the muck out of there. With chickens going out next week, I need to really get things taken care of as soon as possible!”
Middle Daughter, Deborah, was with him. “Mom,” she implored, “do something! See if people can come help. He has no business trying to do this with a broken rib! I will get in there and help, and see what I can do, but that’s the biggest flood I’ve seen in Dad’s chicken house and it’s too big for just him and me!”
I was eager to comply, and with help from both Eldest and Middle Daughter, calls were made, and help came before we knew what was really happening. Josh and Lawina came and with help from Granddaughter Charis, and her friend, Amanda, cut up the limb and got it off the fence, piling the wood into a nice stack, and fixed the fence. BSIL#1 came with his brother Caleb, and they worked in the chicken house along with Middle Daughter and friend Ashley while Certain Man drove tractor, pushed out the biggest part of the liquid mess and orchestrated bringing in over 30 bales of straw to scatter about. He also fixed the leak, helped pick up some of the dead chickens and oversaw the cleanup. All the while, his broken rib was talking to him and it wasn’t saying anything nice to him at all. It was a very tired man who went to bed that night in that bed that he hadn’t been able to get comfortable in for the any of the previous nights – and slept the best he had for quite a while.
And so we have muddled through. The mortality numbers from the flood were not nearly as bad as anticipated (we had to open the end doors and that makes it difficult to cool a chicken house on a day as hot as that day) and the efforts made to cover the wet and keep the chickens out of the mud were also very successful as well. Certain Man has been sneaky about doing things that are deemed risky by his wife and daughters, but it seems that the more we holler, the sneakier he gets. However, there are some built in consequences and I would like to note that he is sitting on his chair a whole lot more than usual and he is walking a bit more gingerly than is normal for him. Oldest Granddaughter and Middle Daughter have been helping to pick up dead chickens in the mornings and if it doesn’t absolutely have to be done, he is doing a fairly good job of “letting it slide.” (There’s just so many things that won’t wait!0
And that’s the news from Shady Acres, where CM is still my favorite, and I’m trying to determine if that particular rib that he broke has any connection to the rib that God used to make a “Help Suitable” for Adam all those years ago. I must say that I am certainly attempting to be just that – a Suitable Help. I’m not always sure I’m doing so well, beings I’m so unsuccessful in keeping him contained. But I’m also counting my blessings that a generator “just happened” to misfire, at this particular time setting off all those alarms. I’m also grateful that this man, who sometimes can frustrate me exceedingly when he won’t take my suggestions, decided (as usual) to go against what I thought was best for him and thus discovered that chicken house leak before it got any worse. It would have been at least another two hours before someone was in it to check, and the damages would have been far worse. As it is, though it was bad enough, it’s had time to clear up fairly nicely before the chicken catchers need to be in there.
And so, once again for these blessings, and so much more, my heart gives grateful praise!
Five years ago tonight, we were gathered in the big corner room at the Country Rest Home, listening as Our Sweet Mama’s labored breathing went on and on and on. We sang, we talked quietly, and we kept careful watch. Deborah came in briefly, on her way to work, and left again. But before she left, she said, “Mama. She is dying. She does not have long.” and she wept hot tears.
It had been a long four weeks. The adult children of Mark and Alene Yoder had experienced a sweet, compelling unity in the difficult decisions that were made, and our Sweet Mama had spoken words of love in her last communication with each of us. There was a sense that she was getting ready to leave us, and while it was beautiful to think of her healthy and whole and with our Daddy, it was looking so bleak without her.
It was soon after 10 when there was a change. Instead of the ragged, labored breathing, there were these quiet, no struggle, easy breaths. Her face was peaceful. And then Our Sweet Mama had her day to fly. I will always miss her.
It’t been a difficult couple of months at Shady Acres if I choose to look at the things that have transpired within our family, our community, or world. If I were to enumerate the things that have driven me repeatedly to the foot of the cross, probably some of you would not believe me. Some of you would feel sorry for me. Some of you would be angry for me. Some would be angry at me. Some would misunderstand. Which is why the foot of the Cross is the best place for the stories in my life that are not mine to tell, the sins that are not mine to confess to the world, and for all the things that can lay me low. I want to choose to abandon the angst, the bitterness, the rancor of soul that threatens to taint my thought processes and inevitably, my responses and relationships.
