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.

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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.

A “Ten Chicken” Situation

My family once spent several weeks arguing whether or not ten chickens was a lot of chickens. The argument was never resolved. To this day, if anyone brings up the subject, the whole argument starts over. I have this feeling that no one even knows what side they were on originally, when they hear the argument start up, they just choose a side.

To be honest, there’s a good argument either way. It all depends on perspective. Am I a chicken farmer or am I a little boy from the inner city.

And I’m thinking about how it would go if the two if them met. The chicken farmer would be amused by the child but if he was a wise man, he would let the child delight in the ten chickens and not spoil his joy by explaining to him that this isn’t very many chickens at all because he understands that to the child, this is a lot of chickens.

The little boy, on the other hand, cannot be expected to see things from the farmer’s perspective. It is ridiculous to even try. It is beyond his level of reasoning and maturity.

We do not complain that this is an unfair situation. We do not blame the child for his lack of understanding. We are not critical of the farmer for not enlightening the child.

There are a lot of “ten chicken” situations in life. Sometimes I am the farmer, sometimes I am the child. If I am the farmer, I understand the situation and am choosing it. As the child, I probably never even realized the situation took place.

As farmers we have a responsibility. We need to let the children have their wonder, their joy.

Spoiling innocence in others only makes our own joy lesson as well.

We become joyful by spreading joy around us.

Especially to the children.

The Case of Margaret

Once upon a time when I was just a little bit of a girl I had a doll. It was a beautiful doll with mass of hair. I loved the doll very much.

The doll was not as beautiful to my mother. It was old and ragged. It’s hair was tangled into a twisted pile.

And one day my mother threw my doll away.

I’m sure she had no idea how much I loved the doll or she never would have done it. I missed my doll terribly. And eventually not so very long after that we got a new doll.

I don’t remember the exact circumstances when Margaret came into my life. I was too young to remember unimportant details. All that matters is that she came and that she was beautiful. She was tiny, but not too tiny. She had a soft body smooth dark skin. She wore an adorable little frilly dress with pink trim.

And she was Margaret.

In our little girl minds, Margaret was a beautiful name. All of our other dolls had names that changed with the seasons or sometimes even with the days but not Margaret. Margaret was always Margaret.

We’ve kept her all these years. My sister’s played with her. Her name never changed. The day came when Margaret was relocated to a storage room. She must be kept safe.

And somehow at some point in this journey, sharon came up with this strange idea that Margaret would somehow be hers.

It’s a preposterous idea. Of course Margaret is mine. I’m quite sure I got her before sharon was even born. There’s no way that Margaret is hers!

But sharon is more sneaky than I am and one day I realized that Margaret is in a box under her bed. I made it clear at that point that Margaret is definitely mine and she must straightaway relinquish all rights. She was not obliging.

Yesterday I was having one of those days with too much to do so in between teaching school and planning and hosting an honor roll party for my students, I made a wild dash through our house to find some things I’d forgotten. I found Sharon busily packing her things into tubs.

And there, in one tub, lying nicely on top, was Margaret.

My Margaret.

I picked her up and made a dash for the stairs. Unfortunately sharon was coming up as I went down and a fight ensued.

A literal physical fight. There was some hitting and yelling involved. And since I was in a tearing hurry and since sharon hits harder than I do and since I was afraid Margaret would tear, I ended up leaving without Margaret.

But as I went out the door I yelled, “I WILL GET HER SOMEDAY BY FORCE OR BY FRAUD!

And I will, folks. The fight is on. This has become war.

So I’m just throwing this out there for all my friends and relatives. You’ll have to choose sides. But since I’m on the side of the right you should probably choose mine. If your ever in Sharon’s house and see a small doll in a strange hiding place, please return her to me.

And if you see me leaving Sharon’s house with strange lumps under my sweater or in my purse, please don’t ask any questions.

 5 Things I like about Winter

I feel very brave writing this. As my friends know, I have never liked winter. However in an effort to be more positive, I have come up with 5 good things about Winter.

