I look around the circle. 8 girls together. We spend our evening studying, reading, praying… And we have fun. And we are blessed

I think, sometimes, of how my life would be without them. I cannot imagine. On these winter days I try to remind myself; I am blessed. 


Live and Learn

I’m not a mechanic. I’m not exactly a “vehicle” kind of person either. Sometimes I wish I was. 

I always mutter under my breath a little at the cost of car maintenance. Oil changes, inspections, all that stuff…. I asked Dad if I could change the oil myself. He said quite firmly that I couldn’t.

But then there was the thing of the check engine light. Dad never worries about check engine lights. I do. They make me nervous and mine goes on and off randomly. I mentioned this during one of those vehicle type conversations that I try to stay out of. We were making donuts one Saturday and business was slow. I guess we had exhausted all meaningful conversation because we started to talk about cars. And in the course of the conversation, probably just because I wanted something to say, I mentioned my check engine light.

And he said “it’s probably the spark plugs. They need to be changed about every hundred thousand miles.” My car had just hit a hundred thousand miles. That seemed logical to me.

I asked Bert about it. He said yeah I might as well try it. I asked him where to take it to and he was like “They’re easy to change. Just buy some and Paul can put them in for you.”

You would think out of 6 brothers one of them would have turned out mechanical minded. Not so. Paul is more than the rest but I really wasn’t very sure about this at all.

So last night I was on the way to town so I asked Bert again. “can i just walk onto the auto parts store and ask for spark plugs or what?”

“yeah” he said “I think so”

He thinks so?

I looked at my registration to make sure I ask for the right thing. Pontiac G6 2010. I can do this.

I walked into auto zone and said confidently “I need to get some spark plugs for my car”

“what kind of car do you have?”

“2010 Pontiac G6”

“Is it a 4 cylinder or 6 cylinder”

My confidence vanished. I haven’t the slightest idea what that even means much less which one my car is. 

“I don’t know” I said.

He was a big burly guy and he just kinda grinned as though he had expected I wouldn’t know and he’s like “that’s fine I’ll just check your vin number”

So we went out into the rain and he read the number on my car and informed me that my car is a 4 cylinder. I tucked the information into my brain. Next time I’ll keep my confidence.

We went back inside and he looked up the spark plugs and explained to me how spark plugs have different levels or something like that and how you have to use a level that’s as high or higher than the original ones. 

I didn’t say anything. 

He scrolled through the list. These, he said, were the cheapest ones. yes, I said those would be fine.

“Do you want plug wires too?”

what?! wires come separately? I made faces at bert in my head for not warning me about this. How was I supposed to know if I wanted wires? 

“yes” I said.

“They’re 19.99”

I gulped. I hoped I for sure had enough money on my card.

“yes” I said again.

He gathered the stuff while I waited impatiently. It took him a long time.

He came back and started to total my bill. He looked up and started to say something and then stopped. He looked back at his computer and then back at me. He started to say something again and then stopped.

“Are you doing this yourself?” he asked.

I grinned. I don’t think he had any confidence in me. “no”, I said “my brother is”. 

He looked relieved. “you might not need these,” he said, Indicating the box of wires.

“Can I bring them back if I don’t?”

“of course”

