Already Written

He’d told them the end of the story. They could have known that death was temporary, that Christ couldn’t stay dead. That he would be back.

He’d told them three days. They had talked about this.

But they didn’t know. Somehow the message hadn’t penetrated. Death is final and finished. There is no second chance.

But this was not an ordinary man. This man who could raise others to life would also rise by his own power.

He cannot stay in the grave.

Resurrection is not a surprise.

He must rise again.

The ending if your story is written as well. He’s told us the ending. Although once more it is an ending that we cannot understand.

Death is never permanent. Life will always triumph.

Oh The Words I Would Write

Most of the time I write exactly what I feel like writing but every now and then I come across a topic that I badly want to write about but for some reason or other I don’t. We all tend to have opinions about things that we don’t have experience with and I try to not write about those things because I know that reading and knowing is not the same as doing however here are 10 of the topics that clog my brain and why I haven’t written about them.

1. Vaccines: Spoiler alert. I haven’t been vaccinated against anything ever. Two of my 8 siblings got their baby shots and reacted badly to them. They have struggled all their lives with allergies and asthma. None of the rest of us has ever had a single health problem or been admitted to a hospital. I am not necessarily anti-vaccine but I am anti the current vaccine schedule and I feel like science and quite a few doctors are on my side. However this is such a hugely controversial subject and I’m just not sure I want to fight about it.

2. Salaried Pastors: I feel like this is such an obvious thing that mennonites like to ignore. I don’t think Pastors should have a salary neccesarily but I do think that if you use a but of common sense it would be obvious that if you think your pastor should be doing more than he is, the obvious solution would be to help him out financially so that he doesn’t have to worry about that and can spend more time and use more headspace concentrating on the church. I haven’t written about it because I’m a preacher’s kid and it just seems like it would be wiser to let someone else discuss this.

3. Things teachers would like to tell parents. I am sometimes amazed by how parents blatantly disregard things that seem to me to be obvious. Do you want your child to do well in school? Teach them to be respectful to other adults. Send them to bed on time. Minimize screen time and maximize creative play. Read to your child and read to your child and read to them some more. These are things every teacher will tell you and honestly are all things that are fairly easy to do and yet many parents ignore them. There’s more but I don’t want to be the teacher who complains about the parents because honestly I have some awesome, supportive parents to work with. And I’m not a parent. I don’t have any business telling parents how to raise their kids.

4. Things I would like to say to moms who have small babies. Again, I haven’t written about this because I’ve never been a mom and I don’t like when people who have never been teachers tell me how to be a teacher or people who aren’t preacher’s kids tell me what it’s like to be a preacher’s kid so I will refrain from telling moms how to be a mom. There are moms out there who are doing it right. Please find a mom who raised happy well-adjusted kids and learn from them.

5. Meditation. I simply haven’t researched this enough and I’m not sure how I feel about the spiritual aspect of it. I read The Untethered Soul and was absolutely fascinated by the idea of shutting off the voice in your head but I haven’t achieved that and until I do, I’ll wait ti write about it.

6. Dating. I’ve never dated so I am completely inexperienced. I do think, however, that there has got to be a better way than the current trend of 8 months of infatuation followed by a stressful wedding.

7. Money. I have rather strong ideas about money and how it should be used. I realize that everyone wastes money in some way or another and we all have our justifications of why we do. I’m still rather young to be to opinionated on this and I’d rather not put my foot in my mouth.

8. Things I think are stupid. It’s pretty obvious why I don’t write about this. I love people who do the stupid things and I want to stay their friends.

9. Homeschooling. I am not anti-homeschooling but I’m also not pro homeschooling. I would like to write about why but it’s a very delicate subject and I don’t know if I could do a good job of it. I will say, if your options are homeschooling or public school, please choose homeschooling.

10. The place of creative people in the Kingdom of God. I feel like the church often wastes its valuable resources when it comes to using people effectively. Especially people who are intelligent and creative because they tend to do things that are controversial and try things just for the sake of trying them without much thought about the consequences. I also think that intellectual mennonites tend to not educate themselves to the level of their intelligence (Jordan Peterson Alert) and thus end up as bitter people. This is a huge subject. One that would take a book to explore properly and I am a blogger not an author.

Just curious, which of these are things you have strong opinions about as well? Which ones have you never thought about? Please let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!

84 Years

My Grandpa was born in 1935. The same year Amelia Earhart flew solo across the Pacific and the Hoover Dam was built. Franklin D. Roosevelt was president, the great depression was in full swing and World War 2 was brewing.

