Tag Archives: Certain Man

Incredible!SweetCorn, Incredible Sadness

It was two of the kind of days that seldom come at the end of July.  Cool, breezy, and so nice for the jobs at hand.  We worked in the refreshing coolness on Friday, making short work of over 1200 ears of gorgeous Delaware Sweet Corn, named (appropriately) “Incredible!” by some foresightful agriculturalist.

“I don’t remember ever having this nice a day for doing corn,” I said repeatedly to my sometimes skeptical co-workers, members of my family that are suckers for this kind of punishment on an annual basis.  They would look thoughtful.  Some agreed and some did not.  But no one could dispute the fact that it was almost perfect..  We finished in good time and put things aside for the 750 ears that would be coming the next morning.

Saturday.  By 9:30, a familial crew descended upon the grounds of Shady Acres and we got those 750 ears done and all cleaned up by three o’clock.  It was, again, a wonderful day .  The weather was almost as wonderful as the day before, the company was good, and the camaraderie was so sweet. It felt really good to have the year’s supply of corn in the freezer.  Then everyone scattered — taking the freezer bags of corn home to their own freezers.

Certain  Man, who had been working on his sermon, came outside to do the final washing and put the pavilion and driveway back to order.  I carried the clean wash baskets, muck buckets, pans, knives and put them away.  The afternoon sunshine was dappling down through the shade in the side yard and the pavilion’s cement floor was clean and wet.
corn day clean up

There were loose ends in the house to round up, and there were several loads of laundry from the morning still hanging on the line, warm and dry from the long hours it had spent there.  I stirred around in my house, started a bleach load of laundry from the day’s gathering and loaded the dishwasher.  I put away the corn utensils, pots and pans and felt that deep, deep satisfaction of a good day’s work.  I still needed to retrieve my dry laundry and do some Saturday night straightening, but I kept landing on my chair and taking breaks.

A little before seven, the phone rang and it was Eldest Daughter.  “Mom, did you know that Lem and Jess are stopping on their way home from the beach?”

“I had texted him, Chris,” I said, “and asked if they were stopping.  I hadn’t heard back.  I decided they had just gone on home.  I might have missed something, though.  My phone was almost dead and I have it plugged in.  I may not have heard.”

“Well, he said that he told you guys that they were going to be there around eight.”

Certain Man picked up my phone from the phone booth where it was charging and said, “Oh, yes.  There is a message here.”  He read it.  “It says they are going to be here around eight.”

Around the phone receiver, I mouthed to him,”Tell them it will be fine!”  And then went back to Christina and learned that the Alexandria Yutzys were hoping for some burgers on the grill.  That was fine because there was still nothing decided upon for late Saturday Supper.  Eldest Daughter was making some zucchini bread, and we decided that she should bring that on down to the oven at Shady Acres to bake and add to the late night snack.

And so the happy evening passed.  Burgers and fresh tomatoes and lettuce and garden tea and other snacks pulled from the pantry mixed with the smell of baking zucchini bread and a pot of Dolcés Jamaican Me Crazy Coffee.  I looked at this small gathering and was grateful for the gifts of this day.  The conversation and laughter and stories and the smell of good coffee wrapped around me with the love of those gathered there and I counted blessings.

Then, in the middle of it all, the phone rang.  I was surprised to see the phone number of my sister in law, Polly Yoder, appear on the caller I.D., and even more surprised when I answered, and it was my brother, Mark, Jr. on the other end.

“Mary Ann!  How are you this evening?”  It was my brother’s voice, subdued but strong.

“I’m good!” I answered, feeling good to the core.  “How are you guys?”

It was Polly’s voice as well as Mark’s that answered.  “Well–”  “We aren’t so good–”  “We’re feeling kinda’ sad this evening.”  And I heard the tremble in one of the voices.

Bravely, one of them went on.  “We just left Jeremy and Cheryl’s.  They got the results of the testing for Jase.”  I felt my stomach tighten.  I felt like I couldn’t breathe.  “. . . and Jase is positive for SMA.”

SMA.  Spinal Muscular Atrophy.  Our family already knew enough about this terrible genetic disorder. Jeremy and Cheryl’s sixteen month old daughter had the same disorder and, after brightening our lives for what seemed but a moment, flew home to Heaven one April night in 2014.  It is difficult to put into words how the days that marked her short live affected us all.  She had a smile that could light up a whole room, a deep affinity for her family that was a result of being known and loved and cherished and tenderly cared for all the days of her life.  Her short life spoke joy and value and God to us all.  It was the hardest of times.  But the valley was ablaze with GRACE and GLORY and HOPE.

Jeremy and Cheryl, their two sons, Max and Boaz, and Mark, Jr. and Polly and the rest of their family finished strong.  Their Anchor did not fail them.  And when we heard that there was another baby on the way, we all prayed for a healthy child.  It seemed like it would be the right reward for their faith and for their faithfulness in the storm that would have destroyed so many others. God gives good gifts to his children, doesn’t He?  He’s promised the desires of our hearts when we delight ourselves in Him, and delighting themselves in God has been the heart cry of this family.  I cannot erase the sounds of Cheryl’s voice, lifted in unmitigated praise and trustful relinquishment in a small church in Baltimore where we gathered to celebrate Ariel’s life.  There was a small white casket, and this brave young mother exalted a God who could do no wrong, who was worthy of our praise, even when we couldn’t understand.  Surely God would reward/honor that kind of faith.

He should, shouldn’t He?

He would, wouldn’t he?

Jase Marius was born exactly a month after his great grandmother went to Heaven.  July 16, 2015.  9 pounds, 9+ ounces. Beautiful. So incredibly beautiful.  I looked at his pictures, and searched for any clue of SMA.  I prayed that the testing, done once he was born, would come back totally clear.  I thought of all the things that would indicate it was okay. The truth is, SMA isn’t immediately evident, and all the looking to see signs that all is well in the first days of life won’t really reveal anything.  But I really thought it would be.  I thought it had to be.

But now, I couldn’t escape this report, these results.