to be continued

101 things I’m thankful for

  1. Jesus, my Savior, my friend
  2. My family who always loves me
  3. Grace, grace, marvelous grace
  4. The church, God’s kingdom on earth
  5. My friends, surrounding and supporting
  6. Joy in Jesus, deep and unending
  7. Hope, the warming fire of the soul
  8. Love, of Jesus, of family, of friends
  9. My students
  10. Starry nights, twinkling
  11. Family Time around the table
  12. Hot coffee with a splash of cream
  13. My long furry neon colored pillow
  14. sunsets glowing memories
  15. Pens. seriously. Sometimes I think how awful it would be to not be able to pick up a pen and just doodle.
  16. Books. classics mostly, but all books
  17. Leggings, I credit them with my ability to survive the winter
  18. My journaling bible.
  19. Steaming hot chocolate,carefully concocted from scratch
  20. Heaters. It’s winter folks, I’m thankful for my heater.
  21. My mountains
  22. The people of my mountains. You should meet them.
  23. Adventures and the ordinary adventure of living.
  24. My Heritage
  25. Roadtrips with my family when you drive forever and never actually get there.
  26. The kids club. I know it’s not actually going yet but I’ve prayed for it so long I sometimes don’t believe we’re this close.
  27. Three adorable additions to the family all in a month’s time
  28. Music, that language of the spirit
  29. Strength for today 
  30. Lonely walks under the stars
  31. Words, so precious.
  32. Sunrise bringing new hope and new dreams.
  33. Dark chocolates
  34. Health. I feel better now than I probably ever have in my life.
  35. Microwaves
  36. Hot tea, steaming mint
  37. cousins
  38. pickles. I love pickles
  39. Autumn, leaves falling and clear blue skies
  40. restoration. there’s so much broken in this world
  41. Eleanor the cat and his nine lives
  42. boots. Work boots and dress boots. I’m thankful for both
  43. babies. they’re a comforting presence somehow
  44. grandparents and their stories
  45. The scent of lavender 
  46. converse shoes. not that I’ve managed to actually wear mine yet 
  47. Eye glasses. I can see individual leaves on trees now
  48. Coconut oil. I know, weird, but it had revolutionized my world.
  49. The lovely  sarcastic humor of my relatives
  50. lotion
  51. fresh peaches dripping sweetness from my fingers
  52. ice cold spring water running down from my mountains 
  53. Answered prayer and prayers yet to be answered
  54. gardens of new life springing up
  55. herbs
  56. candles flickering on dark days
  57. stormy nights
  58. moonlight shimmering
  59. The joy of new discovery
  60. The goodness of God. He is good.He can be trusted
  61. Promises kept
  62. The ability to sew. I don’t like to sew. Really I don’t. But I’m thankful that I can
  63. Education. An education that taught me to see different sides of the same issue.
  64. Home. A real home, so rare these days.
  65. A song in my heart, even on the hard days.
  66. wildflowers, scattered like grace 
  67. My homemade toothpaste. (I know, I know, I’m becoming one of those people who goes on walks and drinks water. I worry sometimes about the person I’m becoming)
  68. A Passport. Literally one of my favorite things
  69. poetry. 
  70. Laundry blowing with the breezes
  71. b12 vitamins. They have literally made my life so much better 
  72. ocean breezes
  73. hammocks
  74. heroes, the literal ones and the figurative one and then there are the ones that I never speak to bit just admire from a distance because I’m intimidated
  75. whatsapp. I’m not a technological person but I appreciate the ability to easily  communicate with people in other countries
  76. religious freedom
  77. hot water. try taking a shower without it.
  78. recorded history.
  79. My phone. 
  80. kombucha
  81. blackberries
  82. Dreams. some coming true, some leading to bigger dreams
  83. Scripture
  84. Peace in a troubled broken world
  85. laughter, joy bubbling over 
  86. not all who wander are lost 
  87. The true spirit of Christmas
  88. Blue skies coming
  89. The road leads home
  90. bare feet on fresh cut grass 
  91. new friends and old
  92. building sandcastles
  93. memories
  94. puppies
  95. mashed potatoes
  96. Turkey
  97. stuffing
  98. cranberry salad 
  99. sweet potatoes 
  100. pumpkin pie
  101. And a happy thanksging! 

More Blessed to Give

It’s the one big thing on the calendar for our youth group. Really I think the thing that takes the most planning and discussion except for maybe the youth trip. We do it every year around thanksgiving. The senior’ s supper. 

This is now the seventh one we’ve had, and there were seventy people. I thought that was cool somehow. Not really a big thing but something I noticed, and it’s the small things that make up your life in the end. 

We serve a thanksgiving style meal and sing and give out prizes. It’s fun and challenging and interesting. 

