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Monday, May 22, 2017

Mennonite Subculture

The dictionary definition for subculture is "a cultural group within a larger culture, often having beliefs or interests at variance with those of the larger culture." It's no secret that Mennonites and Amish are a subculture in North America, and even more so if they are conservative Mennonites or Old Order Amish who restrict their involvement in the larger culture. 
Since the beginning of the Anabaptist church in 1525, Mennonites have held beliefs which are counter to the larger culture and suffered much persecution as a result. Their distinctive doctrinal beliefs included believer's baptism, non-swearing of oaths, nonresistance, and the two kingdom concept separating church and state. They believed the Sermon on the Mount defined Christian living and was to be put into practice in everyday life. These things separated them from the larger culture in many areas from baptism to distinctive dress.
The larger culture is fascinated with conservative Mennonites and Amish. Tourists flock to see the Amish or read (terribly unrealistic) Amish novels. They admire the distinctive way of life but do not want to live that way themselves. 
While the lines of demarcation have moved as many Mennonites grew increasingly assimilated to the larger culture in the past 100 years, there are still some things any Mennonite will understand without explanation. An example of this happened on Saturday.
I was at a history conference at Lancaster. The keynote speaker was talking about the 1717 immigrants who settled in Lancaster County. The first settlers in that part of Pennsylvania were Mennonites who had arrived in 1710. Word was carried back to Europe that this was a desirable place to live. Three boat loads of Mennonites arrived in 1717 and settled in a circle around the 1710 cluster of settlers. After being there for seven years, they were established well enough to assist the new arrivals until their own log cabins were erected. The speaker said, "So they Mennonited their way," and everyone laughed. The lady who was sitting beside me didn't get it. She leaned over and asked,"What does that mean?" I told her it means they stayed with friends where it was free. See what I mean? We even have our own jokes that the "outsiders" do not understand. Or, as my mother used to say, "It takes one to know one."
In one of the workshops at the conference, I was seated beside a different lady. Something was said about a certain surname and this lady leaned over and said "the actress ______" was in that line. I had no clue who that actress was and don't remember the name. I just said, "I wouldn't know." I suppose she knew by the way I dress that I don't watch movies because she said, "Oh! I guess not." 
Those of us who grew up in conservative Mennonite homes don't find our way of life strange at all. We are comfortable with the way we live and not wishing to have the things the larger culture thinks are a normal part of life. The same is true for the Amish. Their way of life is strange and their reasoning does not always make sense to the larger culture. But they grew up that way and are comfortable with their way of life. 
I think the Mennonite subculture today is still based on the belief that the Sermon on the Mount is to be translated into every day living. Jesus teachings, including those on loving your enemies and returning good for evil, are to be practiced literally. That  runs counter to the dog-eat-dog mentality of the larger culture in which we live. As long as we live by those rules we will continue to be a subculture. I wouldn't want to be any other way.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Family Weekend

We usually have our family weekend the second weekend in June, but this year we bumped it up to May because Cheryl's daughter was graduating from high school on May 12. The whole family went out to the graduation on Friday night and then to a cabin about a half hour away for the weekend.
Here are a couple pictures from the graduation and party afterward. Congratulations, Arianna!

This cabin is in the area of Cambridge, Ohio, and was large enough to accommodate all of us. We had also been there the weekend Josh graduated. Arianna is the youngest in her family so this may never happen again.

There was a variety of activities for everyone on Saturday. The women and girls did a craft project.

The men and boys went fishing

and boating

and launched some rockets

and did some archery target shooting.

Some sat and visited or rested

while the little ones played their own games. Fortunately, we were blessed with lovely weather for all this outdoor activity.

The cherry on top of the day was sitting around the campfire in the evening for a hymn sing until it was getting too dark so see the print in the books.

We all went to Cheryl's church on Sunday morning and then back to the cabin for lunch. It happened to be Mothers Day and was made memorable by the fact that all my children were there with me at the same time. Cheryl got an ice cream cake for me which I was happy to share with everyone.

And, of course, I received the usual cards and flowers. I appreciated all of these things but the best part was simply being together on this day.

Church had lasted longer than usual so lunch was also late. As soon as we finished eating we started packing up to go home. It was 3:30 when we headed out and we made the five-hour drive without stopping once. Family weekend is over for this year but we have the memories to keep.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Public Auction

We have been working all year to clean out Leroy's mother's house and get ready for public auction on April 29. The first step in disbursing things was to have a family auction for the heirlooms and other things Mom thought the family might want. That was done on January 28 and we got the things we most wanted there. Two of them were the clock that belonged to Leroy's great-grandfather, Daniel Stauffer, and a small table that belonged to his grandfather, Eli Stauffer. We got quite a few other things but these were two of our top priorities.

