A Song to Remind Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Daddy,” she said quietly, proudly.

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

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

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

Charis sings: 

 

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In Loving Memory: Mighty Mack Shiery

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Traveling Mercies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

I was wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My heart gives grateful praise!

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A Gladsome Prayer of Praise

It has happened! Thanks to you, Heavenly Father, it is done!

Babysweete is Elise Evelyn Yutzy — or “Ellie” as we now call her.

The adoption was solemn, but sweet.  There were tears, there was laughter, lots of legalese, and then the gavel fell and Ellie was legally “ours.” The two gathered families, a motley crew of 27 in addition to the Babe of the Hour drew an almost audible sigh.  Ah, what delicious relief!

I look back over these last months and realize how much this whole issue of Ellie’s future has played into the symphony of our family.  Sorrow, ecstasy, uncertainty, miraculous intervention, days when we held on by the tips of our “faith fingers,” a dark day when it seemed that all was lost, and a day when even people unaccustomed to their knees, were on their faces before you, with tears and entreaties.  On that terrible day, You, Heavenly Father, intervened, gave us back what had seemed gone forever, and our mourning turned to dancing.  “The Miracle of our Baby” (her oldest brother, Si’s words) brought hope and light and so much joy.  What a precious gift!

Five times, Heavenly Father.  Five times she was scheduled to leave and each time you intervened.  How very grateful we all are!

“For this child we prayed, and the LORD hath granted our petition.”

“This is the LORD’s Doings and it is wondrous in our eyes.”

Father God, how very grateful I am for this wondrous miracle.  I am awed and humbled and incredibly encouraged by this whole display of your power and personal intervention in the lives of Raph and Gina and Si, Liam and Frankie.  May this family NEVER forget.  May You write upon our hearts a Book of Remembrance so that none of us will ever forget what Great Things our God has wrought.

My heart gives humble, gladsome, grateful praise.

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Living on a Life Principle

On days when disappointment wants first place in my heart, when I’m homesick for my out of state kids and grandkids, when the thumb on my left hand protests every move and old songs make me teary, there is an old principle that my Aunt Naomi gave me a long time ago.

“When I was discouraged or down in the dumps and wanted to give up,” she told me, “Monnie would tell me to find someone to do something for before I felt sorry for myself.”  She was inclined to obey him, no matter what she may have been personally feeling, and it not only changed her attitude, but the involvement of this “Yankee”  in the lives of the people of Florida gave her a place that caused them to forget that she was ever an outsider.

Sometimes I feel sorry for a young Naomi Yoder – a thousand miles from her parents, siblings and the familiar, a young mother who left behind a tiny grave in the Greenwood Mennonite Church cemetery, making her way in a culture when the first response to the northerners was mistrust in the least and malice in the fore. But LIFE proved what she was worth , and it also showed the rest of us that JOY is a matter of choice. (And people are drawn to a happy person who wants to love on them!)

And so, today, a batch of bread rising in my kitchen, hard boiled eggs for deviled eggs and a pretty jello salad in a vintage Tupperware mold –

these things bring me joy and remind me to look out instead of in.  There are many things right in my world, and there are plenty of people to love.

I’m going to go looking!

And so this Delaware Grammy is encouraging her reluctant heart to give grateful praise.

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Family Recipes and Happy Memories

Last week on My Sweet Mama’s family group, Wertlink, my cousin, Marie got to talking about a Carrot Cake Recipe that had been given to her by our Aunt Alma Jean.  Aunt Alma Jean was a Home Economics teacher, having gotten her college degree in that field and she was known to have some really terrific recipes.  Some of the stories told about this particular Carrot Cake and its powers to enthrall those who were given a sample caused me to greatly desire the recipe.  There were memories of a Carrot Cake from somewhere in my childhood that have never been duplicated in the years since, and my interest was piqued.

So I wrote to her and asked her if she would mind sharing the recipe.  She was more than agreeable to that, and by return e-mail I got the recipe.  But along with the recipe, she also sent a link to a carrot grater that she said was the best kind to use.