It’s also a lot of work. Yesterday, all we girls spent our evening setting tables, scrubbing potatoes, cooking pudding and various other types of food. Today I left as soon as school was dismissed and after a mad dash through our house grabbing all the things I thought we might need, I headed for the fellowship hall. We put together cups of pudding, made slaw and sweet potato casserole there. Several guys grilled 40 lbs of chicken and some more girls added to their already heavy work load to make a huge jug of sweet tea and a pie for a prize.

But we had fun. We worked together. Everyone pitched in and did what they could. Everything went as smoothly as can be expected when there are close to a 100 people in one small building. We marveled about how the cookies came out evenly with the pudding and laughed together about how I was in such a hurry I forgot to turn off my car.

Afterwards we washed heaps and heaps of dirty dishes. stacked everything back in tubs for next year and mopped up the floor.

But it was dad’s closing remark that caught my attention. We had just finished singing. I had been up since 5:30 and I was starting to feel slightly exhausted. My feet heart and to be honest I probably felt just a little bit grumpy. But when dad got up he thanked them for coming, he told them how much we enjoy doing this and how we are blessed in doing this.
I wasn’t feeling exactly blessed right then. I was mainly feeling hungry. Later when our guests had gone I piled my plate with food and sank into a chair across from my friend. She grinned at me. “This is my favorite day of the entire year!” she said. I agreed. I loved it.

What changed my mind? In those twenty minutes in between, I simply talked to people. I gave out hugs and shook hands. I thanked them for coming and listened with interest to the stories they told. That’s when I remembered. Remembered why we do this in the first place. Remembered that it is more blessed to give. Remembered Jesus.

   We get out of things what we put into them generally. I’m only blessed in giving when I give freely with no strings attached. when I have a good attitude and pitch in and do everything I can, I also end up having fun. When I just do what I HAVE to. do to get by, I end up exhausted and grouchy and I really don’t enjoy myself. I think that’s maybe why happiness is so elusive. If you try to be happy, you miss it every time. Happiness is a by-product of unselfishness. It catches us, not the other way around.

I’m tired tonight. It took me about an hour to unload all the junk in my car and put it away. But I’m also happy. I hope tonight was a blessing for the 70 senior citizens but I know it was a blessing for me. 

In Prayer 

We had a prayer meeting tonight. 50 people all coming together to say “Jesus, we need you. We are broken. We live in a broken world. We ask that you walk with us.”

We prayed for the family who lost 3 children in an accident. We prayed for the young man who seems to have lost his way. We prayed for the man who found out today that he has a brain tumor and we asked that a little girls adoption papers would be processed quickly. We prayed that God would give our president wisdom, and we asked him to be close to the missionaries around the world. We asked that God would be with our congregation and we asked him to be near a little guy who starts weekend visits with his birth parents this week and is about to have his unsettled life disrupted yet again….

And as I thought of these things and as I prayed I realised again. We live in a broken world.

It’s the only explanation. There is so much hurt. So much pain. So much unfairness.

I think that bothers me the most. The unfairness. Why? Why does one child have loving parents, adoring grandparents, and excited siblings while another is born to a mother with no home, no friends, and no hope? Why does one mother have twins who are healthy and another is left with empty arms?Why do I have more than I need when there are children dying of hunger…..

We live in a broken world.

We cannot fix our world, we can only come broken to the One who can.

He can. 

And that is enough. It must be enough. It is all we have. We can trust our broken world to the God who made it or we can become angry. I choose to trust.

I stepped out of prayer meeting and looked up. The sky was a sea of clouds. I looked up through the clouds to one star that shone through. I thought of hope and I thought of a little hope blossom in a tiny hospital bed not to far from here and of the family waiting for the call that the paperwork is done and they can come see their sweet blossom. And I said “this is your star, hope child, may you reach your star” 

And I thought of another girl, not to far from here, with pain in her heart and hurt in eyes and I looked up to my star and I said  “God help her find her star. Let her find peace in her brokeness”

I have no answers for this world I’m in. But I have Jesus. And so really, I do have the answer. Jesus. He is enough.

