Wednesday, June 29, 2016

You Never Know

Some days life flows along with all the predictable mundane duties that result from a family of five children. You do laundry and clean up messes and cook meals and wash dishes and scrub dirty toilets and tubs with alarming regularity. You settle fusses and dole out punishments and kiss ouchies and  listen to the ever repeated refrain of "Mom. Mom! MOM!!"

Then there are days when chance collides with circumstances and you find yourself in the back of a stranger's vehicle doing something completely out of the ordinary. If you're on your toes, you might have the presence of mind to snap a couple of photos and turn your adventure into a story before the opportunity passes...or you might nearly miss it, like me.


Last year my girls discovered wild raspberries growing around the edges of their grandparent's property, where we live. They waded through weeds and brambles searching out the tiny little treasures, returning to the house triumphantly with purple fingers and just enough berries to whet their appetites for more. Once, they found enough to turn them into a couple of pies but mostly the meager piles were carefully divided and quickly consumed.

This year, they've been at it again. The berries are just beginning to ripen well and Monday they arrived back inside all hot and sweaty with a nice bowl of them.


But the excitement of the nice bowl of berries was quckly forgotten in the hullabaloo of words.

"Mom, we were down by the road picking and this man stopped and asked us if we're berry pickers? We were kind of scared but we were like, yeah, we're picking these wild ones."

These days one hardly dares to let their children do anything on the road alone, even if ours is a quiet, country one. Stories abound of all the bad things just waiting to happen when we are least expecting it. But this time it was a good thing.

"He said he has a raspberry patch that needs to be picked and he wondered if we'd want to pick it!"

"For free?" I wondered. I'm not a Mennonite for nothing, after all.

"I think so. He said he would stop in here after he talks to the neighbor man and, Mom. If he knows the neighbor man and the neighbor man knows grandpa then he's probably fine, right? Can we go, Mom? Will you go with us?"
Somebody was bubbling with anticipation at this point.

Sure enough, minutes later a red vehicle pulled in and I met the grey haired gentleman on the sidewalk.

"Hello, young lady!"

He clasped my hand and gave it a shake while he introduced himself and explained about his berries that he couldn't get anybody to pick.

"They all say it's too hot to pick em but when I saw them girls along the road I said, there's my berry pickers! If they'll go to that much work to get berries..." he chuckled heartily.  "It's not a big patch but I've gotten five gallons off a there already."

I assured him we'd love to pick berries and he left with the promise to return in 20 minutes to pick us up. When he got back, the two youngest had been sent up the hill to grandpa's and the three of us were waiting with pails and water bottles in hand and shoes on our feet.

We piled into the back of his vehicle and headed off, with him keeping up a steady commentary and us wondering where in the world we were going? He drove right past the lane where I knew he lived but the mystery was soon explained when he told of owning four (or was it six?) farms and that where we were headed was about fifteen minutes away.

We bounced along on a dirt road while he filled us in on the terrible coal company people who he is fighting tooth and nail to keep from ruining the land around where we live. That wasn't the only subject, by any means, but it was obviously one dear to his heart. Talk turned to school and carrying concealed weapons.

"Now are you Amish or Mennonite?"

"Mennonite."

"Which was it that had that school shooting? You know, where they visited the fellow that did the shooting." I confirmed it was Amish. "I just don't know if I could go that far and respond the way they did, could you do that?"

Well, of course. I'm a Mennonite; nonresistant, turn the other cheek. Thoughts can go through your mind in a flash, you know, but an honest answer was what came out of my mouth.

"Well, I'd like to think that's how I would respond but if it came down to it and that was my children, I have a feeling it would be a lot harder than I think."

"That's right. That's exactly right." He seemed pleased with my honesty.

We finally came to a few tumble down buildings amongst waist high weeds and he turned into a narrow driveway.

"Here's where you start wondering if you're getting kidnapped," he chuckled.

I laughed and told him I wasn't too worried.

We bounced along a bit further, and came to a stop. To our left we saw an overgrown berry patch that someone had obviously planted at some point in time, judging by the fence around it. We climbed out with our pails and he showed us the best place to pick.

"Whatever you pick in an hour you can have!" He told us. And we set to work with a will.