Mark and Polly and I talked for a little bit.  The conversation around the table had stopped when my side of the conversation had indicated something was terribly wrong.

“Did somebody die?” Hissed Christina anxiously.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a very anxious Charis hovering at my elbow, listening intently.  I shook my head, and tried to reassure them, but they knew that there was some sort of bad news.  My heart ached for Mark and Polly and their family.  My heart ached for this old world where the very state of being human begs for Redemption.  These disorders of genetic nature happen because we are a part of a world where things can go so wrong — Sometimes because of our sin, or because of our wrong choices, but often because we are mortals and subject to the laws and accidents of this natural world.

And now I sat, the reality of what this little guy and his family were facing, crashing over my heart while the tears streamed down my face.  But we have a six year old granddaughter.  She was obviously troubled by my distress.  She sidled up to me and threw her arms around my neck.  I took her on my lap and felt the warmth of her healthy body.

“Grammy — what will happen to the baby?”

“I don’t know, Charis, but I do know this, that his family will love him, and Jesus loves him and He can heal Jase.”  Her eyes were earnestly seeking mine.  “But Charis, if he does go to Heaven, just think about it!  Grandma Yoder will be waiting right there to just snatch him right up and hold him and squeeze him.  And that will be wonderful, too.”  I fought back the catch in my throat as I tried to think of hopeful words for her.

And so the evening passed.  Lem and Jess left for Alexandria, Charis went home with her Daddy and Mommy.  Certain Man went to bed so he could get up and finish his sermon.  I folded laundry, stirred about and thought and thought and thought.  And cried.  Deborah came home from Shakespeare in the Park and helped me clean the kitchen and we talked about life-important things.  Mostly about trusting God when things aren’t the way we want them to be.  About letting Him be God when it feels like everything is out of control.  About knowing that He is ruling and reigning and controlling, even when we hate what is going on.

After midnight, I climbed the steps to bed, took my shower, washed my hair, and finally slept.  The morning was here before I was ready.  I came downstairs to organize the morning, and it felt like a cloud was covering everything I did.  I stood at the counter, methodically counting meds and getting ready to get Our Girl Audrey and Blind Linda up and ready for the day.

“Oh, Lord Jesus!” I was going over the same row for the umpteenth time. “This looks so big, so hard, so overwhelming.”  The tears kept falling and I felt so incredibly sad.  “I thought your promise was that this child would be okay!”  Somehow the words settled into my anxious heart.  “Okay???  Are you saying he isn’t ‘okay?'”  “I know, but we asked for health!  And you could have made it that Jase was born without SMA!”  Then the words from Jeremiah 1:5 kept coming insistently to my head.  They were so strong that I finally went and looked them up.  I heard what God was saying to Jeremiah and I knew that it was true for this much prayed for, much loved, much anticipated Jase Marius.

“Before I formed (Jase) in the womb, I knew (him). Before he was born, I set him apart for my holy purpose.”  Jeremiah 1:5 GW.  God’s purpose for Jeremiah was that he was to be a prophet.  What is God’s purpose for Jase?  I don’t know.  But I do know that God has a purpose for Jase.  And He will show us what that is.

The other verse that was cross referenced from this verse was this one: “I saw (Jase) before (he) was born. Every day of (his) life was recorded in (my) book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” Psalm 139:16 NLT

God’s eyes are on this family for good.  He is neither surprised nor dismayed; neither stymied nor baffled.  This is hard.  We don’t understand. But He is God!  He has a plan.  He can be trusted. He is worthy of our praise.

And so, today, this heavy heart will choose to give HIM (grateful) praise.

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The Feetwashing Tubs

When our church burned almost six months ago, one of the things that did not melt was our stack of tubs for feetwashing.

Our church family still practices feetwashing.  For those of you who are not acquainted with this tradition, it is usually held in connection with two of our communions a year, in keeping with the passage in John 13:4-17, where Jesus washed his disciples’ feet.  In verses 14 and 15, Jesus said, 14 “If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash each other’s feet. 15 I did this as an example so that you should do as I have done for you.”  We have chosen to believe that there is value in taking these words literally and beautiful symbolism in this act of humility, servitude and vulnerability.  Many, many sermons have been preached on what this really means, and I have found it incredibly precious in different ways at different times,

That being said, as we were preparing for communion this spring, Certain Man was under the impression that the elders were planning for feetwashing, and as the deacon, it is his job to take care of the physical preparation for the celebration.  So he stopped one evening on his way home from work and looked for the stack of eight, gray Sterlite tubs that we use for feetwashing.  He found them, alright.  For some reason, they were not melted as were most plastics in the church that terrible morning.  But they were blackened by smoke and dirty from water.  He brought them home.

“Hon,” he said.  “Someone has to clean these up.”  (“Someone,” I took it to mean, was his wife.)  They sat on the cupboard in my laundry room and I looked at them with distaste and dread.  I really didn’t want to scrub them up, but communion was only a week away and I knew I didn’t have much time.

Then the Elders decided that, given the shortened time frame, Sunday school being such a big part of our Sunday morning service, and us not being in our own place, that they were going to forego the feetwashing part of our communion this time.  And I, glad for the reprieve, did not scrub the tubs up.  They sat on my counter sometimes, in my laundry sink sometimes, sometimes being moved so I could work in the area that they were, and for some reason, they did not get any cleaner.  They just sat there and waited.  I kept thinking that maybe someone would get tired of seeing them and would do something with them, but it did not seem to be the case.  Last night I looked at them again (probably for the hundredth time at least) and decided that I would do something with them.  TODAY!

So this morning I drew a big sink full of water with bleach, fetched myself a magic eraser and set to work.  I watched the black spots come off, saw the smooth clear gray come clearer and clearer as the black water was rinsed down the drain.  I thought about our church and about feetwashing and how the brothers and sisters there are such an integral part of who I am and what I do.  I prayed for Alex and Joey and wondered what they would do differently that December night if they could do things over.  I thought about redemption and how, even though it seems so simple, it is never easy, and how, even for them, there is Grace enough, if they would only choose it.

