Those Who Sow in Tears

Today, just about now, our son and his wife and their three little boys are saying good-bye to a precious little slip of a girl who has stolen all our hearts and will take more than a piece of us with her when she goes.

There should be no criticism of the social system in this particular circumstance.  This is one of the good decisions, and it would be a malicious wrong to indict anyone involved.  This is the sort of thing that happens when things need to be done right, and it takes time.  There is relationship in place.  This baby will be loved.  She will be cared for.  She will be taught about Jesus.  And she will have contact with the family that holds her first year in their hearts, in their minds, and in their memories.

My heart is caught up today with the sadness of our Ohio family.  On my mind and in my prayers are Raph and Gina and the boys as well as the extended family .  Especially, I keep thinking about the grandparents there, Andy and Saloma Yoder.  My grief as a Grammy has surprised me, making me aware of how far reaching this event is.  Looking at this from a Grammy’s point of view has triggered memories that I had almost forgotten.  Specifically, I remember something that happened to us nearly forty years ago that comes to this day with a familiar, aching twist.

We had gotten an eight and one-half month old baby boy, Joseph, in December of 1975.  We were so in love with this beautiful baby.  He was with us over 20 months. He was our first foster baby, and he was a favorite of everyone in our family. When he left to go to an adoptive home (back then, foster parents were not allowed to adopt except in rare situations) we thought we would die! Because our agency was known to close homes or withhold placements in homes where people “became too attached” we couldn’t voice our anguish to anyone at Franklin County Children’s Services. Our church was supportive, but I often felt alone in this grief that I felt we had “signed up for!”   Certain Man and I moved through our days with a slow sadness that couldn’t be brushed away or even washed away by the buckets of tears.  I remember the day I stripped the sheets off his crib to wash them, and I buried my face in those sheets and smelled the essence that was my baby, and I muffled my screams and cries of despair in their thick softness and then sobbed uncontrollably until the storm passed. The days were dark.

Soon after Joseph left, My Sweet Mama came for a week to “help out.” I was pretty much wrapped up in my own sorrow, and she didn’t invade much. One day she took a load of laundry to the wash line for me, and didn’t return. I finally went to see where she was, and I found her crying, standing among the flapping clothes in the breezy Ohio sunshine.

“I can’t stand it, Mary Ann,” she managed to say through her sobs. “I miss him so much! I just feel like I HAVE to see him, hold him, and hear his little voice calling for ‘Gammaw’,”

I remember standing there as a realization dawned on my fuzzy, grief-stricken heart. This loss was not only ours. It was everyone who had loved him – all of those to whom he was a grandson, brother, nephew and toddler friend. As I cried with My Sweet Mama, the sweetness of sharing this aching loss was comforting, and it was good. I look back on that day as when my grief started to turn around, although I sometimes think that the depth of sorrow that I feel over these grandchildren who come and don’t stay, (and the fierce protectiveness towards those who come to stay) probably has more to do with our experience as young parents in a sunny house on the hill in Madison County, Ohio.

The hard times, the grief and the days when we would rather die than live through them (except for the people that are counting on us) are the times when we come to realize what it is that we really believe, and what it is that we are trusting.  I’m so grateful that God didn’t give up on that headstrong young woman who had so much to learn.  And not only God, but so many strategically placed people who cared, and invested and supported and believed that their investment would be worth it.  I’ve been the recipient of so much grace.  I’ve been given so much.  And in this loss, and in the other losses of my life, there has been an anchor for my hurting heart.

Today, I choose Jesus again.

My heart gives grateful praise.

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And Then It Was The Eye

The world keeps turning, and there are many things to ponder these days.  Delaware Grammy has had more than enough to keep her hands busy, and there hasn’t been enough time to process much of what has gone on in our world.

If I didn’t believe . . .

But I do!  I’ve found that sure anchor for my soul and even when I’m heartsick or discouraged or uncertain about what is going to happen or how people will cope or what will ever become of the people I love or even whether some of them will make it safely HOME, there is that sure anchor that the winds will not overwhelm my little boat and it will not sink.  The Master of the Wind, the Maker of the Sea is in this boat with me and He has promised that He will never leave me, never forsake me.

There has been so much to be happy over these past few weeks.  Certain Man and I went with my brother, Nelson and his wife Rose to North Carolina to our older brother, Clint’s wedding.  (You can see pictures on an online album that has a link over on my facebook page:  We had a wonderful time. The wedding was low-key, holy and joyous.  It’s interesting to think about the dynamics of getting a new sister in law at this stage of our lives.  There are a host of possibilities to consider, and there is so much history on both parts that are now part of this bigger whole, and it’s both awesome and scary!  But it is also so very, very sweet, and I am happy for my brother’s happiness.

I came home to finish some important paperwork, and to get ready for Blind Linda’s return home and to get ready for a “meet and greet” reception for Clint and Sharon next week.  I knew that my time was going to be pretty full, but it was time to get on with these other things that had been put on hold until after the wedding.  Blind Linda has made excellent progress and the therapists at Genesis Health Care deemed it time for her to be moved back home.  (This may have had something to do with the fact that her 100 days were going to be up on September 1st, but she has been doing well, and they would have probably moved her home last week if I had been home).  In any case, she is scheduled to be released on 09/01/2017.  This Friday.