The sun was hot, and the berries? The berries were beautiful. Nothing like the tiny little things the girls had been picking at home! These were bigger, and much more plentiful.

Picking berries must have taken all of the old fellow's concentration because the stories ceased and we picked in silence. Except for a few mutters of "Ouch" here and there, and him assuring us that we should feel free to trample down the brambles in our way, the only sounds were berries being dropped into buckets.

I'm not sure how long it took us but we soon had the top part of the patch picked, which was all he wanted done as his brother was coming in in a few days and he wanted to save the bottom of the patch for him.

The air conditioning felt awfully good as we situated berry buckets and got ready to leave.

"Are you in a hurry?" he asked me, as he turned his vehicle around.

I assured him we weren't, thinking maybe he had some other errand to run on the way home.

We turned left, instead of right, as we left the narrow lane and I had no idea where this road would come out. But I wasn't too concerned. All the back roads around here connect to places you'd never dream of and, sure enough, we eventually came out to a place I recognized. The only puzzle was, at the stop sign where we should have turned right to go home, he again hooked a left and I watched with interest to see where this would take us. Maybe he needed gas?

Understanding dawned when he pulled in at a little, country drive-in and wondered what we'd like? A rootbeer? An ice cream cone?

It was then that I finally had the presence of mind to recognize a good story when I saw one. As we drove away, with ice cream cones in hand, I grabbed my phone for a hurried snapshot to prove that this all really happened.


We have other things to prove it, of course - purple fingernails, scratches on our legs, delectable raspberries to turn into desserts, and a new friend who's red vehicle we will recognize and wave at when he drives by. I hope the next time he needs berry pickers he comes straight to our door first thing!

I told him to stop by that evening and I'd give him some crumb cake but he insisted he wanted us to have it all.


So we went ahead and enjoyed it ourselves.


And so, that is how the old saying proved true -
You never know what a day
will bring forth.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Life And Pictures

Story time is over, so here are a few pictures to update you on life around the Eicher household. We are enjoying no school and the freedom to do random projects and be either productive or lazy...as the mood (or need) strikes.


This was a very random one, thought up and carried out almost completely on her own. A little blanket for Charles.


One day the girls had fun helping me set up a 'fancy' table 
for Chris and I to have a date on the porch of the new house.




They're begging to do it again 
for the whole family.

Speaking of the new house...


We've been painting...



And hanging lights...


And my cabinets are in!

*Just fyi: this is the way we choose paint colors -- we go down to the local yocal and check out the mis-tinted paint. We grab any half decent colors and buy them for super cheap. Then we play with mixing tablespoons of colors til we get a "formula" we like. The area we painted is from eight different gallons of paint, I believe. So if you like a color you see, I'm afraid I won't be able to offer you a Sherwin Williams name or anything :)

The pictures make it look like we're close to done but pictures can be deceiving. Not everything is ready to be painted yet but it's coming,
little by little.


Time spent at the lake is always fun


And so is fabric shopping...
for the first hour...
We think we're going to try our hand 
at quilt making. We'll see.


And I'm getting ready to sew
... and sew ...and sew.
Eight dresses cut out 
for the females in this house. 
My thumb is sore from cutting!


This is how my bed looked
one lazy morning.

All in all, summer is being pretty good to us. Some days, in the midst of the noise and chaos.....the trying to keep children occupied and settling fusses; the busyness and never a quiet moment....it suddenly hits me. I won't have them all around me for long. These are the days that will make up their memories of F A M I L Y ---
right here, right now. 


My children will one day be me with my siblings. These are the days that are shaping their future years. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Story #3: How A Schoolteacher Met Her End

My third, and final, story for this month of story time is from a friend I have yet to meet. I enjoy Stephanie's writing and I wrote a bit about her and her family's journey with epilepsy here. It was fun to read the story of how she met her husband......

-----------------------------
                                                                        
  


The van’s headlights pierced the night, opening a door in the blackness for us to drive through. Behind me, the children chattered and argued, perhaps trying to keep themselves awake in the last miles before home.

“Tell us a story, Mom,” Jenica said from the back seat.

I rubbed my tired eyes. “I don’t know if I can think of one to tell.”

“Tell about the time you fell off the dump truck.”