The last tub was especially covered in soot and grime.  I thought about how washing these feetwashing tubs was something that came down to me being willing to do it, and I prayed that in this washing, God would reckon it as a way that I washed the feet of my sisters and brothers.

I took the tubs out, stacked them on the steps to the upper deck to dry.  They were so common in the morning sun, but so glorious in my eyes.  Another thing set wrong by the arson was back to order.  Slowly, one step at a time, things are getting done– not only in the building, but in our hearts.

And I give grateful praise.

012

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Sunday Grumpies

This was the Sunday morning when I felt just plain grumpy.  It’s a ridiculously beautiful day.  I had a wonderful lesson for my little people at church.  I had made fairly good preparation.  We moved Youngest Daughter home from Philadelphia yesterday. Certain Man and I had a very nice afternoon together, walking by the water at Delaware City, stopping for a quick supper at Chick fil a, and coming home in good time after our Philadelphia run.  I was terribly tired last night, to the point of finally going to bed early and sleeping soundly most of the night.  But I woke up grumpy and irritated.

It shouldn’t have mattered that OGA was up and dressed by 6:30.  This was a good morning for her to do that, but she looks at me so reproachfully when things don’t move according to her schedule, and things did not move  according to her schedule  this morning.  And she didn’t like the music I put on for her.  I was in no mood to hear Johnny Cash or Conway Twitty or The Oak Ridge boys while I showered and dressed Blind Linda.  Usually I just keep the music off on Sunday mornings but this morning, I felt like my spirits could use some music, so the choice was classical.  She didn’t want that.  It didn’t have words.  After I left the room, she asked Deborah to change it.  Deborah, not knowing that I had chosen the station with intent this morning, called out to the kitchen that she was changing it for her.

“No, you’re not,” I said more sharply than I intended.  “I do not feel like hearing country music this morning.  I put that on on purpose.”

“But she doesn’t like it,” said my surprised Middle Daughter.  “It doesn’t have words.”

“I know it doesn’t,” I said testily.  “I don’t feel like hearing words.”

“Oh.  Okay, then!” Said Deborah, and went and told OGA that she wasn’t changing it after all.  Whereupon OGA came out to the kitchen to tell me that she wanted the channel changed.

“No, Audrey,” I said, again, more firmly than necessary, “I don’t want you to change it.  You can listen to that this morning.  I don’t feel like hearing Country.  You listened to that all day yesterday.  This is Sunday morning music.  You can listen to this for a change.”

She looked at me like I had just told her that I was withholding her daily sustenance.  Disgusted she went back into her room without another word.  I felt even more out of sorts.  Probably in part from the exchange immediately preceding this. (Which went like this:)

“Hon, we need to get the holders for the communion cups out here.”  It was Certain Man, helping to get stuff together for communion.

I looked at him blankly.  “Um.  I think those are up at church,” I said.

“We never kept them up there before,” he said emphatically.

“Yes, we have,” I said just as emphatically.  “I never thought to tell someone to get them, but I’m sure they are up there.”

“Hon, we always bring them home and wrap them in plastic and put them in there on the shelf.”

I knew they weren’t in there, but I went in to check anyhow.  ‘I think,” I said, “That I have been storing them up at church ever since I forgot them that time  and you had to run back for them.  But I never thought about it when we were getting things together.  I’m sorry.”

He came and looked  over my shoulder at the empty spot where they should would have been if they were there.  “Well, they certainly aren’t there.  I’m going to have to run up to church and see if I can find them.  Hard telling where they are.”

“Why don’t you ask Deborah.  She would know if they were up there.”

“She’s still sleeping.  I don’t want to wake her up.  I’m gonna’ go do my chores quick and then I will run up there and see.”

“Whatever you think, Daniel.”

That’s what he thought.  And he went out to check his chickens, feed his livestock and check on the general state of affairs at Shady Acres.  He came back in shortly.

“Is Deborah up?”

“I haven’t seen her yet.”

“Well, I’ve gotta get going.”

“Wake her up, Daniel.  I’m sure she would go with you”

“Hon, I can’t wait that long.  It will take her a good 20 minutes to get ready and I can’t wait that long!”

“I think she would throw things together in a hurry and go with you, Daniel.  She and Chris and Amy did the sorting up there after the fire, and I think she would know right where they were.  You could at least ask her if she knows where they are.”

I went back to my morning things, but noticed that he did go over and call quietly from the bottom of the stairs.  I heard them converse for a  bit and then he left, and Deborah came down to the  kitchen to help out with morning things.  She worked at ironing the linens for the communion table, talked to Audrey, and did any of a number of helpful things for me.

I got lunch into the oven and kept thinking about OGA, stewing in her room over the music.  I finally went in.

“Audrey, I am going to turn your music on, but I am closing the doors.”

She made little response except to acknowledge that she heard me and to act like it was about time I saw the light.  She said she didn’t care if I closed the doors.  And I did.  I did not slam them, but It was a pretty firm closure.

I went out to the kitchen to finish class and communion preparation.  Our lesson this morning was from the parable of the yeast.  How the Kingdom of Heaven is like the measures of leaven that the woman put into the dough and how it grew and grew and grew.  I had been looking forward to this lesson for some time.  I love working with yeast products, and it fell on communion Sunday, and there was this simple recipe for making bread in my teacher’s manual.  I had made arrangements to use the bread from the lesson for the communion celebration. I had made a batch ahead of time, and wasn’t very impressed with how it turned out.  However, it held promise, and I knew instinctively of some things that I could do to make it better.  It was imperative, though, that I make a batch ahead of time that would be for our communion service this morning, and then the children would make a batch in class that would be theirs to take home.  I stood at my kitchen counter and thought that it just wasn’t such a great idea.

“I don’t know about this,” I said to myself.  “I’m thinking that this is going to be  a hot mess.   The Sunday school room isn’t all that big.  There will be flour and water and who knows what else on the floor before I’m done and the kids will be dirty.  If I make this first batch at home and take it in, it’s liable not to turn out if I’m moving it around while it’s rising.  And how am I going to liken the Kingdom of Heaven to baking bread, anyhow?   Besides, what does the “Kingdom of Heaven” mean to these kids?  I am not sure they really are understanding what this is trying to say.  And I am using yeast when it should be unleavened bread.  And I don’t know how to make yeast bread out of Gluten-free flour, so what am I trying to do?  Someone is likely to feel left out or rejected or not part of the body.  This just feels like such a mess!”