After that sale, we could begin preparing for public sale. The family worked together and made some good memories in the process. As far as I know, no one had any bitter feelings. 
We were blessed with perfect weather for the final work day on April 28. I had gotten groceries and had to take the frozen stuff home. After I had it put away I couldn't stand it to stay home and miss all the fun so I went back. The tent had been put up on Thursday and we made use of it to eat lunch.

The furniture was all carried into the garage and living room so it would be easy to move it out on Saturday morning. It was good it was under roof because we had a thunderstorm at 3 a.m.

The family showed up at 6 Saturday morning to move things out and do the final set up before the sale began at 9. We had a cloudy start with a threat of rain but it blew over and the day turned out to be sunny and humid.

The crowd was beginning to arrive at 8. I don't know how many people were there but we needed all the bidders we could get. One auctioneer sold all day from this pile in the shop to the crowd under and around the tent. (There were four rows, some two tables high. This picture shows only half of the pile.) Quilts were also sold by this auctioneer.

While one auctioneer moved the pile in the shop, another sold Grandpa's toy and coin collections to this crowd and the furniture setting in the driveway.

These auctions paused at 1 p.m. while the property was auctioned. Within a half hour we could answer the two big questions of who would buy it and what they would be willing to pay for it. The buyer was Lewis Nolt who lives on the adjoining farm. It will be his retirement home.

Leroy and I both picked out a few items we wanted to buy on the public auction and were happy to snag all of them without breaking the bank. These were my two top picks. The figurines were always on a shelf in the kitchen and whenever I look at them I can see Mom's kitchen.

The other item I wanted was the tobacco sizer. I don't know if Pop ever used this particular one. It was in the back of the shop for many years. But he certainly used one like it when he helped raise tobacco on his father's farm. It will be used as a shelf to display Leroy's little trucks and tractors.

I couldn't quite imagine how it would feel to see all your possessions sold and carried away, leaving only what you can fit into one room. When the sale was over I asked Mom,"How do you feel now?" She just smiled and said, "Well, we knew this day was coming and now it's done." 
That answer was so typical of Mom's attitude toward life. She has gone through some very tough times in her 93 years, since the age of 10 when her mother died and she was shuffled from one home to another until she married at age 19. She could have had a big pity party the rest of her life but she never complained and seldom even talked about the hard times. She accepted what life handed her and made the best of it.
We love you Mom! You have been an inspiration and wonderful example to all of us. Blessings as you begin this new chapter of your life.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Year's At The Spring

Spring has sprung! We can usually count on it staying warm after Easter and it's right on schedule this year. The birds are back and a wren built a nest in the wreath at my front door. The grass is growing and badly needing a mowing---which is expected to happen this evening. The garden is planted and half of it is seeded with grass. 
This is the fifth time we cut the garden in half. Two people don't need as much food as the eight that used to eat at our table. There are so many produce farmers in the area that it doesn't make sense for two old people to plague themselves in a garden. Let the young farmers who have the ambition and need the money raise the produce. All I want in a garden is a few rows for fresh eating in season.
I like living in a place with four distinct seasons and enjoy the benefits of each one, but I think spring is my most favorite season. It's the reward for having survived another winter and the promise of good things to come. October is beautiful with the fall foliage but there's a hint of sadness because things are dying and it's a warning of the cold winter just ahead. Spring shouts a message of new life and hope for the future.

The year's at the spring,
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hill-side's dew-pearled;
The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn;
God's in his Heaven— 
All's right with the world! 
Robert Browning