Tarica’s feet pushed against my seat as she shifted. “What dump truck? I don’t remember that one.”

So I told the dump truck story. And the second-story-door story, a new one for them.

When I had finished, Jenica said, “Tell us another one. Tell us about how you met Dad.”

“You know that story already.”

“But tell it again.”

This story I could tell again without complaint. It was one of my favorites. I took a deep breath and began at a point in my life that I didn’t know—at the time—was the beginning of a love story.

Once upon a time, there was a fifth-grade schoolteacher who loved teaching school. She liked to play with her children at recess. But one day, she stepped into a hole on the playground while she was running, and something in her foot tore. The doctor made her wear a funny boot on her foot for several weeks while her foot healed.

Over this time, the schoolteacher met with a large group of young people every Tuesday night for chorus practice. Usually, the schoolteacher stood with the chorus during practice, but while her foot was in the boot, she had to sit on a bench nearby, right in front of the tenor section.

While she was sitting there, she noticed a young man in the tenor section that she didn’t recognize. That night, she asked her brother about that young man. Who was he?

“That’s Linford Leinbach,” her brother said.

“That’s not possible,” the teacher said. “I went to school with Linford Leinbach up to fourth grade, and he was the tallest boy in the room. That guy is short. Are you sure it isn’t one of his brothers?”

Her brother shrugged. “Well, I asked him his name, and he said, ‘Linford Leinbach,’ so it’s got to be him.”

Well then, it was Linford Leinbach after all. Now that the question was settled, the teacher didn’t think much more of him. Except . . . he did have a nice smile. But she was a schoolteacher, and she loved teaching school, even with a boot on her foot.

The chorus started giving programs. They took a bus to NYC for a day. By this time, the teacher’s foot had healed enough to take the boot off. That evening, on the way home, the young man named Linford Leinbach sat down in a seat across the aisle from the teacher. It was a long drive, so eventually he turned to the teacher and asked her what had happened to her foot.

So they talked for a while, about chorus and about those long-ago school days when they were classmates. They recalled trying to get the best grade in math. They figured out that they had seen each other once in the twelve years between fourth grade and now. The teacher found she liked talking to him. She remembered that she had thought him cute back in fourth grade. But she was a schoolteacher, and she loved teaching school, especially now that her foot was getting better. In fact, she loved teaching so much that she had said yes to another year of school.

The next Tuesday night, the chorus gave another program at a local retirement home. The teacher and Linford Leinbach talked again when they happened to meet outside. This happened several times at the next few programs. And once when the teacher went out to eat with her brother after a program, Linford was at the same restaurant. They talked a little there, too.

The teacher didn’t know it, but Linford was praying about her. He really liked her and wanted to spend more time with her, but he didn’t know if he should ask her to be his girlfriend. (The teacher was praying about him, too, but she was asking God to help her forget about Linford Leinbach because she was a schoolteacher and loved teaching.)

One Tuesday morning, Linford asked God to make it clear if he should ask the teacher or not. That evening at chorus, one of the other chorus members pulled Linford off by himself and said, “I think you and the schoolteacher would make a really good couple. I’m not pressuring you, but at least think about it.”

Linford felt that God had answered his prayer. So that night after he got home, he called the teacher before he lost his nerve and asked her if he could take her out and talk about maybe being more than just friends who talked after a chorus program.

The teacher was so surprised she didn’t know what to say, so she said she would think and pray about it before giving an answer. After she got off the phone, she went downstairs and told her mom what had just happened. And then she went upstairs to the bathroom and threw up.

This sounds like a bad thing, but the teacher did this when she got really nervous. During her first week of teaching, she threw up nearly every morning, even though she was excited about school. So maybe she was a little excited about this phone call.

The teacher did think and pray about it, and she realized that even though she loved teaching, God had other plans for her, and they were good plans. So she said yes, and he took her out for dinner. They talked and talked and talked and had so much fun they decided to keep doing it. So the teacher became a girlfriend, even though she had said she’d never date and teach at the same time.

Seven months later, Linford Leinbach asked the teacher to be his wife, and she said yes again. Three weeks after the school term ended, the teacher married Linford. Although she threw up that morning, she knew it was only because she was nervous about walking down the aisle, no longer a schoolteacher but a bride.