Over the last few months, there have been some questions put to me gently about whether we should take Linda back.  “Don’t you enjoy the freedom of not having to worry about her?” “You’re getting older, and it would be nice if you didn’t have to do this.”  “When are you planning to stop taking care of ladies?” “Don’t you wonder if maybe Linda is going to be ‘too much’ for you?”  All well meaning, and said with love, the comments were nothing that I could dismiss lightly.  I am getting older.  She is a lot of care.  And I am going to be tied down incredibly much, at least at first.

From the beginning of this saga, back at the end of January, when Dr. Kottom, the gastroenterologist, came back from doing Linda’s colonoscopy, and said gravely, “We need to talk,” I’ve prayed much about this situation and how I should be involved.  It has been a tough seven months, and there were times when we didn’t know if Linda was going to make it or not.  There have been plenty of times when it looked as if she was not suitable for family care placement.  The prayer that I have consistently prayed has been, “Lord Jesus, may it please you to make clear what your will is in all of this.  For Linda, for me, for our family.  If Linda is not to return home, let that be crystal clear.  And please, Lord Jesus, let this be something that is obvious to all concerned, that it would not just be a case of me deciding that it’s too hard, or that I don’t want to do it.  Let there be a concise, external, physical reason and let there be no question.”

It was a selfish prayer, to some extent.  It sounds like I don’t want responsibility for making the decision, and in part, that’s true.  But there is also that whole thing of Linda, her history with us, this being her home for 17 years, and how she has endured so much change and misunderstanding in her life and how very much I would like for her to live out whatever time she has left in a familiar, safe and peaceful environment.  She may not appreciate it.  She may not even realize what could be.  But I know, and it hurts my heart to think of her not being cared for with gentleness and understanding.  I’m not saying that I’m always gentle and understanding.  However, it is my goal to love and care for those entrusted to us in a way that will reflect Jesus — to the ones who are my superiors, to the families of those for whom we care, but especially to Our Girl Audrey and Blind Linda.  The knowledge that, unless we speak Jesus into their lives, they may never know, is a “charge to keep, I have!”

So the days have passed, and on Monday, I found myself on my home turf, digging out from being away, picking beans, doing laundry, unpacking the “stuff” that seems to get so unorganized when we travel.  I was tired from the long trip on Sunday, but it was good to be home.  Around ten o’clock, Certain Man said he was going to bed, and I said that I was coming soon.  I had been experiencing something strange in my left eye, and wanted to make a quick check on the internet to see if I should be concerned enough to call my doctor the next morning.  I was having these small flashes of light in the upper left corner of my left eye.  They were not huge, and sometimes I almost felt like I wasn’t really seeing them, but every now and then there was these small, silver streaks, dancing off the edge of my peripheral vision.  I was very tired, and I read a bit, but nothing impressed me as being too urgent, and I decided that it could wait until morning unless it got worse.  I decided not to tell anybody.  Yet, anyhow.  I went to bed, feeling vaguely uneasy.

Tuesday morning I got up and everything seemed to be fine.  No light flashes, no nothing.  I had a “heavy” head, almost like a headache that was trying to happen, but nothing significant, and there was much to be done.  I worked on some computer things, worked on paper work, answered phone calls, made phone calls, and then, along about 10:30, I noticed something in my upper left eye’s line of vision.  It was like a rat’s nest of hair that looked like it was hanging over the edge of my glasses.  I went to brush it away, and it disappeared, but not by my hand.  I realized that it was something like a “floater” in my eye.  H-m-m-m-m-m.  This was more concerning.  It wasn’t really large, but it did appear to have some strings floating off of it.  I decided that I should call my eye doctor for advice.

“We want to see you today,” said the suddenly solemn receptionist when I told her my symptoms.  “We are always concerned about retina tear with symptoms like this.”  Retina tear???  Oh, dear.  I went to the internet to see specific symptoms and treatment and recovery time.  What I found there was disconcerting.  Well, I would just need to go and see what Dr. Iskander would have to say.

“Deborah!”  I hollered up the steps to Middle Daughter.

From somewhere in her apartment on her side of the landing I heard her answer.  “What’s up, Momma?  I’ll be right there!”

“I just wanted you to know that I’m going in to the eye doctor,” I said.  “I had some light flashes last night and today I’m having some string-like floaters and they said they want to see me.”

The reaction was overdone, of course.  “Mom, you aren’t driving yourself!”

Of course I am,” I said.  “I need to go by the nursing home and take some clean laundry in for Linda and then I’ll just run right over.”

“Mom, it’s not safe,” said my nurse daughter.  “I’ll take you!”

“Someone will need to be here for OGA,” I said, feeling myself wilting down into an “almost-blind-already-looking-for-a-guide-dog” old woman.  “Do you want me to see if  Christina can help?”

“Yes,” said Middle Daughter forcefully.  “See if she can come and be here.”

And so Eldest Daughter was called and brought in for reinforcement, while I contemplated my immediate future.  I reviewed the symptoms and realized with a start that I had almost every single one of the warning indicators for the retina tear.  And I thought about what this was going to mean to Linda being able to come home in a few days.  The prospect was daunting.  Immediate surgery.  No physical activity.  No lifting.   No exertion for weeks.  “Oh, Lord Jesus!  What are we going to do?”

I do not profess to hear the audible voice of God, and I’m careful with the words “God said . . . ” unless I’m quoting scripture.  But I’ve been given the Holy Spirit, even the “Spirit of Truth” who speaks to my heart, and comforts me and gives me help in time of need.  And this was a time of need for me.  I needed to purposefully redirect my thinking and praying.

