Tag Archives: Sunday School

Sunday Evening at Shady Acres

Am I the only one who can hardly believe that summer vacation is over and school is starting again?  Wherever has this month/summer/year gone?  People, this is serious!  I’m getting old at an alarming rate.  I’ve been regularly told by my LITTLES that I’m “really, really old!” and I’m starting to believe it.

The other Sunday while we were discussing a younger sibling’s birthday, the discussion turned to how old each of The LITTLES was, and we discovered that we had a two year old, a three year old, a five year old and two seven year olds.  That was good for a couple of minutes of discussion, then Charis looked thoughtful.

“Grammy!” She said, “How old are you?”

“How old do you think I am,” I asked, because I always love to hear their responses and I’m never offended at their answers, only entertained.

“Well,” she said thoughtfully, “I think you are probably 77!”

Her friend, Amanda, a frequent visitor to the class said disdainfully, “Nah!  I think she’s 58!”

“Well,” I said, “I’m 62!  I’m going to be 63 on my birthday in a few months.”

“Oh,” said Charis, philosophically, “Well, Amanda and I were almost right.  We were each just one off!”

That made me laugh, of course, and I thought about how a child’s mind works, and how totally logical it seemed to them that anything in the 60’s would only be “one off” from something in the 50’s or 70’s.

My LITTLES have given me lots of pause to consider over these last months.  There was an especially impressive time on the Sunday that we discussed Pentecost and the giving of the Holy Spirit.  I struggled with how to make this lesson real to this age spread, and wondered about how we could even begin to catch the importance of the Holy Spirit. One of the suggested activities was to tie red crepe paper streamers to a fan, and to explain how even though we cannot see the wind, it has an effect on the streamers.  It is a force that is very real, even though it is invisible.

I had thought about this lesson a lot over the week before, and had decided that the streamers and the fan were a good idea.  While I was pondering what else I could do to emphasize the lesson for the LITTLES, I saw some of those small windmills on a stick sticking out of an end bin at Walmart, and had a flash of inspiration.  This was something that the children could hold in front of the fan and see how a fast they would go in a strong and forceful wind and they could take them home at the end of the class period and it could be a reminder.  I pounced upon the stash and procured the five I needed and felt like God had provided a small miracle and burst of inspiration especially for me.

Sunday morning.  Certain Man helped me to carry the large fan up to the classroom and I attached the red streamers to it.  When the class started, the kids were so excited to see the fan, and of course wondered what in the world we were going to do.  The windmills were held in reserve until after they had a chance to hear the story and I could turn on the fan to show them how the streamers worked.  They were duly impressed.  They gathered around and tried to catch the dancing and swaying streamers and laughed and talked and jostled for a place in the strong breeze.

Then I brought out the windmills and gave each of them one.  This was high attraction. The fan was very large, and there was plenty of room, but it didn’t take long before there was more than friendly competition for what was perceived as the best place, and whose windmill was spinning the fastest and there was much stomping about trying to have the most air.  I contained the commotion for quite a while, encouraging them to give each other room, to share the space, and to not shove.

When it seemed that they had all had adequate exposure, and enough time to watch their windmill spin merrily around, I said, “Okay, kids.  Let’s take our windmills back to our seats.  You may take them home with you and play with them there.”  And I turned off the fan.

You would have thought that I was depriving them of their personal oxygen supply.  There was great disapproval and grumbling until one enterprising youngster said, “Wait!  Look! You can blow on these windmills and they will still turn!”

Immediately there was great huffing and puffing while the five of them attempted to make their windmills turn under the power of their own breath.  In comparison to the fan, the windmills barely turned but the five of them were so occupied with the fact that they were moving that they barely noticed that they were about to hyperventilate.

And that was when the Spirit of the LORD spoke to my heart.  I stood there, watching my beloved LITTLES, and it was almost funny until I felt like God said to me, “That’s just what you look like to ME!”

“Excuse me?  Is that you LORD?”

“That’s just what you look like to me when you step away from the mighty power of the Holy Spirit and try to produce results in your own power.  It’s every bit as ridiculous, and it’s far more futile.  So often you try to do or say things in your own strength, and it really doesn’t go anywhere because it’s not of me.  Pay attention, Daughter.  This lesson wasn’t as much for your LITTLES as it was for you.”