Tonight my heart is heavy for a beloved sister in law and the uncertainties that are before us. We rode the long miles to Philadelphia today with Certain Man’s Oldest Sister, Lena, for a consult with an Orthopedic Oncologist. (Oncologist. There are certain words in the English language that are just plain obscene!) The news is not good, although we wait for definitive results from biopsies and X-rays and more consults before we know the treatment plans.. I want be brave for her sake. I will myself to be brave for her sake. But it doesn’t change the familiar taste of bitter anxiety and grief that are causing the Artesian tears, a tightening in my throat, a sick feeling somewhere in my stomach.
I remember the Grace that has brought Lena home to us. I remember the incredible timing of these last four months, when monumental life changes fell into place in the unmistakable timing of Divine Providence. It is no accident that she is with us, no matter what expectations may have hung thick around Ambleside Cottage, no matter the dreams that she (and we all) held for the future– No matter. No Matter! I either choose to trust, or I sink in despair. I either choose to see God’s hand, or I become cynical and brittle and suspicious.
The timeless words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30 stir in my heart the sounds of hope. 28 “Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest. 29 Accept my teachings and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your lives. 30 The burden that I ask you to accept is easy; the load I give you to carry is light.” (New Century Version)
Lord! I do believe! Help me to believe more! Mark 9:24b (NCV)
It was not quite light outside. I turned over in the comfort of my bed and remembered that it was Sunday morning. The morning was full. Certain Man had a zoom meeting at 9:00 with the older men’s Sunday school class which meant that I had to have Cecilia finished almost an hour early if we were going to have any place to put our laptop that wouldn’t glare. No, wait! Is that rain I hear? Maybe that won’t be a problem after all. No sunshine makes this Zoom thing easier!
I decide to get up. It will give me some extra time to prepare lunch, as well as work on the Sunday School lesson for my intermediates that is scheduled for 2:00 this afternoon. And so my morning begins.
I sit on the edge of the bed and take my hair down. Ruffling through it to find the last pin, I hope this crazy hair will cooperate with me this morning. I have never cared as much about hair as some people, but this aging hair has me perplexed! It seems like it combs better and looks better the farther it gets from being washed. But it gets thinner and shorter! But a gal just cannot go along not washing her hair! For cryin’ out loud! I remember the story being told of how a man in our church (years ago) was holding forth in some sort of situation about “Why I Like Spring” and one of his reasons was, “It’s when my wife washes her hair!” Well, it is Spring, and my hair has been washed (even more than once) so I guess I’m good!
Sometimes I think I’m a morning person. I usually do feel good after I get moving, and I like the early morning quiet, but I also struggle in those first minutes after I’m either up (or supposed to be up!) with wanting to just be in bed a little bit longer. (If I succumb to the temptation, I almost always have some sort of spectacular, crazy dream that leaves me either very amused or very sad. Anybody identify with that?) Anyhow, getting up and getting my morning’s work done upstairs, getting combed and dressed is always a very good thing, affecting the rest of my day. In these crazy days of schedules messed up and everything just not as ordered as they “should” be, I’ve found that keeping the routines, even though later than usual, is a very good thing. And so, this morning it was a good time to be on with the morning.
I washed my face and combed my hair and then went to make my bed. There was a crazy kid’s song stuck in my head that was decidedly not a Sunday song, and after the fifth or sixth rattling around in my head (I wasn’t singing it, but it was short and bothersome and no, I’m not telling you what it was or it will get stuck in your head and you don’t want it!) I decided that it needed replacing with something else. Something better. Something more Sunday Morning-ish.
