Thursday, October 30, 2014

Dear Mom

I'm thinking of you tonight, mom. Actually, it's not too often that thoughts of you aren't hovering somewhere in the back of my mind! I think of you most often when I'm doing things I would have usually told you about - things like baking for the school auction, making apple pie filling, washing windows and cleaning lights, advice on the child's hurt toe and children's quotes and escapades......

Then there's the fact that daddy is coming next week. I can't wait to have him around! To see him have a chance to interact with my little people, a chance to get to know them better and be a part of their lives and a chance to have him check out my ailing sewing machine and anything else I can think of that needs fixing! ;) Everytime I stop and think about it too much though, a painful lump fills my throat. You won't be here, mom, and how I would love to have you!

Daddy could go off and work on the car Mark wants him to help with and we would sit here and talk and talk and talk. You would wash my dishes and read stories and play games with Lillian and get to know Charles...... how you would love to hear him sing! You would want to hear Jasmine play the piano and ask Isaac about his memory work for the Quiz Team and listen to Jennifer read. Yes, how I would love to have you here!

But there's another reason I'm thinking about you tonight, mom. Somewhere tonight there's an Aunt of mine who is breathing her last breaths - or, at best, living her last days. After years and years of battling an incurable disease that slowly but surely left her able to do less and less for herself, her battle is reaching it's close. A month ago we thought it was time, and now here her family is again gathering around and waiting.

I know she was an inspiration to you, mom. I know you admired the grace with which she accepted the changes that continued to come her way. I think it was partly because of her that you found the courage to accept your own "handicaps" with grace.

And so, tonight, as I think about it all, I can't help but be glad that God spared you the slow, painful process of losing your abilities. I can't help but recognize the beauty in the quiet, peaceful way He chose to call you Home. I miss you, mom. And, while I would love to have you here next week, I have to remember that I am so glad I know you are There!

Love, Bethany

Monday, October 27, 2014

That Row of Socks

Socks. Sixty-six of them to be exact. (Amazing, right? An even number!) There's seven pairs of feet in this house, and this is what school time and cool weather means - socks, socks, and more socks!

I love hanging my laundry outdoors. I always dread winter with it's dreary, freezing no-laundry-line days! I like to separate my pile - socks at this end of the basket, underware at the other and hang them all in a neat, orderly row. I'm not as fanatical about my laundry hanging as my MIL who's known to re-pin her towels intil they are all not only in color order, but in perfect order by size from largest to smallest! I must admit, however, I have my own little system.

The big Daddy socks always come first. Worn from days and days spent on feet encased in work boots, they hang long and strong reminding me there's a faithful man at my house who works hard to provide for me and mine.

Next come the Big Boy socks which aren't so much smaller than the Daddy socks these days. Several times lately the Daddy socks and Big Boy socks have gotten into the wrong drawers, in fact! Their stretched out tops are proof that, like his dad, he likes his socks pulled up loooong and tiiiight. God grant that someday he follows in his Dad's footsteps in many other ways too!

Marching along behind Big Boy socks are the First Grader socks. She too has acquired her dad and big brother's genes and wants no part of socks that barely peek over her shoe tops! Her row always boast more "all white" socks than colored toe ones because those are the ones she likes best.

The Littlest Girl socks come right behind, overlapping with the First Grader socks, in fact. They wear the same socks most of the time, except that Littlest Girl has a love for short, colorful socks and insists on wearing them even when they're becoming too small for her growing feet!

Next come the Big Girl socks. She, unlike her dad, likes her socks the shorter the better! With socks that are bigger than her mom's these days, it's sometimes hard for me to remember that this woman child is really just that - a child - and deserves to be treated as such.

Then there's the mom socks. Practical, grey-toed, short socks that look like they could possibly belong to the little, immature girl she often feels like she is, rather than the mature, heading-toward-fourty mother-of-five she is supposed to be!

A few colorful Littlest Girl socks slip in before we reach the end of the row and the Little Man's line up of little, grey toed socks. The multiple pairs might mean the little guy pulled them off and deposited them in the laundry immediately upon arriving home from taking children to school, or that possibly stray pairs were discovered in obscure places when cleaning up the house!

Sixty-six socks. Seven pairs of busy, healthy feet. That row of socks this morning reminds me that I am, indeed, of all women most blessed!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

About My Father's Business

Words don't come easily these days. I ache to write. I start and I stop and I delete. The words and ideas, the feelings and thoughts and questions, they tangle themselves up somewhere between mind and keyboard, they refuse to march out in neat, tidy rows. Then too, I've been busy. Every time I think I'll catch a minute and untangle my brain, the minute passes before I've hardly begun.