The Most Important Thing 

I’m so young, still. I’m getting older every day. Days go by where I never stop to think about this. I thought of it more when I worked in The Relish Barn. There we stamped the jars with the day number. Like, maybe it was day number 235 and then several weeks later, it would be day 265 and I would think about that and how those days are going and disappearing, never to come back, and what did I really do with those days?! 

Too often I forget to do important things with my days. Too often I forget what the important things are. How am I, at 22 years old, supposed to know what the important things are? The big question is, will I figure out what the important things are before it is too late? 

It must be so much easier at 62 to know. Then you could look back, you could see from your own experience what has been worthwhile and what is not. I think though, that perhaps if you don’t figure out at 22 what is important, at 62 you might forget to think about what is important.

I’ve been doing some thinking about this. Mostly because I was looking for writing prompts for my students and one suggestion was to have them write a short biography of their own life as they would want it to be written after they died. (obviously pretending to be someone else). The assignment then challenges them to take a look at their life now and see how they need to change right now in order for their biography to be true.

This is thought material. While I haven’t actually done the assignment, I have thought about it a lot. This is perhaps one of the best ways to find out what the most important things really are.

If I want to be remembered as a generous, cheerful, helpful person than I have to be a generous, cheerful, helpful person now. If I want to have good relationships and be a strong Christian, I need to be those things now. This way of thinking forces me to go beyond career choices or financial investments to character qualities and intangible things. It forces me to realize that kindness is more important than a nice car. I don’t wish to be remembered for a nice car or an ugly car either for that matter. I would rather that years from now, no one would even remember my car at all and simply remember that Jesus was the only thing that mattered to me.

Because that’s what it comes down to, doesn’t it? Jesus is what is important, that is all. Now there are things that are important to Jesus. That is very clear. Those things are important to me too, but only because they are important to Jesus. And when I think of things that Jesus tells us are important I feel sad about how many of us have missed it. How often we forget. Our culture has lied to us. It continues to lie to us, and too often we mistake the lies for truth. We forget that the American Dream is, in the end, empty and meaningless. We forget that having more doesn’t make us worth more. We forget that to save my life, I must first lose it. To be rich, I must first become poor. To know joy, I must first walk with sorrow.

What does it matter after all? What does anything matter that is not eternal?

What is eternal? People. God. That’s all. 

And so whatever I do with my time, with my money, with my life, If it is to be important must somehow be used for people or for God or it will not be eternal. I have come to the conclusion that the only important thing is relationships. Our relationship with God and our relationships with people. If I am a Christian, If I would truly follow Jesus, nothing else matters.

There is a quote that goes something like this. “A hundred years from now it will not matter what kind of car I drove, what kind of house I lived in, or what kind of job I had, but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.”

I think that says it pretty well.

To be a Pioneer

I love when I plan something and than someone else comes along and adds a whole new dimension. Sometimes my students do that. Sometimes it’s my coteacher and sometimes it’s a random friends or family. 

We have 3 third graders who have birthdays in the summer. We wanted to celebrate their birthdays anyhow and since their life revolves around how much time they have to play Indian, we thought we’d give them a new dimension. We planned a Pioneer day.

It started out as a plan to dress up and eat pioneer food. It turned into so much more. My students, I believe, have had a day to remember. They have not learned about pioneers. They have been pioneers. 

This was our school house. Generously given us to use for the day. It made our preparation easy.

We packed lunches of biscuits and apples into cloth lined baskets. It’s the little things, I realized, that add up and make a big difference. It’s hard to pack lunches when you cant use plastic wrap. Or plastic containers. Or Ziploc bags.

I was so proud of them when they came. Dressed in sunbonnets  and 3-cornered hats, breeches and aprons. I felt like I was there. Like it was real.

The cold was real. It was cold. Very cold. My boots and socks were soaked with dew. I wished desperately for a dry pair of socks.  

The best part of the day happened first. I didn’t get a picture because I took a video. And because I was shaking with laughter. Mr Vendley came for devotions. He was dressed in the spirit of the day. His message was valid for us as well. He told us about seeing Indians that morning on the way to school and he reminded us of Jesus’s words “love your enemies”. He was almost finished when we heard a loud Indian war whoop right outside our schoolhouse. 