It was quiet in my upstairs bedroom. Certain Man was already down on his La-Z-boy recliner, probably studying, and I can sing without fear of bothering his train of thought or worrying about what he is thinking. Which is something that I do think about. There was a time when I never thought too much about this voice of mine. It wasn’t wonderful, but it usually stayed on key, could reach the high notes and didn’t let me down. Like this hair, it’s aging, too, and it doesn’t stay on key, it is often reedy sounding and the high notes? Forget them!!! (Sometimes I just do what my father in law always did and that is just sing the melody an octave lower and be done with it!) However, I love music, and I love to sing, and it is my favorite private worship mode.
During this current pandemic, the songs that have blessed and ministered to me are numerous and intense. Tears often are dripping down while I listen and sing along, working or standing alone in my kitchen, reading or praying in my chair, caring for Cecilia, or whatever I happen to be doing. Grief and loss and uncertainties and sadness have marked this season for me and for my extended family in ways that I could not have anticipated six months ago. Sometimes my heart feels almost numb and the tears catch me flat-footed. I’m committed to trusting this Heavenly Father, and I believe that He has us in His Grip. I have not felt despair or frantic. I have not felt alone, but I have felt very sad. Deep grief is an honest emotion. Uncertainty isn’t sin, and it isn’t the same as panic, but in the face of great uncertainty, I feel the need to be brave when I don’t feel like it, challenged to choose optimism when the outlook is anything but encouraging. And so, I often sing.
This morning, the first song that came to my mind was not a new song. It seemed like it was not a particularly profound song, but it was familiar, and it was there, and I started singing those old words as I pulled the bed coverings straight and re-positioned the pillows.
I owe the Lord a morning song
Of gratitude and praise
For the kind mercy He has shown
In lengthening out my days.
My heart is flooded with memories of my Uncle Elmer. This was his most requested song. He sang it through the years of a life that looked like anything but good. He sang it when lesser men would have given up on a God who allowed a mortal to be dealt such a “raw deal.” He sang it when he spent hours and days and years pretty much alone with little to brighten his days. He had a wonderful singing voice, and he never allowed his disappointment to stymie his faith. I cannot sing the song without thinking of him, singing. Believing. His example shines huge before me in this difficult time.
He kept me safe another night
I see another day
Now may His Spirit, as the light
Direct me in His Way.
I sing this verse and think about how I pray each night over my Cecilia-girl. Every night, but especially in this season, I thank God for His Grace and His Mercy through the day that is just past and ask for His continued protection over Cecilia and her family and our family, if that is His will. I pray that He helps us to be careful and that sleep would be granted, especially to this Cecilia-girl, so confused by this sudden change in her daily routine.
Keep me from danger and from sin
Help me thy will to do
So that my heart be pure within
And I, Thy Goodness know
Ah, Lord Jesus, yes! YES! From danger, in this pandemic, but even more, from sin! The climate of our world, the attitudes of people, the accusations, the bitterness, the blame and the superiority we give our own perceptions and viewpoints and the credence we give our own intelligence and knowledge in this time is causing us to sin against our brothers and sisters in ways that are anything but “your will.” Make our hearts pure within. Let us know your goodness. How very much we need to get outside of ourselves and into your heart. Keep us from judging one another in regards to response and choices. Show us your way, Heavenly Father. We are a needy race. Made in your image, worth so much by virtue of that one fact, but the mirror is dirty and the reflection is muddled. It’s why we need a Great Savior.
Keep me till thou wilt call me hence
Where never night can be
And save me Lord, for Jesus’ sake
He shed His Blood for me!
I ponder these words as I sing them. My heart is quiet, but joyful. I think about this blood of Jesus, shed for me, making it possible for me to be at home in Heaven some day. Home with loved ones who got there first. That place where there will never be night, no more sin, no more pandemic, no more uncertainties, no more tears, neither sorrow or crying, no. more. death. Ah, Lord Jesus, I want to go there. Keep me till thou wilt call me “hence” to Heaven, to Home.
The song is finished, my morning’s work is done, I collect my downstairs stuff and head out to meet this day. Later, the people in our church family will gather and worship together, (by ZOOM!) and I have lots to do before then. But this rainy morning praise has settled into my heart, making me glad.
My heart gives grateful praise.