My grandpa is an old man now. He spends his nights and most of his days on his recliner.

An old man, full of stories, many of which no one will ever hear, much less remember.

And I wonder what it would be like, to be him.

He chose a slow-paced life. Driving a horse and buggy. Farming. Milking cows.

His grandchildren come to see him. Driving cars, carrying smartphones, wearing smartwatches. They are truckers, builders, business managers.

They travel to foreign places and send postcards of their smiling faces.

He worries about us.

He jokes about technology. About Alien invasions and robots.

And then he stops to tell a story about his time as a conscientious objector during the war.

Or about his father who left the North Dakota plains to move to Indiana for the girl he loved.

Or about the time he packed his seven children into a bus and traveled through Central America.

It’s then I realize that while lifestyles change and the technology moves forward with breathtaking speed.

Nothing important really changes at all.

Our values are constant.

Our family comes first.

And our love of adventure is inherited.

Grandpa never needed Facebook, but then neither do I. He may have spent his life with a horse and buggy and yet, during his time as a CO he got his license and drove a truck.

He did what needed to be done.

And that, I think, is the legacy he left us.

Soul Scarred

I look across the room and wonder

What pain lies hidden in each heart

And what would be the weight of collected pain…

If all the pain could be collected.

I resist the awareness of your pain

Wondering would I be able to stand under the weight

Of yours,

plus mine…

I feel as if

You knowing my pain

Would make it come alive

And I could no longer be

In Denial.

And I wonder if we did share the pain

Would we simply collapse under its weight

Or would our own pain instead be more bearable

Knowing that another carries it too.

And could I carry part of your weight while you carry part of mine

Like a yoke of oxen plodding.

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.

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.

Antigua the Beautiful

It’s my fifth day in Antigua and my head is afloat with words like “olvidar” “comprender” and “partir”. Those are all Spanish verbs and now I know what to tell my students when they ask annoyedly (is that a word?) why they have to know what an infinitive is. It will make it easier to learn Spanish and since their teacher went to spanish school surely they’ll all want to go too, right?

Sonya hasn’t let me complain even once since I’m here but there hasn’t been much to complain about anyhow so that isn’t really a problem. We have a beautiful place to stay with a large roof. That’s where we spend a lot of our time since it’s the perfect place to study. We’ve been turning a shade darker each day so I’m not sure you’ll recognize us when we come back. We have wi-fi, good food, and it’s not hot. Actually I’m cold at night although my teacher says Antigua has a “clima perfecto.” There are about 6 or 7 other people staying here as well and they come from all over. One from France, another from England, and one from Italy. At school we’ve met people from Switzerland and South Korea. I don’t think I’ve ever met people from that many places in a single week, before. It’s quite interesting. I’m especially fond of all the accents. There’s one guy at the school who has to be from Australia, if I know anything about accents but I haven’t had a chance to ask him yet.

Our house mates are mostly gone for the weekend, some to the lake, and others to the top of the enormous volcano. I’m looking forward to hearing about it. We had classes on Saturday since we didn’t start until Wednesday this week.

I can’t believe how blessed I am with the two girls who are with me. We all get along great so far and understand each other’s sense of humor which is a big thing when you’re all living in the same room. I’ve laughed more in the last week than I have in a long time and I also have time to simply sit and meditate or have long discussions deep into the night. I’m loving it so far but I keep thinking it will be over soon. I don’t think it’s quite sunk in that I have another three weeks here.

This morning we go up and drank instant coffee and ate granola bars for breakfast (they don’t cook for us on sundays) and then headed off to church. We had just concluded that we might be a bit lost when we saw a mennonite lady coming towards us. Turns out she was also headed to church and a little bit lost so together we managed to find the church. Afterwards we ate papuses together while she told us a bit about her very interesting life. I’m so amazed by all the interesting people I’m meeting. (I think I already said that). We got pizza for supper and now we’re in bed quite early. I’ve never in my life slept as much as I have since I’m here. I think learning a new language and splitting all those brain cells makes you tired. I’ll blame it on that at least.

This Child

If you came with me to children’s ministry and met Tyrone, you’d probably wonder why we even let him come.

Sometimes we wonder why we let him come.

Sometimes all we see when we look at him is the scowl on his face, the anger in his eyes, the cuss words coming from his mouth. The tobacco in his pocket that he’s chewed since he was 3 years old.

Sometimes we forget that he’s only 12 years old. That he’s still a little boy, really.

Sometimes.

But sometimes we remember.

We remember the child who stood outside the fence because he was too afraid to come in.

We remember the child who bolted out the door because it was simply too much.

