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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Saturday Evening in ACE Hardware.

It was Saturday evening.  I had a prescription to pick up for BL, and the pharmacy was closing at 5.  I decided that it was high time to run by and fetch it when the clock in our kitchen said 4:37 or some such unbelievable time.  The day had been shortened by computer projects that I felt needed doing and food prep for the morrow when we were expecting dinner guests and working on projects for my Sunday school class of intermediates.

“I’d better be going,” I said to Certain Man, collapsed on his favorite chair in the living room.  He had worked hard in the morning, and now his Beloved Buckeyes were playing and there was no telling what he might miss if he didn’t watch!  I truly don’t mind.  If ever a man “earns” the right to watch a football game, it’s that man of mine!

He looked up briefly.  “I’m gonna be right here.  I don’t have anywhere else to go today except the chicken house.”

“That’s good,” I said, “but Linda has been fed and pottied and she is in her chair listening to music, so she should be fine until I get back.”

“Whatever,” he commented briefly, smiled at me and went back to his game.  And I went out the door.

I happen to love Kent Pharmacy here in Milford.  It opened beside ACE Hardware, and has a gift shop on one side that is interesting and unique.  Melissa and Doug toys for children, books and décor and games and cards and baby items and journals and – you name it!  Going in there intrigues me, and when I pick up prescriptions, even if there is only a short time, I like detour over there and peruse the shelves and selections.  I was talking to Youngest Daughter when I pulled in, so I continued the conversation while I looked about the store.  Suddenly I realized that one of the managers was giving a worker the freedom to leave and they would close up because “it’s just about time!”  In which case, I hurried my paltry selections to the counter, and checked out.  Mike, the usual manager and my friend was not there.  The assistant manager went to the window and unplugged the “Open” sign.  I felt a little disgruntled and put upon.  I really had planned to be out of there before closing.

“It’s only 4:58!” I sniffed, as I left the store and got into my car. “I’m pretty sure that Mike would not approve of this!”  I thought about it some more and decided that the pharmacist needed to be home for something urgent as did the staff, and that I would just let it go.  At least I got the much needed prescription.  That felt really good! No worries about how to procure a script when the pharmacy is closed and I’m too late, (once again!) and feeling so desperate and helpless.  Oh, well, there were several errands yet to run, I might just as well get on with it.

I ran the minivan through the parking lot, over to ACE Hardware, parked and trundled myself inside.  It was a gorgeous day, and I hesitated a minute right inside the door to ponder whether I needed a cart or not.  I decided I did.  In the distance I heard a somewhat familiar voice, “Hey, there, Ms. Mary Ann!”  I jerked my head around and there was a tall black guy with a most familiar face.  “How are you doin’?”

My mind scrambled for how I knew him, and then the young man beside him turned and I saw his face.  It was Sensei and Jeffy.  My heart nearly stopped.  Jeff was taller – probably taller than I am, and built like a linebacker.  I fumbled with the straps on my purse while I was getting a cart, but couldn’t take my eyes off of Jeff.

“Come over here,” I said to him across the space.  “Can I please have a hug?”

He looked uncertain, and looked at Sensei for direction.

“Go on over there,” I heard his stepdad say.  “Go on over there to Ms. Mary Ann!’

He came hesitantly, like he didn’t quite trust me, and then he was in a tight hug like he was eight years old instead of the standoffish 14 or 15 he must be by now.  I could feel him hug me back – a little tenuously, but then, yes! Just a bit!  (I didn’t even think of the fact that I might be embarrassing him.  Poor Jeff.  I’m pretty sure he isn’t accustomed to being hugged by old ladies in public, no matter what the history is.)

In the back of my consciousness, I heard a voice saying, “Yes, that’s Mrs. Yutzy!  That’s her!”  I looked behind me to see a neighbor couple making their way towards me across the front of the store.  I knew I needed to acknowledge them, but there was Jeff!  I wanted to talk to him!

“Oh, Jeff!  I’ve missed you so much!  How are you doing?  Do you still live at the same old place?  What are you doing?  Are you playing football this year?”  The questions tumbled out as fast as I could form them.  There were thousands that I couldn’t begin to ask.  The neighbor couple pushed in and I spoke to them briefly and asked if I could please talk to Sensei and Jeff – and that I would just be a minute.  And they were gracious.