“You’ve got this, Lord Jesus,” I whispered above the anxious noises in my head.  “I’ve been asking for you to make it clear to me, and I believe that you have a best plan here — for me, for Linda, and for all concerned.  I pray that this will be a clear cut answer, that I will KNOW what I need to do before we are out of time.  Give me courage, whatever is going on.  I believe that you are in this and that you will go before me, giving me exactly what I need, and that you will provide for Linda as well.  I reject the feeling of frantic panic and I will not allow these anxious thoughts of “what if” to cause me to be a faithless mess.”

The time for the appointment came.  It was raining hard and the sky was gray.  Middle Daughter drove me carefully to everywhere I needed to go, and waited in the car like a hovering guardian angel.  The staff at MyEyeDoctor was efficient.  My wait was not unduly long.  I listened for discouraging words and indications that my eyesight was on a steady, steep decline, but through the precursory evaluation the assistant was pleasant and gave no indication of anything.  Then Dr. Eskander came in.  He is one of my favorite people when it comes to doctors. To read his bio online sheds some light on his motivation, and I am impressed with his life theory and the impetus that drives him.  He was thorough, but he wasn’t at all depressing.  He was reassuring and kind.

And when he was done, he said, “Well, your retina is in fine shape.  There are no tears, nothing to worry about.  What you have is a separation of the vitreous gel from the retina, called posterior vitreous detachment (PVD). I want to see you back in a month to make sure it isn’t worse, but you should be just fine.  It causes “floaters” that can show up as threads or cobwebs and it’s annoying, but it isn’t serious.”  He went on to tell me what I need to do in case the small flashes become a lightening bolt and the floaters are big and starting to obstruct my vision (Get to Christiana Hospital as fast as possible!) but he reassured me that he could find nothing wrong with my retina.

I wanted to be sure about what I could and couldn’t do.  “Are there any restrictions?”  I asked.  “Are there things I should or should not do?

He looked at me with a funny grin.  “Well,” he said, trying to look serious, “I think you should definitely give up boxing,” He paused like he was thinking hard.  “And bungee jumping, too.  I don’t think you should do any of that.  But otherwise, I think you’re good!”

I laughed, of course.  (Mental images here.)  It was funny.  But the overwhelming feeling that was flooding my soul at that moment was a sense of the presence of Jesus, standing there and saying, “I’ve got this.  I’m going to be with you through it.  It may not last for months and months, and it may be a lot harder than you realize, but I’m with you, and this is the way.  Walk in it with courage and grace and joy.”

Whew!  I could have danced in that doctor’s office.  I went in with a deep unknown, and no idea of how things were going to be, and suddenly it was all done and I’m healthy and things are good.


Well, there was that whole issue of developing cataracts since my visit there a year ago.  I have a family history of cataracts, but thought I maybe had beaten the odds.  They aren’t bad, at least not yet, and Dr. Iskander said they were another something to watch.

There was also a sentence in the online site that was another indication of “why” the visceral separated from the wall.  “The condition is common among people over 50 years of age and is not serious.”    That was comforting to know except for the inference  that parts of this body are no longer young.

One other thing.  In reading over the office notes, I found this little jotting:  Patient appears to be well nourished.  Huh!  I wonder what that has to do with anything.

Well, that’s a gentle way to describe my particular body shape, I guess.  (That doesn’t mean I like it!)  But when I consider that over what could be noted on my chart regarding a retina tear, my heart gives grateful praise.

And since care for Blind Linda won’t involve boxing or bungee jumping, we are planning to bring her home when scheduled.  Tomorrow.  At one o’clock.

For this and so much more, my heart gives humble, grateful praise.


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Smelly Intrusions

There seems to be some conspiracy against Delaware Grammy’s nose.  Ever since returning from family vacation last week, there have been assaults upon my olfactory sensory neurons that are anything but pleasant.

It started on Wednesday when I had an appointment @ 10:00am in Dover.  Because our small group meets at our house on Wednesday evening, I took a look around my house the night before and decided that drastic measures were needed before I left for the appointment.  The kitchen was in a mess, my corner was utter chaos, newspapers were scattered about and there was an offensive smell coming from a closed ice cream bucket on my counter where I had been putting table scraps, melon rinds, tomato discards and even onion cuttings.  That would need to be dumped into the bucket that went to the composter.  I also had a Sam’s Club Rotisserie chicken carcass that needed to be disposed of.

So Wednesday morning I flew around and got a great deal of things accomplished.  The kitchen got straightened, the papers were sorted and put into their proper places.  The dishwasher was loaded to the gills, and started, and I decided that I would empty my ice cream bucket and dispose of the chicken carcass as a very last thing before heading out.  So when all was accomplished, the last counter was swished, and I was dressed and ready to go, I picked up the container with the chicken, and the ice cream bucket and headed out to the back deck, where resided the big bucket with a lid on it that carries “stuff” to the composter.  (When I was a little girl, we called it the “slop bucket” and we carried it to the pigs . . . but I digress.)

Anyhow, I carried the stuff out and dumped the carcass first, and then sent the contents of the very smelly, very full ice cream bucket into the larger pail.  It seemed that things did splash about rather muchly, but I didn’t think too much of it.  I made sure the ice cream bucket was empty, and carried it back to the kitchen.  I washed the bucket and disposed of the Sams container, gathered my stuff and headed out.