It was a chilly winter day. Certain Man and I lived in a basement home on M.V. High Road in Plain City, Ohio. I have always needed a sense of community wherever I have lived, and I would sometimes visit neighbors, walking to their houses and dropping by. Down the road and around two corners lived Earl and Alice Yutzy, and on this particular day, close to Christmas in 1974, I stopped by their house and found Alice in the middle of baking the most fascinating little pastries in her cozy kitchen. I watched the process and wondered if I could do that.
I do not know what Alice thought. Or if she wished I would go away. However, when I asked her for the recipe, she was willing to give it. I copied it off on a piece of paper ripped from an old phone book and carried it home. After some time I copied the recipe over onto a blank cookbook that someone had given me and that’s the page that you see on the picture. I don’t know when I made the first ones, but I tried often during those first couple of years and what a mess it was! They usually tasted okay, but they looked a sight! But I kept practicing and practicing and eventually, I got a fairly good method and feel for the process. (The only thing I didn’t do that I’m pretty sure that I remember Alice doing — at least on some of them– was decorate the tops with red and green maraschino cherries, cut to look like Christmas poinsettias with their leaves. It was so pretty, and I would still do it in a minute, but just doesn’t work with the genes in my family.)
I always think about Alice Yutzy when I’m making Swedish Tea Rings. I think about a young woman, interrupting her holiday baking, asking for a recipe that may have been a family secret, and how she was so gracious to me. She was not elderly or lonely or looking for something to do. She was a farmer’s wife with four of her seven children still at home. She was busy in her church as well as her family, but I saw her that day, surrounded by Swedish Tea Rings that she was making to give away, and the picture was stamped indelibly on my heart. I could make things for my neighbors and friends for special occasions that would tell them that they were important to me. And so, the fire in my soul was kindled.
The years have passed as they somehow do. I don’t make Swedish Tea Rings to give away at Christmas. I have a cinnamon roll recipe that I also got from a friend in Plain City, (Catherine Good Miller) which I adapted over the years and it’s a little less labor intensive. But our children remember the special times when I made Swedish Tea Rings when they were young, and sometimes I will make some for them and the ones they’ve brought into my heart when we all gather in the old farmhouse at Shady Acres.
When our family was all together two weeks ago, something was said (a bit wistfully) about Swedish Tea Rings, and on impulse, I mixed up what I thought was a double batch. It was a quadruple batch and I ended up with a dozen rings! (It had really been a while since I had made them, don’t you know?!?!?) Anyhow, after the offspringin’s and their families had departed, there was still some leftover dough in the fridge and I found homes for the few extra in the days following when Certain Man felt something was needed and I hadn’t gotten to Christmas Eve Day Cinnamon Roll Marathon. I was surprised at how easy they were once I got back into the routine.
Then late on Christmas Eve, I got a text from Youngest Daughter, back home in Washington DC. “Can you send me your Swedish Tea Ring Recipe? I might try to make a few for my work holiday party.”
Oh, dear! I thought about my sparsely written recipe, and how difficult it was those first few years when I made these tricky pastries. I thought about how the process of putting them together wasn’t on the written paper and how many times I struggled with that part. I remembered the lopsided tea rings that people had cheerfully eaten in spite of how they looked and I texted her back.
“When is the party?“
When she replied that it wasn’t until the 5th and that there was no rush for the recipe, I talked Certain Man into making a trip to Washington, DC, yesterday to “help” with her first attempt at these Swedish Tea Rings. Our chickens went out on New Year’s Day, and Middle Daughter said that she would watch Cecilia, and it seemed like a perfect opportunity.
What a good day we had together! I made a double batch of dough before I left since the dough needs to be refrigerated, then took along most of the ingredients for another batch. Youngest Daughter proved to be a ready student and even Beloved Son In Law #2 got his hands into the melee. We made the six that had come along from Shady Acres, and mixed up another three – and before we came home, all nine were done. One was already eaten (we had to make sure it was good). One was being sliced off, slice by covert slice and also on its way out. One came home to Delaware with us, and there were dibs on five of the six remaining.
It was a most satisfactory day.
My heart gives grateful praise.