I turned back to Jeff and tried to pick up the conversation, but the window felt closed.  “How are you doing, Jeff?  How is the rest of your family?”

Of course these kids are always “fine,” and I had to be okay with that.  I looked at his eyes, tried to catch a glimpse of the little boy I once knew so well and loved, but there was nothing there to remind me of the fire that once betrayed his inner torment.  It was hard for him to meet my eyes.  He seemed unwilling to engage in more conversation, but his stepfather wanted my number before they left (because he had lost it, he said) and then they were gone.

Seeing that they were leaving, my neighbors, who are my friends, eagerly stepped up and their presence and words drew my attention away from the two departing figures, one of which was carrying a part of my heart, though he was totally unaware.

It’s a funny thing, how a conversation can cover the gamut of life in its importance to another person and how hard it can be to listen when your mind is fresh from a chance encounter with a person who dropped mysteriously out of your life years ago, and now suddenly reappears, awaking memories and emotions that you had forgotten were even there.  That was the case in this moment, and I forced myself into the present, into the words and facial expressions of my friends, reminding myself that I didn’t have to agree to be gracious; didn’t have to convince them of my opinion when it clashed with theirs in ways I view important; didn’t have to even nod my head when my heart was shouting “No!!!” I can, however, be accepting of them as people.  I can remember that it is their life experiences that have brought them to where they are.  I can smile.  I can listen.  I can engage on common ground. I can extend grace where the ground is so uneven, I will trip if I’m not watching.

And so, while my heart was following a big, disheveled teenager to God knows where, I brought myself back into this moment, this place – at the front doors of ACE Hardware on a Saturday afternoon in early November.  This is where I’m called right now.  This is what I must do.  A long time ago I chose to believe that God had impressed upon my heart that He would bring into my life the people whose lives He wanted to touch through my insignificant basket of five small loaves and two small fishes, and while I will humbly admit that I do not always want to be involved, don’t always want to share, and sometimes I would rather it be this person instead of that person, yet I serve an incredibly magnificent God, and He has never failed me.  I do not get it right all the time.  I do not even pretend to get it right half the time, but I am going to keep trying with what I’ve got in my basket.

I don’t know what is in your basket.  I don’t know what God has called you to give, to do or where to go, but this I do know.  I’ve not been called to tell you what your calling is, nor do I want to.  I only know that my hands are full enough with what I feel are my opportunities that I cannot waste emotional energy or time on the bickering or counterclaims or the lingering political raucous clamoring.  So please don’t ask me what I think.  Please don’t try to draw me in.  I will never be deliberately rude or dishonest, but I will be very quiet.  For some, that’s not acceptable – or even Christian!

And to that I have only this to say:

I forgive you for feeling that way.
Please forgive me for feeling the way I do.

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HOME

Daniel and I got home late Sunday night from yet another trip.  This time, we were in the Finger Lakes Region of New York at a VRBO “big house” with Daniel’s siblings in our first ever Yutzy Sibling Gathering of its kind.  Daniel’s sisters, Lena, Rachel, and Ruth were there, as were Rachel’s husband, Ivan, and Ruth’s husband, Andrew.  Daniel’s late brother, Joseph’s widow, Ruby, was also there along with Daniel and me.  Eight of us in the house at Martin Retreat.  (https://www.vrbo.com/916045)

The house was spacious and beautiful and tastefully decorated.  It sported five bathrooms, two gas fireplaces, a huge sunken living room, plus a large kitchen and dining area.  It easily could sleep twenty people, and it also had a large, large room that could serve as a chapel, a banquet hall or a recreation room.  Stashed in a corner storage space were tables and chairs.  We discussed what in the world that room had been before a Horning Mennonite couple bought the property some years ago and renovated it.  (Maybe, we thought, a large swimming pool?)

Martin Retreat Big Room

The grounds were grand, too, with a pond, a gazebo, outdoor picnic area with a grill and grass and trees and flowers and landscaping. It was such a pleasant, restful place to be.  Even though it rained all weekend, we had a relaxing and special time together, and that was what we were hoping for, after all. (But with no Wifi, no TV, and sometimes spotty phone reception?  Yes!  It was peaceful!)