I wasn’t very far down the road when I smelled something really stinky.  It smelled just like that stinky old slop bucket.  I kept searching down the front of my shirt, scrutinizing my skirt and my shoes, even checking out my nylons to see what ever could be clinging there that would be making such an unacceptable smell.  I got to thinking about my appointment, and wondering what they were going to think when I arrived smelling like a slop bucket.  Oh, dear.  I found some wet wipes that I keep in the car and washed my arms and hands, wiped my neck and face, and even brushed over my clothes with them.  I had some deliciously good smelling Rose lotion, and I worked that into my hands.  It seemed to help, but every now and then, I would still catch a whiff of something.  I do not know what it was, even to this day, but I finally decided that the smell had lodged in my nose and kept sending out a warning.  But whatever it was, it wasn’t pleasant.  And it served to make me feel a little insecure, to say the least.

Then Thursday, I had a basket of laundry from the nursing home from Blind Linda that needed washing, and I was so puzzled.  I’ve been doing her laundry from there since the end of May, and I have NEVER had it smell so strong of old urine as that basket of stuff did.  It was so strong and stale a smell that I wasn’t sure I could even get it out of her clothes in a satisfactory manner.  So I shoved it into the washer, added some laundry booster, some smell good beads, plenty of detergent and whitener, brightener, and washed it up.  It smelled sweet when I was done, but sometimes when I came into the house, I thought I still smelled something suspicious.

Today the bad smell seemed pretty much contained in my laundry room.  And let me tell you, it was “rankin’!”  Shew!  I just could not figure it out, and of course I kept complaining to my family about it.  They didn’t think they smelled it, (at least not “too much”) and I couldn’t put my finger on what it was that could possibly smell so bad.  I looked and sniffed and sniffed and looked.  Nothing would yield the results I wanted.  And the smell seemed to have several possible indicators.  Most of the time it seemed like a dirty diaper.  Sometimes even more offensive — like a dead mouse.  I even thought that someone may have even brought a live sea creature in a shell home from the beach in their pocket, where it (naturally) died and was now making its presence known.  I sniffed the various articles of clothing in the closet and none of them seemed to be the culprit.

Then in the middle of the afternoon, Middle Daughter took a load of sheets to the wash line and when she came back in, she said, “Oh, Mom.  I found the source of your bad smell!”

“Oh, really?  What was it:”  I asked.

“Remember that bucket of potatoes?”  She asked.

My heart sank.  Of course I remembered those potatoes.  “Yes?” I answered, afraid to hope and fully prepared.  We had dug the last of our potatoes before going on family vacation and I had left some of them in a bucket.  When we were leaving, I set the bucket outside the back door and had told Audrey’s caregiver that she could use them if she wished. and then I had pretty much forgotten about them.

“Well,” Deborah said with that note in her voice.  “What happens when you leave a bucket of potatoes out, and it rains on them and then it gets really hot?”  She could have skipped the science lesson.  I’ve lived long enough to know these things.  “Anyhow,” she continued, “those potatoes are terrible.  They stink awful!  Somebody better do something with them!”

Oh, dear!  Well.  Somebody should, I guess. I wished it wouldn’t need to be me.  She wasn’t offering anytime soon, obviously.  And I was getting ready for a wedding.  Certain Man was getting ready for the wedding, and he had to preach tomorrow, so I didn’t want to disturb him.  Besides, I felt really guilty about needing to get rid of them, what with the hard work he had put into planting them and digging them.  We had gotten some really good eating off our small patch, but there’s never a good reason for wasting “the end of the bucket.”  And it happens entirely too often at this house.  I decided, though, in light of the wedding and such, that I was going to let it go until we got back. I was doing some laundry for Blind Linda, though, and a smell just kept wafting up every now and again, reminding me.

When Daniel and I left for the wedding, I decided to come clean about it.  I told him how I thought a bucket of rotten potatoes on the back deck was making my house stink, and his only comment was a resolute, “Well, we will need to take care of that when we get home.”  The wedding was sweet, and we enjoyed it very much, but it was getting dark by the time we got home, and I decided that I would just go ahead and take care of it while Daniel was doing other things, but he saw me loading up the golf cart with the offending bucket (upon which I had put a tight fitting lid) and he offered to help.  I said that I thought I could do it, but he was pretty intent on helping me, so we meandered off together to the composter, and got everything dumped, and the bucket washed.  Wow!  Was I ever glad that was over!  And he didn’t even scold me!  Not that he usually does, but he doesn’t like hard work and good food going to waste, so home grown red potatoes and their use is a touchy subject.

Then we came into the house and he decided to go get milk and I said that I was going to take some clean laundry down to the nursing home and visit Linda a bit.  So he got our milk pail and headed out.  I went to get Blind Linda’s laundry into her laundry basket and laid her hang up clothes on top.  Just as I was turning away from the closet, I smelled that terrible smell again.  It was really bad.  It seemed different from the “rotten potato” smell, and it definitely seemed to be in the area I was standing.  So back to the fray I went, methodically searching all along the perimeters of the laundry room.  When I got to the entry way, I definitely smelled the lingering aroma of rotten potatoes, but this other smell really was different somehow.  It smelled like something dead.  I opened the basement stairwell, and stuck my head into that confine and drew a deep breath. Nothing there offensive.  I went back to the laundry room, opened the electric panel and sniffed there.  Nothing.  (I know, I know!  The electric panel.  One time there was a bad smell in the wall and it seemed to come out of the electric panel . . . )  I had just about given up when suddenly, I thought of something.