And all of a sudden, she is driving down a dark road with three precious children behind her who belong to her and Linford Leinbach. She isn’t sure how it happened, but she is glad it did.

As I stopped talking, silence filled the van. Then the girl behind me asked, “What are the children’s names?”

“Jenica and Tarica and Micah, and their mommy and daddy love them very much.”

They giggled—or rather, the girls did. Micah looked too sleepy to care.

“You didn’t know you would have a Tarica, did you?” Tarica asked. “Back when you were a teacher?”

“I had no clue about Tarica,” I said.

“Or about Jenica,” Jenica said. “Tell us another one.”

“We’re almost home.” I swallowed a yawn. “Ask me for a story another time.”

And if they ask for this story again, I’ll gladly tell them, because this story has the best possible ending: a happy one.

  -----------------------------

Thank you so much, Stephanie, for sharing your story with us! If you enjoyed her writing, like I do, you might enjoy receiving her emails. To subscribe go to stephaniejleinbach.com and sign up or contact Stephanie at stephanie@stephaniejleinbach.com and ask to be added to the list.

This ends our "How We Met" stories for this year. I believe the stories God is writing with our lives are important. Those stories can disappear quickly. Since my mom's sudden passing two years ago, I am thankful for every bit of history that's written down but there are many stories I wish I could ask her to tell again. If you've never written down your own "How We Met" story, I encourage you to do it. Your children and grandchildren will thank you!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

In Honor Of Fathers

*This poem was written six years ago and I thought I would share it again on this Father's Day.

-----------------

It's been on my mind, 
And weighed on my heart
Til I've picked up a pen
And decided to start...

The subject is Fathers,
This thing on my mind,
To the value of Fathers
It seems we are blind.

To bring forth a child,
Two people are needed -
A man, and a woman,
This must be conceded.

Perhaps it's just me,
Or maybe it's true?
It seems that the Mothers
Get all the ado.

The sermons on Mothers
Seem heaped full of praise,
While Dads are admonished
To change in their ways.

Mom's work, we are told,
Just never gets done,
It's true - round the clock
She is seen on the run.

But come rain or shine,
Come heat, hail or snow,
Those bills must be paid,
As all Father's know!

So, off they will go
To work once again
It's not just for fun,
And it never will end.

I also have heard,
That Mother's famed spot
Cannot be replaced
By one who is not.

Now, that is a puzzle,
Cause on Mother's Day
The Dad's often cook,
And take Mom's spot away.

But come Father's Day
There's never an offer
Of - "I'll go to work
To fill up the coffer"!

The Mother's find flowers,
Fine roses and such.
(Well, give those to dad's
And it wouldn't mean much.)

But a big candy bar,
Or a note of respect
Might do the same thing
For a dad, I expect.

If you think my goal
Is to put Mother's down
Then I understand
Why I've caused you to frown.

But that's not my goal,
Not is it my aim,
I think that the Father's
Deserve just the same --

The same praise as Mother's,
The honor, respect,
Their God-given spot
We so often reject.

Please give it some thought,
And see if it's true.
Let's raise up our Father's -
Give them some ado!

--------------

A very happy Father's Day to dads everywhere but particularly to
 the Father of these ones......


 You have a very special and important spot to fill!!


Friday, June 17, 2016

Story #2 (part three)

We're ready for the third and final part of our second How We Met story. If you missed the other parts, start reading here.

                   --------------------------------

Ernie:
After praying about this for several more months I finally concluded that God was letting it up to me to decide whether I wanted to pursue this relationship again or not.   I couldn't forget about her… and she wasn't getting married to anyone else.  It was now nine years since we had dated.

So, “God… what next?”  I called Cathy's dad and he was favorable toward the idea of me asking Cathy about dating again but warned me that she may not be ready for a relationship in light of what happened to her friend.

I decided to go ahead and ask Cathy for her friendship and see what would happen. But I had a problem. I had no suitable stationary and Walmart was 14 miles away! I would need to drive to town to get some. However, before I had a chance to make that trip, the church youth met for supper at an elderly couple's house. I won a door prize (the first in my life) and it turned out to be a box of Thomas Kincaid notecards. I was in a whirl the rest of the evening. Later I realized, these were not just ordinary Kincaid cards…they were lighthouse cards. And from the dim recesses of my mind I remembered that lighthouses were Cathy's thing! When God does something, He makes sure it is done right! So, I wrote Cathy a letter using my new “God-given stationary”.