We remember the young man who paced up and down the road in an effort to get his anger under control.

And we remember other things. The way his mother curses him when he comes home. The fact that his dad has been in jail “a whole lot of times”. We remember that he’s two years behind in school thanks to his parents irresponsibility.

But the saddest story, to me, is why he doesn’t go to church.

“Do you go to church on Sundays?” Sharon asked.

“You know,” he answered. “I used to but I just don’t anymore. You see, my mom’s boyfriend is so annoying and when I’d come home he’d be like ‘oh so you’re going to be a good boy now, going to church, how nice. Be a good boy’ and he’d just make fun of me and it made me so mad and I’d just cuss him out and you know, I just couldn’t handle that. It just ain’t right, I can’t cuss straight outa church so I just quit going.”

“Why don’t y’all have kids church every night? he asked.

And I remember the sad, afraid little boy beneath the angry young man and I want to cry.

What will happen to Tyrone?

Where will he be in 20 years from now?

I don’t know.

I can only hope and pray that God will reach down and touch his life.

I pray that his anger could be channeled into an anger against sin.

That his energy could be channeled into building the kingdom of God.

That his leadership skills could be channeled into leading the church.

This child is a child of potential

For good. Or for evil.

Pray that he would choose the good.

Pray that God could be the father he so much wants in his life.

The Strong One

He is strong.

I forget that sometimes. I try to be the the strong one. I try to hold everything together. I think somehow I’ll make it through.

I can be strong.

And sometimes we need to be strong. We need to be the warriors. We need to be the one that others can lean on. We need to be brave.

Even when we are afraid.

Especially when we are afraid.

That is when we need to be strong.

Because He is Strong. The Lion of Judah. The defender of the weak.

I am not strong. Sometimes I pretend to be strong. I can be a warrior for awhile, but deep inside, the warrior is a child.

Children need someone to fight for them. Someone to be their defender. Someone to run to.

I am the child.

Often I am afraid.

But He is strong. I can run to Him. I don’t need to be strong for Him. I don’t even need to pretend to be strong.

Because He makes my weakness strong. I don’t know how He does it. I don’t understand.

But He promised.

My strength is made perfect in weakness.

Perfect.

He promised.

And He is the Strong One.

Not Too far from Here

Not too far from here lives a girl with cold eyes and a hardened heart. Her dad is in jail, her mom is somewhere but she doesn’t know where. She lives with her dad’s ex-girlfriend supposedly but most of the time she’s staying with one friend or another. She’s been abandoned. Raped. And in and out of foster care seven times. She cries, but she’s not ready to share her pain, not yet.

Not too far from here is young girl who lives with her aunt, and her aunt’s boyfriend’s father. Her cousins use her as a scapegoat. Her “papaw” beats her for for minor infractions until she’s covered with bruises. She’s been taken from her mother thanks to all of her mother’s boyfriends but life hasn’t gotten better. Her face is sadness personified. Even her smiles are edged in sadness.

Not too far from here lives a young man who tells me casually that no one would care anyhow if he died. I can tell by the flatness of his voice that he believes the words. “I’d care” I say.

Uselessly.

He doesn’t believe me either.

Not too far from here is a nine- year old who says she worships the devil. And why not? Her father, the man who should protect her, has raped her more times than she can count. She cuts lines into her arms, the physical pain helping her to forget the emotional pain for at least a little bit. Her only hope is the tiny one that perhaps he’ll be put back in jail eventually.

Not too far from here is a little girl whose grandma is to old to climb the stairs to tuck her into bed. No one comes when she has nightmares. Her daddy and her uncle fight. The police come. She’s afraid and there is no one to hold her close.

The stories pile up, slowly, the ball of pain gets larger with every layer, like snowballs rolling down the snowy hill. And suddenly, without warning, the weight is too much, and the haunting does not leave.

These children.

We love them.

Some nights it’s hard to sleep.

Some days are hard to stay focused.

And you realize that if you had lived that life, you would not be the heroic survivor.

I would be the bitter young girl with hardened eyes.

And suddenly you question your own identity because you are not the person you always imagined yourself to be.

And than there’s guilt.

What can you really do? You always thought you would be the person who would help, who would do something.

And then you come face to face with your own helplessness.

And you realize there is nothing you can do.

You cannot make it better.

You cannot even make it stop.

You are helpless.

I should be positive probably. I should say that God can fix it. Because He can. But that only brings more questions. Why does he allow it to happen in the first place?

Pray for the children tonight.

Pray for those of us who carry the weight of their stories.