We spent the two days eating, laughing, playing games, looking at pictures, talking, and (of course) eating some more.  Then, on Sunday afternoon, we loaded up, said good-byes, and traveled home.  Daniel drove the whole way, capably bringing us the winding, mountainous roads from Skuse, New York, nearly 400 miles to our familiar, flat, Delaware farm.  It was wonderful to see home again.  We came into the farmhouse at Shady Acres and smelled the familiar smells of our house, saw the faces we love, heard the familiar voices, and we were truly home.

We got a good night’s rest in our own bed and in the early morning pre-alarm slumber, a dream about My Sweet Mama disturbed my peaceful dozing and woke me straight up.  I lay there in the warmth of our bed and realized afresh the wonder of being home.  It isn’t just the familiarity of everything, but the state of being that settles into my heart.  I’m home.  I feel safe here, surrounded by love and the ordinary things of life.  There are exquisite delights here, too.  A fire in the pellet stove, my fading fall flowers outside, and the trees that are losing their leaves, waving happily in the fall breezes, my chair that has long since ceased to be new, shelter, food, my laptop that is finally working right again, our own food in the fridge, our own sheets, towels and blankets.  The people that I love best.

And so, I thought about home and stretched the edges of my soul out to enjoy this moment, this time –!

And just as quickly, I felt that soul tug that reminded me about another HOME.  One that I profess to be looking forward to, and about which I often feel a strange, mystic curiosity.  I was suddenly struck by the whole idea of what it was like to come home Sunday night and wondered about the parallels to my Heavenly HOME.

What will it be like when I step into the place we call “Heaven?”  Will it fill my senses with the familiar?  Will I feel at home?  I so often struggle when I’m in a strange place with feeling out of sorts, not quite right, and that, no matter how wonderful the sights, how good the food, how comfortable the accommodations or how royal the treatment, it isn’t home.  One of the things that makes being away bearable is to at least have people around me that I know and love;  but even that can be as fickle as the insecurities I feel about whether they really know me and still love me.  Or not.  Is it sacrilege for me to hope that, along with seeing my Blessed Redeemer, arriving in Heaven will be more about a sense of coming HOME than anything else?  The sights that bedazzle, all the glories, all the streets of gold and gates of pearl, all that is wondrous to behold, somehow seem less attractive than just being HOME.

HOME – with people I know and love and that I know love me.  HOME – where there are no dark unfamiliar rooms to struggle through (on my way to a strange bathroom in the middle of the night) and where I won’t wake up in the morning wondering where I am.  HOME – where there are familiar sights and scents, where the memories aren’t painful and separation, disappointment, reversal and loss are non-existent.  Where sin, selfishness, divorce or death will not disturb the peace of being HOME.

How I love this earthly place that Daniel and I call home.  Shady Acres.  There really is no place on earth that I would rather be.  But even this place has things that I wish it didn’t.  There are some painful memories.  There have been days of disappointment and misunderstanding and chaos and reversal.  There has been sin and selfishness and grief to mar the landscape of our lives.  But with all of that, it is still home and it is ours and I love it so.  It feels even dearer to me when I’ve been gone awhile and come back to the familiar space that houses far more of my life’s memories than any other place.

I wonder if that is how it will be when I reach that other HOME.  If maybe, perchance, it will feel like I’m getting back from a long journey, and that I will find myself to be exactly where I wanted to be.  The One I Love Best – The One Who Loved Me Enough to Give His Life for Me, will be there to welcome me HOME, not as a guest, not as a stranger, but as a member of The Family.  The people, the sights, the sounds, even the smell of Heaven just might be even more familiar and welcome to this life weary traveler than our beloved Shady Acres could ever be.

I do not have a “death wish.”  I truly do love the people in my life and I love living.  But when I think about Heaven, and that this sometimes restless and often pensive soul of mine will neither fidget nor lament ever again — well, that’s worth pondering.

Take notice, my brothers and sisters.  Think about that HOME!  Think about all the comforts of home here and imagine HOME without any of the negatives and all of the positives and so much more!  Jesus said that He was going to prepare a place for us.  He’s expecting us.  He wants us there.  Not because we are perfect or even because we are (as most people think they are) “at least marginally good.”  He wants us because we belong to Him.  We are a part of His Family, and He wants us there, with Him.

Revelation 21:4  And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

This, I believe.

And my heart gives grateful praise.