Five long weeks later, after I had moved to CBS for the winter, my letter/card came back marked, “No such address”. I “clocked out” for a couple hours and went to Bethel Springs Church across the creek from CBS to talk to God about this for awhile. Then I called Cathy's Dad to explain what happened and inform him that I would need some time to discern what God was trying to say through all of this.

Cathy:
Dad dropped the bombshell of telling me about Ernie's phone call.  “What about what happened to my friend!"…..I hardly knew how to handle this possibility. I/we didn't know if Ernie would make contact again or not. I wished Dad hadn't even told me. However, I knew that if Ernie would make contact again, I could use some preparation and healing time. For a month, I didn't discuss this with anyone except the Lord. Not even my parents. After the month was up, I talked with them briefly, but basically asked that they pray. After all, we still didn't know if he would try again or not.

Ernie
I didn't have time to pursue the relationship further until after CBS, so had a few months more of waiting that winter. During that time I wondered whether God was telling me just to drop it… but then I remembered those lighthouse cards…He had given me 12 of them. : )

Cathy:
After a wonderful, enriching trip to KS in March, reconnecting with some single girlfriends of mine, I arrived home to mom telling me to check my mail. I knew right away…….

Battles, questions, trust, …It didn't work 10 years ago, why did I even think it might work now? I wasn't sure it was even worth the effort to find out……………especially after such a satisfying time with my single friends.

For about 2 weeks, I wavered between “yes” and “no”. I struggled with many fears. Finally one evening, I was ready to get to the bottom of it. Was I struggling because God was trying to tell me “No, Cathy, this is not for you," or was I struggling because of my natural fears & apprehensions. God reminded me of this verse: “For God, has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind”. Finally, I had peace about considering the possibility of dating again. My heart was quiet & ready for whatever God showed me to do next.

I emailed Ernie some questions. His answers were much more detailed than I expected, and went a long way in setting some of my fears at rest.

Together:
In our new relationship, it felt like we got further in the first 2 weeks than we did in the 8 months previously. Lots of things had been learned and it was now the better time. We still had lots of opportunities to trust and wait on each other, but God cleared our path beautifully.

Today, we are sometimes asked if those 10 in-between years feel like a waste. It's easy to answer with a “no”. We could have gotten married back then, but we shudder to think of the big bumps & hurdles we would have needed to face trying to learn communication and relating skills while raising a family. Waiting on God's timing prepared us for a satisfying life together!

                 ---------------------------------

Thank you so much, Ernie and Cathy, for being willing to share your story! I love hearing the many creative and unusual ways God writes our stories. He is certainly not limited to our neat little formulas for a happy life. Wishing you a happy 10th anniversary this year and many, many more to come!


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Story #2 (part two)

We're ready for How We Met story #2 part 2. You can go here to read part 1.

                 ---------------------------------

Cathy:
It was about 7 years later, and I had heard very little about Ernie…I still remember the amazement & shock I felt when my brother discovered in the Calvary Bible School (CBS) handbook that Ernest Eby would be dean at CBS. This position just didn't fit the Ernie I had known, so I was tuned in for anything I might learn about this.

Ernie:
During those seven years, I would sometimes think about Cathy but figured that she would probably never be interested in dating again.  While at Calvary Bible School, my interest in starting a relationship again started to revive. I met people who knew her, and met people we had related with together while we were dating.  I began wondering whether God would open doors again or whether he wanted me to stay single for life.  I hardly trusted myself or Him anymore… what if dating again would end in another disaster.  I would not be able to forgive myself…

Cathy:
Soon after hearing Ernie would be serving at CBS, 3 people “hinted” about Ernie to me. One lady that I really respected out of the blue told me, “if Ernie would ever come knocking on your door again, you should seriously consider.” I kept answering by saying: “I'll cross that bridge if it comes”. I honestly had no clue if I was interested, besides, I had no reason to think he even remembered me. I had no idea what to think.  I remember praying “God, if you're preparing me for something, guide me.” Nothing happened. I took it as another test to see if I would truly be happy as a single.