Grater

That grater looked so familiar my heart felt a strange twist.  My Sweet Mama had one that looked a LOT like that one, but I don’t remember ever using it for anything.  And I suspect that when we went through things after she died, that it may have been disposed of.  At least I have no idea where it went.  The thing is, I struggle mightily whenever I need to grate anything that can’t be grated on my trusty potato grater, and when Marie said that this was the best grater to use to make the carrots fine enough for the best texture for this cake, I decided that I was going to find one and buy it.  It looked pretty vintage to me, so I decided that I would start with Ebay.  I found one, alright.  For $64.00.  Well, that wasn’t going to cut it.  Or grate it.  So I turned to trusty Amazon.  Sure enough there were a number of them on that exchange, ranging from $12 and up.  The one that really took my eye, though, was stainless steel.  I could put it into the dishwasher, I wouldn’t need to worry about it rusting, it was less that $20, and I promptly ordered it.  “Isn’t it beautiful???” (She asks the dedicated cooks among us.)

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It came through in the usual record time, for which I was grateful because I had decided that I was going to make Carrot Cake for our 5th-Sunday-Hymn-Sing-Dinner-On-The-Grounds-Potluck that our church has every time there is a 5th Sunday in the month! Usually I make a double layer, Devil’s Food, “straight from the box” Cake with chocolate butter cream frosting, but I wanted to do something different this time.

So, Saturday, I brought out my new grater, got some carrots ready for grating, and lured Love Bug into helping me.  She grated until she got skin into it and then lost interest.  Not that I blame her, you understand, there is nothing so disconcerting as grating your finger when you are trying to be all industrious and helpful.  It’s bad enough when you’re 65, but when you are almost ten years old it’s insulting and painful and discouraging.  Middle Daughter took over for a bit, then, and I finally finished.  This recipe calls for 3 cups of grated carrots, and let me tell you, that’s a lot of grating.  It’s also enough carrots that I’m inclined to call this cake a vegetable because it has to be healthy, what with all those raw carrots in it.

Once I got the carrots finished, I got the pans ready before starting the cake.  Again, Marie had suggested that I use parchment paper on the bottom as well as buttering and flouring the sides of the pans.  So I got that all ready and then I mixed up the cake.  When I was all done, I looked back over the recipe to be sure I hadn’t missed anything, and realized that the recipe (as given) hadn’t called for any vanilla.  H-m-m-m-m-m.  I didn’t want to miss anything, so I decided to double check.  I knew that Marie was on a Spring Break trip with her husband, Kirk Vedevelt, and their two children, so I decided to call Aunt Alma Jean down in Harrisonburg, VA.  I was looking for an excuse to call her, anyhow, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.

Aunt Alma Jean wasn’t sure where her copy of the recipe was, but she allowed as she would put vanilla into it anyhow, whether it called for it or not, and so I put a teaspoon in, and then got my three pans of carrot cake into the oven while I had a wondrously good conversation with my Auntie.  Soon after we finished talking, it was time for my deliciously aromatic cake to come out of the oven, and I brought it out and put it on cooling racks to get cool.  I made a double batch of the icing, and set it into the freezer to chill a bit while the three layers finished cooling.  Then I iced the cake and tucked it into the fridge to await the morning.  (This was so the three layers would stay three layers instead of becoming a sideways, slippery mess).

We were celebrating the 70th birthday of fellow church member, Robert Miller along with our potluck on Sunday, and I had’t even thought about the fact that there would be lots of cake at the dinner, but when I realized it, I began making plans for any left over cake  There was to be a “Grandma Night” at Jesse and Christina’s house, and I suddenly knew that I wouldn’t need to make anything special.  I was going to take this Carrot Cake that was already gaining rave reviews from the few people who sampled it!

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(It looks like there is raw carrot spilling out of this cake, but it’s truly just the coloring of the picture.  The actual color of the cake was an even, light brown, and that is just the way the cake crumbled– and I could get it to look right, no matter how many times I took the picture!)  Anyhow!

So when evening came, Certain Man and I hauled the cake, along with some leftover Sweet Tea up the road to the Big Bontrager House On Shawnee Road where the family of Mark and Alene Yoder were gathering for the evening.  And there, the now Famous Aunt Alma Jean’s Carrot Cake was further decimated and pronounced “The BEST Ever” by more than one of those there.  Our numbers were a little slim, due to other obligations and constraints, but it was, nonetheless, a very nice group and a very sweet time together.  I wish I had gotten more pictures, but I did grab a few, and will try to get more the next time (which we hope won’t be too far out).  Here are several for you to enjoy

(And because I know that someone is going to ask, here is the recipe:

Aunt Alma Jean’s Best Ever Carrot Cake

2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups salad oil
4 eggs well beaten
2 tsp soda
2 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp  ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 cup chopped pecans
3 cups grated carrots
1 tsp. vanilla (if you are so inclined.  I hear it is really good without it, too!)
Mix sugar and salad oil together
Add well beaten eggs and mix well
Combine rest of ingredients and stir in.
Add pecans and grated carrots and mix well.
Bake in 3 / 9” cake pans at 325 degrees or 350 degrees for 30 -40 mins.
  Icing:
1 box 10x sugar
8 oz cream cheese
1/2 stick oleo or butter
1 tsp. of either lemon or vanilla (I used vanilla, at Aunt A.J.’s advisement)
(For a 3-layer cake, I made a double batch, but I had a bit left over)And now, on this chilly Monday morning, there is so much to be grateful for.  While there are always things happening in my life and the lives of people I love that can occupy my head and heart and prayers, there are also things to think about that make me glad.  I made a Carrot Cake that has My Sweet Mama’s Family History wrapped all around it!  (Thank you, Marie, for this splendid recipe). The tax preparation is finished and at the accountant’s office.  (Thank you, Harry Papaleo for making our annual visit to your office a meeting of friends when we can laugh and talk about more than just taxes).  Certain Man and I had breakfast with our two local girlies, Christina and Deborah, (some of my favorite people!) and this day has nothing more pressing than paperwork for the State of Delaware, laundry, and (if I’m really motivated) going through some more things in my quest to simplify and downsize this old farmhouse.My heart gives gladsome, humble, grateful praise.

 

 

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Patterns of Sunshine

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We sit in Dr. Varipapa’s office, Blind Linda and I.  It was time for her six month checkup and this was the date I agreed upon last fall.  For some reason, it went longer than the six months, but it still rolls around too quickly.

Blind Linda sits in her transport chair.  She has complained about almost everything this morning, but now, we are sitting still and the atmosphere is not wracked with noise.  No squalling babies, rambunctious children, spatting spouses or loudly streaming office music.  She sits quietly and there is a gentle companionship in the silence.

I look across the floor to where the sunshine is spilling in, and the cheery brightness calls to me.  If there was a way, I would hug it to my chest.  There’s been so little of it this year.  Across the room, there is a woman swinging her feet like a pendulum gone berserk, but she is quiet.  I smile at her and she smiles back. This is a neurologist’s office.  Most of the people here aren’t here for the fun of it. I wonder if she is a patient or if she is waiting on someone.  There is a plethora of people here, all silent today.  There are the aged, and the middlers  and the young.  The thing that gets to me the most are the very young – the toddlers and the babies.  There are so many neurological issues on every economic scale, and I wonder at the courage and hope and love that are within these walls.

I look at BL’s hands, twisted on her lap,  Her head is down, and she sometimes taps her foot impatiently.  She hates going to the doctor.  She hates any upset to her carefully laid out routines.  She hates to be hurried.  She hates going out in the cold.  She hates to wait. On this particular morning, she’s had hearty aberrations in all areas of preference.  I think about life for her and the comforting patch of sunshine on the floor seems to stand in sharp contrast of all the things her life holds.

Blind Linda turned 70 this week.  Her entire life has been at the direction of people who make the rules, decide where she is going and when she is going.  She lives in darkness.  She lives with needs she cannot express.  She is dependent on the whims of a caregiver who, though I care very much, often has to guess at what she wants and what she needs and what is best to do for her.  I often think her grimaces and noises of protest are because she has pain – but I cannot prove it, and I am unable to say where it originates.  What would it be like to be her?  If only I could understand!

There are mysterious patterns crisscrossing the patch of light on the floor of the pleasant waiting room.  I think about the mysteries of life – “That shadows fall on brightest hours, that thorns remain . . .”  (See link at the end of this post to hymn written by Adelaide Proctor, 1858, sung by Vision Quartet)  There have been a lot of shadows on our brightest hours over the last months.  I would be remiss to pretend those things haven’t affected us deeply, but there is the Light!  That comforting patch of light where the Sonbeams dance around the shadows, where the dust particles are transformed into glitter, where tears become prisms that can draw the focus away from the darkness.  If only I could understand!

But when I cannot understand; when I sit in God’s waiting room, wringing my hands and tapping my feet; when I’m blind to the beauty around me- then may the warmth of His Light, streaming through the windows of my soul, comfort me and distract me from my introspective sadness and turn my heart towards His Light and give me hope for a brighter tomorrow.

