2 A.M.

Medium night.

This is no stretching of the morning.

Nor lingering of the night.

Minutes here are fathamable

And seconds countable.

Tiny flitting ideas

Build word-nests in my heart.

And here in utter darkness

I am understood.

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Sunday Afternoon

I drive country roads.

Green arbour overhead,

Gravel crunches under tires.

Sunlight dancing across my windshield.

I drive country roads.

Windows open.

The scent of fading summer drifting

Butterflies flit through open meadow.

I drive country roads

Thinking old thoughts.

They float through my brain

Like butterflies or like sunlight.

I drive on…

When Roads Divirge

My brother and I and a friend took a flying trip this weekend. My friend is getting married. One of my oldest friends from my childhood.

And the trip is dredging up all the thought and rethought thoughts of my childhood and the life I was born into.

I am unapologetically anapabtist. I love my heritage and all it has given me but I stand divided by love of my tradition with the realization that I have been formed and molded by living in a visionary environment that challenged much of the tradition we are known for. Visions that triumphed at times and failed in others.

I was born into a tiny mission church, my father a soon-to-be pastor. We were “Amish”, but we spoke English. We drove horses and buggies, but we made exceptions if neccessary. We lived in a termite infested house on a goat farm. We went to school in a one-room school house.

And oddly enough we were happy.

I cannot imagine a happier childhood.

My father was, in many ways, living his dream. He was building a business, spending time with his children, and the church was a beautiful mixture of people from every background imaginable.

He was young and energetic. He was up for a challenge.

And then it fell apart.

And we left. Following the advice of well-meaning pastors. Leaving behind our beautiful farm, the people we loved, and the community we had built.

We have never been the same. For better or for worse, the dream that was yanceyville died.

I was only a child and I was heartbroken.

I wrestle with the wondering. Who would I be, apart from this back-story? I don’t think I will ever leave yanceyville. It’s grown into me, formed me. Made me who I am.

And I am thankful.

I wouldn’t wish on anyone the journey my parents have made for their family but I am profoundly thankful that my father has always taken “the path less traveled”

It has made all the difference.

Several times recently I met up with other yanceyville people in my travels and each time I have something of an identity crisis. I have for years now been part of the mainstream anabaptist culture and sometimes now I can convince myself that I belong, but when I meet these people, the people who were there. The ones who walked this steep and winding trail.

Then I remember.

These are my people.

You can take the girl out of yanceyville but you’ll never take the yanceyville out of the girl.

Out in the Field with God

We picked up hay tonight.

Such a mediocre task but filled with so much romance.

The sweet hay-smell.

The ringing laughter of the children.

The family dog, trotting behind.

The baby, delighted to “help” drive.

The moon rises with the rising of the hay on the trailer.

I drive home in the gathering dusk my fingers tingling where the ropes have rubbed them raw.

And sweet clean water from the spring washes away the memory of my aching feet.

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

I think I found where the mennonite hippies gather.

I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. I’ve always been intrigued by hippies and by how they hold their beliefs steongly.

“If I wasn’t a mennonite,” I told my friend recently, “I think I’d be a hippie.”

But maybe mennonite hippies are a thing.

I spent a weekend with barefoot, bearded poets and philosophers.

We read and studied poetry and thought thoughtful thoughts.

It was beautiful.

I loved finding others who shared the lonely poet life.

I loved that it wasn’t me saying “It almost puts words to the ache.”

I loved hearing the snippets of literature that became part of other families’ lore.

I loved staying up late into the night because the conversation was too good to end.

I even loved that everyone there knew so much more than I do.

I think it was Einstein who said, “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room”.

This weekend, I was in the right room.

If you love poetry, check out The Curator. A blog full of beautifully fresh poetry written by anabaptist people.

Literature Camp 2019 was the first of it’s kind. It will not be the last.

Creator God

Creator of little things

Of buds, and bugs and birds that sing.

To thee be praise.

Creator of hidden things

Of atoms, molecules, and tings.

I bring thee praise.

Creator of unseen things

Of spirit, soul, and angel wings

I stand in awe.

Creator of awesome things

Of mountain, lightening, fairy ring.

I love thee more.

Creator of everything,

Of all I have, to thee I bring.

Creator of me.

Home Again

I’m home again. I have been for a week now and it’s been a full one.

I’m home. Picking blackberries, freezing sweet corn, biking down country roads, picking wildflowers and drinking tall glasses of cold mountain spring water.

I’m back with my family. All 24 of them. You can read the story of how my family grew by three overnight at my sister-in-law’s blog here. It’s exciting and a bit scary that I now unofficially have nine nieces and nephews but I absolutely love every one of them.

I’m back at work, putting lids on hundreds of jars of pickled garlic and labeling case after case of Jam with only an occasional dash out the door to pick a handful of blackberries. Did I mention that blackberries are like my most favorite thing ever? I also pulled an enormous amount of weeds out of the flower beds in front of The Relish Barn. “What makes you think you can do that on company time?” Bert asked, sticking his head out the door.