I really can’t tell you much about the rest of that class period.  I had so much to think about.  There were so many thoughts and pictures running through my mind.  Pictures of times when intentions may have been good, but the power source just wasn’t right.  Pictures of times when the Power was blowing, but my little windmill was off on a shelf or looking for another breeze.  Times when I just didn’t get it at all, and was depleted and tired and almost “hyperventilating” from trying to reproduce in my own strength what I could have gotten from the Power that was far greater and not only promised to me, but readily available.

My LITTLES took their windmills home, and I hope that they remember something about that lesson.  But even if they never do, I will!  It sits in my heart, a cherished lesson for this teacher of LITTLES, who desperately needed it in this time and in this place.

My time with this group of LITTLES is coming to an end.  Today is my last scheduled Sunday for teaching.  Next Sunday is our Church Retreat weekend, and the following Sunday is the beginning of our new quarter.  How very much I shall miss them!  But this is a good move.  A young couple will team teach and they have relationships in place already within the class.  I am content, as well as certain that this what should be.  Certain Man and I want to do a little traveling (yes, ME, TOO!) and I am looking forward to a bit less chaotic Sunday mornings.  We’d like to have more Sunday company, and I also am greatly looking forward to being a part of the Older – (Ahem!) Mature Women’s Sunday school class.

And so, my heart gives grateful praise for the blessings of my life.  I am so blessed.  May each of you see the blessings that are yours as well.

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Sunday Morning with The LITTLES

They came into the classroom, full of joy and smiles and LIFE. I looked into their eager faces and mentally reviewed my morning. It was going to be busy, to say the least. And lately, they’ve been so talkative. (Which I absolutely cannot resist. No matter how hard I try to stay on the subject, if I think there might be something one of them needs to say, or some sort of childish wisdom or insight, I cannot bear to shut it down.)

We gathered around the table, and sorted out the chairs and who got which one.  There was an extra again this morning, so the routine of “who sits where and on which color chair” was disrupted a bit, but finally, everyone was settled and ready.  A few months ago, as I was considering the whys and wherefores of Sunday School for these children, I realized that what was most important was that they have a sense of GOD in THIS PLACE, and so we’ve been talking about the fact that “God is here, in this classroom!  He sees us and He loves us.  He is our friend!”  And we follow that by singing the old song that my first and second grade teacher, Sadie Bissey, taught us so long ago:

Into our class
Into our class
Come into our class, Lord Jesus
Come in today
Come in to stay
Come into our class, Lord Jesus

So, this morning, as we were sitting around the table, I asked them the question that I’ve been asking them over the last few months.  “Who is here in our class this morning?” I asked them.  “Who is right here with us today?”

“Jesus!”  “God!”  The answers chorused around the table.

“That’s right,” I smiled at them.  “God is right here with us today.”

He was sitting at the end in his usual spot, and he looked around curiously.  “He’s not here today!” He said with a note of disappointment.

“Ah, but He is!” I told him.  “He’s right here with us!  Even when you can’t see Him, God is with you.  He’s here.  He’s with you when you are in trouble.  He’s with you when you have work to do and helps you.”

“We did lots of work,” he told me earnestly.  “We had to to do really hard work pickin’ up stuff in the yard.  And God didn’t help us at all!”  He shook his little head sadly.  He obviously had some feelings about this.

I pondered a bit and then suggested, “Maybe He did!  Maybe you just didn’t realize –”

“Nope,” he said decisively.  “He didn’t.  We did it all by ourselves!”

Oh, Lord Jesus!  How often have I been so sure that I was alone trying to do jobs that seemed big and hard?  And when I got done, I was sure I had done it “all by myself” when, in fact, I was under the protective oversight of a loving parent, who enabled and gave strength and tempered the job to my abilities.  Thank you for the reminder through one of my LITTLES that we don’t know the half of how your presence surrounds and enables and LOVES us in our “hard work” and never leaves us until the job is done.

Hebrews 13:5b-6a (NCV) “. . . God has said, ‘I will never leave you; I will never abandon you.’  So we can be sure when we say, ‘I will not be afraid because the LORD is my helper’. . .”

For this promise, for my LITTLES, for shelter on this stormy Delaware evening (and so much more!) my heart gives grateful praise.

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The Kingdom of Heaven is like . . .

Matthew 13:33:  “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.”(NLT)

I looked at the proposed lesson for my LITTLES and wondered what in the world I could do to teach this lesson in a way that would help them remember the gist of the lesson.  There were two parts to the scriptural background; the verse about the yeast, and also the two preceding verses about the mustard seed. The word pictures and the activities that were suggested were good activities, but how do I use up a whole class period discussing “The Kingdom of Heaven” with children this young?