And my heart gives grateful praise.

 

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A baby and A Story

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The manuscript lay on the kitchen counter where I had dropped it the day before.   That morning, I had dug an old file from a dusty box under the end table on my side of our bed.    I opened the file with an old name on it, and dug through the papers there.  I found what I was looking for, and I brought it down and wondered if I could bear to read it.

“I found Raynie – I mean Freddie’s Story,” I told Certain Man, dozing in his chair.

He opened his eyes, and the hope was written all over his face.  “Really???”

“Really.  It’s hard to read because of the typewriter,” I said.  “But I think I can make it out.”

Later, in the quiet of my chair, I read the story from beginning to end and the tears slid down my cheeks in rivers as I remembered.  I lived the memories all over again, some of which I had honestly forgotten the specifics, some that I remembered differently than they had actually happened, but reading it made me remember as clearly as if it was yesterday.  Later that day, Certain Man devoured every word of the single spaced, over  eight page document, and I saw him wiping tears as well.

This Story.  Our Story.  His Story.

The story is of a call late one night on May 31, 1978 that brought us a ten week old baby boy who was “our baby” until his second birthday.

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The night he came to our house.

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Probably my favorite picture of our little man.  1 Year old

The parting was wrenching to our little family, and there were days I thought I could not bear the grief.  We sent a photo album with him when he left, and in the weeks that followed his adoption, I worked feverishly to write His Story for him about the important days that he spent with our family on a little farm in rural Ohio.  My typewriter didn’t want to work right, and my heart was breaking.  I had to be careful not to use the name that we knew him as, and the new name took concentration to be sure to get it right each time.  It felt like the new name somehow flew in the face of the reality of the almost 22 months that we loved him.  Where had our baby gone?  I finished it, though, and got a copy made and sent the case manager the original to pass on to his adoptive parents.  We had one or two messages after he was adopted, via his case manager, but then things went silent and we never heard from him again.

Then last summer, I was trying yet again to find him.  I knew his legal name, and had done some sleuthing before, but had never found him.  Then I came across a Facebook profile that almost had to be him.  I hesitated some time, but finally, in August, sent him a friend request and a message explaining who I was.

There was no response.  I didn’t want to offend or rush him, so I decided to wait.  Then in early February, I noticed that he had accepted my friend request.  H-m-m-m-m-m!  I decided to wait a bit longer to see if there was any more movement on his part.  Then when I posted the Valentine’s Day post about Certain Man’s and my day, I noticed that he reacted to it.  I also saw that he was still active on Facebook at that very time, so I took a chance and messaged him again.

This time, he responded.

I don’t know what to say, I am so humbled and grateful! I have taken this long to reply because I simply don’t know where to start. First, thank you! I had these vivid memories of a man with a beard that I could simply not account for growing up. When I initially read your post I immediately knew it to be true. I would love to meet you and your family in person and thank you for the care you gave me at such a critical time in my life. I wasn’t aware that I was adopted until well into adulthood when my adoptive father was literally on his deathbed. I also just found my biological family four years ago. There is so much I would love to share with you and find out about your life. I have read just about all of your blogs and feel like I know a little bit about you and your kind family, yet I have so many questions. I look forward to learning about you and your family and of course my time with you. Please tell your husband I said hello and I look forward to re-meeting you both soon.

Of course that started a correspondence that filled in a lot of gaps for us as well as for him and it also prompted my looking for his story to copy off and send to him.

It was this copy that was lying on the kitchen table when Middle Daughter came in.  She picked it up and read it.  “What are you going to do with it, Mama?” she asked.

“I’m sending it to Raynie – or, I mean, Freddie Lee,” I answered.

She hesitated a bit then said, “Aren’t you going to ‘fix it’ a little?  Like correct the misspellings and mistakes that you have in it?”

“I didn’t plan to,” I said.  “I just thought I would send it like it is.”

“But there are mistakes,” insisted my grammar police daughter.  “I just think that you would want to correct the errors and stuff . . .”

“No, Deborah, I don’t . . . ”  I thought a bit about why I felt so strongly and then I said, “You know Deborah, when I read that story, I see a 26 year old woman whose heart is breaking, and I feel a deep sadness for her.  The typing was on an old typewriter, and it was difficult for her to write.  I somehow feel like it needs to be just the way it is.  If I write it up for a blog or something sometime, I will at least correct the mistakes, but for now, that was how it was.  That was what I wrote.  That is what I’m going to send.”