 

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End of Summer

It was freezing in the bean patch on Monday.  The wind was blowing through the vines, and my stiff fingers scrambled to find ANY beans that would be worth picking or shelling.  As I’ve noted before, beans are precious this year, and it was tempting to pick everything, even the ones that showed as big as a pencil eraser when held against the late October sun.  It was getting colder and colder as the sun slid behind the barn and I finished the last plant, gave the patch a final check and, shivering, picked up my bucket of beans and headed to the house.  I set the bucket in the laundry room, and got the early evening work done.  We were invited to Jesse and Christina’s house for supper. Those beans were going to have to wait.

It was a pleasant evening in the “Big Bontrager House On Shawnee Road.”  Christina had made taco soup and provided all the amenities – chips, sour cream, cheese and the ever present hot sauce for Jesse.  The food was hot and comforting, and the company pleasant.  Charis found a little green inchworm making its way across my blouse and there was some excitement until it was dispatched.  The evening was peaceful, though.  We finished supper, cleared the table and Christina dumped a 500 piece puzzle on the table.  We had a great time trying to piece it all together.  We finished it before leaving for home!

When we got home, all I wanted to do was collapse in my chair, but Certain Man picked up a flat cake pan, pulled the bucket of beans up close to his family room recliner, and set to work, throwing the empty shells into a trash can that he had appropriated for the job.

“Oh, Daniel!’ I said mournfully, looking at that bucket of beans. “I was thinking of just letting those until tomorrow.”

“Might as well get ’em done,” he said, in his best matter of fact tone.  I knew he didn’t feel like shelling beans.  His shoulder hurt from where he had pulled a muscle and then worked it too hard in his chicken house.  The more I demurred, the more determined he became.  “You don’t have to help me,” he said, shelling away.  “I’ll be just fine.”

Yes. I did.

I got my own flat pan and pulled up a chair and set to work.  It was slow, and the beans were mostly little.  Certain Man mentioned the smallness and the difficulty with which he got them out.  “And it’s hard not to break them,” he said, and it was the truth!

We worked our way through that bucket, and I gathered our two pans into a plastic bag and weighed it.  Not quite two pounds from a big bucket.  I sighed, and put them into the fridge to await the final picking of our second patch that is out behind the chicken house.

Tuesday was warmer, and I was itching to get out there into the patch and get my last picking done.  The day was full with shopping for Operation Christmas Child, catching up from all the many things that always go on around here, talking to friends and trying not to fall asleep on my feet.  (It’s been extremely short on sleep around here!)  Finally, around 4 pm, I got out to my back bean patch.  The beans were hanging thick in places, but the story was pretty much the same.  Lots of bean pods, but almost no beans in them. This back patch was an extreme disappointment all summer, but in the last month it perked up, and looked promising.  I kept hoping that a frost would hold off until I got the most I possibly could get, but that train had already left the station!  On two different mornings, Certain Man had gone out and sprayed everything down, but the frost was severe, and the damage was beyond the point of spraying vegetation off before the sun hit it to save them from being killed off by the frost.

However, it was warmer and I was working against a deadline, so I picked away, being somewhat more discretionary about the size of the beans that went into my trusty bucket.  I finished shortly before five o’clock and drove the golf cart and my generous half bucket of beans up to the farmhouse.  Sister in law, Lena, attacked that bucket of beans while I got some supper around, and the evening filled up quickly.  Our granddaughter, Charis, was with us for supper while her parents were looking at some furniture.  Deborah was working a 16 hour shift.  There was a puzzle on the sun room table calling the names of people who shall remain anonymous, and before all was said and done, Certain Man pitched in and helped Lena finish the beans.  She was suffering from some serious back pain that nothing seemed to alleviate, and I was relieved to see that they were finished.  I put the two nights’ worth together in a gallon sized bag and decided to do them after things settled down.

It had been a long day, and I was weary.  I looked at my kitchen that was in a state of minor disarray, and wondered if I should just let everything and do the beans, but knew I needed the counter space to work on as well as the sink areas to cool the beans once they had been blanched.  So I loaded the dishwasher, washed up some stray things that didn’t really fit into the dishwasher, and started in on the beans.  I hauled my big pot from the lazy Susan, and filled it a little over half with water and put it on my “fast boil” burner.  I washed and sorted the beans, and finally had them in my big strainer, ready to dump into my pot of boiling water.