And just what is the Kingdom of Heaven in our lives, particularly as it would relate to these verses?  A  small seed, planted, growing into a great bush?  Or yeast, leavening a large measure of flour, completely losing its identity as it bonds with the other ingredients, yet it affects the whole batch of dough, and effects change in unmistakeable, cognitive ways.  What does this mean to me, for Heaven’s Sake?  And how can I make it real for my LITTLES.  I mean, they totally missed the lesson about the sparrows, and this is far more obscure than that.

So I thought and thought, and finally decided to bake some bread with them.  From scratch.  I would ask them what they thought the Kingdom of Heaven was, and we would talk about what it means to do things the way Jesus would do them, and how when we are kind and share and obey and tell the truth, how that “grows” inside our hearts and makes us happy.  I would ask them how it made them feel when other people were kind to them, and shared with them.  What it looked like when other children were disobedient or told lies or were mean, and whether that made them want to be their friends.  And we would bake bread and this time, I would constantly talk about the Kingdom of Heaven and what it means, and how it is like the yeast.  And maybe, this time, they would remember.

So we started out class period by meeting in the basement, and donning our aprons.

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We had two extra children, but that was just fine.  And everyone entered into the discussion before getting to the actual mixing of the ingredients.  But once we got started, there was no turning back!

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Most of the ingredients, I had pre-measured, so they each got a chance to add something. Here, we are softening the yeast in warm water.

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Here Victoria stirs the yeast while we get ready to put the sugar in.

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Judah dumps in the salt.

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The boys watch the yeast to see if it’s growing.  They get a good understanding of what it smells like, too.  (I don’t think anyone spit, coughed or sneezed in it, but I can’t prove it.  I can say with a great deal of confidence that it did get breathed on!)

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And then we stirred . . .

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and stirred . . .

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and stirred!

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The yeast had been rising all this time, and now it was time to add it to our bowl.

Then it was time to talk about what that yeast was going to do to that bowl of dough.
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(And they all listened carefully!)

And then it was time to add more flour and stir some more!

Then we finally got it pour out onto the table


. . . and every child got a chance to work the dough.  For videos of each child, go to https://www.facebook.com/maryann.yutzy and scroll down.  This was one of the best parts of the whole morning!

And then it was into the pans to rise.  Of course we had to check on the progress!  Sure enough, the dough was rising!


And then it was into the oven:  Whew!  That’s HOT!  But if you put your little hand on the outside of the oven after it was shut, it wasn’t hot at all.  That’s pretty exciting!

 

And then they waited and waited, and finally, the bread was brown enough and we took it out of the oven.

 

Oh, so exciting!  They each got to choose a loaf that was “theirs” and then they buttered the tops and lined up so protectively by the one that was “theirs.”


By that time we had survived the singing of the “blessing song,” when we sang to each child and during which I put my hands on each head when we say their name.  It was when I was doing that,  that we found a tick on one of the children’s heads.  Well, that caused it’s own excitement while Mom and a nurse and eventually Dad came to assist in the removal.  This tamed the excitement somewhat, and eventually, long past the ringing of the bell marking the end of Sunday School, we talked one more time about how the Kingdom of Heaven was like a small amount of yeast that we put into a measure of flour (and salt and sugar and shortening and milk) that made the dough grow and grow until it was enough for nine loaves of bread.  We stood together on  the tile floor in the Gathering Place of Laws Mennonite Church and gave thanks.

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“For all good gifts, thy Grace imparts–
We thank thee, LORD, with humble hearts!”

After the church service, they came to claim their loaves, and to gather bread for giving away and thus ended another morning of teaching my LITTLES about The Kingdom of Heaven!

Will they remember?  I don’t know for sure, but I think they just might!
If not now, then maybe someday.

And I pray God that it might be so!

Photo Credits:  Christina Yutzy Bontrager

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“They Called Him Laughter”

It’s been a wild ride in the Sunday School Class that I call The LITTLES at Laws Mennonite Church.  When December rolled around and it was time for Christmas, I was so behind in the curriculum that it wasn’t even Christmas in the lessons.  There were numerous reasons for this — sickness, schedules that precluded a separate class for the children, and my deep desire to not “waste” any of the already purchased study aids and lesson plans.