Early in the summer, one evening Certain Man and I were working out in the garden.  He started his chicken house generator in the course of the evening, and a nest blew out of the exhaust pipe.  Now usually this would have been one of those pesky starling nests, but this time, three tiny, beautiful eggs were spit out and they lay, unbroken on the grass.  I looked at those eggs and I was heartsick.  This was no starling nest.  I carefully brought them into the house for identification, and had put them in a little container up on the shelf in the laundry room.  I would look at them frequently, and think about the pair of Great Crested Flycatchers whose home we had unwittingly destroyed.  I remembered their frantic cries and the way they flew anxiously about after their nest was destroyed and I wondered if they had found another suitable cavity in which to make their home.  I had thought, briefly, that maybe I should get rid of those eggs, but they had seemed very stable up there on the shelf and they were so pretty, I just never did away with them.

Well, now was the time when I wished I had.  One of them had succumbed to either the pressure inside, or from an inadvertent bump from without, and it was in a most disgusting, putrid and offensive state of disintegration.  E-w-w-w-w-w!  What a mess!  It didn’t take this Delaware Grammy long to pick up the container, hold it at arm’s length (while I held my breath) so as not to catch another whiff of anything, and carry it to the outside dumpster where I unceremoniously disposed of it, Great Crested Flycatcher, notwithstanding.

And then I came back in to use some Febreeze and to replenish some plug-in air fresheners and to feel greatly relieved that the search for stink had been resolved, at least for now.  Whew!  What a relief, indeed!

And that’s the news on a lighter side from Shady Acres, where the night has turned to the beginning of a new day, and this Delaware Grammy is going to bed.






































































































































































































































































































































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Our Daughter Writes . . . and Weeps

That Man That I Love Most and I have a daughter,  Rachel, who is a trauma therapist with a firm in Washington, DC.  Her work is mostly with the black population, and with the poor.  By virtue of her training, (and even her job description) what she sees every day breaks my heart.  (Which is a good reason for the practice she has of speaking in generalities and not telling me much about anything!)

A few months ago, before the present crisis, she wrote me one morning.  I was surprised to see an email from her, because she usually calls.  But on this morning, she had something specifically for me:

Hey Momma- 

I wrote this today because I’ve had a lot of client’s come through here talking about their fear and their anxiety around having young, black sons. You usually seem to like to read the stuff I write, so I thought I’d send it to you. 

There’s no expectation for you to read it or like it or even think it’s remotely good. I just wanted to share it with someone. 

There was an attachment – and I opened it and read-

Unknown Suffering

I cannot understand.

My white skin cannot hide

I sit in silence.

The tears flow as a mother cries

“I prayed for girls-

Girls don’t scare police”

Her voice is shaking

Tears are streaming from her eyes

She is confessing

She is afraid

“What if my sons…”

“’The talk’ is obsolete”

Those sworn to protect produce fear

The men at the corner store

The boys who think they’re men.

The drive-by shootings

Her voice is small from crying

She whispers, “My boys…”

I listen

I contextualize

I put her struggle

Into the context of my whiteness

I hear her-

And I think of my three nephews

I think of their black skin
I think of their futures

I think of statistics

Telling me they aren’t going to make it.

Their lives matter-

But do their dreams?

Her fear has encompassed me

I am not crying for her-

I am crying with her

And then I realize…

What do dreams matter,

If lives are disposed?

What do dreams matter,

If life is unprotected?

What if the dream is simply life?

Her thoughts continue to race

The “what ifs” bombard her

Her tears continue to flow steadily

Her words haunt me:

“I prayed for girls…”


And here are the “three nephews” that she was talking about.

(Aren’t they simply gorgeous?)


Frankie (5)                                    Liam (6)                                                       Si (7)

Getting ready to start back to school, and looking so cool!


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A Puzzle of Desperate Proportions

I was on my way home from Dover, just making my way down Shawnee Road, almost home when something caught my eye.  It was a person, lying in the grass maybe 15 feet off the side of the road, a short distance from our chicken house lane.  It appeared to be a woman, and she was in an almost fetal position, just lying in the soft grass.  I had someone directly behind me, and I was preparing to turn into our lane, so I slowed down, and called Middle Daughter who was at home.

“Deborah, do you know anything about someone lying in the grass up beyond our chicken house lane?”

“Uh, no!  There’s someone there?”

“Yes, there is.  Would you please go with me up to check things out?”  (I have a great deal of respect for Middle Daughter’s nursing abilities, and I was pretty sure that whoever was there wasn’t well.)

“Sure will!”

By now I had pulled up in front of our garage, and in a very short minute, Middle Daughter and I were on our way back up the road.  The gal hadn’t moved.  We pulled up alongside the road, and Deborah got out, while I waited in the van.  When she got over to the gal, she roused up, sleepy and confused.  I could not hear what was being said, but shortly Deborah and the stranger walked towards our car.

“She has been walking,” Deborah explained to me in low undertones, “and it got too hot.  So She stopped to rest.  She needs some fresh water and she needs to cool off.”

Certain Man had taken someone home a few weeks back that was walking home from work and was overcome by the heat, and I expected that this was somewhat the same case.  We brought her home and Middle Daughter got fresh water, ice for the water bottles, and the gal was on a fast speed ahead chatty mode.  Somewhere in the rapid fire conversation we pieced together her story and who she was.   She was the granddaughter of old friends.  When I asked which of their daughters was her mother, there was a bit of hesitation, and then she told me.