I looked at my ingredients and kept plugging away.  Partly because I didn’t know what else to do.  Partly because I had promised the children.  Partly because it was too late to try to do something else.

And then, at the edge of my conscious thought, came that familiar nudging.  “It just might be a mess.  It might not turn out right.  But think about this.  The crucifixion, to borrow your vernacular, was a hot mess.  There was nothing predictable, easy, clean or orderly about it.  It was messy.  It was awful.  It was anything but nice. Somewhere, you’ve gotten this idea that communion has to be perfect, aesthetically pleasing, tasting just right, looking just right and unoffensive to anyone — particularly you!  That’s not how it was . . .you need to let this go.  Think of why you wanted to do this in the first place and remember that ‘nice and easy’ and ‘discipleship’ are not synonymous.”

It was a thoughtful Delaware Grammy that finished mixing up the bread, and got ready for church.  Certain Man found the cup holders and got home in plenty of time,  He loaded the van with the communion supplies, Sunday school supplies, checked to make sure everything was packed that was needed.  He was his usual pleasant and kind self.  Middle Daughter helped and encouraged and the rest of the morning went quietly along.

And things went well at church, too.  The Three Littles were their usual exuberant selves, and participated heartily and happily and even shared with each other. The bread baked beautifully golden and smelled wonderful, and the Kingdom of Heaven was talked about repeatedly as we mixed yeast, watched bread rise and repeatedly checked the baking process.  What a special time we had together.  How I love these three little people.  They make me laugh and they teach me things about human nature, and they cause me to dream dreams about what they will be someday and how they might change the world.  And they compel me to pray for them by the newness of their raw materials, the light of Heaven in their eyes and the prospect of the world that they will live in.  Charis, Katie and Judah:  You cannot imagine how much Jesus loves you.  How I pray that you catch just a glimpse of what you can do in this old world for Jesus’ sake.

And then our communion service was sweet and celebratory and the church family was so kind.  Not a single murmuring word against the leaven or the gluten.  We remembered our Lord’s death and celebrated the sacrifice that was made for us.  We celebrated our church family, and the love that holds us together, causes us to overlook the irritations, and even hears honest confessions of repentant hearts with reassurance and encouragement.

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

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One Left Behind

Our chickens went out today.  It has been a mess, to be honest.  They were scheduled for yesterday, and Certain Man had asked for the day off.  Then, as things are wont to do, things got messed up at the plant, and so they were delayed a day.  Certain Man had a mandatory seminar today from 8-4, and even though he could “run home” at lunch, nothing makes up for the farmer being on the property.  Of course, everything went wrong.

For one thing, the wife of Certain Man has not had much experience with raising the water lines in preparation for the catch.  And the water lines are the things that are left down until the last minute.  Certain Man instructed her in the things that needed to be done in case he wasn’t home, and she duly noted everything — except she failed to notice that there are EIGHT sections per house that need to go up.  I still do not know how this was missed.  If she looked down the row and there were still water lines to go up, she should have know to put them up!  Right!  Well, I didn’t.  I was thinking that there were four feed lines that usually go up — (they were already up) and I took that Milwaukee Hole Hog that almost shook my teelh loose, and ran those drinker lines right up, being careful not to bend the stand pipes.  I checked things carefully, turned off the water as instructed, and took the drill and put it away, because we have had catching crews that took things and we really didn’t want that to happen.  And then I went back to the house.

When Certain Man got home, he found a very disgruntled crew leader.  It seems that they had to roll up four lines of drinkers without the benefit of the electrical appliance.  Certain Man apologized for his wife’s oversight, but then found two manual cranks in the litter by a wall.  And they weren’t his cranks.  They were the old style cranks that often have a nail replacing a bolt near the handle.  Certain Man, some years back, ran one of those vicious nails into his hand, causing great damage.  It also caused him to go forth and purchase cranks that were steel, one piece, all good quality, that would not inadvertently damage him.  Someone had taken his good cranks and replaced them with these old cranks.  One was even badly bent.  He was more than a little upset.

“These are not my cranks!” he said to the crew leader.

“I got them in your chicken house,” the man said.  “I got one over there and one over here.”

“I tell you, these are not my cranks!  Mine are fairly new, all one piece, going down so there is no nail in them.”

The man was unmoved.  “They are yours,” he said again.  “I got them in your house.”

“They are NOT MINE.  And somebody had better give me back my cranks before they leave here today.”

Of course, they didn’t.

And then there were so many big beautiful chickens just lying dead.  Over sixty in each house, for no apparent reason.  Certain Man’s birds are big.  Probably close to nine pounds a piece.  I saw the wheels turning in his head as he calculated his losses.  “That is half a ton of chicken,” he sad to me sadly.  “And that can make a bunch of difference.”

He went back out to chicken house to finish up for the night.  Around nine o’clock he came in.  He was walking slow, the weariness pulling him back on his heels, his eyes were grey and tired behind the chicken house dust.

“There’s one big beautiful chicken out there that is alive,” he said.  “I don’t suppose you want to do anything with it.”

“Sure, I want it,” I said.  “I’ll just go and quick butcher it and it can soak in salt water overnight.”

“Well, if you are going to do it, you’re going to have to do it alone.  I am just too tired.  I’ll go get it for you, but I don’t think I can do any more.”

“That will be fine,” I said.  “I’ll get some water started, and if you go get it, that’s all I need from you.”  He helped me get the big pot down from the high shelf and then went out.  I got the water started and then went out to see how things were going.  He already had the hapless victim hanging from the twine hangers on the side of our old garage.  The chicken appeared to be calmly surveying the surroundings, oblivious to the fact that time was fast running out for him.