So, what is going around in your mind, you ask? Lots of things. Little things. Big things. Things I feel uncertain about putting out there for the world to see. Things like "Why don't we mothers view our 'job' the same way our men view theirs?" Things like "There's got to be some way to beat this everlasting what's-for-supper? question every night!" Things like "What have we Mennonites done to our definition of 'church' and what is God's definition?" Things like "Why do I always say I'll do things and despair over them later?" Things like "What do we Anabaptists mean by saying we believe in living simply?" ...........lots and lots of things......

You may remember that on two different occasions I've taken up the challenge to write on one subject for a whole month? Well, I think I heard the Lord saying I should do it again. I think I even heard Him giving me a subject. It all feels very muddled and unfocused and the easiest thing in the world for me would be to wonder if I made it all up - to push it aside and say I just can't figure it out!

But, I know what happens when I don't listen to that voice. So, I'm trying to keep an open hand and rest and wait patiently and trust that if He wants me to write it, He will untangle it and make it crystal clear. And while I wait I'll make cookies and cinnamon rolls and pies and help with the school Auction. I'll listen to little girls laborously reading their first grade reader and answering Math flashcards. I'll try to be understanding with disappointing things on report cards, yet somehow encourage growth and development of character. I'll relish little boy hugs and two little people holding songbooks and singing lustily. I'll encourage talks with my big girl and make sure my husband knows how important and loved he is. I'll cook and clean and wash and do it all over again and again.

In short, I'll go on being About My Father's Business and we shall see what we shall see.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

An Adventure to be Remembered

It was a months-ago-planned adventure, a brain child of the Master Planner of Adventures at this house, complete with jobs for the two oldest to do to earn their fare. The jobs had been completed long ago, the money tucked away safely for the big day, and Uncle Mark invited in on the action. Plans had been made to leave Charles with Grandma for the day and here it was, the night before, and suddenly I was struck with symptoms I'd never experienced before - "frequent urination; burning/pain when urinating". I've never had a urinary tract infection before and, believe me, I never want to have one again!

The symptoms seemed to show up Bam! out of nowhere and increased as the evening went by. My mind was instantly in a turmoil - "What about tomorrow? What will we do? What *should* we do?" I drank water. And more water. The rest went to bed figuring tomorrow would end up being an adventure without mom.

Meanwhile, I literally sat in the bathroom reading a book until after midnight. It was the only halfway comfortable thing to do! Finally I slept.
I am a "why-would-God-do-this, if-I-make-this-decision-and-this-happens-I-probably-should-have..." kind of girl. We won't go into that. We'll just say waking up in the morning and feeling much better but needing to make a decision before 6 a.m. wasn't easy! I wanted Chris to just tell me what to do. He didn't want to. Finally he kindly explained, "If I was you, I would go. If I felt horrible later on, then I would feel horrible and make the best of it. If you go and feel horrible later on, the whole day will be ruined because you'll be sure you did the wrong thing."

I went.

It turned out to be about the worst possible day to choose for a train ride at Cass Railroad. It was cool and rainy when we left, but the forecast promised clearing by noon. Well, it didn't clear. And the mom of the family had been so immersed in her decision and then frantically getting out the door on time that she failed to consider the possiblities and everyone had worn.....jackets. Her daughters had grabbed two throw blankets to use in the van (cause when you leave the house at 6:15 you feel like wrapping up!) but winter coats and gloves and leggings and boots wouldn't have felt......stuffy, if you know what I mean!

There are two choices of train rides at Cass, one is a longer trip all the way to the top, the other is a shorter ride to the halfway point. We bought tickets for the 4 hour trip all the way to the top and back down again. The puffing clouds of smoke and the long, sad whistle and the creaking, clacking cars were awesome. The scenery was fantastic and we were entertained and taken care of by fellow passengers who shared their big, warm blanket. But it got colder. And then it started misting. Four hours in chilly, damp weather with jackets and two throw blankets is just a really long time, people!

The train made several stops, one mid-way and one at the top. The views at the top were blocked out by fog and rain and I think we would have all been fine had the Engineer decided to turn right around and head straight back down! Someone told us the temperature can drop by 10-15 degrees from the bottom to the top and, supposedly, it was 35 degrees at the top that day! Jackets anybody? We were more than happy to be on the downward trip and to discover the train traveled a bit faster down than up. Our happines was cut short, however, when we made the midway stop and they announced it would be a TWENTY-FIVE minute stop!!

Now at this mid-way point another train was stopped, the one taking the shorter ride to the halfway point. The men in our group decided at this point that a ticket was a ticket and when, about 15 minutes after we arrrived, the train for the shorter ride blew it's whistle announcing it's departure back down the mountain, we quietly climbed aboard! We didn't quite fit in with these people who were still looking at the scenery and the train with awed expressions after only 1/2 an hour on board, but we didn't quite care at that point. We had to wonder if our blanket sharing seat mates did a search for the lost Mennonite group when departure time came but we didn't care too much about that either! :)

All in all it was quite an adventure. It will certainly be remembered and talked about, possibly more than any sun-shiny, beautiful day might have been!