“No one wants to buy relish from a place that looks like this,” I answered.

“You have a point but the thing is, none of our customers actually come here.”

“You have a point,” I said. But I kept on pulling weeds.

I’m back at my little church, singing hymns and praying with the people who love me as much as I love them. And all the little kids club kids who hug me three times or so and tell me that they missed me. I missed them too.

And this week I’m getting ready for school. I’m excited about being a teacher again and I’m ready to have all my students back again.

But Saturday my friend is getting married.

Next week is teacher’s week at Faith Builders.

And then there’s Literature Camp the next weekend.

But for now, I’m sitting on my rooftop, watching the moon and listening to the crickets.

It’s a beautiful night.

Waves of Grace

I spent a day by the seashore.

Is it cliché to say I spent the day thinking about the grace of God?

I sat on the shore and watched as waves rolled in.

Another.

And Another.

And Another.

And they never ever stopped.I looker out, as far as I could see an there was more water than I could imagine. Everywhere I looked there was more water.And I watched the people. Some went in timidly, others raced into the water as though they could hardly wait. Some stayed on the edge only getting their feet wet. Others dived completely underwater.

There was no shortage of water. It was each person’s choice how far they wished to go in.

So much like grace.

I went in. Loving the feeling of the ocean waves pounding against my body. Big waves and small ones. Some were painful, others gentle and soothing.

I watched the sand on the edge as it washed away revealing beautiful seashells underneath. They would be exposed for a second and then, unless you hurried to pick it up, it was gone. Hidden once more beneath crashing water.

The tide came in. Farther and farther. It snuck up on some people. Some let it come, others fled from it’s advances.

So much like grace.

The bites on my legs stung a bit from the saltwater. Cleansing and healing. Painful a bit, but good

.The sand swirled around me on the edges. But when I walked in deeper, it was calmer, less muddled. More pure.

So much like grace.

I wonder at the lessons the sea has to teach us.

So much like grace, so much like God.

Beautiful.

Awesome.

Eternal.

Never-ending.

So much like my God.

The hardest hike in my life so far.

I broke free from the confines of my yoder genes and did something I didn’t plan to do while I’m in Guatemala. I hiked the third highest peak in Central America. Acatenango. It’s an eleven mile hike with a 5,000 foot elevation. I’ve never been that high before, outside of an airplane and I’ve never before gone on a hike as hard as that one. I waited a day to write this in order to have a more clear view of how it really was (also because I spent a good part of the last day sleeping) and my legs are still aching with every step I take. I’m quite sure that I now know how it feels to be old. I feel a great deal of sympathy for my grandpa.

We started up the trail around lunchtime and fifteen minutes in I knew that it was going to be a long day. The trail was volcanic ash and it was similar to slogging up a sand dune. There’s nothing like a gently curving uphill slope. The trail goes straight up.

And then, before we even made it to the forested part of the mountain, the rain began.

Keep in mind that we were carrying 20 pound backpacks with our food, water and clothes for the next two days.

Thankfully we had taken the advice of everyone who had gone before us and bought rain ponchos. I felt similar to a walking tent but at least my backpack stayed dry.

We slogged on, one foot in front of the other, stopping every 30 minutes or so for a break. We stopped for lunch. Everyone ate their plates of cold chicken and rice. This struck me as funny for some reason. I mean who packs chicken and rice when they go on a hike? And here we were, a group of twenty strangers from all around the world, sitting in the rain eating chicken and rice.

Not long after lunch, the hail started. Real balls of ice pounding down on us. The water rushed down the trails. My shoes were soggy and squished with every step. I had a breif moment where I thought “I’m going to get hypothermia and die on this mountain” And then the common sense side of me took over and said, “no you aren’t, you’re not even cold inside”. So I picked up my head and kept on.

And then, much after and sooner than I expected the guide said that we only have 15 minutes until we reach the flat part of the trail that leads to camp.

The rain stopped and the mountain mist turned everything into a fairyland that reminded me of Narnia for some reason. Something to do with fighting hard battles in another world.

Flat is relative, of course, and we wound around the mountain for another hour and took a tiny winding trail up a little higher and there was our camp, a row of tents, facing Volcán de Fuego and a larger tarp covered shack with a hot fire underneath.

We rushed for the fire with no time to worry about watching a volcano. And here again I found myself intrigued with the fact that I was here. The French Canadian beside me stripped of his shoes and socks and roasted them over the fire, his girlfriend told us about how she was here for a month and then he came to surprise her. The young girl fron germany shivered uncontrollably until she finally changed into a dry shirt, the Polish man turned his pockets inside out to dry. The guides didn’t seem fazed in the least. They set to work making hot chocolate for everyone.

Slowly the clouds cleared and the active volcano was directly in front of us. We watched in amazement as it spewed out clouds of smoke and bursts of fire. The two mountains are connected so our mountain would shake whenever Fuego erupted.