“Was she always a mess?” she asked with a crooked smile on her face.

I thought about the lives of the four children who were born to this couple and the irregular home life they had as children.  “Those four children had a tough time,” I told her gently.  “Life wasn’t easy for them.”

She didn’t look convinced, but chanted on about her life.  I looked at her, skinny as all get out, tattoos covering much of the exposed skin.  28 years old.  No lower teeth. And my heart ached.

“My boyfriend and I tried all day to get a ride from the hospital home, but couldn’t find anyone who could drive us.  My boyfriend just got out of the hospital.  He thought he had MRSA, but the doctor said that it was just infected hair follicles.  We walked and walked, and finally I just couldn’t go on.  I laid down beside the road on the grass, and he went on.”

“Where do you live?”  We asked.

“Out on (a country) Road,” she said, mentioning an address over ten miles from the hospital.

There were plenty of other things shared, but a lot was neither cognitive nor an adequate explanation of why she was where she was on this hot afternoon.

“I just got out of the hospital myself,” she suddenly announced.  “Just three days ago.  Complete system shutdown and organ failure.”  She didn’t seem to have any reservations about telling us these details, but she did not elaborate.  By now we had gotten her water bottle refilled with a fresh supply of water with ice, and two to spare in case her boyfriend needed some, too, and Deborah was preparing to take her home.

I looked at her carefully and on impulse I asked her, “Is there anything else we can do for you?  Give to you?  Something that you might need?”

She ducked her head and looked wistful.  “Uh, well, maybe you shouldn’t ask that to someone who has hardly eaten in three days.  Would you have any food?  Like some non perishables?  I don’t think there is anything in the house.”  Her voice was apologetic, hopeful, but not demanding.

Food.  That was something we could do.  There was most of a loaf of homemade bread on the counter, bananas, canned soups in the pantry, a large bottle of apple juice, baked beans, Spaghettios, an unopened 12-package box of Ramen Noodles.  We gathered up a few things and put them into grocery sacks for her.  She stood by the kitchen table, her hands clutching the bags as if she could hardly believe it..  She looked so vulnerable and broken.

I spoke her name as I walked close to her, and she looked up half expectantly, half fearfully. “–May I please pray for you?”

“Oh, yeah, sure, sure,” she said.  “That would be okay.  I mean, we all can use some prayers.”

I drew her into my chest like she was one of my own girlies and she came willingly enough.  She was skin and bones in my arms, I could feel her ribs and backbone hard against her skin and I wanted to cry.  I didn’t pray long, but i tried to pray as much Love and Grace and Divine Direction as I could into a short half minute or so.  She wasn’t very comfortable in the situation.  I was barely a couple of words into the prayer when I felt her right hand, under my arm, making a flicking motion, like she was brushing away the words as fast as they were spoken.  I finished quickly, hugged her one more time, and she went off with her bags with Deborah, looking more like a gangly 14 year old girl as she walked away than the 45 year old woman she looked like when I could see her face.

She went home to a small, disheveled trailer on a back country road.  Six adults lived there together, and no one had a vehicle.  Although Middle Daughter’s work takes her into many difficult situations, this particular situation weighed heavy on her heart.  When there was no sign of the “boyfriend” the whole nine miles between our house and the trailer, she took another way home, found him and took him home as well.

Like a puzzle of dark colors with almost no defined lines and certainly no straight edge pieces, this story haunts me.  I feel like there are pieces lying on the table that are whole and good. And we all know that a puzzle with an irregular border can be/is beautiful, but I feel like there are lost pieces and damaged pieces, that are so far gone that any hope of this puzzle ever fitting together in a whole seems very, very remote.  I do not know this girlie’s heart.  I know that there has been exposure to Jesus and his claims upon her life.  I also know that she has seen people not live out what they professed.  It’s no excuse, but people have used it from the beginning of time, and it still gets used today.  I heard enough in the few minutes that she was in my kitchen to know that under everything that would cause me to cringe, there is a heart that has been broken.


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Sunday Snafu

So.  Yesterday I went to a bridal shower for a young friend at a country mansion  – a big, huge house up off a Kent County road north of Harrington.  When it came right down it,  I didn’t much feel like going.  It was at 4:00 Sunday afternoon, and that’s a good time for me to grab a nap on any given Sunday.  But this guest of honor was the babysitter for the Thursday Morning Bible Study group that meets at our house for (literally!) years, and she was good.  Plus, I happen to love her. We are a part of her support group (she’s on staff with YWAM in England), and she met this Aussie and they are getting married next month.  (I like him, too!)

I didn’t realize where this bridal shower was going to be held, or I may have opted to stay home.  I have admired this place often from afar, but never dreamed that I would ever be on the inside of it.  As I said, it’s HUGE.  And very NICE. By the time I realized where it was, I was almost there, so I decided to not turn back.  I parked in the front roundabout drive, gathered my courage about me, and made my way to the door.  I was welcomed warmly. There were a whole bunch of pretty young “twenty-ish” females, giggly younger girls, and Mamas and Aunties, and I hardly knew ANYONE except the guest of honor and members her family.