“I want the water hot before I kill it,” I say to my spouse.  He looks relieved.  Butchering chickens is not his department — especially the part where the head leaves the body.  “I think we will just let it hang for a bit and I’ll get the water and come back out.”

“Then if you don’t mind, I think I’ll go get a shower and call it a day.”

“That’s fine, Daniel.  It’ll be okay.”

My knife was sharpened to a fine, cold flint.  I do not like to kill chickens, and I especially do not like it when they look at me just before I cut their heads off.  It was dark tonight, and I usually find the space in the neck and make a quick sharp draw and it is over.  And because I do it more by feel that by eyeballing it, I often shut my eyes once the knife is in place.  Which I did tonight — right after I caught the beady eye of my victim looking at me.  I shut my eyes and with one swift slice, the head was off, and on the ground and I was out of the way.  It made me feel so sick.  But there is always the next thing to do, so once he stopped moving, I took the headless chicken off the twine hanger and plunged him into the boiling water.  I got a good scald on him, hung him back up, and the feathers came off relatively easily.  And then I took him down again, rinsed him off, dumped my bucket of water, severed his feet and carried him into the kitchen.

Middle Daughter came home from a Hospice call about that time and when she heard I was going to butcher a chicken, she was daft enough to want to be involved.  She is a game helper (pun intended) in this situation, and once the pin feathers were off, she went to it.  Conversation was lively, and it wasn’t too long before the neck, liver, heart and gizzard were submerged in a sink  of iced salt water along side a fat, beautiful chicken.

“What are you going to do with it? asked Certain Man, on his way through the kitchen to get something to drink.

“I think I’m going to have it for Sunday dinner,” I say.  We are expecting company and it is a fairly large group.

Certain Man looked down at that chicken and his eyes clouded over.  “I wouldn’t think that would be enough to feed everybody,” he said dubiously.

“I did think of roasting it and having stuffing,” I said, “but I think I will just cook it and take it off the bones and have chicken-etti.”

That pleased him, as this particular casserole is an old family favorite that can feed a crowd.  I finished putting some stuff away, and decided it was time for me to get some shut-eye, too.  It’s been a busy week at Shady Acres, and tomorrow!  Ah, tomorrow, I am going away (just overnight) for a Beth Moore conference with some of my favorite people.

I can hardly wait!

My heart gives grateful praise.

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Going through life on a slippery path

She came after church, hugged me and spoke encouraging words.  She had no idea how desperately I needed to hear the very words she said.  It made me cry, but it put a song in my heart that lasted through lunch and cleanup and filling bird feeders and now to my chair.

Through this week, as we’ve dealt with weather, Our Gal Audrey’s medical procedures, stomach viruses, concern over Blind Linda’s ongoing health issues, another fall of Sweet Mama’s, relationship issues, and disappointment over the choices of people we love, I’ve needed (many times over) to sing this song from our renewal meetings:

“If He hung the moon,
I KNOW He will help (me).
And if He holds the sparrow in flight,
He’ll hold (me), too.
Consider the lilies of the field —
How much more He loves (me).
In the beginning of time, (I) was on His mind —
When He hung the moon.

This afternoon, the ice is hanging from the leaves of the Magnolia tree, and trailing from the bird feeders, encasing the branches with a brittle sheen and making it very unattractive to do anything but stay inside.  But I sit here in my chair beside the fire, and there are so many blessings to count.

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*Three little people in my Sunday School Class who make me laugh, inspire me to prepare, and cause my heart to swell with love whenever I think about them.

*That good, good husband of mine who has looked after the affairs of not only our own house and land, but that of others as well this past week.  This morning he gave me a compliment on an outfit that I’ve been insecure about ever since my Sweet Mama told me that it didn’t “do much for you.”  He also called someone to fill in for him at church duties so he could stay home with the sick and afflicted and I would have a chance to get out and to teach my littles and be with our church family.  How very much I needed that!

*This afternoon, for the first time since MONDAY, Blind Linda picked up her own spoon, fed herself, cleaned up her plate and drank her sweet tea by herself and kept everything down.  This is a blessing of monumental proportions.

*Because Certain Man stayed home this morning, his friend Gary rode to church with me.  The roads were precarious driving home. I was slow.  Gary spoke not a single murmuring word.  He acted glad that I was going slow.  All the way home, I wondered how in the world Gary was going to motor up the walk to his house with the slippery conditions, his cane and his Bible, and I was trying to think how I could assist our tall friend into the safety of his front door.  I dreaded the cold  and ice and being responsible for his safety, because if the truth be told, this old gal is a vain thing for her own safety under such conditions.  We pulled up to his back walk and I looked at the expanse betwixt the van and the door and my heart sank.

“Gary, how are you going to get in there?”  I asked with great reservation.

“Oh, I’ll be alright.  Just let me off here, and then you can go on out there and turn around and go.”

“I know, but Gary, it’s slippery.  I don’t think you should walk that alone!”

He opened the door and started to unfold his lanky self.  “I’ll be okay,” he reiterated.  “If I can just get myself out of here–” He struggled with getting his feet over the edge of the door because the knee he had replaced just doesn’t work right.  “I’ll be careful!”

He got himself out and collected his Bible, and planted his feet firmly in the snow, supporting himself with the dependable cane.  I held my breath as he took one baby step after another.  I could just see him crashing down in the wet, cold snow.  How would I explain to Elaine?  He inched his way along and finally made it to the front door.  Relief swept over me as I saw him grasp the handrail on the steps leading into the house.  He struggled a bit with the knob, but then it opened.  Whew!  He made it!  This also made my heart sing!

So there are ample reasons on this wet, cold, dark evenig to offer grateful praise.

So this, then, I will chose.

A grateful heart.

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Tears in the night

We are traveling a familiar road, Certain Man and I.  I knew when we set out on this Deacon call that we would be going this way, but I was not prepared.

We came around the curve and came up a small hill.  Far away in the distance, the lights of our church building shone through the Sunday evening cold.  It took my breath away.

“There are lights???  At the church???” I asked Certain Man.

“Sure are!”  He replied in his off-handed way.  “They’ve had them on ever since they got electric back in after the fire.”