And now this recipe in a more legible form with some additional instructions.
Alice Yutzy’s Swedish Tea Rings
1 Tablespoon (or package) yeast (I use Fleischmann’s instant or rapid rise)
1/4 cup warm water
2-1/2 cups flour (I use King Arthur’s unbleached bread flour)
2 Tablespoons Sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened (I use Parkay for the dough, butter for the filling and glaze)
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 egg unbeaten (I use extra large or jumbo)
1/4 cup Butter, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
Soften yeast in water. Mix flour, salt and sugar together. Cut in softened butter until crumbly. (I use my Kitchen Aid for all of this) Dump the yeast mixture, evaporated milk and unbeaten egg into the mixture, and mix thoroughly. (I put my dough hook on and let it go! It does a great job. When the dough is all satiny and smooth, I weigh it out into three equal parts and put each part into a sandwich bag that I’ve sprayed with Pam and put it into the fridge (or freezer). When it is thoroughly cooled (at least two hours in the fridge), roll out to a rectangle of about 8″ x 10″ and spread 1/3 of the filling on it, (this is a little less than 1/4 cup) trying to get it out to the edges where the ring will be joined. It is a sparse spread. Then roll it like a jelly roll. Then put the “log” on a square of tin foil that has been either buttered or sprayed with Pam. Form a circle with the log of dough, trying to seal the ends together (this is where I had a struggle when I first started and still don’t always have it look the way I would like for it to). Once it is in a circle (and it is not a big circle at all. Maybe 6 inches across before it’s cut) take a kitchen shears and make cuts all the way around the circle every 3/4 inch or so, cutting almost to the middle of the circle. When you have cut all around the circle, slip a finger under one of the cuts and hold the top of it gently with another finger and flip that 3/4 slice of dough over on its side so that the coiled filling shows. Continue all the way around until all the slices are lying on their sides. Let it rise in a warm place until it is a little bit puffy (at least 30-45 minutes). The recipe says to bake for 20-25 minutes, but I’ve found that 15-17 minutes @350 is about right. Once they are slightly browned, they are ready to come out. Transfer the tea ring, tin foil and all, to a heavy 8″ paper plate.
Glaze them when hot with a glaze made from 4 tablespoons melted butter, 2 cups powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 2-3 tablespoons milk. I always mix this up, then put in the microwave to make it more easy to glaze the ring. And I know that this is a double recipe of the glaze for 3 tea rings, but I find that it takes a double batch to adequately glaze 3 rings. But people can suit themselves.
And that’s how it’s done. And labor intensive? Yes, at first, but it does get a lot easier with practice. I promise.
Dear Family and Friends,
Christmas Greetings to you and yours! Our world has made another trip around the sun and 2019 is almost history. This family has had a memorable year. We’ve had some exciting family events, and enjoyed some milestones of significance.
In last year’s letter, Jesse and Christina had moved into the Big Bontrager House on Shawnee Road, and were still getting settled. The last 15 months at this house have held oodles of company, lots of living, and many more memories to add to the plethora already there. Christina, who loves to mow (somethin’s wrong with that girl!) certainly got her chance this summer! She tended the perennials and kept after the landscaping in ways that were outstanding. The yard and gardens were beautiful. Jesse, now 25 years at Burris Logistics, is a Systems Engineer whose job continues to thoroughly baffle me. I just know that he’s capable, he’s good, he’s faithful, and he works hard. Charis continues to be Grammy’s good helper with many things and her Grandpa’s sidekick in many adventures. She has a beautiful clear voice and she has been chosen for solos and ensemble numbers in the community children’s chorus of which she is a part. She is 10 now, and has grown up overnight! She’s practically as tall as her Auntie Beebs! (Deborah).