* I should add that my infection didn't miraculously go away. I have now been to the Dr. and am on the road to recovery with the help of an antibiotic!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Mini Musician and Other Stuff

We have a mini musician at our house. This child loooooves music! He's bounced/danced to it since, day one I think! Ever since he could get around, the minute he would hear Jasmine playing the keyboard in her room, he'd be making a beeline for her side. He seems to have an ear for certain songs and if he chooses one as a favorite, you can expect him to be begging to listen to it over and over and over!!

He's repeating everything he hears these days and this child already has a host of songs in his head! I think he's been memorizing them since day one and can finally get them out by way of mouth and I'm only partly kidding. He doesn't say every word clearly and his tunes aren't all perfect, but I've never heard another 18 month old "sing" the ABC song start to finish! Granted, it takes some imagination, but there's enough syllables there for every single letter and there's no mistaking the ending "...sing with me"!

The other day he was standing by the chair with a songbook and I realized he's singing "Jesus Loves Me" over and over. So absolutely cute! "God's Not Dead" is another fun one to get him going with and there's "Running Over" and "Keep Me Jesus" and "Building Up the Temple".....

On our trip this summer we watched a Musical in Mansfield, MO. The pianist was a super friendly lady who came around at break time and talked to people. When I mentioned something about Jasmine taking piano lessons, she promptly said, "Come with me!" She took her back to the gift stands and gave Jasmine a CD with all the songs from the Musical!! Charles loves that CD. One night he was laying in bed 'going to sleep' and I suddenly realized he's singing "Oh Farmer Boy" off of that CD!

The two in the bottom picture have been playing and playing together this morning. Yes, its worth mentioning! Big sister has a slight tendency towards bossing the little man and the little man has a slight tendency for not putting up with it... At the moment she is laying him on the couch and covering him up - with 2 blankets, no less. He's going along with the game and waits while she tip toes away, waits 3 seconds, then "Cock-a-doodle-doo!!" And with a big grin he pops up! :)

Love it.

And here sits the mother who should be busily working while the two are happily playing...... instead she's leaving wet laundry sit in the basket (cause she dreads the ordeal of dragging the two along outside to hang it up) and ignoring all manner of other things that need to be done (because she's TiReD sake a two pathetic nights in a row with the charming Mini Musician)......

Okay. The 'cover me up' game is losing it's appeal. "Cock-a-doodle-doo!!" Time to drag everybody outside.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Dear Mom

The other day I was working on a project, mom. There was cloth and scissors and pins and as I lined up edges and pinned and snipped, I suddenly felt so much like you I could hardly ....... I don't know. I can't explain it!

Some of my earliest memories are probably of you working with quilts, mom. I can't remember a time when I didn't know how a quilt went into a frame! You hated measuring and figuring and the very thought of piecing a quilt would have ruined your day but how you loved to quilt! I inherited those genes.

It wasn't that you couldn't measure and figure or piece a quilt, mom, you could. You just hated doing it! You had an uncanny knack for "eyeballing" things, as you would say. You'd trim the edge for your lining or batting, and rather than go to all the hassle of measuring and figuring, more often than not you'd "just eyeball it" and end up with a line very nearly as straight as any meticulous measuring or figuring would have produced! I inherited those genes too.

You worked with all kinds of quilts, mom - perfect, uniform ones, and imperfect, crooked ones! You would fudge a little here and tuck a little there and we learned that most of those bubbles would "quilt out" and many a person would "go from here to New York and never notice" those crooked lines. You loved the people and the stories behind the quilts so much more than perfection! I hope I've inherited those genes too.

Someday maybe I'll quilt for others like you did, mom. For now, when I smooth and pin and "eyeball" and cut and my girls look on and say, "How can you cut straight like that?" and "What are you doing that for?" I'll think of you and treasure the memories!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Reply to Winter's Coming (By a Lovable Scamp)

In the air there’s something different,
From the way it’s been before.
Creeping in and slowly pushing,
Out the summer heat we bore.

I have positively loved it,
for the summer I abhorred.
And with open arms embraced it,
What a blessing from the Lord!

Seeing leaves around me falling,
Makes me want to skip and dance.
Though the silent march of autumn,
From my wife, elicits rants.

Give me chilly days of autumn,
Not the scorching summer heat.
Trade my sunburn for some goose bumps,
And my only thought is: SWEET!