 They burst in the door in a royal rampage. They did a great demonstration of an Indian raid. Dv did a good job of loving his enemies. The children loved it. They quickly saw who it was and burst into laughter. Not exactly the appropriate response to an Indian raid, but a fun one anyway.

The “Indians” captured Dv and hauled him out. They seem to have resolved the fight immediately after leaving our school. We went on to other things
Reciting lessons, working on their ‘skates (I don’t apologize for our modern substitute. I have a strong aversion to chalkboards that can be scratched)

playing marbles and London Bridge

We ate lunch on the green hillside. I read them a story from “Christy’. The story of her first day of school in Cutter Gap and her introduction to the mountain people. They could relate to the story that happened not far from here and in a culture that still grips the mountain people this many years later.

We had sack races. (I know you couldn’t miss it but please do notice the color of the sky in this photo.) We pulled taffy and ate it along with big handfuls of popcorn

As we cleaned up and put everything back on little girl asked me “Why didn’t we do history today?”

I said “Dearie, you lived history today”

It took her a minute to understand but then she smiled. “I guess we did!”

How God leads

Friday evening I managed to get to bed early. I don’t know how I managed that but I knew it would never do. Not on a Friday night. So I followed my intuition and stood in front of my bookcase. It’s an ordinary bookcase of unpainted boards. My brother built it for me several years ago. It’s full. In fact, there are stacks of books around it. It’s my favorite part of my bedroom. So I stood there and I looked at my books and I wished for a new one. I’d read all of these several times over. But it’s not like bookstores are open at 9:30 PM so I reconsidered the shelves. I found one I hadn’t read in awhile. ‘Safely Home’ by Randy Alcorn.

I read until I fell asleep about halfway through the book. (to clarify, I didn’t read everything, only the important parts. Remember I’d read this book several times already).

I woke up Saturday morning feeling as rotten as could be. Even mom’s ponhaus and egg breakfast didn’t help. I didn’t want to do anything so I didn’t. I found a blanket and curled up on the couch and finished my book. 

In spite of Katurah’s claims to the contrary I did do some things besides read on Saturday. I looked up and grinned at Jeremiah whenever he streaked by. I also took him outside for awhile and I folded laundry and do dishes but that has nothing to do with my story.

I went to bed early again Saturday night. This time I remembered a book I wanted to read. I also vaguely recalled overhearing Sharon tell someone about how she was using one of my books in her room to prop something up, (she struggles to understand the true value of books). I sent out a search party. Well, to be precise, I went into her room to look for it. I found ‘God and the Groceryman’ holding up the motto on her nightstand. 

I read the important parts of the story. All of them. Then I fell asleep.

Sunday morning was clear and sunny. I woke up feeling so much better. I laid in bed and thought about what a blesses person I am. And then I thought of a book. I had loaned it to someone and just recently got it back. Since it was on the stack beside the bookcase and not actually in it, I had missed it when I was looking for a book the first time. Now I remembered. I jumped out of bed to grab ‘Blue Like Jazz’.

I started in eagerly. I read until it was time to get ready for church. Then I got ready for church with the book in one hand. I ate breakfast and read. I did my hair and kept on reading. When I climbed into the car to got to church, my book was still with me.

I promise I didn’t take it along into church. I didn’t even think about it during church. Mostly not. When we sang ‘Tell me the story of Jesus’ i thought of Bill in ‘Blue Like Jazz and how he wept when someone asked him what Jesus meant to him. When in devotions Bert told us about the way that seems right unto man I thought about Li Quan in ‘Safely Home’ and how he chose a way that seemed wrong to Ben Feilding but in the end it led to life. And in Sunday School when we discussed Proverbs 31 and the virtuous woman I thought of Grandma in ‘God and the Groceryman’ and how wisely she said “It takes a lot of religion for two people to love and marry and live together long enough to raise children and be grandparents”. 