“But how???” I am still more than a little incredulous.  “The lights were all taken down!”

“Oh, they just strung them up however they could.  They want lights on, especially at night.”

Oh.

We come on down the road, closer and closer to the church, and my eyes drink in the light shining out of every window.  As we get closer, it was plain that the lights are from various wires, strung all over the empty, gutted church.  Up close, it isn’t half as beautiful as it was from the distance.  I look hurriedly and hungrily through the dusty windows.  It is full of light, but without life.

I am sad and reflective on my side of The Silver Chariot.  “I’ve not been in,” I say quietly.

“What???  You’ve not been in since the fire???”  I feel Certain Man’s disbelief spearing me through the darkness.

“No.”

“Why not???”  There was so much coming and going in the days following the fire, so much traffic from our house in particular with Certain Man being the first on the scene from our congregation and then both Eldest Daughter and Middle Daughter playing a part in the aftermath and the clean-up that it had been so easy to hide the fact that I didn’t go.

I feel the tears welling up in my eyes.  “Because,” I almost whisper.  “I just didn’t think I could bear it.”

“Well, Hon, I think you need to go,” says my steady spouse.  “I really think it’s something you should do.”

“Why?  I feel so terribly sad, and it is something I just don’t want to see.  Maybe after it is all fixed up, I won’t hate it so much.  But for now, I have no desire to go in and see it.”

He doesn’t push me, and we stop at the four-way stop sign at the corner of Carpenter Bridge and Canterbury Road and then go on.  I sit in the dark and think about this church family that I call “mine” and I think about the strength and courage and grace and forgiveness that has marked these days since that early morning call on December 2, 2014.  Our people have not wallowed about in despair or self pity or been immobilized by this bump in the road.  They are still gathering for worship, encouraging one another, doing the things that have been a part of our lives for so many years.  We are still praying, singing, giving to needs outside the congregation, some of us are teaching Sunday School, some are volunteering at Stevenson House, some are preparing and delivering sermons, and last week, in the middle of the coldest, icy-est, darkest time of our winter, most of us gathered together for renewal meetings and the majority of us didn’t miss a night.  And this doesn’t cover the everyday lives of our people who work and play and raise families and maintain their homefires.

And so I remind myself that we are not defined by that damaged church house there on a country road in Kent County, Delaware.  These people are The Church, and though we are certainly re-evaluating and seeking to hear what God is saying to us through these difficult times, we are very aware that God has something so good for us through this fire that has truly proved to be a Refiner’s Fire.

And while I may shed some quiet tears when I look at a building that holds the church memories of almost 50 of my 61 years, I will not hang my heart on a structure that can, well — be destroyed.  This made me think about a passage in 2 Corinthians that goes something like this:

1-5 For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less. (The Message)

And so, when it is all said and done, it isn’t a church structure.  It isn’t even these earthly bodies that are so prone to letting us down.  The Hope is in that Home that will not be destroyed.  Heaven.

How my soul wants that to happen!  Job 19:27b

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Of Laundry Lights and Wifely Plights and Husband’s Might

The light in our laundry room has been intent on driving me crazy!  For about a year it has been unreliable just often enough to make me threaten it and even sometimes whack it a time or two with a wooden spoon.  Following such displays of power, it usually would straighten up and fly right for a while.  But increasingly, over the last few months, it has not responded to authority.  I have stood at the light switch and turned it off and on and off and on for great lengthy sessions of gentle persuasion, and until just before the New Year, it would eventually come on.  But alas, I seem to have lost my touch.  Certain Man never needed “The Touch” it seemed.  Have any of you ever noticed how things work properly for the man of the house?  And malfunction with annoying regularity when they are nowhere to be found?

A few weeks ago marked a change in the light’s entire demeanor and attitude.  We had a few days of dimming and brightening, then some of that dreadful buzz, and finally NOTHING.  I don’t know about the rest of you,  but I really cannot function without a light in my laundry room.  I complained loudly and lengthily  mentioned it to Certain Man, and he found the sudden (!) demise unacceptable, too.  However, it chose to go out at an inopportune time and there was interference to fixing it, due to schedules and weekends, etc.. So I hauled a spare lamp in from the family room, put a nice, bright replacement bulb into it and “made do” with what I had.

Certain Man took the light apart and peered about at the innards of the receptacle.  He determined that there were some serious problems with the mechanism, but also that one of the long bulbs was burnt out.  He stood at the door of the laundry room and weighed his options.

“I think I will go into ACE Hardware and see what they have for a replacement light,” he finally decided.  “I can buy replacement bulbs for this one and it would probably work, but maybe not right.  I kinda’ think I would be happier with replacing the light.”

I was okay with whatever he decided.   I was sure that it would result in illumination of my laundry room, and I didn’t much care how he did it as long as it got done.  He went out  and came trudging back with two new light bulbs.  ACE Hardware didn’t have any replacement lights that pleased him.  He put the new bulbs in, tried the switch, and lo! And behold!  LIGHT!  I was ecstatic.  But he wasn’t.  He said, “We are going to have to replace that light.  It just has too much wrong with it.  I have a gift card to Lowes.  Maybe I will run in there one of these days and see what they have.”

A few days later, he came home with a box from Lowes that said “florescent ceiling lamp” on it.  I wondered whether he would put it up, or if he just had it on reserve in case he suddenly needed it.  But then the light in the laundry room started acting up again.  It was taking its sweet time about coming on, and when it did come on it was  sometimes dim.

“I don’t know, Sweetheart,”  I said to him the other day.  “That light in the laundry room isn’t acting right.  It takes a while to come on and its just not right somehow.”

“I know,” he said, looking thoughtful.  “I guess I am just going to have to change it.”

Over the next few days, I thought about it occasionally, especially when I moved the box to get something out of the closet in the entryway.  It honestly didn’t bother me very much.  Certain Man has been operating with four stitches in one finger, has gotten new chickens, and has been especially busy with deacon calls because of the extreme cold and Christmas and PEOPLE.   (He has also been dealing with a beleaguering weariness that troubles me, though I do think that some late night watching of his favorite sport, FOOTBALL, and in particular, his beloved Buckeyes, could have something to do with that.) But I knew he would get it done sometime.  Besides, once this faulty light was on, it did a fairly good job.