Deborah, who at the writing of last year’s letter was planning to be settled in her new house before Christmas, ended up with reversals of all sorts (as frequently happens when a house is being built) and didn’t accomplish that move until after the new year. But she has been in her own place now for most of this year, and has brought a welcoming charm to her Ambleside Cottage. She is still a hospice nurse, working the field as an evening and overnight home health staff nurse. She logs many miles, and gets into some interesting situations, but she carries it off with much grace. She has been with Delaware Hospice for nine years, and to those of us who love her, it feels like it’s a very good fit for her talents and temperament. A rescue cat named Julius has become her house partner and has a distinct personality. He is good company for Deborah. Daniel’s sister, Lena, still traveling for another five or six months plans to move into Ambleside Cottage for the summer months and then, when she can no longer keep warm, will hie off to Arizona or California or Florida (or somewhere warmer) for the other months.
It’s been an exciting year for Raph and Gina, along with their four children, Simon, (10) Liam (9) Franklin (8) and Elise (2). They are still in Sugarcreek, Ohio, where he works for nuCamp RV in Customer Service. Starting in January, (Lord Willing) he will also be serving on the worship team two Sundays a month at The Branch, where the family is currently worshipping. Regina works one day a week as a cashier with 61 Surplus and also as a night auditor for Comfort Inn. The finalization of Ellie’s adoption was a high point for their family (as well as our entire family) and is a miracle of no small proportions. It has been a joy this year to see each of the four children mature in their respective ways. All three boys played baseball this summer (and they are really good!) and are interested in a number of different activities. Simon loves hunting and fishing with his Grandpa Yoder and actually bagged his first deer this year. He’s a good help to his Mom in the kitchen and is a great baby sitter. Liam is a thinker and a planner and has the determination that reminds me often of his Uncle Lem at this age. He took medals in track this year, but along with being athletic, he is also gentle. He, too is great with his little sister, and is the one who often fills her demand to “Read!” Frankie is an open handed, giving young man. He has unbelievable dance moves (and doesn’t mind showing them off!) and he makes us laugh. He also loves that little sister, and for his birthday this year, asked if she could come to his party at school. Although our Sugarcreek Yutzys live pretty far away from us, they still impact our lives and we are so grateful.
Lem and Jessica are still in Washington DC. Lem, now in his seventh year as a psychotherapist with Alvord, Baker and Associates, is kept very busy. His caseload is heavy in numbers and in life issues. Jessica has been working for the US Government Accountability Office since 2015 as a research analyst and continues to both enjoy and excel in that environment. The high points of this year were team efforts in this marriage. Lem graduated with his PhD in Social Work in May, and he could/would not have done it without Jessica’s support and encouragement. It was a tough haul, and all of us are glad that he is officially finished! Through it all, they have been intentional and team parents to their little girl, Stella, who turned two in November. She is a delight to be around and is growing so fast and has quite a vocabulary. She loves books and animals and the outdoors and shows great partiality to her Uncle Rob (after her Da-da and Ma-ma). She also likes Auntie Rach and she has lots of opportunities to spend time with them. She enjoys time spent at her other grandparents’ beach house, and talks about “Cappy’s Boat!” and loves sea creatures. Enthusiastic and determined, she is a great mix of the Lee and Yutzy genes.
Uncle Rob and Auntie Rach. The Christmas Card picture tells some of their story. On October 19, 2019, our Rachel-girl married Robert William Orr. It was a beautiful day in Washington, DC, and all of Rachel’s family was on hand for the momentous occasion. The nieces and nephews were all part of the festivities and what a hoot that was! From two formal guest receivers (Simon and Charis) to a ring bearer with shades and a strut, (Franklin) to an amicable and gentlemanly escort for the two tiny flower girls (Liam) to the precious two girlies, one of which joyously threw flowers in the air and all around (Stella) and one, somewhat cranky from “hand, foot, and mouth” disease, resisted going at all until she suddenly saw a bribe at the other end of the aisle and went to the safety of her parent’s pew (Ellie) it was a delightful day. Lem and Jess led the service, and “Dr. Lem” performed the ceremony. This Mama made pies for the reception at the request of the bride and groom, who preferred pie to “plain old wedding cake” and Rachel’s Daddy made himself more than useful in transporting supplies and procuring needed items and providing encouragement to a very disgruntled Mama when there was a pie disaster. (You can read about that -as well as several other family things that have happened in the last year- on my blog at this address: https://maryannyutzy.com/ ) Rachel started a new job the month before their wedding, when she was accepted into The Bethesda Group as a psychotherapist. This job was desirable because she has more control over the hours and the client load (and the pay is better, too!). Rob still works as a Guest Services Captain for a company called Towne Park. Last year he was at the Hyatt next to the White House, but now he works for The Hotel Monaco in downtown DC. They are living in the basement apartment of the house where Rachel has lived for the past two years. It’s small, of course, but well suited for them. They are good friends with the gals upstairs, and since the common kitchen is upstairs, an amicable relationship is certainly an asset.