It was during the message sometime that I realized it. I had just read three books with the same story. True, the stories were set in different times and different places. They had different characters and different events. All three, however, have the same underlying story. The story of a mediocre christian who discovers that mediocre Christianity isn’t a thing. You are either a sincere christian or you aren’t a Christian at all. Randy Alcorn sets his story in China. He weaves his story beautifully to teach us things so hard to learn in America. We see, with Ben Fielding, that there is more to the world than just us. Harold Bell Wright on the other hand, keeps us here in our own country but asks us to look beyond our preconceived ideas. Donald Miller invites us to accompany his own journey. A journey he walks with courage and shares with an honesty that is refreshing and reviving. 

It scared me a little when I realized it. The connection in these books. God doesn’t guide us to 3 books with the same story unless he’s trying to say something. 

I needed this message. I needed to let go of the small things. I needed to go back to first base. To remember my foundation. Being a Christian isn’t about doing everything right or understanding everything. Being a Christian is about faith. It’s about grace. It’s about love. 

Family Time

Katurah just announced that we are a very random family. I thought this was kinda funny but when I looked around I thought maybe she was right. So here we are at 9:00 PM on a Thursday evening.

Mom cutting out dresses for her and Katurah. Excuse the toys in the background. No, I did not pick them up before going to bed.

Dad working on a batch of ‘panhous’ with Loren showing keen interest.

Bert and Paul supposedly working on the new Relish Barn website, but on closer inspection that seems to be trucks that I’m seeing.

Katurah is for some reason checking her blood pressure by putting the cuff on her foot. I feel very uncertain as to the point of this. 

I can’t quite tell if she’s laughing or crying here but she is trying to get her dress finished.

And this was my project. Breakfast for tomorrow morning.

Matt is conspicuously absent. He was in bed already.

My Heritage 

I value my heritage too little, I think, and other times I think I value it too much. I have too little appreciation, too little knowledge, even, of the trail marked out for me to follow. Perhaps it backfired- they made the road to easy- or perhaps they simply did not expect a day when Christianity had so little opposition. One is unlikely to prepare for what one does not expect.

I think, sometimes, of those hero martyrs gone before. I think of the scores of men and women who died for their faith and I am ashamed of how little I do think of them. They who died for that which I take for granted. The heroes, the cloud of witnesses, do they not deserve our utmost respect. Should not we hold them up as heroes just as the African Americans do Martin Luther King Jr. and the baseball players Babe Ruth?

But we don’t. Too often we do not even know their names, much less their stories. Do they not deserve more?

And then at times I think we value our heritage too much. It becomes our identity to be an Anabaptist instead of being a follower of Jesus. We care more about what church someone is from than we do about whether they’re excited about Jesus. We spend more time discussing geneologies than we do about what God has been doing for them.

There is a dichotomy in our story. We have developed a culture of being “the quiet in the land” but our heritage is one of heretics and law breakers. We are followers of Jesus. We are also Anabaptist. They are labels we wear. They set a standard do us to follow. But even here, the pathway is vague. Rocky. Ridden with side paths and detours. We must choose beyond these labels. What kind of Anabaptist will you be. Are you, like Conrad Grebel and Felix Manx, revolutionary in your thinking, daring to think beyond what you are taught, daring to go farther than your teacher or will you choose to be the quiet in the land. Peaceful farmers who mind their own business. 

We have a heritage, we have a culture. I believe our culture was born of our heritage but I also believe we have gone too far. Our country has gone too far. Our churches have gone too far. 

We can no longer, in good conscience, be the quiet in the land. God has called us to higher paths. It’s time to reclaim our heritage.

We lose the things we do not appreciate. We make the mistakes of our ancestors when we no longer tell their stories. We lose too much, my friends, when it no longer seems important. 

Am I a follower of Jesus? Am I an Anabaptist? Can I be both? Perhaps it’s time to take an honest look, to be sure that the things I think are Anabaptist really are Anabaptist. Is my culture Anabaptist or is it simply an accumulation of traditions? What does it really mean to be a follower of Jesus and am I willing to be one of His.