But I cannot bear to not have a good celebration of the birth of our LORD, so I set about the first of December to write my own lesson plans, find crafts that  were pertinent and to wing my way through.  The thing I didn’t remember was that December 1st began the new quarter in our Menno Media’s SHINE series.  So as December hurried to its end and the New Year loomed, I realized that I was without new material and that I needed to get stepping.  So I did some thinking and praying and decided that I was going to start with Genesis 1 and tell stories from Genesis until March 1st when the new quarter would begin, replete with Easter appropriate stories and activities for my small fry.

And we’ve had a blast.  I purchased some big beautiful pictures from friend Karen’s bookstore and looked online for child friendly crafts that were not copyright protected and set to work.  We went through the story of Creation, the story of Adam and Eve and the fall of man.  We covered the story of Cain and Abel and then the story of Noah and the flood.  We touched briefly on the Tower of Babel and then marched Mr. Abraham right  on out of Ur of the Chaldees to Canaan and talked about The Promise made.  In today’s lesson, we were talking about the birth of Isaac, how it takes patience to wait for things to happen, and about how God keeps his promises. Children love to talk about babies and they love the idea of old people having babies.

“What would you think,” I asked Katie Burkholder this morning, “if your Great Grandpa Millard and Great Grandma Lura (Benner) had a baby?”

She paused to consider.  “I would think,” she said carefully, “that THAT would be really funny!”

“And Charis,” I said, “What would you have thought if Grandma Yoder had had a baby?”

She laughed out loud.  “That would have been really, REALLY funny!” she said.  And giggled again at the thought of it.

“Why would that have been so funny?” I asked.

“Because they are so OLD!” was the chorus.  (Nobody feel insulted, here.  I’m regularly reminded by this group that I’m really old, too!)

And so I told them that Mr. Abraham was older than any of those people.  He was a hundred years old!  No one could think of anyone who was a hundred years old.

“Why do you think you don’t know anyone who is a hundred years old?” I said.  They looked very thoughtful and then one of them said, “Maybe because they are already in Heaven?”  And of course, that was a good answer.

And so we began the story of Isaac and how Abraham had to wait so long to get his little baby.  “Have any of you had to wait a really long time for something you wanted?” I asked them.  They were ready with the usual “My birthday,” and “Christmas.”

“Anything else?” I questioned.  “Anything else that you had to wait really long to do and your thought you just couldn’t wait?

“Yes,” said Charis.  “I had to wait and wait to be born!  I really wanted to get out of there!”

“Me, too,” said Katie.  “I had to wait so long, too.  It was so long and I was uncomfortable!  I wasn’t born until August Twelff and that was a long time!”

“Grandma Yoder was so lucky,” chimed in Charis, getting tuned in to that thought.  “Her birthday was on the first day of January.  The rest of us have to wait way longer in the year for our birthdays to get here!”

Yes, well. Now you know.

Back to the subject of Isaac we went and we had some projects to complete and the story to finish.  My LITTLES did so well, catching on quickly to why his name was “Laughter” (after first thinking that it was because he was a happy baby and laughed a lot).  They helped to make an instant pudding snack while we talked about how hard it is to wait for something to happen.  The vanilla pudding was divvied up into four containers with lids and they worked on other projects while we waited for the pudding to firm up.

The bell rang before  we were ready, just like it usually does, and there was a mad scramble for the coloring papers and projects and snack bags and out the door the four of them tumbled on their way back downstairs to their parents.  I looked around the room, all in disarray with crayons and markers and glue sticks and cutouts and stars and snack remnants all lying askew about.  It made this Delaware Grammy smile,  and I heard “Isaac” lingering in the corners and all around the cheerful, well equipped classroom.

This Delaware Grammy, short on grandbabies, and at an age when most gals have enough little ones in their lives, finds it to be soul satisfying to have these precious four LITTLES each week, entrusted to my care, to learn to know their hearts, their individual personalities, to hear their observations and to listen in on their thought processes. Each of them fills a different spot in my heart, and they and their families and especially their parents often find their way into my prayers.  Such a happy privilege is mine!

Thank God for the laughter!

 

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The Littles

We’ve started the new Sunday School year in our congregation.  Even before Mama fell in May, I had planned to take the month of June off from teaching The Littles because of family vacation and a Yutzy reunion.  With the passing of my Sweet Mama, it was easy to just let other people take care of things and to soak up time with my peers in an adult class of women.  I needed them.  I needed the time.  And it was healing and good.