One very exciting high point in our lives this past year was reconnecting with one of our foster children from the late 1970’s. Those of you who knew our family during those years just might remember the baby that we called “Raynie” who came to us a little under 11 weeks old and stayed until his second birthday. Raynie is now Freddie Lee, is all grown up and had done very well for himself and his family. After connecting through social media and private messaging, we visited him and his wife, Amanda, in their home in Pickerington, Ohio. He is daddy to 4 beautiful, brilliant girls and has a lovely wife, Amanda. It’s an incredible story of despair and hope and grace that has been woven through these last 40 years, and we are in awe of how God continues to orchestrate this particular “melody” in our Life’s Song.
Daniel and I are alone in the big farmhouse at Shady Acres except for Cecilia who will have been a part of our household for 20 years on January 1st. She is 70 now and her age is telling on her. She had two hospitalizations, (including one cardiac arrest) this year. Both times it was thought that she had a partially obstructed bowel. They finally did surgery, expecting the worst. However, the problem was resolved with a simple snip to a loop of scar tissue that was causing a “back up” and what a relief that was – not only to her, but to those of us who love her, as well. She is doing well at this writing, and we are grateful.
Daniel and I are also experiencing some of the ill effects of getting older. Daniel has been having treatments for Macular Degeneration in his right eye for five months. Both eyes were diagnosed as having “dry” Macular degeneration back around the first of the year, but the right eye went suddenly to “wet” and treatment has stayed the progression pretty well, but seemingly not helped it too much, either. It’s a scary diagnosis, and troubling, but he is following the recommendations, and we are trusting that we are never out of HIS care. What a comfort to know that we have a Heavenly Father who knows us, knows what is best and that we can trust him. Not that everything will go the way we want it, but that He will never leave us, never forsake us. We are not alone.
Another milestone (of far less significance than any mentioned heretofore) is that we have now lived at Shady Acres for thirty years. I’m pretty certain that a Certain Man had no intentions of staying here this long when we first moved in, July 1989. “Seven years is long enough,” he would often intone with gravity and purpose, “for anyone to live in any one place! You need to move so that you can clean out the corners and get rid of stuff!” I’m not in the least against “getting rid of stuff,” but moving has been the making of some of my most difficult dreams, and it has been the last thing I’ve ever wanted to do. Granted, our early moves were good, but once we settled down here, any time a move was mentioned there was loud indignant outcry from the Offspringin’s, and quiet prayers from their Mama. Of course, no one knows what tomorrow may bring, but at the insistence of those same Offspringin’s, Daniel and I did some estate planning and it looks like we can stay right here as long as we are able. So! There are large empty bedrooms upstairs, and anyone who needs a place to stay is welcome to come. (Just please give us a little warning!)
And that is the latest news from Shady Acres and the Yutzy Crew. Merry Christmas to one and all!
Daniel and Mary Ann for ourselves and the rest of the family
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.
“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.
Off they tore again, down the hall and into the upstairs bathroom, emerging triumphantly holding the next clue.
(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,
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.)
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.
“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!)
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.
“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.
I was sitting at the table at Church Retreat a few weekends ago.. Cecilia 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 Cecilia’s mouth, waiting for her to swallow, filling the spoon, putting food into Cecilia’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!
“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.
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.
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.
Then she rolled them out and I got them into their pie pans and crimped the edges and got them into the freezer.
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.
(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.
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.
It’s fuzzy, but it’s My Girlie and me, and I love her.