Thursday, April 6, 2017


   I am on the schedule to teach our ladies Sunday school class on Easter morning. Naturally, the lesson is on the resurrection of Jesus. Since my schedule is rather full next week, I started studying this week. I feel fortunate to have the chance to teach this lesson because the resurrection is my favorite subject and the linchpin of the Christian faith.
   I have often debated which is the most important event in the life of Jesus, His birth, death or resurrection. The cross is seen as the symbol of Christianity. History tells us lots of people died on crosses and none of them has impacted the world like the cross of Christ. It is the resurrection that gives meaning to the cross. The resurrection is the proof that Jesus was truly the Son of God. And that brings us back to the virgin birth. If God was not the father of Jesus, then He was just a man like all other human beings; the virgin birth was a lie and his death had no redeeming value. BUT Jesus rose from the dead proving that He was indeed the Son of God and as such His death provides a way of redemption for all who will believe.
   And there is the catch. Redemption hinges on faith, believing in something we cannot see or explain by the laws of human logic or science. For some people that is too much to accept. How do you convince someone who does not believe the Bible is God's Word that what it says is true? I've had an unbeliever tell me that the men who wrote the books of the Bible just wrote what they knew at the time or had been told; the Gospels were written by His followers who of course were biased; there is very little evidence to support the resurrection. 
   I maintain the unbelief is more because people don't WANT to believe than the lack of evidence. I could list more evidence but consider these:
  1. The body of Jesus was missing. If the Jews could have found it, they could have stilled the preaching of Jesus' resurrection that filled Jerusalem. But they could not.
  2. Jesus' body wasn't stolen. Neither the Romans nor the Jews had a motive for stealing the body. Ah, you say, the disciples stole it. Then explain the matter of the Roman guards, and the disciples' initial disbelief when the women brought them the news early that Easter morning. 
  3. If the disciples had stolen the body, you wouldn't expect them to risk their lives preaching about the resurrection. People don't die for what they know is not true. But the disciples put their lives on the line, and nearly all were eventually martyred for their faith. They certainly believed it.
  4. The church mushroomed in size in Jerusalem. Followers of Jesus in the city of Jerusalem grew from a few dozen to thousands upon thousands soon after Jesus' resurrection. Everyone knew what had happened during the crucifixion and believed the resurrection was true even if they didn't want to admit it. When Jesus walked with the two men on the way to Emmaus, they asked, "Are you a stranger in Jerusalem? How could you not know what happened?"
  5. Contemporary documents refer to the event. Thallus the Samaritan, Suetonius, Tacitus, Pliny contain references to Jesus. Jewish historian Josephus writes about Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. They knew something had happened.
   The resurrection of Jesus is actually more plausible than any other explanation. There is no evidence to prove it is NOT true. The resurrection is the heart of the Christian faith. Without the resurrection, there is no purpose in living and no hope for the future. It is the assurance that death is not the end. Jesus, whom the Father raised from the dead, gives me eternal life. Ultimately, our bodies, too, will be raised from the dead. The fact of the resurrection is why we celebrate Easter. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017


I normally pop out of bed in the morning like bread from a toaster and tear into the day. And then I wind down by 2 p.m. and go to bed again at a decent hour. I'm not a night owl by any means. But boy can I procrastinate when it's time to do certain jobs! For example, cleaning cupboards. I can find all kinds of things to do instead, even if I tell myself this is the day. I must get meat out of the freezer first, wash my hair, pay a bill. . . Finally, the dread of doing the job is too heavy to carry anymore and I get ready to tackle it just to get rid of it.
I function best when I operate on a schedule. Certain jobs are done on certain days of the week or month of the year. I even cook on a schedule. You can pretty well tell what day of the week it is by the meat we have for supper. Monday-beef; Tuesday-pork; Wednesday-hamburger; Thursday-chicken; Friday-soup and sandwiches; Saturday-pizza.
Since there's only two of us rattling around in this place now, it doesn't get as dirty as it once did and I don't have to houseclean twice a year anymore. Getting over the whole house once a year is enough. I spread it out by doing one room or portion each month from the end of August through December. Then I take a break the beginning of the year when it's cold and start again in March. I finish in May and take another break over summer.
My office is the room to clean in March. But this year the weather in March was so much like February I just couldn't find the ambition to do it. Who feels like housecleaning when it's blowing snow around or just plain cold. So I kept procrastinating all month until today. I have something else on my schedule for tomorrow. Today was my last chance to get the job done in March and avoid a black mark on my jobs chart. And the weather was no excuse. Funny how far a little sunshine will go to pump ambition through my veins. Once I got started it really wasn't that bad. As usual, dreading it was worse than doing it. My desktop is now free of all piles of paper and the windows are sparkling clean. And I won't have to do it again for another year. 
On to the living room in April.

Thursday, March 23, 2017


Overall, this winter was mild and dry. We got an inch or two of snow at a time but nothing that caused a problem. The last half of February was especially mild and we began to believe the groundhog was wrong and we would have an early spring.
And then winter got the hiccups and we got blasted with winter last week. A nor'easter dropped 16.5 inches of snow on a Tuesday with a stiff wind that kept drifting the snow across the road every time they tried to open it. I was snowed in for three days. Leroy got out with his 4 x 4 truck but there was no way I was going to try getting out in the car. Those who tried to go through and got stuck were sufficient warning for me to stay home. 
I reverted to winter activities and started crocheting another afghan just for something to do. At least the power stayed on so I did some extra baking too. Finally, on Friday, the wind stopped blowing and they opened the road again. This time it stayed open and I was freed from house arrest. 
March snows don't last long and it is disappearing rapidly although there will be piles around for some time. My spring bulb flowers are out in the sunshine again but they look rather sick. The leave were shredded by hail soon after they came up and then just as the daffodils were starting to bloom they were covered with snow drifts. There won't be many flowers this year. 
I was not among those who were thrilled with the snow and didn't take any pictures. But we really can't complain as this was the only snow storm of the season. It came at the very end of the winter and I encouraged myself knowing it will soon be over. We don't have two more months of this stuff ahead of us. This week we reached the first day of spring and things are looking up.