But I missed my littles.

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We had many good times in the crowded room beside the kitchen at Grace Fellowship Church’s gathering place, where our church body has been meeting since the fire damaged out building on the corner of Carpenter Bridge and Canterbury Roads.  This picture was take the night we got together to pack a goodie box for another child.  It was only taken seven months ago (Actually seven months ago today!) but I cannot believe how much they have grown and matured in these short months.  Katie is a self assured kindergartener, Judah is talking and paying much better attention and Charis is more aware of the needs of her classmates and is less jealous of her Grammy’s attention.  All three are more participant.

The summer had passed so quickly, and I thought often and prayed that God would show me whether I should offer to teach the class for the year coming up.  We have some talented young blood coming up in our church, and teaching is a blessing that is often overlooked in the maturation process.  I know that not everyone is cut out to teach, but I also know that choosing to teach has been one of the ways that God has used in my life to encourage growth, personal study and reliance on HIM for wisdom and courage and strength and even results.  The blessings that I have reaped have been beyond what I have deserved.  And quite honestly, though I really wanted to teach this particular class again, I also didn’t want to step in and  volunteer when God had laid it on someone else’s heart to teach the class.  He may have had blessings abundant in store for someone else, I reasoned, and it would be wrong for me to grasp someone else’s opportunity.  And so, even though I thought the end of summer was coming quickly, I decided to hold my peace and wait and see.

Then one of our superintendents, Davey Burkholder, approached me last Sunday and asked if I would be willing to teach that class of Littles.  I was suddenly unsure of what I should do.  I asked for some time to think about it.  He said that was fine, and in the reorganization part of our Sunday Morning service, it was announced that they were looking for a teacher for the class and they asked for volunteers.

“Whew!” I thought.  “That will be a defining event.  If someone volunteers, I will know that it isn’t for me this  year.”

But I kept mulling it over and over in my head.  I asked Certain Man what he thought  I should do.  He didn’t know.  And he didn’t feel strongly one way of the other from what he said.  I asked Middle Daughter whether she had any advice for me.

“Well, Mom,” she said carefully, “I think that wanting to teach the class is a pretty good indicator of what you should do.  It’s something you enjoy, and if you want to, then I think you should!  I’m taking the year off from the young women’s class, and if you need me, I can help you out.”  And that pretty much did it for me.

So I waited a few days, then called and got the curriculum and found myself back in one of my favorite spots yesterday morning.  The lesson that we used on Sunday was one from the last quarter that hadn’t been used, and it was called “A song for walking outdoors.”  One of the activities that I decided to do was to take the three on a walk outdoors looking for different things that they could pick up in nature to put in their ziploc plastic bags to take home with them.  A flower, a leaf, a seed pod, bark from a peeling tree, a stone, berries. Grace Fellowship Church is located in an industrial park, and is surrounded mostly by concrete and asphalt, but there were stones, a few trees, lots of weeds, and  a couple of patches of grass.  Around a corner and past a chain link fence divider there were some landscaping bushes around another building that I hoped would provide some berries for variety.

I checked the time and then said, “Let’s go over there and see what we can find.  There might be something different over there!”  The three of them were delighted and we headed out across the asphalt patch that separated the us from the other building.

“We have rules,” said Katie confidentially.  “We aren’t allowed to go anywhere on this pavement over here without a grown up.”

“That’s a good rule,” I told her.  “You should never go anywhere without a grown up unless your Daddy and Mommy say it is okay.  And this isn’t a good place for you to go unless there is a grown up with you.”

“Yup,” she said happily.  “But you are a grown up!”

I laughed.  “Yes,” I said, “I guess I am!”

“You are a very old grown up.” She said. (Emphasis Katie’s.)

And I laughed again.

Oh, my Katie-girl!  If you only knew how it is.  Just yesterday, my own girlies were five years old and learning family rules.  The day before that, it was me.  I only turned around twice before I got “very old.”  But you and your brother and my granddaughter, all growing so fast, remind of once was and I feel the eternity of the spirit in these old bones.  You cannot imagine how it is to feel five years old in your heart, but almost 62 in a body that will not run and jump and dance to the music of our incredible world.   But I promise you this.  There is coming a day when this body will dance to the music of Heaven.  And my spirit, eternal and free, will be as young as yours.

And what is inconceivable to me now will be an actuality.

My heart sings grateful praise.

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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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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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