  1.  Snow is pretty. I’m not going to be ridiculous and claim it isn’t. When my mountain is snow-covered and the sun sends glittering rays down upon it, it can only be described as spectacular.
  2. Boots. I really like wearing boots. And I don’t really wear boots in the  summer. I like wearing flip-flops better, but boots are nice too. Mom gave me a pair of awesomely warm ones for my birthday and I have this conflict of wanting to wear them every day and not wanting them to wear out. 
  3. Soup. I love soup. Most of it anyhow and I especially like trying new kinds of soup.  And it seems like we eat a lot of soup during the winter.
  4. Cups of tea. Tea and toast in the evenings or just a cup of good hot tea. We drink it like it’s going out of style. I have a cup of it on my desk full time and I’m not quite sure if I’d survive winter without it.
  5. Long evenings. To be honest, I’m kinda tired of these. I’m ready for evenings working in the garden or going with my brothers to check on thier cows. But by the end of summer I’m always ready for some evenings when the family can just be in the living room, reading or putting puzzles together or whatever. Those evenings have been a bit hard to come by lately but they do happen occasionally.

    So those are my thoughts today. I can’t say they were my thoughts exactly when I looked out my window this morning and saw a snow-covered yard but…  It seems like March can’t decide what to be this year. One day it’s sunny and warm and everyone wants to go barefoot and the next day we’re making snowmen. I wouldn’t mind it so much in January but March is supposed to be spring. The daffodils were already blooming. I feel sorry for them now, all covered in snow.

    Thoughts on Family

    Last week we had a houseful of Yoders all week. This weekend we spent with the Grabers. That’s pretty much how it goes every Christmas and it always gets me thinking about family and how families can be so different and yet both be good families and how families join and how the children become products of the combination of homes. 

    It intrigues me to look at my siblings and pick out Graber or Yoder traits and then find these same traits in aunts, uncles, and cousins. We say Leon and Paul are nearly 100% Graber. Bert, on the other hand is Yoder clear through. Sharon seems to have managed to catch the best of both worlds – the Graber practicality and the Yoder sense of humor, the Grabers strength of character and the Yoder love of hospitality. And even the small things, like the Grabers organization and the Yoder cooking skills. I, on the other hand, managed to pick up the downside of each of these. The Graber love of debate and the Yoder’s extreme sarcasm. The over practicality of the Grabers with unmotivatedness of the Yoders.

    We don’t choose our families nor do we choose the traits we inherit. I believe God fashions our personalities every bit as much as he fashions our bodies. I believe there’s a purpose in each life and that we are given the tools needed to accomplish our purpose.

    But we are human. We live in an imperfect world. Sometimes our gifts are trampled on. Sometimes we don’t take the initiative to develop our gifts. Sometimes, I think, children are left too much to discover their gifts on their own. Sometimes their gifts are destroyed before they even had a chance to discover them.

    My mom rarely talks about her childhood. The things we know about her growing up years we mostly pick up at reunions when they start to talk about things that happened long ago.  My grandma talks even less about her childhood. Recently when a book came out, she said. “I can almost not read it, I only read a story or so at a time. It’s so much like my story.” I read the book. It is the story of an angry father and frightened children. A story of growing up with fear.

    I don’t know what that is like. I grieve for my grandmother’s lost childhood. I grieve for who she could have been had she had parents who helped her to become strong instead of tearing her down. I grieve for the way this affected my mother, my aunts and uncles. But as I look at my cousins, I  impressed by how God brings healing when we follow Him. I believe each of my cousins would say that they had a happy childhood. I believe my Mom and her siblings can say that the cycle is broken. In our family. “There’s no use being angry,” my mom says. “There’s no use in blaming people. Maybe my grandpa was an angry father, maybe that is still affecting us today, but why do we blame him? Perhaps his father was worse than he was, perhaps as we go back farther, it’s even worse. Why would we pick out one person in the cycle and say it’s their fault?”

    I admire my mother’s strength. How much better to be thankful for the healing than to assign the blame. How much better to look toward the future than to look back on what could have been. 

    And it makes me thankful for the family I have today. My immediate family who is a springboard for ideas, a backbone of strength. I have a ready made support group for my life for no other reason than that I happened to be born to them.