Then yesterday, I spent the day on Audrey, and besides that, pretty much just did what had to be done to get laundry washed, dried, folded and put away.  I went to bed before Certain Man finished watching those Buckeyes win their game.  This morning, I headed for Greenwood to pick up my Sweet Mama.  She had a dentist appointment, needed to get her glasses repaired following a bad fall at church over a week ago, and wanted to look for a new recliner for the one she has that is literally “letting her down on the side.”  We ate lunch and then I flew into Boscov’s to exchange some things from Linda’s’ Mother and sisters from Christmas.  Then I took Mama back home, filled her med box, went through some mail, stopped some things off at my Aunt Freda’s for my mama, and then came home to Shady Acres.

The house was unusually dark.  I peered through the dark laundry room, through the dark kitchen, on to the dark family room.  Middle Daughter was in her father’s recliner, listening to music with Blind Linda.

“Whew!  It sure is dark in here!” I said as I came into the dark kitchen and flipped on a few lights.  “Where’s Dad?”

“I don’t know.  I haven’t seen him,” said Middle Daughter.  She seemed unconcerned.

“His truck is in the pavilion,” I said.  “I saw it when I pulled into the lane.”  I went out to check, and he was in the truck, talking to his sister. He seemed uninclined to talk to me, so I wandered back in and went to trade my boots for my sandals.  I heard him come in.

“Where’s Mom?” I heard him ask Middle Daughter.

“I don’t know.  She was here–”

“I’m here,” I said, coming around the corner.

They were both looking at me with “the look.”  (I hate that look.  It means I missed something very important.)

“You didn’t even notice, did you?” Questioned my long suffering spouse.  “The light?”

“”I had all the lights turned off so she would turn it on,” said Deborah, “But she came on in and never even noticed.”

I turned to see the laundry room flooded with light.  A clean, new, gorgeous efficient light was shedding a wonderful clear light all over the room, giving it a whole new brightness.

And I was properly grateful and delighted and grateful and delighted, and said so over and over because, in truth, I WAS!

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And my heart gives grateful praise for a husband who looks so well to the ways of this household.  I am so blessed.

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My Turn, My Book

One of the byproducts of reviewing Dorcas Smucker’s book is that people have remembered that I also have a book and I’ve had had a resurgence of (well, actually TWO) orders for my very own book.

A little over a year ago, I self published a book of stories that have happened right here in Delaware on this chicken farm that belongs to Certain Man and me.  I still have quite a few available — somehow it was cheaper to print 500 than it was to print 200.  Don’t ask me why, but that is how it works.  I discovered after I had self-published that most book sellers will not handle self-published books.  I will know better next time — if, in fact, there is a next time.  I will also look for a title that has a little more catch and a LOT less bulk.  🙂

But for now, this book is still available:

book front coverBook Back

The cost is $14.00 each if you pick it up at our house or have somewhere that I can drop it off.

If you want it mailed, shipping and handling is 2.50 for the first book and if you order more than one, each additional one is an extra .50 for shipping.

You can order it by sending a check to

Mary Ann Yutzy

7484 Shawnee Road

Milford, DE 19963

You can order it through my e-mail which is MaryAnnYutzy@gmail.com.  However, my Beloved Son in Law has made it clear that I should have the check in hand before shipping the book — so I guess I had better listen to him.

 

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Down from the Lofties

It was at least the fourth phone call from the grandma in the trailer.  There was no heat, no electric, no cookstove, little furniture.  Mostly there was no hope.  A $2100.00 electric bill needed paying before they could have the electric hooked up.  On oxygen, she was using a gas run generator to run the necessary things to keep the house livable.  Six adults lived there, and most of their stuff was in storage, and only one had a drivers license.  There was no vehicle.

Certain Man has helped this family for many years, and sometimes we would like to tear our hair and gnash our teeth.  The health issues of the Grandma is what keeps us from cutting them off and leaving them out in the cold.  That and the fact that this next generation truly is just living what they’ve learned.  Poor choices repeated over and over again add up to so much sadness and struggle and poverty and brokenness.  And it isn’t that Certain Man hasn’t instructed and exampled and been encouraging and kind, but they just don’t get it.

So, last night, the food was all.  There was an inch of fuel left in the generator.  Things were desperate.  She has to have her oxygen.  Certain Man groaned within himself, considered and prayers were offered, desperate pleas for wisdom and such.  And he came to the conclusion that we needed to do something to help.  So we sallied forth, and carefully bought five gallons of fuel, and groceries that could mostly withstand no refrigeration or could be cooked on a hot plate.  There were also two gallons of milk and a gallon of juice that would take the available space in the two dormitory refrigerators they had stacked on top of each other.

On the way to make the delivery, Certain Man stopped at another house where there had been a young woman with a passel of children, her own and her siblings and a boyfriend.  He wanted to check if this family was in need of a Thanksgiving box this year.  The pit bulls bellowed and brayed and the holes in the driveway were deep enough to swallow a small car.  Certain Man maneuvered his truck around the mammoth holes and turned off his headlights.  Everything was swallowed in darkness.  He turned them back on.

“I’m staying here until you know something,” I said,  thinking of a stiff little baby I had tried to cuddle on our last visit.  It didn’t look like the same family lived here.  Certain Man made his way up to the gate.  The dogs barked and barked and finally a woman came to the door and then came out to talk to him.  He seemed to be gone a long time.  When he came back, the stories were once again disappointing and sad.  But this was one house that didn’t need a Thanksgiving Box this year.

On the road again, I was feeling grumpy.  Sick to my bones of the broken children, broken hearts, broken lives, poverty, bad choices and feeling so impatient about the adults who just don’t get it.

In the quiet of the van, I reached over and took Certain Man’s hand.  “Do you mind if I pray” I asked in the darkness.

“Not at all,” said my good man.