Gone the sunburned arms and faces,
Gone the sweat drenched piles of clothes.
Gone lawn mowing and weed eating,
Gone the garden’s work by rows.

In come balmy days and windy,
In come rains the earth to wash.
In come all the crops of harvest,
Orange pumpkins yellow squash.

Walls around us do protect us,
From Jack Frost and all his chill.
See the pictures that he left us,
On the mornings cold and still.

Some complain about the clothing,
Boots and mittens, coats and more.
That must decorate their figures
‘Fore they make it out the door.

But to me it is refreshing,
Jump from bed the day to meet.
Of the seasons I have lived in,
Autumn simply can’t be beat!

Do you say that I am looney?
My wife does. She calls me mad.
But I only say, “Be thankful”,
And, “Come on! It’s not THAT bad”.

After all, you have these four walls,
And a roof over your head.
You have food and heat and family,
And no outhouse I might add!

And besides I can’t deny it
As the cool of autumn starts,
Summer’s gone and I am HAPPY,
Welcome autumn to these parts!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Winter's Coming

There's this feeling that is coming,
It's been threatening me sore.
Creeping in around the corners,
Peering in through tight shut doors.

I have positively snubbed it,
It's been pointedly ignored.
I have turned my coldest shoulder,
It must know it's not adored!

Still, it's coming resolutely,
There's no stopping it's advance.
Seems nobody can withstand it,
Even me with all my rants.

In it comes with chilling fingers,
Forcing shoes upon my feet.
Causing goose bumps, chills and shivers,
Bringing thoughts I can't repeat!

Gone the days of flapping washlines,
Gone the sunbleached towels and clothes.
Gone the flip flops and the sandals,
Gone the freedom summer knows.

In come rain drenched piles of laundry,
In come make shift lines for wash.
In come muddy boots and jackets,
In come four walls that will squash.

Walls that daily draw us closer,
As the air grows colder still.
Walls that threaten to engulf us,
Keeping us against our will.

How this feeling shrinks our quarters,
With it's pile of coats galore.
Stacks of shoes, then boots and mittens,
Scarves and hats .... need I say more?

Mornings call for cups of warmness,
Night time brings those chilly sheets!
And that unforgiving shudder
When one's skin the toilet meets!

You may say that I'm complaining,
You may say it's not so bad.
You may say I should be thankful,
Count my blessings just a tad.

After all, I have these four walls,
And a roof over my head.
I have food and heat and family,
And no outhouse in a shed!

Still, I can't deny this feeling,
This sharp sinking of my heart,
As the winter comes a creeping,
And I see the warmth depart!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Be Flexible or Be Miserable

The other week, when Chris and I went on our little adventure to a wedding in PA, we were sitting with our host and hostess chatting happily. The two men were deep in the story of how the host had made the switch in occupation from farming to cheese making. Meanwhile, I was listening eagerly to the hostess recount the stories of her grandaughter's premature birth and the birth of her own daughter in their car! I picked up snatches of the men's talk here and there but suddenly I heard the host say, "Yup, be flexible or be miserable, that's what I always say!" Chris grinned appreciatively and flashed a glance at me. I rolled my eyes.

You've heard the saying "Cleanliness is next to Godliness"? I may have mentioned this fact before, I don't remember, but I'm married to a man who probably thinks the saying should be "Flexiblity is next to Godliness"!! If there's anything I've learned in our 13 years of marriage, it's a thing or three about being flexible!

He's pretty wise, my husband. Even though I grumble at the lessons in learning to be flexible and wonder if there isn't such a thing as taking a good thing to extremes, I know that a flexible person is a much happier, relaxed person. I knew immediately that the phrase "Be flexible or be miserable" would be heard often around our house!

I haven't heard it this week, not out loud anyway, but it's been going around and around in my mind. See, there's several things I really want right now. There's a couple projects I would like to get done that require some help from more than just myself - preferably my husband! But when that will happen? I don't know. Maybe last Saturday, maybe this Saturday, maybe I should just do it myself, maybe I should ask someone else...... In other words Then there's a women's seminar I thought of trying to attend. Maybe, maybe not, if this happens, if that doesn't........ In other words Oh, and suddenly, should we go to VA this weekend? Uhhh.... I guess we could maybe?

Me and the Lord had a talk last night. I said, "Ok God. I don't want to be miserable." Cause, honestly, that's what I was being. "I put ______________ in Your hand. If it's important for me to do that, than I trust You to work it out. If not, that's fine too." All down through my list of things.

It's not easy to be flexible, to hold things with an open hand when I want to demand them *now*. It's hard to let go of knowing how it will all work out and that strong desire for control! But those things do make one miserable, no question at all there, and who wants to be miserable? Not I. So flexible it must be, right up there next to Godliness!