And so I did.

This is only one chapter of the story.  Lord willing, there will be more chapters for which his family and our family can write paragraphs together, but even if that doesn’t happen, there is much to be grateful for.  There are questions that have been answered.  Life has been a journey for him, to be sure, but I’m so grateful to God for watching over “our baby”  while we could not.  I’m sure there are parts of the story that will hurt my heart, as well as much that will make it sing.  But what I hear most of all ringing down these almost 40 years is “Amazing Grace,”  and the sound of it is sweet.

And my heart gives humble grateful praise.

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Love and Old Valentines

Last week, as all of you know, was Valentine’s Day. This day has always held a special place in my heart as it was when A Certain Young Man and A Certain Young Woman had their first date. (If you wish, you can reference that story here: https://maryannyutzy.com/2007/02/14/943/   
— but even though that’s a funny story, it isn’t this story.)

So last week was extremely full. Certain Man had things to do in his chicken house, he had things to ponder about church. He had a sermon to prepare, and he was not thinking at all about Valentine’s Day. So it was that Valentine’s Day slipped up on him. Not only did he not order his usual flowers for his wife, he also didn’t even think about ordering the flowers for his daughters, in the order of his yearly tradition.

Last Thursday dawned, and nary a word was spoken about it being Valentine’s Day. It was Bible Study morning, and because of other considerations, we were meeting at the Big Bontrager House on Shawnee Road for our weekly lesson. Sometime during the course of the morning, Middle Daughter muttered to me quietly, “Do you think Dad forgot flowers this year?” She looked a bit embarrassed and then said quickly, “I mean, he doesn’t have to get me flowers, he has done so much for me this year, but I just wondered if he decided not to do it this year, I mean, he always does!

“I don’t know,” I said back to her. “He hasn’t said anything to me about it, but I’m pretty sure he will be getting you flowers. I’m not sure what he’s going to do about Rachel, though. She has Rob to get her flowers for Valentine’s Day, so maybe he isn’t getting her any, but I’m sure he will get you some. They might be there when you get home today.”

When Bible Study was over, we decided to go to lunch with Certain Man, and as everybody was going into the restaurant, I held back a little and whispered to Certain Man, “Did you get the girls flowers for Valentine’s Day?”

He looked like he was aggravated with himself. “I plumb forgot until this morning,” he said, “But I took care of it. I called Lem, and he said he would get Rachel’s for her (you need to Venmo him the money) and I ordered Deborah’s, and she’ll get hers tomorrow.” Okay then. The girls were taken care of, and knowing my man the way I do, I suspected that I would “get mine tomorrow” as well.

The day passed pleasantly and Friday dawned bright and clear. I had lots of plans for that day, but then we remembered that we were to go to lunch in Georgetown with two of CM’s friends from the plumbing department at Sussex County. Before we left, Certain Man left “to pick up Deborah’s flowers” at the Beaver’s Branch, our local florist shop. He soon returned. carrying a lovely arrangement for me as well. A few years ago, I begged him to skip the roses and bring me carnations instead. They were all he could afford back years ago when he first brought me flowers, and I honestly prefer them. They last longer, they have such nice color and I have all those memories tied up in this flower. Besides, they are a whole lot cheaper!

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As you can imagine, I was tickled pink with this  arrangement, and I sincerely hoped that he could tell that I was.  The mood was sweet, and conversation was pleasant.  We got ready and left for Georgetown and had a good-humored and amicable ride.  We pulled up into the parking lot beside the restaurant where we were to meet our friends, and I was finishing a message to someone on my phone.  Certain Man got out and strode purposefully around the front of the Mini-van.

“Well, I’ll be!” I thought delightedly, watching him out of the corner of my eye.  “He’s gonna’ come around and open the door for me!” 

But then, about the time he got across the front of the car to the right fender, he stopped.  He seemed to be looking at something across the parking  lot to his left, where a new motel was being built. 

“He’s just distracted a bit,” I thought, and I dropped my phone into my purse and zipped it shut, smoothed my skirt and looked to see if he was coming.

He wasn’t.  He was just sanding there, looking at the new motel.

I decided that it was probably in my best interest to get on out and get on with our trek, so I opened the door and he looked over from his perusal of the construction.  I couldn’t help it.  I had to say something.