The kitchen was directly off the large foyer, and the food was arrayed in splendor! Dainty chicken salad sandwiches, meatballs, cucumber and cream cheese pinwheels, veggie trays and dips and on and on and on! It was an impressive array of fancy foods, but I had just come from one of those “5th Sunday Mennonite Potluck Dinners” at our church and I was not the least bit hungry.  I picked up some things (skipping over the desserts, though, for real!!!) got a glass of basil infused lemonade, and headed out to where the seating had been arranged.

The day was sunshiny and clear, and the organizers wanted us to eat outside, where chairs and a few tables had been set up.  The sun was quite hot and the only shade was from a large deck umbrella, but I found a spot under it that was at least partially in the shade for part of the time.  There were pleasant looking women around, and I picked up some conversations which I enjoyed very much. I even had a discussion with a two women about falls and the elderly and how a single fall can change our lives forever and many pertinent observations were made, arising from the experiences with parents and grandparents – not just by me, but by the two gals I was talking to, as well.

There were quite a few people at the shower, and it took time for everyone to get their plates finished.  The party was about an hour old and not a single gift had been open. I began to think about going home.  But then they handed out a party game printed on a pink sheet of paper.  Maybe this would be a diversion.  I took a look at it, and it was a whole bunch of questions about our personal cell phones!  For pity sakes!!! At a Bridal Shower???  I thought maybe it would be about the bride and groom, but then I thought that I would probably know more about my personal cell phone than I did about the bride and groom (especially given some of the recent questions raised on quizzes at bridal showers) so I decided to see if I could answer at least some of the questions.

However, I’ve developed an increasing distaste for people on their cell phones at social events, and I had left mine in my purse, out in the kitchen of this mammoth house. So I went to retrieve it.  It was right where I left it, so I took my purse and headed back out to the sunshine.  I was doing all okay, just meandering along, thinking about some of the questions when disaster befell!  Just past the kitchen, I caught my toe on a very slightly raised ridge between the dining room and the step down into the sun room and suddenly felt myself hurtling into space at an amazing rate of speed.

I crash landed with absolutely no grace or glory onto some kind of expensive scratchy rug and felt my right elbow dig hard into it. Ouch!  That kind of smarted!  Of course there were all sorts of exclamations and people leaping to help me up and asking if I was hurt and all sorts of unsolicited solicitous remarks.  I was pretty sure I wasn’t too damaged, and hiked myself up (mostly unassisted) brushed myself off, insisted that I was fine, and escaped back out to my chair where I tried to finish the pink-sheeted game without any more attention.

Scarcely had I settled myself back into my chair when I got this picture from my daughter in law, Regina-

“Frankie wanted you to see his banged up face and missing tooth.”
“The nose and tooth are from a bad bike wreck and the eye is from a hard game of baseball.”

I looked at that poor little battered face, and it made me very happy that I hadn’t fallen on my face, or knocked out a tooth. (I’ve fallen hard on my face, and needed stitches some years ago, and let me tell you, that’s no fun!)  But about then, I rubbed my elbow that was smarting and my hand came up sticky and damp red.  I tried to quietly dab it off, but it was really smarting.  I suddenly felt tired and sad and old.  I decided that I was going to just go home.  I spoke quiet words to the bride and snuck out.  The less people who knew anything, the happier I would be.

So I told Regina all about it and got all sorts of sympathy from Frankie- so much so that I felt better. But then I took a picture of it (because I couldn’t see it) and I guess it was no wonder it hurt!

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I shouldn’t have looked at it. I think I felt better before I saw it. But at least it wasn’t on my face. I made it home and told my offspringin’s and my siblings my tale of woe, complete with pictures.  Today I have some sore muscles, but I’m not in terrible shape.  However, I’ve discovered why My Sweet Mama didn’t like to tell anybody about her falls — especially her offspring.  It seems like well-intentioned people in general and adult children in particular have perfectly logical and sincere answers about everything.  And they don’t like to listen to reason. Most of my dilemmas come from not paying attention.  But even the best payer of attention sometimes gets hung up.  It’s just the way it is.

Besides,  I’m not quite ready for a “full time supervisor.” Not yet, anyhow.

Do I give Grateful praise tonight?  Of course, on many counts.  But why don’t you go think of some of your own reasons to give grateful praise, and I will keep all these things and ponder them in my heart.


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Anniversary #44

“Hey, Charis,” I said to our Oldest Granddaughter the other day.  “Guess what!  Tomorrow is Grandpa and Grammy’s anniversary!”

“Huh!” She said, looking up momentarily from what she was doing.

“Yep!”  I said, trying to draw her into the conversation.  “Guess how many years it is.”

“Um,” she started uncertainly, screwing up her face.  “Fifty-four?”

“No, not quite,” I said, laughing.

“Um, uh, SEVENTY?”  Her voice had that high-pitched quality that children often use when they really have no idea and probably don’t much care.

“No, Charis!  I’m not even that old.” I said, still chuckling.  “Here.  You figure it out.  I was 19 when I got married and now I’m 63.”

So she wrestled with that for a while, and with Grammy’s help to confuse her with a foreign way of doing math, we finally came up with the answer.  “You got it,” I said, “Grandpa and I have been married 44 years!”

“And tomorrow it will be 45!” she announced triumphantly.  So that needed straightening out, too, but we finally got it all squared away and she went on to tell me how many years her daddy and mommy had been married, and I never did get the enthusiastic response I had sorta’ hoped for.

You might say that was a bit the story of the day.  I came down in the morning to find Certain Man on the recliner with a really bad headache.  I offered to get him some medicine but he had already taken it and was waiting for things to settle down.  I was into my morning routine when I suddenly remembered and looked up from whatever I was doing to announce cheerfully, “Happy Anniversary, Darlin’!”