    And then the extended family, the aunts and uncles and forty-two cousins (or however many there are). ” The thing about our family,” my aunt said, “is that we might chew each other out and criticise each other but we are also extremely loyal. I know that if I ever truly needed help any one of my cousins, aunts, and uncles would do everything they possibly could to help me.” That is true. I’ve seen it happen. And I know it’s true for me too. 

    And I wonder when I think about that. Think of the opportunities and advantages that I have. Think of the privileges of my life. And I wonder then, am I where I could be? Should I not go farther than I have, with all this? Have I used wisely the opportunities I am given.  I’m still learning to take advantage of my opportunities. I miss too many of them. 

    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.

    Wild Horses?

    One of my favorite things about my mountains is how there is always more than what you see at first sight.

    Several of our Church people have talked about how they went to see the wild horses. I never paid much attention to what it actually was. Not until they asked our family to go with them one evening. 

    Willy was home from Faith Mission for the weekend. Bert and Willy are best friends. So as Bert wanted to be with Willy and his family wanted to be with Willy, his mom suggested we just all do something together, and suggested we go see the wild horses. We said sure.

    We drove winding roads for about an hour before turning onto a steep gravel lane that wound up, up the mountain.

    It was lovely. We reached the plateau at the top and parked our cars. The horses came running. Turns out the horses aren’t wild at all. They were overwhelmingly friendly. I’m slightly scared of horses. I like to pet them over the fence. Being surrounded by a herd of horses who are all sniffing and nudging at me is slightly overwhelming. I petted them gingerly. 

    The story seems to be that the horses are abandoned. There are approximately 150 horses there on several hundred acres. There is a run down trailer in a corner of the field that looks lived in but we didn’t see anybody. I doubt if anyone really takes care of them. They roam at will, and forage for their food. 

    Loren found this “heart shaped” rock among the hundreds on the hill. I suggested he keeps it for about 30 years and then gives it to his girlfriend. He just looked at me kinda funny and said “but I gave it to you”. 

    Oh. 

    Now I have a “heart shaped” rock.

    Bert says that when my children in times to come say “What mean these stones? ” I can tell them the story of this evening. I guess that would work.

    We ate supper there. Up on the mountain. The sun went down slowly as we munched sandwiches and chips, drank cups of tea and ate pieces of chocolate cake. Bert and Willy thought this would be a good time to change the tail light in his truck. I don’t know why.

    We girls rode down the mountain on the back of the truck. We bounced along, singing at the top of our lungs ‘ Poor Folks’ ‘Single Life’ and ‘Will the Roses bloom in Heaven’

    At the bottom of the hill we jumped off the back and piled into the truck. We forgot to close the tailgate. That was the last we saw of our 5 gallon water jug. Hopefully someone finds it and uses it. It was a good jug.

    We ended our evening at Dairy Queen. Eating ice cream and talking about horses and life and anything else that entered our minds. 

    These are magic moments, and therefore magic days, and therefore magic years.

    A Sacrificial Life

    Sharon and Bert spent the last three days in Florida. They served large pots of chili and fried many a hot dog. They also cooked breakfast each morning for a crew of hard working  volunteers who spent their days doing flood clean up and chatting with people who had lost so much.

    Sharon, Meg, and Rosie were the 3 girls in the group. Emily (my co-teacher) and I watched them go a bit enviously. It inspired some thinking on my part. It started before they left. I said to Sharon “make sure you pray for the people you serve food to”.

    She laughed “that’s your job,” 

    And so I thought about that and I thought about Mary and Martha. I identify with Martha. I can so see myself there, making supper for the visiting pastor and being so totally annoyed that Sharon just sits there and listens to him talking instead of helping. I mean, really, this guy came far to preach for us and he’s no doubt hungry and tired. Tired of talking even. Everyone should just mind their manners and give the guy a break. Everyone knows you don’t talk to guys when they’re hungry or tired. I see myself there. In Martha’s shoes. I feel sorry for her. People are always so hard on her and I’m just here like, no, that’s me. Please try to understand. Marthas always mean well. 

    But it was good for me to have the chance to be a Mary. It was good for me to be the one who stays at home and prays. I could use more time sitting at Jesus’ feet. 