“I thought you were coming over to open my door,” I said, laughing.

He looked surprised, then immediately contrite.  “I’m sorry!” He said, falling all over his words, “I’m sorry.  I wasn’t thinking, I should have -“

“It’s okay, Daniel,” I told him, laughing at his discomfiture.  “It’s really okay! I can get myself out of the car.”

And it really was okay.  I was thinking about it later, and about what love really is.  What love looks like after 45 years of being married and what it’s all about.  Is it really a man opening a car door while you wait for him to do it?  I mean, REALLY???

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticizing anyone who feels that this is a necessary expression of love.  I’m not saying they are wrong, but I’ve been thinking about all the ways this Certain Man says “love” to me and our family that has nothing to do with opening doors or even buying flowers.

Love is getting milk for our family every single time it’s needed, without being asked, or even being told that it’s needed. He never complains, he never looks for praise.  He just does it.  

Love is making sure there is a supply of pellets at the top of the ramp for our ever hungry pellet stove on these cold days.  Love is carrying those 40 pound bags in and putting them into the stove so that it doesn’t run out – and so I don’t need to carry them – at least not usually.


Love is building things in his workshop for his adult children, answering questions over the phone about plumbing and giving practical advice that works.  Love is pulling on his shoes and jacket to run up the road to help with a project at the BBH. (Big Bontrager House)  Love is respecting our Offspringin’s as adults, loving them as individuals, and loving the people they have chosen to love and loving the grandchildren that have come into our lives.  

Love is filling the bird feeders that I love so much.  It’s bringing the filled laundry basket down to the laundry room the night before laundry day.  It’s carrying the same basket, filled with folded laundry as well as the “hang up clothes” back up once the laundry is done.  It’s clearing the table and putting away the leftovers after a meal.  It’s making his own lunch when I’m not feeling well.  It’s giving me support in the things that he knows are important to me and giving me space to be myself.  I have always known that there are men out there who would have been extremely unhappy if they were married to me (That’s okay, I don’t particularly like them, either!) but there is a Certain Man who makes me feel cherished, protected and loved – and like he’s happy to be married to me.  

We’ve been married a long time.  We are both 65.  I look back on the years since we married at 19 and a deep sense of gratitude for what we’ve been allowed to enjoy all these years nearly overwhelms me.  There have been hard times.  Relationships are costly in terms of self-will and pride and personal space and compromise.  There will always be a lot of giving up and giving in and letting go and forgiving if a marriage is to thrive.  And that is what we’ve always wanted.  We are certainly not perfect, and maybe not even always healthy, but we didn’t want to just survive. We wanted to thrive.

We burned the ships, and my heart gives grateful praise.(Listen to Steve and Annie Chapman sing, “The Ships are Burning.”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7wwNOZzGXM  

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The Noise of Something Breaking

I turned over in comfort of our warm bed.  There was unusual early morning brightness  when I tugged up my east window shade.  I stretched and put the one above my head up as well and saw the full moon hanging high above the shop roof.  It was strangely luminous in the beginning light of the approaching dawn.

It was freezing cold.  So cold that I had called DART and cancelled Blind Linda’s ride to Easter seals.  It was just too cold for anyone to be out unless it was an emergency.  That meant that I didn’t need to get up nearly as early on this Monday morning.  Certain Man and I had caught the Lunar Eclipse the night before and bedtime had been after its 12:12a peak.  The wind was whipping through the trees and around the corners of our bedroom with a wild savagery and it was so nice to just burrow in.

But then my ears caught the sound of something breaking.  It sounded significant.  Certain Man was already up, and I figured he was able to handle anything that happened, but this sound so impressive that I got out of bed and went to the top of the stairs to see if anything of importance could be seen or discerned.  All was quiet, so I did a quick morning brush up to our bedroom, grabbed my clothes and went down stairs.  I was totally unprepared for what greeted me there.

My beloved husband was kneeling in front of our hearth, and before him on the rug was a heap of rubble.  Wood and ceramic and glass in an impressive jumble.  He had a trash can and was methodically picking it up.

“What in the world is that?” I asked, my heart in my throat.

“A clock,” he said, in a voice that sounded strange.

“What happened?  Which one?  Oh, Daniel!”

“The joints gave way, I guess,” he said.

“What do you mean?” I asked.  “What joints?  Did you fall?”