He was really feeling pretty bad, I think, because his response was somewhat noncommittal.  He hoisted himself out of his chair and went out to do the morning chores, feed the baby calves and check the chickens.  He came back in, sweated wet from the already oppressive heat and humidity and went to shower.  I made breakfast for him and then he went off to work.  I needed to take Audrey for her monthly blood work, then drop her off at center, get gas for the mini-van, drop some insurance information off at Audrey’s doctor, and go to the bank for Audrey.  I made my round, stopping at Big Lots for a few things, at the nursing home with Linda’s clean clothes and ended up at Redner’s to pick up some celery and eggs for a potato salad that I wanted to send to Ohio with Eldest Daughter and Beloved Son in law.  I got home around 11 to discover that the florist had delivered my beautiful arrangement of flowers from That Man that I Love Best.  I had almost forgotten what day it was until I saw the bouquet on the dining room table.  It was a bright spot in the middle of a day that had been so ordinary.


They were so cheery, so bright and exactly what I wanted!  I love carnations, since these were what he would buy me when he first started buying flowers for me.  I often think about that young man who didn’t really have any idea what he was doing when it came to buying flowers (not that I knew any better).  I wonder what made him first venture into a flower shop, looking for something to buy that wouldn’t break his budget, and yet would be acceptable to his sense of design and beauty.  He has consistently chosen so well, and I cannot remember a single time when what he purchased didn’t please me.  (There were a few years when he would send roses in a long purple box, and that was always exciting, and it wasn’t that I didn’t like them, but I finally got the nerve up to tell him that I preferred carnations, that I liked  it better if I didn’t have to arrange the flowers because I really didn’t have a clue as to how to do that, and besides, carnations were cheaper and they lasted longer!)

And so, the day passed.  Middle Daughter was planning a trip in the evening to Shakespeare in the Park with some friends, and that meant that Daniel and I would be spending the evening at home.  Which was fine with me.  We were trying to get ready for a trip to Washington DC the next day to help Youngest Daughter move, and there was plenty to do to get ready for that.  I made the potato salad, got some stuff around to send along to Ohio, worked on some of the laundry that Youngest Daughter had sent home in preparation for her move and watched the weather.  When a severe storm watch was announced, and the friends that were planning to go to Shakespeare with Middle Daughter began to drop out one by one, I got to thinking that maybe Certain Man and I should go out for supper since Deborah was going to be home after all.  But it sounded like a lot of effort.

Shakespeare in the Park got cancelled about the time that Certain Man came home from work.  I mentioned that going out for supper was a possibility but that wasn’t met with any enthusiasm.    It was POURING down rain, and Certain Man was exceedingly weary.  His partner in the Plumbing Inspections Department, Lawson, has retired and the unit is running on short staff.  Friday was a long, hard, hot day.  Plumbers that try to cut corners and get away with things are quick to get angry at inspectors, and the traffic home had been an irascible mess. Besides, we had to clean up a futon in the shop that Youngest Daughter wanted, go fetch a trailer for hauling everything and then load the things that were going to Washington the next day.  Well.  Maybe we could stop for ice cream or something at Vanderwende Farm Creamery when we went out to pick up the trailer.  Maybe. If we felt like it.

The evening progressed and one by one the things got done.  We went out to pick up the trailer, and it was still raining.  I looked over at this man that I love most and decided that we were not going to stop anywhere.  I wasn’t at all hungry anyhow, and we would just celebrate later.  We went right by Vanderwende’s without either of us saying a word about stopping.  We were in the middle of a good discussion about something else anyhow, and there didn’t seem to be any good reason to get ice cream when neither of us really wanted to.

So we came on home, finished up what needed doing and called it a day.  We had wonderful good wishes from friends, and even people advising us to enjoy the day and each other in some special way.  I crashed into that bed of ours that night, too tired to move from my spot.  Certain Man was soon snoring gently beside me.  I thought about that day, 44 years ago when we pledged our lives to each other.  He promised to love me.  I promised to obey him.  (Yes, I did!)  I thought about how there are anniversaries that we have celebrated with great fanfare and excursions and weekends away and special words and meaningful conversation.

And I thought about this very ordinary day, when he went to work, and I did the things that I had to do.  When he came home, so very tired, but still needing to do things for our children or someone else, and how we worked together at the things that needed doing, without resentment at each other or quiet peevishness for a special day being so ordinary.   In a very real sense, the day was a picture of our marriage.  There have been many days of marking high events, high emotions, good times, (as symbolized by those yellow carnations) but for the most part, it has been the two of us, a team, doing what needs to be done, enjoying the being together, doing for our family or our friends, being faithful, working through the hard times, forgiving each other and not allowing ourselves to be upset when life is ordinary.  There has been lots of “spaces in our togetherness” since we don’t always enjoy the same things, but when it really matters, we’ve forged an agreeable compromise.  We both like people, having guests, our adult children, our grandchildren, our church family, and so much more.  We’ve had lots of time over these 44 years to figure each other out somewhat, and it’s nice to be comfortable together.  We’ve been so blessed.

So when people ask me if we had a nice anniversary, I can say with a great deal of conviction, “We really did!  Nothing special or earth shaking or unusual, but still satisfying and sweet.”

For these 44 years and so much more, my heart gives grateful praise.


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