Life just happens sometimes.  And it isn’t always easy or nice, or organized or explicable.  This was one of those times.  I hauled my big strainer up over my rapidly boiling water to dump it in and suddenly, like someone grabbed the tip and sent it flying, my trusty strainer let me down.  I’ve used it all summer without needing to take much notice, but it must have just “had enough” because it somehow reached out and grabbed the edge of that kettle, and the next sound I heard was lima beans, bouncing all over the kitchen floor, rolling in all directions and sounding like a sudden downpour of rain.  I quickly righted the oblong strainer and set it down on its legs.  I looked into the big pot and saw one (1) lonely bean swimming around in the boiling water.  I looked at that floor where lima beans were scattered from Linda’s chair to the laundry room door, under the stove and under the refrigerator, and didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry.

“Well!  This is a fine kettle of fish,” I said to myself ruefully.  “What in the world am I going to do?”  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there was no way that I was ever going to throw them away.  So the only other option was to sweep them up carefully, wash them thoroughly, and go through them with a persnickety look and salvage them.  So I got my trusty Stanley broom and swept everything up into a dustpan, dumped them into a second strainer where I proceeded to wash and wash, and then gave them all a stern looking over, picking over, and finally got them into the kettle and blanched.  I took them out and cooled them and got them into bags for the freezer.  I had three more for my seasonal collection of lima beans.  I wrote, “End of the Season-2018” on the three bags, and looked at the tiny beans inside and wondered how I would use them. Oh, well.  I wrote “3 bags” up on my calendar on October 23rd, and tallied up the seasonal totals. My final count for the summer was 36 bags.  They probably averaged about 16 ounces a piece, and I needed to be content. (I have friends ask, “How many cups does 16 ounces equal?”  I would estimate almost 3 cups.  But not quite.)

I took my tired self to bed and fell fast asleep.  I wouldn’t need to think about picking any more beans this whole season.  No more picking, no more shelling, no more washing, blanching, cooling, packaging or freezing.

On more than one count, my heart gives grateful praise.

 

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Birthday Musings – A Best Gift

It’s been an eventful two weeks in the lives of this Delaware Grammy and her family.  There have been incredible answers to prayer, as well as challenging things to countenance.

Two weeks ago today (Tuesday, October 2nd) we had a mind-boggling answer to prayer when there was a meeting in Ohio regarding the life plans for our foster grandbaby, “BabySweete.”  Five times, she was to be placed in a kinship placement, and five times the plan was changed.  That morning, as I was praying, I felt an incredible sense of peace as I thought about the coming meeting.  (What is there about Tuesday morning prayer times?  If you read my post from September 28th, there was another momentous prayer time when I did NOT feel exactly peaceful!  But this time it was different.)

“Lord Jesus,” I wrote in my prayer journal, “Now it’s Tuesday and I do not feel panic, and for that, I praise you.  You are the God who cares, who knows.  You are the God who sees and oversees.  You are the God who controls and reigns and is the Blessed,  Highest Authority– And you will do what is right, in your way and in your time.  May all of us who love BabySweete hold onto that reality.  We do not know the future — but that doesn’t keep us from loving now!  And so we beg, we entreat, we pray for your Holy Spirit to be present in the room today where strangers to BabySweete will determine her life course.  May we not see it as “strangers” but rather a team of people, gathering with factual information, directed by an Unseen Force.  May we see it as where decisions will be made that will be best for BabySweete, as well as her whole family, Lord Jesus.  Thank you that you are a big enough and wise enough God that what is best for BabySweete will not contradict what is best for everyone concerned.  How very much we need you today!”

The morning passed, and there finally was a text from our daughter in law, Regina. I was in the kitchen, freezing beans or something or other when this text came through:

“They are keeping BabySweete with us and filing for permanent custody!”

What a flood of relief and delight swept over me as I shrieked and laughed and cried and even might have done some dancing!   I was too happy to think straight!  And no, this isn’t the end pf the conflict, but it certainly is a good beginning place for Raph and Gina.  Our collective family continues to PRAY, and that is still a “Best Gift!”

The story grows long, and I’m very sleepy.  I’m going to bed.  So this is segment one of my birthday musings, and I will add more later!

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