“No, no.  Not my joints.  The clock’s joints.”  All the while he was picking up the pieces.  “It’s one of the heavy clocks.  One of the marble ones.”

“Oh, no,” I said.  “Was it one of the family ones – the one from your Mom’s family?”  I held my breath because that particular clock is among his favorites.

“No,” he said, a bit ruefully.  “But it was the first one I got.  The one that Donnie Murphy gave me way back when I first started getting interested.  I was putting it back on the mantel and I was holding it by the sides, turning it around to set it on the side where it usually sits, and suddenly it all dropped off, leaving me with just the top of it in my hands.  I’ve never seen anything be so completely destroyed!  Everything is in pieces!”

When we decorate for Christmas, we clear the mantel of everything so that we can put our favorite large manger scene there.  It takes up the whole mantel, and is worthy of the space.  But when we took down the manger scene last week, the spot remained bare for the ensuing days while we moved Middle Daughter to her new home, Ambleside Cottage.  She was finally officially moved on Saturday, and then yesterday we had church and lunch guests and the day was gone before we got anything else done.  I guess that this morning seemed like a good time for him to start returning his beloved clocks to their usual spots.

This clock has been one of his more dependable clocks, keeping time and chime with almost no maintenance.  I remember when Donnie realized that Daniel was interested in old, wind up clocks and had brought it to him from his own collection.  I recalled how hard Donnie had worked on it to make it beautiful, fashioning missing pieces to replicate corresponding parts when he couldn’t find the exact fit from other clocks.  He carefully painted them to match, and a casual observer would not have even thought about it.  I remember his half bashful smile at Daniel’s delight in this antique timekeeper, given so generously by a neighbor who was a friend.  There was a sick feeling in my stomach as I looked at the dwindling pile of jumbled clock pieces.

“We are going to need to get the sweeper,” Certain Man said, jolting me back to the present, and I went to fetch our trusty Electrolux.  I swept up the small parts scattered on the rug and felt like crying.  Certain Man took his trash can out to the dumpster and came back in carrying the empty container and put it back where it belonged.

“It is just a clock,” he said,  a bit sadly.

“Yes,” I said.  “It is just a clock, but it’s been such a good clock, and we have so many good memories associated with it.  I feel really sad . . . ”  I paused a bit, then went on.  “I feel really sad, but I do feel glad about one thing –”

“That it was me and not you?” put in Certain Man, a little too quickly.  He wasn’t laughing.

“Yes,” I admitted.  “I feel really sad that it happened, but I’m so glad that it wasn’t me or anyone else responsible.  Was there nothing at all that you could salvage?”

“It’s in so many pieces,” he said.

“What about the works?” I persisted.  “Could there be any parts that John could use?” (This would be John Murray – his clock repairman of It’s About Time clock repair)

“Oh, I kept the works, including the pendulum,” he said.  “I might be able to build something to house it, or we can maybe find a housing for them.”

And that was pretty much the end of our conversation about the clock.  He fetched two other clocks to put on the mantel and I rehung a big picture that has been languishing in the study since early December.  There are plenty of things to occupy my hands on this cold January day but to tell the truth, I’ve been languishing a bit myself.

And all day I’ve been thinking about that noise I heard.  The sound of something breaking.  I’ve thought about how when we hear something breaking, it stops everything until we find out what it is.  Think about hearing something splintering into an irreparable mess in the grocery store several aisles over.   Or the noise of a glass shattering in a restaurant, or the noise of something calamitous in the kitchen of the same restaurant.  Several weeks ago, in my very own kitchen, there was the sound of a great breakage when a stack of serving bowls slid off the second shelf.  The noise was impressive, and five of my big bowls were suddenly gone.  The sound of something breaking is unmistakable.

But not always.

The sound of a heart breaking is not something that can be heard with our fickle, selfish, over stimulated ears that are so full of the noise of this world.  And even if we could, would we want to be bothered?

This I pray for myself, and for the rest of us who believe:

“May God give us the ability to hear with our hearts.  May the sound of a heart breaking be as attention getting as a the smashing of a crystal bowl on a tile floor.  May we mourn the pieces of the shattered heart even as we are motivated to pick them up and bind them up and comfort the wounded.  May the good, good memories remind us that every heart is worth saving, and that the Healer of Broken Hearts has a plan for the pieces.

And may we never give up on anyone’s brokenness.

Not even our own.

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