The light faded, we heated our bowls of spaghetti over the fire and ate, in between racing out to see the the eruptions.

Wanting to practice our spanish and also being a bit nosy we chatted with our tour guide. A young man who told us interesting details. His father lives in Ohio. He climbs acatanango twice a week carrying an 80 lb pack (I can’t imagine) he gets paid 100 quetzals a day to do this. (About $14. That’s just wrong, the 15 people had each paid 225 quetzals, who’s getting all the money?) He showed us pictures of the best eruptions he’s seen and I was amazed.

And then it was time to go to bed. We were cold, still a bit damp, and very tired. We had mats and sleeping bags but the ground was hard packed ash. It took me a long time to get warm and even longer to find a relatively comfortable position. I slept in short intervals.

The wake-up call came at 3:30. We scrambled into our borrowed coats and hats, and grabbed our hiking sticks and flashlights. We still had an hour and a half to the top and we wanted to see the sunrise.

That last stretch is indescribable. You’re climbing through ash. I regretted my coat at first because I was promptly soaked in sweat. but as we got higher it also got colder and I was having a hard time catching my breath. It was bare now, except for patches of moss and here and there a daisy-like flower peaking between the rocks. I stopped to look down at the panorama. And then I looked up and I kept going.

The guide was at the top waiting. “welcome from the United States” he said and shook my hand. I smiled back, too out of breath to say a word.

It was cold. The wind was strong and I was thankful for every layer of clothes I was wearing.

But it was beautiful. From the top you can see three more volcanoes, mountain ranges, Lake Atitlan, and far in the distance, the ocean.

I was on top of the world.

Unfortunately you can’t stay long. It’s frigid up there and you’re exhausted and it’s windy.

And so amazing.

It’s not describable, and pictures aren’t the same.

And then we started down. We skied. I think that’s the best way to describe it, sort of half run, half slide.

I stopped for a moment there, with my shoes half full of dirt. More dirty than I’ve been in years, with my too big coat and very ugly hat and I thought “I can’t believe how happy I am to be here”.

We stopped for breakfast at camp. We had hot coffee and yogurt and a banana. And we picked up our much lighter backpacks and started down. It was impossible to walk normally. We ran, slid, and picked our way down. It only took us half as long as the way up and it was perfectly clear.

Towards the bottom my toes began to complain. They didn’t appreciate being slammed against the front of my shoes over and over. I considered taking them off and going barefoot but decided against it. Now 24 hours later, I don’t want to see any shoes anywhere close to me feet. Actually I threw my shoes in the trash can the moment I walked into the house. They weren’t worth saving.

The van ride home was silent. All 15 of us dead with tiredness.

I’ve never been so thankful for a hot shower and clean clothes.

So. Was it worth it?

Yes.

Should you try it? Yes.

Would I do it again?

I’m thinking no. Once in a lifetime is often enough for some things.

Volcán de Pacayo

I climbed a volcano folks, an honest to goodness active volcano. If I had known that roasting marshmallows over hot lava oozing from the rocks was a thing, I would have put it on my bucket list. Some things in life come as an added bonus.

We followed our guide up a narrow mountain pathway. The forest is lush and green thanks to the years of nutrients that flowed down the mountain. The earth beneath us is coal black sand. The trail wound up the mountain, our guide stopped here and there to point out things of interest, an avocado tree, the lake below, a view of the volcano, or a nest of baby birds. It’s fairly steep so we stopped quite often but it’s not long. I’m guessing it took us only a little over an hour to climb to the top.

The trees became smaller and scarcer as we climbed higher, evidence of more recent eruptions. We stopped at the end of the trail to take pictures and to watch as now and again, lava would bubble up and roll down the mountain, leaving a trail of glowing lava.

Then we walked on, past the sign that said “entry is prohibited” (our guide took us) and we climbed across large lava rocks to a spot on the mountainside where the heat was flowing out between the rocks. The guide passed out sticks and marshmallows and we settled in to roast them. It took only a minute to have a perfectly toasted marshmallow dripping from the stick.

I looked around me in amazement. Honestly surprised to be here. How did I not know that people do this?

There was an incredible view of the city below us and the amazement of the volcano in front of us.

I’m always amazed at these times by how God makes everything beautiful. Volcanoes are dangerous, terrible things and still they are breathtakingly beautiful.

I walked down, a bit behimd the others. Content with my thoughts. Happy in the silence, with only the sound of my footsteps in the sand. The peace of the mountains surrounded me and for a moment I was back home in my mountains. Mountains all speak the same language, I’ve discovered. They speak of strength, of stability, of peace. Riding home in the darkness with the voice of the mountains still fresh in my mind, I am happy.

Why am I so blessed?

I have friends by my side, adventures in my life, a cookie in my hand.

I climbed a volcano.

Thank you, God.