Ernie:
In 2003 I moved to Arkansas. Church wise this opened the door for me to date Cathy again if I wanted to.  I was living alone in a cabin and was more aware of how nice it would be to have a life companion.  Is  Cathy the one???

Cathy:
August of 2004, I heard in a round-about way that Ernie would be in my area for a wedding. Then I discovered he could be at a youth activity….I was so tempted not to go that evening, I just didn't want to face dealing with thoughts, feelings, questions,  etc that could come up. And the last thing I wanted to do, was give him any idea that I could be interested in him…I was feeling foolish that I was even thinking along those lines, and yet, the idea was there and needed to be faced. I realized that to stay away that evening, just because I MIGHT meet him, was foolish. I told God I would go, I would be friendly (I really didn't do so well with that one…) and the situation would be left in His hands.

Well, Ernie WAS there. At one point we did end up on the same volleyball team, playing beside each other. Even though I had ignored him earlier in the evening, I knew I had to be friendly at that point. We chatted some, and that was the extent of it. I really was able to lay aside all the questions & “what-ifs” I had faced earlier.

Ernie:
God arranged the meeting… and I was glad to see that Cathy had also grown and matured and that she had not drawn into a shell because of our first relationship. I went home and continued praying about this.

Cathy:
About a month later, my best friend's engagement was broken, just weeks before her wedding.  That was really hard on me. My first comments to my parents were: “I'm so thankful that I'm not dating now. I don't know if it would last through this.” I closed up my heart against ever getting hurt like that.

                     ---------------------------

Part three coming Friday......

Monday, June 13, 2016

Story #2 (part one)

My second "How We Met" story is a unique one shared by friends from our Arkansas years. Chris' shop in AR was located on Ernie's property, so we have lots of good memories of time spent with Ernie and Cathy Eby and their girls. They now live in PA and us in OH but we still count each other as friends, in fact, we just had the privilege of hosting them for supper last week! 

------------------------


Ernie:
Waiting has been a challenge for me all my life. All my growing up years, I could hardly wait to… go to school, go to high school, get my driver's license, leave father and mother, start a business, move to a wilderness frontier, be a missionary somewhere, and get married.

God has had lots of work to do on me.  Through a long process, God brought me to the place where I was willing to be content as long as I knew Him.

When I was 22 and Cathy was 25, we met for the first time.  I don't know to this day what it was that attracted me to her.  Our introduction to each other had no impact on her whatsoever, but I couldn't forget her.

Cathy:
There's a sense in which we hesitate to share our story. We do not by any means want to leave the idea that if you wait long enough, God will bring that right someone to you to marry. Maybe God wants you to pursue a beautiful love relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, just like you would build a dating relationship! This is a challenge that has struck home to both of us since we've been married. So we share our story as a situation in our lives where we can clearly see God's Hand at work through circumstances and according to His timing.

Ernie:
After about six months of thinking, praying, visiting her home community, visiting her classroom, and counseling with others, I decided to so something that I would not necessarily recommend anyone doing… I decided to ask a complete stranger for her friendship. I needed to send a picture along of myself just in case she had a face for me.

Cathy:
One day I got this letter…from a complete stranger. I called my parents and then began to realize some of the “research” Ernie had already put into this! We dated for 8 months. I can remember some good times, but confusion/turmoil colored most of those months. We came to an agreement to part ways, and our paths rarely crossed in those next years.

Ernie:
I was also confused.  Looking back, I wasn't fit to be a husband or a father at all, but when we are young, we don't know such things.  We think we are all competent and mature enough to do anything. If someone of my maturity would come to me now about whether they should pursue a lady they are attracted to, I would probably advise them to grow up a bit first. After we parted ways, I spent the next several years trying to figure out what God had said and was trying to say. I began to deal with a lot of issues in my life that would have kept me from being a good husband and father.  Bitterness, pride, greed, selfishness…

There came a time when I realized I needed to release the relationship to God and be ok with trusting him even though He didn't explain to me why our dating relationship ended so confusingly.  At the same time I began building strong, close relationships with some other godly men.  (Up until that time, I did not have really close relationships with people of my own gender.)

                ------------------------------------

       Stay tuned for part two on Wednesday........