    But it was hard for me to see them go. I would have loved to be in the middle of it. It was much more of a sacrifice for me to stay here and teach my wonderful students and do the housework in the evenings than it would have been to get up at 5:30 to make breakfast for 30 people. To me, just having that experience is worth far more than any money I made the 3 days they were there. An experience is something that no flood waters can ever take from you. Something that is always part of who you are.

    We had some good texting conversations too. Ones that went like this:

    Meg: “Don’t y’all feel guilty for being at home making money while we are here serving the Lord?”

    Me:”Don’t you feel guilty for leaving us at home to do our work plus yours?”

    We really do enjoy those conversations. And it did make me think a lot about what service really is and what it means to live sacrificially. I think most of the time the ones who make the biggest sacrifices are the ones we never notice because they’re somewhere in the background, quietly working or maybe simply sitting at the feet of Jesus. 
    It’s not that Mary wasn’t doing anything. Don’t ever think that. Mary simply knew where the real power was. Mary, I think, was a prayer warrior. She was involved, committed, and busy. Busy serving the Master. Just as we should be.

    I’m slightly worried that this sounds like I’m really bragging myself up for being the sacrificial one here and staying at home but that really isn’t the point. It just made me think. That’s all.

    The price of adventure

    Although she has nine children and a big burly husband, my aunt Erma is, at heart, probably the most adventurous of all of my aunts. She, along with her husband and seven of her  children spent this week at our house while they built a barn for bert on the farm that he rents.

       We’ve had numerous mini adventures together all week long but tonight was the big one. 

    About 20 miles from our house, up winding mountain roads and trails, you’ll find Hensley’s settlement. It’s an abandoned settlement, perfectly preserved with barns, cabins, a schoolhouse, and a moonshine still. Most of the time the only way to get there is by hiking a rigorous 4 miles up the  mountain. Once a year they open the road and let people drive up (4 wheel drive vehicles only) 

    We tried this before once. It went like most of our family adventures do. There was supposed to be a meteor shower. It was so cloudy we didn’t see a single star. We almost got stuck going up and the boys ended up getting out to push us through a mudhole. Someone picked up our water jug by the top and it fell and spilled into the pasture leaving us with zero liquid for our 2 hours of wandering through the settlement. We haven’t tried it again. Until today.

    Last night we thought it would be a good idea. John and Erma were both enthusiastic and wanted to go so we thought, why not?. Of course this time will be different. 

    I was making donuts all day with the youth group and since it was cold and rainy all day, I assumed that the idea was dropped. I guess not. Mom called me about 4 and wondered why I wasn’t home, they’re waiting on me to leave. oh. ok. We were just finishing up the donuts so I flew home, dashed up the stairs, in and out of the shower and back out into the truck.

    We had some very philosophical discussion on wether doing things like going to Hensley Settlement on a cold rainy day adds new dimensions to your life or simply makes you miserable for 4 hours of your life. If I would find it more enjoyable to spend my evening in a coffee shop, why wouldn’t I just do that? Or do I miss something important when I think like that? We agreed that we can all choose to enjoy our evening even if we’d enjoy other things more but that doesn’t really answer the question.

    All that aside, Hensley Settlement is quite fascinating both historically and in simple beauty. The thick fog gave us an eerie beauty that one only experiences occasionally.

    We picked apples off of 100 year old trees.

    And this was my favorite. I am totally fascinated by old quilts. More than anything else they seem to hold the stories of the generations before.

    And so now I think of the things this evening has brought to me. Besides the apples and the quilts, I chewed on a sassafrass stick (it tasted like chai tea)and  I learned that jewelweed is a cure for poison ivy.  After seeing the graves of ten children, all from the same family, I have a renewed appreciation for the hardships of the pioneer life.


    We gave up on the picnic supper though, and came home to eat sandwiches and drink hot chocolate in our warm, lighted house. And because of my mixed up values I ate a chicken salad sandwich made with sourdough whole wheat bread and carefully crafted hot chocolate with cocoa powder and coconut oil and then finished up with half a piece of pecan pie made with high fructose corn syrup.