And so I prayed.  I prayed for wisdom for him and the situations that face him over and over.  I prayed for  the  family and that there would be redemption.  And then I felt convicted of my attitude.

“. . . and Lord Jesus,” I prayed.  “Help us not to be condescending or to look down on these people.  May we be loving in what we say and do tonight and free us from feeling better than they are.”

And then we were at the trailer.  The lights were dim, and the adult son was standing at the door waiting for us.  He and another person came out to help carry and to discuss about the five gallons of fuel for the generator.  Between Certain Man and the two of them, they took most of the groceries and the fuel and went in.  I looked at the remaining two gallons of milk and the one of juice and a light bag of groceries and decided that I could manage that load.  I picked them up and made my way to the trailer.  Certain Man came out just as I got there and would have taken one of my gallons, but I had a firm grip and I was doing just fine.  Three steps up to the trailer with no handrail and then a final one into the trailer.

I lifted my right foot to make the final step, realized too late that this step had an extra almost three inches over the others, caught the front of my sandal on the metal lip and down I went like a cow on wet cement.  I was dimly aware of a very satisfying splatting noise as three plastic gallons of liquid hit the floor, and the general alarmed outcry as I landed pretty much on my hands and knees on the floor of the trailer.  My first concern was whether there was any spillage.  There was none.

“Miss Mary Ann, oh, Miss Mary Ann!!!  Are you hurt??? Are you okay???”

Behind me, I heard my husband say, “No, she is NOT OKAY!!!”

This deserved attention.  “Yes, I am,” I said with great conviction, “I really am.  I am not hurt.”  Helpful hands picked up the gallons of milk and juice and carried them to the rickety cupboard, and someone rescued the bag of groceries.  I assessed the damage and got myself up.

“Are you sure you are okay?” I was asked over and over again and I reassured them in like manner.  I wasn’t injured much at all.  It felt like there might have been a brush burn on my one knee and the palms of my hand had a stinging sensation, but other than that, there was no bleeding, no skin missing, no bruises.

Except for one thing.  My condescension had taken a terrible blow.  It never reared its ugly head one time while Certain Man discussed practicalities and possibilities and how he could best help the family.  It is hard to look down on people who have witnessed the embarrassment of you being sprawled all over their living room floor.   I stood there in the cluttered, chaotic living room with the smells of poverty all around me and wondered at God’s incredible grace to me and my family.

And wished that God wouldn’t take me so much at my word.

Then acknowledged that I really did deserve that comeuppance.

“Oh, Lord Jesus.  May it be with a humble and grateful heart that I remember.”

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Thankful Wall

Our Thankful Wall is up.  It is a bit later than we usually put it up, but this past month has been anything but ordinary.  When Middle Daughter realized that her time grew short to get ready for her excursion, she said to me, “Mama, there is almost no way that I am going to get the Thankful Wall done.  What shall we do?”

I had been thinking about that, and I was wondering, too, just what we would do.  It is no secret at this house that the Wife of Certain Man has almost no artistic ability whatsoever.  However, several of our children have pronounced talent and enjoy creating things with canvas and paint.  They got that from their father, and even though he hasn’t developed his capacity, he often has ideas and a sense of design that far surpass my feeble attempts.

“Well,” I said to Middle Daughter, “I’ve been thinking of asking Daddy if he would consider doing it for us this year.”

“Oh, Mom!  Do you think he would?  He wouldn’t have to do it like I do it, just so we aren’t putting a blank piece of paper up there!”

That caused me to rather ruefully think of the year that Deborah was in Bangladesh or some other faraway place, and I had just scrawled, “We Give Thanks” across the top and that was the extent of it.  People still signed it, but it lacked something.  I decided to see if Certain Man might consider doing the job.

“Hon,” I said the other night, “Beebs doesn’t think she is going to get the wall done before she leaves.  Is there any chance that you would consider taking that project on?”

He looked thoughtful and then said, “Yeah, I might be able to do that.  At least, I could try!  It won’t be as good as hers, but I could probably get something up there.”

I bought the brown paper that we always use and last evening he got started.  He first penciled in the words on an angle.  They were words that we’ve never used before on our Thankful Wall, and my heart gave a lurch when I saw what his choice was:

“With Grateful Hearts . . .”

I looked at those words and thought about hearing them sung by a choir made up of my cousins at the funeral of our beloved sister in law, Frieda:

“If on a quiet sea, towards Heaven we calmly sail
With Grateful Hearts, oh God, to Thee, we’ll own the favoring gale.
With Grateful Hearts, oh God, to Thee, we’ll own the favoring gale.”

They have been so forcefully branded on my heart and brain.  Almost every Yoder relative that we’ve buried in the last ten years has had that sung at their funeral.  It started with my Grandpa Dave fifty-eight years ago, and when it has been possible and asked for by the family, those of the cousins (and sometimes uncles) who can, usually seem honored to help sing in the cousins choir.  I think there were somewhere close to 30 family members who sang on Sunday at the memorial service.  I did not.  I could not.  I cannot even sing that song in church without crying, and I knew I would be in no position to sing in front of a crowd of almost 400.  I opted to stay in my seat.  It was good I did.  My husband’s strong arm held me close, his tears mingling with mine as I sobbed in the seat beside him while my cousins sang.

And now, he chose a phrase from that song for the Thankful Wall this year.  “With Grateful Hearts . . .”  It settled into my heart and felt so appropriate.  That is what I need to do in this present storm.  Own the gale with a grateful heart and believe that it will be a “favoring” one.  The truth is, I DO believe that this storm will somehow accomplish purposes that wouldn’t have been brought to fruition otherwise, and I do believe that somewhere, Frieda knows and is pleased.  More importantly, our Heaven Father knows.  He has a plan.  May He be pleased.

Certain Man let the paper lie on the kitchen table overnight while he mulled about the picture that he hoped to put up in the corner.  Tonight he grabbed the pencils and finished it up, checked to make sure it fit properly and securely fastened it into place.  It is done.  Ready for the first signatures.  So drop by and fill it up.  The beauty of this wall is always the individual praises, written in many colors for such a diversity of people.

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My heart gives such grateful praise.

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